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I Know You

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Yang had never understood why everyone seemed so enamored with the concept of soulmates.

Sure, she supposed that having someone to love romantically might be nice... but she'd never really put much thought into what that would mean in actuality. She'd never really considered it for herself. She'd seen her old man and her moms, and how they'd always seemed so tightly knit- so close. She supposed that having something like that- something personal, intimate- with someone... might be what she wanted. She'd be lying to say she'd never been attracted to people before. But relationships had never seemed serious to her like they did to other people. After all, if she found her soulmate one day, then what would it mean to be dating someone else? What would that say about how she felt about the other person, even if they weren't the right person for her? 

Yang sighed- what did she know, anyway? She was better off putting it out of her mind for the moment. This would be Yang's second time attending the equinox dance, and while she knew the importance of it, and the excitement with which her parents had been preparing for it, and her sister’s anxiety about her first time attending, Yang couldn’t help the foreboding feeling that had settled into her bones. 

The thought set a slight frown into the corners of her mouth as she shoveled a bite of honey flavored oat cereal into her mouth. Thundering footsteps descended from the stairwell- the way to the attic, and Ruby's den of books, plants and empty cartons of milk. Yang looked at the clock, shoveling in another bite of cereal as the door slammed open. She hadn't slept in as long today, remarkably, just making the mark at 10:00 in the morning. Yang sighed; her baby sister was a lot of things, but an early riser was not one of them. 

"Yaaaaang!" Ruby exclaimed in a whine as she launched herself from the last step and onto the hardwood of the kitchen. She tried to keep her balance as she did so, holding her arms out to steady herself. Another thing Ruby was not was graceful. "I told you to wake me up early today!" Her sister pouted as she joined her at the bar, hopping up onto a bar stool. Her hair was a mess, as always, sticking up every which way. Yang set her spoon into the bowl of milk with a plink and, turning on her stool, proceeded to try to smooth out all the bedhead that had overtaken her sister's head. "You've been sleeping with that hat on again, haven't you?" She gave Ruby a pointed look, which was immediately met with a slight blush on the younger's cheeks and an indignant expression as she swiped at Yang's hands. 

Yang sighed. "Ruby.. You have such pretty hair. You really ought to let it breathe every once in a while." 

Ruby huffed. "I don't wanna hear that from you- all you do is let your hair breathe. I've never seen it in any other 'style' than windblown." 

Yang lightly flicked her cheek. "Watch it, baby sister. I'll have you know, my hair is my best feature."

"Mhm..."

"'Mhm'? What do you mean by that, huh?" 

"Oh, nothing, nothing. Nothing at all." Ruby glanced away, whistling lightly as she picked an apple up from the basket perched on the counter between them. The skin was red and shiny, and Yang could make out Ruby's reflection staring at her from the fruit's surface.

“Hm. Those are new… Mom must’ve grown them.” Yang mused as she picked one up herself, turning it over and letting the weight of it settle into her palm. It was firm; fresh, and Yang couldn’t help but marvel at the simplistic beauty of them. She lifted the fruit to her lips and sank her teeth into its flesh with a satisfying crunch, and the flavor of the juice melted on her tongue. It was sweet, and delicious, and she made a mental note to praise their mother for it later. 

At this point, Ruby had also bitten into her apple, slurping up the sweet juice inside before breaking off a bite. She always did that- always had, ever since she was little. It had been messy then, and it was still messy now, Yang observed, as Ruby wiped at her chin with the heel of her palm. She was getting older, that much was certain, but she still acted like a toddler. It was endearing, and Yang felt a pang of something like sadness in her chest at the thought. 

“Hey, where is Mom anyway?” Ruby asked suddenly through a mouth full of apple. Yang shrugged. “I assume she’s out in the greenhouse. You could check there.” 

Ruby hopped down from the barstool, nodding in confirmation. “I wanted to talk to her about the dance.” 

Yang would have joined her, but she knew that the greenhouse was Ruby and Summer’s space. She and Summer had their own place to chat- she could always ask her later. “Tell her the apples are pretty great. And if you see Dad, let him know I’m going into town in a bit if he needs anything.” Ruby saluted her sister in an enthusiastic gesture, and turned toward the sliding door to the back deck and their vast property, leaving Yang to finish her now soggy cereal in the quiet of their little kitchen. 

As she lifted soggy oats on her spoon and let them plop back into the milk, her mind found itself wandering to the dance that would take place in just a few days. She had been practicing with her Dad, but not nearly as much as Ruby, who was new to the whole process. While Yang could dance the steps decently well without having practiced in nearly a year, Ruby could barely spin around once without losing her balance. It was amusing, but also a little worrying. Their mother had had to step in and give Ruby a bit more hands on instruction. 

‘Oh, Ma… I should see if she’s up…’ Yang thought to herself, stepping down from the barstool and taking her bowl to the sink. She dumped out the sugary milk and scooped the remaining soggy cereal into the trash can, taking a moment to thoroughly wash her dishes and leave them on the rack to dry. If she didn’t, Summer would have her head, and she’d rather keep it, if she was being honest. 

Yang wiped her wet hands on her bomber pants as she left the sink, jogging around the stairway and to the master suite in the back of the house, past the little living room. Their house wasn’t huge; it was just enough room for their little family, with a room for Ruby, one for Yang, and one for their parents. There were two bathrooms, thank god, one attached to their parents room, and one off of the living room. She popped into that one real quick to make sure she didn’t have any apple or cereal on her face, and then continued to the master suite. The door was open a crack, so she knew her father had already left for work, and with Summer more than likely in the garden, that left her mother still asleep in the dark room. Sure enough, Yang could make out light snoring from the dark chamber. 

She’d kill Yang for getting her up this early, but then, they had important stuff to talk about, and really, Yang had already waited long enough. Creaking the door open, Yang stepped quietly into the cave of a room. The ajar door did little to light up the pitch dark, and Yang had to remind herself to take it slow, or she’d trip and chip a tooth, like last time. 

As she neared the end of the large bed, she put her hands out in front of her to try and brush the wooden footboard. Unfortunately, as her fingers brushed the textured surface, her foot caught something hard, and slightly sharp. Yang gave a gruff ‘Fuck!’ and bit her lip as she fell forward and rammed into the footboard, tumbling over the top with a groan. 

“... It better not be earlier than ten, Yang, or I swear to gods…” There came a deep grumble from the bed, and Yang looked up, tossing the hair that had fallen in front of her face over her shoulder. She was still grimacing slightly from the pain in her toes where she’d kicked what she assumed was one of Zwei’s chew bones. “It’s 10:15…?” She winced. 

From the bed, Raven rolled over with a sigh, sitting up and pulling the sleep mask from her eyes. “Yang…” 

“I know, I know, Ma- just- fuck… ” She whispered, trying to shake the pain out of her toes, hopping on one foot. 

Raven rubbed at her eyes, obviously not ready to deal with any of her shenanigans yet. Yang supposed that was fair; her mother had never been one to get up early. But at least she’d waited two hours this time. 

“Go sit down on the couch. I’ll take care of those toes, and maybe I can get some goddamn coffee in me before we start for the day.” Raven sighed, falling back so her head hit her pillow, her arm falling and covering her eyes. 

Yang did as she was told; normally, she’d persist, but between the hot pain in her toes and her mother’s clear annoyance at being woken up, she thought better of it. And Raven kept true to her word. She trudged out of the suite a couple of minutes later, her red silk robe tied loosely, and her hair just as unkempt as Ruby’s. She yawned into her the back of her hand and stepped into the bathroom off the living room, digging around for a moment. Yang could hear her rusting in the mirror cabinet. “So what was it today? The bears with the red eyes again?” She called, still obscured from Yang’s view by the doorway. 

Yang shook her head, but then realized Raven couldn’t see her. “No, not that one.” 

Raven stepped out of the bathroom holding a little tin no bigger than the palm of her hand, walking over and sitting beside Yang. “The one about the red bull?” She asked, reaching out with her hand and making a motion for Yang to give her her foot. Yang shook her head and lifted her foot so her mother could examine it. “No.” 

Her toes were pretty red, but most appeared fine. The middle one was a little more swollen than the others, however. Raven unscrewed the canister and swiped a bit of mint green paste onto her finger, glancing up momentarily up at Yang before looking down to apply it to the swollen toe. “... the sleeping ones?” 

Yang’s throat bobbed at the mention, however subtle. Raven wasn’t the most nurturing of the three of her parents, but she had been the one to wake Yang up from that particular dream. She’d never seen her mother so concerned for her before; it was a very rare moment, but since then, she’d made it clear that Yang was to come to her if she had any more dreams of the same sort. 

Yang had been fine thinking it was just a run of the mill night terror, but Raven wasn’t certain. Yang remembered what her mother had told her the morning after that terrifying dream. 

“They’re not just dreams, Yang. I know, because I used to get them too. They’re connected to your magic, somehow. I’m not entirely sure, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s a rare occurrence, but I think they’re a type of clairvoyance. My brother has the same condition.” 

Raven’s expression then had been deadly serious, and Yang, then barely 13, hadn’t dared to refute it. They’d only persisted after that, however spaced out. She’d dreamt of a pack of bears, each bigger than a car and black as pitch. Their terrible red eyes still bore into her every once in a while. She’d discovered a long time ago that after a night when she dreamt of the bears, the next morning would be filled with challenges, or conflicts. 

The bull dreams started a year prior. A bull as red as blood, with skin rippling in terrible scars. It dug its hooves in the dirt, and the next thing she knew, a harsh sudden pain would shoot through her body. Those were close contenders for the worst ones. It was typically a week before anything out of ordinary happened following that one, and typically, it involved someone she loved getting hurt. She remembered hanging out with friends one afternoon in town, and when she got home she found Ruby unconscious upstairs, her hands cut to ribbons and thorns all over the place. It had been a growth potion gone wrong, but somehow the guilt still ate away at Yang for the rest of the week. 

She felt Raven touch her shoulder, and snapped out of her thoughts, blinking as her hearing came back into focus. “ Yang.” Raven urged her, sounding as close to concerned as Raven was likely to get. “Huh..?”

“Was it the sleeping dream?” Raven asked again, and Yang swallowed, and shook her head in assurance. “No.. no it wasn’t that one. This one was new.” 

At that, Raven’s brow furrowed. “New, huh? What was this one?” She closed the tin and set it on the coffee table, standing, and Yang realized that the paste had already been applied to the toe, the pain now reduced to a dull stiffness. 

“This one had a cat…” 

Raven nodded, leaving the living room to get a cup of coffee going. As she got to the counter, Yang heard her breathe amused through her nose, and mutter, “Tai…” Before taking the hot pot of coffee out of the machine and pouring it into her red mug. Each of them had a mug; Raven’s was red, Summer’s was white, her dad’s was yellow, hers was orange, Ruby’s was black, and when their uncle came to visit, he had his own gray one tucked away safely in the cabinet. 

“This cat kept staring at me. It was black, and it seemed like it was blending into everything else- everything was dark. And it just stared at me with these big gold eyes…” Yang recounted to her mother. “It was like it’s eyes were lighting everything up; like they were chasing away the darkness.” 

Raven hummed lowly, sipping her coffee. Her brow was furrowed in thought. “Odd… well, this one doesn’t seem inherently negative… but I’d still keep an eye out, okay?” Yang nodded in understanding. “It might be your familiar.” 

At that, Yang blinked in surprise. “My familiar?” Raven nodded. “For most people, you’re more likely to summon a familiar, or tame one, but when I was a little younger than you, I had a dream that a huge wild raven with red eyes was sitting over my bed, and watching me sleep. Three days later, I woke up in the middle of the night, and it was sitting perched on my window.” Raven took a drink, and Yang connected the dots. “Omen.” 

Raven nodded yet again. “Omen.” 

Omen was Raven’s familiar- a large black raven with red eyes that spent most days flying around in the woods. He was far from the tame familiar most witches hoped for, but his isolating personality seemed to compliment Raven’s well.

“Now, I suppose since I’m awake I should get ready for the day. Is Ruby up yet?” She groaned, stretching and setting her mug on the counter top. 

“Yep.” Yang popped, pushing herself up and picking the canister up from the coffee table. Summer had chided her before about leaving it out, and she wasn’t about to get chewed out a second time. 

“I assume Summer’s tending to her roses?” Yang nodded in response. “And your father must have already headed into town.” 

Again, a nod. 

“Well aren't we just chatty today…” Raven remarked, taking a long drink from her mug and looking up at her daughter. Yang felt her cheeks flush slightly- it was true. Usually, she was much more talkative, but… 

“There’s more to it… Isn’t there.” 

Yang.. wasn’t quite sure what to say. She hadn’t really expected her mother to pick up on what was bothering her- or to pry. “It’s… complicated…” 

A beat of silence, then, “Okay. Whatever then. I’m going to hop in the shower.” Raven sighed, and Yang watched as she knocked back the rest of her coffee, pulled her dark, coarse hair into a messy bun in the back of her head, and trudged back into the master suite. 

‘Figures…’ Yang raised an eyebrow as the door closed behind her. Oh well, there was no use getting worked up over nothing anyway. Yang reminded herself to relax a bit, stretching her arms to relieve the tension she had started to feel creeping up on her. 

Truth be told, this new cat dream hadn’t been the only dream plaguing her recently. The only problem was that Yang herself wasn’t sure what else it was. Unlike her usual dreams, she could never remember this one. She knew she was dreaming about something, but by morning, she’d always forget what exactly it was. She remembered a smell- something sweet, and colorful. Maybe a type of flower…? She’d have to ask her mom about it later. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Yang tossed the greasy rag over her shoulder and weaved her fingers together, lifting her arms high above her head and stretching her tired limbs. Outside her open garage door on the front lawn, Ruby was practicing her steps, while their moms gave her direction as best as they could manage. Yang found herself laughing good naturedly as Ruby missed a step, almost tripping over her own feet. “Watch it there Rubes, you’re gonna fall on your butt if you’re not careful!” 

Ruby stuck her tongue out at her sister, before promptly tripping, and indeed falling on her behind. Summer couldn’t help the small amused smile that passed her lips, and Yang didn’t fail to catch the exhausted, frustrated look in her mother’s eyes. Yang turned quickly, wiping her hands on her overalls and whistling, acting as though she had no idea what her mother was eyeing her for. “Yang, stop distracting your sister. We only have a week left, and this is certainly not helping.” Raven sighed, and Yang pointed to herself, looking around. Even pouty Ruby looked amused, once she pushed herself up from the dirt, brushing dust from her legs. 

Their moms had made her wear Yang’s old dress to practice dancing in, and at first, Ruby had been incredulous. She didn’t see why she should have to wear a dress- it would be cold, and her legs would freeze, and it was too big in the chest anyway. 

But Summer insisted. 

You need to learn how to move properly in a dress- swinging around in shorts is different than swinging around in a skirt. Besides, it’s only one night.” She’d smiled, and tucked Ruby’s hair behind her ear, and Ruby had caved. She could never say no to her mother. 

“Why doesn’t Yang have to practice this stupid dance?” Ruby pouted, kicking the dirt with her flat. 

“Because Yang’s already learned it. Now come on, we’ve still got a long way to go.” Summer tried to get Ruby back on track. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll get out of your hair. I’ve got to go pick up some parts from town.” Yang chuckled, closing up the paneling on Bumblebee’s side and grabbing her helmet from the countertop lining the side of the garage. “Is that safe?” Summer asked a little tentatively. She hadn’t been too impressed when Raven had brought home the dingy shell of a rusty old bike she’d found in the junk yard, and she’d been even less impressed when Raven gave it to Yang to fix up. 

Ever since, she’d tried to be supportive of Yang’s tinkering with the thing, but the idea of Yang riding it still put her on edge, however nice it looked now. “And you’re going to town… covered in grease?” Summer couldn’t help the tone that leaked out with the words, and Yang looked down at her clothes and back up at her mom. “Hm? It’s just a quick run. Nobody cares if I’ve got grease stains on me, mom.” 

“Summer, relax. Let the girl ride her bike- she knows what she’s doing.” Raven tried to ease Summer’s anxiety, letting a hand come to rest on her lower back comfortingly. 

Summer nodded, trying to reassure herself. “You’re right- you’re right- I’m sorry, sunshine, go on ahead. Just make sure not to be gone too long- I still need your help with some other things around the house.” 

Yang grabbed her bomber jacket and pulled her arms through the puffy sleeves, walked her bike out onto the dirt and threw one leg over the seat, sitting down and putting her helmet on. Turning the key, the bike roared to life, and Yang smiled as she felt the rumbling deep in her gut, and in her hands as she took the handles. “I’ll be back for lunch.” She promised, shouting over the loud chuffing of the engine. Turning the handle and kicking off with her foot, she was off, kicking up dust as she rode down the long winding country road that their property was attached to. The town of Vale was just a couple miles down the road, so it would really take her no time at all to get there. There weren’t very many cars on the road that late morning either. 

Aside from one car passing her, seeming in quite the hurry, and another car turning into a sideroad just ahead of her, there hadn’t been any traffic at all, which was remarkable for a late saturday morning. But then, she supposed that no one really wanted to do anything on Saturdays anyway. 

Yang loved the wind in her hair. She loved the rush of it against her hands, and the force of the wind against her body as she leaned into turns and avoided potholes. She loved the quiet of the road, excepting the purr of her engine, and she loved the rumbling her bike sent through her body as she rode. She could ride like this forever, really. She wouldn’t mind it, that much was certain. Just her and Bumblebee, and the empty, endless road. 

So to say that she was surprised to see a black shape in the road ahead of her was an understatement. From the distance, she thought it might be a hat, or a doll that someone had thrown out the window on accident, but the closer she got, the more apparent it was that this wasn’t either of those things. Black as pitch, it looked to be about the size of her head; which was saying something, considering Yang had a pretty big head as her father never let her forget. 

As she got closer, Yang slowed her bike, easing up on the gas and lightly applying the brake. She pulled off to the shoulder of the road about ten feet from the thing, and by then she could see that it was textured with fur. Her heart immediately leapt into her throat. Some poor creature must have gotten hit by a car; it was probably dead-

A soft, pathetic mewl sounded from the creature, interrupting Yang’s thoughts, and all that her body told her to do in that moment was ‘ make sure it’s okay.’ She didn’t hesitate, putting Bumblebee’s kickstand up and jogging over. Up close, it didn’t appear so bad, and Yang breathed a sigh of relief. She had honestly been expecting much worse, if she was being honest. One of the creature- which she could now identify as a black cat-’s legs looked swollen, and Yang was no doctor, but she remembered how her own arm had looked when she’d fallen out of a tree and broken it when she was younger. 

‘Okay so hopefully it’s a clean break…’ She bit her lip. The poor thing looked a little thin too- and one of it’s ears had a tear in it. Yang tried to think of what to do. It’s chest was rising and falling, so it was clear it was alive and breathing, but it’s eyes were closed. She worried if she picked it up, it would freak out, and hurt itself more… but there weren’t many options. She could take it into town with her and ask An if she could fit the poor thing in… 

Yang made up her mind. Unzipping her coat, Yang reached for the cat and gently set her hand on it’s side. The cat opened its eyes immediately, and Yang lifted her hand, afraid it might mistake her for a threat. “It’s okay… It’s okay there, bud… I’m just here to help…” She spoke softly, keeping her hand off the cat as it stared at her with large golden eyes, it’s ears flat against its head. Yang kept it’s gaze, and while the coincidence of her dream and now this cat was certainly something to ponder, now wasn’t the time. Slowly, the cat’s ears flicked, and raised slightly, and it lowered its head back to the dirt. Yang took that as a sign of trust, and gently laid her hand on it’s side once more. When the cat didn’t raise it’s head, Yang lightly ran her hand down the length of its side once, twice, and a third time. The tension in the cat’s body seemed to ebb away with each soft pet of Yang’s hand, and Yang felt great relief at the acceptance the cat had bestowed on her. 

Now would come the tricky part. Yang got down onto her knees and tried to remember what An had told them to do during a presentation she’d given in school a couple years prior. Reaching her right hand over the cat’s body, and under its chest, she lifted it up. The cat’s eyes opened again in concern for a moment, but as Yang held it against her, gently petting it with her free hand and moving it lightly to cradle it ad keep weight off it’s foot, the cat didn’t attack, and Yang let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “It’s okay kitty, I’ve got you… I’m gonna take you to the doctor, okay? Just hang in there.” She gently rubbed circles in the cat’s fur, scratching gently as she moved it to lay on the inside of her jack, and zipped it up to create a makeshift sling. Once the cat was supported, Yang kept a hand under it and walked back to her bike, carefully getting on and turning the key to her bike. She prayed that the noise wouldn’t agitate it, or that the bumps wouldn’t jostle the poor thing too much. 

Keeping one hand underneath the precious cargo, Yang started the bike. The cat gave a slight startle at the rumble, but Yang was quick to try to reassure the cat. “It’s alright… shh… she let go of one of the handles and gently scratched the top of it’s head, letting it sniff her fingers. It seemed a bit tense still, but it wasn’t squirming about now, so that was good, Yang supposed. Finger’s crossed for once she started driving. Under her breath, Yang muttered a spell for protection Summer had made her memorize, if for anything than just for assurance that they wouldn’t crash on the way. Yang had never driven with an animal in her jacket, but there was a first time for everything. Slowly, she pushed off, looking both ways before merging back into the right lane, and going a little slower than she had been going previously. 

She hoped that no one would be on the road behind her, or that a police officer wouldn’t happen down the road and see her going under the speed limit. “Deep breath…” She muttered to herself, trying to keep collected. It was only another mile to town, and An’s clinic was toward the center of the downtown area. It would probably take less than ten minutes to get there. She just hoped the cat nestled into the bottom of her jacket could hold on that long. It might be more than just a broken leg- Yang had no way of knowing. But the more she thought about it, the more anxious she became. “Hang in there, kitty. It’s gonna be okay… I’ll get you to An’s…” She promised. 

And sure enough, after nearly a ten minute drive, Yang pulled her bike into a free parking space along the road in the general downtown area. Navigating traffic had been difficult the closer they got to the town, but she had managed, somehow. Turning the engine off and putting out the kickstand, Yang slowly disembarked from the bike, walking over to the sidewalk. She’d tried to park as close as possible to An Ren’s Veterinary Clinic as possible, but somehow she’d still ended up parking at the opposite end of the street. 

She hoped that Mrs. Ren would be able to help. Lie Ren was a good friend of hers, he and his girlfriend Nora, and he’d always assured her that if she ever needed any veterinary service, his mom was always taking new clients… but still, Yang had always been hesitant about taking advantage of that particular friendship perk. She didn’t have an animal to bring in anyway, and the idea of getting treated before other patients who’d been waiting already seemed a bit cheap to her. But now that she’d come across an animal that seemed pretty worse for wear, those concerns suddenly didn’t matter as much. 

It was easy to pick out the veterinary clinic from the other shops around.

The soft pink paint on the outside walls was certainly distinguishable enough from the beige and brick buildings on either side of the street. Yang had always thought that shade of pink was pretty, but she wouldn’t have called it her favorite color, not by a long shot. The bell at the door rang as she pushed it open, stepping inside and glancing around. Thankfully, there was only one other patient in the waiting room: an older, graying woman and her doberman. Yang spared her a glance, before the woman glowered at her, and Yang felt a chill ripple up her spine. The dogs’ hackles rose, and Yang heard it growl lowly. Unconsciously, she held the cat closer to her, turning away from them and to the service window. Thankfully, An’s assistant was at the desk, filing some forms. “Excuse me? I need to see An Ren- it’s urgent.” Yang expressed to the assistant, who blinked. 

“An emergency?” The woman, who Yang vaguely remembered hearing Lie refer to as Glynda, tipped her glasses at Yang, looking her over. Yang flushed slightly, and unzipped the front of her jacket enough for the cat’s head to be visible, nestled inside against her overalls, seemingly completely at ease. “I found this cat in the middle of the road- I think it’s leg might be broken, and something happened to its ear…” 

Glynda’s entire demeanor changed as she saw the cat, and heard what Yang had to say. She nodded, standing up from her desk. “Let me just call for An. I think she might have just gotten back from her lunch break. Come on in through the side door there.” She gestured to the doorway from the waiting room into the actual office, and Yang wasted no time in moving toward it. The older woman’s eyes followed her as she did, her doberman watching with narrowed eyes and tense shoulders. Yang caught sight of the circular nametag attached to its collar on her way in the door. Cinder

Hm… Odd name for a dog…’ She couldn’t help but think as she entered through the doorway and closed it behind her. She stood there for a moment, waiting for Glynda to return with An. In her jacket, the cat had begun to purr softly, and Yang looked down at it to find it’s eyes closed in sleep. She was relieved to see it wasn’t in too much pain, but still, she worried. “It’ll be okay kitty…” She murmured, gently scratching its head. Thankfully, it didn’t take Glynda long to arrive with An. 

They rounded the corner, and Yang looked to An. She looked a lot like Lie, despite her difference in hair color: a darker, muddier shade of pink that Yang thought looked quite pretty with her eyes. “Dr. Ren. Thank you for coming so quickly-” 

“Of course, of course!” She assured Yang, smiling in a soft, motherly way that reminded her of Summer. “Now, where’s this cat you say you found?” 

Yang unzipped her jacket a bit more, and the cat’s purring stopped in protest, golden eyes opening slightly to look at An. “What a pretty thing. Come on back, and we’ll take care of her.” Yang nodded, gratefulness flooding her chest as she carried the cat to the back room. Already in the room, a boy maybe a little younger than Ruby was sterilizing some equipment. “This is my assistant, Oscar. He’ll only be observing any operations I do, so don’t worry about that.” An assured her, and Yang glanced from the boy to the doctor. “Operations…?” 

The trepidation must have leaked into her voice, because An gave her a soft smile while she put on a pair of rubber gloves. “Let’s just see what we’re dealing with, okay?” Yang hesitated slightly, but nodded, and completely unzipped her jacket, keeping the cat cradled in one arm. She moved over to An and the table, and An gingerly took the cat from her, looking her over. 

“Well, it doesn’t seem too bad- possibly a clean break. I’ll take some x-rays, and we’ll go from there, okay?” She smiled reassuringly, and put a comforting hand on Yang’s shoulder. 

Yang had to admit, that was reassuring to hear, but now she was a bit out of her league. “Dr. An… I should probably call my dad… I don’t think I can afford-” She was silenced by a gloved finger in front of her face. “What…?”

An moved the finger to rest in front of her own lips, and winked. “I won’t charge you for the appointment, Yang. You did a good thing. Now, you’re welcome to stay with her while I get those x-rays and figure out what we’re dealing with, or if you’re squeamish about doctors offices, you’re also welcome to wait in the waiting room.” She turned to the cat laying on the table. 

The black of her fur was absolute and abysmal against the white table, and Yang watched as she breathed, her chest heaving up and down as she laid there on her side. She glanced at Yang through slitted golden eyes, and suddenly it was incredibly hard to imagine hiding in the waiting room while An worked on the cat.

“I’ll stay.” Yang promised, looking from the cat to An. The doctor nodded, and Yang moved over to the table, placing her hand comfortingly atop the beautiful black cat’s side. “I’ll stay with you.” 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

“So, what’s her name?” 

Yang blinked back into focus, looking to her father. “Huh?” 

Taiyang chuckled and turned his eyes back to the road. The truck rumbled and bounced with the potholes littering the asphalt, and Yang tried to minimize the jostling by holding the cat to her a little more firmly. She was laying on Yang’s lap, a splint on her leg and some ointment on the tear in her ear. She was bundled up in Yang’s jacket, and while it was chilly, Yang could endure it. She needed the jacket more than Yang did. “I don’t know.” She finally answered. 

Her father glanced at her again momentarily, before turning back to the road. “Isn’t it, like, a witch thing?”

Yang shrugged. “I don’t know. Ma can understand Omen… but she hasn’t tried to talk to me at all. All I get are purrs and meows.” She sighed. 

“Maybe she’s just a normal cat.” Her father shrugged. Yang… wasn’t certain. She didn’t seem like a normal cat. There was something off about her; sure, she slept like a cat, and she moved like a cat, and she yawned and licked and meowed like a cat, but there was something Yang couldn’t quite name- something she sensed more than anything, that was off about her. Regardless, it was getting late, and she was exhausted. 

She had ended up spending most of the day at An’s office, waiting anxiously for any word on what the cat’s situation was like exactly. She had been incredibly relieved to hear that it was just a sprain, and not an actual break, and all of the tension she’d been holding in her body had ebbed away, leaving only exhaustion. She’d called her father once she’d gotten the news, and had thankfully just caught him as he was leaving his part time job. She didn’t think taking the bike home would be a good idea, and her father had agreed. They’d worked together to get Bumblebee on the ramp and into the truck bed, and afterword, Yang had approached her father and simply laid her head on his shoulder, her arms limp at her sides and a groan passing her lips, muffled by his brown leather jacket. 

He’d chuckled. “Come on, sunshine, lets get home.”

By the time they pulled into the dirt driveway and up to the house, the sky had already faded from blue to orange to pink to purple and now a deep black-like blue. The wind whipped around the trees, and overhead dark clouds promised rain. Taiyang sniffed at the air as he hopped out of the truck, and closed the door. Yang followed, carefully scooting herself out of the passenger seat and cradling the cat as she stepped around the truck and over to her father. “Smells like a storm.” He remarked. 

Yang nodded silently. It was nights like these that made her nervous. Something about storms had always put her off, but in the fall, when everything was dying and the nights were longer, they seemed more dangerous; more ominous. She didn’t like it. 

Unconsciously, Yang found herself petting and softly scratching behind the cat’s ears, holding her as close as was comfortable. Taiyang smiled slightly at the sight as he watched Yang frown up at the rolling clouds. He placed a hand on her shoulder, and Yang snapped back to attention. “Head inside before it starts raining, I’ll get Bumblebee in the garage for you.” 

Yang blinked in surprise. “Really? You don’t have to.” Taiyang waved her off. “You just focus on taking care of that thing, okay?” 

Yang smiled a bit at that, her relief palpable as she turned and walked up the steps of their cabin’s front porch. That relief was immediately crushed as both of her mothers jumped her the second she stepped in the door. 

“Where in the hell have you been? We were worried-”

“You said you’d be home by lunch. It’s 6:30, Yang.” Raven’s tone was beyond scary as she tried to comfort Summer, who was in near hysterics. 

“I uh… I got a little tied up…” Yang tried to justify, but Summer was not having it. “There is no excuse- we were so worried! You’re grounded, I swear to gods…” She went off, listing off all the things Yang was banned from, when she felt the cat in her jacket shift, and a ‘mrow’ chirped from the bundle. Summer immediately stopped, and Raven furrowed her eyebrows. 

The cat chose that moment to peek out of the beige fur lining the neck of the jacket, meowing definitely. Yang gave a tentative smile. “I uh… made a new friend today. She needed a bit of medical attention so… I hope you’ll forgive me for worrying you.” 

Summer and Raven were still just staring in surprise at the black cat snuggled in their daughter’s bomber jacket. “Your… familiar?” Summer asked, tentatively, and Yang blinked. “I’m… not really sure.” 

“What do you mean, you’re not sure?” Raven quirked an eyebrow. “It’s a pretty moment, bonding with a familiar.” 

Yang shrugged. “She doesn’t seem familiar, but… there’s definitely something magical about her. I don’t know what bonding with a familiar even entails, so…” 

Yang could see her mother’s brain working; cogs turning, and running all the possibilities. “Why don’t you head downstairs, and get that cat settled. We’ll talk in a bit.” 

“But-” 

“Summer.” Raven looked at her wife, and Yang couldn’t quite decipher the look she gave her, but Summer quieted, nodding. “Head up to your room, Yang. We’ll be up shortly.” Yang did as she was told, however confused she was about the situation. Climbing the stairs, she held the cat almost like a baby, swaddled in her warm jacket. She had started purring again, and admittedly, the sound soothed Yang’s worries. 

Yang’s room was located on the second floor, across from the stairs and the third bathroom: the one she and Ruby shared. Naturally, the two had shared a room since they were small, but when Yang had started getting older, and Ruby had started getting into her magic, they’d both agreed that they needed more space. It was Ruby who had volunteered to move out of their room, surprisingly. She’d already talked to Summer about taking the attic, and their father had agreed that it was a good idea, but both of them knew he just wanted an excuse to refurbish another part of the house. 

And refurbish he had; Ruby’s attic underwent a makeover during the first two weeks of that summer. He cut out the far wall, and built a terrace off of it, so Ruby’s plants could get some sun, and built shelves and hooks into the walls to hang potted plants from and stack books along. Ruby had been near tears when she’d seen it, and now you were lucky to get Ruby out of her room for more than a few hours at a time. Yang sighed. The thought admittedly made her a little sad. Ruby was growing up so fast. It seemed like yesterday she was just a little toddler, and Yang was pulling her around in a wagon out on the lawn. 

Yang pushed open her bedroom door and closed it behind her as she entered her room. Her full size bed was neatly made, with enough pillows to drown in, all in varying shades of yellow and orange, and she wanted nothing more than to plop right down and take a nap. She stepped around the laundry basket by her dresser gave herself a quick glance in her full length mirror, before hefting the cat in her arms slightly. She’d been carrying her around all day- and while Yang was no stranger to heavy lifting(her biceps could attest to that) and the cat was decently skinny, she had to admit that her endurance was wavering. “Alright kitty…” She spoke softly, setting the bundle down on her comforter. “I’m gonna set you down now. My arms need a bit of a rest.” 

Once she set her jacket down, the cat peeked her head past the fur lining and glanced around lazily, yawning. Yang, in turn, yawned too. “A nap does sound pretty good right now…” She admitted. Shrugging the straps of her overalls off her shoulders, Yang let them fall to her waist, not bothering to try and remove the pant section of the outfit. Her tube top was plenty comfy as is, and if her moms were going to come up and talk to her, then she supposed that being pantless wasn’t the best option. Oh, but a nap sounded so nice… 

One look at the black cat sleeping there so soundly, and Yang caved. ‘It’s just a little nap… only for a little bit…’ 

Yang laid down on the bed beside the cat, resting her head on one of her orange pillows, shaped like an orange. She gently stroked the cat’s head, earning a grumble of approval and the feline affectionately headbutting her hand. A smile curved at Yang’s lips, and her eyes started to droop, and before she knew it, she was fading into darkness; into dreams. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Alyssum. 

Alyssum. Yang’s nose tickled with the sweet smell, and she knew this place. She knew that smell. She stepped through the white expanse of nothing- except this time there was something. Something different. 

This whole thing felt familiar, like she’d done it all before. Like she’d been here before; like she knew what was going to happen next. She waited. She waited for the white to part, and… and what? She was forgetting… she was already forgetting, and it had just begun. 

Alyssum. The smell tickled her nose and Yang remembered smelling that before, somewhere. She remembered smelling it, but she couldn’t recall smelling it ever in her life. Everything was bleeding together. Yang had no idea what day it was. She had no idea what she was- who she was. 

Alyssum. Focus. Yang tried to focus on that one thing. On alyssum. She pictured it- finally. In her mind she could see them. She could smell them. She could touch- the white void was so blindingly bright. It was almost too bright. Yang tried to look away. Her brain jumped to shadows; wispy things that slithered and spiraled along the edges of her white, bright box. 

Box. Box? Had it always been a box? This wasn’t right. She didn’t remember any box… 

No. Not alyssum. Something else. 

White faded darker and darker, and suddenly Yang could barely see. She could barely breathe. The air was thick and she gasped for it; choked on it. She reached out. 

‘Anybody! Somebody!’ She pleaded, fingers outstretched. She shut her eyes tight. Was this it? If she could cry, she felt she might have, but it seemed she’d forgotten how to do that too. She floated there, adrift in the dense darkness, and waited. 

She waited. 

And then soft skin met hers, and dainty fingers slipped between her fingers, and she felt herself pull out from the darkness. 

It was light again. It was light again, and Yang gasped for breath, her face flushed. She opened her eyes, and Yang swore she saw stars. 

Yang didn’t remember what she said. She didn’t remember anything but the stars- golden, and molten and warm. She remembered the color black; black as pitch, black as tar, black as obsidian and twice as rich. She remembered beauty. 

And all too soon, she was gone, and all Yang could remember was the smell of something sweet. 






 

Chapter Text


“Yang…?” 

Yang looked up from her cereal, mouth open as the spoon stopped just short of her lips. “Huh?” 

Summer was looking at her with an expression Yang couldn’t quite define; something like confusion. The cat had perched on her shoulder, purring and kneading with her front paws as Yang shoveled the spoonful of honey cereal into her mouth, crunching on it. From over by the coffee machine, Tai sipped from his mug, and Yang could make out the curve of an amused smile hiding behind it. 

“Yang, I don’t think the kitchen is the place… and besides, shouldn’t it be taking it easy with that leg?” Summer fretted as she munched on a piece of bacon. Yang pulled the spoon from her mouth, crunching as she looked up her new companion. The cat nuzzled her cheek with her head, and Yang couldn’t help but smile, scratching its head. “I used some ointment on her, so the pain isn't so bad now I don't think. She’s just kind of laying here…” She chuckled. The cat meowed, and Tai walked across the kitchen to lean over the counter and scratch the scruff of her neck. “She’s pretty cute, I’ll give her that. You got a name for her yet?”

Yang shook her head. “I don’t know if she already has one or not; she won’t tell me.” Her dad looked back at his wife, at that. “Is that how it works, sugar?” 

Summer hummed, munching on another piece of bacon. “If she’s your familiar, she should tell you her name, and then you can communicate telepathically.” She looked at her daughter a bit concernedly. “She hasn’t spoken to you? In your head, that is?” 

Yang shook her head, and Summer frowned thoughtfully. “Hm… she might just be a normal cat, then, sunshine. I don’t know what to tell you.” 

Yang thought about that, taking the last bite of cereal from her bowl and crunching it. She supposed it was possible, but something about that didn’t seem right. Being careful of the cat on her shoulder, Yang stood from the barstool and shifted her to her arms, cradling her to keep the weight from her foot. “Well, I’m gonna go get Ruby up; she’s probably still asleep.” Summer nodded. “Thank you sunshine. Remind her that we’re getting you girls’ dresses today, too.” Yang saluted her mother slightly lazily as she made her way up the stairs. “Can do, Mom.” 

The cat in her arms chirped, and Yang smiled as she headed toward the second set of stairs and up to the attic. Ruby’s door was open, and Yang could hear soft snoring from inside. She chuckled, stepping in and around the various open books, piles of dark clothing, and occasional empty carton of milk. The planters hanging around her room were vibrantly flowing in all sorts of different shades of roses, and Yang had to smile. According to Summer, all of the witches on their side of the family were green witches- gifted with a connection to earth, life, and plants. The Roses were called such- she told them both one day when Ruby had suddenly produced a rosebud from a pile of dirt her father had tracked in- because every young witch in their coven started by producing roses and only roses. 

Yang remembered asking if she would ever make roses too, and she remembered Summer’s face falling in sympathy. 

“You’re my daughter, Yang… very much so… but your powers, when they manifest, will be from Raven’s coven. She brought you into this world…” 

To say Yang had been a bit disappointed would be an understatement. She’d always loved Summer’s garden, and her flowers, and she’d always hoped to be able to do that someday. Her father was mortal; he had no magic she could inherit, and Raven never seemed to have any visible magic either. It had been frustrating, for sure. 

That night she’d gone to bed early, with no supper, too upset to eat. Her parents told her later that they'd all been pretty concerned. But soon, Raven and Summer had come up to talk to her. They’d been different then: Raven didn’t have any stress lines- her face was smooth, and pale and Yang had looked for any similarity in it and on her own. Summer’s hair had been longer, and the red in it had been more brown, but her almost childlike delicate features were the same.

They’d come into her and Ruby’s shared room, and sat on either side of her bed, looking between each other and down at her. 

“Yang… what’s the matter?” Raven had asked, her expression somewhere between concerned and confused.

Yang remembered turning on her side and pouting into her pillow, frustrated tears wetting her cheeks. She couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8. 

“I can’t use magic… and Ruby can, and she’s just little…” She’d sniffled. “It’s not… not fair .” 

Looking back on it, she knew that probably hadn’t been fair to Summer, but then, Yang had thought she’d never have magic at all, like her dad. Some days she still wasn’t too sure… But Raven had been quick to quell that fear. Raven had never been as maternal as Summer, but she’d always been there to tell her the truth, and Yang loved her for that. 

“Yang. Summer and Ruby’s magic is different than yours. There are more kinds of magic than just the kind you can see.” Raven had informed her incredulously. 

“But you don’t use magic… And… and if I came from you and not Mom, then I wont have magic.” Yang had reasoned. 

Yang remembered Raven sighing at that, as per usual. Raven was not a patient person, but she tried for Yang, and that was enough. 

“I have magic, Yang, it’s just different than Summer’s.” She tried to make Yang understand. “The Branwen coven isn’t so… physical as other covens. Our magic manifests inside. We all tend to have keen sixth senses, and different types of connection with people and with different spiritual planes.” 

Of course, this had only confused Yang more. 

“What your mother’s trying to say, sunshine, is that you do have magic… it’s just more subtle than mine and Ruby’s.” Summer amended, resting her hand on Ravens. Raven had taken Summer’s and softly ran her thumb over the top of the tan skin there. 

A small smile tugged at Yang’s lips as she remembered that. No one could ever say Raven didn’t love her family. She might have been stern, and terse, hesitant toward public displays of affection, but she showed her love in other ways: in little touches, and in agreements, and in planning ahead. Some of her favorite memories were of Raven’s rare gentleness. That moment with Summer was one of them. 

Yang shook her head of the thoughts as she stepped over to Ruby’s bed, the snoring little monster tucked up to her chin in blanket after blanket, her hair beyond out of control, and a beanie hanging half off of her head. Yang contemplated the best way to wake her up. She could wrap her up in the blankets and sling her over her shoulder- Ruby was tiny enough that Yang could do it without hurting herself. But then, she remembered the cat, and scrapped that idea.

She could throw open the curtains- let some sunlight in and wake her up that way… No. Yang tapped her chin in contemplation. From her shoulder, the cat chirped in her ear, and stepped around her neck and to the other shoulder. She lifted her paw, swiping at the air, and Yang smiled amusedly. 

‘Do you have any ideas?’ She thought, hoping for a reply. No other voice sounded in her head, but the cat stared at her with those large, golden eyes of hers, and something pulled deep in her gut; some kind of ache, even if it was painless. She turned to Ruby, who had since rolled over onto her back, her blanket brushing the tip of her nose, still snoring away. She looked to the end table beside the bed, eyes scanning over her lamp, wallet and chain, and a few discarded cookie crumbs, before falling on what she had been looking for. Her hand closed around it, and before she really could think the idea through, she brought the whistle to her lips and blew on it. 

Ruby’s eyes shot open, and she screamed as she looked up to see Yang standing over her bed, the cat perched on her shoulder. 

She scrambled into a sitting position, trying to get her breathing under control, and Yang couldn’t help but cackle at her wild hair as she did. Ruby looked like a character straight out of a saturday morning cartoon who’d been blown up with dynamite. And she indeed looked like she might explode. 

“Yang!” She huffed, grabbing her pillow and launching it at her sister, who was laughing boisterously. “Get out! Get out, get out, get out!” Ruby shouted, hopping out of her bed and trying to shove Yang out of her room. Yang turned as she passed the threshold of the door, pulling her sister into a one-armed hug. “Oh come on, Rubes, that was pretty funny, you gotta admit!” She wiped at her eye as Ruby pulled her arm off of her. “You’re the worst!” She exclaimed, but Yang could tell she was just embarrassed, her cheeks aglo. Yang stuck her tongue out at her playfully, and Ruby did it back, slamming the door to her room. 

Yang sighed amusedly, turning and making her way down the stairs and to her room on the second floor. The cat on her shoulder walked along the length of her arm as they stepped inside, and Yang set her on the bed, where she gimped over to Yang’s dragon hoard of pillows and laid down to groom her tawny fur. 

Yang meanwhile stretched her own long, tan limbs and contemplated what to wear that day. She’d be trying on dresses later in the evening, so nothing too hard to take off and put back on… She walked over to her closet, pulling open the doors and looking inside with a considering hum. Putting her hands on her hips, she surveyed what her options were. 

Her overalls were in the wash, still covered in grease, and her tube top was dirty too… She’d already worn her favorite yellow shirt, and that cute skirt with the purple tulle… 

From the bed, the cat began to pur, nestled into her pillows, and Yang smiled wistfully, before an idea popped into her head. She pulled the clothes she’d wear that day out of the closet and hurried to steal the first shower, before Ruby could beat her to it.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

“Summer, relax.” Tai chuckled, kissing his wife’s temple. “It’s fine-”

“Tai, around the house is one thing, but this? I just don’t know-” Summer fretted, and Raven chimed in, scratching at the back of her neck as they walked down the sidewalk, seemingly unconcerned. “It’s a familiar, Summer, they’re supposed to be attached at the hip right out the gate.”

Summer turned to her wife at that, her face in a frustrated pout. “You said yourself that we can’t know if it's her familiar for sure. And besides, would you keep your voice down?” 

Raven raised an eyebrow at that. “Summer, there are literally almost three covens that make their home in this town- it’s not like it’s a secret.” 

Summer’s cheeks flushed slightly, and she turned away, crossing her arms. 

Raven, of course, knew what the real issue was, and so did Yang, a little ways ahead, but neither of them would call her out on it. 

The topic of conversation was the cat, currently lying inside the front pocket of Yang’s bright orange hoodie as they walked through the downtown area and to Sustrai’s, the dress shop where they’d gone to get Yang’s first equinox dress. The owner’s daughter was less than friendly, and Yang had overheard her more than once saying rather unflattering things, but she was nice to Ruby, or at least seemed to be, so Yang refrained from doing anything too harsh. 

As they neared the door to the shop, Ruby's gaze was suddenly drawn up from her boots and to the young man exiting the bakery just to the left of the dress shop.

 He had flour on his apron, and a little on his face, and Ruby’s expression lit up as she recognized him. “Jaune!” She shouted, flagging him down. He turned, surprised to hear his name, and blinked as he spotted Ruby, his expression lighting up a bit as he recognized her. 

He waved back, and Ruby ran toward him, eager to talk. Tai huffed as she did, and Raven and Summer both shared a glance, before looking to their husband. “Tai…” Summer started in a warning tone of voice, seeing the tell-tale veins beginning to pop in his neck. Raven chortled. “Tai, relax. Look at the boy: he’s a noodle.” 

“Yeah dad, you don’t have to worry about Jaune. He’s a sweet guy, but Ruby just sees him as a friend.” Tai seemed to relax a bit, however minimally, and Yang held her hand out for low five in Raven’s general direction. “He’s also a noodle.” 

Raven gave Yang’s hand an affirming smack, a triumphant smirk perched on her lips as she met her husband’s gaze. 

Yang tuned out of their banter long enough to observe her little sister and her friend talking. Technically, Jaune was Yang’s age, but he and Ruby had a lot in common, and to be quite honest, it seemed like the two had needed each other when Ruby had started school. 

Based on what she had heard from Lie and Nora, and what Ruby had filled her in on, Jaune came from a family who had once been a great coven. Unfortunately, with the generations, almost all of their coven’s magic had been bred out. That’s what Raven had meant by almost three. 

The three covens of Vale were the Roses, the Branwens, and the Arcs. The Roses were green witches, the Branwens were clairvoyants, and the Arcs had been healers. While their magic was almost completely gone, they still held the respect of the other covens, and a few of their members seemed to at least retain the aura of witches. Jaune was one of those. His witch aura was particularly strong, although he couldn’t seem to manifest his magic yet, if he had inherited any at all that was. Yang hadn’t known him well the year before, when she vaguely remembered seeing him awkwardly dancing at the equinox dance, but since he and Ruby had become friends, she’d tried to make an effort to be friendly with him. He made pretty good bread too. 

From her pocket, the cat meowed, and Yang smiled, scratching behind her head absentmindedly. “Think we should go and say hello?” She asked, and received a purr in response. “I suppose that’s a yes. Let’s go then.” She chuckled softly, walking toward the two. She had to admit, the disparity between the two was almost laughable. If she didn’t know they were both such dorks, she’d be completely at a loss for why they’d associate with each other. 

Jaune was tall and blonde, a little on the pale side, and thin as a rail. He dressed in faded blue jeans and a short-sleeved sweatshirt dusted in flour to match his apron; meanwhile, Ruby was short, and red and black from head to toe, excepting her tan complexion. Her grungy look was a near complete opposition to his bakery-boy motif. Of course, as Yang drew closer she tuned into their conversation, the two nerds chatting animatedly about a new comic that was due to drop any day now. 

Yang crept up behind her sister, and as Jaune noticed and caught her gaze, she lifted a finger to her lips. He seemed to understand, a conflicted look on his face. Before he could jeopardize her sneak attack, Yang draped her arm over her sister’s shoulder, surprising her. “Ruby!” She exclaimed, and Ruby flailed in surprise and a bit of panic. “Yang!” She squirmed, trying to get out of Yang’s hold. “Urgh, why do you have to do that?! You suck-”

“Aw, come on baby sister, is that any way to treat your adoring big sis-” Ruby shoved the heel of her palm into Yang’s face, trying to push her way and huffing agitatedly, her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “Cut it out!” 

Yang relented, letting go of her with a slight pout. “You’re no fun, Ruby.” 

Ruby stuck her tongue out at Yang, and Jaune couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them. “Man, you two are really close, huh? I wish my sisters and I were like that.” He scratched the back of his neck. They both looked to him at the seemingly harmless remark. “You’re not?” 

Realization dawned on Jaune’s face, and he sputtered to correct the statement. “We are- we are close, don’t get me wrong… it’s just different, you know? Since Saphron moved out, it’s been… a little tense.” He admitted. Ruby and Yang shared a look, and before Jaune could process it, Yang had her arm slung around his neck, a grin sprouting on her lips. “Well, if you ever need a big sister to rough you up, Ruby can vouch that I’m the gal for the job.” 

Thankfully, the effort seemed to work, and Jaune chuckled lightly, looking at Yang with the softest expression she’d seen in a long while. It nearly melted her heart. “Thanks, Yang.” 

Her grin softened in return, and she lifted her arm to ruffle his hair instead. “Any time, Jaune.” 

From her pocket, the cat meowed, and Jaune’s glance was drawn downward. “Is that… a cat?” Unlike her parents, Jaune’s face didn’t cloud with hesitance as he laid eyes on the black-tufted little creature. 

Yang removed her arm from around his neck and scratched the back of her head, admittedly a little unsure how to phrase an explanation. Thankfully, she didn’t appear to have to- Jaune’s expression tensed into the beginnings of an adoring grin, and he looked as though he wanted to reach out and pet her, but he refrained, looking to Yang instead. “When did you get a cat?” 

“Uh… yesterday, I guess, although she’s not really mine . I found her lying on the side of the road and took her to Dr. Ren, and here we are.” She shrugged. A meow from her pocket. Yang looked down and offered her hand to the cat, gently petting her and scratching behind her ear. 

“Does she have a name?” Jaune asked, still eyeing her like he wanted desperately to pet her. Yang shook her head as the cat retreated into the pocket and out of Jaune’s line of sight. “Not that I know of.”

“Are you gonna name her? My mom says to never name a stray unless you want them sticking around.” He didn’t say it like an insult, but still, for some reason the word ‘stray’ sent a twang through her gut. “Then I suppose it’s a good thing she’s not a stray. She’s got a home with us for however long she wants it.” 

Jaune seemed to grow nervous at Yang’s defensive tone, raising his hands in surrender. “No harm meant, Yang.” 

Yang relaxed immediately, feeling a bit embarrassed herself. “Ah… sorry Jaune, no harm no foul.” She patted him on the shoulder, and turned to Ruby. “We should head into the shop and get looking. Hopefully all the good dresses aren’t taken already.”

“Fingers crossed…” Ruby muttered to herself as Yang started in the direction of the shop. “I’ll catch up-”

“Oh no you don’t, baby sister. You’re getting your dress today- might as well rip off the bandaid.” Yang grinned, grabbing Ruby by the hood and pulling her in the direction of Sustrai’s . “If I have to endure Emerald and that little shit Mercury, then you have to at least distract me so I don’t go dishing out lumps.”

“Jaune! Save meeeeee!” Ruby begged, pouting as her older sister dragged her away from Jaune and the bakery. Raven was waiting for them by the door, Summer and Tai having already gone in. 

“Took you two long enough. Is the bakers’ boy really that interesting?” She raised an eyebrow. Yang snorted. “Jaune is sweet, but I wouldn’t use the word interesting.” 

“Leave Jaune alone, he’s baby.” Ruby defended her friend, and Raven squinted in confusion. Yang was quick to clarify, an expert in Ruby- to - parent translations at this point. “She means he’s soft and innocent.” 

“Hm.” Raven grunted, taking in the new information, but clearly not understanding the concept. “Well, you know Ruby, I started as just friends with your father, way back when-”

Ruby’s face instinctively scrunched up. “Ma, I’m begging you don’t finish this story-”

“-He was just a stable boy back then, if I remember correctly… he was a lot like this baker boy, the more I think about it-”

Ma!” Ruby begged through gritted teeth. Raven raised her hands in surrender, chuckling. “Oh come on, Ruby. I can’t leave all the teasing to your father, now can I?” She smirked that trademark smirk of hers, and Ruby was clearly trying to maintain her composure as she pushed through the both of them and into the shop, the little bell dinging. 

Yang held out her palm to her mother, and the older woman humored her with a decently strong clap of her own hand, the two wasting no time in entering the building behind Ruby. 

Sustrai’s was all beige and foresty greens and accents of brown. It reminded Yang of the woods, if the woods had been dipped in cream colored paint. It smelled like pine and lacquer inside; like shoe polish, and Yang couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose slightly. “Gross…” Yang sniffed, unimpressed. Ruby looked to her, confusion pulling her eyebrows together. “I know I hate dress shopping, but you were all for it ten minutes ago. What’s so gross?”

Yang shook her head, trying not to breathe too deeply through her nose. “It’s not that, it’s the smell.” She explained, and Ruby’s confusion only grew as they approached the front counter where Tai and Summer were speaking with Ms. Sustrai. 

“It’s the shop- it smells awful, like… like boot polish and teakwood.” Yang murmured to her sister, not wanting to be rude to Ms. Sustrai. 

Ruby sniffed the air slightly, brow pulling taut, before looking to her sister. “Are you okay? I smell something wood-y, but it’s not bad at all. You can barely tell.” 

Yang frowned, but didn’t press it further as they were led through the boutique and to the changing area in the back, shielded from the rest of the shop by various racks of dresses and suits and other formal wear. Ms. Sustrai had pulled out all the racks with dresses in their price range, and left them to it. In the corner, sweeping up a broken vase, Emerald Sustrai glowered at them, and Yang glowered back, whenever Ruby wasn’t looking that was. Something told her she would have to keep the cat hidden from view, or risk suffering the wrath of Emerald, or worse, her brother Mercury. 

Yang felt her jaw clench as she made eye contact with him, the prick smirking as he caught her eye. He was manning the front counter, or at least he was headed that way now, so at least Yang could rest at ease knowing that he wouldn’t be anywhere near her or Ruby, or the cat snuggled deep in her front pocket. Thank the gods for baggy sweatshirts and the cat’s small physique. Yang might’ve been smarter and left the cat at home, but something had inspired her to bring her along. Maybe Yang just wanted someone to distract her from the two admittedly intimidating teens milling about. Either way, she was comforted by the slight weight in her pocket, and the warmth radiating from the stowaway there.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

It took nearly two hours to find the girls’ dresses, mostly due to Ruby’s clear discomfort with all the options presented to her. Yang was sympathetic to her sister’s plights- she hadn’t been too happy with picking a dress either, even if she tried to appear otherwise. 

Yang knew it was tradition; she knew it was expected of her, and it was just fabric; it shouldn’t have mattered; it didn’t matter. But still, she couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable sometimes in dresses- in skirts and in certain types of shirts. It wasn’t all the time, not hardly, but it was enough. She’d talked with Summer about it, a while ago, and while it hadn’t really stuck, Yang didn’t think, Summer did ask her as she handed her a dress to try on, whether Yang would be comfortable in this one. The effort was appreciated, but Yang had still defaulted to agreement, taking the dress and entering the room to change, however much the dress felt wrong on her. 

She’d modeled in the mirror hanging off the back of the door, once she’d gotten it on, a frown settled into the spot that was typically reserved for a brilliant, humor-rich smile. 

It wasn’t like it didn’t fit; if anything, it fit a little bit too well. Regardless, she’d ended up picking that one- it was the only option that was less stomach-ache inducing than the others. Besides, maybe she’d like it some other day; it tended to fluctuate like that- these moods of hers. She’d spend days at a time in dungarees and baggy sweatshirts and heavy work boots. She loved the weight of them, and having to lace them up tight, and how they gave her an extra inch. She loved the comfort and ease of baggy sweatshirts, and how warm they kept her. She loved the way overalls looked on her, and how the jean material felt. 

But she didn’t always choose comfort over flourish. Sometimes she did delight in pretty things, like her skirt with the purple tulle, or her tube tops, or the occasional party dress. 

More often than not, she wore a lot of the contrasting pieces together, and it worked for her. But some days… some days it felt like no matter what she wore, something was wrong. She’d only vaguely figured out what that something was, but she didn’t want to think about that again. 

Yang shook her head of the thought and spit into the sink, running the water and cleaning her toothbrush with it, before leaning down and taking in a mouthful of cold water, swishing, and spitting that down the drain too. She returned to her room, tying her hair up into a messy bun and walking over to her bed, flopping down on top of the comforter and throwing her arm over her eyes, casting her sight into darkness. From above her, she heard a soft trill, and felt something small and soft bump into the top part of her forehead. 

Yang lowered her arm, but didn’t fully put it away, looking up at the source of the contact, which was of course the cat, laying casually along one of Yang’s lavender pillows, her head pressed to Yang’s forehead. Moving her head away, the cat looked into Yang’s eyes with those gorgeous golden ones again, trilling once more. Yang smiled softly- amused- and removed her arm entirely, letting it fall across her stomach as she gave the cat her full, undivided attention. “I bet you’re glad you don’t have to worry about silly things like dances, and dresses, hm?” Yang murmured, reaching up and lightly scratching behind her ear. 

The trill became a purr, and she blinked slowly, nudging Yang’s hand in response. Yang’s heart fluttered- It was incredible really. She’d only known this cat for a day and a half, and already, she was flooded with such love for the small creature. Today had been okay- it hadn’t been horrible by any means, but still- something heavy had settled into Yang’s chest throughout the day, and particularly after they’d left the boutique, dresses in hand. She’d tried to ignore it as much as possible, but it was always there, creeping up on her, begging her to do something about it. It was like having period cramps, or a stomach bug, only she didn’t have a way to wish this kind of pain away. But for some reason, all it took was this- all it took was a purr and the affectionate rubbing of the cat’s head against her hand, the resting of her forehead on Yang’s, like she knew Yang was feeling something unpleasant- it was enough to elicit a very rare response from Yang.

Yang didn’t know why the tears started. She was the last person who should be crying at the moment, and certainly not over something as insignificant as a dress, or a cat’s affection. Ruby should have been rightfully more upset- she’d protested the dress code for weeks. Jaune should have been rightfully more upset- his oldest sister had left home, and left a void in his family life. She could think of at least twenty other people who had it worse than her; twenty other people who deserved to be able to cry about the sucky things in their lives, and here she was, crying over having to wear a dress. 

The thoughts overtook her focus, and swirled by one by one, repeating and zipping by to make room for new ones, and all the while, the tears ran down her cheeks, and she wished them away. She closed her eyes, lifting her hands to her face and pressing the heels of her palms into them, trying to stop the tears from coming, hoping the pressure would be enough to relieve her of them. She sniffled, dragging her palms from her eyes to the corners, were tears accumulated and rolled down her cheeks, staining the comforter in little droplets. “Gods, what am I doing…” She gasped, trying to rid her face of the wetness that had suddenly accrued, “This is stupid…” She murmured to herself. “It doesn’t matter… it doesn't…” She tried to convince herself, and was quieted by the sudden light pressure of something small pressing into her shoulder. She felt another pressure just a few inches away, against her rib cage, and pulled her hands away from her eyes, opening them to see just what was pushing into her. 

The cat was stepping into her, looking down at her with a particularly soft expression. Yang watched in fascination as the cat tilted it’s head down and bunted her, first directly at the forehead, and then down to the side of her cheek where tears were still rolling down. Yang sniffed, her heart racing as the cat did this, before stepping back and curling up beside her. Yang smiled and let her head drop to rest against her pillows again, wiping her eyes and turning to lay on her side, spooning the sweet creature. “Thank you…” She murmured, sniffling and closing her eyes. 

It would be okay. It wasn’t stupid, and it did matter. Yang mattered. Her body mattered, and her feelings mattered. Yang didn’t know why she felt so sure of that all of a sudden, but there was no doubt in her mind. There was only soft, dense warmth, and an ache so beautifully unlike the ache of not loving your body- an ache that felt like a piece of you being returned to where it belonged the whole time. It was an ache that was a pit, and that pit was just the center of a whole other fruit- a fruit Yang couldn’t quite name yet. 

Yang wasn’t sure when she drifted to sleep; she didn’t remember turning the lights out, or getting water. She didn’t remember getting under the covers, or closing her eyes. She didn’t remember anything before the soft, sweet smell of something familiar. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

She didn’t remember anything but the stars- golden, and molten and warm. She remembered the color black; black as pitch, black as tar, black as obsidian and twice as rich. She remembered beauty. 

But now she remembered more. Now she remembered dark, beautiful, blemished skin, and dark, curling, waving hair, and the shape of lips as they moved- as they breathed life into her. She remembered something- or did she know it? She wasn’t sure. There was something in her head, and she knew it, but she couldn’t say. The beautiful woman’s lips moved silently, and Yang begged to know what she was saying. 

‘I don’t understand!’ She cried in frustration, and the young woman’s lips stopped moving, and she was so close, and then her soft, scarred hands were brushing her cheeks, and the woman’s arms were around her, and her body fit against her like a puzzle piece. Her chin rested atop Yang’s head, and her arms embraced her, and engulfed her, and there was a gentleness that Yang had never felt, and throb in her heart, and in a voice like silver and gold and home, she murmured into the top of Yang’s head.

‘You are beautiful. You are strong. You are kind. You are all I’ve searched for, and all I will never be.’ Her words leave Yang silent. Her soul rejects this statement- at least, she thinks it does. The smell of sweet something tickles her nose once more, Yang knows it is time to leave. She panics. There is something she wants to say, but she has forgotten. 

The smell and the woman are gone before she can remember, and Yang knows this is different. Yang has never spoken in a dream before, and never has her dream spoken back.

Chapter Text

Yang was no stranger to thorns. She had been picking the roses in her mother’s garden since she could remember, and as Summer recounted, even before that. She had one small scar on her knee from where she’d tripped in a particularly thorny rosebush when she was four- Summer had been so worried she’d gotten hurt, and her dad had been a mess. Raven, of course, had assured them that Yang was fine- and she was. She was sniffly, but it didn’t hurt too bad. Just a couple of scrapes. Raven had also been the one to suggest they not use any ointment on it. 

“Scars are pretty cool, you know.” Raven had shrugged. “That’s just a tiny one, but still- scars are a sign of strength. They show people you’ve been through something they haven't, and you made it out with thicker skin than you had before.” 

Yang remembered Summer protesting this. “Raven! We’re not trying to teach her to go flinging herself into danger-” 

The last thing I want her doing is throwing herself into danger, Summer.” Raven’s expression had been gravely serious, and Yang remembered the way she held Summer’s gaze. She kept that look as she turned to Yang. “ Yang, I want you to understand me perfectly clearly: It’s okay to get hurt, and it’s okay to get scars. Scars make you strong. But you should never put yourself at risk to get one. They’re a badge of honor you wear forever for putting others before yourself- if you were to hurt yourself just to get one, then it wouldn’t mean much, would it?” 

Yang remembered nodding. And that was enough for Raven. 

Yang was reminded of that conversation as she reached into a bush and delicately brushed her fingers over the soft petals of a red rose, bypassing the sharp thorns lacing the stems. Around her, everything was green and various vibrant shades of pinks and and purples, even as outside, everything was starting to die- withering and falling in shades of orange and brown and yellow and red. She tended to steer clear of the greenhouse- this was Ruby and Summer’s place. 

Well… it hadn’t always been. When Ruby was still little, this had been Yang and Summer’s place. Summer would let her run about and pick bouquets of flowers. She’d braid them into Yang’s hair, and Yang wouldn’t let anyone touch her hair for a week until the flowers eventually withered and Yang relented in letting her dad wash her hair. It was Raven’s job to do the brushing- she may have inherited her father’s hair color, but it was as thick and untamable as Ravens, and Raven was the only one who could power through brushing the knots out and weathering the inevitable tantrum that ensued.

But then Ruby had gotten older, and she’d needed to practice her magic, and admittedly, Yang didn’t want to intrude. She didn’t have green witch magic. There was no place for her here, so she might as well let Ruby have it. She had given up feeling bitter about it long ago. But now, here she was. 

She wasn’t sure why she had come- if anything, Raven could probably tell her more about the dreams than Summer… but at the same time, Yang wasn’t too sure that’s what she needed. She didn’t know if she wanted Ravens nonchalant, serious approach. Maybe something softer would be nice. Something Summer. 

As much as Ruby and Summer had in common, Yang was still her daughter as well, and Summer made sure that Yang always knew that. She might have been cautious, tentative, and tempered, but she was also a good listener, and even if she didn’t understand, she made an effort. That’s what Yang loved most about her. She wasn’t perfect, but she tried, and that was enough. 

Yang was dragged from her thoughts by the creak of the iron gate as Summer entered the garden, brushing dirt off of her dark skirt. “Alright, I shooed your father away to get groceries, and Raven is chiding Ruby about keeping her room tidy, so I’m all yours, sunshine.” She smiled, and Yang had to raise an eyebrow. 

Ma is chiding Ruby on keeping her room clean? Ma?” She was scrutinous. “We’re talking about the same Raven here, right? The one who leaves clothes literally everywhere on the floor in your room?”

“She’s getting better.” Summer defended her wife, albeit hiding a small amused smile. “So, what is it you wanted to talk about, honeybee.” 

Yang blushed a bit. Sunshine was one thing, but honeybee was a bit… embarrassing. “Mom… you haven’t called me that since I was little.” Yang scratched at her chin, and Summer sighed softly, moving over to her with small quick steps and moving the hand from her daughters chin, having to step on the tops of her toes to do so. “You shouldn’t scratch like that. You’re nervous; what is it?” She asked, to the point. Even so, her voice was soft, and Yang melted into it, relaxing. 

Yang scuffed the dirt with one of her boots. That afternoon she’d opted for a more… relaxed look. Orange dungarees and a simple, white pocket t-shirt, a snapback perched backwards on her head. She shrugged. “I’ve… been having these dreams lately…”

“Dreams?” Summer blinked, and Yang nodded, fiddling with her snapback. “Have you talked to Raven? She might be better at interpreting them then I would be…” 

“I told her about one a little bit ago, but… I had a different one this time. It had a person in it. A… girl.” Yang tried to busy herself looking out through the glass and to Zwei running around in the yard, but Summer brought her back to reality, pulling her chin back to look at her. “Yang…” She started, and Yang felt her cheeks heat up. “It’s not… It’s not like that , I just… I don’t know… I felt like talking with you about it.” She admitted, and Summer smiled softly. Yang might have grown up; she might have been almost an adult, and nearly the same height as Tai now, but she was still the same sweet little girl she’d always been. 

Summer wasted no time in handing her daughter a trowel. “Why don't we work and talk?” Yang immediately relaxed. She might not have been a green witch, but she enjoyed helping out when she had the chance to. She accepted the trowel, and waited to be instructed in what to do. “I have to repot some of the boys-” Of course, by ‘the boys’ her mother was referring to a handful of her favorite succulents. “Would you like to give me a hand with that?” 

“Sure. I’d love to.” Yang smiled a bit, and Summer gave her hand a squeeze. They got to the groove of work decently quickly, Summer giving Yang a task, and Yang completing it to the best of her ability. They worked at re-potting the boys for most of the afternoon, and Yang almost forgot what had brought her out here in the first place. But then, they broke for lunch, and Summer gauged the subject once again as she passed Yang a paper towel with two halves of a cucumber sandwich in it. “So… a girl?” 

Yang… wasn’t sure how to approach this conversation. It wasn’t like it was anything serious… it was just a dream, and it wasn’t even any kind of… particular dream. “I just don’t know what it means.” Yang sighed, resting her arms on her propped up knees and taking a bite of cucumber sandwich. “It wasn’t like any of my other dreams. I mean- it was, but…” Yang groaned in frustration, falling onto her back to stare up at the ceiling of the glass greenhouse. “All of my magic dreams are usually dark, and there’s always this sense of foreboding. I see an animal, and depending on the animal, something happens in the waking world anywhere from the next morning to weeks later.” She explained, and Summer nodded thoughtfully. 

“I dreamt of the cat the night before I found her… Ma said it might be my familiar, and that it might not be negative, and then later on I found her on the side of the road. Her leg was sprained, and she had that tear in her ear.” Yang recounted. “And in my dream I saw her so clearly. Just staring at me- black as coal, and with these big gold eyes…”

“You said you saw a girl?-” Summer prodded lightly, and Yang covered her eyes with her arm in a grumble. “I’m getting to that.” 

“I’ve been having this recurring dream- at least, I think I have. I haven’t been able to remember much about it, which is unusual, because typically I remember everything about all the dreams I have… I keep waking up and vaguely remembering smelling something sweet; some kind of flower. But this time… This time it was different. I remember alyssa… alyssan..” Yang struggled to remember the exact name, and thankfully, Summer cut in. “Alyssum?” 

“Yes!” Yang snapped, removing her arm and propping herself up on her elbows. “And some kind of sage. That’s why I wanted to talk to you: you know way more about flowers than anyone else.” Summer hummed in thought, munching on a cucumber herself. “I’m still not seeing how this connects to you seeing a girl in your dream.” 

Mom.” Yang blushed, exasperated, and Summer had to giggle slightly into her hand. “Oh honey, I’m sorry, continue.” Yang kept her eyes trained distrustingly on her mother for a moment, before glancing off into the distance and rethinking the entire experience. “It wasn’t like I was watching something  happening. This time, it felt like I was part of the dream. There was this girl, and she was beautiful…” Yang barely stopped to allow herself to be embarrassed by the admission, “...and she was talking, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. And then she hugged me, and she said something… I can’t remember now, but it was comforting. It was soft, and she was soft, and she was so pretty …” Her cheeks flushed, and Summer had to smile, brushing a strand of hair from Yang’s eyes, drawing the girl’s attention. 

“Yang, have I ever told you how I met your mother?” 

Yang blinked, looking at Summer in surprise. “No…” 

“Well… I was about your age, and I was studying one day in the clearing that our house is now built on, just minding my own business and sorting through various pressed flowers, and all of a sudden, I heard a rustling from the bushes.” Summer recounted fondly, smiling as she absentmindedly fiddled with her sandwich. “I remember being a little scared; I didn’t know if it could be a wild animal or not. After all, I was out in the middle of the woods, all alone, and with no familiar to protect me; it was seriously a concern.” 

“What was it?” Yang asked, although she had a feeling she knew what it might have been. 

“Raven.” Summer chuckled. “She came tripping through the bushes- twigs and leaves caught in her hair, out of breath, and generally disheveled. She was incoherent for a moment- just babbling, and then she looked at me, and she just… froze.” 

Yang snorted. “What, like, love at first sight?” 

Summer shook her head and took a bite of her sandwich. “No… not quite.” She chuckled. “There was definitely a… gravitation… but we both had other things we were focused on in the moment.” 

“Like what?” Summer smiled at Yang’s clear enthrallment in the story. “Well, for me, it was the fact that she had just trampled a perfectly beautiful patch of ivy, and for her, it was something to do with a dream she’d had.” 

“A dream?” Yang blinked. She knew her mother used to get the same type of dreams as her, but she didn’t think that was how her parents had met. Summer caught her now rapt attention. “Once I had her out of the bushes and speaking coherently, she told me why she’d been running around in the woods. Apparently, she’d been running around for hours looking for this clearing. She’d seen it in a very lifelike dream. She didn’t tell me then; in fact, she didn’t tell me until much later- not until Ruby was born, I don’t think- but she’d seen me in this dream too. She’d seen me sitting in this field, and one of the elders of her coven had told her it was an omen of her future and to find this place before that future was lost.” 

Yang stared at her mother as she spoke, feeling her anxiety creeping up on her. “...lost…? So, is that what I should do? Should I try to find this girl? There were no landmarks anywhere in the dream, it was just white space- oh god am I going to have to die to see her?”  She began to panic, and Summer was quick to reassure her. “No no no, honey that’s not it at all.” 

Yang calmed a bit, but still seemed on edge. “So… should I talk to Ma about talking to the Branwen clan, then?”

Summers expression hardened a bit, an unusual look for her. “That’s not a good idea, Yang.”

“Why not…?” Yang was almost afraid to ask. She’d never seen her mother this serious, beyond being nervous. Summer had always been the soft, gentle approach. She was nervous, sure, but she was usually forgiving and open minded. However, it didn’t seem to be the case at this moment in time, regarding the Branwen coven. 

“Raven doesn’t talk to her coven anymore. They made her make a decision, and she picked us.” Summer explained as clearly and curtly as possible. “I don’t talk to my coven either, and for the same reason.” 

Well now Yang was just confused, and a little bit worried. “What decision…? What do you mean, ‘picked us’?” Summer sighed, looking to a rose bush across from them. She raised her hand, and two red roses bloomed. “Raven and I were together first- before we met your father. It would have been fine that way; we were from different covens, but it was doable.” Summer waved her hand, and another rose bloomed in between the first two- yellow this time. “And then your father came into the picture. Tai was just a friend at first. He was a stable boy at a farm a little ways from here, and he’d bring the horses by on walks around the trails here from time to time. We got to talking with him, before we knew it we were friends, and then… more than friends…” Summer’s cheeks flushed slightly. “But that’s not the point.” She sighed. 

“The covens weren’t too happy about us spending so much time with Tai. They were worried about the covens dissolving like the Arcs. Sure enough, you came along, and the elders of the Branwen coven gave Raven an ultimatum. Abandon you with Tai and return to the coven as a full member, or be shunned. They wanted nothing to do with half witches.” As she said it, anger burned behind her eyes, and although she was having a tough time processing everything, Yang could tell plain as day that Summer hated them for making Raven choose. “My coven offered me almost the same choice. Almost. Abandon Raven and Tai, or refuse and be barred from the coven’s lands. You can see which option I chose.” She breathed, looking at Yang fondly and cupping her daughter’s cheek, brushing her freckled skin with a gentle thumb. Yang melted into her hand, taking it in her own. Her head was still swimming, and she still had a ton of questions, but they could wait. “Thanks, Mom.”

“In regards to the dreams, just… don’t go running head first into it, honeybee, okay?” Summer asked of her, and Yang nodded in understanding. “I won’t, mom. I promise.”

Yang pushed herself up to stand, brushing the dirt from her clothes as she did so. “Where’s your little cat friend, by the way? I thought she went with you everywhere.” Yang glanced down at her mother, blinking in realization. “Oh, yeah, I’m not sure. She was on my bed when I woke up, and I just left her to nap when I showered, but when I came back, she was gone.”

“Gone?” Summer set her down, a surprised expression painting her face. “Doesn’t she have a broken leg?” 

“No, no, it was just a sprain, and I’ve been putting some of the salve on it the last few days, so, it’s probably already healed.” Yang scratched her chin, and Summer gave her a look. Yang blushed and lowered her hand. “She’s probably fine. She must just be stretching her legs and exploring the property. You know, catching mice and stuff…” It would be a blatant lie to say she wasn’t concerned about the cat’s disappearance, but she had to maintain a little bit of composure. She was probably fine, after all. 

“Hm… alright. Just… try not to worry too much. I know how you get.” Summer jested lightly, and Yang scoffed, quick to return the statement. “You’re one to talk.” She chuckled, and her mother flicked some dirt in her direction. “Get out of here; go on, get. Backsassin’ little-” 

“-shit?” Yang grinned, indeed being very much a little shit. Summer swatted at her dungarees. “Oh you are your mother’s daughter, aren’t you?” She huffed, and Yang leaned down and kissed her mother on the temple. “Love you, mom. I’ll see you later.” She smiled, and Summer continued to pout. “I love you too.” She grumbled defeatedly, and Yang smiled as she straightened herself up and left the greenhouse. 

As she left, she raised her arms up and stretched with a groan. She’d been sitting for the better part of the afternoon, and her limbs were all stiff with disuse, her legs and torso particularly. Rocking back on her heels and pushing up on the tips of her toes, Yang stretched herself and her torso up as much as she could comfortably manage, a sort of amalgamation groan and whimper passing her lips. The breeze was light and cool on her skin as she did so, and she let her face bask in what warm sun was left. It would be getting dark soon, and Yang was loathe to admit it, but she was glad. The sun was nice, and she loved the heat of summer, but it was autumn now, and everything was coming to an end. She loved fall; loved the colors of the leaves, and chilly breezes, and bundling up under covers pulled up to her chin. She loved drinking hot coffee on her way into town; trying to balance the cup in Tai’s bouncy truck. She loved the switch in her wardrobe- it allowed for far more fluidity and more… comfortable articles of clothing, like hoodies and flannels and sweats. 

She was brought out of her thoughts by the sight of her sister coming around the side of the house, seeming in a hurry to make it up the porch and into the house. “Rubes! Hey, wait up!” Yang called, getting a running start and hurrying to catch up with sister. Ruby, however, didn’t seem to get the memo; if anything, she started walking faster. “Ruby?” No reply. She had to hear her. There was no reason Ruby shouldn’t have heard her… which meant that she was avoiding Yang. Yang’s eyes narrowed. Which meant, that Ruby was up to something that was not going to fly. “Ruby…” She said in warning, and Ruby bolted toward the sliding doors. 

Ruby !” Yang shouted after her, running long strides after her sister- Ruby might have been leagues faster than her in a footrace, but she had longer legs, and it wasn’t too much of a distance to close. She reached out as Ruby reached the sliding glass doors, grabbing the handle and flinging it open, making a mad dash through the house and to the stairs as Yang struggled to keep up. With obstacles, it was much harder than the wide open space of the lawn. As she turned the corner a little too hard, Yang saw stars as she slammed her leg into the corner of an end table, nearly knocking the thing over and sending her to the floor, cradling her poor thigh and gritting her teeth in agony. “RUBY WHEN I GET UP THERE I SWEAR TO GODS-” She threatened once words beyond bitten swears could be formulated. 

Ruby was long gone, and Yang laid there for a moment, before getting up and pressing against the spot of contact with her thumbs, testing how tender it was. She’d definitely have a good sized bruise, that was for sure. She pouted about that as she made her way up the stairs and to the attic. Ruby had locked her door; shocker there. Knocking lightly, Yang leaned against the doorframe. “Alright, what are you up to? I know you’re up to something.” 

A click, and the door opened a sliver. Yang could just barely make out the curve of her sister’s nose peeking out. “I’m not up to anything-”

AHHHHH!” 

Yang startled, swearing and nearly falling backwards at the gravely scream that came from inside the room. “Ruby, what the fuck was that?” She shouted, looking to her sister, who had paled considerably from her tan complexion. Ruby made to slam the door, but Yang caught it, not at all playing around anymore. “Ruby!” She demanded, pushing the door open. Ruby didn’t fight her as Yang pushed her way into the room.

AHHHHH!” 

Another scream, and this time Yang caught sight of the cause. Sitting on the end of Ruby’s bed, nestled into her red sweatshirt and poking its head out, an opossum stared at her with big dark eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, before the creature let loose an even shriller, gratier screech, rearing its head back. Yang flinched a bit, putting her guard up. “Ruby… I hate to inform you, but there’s a possum on your bed…” She glanced back at her sister. Ruby, however, was trying her best not to appear guilty, and she walked quickly over to the bed before Yang could do much of anything. “Ruby wait- don’t get near it! It could be dangerous-” 

Ruby, however, much to her sister’s bafflement, scooped the little monster up into her arms, still swaddled in the sweatshirt. “Before you say anything- his name is Silver and he won’t hurt me because he’s my familiar.” 

Yang… wasn’t sure how to process that. “Your… familiar? And I’m sorry- silver?” 

The possum looked at Yang with those huge, black eyes, and just stared, a chill running up Yang’s spine as it did. She wanted to argue the reasons that Ruby couldn’t keep a possum in the house, but then again, Ma did keep a raven as her familiar… Yang shook her head to clear the thought away. “Ruby, I don’t know…” She scratched at the back of her neck. 

“What’s there not to know? He’s my familiar- he stays.” Ruby stared down her sister, clearly intent on keeping the creature, and Yang was at a loss. “Ruby…” 

They kept up the staring contest, too stubborn to break away, until the possum did it for them, writhing and wriggling to get out of Ruby’s hold. Panic gripped her features, and she hurried to set it down on the bed as gently as possible, trying to avoid its screeching mouth and tiny hands. “Silver, calm down! It’s okay-” Before she could finish the sentiment, Silver the opossum leaped off the bed, and bolted past the girls. Yang flinched as it passed her in a mad dash, and Ruby tried to chase after it, near frantic. “Silver! Come back!” 

Yang caught sight of her face, and noticed the forming redness around her eyes, and immediately softened. She swung out an arm to catch her baby sister before she could go chasing after the thing, and blacked her from moving forward. “Yang, move! I have to go get Silver-” She tried to move around her, but ang moved wholly to block the door. She could push past Ruby if need be, but Ruby couldn’t push past her. “Ruby… What's going on?” She asked softly, and Ruby stopped momentarily. Yang watched the tears pool around the redness in her eyes, and Ruby hurried to try and get past her sister. “Let me through! Yang, let me- let me through-.” Her voice broke, and Yang’s heart ached. “Oh Ruby…” She reached out and wrapped her arms around her, and Ruby didn’t fight it, although she didn't lean into it either.”Tell me what’s wrong, Rubes…” She murmured into the top of her sister’s head, and Ruby’s grip in the side of her shirt tightened, as Yang could tell she was fighting the tears.

“Y-you’re what's wrong…” She finally managed to blubber out, and Yang pulled away, looking to her in surprise, and hurt. “I’m…? What did I do to upset you, Rubes?” She asked, hoping desperately she hadn’t messed anything up. 

Ruby sniffled, and glanced away from Yang’s sad gaze. “You’re- you're so perfect.. I-I..I..You have special dreams, and- and I don't, and you have a familiar, and I don't, and- and-” Ruby’s breathing started to hitch, and Yang pulled her back into a hug, rubbing little comforting circles on her back. “It’s okay Rubes… don’t hold it back…” Ruby sniffled and clenched the fabric of Yang’s shirt tighter. “Y-You’re so beautiful… and kind… and- and you’re talented and all- all I can do is make r-rose-roses… a-and I thought if I had a familiar.. I thought.. I-” By the end of her sentence, Ruby was hiding her face in Yang’s shoulder, and Yang could feel her tears soaking through the fabric of her shirt. “Oh Ruby…” She murmured, cupping the back of her sister's head with one hand and gently patting her back with the other. “Ruby… I’m not perfect…” She assured her. “My dreams aren’t fun, or special, not in the way you want them to be… and the cat isn't my familiar…” She promised. “She’s just a cat that needed medical attention.”

Yang pulled Ruby away from her shoulder and lifted a finger, wiping away her tears. “Rubes… I’m not perfect.” She looked at her seriously, gripping her shoulders “Please don’t ever compare yourself to me…” Ruby sniffled, but shot back quickly, “You are-”

“I’m not.” She specified, and the tone of her voice was final. “I’m not perfect. It took me months to learn how to work on bumblebee, and it took me months to learn how to dance, and my dreams terrify me.” She kept her tone controlled, and calm, but Ruby could see it starting to build in her as well- the sadness- the fright. “I can’t do physical magic, and I can't bond with a familiar, and sometimes- most of the time, I’m too self conscious about myself to even go into town-” 

“But you’re so pretty-” Ruby interjected in disbelief, and Yang’s mouth tasted bitter with the truth. “Ruby, I’ve hated my body since I was younger than you.” 

Silence. They stood there for a moment, the weight of the words hanging between them, before Yang broke it. She pulled Ruby back into her arms, and this time, Ruby hugged back, her grip iron-clad. “I’m not perfect, Ruby… you don’t need to feel like you have to play catch-up…” She murmured into her sister’s hair, and Ruby nodded softly against her. “You’re so talented Ruby, and so smart… and you’re such a good person… ” She breathed, stroking Ruby’s hair comfortingly. “...even if you are a moody little shit most of the time.” Ruby hammered a little fist into her sister’s shoulder, and Yang laughed. “I mean it though..” She promised, once she calmed down. “You’re the best green witch I know, besides Mom, and you ace every test you get- you make friends without even trying, because people love to be around you, and they love hanging out with you, and they love you , Ruby.” 

Ruby pulled away, sniffling and wiping her eyes. “You’re kinda milking it, aren't you…?” She attempted to joke, and Yang smiled widely and happily. “I’m trying to keep you from sicking another possum loose in the house.” 

“Good luck, I’ve got a few more hidden in my closet.” Ruby snorted, and Yang blinked for a moment, before Ruby lightly shoved her. “Oh my gods, not really.” She laughed, and Yang breathed a sigh of relief. She watched her baby sister laughing, and Yang’s heart swelled. She ruffled her hair, draping an arm around her shoulder and turning toward the doorway. “Shall we?”

Ruby smiled, softer this time, but still present, and nodded. “Ma went to the store to get stuff for burgers tonight, so-”

A crash, like glass shattering. Both girls froze in the doorway, waiting, listening, before-

AHHHHHHH”

The possum !” They realized in tandem, nearly tripping over themselves to get down two flights of stairs. 

It took nearly an hour of chasing the more than likely rabid thing around the house before it was caught, and at some point Summer joined the fray, running into the house at the sounds of crashes and breaking glass. A team effort, the three of them managed to wrangle the thing and get it safely outside. The next ten minutes was spent sweeping up broken glass and explaining to Summer why there had been a possum running about the house. 

“It must have gotten inside when Ruby and I went upstairs.” Yang shrugged, trying to focus on not cutting herself as she swept shards from a drinking glass that had been on the island into the palm of her hand. Summer didn’t look convinced, but didn’t push it. “Mhmm… Make sure you girls are closing the door, please, so this doesn’t happen again.” Ruby and Yang both nodded, in sync with each other on the whole thing, and together managed to get all the glass picked up before the familiar rumble of their dad’s truck pulled into the driveway. Tai and Raven both entered the house, Tai kicking off his boots and Raven shedding her red leather jacket. She walked over to the island and set a grocery bag on the counter. “Alright, Yang you’re with me on kitchen duty, Ruby, you set the table-” 

“Actually- Ma, Why don’t you have Ruby help you? I’m gonna go look for the cat.” Yang suggested, walking past her and stopping to kiss both her and Summer on the cheek. “What, I don’t get any?” Tai pouted, opening his arms. Yang rolled her eyes but walked over and greeted him, wrapping her arms around him in a hug. After she pulled away, he draped an arm over her shoulder. “It’s gettin’ kinda dark Yang. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to be out hunting around for your cat-”

“She’s not my cat, dad. And I should go look for her. It’ll get cold-” Yang’s expression soured, her lips turning down in a slight frown. 

Tai sighed. “She’s not your cat, Yang. She’s a stray-” 

“She’s not a stray!” Yang snapped, pushing his arm off her shoulder. Silence. Yang blinked, realizing what had happened. Tai looked at her in concern, and mild annoyance. “Yang…” 

Raven and Summer had stopped what they were doing. Ruby too. 

Yang swallowed. She wasn’t sure what had come over her, but she didn’t want to think about it. “I’m gonna go look for her…” She murmured, lowering her gaze and moving to go. Tai reached out to stop her, but Raven raised a hand, and he stopped. Yang moved past her family in the quiet, and out the back door. 

The air was crisp, and the sun was barely visible through the trees- it was nearly full dark, if not for the slight trickle of light filtering through the brush. Yang’s breath blew out in hot wisps of smoke upon the cold air, and she hesitated on the porch for a moment- just a moment- before stepping out onto the dying grass of the back lawn. 

She must have been rooting around in the bushes for nearly an hour, before her stomach grumbled, and she realized she could barely see her hand in front of her face. She wasn’t too chilly- her body temperature naturally ran pretty high, thankfully. She might have kept searching, if Raven wasn’t standing on the porch waiting for her. Even though it was dark, and even though Yang hadn’t heard the door open and shut, she still knew her mother was there. It wasn’t in Yang’s nature to give up so easily- but she knew when it was time to give it a rest. She could always pick up her search in the morning- even though the thought of the little thing all alone out in the cold while she slept peacefully in her warm bed made her stomach churn. She almost continued on, but then Raven called out to her, and she knew it wasn’t fair to worry them- or to ignore how she’d snapped back there. 

With a heaved sigh, Yang found her way out of the trees and shrubs surrounding the house and back across the lawn. The light from the house cast shadows across the grass and the darkness, and Raven’s shadow loomed over Yang as she approached. “It’s pretty brisk out here, Yang.” She acknowledged, and pretended not to notice as a shiver ran up her daughter’s spine, or the fact that all the blonde little hairs on her arms were up in goosebumps. She tossed something at her as Yang climbed the porch steps, nearly tripping in the effort of catching it. The material was warm and worn, and Yang immediately recognized it as leather. “Put that on, and let’s take a walk.” 

Yang blinked, realizing it was her mother’s warmer leather jacket- the one with the black faux fur on the inside. Raven never let anyone wear it, except on special occasions. The last time Yang remembered feeling this warmth was when she was much younger- maybe ten, and Raven had taken her out on her motorcycle, to Summer and Tai’s dismay. A small smile found its way onto her lips in remembrance, but Yang didn’t let it linger, putting her arm in one sleeve and throwing it quickly over her shoulder to put her opposite arm in the other. It was a little snug- Raven was slightly more petite than her daughter’s naturally bulky build, but it was warm. Yang noticed she was wearing her more common red jacket as they stepped down off the porch together, turning and heading past the greenhouse. 

Yang wasn’t quite sure where her mother was leading her, but she kept quiet as they passed the structure, stepping past the shed near the back of the property, and through the treeline. Raven took her down a narrow path, the dirt coarse under her boots as she scuffed along- trying to get a feel for any roots, since she couldn’t see them. It was hard to keep a steady pace with her mother; Raven seemed much more familiar with the path than Yang, stopping and waiting every time Yang trailed too far behind in her caution toward stray branches. “Come on, Yang. We’re almost there.” She called at one point, and Yang’s breath was shallow and harried as she hurried to catch up to where Raven was leaning against a tree in wait. Most of it was flat land, thank god, but there were a few inclines as they made their way wherever Raven was leading them. 

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, Raven stopped, this time only a few feet from her daughter. She held out a hand as a sign to stop, and stop she did. She looked once quickly up at the sky, and what little was obstructed by trees twinkled back at her; a sky absolutely filled with stars. It was a beautiful sight, but evidently, not what Raven had wanted to show her. There was a caw- a startling noise in the quiet of the woods, and Yang jumped, before realizing it was just Omen, swooping down and landing on Raven’s outstretched arm.

“Do you know where we are, Yang?” Raven asked, and Yang shook her head. “No… it all just seems like woods to me.” She admitted. Raven sighed, and scratched at her chin in a familiar way. “Well, I suppose that’s my fault. But then, I had hoped I wouldn’t have to bring you here…” She murmured the last bit, but Yang still caught it. She also caught the glint of what she realized was steel under the moonlight, sliding out of her mother’s sleeve and into her hand. The blade flipped open, and Yang’s nerves skyrocketed. She could feel her palms begin to sweat as a pit worked its way into her stomach. This was way too slasher-movie for her tastes… 

“Uh… Ma? what’s with the knife..?” She asked, tentative and hesitant toward the answer. Raven noticed and rolled her eyes. “Yang. Relax. It’s just a little blood magic. The place I want to show you is charmed- we’ll have to prove we’re witches in order to gain entrance.” Yang relaxed a bit, but still she felt on edge as she stared down at the blade. “But… aren’t I only a half witch?” 

Raven nodded in the darkness, before speaking up. “Yes, but that won’t matter. As long as you have at least a little Branwen blood, it should work.” She explained, and Yang watched as she lifted the blade to the arm that Omen rested on, digging the tip into her index finger. She hardly flinched, and Omen flapped his wings with a loud caw, taking off and flying up to a nearby tree, landing on a branch and watching them from up above. Yang eyed the bird warily, before looking back to her mother. Raven, finger now pooling with blood, walked forward into the brush, brushing the hand that had held the knife against the trunks of the surrounding trees, as if searching for something. “This place is a safe haven for witches- it was here long before us; long before the covens were even founded. Our ancestor, the first Branwen High Priestess, put up the protection barrier around this place, in order to keep out those who would conspire against us.” She seemed to find what she was looking for as she spoke, lifting her bleeding finger to a knot in a nearby tree. She pressed her thumb to the knotted wood, and pulled it away.

Nothing happened. Yang glanced around, waiting for something- anything. 

Raven watched her bemusedly for a moment, before handing her the knife- holding the blade between her fingers and pointing the handle at her. “I’ll see you on the other side, Yang.” She gave a small smirk, and Yang blinked, blustering for a moment as she stepped forward to clarify exactly what she should do- but in a blink Raven was gone. 

From up in the tree, Omen crowed at her, and she glanced up at the bird cautiously, before looking back to where her mother had been. “Ma...?” She tried tentatively. Nothing. 

Taking a deep breath, Yang examined the knife her mother had handed her. It was pretty, that was for sure. She had no doubt Ruby would have loved it; silver and polished, it was nice steel, the handle covered in intricate carvings. She ran her fingers over them, before she felt her thumb brush against something a little higher raised than the other embellishments. Lifting it up to the moonlight, Yang inspected the handle, and there, toward the top of the handle and hidden among the other carvings and designs, something she recognised quite well: a gear. A gear? 

Yang pondered over what that could mean. There was nothing mechanical out here, it was woods for gods sakes. Maybe it was part of the Branwen coven’s sigil? No, Raven would have told her if it was… wouldn’t she? And even then, how was that supposed to help her? Yang could feel the frustration welling up as she leaned against a large rock half buried in the dirt. Above her, Omen cawed once more, turning his head at her, and she huffed. “Would you leave me alone? You’re not helping!” An almost incensed squawk, and Omen flapped his wings, flying down and handing on top of her head, much to her fright. “Hey! Cut it out!” She hopped up, shaking her head in an attempt to get the damn bird’s talons out of her scalp. “Ow! Omen cut it out!” She said exasperatedly, waving her hands up around her head to try to get the damn thing to fly away. As she reached her hand up, however, Omen’s beak reached out, and she swore as he nipped her on the finger. She quickly brought it to her mouth, but Omen was quicker, leaving her head to squawk incessantly at her. “What! What do you want?!” She screamed back, and he dive bombed her again, grabbing her by the jacket with his beak and pulling. “Hey! Cut it out!” 

But Omen had had enough. He squawked and cawed, and after pulling her a bit, he flew over to a tree opposite the one Raven had bled on. She could still see the blood shining there- slick and reflecting the light bouncing through the thin gaps in the trees. Blood… Bleeding… 

She was kind of an idiot. She looked from her finger to where Omen was squawking, and as she moved closer, he slew to her again, landing on her shoulder. She approached the tree tentatively, reaching out with her good hand and feeling around like her mother had. She found a knot toward the side of the tree, and as her fingers ghosted over the wood, Yang stopped suddenly. She could feel it- the grooves carved into the tree. She looked down at the knife again, squinting as she confirmed it. 

There was a gear carved into the knot. 

Here we go… She thought as she reached her bleeding finger toward the knot. She groped around for a moment a bit awkwardly- it was hard to see in that direction without much light- but eventually she felt her finger brush against the carved wood, and breathed in in anticipation. As she pulled away, she waited in the quiet of the woods, her breathing light and shallow as she waited for something to happen. 

Nothing. 

Yang’s frustration grew the longer she stood there, but thankfully Omen was far more impatient than she was. The bird pecked her on the ear, and she yelped, covering her ear with her hand, only to stare in wonder. Her hand was gone. 

She jumped back, and it returned to her, still attached where she had left it. “What…?” She breathed, and Omen crooned by her ear, nudging her to move forward. “So that’s where she went…” 

Yang steeled her nerves- and admittedly, a part of her was relieved that it had worked- that she was witch enough to pass through. She took it slow, stepping forward until her arm was gone from sight, and then with one last glance around, She stepped fully through the barrier. 

It wasn’t any sort of grand transition- there was no flash of light, or anything like that. She blinked, and instead of being in the middle of the woods, she found herself in a small clearing, surrounded by woods. In the center of the clearing, she took note of the crumbled remains of some sort of building- and Raven, sitting on top of a large chunk of stone, apparently waiting for her. 

“You had me worried, Yang. I thought it was taking an awfully long time…” She sighed, and groaned as she pushed herself up. “Yeah, well, you didn’t really stick around to give me a hand…” Yang grumbled under her breath, and Raven raised an eyebrow. “I’m not always going to be there to give you a hand, Yang. Besides, if you want to come here whenever you want, you have to figure it out yourself.” She crossed her arms as she leaned against the large chunk of stone. She held one arm out and Omen wasted no time in getting off Yang’s shoulder- taking off and handing on Raven’s arm, preening as she smiled wistfully. “Besides, that’s why I had Omen stay with you. In case you needed a little push.” 

A little push… yeah right. Yang couldn’t help the annoyed huff that sent warm air out her nose and billowing up into the chilly night sky. “So… are you going to tell me why we’re here?” She prodded, walking farther forward into the clearing. Raven sighed. “So impatient… Yes, Yang.” She relented, and Omen went off with a squawk, off to find a tree to perch in. 

Raven gestured all around her. “This is a safe haven for witches- one of the few in the entirety of the world. At least- it started that way. It once was a place for all types of witches. The elders told me of this place’s history when it was Qrow’s and my turn to come here. We were a little older than you, but then, we got over the Dreaming much quicker…” She murmured, and Yang sidled up beside her. “The… dreaming?” Yang asked, although she didn’t need too much clarification, not really. She knew her mother had had dreams like hers when she was young-

“Yang, I’ll admit, I haven’t told you everything about your dreams.” 

Yang blinked, looking up at her mother, but Raven avoided looking at her. She kept her chin up, and her expression stoic, although Yang could make out the downturn of the corner of her mouth; an almost ashamed expression. “Ma…?” Yang prodded gently, and Raven took a breath. “Sit down. I’ve got a lot to tell you, and you’re going to want to be grounded for most of it.” 

Yang, although hesitant, did as she was told, sitting down. Raven sat down as well, and the both of them sat there in the quiet, with the stars and the moon in full view, lighting the clearing in a beautiful way. “The Dreaming is what we call your ability, Yang; the Branwen coven, that is. We-… The Branwen coven, like most branches, has a mutation of sorts- some members have a higher concentration of magic than manifests in an ability similar to the nature of your clan's magic. Before the Arc’s dissolved, they had members who could give life- even be reborn with all their previous life’s memories. It’s why the other covens were so scared when they dissolved- if witches with that much power could just go extinct…” She shook her head, getting off track. “The Roses had their Light Bringers- witches who could expel powerful spirits with just a glance-” 

“But aren’t the Roses green witches? The Arcs I get, since they were healers, but… wouldn’t their super-witches be like… plant-based or something?” Yang interrupted, and although she smirked a bit bemusedly at the interjection, Raven shook her head. “You’ve never seen the Rose coven’s ancestral home. It’s all built on running water. Running water can channel paranormal entities. As much as gardening makes sense, their Light Bringers were highly revered and respected, as they were the only ones who could thoroughly banish unruly spirits.” 

“And the Branwens had… the dreaming?” Yang spoke the words uncertainty, but Raven gave a slight confirmatory nod. “The Dreamers, technically. The Dreaming was the phenomenon, not the person. With all of the more powerful witches, a coven could tell because of a rare trait passed down to their children. Sometimes it skipped generations, sometimes is was a combination of two particularly strong witches; the Arc Reborn were a particular shade of blonde. The Rose Light Bringers all had silver eyes, and the Branwens… the Branwen Dreamers were born with purple eyes.” 

Silence. A beat. And then. “Wait… purple? Like-” 

“Yours. Yes.” Raven looked at her daughter, her own vermilion iris’ shining back in the moonlight. Yang tried to process that. “But you said-... You said you and Qrow both had this… this dreaming thing too. And both of your eyes are red.” Yang asked, beyond confused.

Raven pursed her lips. “They weren’t always that way…” She breathed, looking up at the sky. The stars above shone and twinkled and dotted the sky like a million little freckles- like the tiny light freckles dotting her daughter's tan complexion. “It’s an effect of the Dreaming. All of us Dreamers start with purple eyes, but as we get older, the dreaming fades… Most of the older dreamers haven’t dreamt in decades. It’s gradual. But their eyes stay purple.” 

“Then why-”

“Qrow and I were different from the start. Twins are rare in the Branwen coven, but the fact that both of us got the Dreaming was unheard of. It didn’t last too long, though. Qrow lost his Dreaming when he was 5. I remember when it happened to him almost as clearly as when it happened to me…” She breathed, and Yang had never seen the expression in her mother’s eyes before as she recounted it. “We shared a bed- it wasn’t a big house, and we liked to be close anyway; at least, Qrow did. He was always clingy though…” She smiled a bit wistfully, before sighing, and Yang noticed the slight tremble in her voice. “I woke up one night, and Qrow was so hot… he was burning up. He’d sweat through his night shirt, and I remember trying to wake him up… but I couldn’t. He kept tossing and turning, and when I saw he was crying, I got out of bed and ran as fast as I could to the elders. When we got back, it was too late. Qrow was screaming like I’d never heard before. He was beside himself, but somehow he was still asleep… the elders snapped him out of it- an art that was supposed to be secret- but I saw it, and I stored it away, just in case…” She admitted. 

Yang was silent as she listened, holding her breath. Her grip on her legs had tightened slightly, and she felt her anxiety rising slightly with the image- the mental picture of her uncle as a little boy, suffering from terrible nightmares. The hair on her arms rose under her jacket as her mother continued. “Even though they had woken him up, it had been too late- the damage had been done. He’s seen something… something horrible. He wouldn’t tell me what, and I still don’t know what it was… but the elders helped me understand why his eyes were suddenly different from mine. They said it had happened to others in the past- that some Dreamers were hardwired for omens of danger- warnings of future tragedies. They said in small doses it was fine- it was more than fine. It was the most revered strain of Dreaming in the coven. Those who could see warnings of the future- who could foretell tragedy… they were highly respected.” She breathed. “But they warned me that there was a downside to such a gift. What had happened to my brother, was that he had been faced with such a horrible vision of the future- such a horrible omen, that it had snapped something. He couldn’t use the dreaming after that, and his eyes were permanently this color…” 

They sat there in silence for a moment, before Yang spoke up. “When did you lose your dreaming…?” She watched the tension build in Raven’s body. “Shortly after you were born…” She admitted, and Yang’s heart raced. 

“I went to bed as normal, and Summer and Tai and I were all exhausted… I was expecting a dreamless sleep.” She gave a dark chuckle and scuffed a rock across the grass with her foot. “I didn’t know I was dreaming at first… it all seemed so normal… so real… But I quickly realized something wasn’t right.”  Her tone fell flat, monotone, and Yang hesitated to ask what was wrong. “I was dreaming I was in the house, and what tipped me off was that you were there, and you were little- just a toddler. Maybe three or four…” She breathed in a shudder, and Yang dared say her mother was getting emotional. “Ma…?”

“I dreamed you were in bed, and you were screaming. You were crying, and tossing about, and sweating like someone was cooking you…” She gulped, and Yang’s eyes widened in recognition. 

“I dreamt you were losing your Dreaming… and you were in so much terror and pain… it was horrible. It was my worst nightmare.” She admitted, looking up at the sky and avoiding Yang’s gaze. “It was exactly what the elders had warned me about when I left… they said if I stayed with you and Tai and Summer, I’d weaken the gene pool, and Dreamers would die out just like the Arc’s Reborn had when they’d started copulating with mortals…” She finally looked at Yang then, and Yang was surprised to see a glossiness to her mother’s eyes, reflected in the light coming off of the moon overhead. “You have no idea how happy I was when you were born, and your eyes…” She shook her head and looked away, trying to control her emotions. “Qrow’s loss of his dreaming is his worst memory. He hates talking about it, because it caused him so much strife. I couldn't imagine you going through something like that, especially not as a toddler… That was the Dream that snapped me. I didn’t have any of the elders to snap me out of it- I had to ride it out. When I finally woke up, my eyes were red, and I couldn’t sleep for days…”

Yang was almost afraid to speak up, not wanting to interrupt. This was the most Raven had ever confided in her, and it was the most raw emotion she’d ever seen her mother express- particularly the sadness that was radiating off of her. But she still had questions. “If you dreamt of me losing my Dreaming at three or four… then how am I still having these dreams?” She asked, breaching the silence. Raven cleared her throat, trying to compose herself, and swallowed as she looked to her daughter. “In all honesty, you almost did lose your Dreaming. I had become a light sleeper after I lost mine, at least for those next few years. I was always on edge- worried… waiting… and then one night, Omen woke me up. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life…” She gave a dark chuckle, but it immediately fell flat. “I snapped you out of it quick enough. I thought I hadn’t, because your eyes fluttered open, and they were red, and I remember almost crying at the sight of it…” She breathed. “But then, just like that, they were purple again, and you were waking up…” 

“So… I almost lost it… but you saved it.” Yang clarified, and Raven nodded. “At least for a few years… It tried again when you were almost 13…” She fidgeted with a blade of grass, and Yang’s heart rate stopped for half a second. “When I was… 13…”

Raven nodded. “I got to you quick enough once again- it was harder to snap you out of it the second time, but I managed. I stayed with you for a while after that- after you were awake…” 

Yang nodded, looking down at her boots, her mood sobered. “I remember…”

“I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t know how to… but for nearly an hour after I snapped you out of it, your eyes were red, Yang.” 

Yang snapped her attention back up to Raven, blinking in surprise. “...what?” 

Raven breathed in through her nose, trying to maintain her stoic composure. “They were red. I thought I’d failed you… that I hadn’t been quick enough… but then after you told me about the dream, and you’d had some water, and calmed down… they were purple again. I was beyond confused, and admittedly, scared. I’d never heard of that happening before. Summer and Tai spent all night talking me down from going back to the coven and asking for their help.” She ripped a couple blades of grass apart. “And now, with these more realistic dreams of yours…” She shook her head, and Yang processed that. “Mom told you..?” 

“Summer told me you were dreaming about a girl- and that these dreams had you a bit concerned. She told me that she told you about the dream I’d had of her in the field when I was about your age.” Yang nodded. “It had me worried at first, I won’t lie about that. The two things we know that connect the Dreams that make you lose your ability, are that they’re always realistic, and they’re always very traumatic and foreboding. I just... I want to make sure that this is like my dream of Summer, and not like… not like my dream of you.” Raven looked at her, and Yang could see the concern in her eyes, even if her face was stoney and serious. 

“I need you to promise me that these dreams aren’t scary. That you only feel safe, and even happy, when you dream about this girl. Because if it’s anything else, you could lose a piece of you… and I don’t want that for you.” Raven explained. 

“I promise, Ma…” She had said, and during the walk home, those words rattled around in her brain. They haunted her as she bandaged her finger when they made it back home, and they clung to her as she changed into a pajama shirt, and they stayed stuck in her brain as she laid in bed and stared at her ceiling. She wasn’t sure whether to pray for dreams, or pray for a dreamless sleep. She wasn’t even sure what time she did fall asleep. All she remembered thinking was I promise

And then there was darkness.

Chapter Text

“Yang.”  

Yang. ” Yang blinked back into reality, looking to her father as he hefted two large boxes in his arms. “ The door please.” 

“Oh!” She jumped into action, pulling the door to the building open. Her father grunted, shuffling and carrying the boxes through the door. “Grab those last two, would you?” He called back to her, and she wasted no time. “On it!” Wedging a wooden block under the door, she hurried back to the truck bed and grabbed one of the large, heavy boxes and stacked the other on top of it, reaching under the bottom box and hoisting them up into her arms, letting the box on top rest against her cheek as she turned her head to get a side glance at where the door was. She grunted with the effort of carrying both boxes, almost re-thinking the move and turning back to the truck bed to put one back, but something stopped her. You’ve got this… You got this, Yang. Come on. Power through. She thought to herself, and groaned as she banged her knee against something by the door. 

It was hard to see with the box in front of her face. She had to settle for what she could see to the right of the box, where her face was pointed, as she made her way through the threshold of the building and into the hallway. “Dad!” She called, and she heard him call back from… somewhere. “Where are you?” She called. “Where do you want these?” 

She heard footsteps- multiple pairs, by the sound of it- at the top of the stairs. “Up here, sunshine!” Shifting the boxes with a grunt, she turned herself sideways and slowly made her way up the steps, until she reached what she assumed was the top. Past the edge of the box, she caught sight of a large figure. “You must be Yang.” A voice- presumably the figure’s- gruffed. The voice was deep; it was almost startling, and Yang had to steady herself on the stairs at the surprising sound. “Oh, uhh.. Yep.” She said a bit awkwardly, feeling a bit weird not being able to see the man’s face. Thankfully, her father’s voice spoke up from right in front of her. “Good job with the boxes, Yang. You seem to be better at carrying them than I am.” He chuckled, and she couldn’t help the pride that flooded her chest as he remarked about her capabilities to the man she couldn’t see. “So I see. Maybe I’ll hire her to help me move things from now on instead of you.” The deep-voiced man chuckled, and Tai made a mock-offended sound. “Rude.” He quickly dismissed his own faked offence, however, switching to his more jovial tone. “Yang would be happy to help with anything else you need, I’m sure. She’s real strong, and looking for work wherever it’s needed. Electrical, mechanical, and even manual labor: she’s your gal.” 

The man chuckled. “That’s quite the wide variety of skills. I may just have to talk to you about that in the near future, Yang.” 

Yang’s cheeks were red, and at the moment she was glad for the boxes obscuring her face from sight. “Yes, sir. I’d be happy to help.” She found herself saying, hefting the boxes subtly to get a better grip, but not wanting to seem rude. Tai seemed to realize she was still struggling with the boxes, and she heard him quickly move out of her way. “Oh, shit. Sorry hon, here, I’m out of your way now. Just take them down the hall to the right, and into the last room there, okay?” 

“Got it.” She huffed, shifting the boxes again as she stepped up the last step in the stairwell, turning to the right. The man was almost entirely visible now, and Yang tried not to stop and gawk as she passed him. He was tall- very tall- and that was saying something, coming from Yang. The last time she’d gotten herself measured, she was somewhere around 5’10”- her dad was even taller, at just about 6 foot. This man… he was very, very tall, and seemingly built as well. Tall, dark, and with a head of wavy black hair that fed into a bushy beard, he was definitely intimidating. But as she passed, she caught his eyes, and her breath caught momentarily. They were such a gentle golden color; any intimidation she’d felt moments ago was gone, replaced by a calming sense of peace… 

Her cheeks flushed as she realized she’d been staring, if only for a moment, and she quickly moved to take the boxes where they needed to go, snapping out of it. When she was finished, she stretched her arms, and her body, standing up on her tiptoes and groaning quietly as she reached her arms as far upward as she could manage. She stretched her arms as she walked absentmindedly away from the boxes and through what she could see now was an office. It was pretty bare, excepting the boxes and a desk and rolly chair. She wondered what this man did for work. Her dad hadn’t told her much about the job- just that he needed a bit of help moving boxes for a new guy in town, if she wanted to lend a hand. 

Once she thoroughly stretched and shook the soreness out of her fingers, she stepped out of the room and to where she could hear her father down the hall. She stopped in the doorway to another room, seeing what they were up to. She found her father leaning against the far wall by a window, the large man standing beside another desk. “...-and I’ll see about getting some of the proper equipment shipped within the week.” He spoke, and Tai nodded his head, before noticing his daughter in the doorway. “Oh there you are, sunshine. Come on in.” He gestured for her to come closer. “I don’t think we introduced you properly earlier.” He chuckled as she joined him by the window. “Yang, this is Ghira Belladonna. He’s opening a mixed martial arts school here.” Tai explained. “Now that her face isn’t obscured by boxes, this is my daughter, Yang Xiao Long.” 

The man, Ghira, smiled and offered one of his almost laughably large hands, and Yang shook it firmly. Her gut was clenched a bit with her father’s use of label, but she let it go with a charming smile and a little laugh. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. Like my dad said earlier, if you ever need anything taken care of around here, I’m happy to help.” Ghira smiled in turn as they withdrew hands. “Well, besides the office, my wife and I have recently moved into a house not too far from here, and we’ll be unpacking for the next week at this rate. If you’ve got the time, I’d be happy to pay you for an extra pair of hands. I’m sure my wife would appreciate it.” He chuckled low, and deep, and Yang almost jumped at the chance, ecstatic at the promise of work, before she remembered. “Well… I have the time for the rest of the evening, and on Sunday, but I’m afraid I have a prior commitment tomorrow…” She admitted a little sheepishly. “Is that a problem?” 

Ghira pondered that, scratching at his beard. “Hm… no, I suppose not. Any help at all is appreciated.” Tai cleared his throat at that. “Well, actually sunshine, I dont think your plans start until later in the evening.” Yang thought it over. “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right. Hm.. well, I’ll have to be home in time to get ready and in time to make it up there… so I can work until about 4 in the afternoon tomorrow, Mr. Belladonna. Does that work for you?”  

Ghira gave a soft grunt and nodded, reached into one of the boxes Taiyang had brought into the office and pulled out a notepad. He searched around for a pen for a moment, before finding one in one of the drawers of the desk. “Here we are…” He started to write something. “I’ll give you the address and a time for tomorrow and sunday when it works best for us.” He clicked the pen and handed her the piece of paper. 

She read over the writing- it was a bit difficult with the loopy, decorative scrawling, but she could make out the road easy enough. “Menagerie Road?” She looked to her father. “Isn’t that just down the way from our place, dad?” Tai pitched forward, uncrossing his arms and looking over her shoulder at the note. “Huh. Yeah, it’s probably half a mile. You could walk it, even.” 

“Huh.” Yang remarked, turning the sheet over and then looking at the times. “11-4 on Saturday and 11-3 on Sunday. That works perfectly for me, sir.” 

“I’m glad to hear it. Why don’t you both join Kali and I for dinner? It won’t be anything fancy, since we haven’t unpacked yet, but since we’re practically neighbors now…” Ghira chuckled lightly. 

“Well, I have to head back to work- I have a new assistant and she’s not gonna train herself…” Tai chuckled as he looked at his watch. “But Yang, if you want to head over and maybe start helping Mr. Belladonna and his wife unpack, I’ll pick you up on my way back to the house.” Yang mulled it over. She didn’t really have anything waiting for her at home for the next several hours anyway… The cat was gone, and Summer and Raven had spent the past week doing nothing but drilling Ruby on the Equinox dance. It was the day before, and still Ruby was less than good, not for lack of trying. She just didn't really have the coordination. Yang felt bad for whoever she got as a dance partner, not that she’d ever tell her little sister that. “Sure, if you don’t mind me getting a jump on the work, Mr. Belladonna.” She answered after a short consideration. 

“Not at all. That sort of enthusiasm is admirable.” He smiled, and Yang couldn't help but smile as well. She hadn’t been sure what to think of the large man when she’d first glimpsed him, but now that she’d talked to him a little, she was far less intimidated than before. His tone, while deep and somewhat jarring at first, was gentle, and he spoke with an air of dignity that Yang had only ever heard on tv from particularly well-read people. 

“Alright, well, I’m just about done here for the evening. I’ll work on unpacking these boxes tomorrow morning.” Ghira stretched, and Taiyang joined him. “I should head out as well. I’ll pick you up around…” Tai looked at his watch, and Yang mirrored him, looking at her own. “... how about 7:30ish?” It was close to 4:30 now. Yang nodded, as did Mr. Belladonna. “Sounds good to me, dad. Mr. Belladonna?” 

“That works perfectly. We’ll get dinner around 6, then. Are you alright with delivery, Miss Xiao Long?” He asked, grabbing what she recognised as a coat from where it had been draped over the top of the desk. The fabric was a rich, dark purple, and she had to admire it for a moment as he lifted it and put one arm inside a sleeve, and then the other. “Oh- yeah. Yes. Delivery is great.” She amended, before hesitating. “You mean, like, pizza, right?” He gave a bellowed laugh, almost a roar, and nodded down at her amusedly. “Yes, my apologies. I should have been clearer. Although, we can order something else, if you’d like.” 

Yang was quick to shake her head. “No no, pizza is great!” She assured him, her cheeks heating a bit embarrassedly. He chuckled deeply again, and she tried to relax. “Well, whatever kind you’d like, just let me know, and I’ll put the order in. I assume you’ve had the local pizza and can tell us what's best.” He looked to her as the three of them headed out of the room, moving to the stairwell and out of the front door, removing the little wooden block that had been keeping the door wedged open. Yang moved around the back of the truck and lifted the tailgate, satisfied as she heard it click into place. She gave it a swift pat and gave a slight wave to her dad as he stepped into the front seat of the vehicle, gripping the handle reaching out to the door once he’d sat down. She watched as he pulled out into the road, giving a little wave before heading off to finish his own work for the evening. Once he was out of view, Yang turned to the towering man waiting by the side of the building. He fished a pair of keys out of one of the pockets on the nice purple coat, and jangled them a moment. “Here we are. It’s just over there, Miss Xiao Long.”  He gestured across the street, and Yang glanced over, eyes scanning. There was only one car parked immediately on the opposite side of the road from them, and she was surprised to see a sleek black car of a fancier model. She figured it must be a different car, since Ghira didn’t seem the type to drive such a vehicle, but there was a beeping and it dawned on her that it must be the car, since he’d just unlocked it. 

She wasted little time crossing the street and getting into the car- and she was pleasantly surprised as she did, taking in the smell of a new car and something familiar, although she couldn't put her finger on it. She took the passenger seat, and buckled herself in as Ghira got into the driver’s side. “This is a real nice car, sir.” She commented as they pulled out of the parking space and onto the main road. “Why thank you. It was a recent purchase.” He smiled in turn. “Your father mentioned you have skills in mechanics as well; do you like cars, Miss Xiao Long?” He asked, and she thought about it, glancing out the window. In all honesty, she wasn't sure how much she should talk about herself. How much was professional? She was working for Mr. Belladonna after all, technically. This was her first real job, even if it was just a little manual labor. “I do. I prefer motorcycles, though.” She admitted, giving a polite smile. 

“Ah, motorcycles…” He nodded, and there was a hint of something in his tone that Yang sensed meant he didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as cars. A silence fell over the two of them as Ghira pulled off of the main road and onto the long stretch of country road she was very familiar with. It was Ghira who broke the silence shortly after. “My daughter wanted a motorcycle for a while. I wasn’t so keen on the idea. I hope there's no offense taken, Miss Xiao Long, when I say that as a father they can seem quite dangerous.” Her gruffed, looking ahead. 

Yang didn’t speak for a while, searching for the right thing to say. Finally, as they pulled onto a gravel road off of the main one that she supposed must have been Menagerie Road, she gathered her composure. “I understand. They can be dangerous, if you don’t know what you’re doing… but they can also be a lot of fun.” Ghira seemed to ponder this as they drove up the gravel path. The trees gave way to a large open clearing- almost impossibly far- and near the back, Yang could make out a large manor-like home nestled against the trees. There was another Uhaul parked much closer to the house than they were, and as they pulled up to the garage- which Yang tried her hardest not to gawk at- she could see that the back of the truck was already raised, and boxes had been moved and stacked around the front steps, which were far grander than her own little front stoop. She tried her best to maintain an air of professionalism, but Ghira chuckled deeply, and she blushed, realizing she must have been staring much more intently than she had perhaps intended to. 

Turning off the ignition, Ghira pointed toward the garage. “You’ll find Mr. Wukong in the garage. He can help you with some of the heavier things, and provide a little company. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come and ask.” He informed her, and she nodded. “Yes, sir.” 

“Do you have any recommendations for pizza, Miss Xiao Long?” He asked as they both got out of the car. She closed the passenger door gingerly, afraid of slamming it too hard, and looked up to meet his gaze over the top of the vehicle. “Scarlatina Pizzaria is pretty good. I typically get their pineapple pizza, but plain cheese or sausage is good too.” She wasn’t too picky, unlike Ruby, who refused to touch a vegetable if she wasn’t being forced, and who gagged at the idea of fruit on a pizza. Thankfully, pepperoni was a crowd pleaser. Before she could get thinking too deeply about various toppings, however, Ghira broke her out of her thoughts. “Duly noted. We’ll order around 6, as I specified earlier.” He dismissed her with a smile, before heading toward the almost intimidatingly large house, leaving her to stand by the garage and mull over what to do first. She supposed she should go see this ‘Mr. Wukong’ about what to move first, and where to move it. 

She had barely reached the side door, when it was yanked open, and she quickly stepped out of the way as a tower of boxes with two tanned legs strode out and where she had been moments ago. “Uh… are you Mr. Wukong?” She cleared her throat, speaking up. From the side of the boxes, the young man carrying them popped his head out and looked at her for a moment, before grinning. “No need for formalities- you can call me Sun.” His voice was somehow both gritty and soft, and he had a tone reminiscent of a surfer or two she’d seen in her dad’s favorite shitty movies. He looked strikingly like her father, and her as well, she had to admit, with a similar style of messy tousled blonde hair and built, tanned physique. He shifted the boxes to rest on his left side and offered her his hand to shake, and she quickly took it. His grip was strong, but so was hers, and his grin only widened. “You got a name?” 

She felt herself smiling a bit as well at his jubilant nature. “Yeah- yeah, it’s Yang. Yang Xiao Long.” She offered, removing her hand from his so he could grip the boxes again. “Mr. Belladonna hired me to help with the moving.” He nodded in a ‘gotcha’ sort of expression. “Well, I’m just moving some of these back with the other stuff by the truck- I grabbed the wrong ones.” He explained, shifting the boxes and shrugging. “Once I put these down, I can put you to work.” He chucked, his gate jaunty as he moved to walk down toward where the truck was parked maybe thirty or so feet up the driveway. 

And put her to work, he did. Together, they managed to get several boxes loaded into the garage, which while being the place to store the nice car she can seen previous, also housed a beat up pickup that was rusted and dented far beyond what she imagined was safe, and a small staircase that led up to an upper level over the back half of the building. This was where they were moving the boxes. Sun explained why to her as they climbed the stairs, each with one side of a futon as they took it one step at a time. “Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna are letting me crash in here. Mrs. Belladonna wanted me to stay in the house, but the big guy and Blake both thought I’d be better out here with this whole little setup to myself. And I gotta say, the digs are pretty sweet.” Sun remarked as they got the futon up the steps, and set it down against the far wall, under a farm-style window, brushing his hands off and reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a little baggie of chips that she thought looked familiar, and then he was shoving the bag toward her, shaking it slightly, the top wide open. He crunched on one, and gestured like her wanted her to take one. “Want one?” He indeed offered, mouth full. She almost took one, before she looked at the bag and her nose scrunched up. “Are those banana chips? ” 

Sun blinked, finishing his loud crunching and rescinding the bag. “Not a banana fan?” She shook her head. “No, thanks. I’ll pass…” He looked minorly offended, but it quickly dissolved into amusement. “Man, Blake typically says the same thing. I didn’t think I’d have to deal with that until later.” Yang watched as he reached in and popped another small off-yellow chip into his mouth. She mulled over his words as he did, and as he shoved the bag back into his jeans, brushing off his hands to get back to work, she brought up what was on her mind. “You keep mentioning this ‘Blake’, is he-” 

Sun was quick to stop her as he reached the stairs. “She.” 

Yang blinked in slight surprise. “Oh. Um, well, Blake; is she-” 

“She’s single.” He grinned, and Yang’s cheeks flushed. “That’s not what I-” 

“Unfortunately, she’s going through a rough breakup right now, though, so, I wouldn’t if I were you.” He spoke, as though he were warning her about not stepping on an active landmine. Yang wasn’t really sure where it came from, but something bubbled in her stomach, and it was more than just being hungry. She clenched her jaw as they headed down the little staircase and back to the truck to get the last few items. As they were standing by a decent sized dresser, figuring how to lift it up and get it all the way to the garage and up those little stairs, Yang finally spoke what was on her mind. “I didn’t need to know about her breakup. That sounds like it’s kinda her business. I just wanted to know if you two were friends, since you keep bringing her up.” Her tone was a little sharper than she had intended, and she tried to curb it as quickly as possible, but she could tell he noticed, looking up at her with a strange look in his eyes. “Well, I just wanted to-...” He trailed off, as if he wasn’t entirely sure. He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, and in the corner of her eye, Yang swore she saw something move under the fabric of his tank top, but… maybe it was just her imagination. Both of their attention was quickly drawn to the front steps, where Ghira had stepped out of the large mahogany front doors. “Miss Xiao Long, Mr. Wukong, I see you’re working hard- I’ve called in the order for pizza. It will be here shortly. I just wanted to inform you so you might have time to wash up.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Belladonna.” Yang nodded, smiling lightly. “We’re just going to move this last dresser, and then we’ll be in.” 

“Take your time, and please, make sure you’re keeping hydrated. I know all the heavy lifting can be taxing.” Ghira gave them a little wave, before heading back toward the doors, stepping inside and out of sight. When he was gone, Yang looked over her shoulder to see Sun pouting, like a disgruntled child, or Ruby when Raven ate all the ice cream and left the container in the freezer. She raised an eyebrow. “What’s up with you?” He turned to snark a reply back at her, but froze as his eyes landed on something just past her. She furrowed her brows and moved to turn around, but he hissed at her lowly. “Don’t move!” 

Her stomach knotted a bit at the clearly distressed look on his face, but other than that, she didn’t feel any sort of particular threat. As he gestured wildly at her not to, she turned, looking around. She didn’t see anyone behind her. “What are you on about-”

A ‘mrrrow’ from below. Yang blinked, looking down, and her heart rate sped up. There was the cat. “You…?” She bent down, and Sun leaned over the dresser to see her, near frantic. “Dont-” The cat, however, simply shook her hind quarters, prepared to jump, and launched herself up and onto Yang’s shoulders. Yang smiled, that familiar warm feeling tugging at her as the cat gave another ‘mew’ of approval, rubbing against her neck and the underside of her chin with her soft, tawny-furred head. She stood, keeping a careful hand nearby in case the cat lost her balance, and turned to Sun, who was looking at her as though she had grown a second head. The cat purred softly against Yang’s shoulder, nudging her ear with her little head, exposing her teeth in what Yang took for a happy little smile as Yang reached up and scratched under her chin lightly with her pointer finger. 

“How did- why- what-...?” He seemed to be struggling with words, and Yang raised an eyebrow at him. “Why are you looking at me like that?” 

Sun sputtered, looking back and forth between the cat and Yang. “That thing’s practically feral. She doesn’t like anyone but Blake, and she tolerates Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna at best- but you… how are you doing that?” He asked exasperatedly, running his hand through his hair. Yang blinked, looking from the cat back to Sun. “I found her on the side of the road about a week ago. She was hurt, so I took her to the vet and then back to my house to heal. She didn’t have any sort of information on her, or any kind of name tag, so I just figured I’d let her hang around however long she wanted, but… a couple of days ago, she disappeared. I was pretty worried.” Yang admitted, and the cat nuzzled under her neck, garnering a chuckle from Yang. “Guess she  wasn’t so far away after all.” She explained what had happened, and Sun tried to process this. “You… domesticated Gambol?” He said it like she might as well have thrown the cat in a bag and tossed it off a bridge. She blinked, unsure how to respond to that. “I- don’t know if I’d say that, but… I mean-” 

“Would you um- excuse me? I’ve got to go uh… wash my hands…” He struggled to think of something, and Yang watched his thought process as he pulled the lame excuse out of his ass. “Hang on just a minute-” It was too late; Sun was already halfway up the stairs by the time she thought to call him out. As she stroked the fur at the top of the cat- of Gambol ’s head, she couldn’t help but worry she’d somehow overstepped. This was Gambol’s family, apparently, and if she’d accidentally done something to change the cat’s personality… 

She tried not to let it bother her too much, even though the thought kept resurfacing back to the forefront of her mind the longer Sun was gone. Yang decided that instead of just standing there, she might as well finish moving things; she was still being paid to do the work- or at least, she hoped she was. She spent the better part of the next half an hour hefting the dresser to the garage, Gambol staying to watch for a moment, before running off to Brother’s know where. It was no easy feat, and by the time she had managed to pull it to the door, her forehead was damp with sweat. She shook out her arms, stretching the now sore and tired extremities, particularly her hands, which had borne the brunt of the heavy lifting. It was good she had plenty of calluses built up, because otherwise, her palms would have been riddled with blisters. A quick diagnostic check revealed she’d almost entirely sweat through the pastel orange flannel she’d worn, damp down the back and under her arms. She made quick work of unbuttoning the thing in favor of the camisole she’d opted for that morning underneath. It was plain white, and as she tied the discarded flannel around her waist, the cool autumn breeze hit her tanned, freckled arms and the slight moisture that had accrued there with her hard work, and she breathed through her nose pleasantly at the feeling. 

Yang gave herself a moment to stretch and get her bearings, enjoying the breeze before moving back toward the boxes and other assorted pieces of furniture. She was just figuring out how she should go about moving the last two boxes- both at once or one at a time- when from the long strip of gravel road and trees that led back to the main round, a familiar car pulled down the driveway. Yang gave a wave as the vehicle slowly rolled up the immense driveway and toward the manor of a house. It came to a stop a few feet behind Ghira’s sleek car, and Yang watched as the engine stopped running, the driver having turned the key. 

The car itself was decently familiar to Yang- she’d ordered Scarlatina Pizzaria’s enough in her life to know it fairly well, if the flashing triangular sign on the top didn’t give it away enough. It was small and silver- a simple car for making deliveries. Yang was, however, very familiar with the driver of the car, as well as the official owner, even if the two were not mutually exclusive.

The young woman who stepped out of the vehicle was tall, pale, and Yang had to admit- hilarious looking in the ugly, uniform red polo shirt and visor. She couldn’t help but bark out a laugh at the sight, curling in on herself a bit as the young woman scowled slightly, opening the back door and pulling out three large pizzas. She walked over with lazy, yet somehow graceful strides, her gait a swagger as she held out the pizzas. “Haha, laugh it up, Xiao Long. I bet you think this is pretty funny.” She remarked from behind a pair of shades.

“Oh I think this is very funny.” Yang nearly snorted, taking in the employee getup. “Velvet’s mom really made you wear the uniform, huh?” 

As much as she seemed loathe to admit it, the young woman grunted her confirmation. “I don’t see why I couldn’t wear my much nicer attire… but I promised Vel I wouldn't fuss over it. At least not in front of her mom.” She sighed, and glanced around. “So, what’s the deal with this place? Did you guys move?” She looked to the garage and then to the large house. 

“No, I’m just helping the people that do live here. They’re new to town. Dad was helping Mr. Belladonna move things into his new work space, and I gave him a hand, and after my dad talked me up a bit, Mr. Belladonna hired me to help them with the moving this weekend.” Yang explained, and the woman nodded. “Oh... I see. Well that explains why you’re sweating like you just ran a mile.” 

Yang took the boxes, and the woman pulled out a receipt and a pen. “Well, is your boss around? I need a signature for this, and the money for the pizzas.” Yang blinked, and turned to the house, thumbing toward the door with her spare hand. “Oh, yeah. He should be inside.” 

Yang shifted the boxes in her arms as they walked up the gravel drive and toward the grand front steps, Yang trying to keep herself from dropping the pizzas, and the woman beside her scuffing the little rocks with her boots, which in true Coco style, were much much nicer that one probably got working for a pizzeria. Coco caught Yang’s glance as she looked down at her boots, and chuckled deeply. “I do get to keep some things…” 

“Remind me again why you’re working at a pizza place when you’re part of, like, the second wealthiest family in Vale?” Yang raised an eyebrow, and Coco shrugged, pulling off her shades and tucking them into the front of her polo shirt. “Velvet kept complaining about how they’re short staffed, and Yatsu was getting tired of me complaining about not seeing Vel enough, and then Fox said I should just go apply to work there, so it’d be a win win.” She twirled the pen in her fingers, spinning it round and round as she thought about it. “And I’ve never had a job before. I figured I might as well give it a shot. See what it’s like to be one of the little guys.” She smirked a bit as she rested her elbow atop Yang’s head, as if marking her one of the ‘little guys’. Yang couldn't help the small snort that rose up from her somewhere in her throat. “You? One of the little guys? Sure thing, Miss ‘I’m 6’ foot in my Gucci heels.’” 

That earned her an arm around the neck, slung over her shoulder and in the perfect position to put her in a choke hold. “Look at you! Someone’s grown up since last summer.” Coco laughed, grinning, and Yang felt her cheeks flush. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Sure you don’t, you indignant little shit.” 

 

The rest of the evening was a little on the stranger side, but not enough to dissuade Yang from the slight excitement that had started to gnaw at her as the day wore on, leading into the night. She had brought the pizzas into the house and, having never been inside, tried not to get too distracted staring at the beautiful home, but nonetheless, found her pace shuffling as she glanced around in awe. She ultimately found him near a large empty space she assumed would be the living room once it was furnished; she actually also managed to find Sun as well, and a small, olive toned and dark haired woman she assumed must have been Mrs. Belladonna. They seemed to all have been discussing something, but as she stepped into the room, they all became quiet, and Yang felt her anxiety skyrocket. This was probably about the cat- about Gambol, she mentally corrected herself. But instead of confronting her or cornering her or firing her, they all slipped back into a very natural, or what she assumed they were trying to impose as natural, act. She noticed, but decided to play dumb, offering the pizza to Sun, who happy grabbed the boxes and took off to set them somewhere they could eat. The woman Yang assumed was Mr. Belladonna’s wife followed after him with comments about helping him find the dishes. Yang made sure to inform Mr. Belladonna about Coco, who was still waiting in the doorway, and with a firm pat on the shoulder, and a remark about how hard she must have been working outside, he headed off to pay the delivery driver for their dinner. 

Mr. Belladonna had ordered three pizzas: one cheese, one pepperoni, and one sardine. The sardine pizza made Yang want to wrinkle her nose, but that was hardly polite, especially to the man who had employed her. So even though it was certainly an odd choice, Yang smiled and ate her own kind of pizza. The sardine pizza ended up being just for Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna, and Sun made quick work of devouring the pepperoni pizza, even if she had done a lot more of the heavy lifting than he had. The cheese, it seems, she had all to herself. She was a little embarrassed at the idea of tucking into an entire pizza, but as her stomach growled with hunger, and at Mrs. Belladonna’s insistence, she practically inhaled the thing. Once she was finished, a quick look at her watch told her it was only half an hour until her father would be coming by to get her. Mr. Belladonna assured her that she needn't stay the last half hour, having done enough as it was. Even though he said it gratefully, Yang couldn't help the underlying implication of her apparent effect on Gambol, and the clear rift it was causing. 

But she didn't argue. She waved to the Belladonnas and Sun from the gravel road as she passed the treeline and started out toward the main road. It wasn’t long of a walk at all. She reached the long dirt driveway within 15 minutes of scuffing her feet thinking as the chilly night breeze blew through her and raised the little blonde hairs on her arms. 

When she got home, she found Ruby laying in the grass in the front yard, one tanned arm resting casually over her eyes and the other splayed in the grass to her side. Yang wasted no time in stomping her way over and falling back heavily into the grass, not caring about the sore impact of her butt, or the slight ache of her muscles, or the possibility of being fired from her first job ever after the first day. She just laid there, too exhausted to close her eyes as she stared up at the darkening night sky, speckled with stars like the freckles that dotted her body. She reached one lazy hand up, reaching up for the stars with palm flat, too tired to clench her fingers and pluck one out of the sky. 

It was a quiet night. There were no crickets, no swallows or lunes crying out into the night. 

It was quiet when she got into the shower, despite the sound of water running over her and falling and plinking against the tile. There were no voices from downstairs, or thumps of footsteps above her. She was too sleepy to think. 

As she dimmed the lights and pulled her mountain of hair into a messy bun, yawning wide and tall so she could barely hear at all, she made out a slight tap against the pane of her window. She blinked, unsure if she had heard anything at all. She felt warm. Her chest was swirling, and her head was empty, and she just wanted to lay in her covers and sleep until she could sleep no more. 

She got into bed, pulling back the massive downy comforter, and positioning her pillows. She turned on her side, and a part of her wished she had something to spoon- a teddy bear, or a stuffed animal, or even another person. It was an empty feeling. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep- tried to drift off. It shouldn't have been too hard- she was exhausted both physically and mentally. And yet…

PLink!

Yang’s eyes blinked open. Her body tensed and she sat up, glancing over at her window with anxiety. She had no idea what that could be. It wouldn’t be Omen- Omen never came inside the house. And Coco wouldn’t be throwing rocks at her window to get her attention- especially not this late in the evening. She crept closer, hoping to get a glimpse through the glass- and get a glimpse she did. Large golden eyes stared back at her, and she jumped as they locked onto her, her heart racing. She stood there for a moment, before it clicked, and she rushed to open the window. “Gambol?” She breathed, as indeed Gambol came striding in, hopping off the sil and onto her shoulders. She managed to right herself at the sudden jump, but Gambol quickly settled herself, nestling up to Yang and draping herself across her broad shoulders. 

Yang shut the window with a shudder as the cold air threatened to blow in, looking up at her now purring companion. “You shouldn’t be here, you know.” She sighed, moving over to sit on the edge of her bed, reaching up and scratching it’s tawny dark fur. “I think I’m in trouble for helping you… apparently I’ve changed you considerably.” 

Gambol raised her head lazily and gave a mewl, nudging the underside of Yang’s jaw and sniffing at her cheek with a cold, wet nose. In fact, as Yang ran a hand along her back, Yang noted the cold, wet feeling there as well. It must have been just starting to rain, she realized. Yang frowned. She hoped the Belladonna’s managed to move everything inside the house, at the least. It was too late, and too wet to try and bring the cat back now. She might as well let her stay the night and take her back the next day, hopefully not to be accused of catnapping, and be subsequently fired. 

She helped Gambol down off her shoulder and onto the bed, striding over to her closest and looking for something warm to let the cat burrow herself in. She settled for the orange sweatshirt she’d carried Gambol in the second day she’d known her, smiling fondly as she took it off the hanger and back to the kitty in question. Gambol immediately sniffed at the fabric, and headbutted Yang’s hand, and Yang wasted no time in scooping her up in the sweater and forming an almost sort of next around her. The sweatshirt was gigantic, so there was plenty of fabric to go around, and to cover the top of her, her little black head peeking out of the top. Yang smiled and on impulse, rubbed softly behind her ears, pressing a kiss to the top of her little head as she began to purr. 

Once Gambol was settled, Yang found her place in the bed as well, pulling up the covers and letting her eyes close. With Gambol here, something felt better- nicer. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she felt the stress ebb away as her eyes rolled behind their lids with thought and she slipped away into darkness to the sound of a rhythmic beating, matched by deep rolling purrs. 



Chapter Text

She was like nothing Yang had ever seen before.

But Yang had seen her before- she was sure of it. She’d seen dark, flowing, wavy hair, like a tumbling, tumultuous sea of ebony- no, silky and soft to the touch. 

She’d seen beautiful dark skin, flushed with undertones of red that bloomed across her cheeks and the blemished skin of her arms and hands. 

She’d seen eyes like molten gold, dark and hard around the center, like amber, frozen in time. That gaze followed Yang from where she stood among the trees, the wind billowing, the fabric of her dress fluttering and dancing, and petals of sweet smelling flowers falling and scattering to the wind, plucked from the crown of ornately arranged blooms that rested atop her head. It was twilight, and the forest was bathed in a soft orange light that only further stirred the feeling bubbling inside Yang’s chest. She wanted to say something, anything at all; she wanted desperately to speak what she had been feeling, but her searching yielded no results, and she could only bluster, stepping forward. 

A coy smile from the beautiful specter. Except, now that Yang was looking at her, this was different. She wasn’t a specter, or a figment of Yang’s imagination. She stood against the trees, bathed in the light of the darkening sky, an indescribably soft, skittish look on her delicate features. Yang’s breath caught in her throat. 

She was suddenly aware of music; of a soft melody, strumming in the night air amid the few remaining crickets who had yet to die off with the return of autumn. She didn’t speak a word- she didn’t need to. There was something, some tender connection between them- she could feel it. She had no idea what it was, but nothing else could explain this- could help her understand just what was drawing her to this woman. Yang reached out slowly, not wanting to spook her. They were so far apart, and she wanted nothing more than to close that distance, but the fright in her eyes made Yang stop that idea in its tracks. She was scared, and truthfully, Yang was scared too. 

But when had that ever stopped her?

The woman flinched away, backing farther against a tree as Yang reached out her hand, and Yang’s heart ached. The woman seemed startled by the whole occurrence, and Yang watched as in the dark of the alcove she’d hidden herself in, her fingers brushed against the knotted wood of the trees, her breathing shallow. Yang outstretched her palm, her expression soft, and kind. She was obviously frightened by the new reality of this… dream. If it could even be called that. It was far different the past few they’d shared. The beautiful woman had been half corporeal, and had seemed nothing but the faint memory of wispy smoke. But now.. Now she was fully formed, and so was Yang. It was disorienting, but Yang tried her best to seem disaffected. If she lost it, the young woman would likely panic as well, and Yang didn’t think her heart could take being responsible for that.

Slowly, the woman stepped forward. She looked around, an expression of barely contained awe on her face as her hand brushed the textured trees and the needles of the pine tree branches extending down from the trunk. The leaves rustled beneath her feet with each small, tentative step, and her breath streamed out in cool fog as she neared Yang enough that she could get a clear look at her in the dying light. 

Her feet were bare, and shuffling nervously, or perhaps just with the cold, and as Yang glanced from her feet up to meet her gaze, the woman glanced away, turning her head. Her expression was hard to read, but to Yang’’s surprise, it bordered on shame. She hugged herself gently, her nimble fingers biting into the delicate white lace of her dress sleeves. They were maybe a few feet from one another, and the more information Yang drank in from just standing and seeing her… Yang wasted no time in bending down. The woman stiffened, and looked as though she might pull away, but Yang’s focus had shifted. She felt the golden gaze against the back of her neck as she fiddled with the straps of her dress shoes. She pulled the first one off with ease, her foot hitting the damp mossy ground, squishing between her toes. The second one was harder, and she swayed a bit, trying to keep herself from falling. She managed to unlatch the second shoe, but as she pulled the strap out of the buckle, her heel squished into a particularly cold patch of mud, and she found her goosebumps rising in response. Her focus lost, she pulled the shoe off her foot with both hands, hopping about on the one bare one. She managed to tug it off, pulling with a firm yank!, and promptly falling backward, and onto her behind. 

The impact didn't bother her, nor did the dampness that accompanied it. The thing that made her look up, her breath caught, was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard. It wasn’t like every description of a laugh Yang had ever read- it wasn’t like bells tolling, or an utterly defined sound- it was snorted, and strained, and downright giggly. 

The young woman was looking down at her with amusement, the joy on her features genuine, if fleeting. She stopped giggling as she noticed Yang staring at her rather blatantly, and rather than scrambling to get up, Yang draped an arm over her knee, dress shoes still in hand. She sat there a moment, just smiling at her softly, the feeling in her heart flowing and beating and aching deep within her chest. There were no words- neither of them knew what to say, it seemed. 

But they didn’t need words, not really. 

Yang watched as the young woman extended a hand to her, if tentatively. Yang was surprised, and as the hand waved softly in the breeze, if barely noticeable, Yang reached out and gently took it. The feeling was… indescribable. The fitting of their palms together told more of a story than thousands of pretty words ever could. The grooves and calluses of Yang’s palm seemed to fit perfectly in place against her hand, meeting the raised little lines and rough, sand-paper like texture of the woman’s. Her hand dwarfed Yang’s, with small slender fingers, and an elongated palm that just reached the bottom of Yang’s. Yang had spent her life working with her hands- she had been fixing cars and building things with her dad, and clearing wood from the edges of their property all her life. She’d learned guitar and grown her collection of calluses to include her fingers, and she’d helped her dad with rewiring the house lights, and with heavy lifting. She was a hard worker, and she was proud of that, and her hands told that story. But this woman… Yang didn’t know what had given her the little raised lines that dominated her palms. She didn’t know why the shape and the turn of her fingers were slightly off, and raised- she didn’t want to think about the idea of such lovely hands ever sporting what she recognized as broken fingers. She didn’t know the story of this young woman’s hands, but every new discovery she made only made her heart ache, and a deep pit inside her bubble with anger. 

Her expression was tender as she raised herself up, not wanting the woman to have to tug her bulky frame up to stand. She abandoned her shoes on the forest floor, and as she was standing upright again, she figured the woman would let go of her hand. But that didn't seem to be the case. She was looking at Yang’s hand with an unbreakable stare, and an unreadable expression. Yang didn’t move for a moment, afraid if she did, it would spook her too much. Clearly, she had reason to be frightened of Yang, and Yang didn’t want that. She waited until the woman seemed to snap out of it, looking at her in slight alarm as she glanced between her hand and her eyes, as though realizing just how intently she’d been captivated by Yang’s hand. She seemed like in her haste, she might pull away, and inside, Yang didn’t want that to happen. She knew that something must have happened to make her this jumpy- although maybe just being in this real place, after seemingly having gone to sleep in the comfort of her home, wherever that was, must have been frightening enough as is. Slowly, and gently enough that she could pull away if she wanted, Yang reached her other hand out from where it had rested against her side, extending her palm. The woman flinched at first, and Yang kept her hands perfectly still, not wanting to spook her. 

Behind her, the music switched in tone, the soft twanging of the guitar now aided by a soft and sorrowful sound of strings- something like cello, or maybe a violin. It was a beautiful, haunting melody that filled the darkening clearing, and somewhere, lights were being lit, stung up along the tree branches surrounding the area. Yang’s heart was racing, her stomach clenched in a pit and her breath held deep in her throat. Things had been moving so slowly since the moment she’d opened her eyes to see the woman staring at her from the treeline, like they were living in slow motion. But all of a sudden, the tempo changed, and things were moving faster than she could have imagined. The woman set her hand in Yang’s and stepped even closer yet. The both of them hesitated a moment, and Yang’s breathing was hot and shallow, billowing up into the night air. Heat ran up the back of her neck and crept to her ears, undoubtedly burning red to the beat of her thundering heart. 

The woman looked equally as troubled by the closeness, but it seemed they’d wordlessly reached an understanding about the nature of the feeling they were experiencing. Yang waited for her to make the first move- whatever that was. She had stepped forward and taken Yang’s hand, but that wasn’t enough. Not after the broken pieces of story Yang had garnered from holding them delicately in her own. If she wanted to be a partner in this dance, Yang had to know it was her decision entirely. 

As the woman seemed to realize this, breathing deeply through the curve of full, chapped lips, she moved forward until she was within a pinky finger’s distance of Yang, her amber eyes glancing up at her partner timidly. Where she had rested her hands against Yang’s own, she delicately and slowly removed them, gliding upward, but not yet touching her. Her eyes gauged Yang’s reaction, and the core of Yang’s stomach ached with the tenderness of it all as the young woman let her fingers dance across the exposed skin of Yang’s shoulders. She traced the freckles there with ginger fingers, playing the moles on her skin like keys on a piano. A shudder ran up Yang’s spine at the unfamiliar sensation, and as the young woman stiffened, moving to pull her hand away, Yang’s hand instinctively moved up to gently catch her elbow. They stayed that way for a moment, holding each other’s gaze, before the young woman took the hint, and gingerly moved forward with her hands, lifting them over the peak of Yang’s broad shoulders, allowing her arms to rest there. 

She was so close- Yang was overwhelmed with sweet smells and the close curve of a soft smile beginning to form on her lips. When she smiled, her cheeks dimpled, Yang realized, and as her heart melted, she stored that information away for safekeeping. In turn, not wanting to fall short on her half of the experience, slowly, and beyond gently, laid her hands on the young woman’s sides, just above her hips. Again, they stayed that way, staring at one another, memorizing everything they could. Yang watched her soft golden eyes travel the expanse of her broad, strongly featured face. She tried to imagine it the way she was probably seeing it- the way she saw it in the mirror: a strong, angular jaw, thick eyebrows with a haphazard slit through the right one, all traits she had inherited from her father. She imagined what the young woman must have seen in the same way she’d seen her dream after dream. She wondered if she noticed her large doe eyes that were too big for her angular face, or the thin, girlishly pink lips she had inherited from her mother. She wondered if the young woman saw her in the way she saw the young woman. 

It seemed neither of them had realized they were moving until they had swayed their way out of the little alcove of trees and into the larger part of the clearing. They went around in circles, dancing softly to the tune of the music, even if there were no words. It was delightfully, wonderfully vague, and that made it all the better as they slowly stepped in time, moving around in a lazy circle. Before long, the young woman was giggling into her ear, and Yang’s hands, which had become unfortunately rather sweaty, had moved to hold her firmer, if only a little. They were nearly cheek to cheek, and it had seemed eons since they had been tiptoeing their way around each other. They danced amid the smoky wisps of memories of people neither of them recognized, and Yang was entranced by the woman laughing and spinning in her arms, their feet padding bare around the marshy clearing, and their spirits high with exaltations. The night fly by, and it seemed like time had lost all it’s meaning- every second in her arms felt like an hour, and every hour felt like a second. Yang couldn’t recall ever in her life ever feeling such bliss- such comfort; she had never known a time when anxieties hadn’t plagued her, and when her dreams hadn’t haunted her in both the waking world. But now… Yang could think of nothing but the young woman twirling with her through the grass, and on top of the mossy stone ruins that decorated the clearing in a splatter. 

She had always thought the idea of loving someone so much that you could die was ridiculous. Yang was a large believer that if you really loved someone, you would live for them. But in the moment, Yang’s chest reverberating with her laughter, Yang thought this must be death. This must be dying. There was no way it could be anything else. Nothing could be so nice and simple and fantastic as this, unless she was dead. And there was only one thing that could have killed her. 

It was then that the young woman met her eyes; her eyes alite with laughter and languid grace and a dark, eager and melancholy aura that made Yang weak in the knees. With lips like down and a distinctively knowing smile, she leaned into Yang until there was no more space between them, and Yang was certain her heart was racing loud enough to be heard even outside of this wonderful dream paradise. In a voice that Yang could only fail to describe, whispering like the words were a secret- and a challenge, she leaned, cheek to cheek with Yang, who’s breathing had slowed, the pit in her stomach aching deliciously with the sudden boldness.

“‘You say I killed you… haunt me then.’” 

 

Huuuuuuuhhhh !” Yang shot up in bed, gasping. She could feel her heart racing in her ears, and she blinked, startled as a droplet of something fell over her brow and against her cheek. It took her a moment to realize it was her own sweat, dripping off of her. She felt far, far too hot. She threw the comforter off of herself and moved quickly to the window, retching it open. It was still dark out- pitch black in the night. Yang breathed in the cold air from outside, and noted that it had stopped raining. She took a moment, gripping the windowsill as she tried to steady her racing heart. 

She seemed to be fighting a losing battle. She looked around for a flashlight, vaguely remembering in her haze that she kept one in the drawer of her vanity. She grabbed it and slipped the little loop over her wrist, clicking it on and shining it around her room, looking for the door. She needed water, and she needed it now. Her mind and her pulse were racing as she tried to figure out just what the hell had happened in her dream. The stairs seemed too short and too long a distance as she thundered down them, too preoccupied to notice or to care about the noise. She found the kitchen quickly, nearly tripping over herself to turn the tap on. The water came bursting out of the faucet, lukewarm and getting colder by the second. She set the flashlight down and searched the cabinets haphazardly for a glass. She found one, and as she grabbed it, she barely managed to note the shaking of her fingers as she pulled it down from the unusually high cabinets. She had it- she thought she had it but before she could even realize what was happening- unable to focus- the glass was slipping out of her shaky, sweaty fingers. She jumped at the shattering of the glass, stepping back and white knuckling the countertop of the island. 

She couldn’t focus- she couldn't focus on anything at all. There was too much- too much to think about; she couldn’t wrap her brain around half of the things she’d dreamt about, or the dream itself, or the girl, or what it all meant, or what she should do

“Yang!” 

Yang! ” There was a bright light, and Yang was vaguely aware of her parents- she heard her name, and Summer, and Tai was speaking lowly, and there was someone- there were arms around her, and a voice buried into her hair, holding her tightly. “Yang… Yang you’re okay… look at me…” Raven murmured, holding her by the shoulders and gripping her- grounding her. “Yang-” 

Yang looked up at her mother, trying to calm down, and she watched the expression twist on her mother’s features. Yang’s breath caught, and she knew what must be happening. Her hands were sweating so badly she slipped while trying to readjust her death grip on the counter. She pushed her back against the cabinets of the island and slipped down until she was sitting on the floor. 

“Raven what’s happening-”

“Rae, oh my god is she okay?” 

Yang was vaguely aware of summer moving around the island to come and make sure for herself. She looked up as she did- she wanted Summer. She wanted her mom. 

And then Summer gasped, and her hand immediately flew over her mouth to mask the sound, and Yang’s insides twisted. “Be careful of the glass, Summer.” Raven warned her, holding up a hand to stop her from coming closer. With that out of the way, Raven looked to Yang, and her expression was the softest Yang had yet to see from her. “Yang… I’m going to get you some water… and we’re going to go sit down… and we’ll talk about what happened, okay…?” She 

Yang gulped, and nodded. She tried to breath normally- she gasped for air, and held it in her mouth- she couldn’t choke it down, not with the urge to breathe in and keep breathing in. “Can you stand up?” Raven asked, and Yang thought about it. She nodded slowly, reaching up and searching for an edge of the cabinet to grab onto. She struggled for a moment, and Raven gave her a steadying arm to hold onto, which she took, leaning into her mother as she rose from the floor. 

“Tai, clean up the glass, Summer can you-” 

Summer, however, had a different point of focus. “Rae, look at her feet…” They all looked at her feet then, and Yang felt like she was going to be sick. It wasn’t possible. It shouldn’t be possible. 

There was moss and mud in between her toes and coating the bottom of her feet, the sides of which were stained green from the grass, a few blades stuck to the underside and peeking out. Leading out of the kitchen and toward the stairs, she had tracked muddy footprints. She could hear her parents arguing among themselves, if slowly. 

“Did she go outside? Like sleepwalking or something?” Tai asked, and Yang could hear the concern and agitation in his voice. She noted Summer bending down to examine her feet, and the plant matter she'd dragged around with her. She plucked a bit of moss from between Yang’s toes, and moved over to the light, examining it. Raven held Yang tightly around the shoulders with one arm, and Tai moved to step around the glass and to the sink, grabbing a new glass from the cabinet and letting it rest under the running water a moment. When it was full, or just nearly, he brought it over to Yang and Raven, holding it up to her mouth. “Take a drink, hon. That’s it-” He looked relieved as she took a long drink from the glass, shakily, taking it from him, but Yang could see the storm brewing underneath. 

“Summer?” He looked back at his wife, and Summer, who was deeply examining the moss, was quick to return the gaze. “This isn’t right. This moss… Raven this shouldn’t be possible.” She breathed, and Raven looked pensive. “Tai, help Yang up to her room. Get her a wet cloth for her forehead… Summer and I need to talk about this…”

At that, unfortunately, Taiyang exploded. It wasn’t often he lost his temper, but he had had just about enough at this moment in time. “No- absolutely not! I am sick and tired of you two keeping me out of the loop about all this magic dream stuff! It’s two in the morning, and my daughter just stumbled downstairs with mud all over her, on the verge of a panic attack and staring at me with red fucking eyes-” 

“Tai!” Raven snapped. “Now is not the time. All I want is for you to make sure Yang is settled in and relaxed. The more you stress her out, the more this could have a traumatic effect on her. Get her in bed. Get a cold cloth and help get her temperature down. Then we’ll all talk about this.” She spoke with a calm tone, but there was a clear agitation of her own building. Summer was quick to break the tension. “I’ll clean up the mud and the glass. Tai, I promise, we’ll talk this out and figure out what we should do… but for now, we need to listen to Raven. She knows the most about this…” Summer assured him, her expression a strange mix of concerned and confused. Tai grimaced, and bent his head, scratching the back of his neck. Yang could tell her father was exhausted, and that was apparent as he didn't fight the charge he’d been given, moving over to her side and offering his arm for her to lean into and hold onto. “Come on sweetheart. Let’s get you back in bed…” 

And get back in bed she did. He took her to the bathroom first, and had her sit on the edge of the tub as he ran the faucet to clean the mud from her feet. When they shuffled back into her room, they found Summer over her bed, hands raised over the sheets. The mud and plant matter that had been laying in her bed was now sifting its way up through the air and up to Summer’s palms. She kept at it until there was a pile in her hands, and the sheets were clean of debris and dirt. She’d apparently already done this to the carpet, as the muddy footprints were no more. Tai helped usher his eldest daughter to her bed, and Yang got under the covers without complaint.

In her haze, she noticed the window was closed, and made note of the lack of purring feline companions. She moved to sit up, but Summer and Tai were quick to help her back down. “Sweetheart you need to lay down and relax, okay…” Summer tried. Moving to sit on the side of the bed. She stroked Yang’s hair gently, running her fingers through it in the way she had done when Yang was still little, and admittedly, Yang melted a bit. “Gambol… Gambol’s gone…” She managed. In the time since they’d gotten her feet cleaned off and gotten her back in bed, she’d managed to get control of her breathing, thankfully, and had seemed to be working toward calming down. 

“Gambol?” Tai asked in a gruff, trying to hold a yawn at bay as she glanced at the clock in the corner of her dresser. It was nearly three in the morning. Yang grunted her affirmation nodding as she laid her head back on her pillow. She had for the most part calmed down, but the anxiety was still swelling in her. There was so much she couldn’t explain, and so much that made her stomach twist. Nothing made sense. Her mind was in a million different places at once, and it took a moment to realize she was being spoken to. 

“Yang.” She blinked, looking up to see her mother sitting in a chair across from her. Summer had moved to the end of the bed, and Tai to the other side of the bed, sitting beside her. She blinked a few times in confusion, not sure when Raven had arrived in the room, or when Summer and Tai had moved. 

“-keep doing that?” Summer asked, biting her lip worriedly. 

“She’s going to be out of it for a little while… big ones can be disorienting.” Raven murmured, informing her wife. “Yang, can you hear me?” She asked, and Yang nodded, trying to get her bearings. “Can you tell me about your nightmare?” She asked gingerly, and Yang blinked at her, unsure how to answer that. 

“It… it wasn’t a nightmare…” She croaked quietly, and Tai offered her a glass of water. She took it, taking a generous gulp and handing it back as she moved to sit a little bit more upright. Raven had furrowed her brow when she turned back to look at her, and Yang watched the thought process through her features. “Yang… what do you mean it wasn’t a nightmare? You’re going through it, Yang, all the symptoms…” She admitted, and although Yang had already known it, it still was frightening to hear. “Are they…?”  She murmured, unable to finish her thought. Raven understood though. She nodded, and Yang tried to keep her composure. She leaned back until her head was resting on her pillow, staring up at the ceiling.

And then she began to cry. 

All three parents were surprised as first the tears rolled down her cheeks, and then a sniffle- an indication of her clear distress, as finally, she let a whimper slip through her lips, and her breathing broke into choked, quiet sobs. Tai was quick to abandon the water on her nightstand, wrapping her up in his arms and holding her close, rocking her lightly as she gripped the fabric of his ratty sleep shirt. She cried like that for a while, wrapped in her father’s embrace. She was so lucky to have them- to have a father and two mothers who loved her and cared for her and held her when something like this happened. She had a support system, and she was so very thankful for that. 

But it did little to distract her from the absolute devastation of losing her dreaming. From the absolute anguish of never being able to see the beautiful young woman in her dreams ever again. Nothing could make up for that. It was irrational, and it was impractical, but from the deepest pit of the inside of herself, she felt nothing but agony at the prospect of her new dreamless reality. 

She hardly noticed as she faded in and out of consciousness. She caught snippets of conversation here and there as she danced around the idea of waking up.

“-still red.”

“-Mistral.”

“-skip festival. Better that way…” 

“-girl-”

She wanted to wake up and ask them what was going on- to be part of the conversation- but at the same time, she dreaded waking up again. She dreaded opening her eyes to disappointment- to living the rest of her life powerless and forever changed. 

What kind of a witch was she, if she wasn’t a Dreamer? At least her mother had other magic- unseen magic, but still magic. She was just a half breed… without her dreaming… she was no witch at all. The thought only depressed her more, and unconsciously, she clenched the fabric of her sheets in her fists. The night had started so magical. She’s fallen asleep with a little kitten companion, and she’d danced with a beautiful and charming woman- the woman of her dreams, and now she would never see her again. There was so much she wouldn’t be able to do now. So much of her life just cut off from her. A part of who she was… just gone. She understood now. She understood why it was such an upsetting occurrence. And she wished it had never happened to her. 

The night was long, and Yang tossed and turned nearly the entire time. For a most unpleasant turn of events, she found no dreams waiting for her behind closed lids- only darkness. Yang held on tight to the memory of that place- to the memory of her face, and her molten gold eyes and the smell of jasmine as she nestled her chin into Yang’s neck, nuzzling her shoulder. She memorized the grooves and raised little lines in her hands, and the way her cheeks dimpled when she smiled. 

She remembered, and she cried. And she hoped and she prayed- for the first time in her life, she prayed to the brothers and she prayed hard. She’d never want for anything ever again, if only she could see her one more time. 

She prayed and tossed and turned through the night, and come morning, she repeated it all again.

Chapter Text

The morning was rough. 

Despite the long night, Yang awoke with the sun, as usual. Her body it seemed, was conditioned for early mornings. She laid there for a while, letting the sun stream through her window and over her face, wondering how her eyes looked in the sunlight now. She bit back the bitter thought, rolling onto her stomach and burying her face in her pillow. She didn’t want to get up- didn’t want to face the day and all it had to offer. She laid there until she could smell bacon from downstairs, and the buttery wafting aroma of Tai’s flapjacks. Usually, she’d have been out of bed faster than you could say sweet sugary sap n’ syrup, but that morning, it tool all the willpower she had just to sit up, hugging her knees to her chest in the suddenly massive expanse of the bed. 

The clock beside her bed read 8:00. Ruby wouldn’t be up until 10, at the very least, so she shouldn’t have had to worry about taking the first shower. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and shuffled her way to the bedroom door, which had been left open, undoubtedly in case her parents needed to get to her. As she’d predicted, the bathroom was empty. Ruby’s fluffy red towel was still folded on the shelf built into the wall, and there were no signs of her cans of hair gel or barrettes that she kept stashed behind the bathroom mirror in a cabinet. Yang grabbed her towel, setting it down on the sink counter and leaning over the tub to turn on the faucet. She didn’t dare look in the mirror yet. 

Once the water was turned all the way to hot, and the door was locked, Yang turned her gaze to the bathroom mirror, ready as she’d ever be to confront the inevitable. She stepped toward the daunting piece of glass, and the reality it would present to her, barely taking notice at the shaking of her hands as she gripped the counter with one hand, reading up the other to wipe the fog that had already accumulated away from the polished surface. Immediately, her breath caught in the back of her throat, and she saw it. Finally, she saw it. 

They weren’t like Raven’s- dark and reflective like thick blood- easily enough mistaken for a ruddy brown in bad lighting. They weren’t like her Uncle Qrow’s- light and congealed, and bordering on a deep amber color when the lighting shone brightest. No… they were something else entirely. Something horrible. The irises of her eyes had been flooded with the brightest, most saturated red she’d ever laid eyes on, and it twisted knots in her stomach as she stared, horror twisted in her features. The pale, pretty lilac color they’d once been was almost entirely gone: a  barely one millimetre ring around the pupil that you had to squint to see. Yang felt the panic crawl in her chest, like a millipede scuttling under her rib cage and dancing around all her vital organs. The longer she stared at those burning red eyes, the more disgusted she became. She fought the urge to vomit, stumbling against the sink and sliding down until she was at least level with the toilet, prepared to lunge if she needed to. 

She didn’t end up vomiting, but she did grab a plain, unused towel from the cupboard and threw it over the mirror, trying to block the lingering afterimage of those crimson eyes as she stripped down, and stepped into the shower. Yang wasted no time in sticking her head under the scalding water. It was relaxing- the burning sensation- and as she smoothed her hair back, gently entangling her coarse, thick curls as much as possible, she let her mind go quiet, and empty, focusing on the running of the water and the pitter patter of the droplets hitting the tub as she turned under the stream of water, letting it run down her back, irritating her skin and relaxing her tense muscles. Unfortunately, the distant acknowledging thought of the redness of her skin under the hot water brought to mind what she had been avoiding thinking about. She stood under the water, unable to find a way to move that wouldn't  send her throwing the shampoo bottles in her rageful sorrow. She backed up until her skin hit the cold, damp wall of the shower, sliding down until she was sitting in the tub. The water fell on her from much higher and soaked down through her hair and dripped onto her face and ran down her cheeks as she lifted her knees to her chest and buried her chin in the crook of her legs and her chest. She couldn’t even tell anymore if she was crying or not. 

She must have sat there for nearly a half an hour before the water began to run lukewarm, and she managed to drag herself up and out of the tub. She didn’t spare a glance at the sink or the mirror as she exited, only grabbing her towel to wrap around herself, trudging back to her bedroom. She found Zwei laying on her bed when she did. The sight normally would have put her in a pretty good mood, but all she felt was an ache in the pit of her stomach as she remembered Gambol, who had slipped out sometime the night before, in the wake of her panic attack. Was that what it was? A panic attack? She couldn’t find the energy to care much about it. 

She gave Zwei a passing head pat and a ruffle behind the ears, and shuffled to her closet to find something to wear for the day. Everything she owned, however, was particularly sunny in nature, whether be it shade or type of clothing item. Nothing seemed to fit the macabre mood she’d adopted. She finally settled on one of the old sweatshirts she kept for yard work up in the top shelf of the closet. It was ratty, a dark brownish maroon color, and stained with varnish and little specks of paints, but as she pulled it over her head, negating the constraints of a bra, she breathed in the smell of cedar, and at least a little part of her sparked with some kind of comfort. The sweatshirt had been Tai’s, ages ago. It was one of the first pieces of merchandise he'd made for his carpentry business, back when he’d started it up when she was just a toddler. It read ‘Xiao Long Carpentry’ toward the top in a light tan, peeling print, the bottom half dominated by a swirling dragon curling around itself in a similar color. He’d been planning on throwing it away, but when she was 11 or 12, she remembered seeing him putting it in a box in the garage. 

 

“What are you doing, dad?” She’d asked, swinging a stick around. It had been early summer, and it was definitely not sweater weather anymore, so it made sense he’d have been putting it away in storage. But she wasn’t prepared for him to answer in the way he did. “This old thing is getting kinda gross. I’m gonna take ‘er down to the pit and toss her in.” He was of course referring to the fire pit off the side of their property, where he had crafted a few benches and assorted tables for them all to enjoy the heat rolling off the fire without the discomfort of grassy blankets or difficult plastic chairs. 

Yang, however, had not been having the idea of her father throwing it away. “Wait! I want it!” She rushed over, putting her hands on top of the box and stopping him from packing it up. Tai had sighed, scratching his scruff. “Darlin’, it’s gonna be huge on you. And besides, it’s not fit for wearing. It’s full of holes, and it's got varnish on it, and paint-” 

“Then it’ll be a work shirt!” She protested, her little gaze determined as she made her case for the ratty old thing. Tai had outright laughed at that. Not in a cruel way, but mostly in amusement. “Work shirt? And what are you gonna be doing for work, sunshine?” 

Yang remembered the surge of pride she’d felt as she smiled at him that day. “I’m gonna help you in the wood shop!” 

The look on her father’s face had been priceless, a cross between shock and hilarity. He’d ended up relenting, and giving her the sweater. And true to her declaration, Yang had helped him in his wood shop that summer, and most of the time thereafter. 

 

The memory was a sweet one, and the smell of cedar and sawdust helped to ebb some of the tension she was feeling away, but not entirely so. She settled on a pair of simple black leggings, feeling the autumn chill would be too much for shorts this time of the year. She was almost ready to go downstairs and face the day. Almost. Pulling her hair up into a high, messy bun, she glanced at her vanity, and at the lonely three objects of makeup she had to her name. 

On good days, she could add a little pink to her lips, and a little black like to her eyes, and she felt like the prettiest person in the whole world. She didn’t need a lot of makeup to feel good- most of the time, she got on just fine without makeup. But as she avoided looking in the mirror, fingers dancing over the tube of soft pink lipstick her mom had bought her a year or so ago, she could feel the curling feeling in her chest- the disgusting feeling rising up. It didn’t matter how much makeup she caked on- it wouldn’t distract people from what had happened to her- how she’d changed. 

Her fingers curled around the tube of lipstick, and she wanted so badly to scream- to throw it and never look at it- or herself- ever again. 

But then she remembered Summer had bought it for her, and she tried to remember the days when she liked it, and slowly, her fingers uncurled from the poor tube, and she slid her hand onto the vanity, trying to hold herself together. There was no way she could go outside like this- no way she could face the Belladonna’s or her friends or anyone ever again. She didn’t want to scare them. 

It was then that an idea struck in her head. It wasn’t the smartest idea- it was just a band aid solution, and she was well aware of that. But it was something. On her way out of the room, she let Zwei out first, and grabbed the pair of aviators resting on her desk, before closing the door behind her. 

The tension at breakfast was… barely tolerable. For perhaps the first time in her life, Raven Summer and Tai were all up at the same time, making breakfast together, or at least trying to. Tai was stacking flapjacks under tinfoil sheets, while Summer was standing beside him at the little stove, pushing around a few pieces of bacon. Raven was taking mugs down from the cabinet and pouring out cups of coffee, freshly brewed and piping hot from the smell of it. 

As Yang stood at the foot of the stairs, taking this in, her stomach growled embarrassingly loudly in response to the smell of the coffee and the bacon and the fluffy, buttery flapjacks. All three of her parents nearly tripped over themselves at the sound, turning to look at her. She could tell they were processing the aviators, and the laid back outfit, and the silence. There was a moment of quiet, before Summer reached over Tai and the counter and set a plate at the bar seat in front of the island, dishing two flapjacks and a couple pieces of bacon as Raven set her mug, full of heavily creamed coffee, next to the plate. Yang didn’t say anything as she moved slowly to the bar, hopping up into a seat and spinning herself until she was facing the right way. 

She picked up the fork to eat, and there was silence. She could feel all of their eyes on her as she picked at her plate for a moment, before setting the fork down in exasperation. “Could you guys… Not?” She asked, pushing her plate forward and leaning her elbows where it had been, tucking her chin into her arms. 

“You need to eat, Yang.” Raven said, and Yang looked up at her from the curve of her elbow, the older Branwen sipping her coffee and looking off with a sort of… closed off expression. “I’m not-”

“Your stomach begs to differ, Honeybee.” Summer tried, reaching over to take her hand. For perhaps the first time in her lift, Yang pulled her hand away. 

The silence was deafening, the hurt and sympathy in her mom’s expression was a lot to deal with emotionally, and her stomach was wearing a hole in itself. Wordlessly, she picked up her fork and began cutting into a flapjack. The tension in the room was still incredibly thick, but for the moment, it seemed at least a little manageable. She got through one flapjack and a piece of bacon, if only to appease her parents, and spent the majority of the next half an hour sipping idly at her coffee. At 10:30, Ruby came shuffling out of her room, and they all heard the thundering footsteps on the attic stairs and the telltale sounds of the shower starting up. As this occurred, Yang stood from her seat at the bar and carried her plate to the counter. Ruby would eat the rest of her breakfast, and probably the rest of the food their parents had made. 

It was when she moved to grab her keys that her parents broke the silence. “Where are you going, Yang?” Raven asked, setting her coffee mug down on the counter. Yang hesitated for a moment, her hands hovering over the little yellow bee patterned key chain for her garage and bike. “I’m going to work for the Belladonna’s. They’re paying me to help them move-” 

“You’re not going, sunshine…” Tai informed her, and she turned back to look at him, blinking incredulously. “What? Why not?”

“Why not? Sweetheart, you had a bit of a traumatic experience last night.” Summer inputted, looking concerned as her eyes flashed to the keys Yang’s fingers were ghosting over. Yang tried not to get angry- she hated getting angry at Summer in particular. She made it a point not to. But the last thing she wanted right now was to be treated like a freak show. And this certainly wasn't helping. “I’m-” Yang had to catch herself. She wasn’t fine, not really. She was emotionally exhausted, and she didn't want any reminders of what had happened, and what it meant. “I don’t want to think about it. I just want to keep my head clear and do some manual work until the equinox dance.” 

Her parent’s shared a glance, and she very much did not like the implications of that. It was Raven, ultimately, who spoke up. “You’re not going to the Belladonna’s, Yang. And you’re not going to the equinox dance.” 

She might as well have shot Yang point blank. 

“What?” It came out a whisper- more of a croak, really. Raven breathed in softly, and moved so she was facing her daughter. “You and I are going to be making a trip through the forest. I’m going to take you to the Branwen Coven. I can't explain to you everything about dreaming, but they can. They can help you come to grips with-” 

“I don’t need to come to grips with it!” Yang exploded, clenching her keys in her fist. “And I don’t want to!” She was very, very angry with this whole situation. Her nerves were fried, her emotions were a wreck, and her mind was racing. Being cornered on this certainly wasn’t helping, and now they wanted her to- to what? To just forget about it and accept that this is what she was now? “No! I’m going to that dance. You don't understand-”

“You’re right, Yang. We don’t understand. We don’t understand any of this.” Raven bit back. “You should have lost you dreaming ages ago, but you didn’t. Somehow you got it back each time, and that has never happened before. I don’t know what the hell to make of it.” Raven threw her hands up in exasperation, and Yang could hear the stress in her voice. “And as if this whole thing wasn’t bizarre enough, I have no idea what to make of the moss you tracked in, or where it came from.” 

Before Yang could even think of a response, Summer was hopping on the conversation. “It wasn’t normal moss, Yang. It wasn’t from anywhere close to here. The only kind of moss that grows like this is native to the area where we hold the dance, maybe two hours away on foot.” She added, and Yang’s head was throbbing. She didn't want to think about any of this. She didn’t want to wrap her head around what it meant, if she could even begin to wrap her head around it at all. 

“Your mothers think it’s not such a good idea for you to go to the dance, when the moss you tracked in comes from that area. They think it’s not safe-” She moved away from her father’s hand as he moved to set it comfortingly on her shoulder. This was… a lot. There was a lot to take in. She felt the heat rising to her cheeks and the pressure behind her eyes before the tears even started to fall. 

They were just concerned for her. They didn’t want her to accidentally walk right into the worst thing to ever happen to her. They didn’t want her to get hurt if her dream came true. 

But they didn’t know her dream. 

“It wasn’t a nightmare…” She sniffled, shifting her weight and leaning against the door frame, her hands gripping at the puffy sleeves of her sweatshirt in a mild attempt at comforting herself. “It wasn’t like the sleeping one, or the bull one, or the bear one. It wasn’t like… it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.” She looked, gauging the reaction from her parents as she shared the important little bit of information with them. Raven nodded for her to continue, crossing her arms. Yang licked her lips, trying to chase away the chapped feeling, and continued. 

“It was a dream- and I could tell it was a dream, but it was also really real. All my other dreams are so vague, and wispy, like looking for pictures in clouds, or staring at campfire smoke. But this… it was so real. Everything looked how it looks in the real world, and I could touch things like trees and the ground, and I was me, in a full, real body, instead of just… being a concept, I guess.” She mulled the words over as they rolled off her tongue, wiping nonchalantly at her cheek and the one tear that dare rolled down it. Her parent’s nodded along, and Raven gestured for her to continue. “What was it about, Yang?” 

At that, Yang couldn't help the slight flush that rushed to her cheeks. She toyed with the keys in her hands, debating whether to admit the intimacy of the scene that had been playing on repeat in her head. “The girl I’ve been dreaming about was there. We danced. It was really nice…” She murmured, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Raven looked a strange cross of disbelieving and at a loss. “I don’t…” She pinched the bridge of her nose, possibly even more confused now. “If it was so nice, then why did you wake up in a panic, sweetheart?” Summer asked, trying to understand all of this. “I don’t know… I guess I just got freaked out… She was really pretty, and we were having a great time laughing and dancing…” Yang bit her lip. It almost hurt to recount. It’s not like she’d ever get to do that again, after all. 

She took a breath. As embarrassing as telling her parents about this was, she supposed she had no choice. “We were really close, and we hadn’t talked the whole time, and I was thinking that it was all so hard to believe, and that…” Saying it now, her skin crawled with embarrassment. “... that I must have died and gone to heaven or something…” She scratched her cheek with her finger nervously, and Summer sighed softly. “Oh, Yang…” 

“And then she got real close, and I… I thought she might-” Yang felt very uncomfortably red recounting the experience. She was very aware of her parents’ eyes on her as she struggled to find the words. “She leaned in instead, and she spoke, and… you know when you read a book, or when you listen to a song, and some words just… hit different?” She looked between all of them, fiddling with her glasses. “When some words just… they make you shiver, and your stomach knot up? She said something… just some pretty words… but it made me get butterflies really bad, and then I realized.. She’d kinda answered my thoughts. And that was really scary.” Yang admitted. “And then I woke up.” 

It was quiet for a moment as they all digested this. Summer looked to Raven. “You don’t suppose that would be enough to…” 

“To snap her Dreaming?” Raven pondered that. “I don’t know… From what I understand of it, if a dream becomes too intense or your body goes into flight mode, it sort of… kicks you out as a protective measure. It’s hard to imagine a dream about puppy love-” 

“It’s not puppy love!” Yang insisted, looking incensed. 

“Well whatever it is, I don’t like this. I don’t feel like this is good for you, Yang.” Raven’s tone was final, and Yang tried her best to bottle up her anger, which had come rushing back like a tidal wave. “Going to the dance may be the only chance I have of seeing her again. Please…” 

Raven debated that- the conversation with herself in her head was obvious from her expression alone. ‘I’ve made up my mind. This trip is long overdue, and I don’t want to see this go wrong and you get yourself into trouble.” 

Yang wanted to scream. She wanted to shove her face in her pillow and scream, and beg her mother to change her mind. Not that it would work. When Raven set her mind to something, it was nearly impossible to change it. “I don’t want you going to the Belladonna’s either. Tai tells me they’re new in town, which means they’re probably not familiar with the covens and our magic. If they see your eyes…” 

Yang was done fighting this. What was the point? No matter what she said, no matter how she pleaded, they weren’t going to give in. “Fine…” She hung her keys back up without another word and shuffled her way past them, feeling their stares crawling on her back as she reached the stairs. Above them, the door to the bathroom opened, and Yang heard Ruby messing around with her hair gel, humming a jaunty tune to herself as she did so. Yang tried not to think about how her sister would react to her change in appearance. She could only take so much heartache at the moment. With no more arguments to make, and nothing to do but think on her current predicament for the next 6 or so hours, Yang grabbed the railing and climbed the stairs one at a time, pretending she couldn’t hear her parents below her, murmuring among themselves. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The trek was long, and Yang tried to keep her mind empty as they pushed through brush and up hills riddled with roots and twigs, over mossy logs and across stony passes. The sun had set about an hour into their journey, and now they were going by the brushes of their hands against trees and the little click flashlights they’d brought with them. Even in the darkness, Raven walked at a much faster, more determined pace than her daughter, and Yang was thankful for that. She needed the space; needed the room to breath and the feeling that this was her decision. It wasn’t, but if she tried to convince herself enough, maybe she’d start to believe it. 

Ruby and Summer had started the trek with them, Ruby in her beautiful red party dress. Yang hadn’t bothered to put her dress on, or even to pack it. Raven had told her to only pack a pair of pajamas and clothes for the next day. She’d only packed the pajamas: a pair of old, ratty shorts that didn’t fit her, and one of Ruby’s grunge shirts she gave Yang to pass on to Velvet for her upcycling project. It wasn’t like Yang was going to use them anyway. 

It was getting harder and harder to see Raven up ahead. Omen was circling above them, taking breaks every now and then to perch on Raven’s shoulder. They had just reached the base of a hill, when Yang spoke up. “Ma.” Raven turned to look at her momentarily, before glancing up at the top of the hill. “She speaks. What is it, Yang?” 

Yang bit her tongue at the rapport, in reference to her quietness the entirety of the trip thus far. “I have to pee.” 

Raven sighed at this, waving her hand. “You’re gonna have to go squat behind a tree then. We’ve got another 45 minutes of walking, more or less. Don’t take too long.” 

Yang nodded, before remembering Rave couldn’t see her much at all. It had gotten pitch black since they’d been walking around, and without the flashlights, they’d have been screwed. It was what Yang was counting on. “Got it.” She turned, and shone her flashlight at the trees, looking for the right spot. She found it near the canopy of tall, imposing pine trees before the break where the hill was. She ducked behind the closely knit trees, shining her flashlight. She looked around, and her chest swelled with the reality of what she was going to do. 

She took off the shoddy little backpack and set it down, peaking just slightly out of the view of the trees. If Raven shone her light over that way, she’d see it setting on the ground against the tree- or at least, the corner of it. She zipped open the front pocket and pulled out her supplies. A water bottle, a Swiss army knife she’d grabbed from her garage before they’d left, and a second little flashlight. 

Yang set the lit flashlight down on the ground, and moved on to the water bottle. She’d already drilled most of the way through the cap during the period of time she’d been in her room. All she needed to do now was use the knife to twist the rest of the way through. It only took a minute or so, and she was glad she had planned this all ahead of time. Time was of the essence. She set the water bottle upside down in the fork of a nearby tree, and watched with pride as the water flowed down and out, hitting the leaves with a wet splash in a thin stream. She quickly reached down and tugged the sneakers off of her feet, leaving them by her backpack, but still hidden from sight. 

Spare flashlight in hand, she pulled the hood of her rust colored sweatshirt up, tucking all of her bright, reflective hair into it, and stepping carefully out of the grove, in the direction they came from. She had to walk quickly- the water would be half gone by that point. The leaves beneath her feet were wet with the recent rain the day before, and the cold autumn air certainly was not comforting, but she didn’t care. Her heart was racing with the implications of what she’d done. There was no going back now. Raven would be furious. 

But that didn’t matter. Once she was sure she was in a safe distance, Yang began to sprint. She clicked on the flashlight, shining it over the ground to expose any roots that would send her crashing to the ground. Summer and Ruby had broken off from them about half an hour prior, at a split in the road. She was thankful for the landmark of the gigantic boulder marking the fork, otherwise, this would have been even more of a hopelessly stupid plan than it already was. Ruby and Summer had taken the clear path, while Yang and Raven had taken the one that could hardly be classified as a path at all. All she had to do was get to the fork in the path, and take the clear path to the dance. She’d cut through the woods once she was close, so Summer wouldn’t see her. She had to be quick though. It was half an hour to the fork, and another two to the dance. She checked the watch affixed to her wrist, shining her flashlight at it. It was nearly 10. By the time she got to the dance it would be close to 1:30 in the morning. Thankfully, the dance went until around 3, but still, she had to make it back home afterward, and she had to outrun Raven in order to actually make it. A least the running would help her get there faster than the snails pace she and Raven had been going at. If she was lucky, she might be able to cut an hour off her trip. 

It was tricky, running in the forest in the dark. She tripped twice, and caught herself once, the second time scraping her knee against a rock, and skinning her hands on the rough, rocky terrain. But she got up, brushed herself off, and kept going. Her feet were getting stuck and poked and banged up, but that didn’t matter either. She did this to herself, leaving her shoes behind. If this was the cost of being able to quietly slip away, she’d take it. She’d take it if she could see her again, even just once. And then she’d never complain again. She’d never revert back to the melancholy mood she’d drowned herself in the entire day. She’d be okay with never dreaming again. All she wanted was to see her again. All she wanted was to see those beautiful amber eyes, and to say something- anything at all. She’d even settle for a dorky ‘Hi’, if it meant she could finally gather some semblance of understanding what all this had been for. She reached the fork in the road faster than she thought she would have, beating the clock at 10:21. It wasn't much, but it was enough. Now, she could go much faster without worry of tripping on branches and discarded twigs and rocks. The path her mother and sister had taken was wider, and there was a clear, defined sort of road to it. It was clear that many, many people had walked the path, smoothing it out for her poor feet. She didn’t wait; she couldn't afford to. 

The moon shoe overhead, just enough to light the way, without removing her from the safe cover of darkness she’d been using to evade Omen, who Raven no doubt had circling above for her. Omen couldn't go too far, however, and Yang was grateful for that. Without the safety of Raven to perch on, he could run into trouble from owls, and that meant that Raven would have to chase her on foot. She was fit, but she wasn’t in Yang’s prime. Yang booked it down the path. Her feet ached, but she couldn’t stop to rest. She could see just enough to focus on the road and the curves it took, but details were out of her hands. She smacked face-first into a branch as she rounded a corner, and swore, stumbling a moment. It hurt like a bitch, but there was nothing she could do besides wipe the wetness from her forehead and keep pressing on. Her grip on the turned off flashlight grounded her- it kept her motivated as she beat feet down the path. 

A quick shine at her watch told her she’d been running for nearly half an hour, and she certainly felt it. She’d never run so much in life, and was panting for breath as she came to a jogging stop. From the looks of it, she’d gone a decent way, but she couldn't be sure. Her feet were probably bleeding now- she could feel a warm, hot sensation tingling in them, and she’d stopped feeling all the little rocks and twigs ages ago. It didn’t matter. She could salve and wrap them when she got home. There would be little need to run on the way back, so she could take it easy then, at least. But for now, she had something she had to do- someone she had to see. 

It was less than 20 minutes later when she spotted a soft light filtering up through the trees and against the dark horizon. This was the time to divert from the path. If she kept on forward, she’d walk straight into the clearing, and Summer would know she’d run away from Raven. Her best bet was to take a detour through the woods and survey the area. She didn’t bother with her flashlight as she moved into the densely wooded area of the forest. It only took a minute or two to reach the final few rings of trees before the entirety of the clearing was exposed. She stepped around the farthest ones, and peeked out from where she’d ended up. It seemed to be a little alcove of trees, hiding a smaller pocket of open space from the clearing. Yang’s heart jumped in her chest. This was the spot. 

The lights were much brighter up close, and she looked around for her sister. She found her near the center of the dance circle, which was entirely surprising. Ruby was by no means a socialite, bless her little awkward heart, and she had been established as a horrible dancer after months of practice, so seeing her dancing so merrily was a bit surprising. She tripped here and there, but any little mistakes she was quick to try and right- and Yang could see why. Her partner was a girl Yang didn’t recognition. It must have been her first equinox dance as well, if not by the fact that Yang hadn’t seen her before, then by the fact that she appeared to be trying immensely hard to step in time to the loose, airy, lighthearted music. It was almost amusing. Yang waited until Ruby turned to face her, and making sure Summer was chatting with a few other grown witches, she stuck her face out and gave her sister a little wave. Ruby glanced over her at first, but then caught her eyes- which even after the second time seeing them, startled her a bit. She gave a small, curt nod once she got her bearings, and gestured with her chin to just a little ways left of where Yang had ended out. It would be risky, but Yang could manage. 

Sitting nestled into two trees, just at the edge of the small pocket separate from the clearing, was one of ruby’s little drawstring bags, and a spare crown of alyssum and perennial sage she’d managed to get her hands on. All of the participants were wearing them, and once she put hers on, along with the dress she’d had Ruby put in a bag in her larger duffel for her, she’d blend right in. She just needed to figure out a way to get to the bag without drawing Summer’s attention. 

Yang bit her lip, trying to work out when the perfect time would be, the music filtering in her ears as she did so. It was pretty, and full of string instruments. She could make out a guitar, and a harp, and what sounded like maybe a cello, although she wasn’t entirely sure on that one. She looked for familiar faces as she pondered. She saw Jaune and a handful of his sisters, and Pyrrha, who was an acquaintance from school. She made note of a few other barely memorable faces she’d seen around town, as well, but nobody was who she was looking for. She thought she had an opening when Summer turned her back to where Yang was hiding, but as she moved to shuffle forward and grab the bag, a rustling from the bushes set her on edge. There was no way Raven had caught up to her this quick- not unless she’d booked it just as hard as Yang. She turned, ready to defend herself, already trying to come up with excuses and arguments- anything to buy time. She stepped back through the trees to the pocket of space, and prepared for the hollering of a lifetime, but she didn’t get one. 

Just like in her dream, it all happened so fast, and yet so slow at the same time. 

The brush parted, and through the trees slipped a lithe form. She wasn’t exactly as she’d been in the dream, but then, neither was Yang. Where she had been wearing a delicate, white lace dress in their shared dream, now she was wearing lavender colored pajamas- cottony looking, and warm, even in their short-sleeve-and-sleeping-shorts state. She had a cardigan draped lightly over herself, and as she looked at Yang from the shadows, her eyes widened, and Yang watched her breathing stall. It was like flicking on a light switch. 

The second Yang looked at her- the second she saw those gently golden, richly amber eyes, she was flooded with an overwhelming feeling. She almost lost her balance, but even on rough feet, she held her ground. Her heart was racing, and there was a sudden snap! and she watched as the young woman’s expression changed into one of almost shock. They stood there for a moment, in the soft singing of the strings, and in the cool breeze of the autumn equinox, just looking at each other. Yang swallowed, trying to get her bearings. What should she say? What should she even say to the girl who’s been haunting her in the waking world and dream world both for nearly two weeks? She didn’t care what she’d thought earlier- ‘Hi’ was way too relaxed, even for her. 

Thankfully, it seemed, the young woman in front of her had grown tired of the silence- that or she realized it wasn’t getting them much of anywhere. Tentatively, she took another step toward Yang, away from the shadows. As she did, Yang blinked, and it was her turn to look surprised. 

Nestled into the top of her wavy bob (that was new, Yang also noted, although not nearly as much) of dark, beautiful hair, sat two upturned, fluffy cat ears, or at least what Yang could process as being cat ears. She blinked. That… was definitely new. 

Yang it seemed, was taking far too much time to process this, because as the young woman read the expression on her face, she slowly began to back away once again, toward the trees. Once Yang realized this, she blinked her way out of her stupor, before moving to close the space between them, if only as much as she could without startling her. “Wait!” She managed, and her own voice surprised her. She’d imagined it would croak, or scratch with disuse, or crack with her nerves, but her tone was sincere, and her voice deep. She could tell the young woman hadn't been expecting it, but whether that was a good thing or not was unclear. Her expression was unreadable. 

Yang stopped, reaching out tentatively. In her dream, the young woman had been afraid of her- had been hesitant to touch her at first, as though she wasn’t sure if Yang was secretly a monster- a wolf hidden in a pretty smile. Now, Yang reached out and laid her palms bare for her, hoping- praying- that she’d take them. 

In the light of the festivities, she could see her hands were red and more than likely damp with the exertion she’d spent to make her way here. Her palms were scraped, and in a few places were deep enough to bleed, while the mud from picking herself up after tripping still lightly coated her finger tips. To put it bluntly, her hands were a mess, and she began to realize that that was only one part of her. Her cheeks flushed, and as the woman stared at her hands, she became more and more self conscious. But what to lead with? ‘Sorry I look like a disheveled street rat, I promise I’m not as sketchy as I look?’ Yang swallowed, and opened her mouth to in some awkward way or another, express that the woman didn’t need to actually take her super gross hands, but it seemed once again that the young woman beat Yang to the punch. 

“I didn’t think you were real.” She said, and her voice shot firecrackers off in Yang’s brain, and her heart, and her stomach. She sounded tired, but relieved, and there was a delicious sweetness to her tone, clouded in the softest twang of an accent. Yang could listen to her speak all night. “In the dream?” Yang finally managed, this time clearing her throat a little bit. She let her hands drop down to her legs, brushing them off on her probably equally as dirty leggings. 

The young woman shook her head, looking as if she was thinking over each word once, twice, a hundred times before actually saying it. She tucked a strand of dark curls behind one ear- a human ear, Yang realized with a pang of first relief, and then minor confusion. “In the first one. I have a lot of bad dreams and… it was nice to see someone different for a change.” 

Yang didn't press who might be in her dreams that would make them bad, but she definitely caught the implication. She let her talk on, not wanting to interrupt, and also just pleased to hear her voice each time she parted her pretty, red tinted lips. “And then I saw you again, and I thought it must just be a cruel trick… you were so sad…” She pondered thoughtfully, her voice trailing off as she knelt down and felt the dirt in front of her, getting on her knees. “When I saw you again, and this time… this time I could see all of you, and I could feel the grass, and I wasn’t wearing what I went to bed in… I thought…” She pursed her lips. “I don’t know what I thought, but the idea that you were real… that you were an actual person…” She got quiet, and Yang slowly knelt down to join her, her knees brushing the mossy, damp earth and soaking into her bloody knees. She reached across the divide and set her hand in the dirt just in front of her.

“I don’t know who you are. You’ve haunted me in my dreams and out of them.” Yang murmured. “All I’ve wanted for two weeks is to talk to you- to ask you things.” Yang admitted, and she wished her cheeks weren’t burning as hot as they were. The young woman’s eyes looked up to meet her own, and Yang’s heart did jumping jacks. 

She was suddenly struck with the realization of just how unbelievably cute this new hairstyle was. “Y-you cut your hair.” She blurted, before she could really think about the words that were leaving her lips. The woman blinked for a moment, and there was silence, before suddenly she was laughing, and her cheeks were pulling back adorably, and her eyes were closed with utter joy as she raised her hand to cover her mouth and hold the bubbly, fruity giggles at bay. “My hair? This is the first time you’ve seen my ears, and you’re surprised by my haircut?” 

Yang couldn't help the embarrassed grin that spread on her face, the giggles contagious. “It's- you look- you look really nice- IT looks really nice- your hair.” She managed, and the resulting prize of an easy smile greeted her as the young woman managed to compose herself. Yang wasn’t sure what she was doing, but for some reason, her eyes and her hand drifted to a piece of hair that had blown up with the wind. She reached up, and tucked the hair back into place behind the fluffy, thin surface of the cat ear to the right of her bangs. The woman stiffed at first, holding her breath, and as Yang’s hand brushed the stray hair gently where it needed to go, and she rested her hand just under the woman’s human ear, she cupped her cheek in a grip that was barely even touching her at all, and the woman’s breathing caught, ragged and cautious, but Yang could see it. Deep in the center of those beautiful honeycomb eyes, right through their caramel center and the open door that was a window to her soul, Yang saw the eagerness there, and her heart fluttered along with the woman’s racing heart, which Yang felt dancing under her fingertips with a shudder. “Yang.” She found herself saying, her hand not moving an inch, just resting there, more than ecstatic at just being able to hold her in a simple way as this. 

The woman blinked, and the question in her eyes was clear. “My name is Yang.” The realization passed over her features in a pondering way, and then she was smiling. It was a coy, almost teasing smile, and the tenderness of it all felt indescribable. She reached up her own hand, letting it gently, softly, rest atop Yang’s, and with a stare that turned all Yang’s bones to jelly and her blood to lead, she uttered more pretty words that sent her heart into a frenzy. “You shouldn’t go giving your name out like that in the middle of a forest- a fairy will steal it right off your tongue.” 

Yang managed to swallow. “Will she now..?” She asked weakly, and was rewarded with a flush of color on her dark skin under the flickering party lights. “Perhaps..” She glanced away, turning her face into the calloused skin of Yang’s hand, almost shyly. Her lips were soft, and her hair and her eyes and her ears- all of her was beautiful, and Yang was living her best dream in reality. 

The young woman turned from her hand to look at her, and she opened her mouth, as if to speak her own name, but a rustling from behind them snapped her attention away. Yang watched as the ears on top of her head twitched, and turned in the direction of the trees, listening. She was staring ahead, her eyes scanning, and Yang wondered who it might be- Raven, or perhaps someone else. 

It didn’t appear to be Raven. The tranquility that had been in the young woman’s features moments before vanished, and she looked askance as she moved Yang’s hand from her cheek. “I have to go.” She moved to stand, and Yang’s stomach dropped, the pit back once again. “Wait-!” 

The woman stood and moved to shimmy back through the trees, but Yang caught her arm, her grasp barely more than a brushing of their skin. “Will I see you again?” 

The smile that tugged at the corners of these beautiful lips made her ache something terrible. 

“My name is Blake.” She gave in place of an answer. She turned to leave then, but as her fingers brushed the wood of the trees, she turned back and added, almost as a second thought, “Don’t steal it, okay?” 

She was gone before Yang could process the words, or before she could give her an answer of her own. As Summer came running from the clearing, Yang watched the woods with bated breath. 

“I won’t.” 

 

Chapter Text

“Ow! Ow ow ow ow! Stop, that hurts!” Yang grumbled, turning away from Summer as she pressed a cotton swab covered in peroxide over her eyebrow, where she’d been backhanded by that one branch. Summer, however, only glowered at her, unimpressed. “You wouldn’t need it in the first place if you hadn’t run off like that. You’re lucky I don’t extract the dirt myself- it would hurt a hell of a lot worse.” Summer gruffed.

It was definitely bizarre, seeing Summer exhibit traits usually reserved for her mother, but Yang supposed it was warranted. Once her eyebrow had finished bubbling, Summer grabbed a band aid from the box and unwrapped it, placing it delicately over the cut. “Now hold still while I do the other ones.” 

Yang didn’t like the sound of that. “Other ones? What other ones?” She asked, reaching up to touch her face in search of more cuts. “Dont- Yang Xiao Long get your filthy hands away from your face, or I swear to the brothers I will make you bathe in peroxide!” Yang immediately dropped her hands. 

As she got to soaking more pads of cotton in peroxide, Yang kicked her feet out back and forth, looking off to the side in thought. It had been bouncing around her head since she’d left the clearing, over and over, just tumbling around in there, perched on her tongue. Blake… 

“You scared your mother half to death. I hope you know that.” Summer broke the silence, looking focused as she dabbed the pad to the bridge of Yang’s nose, and then to her cheek, holding her by the chin to keep her from pulling away. Yang winced, and grit her teeth at the sting of the bubbles. “Was she mad…?” Yang asked as Summer prepared more bandages. It was a stupid question- of course she was. 

“I’ve never seen her so furious.” Summer shook her head. “And I’ve gotta admit, Yang, I’m right there with her.” 

The guilt swirled up in the pit of Yang’s stomach, and she found it hard to look at her mom, suddenly. “I’m sorry… It was wrong of me to run off like that… but I had to do it-”

“No, you didn’t.” Summer’s voice cut deeper than the branches possibly could have. “You wanted to do it. You wanted so desperately to seek out the one in a million chance that some girl was there, that you ran away from your mother in the middle of the night, in the woods, and got yourself cut up to ribbons in the process.” Yang was silent, well aware of the reality of the situation. She felt incredibly bad for scaring her parents the way she did, but at the same time, she couldn’t help the swell of joy reverberating in her chest and through her bones at the thought of what it had brought. “There will be consequences, Yang.” Summer informed her as she tossed the band aid wrappers in the trash. 

“I’m prepared for whatever those may be.” Yang nodded. She’d gone into it knowing there would be hell to pay- there was no use fighting it, especially when she deserved the punishment. Summer had her hop off the counter and turn to the sink, holding her hands above the bowl. “Your mother and Tai and I have agreed that you’re grounded- you and Ruby.” The last bit was unexpected, but not so much as the rush of peroxide that came pouring out and onto her hands. She almost screamed. Instead, she bit her lip, swore under her breath and stomped her foot, which only resulted in more pain. She whimpered, and Summer sighed, her touch gentle as she held Yang’s hands in place and turned on the water from the faucet. Once the dirt was washed away, both from the inside of the scrapes and the vast majority of her hands, Summer gave her a slight reprieve as she grabbed the rolls of bandages they kept in the cabinet for emergencies, and as carefully as possible, wrapped them, but not before spreading a small amount of salve to the rough, scraped surfaces. 

“Why is Ruby in trouble?” Yang asked, pretending not to know why. She had hoped Ruby would keep quiet about Yang asking for her help, in order to save her own skin, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Summer looked particularly annoyed as she had Yang sit on the edge of the tub and put her feet inside. She rolled up her sleeves, grabbed the peroxide, a pair of tweezers, and a flashlight, and Yang swallowed, very much not looking forward to this. “She admitted to being in on your little plan, and leaving you your dress and a crown so you could sneak in. I’m very disappointed in the both of you. “ Yang pursed her lips at that. She hated making Summer disappointed. The guilt was quickly washed away with pain, however, as Summer pulled the bits of rock, twig and other various plant and earth based matters from her feet. It took nearly half an agonizing hour, but she was at least thankful that Summer had agreed to help her patch herself up. Raven had resolutely refused, not daring to even look at her daughter as she entered the house, clearly angry beyond rational words. Tai, who had been asleep when they’d come home, had also stated his decision in letting her handle her wounds herself, after an explanation from Summer. Yang had been resigned to cleaning herself up, but even in her agitated, disappointed state, Summer stepped forward. Yang hadn’t tried to persuade her otherwise, and she was thankful for that as Summer tried her best to remove all the dirt and splinters and pebbles lodged in the bottom of her feet that Yang surely would have missed by herself. 

Once she was cleaned up from head to toe, and had changed into a pair of boxer shorts and a ratty old t-shirt, she sat on the edge of her bed while Tai and Summer closed the bedroom door, and prepared to dole out her consequences for running out on Raven. “Yang, as you’re already aware, yesterday I apologized to Mr. Belladonna on your behalf, and let him know something came up. Today, you’re going to go to the Belladonna’s and apologize in person, now that your eyes are back to normal.” Tai informed her, and Yang nodded. That was fair, after all. A part of her felt deeply guilty about flaking on her duties at the Belladonna’s house, but at the same time, she recognized that under the circumstances it wouldn’t have been a good idea to go there while her eyes were on the fritz. 

“Since you don’t have a phone, and we don’t have a TV, there’s not much in the way of technology we can take away, but we will be confiscating your keys.” Summer informed her, and although Yang wanted to protest, she kept her mouth shut. She nodded her understanding. 

“Whenever your feet and hands are healed up- which Summer tells me will be within a couple days, with that salve she’s got- you’re gonna come down to the shop with me and you’re going to help me with unloading shipments of wood, taking on whatever little projects I can’t get to, and you’re also gonna be helping me with my new assistant. I’ve got a big project I’m going to be working on, and I need someone to handle the paperwork. If you could just keep an eye on her, and make sure that she’s got the hang of it, that would be a big help.” Tai informed her, and Yang nodded. She was familiar with her dad’s work, both in the actual wood working and in the paperwork. “Okay. Is there anything else?” She asked, looking between them. They shared a look, and Summer shook her head. “That’s it, at least from us. We can’t guarantee that Raven doesn't have something else in mind, however.” 

Yang didn’t like the sound of that. But Raven, it seemed, didn’t intend on doling out any harsh punishments, or even hollering at her- which she had Yang would’ve understood. Instead, she kept to herself. She didn’t speak a word to her daughter- to either of her daughters, although when Ruby entered a room, Raven didn't find somewhere to be that was anywhere but there. Yang had to admit, that was as effective as any other punishment she could dream up. 

Yang’s hands had healed up most of the way by noon that same day- the cuts hadn’t been too deep, and sleeping in until nearly noon helped expedite the process. Her feet were still worse for wear, and she winced getting out of her dad’s truck to walk the gravel driveway to the Belladonna’s front door. After only a rough 6 hours of sleep compared to her usual 10, and the annoyance of having to shuffle her way up to the front door, she probably didn’t seem to be holding up all too well. 

Ghira had been surprised to see her, and even more so covered nearly head to toe in bandages. “Miss Xiao Long.” He cleared his throat, peeking out the doorway, before opening the large wooden entryway up to her. “What a pleasant surprise.” There was no sarcasm in his voice, or malice- he was being genuine, which she couldn't help but think was very nice, considering her unprofessional exit from their agreement. “Hello, sir. I’m sorry to bother you-”

He was quick to reassure her. “Oh no, not to worry. I’m glad to see you on your feet- your father informed me yesterday of your accident.” He seemed sympathetic, and Yang couldn’t help but glance at her father, who was waiting in the truck for her. “Although, it certainly looks as though you’re still healing. Might I ask why you’re at my doorstep, rather than resting?” 

Yang blinked, looking up at the towering man. “Uh-... well, I just wanted to apologize in person, for not being able to follow through on helping you guys move in.” Yang admitted, scratching at her chin a bit nervously. He seemed to catch on. “I see… well, it’s no trouble. Things happen in life.” He gruffed, and moved to let her in. “You’re welcome to come in for lunch-”

“Oh-! No, I couldn’t.” Yang assured him. “I would hate to intrude. And I should really get back home and off my feet.” She watched process this, blinking as the thought passed over his features, and he nodded with a slight cough, glancing back at her dad in the truck, and then back down at her. “Well, tell your father I said hello, and that I’ll see him later in the afternoon.” 

Yang nodded, and as she turned, he added one last well wish. “I’m glad you’re not so seriously injured you couldn’t- well. I’m glad to see you’re alright, for the most part. It hurts this old man’s heart to see kids like you getting hurt.” She wanted to question the ‘kids like you’ bit, but the sentiment itself was sweet, and she smiled to match, giving him a little wave as she tenderly inched herself down the front steps. “Thank you, sir. Take care.” She’d managed to get herself back to the truck, and holding onto the handle toward the top of the door, pulled herself up and into the passenger seat. She and Tai sat in comfortable silence as they pulled out of the long driveway, and down Menagerie Rd., onto the main road toward their own quaint little country home. As they parked in the driveway and Yang unbuckled herself, she was surprised as suddenly the doors locked. She blinked, unsure what was happening. “Dad..?” She turned to look at him, and his expression was serious. “Before I drop you off, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about, Yang.” He cleared his throat, and shifted in his seat. Yang wasn’t so sure she liked where this was going. “Okay…” 

Tai fiddled with his cap, tugging it down first, and then back up, scratching at his unruly blonde curls. “You’re gettin’ older, Yang. You’re nearly an adult now, and that’s pretty strange in itself.” He sighed, and Yang had a feeling she knew what this was. “Dad…” She started, hesitantly. He just waved his hand at her. “You were such a cute little baby- all big cheeks and smiles… I took you into work with me as much as your mother would let me- your granddad sure got a kick out of it.” He reminisced, staring off out the windshield. “He used to pinch your cheeks, and toss you up far enough to make Summer nearly pass out.” Tai chuckled, taking the hat off completely and setting it on the dashboard. It was old- real old; it was her grandfathers, and Tai never wore any other hat besides that one. 

He cleared his throat. “All this… magic business. It’s not- It’s not my thing. I’m just a simple man, Yang. I think it’s beautiful, and that there’s definitely more to life than I grew up believing in, but it’s hard for me to.. To process some of it, you get me?” He looked at her, and she nodded. “Yeah…” 

Tai pursed his lips and sighed, keeping eye contact long enough that she could gather he was thinking about her eyes. “...I don’t know about magic. ‘dont know shit about it. I can’t grow plants with my mind, or see warnings of the future, or talk to animals. I’m just a man, Yang.” He said, and his tone rang in her heart, and in the pit of her stomach, resonating with her. “But one thing I do know is wood. And family.” He looked out the windshield again, and pointed toward the house with a large, calloused finger. “And love.”

“I built that house- we all did. Me, and your granddad, and Summer and Raven. We all pitched in. Your granddad gave me the money for the land, and helped me chop the wood up, and get all the mud and the wiring and what have you taken care of. He helped me build a home for you and your mothers, cuz that's what family is- it’s loving each other, and helping each other, and pitchin’ in.” He let his finger drop, and his hand brushed the worn fabric of the hat. “I don’t know shit about magic. I only know what I feel, and what I can make with my own two hands. But I do know that sometimes, you just can’t explain shit. Shit like love.” He looked at her, and Yang’s cheeks burned. Ah. That’s where this was going. 

“Dad-” She tried, and he grabbed the hat from the dashboard, turning it over in his hands. “Summer and Raven loved each other long before they loved me. And it wasn’t any of that shit they play in the waiting room at the dentist- love is love, Yang, in that I loved my dad, and I loved my friends, and I loved your mothers, but it was a kinda love you’re conditioned for. Raven and Summer… I had never seen that kind of love before.” He admitted, his expression thoughtful. “It was like magic. Maybe not the kind your moms can do, but it was magic if I’ve ever seen it.” 

“Magic?” She asked, and he nodded, still not quite out of his memories. “I asked Summer about it once, when we were all still just friends; Asked Raven, too. Summer told me it was like swallowing fireworks every time she took a breath of air…” He scoffed, although there was no malice in it, only amazement. He shook his head, gathering his thoughts with a smile tugging at his lips. “Raven told me she’d never really been given a lot of affection, as a child. Her parents were important, and had better things to do, other than teach her what she needed to know to survive.” He frowned a bit at that, running his fingers over the fraying edges of the hat’s brim. “She told me that since the moment she saw Summer, it was like every little movement- every little touch, or word, had her aching for more.” He explained, and Yang couldn’t help but swallow. “‘Course, back then I didn’t know about magic- and I didn’t know about love the way I do now…” He smiled a bit, and she could see the heat flushing to her dad’s ears. “I told her that the bit about her parents was really fucked up, and around civilized towns, people called that being touch-starved.” He scoffed at his own stupidity, chuckling darkly as he rubbed at his eyes in a tired fashion. “She threw a rock at me and laughed. I started to get it, then.” He smiled, looking at his daughter. 

“Do you get what I’m trying to tell you, Yang?” Yang mulled it over, glancing out the window and to the greenhouse just out of her pareifery, and the path leading out into the woods. “I think so…” 

“Well, I’m going to spell it out clearer, just in case, okay?” he gruffed, adjusting his position in his seat to turn more toward her. “Yang, I don’t know what the hell is going on with your eyes. I don’t know anything about magic, or about covens, or dreams or whateverthefuck. But I know you’ve been dreaming about a pretty girl-” Yang blushed, and she turned to look at him, almost incensed. “ Dad!” 

“And I know you’ve been acting strange lately. You’ve been snappy about your cat-” 

“She's not my-” Yang bristled, and Tai gave her a pointed look. She relaxed a bit. “Case in point. As I was saying, I know that something’s been up. And then last night you just…” He seemed at a loss for words. “That wasn’t you, Yang. And I mean that in the best way. My little dragon isn’t one to run away from her mother- no matter which one it is. She’s not the kinda girl who causes panic, or makes her parent’s worry if she doesn’t absolutely have to.”

Yang could feel her blood boiling a bit. Since when did this turn into a conversation on her character as a person? As though he could feel the tension building, Tai was quick to dispel it. “I’m not trying to say who you are or are not- I just want you to understand that- Fuck, now I’m completely off topic.” He sighed, and leaned his head against the headrest of his seat. He looked over the hat in his hands, and before Yang really could protest, he reached over and fit it over her hair, comfortably on top of her head. “If there's a girl somewhere out there that makes you feel like you’ve got firecrackers in your lungs, or like hearing her speak makes you woozy in the knees, then I want that for you. I want you to find her, like your mother found Summer, and I want you to be happy.” Tai looked at her, his expression soft, and Yang immediately relaxed, her expression surprised, and her cheeks tinted pink. 

Tai smiled and turned back to the dashboard. “I’m not your grandad- he was a lot more stubborn, and a lot smarter- but I wanna be that person for you, Yang. When I told him I met some girls in the woods, he told me that was nice, and I ought to invite them over for lunch. When I told him I was in love with them?” Tai puffed up his cheeks and let out a breath. “He was confused as all hell, but he didn’t fight me on it. He let me know that as long as I loved ‘em and they loved me, and that we all loved each other, he would support us. And he did. I’d never seen the man cry before, but Yang-” He shook his head, a smile growing on his face. “When I told him Raven was pregnant with you, he nearly started weeping right then and there.” He chuckled, after a moment. “-although he got real pissed real quick when those tears ran out…” He grimaced slightly, and Yang had to smile a bit at the mental image of her grandfather chasing her father around a wood shop. 

“My point is, Yang, if you find this girl, and you feel like you love her, and she feels like that too, then I will welcome her with open arms.” He assured her. “You’re my little girl- and if you come to me one day, and you say ‘dad, I love her, and I wanna marry her’ I will buy you a patch of land of your own, and I will help you build yourselves a house- and I will always love you, Yang. You and this girl.” Tai’s tone was resolute, and Yang couldn’t help the tears springing up, threatening to bubble over and run down her cheeks. She reached the heel of her palm up and rubbed at them, trying to smile. “Thank you, dad…” She managed, and he reached forward, pulling her into a tight hug, patting her firmly on the back and rubbing in little circles. He smelled like aftershave, and cedar, and something purely Tai, and Yang felt so at home. “I love you, Yang. Always will. You could run away into the woods and not come back until I’m old and gray, and I’d still give you my whole world.” The admission was terribly sweet. The words, or at least a few of them, hurt her heart, but now wasn’t the time for correction. She tightened her grip, and let her tears absorb into his beige cotton shirt.

“I love you too…” She sniffled, and he rocked her, resting his chin on top of her head. “I love you too, dad…”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

It was a week and half since Sunday she’d run away from Raven in those woods, and since her dad had expressed himself, which for Tai was a rare feat. Like Raven, he was prone to brooding, although his brooding was more vocal than her quietly disapproving mother. That hadn’t gotten much better either- Raven’s silence. She spoke to Ruby now- her silence toward the younger of her daughters hadn’t lasted more than a day, which made Yang admittedly a little huffy, but she supposed she had asked for it by running away. She spoke with everyone except Yang, and although she no longer left the room if Yang entered, things were very clearly tense. 

Yang was learning to get used to it. Summer had taken her keys, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t still work on her bike. 

She spent the majority of her time healing in the garage, fiddling with it. Most of it was sitting work, so once her hands were completely healed up, she wasted no time in limping her way to her special place to stay out of Raven’s way, as well as to keep her mind off of things. It worked, for the most part, and soon enough, Summer gave her the go-ahead to take the bandages on her feet off. However, that meant it was time to start working in the shop. As much as she typically enjoyed working in her dad’s shop, and she tried to keep a positive outlook, the prospect of not getting her usual pay for helping and also having to babysit whatever middle schooler was temping in woodworking didn’t make it sound exactly ideal. 

That wasn’t to say Yang was a person who disliked children- rather, on the contrary, she was used to babysitting around town, and didn’t really mind helping the kids who took an interest in her dad’s craft. They could just be… a little much, sometimes. And she had too much on her mind at the moment to be distracted by keeping an untrained kid on track. 

During her healing period, Yang had thought over and over and over again about Blake. She couldn’t help it. There were no new dreams, but still, Blake haunted her. She had been at the dance- truly, and in a physical form, which meant she had been in town. Yang just prayed she hadn’t already left. Truthfully, part of her was nervous; what if she did run into her? What was she supposed to say? ‘Hi, remember me? I’m that girl that looked like she was hit by a bus in the woods a week ago?’ Yang shook her head as she headed down the narrow stair well. Definitely not. 

With the prospect of running into the girl of her dreams rattling around in her head, Yang had struggled with picking out an outfit for the day. She’d tossed nearly every option around her room in a whirlwind of rejections. Some things made her feel too… girly. Others felt like she was trying too hard. She didn’t know what impression she wanted to give off, which seemed to be her biggest struggling point. So, she’d laid on her bed in her ratty old t-shirt and shorts, and she stared up at the ceiling until the spotlight hurt her eyes, and she covered them with her arm. She was hopeless. 

At least, until a soft plink! Tapped against her window, and her eyes shot open, her arm falling away. She sat up, turning and looking to the window, her hopes soaring. And lo and behold, nudging her windowpane was Gambol. He mrowed at her from behind the glass, and she made quick work of hopping off the bed, pulling the window up and nearly laughing at the timing of the beautiful creature. “Well look who decided to swig by.” She hmphed, dropping down into a squat so she was eye level with her. Gambol lightly swatted at her face, although it was little more than a boop, and Yang’s nose scrunched up. Gambol always managed to make her feel better. “Well, you’re just in time. I’m looking for an outfit, but I’ve got nothing that seems right.” She sighed, pushing herself to stand. She put her hands on her hips and turned side to side, twisting in an effort to scratch her back. “Think you can help?” 

Gambol tilted her head at her, and Yang mimicked her, sticking her tongue out just barely past her lips. Gambol immediately hopped down off the window sill and onto Yang’s bed, pawing at various discarded articles of clothes as she made her way to the far end of the bed. Yang, who was still stretching, glanced over her shoulder. “Find anything?” She asked, if only jokingly. But Gambol came through, much to her surprise. Hopping off the edge of the bed, she grabbed hold of something discarded on the floor with her teeth, and dragged it over to Yang’s feet. Yang blinked, as though trying to understand that Gambol had in fact understood her. “You… want me to wear that..?” She pointed timidly down at the piece of fabric, and Gambol just sat there, staring up at her with those big gold eyes of hers. Well, she didn’t have much else to try. 

Yang reached down and picked up the shirt. 

Gambol ended up helping her with the rest of her outfit as well. She kicked a pair of jeans Yang had discarded without a second thought, and while Yang was smoothing out wrinkles and tucking things in in front of her mirror, Gambol meowed loudly from the bed, and Yang found her in a ball, cradling a yellow scrunchy. Things could have been weirder, Yang supposed. She could have a cat picking out her outfit… 

As much as Yang acknowledged this was getting stranger and stranger, as she looked in the mirror, she had to admit that she looked pretty alright. Gambol had picked out an almost comically large red checkered flannel for her, and a pair of dark jeans she rarely wore. It was more of a Ruby outfit than something she’d normally wear, but she found a soft yellow pocket shirt in the back of her closet, and after rolling up the flannel sleeves to her elbows and hiking the high waisted pants up over her belly button, she thought it wasn’t too bad at all. Now it was just a matter of taming her hair. 

She toyed with the scrunchy, not quite sure what Gambol had intended her to use it for. A ponytail? She played with that for a quick moment, but it didn’t seem to stick. A bun felt like it would be too relaxed, and it wasn’t like she experimented with her hair enough to know anything cute to do with it. She was at a loss. That’s when the light bulb went off. 

“Ruby…. Ruby.” Yang had whispered as she stood over her sister's bed, shaking her lightly. “Rubes, wake up.” Ruby grunted, rolling over onto her stomach. Her pillow was damp with drool, and Yang grimaced slightly at the sight. “Ruby, wake up. There’s waffles.” 

That got her up. Ruby blinked, raising her head. “Whatcha...- what-flles?” She mumbled, her eyes fluttering as she fought to stay conscious. “Okay, well, there aren’t waffles yet-” Ruby dropped her head back into her pillow, and Yang shook her again. “I’ll make you waffles, but I need your help.” 

Ruby glanced up at her from under her unruly bedhead. “..better be waffles for wakin’ me up…” She yawned as she tensed all the muscles in her upper back, stretching and rolling over onto her side. “Whatcha want…?” She rubbed her eyes.

“I need your help with my hair. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to it to make it look nice.” Yang admitted, and Ruby stared at her for a moment, before grabbing a pillow and decking her with it. “You woke me up to-” She yawned, “-do your hair ?” A quick glance at her bedside clock told her it was only 7. “You’re crazy. ” 

“Maybe so. Are you going to help me or not?” Yang asked, looking very much desperate. Ruby looked loath to help, but it seemed she was immune to charms, as Gambol hopped up on the bed and padded her way over to Ruby. Ruby blinked in surprise at the small creature, and as Gambol reached up and booped her with her little paw, Yang could see the moment when Ruby melted. 

“Give me the brush, and start talking waffles.” 

And thus, they descended the stairwell, Ruby carrying Gambol perched on her shoulder, and Yang fidgeting with the delicate crown Ruby had braided on top of her head and around the sides. She’d left the bottom section of her hair to do as it pleased, and Yang was glad for that. She wasn’t used to such intricate hairstyles- it was certainly different, but then, she wanted to look her best. Tai was already in the kitchen puttering between the waffle iron and the coffee maker. He glanced up, saw Yang and smiled, but as Ruby also descended, his brow furrowed, and he nearly choked on his coffee. “Ruby?” He coughed into his arm as he set his mug down. “Darlin’ what-” Another hearty cough, and a pound against his chest. “-what are you doing up this early?” He cleared his throat, and Yang had to snicker at the reaction. Ruby glowered at her, but simply crossed her arms. “ Someone woke me up to do their hair.” 

It might have been an accident. It might have been a slip of grammar. It might have just been sleep brain. It certainly wasn’t enough to alert their father of anything off about the admission, but as the words left Ruby’s lips, something tingled, deep down in the pit of Yang’s stomach. She hid it well, grabbing her mug, which Tai had set on the counter for her. She tried not to think too much about it; about the feeling she got when Ruby didn’t say certain specifics… 

She shook her head, as though to clear it. “I promised her waffles in return.” She informed their father, and Tai nodded. “Way ahead of ya.” He smiled, seemingly in a good mood as he turned to Ruby. “Well, pull up a seat, darlin’. This first one’s all yours.” He ruffled her hair, reaching across the island with his big hands. Ruby bristled as he tousled her already beyond control locks. “Hey!” Gambol mrowed in seeming amusement, before crouching down, and springing herself from Ruby to Yang, landing in Yang’s lap. She burrowed on the inside of the flannel, and Yang had to smile. “Are you going to come into town with us today?” She asked, unsure if she should expect an answer. 

She didn’t get one- at least not vocally. But after breakfast, Gambol leapt from Yang’s lap and padded her way to the sliding back doors. She pawed at the glass, looking back at them, and Yang smiled softly and a little sadly as she got up from her seat, moving over to the door. “You know, I worry when you’re gone for so long. Make sure you come back and say hi soon, okay?” She asked, bending down and gently scratching behind her ears. Gambol nudged her hand affectionately, and Yang felt that warmness creep around in her stomach again- the happiness that Gambol brought her. 

“See you soon.” She promised, answering herself as she stood and nudged the door open enough for Gambol to slip through and outside. As the small thing left the Rose-Branwen-Xiao-Long Family house, sitting for a moment on the back porch, Yang felt like, just maybe, it might be a good day. 

Chapter Text

The ride into town was both far too short and far too long, and Yang found her foot tapping against the floor of the truck as it rolled along, hitting nearly every bump along the way. Her dad had explained what she’d be doing as they drove along the winding country road, but it was safe to say she was noticeably distracted. The third time he said her name, she blinked back into focus. “Huh?” She looked at him, mouth open as she realized she hadn’t heard what he’d said. 

Tai shook his head, although he seemed more amused than anything. “You’re pretty out of it today, kid. Anything in particular on your mind?” Yang flushed and looked out the window, shaking her head. “Not really.” 

Tai scoffed. “Well, you’ve always been a shit liar, so at least that’s functionin’ right.” Yang gaped at him, offended by the remark. “I am not.”

“Are too.” He grinned at her, before looking back to the road. “Ever since you were little.”

“Bull-shit.” Yang scoffed in turn, and Tai reached over and flicked her in the nose. “Watch your mouth, there, missy.” 

“Look who’s talking. If mom heard you swearing as much as you do around me, you’d have a tombstone out in the greenhouse.” The clouds overhead rolled lazily in shades of gray, and Yang knew it was likely to drizzle later on. The prospect made her feel a little down, but then, Yang had never liked the rain, or the storms that usually accompanied it. 

It wasn’t too busy in town, that day. The prospect of rain, it seemed, had spooked most people away from the downtown area. Vale wasn’t a very large town- it was only really classified as a town rather than a village by a slightly larger population. It was very rural, and the people who lived in it were almost entirely descendants of the first settlers of the town. New members of the town’s tight-knit community were rare. The last time they’d had someone move in, it had been the Scarlatinas. Yang had only been little, but she remembered when the family had arrived in town, and Velvet’s mom had started turning one of the old, rickety, abandoned shops into a pizzeria. Yang had gotten to come with her dad to the site and help out, when Tai offered his services. A lot of people had been averse to the Scarlatinas, and back then Yang had been confused by it. Velvet was really nice, just kinda shy, and her mom was a real nice lady too. Now, of course, Yang understood. The people of Vale were a tight-knit community. Maybe some people didn’t get along. Maybe a few people hadn’t made acquaintances with some others. But everyone was pretty familiar with how things worked around town, and how the townspeople were, and news traveled fast. It couldn’t have been easy, being new to town, surrounded by people who weren’t sure if you’d be a good fit. 

But they had been, in the end- the Scarlatinas. They’d fit in perfectly to the little piece of the town that Ms. Scarlatina had carved the way for them in. They’d settled in, and set up shop, and before they knew it, people had Scarlatina Pizzaria Fever. The memory brought a smile to Yang’s face, and as they drove down the empty expanse of the main road that ran through the downtown area, Yang’s eyes drifted past the buildings, and her thoughts all bled together. Before she knew it, the truck came to a stop, and Tai pulled the keys out of the ignition, the engine quieting. “Alright. I’m coming in real quick to grab my things, and when she gets here, I’ll introduce you, but then I’m out.” Tai reminded her as he opened his door. Yang blinked back into focus and nodded, opening her door. “Yeah. Gotcha.” 

The inside of the shop always smelled like home. Tai tossed his keys onto the desk near the far wall, flicking on the row of light switches that would light up the office portion of the building. There were two sections of the building that Yang was very familiar with. The office portion was the smaller of the two, and neatly decorated with a large oak front desk and several large file cabinets along one wall where her dad kept all the paperwork for his projects. Along the other wall, near the windows, was a small sitting space with a couch and a couple tall, potted plants that had been added by her mom. The ‘abstract’ paintings framed above the space in flourishes of reds and oranges and yellows had been Yang and Ruby’s additions to the space, albeit from quite a while ago now. The second half of the building was the workshop, through the back storeroom, where Tai made space for some of the smaller wood projects and various other pieces of furniture and woodwork. It was also where he did all his planning, as Yang had witnessed quite a bit, often working plans through with him and helping him to sort out additions and measurements. Lucky for the both of them, Yang was better with her numbers than her old man was.

Tai ran a hand through his hair and rifled around in one of the file cabinets for a moment, pulling out a manila folder as Yang leaned casually against a wall. “So, what’s this big project? Is it another house or something?” She asked, unsure whether he’d mentioned it before or not. He gave a frustrated sigh, tossing the folder with his keys. It was a hefty thing, and papers slid out in a thick stack as it hit the desk. “Yeah… something like that. A new fancy one, out even farther in the boondocks than we are.” 

Yang blinked. “Really? A new fancy one…” She pondered that. “Sure are a lot of well off people making their way here, aren't there?” She thought of the Belladonnas and their massive house. She couldn’t imagine her dad building something like that; not to say he wasn’t talented. Yang just couldn’t picture her country-rugged dad making something like that by himself without working himself to death. “How big’s it gonna be?” She asked, curious. 

He scratched at his chin. “It’s not gonna be as big as the Belladonnas’. They want it done before winter hits, and one of ‘em’s gonna be away on business a fair amount of the time, so the way we’re talking around it, it’ll be about the size a’ the Belladonna’s garage.” He explained, and Yang nodded thoughtfully. “So, like a guest house.” Tai nodded curtly. “Right.” 

“You know your responsibilities. She’s done pretty well so far with the paperwork, but since you’ve had some experience with the same job, just double check everything before you put it in the file cabinet. As far as keeping an eye on her is concerned, you should really only need to pop in every now and then; she’s a capable little lady, that’s for sure. And she's eager to do her part. There’s a list of things I’d like you to take over for me in the workshop.” Yang nodded in understanding. “Got it.” 

“I’ll drop by around lunch, and bring you both something to munch on, but you can always help yourselves to the fridge in the back.” He reminded her, and Yang had to roll her eyes. “Thanks, dad.” She could tell something was getting under his skin. He didn’t usually fuss over her so much when it came to the shop. She’d been running the counter and the records since she was younger than Ruby, and she was almost as good as he was at woodworking. Clients never noticed the difference. 

But she didn’t push it. He was probably just worried about leaving some poor kid at the desk all day with a person she’d never met in charge. Their attention was caught by the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk outside, and Tai seemed to tense, if only slightly. Yang caught him glancing at her out of the corner of her eyes, but she ignored him, looking to the door. 

She didn’t know what she had been expecting. A middle schooler, definitely. Maybe someone like Pyrrha, or Nora. A kid she’d never met before.

She wasn’t expecting a slender, wiry figure. She wasn’t expecting all too familiar waves of cropped dark hair, or parted, full red lips, or eyes amber and wide with surprise as she passed through the threshold of the building, one hand brushing the frame of the door, and the other balancing a cardboard tray with three paper cups.

Yang wasn’t sure she had taken a breath since Blake had walked in the door, but she got the chance once she felt her father’s shoe collide with her calf. She blinked, opening her mouth and breathing in. Before she could get a word out, her head spinning, once more Blake beat her to the punch. She glanced away from Yang’s gaze and moved quickly to the desk, setting down the tray. “I apologise for being a little late this morning, Mr. Xiao Long. I stopped to get some coffee.” She admitted, and Yang felt her heart jump in her chest. Her tone was soft, and dare Yang say bashful as she removed each cup from its place in the holder. “I figured it would be a nice way to start the day and… well to greet my new manager.” She looked back at them both then, tucking a loose, waving strand of hair behind one ear. 

“Aw, well that’s real sweet of you, but you didn’t have to go out of your way this morning.” Tai chuckled lightly as she tapped her way over to him- Yang noted the polished black dress shoes sticking out from the loose, pooling bottoms of her black pin-striped pants, high waisted and belted. Before Yang’s eyes could wander any further, Tai cleared his throat, taking a drink from his coffee and sipping rather loudly, punctuating it with a little too obviously dramatic sigh. “Now that’s a good way to start the morning, alright.” He glanced at his daughter as the words left his lips, and Yang’s cheeks burned as Blake’s attention turned back to her, a little more composed this time. “Y-yeah.” Yang coughed in the back of her throat as Blake reached the coffee out to her. “Yeah. Thank you.” She managed, barely a mutter as her fingers brushed against Blake’s. Her eyes passed over her face- over the sloping curves and straight edges, and her lashes, which were so long and dark, and Yang couldn’t believe she’d never noticed until now. 

The moment was shattered as Tai slapped a hand on Yang’s shoulder, clapping her hard enough out of nowhere to nearly give her a heart attack. “Well, I think introductions are in order! Blake, this is my daughter, Yang. She’ll be your manager while I’m working on the Schnee residence. Yang, this is Blake, my secretary. I’ve already filled her in on her responsibilities while I’m gone, so like I told you before, you should be able to get on just fine doing your own thing.” Tai explained, looking between them. 

Yang… Yang did not... Words. What were words again? 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Yang.” Blake had a way of filling in those gaps, and it made Yang’s heart flutter as she reached across the divide and shook the hand that was offered. It was just as soft and scarred as it had been in the clearing. 

“I’ll be off then, now that you’re acquainted with each other. Blake, I told Yang I’d stop and get lunch for you both on the way back, so give me a call around noon and tell me what you’d like, and I’ll pick it up.” Tai informed her as he strode over to the desk, grabbing his keys and the manila folder full of papers. 

“Yes, Mr. Xiao Long.” Blake was quick to answer, turning on her heels in a graceful way that made Yang’s heart leap into her larynx. Tai nodded, and grabbed his dad’s cap off the hook behind the desk, fitting it over his messy blonde curls. “Alright then.” With one last look between them that Yang now had a feeling she understood, he was out the door, the bell clanging behind him and the door shutting swiftly into place with a soft woosh. 

It was silent for a long moment. 

Surprisingly, it was Yang who broke it this time. “You really like purple, huh?” 

Blake blinked, and Yang’s heart was racing. Sometimes, particularly times like these, she wished she had a filter. Blake… didn’t look sure how to process that. Before Yang could tell herself not to, her motormouth reacted in hopes of salvaging the comment. “Your shirt- it’s... a nice shade of... purple.” She managed, gesturing lightly to the off-shoulder, berry-colored cami top Blake was wearing. It took a minute, and the disbelief in her features made Yang hot with embarrassment, but there it was again- that wonderful, snorty laugh, half hidden in a restrained giggle. “Do you always start conversations like this?” 

Yang, admittedly a bit flustered about the turn in the conversation, blustered a bit. “I uh-” She scratched at her chin, tapping her foot into the ground. “You um.. You make words hard...” Yang murmured in admission, trying to keep composed but for the blush creeping up her neck and her ears. Maybe if she didn’t look at her, she wouldn’t get all stupid and jelly-like. She kept her gaze sidelong, just to be sure.

It was quiet again. Neither of them seemed to really know what to say. Hardening her resolve, Yang took a breath and took a stab at once again starting the conversation. “Your ears… they uh…” Blake’s head turned faster than Yang might have thought possible, her shoulders tense, and Yang blinked. “Where… did they go?” She asked, merely curious. She hoped she hadn’t offended Blake with the question. She’d noticed when Blake had made her way to the desk that the prominent feature atop her head had seemingly vanished. 

Blake seemed… averse to the topic. “Does it matter?” She asked in passing, moving to the desk. She set the paper tray in the wastebasket and moved her coffee to the far end of the desk, seemingly focusing on arranging things back the way they were supposed to go, after Tai had thrown the manila folder so haphazardly onto the desks surface. Yang found herself mulling the question over. Did it matter? It wasn’t like she knew anyone else with extra extremities, much less feline ones… but… 

“Yes. It does matter.” Blake’s hands stopped fidgeting with desk trinkets, although she didn’t turn to look back at Yang. “In the clearing that night… you seemed so.. I don’t know… scared? Nervous?” Yang scratched at her cheek. She tried to sort through her memories of that night- not that she’d ever for it- just… she had been feeling a lot . “And then I said I liked your hair, and you started laughing about my not noticing your ears, and…” Yang bit her lip. “I think it does matter. A lot. To you especially.” She looked up, that nervous pit pooling in the base of her stomach and swirling, churning her like butter from the inside out. She was met with Blake staring at her with wide eyes, her fidgeting forgotten, her brow furrowed in almost confusion. Yang worried she’d said too much- made too many assumptions. “I uh- I should go get to work in the back-” She moved to leave as quickly as feet would let her, her cheeks red with embarrassment. Blake didn’t stop her, and Yang didn’t stop, not until she was through the storeroom door and out the other side, into the workshop. 

It smelled like cedar, and cinnamon, and coffee, although that might have been due to the still rather hot cup in her hands, wafting the smell up and into her sinuses. She took a moment, leaning against the door, and lifted the cup to her lips. It was a dark roast, and the bite of it sent a shudder up Yang’s spine, the heat running down her throat and mixing with the feelings buried deep in her gut. It was gonna be a long day, she realized with a sigh. 

The workshop was a mess, as usual. It didn’t take long for Yang to realize that her outfit could be better suited for the job. She’d have to keep that in mind for the next day. And the day after that. The thought made her stop as she tied her apron around the back, fingers tangled in the strings. This was going to be a multi-week project. She was going to be working with Blake for several weeks while her dad was away from the shop… She was doomed. Absolutely doomed. 

As bad as she felt about it, Yang couldn’t stomach the thought of Blake seeing her with a big braid wrapped around the top of her head, even if she already had. Squatting in front of a large chrome plate, she unwrapped the braid one bobby pin at a time, letting it fall and brush against her back instead. It was admittedly a little freeing, even if her scalp was stiff with the removal. 

The workshop was a mess, naturally. Tai was not an organized person, and if there was any example of that, it was his work space. Yang spent the majority of the morning sweeping sawdust. The rest of it was spent hefting half-finished pieces and bits of furniture around so that there was actually space to finish them. By the time she stopped for a moment, the sweat was beading on her forehead. She liked heavy lifting, and hard work. It helped her keep her mind off of things. There was nothing to distract her, or to make her mind wander, beyond what the fuck her dad thought he was doing working in such bizarre and shitty conditions. When she was working hard, there wasn’t anything else to focus on, or to worry about. It was about controlling what she could, while she could. 

“Ahem.” 

Brothers-Grimm-Hotsauce-Honey-Cake !” Yang jumped, clutching at her shirt, the broom flying out of her hands and clanging against the concrete floor. She breathed deeply, the fright still beating in her chest like a drum. Her head turned, and made a note of Blake leaning against the door, a water bottle in her hand. She was watching Yang with careful eyes, but her expression was amused. “I- You-” Yang let out a shaky breath, trying to laugh off her momentary terror. “Woo.. uh.. Hi. Don’t do that.” Yang asked of her, straightening herself out, her cheeks aglow. “Please.” She tacked onto the end, not wanting to be rude. 

“You were working pretty hard here. I thought you could use a water break.” Blake offered, and the soft twang of her voice made Yang’s ears ring and her vision dot, although, that might have also been the dehydration and the disorienting jump scare. Blake held the water bottled out to her, not moving from the door, and although her head was beating like a rabbit with a drum, Yang stepped closer, taking the cold plastic bottle in her hand. It was sweating, although unlike her, its sweat was cold, and clean. She was just gross. “Thank you.” 

Their hands barely brushed, but neither of them let it linger, and Yang was quick to crack open the cap and tip it back, taking gulp after gulp of burning, frigid water. It sent a shiver up her spine, but it helped cool her down, if only a little. Blake seemed to nice, although she looked deep in thought as she said the words, like she was thinking them over again and again as she said them. “You’re always so hot…” 

Yang sputtered, turning quickly on her heels so as not to spray Blake in the face with spitty water. She coughed and hacked as the water she had been drinking traveled down the wrong pipe. She was nearly gasping for air, and she dropped down into a squat, setting the water bottle down and lifting her elbow to cough vigorously into. Blake, meanwhile, had gone red, panic striking her beautiful features. “Oh my gods- brothers- I am so sorry- that’s not what I meant at all- please don’t die.” She moved toward Yang, searching for some way to help and not seeing anything. Yang raised a solitary thumb, and pointed up: the best indicator she could manage as she hacked her lungs out.

Blake breathed a sigh of relief, but her shoulders were still tensed. “Are you alright? Can I do anything?” She asked tentatively, and Yang shook her head. “Fine-” She coughed. “Perfectly f-” A harsh cough and a deep, throaty hack. “-fine..” Yang took a deep breath, pushing herself up quickly, and turning to assure her that she was indeed fine. 

Unfortunately, Blake was a little closer than Yang had anticipated. Blake swore as Yang’s head knocked into the underside of her chin, and Yang paled. “ Oooh my gods. Fuck ! Are you okay???” She asked, reaching forward, before thinking better of it. Blake was bent at the waist, cradling her jaw. She grunted, and it sounded pained, and Yang’s heart was palpitating with horror at what she’d done. “Oh my gods. Shit- I’m gonna get an ice pack- stay here.” Yang gestured for her to stay, moving around her carefully as her eyes searched for the mini fridge her dad kept drinks and accident ice packs in. As she spotted it, relief washing over her features, suddenly the color drained from her face as her boot caught an extension cord laying on the ground. “AhhhhhAHHH-OoF-” 

Blake winced at the sound of Yang colliding with the concrete, nursing her sore jaw as she managed to look up, spotting Yang on the ground maybe ten or so feet away, groaning. Yang managed to pull herself up, holding her face and seeming to be concentrating on her nose. When she turned around, Blake blinked, watching as a thin trickle of blood ran down from Yang’s nose and over her lips. It was quiet, and the two stared at each other for a moment. 

“You think I’m hot?” Yang managed, although she sounded far more congested than she had been before. 

Blake stared at her incredulously. She shook her head, slowly, as a grin started to peek out from the dimpled curve of her lips. Before she knew it, Blake was laughing again. More than the last few times- this time, she was nearly curled in on herself with laughter. It took a couple minutes, but her laughter died down to giggles, and she managed to straighten herself back up, looking to Yang like she was something to drink in, like painting hanging in a museum. “You’ve broken your nose, and you’re more concerned with me calling you hot?” She giggled, on the verge of another fit. “Yang Xiao Long, what are you?” 

Yang’s cheeks burned bright, and she shuffled her feet. “Hang on- Come with me.” Blake wasted no time in pressing forward as her giggles faded, and Yang’s heart did somersaults up into her throat as she felt Blake’s hand slip into hers, pulling her toward the supply room. 

Yang, of course, knew where her dad kept the first aid supplies. She was very familiar with the little red box nestled among the shelves, and its contents. Even wearing all the right equipment, sometimes accidents happen, after all. Regardless, she watched as Blake searched the shelves, moving larger boxes and stacks of spare aprons and gloves. She had to stand on her tippy toes to reach the box, which Yang noted with the faintest twinge of a smile and a flush to her cheeks, beyond the swelling of her nose. Blake pulled the box down and set it on top of one of the boxes closer to the ground, opening it up and searching for the spare ice pack they kept there, and a few sheets of swab cotton. She found them, and set the ice pack aside. “Lean your head forward.” She instructed, and taking a seat on a nearby box, Yang complied, looking down and tilting her head toward the ground. Blake in turn leaned down, twisting one of the cotton swabs into a bullet-shape. She took another and began to lightly touch it to the base of Yang’s nose, where the bleeding began. It wasn’t exactly the most romantic of scenarios, but Yang’s heart still fluttered when Blake touched her, and her stomach still tightened when Blake spoke in quiet tones, so close to her. 

After Blake mopped up the thin stream that came trickling out of her nose, she pinpointed the nostril that was doing most of the bleeding and gingerly blocked it with the cotton swab. Yang winced all the same, but at least the bleeding was taken care of. “Keep leaning forward, okay?” Blake asked of her, looking up through Yang’s bangs, and heart racing, Yang managed to clear her throat and nod. “I’m going to get an ice pack from the freeze and put this one in, so you can alternate when it gets warm.” She stood, and Yang watched as she brushed whatever sawdust had clung to her off of her nice pants, grabbing the kit’s ice pack and moving toward the door back to the workshop. While she was gone, Yang took a moment to get her bearings. She tried to take a deep breath, but winced, reaching up and gently prodding the bridge of her nose. She wondered if Blake’s jaw was okay- her dad had told her plenty of times how hard-headed she was, after all. The joke would have made Tai laugh, if he had been there to hear it. Tai. Shit. 

How was she going to explain this to him? He’d been gone for less than four hours, and she’d already managed to headbutt his secretary and break her own nose. What next? She sighed, lifting her head and toying with the little cotton swab shoved up her nose. It was hard to breathe with only one nostril, but she supposed she’d have to deal with it until she got home later. Summer would probably let her use the salve, although, at the rate she was injuring herself, maybe not. There was only so much of it, after all. 

Her attention was caught as Blake re-entered the storage room, ice-pack in hand. Squatting down in front of her, she raised the pack slowly toward Yang’s swollen nose. “This is pretty cold, but you’re going to have to deal with it if you want the swelling to go down.” She informed Yang, and as the freezing little packet touched her skin, Yang grit her teeth and hissed out a breath. “Coldcoldcoldcoldcold…!” 

“Well, maybe you should have watched where you were going.” Blake chided as she lifted the pack, mercifully giving her a minute before applying it again. Yang tried to muscle through it, but the bite of the frigid temperature was hard to take all at once, and for a long while. She was starting to lose the feeling in that area, hot with the cold. “Rude…” She managed in a huff. “I was lookin’ for an ice pack for you.” 

Blake snorted indignantly, and Yang’s heart fluttered. “After you headbutted me.” 

Yang, her blood pumping and heart racing, was quick to retaliate. “You made me choke!” 

It was Blake’s turn to blush this time, and as she pulled the ice pack away again, she seemed to be mulling something over. It was after she pressed the pack to the other side of her nose, and Yang squirmed in discomfort, that she spoke up. “...I didn’t quite mean it like that. I just meant…” She pursed her lips, and Yang watched the words swirl in her eyes, like honeycomb, wading through the stickiness of it all. “You’re always so warm. Your hands, and-... and you. You give off a lot of heat.” Blake spoke slowly, and carefully, and Yang made a note of the caution there. 

“Is that… a bad thing?” She asked, and Blake blinked, thinking it over. “I… no. No… it’s nice.” She admitted, lifting the pack again. As she placed it back down, and Yang instinctively flinched, rocking a little in her seat at the uncomfortable feeling, a hand reached up, smooth and textured and pleasantly cool, settling against Yang’s cheek. 

To say Yang forgot how to breathe was an understatement. “What-” 

“You’re moving all over the place. It makes this harder…” Blake murmured, her brow furrowed in concentration as she held the pack against the side of Yang’s poor nose. She was entirely too close, and entirely too touchy, and entirely too thoughtful, and Yang was basically a pile of sentient goop at present. “Sor- sorry…” She managed, flicking her gaze away from those eyes that seemed far too deep and far too delicate. 

It was quiet. Yang tried not to move, or complain too much as Blake alternated the ice pack sides. When Yang’s natural body heat eventually warmed the pack, Blake stepped back, and Yang was given a slight reprieve as she went to swap it out with the other one. When she came back, fresh ice pack in hand, Yang grimaced at the idea of a fresh, frozen hell, and Blake must’ve caught it, because she smiled endearingly as she made her way over. “I could wrap it in a rag… but then, I doubt it would be as effective.” Yang shook her head. “No, it’s fine. It’s just a little cold.” She assured her. 

They settled back into a similar position, with Blake kneeling and pressing the pack gingerly to Yang’s sensitive nose. “I could stand up, if that would be easier.” She offered, noting the sawdust and dirt starting to coat the drooping pant legs of her pinstripe pants. “I’d hate for you to ruin your nice clothes.” But Blake shook her head. “It’s alright. It’s better this way.” She assured her, lifting the ice pack. Yang winced, and she watched as the corner of Blake’s lips twitched in a frown at the action. 

Yang, however, was relentless. Kneeling like that couldn't be comfortable. “I could tip my head up instead, and you could stand.” She figured, but Blake shook her head, her waves of ebony hair bouncing with the motion. “Don’t tip your head up if you break your nose. The blood will run down your throat, and it could choke you, or if you swallow it, cause stomach problems.” 

Yang blinked. She hadn’t known that. “Oh.. gotcha.” She understood, and didn’t try to offer any other suggestions. Blake kept alternating the pack’s placement, and Yang’s discomfort mellowed the longer it was against her skin. The atmosphere was easy, and as it always was around Blake, the silence wasn’t awkward, or tense in any negative way. It was just them and the boxes and the sawdust, and the cold of the ice pack and the warmth of Yang’s blood. She half expected Blake to speak up- to fill the silence and provide the words Yang struggled with, as she’d been proven to do time and time again. But she didn’t. And Yang supposed she expected that too. Blake, she was learning, was selective of her silences, and right now was the time she picked to remain in her thoughts. Thoughts Yang could see running through her head with every little flick of her eyebrows, or twitch of her mouth, or inflection of her dimpled cheeks. Her face was bred for concentration, and Yang could and very much did get lost in wandering the complex planes of Blake’s contemplative expression. The depth one person could have… it was astounding. 

“Blake.” She startled Blake a bit, when she did speak, although it wasn’t her intention. Yang waited a moment for her to get her bearings, and then finally posed the question that had been on her mind since early that morning. “Are we going to talk about the clearing? Or what-… what any of this means?” Her tone was soft, and as Blake pulled the ice pack away, this time with no intent to put it back, Yang reached up, her own hand gently making contact, her fingers brushing the soft surface of Blake’s palm. She didn’t grab her- her hands were bloody from where she’d grabbed at her nose after the fall, and she didn’t want to get Blake any dirtier than she’d already gotten. She could also never imagine grabbing her like that and just… forcing her to stay in a position she was trying to leave. They didn’t have to have this conversation. Not yet, or not ever; it didn’t matter. But she wanted to give Blake that choice. 

“...now isn’t…” Blake looked away, mulling over her words again. “...I can’t right now… It’s..” 

Yang’s hand was hot against the cool temperature of Blake’s as she delicately encased it, taking the ice pack. “It’s okay. Besides, we should probably get to work before my dad comes back.” She smiled reassuringly, and Yang wasn’t sure whether the expression on Blake’s face made her more sad or deeply, deeply angry. There was no reason for such an expression to be on that tender, beautiful face, or for the regret to be so thick with strain in those breath-stealing intelligent eyes. Whoever did that… whoever was the reason for the hesitance there… Yang clenched her fist out of Blake’s line of sight, and shook it out as she hopped off the box. Admittedly, her balance was a little off, and she almost knocked right into poor Blake, but she caught herself on a nearby shelf instead. “Well, I’ll head back into the workshop then-” She grinned, as much as her nose would let her, and turned toward the door. Just before her hand closed around the handle, she felt a tug on her shirt. Looking over her shoulder, she was surprised to see Blake holding onto her by the fabric of her flannel. “Uh… Blake?” She asked, blinking in surprise. Blake looked away, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, dare Yang say embarrassed. “I don’t think you should be working there all by yourself like that…” She admitted, and Yang turned around fully to listen to her. “You nearly fell into me just now- it’s probably not safe for you to be working with heavy machinery…” 

Well, she certainly made a good point. With the day Yang was having, she’d probably end up hurting herself even worse. “Well.. I’ve got to find something to do, or my dad will skin me live.” She acknowledged, scratching her chin. “Well… if you wash your hands, you could help me up front…” Blake suggested. “That's part of your job too, isn't it? Making sure I’m getting the paperwork right?” 

Blake was making a lot of valid points. Yang nodded slowly, thinking about it. “Yeah… yeah I mean, that is part of it.” 

“Then there we go. You don’t get in trouble, and I don’t have to deal with you accidentally breaking anything else.” A hit of a smile tugged at her lips, and Yang’s heart melted at the sight. “Yeah… yeah, I mean, sure. Works for me.” 

And so, Yang followed Blake back into the shop portion of the building, and they got to work on sorting out the files and projects and warrants he had just piled all together. Blake, it seemed, was indeed a very capable organizer. She had alphabetized the file cabinet, and separated it into categories for each type of document. Yang was admittedly a little out of her league. She didn’t want to mess with Blake’s process, so they settled into a rhythm of Blake looking over documents, fixing little details, and passing them to Yang, who glanced over them and then sorted them accordingly into the piles Blake had made for her. It was a simple process, and they did most of it in the quiet, informing and explaining things here and there. It was pretty nice, actually. 

At least, until Blake set down a rather large stack of papers onto the desk with a light thud! They both watched as the coffee cup that had been teetering on the edge of the desk fell, and almost as though in slow motion, the lid came buckling off, and the remaining lukewarm coffee came splashing out and toward Blake’s cute purple top. If Ruby were here, she would have started singing Ave Maria, but she wasn’t, and Yang could only watch in horror as it splashed against the fabric of the cute shirt, and Blake tensed up, jumping out of the way a little too late. “Oh… my gods…” Yang murmured in horror, before immediately jumping up from her seat on the edge of the desk. “Shit... shit that’s going to stain.” 

Blake signed, still tensed, and threw her head back in exasperation. “Of course… of course! This had to happen!” She grumbled to herself, looking down at the top and pulling it away from her skin. Yang wasted no time. Blake barely had time to process as Yang started to shed her flannel. “What are you-” 

“Here. If you go wash your shirt out now, the stain won’t stick. You can remove the stain easier later at your place.” Yang explained, outstretching her hand with the flannel draping from it. “You can borrow this for the day, so you have something to wear.” 

It was proving extremely cute when Blake blushed, and Yang was already trying to get used to that, but she was in no way prepare for Blake to walk out of the little bathroom by the storage room, Yang’s huge red flannel buttoned up to the second to last button, sleeves rolled to her elbows, a vision and a half if Yang had ever seen one. Since the initial bit of dizziness in the storage room, she hadn’t been at all disoriented, but now- now she was seeing stars. Blake seemed to notice, although it wasn’t hard; Yang was probably gaping very rudely. 

This whole this was torture. 

Maybe this was her punishment for running away from Raven. Maybe the gods were playing a cruel joke on her for being so eager to see Blake again. And now, she could do nothing but see her, every day, all day. She made a mental note to thank them later for their service they’d done for her. 

“You uh- you look great.” Yang managed as she finally got a hold of herself, coughing into her fist and leaning against the desk as naturally as she could manage. “Thank you.” Blake blushed, playing with a strand of hair. While she had been washing out her shirt and changing, Yang had taken care of the coffee spillage on the chair and the floor, the wastebasket now full of paper towels soaked with coffee and disinfectant. “And thank you for cleaning it up. You really didn’t have to-” 

“I wanted to.” Yang assured her, sitting up right. “Can’t have you sitting in coffee the rest of the day, right?” She attempted a jest, smiling pleasantly. It worked, and a smile bloomed on Blake’s lips as well. 

Unfortunately, it was at that moment that her father decided to enter the picture again, unceremoniously shoving the door open, the bell clanging as he shuffled his way in, carrying two large takeout bags, a crunchy looking egg roll poking out of his mouth. He looked up at them as he juggled his keys and the bags, tossing his keys onto the desk, and promptly blinking as he took in the scene. Yang one layer down and sporting a swollen nose, and Blake wearing the aforementioned missing layer. He glanced between them a moment, before setting one of the bags onto the desk and crunching a bite out of the egg roll, chewing before he began to talk. “...You guys didn’t give me a call, so I just picked up Chinese. That alright?” 

Yang and Blake, both well aware of the strange appearance of the situation, shared a look, before nodding succinctly. “Of course, Mr. Xiao Long. Thank you for lunch.” Blake smiled, and Tai grinned right back. “No problem, Blake.” 

Yang took the second bag from her dad as he moved to dig around in the one he’d set on the desk. “There’s plenty here, so don’t be shy. After we eat, I can drop you off at your folk’s place on the way home.” He informed her, and Blake stopped as she cracked the lid off of a savory-smelling container. “Pardon, sir?” She blinked, confused. 

Tai, mouth full of cabbage and beef, held up a finger. When he was done chewing, he took a drink from a can of soda he’d also purchased apparently. “Well, since Yang’s clearly got a broken nose, and will need to get it looked at, you might as well have the rest of the day off. It looks to me like you’ve been working hard.” He thumbed toward the neat stacks of papers laid out on the desk. 

Blake floundered, trying to understand. “Sir… there won't be anyone to run the shop…” 

Tai nodded, taking another sip, and from where she’d leaned against the wall, spoon full of egg and rice perched just in front of her and over a small carton, Yang expressed her surprise as well. “You don’t close until 6- why close at noon?” 

Tai shrugged, adjusting his cap on his head. “I’ve had a long morning, and from the looks of it, so have you girls. It’s a rainy day… why not take off a little early?” 

“Six hours early?” Yang raised an eyebrow, and Tai rolled his eyes. “Since when did you turn into your mom, little missy?” He asked, and Blake hid her smile behind a bite of sesame chicken. “Well, Mr. Xiao Long,” Blake inputted once she’d finished her bite. “-I wouldn’t mind the time off.” 

“Then there we are. We’ll drop you off on the way back to the house, ain’t that right, Yang.” He sidled up to his daughter, throwing an arm over her shoulder in an embarrassing display of affection. Yang, admittedly a little blushy, nodded, looking away from him. “Yeah. sounds good.”

Admittedly, Yang was a little curious about where Blake was living. She’d never seen her around town before this whole dream debacle, so she had to be somewhat new to town. Now, it’s also no secret that Yang… Yang had a hard time putting pieces together. Which is why she could have sworn she was hallucinating when they pulled up the long gravel driveway of Menagerie Road, and Tai parked a little ways from the garage. 

“Here we are. Have a good rest of your night, Blake, alright?” Tai smiled at Blake out the window as she eased herself down and closed the door. “Yes, Mr. Xiao Long.” Blake smiled politely in turn, and then her eyes flickered to Yang, and her smile turned soft, and a little teasing, and Yang must have been sweating in the passenger seat. As Blake walked up the driveway, Yang unbuckled herself and grabbed the handle on the ceiling. She hefted herself up, and pulled her upper body out of the window, holding on to the roof of the car as she sat on the window ledge, watching Blake walk toward the garage. That’s when she saw it. Perched on the railing of the deck of the main house, a black shape, like a shadow. As Blake got close, it hopped from its perch and went to meet her, rubbing against her legs in greeting.

It couldn’t be. There was no way. 

But there was. And it could be. And as the creature leapt up into Blake’s arms, it turned to look at her, and even from so far away, Yang felt shiver run down her spine. Those eyes bore into her, and then Blake turned to look as well, and Yang couldn’t remember how to breathe. 

Holy Shit.

Chapter Text

The first thing Yang did when she got home was scream. 

The drive back to the house was silent, and Yang didn’t stay to hear what her father was planning on talking to her about as they parked in the driveway. She didn’t stop as Summer waved to her from the side yard, or as Zwei barked happily at her, wagging his tail and rolling around in the grass. She didn’t say a word to Ruby as she passed her sitting at the island, working on a late lunch. She went straight up the stairs and to her room. She didn’t even bother to close the door. The grip on her pillow was tight- nearly white-knucked as she shoved the fluffy, downy surface into her face, muffling the sound as she let loose all the tension her realization had caused. Even though most of the screaming was out of her system, Yang couldn’t say she was satisfied. She was still reeling, and every muscle in her body was singing with a million different feelings. 

Embarrassment, betrayal, foolishness- it was dumb, and petty, and Yang’s heart burned at how stupid this little fit was, but she just… “ArAhhhhaRgh!” Yang shouted in frustration, dropping down to the floor in a squat. She put her head in her hands and tried to calm herself down. It didn’t matter. It was fine. She was losing her cool for no reason. 

Only no, no there very much was a reason. She had never felt so… so… Yang couldn’t even come up with a word. She couldn’t do this here. There were too many people. Too many eyes, too many worrying parents, too many explanations she’d have to give. She felt like there was a weight settled between her shoulder blades; like there was a fire being stoked inside her, raking at coals. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. It wasn’t like the fire she felt when she looked at Blake. It burned and it bit and it broke, and Yang grit her teeth against it as she popped up, spinning on her heels and striding to her closet. She threw open the doors, flinching slightly at the bang as the doorknob slammed against the wall. Fuck. In the back of her head, she registered the sound of footsteps on the stairs. 

She didn’t care. She kept ripping clothes off her hangers. It didn’t matter which ones. She didn’t grab too many. 

“Yang? Honeybee are you okay? What’s-” She registered Summer’s voice from the doorway. She didn’t want to look at her. She didn’t want to lose focus. 

“No.” If she stopped, she’d lose it. If she explained, it would just spiral out of control, and she’d end up taking it out on Summer, and that wasn’t something she wanted. Her throat was thick, like molasses, and swallowing hurt almost as much as fighting the inane, useless tears biting at the corner of her eyes. 

“Did something happen? Yang honey, please…” Summer sounded desperate, and it only added guilt to the mixing pot of emotions swirling in her at the moment. 

“I’m fine.” She managed, grabbing a bag out of the top of the closet and shoving the clothes inside. She shut the door, and realized she’d need to get to the bathroom to grab her toothbrush and deodorant. 

“Why are you packing clothes? Where are you planning on going, exactly?” Summer’s tone was slowly shifting from concern to agitation. “Yang, answer me please.” 

“I need to go.” She answered, turning toward her mother, although unable to meet her eyes. Summer made an incredulous noise. “ Go? Go where ?” 

Yang clenched the bag in her hand. Her heart was pounding, and her blood was rushing, and her head was in too many places at once and all of it made her very angry. “I need to go… I need-” She tried to calm herself down. “I can’t be here right now… I just…” 

Summer seemed to soften a bit, stepping forward. Yang felt her hands against her cheeks, rough and damp with dirt; she’d been gardening before she’d come up. “Yang, tell me what’s wrong… please, Honeybee. I can help… Raven and Tai can help.” She assured her, and Yang’s stomach dropped from a five story building. She was trying so hard . “Mom… I need to leave.” She managed, her throat tight with the admission. “I need… to- to get this…- I’ve got to get this out. ” She tried to articulate. She didn’t seem to be having too much success. Blake was much better at words than she could ever be. 

The thought was like a kick in the teeth- like the snap of a branch beneath your feet as you climb a great tree; Yang had done that once, when she was younger. Tai had caught her, thank the gods, but she’d never forget that feeling. The rushing of the wind, the feeling of the air being sucked from your lungs, and the gravity being stolen from your insides, and the feeling of the impact- the promise of it- long before you actually hit the ground, rattling around in your bones. 

Yang had never seen her mother flinch before, but she did. Summer Rose flinched, and her hands lifted for half a second, and her face was full of frightened surprise. It took her very little time to recover, but that didn’t matter. Yang needed to go now, before she made anything worse. “I need to go… I’ll come back I just- I just need-...” Yang tried, but the more she spoke the more she ached, the more she fought the bitter, useless tears that just made her angrier.  

“...Yang… honeybee… look at me.” Summer asked quietly, her dirt-damp hands once again gently cupping her cheeks. “Whatever you’re feeling… it’s okay… just take a deep breath for me, okay?” Yang didn’t want to. She didn’t want to because she knew if she did, she’d break, and she’d never stop gasping for air. She didn’t want to, even though her throat was constricted, and her head was pounding. She didn’t even know at what point she’d started holding her breath. 

Yang . Breathe .” The voice that snapped her out of it wasn't Summer. She took a great gasp of air as she felt Raven’s hands on her shoulders, and as she looked up to meet her mother’s gaze, hard with concern, her lips pursed in an anxious frown, she took another. And then another. She was nearly tripping over each breath. She faintly registered the tears rolling down her cheeks, and she hated them- oh how she hated them. But she couldn’t seem to stop. 

Yang’s gasps became sobs, wretched from her throat as Raven pulled her forward, enveloping her in a hug and holding her tighter than Yang thought imaginable. It was cramped, and uncomfortable, and the pressure was suffocating, and Yang never wanted to leave. She buried her face in the security of her mother and she cried. She cried for absolutely no reason. She cried because it was stupid that she was crying at all. She cried because this was so stupid, and she had no reason to be so upset. She cried because this was ridiculous; because she couldn’t even sensibly recall what had made her so upset in the first place. She cried until her eyes were puffy and her cheeks were red, and her throat was ragged and raw. 

And when she was done, she stepped back, and Raven let her go without a word. During her little meltdown, she’d dropped her bag on the floor. She didn’t much see the point now. She’d broken down, and now her moms were going to fuss over her, and she’d have to explain that she didn’t know why she was so upset, and it would be this whole big thing and-

“Go get your things from the bathroom, Yang. I'll finish up here.” Yang blinked in surprise, unsure she’d heard right. “...what?” 

Raven knelt down and picked up the discarded bag. She glanced inside a moment, before sighing in affirmation. “You’ve only packed shirts. You’re going to need more than that.” Yang… was very confused. She tried to blink the soreness from her eyes. “I don’t-…?”

Raven’s gaze was firm, and understanding. “Go get your things from the bathroom. I’ll take care of your wardrobe.”

Yang didn’t have much of an argument left in her. Without a word, head reeling and pounding with the dehydration her tears had brought on, she passed both of her mothers and shuffled toward the bathroom. She tuned out Summer’s frantic whispers, her stomach churning, as she pushed open the door and searched the cupboard for her hygiene products. They each had a bin labeled with their names, courtesy of Summer, where they were to store their things; there were too many of them in the house to pile everything on the sink counter, after all. 

She found her bin and rifled through it, looking for essentials. Her deodorant, her roll of sensitive toothpaste… she considered if chapstick was essential, and ultimately decided to bring it along anyway, if only to bring a smile to her face. She found her toothbrush at the sink with everyone else's, all in one little ceramic holder. It was somewhat ugly, but then, Raven wasn’t exactly the best potter in the world. 

Yang remembered the day that Raven and Summer had brought it home- or the night, rather. Summer had gotten a pottery class coupon from Tai and Yang for mothers day(Raven had gotten a bottle of very nice scotch, and a colorful, squeeze-nozzle juice box which she had the courtesy to act just as impressed by). Summer had insisted that Raven join the fun of her gift, and Tai and Yang had been left for the better part of the afternoon to run about the house without the impending doom of being chided by the two women. Ruby had only been a baby, but then, Yang had only been young too. 

Regardless, Summer and Raven had come home with a few interesting creations. A coil pot for Summer’s flowers, a cylinder-shaped cup for Raven’s pens, and the ugly little toothbrush holder. “Summer and I figured we should have one.” Raven had justified, and the amused, mischievous look on Summer’s face told them it had very much been Raven’s idea. “There's a place for all of our toothbrushes. Even one for Ruby.” 

Yang remembered being confused about that. “But she doesn’t have teeth yet.” She pointed out, and she remembered Tai laughing as Raven smiled a bit herself, pinching her on the chin affectionately. “ She will, Yang. When she gets a bit older. For now it’s just a reminder that she’s a part of our family now. The five of us.” 

The five of us. Yang shook the memories away as she reached over to the little holder and pulled her toothbrush from one of the holes. She needed this. Now that her head was a little clearer, she knew she needed this. She stood there a moment, leaning against the sink, before she thought to turn on the cold water, leaning down and splashing her face. She sputtered at the cold temperature, shaking her head of it, and just taking a moment to breathe in. She couldn’t help but glance up at the mirror as she did, and quickly took notice of the color of her eyes. 

They were purple, but not their usual color. It was perplexing, and stomach churning, but it didn’t make her nearly as sick to her stomach as the bright crimson had nearly a week ago. Yang studied their color in the mirror, moving closer and trying to get some sort of understanding of just what in the hell they were doing recently. It seemed like the red was fading away, bleeding from the center out, and merging back to the purple. She watched for a long while, until all that remained of the vermilion color had collected around the rims of her pupils, slowly fading into a maroon, and finally lightening back to their light lilac color. When she was sure they were back to normal for the time being, and her breathing was under control, she turned the faucet off and grabbed a hand towel off the shelf, patting her face dry. 

Yang ran a hand through her hair, pushing back her now dampened bangs. She didn’t know what was happening anymore. She was so confused, and just… tired. Yang quickly shook herself out of it, turning to the bathroom doorway. She hadn’t bothered to close the door behind her, but thankfully, seemingly no one had peeked in on her. That was probably for the best; she’d scared Summer enough as it was. Guilt crawled its way up her stomach, gnawing away at her with the thought. She hadn’t meant to-... to what? To make her eyes change color? Ridiculous. This whole thing was ridiculous. Yang tried to shove the feeling out of her gut; she tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t there. She didn’t want to jump right back down the rabbit hole- not now, not when she’d finally calmed down. 

Raven was waiting for her in her room. Summer was not. 

Yang shuffled past the doorway and stopped just past the threshold. No sooner than she did, she was startled as a pair of boots were tossed at her feet. They were dingy, and the bottoms were caked with old, dried up dirt that crumbled to the touch as she lifted the pair from the ground at her feet. She recognized them as a pair she used for yard work and the occasional camping trip. “Put those on.” Raven was leaning against the far wall, by her window, arms crossed. Yang’s stomach twisted into a knot. “Why-” 

“You’ll want to change into something warmer too. I packed you enough clothes for the next couple days, so don’t worry about that.” Raven explained, standing upright and moving her hands to her hips. “I’m going to get my things together, and then we’re heading out.” She moved to leave, walking across the length of the room and toward her daughter. Yang, meanwhile, was trying to process what she was saying. “Wait!” She stepped in front of the doorway, blocking it off, and Raven stopped. “What do you mean we’re ‘heading out’? What do you mean ‘we’?” She looked up, searching her mother’s expression. Yang might have hit her growth spurt early in life, and she might have been almost as tall as her father, but Raven was easily taller than the both of them. 

Raven sighed, almost annoyed. “Yang… I’m not just going to let you go off into the woods by yourself for who knows how long. You and I are going to be taking a trip.” 

Yang bristled slightly. “I don’t need a trip, and I don’t need a chaperone. I just… I just-” She struggled, and Raven relaxed her posture. “-You need a place to scream where people can’t hear you.” Yang’s cheeks colored, and she shut her mouth. 

“Look, Yang. I’m still not happy with you for running off last week. I’m still pretty pissed, actually.” Raven admitted, before softening, however slightly. “But you clearly need some R&R.” 

“I don’t need-” Raven rolled her eyes back into her head so far Yang thought they might fall out. “You are just like your father… and your mom.” After a moment of thinking, she tacked onto the end, “...and me.” Her expression was a strange mix of tender and uncomfortable that Yang wasn’t quite sure how to interpret. “I don’t mean a nap, or massage or any of that stupid shit. You relax the best when you’re getting your hands dirty, so that’s what we’re going to do.” 

Yang blinked, confused and admittedly a bit hesitant. “Getting my hands dirty?” Raven nodded. “We’re going to climb a mountain, and you’re going to get all your screaming out where nobody cares, and we’ll find a motel when we’re done.” 

Yang mulled that over. It did sound nice… but then, she had other responsibilities. “I have to work-” 

“I already talked to Tai about it. He’s going to give you tomorrow off to recuperate. Speaking of, Summer is waiting for you downstairs with some of that ointment for your nose.” Raven nodded toward the stairs, and as Yang stepped out of the way, glancing down the stairwell, she moved past her. “We’ll leave at 1. Make sure you have everything you’ll need, alright?” 

Yang, admittedly lost in thought, took a moment before she shook herself out of it, nodding. “Yeah… okay.” 

Raven went down the staircase, not looking back, and Yang tried to get a hold on all her racing thoughts. While having Raven come with her wasn’t exactly ideal… she needed this. She just- she needed to be anywhere but here. She needed to just… stop, and think about all of this.

Raven was waiting for her by the door. She pulled away from Summer’s lips, meeting her daughter’s gaze momentarily as she came down the stairs. “Ready?” She asked, and Yang nodded. “Yeah.” Yang tried to resist the urge to scratch at her chin as she approached her mothers, duffel bag slung over her shoulder. She’d done as Raven had asked and changed into something more appropriate for hiking- just a pair of jeans and another, warmer flannel. She’d waited to put the boots on, not wanting to track through the house. 

As she came to a stop in front of the both of them, Summer slipped a spare hair tie onto Yang’s wrist, reaching up on her tiptoes and kissing her on the cheek. “Be careful, okay?” Yang blushed, but nodded, kissing her mother on the cheek in a goodbye as she moved toward the door. “We’ll be back by tomorrow afternoon, Summer.” Raven assured her as she ushered Yang out the door, handing her the keys. Yang turned them over in her hands as she stepped out onto the front steps, and then down to the cobblestone walkway. She wasn’t familiar with these keys; she’d driven her dad’s truck, and her bike, but neither of those had a set of keys like this. Her dad’s key chain was attached to a lanyard he’d bought at a craft fair, sporting a ridiculous amount of keys compiled from years of use. He never got rid of a key, even if he didn’t use it anymore. The rung weighed nearly two pounds, and easily housed keys for the workshop, the garage, the greenhouse, the truck, a storage locker in town, etc. Her keys weren’t in nearly such disarray. She kept all her keys attached to a carabiner, and although there were a handful, she knew what each one was for. She had a key to the garage, a key to the workshop, a key to the shop itself, a key to the house, and the key to her bike. 

This set of keys wasn’t one she’d seen before, however. There were only two keys- one with a thicker body that she recognized as a car key, and one that was thin and silver. They were connected by a single small key ring, and that was it. Yang turned them over in her hands. They were light, unlike the sets she was used to, that was for sure. Yang looked around. She didn’t know what Raven wanted her to do with these. There wasn’t any car in the driveway besides the truck, and her bike was the only vehicle in the garage. 

She didn’t have to wait long for an explanation. As she was rolling the keys between her fingers in contemplation, Raven stepped out the front door, Summer standing in the doorway and watching as she descended the stairs and made her way to Yang. “Whose keys are these?” Yang asked as her mother sidled up beside her, taking them out of her hands. “Mine.” The answer was curt, and to the point, and Raven didn’t waste much time standing around talking about it. “Since when do you have a car?” Yang asked incredulously, and Raven flicked her in the side of the head in passing. “It’s been a while since I’ve taken her out for a spin.” 

Raven started walking down the drive, and although confused, Yang followed. And then she started down the road, and Yang followed, growing increasingly more confused, and admittedly frustrated. “...Are we taking your car then, or-” 

“Patience, Yang.” Raven chided her. “It’s parked in your dad’s storage locker. Summer tried to get me to sell it when we had Ruby, but I couldn’t just part with it like that.” She looked back at her daughter. “It’s a pretty nice car. I think you’ll find it interesting.” 

The walk was long, and quiet, but it was worth it as they reached the long row of storage containers on the edge of town, and Raven unlocked the door of one toward the middle, lifting the hanger door up. 

Yang had never been inside her dad’s storage locker. She’d known it had existed, and she’d seen the rows of them on her way into town plenty of times, but she’d never actually seen what was inside. It was about what she had been expecting- boxes piled to the ceiling toward the back of the space, and totes and crates bordering the sides. Taking up the majority of the space however, was a large mass covered in a white, dusty looking sheet. Peeking out from the bottom, Yang could see red hub caps, and a red chrome exterior that, although admittedly a bit dusty, looked very promising. Immediately, her interest peaked. Raven, meanwhile, was leaning against the door frame, just barely holding back a shit-eating grin. “Go ahead. Peel off that sheet, and take a look at her.” 

Yang did not hesitate. She grabbed under the sheet and tossed it up toward the roof. There was a ploom of dust, and she covered her face with the crook of her elbow. Once the dust settled, she removed her arm, and promptly gaped. “No fucking way!” She nearly tripped over herself moving closer to inspect the car, gingerly reaching out and touching the smooth surface. It was old- but it was nice. “You had a  Cadillac?” Yang laughed, reached up and pulling the sheet down toward the hood, then entirely off, balling it up and putting it off to the side. She stepped back, leaning against a couple of stacked totes as she processed it, looking over it in its entirety. 

Raven chuckled from the doorway. “Pretty good, right?” She stood up straight and moved to join Yang against the wall. “I got this car for a real steal. You don’t even want to image how much this old girl would have normally cost-” 

“7,700 Lien.” Yang answered, eyes still locked on the car, scanning and noting different features. “Give or take.” 

Raven scoffed in slight amusement. “Well you’ve certainly done your research.” Yang blushed slightly, glancing away from the vehicle momentarily. “I like old cars… I never thought I’d ever have one, but researching them is kinda fun.” She admitted, and Raven couldn’t help but smile a bit to herself. “You’ve ridden in it before, you know.” Yang blinked, looking at her incredulously. “What? When?” 

Raven reached into her back pocket and pulled out her dark leather wallet. She opened it and thumbed through a few pouches, before pulling out a small piece of paper. She held it out for Yang to take, and Yang realized it was an old photo, taken with a Polaroid by the looks of it. She took it gingerly, turning it to better see the subject of the picture. Lo and behold, sitting behind the wheel and in Raven’s lap, shades drooping off her face and hanging on by one ear, was little Yang. The photo had yellowed a bit with age, but it was clear that Raven had kept it in as nice a condition as possible. “You were two then. I used to take you around in this thing all the time.” The corner of Raven’s mouth turned up in amusement. “Your grandfather helped me get it, and you loved riding in it so much…” The smile faded as she glanced at the car, coated in dust, and kept in the locker so many years. 

Yang watched her mother as she lowered the photograph. “Grandad helped you get this?” She followed her mother’s gaze. The air was thick with the silence, and Yang mulled over the photo. Raven had looked so young… so wild and carefree, with her hair flowing over the headrest of the car, and her smile wide and toothy. Sometimes it was surreal for Yang, remembering her parents weren't all that old compared to some of her friends’ parents. Her mother had only been a year or so older in the photo than Yang was now. 

Raven hummed thoughtfully, bringing Yang out of her thoughts. “He was a good man. Gods know we all probably stressed him the hell out…” She tsked, and shook her head slightly. Her eyes had glossed in a way that Yang knew she was remembering those times, before she’d been born, and after. “Tai was working at his shop, and taking on other projects on the side, and Summer was hard at work trying to make friends with everyone in town. I was at my wits end trying to take care of you.” She admitted, and glanced down at her daughter. “No offense, Yang, but you were a terrible baby.” She scoffed, hip-checking her. Yang snorted in turn, rolling her eyes. “I couldn’t have been that bad, or I would’ve heard about it more.” 

Raven laughed, and the sound of it surprised Yang. “You were terrible. The reason you don’t hear about it is because you decided to only be terrible for me.” A thoughtful, almost melancholy look passed over her features. “...and your grandad. You were a little shit for him, too. Tai and Summer never believed us.” 

Yang liked this. She liked hearing about this kind of stuff, although it seemed like she was hearing more and more about it lately. “He used to watch me too, right? Dad mentioned it.” 

She seemed interested to hear that. “Your dad doesn’t like talking about his father. He’s a bit of a crybaby. You inherited that from him, not me.” Raven was quick to shift the blame, although Yang noted the twitch in her nose, and the glassy look to her eyes this conversation was seeming to bring on. “But yes. When I couldn’t take it anymore, he’d step in and take over. I’d go to the safe haven, or the lake not far from here. Sometimes I’d just lay in the backyard and nap out in the sun.” She chuckled faintly. “But back on topic… there was this guy in town- real douche. I guess he was selling it to get a van or a suburban or something instead. I’d never had a car before, or anything nearly that nice. I guess your grandad just… thought I needed something. Something nice.” She smiled at the memory. “He bought it for me, and all he wanted in return was to take over babysitting you during the day, and for me to take him up to Vacuo once a month.” 

“Vacuo?” Yang blinked.

Raven shook her head, her smile coy as she stood up straight. “Not my story to tell. Now,” She tossed the keys to Yang, who caught them easily enough. “Let’s see if she still works.” 

Yang nodded, trying to tone down her excitement as she strode around the car, shuffling past a couple of boxes. Once she’d unlocked the car, she pulled the door out and got into the driver's seat. It was definitely different from her dad’s truck, and entirely so from her bike, but she could manage. Raven lowered herself into the passenger seat, and looked to Yang. “Think you can handle her?” 

Yang did a quick sweep of the controls. Her stomach was twisted in knots, but it wasn’t the bad kind. It was exciting, sitting behind the wheel of such an old, pretty car; gripping the big, thin wheel in her hands. “Yeah… Yeah, I got it.” Yang assured her mother. She put the key in the ignition turned it, and they both listened to the purr as the engine kicked on, sputtering a bit at first, but smoothing out relatively quickly. Raven’s grin was genuine as Yang get the car started, and inside, Yang’s hearts did somersaults with the feeling of it- with the pride of it all. 

She backed the car out easily enough, however slowly. She didn’t want to hit any of her dads totes and boxes. When she’d successfully backed the vehicle out of the garage, she switched gears and started forward, toward the exit to the storage lot. She stopped the car momentarily for Raven to pull the storage door down and lock it, and then they were off. 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

It took nearly an hour to drive to the mountain Raven had been talking about. There were plenty of mountains in the area. Mt. Waldo, Borestone Mt., Acadia Mt.; Yang was fairly certain she’d hiked them all at least once. But this wasn’t any of those places, this was entirely new. Raven gave her directions as they drove, and Yang tried her best to follow them. It was a little difficult, navigating the controls of the old car, but she managed. By the time she pulled down the dirt path, and hit a dead end, her wrist watch read 3 in the afternoon. By the time they started hiking, reached the top and got back to the car, it would be pitch dark out. 

Yang moved to shift the car into reverse, but Raven’s hand reached out and stopped her. “Put her in park, Yang.” 

Yang’s eyebrows furrowed. “It’s a dead end, Ma.” 

“I can see that. Put it in park.” Yang did as she was told, however confused she was. “Shouldn’t we find a trail or something?” Raven shook her head. “We’d have poor luck. There’s no trails for this one.” As Yang turned the key in the ignition, shutting off the engine, Raven opened her door and got out. “Don’t most mountains have trails?” Yang asked as she did the same. But Raven wasn't listening. She was lifting one of her bags out of the back. Yang watched as she pulled out a cap, a pocket knife, and a hair tie, before closing the bag and tossing it to Yang. As Yang caught it, she began to put her hair up in a sloppy ponytail, threading it through the cap and fitting it snugly on her head. It was one of Tai’s caps, stained with primer and worn with use. She put the knife in her back pocket, and looked at her daughter. “I’ll take the lead. Stay close, especially when it starts getting dark. And for the love of the brothers, don’t do anything stupid with the water bottle in there, okay?” Raven made a point of emphasizing that, and Yang’s cheeks burned, but she nodded. 

She threaded her arms through the straps of the bag and fastened the middle piece, and put her hair up in a bun with the hair tie Summer had slipped onto her wrist. 

The hike wasn’t extremely difficult- it was tricky in regards to finding her footing, as there really was no trail to follow, but she held on for the most part. Her body was conditioned for these sort of excursions. That was one thing she was thankful for, if anything: that her family was always doing something that required fitness. Ruby’s running kept her in shape, so hiking had never really bothered her, whenever she decided to wear adequate hiking gear instead of whatever looked good. Her dad was very much in dad-bod territory, but all the heavy lifting he did only meant that that extra layer hid an almost scary amount of muscle. Yang was nearly the same way. The heavy lifting she had to maintain working at the shop and on her bike meant that despite the bulkier frame, she could certainly pull her weight, if not more. Raven and Summer were easily the more wiry of the family, although Ruby fell into that category as well. Raven was accustomed to hiking more than any of them. The Branwen coven was in the mountains, after all. The Branwen coven… 

Yang stopped, holding onto a branch as the thought crossed her mind. Just ahead, Raven pushed on, barely bothered by the increasing incline, or the treacherous roots popping up from the red soil. All around them, the leaves were falling red, and Yang’s head was spinning again. 

“Yang? Keep up. We’re almost to a stopping point.” Raven called back, and Yang knew she should listen. She tried to, truly. Instead, she just stood there, her heart racing in her ears and her breathing ragged. She wanted to like the leaves; she wanted to revel in the pretty colors, and she wanted to enjoy the crunch as her boots stepped through the precarious path her mother had carved for her. She very much wanted to. But all she could see was red. 

She was really starting to dislike that color. 

Before Raven could warn her again, Yang continued up the mountainside, using the trees and boulders as footholds and safeguards. She kept quietly to herself almost the entirety of the trip up the mountain. When they stopped for water on the last leg of it, Yang drank as much as she could stomach, and once Raven had finished the bottle off, they continued. It was harder, in this last leg. The wooded streams and groves of trees became rocky, dangerous terrain, and in the final portion just before the top, a steep, jagged wall of rock. Raven let Yang take the lead, taking the rear to ensure her safety as they climbed. It was slow going, but eventually, Yang’s hand grasped at the last ledge to the top of the mountain. She pulled herself up and breathed in the cold air as the wind blew right through her. 

She could see for miles. The sky was beginning to dim, and she could see the pinkening, goldish hue starting to bleed into blue, clouds rolling overhead in varying shades of gray. They’d gotten lucky- it hadn’t rained the entirety of the day, despite the thick, gross feeling and the drab color indicators that it might. As Raven reached the top, Yang didn’t turn to speak to her. If her mother could tell the mood of the afternoon had soured, she didn’t address it. They stood there for a few minutes, taking in as much cool air as their lungs would allow before Raven took a daring glance up at the sky. “We should head back down, before it gets too dark. The rain will make it harder.” Yang didn’t need to be told twice. 

The rain did make it harder- incredibly so. As darkness approached, the canopy of the trees did little to shield them from the rain. It had taken nearly two hours to climb to the summit of the mountain, and as they trekked down the slippery, muddy slopes, it seemed to be taking much longer. Yang tried not to let the rain bother her. She tried not to let the darkening sky bother her. She tried not to let the fact that her mother had brought her out here to take her to the Branwen coven under the guise of helping her relax bother her. It wasn’t working.

Overhead there was a flash of light that illuminated the trees and Raven making her way cautiously down a rock face just ahead. Yang realized too slowly what that entailed. A crash and boom that rolled deep in the pit of her stomach reverberated through the trees. Yang looked up on instinct, her breath catching and the rain rolling down her face and dripping off her cheeks. She blinked the water from her eyes, and searched for footing. She thought she’d found it, but she was mistaken. The cry caught in her throat as her foot slipped on the wet, slippery surface of a protruding rock. In the hours that those few seconds seemed to last, Yang’s stomach flipped as she prayed she wouldn’t fall forwards and down the hill. She got her wish as her feet kicked upwards, something snapped, and she watched through blurry, watery eyes as Raven turned. 

Their eyes met, Yang’s head smashed into the ground, and there was darkness.

Chapter Text

Yang’s head was spinning. She groaned as her eyes blinked open, immediately shutting them. Her neck and the base of her head felt like they were on fire. She couldn’t even begin to entertain the idea of getting up. And yet...

“Yang?” A very familiar voice pulled her from her pain. The way Yang’s name rolled off of her tongue in that accent of hers… Yang’s heart throbbed along with her head as she managed to lift herself up into a sitting position, blinking open her eyes cautiously. 

She had no idea where they were. All around them the trees were shedding their leaves in shades of red, the ground already littered with them. Trees surrounded them, blocking them into a small circle of clear space. Yang was resting with her back to one of these trees. Blake was standing toward the center of the small clearing, glancing around somewhere between awed and concerned. As Yang grunted with the effort of sitting up, Blake turned her attention back to look at her. She was still wearing the borrowed flannel, Yang noted, her cheeks coloring despite herself. “Yang?” Blake blinked, looking over her a minute and Yang couldn’t keep the goofy little smile that perched itself on the corners of her lips. “Hi…” She gave a little wave. 

“Are we…?” She asked tentatively, looking around, and Yang could only assume. “I guess so. Seems a little early… What are you doing asleep? Isn’t it like, 6?” Yang grunted as she adjusted herself against the tree into a more erect sitting position from the slouch she’d been in before. In the dark of the falling dusk, Yang noted the dark flush of her cheeks. “I must’ve fallen into a nap.” One of her ears twitched, and Yang blinked in the realization that the extra appendages had appeared again atop Blake’s head. “What about you? Why are you asleep?” Blake asked, moving closer and getting down to sit in the dying grass, folding her legs under her as she did. Yang shrugged, trying to ignore the twinge of pain in the back of her head. “I was hiking with my mother… I think I must’ve slipped-” 

Blake’s beautiful features immediately twisted with worry. “Slipped? Gods, are you okay?” She asked, reaching out with a tentative hand. She let it hover between them, as if realizing there was actually very little she could do. This close, even in the dark, Yang could see the conflict in her eyes. She reached out and took Blake’s hand in her own, gently turning it over and running her thumb over the textured surface of her palm. “I’m here talking to you, so I guess that’s as good a sign as any.” She chuckled softly, and Blake’s ears twitched. 

They settled into a comfortable silence, and around them the rain pitter pattered away against the fallen leaves. Yang hardly noticed the damp little droplets as they landed one by one atop her head; she was soaked enough already. Blake looked up at the sky as the rain came down, letting her cheeks deflect the drops and catch in her lashes. Yang’s heart ached at the sight of it. “You make me feel nervous.” Yang found the words leaving her lips before she could really regret them. They tasted like relief, and like something terribly exciting. Blake blinked away the droplets of rainwater, and then those eyes were on her, and Yang’s knees went weak as, in the softest tone Yang could imagine she’d ever heard, Blake countered the admission. “You make me feel calm.” 

Yang’s cheeks flushed against her better judgement, and all she could do was stare. “How do you do that...?” She asked, and Blake turned her head to look away; at the leaves, at the trees, at the rain- it didn’t matter what she was looking at- she was trying not to look at Yang. The movement of her ears twitching as the rain fell against the thin tissue caught Yang’s attention, and she noted the movement of Blake’s hand coming up to brush a strand of curling dark hair behind her human ear. “... how do I do what?” 

Yang could have laughed. But she didn’t. Instead she leaned her head back against the tree, and closed her eyes, and took a deep inhale through her nose. They were never going to get anywhere if they didn’t talk about these things. “When you speak… you’re always so sophisticated, and mysterious… and you say things that just…” Yang swallowed and tried to ignore the blush creeping up her neck and to her ears. She tried to pretend she couldn’t feel Blake’s eyes on her as she spoke. “...You have a talent for saying things that drive me crazy.” 

She wasn’t expecting to feel Blake’s hand on hers, laying casually in the dead, wet leaves and grass. She wasn’t expecting to feel the textured surface of Blake’s palm sliding against her own, or her fingers to interlace with Yang's. Yang was suddenly all too aware of how warm her hands were, and how earthy and damp and dirty they were from the muddy climb down the mountain. She was all too aware, suddenly, of the fact that she was soaked from head to toe, as she opened her eyes and watched as Blake settled herself against the side of the tree beside Yang. Her nice pinstripe pants were damp with rain and mud, and Yang’s stomach churned with guilt. But Blake didn’t seem to care. Her gaze was upward, and her hair fell in damp wavy clumps over her forehead and against the tree, and her expression was so blissful that Yang’s soul sang just looking at her. 

“You make me feel calm, because everything you do is for other people…” She murmured, staring up at the sky. “You see I’m uncomfortable and you give me a choice to pull away… you put other people’s health before your own… you help people because it’s the nice thing to do, not because you’ll get anything out of it.” The darkness was becoming thicker and thicker, and Yang’s eyes strained to see Blake in the dark, but then, she supposed she didn’t need to see her. She could feel Blake’s shoulder against her own, and she could hear the soft, close sound of her voice, and she could feel the warmth of her hand. “...not everyone is like you…” 

Yang stayed quiet for a moment. She let Blake’s testimony echo through the red, dying trees of the forest. She let the weight of the words bear down on her heart and settle in the little space where her butterflies were caged, fluttering away in the pit of her stomach. Overhead, the moon began to shine through the trees, and Yang was thankful for it’s soft glow. They sat in silence, admiring it for what seemed like ages. Yang wanted to say more, but the words stuck in her mouth. Every moment she dared speak, was a moment that passed before she could gather the courage to actually do it. On and on it went, and she wrestled with herself as the night drew on. 

Beside her, Blake shivered in the cold of the autumn night, and Yang watched from the corner of her eye as she nestled ever so slightly into the collar of Yang’s flannel. It was surely damp with the rain, but Yang supposed it was warmer than nothing. An idea came to mind then, and Yang’s cheeks flushed with the thought. She cleared her throat, and Blake tore her glance away from the moon, looking over her shoulder at her with those tender golden eyes. Yang’s resolve wavered for a moment, before she squared up, trying to calm her nerves. “Are you cold…?” She asked, Blake blinked at her, her eyes shining under the thin beams of moonlight filtering through the trees. “Yes… it’s-” She bit her lip, and if Yang had been standing, her legs probably would have been jelly. “-It’s colder here than I’m used to, admittedly…” 

That piqued Yang’s interest. “That’s right, you guys just moved into town…” Yang mulled that over. “Where did you guys move from?” Blake tensed as she asked the question, and immediately Yang feared she’d messed up. “You uh- you don’t have to answer that…” She bit the inside of her cheek and tore her gaze away, looking back up at the moon, before letting her gaze wander across the clearing. There was more silence, before Blake broke it, surprising Yang. “You’re a witch, aren't you.” It wasn’t a question, the way she asked it. 

Yang let her gaze wander down to her free hand, draped over her knee. “Half witch. Since you’re asking, I’m guessing you are...?” She turned her gaze to Blake, and found her tucking her chin even farther into the flannel, almost ashamedly. “....I am.” came the quiet confirmation. 

Yang didn’t push her questions any further, and Blake didn’t provide any more information on her own. Instead, Yang scooted closer to her, if only ever so slightly. “...are you still cold?” 

Blake it seemed, couldn’t help the little smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth and dimpled her cheeks. “...yes.” She admitted, and her tone was low with amusement, and curiosity.

“Well… someone once told me I give off a lot of heat…” Yang ventured, and Blake tried to hide her grin and the flush of her cheeks in the collar of the over sized, borrowed flannel. Yang grinned in turn, Blake’s amusement infectious. She almost wasn’t prepared as Blake shuffled closer, leaning until her head rested comfortably on Yang’s shoulder. She smelled like flowers, and something rich, like fresh brewed coffee, and Yang’s stomach nearly flipped on itself. “Someone was correct… You’re practically a space-heater…” Blake murmured, and Yang could feel the movement of her cheeks against the fabric of her sleeve. “I suppose that’s good for situations like this… I’d hate for you to get pneumonia from one of these… dreams…” Yang bit her lip. And Blake snorted slightly. “With your track record, I’d say you’re the more likely out of the two of us to get sick…” 

Yang liked this. Her heart felt heavy, but in a good way. She liked the weight of Blake against her shoulder, and she liked the ever increasing ease with which they were talking. She liked the comfortable silences they shared in between banter, and she liked the feeling of Blake’s hand intertwined with her own. 

“Maybe it’s just me, but, this dream seems longer than the others have been…” Blake murmured, and Yang almost didn’t catch it. 

Now that she was mentioning it, Yang supposed it was carrying on much longer than normal. “I guess you're right.” she acknowledged. Blake shifted, and Yang felt the turn of her head as she looked up to meet Yang’s eyes, not lifting her head from it’s resting place. The droplets of rainwater that had accumulated in her hair dripped down onto her lashes as she looked up through them at Yang, and suddenly Yang was very much back to her heightened state of nerves and overthinking. “How do these things usually come to an end?” She asked, her ears twitching, and her gaze curious. Yang swallowed, and attempted to laugh it off. “Well… I guess, usually…” Yang mulled over the best way to answer without making Blake uncomfortable. “Usually something happens that makes my heart beat really fast. I think it’s a self defense thing…” She tried to articulate, hoping that made at least a semblance of sense. “I see…” Came Blake’s reply, and Yang took note of the curious, contemplative tone of her voice. “So, when we were dancing…”

“-and you got so close…” It was Yang’s turn to blush, turning to hide her face in the collar of her own flannel. “Ah…” Blake’s vocalization of her understanding sent an embarrassed heat coursing hot through Yang’s veins. 

“Yang.” Yang really didn’t want to look at her. She didn’t want to look at those ember-amber eyes and fall any further down the well. She didn’t want to look and get pulled in, and she didn’t want to make this… whatever this was, any harder on Blake. It wasn’t fair for her to push her feelings onto Blake, whatever it was she was feeling, anyway. 

“Yang.” This time, she didn’t have a choice. She felt Blake’s hand slip away from hers, and the absence of her fingers intertwined with Yang’s left her with an immediate rift of need that quite frankly, scared her. But not nearly as much as feeling Blake’s hands glide up her arm, just barely brushing the fabric, ghosting over her collarbone. “Blake-” Yang centered her gaze on those hands, and then to meet Blake’s eyes as she felt her turn and readjust herself more comfortably turned toward Yang. 

This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening. She could barely form a coherent thought as Blake’s dainty, textured hands rested delicately against her cheek, her thumb running smoothly over the freckles there, dispersing what raindrops had been perched on Yang’s sharp features. 

Yang could see the thoughts rolling around in Blake’s head and behind her eyes, and in every little twitch of her ears. They were incredibly close now, and as Blake seemed to lean closer and closer, Yang’s heart pounded in her chest. “Blake..” Yang tried again, barely a whisper. She watched as Blake’s expression shifted into something complicated- something tinged with fear and uncertainty. Her eyebrows furrowed, and those golden eyes searched Yang’s relentlessly. “I’m sorry- I…” She blinked, faltering, shaking her head ever so slightly. Yang’s expression immediately turned to one of concern, and reassurance. “Hey… it’s okay…” 

Blake immediately shook her head, looking away from Yang and scowling. “No it’s- It’s not okay…” She sighed, slumping slightly and gripping the fabric of the flannel. “I’m so sorry, Yang…” Her voice croaked, and Yang was startled to realize Blake was very much upset about this. Her heart ached at the sound of the shallow breaths Blake was taking, and the effort she was putting into not crying. Yang wondered if this was what it was like when she broke down. “I’m so sorry, Yang.” Blake managed to breathe out, wiping at the corner of her eye quickly. 

Yang tried to understand. She very desperately wanted to understand, and to make Blake happy again. “You don’t have to apologize…” She tried gently, taking Blake’s free hand in her own. “You have nothing to apologize for-” But Blake slipped her hand away, and the hand that had been caressing Yang’s cheek slipped away too. 

“Yes, I do.” Her tone held a bite to it, and Yang blinked at the seriousness of the situation. “I’m a coward-” 

Yang’s brow furrowed immediately. “You are not a coward-”

“Yes I am, Yang.” Her eyes were tired, and Yang could see the hurt in them, reflected with the pale moonlight. “All I do is run away… I ran away from my old life, and I ran away from my partner, and I’m running away from this, and from you, and it’s not fair to you, an- and-” She started to fall apart as the last end of the sentence trailed from her lips, gasping for breath, and Yang leaned forward immediately, taking her hands slowly and softly. “Blake. Listen to me…” She began, swallowing down the nerves and the urge to hold her tight and never let go. “You are not a coward.” Each word was a promise, and the weight of them leaving her tongue felt like freedom, and like something dangerous. “I don’t know what your partner did to you… I don’t know how you got all these little scars, or why you look so scared to talk about your past and your life… but leaving whatever, or whoever caused that… that is strength.” She affirmed the last bit most. “Not cowardice.” She could feel her blood surging, and her heartbeat singing in her ears with the anger bubbling inside her. But not at Blake. Never at Blake. “You are not a coward…” She reaffirmed softly, reaching up ever so gently until her hands cradled Blake’s cheeks, wiping the tears from where they pooled just under her lashes. Blake leaned into the touch, and Yang’s heart melted with the relief that washed over Blake’s expression at the declaration. 

“You don’t have to have any part of this, Blake… Whatever ‘this’ is…” Yang murmured. “I know you didn’t really have a choice these last few times.. A-and I can’t really control these dreams…” Yang faltered, flushing as she tried to assure Blake. The last thing she wanted was for Blake to feel like she was obligated to feel anything back, or to entertain these bizarre dream meetings. “...You don’t have to run away from me, or from this... because I won't force you to stay.” 

Yang wasn’t prepared for the look of absolute relief that practically radiated from Blake’s expression, or for her to wrap her arms around Yang’s neck, or for her to bury her face in the crook of Yang’s neck. Yang’s heart palpitated with the sudden advance, and she blinked in surprise as she took a moment to get used to the feeling. Once she had a handle on the fact that this was actually happening, she returned the embrace, wrapping her arms around Blake and holding her. After a while, there was a sniffle from Yang’s shoulder, and Blake gave a small, tentative chuckle, hidden in a sniffle. “You really are super warm..” She swallowed, and sniffled and tried to right her tears, letting her head rest comfortably against Yang’s shoulder. Yang tried to ignore the fact that Blake’s breathing was hot on her neck, or that she’d turned and adjusted herself so she was practically cradled in Yang’s arms. Yang wanted very much to not make Blake uncomfortable, and if being held like this was what she needed, Yang could manage her crush, and push it aside. So she smiled, and let her head rest against the tree. “That’s me… resident space heater.” She smirked, and Blake snorted at the retort. She couldn't see her with her head tipped back, but Yang imagined Blake was smiling. 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

For a moment, Yang didn’t even realize she’d woken up. The rain pitter pattering away and the throbbing in her head made it hard to distinguish dreams from reality, but the absence of Blake in her arms was the first sign that something was off. Her eyes opened, and her guard was immediately up as she glanced around. 

This was not the slope she’d fallen down. This wasn’t even the forest. She moved to sit up, taking stock of her surroundings. Her head pounded in agitation as she turned quickly on her side, swinging her legs over the bed- that was another thing. She was in a bed. It was full sized, and the down comforter was thick and soft as she pulled it back. Her cheeks flushed as she noted the fact that she very much was not in the clothes she’d been wearing on the hike. Someone had changed her into a shirt, and an over sized pair of sweatpants. She would say the shirt smelled clean, but that would be a lie. It smelled like something irony, and something acrid, and she could stick her finger through a couple of worn holes in the sleeves. She tried not to dwell on it, glancing around at her surroundings despite the twinge in the back of her head that made her clench her jaw. 

She was in some sort of cabin, it looked like. The room she’d been passed out in appeared to be the bedroom, although there wasn’t too much in it. There was a dresser beside the bed, and Yang thought quickly to look through it. There might be something she could use, after all. The drawer was unlocked, and she pulled it open as quietly as the wood would allow, unsure if she was alone in the cabin. There wasn’t much inside, at first glance. A bottle of Tylenol, a few slips of paper with numbers written on them- the longer she snooped, the more she wanted to close the drawer. But, it wasn’t entirely fruitless. Near the back of the drawer, tucked behind a balled-up receipt, Yang found a pocket knife. Her relief was palpable as she clenched it in her fist and closed the drawer. She didn’t know where her mother was, but if she was going to have to fight her way out of here, having a weapon sounded like better odds. The rest of the room was pretty much empty. There was a window against the far wall, but the shutters were down, and Yang didn’t want to risk being seen. So she set her sights on the bedroom door. 

She started slowly, unsure if the floor was particularly creaky. She was lucky- for the most part, the wood paneling seemed pretty stable. She was nearly to the door when from somewhere else in the cabin, the sound of a door closing echoed, and heavy footsteps thundered closer and closer. Yang tensed, her heart racing. She gripped the knife tightly in her hand and moved quickly to the side of the door that would hide her if anyone decided to come in. She just had to be quick, and she could make her escape. Hopefully, Raven wasn’t somewhere inaccessible. She wouldn’t have much time once she struck out at their captor. 

The footsteps got a lot closer, and Yang’s heart was racing. She flicked open the pocketknife and tensed behind the door, waiting. There was a thud, like they were taking off their shoes. Yang paled. If their shoes were off, she wouldn’t hear them coming. She swore internally and tried to press herself as far into the corner as possible, straining her ears and keeping her eyes trained on the door. Yang waited until the door had opened, and the shadow of a man loomed over the dark room, illuminated from behind. She tried to keep her breathing as quiet as possible. It took a moment for the man to realize that the bed was empty, the sheets thrown back, and the second he did, swearing under his breath, Yang took her chance. She rushed out, checking him with the door- or at least trying to. As the door swung out, the man hopped out of the way, narrowly missing it and turning on his heels toward her as the door swung nearly closed, only a thin strip of light streaming out. Yang wasted no time. She rushed him, swinging out with her unarmed fist. He caught it, grunted as he ducked back from her in the darkness. Yang grit her teeth, trying not to let her fright leak through as she kicked out with her leg in a way she’d learned from Nora. Her foot connected with his ankle, and he came crashing down, but unfortunately, his grip on her fist didn’t budge, and Yang went toppling down as well. Before she knew what was happening, he had his arms around her, holding her tightly and keeping her from moving her arms. “LET ME GO!” She screamed at him, thrashing. She clenched the knife in her hand, her fist shaking with the effort of trying to force her arms out of his death grip. She had to get out of here. She had to find her mother, and they had to go. “I SAID LET. ME. GO!” Yang threw her head back, and she nearly screamed as the back of her head collided with the man’s forehead. The arms released immediately, and the man swore. Yang didn’t bother to attack. She booked it, ignoring the stars flashing in her vision.

She didn’t get very far. 

The headbutt left her disoriented, and her mad dash to the door was more of a stagger and a swaying motion. It took her a moment to register the second male frame standing in the doorway, even as she smacked directly into it. Before she could do anything about it, another pair of arms was wrapped around her, she tried to swing out with the knife, but the first man had gotten to his feet, and he wrestled it from her hand before she could do any serious damage. “Let me go- Let me GO!” She struggled, and the second man held her tighter. “Calm down, Yang! You’re fine!” A familiar, gruff voice barked, and Yang froze in recognition. Her heart was thundering in her chest, and in the dark of his ridiculously tall shadow, she looked up, searching his features. “...Uncle Qrow..?” She breathed, and he moved his arms away, gripping her by the shoulders instead. “Take a deep breath, kid…” His tone was serious, and Yang tried to do as he instructed. She took a shaky breath, blinking as she tried to focus on his face. The impact from before made her lightheaded, and she tried to keep standing, but her knees decided she didn’t have much choice in the matter. Qrow caught her as she started to drop. “I got ya, Yang…” He gruffed, lifting one of her arms over his shoulder in support. “Come on, let's go sit in the kitchen, where I can see ya.” 

He helped her out the doorway one little step at a time, until she got her bearings toward the end of their little walk, sitting down in one of the wooden chairs at the little table in what Yang supposed could pass for a kitchen. When she had helped Fox and Yatsuhashi move into their dorm it had looked something like that, albeit not in a log cabin. 

Qrow took the seat across from her, and from the room they’d exited, the other man emerged. Now that she could see him, she took the opportunity to try and figure out just who he was, and if she’d seen him before. He was certainly handsome, and appeared to be just as outlandishly tall as her uncle. He had a very chiseled face, and where her uncle was much like her mother in fact that they were both wiry and lean, this strange man appeared to be largely muscle, and a wide-set frame. “Who are you?” She didn’t hesitate to ask, and furrowed her brow as her uncle chuckled into the mug of coffee he’d apparently left sitting on the table. 

Regardless, the man smiled in a way that Yang couldn’t decide whether it was coy or purposefully smug. “My name is Clover. I’m… I help your uncle maintain this place.” He provided, and Yang didn’t entirely trust that answer. Regardless, she relaxed if only a tiny bit. Her attention turned to her uncle. “Where’s Ma? How did I get here? Whose clothes are these-” 

Qrow grimaced as his coffee spilt onto his shirt after a bit too large of a mouthful. He set the mug down on the table and sighed, leaning back and scratching at the back of his neck. “Alright, alright. Easy there, firecracker.” He gruffed. “Raven went to go close up the car, so you’d have a way home once you’re back on your feet. I told her I’d handle it if you woke up before she got back, and well, here we are.” He shrugged, crossing his arms over his chest. Behind him, Clover shuffled on his feet for a moment before moving over to one of the counters where a kettle was resting. He got out two more mugs and poured them about halfway full each, puttering around looking for what Yang assumed was sugar and or cream. “Raven told me you slipped while you were climbing down the mountain- I’m afraid that’s my fault.” Her uncle sighed as Clover set a mug down in front of Yang and sipped from his own, leaning against the counter. “I’ve set charms all over this place. Raven said she was warding against them all the way up, but by the looks of it, she missed one.” 

That piqued Yang’s interest. “Charms? Why do you need to put charms all up the mountain?” She let the hot mug rest in her hands, enjoying the heat soaking through the porcelain and into her palms. Qrow’s brow furrowed, and he looked at her like it should have been obvious. “To keep other covens from snooping around.” Yang blinked, the confusion clear on her face, and Qrow sighed, sitting upright and resting his arms on his knees. “Has your mother told you anything about your coven, Yang?” 

Yang blushed, and glanced away from his prying eyes. “I mean… I know about the Dreaming… and that the Branwens have more person-based magic… and that they don’t like half-witches.” 

“And that’s it?” Qrow clarified, and Yang nodded. That was more or less it, that she could recall. The exhausted look on her uncle’s face as he hung his head might normally have been entertaining, but now it just made her nervous. “Kid, there are a ton of things that you don’t know. There are probably more things that you don’t know about our coven than could fit on this mountain.” He scratched at the scruff dotting his jaw, and once he’d taken a minute to contemplate his sister’s life choices, by the looks of his expression, he looked up at her. “Alright… What do you want to know. Give me something to start with, here.” 

Yang searched her brain for something she could ask him to elaborate on. “You said you charmed the mountain, and me falling was because of that. What were those charms, and why were you trying to keep other covens out?” She felt good about that question. Hopefully he could give her some worthwhile information. He seemed to have expected that to be her first question. He mulled it over for a moment, and then took a sip of his coffee, setting it down on the table again with a light splash that didn’t quite make it out of the cup. “Your mother’s told you that members of our coven typically see their magic manifest in specific ways?” Yang nodded, and Qrow continued. “My specialization is in misfortune charms. I naturally expel bad luck, but if I want to harness that, I focus my intent on an object, usually a pouch I’ve filled with objects from the area, like moss or pebbles, or root, and I leave it in that area, hidden somewhere in a tree, or brush, or under an unmarked stone.” He explained. “I’ve left them all over the mountain. They’ll only affect witches who aren’t Branwens.” 

Yang’s expression twisted slightly at that, and Qrow realized the insensitivity of the subject. “Yang… that’s- I didn’t mean it like that. You’re as much a Branwen as your mother and I-”

“That’s a lie, and you know it uncle Qrow.” She sighed, leaning back in her chair and glancing sidelong at her coffee. “You said Ma was warding against your charms… I thought you said that it doesn't affect Branwens. Was she doing that for me, then?” 

Qrow nodded. “She couldn’t be sure if they’d affect you or not. She said you could enter the safe-haven, but that your magic had been going haywire lately, and she was scared it wouldn’t help you out here.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, and Yang sat in silence, mulling over the answer as she lifted the coffee to her lips. It was black and bitter and it mingled in her stomach, rolling over itself agitatedly as she scowled, trying to think of something else to ask. “You didn’t answer my question about the other covens. About why you’re trying to keep them out.” Qrow nodded in a way that she recognized as a gesture that he’d been hoping she wouldn’t ask. “Our coven is very old, Yang, and very powerful…” He began. “There are thousands of covens all over the world. Some are relatively new, and some have been around for thousands of years. There are a few that have a more...exciting history than others. Ours included.” He took a drink of his coffee, and shifted his weight in his chair a bit. “Our coven is one of the few that draw our magic from our connection to people. All Branwen magic is an inward force, and all Branwen magic affects people in some way or another. And other covens fear that. Others covens want that for themselves.” The serious tone of his voice was unexpected from her uncle, but then, she supposed this was a serious topic. 

“You and Ma both left the coven… why? I know Ma left because… because of me being a half witch, but-” Yang faltered, swirling her coffee around in her mug. “Why did you leave?” 

She wasn’t prepared for the guilty look that she caught passing over her uncle's face, or the increasingly awkward expression Clover tried to hide behind his coffee mug. “Yang…” Qrow sighed, scratching at his chin in a habit she was very familiar with. He shook his head, and scoffed in a dire attempt at feigning amusement. “You really know how to pick the hard hitting questions, huh?” Yang didn’t like the way he was trying to divert her attention. Something she’d said had made him uncomfortable. Part of her felt bad, but another, larger part wanted to know what on earth could make her laid-back uncle so rigid with tension. Regardless, he continued on. “I left because I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to see places past the camp, and I wanted to meet other witches, from other covens…” His gaze flashed to Clover leaning against the counter, before settling back on her again. 

“You said you charmed this mountain to keep other witches away from the coven, and that the coven is a camp-” Yang searched for clarification, setting the mug down on the table again and leaning back in her chair. “Mom said that the Branwen coven was in the mountains… Did she bring me here to take me to them?” She asked, and Yang watched as a handful of emotions flashed over her uncle's face. “Yang-” 

“Answer the question, Uncle Qrow.” her expression hardened. She should have known. “Please.” She tacked on, softening ever slightly. It wasn’t her uncle's fault. This wasn’t his fault, or his idea. 

“No, Yang.” He answered her quietly, his gaze iron clad as he maintained eye contact with her. “Your mother would never in a million years take you to the Branwen coven.”

Yang’s brow furrowed at that. “She wanted to. She said she almost took me when I was three or four, when my eyes first turned red. And then recently I lost control of them, and she made me go hiking to meet up with them.” Yang had never seen her uncle look so pale, and that was saying a lot, considering he was nearly white as a sheet most of the time. 

“Yang… Your mother did take to the coven when you were three.” He admitted. “And that was a mistake.” 

“I don’t understand- Qrow what are you talking about?” Yang blinked, trying to wrap her head around the new information. Qrow was rubbing his face with the crook of his hand, looking very much like he was debating on telling her more. “Qrow…” Clover warned, although his tone was more worried than anything as he set his coffee down and moved as if to comfort him. Qrow raised a hand, silently asked him not to. Slowly, Qrow removed his hand from his mouth. “Yang… I swore to the brothers and heaven and hell and everything between that I wouldn’t speak a word of what happened that night to you or to anyone…” He started, and Yang did not like that at all, or the tone with which he said it. “Uncle Qrow…?” She breathed, and he shook his head, as though trying to forget whatever was troubling him. 

“Raven will never take you back to them again. She can’t. If she ever does, they will kill her for her treachery, and then they will kill you.” His voice cut with an edge she had never heard before, and she didn’t like the way it dug into her. She didn’t like the way her stomach twisted with fear, or the way her heart thundered in her chest with the terrifying admission. “What…?” She asked, her voice quieter than she had intended, but it seemed that’s all she had the will to muster in response. “Qrow…” Clover tried again, this time touching his shoulders tenderly. Qrow reached up and gripped one of his hands, clearly needing the touch. “It’s okay… they only come back to this location every fifty years. They’re somewhere in Mistral, and they should be there for another forty or so years…” Qrow muttered to himself, as if trying to reassure the both of them. 

“Uncle Qrow, please- what do you mean they’ll kill us? That’s insane ! Why would they do that?” She blustered, feeling her pulse race. She pushed herself to stand. “Is it really that bad that my eyes keep changing? It’s not hurting anyone- it doesn’t hurt me, o-or them, so why-”

“Branwen eyes don’t do that, Yang.” Qrow's voice cut through her questions shattering glass. “Branwen Dreamers don't change eye colors like that. Not even the nightmare-strain Dreamers like your mother and I.” Yang… Yang didn’t know what to do with that information. “I don’t-” 

“The Branwen coven can never know you’re alive, Yang.” Qrow’s gaze was hard as stone, and the crumbling rust color of his eyes bore into her as she tried to keep herself calm. 

“As far as they’re concerned, you died 15 years ago.”

Chapter Text

“...What?” Yang wasn’t sure she was breathing. She must’ve just misheard. “That can’t be-” She blustered, trying to wrap her head around all of this. This must have just been some kind of bad joke. Uncle Qrow was typically scheming with Ruby about something or other- this must’ve been one of those times. She tried to assure herself of this, but then, there was no reason he’d ever pull something like that on her, even as a joke. “What do you mean, ‘I died 15 years ago’.” She tried to keep her cool, but it was proving increasingly more difficult. 

“Yang… I can’t tell you-” 

“Bullshit!” Yang snapped, and there was an audible crack. She watched as Clover’s expression dropped into surprise, and even Qrow looked tense. He slowly stood from his seat, taking a step toward her with his hand raised, as though to touch her shoulder in a calming way. She might have let him, if she wasn't beyond confused, and absolutely pissed. “Yang-” 

“What do you mean you can’t tell me ?” She seethed. “You drop a bomb that big and then you can’t tell me ?” Her blood was boiling. Yang didn’t think she’d ever been so angry in her life. She stepped back from him as he reached forward, and watched the guilt rolling over her expression, and his eyes. “Kid, you gotta trust me-”

Trust you?” Yang nearly laughed at the absurdity of the request. “I don’t fucking trust any of you now!” She clenched her fists, trying to maintain at least a little bit of control. “My mother has been keeping this secret for what, 15 years now? Everything she’s ever told me about the coven sounds like its essentially a big fucking lie, and you apparently knew about all of this, and you still wont tell me a thing!” 

“Yang, I can’t tell you, because I swore I wouldn’t-” Qrow tried to reason with her, but Yang was so very far away from reasoning. “Oh and who did you swear that to? The coven who apparently thinks I’m dead? My traitor mother?” Qrow’s expression quickly hardened. “Your mother has put herself in more danger than you can ever imagine for you, Yang. I suggest you think about that.” Something fluttered in Yang’s chest, and for a moment she softened with slight regret, but it was quickly simmered over with her anger. She clenched her fists until the pain was the only thing distracting her from lashing out. “As far as I know, everything she’s told me has been a lie.” 

“It hasn’t been a lie Yang…” Qrow tried, but Yang wasn’t having it. She wasn’t in the space for his comfort, and she didn’t want it. “Really? Because she told me the coven kicked her out because I would have been a half witch. She and Summer told me that they didn’t want what happened to the Arcs to happen to them.” Yang looked up at her uncle, her eyes burning in her head. She could feel a tension headache coming on, and her forehead was pounding along with her heart. “Was that a lie?” 

Qrow seemed to realize he wasn’t getting anywhere trying to comfort her. He leaned against the edge of the table instead, crossing his arms across his chest. He looked like he was mulling it over- like he was searching for the right words. “...The Branwen coven is powerful, Yang. I’ve already told you that they don’t mix well with others. If anything- If you- would have risked that power at all…” 

“Was. It. A. Lie.” Yang’s patience was running thin. She needed to hear it. She needed to feel like she wasn’t going crazy. “Was it all a lie.” She managed, and she hated the burning behind her eyes. She hated it. She hated the blurring as she felt her eyes welling up. Qrow seemed to soften, at least in his expression as he noticed the glazing over of her eyes. “...it wasn’t, at first.” 

It wasn’t what she wanted to hear. It wasn’t a definitive yes, or a resounding no. But it made her ache all the same. The tears burned hot as they rolled thick and fast down her cheeks, collecting under her chin and dropping to the hardwood. 

“...I can’t tell you anything about that night. I want to. I want to tell you everything, kiddo…” Qrow’s face twisted in a sad, regretful frown. “...But I can’t. I swore a blood oath to your mother.” 

He caught Yang’s attention with that. “A blood oath…?” She tried to pull herself together, sniffling. Qrow nodded, his fingers dancing around the rim of his mug, left discarded on the table, still half full and billowing with steam. “Branwen blood is a powerful thing. Our magic is internal, for the most part, but that means more than just intent and parlor tricks. Our blood is incredibly potent, and binding.” He tried to explain as delicately as possible. His niece was incredibly fragile right now, and he didn’t appear to blame her for that. It was a lot to take in. “I can’t tell you about what happened at the camp. I’m bound against it.” He stopped playing with the mug and met Yang’s eyes, his expression tender, and determined. “...But I never swore anything about when she brought you here and made me swear in the first place.” 

Yang blinked, and swallowed, trying to ignore the lump in her throat and the tracks on her cheeks. “Tell me. Please…” She managed, and he gestured to the table, and for her to sit. She shook her head no. They were doing this on her terms. No one else's. 

Qrow seemed to respect that. He took a seat himself, tucking his lanky legs and getting situated. “It wasn’t so rainy, like today, when she brought you here.” He started, clearing his throat. “It was actually very clear. The stars were out, and it was warm- almost unseasonably so.” He recalled, swirling the coffee in his mug, his expression thoughtful. “The cabin wasn’t nearly this nice back then. I’d just started putting it together, with some help from your old man and his dad. They weren’t allowed on the mountain, so I had to settle for just asking for tips here and there.” Qrow informed her. “I was going to be traveling as much as possible, but I wanted a place to come back to. I didn’t want to take up space with you and your parents, and Ruby on the way. I figured it was a better plan to have a more permanent place to stay when I came back to town.” This wasn’t what she wanted to hear about, and he knew that, but admittedly, listening to him tell the story in such a way, Yang felt her anger dying down, at least slightly. Maybe that was his intent, maybe not, but he continued regardless. 

“The cabin was half-finished, but it was livable. I was staying here the night Raven took you to them. She recognized the cabin and broke in, and I woke up expecting to find an intruder, but…” Qrow trailed off, and Yang could imagine he was remembering exactly what he’d seen that night. “...instead, it was Raven, she was covered in soot, and she was shaking like a leaf. I’ve never seen her so traumatized…” He murmured thoughtfully. He looked up at his niece then, his expression unreadable. “She was holding you to her, and I tried to take you- to get her to sit down, at the very least. Her grip on you was like iron and the second I touched you- wrapped in her jacket and as far as I could tell, unconscious- she snapped. It’s like she couldn’t see me.” He recalled. “She said ‘If you touch her I’ll kill you’ and Yang… I have never seen her so scared and so blatantly murderous.” 

Yang… Yang didn’t know how to feel about that. About the mental image of her mother cradling her, on the verge of lashing out at her uncle- her uncle who, despite her feigned annoyance- she always seemed to enjoy the company of. Her own twin. 

Qrow brought her out of her thoughts, continuing his story. “I can’t tell you what she told me. But once she’d calmed down I helped her get you settled on my pullout mattress. You were covered in soot too, and what little bits of your pajamas hadn’t been burned away were in rough shape. She’d wrapped you up in her leather jacket, but it was admittedly cold in the husk of a cabin. I was going to give you a spare shirt of mine, or another jacket- whatever I had on hand. But then I felt your forehead. You were burning up. You were roasting, and sweating all over. Raven held you, and I sponged you down with cold water until you cooled off a bit.”

Yang’s brow furrowed at that, in confusion and in frustration. “I don’t understand-” 

“And I’m sorry for that, Yang.” Qrow frowned at her. “I wish any of this could make sense. But I can’t make that happen. I can only tell you what I saw.” 

Yang didn’t interrupt again, and Qrow continued. “Once you were cooled down and sleeping soundly, Raven told me what had happened at the camp. And then she made me swear that I would never tell you what happened that night at the Branwen coven. I don’t think she was thinking clearly, or she would have bound me from talking about the event at all, but…” Qrow rubbed at the scruff of his chin. “Raven was pretty upset by the entire ordeal, and… it’s certainly understandable. Raven may keep things from you, Yang. She may be distant and stern, and she may give you only the bare essentials when it comes to explanations, but in her mind, keeping you in the dark is keeping you safe.” Qrow tried to explain, and Yang understood what he was trying to tell her. She understood that Raven, under her cool and collected facade, was apparently very frightened of something- something she never had any intention of telling Yang about. She understood, but she didn’t know if she could forgive. 

They continued to talk for a short while, before Qrow’s familiar- a small black crow named Harbinger- tapped against the window, and Qrow informed Yang that her mother would be there soon. 

Yang wanted no part of that welcome wagon. 

Instead, she thanked her Uncle for his information, and she thanked Clover for the coffee, and she retired to the bedroom for the night. She laid in the bed, in the darkness, too restless to sleep. She heard the door open maybe ten minutes after she’d gotten back into bed, and she tried to keep herself in check. Her heart was racing and her eyes were burning with betrayal. She understood. She understood her mother had been trying to protect her. She understood that Raven wasn’t a forthcoming person, and that she shouldn’t have expected anything less… but she still hurt. 

The anger had retreated. It still burned in her, simmering beneath the surface, but what had replaced it was worse. She clenched the sheets in her fists as she heard her mother’s footsteps against the wooden floor in the other room. Something smelled like iron, and she realized with a quick sniff and a feel of the sheets that she'd cut her palms with the pressure she’d been clenching them with, little half-moon grooves textured into her skin. She felt a little guilty- it would probably stain her uncle’s sheets… but as the footsteps stopped outside of the room she was in, she didn’t care anymore. She turned on her side, away from the door, and tried to keep her feelings tucked deep, deep inside. The door opened only a creak at first, and a sliver of light danced in the room. Raven stood there, and Yang heard the breath that left her, tense and caught. Yang didn’t move. She didn’t give any indication that she was awake. 

When Raven was sure, or at least, as sure as possible, that Yang was asleep, she quietly stepped into the room, closing the door until it was almost fully closed. Yang tried to wrestle with the feelings in her chest, trying to push them down. Her entire body was rigid with tension, and as Raven sat down beside her, she could see it too. But she didn’t say anything. She just sat there. Yang wanted to yell. She wanted to turn on her side, and she wanted to stare her mother down, and she wanted to demand the truth. She wanted answers, and she wanted the lies to stop. 

But then Raven stood without a word, and left. She stopped in the doorway, hesitating if only just a moment, and then the door closed behind her. Yang didn’t sleep for a long while. She listened to her mother and uncle and Clover putter around, and she heard them talking in hushed whispers she couldn’t quite make out, and she listened as they pulled out a futon from the couch, it sounded like. She listened as the house fell quiet, and as snores echoed through the quiet cabin. She listened as the rain stopped, and as wind blew. 

She didn't listen as an impulsive part of her brain told her to get up and take a walk. She didn’t listen to it as she turned over and sat up, leaving the bed. She didn’t listen to it as she opened the closet by the far wall and borrowed a soft looking cotton hoodie. It reached her knees, but that was fine. She didn’t listen to it as she slowly and quietly pushed open the bedroom door. The lights had been turned out, but with the moonlight shining in from the windows, Yang managed to navigate her way past the table, around her mother sleeping on the pullout couch, and to the front door, where her boots had been set. Her uncle was snoring in an armchair across from the couch, sitting diagonally and being nearly cradled in Clover’s arms. As cute as that was, Yang couldn’t think about it now. She grabbed her boots, and opened the door as quietly as the wood would allow. No one so much as stirred as she stepped outside, closing the door behind her. 

She waited until she was far enough away from the cabin that she couldn’t be heard, and sat down on a rotting stump, pulling her boots on and lacing them tightly. She would be back before they woke up, and no one would be the wiser. She could take a walk and clear her head, and find someplace to scream, and then she’d make her way back and be in bed come the morning.

It was black as pitch outside, but Yang didn’t care. She kept her steps small, and her scope of vision wide. The moon shone through the trees and provided her a semblance of a field of vision, but she couldn’t be entirely certain where she was going in particular. Something deep in her gut told her to go upward, so she followed that, trying to make her way as carefully as possible through the trees and the root-thick forest of the mountain. She was hiking for the better part of an hour before she caught a glimpse through the trees of what looked like an empty space. 

The leaves were various shades of red here, and most of them had fallen from their trees, damp on the ground of what Yang found to be a small clearing, the moon overhead. It took a moment, but she quickly realized she’d stumbled upon the clearing from her dream- at least, the most recent one. She stepped into the center of the space, maybe about as big as the workshop at most. It wasn’t huge, but it was enough. She looked around, part of her wondering if she could spot where they’d been sitting. She found it easily enough- the ground was still damp, and the tree bark glistened with rain, and as Yang bent down to examine it further, she was certain, touching her fingers to the bark and pulling them away, that the red shine on her fingers in the moonlight wasn’t rain, and that this was tree she’d rested her head on after hitting it hiking. They hadn’t really been here- it was just a dream. And yet, Yang’s blood marked this tree at the spot her head would have been, and the grass was flat, as though someone had sat there recently. Yang’s mind was racing. 

Nothing made sense anymore. Nothing at all. Her mother was a liar, her magic was all over the place, she seemed to be constantly hurting herself, she was falling in love with a girl, and she knew she couldn’t act on it, and she had to see her every day, and live with that fact, and she’d broken down in front of a cat she’d thought she’d adopted, and she’d loved that cat, and that cat was the girl’s familiar, and Yang hurt. 

She didn’t realize she was screaming until it permeated the air, and the stillness of it all. She didn’t realize she was crying until the tears dripped down her chin. She didn’t notice as she fell to her knees, and just let it all out. All this tension that had been building up inside her- it had needed to be released. It had needed to be released before she’d learned about her mother’s lies, before she’d realized that Blake didn’t need romance, and before she’d hiked all the way up a damned mountain and half way back. She had needed this, and now she was finally getting it. It felt good. It felt so good, and that made her cry harder. It felt so good just to scream and not have someone rushing to make sure she was okay. 

She stayed there, in the wet grass, on her knees, for what seemed like ages. The wind blew, and the moon passed over the clearing, and Yang cried until her eyes were dry and her head was throbbing, and she couldn’t find the energy to be upset about anything. 

When it was out of her system, Yang tried to remember which way she had come. In retrospect, she probably should have marked a path. She was at a loss, looking around and trying to remember where in the hell she had come from, when from the tree above her there came a caw, and Harbinger looked down at her, turning his head in a way that she took for a question. Yang wiped at her eyes and shrugged loosely. “Do you know the way back?” She sniffed, and he gave a caw she didn’t understand. With a flap of his wings he was out of the trees and landing on her shoulder. 

Harbinger wasn’t like Omen. He wasn’t rough and disgruntled, and he was much smaller. He landed carefully, preening for a moment, before looking at her again and turning his head. Yang sighed, but there was no malice in it. “Show me the way, please. I’m kind of an idiot…” She admitted. She expected him to fly off, or to caw something at her she wouldn’t understand. Instead, he nudged her cheek with his head, bushing away the tear tracks on that side. And then just like that he was flapping his wings and taking off. He landed on a nearby branch and tilted his head at her, cawing. She sniffled, trying to compose herself, admittedly smiling a bit after the sweet gesture, and moved toward the trees he’d landed on. Once she reached them, he took off again into the woods. She followed him all the way back to the cabin. It took less time, Yang felt, following Harbinger than it had when she was just wandering about. 

No one was stirring in the cabin as she stepped inside once again, setting the boots by the door. Her uncle had shifted with his head hanging off of the end of the armchair, and his legs draping off the other end. Clover was in a similar position, his head hanging off the back cushion. Her mother hadn’t moved, but that was to be expected. Raven was a heavy sleeper. Yang moved quietly to bypass them, headed back to the room she’d be occupying until morning. She hesitated as she passed her uncle, however, and as a soft second thought, kissed him on the temple. His nose twitched along with his brow in his sleep, but he didn’t wake up, and Yang quickly made to retire to the bedroom. If she had been paying more attention, she might’ve noticed the way that the moonlight filtered through the windows, shining onto the hardwood floor. She might’ve noticed the grooves of the wood, and scuffs of dirt and shoe marks. She might even have noticed the small, droplet shaped scorch marks dotting the floor not so far from the table.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Yang didn’t speak to her mother the entirety of the next morning. She didn’t say a word as they sat and ate the breakfast of fried eggs and toast that Clover made, and she didn’t say a word as she changed into the clothes in the bag her mother had brought from the car. She didn’t say a word to her as she tied her bootlaces, or as they said goodbye to her uncle, who promised to come visit in the following week. 

Clover came with them on their trip down the mountain. He and Qrow explained that it was just a precautionary measure- unlike her uncle, Clover’s magic manifested itself in good fortune. 

He stuck close to Yang for that reason, and while Yang would have preferred to keep her space and walk alone, she preferred it to the alternative of walking alone with her mother. Raven stayed ahead of the group, and Yang could tell she was letting her have her space. She might have appreciated that, but the reason for it admittedly kept her bitter. 

Most of the hike was silent. Clover offered his help to her when he figured she might need it on the steeper sloping rocks, or far drops down. For the most part, she tried to handle as much as possible on her own, even if she ended up taking it a little slower than necessary. Clover didn’t seem offended by her refusal of his help, but he didn’t stop offering either. 

It was during a long stretch of stone stairs that Yang decided to break her silence. “You and Qrow are dating, aren’t you?” 

She didn’t ask in any particular tone, or with any particular reaction in mind, but if their cuddling last night was any indication, she figures her assumption wasn’t far off. Clover seemed to tense, but it didn’t seem to be in fear, or in panic. It was more of an awkward, embarrassed tension than anything, and he played it off with a smile. “...We are. I suppose it’s not so subtle, is it?” Yang scoffed, the corners of her lips turning up. “Not really, no.”

A genuine smile bloomed on his face, and he lifted a branch out of her way. She ducked, and kept her gaze down and watching the steps, not wanting to slip. “Your uncle does that too, you know- smile like that when he finds something obvious. It’s very cute, but he gets blushy when I point it out.” It had the desired effect, Yang’s cheeks flushed against her own volition. “I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with you, Yang, but I see a lot of similarities between you and your uncle.” He told her sincerely, his tone thoughtful. 

Yang came to a stop on a particularly wide step, turning to him. “Like what?” 

Clover came to a stop beside her, his expression pensive. “Well, your little smile-smirk for one. You both pout when you’re frustrated…You and Qrow both sleep in a ball and gradually spread out through the night.” He thought about it, counting on his fingers now. “You both like your coffee black, you feel a lot more than you let on, and you’re both good people who go through more than you should have to.” Clover looked out on the trail before looking back to her. Yang tried to quickly hide the surprised expression from her face, her skin crawling with the scarily accurate read on her character. Was she really that much of an open book? 

They kept walking, taking the steps one at a time. It was a steep hill. Maybe 15 or 20 feet ahead, Raven was making her way down, seemingly singularly focused on making her way down. Yang tried not to focus on her mother, or much of anything that had happened on the trip. They got all the way down stairs and reached an overlook. Raven took a moment, and then resumed her descent, but Clover stopped to look out over the remaining leg of the journey, and Yang stopped with him. It was quite the view. It wasn’t nearly as vast as the view from the top, but there was something magical about this view of the trees and the mossy forest floor, dusted in red and orange, the morning sunlight streaming through the pines in beams that bounced off of rocks and water bubbling in streams. It was beautiful, and in a singular, feeling thought, Yang wished Blake could see it. The thought flushed her cheeks and beat in her heart, but mostly it just made her sad with yearning. 

It must have been pretty clear on her face, because Clover hummed sympathetically as they stared out onto the valley below. “What’s her name?” 

Yang blushed. “...what makes you think it’s a girl?” 

Clover’s smile was easy. “Another thing you have in common with your uncle.” 

Yang's brow furrowed at that, and she looked at Clover, leaning against the railing of the overhang. “Sorry?” 

He smirked in an amused sort of way. “You didn’t know he had a huge crush on your mom years back?” Her expression must have told him that she very much had not known that, because he laughed. “You should have him tell you that story. Apparently your mother let him tag along to go hang out with your mom, and there was a decent chunk of time where they were fighting for her attention.” 

“No.” Yang didn’t believe it. Her uncle? Crushing on Summer? “He was a pretty massive flirt when he met me. It took exactly two conversations to turn that on its head.” Clover smiled in fond remembrance, and amusement flashed in his eyes. And then he was looking at her. “I get the feeling you’re a bit like that.” 

Yang tried to pretend he wasn’t exactly on target. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She crossed her arms. 

“You come off like you know what you want, but now you’ve met someone, and you’ve realized everything she says turns you useless and searching for the right thing to say, to do.” He was spot on, and Yang didn’t know what to say. She certainly didn’t deny it. 

“...so, how did Qrow get over it?” She asked tentatively as they started walking again. Clover huffed in amusement as he stepped over a particular large root without looking where he was walking. “We danced around each other for a long while. I played with him a bit, admittedly. I wanted him to break out of it and just act on his feelings already, but… it was hard for him. And then one day he just snapped. We’d been bantering back and forth as usual, and tensions were high, and then suddenly he was kissing me.” Clover chuckled, and his cheeks tinged slightly. 

Yang thought about that, mulling it over. “I can’t do that.” 

Clover raised an eyebrow. “At a certain point, you might not give yourself a say in it-”

“I can't do that.” Yang snapped, her tone final. “...Something happened to her. I don’t know what, but… I could never just… kiss her.” Her cheeks flushed with the thought. “I don’t know what her last partner was like. I don’t know what would upset her or not…” She bit her lip, and she didn’t refuse help this time as Clover hopped down a large rock and offered his hand. She took it and hopped down next to him. “...and I can’t just assume that because I feel something, she feels it too.” 

It was quiet for a little while as they continued down the rockier part of the lower section of the hike, before Clover spoke up. “You should talk to her then. It’s not good to build it up, especially if you’re telling yourself it’ll never work out anyway.” 

Yang tried to take that to heart as they descended the rest of the mountain. When they reached the dead end they’d left the car in, Yang gave Clover a little wave, and he returned it with a soft smile, watching as Raven started the car and Yang got into the passenger seat. 

They didn’t talk the entire hour long drive. 

Yang kept her window down, the wind billowing loudly in her ears and messing up her hair, staring out at the side of the road and thinking on everything Clover had said. Talking to Blake was the best thing to do, she couldn’t argue with that, but at the same time, the idea was terrifying. She tried to put it out of her mind when she discovered it was just a wormhole straight to worrying. Instead, she listened absently to the radio, paying no mind to much of anything else. 

They didn’t stop at the garage lot on their way home, which Yang found odd, but didn’t question. She would be sticking her to silent treatment. If Raven wanted to withhold from her something so important, then Yang figured it wouldn’t matter if she withheld insignificant things, like everyday banter. It was petty, and it was probably not the right thing to do, but Yang could have cared less. It had been a long couple of days, and she didn’t want to have to be around or speak to her mother unless she absolutely had to. So, when they pulled up to the house in the old Cadillac, Yang got out without a word, grabbed her bag out of the back and went inside. She greeted her mom with a peck on the cheek, and mussed Ruby’s hair in passing, and she threw her bag on her bed with no intent to unpack it. She’d do that tomorrow. 

It was nearly noon, and after clarifying the day, Yang made up her mind. She closed the door to her room and made her way back down the stairs, and went to grab her keys from the hook, before remembering that Summer had them, and her bike was off limits. That certainly put a wrench in her plans. She’d just have to walk it. That was fine. It wasn't incredibly far, and her muscles were doing alright, even after hiking for two days straight. 

She grabbed a cap from the hook near the door and fit it snugly on her head, adjusting the brim to shade her eyes. Summer took note of this from the kitchen, where she’d gotten to work peeling apples for a pie. “Going somewhere, sweetheart?” She asked, discarding a long winding peel and setting the soft white apple down on the cutting board to the side of the silver mixing bowl she’d been putting the slices in. 

“Yeah. I’m going to go hang out with Nora and Ren.” She answered, and Summer’s brow raised in confusion. “You just got back.” 

Yang shrugged and scuffed her shoe into the carpet, scratching at her chin. “I just need to go be with friends right now…” 

Summer seemed to take the hint, although her concern was clear as she wiped off her hands on her apron and moved over to her. She took Yang’s face in her hands and reached up, kissing her on the cheek. “Mom…” Yang blushed in embarrassment, pushing the brim of her cap down, and Summer handed her a slice of apple. “Have fun, honeybee. I love you.” 

Yang’s heart swelled with the declaration, and the little sweet slice of fruit resting in her hand. She leaned down and kissed her mom back on the cheek, before raising the apple to her mouth and taking a bite. It was delicious, and she smiled as she stepped out the door, waving ever so slightly as she stepped onto the front steps and down the dirt driveway, toward the road. It was a long walk, alright, but she’d get there. Nora wouldn’t care if she just showed up unannounced- she’d most likely be delighted, actually. Ren’s enthusiasm would be less obvious, but he was a soft-hearted guy, and she knew that even behind his nonchalant attitude, he’d be glad to see her. 

It was rare that they all got to hang out. Yang’s work for her dad and his projects kept her busy, and Nora and Ren knew that witch stuff was also important. They had lives and responsibilities of their own, of course- Nora worked at the local coffee shop, and Ren helped his mother manage the animal shelter attached to the vet. But they always tried to put aside time to hang out. She knew Nora was off today. Ren had work until 2, but that was fine, because she and Nora would probably end up picking him up on their way to get snacks. 

That was one thing Yang found was a constant between the three of them- if they were hanging out, snacks were a must. 

Yang found herself smiling at the prospect of hanging out with her friends after the long couple days she’d had. Nothing sounded more therapeutically ‘normal’ than watching Nora destroy the both of them at karaoke, Ren dominate at scrabble, and the both of them inevitably convincing her to do something stupid with them, just to get her to laugh. 

She missed things like that- doing stupid shit just for no reason at all. Palling around with friends and not feeling like it mattered in the grand scheme of things. Stuffing herself with junk food and playing childish games, and telling jokes that would make her parents blush and her sister die of mortification. She missed her friends. And it was about time she got back to what made her really relax: acting her age. 

Chapter Text

“THIS. IS. HAPPENING!” Nora cackled in excitement as she threw a plush animal at Yang, who easily dodged. “You’re going to have to try harder than that!” Yang snarked in response, lobbing her own stuffed animal as Nora took a running start and leapt to dive behind her bed. The projectile missed, and Yang swore as Nora bellowed victoriously, sticking her head up to peek over the comforter. “Try harder, Yang- that was weak!” she sneered, and Yang snorted. “You’re dead, Valkyrie!” It was Yang’s turn to take a running leap. Unfortunately, she wasn’t prepared for the springs in Nora’s mattress to be so adept, and as she flopped onto its surface,  she felt herself rising again, propelling forward and into Nora, who screamed with the prospect of getting hit. There was a resounding thud against the hardwood floor as they collided.

They both laid there a moment, getting their bearings, before Nora snickered, and soon the both of them were in a fit of hysteria. Yang’s chest hurt with the bubbling, breathless laughter that billowed out of her. Nora was nearly crying with hilarity as she gasped for breath under Yang’s weight. Eventually, Nora managed to worm her way out from under Yang- her version of ‘worming her way out’ being to shove Yang off of her and promptly hop up. Yang groaned as she rolled face-first into the floor. Her nose was less than pleased, but it wasn’t the worst pain in the world. “You gettin’ out of shape there, Yang?” Yang could practically hear the smirk in Nora’s tone as she pushed herself up onto her forearms. “You wish.” she grunted, pushing up with the tips of her fingers and hopping to her feet. She turned to find Nora indeed smirking, her eyes twinkling mischievous, although that wasn’t exactly new. It quickly dwindled however. “You’re bleeding.” Yang blinked, before realizing the space between her nose and her lips was indeed warm and damp. “Oh.” She reached up, touching the spot and pulling her finger away to indeed find it coated in a thin layer of blood. 

Nora stood up straight from where she was leaning and moved to her closet, pulling out a washcloth. “You should take better care of your nose.” She remarked, and Yang rolled her eyes. “And how am I supposed to do that if I’m always wrestling with you?” Nora snorted, and Yang’s heart warmed. This was nice. Hanging out with Nora again was nice, even if it did more often than not lead to some sort of injury. Nora handed her the cloth and she took it, dabbing it gingerly under her nose. “Since when is your bed so bouncy, by the way? I didn’t go flying the last time I flopped on it that hard.” Yang remarked, and Nora grinned, the twinkle back in her eyes as she took a running start and jumped onto the bed, promptly bouncing back up into the air with the impact. “I got a new mattress! I kinda broke the last one, and since I’m getting paid more now, I can afford it.” 

Yang lowered the washcloth, now stained red in a few places, and Nora must’ve read the confusion on her face, because once she had settled on the mattress, she set to explaining. “I was working at the coffee shop, and that’s fine. It’s a nice gig,” Nora shrugged. “But you’ll never guess what just got put in down the block.” Yang could take a few guesses, actually. “A mixed martial arts studio…?” 

“YES!” Nora beamed, falling back against the bed. “And guess WHAT!” 

Ah. Yang got it now. “I applied and I got hired!” Nora laughed. While Yang certainly found her energy endearing, and she could verify Nora’s capacity to take someone down, she couldn’t help but wonder how much of mixed martial arts Nora actually knew. “I’m not teaching or anything- I just help set up equipment and take phone calls and stuff, but I’m working my way towards getting the big guy to give me some lessons.” That… made a lot more sense. “Well, good for you, Nora.” Yang smiled, actually pretty happy for her friend. Nora had always been a fighter at heart. This would probably be a good way for her to get her aggression out. 

“You should come see the studio!” Nora lit up suddenly, and Yang’s heart throbbed. “Uh… I don't know-” 

“Why not? Come on! I can show you around and introduce you to my boss.” Nora it seemed, wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “And then we can pick up some snacks and grab Ren!” She reasoned, and Yang admitted it made sense. Still, the idea of going back to the studio and seeing Mr. Belladonna again… Yang’s stomach churned with the idea. She was embarrassed enough about not being able to help him with moving, but now that she knew he was Blake’s father, her anxieties were far more than they had been before. 

No, that wasn’t fair. Mr. Belladonna seemed like a good man. Just because he was her dad didn’t mean anything had to come up in conversation. She was sure she could go in with Nora and say hi, and everything would be fine. “I uh.. I actually did some moving for him not that long ago, so… I’ve already met him.” Yang admitted, and set the washcloth down with a shrug. “But I wouldn’t mind saying hi.” 

If Nora noticed her hesitance, she didn’t say anything. Instead, jovial as always, Nora hopped off her bed. “Alright! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” She grinned, and Yang couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at her lips in response. “Yeah yeah. Let’s go before it gets too late.” 

“Late?” Nora scoffed. “It’s barely four! I don’t know how early you’ve been going to bed, grandma-” Yang blushed at the jab, “Hey! I’m not a grandma!”

Nora grabbed her coat and Yang followed her as she headed to the door of her room. “Oh yeah? What time did you go to bed last night?” She asked, and after a quick count, Yang realized she’d fallen asleep probably no later than 8. “Uh… that’s not-” Nora laughed, near accusatory, looking back at Yang over her shoulder. “You’re sooo a grandma.” 

“Yeah yeah, laugh it up, Valkyrie.” Yang tried to play it off. “At least I don’t take naps.” Nora nearly tripped as they made their way down the staircase. “I do not!” Her cheeks were almost as pink as her jacket, and Yang had to laugh. “Do too. You cuddle up against Ren and you’re out like a light. You snore too-” Nora clapped her hands over her ears and charged down the stairs. “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Yang was nearly keeling over with laughter as Nora reached the front door. 

It was pleasantly warm outside, for the end of September. When the sun shone just right, the hair on Yang’s arms raised and her skin soaked up the heat. She stepped down the little concrete staircase of Nora’s apartment building, Nora skipping ahead animatedly, and spared a moment to glance up at the sky under the makeshift visor of her hand. It was sunny- that seemed to be bringing the uncharacteristic warmth. Well, Yang wasn’t going to take it for granted. She was glad she’d opted for a button-down flannel shirt and a cami top. Shrugging the soft lilac flannel off and tying the sleeves around her hips, she found herself smiling as the sun hit her freckled shoulders- and in turn caught Nora watching her with her own small smile, a look of contentedness on her face. Yang blushed and continued ahead, hip-checking her friend. “What are you looking at?” She smirked, and Nora grinned, slugging her in the shoulder. “I’m lookin’ at you, Xiao Long. How long’s it been since I’ve seen you out of layers and layers of clothes?” 

Yang flushed involuntarily, even though she knew Nora didn’t mean it like that. She fumbled for an excuse as they walked in tandem down the sidewalk, kicking pebbles and hopping over cracks. “I- You- It-It’s getting colder now!” 

Nora cocked an eyebrow. “You’re naturally like a thousand degrees! And you still always wear your sweatshirts and flannels everywhere.” she pointed out, and Yang could feel the nervous moisture accumulating under her arms and on her forehead, her stomach churning. She tensed her jaw and tried to brush it off. It was a valid question. “They- they’re comfortable…” Nora seemed to take the hint that the conversation was headed in a direction Yang wasn’t ready to go down, or at the very least, was trying to ignore that it existed. She stopped her barrage of questions, and instead started to chatter animatedly about a puppy she and Ren had taken a liking to at the shelter. Apparently, he was the runt of the litter, and his mother- a stray they’d taken in while pregnant- was more focused on the healthier pups. Ren and Nora had all but fallen in love with him. Unfortunately, An and Li already had a family dog, and the clinic and shelter kept them plenty busy as it was. Nora would have taken him in, but her apartment wouldn’t allow dogs, and despite her raving about adopting him anyway and hiding him from her landlord, Yang knew Nora wouldn’t risk it. The Ren’s had been kind enough to help her get her own place, even if it was just a small, one room apartment. She wouldn’t just throw that to the wind. 

Before Yang realized it, they had reached the studio. 

A part of her was nervous- she hadn’t seen Mr. Belladonna since she’d bailed on helping him and his wife move into their house. He had assured her that her recovery was all that mattered, and the apology was appreciated, but still, Yang couldn’t help the knot that tied itself in her stomach. She had been selfish, and it had resulted in an inability to uphold a promise. But still… she found her cheeks coloring and her chest warming as she remembered that her selfishness had given her the chance to meet Blake in person, and the punishment that would land her working with Blake for the next several months. She tried to push her thoughts away as Nora pulled open one of the doors, stepping inside and using her hand to briefly prop it open for Yang, who slipped inside behind her friend. 

There were very few people inside, and by the looks of it, they weren’t open yet. Two young men near the back seemed to be setting down boxes, one of them slicing the taped packages with a box cutter and pulling out various pieces of equipment. “The big guy’s probably in the back. While he’s not here, I’ll give you a tour!” Nora didn’t wait for a response to begin, gesturing toward the two young men toward the back. “That’s Corsac, and that’s Fennec-” She pointed them each out, before hesitating. “...Or maybe that’s Fennec, and that’s Corsac?” She scratched at her head, and Yang had to restrain the good-natured grimace from forming on her face. “Eh, whatever. I’m not good with names, and they’re creepy regardless.” Nora shrugged, moving on in the opposite direction. She gestured to the punching bags lining the walls. “I helped set those up yesterday. I had some help- eventhoughIdidn’tneedit…” She muttered the last bit in a huff, and Yang had to snicker. “What, too heavy for you?” 

Nora looked ready to practice on her, rather than the punching bag. “Please, I can bench all of those AND you!” 

Yang couldn’t help the cocky smirk that tugged at the corner of her lips. “Wanna bet?” 

Nora’s grin was decidedly vindictive as they locked eyes. “You, me, in the ring.” 

Nora made a point of gesturing to the large elevated ring situated in the middle of the space. As much as Yang was typically game for tussling around with Nora, this didn’t seem opportune. “Psh- what, now? We don’t even have a ref-” 

“SUN!” Nora shouted, and Yang nearly screamed as there was suddenly a blur of yellow, white and blue falling down beside her and rolling forward. The blur, who once straightened and popped to his feet Yang could tell was indeed Sun Wukong, dipped into a smooth bow. “Ladies.” 

While Yang was still trying to get her heart rate back to normal, Nora was debating Sun on whether or not he could referee for them. “You know, as cool as that sounds, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Something tells me Mr. Belladonna isn’t the fondest of me, and uh… I don’t wanna rock the boat, if you catch my drift.” He tried, and Nora huffed. “Come on ! It’s just a quick little match between me and Yang! A test of strength!” She grinned, and her eyes went glinty with the prospect of battle in a way that made Yang question why she put herself in the path of that on purpose. However, that seemed to draw Sun’s attention to Yang, and as he turned and noticed her, his smile nearly matched Nora’s in delight. “Hey! No way!” He threw his hands up. “Xiao Long!”  Yang tried not to let the annoyance slip into her voice, even as she felt the tension in her eyebrows begging to twitch. “Hey…” She offered, hoping it was convincing enough. Sun didn’t seem like a bad guy, not in the least but… ever since that day when he’d so casually announced Blake’s relationship status to her… she had certainly started to feel a slight tension toward him and his laid back attitude. 

“I didn’t know you and Valkyrie here were buddies!” He smiled, leaning on the edge of the ring. Yang tried to relax herself, but felt her stomach beginning to knot again regardless. “Yeah. We’ve been friends for a few years now.” 

“Really! That’s super cool! I’ve known my buddy Neptune a few years now too. We’re bros.” He nodded, having seemingly found a way to relate. It was hard for her to focus however as he folded his arms across his- she was noting for the first time, completely exposed- chest. His biceps flexed, his toned muscles protruded, and Yang’s cheeks bloomed with a blush she did not want or understand. It was made worse by the wafting smell of something cheap and pungent, and however much the initial scent of it made her nauseous, her heart ached with desire. But it wasn’t the pleasant kind. Almost without regard, Yang found herself crossing her own arms over her chest, her shoulders tense, and her stomach churning as she remembered she was wearing a camisole, of all things. “Cool.” Was about all she could manage, and although Sun didn’t seem to catch the shift in her tone, Nora certainly did. Her eyebrows furrowed and her eyes were searching as they locked onto Yang’s, if only briefly. 

“Hey Sun, think you could go find the boss? I wanna say hello and introduce Yang!” Nora turned on her heels, smiling animatedly and bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Oh! Well, she’s already met him, actually-” 

“WELL, he hasn’t met her as my friend!” She pointed out, and thankfully Sun didn’t seem to need any more incentive. “Well, sure thing. I’ll see if I can find him. Last I saw, he was wandering around in the offices.” Sun straightened his posture and uncrossed his arms, smiling as he jogged off and out the side door. It wasn’t until they heard his footsteps on the stairwell that Nora turned her attention to Yang, stepping close to her, her expression worried, and borderline protective. “Hey… are you okay?” 

Yang blinked, not expecting this from Nora. Her cheeks were still burning, and now they only burned hotter with embarrassment. “Yeah…” Nora didn’t seem convinced. “Does he make you uncomfortable? Did he do something? I’ll break his legs.” She offered, and Yang knew that was Nora’s way of caring. 

Yang was quick to dispel her worries, however, or at least attempt to. “No, no- I mean, yes… no..” Yang bit her lip. “...it’s complicated.” She finally settled on an answer, sighing. Nora didn’t fail to catch the shaking of her breath, and Yang opted to ignore the burning beginning behind her eyes. “He didn’t do anything. But… I don’t- I feel…” She was trying to articulate, she really was. But all that came out of it was her grip on her arms tightening, and the pressure in her nose and her eyes building. 

Nora, it appeared, didn’t need to hear any more. “Let’s leave.” 

Yang looked at her in surprise. “Huh?” 

Nora was already halfway to the door. “Let’s leave, and go get Ren and some snacks and head back home.” Yang’s mind was racing, and she was sure the confusion was clear on her face. “But… you just sent Sun to get Mr. Belladonna-”

Nora gave her a look like it was obvious. “Yang. I love you, but you’re not the brightest.” Yang’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “He was making you uncomfortable, and now he’s out of the room. We can go now and you don’t have to see him again.” 

As strangely well thought out for Nora as that was, something about it ate away at Yang’s conscience. If they just left, then Mr. Belladonna would wonder where they were, and Sun would probably get in trouble for wasting Mr. Belladonna’s time. He probably also would appreciate them ducking out with no explanation. Yang quickly made her decision. “No, Nora… it’s okay. We’re just saying a quick hello anyway. It’s really not a big deal.” She let go of her arms and wiped her hands on her jeans. 

Nora looked unsure, but Yang was already undoing her flannel from her waist and pulling it back on, buttoning it to the second to last button and rolling up the sleeves. She’d just… make some adjustments before Sun and Mr. Belladonna came back. She was in the process of tying her hair up when heavy footsteps thundered down the stairs, and her stomach rolled over on itself. She must have looked nervous, because Nora’s hand found her shoulder, despite their height difference, and Yang was warmed from the inside out by her friend’s support. 

Ghira Belladonna looked just as professional as he had the two other times she’d seen him, dressed in a dark button up shirt and black slacks. Admittedly, he was a bit more casual than a full suit and tie- his sleeves were unbuttoned and rolled up his biceps, and the top couple of buttons on his shirt were undone, revealing the slightest hint of a patch of dark curly chest hair. Yang tried to keep her gaze on his face, however, as he stepped into the room and toward her and Nora. “Miss Xiao Long, what a nice surprise! It’s nice to see you again, young lady.” Yang nodded, and tried not to grimace. “It’s nice to see you again as well, sir.” 

“I see you’re acquainted with Miss Valkyrie.” He nodded to Nora, who took the liberty of answering for her. “Yep! We’ve been friends for a while!” She smiled politely, and Yang had to admit, Nora had never been very good at feigning friendliness. It was up to Yang to keep the conversation from becoming awkward. “We just wanted to stop by and say hello. Nora wanted to show me her new work place, and I figured this was better than bothering her on the job.”

Ghira nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I believe that this was the most promising alternative.” He chuckled deeply. “I see your injuries from the accident have mostly healed- I’m glad you seem to have recovered.” He took note of her lack of bandages, and Yang gave a shy smile in response. “Yes, well, it wasn’t a serious accident, after all. Although I did unfortunately trip and break my nose the other day…” She scratched at her chin, and her nose throbbed as if in response to the acknowledgement. “So I see.” He chuckled, gesturing to her bruised extremity.

It was then that Nora chose to butt in with her confusion over the topic of conversation. “I’m sorry- excuse me but what accident are we talking about, exactly?” She looked between the two of them, and Yang realized she hadn’t informed Nora of her father’s cover story, or the actual occurrences it was hiding. “Oh, I uh… I got into a bike crash a week or so ago. Some idiot dumped a bunch of trash and stuff out his window, and I swerved to avoid it…” Yang admitted, and Nora looked beyond horrified. “Oh my god, Yang, and you didn’t think to lead with that when you came over?!” She asked in exasperation. Yang was quick to try to reassure her friend. “Nora it’s okay, I drove into a ditch and I rolled off into the brush. Nothing major, just some scrapes and bruises.” 

Nora was clearly torn between the exciting image of Yang doing such stunts, and the realization that she could have been seriously hurt. Yang rested an arm on the top of her head, if only to annoy her. “I’m fine. I just needed a few days to rest and I was alright. It could have been much worse.” 

“I couldn’t agree more, Miss Xiao Long.” Ghira contributed. “I believe I told you before that I’m not a fan of motorcycles- you can see first hand why…” He didn’t say it in a condemning way, but still Yang felt the need to stick up for her bike, and her driving skills. “Sometimes hazards on the road happen, as with all vehicles. What matters is that you can safely avoid disaster or serious injury.” Mr. Belladonna nodded along with her words, not seeming like he would challenge any of the provided statements. “Regardless, Summer took my keys, which is why I walked to your place, Nora.” Yang turned to her friend, and Yang watched as the pieces clicked into place. “Oh…” 

Mr. Belladonna, however, voiced his own confusion. “Summer? You… refer to your mother by her first name?” He blinked, seeming slightly surprised. “Or, pardon- stepmother?” 

Yang couldn’t help the small smile the turned up the corner of her lips in amusement. “My mom. I have two mothers, and sometimes it’s easier to discern them by name.” She explained. “Two mothers, and your father?” Yang nodded again, and Mr. Belladonna seemed satisfied. “Well, my apologies for my assumptions.” He offered, and she accepted his apology with a small appreciative smile. The more she spoke with him, the more his manner put her ease. Maybe it was his way of speaking, similar to Blake’s in its melodical quality, and their vocabulary; it was like spoken poetry, and Yang could sit and talk with him for hours just to hear what he had to say. She could do the same for Blake, but, she’d try to work up to that. For now, this was good. “Well, it was nice speaking with you, sir, but Nora and I really should go. We have to pick up our friend from work. “

“Of course, of course.” Mr. Belladonna smiled in turn and offered his hand to Yang, who took it and shook it firmly, matching his grip. “It truly was good to see you again, Miss Xiao Long. I hope to see more of you in the future. Blake has been so much happier since she’s started sharing your company.”

Yang could practically feel Nora’s eyes where they were drilling into her. She tried to keep her blush in check as they both let go of the handshake. “Y-yes, sir. I’ve enjoyed her company too…” She couldn’t help the bashful smile that fought its way onto her lips, and before she could further embarrass herself, she was grabbing Nora by the fabric of her coat sleeve and pulling her toward the exit. 

Nora was nearly bursting the entire way to the clinic. She tried to keep it restrained, and Yang was thankful for that, but she was fighting hard, and Yang knew it was only a matter of time before she lost the battle. 

The clinic wasn’t too busy- Yang recognized a few people as they entered. There was an older man with a bushy mustache she’d gotten lectured by in passing, and his chinchilla, which was shaking like a leaf. There was a woman on the other end of the room Yang recognized as the town’s daycare attendant, Ms. Peach, who was flipping through a magazine, seemingly waiting for something. The third and only other person Yang recognized was a friend of her father’s, a wiry, tall man who was filling a little refreshment cup with coffee at the station, tapping his foot rhythmically. She and Nora politely bypassed the people sitting around and walked to the counter. Glynda greeted them as always, before noticing Nora and understanding their business there. “Lie is just finishing up in the shelter. I can let him know you’re here-”

“Glynda that’s alright.” Yang and Nora turned as An stepped up to the counter on the other side of the glass, removing her rubber gloves. “Come on in, girls. I’m sure Lie would like you to see the puppies.” She smiled, and Yang and Nora didn’t need to be told twice. They pulled open the door into the clinic and Yang let Nora go first, holding the door. Nora wasted no time skipping off and to the side door that led to the shelter, her mind now distracted by the prospect of seeing her boyfriends and puppies. Yang kept her own steady pace as she made in the same direction, before she felt An’s hand on her shoulder. “Yang dear, what on earth happened to your nose?” She asked, surprised and clearly concerned. Yang blushed, and her nose throbbed. “I just tripped on some concrete, Dr. Ren. I’m really fine.” 

An moved to gently examine the area, her brow scrunched up in concentration. “Did you do this today? It’s very agitated…” Yang moved to shake her head before realizing that was probably not the best idea with An examining her face. “It was yesterday…” That felt weird, when she thought about it. Only yesterday… somehow, it had seemed so much longer than that. “‘Probably doesn’t help that I was wrestling with Nora earlier…” She admitted, and An looked nearly incensed. “Yang Xiao Long!” Yang blushed, embarrassed. There was no point in telling An that she’d also gone hiking. She didn’t want her to pop a blood vessel. “I’m really fine, Dr. Ren.” She tried to assure her, and even smiled a little for good measure. “It doesn’t hurt?” An asked, concerned still, even if she let go of Yang’s face. “It throbs a bit here and there, but it’s not bad. I’ve- I’ve been icing it.” Yang tripped over the last bit. Technically, Blake had iced it for her for a while, and with the cold rain and the breeze on the mountain, that probably counted enough. It was all on technicality, but she could always ice it at Nora’s. 

“Her girlfriend probably iced it for her~” Nora sing-songed from the door, and Yang’s cheeks burned. “Nora-!” But she was already gone, ducked out the door and undoubtedly gone to tackle Ren. An meanwhile was smiling, and Yang, despite her fluttering heart, was quick to come to Blake’s defense and clear up the confusion. “She’s not my girlfriend! She- she iced it, but-but that’s just because she’s nice, and-” An chuckled good naturedly. “Yang, you don’t have to justify anything to me. Nora’s just Nora.” She winked, and Yang couldn’t help the relief that flooded through her. It was quickly filled up with the desire to give Nora a taste of her own medicine. “When I catch up to her…” Yang shook her head, and Dr. Ren laughed. “Well, have fun, alright? I have to get back to work. It was good to see you again, Yang.” She grabbed another pair of gloves from a nearby box, and Yang figured she shouldn’t bother Ren’s mom any more. “Thanks Dr. Ren. It was nice to see you too.” She made to follow Nora, before An surprised her. “Oh! Yang! How’s your little cat friend doing, by the way? Is the sprain healing well?” Yang blinked, turning her head over her shoulder. “Oh.. yeah, she’s doing good I think. Turns out her family lives pretty close to us, so she’s with them again now.” At least, Yang imagined she was. Gambol had a habit of coming to visit her, after all. And somehow, she’d ended up in the road before the Belladonna’s had even come to town. She was a wanderer, and that did worry Yang a bit, but she figured being Blake’s familiar, that she must know where Gambol was off to. 

“Well, that’s fantastic. I’m glad she’s doing well. Sweet thing, that one.” An hummed thoughtfully, but something tugged at her expression. “You said you found her in the road, Yang?” 

Yang turned fully, realizing the conversation was still very much going one. “Um… yeah. She was on the shoulder of the road. I saw her and pulled over.” An seemed to mull that over. “Hm…” 

“Dr. Ren?” Yang asked, not seeing where she was going with this. “Is her family- do they seem nice? Like good pet owners?” She asked, and Yang was admittedly surprised by the question. “I… haven’t really gotten to see much of them, but…” She thought about how Gambol had run to greet Blake when they’d dropped her off, and the very leering fact that Blake, and Yang was assuming Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna, had animal traits as well. “...yeah. They seem to be a good family. Gambol seemed happy to be back.” She answered, and An nodded thoughtfully. “Why?”

Dr. Ren mulled it over, before shaking her head of it and smiling. “I just want to make sure she’s doing alright. Now then, why don’t you go save my son from Nora, and you all can have some fun before it gets late.” 

Yang tried to shake the feeling that An wasn’t telling her the whole truth, and nodded accordingly. “Sure thing, Dr. Ren. It was good to see you again.” She gave a little wave, before continuing to the side door and opening it. She hesitated a moment, part of her wanting to ask An what all that was about, but she decided against it. Gambol was Blake’s familiar. She wasn’t Yang’s familiar to worry about… even if Yang had wished she was. 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The night was all that Yang had hoped it would be. They managed to pull Ren away from work, and while he was happy to see Yang, greeting her with a hug, he was admittedly sad to have to leave the company of the puppies, and the runt who he and Nora had taken a shining to. They were lab puppies, and were all still so tiny, their eyes closed and their little noses twitching. Yang nearly started crying as Ren let her hold one of them- the biggest and healthiest one. He was so little and soft and Yang might as well have been a puddle of goop holding him. Looking back, she didn’t think she uttered one coherent word that entire time. 

They made a snack run before going back to Nora’s as expected. The short walk was full of Ren filling them in on how he and his dad had been taking back to back shifts with the puppies and the other animals they had staying at the shelter. They were asking around about possible families for the puppies, once they were a bit older, but so far there were only a few people who might have been interested. It was a tad bit disheartening, but he was sure they’d find good homes when the time was right. Yang offered to talk to her dad about it; Tai had been saying how Zwei was getting bored around the house with no other animals to play with. Having a little brother or sister would probably give him someone to play with. Her dad was definitely a dog person. He’d adopt all of the puppies, if he thought he could get away with it. Unfortunately, Raven would probably have an aneurysm, and Summer’s stress level would skyrocket. Ren appreciated the offer, and Nora continued on her tangent about adopting the littlest one and hiding it from her landlord. She was through plans A-G by the time they left the convenience store, bags in each hand filled with goodies and drinks and enough sugar to put Nora in a coma- at least for a few hours. 

When they got back to Nora’s apartment Ren unloaded the snacks, before picking up the mess Yang and Nora had made earlier with their pillow fight. Yang gave him a hand while Nora pulled a stack of games out from the top of her closet. The usual array proceeded. They started with Monopoly, and Ren was the first to go bankrupt. He didn’t appear to understand the concept of choking other players out of property, unfortunately, which resulted in Yang and Nora going head to head in a struggle for power. Eventually, it escalated to the point that Nora tackled Yang, and they duked it out for a solid few seconds before Ren jingled the dice for Yatzee in the little cup, and Nora let go real quick. Yang awarded Ren the last swiss roll as a thank you, and he grabbed her another washcloth for her nose, which had started to bleed again. Yang kept her head down like Blake had taught her while Nora violently rolled the dice across the floor, cheering at her small straight. 

At some point, they abandoned board games in favor of party games, and after dissuading Nora from pin the tail on the pillow, they settled for Truth or Dare. They went around in a circle, and true to her nature, Nora picked dare 99% of the time. Yang wasn’t much different. She avoided truths as much as possible, knowing Nora would likely exploit it to learn more about her relationship with Blake. Not that there was a relationship… 

Ren didn’t have much to hide, and Nora’s dares were a little out of the average comfort zone, so he stuck mostly to truths, although here and there he did venture to do a dare or two. He got off easy however, being dared to stand on his hands for a full minute, and bite into one of the lemons Nora had in a bowl in her little kitchen. Once they ran out of things to dare or ask, Yang proposed Never Have I Ever. She was sure she could get them out, knowing all the crazy things Nora dragged Ren into doing. They picked up their other board game mess first at Ren’s request, and Nora picked up all the trash from the snacks they’d plowed through. The mass of empty cans was Yang’s self- assigned task, scooping them up and putting them in the receptacle Nora kept by the door. Once he’d tucked the board games back up into the top of the closet, he pulled out the two small stacks of spare pajamas that Nora kept in there for them for game nights and handed one to Yang. Yang thanked him before he excused himself to the bathroom to change. Nora wasted no time striding to her own closet and pulling her pink pajamas off their hanger. They had established a long time ago that neither of them cared about modesty when it came to changing into pajamas, so Nora didn’t hesitate in taking off her shirt and pulling the pale pink shirt over her head. Yang was lagging a bit, admittedly, but she played her usually disaffected role well, undoing her flannel and tossing it onto the bed. The cami was next, and Yang didn’t really notice her hands shaking as she fumbled with finding the neck hole in the small diner t-shirt she’d been given. Why was it so hard to find? There it was- no, no that was an arm hole. Damn. 

“Yang.” 

Yang stopped fiddling with it, but she didn’t look at Nora, who had stopped wrestling with her pajamas by the sound of it. “...yeah?” 

“At the studio today…” There it was. Yang had hoped Nora had forgotten. It seemed that was not the case. “We don’t have to talk about it if you want. I know you said it was complicated…” It was. It was so complicated. Yang didn’t even know where to begin. She tried to pretend the pressure wasn’t building behind her eyes, or that her stomach hadn’t dropped into a pit with the turn in conversation. “...But I want you to know that you’re not alone.” She was surprised to feel Nora’s hand against her shoulder, although she had to reach up to do so. Yang couldn’t stop herself from looking at Nora, the shock plain on her face. She hardly even noticed as fast, thin streaks of tears rolled down her cheeks. Nora gave her shoulder a light squeeze. “Ren keeps an extra shirt here, and some sweatpants.” It wasn’t an outright assumption, and Yang was thankful for that. Nora was being subtle, and that being something she typically struggled with, Yang couldn’t help but feel incredibly touched. Nora held her hand out for the diner shirt and the sleep shorts, smiling all the while, and Yang quickly wiped at her cheeks, crossing her arms over her chest as Nora got up on her tippy toes to put them away, grabbing an oversized green shirt instead, and a pair of black sweatpants, exactly as she’d promised. Yang hoped the gratitude she felt was as clear on her features as it was radiating throughout her body as she took the offered set of makeshift pajamas. Nora went to the kitchen, turning her back to Yang and digging through the fridge, and Yang took the given privacy, pulling the shirt over her head and stepping out of her jeans, into the sweatpants. 

The shirt smelled like Ren, which Yang figured it would, being his shirt. Nora came back nursing three cans as she heard Yang flop down on the end of the bed. Ren stepped out of the bathroom in his own tight diner t shirt, and sleep shorts to match. He took a set lounging at the top of the bed, and Nora joined him, nestling into his side. He reached for the cans to examine the labels, and she pouted at his distrust of her. After Ren had checked that none of the drinks were caffeinated, Yang accepted one and he kept one for himself, leaving the last one in Nora’s arms for Nora. It was just sparkling juice, but Yang took note of the brand and the flavor for later after her first sip, realizing it was indeed actually pretty good. 

“So, Never Have I Ever!” Nora gave a cheer after a slurp of juice that left her top lip purple. “Nora…” Ren chuckled, and she looked at him, pouting and protruding her lips in a silly way. “What. I don’t know what you’re using that tone about. I’m a model citizen.” 

“Oh, are you now?” He asked, sipping his own drink. Nora slugged him in the shoulder, albeit with less force than if she were to hit Yang. “Of course I am!” He smiled behind his can, and Yang caught the faintest bit of purple staining his top lip as well. 

Yang rolled over onto her back cracking her knuckles. “This is going to be easy.” she chuckled, and Nora and Ren shared a look, before Ren set his can down on the side table on his side of the bed. He raised both hands, and Nora’s excitement was clearly rising. “I wouldn’t be so sure.” He promised, and Yang had to smirk. Nora set her can down as well, practically bouncing as she held up her fingers. “Okay okay who goes first?” 

“I’ll go.” Ren offered, and although part of her was surprised, Yang could tell Ren was having fun with this. “By all means.” She allowed, and Nora nodded her approval. “Never have I ever fallen out of a tree.” Nora and Yang both put down a finger. “My turn.” Yang retaliated, rolling over onto her stomach. “Never have I ever had to shovel bird shit.” Ren begrudgingly put down a finger and Nora nearly jumped over herself at the prospect. “Never have I ever been grounded.” She snickered, and Yang grumbled as she put down a finger. Ren’s remained still, and she subdued the urge to throw a pillow at him. “Liar. You’ve totally been grounded.” Ren shook his head, and the corners of his mouth twitched in amusement. “Nope. You’re just a sore loser with two less fingers.” There was a moment of silence, before Nora was cackling and Yang couldn’t help the flustered hilarity of hearing Lie Ren call her out so blatantly. 

Once Nora settled down and Yang had restrained her own laughter, Ren took his turn again. “Never have I ever fallen off of a roof.” 

Yang was starting to feel like he was doing this on purpose, but begrudgingly she put a finger down. Nora looked pensive. “Does it count if I jumped off?” Ren shook his head. “Falling and jumping are fundamentally different.” That time Yang did throw a pillow at him. 

Nora’s was equally as directed at Yang, although it did backfire on herself, which they decided that neither point counted as a result. They went around a few more times, and Yang was down to one hand, Nora just behind her with six fingers left, and Ren winning with eight. Nora began to shift less into attack- Yang mode and more into squash the competition mode, as so her questions got dicier. Yang wasn’t prepared for her turn when it cycled back around, however. “Never have I ever kissed a girl.” Nora grinned mischievously, and Ren rolled his eyes, putting a finger down. “That one seems suspiciously pointed, Nora.” 

“Is it?” She asked, and her gaze turned to Yang. Yang’s cheeks burned, but she didn’t put a finger down. Nora pouted, and Yang stuck her tongue out at her in response. “Never have I ever eaten avocado toast and thrown it back up almost immediately after.” Ren took his turn and Nora begrudgingly put down a finger. “Oh I’m going to get you for that.” She vowed, although she was smiling just the same. 

“Never have I ever been chased by a flock of geese.” Yang smirked, and Nora and Ren both put down a finger. Nora was down to four, and Yang could see the competition burning in her eyes, and the need for vengeance. Ren was down to six now, which was better, but she was going to have to get creative to beat him. 

“Never have I ever had a crush on my boss’ daughter.” Nora grinned, and Yang’s cheeks were blazing. “NORA!” Nora dodged as yang threw a stuffed animal at her. “PUT A FINGER DOWN, YANG!” She crowed, and Ren just watched as the two feuded. “Could someone fill me in-”

“No!” “Yes!” Yang and Nora both chimed in at the same time, immediately locking eyes. It was quiet for half a second, before Nora turned to Ren, adrenaline blazing as Yang reached to cover her mouth. “Nora-!” “Yang did some moving for my boss making him her boss too and then she met his daughter and apparently they’ve been enjoying each other’s company and she’s-” “Nora-!” “-always super flushed and blushes when his daughter comes up in conversation and his daughter came in to the studio the other day and she was beautiful, like oh my god Ren-” 

Yang was only held at bay by Nora’s foot shoved in her face, keeping her at a safe distance. “Nora I’m gonna-” But Nora was on the warpath. “PUT A FINGER DOWN, XIAO LONG.” 

Yang wanted to fight it. She wanted to take her down and she wanted to deny the claims that Nora was making, but if she was being honest, Nora wasn’t exactly wrong. Yang very, very tensely put down a finger. Nora hooted in victory, and Ren was quick to remind her that she did have neighbors, and that it was ten o’clock at night. Nora settled down, but it seemed the game had been forgotten. Ren finished off his little can of sparkling juice, Nora’s long since gone, and they settled in as Yang sat criss-cross applesauce on the end of the bed. “So~” Nora began, looking from Ren to Yang. “Tell us what she’s like!” She practically bounced, and Ren smiled softly. “What do you like about her?” 

Yang… Her chest was warm as she thought about how to answer those questions. “Well… she’s a witch, like me…” She started, not quite ready to get too deep into it. Ren seemed to respect that. “Does she do what your sister does, or is it different?” He asked, and Yang was thankful for the simple segway question. “She… to tell the truth, I don’t know. She hasn’t told me anything about her magic yet.” She scratched at her chin in thought, and Nora bounced in her place against the pillows. “What’s your favorite thing about her?” 

“My…?” Yang blinked, unsure how to answer. Her favorite thing about Blake… Truth be told, she had only seen the tip of the iceberg when it came to Blake and her mannerisms. And yet… “When she speaks… she has this accent. It’s not too noticeable, but… it’s this cute little twang..” She admitted, and Nora was squealing as Yang tucked a stray blonde curl behind an ear red with embarrassed blush. “And… when she speaks, she talks really sophisticated, and… well it’s like- almost like poetry.” 

Nora was nearly melting with how absolutely adorable she found the admission, and even Ren was smiling happily for Yang. “She sounds wonderful, Yang.” 

Yang appreciated that. 

They drilled her for another handful of minutes, before Ren couldn’t help but let slip a yawn, and despite trying to fight it, Nora succumbed to a yawn as well. They got into their usual sleeping arrangements. Yang grabbed a couple pillows and took the floor beside the bed, and Ren laid on top of the comforter, resting one hand atop his stomach and letting his other arm drape over the pillows. Nora got under her covers and burrowed until she was snug and cuddled up to Ren’s side, resting her head on his arm. It wasn’t long before Nora’s snoring permeated the quiet of the apartment, and even if he didn’t snore, Ren’s breathing deepened, and Yang knew they were both asleep. 

Yang laid awake for a little while, just staring up at the ceiling. All she could think about was Blake. Blake’s smile, Blake’s snorty laugh, Blake’s eyes, Blake’s words, Blake’s silences. She fell asleep to the thought of Blake, and made up her mind. 

Tomorrow she’d talk to her. Tomorrow she’d figure this out. 

Chapter Text

Yang scuffed at the rocks along the edges of the road as she made the walk back from Nora’s the following afternoon. They’d all slept in, and once the sun was shining in all of their eyes, Ren took the liberty of getting up and starting on breakfast. Nora was still groggy, but when the pancake smell hit her, she was up and at ‘em. Yang practically had to horde a few pancakes to herself before Nora could wolf them all down. Ren of course got a few for himself, which both Nora and Yang had the good sense not to touch. 

After breakfast, they’d picked up Nora’s apartment and played a few games of tensie before getting dressed. Yang just put her clothes from the day before back on, although with Ren’s permission she swapped out her camisole for the green t-shirt. With her hat turned backwards on her head, Yang looked over herself in the mirror, finding everything satisfactory. They took a walk downtown, and had stopped in to the bakery to say hello to Jaune. Yang was surprised to find Pyrra behind the counter as well, and as they made their way over to greet them, Pyrrha greeted Yang with a friendly hello and a wave. She and Pyrrha weren’t as good friends as she was with Nora and Ren, but Yang mostly attributed that to Pyrrha's busy schedule. As far as she knew from what she’d heard from Nora, and what Pyrrha had mentioned in passing, she was a pretty renowned track star in the next county over, and on top of doing remote schooling. Yang couldn’t imagine doing all that, and now apparently working at a bakery. 

They’d said their hellos and Yang ordered for the group while they chatted with Jaune by the bread display. They’d already had breakfast, but something hot on a slightly chilly fall morning hadn’t sounded like a bad idea. She got Ren a tea he’d talked about trying, and Nora a hot chocolate, and she ordered herself a black coffee. 

It was certainly good. The coffee burned going down, and warmed her inside and out. The bitterness of it was pleasant and rich, and she found she enjoyed the aftertaste. While they were getting drinks, Ren mentioned the puppies, and both Jaune and Pyrrha seemed enthusiastic about the idea of seeing them. Jaune wasn’t sure if his parents would let him get a puppy, and Pyrrha seemed to deflate a bit as she thought over it, admitting that with her schedule it might be irresponsible to adopt a puppy, which would need so much attention she’d otherwise be happy to give it. Ren completely understood. He still urged them to come see the puppies some time as visitors, and to maybe spread the word to some of their customers. Jaune promised he’d try his best. 

They spent the rest of the morning wandering around the downtown area, passing a few shops that grabbed their attention, but only enough to browse here and there. Yang hardly noticed as the time flew by, and she figured she might as well head back. She wanted to try and find Blake as well, and see if she might be able to snag her to talk for a bit. 

And thus, here she was, scuffing rocks along the road, her hands in her pockets as she tried to map out exactly what it was she wanted to say. Her nerves were nibbling at her stomach, but she did her best to ignore them in favor of coming up with a plan. She couldn’t just go in blind and then spout something ridiculous. But no matter how much she tried to think of ways to open a conversation, she kept falling flat. “Hi!-” Yang winced at the volume of her shout, clearing her throat and trying again, practicing as she walked. “Hi, Blake… uh..” She racked her brain, trying to think of a way to not come on too strongly. “I have a crush on you.” Nope. Too strong. Way too strong. 

Why was this so hard? Yang grunted in annoyance and kicked a chunk of asphalt, sending it skidding across the dirt along the side of the road. She barely noticed as the road wound into a turn, following the groove of the road absentmindedly, having walked it back and forth a thousand times. She almost missed Menagerie Rd., in fact making it nearly half way past before realizing where she was. This… was not boding well for the impending conversation. 

Yang took a breath, steeled her nerves, and pushed on down the road. It would be fine. This would work out just fine. Most of the road was flanked by forest and no visible houses along any sort of row, which was pretty normal for the area outside of Beacon. The Belladonna’s were closer to town, but their house was down a private road, unlike Yang’s family, who lived way out in the country, but whose land flanked one side of the main road and was mostly wide open land backed by miles and miles of woods. Yang could imagine that the Belladonnas were more private than her own bizarre and extroverted family, however. 

Soon the dirt road turned to gravel, and Yang recognized this as the beginning of the Belladonnas incredibly long driveway. As she reached the end of the trees, stepping into the clearing, and took note of just how far the house still was. She had been here before, sure, but it still seemed like such a ways away, and the house itself was so large, and almost imposing in appearance. Yang tried not to stop and stare. She found herself biting the inside of her cheek as she walked up the driveway toward the house, fighting the feelings wrestling around in her gut. She wondered whether she should ring the doorbell, or if she should knock, or what she should say if whoever opened the door wasn’t Blake. Hi, I’m here to see your daughter? Was that too formal? 

As Yang was agonizing internally over the nuances of asking to have a conversation with someone, she failed to notice the small, sly creature stalking her from the shrubbery; at least not until it was too late. Yang gave a start as there was a sudden mrow! from behind, something pounced on her back. It only took her a second to realize it was only Gambol, as her attacker nudged her cheek moments later with a head of soft, tawny fur, burrowing between Yang’s chin and her collar bone. “Oh. it’s you.” Yang breathed in relief, and Gambol began to purr as Yang reached up and scratched her lightly behind the ears. “Is…” Yang hesitated, and despite the fact that she was just asking a simple question, she felt her cheeks color slightly. “...Is Blake around?” 

Gambol nudged her once more, rubbing her head against Yang’s cheek in a loving manner, before meowing and raising her haunches, hopping off of the makeshift platform of Yang’s shoulders. Once she was down on the ground, she turned her head and looked up at Yang, mrowing once more and running off toward the house. Yang faltered, before beginning to run after her, trying to keep up. “H-hey wait!” 

Gambol ran up the rest of the driveway and through the gap between the house and the guest house. Yang tried to keep up as best as she could manage, but as she reached the end of the path between the two buildings, she nearly tripped over herself as Gambol came to a complete stop, sitting down and turning her head to look up at Yang, whose heart was in her throat with the prospect of accidentally tripping over the cat. Yang tried to catch her breath, and Gambol groomed herself for a moment as she did. Once Yang had a chance to glance around, her visibility of the back out the house limited, Gambol sprang back up into action, hopping around the corner and running off. “Hey-!” Yang blinked, not ready yet. But as she usually did, regardless of plan, Yang ran after her with no thought to what might be awaiting her. 

The back of the property was almost as large as the property around the front, although while the front was mostly just open space, the back seemed to have more function, not unlike the set up of her own property. There was a garden, or what would have been a garden if it was summer and not fall, and if the Belladonna’s had been here much longer than a few weeks. There was a well near the treeline, down what Yang recognized as a hill. She just barely caught sight of Gambol prancing her way through the grass over the top of the hill mound, before she was gone down the other side. Yang came to a running stop, her breathing stunted as she did. She hadn’t been running too fast, or too far, but still she took a moment to collect herself. Gambol could be leading her to Blake, but Yang had no guarantee of that. She had no way of knowing what Gambol was thinking, after all. She could just be running around her neighbor’s property for no reason. Yang’s stomach churned with the idea of Mr. and Mrs. Belladonna coming home and finding her trespassing. How could she explain that? Well… she could tell the truth, of course, that she was there to speak to Blake… Yang shook her head of her thoughts. Now wasn’t the time to worry. 

She was pulled from her thoughts by the faintest, softest lilting sound of music rolling over the hill and up to her ears. That perplexed her. Curiosity won out over what little common sense Yang possessed, and she slowly walked the rest of the way to the hill, cresting the top and looking down over the other side. Nestled into the bottom of the hillside was a large circle of stones, each half embedded in the marshy ground. There was a blanket set aside and draped over the half-rotted stump of a tree, housing stacks of books and the odd pencil or two. Discarded in the dying grass beside the stump laid a black case of some kind, ornate and embellished with gold latches. It was then that Yang caught sight of her, her breath catching in her throat. 

Blake paced along the stones, stepping from one to another, muttering something under her breath. She was cradling what Yang recognized as a guitar, sleek and black, although Yang took notice of the scratches in the paint, and the wear of the strap, which was nearly ratty with use and age. Her delicate fingers picked at the strings, and soft, deep notes rang quietly in the air. Her expression was concentrated, and her eyebrows were furrowed with frustration in a way that Yang couldn’t help but think was absolutely beautiful. From the trees there was a movement out of the corner of her eye, and Yang’s attention turned to the tree closest to the well, where lo and behold, Gambol lounged on a thick branch, preening, her eyes twinkling mischievously as they met Yang’s gaze. Yang felt her cheeks redden, and suddenly she realized she was probably intruding on something private. She stepped back, as if to leave Blake to her playing, and unfortunately stepped directly on a stick hidden under the leaves. Yang froze, and down below, Blake stiffed, her ears twitching up towards the top of the hill. She turned and saw Yang, and for a moment they just stood there. Yang’s heart felt like it might leap into her throat. “I-I-” She tried to explain, but Blake was preoccupied. She sloshed her way through the marshy ground, and Yang noticed she was wearing almost hilariously large swampers. She hurried her way to the discarded case, and with her back to Yang, carefully and quickly retired the instrument back to its resting place. When it was secured, she paused a moment, as though contemplating how to deal with the intrusion, before turning her head over her shoulder to look at Yang. 

“Can… Can I help you?” She asked, seeming unsure as she slowly stood, turning the rest of the way to face Yang. Why was Yang’s mouth so dry all of a sudden? Was she clammy? Why did she feel clammy? “I um…” Yang searched for the words, trying to think of something not stupid to say, but admittedly Blake was making this incredibly hard. 

Yang had only ever seen her nice, expensive looking clothing- even when she had been in her pajamas that night two weeks prior. But now.. Yang couldn’t help but stare in near awe at the tshirt nearly four times her size, draping down near her knees, or at the baggy grey sweatpants tucked into bigger mud boots than Yang had ever seen, and that was saying something, because her own feet were huge. As soon as she realized she was staring, Yang tore her gaze away, embarrassment burning up her neck and ears. “I-I’m sorry!” She apologized. “I didn’t mean to intrude…” 

“It’s… it’s okay.” Blake murmured, and as Yang turned her attention back to her, she found Blake had turned her attention away as well, playing with strands of her hair which had fallen from the small half ponytail she’d pulled her hair up into. “So… you wanted something then?” She asked, her eyes searching as they met Yang’s once again. Yang faltered, unsure how to answer that. She had come here with the purpose of telling Blake how she felt… but… that might be a little too forward. She wanted to ease into it. “Would you… want to go for a walk?” 

Blake was clearly not expecting that. “A… walk?” Yang nodded. “It’s a nice afternoon, and… I figured we could get talking and… I don't know…” She shrugged, scratching at her chin. “I… I like spending time with you.” She admitted, her cheeks nearly tomatoes. She said it quietly, but Blake seemed to hear her all the same, and no matter how much she tried to repress the twitching of her lips, the flush of her own cheeks gave her away. “Well… I’m not getting very far here… I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” Yang found herself smiling easily with the acceptance. She reached her hand out down the hill, planting her feet in the fallen leaves and dying grass. Blake looked from her to her hand, and back again before she stepped forward, reaching up to meet her. Their fingers met, and Blake’s hand slid into Yangs, her grip tight as she stepped up the hill, and Yang gently pulled her up. There was a brief moment where they were both standing at the crest of the hill, and Yang could have sworn that time stopped.

And then all too soon the moment passed, and Blake was walking down the other side of the hill. “So… where were you thinking of taking a walk?” She asked, absentmindedly picking at her hands. Yang snapped out of it, jogging after her and coming to a stop at her side. “I uh- I don't know…” She admitted. Blake looked amused, but didn’t comment on it. “Maybe a trail? We could go on a hike.” She offered, and Yang’s node scrunched up on reflex, which in turn made it throb. “...I think I’ve had my fair share of hiking the last few days..” 

Blake looked pensive as she tried to think of other options, and Yang was grateful she wasn’t asking about her hiking comment. “We could walk to town. Although, I’d have to change…” She mulled that over, and Yang was quick to assure her. “Oh, no no you don’t have to do that. I- I think you look great already!” Blake was quick to blush, looking at her with wide honey-golden eyes that made Yang weak in the knees and wishing she’d kept her big dumb mouth shut. “I- um…” She tried to think of something to divert attention away from her last comment, before realization hit her. “I mean… I know somewhere we could walk to that.. You wouldn’t have to change.” She amended, and the small, reserved little smile Blake allowed her made it all worth it. “Oh?” 

Yang nodded, stepping around absentmindedly. “Nobody there would care. I’m sure at least one other person would be dressed pretty similar to your outfit.” She shrugged, and her chin was most likely red and irritated from her scratching. She made a conscious note to stop doing that, putting her hand down at her side. “Well… that sounds ideal.” Blake smiled as she stepped around a discarded branch. “Lead the way, Miss Xiao Long.”

A part of her was singing, inside. Her stomach was twisted in knots, and it felt as though she had swallowed butterflies, all fluttering around in her gut. Another part, however, twinged with the words. Yang tried not to let that part ruin the moment. She dipped into a smooth bow and gestured with her hand toward the path between the buildings. “Ladies first.” 

Blake smiled coyly and took the lead, slipping ahead and through the path. Her typically graceful strides were a little more clunky with the massive swampers, but she didn’t seem bothered as she bypassed the gravel in favor of the grass once they reached the front of the house. The walk up the drive was quiet for the most part, even as they passed the treeline and walked down Menagerie Rd. It was when they reached the main road that Yang spoke. “It’s just down the road a ways and on the right.” She pointed down the road, and Blake nodded. They continued on, Blake walking on the shoulder of the road and Yang toeing the line between road and shoulder.

“So… Gambol.” Yang breached conversation after a bit of silence with only the sound of car engines driving by here and there. “Gambol.” Blake acknowledged, waiting to hear what it was Yang wanted to ask her. “She’s your familiar?” Yang did venture, and Blake’s face looked conflicted. “It’s… complicated.” 

Yang… didn’t know what to do with that. She bit her tongue and they walked on, the silence now so slightly tense. It was Blake who amended the situation. “We’re… more like friends, than witch and familiar.” She explained. Yang supposed that made sense. “Can you guys communicate?” She asked. “My mother can communicate with her familiar. She told me once it was like having a conversation with yourself in your head. That it was more like.. Like having jiminy cricket helping you.” Yang remembered fondly, and beside her Blake couldn’t help but giggle. “That’s… very adorable.” Yang blushed, and Blake continued on. “How old were you, when your mother told you that?” She asked, and she wasn’t condescending about it, which Yang found pretty nice of her. “I was… I don’t know, maybe eight or nine.” She reached up to scratch at her cheek and caught herself, putting her hands in her pockets instead. Overhead, the sky was beginning to fade to muted color, the horizon brimming with pinks. It was certainly pretty, but Yang knew it would only get prettier. “My dad had just gotten our dog, Zwei, and I found my mother sitting in the garden one day with her familiar, who she calls Omen.” Yang recalled, and Blake looked up at her, listening intently. “I asked her if I could have a pet too, and she told me no.” She chuckled slightly. “Which was fair. She told me that Omen wasn’t a pet, he was her familiar. She had to explain familiars to me, and of course I had questions, but… yeah… she told me about the jiminy cricket thing then.” Yang explained with a shrug, and Blake smiled in a fond sort of way. “You don’t tell many stories, do you?” She asked, and Yang blushed, which in turn caused Blake to rethink her word choice. “I- sorry, that was rude.” Her ears turned down, and Yang noted as she gripped the fabric of her shirt in a nervous sort of action. Yang’s heart ached. “You’re right though.” She chuckled softly. “I’m shit at telling stories from memory.” She smiled, and Blake looked uncertain.

“I used to read Ruby bedtime stories all the time though.” She admitted, and Blake relaxed, if only slightly. “Ruby?” 

Yang nodded. “My little sister. She’s only a few years younger than me. She used to wake up in the middle of the night when she was a toddler- sometimes ever night. I knew my parents would be worried about her, and they’d stay up with her, and be tired in the morning, so I’d tell her to pick a book, and I’d crawl into bed with her, and I’d read it to her until she was sleepy.” Yang chuckled, the memory sweet in her head and her heart. “Of course, now she’s a turd, so…” She shrugged, and Blake couldn’t help but laugh, the sound of her bubbly, snorty laughter warming Yang’s heart. Now wasn’t the time to talk to her about her feelings… there was no good that would come of it. All Yang wanted was to bask in that smile all day. 

“Do you have any siblings?” She asked instead and Blake shook her head, wiping at her eyes. “No… No it’s just me. Sun can be like an agitating little brother… but biologically it’s just me.” That seemed sad, but Yang was sure there was more to her youth than that. “Your parents seem really nice.” She offered, and Blake smiled, although it was a tight-lipped smile. “They are… they’re much nicer than they could be.” That answer didn’t sit right with Yang. As if she could see the question in Yang’s eyes. Blake took it upon herself to allow a brief explanation, although she appeared almost ashamed to admit it, crossing her arms across her chest and nearly holding herself. “...I spent a long time away from home. I made mistakes. And they still welcomed me back.” The mood had sombered almost completely, and Yang watched as Blake tried to fight any clear expression of shame she held. It was heartbreaking. Yang didn’t push the topic. 

“...I’ve only ever ran away twice.” She offered instead, and Blake looked at her, her brow furrowed and her expression unreadable. “Once last summer… and once a few weeks ago.” She admitted. It was quiet, before Blake broke the silence. “What happened?”

Yang smiled. “A pretty girl happened…” She admitted, and her cheeks flushed instinctively. Blake raised an eyebrow, but couldn’t look at her as she asked for clarification. “Last summer, or two weeks ago?” 

“Both, actually…” She chuckled. “Although, I never had much of a chance, last summer. I think I knew that, but still…” She shook her head. 

“Oh?’ Blake asked, looking out onto the sea of grain stalks in the field along their side of the road. “No chance at all? I find that hard to believe.” She tried not to smirk, but Yang caught it, if fleeting. “She was older, and too cool for me, and she had eyes for someone…” She shrugged, stuffing her hands in her pockets and kicking pebbles. Blake mulled that over. “Older?” 

Yang blinked. “She’s a year and some change older than me. Nothing too major…” She admitted. “But my parents didn’t like her much, and I…” She hesitated and briefly she felt a flicker of guilt in her guilt, even if it was long passed now. “I lost my temper. They grounded me, and… that night I snuck out. I avoided them for a couple days...slept over at a few friends places…” She took her hands out of her pockets and fidgeted with her jeans. Blake was quiet for a long while, before she broke the silence. “And… the older girl?” 

“Hm?” Yang looked to her, and Blake’s expression was unreadable. Yang smiled reassuringly. “I confessed I had a crush on her. She said I was cute but she wasn’t the one for me. And that was that.” Yang shrugged. “It hurt, sure… but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel so much better once I was home in my own bed.”

A soft, almost sad smile perched on Blake’s lips. “There’s nothing like it, is there?”

The sky was blooming in shades of pink and orange, and the sunlight streamed through the trees and the edges of the field of grain as they passed that section of land, moving ever closer to the Xiao Long-Branwen-Rose homestead. 

“My dad tells me that you have a bike.” Blake turned the tide of the conversation, and Yang blushed, knowing her anxieties of Mr. Belladonna talking to Blake about her had been realized. “Yeah, I do. Not uh- not at the moment, though.” She chuckled slightly nervously. “My mom took my keys…”

“Oh?” Blake looked surprised. Yang looked equally as surprised, but for different reasons. “Your dad didn’t tell you?” Blake shook her head. “No…” 

Yang puffed out her cheeks. “Well… The official story is that I crashed my bike… but being honest, my dad just made that up to cover for me.” 

“Cover for you? For what?” Blake asked, eyebrows raised. Yang's cheeks flushed. “Well… I kinda had to beat feet to get to the equinox in time…” Yang watched as Blake processed that, and as she remembered that whole night, as though she were trying to remember how Yang had looked in detail. Yang spared her trying to address it. “It’s just up over this hill and down another few minutes or so.” She gestured up the road, and Blake followed the direction of her hand, nodding in understanding. “Alright. Any idea what to expect at this mystery location?” 

Yang pretended to ponder that. “Well, most likely Ruby will be in her pajamas still, my mom will be gardening, my dad will be having his post-work beer and more than likely hammering away in the shed.” Yang counted on her fingers, trying to keep track of her family members. “My mother will most likely be sulking around somewhere.” 

“Did something happen?” Blake asked, her tone wary, and concerned. Yang tried not to let her feelings about her mother conflict with this, even if she had to check that frustration at the door, and behind a tense jaw. “We… had a bit of a falling out.” She admitted quietly, and they kept walking. Blake didn’t push the subject. 

As they crested the hill, Yang gestured down, pointing in the direction of her house. “Right over there.” She smiled, and Blake looked out on the road and the homestead in the distance with a fond expression. They could make out the house itself, and the shed in the back, as the two front most buildings on the property. “Well, what are we waiting for?” Blake asked,a coy smile curling on her lips. She started down the hill, and Yang took a moment just to drink in that smile, and then they were both headed in the direction of Yang’s home. 

The truck was parked in the driveway when they got there, which Yang had assumed would be the case. Her father had been manning the shop the past couple of days, and he was likely to come home earlier as a result.”Is there anything in particular I should know when meeting your family?” Blake asked, and Yang mulled that over. “Well...as a general rule of thumb, there’s always something bizarre going on. It’s best to just roll with it.” 

“Duly noted.” Blake chuckled. “So, where to first?” 

Yang opened her mouth to suggest the shed, and subsequently her bike, but she closed it as Summer rounded the corner, seemingly looking for something. She startled as she saw them standing in her path, before relaxing slightly. “Yang! Honeybee…” She relaxed. “I didn’t know you were headed home.” Her attention then turned to Blake, and Yang really really wanted her not to be making the expression she was. “And...a friend?” 

Yang’s cheeks flushed, and she cleared her throat. “Yep. Mom this is Blake.” She introduced, looking to Blake. “Blake, this is my mom, Summer Rose.” Summer stepped forward and offered her hand, and Blake took it, shaking hands with her politely. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Rose.” 

Summer smiled endearingly at her, and Yang wanted to find a place to hide and die of embarrassment. “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well, dear.Yang’s told me a bit about you, but it nice to put a face to it.” 

“All good things, I hope?” Blake chuckled, and Yang didn’t fail to notice the blush blooming on her cheeks as Summer nodded assuredly. “All good things.”

Yang really really wanted to turn the topic of conversation away. Why she thought bringing Blake here was a good idea she would never know, and she blamed her lack of brain cells on the decision. This was bound to be uncharted levels of embarrassing. “Mom, where’s dad?” She found her saving grace, knowing her father was less likely to make things uncomfortable. Summer, hover, pursed her lips, looking hesitant to say. “He’s… working on a project.” 

Oh no. “...Do I want to know what it is…?” Yang asked a little cautious, and Summer repressed a smile. “Well… we might have made a certain purchase…” 

“Mom…” Yang didn’t like the vague answers being provided. “...You’re- you’ll be fine. It’s Raven we’re gonna have to convince, if anything..” Summer chuckled slightly nervously. “Mom, please, what did you guys do-”

It was then that Ruby came running from around the back of the house, and Yang and Blake watched as she was chased by four chickens, all clucking away. “MOM!” She screeched, and Summer had to restrain her laughter. “Ruby, Ruby stop running!” But Ruby wasn’t listening, too preoccupied being charged by tiny dinosaurs. “WhAT DO YOU MEAN STOP RUNNING?” She shouted, ducking behind the truck and immediately hopping up as one of them chased her around the vehicle. 

Yang was watching this whole ordeal dumbstruck, trying to process what was happening. Blake was holding her hand to her mouth in an effort not to laugh, and Yang had to take a minute. “You bought… chickens.” 

Summer smiled a little guiltily. “Well, an acquaintance of mine had nearly a hundred, and he asked if we’d like to take a few off of his hands, and well…”

“You talked dad into it, didn’t you.” Yang realized, and Summer shrugged. “He’s having fun making a coop.” She justified and Yang cradled her face in her hands. “ Mom …” Summer couldn’t help but laugh. “I know, I know…”

“Raven is going to lose her mind.” Yang warned her, and Summer rolled her eyes. “I’ve won her over before over less.” Yang raised her hands in surrender, and glanced to Blake, who apparently thought the entire situation was hilarious. Ruby was playing chicken with the chicken who was after her, dodging back and forth around the truck. The chicken seemed to lose patience, however, and charged, and Ruby screamed, booking it toward the group. She made eye contact with yang, and yang knew immediately what she was going to do. “Ruby... Ruby no-” But it was too late. Ruby took a running start and leapt up into her sister’s arms. Yang grunted, but planted her feet as she hefted her sister bridal style in her arms, the chicken squawking around her boots. “Save meeee!” She pouted dramatically, clinging to Yang’s neck and face. Yang nipped at her finger and Ruby yelped, letting go of her face. “Ruby, it’s a chicken.” 

“Its a little monster is what it is.” She gave the bird the stink eye, and stuck her tongue out at it, squealing as it hopped and flapped its wings at her. Summer quickly defused the situation, striding over and picking the chicken up. It squaked for a moment, before turning it’s head to look at them, clucking lowly. Yang’s stomach churned as she looked at the bird, but she disregarded it, dropping Ruby, who’s butt hit the ground with little grace. “There, you’re safe.” She remarked, and Ruby pout-glared up at her. Yang stuck her tongue out at her in turn, and Blake stifled a giggle. Yang’s heart warmed with the sound, and it must have shown on her face, because Ruby got a mischievous glint in her eyes that Yang did not like. 

“Who’s this, Yang?” She asked, and Yang flushed. “This is Blake.” She answered curtly, and Ruby looked ready to launch into a bout of teasing, but was interrupted as the front door slammed open and Raven stepped out onto the first step. “What in the hell is going on out here?” She asked, seeming confused and agitated. Ruby and Summer shared a look, before looking back to Raven. 

Raven obviously noticed the chicken first, cradled in her wife’s arms. The look that passed over her face can only be described as exhausted. “Summer…” 

“I know what this looks like-” Summer started, and Raven put her hands on her hips. “This looks like you bought chickens, Summer.” She sighed, and Summer bit her lip as the chicken under her arms clucked and pecked absentmindedly at her apron. “To be fair, Tai bought them. I just...gave him the idea.” She smiled, trying to seem less guilty. Raven… Raven didn’t seem to be able to argue, or to have the energy to. Her gaze briefly traveled to Yang, but she tore her gaze away after a few seconds. However, it landed on Blake instead. “Hello.” She offered, and Blake nodded politely. “Hello. You must be Yang’s mother.” 

It was Raven’s turn to nod, leaning against the side of the house. “Do you have a name?” Summer looked at her in embarrassment, and agitation. “Raven! Don’t be rude.” Raven rolled her eyes, standing up straight. “I’m not being rude, I’m asking a question, Sum.” Her gaze turned back to Blake, who swallowed, but didn’t hesitate to answer. “Blake. Blake Belladonna.” 

Raven’s brow furrowed with thought. “Never heard of the Belladonna coven.” 

There was silence, and Yang blinked, her own gaze traveling to Blake. For the first time since they stepped on the property, Yang noticed that Blake’s ears had vanished once again, but Blake appeared unbothered. Her jaw was tight, but she smiled pleasantly, and Yang looked away so as not to draw even more attention to her. “I’m from a long ways away.” Blake offered in place of a direct response, and although her eyes were searching and her expression was distrusting, Raven didn’t challenge it. She moved to open the door instead. “Well, it’s getting close to dinner time. We’re having steak and potatoes, if you’d like to stay.” yang blinked in surprise at the seemingly out of place offer, coming from Raven, and Blake too seemed hesitant. “I should probably start heading back, if I want to make it home before dark.” 

It was Summer who sought to amend the offer, and the situation. “Tai makes great mashed potatoes. And besides, your family hosted Yang for dinner, it’s only right we return the favor.” She smiled sweetly. “Tai can drive you home, so you don’t have to walk in the dark.”

It was a compelling argument, and admittedly, the thought of steak and potatoes made Yang’s stomach churn with hunger. Blake was nearly as hungry herself, it sounded like, as a gurgling sound filtered through the air, and her cheeks flushed darkly. “That’s very kind of you all. I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” She came to a decision, and Yang couldn’t help but smile. 

Raven held the door as Ruby came running inside, and Summer set the chicken down. “I’m going to start on dinner, and have your sister give me a hand. Yang, why don’t you give Blake a tour of the yard and your garage and things.” Summer offered, and Blake and yang shared a look, and a subsequent nod. “Yeah, sure.” Yang vocalized, and Summer left them to head inside. Raven closed the door after her, and very pointedly let her gaze linger on the two as she did. Yang’s skin crawled, but she tried to put it past her. “Come on, I’ll show you the greenhouse first.” She started in that direction, and Blake shuffled after her. 

“Your family is certainly something.” She chuckled softly, and Yang scoffed, although it was amused for the most part. “You’re telling me. Mom’s been talking about chickens in passing every now and then, but I didn’t think she was serious.” 

“You’re working your way towards a farmstead, it looks like.” Blake scuffed her big boots in the leaves as she walked, playing with the hem of her shirt. Yang couldn’t help but smile. “You should see it when Halloween hits. Mom goes all out.” It was Blake’s turn to smile at that. “How so?” 

Yang shrugged, picking up a twig and tossing it out into the yard as they rounded the corner of the house. “Oh you know, the whole shebang. Mom loves Halloween. She grew up with a really superstitious family, and then when she started hanging out with my dad, he introduced her to how non-witches celebrate All Hallows, and I think she fell in love with it.” She chuckled. “Every year she grows a corn maze, and a pumpkin patch, and we have this party for anyone in town who wants to participate.” She explained, and Blake nodded, following along. “Kids get to do a trick or treat activity, and Summer paints faces, and Raven does good natured scares.” Yang listed off, trying to remember everything. “There's a lot that goes on.” She shrugged.

“Sounds like fun.” Blake offered, walking beside her. “I’ve… never actually been to something like that.” She admitted, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear- her human one. Yang resisted the urge to ask about it, focusing instead on Blake’s admission. “Really? These kinds of festivities are pretty normal out here...  although, I guess you haven’t been living here too long.” Yang remembered too late. Blake didn’t take it as a slight, however. “Are they much fun?” She asked as they approached the greenhouse, and Yang blinked. “Yeah! Totally.” She grinned. “I’d say dressing up is my favorite part, but to be honest, I love a lot of things about it.” 

Blake seemed endeared by the enthusiasm, and Yang flushed with self-consciousness, scratching at her cheek. “Well, it’ll be fun to participate this year, I imagine.” Blake mused, and stepped inside as Yang held open the greenhouse door for her. The tour went smoothly, for the most part, and Yang was happier for it. She stubbed her toe while showing Blake her bike, but it was worth it to see the impressed expression on her face as Yang explained that she had rebuilt the bike into what it was now. 

Dinner was good, and Blake seemed to enjoy herself as they all sat around the island and passed around the potatoes, Raven cutting up pieces of steak and dishing them out. Tai was probably the most chatty, but Blake found it endearing, even if Yang wanted to crawl under her seat and hide with her father’s insistence on recounting stories of Yang’s youth. 

“When she was just getting into mechanics and things, I heard something out in the garage- and let me just point out that it was late. It was probably close to midnight.” Her father explained, the humor perched on his lips as he recounted. “But anyway, I heard something out there, so I went to go check it out, and you’ll never guess what I found.” 

“What did you find, Mr. Xiao Long?” Blake asked, smiling into her glass of water and glancing at Yang, who was blushing as she chewed a particularly tough piece of steak. “I found Yang in the garage, boxes and boxes of tools and wires and whatnot all strewn around, and she was covered in rust and gunk- it was a mess.” Tai laughed, and Ruby snickered into a bite of potato. “Dad…” Yang grumbled, and Tai waved it off. “What? It was adorable! And she did mention your mechanic skills- don't look at me.” Tai whistled, and Yang tried to curb her annoyance, and her embarrassment. 

Blake seemed to be having fun, and Yang was thankful for that, at least. After dinner, Yang helped clear off the table and do the dishes, and Ruby entertained Blake by showing her her room, and growing her a purple amaryllis, which Blake regarded with awe. 

All too soon, it was time to leave, and Yang walked Blake to the truck as they waited for her dad to get the keys and come out. “I had a great evening, Yang.” Blake said, and Yang hated how much this felt like goodbye. It wasn’t the end of the world; she’d see her at work on Monday, after all. “I’m glad. This was a lot of fun.” She smiled softly, not wanting the night to have to end so soon. The way Blake looked at her, she wanted to stay in that moment forever. Her stomach was tight and her heart was thumping away in her chest. With the dark of night and chill of the breeze, Blake rubbed at her arms unconsciously, and Yang startled, moving to take off her flannel. 

“You- You don't have to do that!” Blake startled in surprise, and Yang paused for a moment, as if the thought hadn’t crossed her mind, regardless, she removed the flannel anyway. “But I want to.” She assured her. “I don’t want you to get cold out here after all.” She offered the flannel, and Blake looked at it like she wasn’t sure what to do. “You’re going to run out of flannels…” She tried to joke, and Yang smiled a bit self consciously. “I’ve got plenty, trust me.” 

Yang’s heart beat in her chest as Blake looked up at her, and Yang made probably one of  the stupidest decisions she could have. Reaching forward, she draped the flannel over Blake’s shoulders, letting go and trying to breath through the thick tension that had accrued between them. Blake reached up and tugged it closer to her, and Yang felt like she might very much be on fire, her cheeks undoubtedly blazing, thankfully hiding in the dark of the evening. 

The moment was broken however as from the front door of the house, Tai called out to them. Yang’s heart nearly exploded, and she stepped back as he jangled the keys, looking back at him. “Took you long enough!” She jested, and he rolled his eyes. “Yeah yeah. Well, here. You should get going before her parents worry too much.” He called back, and Yang’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “What are you talking about-” She didn’t have a chance to prepare herself as he tossed the keys through the air. She caught them, a resounding jingle echoing as they slapped against her palm. “What the-”She looked from Blake, who looked equally as confused, back to her father. “You’re not driving her home?” 

Tai shrugged. “I’ve had a long day. Just don't bang my truck up, alright?” He warned her, and she acknowledged it, however she was still processing the action of giving her the keys. “Yeah… alright.” Yang promised, and Tai gave them a little wave before shivering and going inside. Once the door closed behind him, Yang and Blake shared a look of uncertainty, before Yang let a smile wash over her features instead. “Alright… well it looks like I’m taking you home. Is that alright?” Blake blinked, before nodding almost too enthusiastically. “Oh- um, yes. It is. I don't mind, that is.” 

Yang gestured to the trust, and Blake found her way around the hood and to the passenger side of the vehicle, climbing in. She buckled in as Yang adjusted her seat and the mirrors, before buckling up herself and backing the truck out of the driveway, making a three point turn and beginning the drive down the main road. The drive itself was much shorter than the walk had been, and all too soon they were pulling into Menagerie Rd. 

“Yang.” Blake asked as they drove on slowly down the gravel path flanked by trees. Yang didn’t take her eyes off of the road, but acknowledged that Blake was speaking to her. “Yeah?”

“Tonight… I’ve never done this before.” Blake admitted, her tone quiet, and reflective. “I’ve never had dinner with someone’s family… or… or talked so much about… about silly things like corn mazes and childhood stories, and-...” She faltered, and Yang spared a glance at her as they drove on, before turning her attention back to the road, which was quickly turning into the Belladonna’s extensive driveway. Yang pulled up a little ways back from Mr. Belladonna’s car and put the truck into park, before turning her full attention to Blake. 

Yang’s heart felt warm, but her nerves were twisted into knots as Blake spoke, clearly trying to speak seriously, for once in the short time they’d known one another. “I know… I know that there's something here- something that’s different from what I’m used to… something better.” Yang felt like she must be a thousand degrees. “Blake…” She ventured, and Blake met her gaze with sad, hopeful eyes. “And I know you feel it too… and I’m so sorry I’ve been like this, Yang. You don’t deserve it, and-” Yang was quick to reassure her. “Blake, you don’t need to apologize… for anything.” 

Blake didn’t seem to believe her, and admittedly, that frustrated Yang a bit, but she was careful to keep calm, and gentle. Blake was clearly feeling a lot of things right now. She didn’t want to make anything worse. Yang reached across the divider and offered her hand. Blake seemed to hesitate a moment, before her fingers slid against Yang’s, their palms gliding against each other as Yang held her hand. “You’re right. I feel something when I’m with you… but you don’t have to apologize for not being ready… and you never have to be ready, Blake, if you don’t feel like you are.” She rubbed her thumb gently over the top of Blake’s hand, and inwardly cursed at her inability to form coherent sentences. “I just- I mean- shit…” She sighed. “You’re important to me, and I know that’s crazy, because we’ve only known each other for like, a few weeks…” She breathed, trying to keep her words right. Blake was staring at her, and Yang could not for the life of her interpret her expression, but it only made Yang want to clarify herself even more. 

It seemed she didn’t have to. Blake’s fingers found themselves intertwining with Yang’s, and Yang shut her mouth. “You’re important to me too… and that’s pretty terrifying.” Blake admitted. Yang’s heart hurt with the implication, but a larger part of her knew this was a step in the right direction. “I know that sounds… bad. But I just mean…” Blake seemed to be struggling, which was odd for her. Yang thought she got the idea. “It’s okay.” She assured her softly, gently squeezing her hand. 

“Yang… I want to try this. But… I want to take things slow.” Blake got a clear grip on her thoughts, and Yang was proud of her for expressing what she wanted. “Okay.” Yang nodded in understanding. “What are you thinking of as slow?” 

Blake turned her gaze toward the windshield, her expression pensive. “What we’ve started is already amazing enough… walking with you is nice... talking with you… I like just being near you, and-” She blushed, gripping the collar of Yang’s flannel in her free hand. “-I like holding onto your shirts. They’re warm, and they smell like wood, and…” She hesitated. And Yang blushed, smiling softly. “And…?” 

Blake shook her head, although a small embarrassed smile tugged at her lips. “It’s nothing… It’s embarrassing is all.” 

Yang couldn’t help a little laugh. “My dad told you enough stories about me to make me turn into a tomato. I can promise whatever it is, you won't be the most embarrassed person of the night.” Blake looked back at her, and the soft expression on her face in the dark, light only by the headlights of the car, made yang’s head spin and her heart dance. “...They make me feel safe.” She admitted, and Yang’s world tilted on its axis. “ You make me feel safe…” she murmured, and Yang had the overwhelming desire to kiss her. But that wasn’t correct. 

Yang floundered, searching for the right words to say. But how do you even respond to something like that? “I..” She breathed, trying to remember how to use her words. “You…” She managed, but still nothing was coming up. She finally seemed to snap out of it as from the porch, a light turned on, and both of them startled a bit. Blake flushed with embarrassment as from the porch, Ghira called out her name. “I should go..” She untangled her fingers, and Yang’s heart hurt, but she knew it was time. 

“I’ll see you at work on Monday.” Yang finally offered, and as Blake left, she grew cold with her absence. 

She watched her walk up the stairs of the manor-like house, before shifting the truck into reverse and backing out of the driveway, onto Menagerie Rd. The drive home was too quiet, but she braved it. 

It wasn’t until she was laying in bed that she realized the gravity of what had happened. Staring at the ceiling, her body heat began to rise and she covered her face with her hands. Brothers . Were they dating now? Was that what was happening? She thought so… maybe she was looking into it too much though. Maybe it was her misunderstanding. Maybe she was a terrible person, and here she was thinking they were dating, and she’d go into work on Monday thinking they were dating and then Blake would tell her they weren’t, and then things would be awkward and she’d be an asshole-

Yang mentally slapped herself out of it. She had to put it out of her head. Things were just going to be like they’d already been… they were going to go slow…things would be fine. 

She tried to persuade herself of this, pushing her thoughts away and praying to fall asleep quickly, and without trouble. She got her wish, but it didn’t last particularly long. 



*~*~*~*~*~*



Yang had no idea what time it was when she awoke, but it certainly wasn’t morning. At first, she assumed she was still asleep. But once she had shifted herself and re-curled back up in a ball, on the verge of dark and peace, she heard it again, and her eyes short open, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. 

Bu-cuck!

Yang pushed herself up by the elbows, throwing her covers back. It was pitch black in her room, except for the thin strip of light shining through the doorway. Strange. Yang thought she remembered closing that door. Her thoughts were interrupted however as another startling cluck echoed in the quiet of the room. 

Was there… a chicken in her room? 

Yang inched her way forward, stretching her neck up to try and see over the edge of the bed. She was not prepared for flapping noises, or for a chicken to hop onto the edge of her bed, only a foot or two from her face. Yang gasped and scurried back until her back was against the wall, staring in confusion at the chicken that had found its way into her bedroom, and now on her bed. “There… is a chicken on my bed…” She breathed quietly. The bird cocked it’s head at her, and stepped forward, and Yang tensed. She wasn’t afraid- it was just a chicken after all, but still, her insides were swirling with a tension she couldn’t quite name. 

The chicken stepped closer, turning its head the other direction and looking at her with coppery orange eyes. Yang swallowed. This wasn’t normal. The chicken stepped closer, and this time Yang didn’t shy away. Slowly, she reached out her hand. The chicken looked at her for a moment, clucking softly, and Yang hoped she was doing something right. 

Without warning, the chicken pecked her finger, and Yang swore under her breath, retracting her hand. Why did this always happen to her? Was she so accident prone? 

While she was preoccupied, the chicken moved closer, and Yang noticed too late, as the chicken settled itself on top of the comforter, fitting into the gap between Yang’s knees. She preened, and looked up at Yang with those beady copper eyes. 

It was like something clicked- like something switched on in her brain.

Yang looked down at the chicken- no. “Ember.” She murmured.

Chapter Text

Yang awoke to screaming. 

In her lap, Ember startled awake with a flurry of clucking, and Yang followed, sitting up and blinking for a moment, before throwing the covers aside and hopping off of the bed. She was still a bit foggy with sleep, but somehow she managed to hurry out her bedroom door. Ruby came thundering down the attic stairs at the same time, hair wild and eyes wide with confusion. “What was that?” She asked, and Yang didn’t waste any time, already headed down the stairs toward the kitchen. “I don’t know.’ She murmured, and Ruby followed closely behind her. Before they could exit the stairwell, Yang held her hand out behind her, silently telling Ruby to stay back. She listened, trying to get a clue of what they were dealing with. She was surprised to hear Summer fretting, and… clucking 

Yang paled. She dropped her arm and left the safety of the stairwell, stepping out into the kitchen and around the corner, toward the living room. Summer stood in the middle of the living room, trying to keep her cool. Tai was running around the couch, chasing a chicken, and Raven was muttering angrily to herself. It… was a mess. There was chicken shit everywhere. “Mom…” Yang asked, drawing her attention. “What’s going on…?” 

Summer took a deep breath. “Well, Yang… somehow the door was left open last night… and the chickens managed to get inside…” She managed, the stress clearly eating away at her. Tai rammed into the couch as one of the three chickens managed to escape him, grumbling to himself. “‘Makes no goddamn sense!” He exclaimed, throwing a hand up in exasperation. “The hutch door was closed, and the pen door was closed- goddamn it.” He huffed, before proceeding to try and get a hold of one of the chickens.

“I told you chickens were a terrible idea!” Raven snapped, and surprisingly, it was Summer who bit back. “Raven, you’re not helping! We have bigger problems right now!” She looked back at her wife, and Ruby and Yang were dumbfounded. The longer this went on, the more Yang got the sneaking suspicion that Ember was somehow involved. Yang wasn’t prepared for the tingling in her stomach as she thought that, or for Ember to be making her way down the stairs to join them. Ruby jumped as she caught sight of her descending the stairs behind her, scurrying away and bumping into the island. “Chicken on the stairs!” She alerted her parents, and they stopped their bickering momentarily to look at each other. Summer and Raven looked at each other, although glower is probably a better word, before both of them turned their gaze to Tai, who blustered. “I’ve kind of got my hands full!” He gestured with a nod to the chicken he’d successfully managed to catch. Summer and Raven glared at one another again, and Summer opened her mouth to say something, but Raven was not having it. “Summer Rose, I stepped in bird shit this morning because you just had to have chickens. That one’s all yours.” She huffed indignantly, and Summer scrunched her nose up in disdain, before turning toward the stairs. “Girls help your father with the other two chickens. I’ve got this one…” She grumbled, stepping toward where Ember had perched on the last step. Yang, however, was quick to step in her way. “A-actually, mom, why doesn’t she stay here…?” She tried, and Ruby looked at her like she’d gone insane. “Yang it’s a chicken!” 

“I know that!” Yang amended, but still, all three of her parents were looking at her with a mix of confusion and something bordering worry. “Sweetheart, I didn’t think I’d have to be telling you this, but chickens stay outside. They have their own coop for a reason.” Tai informed her in exasperation. Yang raised her hands in surrender. “I know- I know! But… maybe she could stay in my room. With me.” 

“Yang, this is ridiculous. You can’t keep a chicken as a pet. They’re not like cats.” Summer tried to reason with her. Maybe she was right, but still. She was her familiar, maybe that meant she was a different kind of chicken. 

Familiar. That still felt weird to think about. She’d gone to bed normal, and she’d woken up bonded with an animal. It was admittedly strange to have a chicken of all things be her familiar… but she only got one, so… she supposed she’d have to just roll with it. Hopefully this would go over better than she expected, for how the morning was going so far. “She’s called Ember. She’s… my familiar.” Yang introduced the chicken, who clucked and flapped her wings, making Ruby flinch. Yang bent down and Ember preened for a moment, before hopping up into Yang’s arms. Yang cradled her, looking to her parents for their reaction. 

It was… certainly unexpected, by the looks on their faces. Summer looked shocked, seemingly unsure how to respond, Tai just looked confused. “A… chicken.” He looked to Raven. “Is that normal? Aren’t familiars supposed to be… I don’t know… Cool? Helpful?” 

“Dad!” Yang scowled, and Tai shrugged in exasperation. “What? I don’t know anything about this magic shit.” 

“Tai!” Summer scolded, and he pouted like a dejected puppy dog. 

“He’s got a point.” Raven gruffed but didn’t seem entirely convinced. “But it’s not uncommon for familiars like barnyard animals to bond with witches. I just didn’t imagine her familiar would be… a chicken.” Raven seemed almost incensed by the idea of it, but she didn’t say it completely outright.

“Well, at least it wasn’t a cow or something.” Summer offered, and Raven looked beyond done with this entire morning. “Summer, if you had brought a cow home…” 

“You would have what, Raven?” Summer asked, and the tension that was building between them made Yang and Ruby both feel incredibly uneasy. Ember began to preen Yang, parting the strands of her hair and navigating her curls in search of presumably dirt and other undesirable things, not that Yang’s hair wasn’t plenty clean. Something tingled in Yang, and she found herself reaching out and taking Ruby’s hand subtly in hers. Ruby met her gaze, and Yang gestured with her eyes up toward the stairs. Ruby got the memo, and for once, didn’t fight her sister on it, backing up until she hit the bottom stair, and making her way up quietly. 

Tai was trying to defuse the tension, but it seemed futile, and it looked like he knew that, scooping a second chicken up into his arms. The last chicken had shuffled it’s way out of the living room and toward the island, not far off from where Yang and Ember were standing. Yang took it upon herself to scoop the last chicken up with her other arm, catching her father’s glance across the room as he backed towards the sliding glass door, which was still open. 

“I told you that chickens would make a mess, and it would be a big responsibility, and you didn’t listen!” Raven exclaimed, and Yang’s stomach twisted into knots. She didn’t want to hear this. She shouldn’t be here for this. “You never listen to me, Summer!”

Summer scoffed, and Yang made her way around the island, trying to keep as far out of their space as possible. “You just have to control everything, don’t you? Yes, okay it was a little impulsive, but so what?” 

“So what? Summer there is chicken shit all over the house!” Raven exploded, and Summer bit right back, holding her ground. “Excuse me, but who’s bird has been shitting all over my greenhouse for the last 17 years? This was clearly an accident, Raven. Just because you’re in one of your moods-”

“One of my moods ?” Raven balked, and Yang very much wanted to leave. Very, very much. She made it around the island and to the door, just in time for the haymaker. “You have no idea what I am dealing with right now, Summer-”

Summer was done. Yang had never seen her mom so furious in her life, not even that night at the equinox. “You’re right. I don’t know anything, because apparently you can't trust me enough to tell me things that affect our daughter.” Yang stood there a moment, in the doorway, trying to keep her cool. 

“Summer…” Raven tried quietly to amend after a moment, but Summer was done. “No, don’t worry. You don’t need to explain anything to me. After all, it’s Branwen business only, isn’t it?” She asked, her tone bitter, and Raven tensed, her expression unreadable. “Sum, it’s not that simple… the things I’m dealing with right now... '' Raven was trying to articulate, but it seemed Tai wasn’t the only one Yang had inherited that struggle for words from. “-Aren’t any of my concern.” Summer finished for her, and as Raven stepped forward to cup her cheek gently in her hand, Summer moved away, pushing Raven's hand back. “All you do is worry. You worry about your family, and you worry about silly things like chickens and the girls’ first dances, and when it’s going to rain, and that’s the Raven I fell in love with.”

Pain flashed in Raven’s eyes, and regret was quick to wash over her as Summer’s face twisted in anger, and heartbreak. “But now all you worry about is the Branwen coven. All day long, all you do is worry about what they think of you, what they’ll think of Yang, and I want to tell you that it’ll be okay, and I want to know that it’ll be okay, and I don't want to be in the dark anymore, Rae-” Summer started to choke up, and Yang’s stomach dropped at the sight of her mother in tears. She turned away, toward the backyard. She shouldn’t be here. This was private. Just because they’d forgotten she was here didn’t mean it was her place to listen to this. 

She set Ember and the other chicken down on the ground, and the other chicken ran off. Ember looked up at her with those eyes, melted copper and beady black. She turned her head a few ways, before settling on a direction and walking across the deck, toward the stairs. Yang wanted to follow her. But her heart hurt with everything she heard, and everything she was still hearing as she sat down on the last step of the back deck, their voices filtering out the door. 

“You left them… You left them and I know that was hard for you, but they weren’t your family, Rae..” Summer sniffled. “ We’re your family… I don’t know why you always feel like- like you have to go back there.” 

“I don’t know…” Raven murmured, and Yang tucked her chin into her knees. “I don’t know why, either… I- It’s not just about me, though… This is about Yang too-” 

“They have never wanted Yang, Raven!” 

The silence was louder than anything Yang had ever heard. She knew that. She knew she hadn’t been planned, she hadn’t been wanted by her coven, but still… hearing the words hurt. 

“They told you to get rid of her or leave, and you chose us. We were there for you, not those- those people!” Summer cried. “I left my home to be with you and Tai. Do you know how much I wanted my abuelita to meet Ruby? How much I’ve wanted to go back and show her where I grew up? She never got a rose christening, and now she never will.”

“Summer, that’s not the same… and you never liked living there. You used to tell me all the time how much you hated it there!” 

“I was a child!” Summer exclaimed. “And so were you. And we both chose to leave home and start a family. The only difference is that I don’t need my coven, because I love my family more. You just can’t do that. You can’t let them go, even with how they treated you!”

Raven blustered, clearly looking for an argument. Yang’s heart was heavy, and her eyes were burning. “You don’t understand, Summer! I don’t understand!” Raven admitted, her voice so small and scared for the strong and collected mother Yang knew. “I can’t figure this out on my own! I thought I could… but… I can’t! I can only hope that there's still some good in Ceres at least…” 

“...and Sterling?” 

Raven was quiet for a long time. “Too much hope rarely yields anything…” 

Summer sighed, and it seemed like the argument had come to a slow deescalation. “What do you want to do, Raven? Take her back to your coven? You tried that once, and they were already gone… are you going to take her all the way to Mistral?”

“I-... no. No, I can’t just waltz in with her…” Raven’s tone expressed her exhaustion, and Yang’s heart was going a million miles an hour, her mind racing nearly as fast. She didn’t understand. Already gone? That wasn’t true… Qrow had told her what had happened. The coven had been there that night… Yang was struck by the realization of the situation. 

Summer had no idea. Raven hadn’t told her anything that had happened that night. Yang burned inside and out with anger. Her grip on the wood of the porch tightened, and there was a snap in her ears. Her vision went red, and she bit her lip to maintain at least a semblance of her self control. 

“So what are you going to do?” Summer asked, and Yang awaited the answer, her heart pounding in her rib cage. 

“...I’m going to send Omen to Mistral with a message. He’ll find Ceres, and brothers be good, she’ll help convince Sterling.” 

“Raven… I know they were the ones who gave you the choice… but do you think-”

“Sterling won’t care that Yang is her blood, not without some convincing. Ceres… there’s a better chance. But the rest of the coven won't care. They won't help us.”

“Just because she’s a half witch-” Summer started to get heated again, and Yang’s heart ached with appreciation for her mother defending her. However, it was quickly extinguished by the seemingly never ending barrage of Raven’s comments. “It’s not because of that… Yang… Yang is different. You know it, Summer. They’re not going to like that. I know you don’t like the way I’m handling things, but please… I need you to trust that I know what’s best for her…”

Yang had heard enough. She pried her grip from the edge of the step, her energy too focused on calming herself down to notice the finger-shaped sears in the wood as she stepped down the next few steps, stalking her way around the side of the house and to the garage. She needed to throw something. She needed something loud, and she needed to get this- this burning anger out of her chest. She passed her dad herding the chickens back into their pen, which was near his shed, with the exception of Ember, who was following at Yang’s heels, keeping up in a little trot.

He watched her storm her way to the garage, and Yang was sure he heard as she picked up a monkey wrench and chucked it outside of the garage. The rush of serotonin it gave her was sweet, and after throwing a few screwdrivers nearly as far, Yang stood there, her feet bare on the concrete, her breathing ragged, and the tears finally breaking, running silently down her cheeks and dripping against the ground. She stepped out into the unusually sunny morning, letting her toes curl up in the grass as she sat down, tucking her knees back up against her chest and willing everything she was feeling to just disappear. She was fine. Everything was fine. She just wanted things to be like they were before all of this started happening.

She looked up as she felt Ember preening at her hair again, cocking her head as Yang lifted her gaze to look at her. Yang wiped at her cheeks and lowered her knees, sitting with her legs crossed instead. Ember took the invitation, climbing into Yang’s lap and turning a few times, getting comfortable, before nestling in comfortably to Yang’s warm pajama pants. Yang took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down. She could feel the tears drying on her face the longer she sat there, and overhead, the sun was shining down on her, as though it were telling her to maintain her usual sunny disposition. Ember clucked, and the thought was reinforced in her mind, and Yang gave a light chuckle in response. “Okay…” She said to the chicken, and Ember hopped up as Yang moved to stand. “...I think I can do that.” She sniffled, trying to clear herself of her anger and her sadness. 

When she went back inside, Summer was cleaning the chicken shit off the floor, and Ruby was giving her a hand. Ruby looked up as she passed them, headed upstairs, but Summer kept her eyes down, and Yang knew she had realized Yang had been listening in. Yang didn’t know where Raven was, and she decided she didn’t care. Instead, she grabbed her towel, locked the bathroom door, and ran herself a shower. She pretended not to notice the color of her eyes as she passed the mirror and stepped into the shower, closing the curtain and letting the hot water drench her. She sputtered, closing her eyes and letting the water hit her face- first. It was soothing, in a way, and Yang never wanted to leave. After she’d detangled and washed her hair, she let the water run over her for a little while longer, before pulling herself from the security of the shower. 

She was half expecting to find Raven waiting for her in her room, but thankfully there was no such luck. Yang changed into a sweatshirt that was far too big for her and a pair of khaki shorts she’d stolen from her dad, letting her hair hang wet and unbrushed. She knew that was a recipe for disaster, but she couldn’t find the energy to care. 

Instead, Yang went back downstairs. She found Ruby putting her dishes in the sink, presumably from breakfast. “Hey, Rubes.” She broke the silence of the house, which seemed deafening. Ruby stopped what she was doing, looking back at her sister and Yang smiled softly. “Wanna come on an adventure with me?” Those were the magic words. Ruby smiled back, and quickly finished washing her dishes, air drying her hands with a shake when she was done. “Where to?” 

Yang gestured with a nod of her head to the shoe rack near the door. “Get your shoes on and I’ll show you.” Ruby didn’t hesitate, all but skipping to the rack and pulling her big black boots on, lacing them up. Yang grabbed her own clunky brown work boots and laced them, although it took her a moment longer than it took Ruby. Ruby had always tied her laces swiftly, looping one string around the other. Yang had never quite mastered that. She preferred the method of tying two loops together. 

She couldn't help the memory that came to mind as she finished tying her shoes. The details were fuzzy- she had only been a small child. But she distinctly remembered Tai getting frustrated trying to teach her how to tie her shoes, and Raven stepping in. She hadn’t offered any anecdotes, or the little rhyme that Summer had tried to use to get her to remember how. She’d helped Yang with each step, and let Yang figure it out. 

The memory turned to ashes in her mouth as she remembered that she wasn’t getting along with Raven at the moment, however. Yang shook off her somber mood. Nope. she wasn’t going to be sulky about this. She was perfectly fine. 

Once her boots were tied, draped an arm around her sister’s neck, much to Ruby’s complaint, and ushered her outside. “Come on, Rubes.” She smiled, starting off in the direction of the woods as Ruby tossed her arm from its resting place on her shoulder. “Well where are we going?” She asked, and Yang shrugged. “We’ll just have to find out, won't we?” 

Ruby stopped as Yang pushed through the bush threshold into the forest. “You mean you don’t know either?” She whined in exasperation, and Yang had to laugh. “You might wanna change into something more suited for trekking about the woods, little sister. Now's your chance while we’re still at the house.” She offered in place of an answer, and Ruby fumed, but there was no real malice in it. She glanced at her attire of flannel pajama pants tucked into her tall black boots, and a black long sleeve shirt that Yang made a mental reminder to sew up for her again, covered in holes as it was. “I’ll be fine.” Ruby assured her sister after a moment of pause, and Yang stepped aside, gesturing to the woods. “After you.” 

Ruby begrudgingly stomped in her clunky boots forward, and past where her sister let her through. All the summer mosquitoes and blackflies had gone- so Ruby had nothing to complain about during their exploratory walk through the woods. There was no real destination in mind, if Yang was being honest. The point was to get Ruby, and to a lesser extent, herself, out of the house for a while. Ember tagged along, much to Ruby’s chagrin, as every time the chicken wasn’t cradled in Yang’s arms, it was chasing after her little sister, clucking and nudging her forward. It was honestly very entertaining, and Yang was amused to find that in her efforts to escape the chicken, Ruby was climbing trees and stepping over great stones, and following natural paths along with leaf-littered forest floors. As she pecked at Ruby’s heels, Ember seemed to have this outcome in mind, doing it on purpose, Yang knew. 

It was working, however much Ruby swore up and down that she’d get Yang and get her good if that chicken came after her. It was a grand time- and not just for Yang. Despite all her whining and shouting in fright, Ruby would stop once she was standing high up on a handful of rocks, or perched in the foothold of a tree, and Yang would watch her take it all in. She’d watch her take a breath of cool air, and run her fingers over the bark and the moss, and Yang could have sworn everything seemed to go green, even here in the dying heart of the woods, in the middle of fall.

There was no real hurry in their pace- it was mostly just a wandering, relaxed walk more than anything, as they stopped frequently to climb and admire various formations of fallen trees and once for Yang to get down on one knee and knit her hands together, boosting Ruby up to grab ahold of one particularly large branch. It took her a minute to gain enough momentum to swing herself up and wrap her legs around the tree, but she managed, and Yang commended her as she hung from the branch by her knees, even if a part of her was nervous with the height and her sister’s clunky boots. “Ruby- Ruby be careful up there-” 

“I’m fine!” Ruby assured her sister, swaying slightly, her hair all pointed down toward the forest floor. There was a grin on her face bigger than Yang had likely ever seen, although it was hard to call- Ruby was generally a very toothy smiler, and she was known to find humor in most things. That was one of the things Yang loved about her. “Alright, alright-” Yang however, was getting more and more anxious as time went on with her sister hanging from the tree, her face beginning to turn red with blood flow. “-I think it’s time to come down now, Rubes.”

Ruby gave an exaggerated sigh and even upside down, Yang caught her eye-roll. “Fine…” She grumbled, reaching up and trying to grip the branch enough to sit up. She did manage to sit up, but Yang watched as a look of uncertainty passed over her face, and she glanced around, as though trying to figure out a way to get down. “Ruby..?” Yang bit the inside of her cheek, and beside her, Ember clucked wildly, almost in panic. 

“It’s fine! Everything is oh-kay!” Ruby assured her, although her expression said otherwise. “Ruby, be careful-” 

“I know! I’ve got it!” Ruby promised, and Yang wanted to believe her, but she was suddenly struck with just how dumb the idea of putting Ruby way up there had been, especially in those boots. Ruby shifted, apparently trying to stand, and Yang’s nerves spiked. “Ruby!” In that moment, Ruby’s boot slipped on the bark of the branch, and thankfully, she managed to grip tightly and catch herself. Yang’s mind was racing. What to do, what to do… Ember was losing her mind, clucking about the base of the tree wildly. When it became apparent to the bird that she was in fact a chicken and not a monkey, she began to run about the area, clucking to herself. Yang was feeling exactly the same range of emotions as she tried to work out a way to get her sister down. It was then that an idea came to mind. She didn’t know if it would work- they could be miles away from where they needed to be for it to work- and even if they weren’t, there were no guarantees. But she had to give it a shot. “Ruby- Ruby I have an idea.” She vocalized, and Ruby looked down at her in trepidation. “Yeah..?”

“I’m going to run ahead and get some help. Stay. Here.” She emphasized, and Ruby blustered. “What? You’re gonna leave-” 

“I’m going to get some help to get you down. Just don't move. I’m going to leave Ember here with you.” Yang assured her, and Ruby didn’t look assured in the least. “Yang don’t you dare leave me with your chicken-” Ruby fumed, but Yang didn’t want to drag this out any longer. “Sit still, okay? I’ll be back as soon as possible!” Ruby looked like she still had some arguments, but ultimately, she didn’t make any as Yang took one last look at her, before taking off in the direction she hoped she’d find help in. They’d left the house moving northwest. If they hadn’t wandered too far, that meant that Blake’s house was just ahead, hopefully within a few minutes’ run. It was easier to run through the woods during the early morning, when the sun filtered through the dying leaves, and Yang could see where she was going. Having footwear helped, and she managed to book it through the forest, vaulting over roots and ducking under fallen trees as she searched and hoped to reach her destination. 

She broke through the treeline without really intending to, coming to a jogging stop as she took a look at her surroundings. She’d come out of the brush and, thankfully, onto the Belladonna property. Her run had put her out in the back of the property, at the base of the hill and the stone ring where she’d found Blake just the day before. She jogged around the side of the house toward the front, hoping to see Mr. Belladonna’s car parked in the driveway- but unfortunately, she was at a loss as the car was not there. Her hope fell flat. Fantastic… 

She was struck with the sense to keep trying. Maybe if she was lucky, Blake would be home, or Mrs. Belladonna. Yang jogged up the front steps and to the intimidating front doors, grabbing the knocker and giving a swift knock against the wood. She waited for some response- for any kind of answer, but it seemed that there was no one home. After several minutes, Yang swore, descending the stairs and popping down into a squat, defeated. What was she going to do? Ruby was all alone way up in that tree… she wished she’d never got her stuck up there. 

From somewhere behind her, she heard the sound of a door opening, and her hopes soared once again. She stood, turning on her heels. “Blake-” 

Unfortunately, it was not. Sun stood in the doorway of the garage, blinking at her in surprise. “Oh hey.” He acknowledged, and she normally would have kept the disappointment from her features but she was too emotionally frazzled to even consider it. “You okay?” He asked, leaving the doorway and stepping over to her. It looked like she’d just caught him getting out of the shower- he was wearing clothes, thank god- but his typically messy and sloppy looking blonde curls were damp and plastered to his head- a strange look on him for sure. As much as she’d rather ask literally anyone else for help- he would have to do. “No. My sister is stuck in a tree, and I don’t know how to get her down.” She informed him, and he blinked for a moment, taking that information in. That’s all it took really- a moment, and then his resolve hardened and he looked more serious than she’d ever seen him. “Where is she? I can get her down.” They didn’t waste any time. Yang ran back along the side of the house and down the hill, past the little stone circle and the well and through the treeline. She tried her best to remember the path she had taken, but the farther she ran, Sun at her heels, the more uncertainty plagued her. She had no idea which direction she was going. She’d been so focused on finding the Belladonnas, and finding them quickly, that she hadn’t thought to mark the direction she’d run. 

“Ruby!” She called, coming to a jogging stop to catch her breath. This was all her fault. Ruby was lost somewhere, stuck up in a tree, and she’d left her. She’d left her and now she was lost. Yang tried to ignore the tightness in her chest. This wasn’t the time. This wasn’t the day. She was fine. She was fine , everything was fine

“Yang…?” Yang startled slightly as Sun put a hand on her shoulder. “What?” She snapped at him, and immediately she felt the guilt crawling in the back of her throat. He didn’t seem to take offense, though. “Take a deep breath. It’s going to be alright.” he assured her. “Do you remember any landmarks or distinguishing features about where she was?” 

Yang tried to calm herself down, racking her brain. “I.. I don’t… there was a tree with a fork in it. And… and..” She desperately tried to remember. And then, it was there. Like a picture in her mind- like looking at a photograph. “There's a tree with a fork in it. It’s old, and there's a huge dead log to the right of it. The canopy thins out a little overhead…” She noted, and Sun, although admittedly seeming a bit surprised, nodded. “Okay. Any idea in what direction?” 

Yang looked around. She scanned their surroundings, hoping something would strike her as familiar. As she turned northwest of their direction, she felt a twisting in her gut, and she prayed that was right. “Ruby!” She called again, taking off in that direction. Sun followed, and Yang was surprised to hear his voice calling out as well. “Ruby!” He called, keeping pace with her and fanning out a bit. After a couple of minutes of running and calling out Ruby’s name, Sun bade her to stop. “Yang- Yang listen.” He murmured. Aside from the chirping of the birds, and the swaying of the leaves in the autumn breeze, all was quiet. Yang strained to hear anything out of the ordinary- and then she heard it. “...yang!” 

Yang booked it toward the sound of Ruby’s voice in the distance. “Ruby!” Ember squawked as Yang came to a running stop at the base of the tree, and Sun vaulted over the fallen trunk to join her. Ruby was still up in the tree, seated on the branch. She hadn't moved, thank the brothers, but now Yang was counting on Sun to get her down safely. 

“Ruby, just hang tight.” Sun instructed her, and Yang watched in amazement as Sun scaled the tree in only a handful of seconds, pulling himself up and perching on the branch. “Ruby, I’m going to lower you down to Yang, okay?” Ruby looked at him like he was insane. “Are you nuts? ” 

“Look, you wanna get down, or what?” He asked, and she promptly shut her mouth, although she still didn’t look eager about his plan. She gripped the branch as he walked over to her, being careful not to shake it too much. Hooking his legs around the branch, he offered his hands to Ruby. “You’re gonna have to trust me.” Ruby’s gaze fell to her sister down below, who was looking up at them in trepidation. Reluctantly, she gave him her hands, and gave a cry of surprise as he hoisted her up off the branch with a grunt. Slowly, he lowered her, leaning back until he was hanging upside down, and Ruby was dangling in the air. Yang ran forward then and grabbed hold of her sister, grunting with the weight as Sun let go. She set Ruby down, and all three of them took a collective breath of relief. From where he hung in the tree, Sun relaxed his core muscles, running a hand through his hair. “Well that was exciting.” He remarked, before grunting and flipping off the branch. Ruby gave a squeal as he did, and they watched as she landed on the ground, tucking and rolling, and popping up to his feet once again a few feet from them. He brushed himself off, and Yang wrestled with her words. 

“...Thank you, Sun. For helping.” She managed, clearing her throat and resisting the urge to scratch at her cheek. He brushed her thanks off, grinning. “Of course- whatdya take me for?” 

“That… was… awesome!” Ruby exploded, before pouncing on him. “How did you do that? How much do you work out? Do you climb trees like that a lot? How many of me could you do that with?” She fired off, and Sun was clearly out of his element. “Rubes, how about you don't berate him.” Yang offered as a suggestion, and Ruby turned on her sister, sticking her tongue out in indignation. Her tongue was quickly retracted as Ember squawked, flapping her wings and charging at Ruby’s feet. Ruby screamed and jumped into the arms of the nearest strong blonde- she might have meant it to be her sister, but as it would turn out, Sun caught her first. “Whoa there- it’s just a chicken.” He snorted slightly in amusement, and Ruby pouted, grumbling to herself. 

Once Sun set her down, against pretty much everything she’d felt the last couple of days in regards to Sun, Yang found herself inviting him back to the homestead. “We’ve got a basketball hoop.” She offered, and if he had seemed unsure at all, it vanished. “Lead the way.” He beamed, and now that they were properly oriented, the three, four if you count Ember, trekked their way back toward the Xiao Long-Rose-Branwen homestead.

When they arrived, they found the chickens milling about, pecking around the yard in search of bugs. The sounds of the power saw in the garage alerted them that Tai was at work on another project. Raven and Summer were nowhere to be seen, but Yang didn’t want to think about that. Instead, she grabbed the ball from the locker on the side of the garage and tossed it to Sun, who caught it, smiling and spinning it on his finger, seeming entertained enough with that. Ruby, not feeling up to the game, but clearly still wanting to hang out, hoisted herself up into the truck bed, taking a seat and watching as Yang dragged the basketball hoop down the driveway. “So,. what’s the game?” Sun asked, and Yang pondered before shrugging. “You're the guest, you pick.” She decided, and he dribbled the ball, a look of contemplation on his face. “How about Around the World?” 

“Around the World?” Ruby piped up from the truck bed, almost shouting over the noise of the power saw in the garage. 

“You’ve never played Around the World?” Sun looked incredulously between the sisters, who both shrugged. “Give me the run-down.” Yang wiped her hands as she righted the basketball hoop. “Hang on- I think dad’s got some extra spray paint…” She murmured to herself, but gestured for him to keep talking. He tossed the ball back and forth between his hands, watching as she jogged over to the garage and through the side door. “Well, basically, we go around the court and each take a shot, and if you miss, you have to keep taking the shot while the other person moves on, if they make it.” He spun the ball on the tip of his finger again. Ruby nodded along with his explanation, following along simply enough. “We don’t have a court, though.” She pointed out, which was when Yang emerged from the garage, a can of white spray paint clutched in her hand. “Nope, but we can make do.” She shook the can, and together she and Sun managed to mark out the rough spaces where they’d need to take their shots from. 

“I gotta hand it to you, Xiao Long, you’re pretty inventive. I wouldn't have thought of this.” Sun admitted as he toed the first line, dribbling absentmindedly. Yang shrugged and set the can down by the back tire of the truck. “It’s just spray paint.” He passed her the ball, and she caught it, dribbling for a moment before launching up and taking the shot. She missed, shrugging and tossing it back to him. “Still, you’re pretty smart.” He acknowledged, bouncing it a moment before taking his shot. He made it, and passed the ball back to her, holding it out. “I mean, you came and got me to help your sister, didn’t you?” Yang avoided his gaze as she took the ball. “To be fair, I was looking for the Belladonnas’, or a ladder, or… something.” Sun didn’t seem offended by hesitance to acknowledge him. “Still smart.” He remarked with a shrug, moving to the second line they’d marked as she took her second try at the shot.

She made it the second time, although just barely, the ball swirling around the rim for a moment, before falling in. She collected it as it rolled to her feet, tossing it to Sun and moving to join him at the second mark. “...Blake came home super giddy yesterday.” He informed her, scuffing his sandals in the dirt as he shot the ball. It looked like he was going to miss- hitting the backboard with a smack- but Yang was surprised as it fell forward and into the basic. He had skills, she had to admit. She’d always been shoddy at basketball- but then, out of all her friends, the only one who could really outmatch her was Pyrrha. It made for easy impressing material. But now, she was seriously outmatched. Either way it didn’t matter though. It was just a game. 

Yang tried not to express the butterflies that were tingling their way through her system as he informed her about Blake. “Oh..?” She managed, picking the ball up as it rolled toward them. She spun it in her hands a few times, the cogs turning in her head as she stepped up and launched the ball through the air- whooshing through the net. Sun whooped good-naturedly at her decent shot, and she couldn’t help the little smile that crept against the corner of her lips. Once he had the ball again, he dribbled between his legs, clearly showing off a bit now. “Yeah! She’s typically pretty quiet, and moody. I don’t know what it is about hanging around you, but you make her giggly- it's pretty dang cute.” 

He took the shot, missing, but only just barely. He didn't seem bothered, though, scooping the ball up and tossing it to Yang as they moved to the third line. She almost missed the catch, fumbling as she snapped out of her thoughts about Blake and just how cute she was. She tried to compose herself, dribbling along with the pulse racing in her ears. “...Did she… say anything about…” She toyed with the words, bouncing the ball absentmindedly. “...about like… us?” She wished her body didn’t feel the need to flush with the words, but the heat in her cheeks was unavoidable, it seemed. 

Sun shrugged, although his grin made her want to punch him right in the teeth. “She didn’t really say much to me. ‘Said she’d stayed over for dinner, and stuff.” He admitted, and Yang tried to at least find some comfort in that. “I think she talked to her mom about it though- she hasn’t gotten to do that in a while I don’t think, so, I don’t blame her for saving it all for Kali.” 

While the idea of Blake telling her parents about her made Yang’s spine crawl and her stomach spin on its axis, the admonition that Blake had something to confide in her mother was admittedly sweet. They kept up the game for a while, before switching to a few others, including a variation of H-O-R-S-E that Sun called M-O-N-K-E-Y. 

“We used to play it all the time back home.” He informed them both, Ruby having now joined them on the makeshift court. “Back home?” Ruby asked, squeaking as Sun bounced the ball to her. “Yeah, I grew up in Vacuo.” He admitted with a shrug. “‘Mighta moved to Mistral, and I guess Beacon now, but I spent a long time in Vacuo.” He stretched, and Ruby practiced dribbling the ball. That struck Yang. “Vacuo?” She looked up at him from where she’d leaned against the side of the truck. He nodded, and helped Ruby position her arms right to take a good shot. “Yep- just like that, now shoot.” Ruby took the advice, launching up and firing the ball toward the hoop. Unfortunately, it ricocheted off the backboard, hurtling back at her. She managed to duck, and Ember squawked as she avoided the ball, flapping toward Yang and hopping into her arms as Yang bent down and scooped her up.

So he was from Vacuo… Yang recalled when her mother had told her that her grandfather would have her drive him to Vacuo. But what did she even have in mind for a question? Sun wouldn’t have known her grandfather, or likely anything of interest to her… unless. It might have been Ember’s doing, but Yang suddenly recalled the image of Sun climbing the tree inhumanly fast- of their first meeting when she could have sworn she saw something moving inside his shirt- and most damningly, the fact that he had moved here with the Belladonnas. Of course, that didn’t mean anything. Not really. It was just a hypothesis, but… 

“What kind of covens are in Vacuo?” She asked as Ruby tossed her the ball, and she caught it with the hand that wasn’t cradling a chicken. In probably the first instance since she’d met him, Sun stopped smiling. 

“I dont… I-” He faltered, and she watched as he processed things, not unlike she just had. “..I’m an idiot.” He finally managed with a laugh, and Yang blinked in surprise. She wouldn’t exactly call it out like that, but…

“You’re a witch.” He realized, before looking to Ruby, and back to Yang. “You’re both witches!” He laughed, and Yang realized that maybe he was a little farther behind than she had thought. “Yeah... and so are you.” Yang reiterated, her hypothesis now confirmed. He blinked, as though that fact was very much clear now. “Ah…” He realized, as though he’d been caught red-handed. He shook his head, resting his hands on his hips. “...what’d I say- you’re a smart one, Xiao Long.” 

“You’re a witch too? What coven? What kind?” Ruby asked, the curiosity written on her features. Sun… looked torn. “Look… I have no problem with telling you. Normally I wouldn’t really care… but it’s a bit tricky right now, with me staying with the Belladonnas.” 

Ruby just seemed even more confused, and Yang had to admit, she was right behind her. “It’s just… sometimes people can be… judgy.” He tried to put it delicately. “If it’s about the ears-” Yang started, hoping to set him at ease at least a little bit. She wasn’t prepared for him to blink in surprise, almost shocked. “Ears...? Blake showed you her ears?” 

Yang fumbled for a way to answer that. She hadn’t really thought it was something that Blake did on purpose- the way they kept vanishing and reappearing, she figured it was like when her eyes turned red. But then… Yang remembered the day before, when Blake had seemed so at ease in her ears, and then they’d reached the house, and the ears had disappeared. 

“I.. I guess she did, yeah…” Yang acknowledged, and Sun looked somehow both like he needed to sit down, and like he wanted to start doing jumping jacks. “Wow- that’s… I mean- we don’t really do that. I mean- I don’t care. I show Neptune all the time, but- she must really trust you.” He sounded astonished by the feat. “Well… I guess since you already know about that..” He shrugged, and they both watched as something shifted under his shirt. It took them both a moment, before it popped up under the back of his shirt and curled around in the air for a moment. “You have a tail ?” Ruby’s jaw dropped, and she blinked, before her attention turned back to Yang. “Wait- what ears? What kind of ears does Blake have? Does Blake not have normal ears?” She asked, clearly beyond confused. 

“Ruby, breathe.” She reminded her sister, admittedly not as surprised by the tail as her sister was. Her attention was still on Sun though. “You and Blake are the same kind of witch.” She recognized, and he nodded. “Are you part of the same coven?” 

Sun looked… contemplative, which was an odd look on him indeed. “It’s- honestly, I’m surprised you don’t know what we are.” He tilted his head in confusion, as though he was trying to figure it out, and Yang crossed her arms, trying to relax the tension that was building in her shoulders. “We’re… expunged from our covens.” 

“Ah…” It seemed to click, and he nodded in understanding. “Well then yeah, I guess that would mean you wouldn’t likely know.” 

“Know what?” Yang was getting a little tired of the back and forth here. She set Ember down on the ground and once the chicken had meandered away, began to dribble the ball against the dirt. She stepped up until she hit one of the lines from their previous game, and launched up, taking the shot. “Blake and I don’t have a coven. We’re Faunus.” 

Yang’s brow furrowed, and the ball toed the rim of the hoop before sinking in. She turned to look at him as the ball rolled in his general direction. He picked it up, dusting the dirt off and passing it back and forth between his hands. “Faunus… I don’t know what that is.” She admitted. “I’ve never heard of that before.” 

“But how can you not have a coven?” Ruby asked, clearly conflicted. Yang wasn’t surprised- Ruby had always had such a clear cut view of magic and covens and their connection- much more than Yang ever had. Yang understood being covenless. At least Ruby still had a place in hers, if she wanted it. 

Sun was clearly very patient with the topic- she wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had to explain this before. “Faunus don’t have a coven. We’re more of a people than a family lineage.” Yang supposed that made sense. He dribbled the ball for a moment, and Yang took notice that his tail had disappeared once again. “Like I said- I don’t care if people know about me or my tail or anything. I’m used to it. But just- do you think you guys could keep the Faunus stuff on the down-low?” His gaze traveled from Ruby, to Yang, making eye contact with her. “For Blake?” 

Yang wouldn’t have talked about it anyway- something about it had seemed private to her, and her suspicions were right when he brought Blake into the mix. “Of course.” She nodded, not stopping to hesitate in the slightest. Sun seemed relieved, at least. “Thanks. Folks aren't always so nice about it.” 

Yang didn’t know if she liked that. “What do you mean?” She asked, trying not to let too much concern slip into her voice. Sun shrugged. “Most witches- most witches aren't too keen on making nice with Faunus. It’s- there's a ton of politics involved…” He didn’t seem to want to continue the conversation. Yang got the hint. She opened her arms for the ball. “You gonna shoot or what?” She asked, and he blinked back into focus, taking the olive branch. “Like I’m passing you the ball- It’s my shot.” 

“Good luck-” She scoffed as he hopped up, launching the ball into the air. They both watched as it sank through the hoop smoothly. Yang swore, and Sun laughed animatedly as the ball bounced toward him. When it reached him, he bounced it to Ruby, who scrambled to catch it. 

They played for a while longer, and admittedly, Yang’s mind kept pulling back to the start of the conversation that they had yet to finish- what the covens in Vacuo were like. But she wouldn’t bring that up now. Right now, she was playing basketball, and enjoying herself, and against all odds, making a friend in Sun Wukong.

Chapter Text

It had been a long day, and admittedly, Yang was feeling it in her muscles- particularly her arms. She’d spent the better part of the day lugging machinery and moving tables in a bid to rearrange the workshop. She was sure Tai would give her hell for it, but she couldn’t work in all the clutter; it was nauseating trying to maneuver through all the walkways between counters and table saws and stacks of boxes and totes. He could bitch at her all he wanted, but sorting it all out made her feel like she could be more productive. For the most part, she worked on clearing and organizing the space by herself, music keeping her faintly entertained. Blake kept to the front of the shop, catching up on paperwork. They didn’t get many walk-ins, but when they did, she sent them back to talk with Yang. They only got one walk-in that particular Monday: Pyrrha’s mother, who was checking in on a cabinet she’d commissioned from Tai, and which Yang promptly found and helped load into Pyrrha’s truck. She pretended not to notice Blake standing in the doorway, watching as she hefted the medium sized piece of furniture into the truck bed. 

They hadn’t really talked about Friday, or the drive to her house, or whether they were dating or not- and Yang was hesitant to bring it up. It seemed that Blake was in close to the same position, because far too often she met Yang’s gaze, only to glance away, the blush blooming on her cheeks churning Yang’s insides. On their lunch break, Blake entered the workshop to tell her, water bottle in hand, and this time Yang didn’t startle, which in retrospect, was good, considering Yang’s nose was only just beginning to heal from when she’d broken it. Yang had taken her break, and the water, and they’d stood there in relative silence as Yang took long gulping drinks from the bottle. 

She’d wanted to say something- to breach the topic. But… She wasn’t so sure that was a good idea. They still had half a work day left. If Yang was mistaken, and they weren’t dating, then things would just be awkward. So she kept her mouth shut, thanking Blake for the water, and smiling at her in gratitude as she set the almost empty water bottle off to the side. Blake smiled in turn, but Yang would be lying if she said she didn’t see the blossoming uncertainty in Blake’s eyes as she left the workshop, stepping out to pick up some sandwiches from the cafe for their lunch. 

She returned with a tuna sandwich for herself, and a toasted ham and cheese for Yang. As the scent wafted through the air and the doorway, Yang’s stomach growled as the tangy smell of melty cheese and warm ham filtered into her nose. She all but scarfed down her sandwich, although she quickly realized the indecency of the act, flushing and looking to Blake in apology, only to find Blake equally as enamored with her sandwich. It was enough to insight a laugh, and Yang had to take a minute so as not to choke on her lunch. 

They still didn’t breach the topic of their relationship status, but Yang didn’t mind at that moment. Lunch was plenty distracting enough. And so was Blake. Yang would be lying if she said she didn’t steal glances at her while they ate, or when she moved boxes from the workshop to the storage room. And she pretended she didn’t see Blake stealing those glances right back. 

Finally, as they were closing up for the evening, the sky darkening even at the early hour, the tension seemed to come to a head, as they both reached to flip over the Open/Closed sign, their fingers brushing, and Yang’s heart racing with the touch. “Uh…” She managed, blanking, and Blake seemed to shrink into herself, although she didn’t pull away. Yang didn’t want to have to make the first move. She really didn’t. It wasn’t like she wasn’t prepared to… but she would have felt better about the whole thing if Blake was the one to initiate anything. I mean… Yang had barely dipped her toe into relationships. She had all the room in the world to be okay with this. Blake didn’t seem to have that luxury, if her body language and their chat in the truck had been any indication. 

But Blake didn’t seem ready, and that was okay. So Yang flipped the sign, and their hands slowly returned to their sides. They gathered their things, and Yang held open the door as Blake took the lead, stepping out into the parking lot and looking up at the sky, dark purple and pink and rolling with clouds that were fluffy, like cotton or the tufts of cat-tails. That morning, Summer had granted her the keys to Bumblebee again, thank god. Her father had left at his usual ungodly hour, leaving her sleeping in, unfortunately, which had resulted in a rushed wake up, a half eaten waffle and whatever clothes she could coherently see strewn about the room. Summer had been kind enough to revoke her punishment, granting her her keys back, and sending her off with a kiss on the cheek and a sleepy wave goodbye. 

Yang supposed Mr. Belladonna had dropped Blake off, because she was there when Yang had arrived for the morning. If the way Blake stood on the curb aimlessly was any indication, Yang figured he was her ride home as well. A chilling breeze blew through the air, rolling around them and through their bones, although Yang didn’t feel it quite as much as she supposed Blake did. Blake had opted for a loose, lavender colored t-shirt, tucked into high wasted black jeans that made Yang far too bushy for her own good. Unfortunately, that meant Blake’s arms were exposed to the chill of the evening, and Yang could see the goosebumps beginning to rise on her forearms. “Are you cold?” Yang found herself asking, and Blake’s attention turned to her, those melty honey-golden eyes making Yang’s heart ache. “Oh- I uh… A bit, yeah.” She admitted, and Yang was quick to move for the flannel tied around her waist. It was one of the few she had left, but she didn’t much care. Blake was more important. She could always buy more. But Blake seemed to catch the motion, and was quick to dissuade her. “N-no no, it’s alright!” She waved the action off. “I’m okay.” She assured her, but Yang wasn’t sold. Her brow furrowed, uncertainty in her features. “It’s no trouble…” She offered, but Blake shook her head, and Yang took no for an answer. 

It was quiet as they stood there, the sound of cars passing down the road the only sound in the falling night air. It was around 6- everyone was making their way home, and Yang ought to have as well. But she didn’t want to get on her bike just yet, and she certainly didn’t want to leave. So she did her best with small talk. “...Your dad comin’ to get you?” She asked, playing with the belt loops on her jeans. Blake nodded, and even in the darkness, Yang could make out the blush darkening her cheeks. “Well… I was going to wait until he closed up shop for the night.” She admitted, and Yang thought about that. Nora had informed her that with her new job, some nights she’d have to work late. Considering it was a Monday… “Isn’t it Monday? Shit, Blake. I don’t think that’ll be for a while. Nora’s on til 8.” She leaned against Bumblebee, her expression concerned. And she was concerned. That was a long time to be out in the cold. “I’ll be alright.” Blake tried to look convincing, but Yang was no moron, and she certainly wasn’t douchey enough to leave her here in the cold. So she made up her mind. “Well… I can stay with you, if you’d like. I don’t have anything going on at home at the moment.” Blake opened her mouth to refute that, but Yang wasn’t done. “Or I could just give you a ride home.” 

If Blake wanted to argue, the almost cathartic look in her eyes as she glanced from Yang to the bike gave her away. “...My dad won’t be too happy about that.” She admitted a bit sheepishly, and Yang scratched at her chin. “Well… we can always pop by and I can ask for his blessing.” She chuckled. She had meant it more as a joke than anything, but admittedly, that would probably be the responsible choice. She was an adult- at least, Yang thought she was- and suddenly Yang’s entire train of thought devolved. 

Blake still seemed to be processing the offer. It certainly seemed like she was tempted. Yang nearly had an aneurysm as she watched Blake bite her full, pretty lips in concentration. “...Well, I’ll take a ride home with a beautiful lady over freezing in the cold any day.” She finally breathed, and Yang just stood there, her expression frozen in shock. She was sure she was burning up from head to toe. She meant to say something smooth back- but it was a little hard to form coherent words. So instead, she stuttered, trying to find something to do with her hands, and searching for the right way to respond to that. 

She could tell that Blake was definitely a little embarrassed by her bold statement, her cheeks flushed, and apparently, the sight of Yang’s panic was amusing, because a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, dimpling her cheeks. Yang shook her head, still trying to process, a grin breaking out on her own face despite herself. It wasn’t long until they were both a mess- Yang was cackling to herself, and Blake joined her, giggling and snorting politely into her hand. God, Yang could listen to that laugh for ages and ages. 

She offered her hand, and once her giggles had mostly subsided, Blake reached forward and took it, her textured, dainty hand resting softly against Yang’s palm. Almost without abandon, Yang found her thumb brushing the top of Blake’s hand, and when Blake didn’t pull her hand away, Yang’s cheeks burned as she made the impulse decision to lean down and place a delicate kiss there. 

The tension between them thickened astronomically, as Blake took a sharp inhale, and Yang was quick to pull away, not wanting to upset her. But Blake didn’t seem upset, and Yang was beyond relieved to see it as she tentatively withdrew her hand, holding it to her chest. Yang cleared her throat, hoping to salvage some of her manners. She gestured to the bike, stepping aside. “Let’s get you home.” She smiled, as best as her nerves would allow. Blake, who had seemingly been in some sort of stupor, blinked back into the conversation with a start, dropping her hands. “Oh- yes.. That- that would be good.” She agreed, and took the rather large motorcycle helmet that Yang offered to her. It was a bit of a struggle to put it on, but she got it relatively quickly, and without help. Yang hopped on, and patted the seat behind her, grinning to herself as Blake put her foot on the rearset and pushed herself upward, sitting down. She wobbled a bit, but steadied herself, and Yang couldn’t help but remember a little tidbit of information that Mr. Belladonna had gifted her. “...your dad told me you used to want a bike.” She recalled, and through the open visor, Yang could just make out a blush darkening Blake’s cheeks. Unfortunately, this distracted her, and she wasn’t prepared for Blake’s hands to find her waist, holding tightly to her shirt. It was one she had borrowed from her dad- one of his beige henleys. She’d rolled the sleeves past her elbows, and left the buttons undone. 

Admittedly, the shirt made her feel both fantastic and… subpar. 

She’d spent the weekend wrestling with understanding just what she was feeling, but she didn’t think she had made much progress. Everything was just… complicated. She loved the shirt. She loved the way it smelled, and she loved the idea of it, and she liked the way it looked when she wore one of her more constricting sport bras… but then she looked a little too long, and she got a little too knit picky, and the thoughts all came swarming at her. It was pretty agitating. 

She hadn’t meant to wear the henley that monday. She hadn’t really had any particular outfit in mind- it was just the first thing she could find. If she was being honest, she hadn’t felt uncomfortable in it all day. That might have been attributed to the fact that she had been hard at work, and too busy to really put much thought into it, but still. 

And now, here they were, and Blake was holding onto her, gripping the shirt in her fists, and as Yang started the engine, the bike coming to life with a purr and a roar, rumbling underneath them, Blake wrapped her arms around Yang’s torso, gripping that damnable shirt, and Yang swore she was seeing colors. At the very least, her heart was racing at about the speed the engine was grumbling at, her stomach churning and flipping on itself. She swallowed, keeping her cool, and kicked up the stand, walking it forward. “Hold on tight.” She murmured, and while normally she’d have spoken up, she knew Blake could hear her. How could she not, with her body pressed so close, and her head resting against Yang’s shoulder blade. 

As soon as they were on the road, the wind whipping through their- or at least, Blake’s hair, Yang breathed in, enjoying the thrum of the bike and the smoothness of the road- once they got toward the Belladonnas’ it would be a bit trickier, but she could manage, as always. Yang was thankful she had put her hair up in a tightly wound bun earlier while she was working. She hadn’t wanted it in her face then, and she didn’t want it in Blake’s face now. Blake seemed to be enjoying herself, however, as the wind whipped around them, leaning with Yang as they turned some of the corners as the road turned to a long and winding country road. Bumblebee’s headlights lit up the road, and Yang did her very best to avoid potholes- it was one thing being careful when it was just her- it was another thing entirely to have Blake on the bike with her. “Y’okay back there?” She called over the wind, and she felt Blake nod against her shoulder, resting her chin just over it in an attempt to see over her shoulder. “We’re almost there!” Yang informed her, and she was surprised to feel Blake’s grip on her torso tighten. “That was fast!” Blake managed in response, and although it was a little tough to hear her over the rushing wind, and while keeping her eyes on the road, Yang got the gist. “Quick trip!” She shrugged, and up ahead she thought she spotted the entrance to Menagerie Rd. 

It was just as Yang slowed to make the turn onto the private road, that Blake spoke up now that at least a portion of the wind had subsided, although the loud rumble of the bike’s engine still permeated the air. “You said… you said you don’t have anything going on at home?” She called over the noise, and Yang was admittedly not expecting that. “Uh… Yeah- Yeah no, nothing I can think of. Why?” She called back as she made her way carefully down the long gravel driveway. 

“Well… to be quite honest… I don’t want to have to say goodnight to you just yet.” She said it quietly, but Yang heard it. Yang heard it, and it took absolutely all of her willpower not to crash the vehicle in sheer unadulterated panic. Instead, she pulled off to the side of the road. They still hadn’t passed the treeline and entered the actual driveway of the property, but Yang doubted any other cars would be passing this way. She put down the stand and turned off the ignition, the engine rumbling to a stop. Yang took a deep breath, steeled her nerves, and turned almost fully at the waist to look at Blake. That wasn’t to say Blake’s hands moved- no, they very much remained wrapped around Yang’s torso, all but clutching at her shirt. “...Its dangerous to make me flustered when I’m driving a motorcycle, you know.” She lightly scolded, although there was no real malice in it, and Blake seemed to know it. Yang’s tone was too soft, and her eyes were too light, and no matter how hard she fought to look away, her gaze kept wandering her face- from her long, dark lashes, to the incredibly kissable slope of her nose, to her lips like down, red like cherries. Yang was sure it was far, far too hot to be a late October evening. 

“I mean it…” Blake promised, her eyes dancing over Yang’s features as well. They were far too close for comfort, even with the cool, fresh air all around them, and all the space in the wide, wide woods. “...I like spending time with you.” Yang tried to compose herself. She really really did. Even if her heart was racing and her head was singing, and every little bit of her was on fire. “Well… I suppose if it’s alright with your parents, I could steal you away for a bit…” She pondered, and Blake’s amused smile played with her heart strings. “It’s sweet you want to ask them… but I can make my own decisions.” She said, and with a confidence and charm that made Yang weak in the knees. Of course, that only brought back her previous train of thought. “Y’ know… I know it’s probably awful rude of me- but how old are you exactly, Blake?” She raised an eyebrow, and even in the dark, Yang could make out the curve of a smirk against her lips. Blake looked down momentarily, like she was trying to garner her amusement. “I would wager not much older than you.” She offered, and Yang shook her head, turning back to look the right way, toward her house in the distance. “I’m 17. 18 in November.” 

She felt Blake’s arms shift, retreating to a more comfortable position resting on Yang’s hips. If they weren’t on a vehicle- stopped or not- Yang might have reacted in a less than intentional way. But she restrained herself. “Looks like I’m a bit older than you after all.” Blake chuckled into her shoulder, and Yang tried very, very hard to distract herself. This whole situation was crazy. Absolutely crazy. Like something out of those cheesy romance novels they sell at retail stores. Well, at least Blake wasn’t ridiculously older than her- at least, that's what she assumed. 

They could talk about it later. Yang warned Blake to hold on and started the bike back up again, retracting the stand and driving carefully up the gravel drive and toward the Belladonna manor. Blake was quiet as they pulled up to the driveway, resigned. It appeared that she was disappointed in Yang’s decision to simply bring her home. 

At least- at the implication that that was what Yang was doing. She wasn’t prepared for Yang to turn around, circling the large driveway and starting back down the road, towards the main country road- and presumably toward the Xiao Long- Rose- Branwen homestead. When she figured it out, Yang couldn’t help a growing smile as Blake laughed into her shoulder, holding her tight once again as they pulled out onto the main road, and Yang sped the bike up once more. 

As they continued on down the main road, cresting imposing hills and gliding down smoothly, and quickly, Yang couldn’t help but feel the need to get the feelings building in her chest out. She knew she couldn’t just hop around like an idiot once they reached the house, and she knew Blake wasn’t ready for kisses- not yet- and that was okay. So Yang did the first thing that felt remotely expressive of the resounding feelings in her chest- she gave a whoop and holler, laughing all the while as she yelled into the oncoming wind. It seemed to take Blake a moment, and then much to Yang’s amusement, Blake started yelling as well, pulling her head up from Yang’s shoulder and hollering into the strong breeze. 

It didn’t take very long to get it out of her system, but by the time they pulled up to the garage of the Xiao Long-Rose-Branwen house, and Yang parked her bike, their hollering had subsided, fading into soft, amused giggles. Yang dismounted first, turning and offering her hand to help Blake down. Blake took it, swinging her leg around and hitting the dirt with ease. But she didn’t let go of Yang’s hand. Instead, and brought it to her lips, kissing the rough skin of Yang’s knuckles. 

Yang was ninety-nine percent certain that she was on fire. She blustered, her face red and her mouth agape as she floundered for a way to react. Meanwhile, Blake’s honey-gold eyes were thick with mischief, the curve of her lips settled in a telling smirk. Thankfully, Blake lowered her hand for her, and moved to let go, if seeming reluctant to. In the dark that had fallen over the night sky during their ride, Blake’s blush was invisible- but Yang felt like it must be there. As she moved to let go of Yang’s hand, she was stopped by the slight turning of said hand, as tanned fingers entwined with hers, and Yang stepped closer, if only a little. Yang's heart was beating a mile a minute. With each beat she had to remind herself to take it slow. She had to remind herself to be delicate, and not to scare her. That’s the last thing she wanted.

And in truth, Yang didn’t want more than this- more than the feeling of holding her hand. Her heart ached for Blake’s lips, and ached for her embrace, and ached for her smile, and her adorable laugh, and for her snark, and her company. Her heart ached for Blake- wholly and ultimately- and that was scary as hell. 

When she’d first seen Blake in her dreams- nearly a month ago now- she’d seen her as some… ethereal girl. Some unattainable beauty. She knew that then- that that had been infatuation. And then she had seen her in the clearing that night of the equinox, and she’d seen Blake as a person- as a nervous, beautiful girl. And then in the shop she’d discovered her charm, and her wit, and every moment since she’d begun to fall more and more in love with her. 

Fuck, was that scary… But this made it better. Blake had said that Yang’s flannels had made her feel safe; maybe this was Yang’s safeguard. Blake’s hand in her hand. 

The little scars that littered her hands were thin- some crossed over others, some independent from the rest. Most decorated the underside of her hand and the pads of her fingers. If Yang could kiss every one of them better, she would have.

“Yang?” Blake’s voice lilted up quietly, and Yang blinked from her stupor, flushing slightly. “Ah- sorry-”

“Don’t be.” Blake assured her, and although Yang wanted to continue this conversation, something required her attention first. Reluctantly, Yang entangled her fingers from Blake’s. Reaching across the divide, she gingerly lifted the large motorcycle helmet from Blake’s head, restraining a small smile as Blake closed her eyes in processing of the fact that they’d shared close and delicate moments all while she was still hidden inside the bulky protective wear. Yang set the helmet down next to the bike, and to her surprise, Blake was quick to take her hand again, intertwining their fingers. “I- I have something I want to ask you.” Yang felt herself blurting, her cheeks flushing with the unexpected admission. 

Blake seemed surprised by the suddenness of it, but she nodded in assurance that Yang could ask her, her bob bouncing with the action in the dark of the night. “...the other day, in the truck…” Yang started, trying to gather her thoughts. “I-...I know we talked about… trying this… and taking things slow,” She started, and Blake nodded along with her, eyes shining in the dark. “...but I just- I-” Yang struggled to find the words. “What is… this, exactly? Are we- are we dating?” She asked quietly, her thumb brushing softly against the back of Blake’s hand. Blake bit her lip, and Yang’s stomach twisted as Blake turned her attention to their hands, intertwined and so right together. “Yes.” She decided, her tone quiet, and reserved. 

Somewhere on the property her dad had started a campfire- Yang could smell it. From the faint, flickering orange light creeping around the corner of the garage, she inferred it to be in the back, where he’d piled debris and dead trees into a large bonfire pile. The smoke was already starting to waft through the air, tickling their noses. But that wasn’t the focus right now. Yang found her brow furrowing. She lifted her free hand, offering it to Blake as well. Blake took it, and once again they interlaced their fingers. “Blake…” Yang began softly, and if it was possible, Blake seemed to retreat into herself more, conflict twisting her beautiful features. “...We don’t have to date.” She assured her, her tone gentle. The last thing she wanted was for Blake to be uncomfortable with the idea, or unhappy. “It’s alright-” 

“No.” Blake managed, taking a shaky breath and finally meeting Yang’s gaze, her grip on Yang’s hand’s tightening with her new resolve. “No, I- I want this.” She spoke with such resolve and vigor that Yang was almost startled at the change. “I just- I don’t deserve it. Or you.” She murmured, and there was nothing reassuring about the little smile that perched on her lips. “Blake…” 

“No- I. I don’t. I’m not a good person, Yang. I’m not- I’m not a good partner. And I-” Blake took a shaky inhale, and Yang could tell she was struggling to maintain her composure. “I mean to say… I want this. I want you . I-” Yang didn’t interrupt. She waited in the quiet of the night as Blake sorted through her thoughts. “I’m sorry. That’s not true. I- I have to keep reminding myself of that.” She admitted, and Yang rubbed the back of her hand with her thumb in support. “You have nothing to apologize for.” Was all she said, and while initially Blake looked ready to refute that, she didn’t. “Thank you.” She murmured instead. “For- for not being him.” 

Yang wasn’t a genius. She wasn’t even that smart, all things considered. But it didn’t take much piecing together to get the big picture. “...how about a campfire?” She asked, and Blake looked up at her with molten gold eyes, swirling and churning like the pit in the base of Yang’s stomach. “...A campfire sounds good.” Blake murmured, and Yang let go of one hand, tightening her grip to match Blake’s with the other, the both of them letting their hands rest intertwined in the space between them. They walked around the garage hand in hand, and as they turned the last corner they saw the massive bonfire Tai had built in the middle of the property. Raven was helping him tend the actual fire, pushing branches around and ducking away from the embers that blew up at them as a result. Ember the chicken was laying half-buried in a hole near the fire, ruffling her feathers with the heat. As soon as Yang came into view, however, Ember was out of the hole and charging toward them, clucking and squawking. Blake blinked in surprise at this, stepping back and hiding slightly into Yang’s side as the bird approached. Yang couldn’t help but laugh at that, and at Ember as she came hopping about at Yang’s feet, all but demanding to be picked up. Reluctantly, Yang let go of Blake’s hand, leaning down and scooping Ember up into her arms. She turned her head in all sorts of directions, clucking lowly to herself, before turning her attention on Blake, reaching toward her and trying to preen at her hair. Blake stiffened, but let it happen, and Yang had to admit it was kind of adorable. 

“I guess I should mention it- but Ember here is my familiar.” She chuckled, and Blake looked up at her with sass sparkling in her eyes. “I couldn’t tell.” She chuckled lowly, blinking in surprise as Ember started to flap her wings restlessly in Yang's arms, trying to hop out and toward Blake. Yang stammered, trying to get Ember to relax, but the bird seemed dead set on Blake holding her. “Ah shit-” Yang struggled, and Blake, for her own stumbling, was quick to open her arms as Ember came flapping towards her, enveloping the chicken and cradling her not unlike Yang had, although admittedly a bit less coordinated. Ember crooned, seemingly already well adjusted to Blake’s arms. In a way, Yang was a little jealous, but the sight was too adorable for the feeling to last very long. 

Blake went along with it, surprisingly, as they walked closer to the fire, cradling the bird in her arms. Summer was dragging lawn chairs one at a time toward the fire, and with Ember preoccupied, Yang lent her a hand, carrying them out in sets of two, until they had enough seats for everyone, Blake included. Ruby came sprinting out the sliding the doors as they were setting the seat up around the now blazing fire, her arms bustling and nearly overflowing with a jumbo sized bag of marshmallows Raven kept hidden away, a box of graham crackers, and what appeared to be an alarming amount of chocolate. Ah.

“You ever had the perfect smore, Blake?” Tai asked, prodding the fire with a stick, and Yang withheld an exclamation of embarrassment. She settled instead on a disgruntled cough, and a grumble of her father’s name. He ignored her, and she honestly wasn't sure why she had expected anything different. As Ruby arrived with the smore supplies, passing them off to him- well, everything but the chocolate- Ember decided she’d rather search for grubs and slugs in the grass than be held, and after a moment of panicked fumbling, Blake set her down. Yang directed her to an empty chair with a flourish and a light bow, to which Blake smiled, coy as she dipped in a little bow of her own, sitting down in the weather-beaten plastic lawn chair. The fire illuminated her in gold and orange and flickering firelight, and smiling so pleasantly there as she laughed at Ruby’s antics, Yang felt the first true semblance of peace since all this had begun. 

Everyone gathered around the fire, Raven gathering the long metal rods they used for marshmallow sticks, and Summer passing her the poor bastards to skewer. As much as Yang wanted to hold onto her anger, and as much as she wanted to hold it close to her heart, she couldn't help but loosen up as she watched her mothers; Summer would pass Raven a marshmallow, and Raven would skewer it, the two making idle, soft chatter, and smiling softly to one another in the firelight. At one point, once Raven had already skewered enough marshmallows for everyone, Summer held one more out to her, and albeit with a slight roll of her eyes, she accepted it, taking a small bite. All Yang could see in her expression and her eyes was love for Summer. 

And as much as she wanted to forgive her, Yang was reminded of their fight that weekend. She was reminded of her mother's lies. 

The anger must have shown on her face, because without even really realizing it at first, a hand slipped its way softly into hers, entwining with her fingers, scars distinguishing enough as anything else. Blake didn’t say anything. She seemed to follow Yang’s line of sight… but she didn’t say anything. She just held Yang’s hand. And that was enough.

Ruby was in charge of distributing the marshmallow skewers, passing them to each person in turn, even if she did have some fun playing keep-away from their father, which Tai was quick to play into, chasing her around for the sticks while Summer shouted at them to be careful of the fire. It was certainly entertaining to watch, and Yang was happy to see Blake enjoying herself, smiling and giggling as Ruby fought for her right to withhold Tai’s marshmallow. 

They were not anticipating for Ruby to come barreling around the corner at full speed, however. Likewise, they were not prepared for her to lose her footing, and go falling forward, and closer to the bonfire than anyone would have liked. It was like everything happened in a fraction of a second. Yang wasn’t even sure she was breathing as she launched up from the chair, reaching for her sister. “RUBY!” Her shout was far more guttural than she had ever heard from herself, she just faintly cataloged in the back of her brain as she lunged forward. Her fist closed around the fabric of Ruby’s hoodie, and she faintly heard beyond the rushing of the blood and her heart in her ears, Ruby gasp undoubtedly still processing her slip mid-fall. 

She must have blacked out- Yang stopped thinking- stopped remembering what happened- but when she clocked back in, Ruby was on the grass, panting and staring at her in what Yang could only describe as pure unadulterated horror. Raven and Summer were standing over her- it seemed they had just gotten to her, both of them looking her over frantically, although Raven’s gaze remained squarely on Yang, her eyes wide with something akin to defeat. Yang’s body nearly radiated with the relief she felt that Ruby was safe- actually… Yang’s eyebrow quirked as she noted that she was burning up- she- she had never felt so hot. Well, adrenaline will do that you, Yang supposed. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, Yang tried to steady her breathing. She just needed to get a hold of herself- Ruby was fine now. Tai would give her a good chewing out- she was sure all three of their parents would. 

Speaking of the devil, Yang glanced sidelong to see her father standing off to the side, shuffling closer, if in tentative individual footsteps. He looked like he’d seen the brothers- pallid for his normally tanned complexion, face drawn, and eyes disbelieving. It was certainly scary, having your daughter almost fall into the fire pit. Gods, she was hot. Yang let out a breath, reaching down to use the henley to wipe the sweat from her face, only to find her henley- gone… 

It took Yang approximately 10 seconds to realize she was standing inside the bonfire. 

Once she had come to that realization, she began to scream. And then it started to burn . Yang had never felt such blistering heat in her life- she tried to stumble her way out of the blames, reaching out, thankfully as Tai lunged forward, grabbing her by the arm and yanking her into the grass. Yang laid there, rolling about as her father shed his own shirt, patting the remaining flames out of her hair and her holding her close. Yang tried to take a deep breath or two, her mind reeling with what the actual fuck had just happened. Her head was splitting, and all she could hear was voices- all she could hear was people talking over one another, and the crackling of the charred logs in the pit, and the crunch of leaves underneath her and underfoot, and the sizzle of the smoke wafting through the air of her singed split ends.

Purely by accident, Yang’s gaze met Blake’s, and her heart shattered with the absolutely tumultuous roller coaster of emotions playing on her face and flickering in the firelight. Never before had Yang been the cause of such despair- such helplessness; and such fright.

Yang was vaguely aware of Raven and Tai helping her to her feet. No. No, Yang was beyond done with this bullshit. She was done. Yang all but ripped her arm away from her mother. The anger that had plagued her before was riddled now with confusion, and panic, and terror. 

“Yang-” Raven tried to dissuade her from walking by herself- at least, Yang assumed that’s what she was being dissuaded against- she didn’t much care, to be honest. There were bigger things on her plate. “Tell me.” She all but growled instead, the anger anchoring her in place, settled deep in the pit of her stomach and rushing with the blood in her cheeks. Raven faltered, as though she didn’t know what Yang was talking about. “Tell me, dammit!” Yang all but screamed. “For once in your life, be honest with me!” She all but pleaded, and time seemed to freeze as Raven’s expression fluttered between surprise, guilt, and finally settling on resignation. “What do you want to know, Yang?” 

The tension in Yang’s body was still high, but it relaxed somewhat, seeing that Raven was willing to comply. Yang’s blood was boiling- and she wasn’t so sure that was metaphorical anymore. The sweat was all but dripping off of her- she was faintly aware of how gross that was- and part of her brain registered then that Blake was indeed still there, although she had kept herself back from the rest of them, watching nervously. Yang tried to put a mental leash on her anger. The last thing she wanted was to scare her- and Yang was sure she was all but beastly at the moment. “...what is wrong with me.” She asked her mother, trying to restrain the hostility leaching into her tone. 

“There’s nothing wrong with-” 

“Bull-shit.” Yang snapped, and Raven closed her mouth. “There is definitely something wrong with me, mother!” 

Raven took a minute, seemingly on edge. From her body language, Yang could tell she was fighting the urge to pace. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Yang.” She tried again, “You’re just… you don’t know how to control it-” 

“Control what?” This was ridiculous. All of it. Yang was only vaguely aware that she’d started crying- but then she was very aware of the sizzling on her cheeks, as the tears boiled and evaporated before they could even fall. 

Somehow, Raven managed to look both sympathetic and closed off. “You’re right, Yang…” she began, if hesitantly. “You’re right. I have been lying to you…” She admitted. “But you have to understand-” 

Understand? I don’t understand-” Yang cut her off, blistering with fury. It was quickly muted, however, as Raven- perhaps for the first time in her life- yelled at her. Sure, Raven had yelled to her. Raven had chided her, and scolded her, but never before had she truly raised her voice- not like this. “ YANG !” Raven all but barked at her, and despite her confusion, and her anger, Yang closed her mouth. When Raven saw she calmed slightly, her expression admittedly regretful, she ran her hands through her hair and then down her face, clearly trying to muster the strength to talk about whatever it was she had been lying to Yang about. “Sit down… before you fall.” She asked, and Yang wanted to refuse, but the sudden realization of the weak, numb feeling in her legs prompted her to take the advice. She found the closest chair and lowered herself, trying to ignore the sizzling of the plastic. 

She was beyond surprised as Blake sat down next to her. She seemed to want to take Yang’s hand, but Yang wasn’t sure. Even if that would make her feel so much better, she didn’t want to risk hurting her. Yang’s gaze traveled from Blake’s concerned expression, back to her mother, who was looking between them in a conflicted way. But she seemed to be able to tell that saying anything would just upset Yang again. She was right, of course. Which is why Yang was admittedly relieved when Raven took a seat of her own. Summer helped Ruby to her feet, and they both took the two available seats beside where Tai was still standing. The thoughts were clearly still trying to find purchase in his brain, but with a soft look from Raven, he slowly lowered himself into a chair. 

“As I was saying…” Raven began with a sigh. “I’ve- been lying to you, Yang.” She admitted. “But what I need you to understand… is that this is a very delicate situation.” Yang let her keep talking. If she unclenched her jaw, she feared she’d say something she’d regret. Raven played with her hands, almost nervously as she tried to prepare herself to tell her daughter the truth. 

“Yang… you’re not a half witch.” She finally breathed. “You’re a full witch. And a hybrid.” 

That...was going to take a moment to process. “...what?” That was about all Yang could manage. She supposed that made sense, in a way… but there were still gaps. “I don’t know what that- I don’t-” She struggled. “What is that?” She settled for instead, and to her surprise, it was Blake that answered. 

“A hybrid witch is a witch born from two different covens. Sometimes it’s tolerated, if the covens are both particularly weak, or if the hybrid only inherits one magic type or the other.” Blake murmured, and Yang turned her attention to her, along with everyone else around the fire. She shrunk in on herself a little, but when her gaze returned to Yang, she seemed to find a little bit of courage somewhere. “...but most of the time covens discourage it, because it can be dangerous.”

Raven had sat up more in her chair, her expression unreadable. “You’re well versed, it seems.” 

To her credit, Blake stood her ground. “...I’ve traveled a lot… heard a lot of different stories.” 

“Stories, huh?” Raven’s eyes were dark and storming, and she leaned forward in a way that would make anyone else feel intimidated. “Tell me then… What stories have you heard about hybrids.” Blake blinked, seemingly trying to find her words. It was Yang who reached across the divide of their chairs, sliding her now faintly warm hand into Blake’s. She startled at first with the touch, but once she realized it was just Yang, in silent support, she mustered the ability to speak. 

“I’ve heard a lot over the years. Like I said, sometimes hybrids aren’t a large concern; I’ve met a few whose magic was either entirely one sided, or who struggled with both aspects. And I’ve- heard of others.” Blake recounted, and Yang processed this, but there was still more to be said. “Hybrid witches from powerful covens…” She seemed hesitant to say. That was when Raven cut back into the conversation. “They don’t live long.” She stated bluntly, and Blake flinched. Yang’s brow furrowed, but Raven continued, and Blake squeezed her hand. “Powerful covens don’t tolerate hybrids. Especially if those hybrids could fuck them over.” 

“Raven-” Summer tried to enter the conversation, and Raven seemed okay with it. “Tell her about Maria, Sum.” Summer blinked at that. “Raven… I don’t see how this… is productive.” she murmured, and over the crackling of the fire, it was almost inaudible. But Raven heard it. “She deserves to know the gravity of the situation…” Raven egged her on, and after taking a moment to collect herself and her thoughts, Summer spoke. “There was an elder in my coven… She was a hybrid, and a light bringer. She was my mentor for a short while, and she told me once that… well, that she was thankful she had only inherited her mother’s Rose coven magic. If she’d inherited her father’s…” 

“Say it, Summer…” Raven prompted, although her expression was soft, and pensive. Summer took a deep breath, and as she spoke, Yang’s breath left her. “...if she had inherited her father’s magic… or gods forbid, both … the coven likely would have expunged her, or worse…”

Yang was starting to get the picture. But there were still things to clarify. “...you said that when you were pregnant with me, they made you pick me or them, because I was a half witch…” 

Raven exhaled through her nose, her shoulders heaving with the sigh. “...When I was pregnant with you, I told my parents, and they were livid. If you had been a half-witch, they would have been disappointed, but… we would be living a very different life right now.” She seemed to be struggling as she recalled the events, her foot tapping against the dirt. “But I was an idiot, and I had learned nothing from Cinder.” 

“Cinder?” Blake blinked, her brow furrowed in recollection. “Why does that…?” She murmured to herself, and Raven caught it. “Another hybrid story.” 

“What story? Who is Cinder?” Yang asked, looking between them. It was then that it seemed to click for Blake- at least a little bit. “When I was in Mistral, I heard stories of a hybrid from years before I was born…” Raven nodded slowly as Blake continued. “She devastated an entire coven… people say her magic was so overwhelming that it destroyed parts of her whenever she used it. They say she was possessed by darkness himself.” 

“No. Not Darkness.” Summer, surprisingly spoke up. “But something else.” 

“Cinder… Cinder was a mess.” Raven admitted. “I didn’t know her too well- I was only a child when she-” She hesitated, as though the memory was an open wound. After a moment, she continued. “...when she was around. She was a teenager then. Around your age, maybe a little older…” Her glance flickered from Blake to Yang. “She was a hybrid, like you. Too much like you…” Raven breathed, seeming troubled. “She was a Branwen- Xiao Long hybrid.”

Yang blinked. “...what?” 

The guilt had returned to Raven’s expression. “The only reason she’d been allowed to live so long was because the coven had been fairly certain she had inherited no Xiao Long traits. She looked like a Branwen, and she had the brash attitude of a Branwen. She wasn’t a Dreamer… but her magic manifested itself in an almost equally dangerous form. I guess she wasn’t treated the best by some of the coven- I didn’t realize the extent until that night…” Summer rested her hand gently against her wife’s shoulder in comfort. 

“Xiao Long magic originated in Vacuo. It’s adapted to sand, and heat, and camouflage. The Xiao Long coven are also notorious for being impossible to find in a group. You could meet several in your lifetime, and never see more than one at a time.” She scoffed. “We’d come to find out Cinder had very much inherited that, along with their magic. My parents had been wrong, and the elders before them had been wrong. Cinder had inherited both coven traits. One week in particular, she acted out of sorts; even snippier than usual- short tempered and cruel.” 

Summer’s grip on Raven’s shoulder tightened slightly. “Then one night she lost whatever semblance of control she’d been able to maintain. She set fire to the camp, and wreaked havoc.” Raven’s expression hardened. 

“The Rose coven was near enough to the Branwens at the time that we could see the smoke, and from the clearing, the fire. Some of the coven’s magic specialized in water. We were able to get some of the damage fixed.” Summer bit her lip, and it was Raven’s turn to speak on the event. “The whole thing was a mess- but one thing was clear. Cinder wasn’t herself. None of the Light Bringers had come to help-” 

“Except for me.” Summer admitted. “Of course, we didn’t know until much later in our lives that that we’d met when we were young-”

“We didn’t even meet, really.” Raven scoffed, although there was a playful note to it. “It was just chaos, and then light… and then it was over.” 

“And then it was over.” 

“The coven was never the same after that. It was hectic, and everyone was on high alert for a while… and then once things mellowed out, people were still guarded. No one wanted a repeat of that night. Hybrids became all but illegal, in an unspoken way. But I was stupid. I purposely omitted Tai’s last name. I led them to believe he had no witch heritage. I told them I was keeping company with a Rose and a non-witch, and while they weren’t pleased, my Dreaming of Summer was enough to persuade them to let me wander as I pleased.” Raven confessed, and across the fire, Tai’s face was stoic and stormy. 

“What do you mean, ‘led them to believe’.” He asked, and Raven looked almost ashamed. “Tai…” He didn’t seem to want to hear it. He didn’t seem to want to know, even if he’d asked, running his hands through his shaggy hair and resting his head. “What do you mean, the Xiao Long coven.” He asked, and Blake intertwined her fingers with Yang’s, squeezing lightly. All Yang could feel right now was tension. Her body was filled with it, and the air was thick with it. 

Raven seemed resigned. “...Dad was a witch, Tai…” Her tone was quiet, and gentle. “No. No he wasn’t.” Tai looked up, a fire burning in his eyes, even if they stayed their soft blue color. “He- he was not a witch-” 

“Tai… I-” Summer tried, turning to her husband with sympathy twisting her expression. But he didn’t want to. “No. No- he was a simple man.” He snapped, standing. “He was a carpenter for brothers’ sake-” 

Tai. ” It was Raven who managed to get him to take a deep breath. He faltered, looking from the both of them, to his daughters, and slowly sitting back down. “...your dad was a witch.” She affirmed, and he rubbed at his head in conflict. “...he used to have me drive him to Vacuo- out into the middle of the desert. He wouldn’t tell me why, and I just waited in the car until he came back… and- one too many times I saw him using magic.” 

“You did…?” that seemed to be news to Summer. This entire bonfire had turned into the most open spaced confessional Yang had ever seen. Raven nodded. “Yang has too, although she probably doesn’t remember it.” Her gaze traveled to Yang, who blinked in surprise as the conversation turned back her way. “I have?” 

Raven nodded. “Unfortunately…although I can’t blame your granddad- he didn’t know any better.”

Yang wasn’t sure she understood. “Why is that unfortunate? If he was a witch, couldn’t he have just used his magic around you guys like normal? And why hide it?” 

Raven heaved a tired sigh. “To the Branwens, the only thing worse than a hybrid, is a Xiao Long, after the incident with Cinder. That’s why once I learned Tai’s last name, I purposefully omitted it when I mentioned him and your mom. The coven wouldn’t have cared if he had no magic or not- the idea of another Xiao Long-Branwen was terrifying. So I didn’t say anything. And then I was pregnant with you, and I had to tell my parents. They were rightfully livid, as I mentioned before. My father the most so.” She murmured. “My parents loved me and my brother very much, but they had an obligation as well- and none more than my father. The coven came before the individual. It was you or them, and” Raven hesitated, as though remembering the choice very vividly. “I chose you, and Tai and Summer.”

“I still don’t see what this has to do with granddad, beyond the fact that he was a Xiao Long.” Yang voiced her agitation. “What does it matter if I saw him use magic or not?” 

“I know Qrow told you about that night, when you were three.” Raven surprised her, and Yang’s mouth opened, but she didn’t seem to have anything to say. “At least- as much as he could.”

“He said you bound him to keep the secret.” Yang recalled, and Raven nodded. “I was terrified. I’m not even sure if I was entirely cognitive during that stretch of time at the cabin…” She recalled. “I took you to the Branwens because you were losing your dreaming- that much was true… but... there was more. You’d started to exhibit Xiao Long traits. I hadn’t thought it would be possible with Tai not having any… but it appears genetics weren’t on my side.” She scoffed quietly to herself. So I took you to see them. It was stupid of me- but I was scared. I-” Raven pursed her lips. “If you don’t hate me already, I’m sure you will… but… I was hoping that somehow-... that somehow they could take it away. If we caught it early enough. Nip the Xiao Long magic in the bud.” The admission was damning. 

“You… were going to…?” Yang tried to get her brain to wrap around that. “I’m sorry, Yang.” And she seemed it, her expression thick with guilt. Yang looked away. “They managed to wake you up, and when they watched your eyes fade back to purple, it bought us- it bought me more time to talk them into helping you. Ceres was willing to listen. My- my mother.” She explained, after a moment. “Sterling, my father… was hesitant. But they were both admittedly weak to you- they said you looked just like me.” She remembered. “And then the others started asking questions. They wanted to know more about our living situation, what I was teaching you, etcetera. That’s when things went wrong.” Her expression faded into a frown. “They asked about your family. You told them you had two mommies and a daddy, and that your favorite color was orange, same as your granddad…. They asked in a rather… pointed question, whether you had ever seen anyone in your family use magic. You said yes. You told them your mommy made flowers, and your granddad played with fire. They asked you your last name. You said Xiao Long.” 

It was quiet, even with the crackling of the dying fire- now long since dwindling without someone to stoke it. Blake all but clenched Yang’s hand, but Yang was far past comforting touches right now. “What did they do?” She asked quietly. 

Qrow had told her that she was dead to the coven. That if they ever found out she was alive, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. And that was terrifying. She wanted to know exactly why, and what that meant. Raven seemed hesitant, but the serious expression that Yang could feel on her own face was enough to convince her. “...they grabbed you. It was a scramble. I tried to get to you, and you were screaming…” Raven took a breath, and beside her, Summer looked horrified. Tai looked just as at a loss for words. Ruby was stoic, and sad, curled up inside her sweatshirt in her chair. “Ceres tried to get them to stop, and gather more evidence… but the seeds Cinder had sewn had sprouted deep. The coven was terrified, and they took it out on a toddler.” She grimaced. “Yang- I-” She looked up at her daughter, and the anger hidden there, after years of secrecy was clear. “I want you to know that I did not just let them take you like that- I…” She searched for the words, seeming to be reaching her limits. “I fought for you. I did. But it wasn’t me who saved you from them.” 

“Who was it?” Yang asked. She wanted to know, even if the entire story had her stomach flipping over itself. “You.” Raven answered, and the confusion was clear on everyone else’s faces, particularly Yang’s. “What…?” 

“You saved yourself. You kicked and screamed, and I watched as your eyes snapped again, and suddenly where they touched you they were burning, and- Yang…” Raven shook her head slightly with the memory. “I- I can only really liken it to a temper tantrum. But… bigger.” 

“Bigger…?” Yang clarified, and Raven bit her lip. “The only word I have for it… would be spontaneous combustion. The tent went up in flames, and it was chaotic. Your pajamas were burning, and when I got to you, I ripped what I could off. I- I went into survival mode, I think. I had a knife on me, so I cut off a few locks of your hair and left it with the pajamas… and then I carried you out of the camp.” Raven recounted, and in the eerie dying light of the fire, the seriousness of the story settled over the group. “You know the rest, I’m sure…” 

She did. She could thank her uncle for that. Well… that certainly filled in the gaps. Yang was only partially aware as she felt herself begin to stand. Everyone looked up at her as she did, and Blake’s eyes flickered with concern as she slowly let go of her hand. “Yang?” She asked quietly, and Yang stopped, if only a moment, before looking back at her, putting on the softest expression she could muster. “I should get you home, Blake. It’s late, and we’ve got work tomorrow.” She smiled, and Blake looked beyond lost for words. But she took Yang’s hand as it was offered again, and as much as it was for Blake, Yang would be lying if she said it wasn’t for her too. 

Yang ignored the faint burns along her shoulders and arms and she pulled her father’s shirt over her head. She ignored the way it draped so loosely off her frame, and she ignored her family as they all watched her go in silence back around the bend of the house and to her father’s truck. “No bike tonight…?” Blake asked softly, and Yang heard her, although it took her a moment to answer, grabbing her father’s keys off the dash from the open window. “...no. It’s not safe this dark out.” She murmured, opening the door and gesturing for Blake to get in the passenger seat. As they got in and Yang adjusted the seat and mirrors, they sat there for a moment, in the quiet. “...I wouldn’t want your dad to worry about you.” She said after a moment, and her smile was weak. Blake only looked sad. “...I worry about you.” 

Yang started the truck. The ride was quiet, and neither breach the silence. As they pulled up to the driveway, Yang put the truck into park, and Blake sat there, not yet reaching for the door. “...If you had a phone, I’d give you my number…” She said instead, and after silence for so long, her voice sounded new in Yang’s ears. That sweet little twang… “I’ll keep that in mind…” She promised, hoping the sincerity she felt was backed by her words. It seemed to be. Blake reached for the door handle, pushing open the door and holding the handle on the ceiling as she moved to step down. “Blake-” The name caught in her throat, but from where they’d reappeared, Blake’s ears twitched atop her head, and she stopped mid-step.

“I'm sorry… about tonight.” Yang managed quietly, and the sympathy in Blake’s eyes was nearly palpable- big and gold and dewy. “‘Nature’s first green is gold; Her hardest hue to hold.’” Blake murmured back, a smile perched deftly on her lips. Yang had to smile- which turned into a laugh, her heart doing butterflies, despite the crushing information she’d been delivered less than ten minutes prior. This. This was what she loved about Blake. What she’d always loved about Blake. And in her smile, Yang got the feeling Blake knew. 

But true enough to Blake’s choice of poem, she descended the truck, and ascended the front steps of her parents home, glancing back once, wistfully, before going inside. When she was gone, Yang felt the laughter in her flicker and die. She waited until she had driven past the treeline, and then she pulled up to the shoulder of the gravel road, and parked. And then she cried. She cried and she cried, and it felt so bad, but so needed. She cried until she could cry any more. And then she shifted into drive, home bound. 

 

Chapter Text

Yang had never tasted anything so disgusting in her life. But she fought through the revolt her taste buds were currently throwing, white-knuckle gripping the island as she rolled the bite around in her mouth. All she could taste was char. She fought the scrunching up of her face as she tried to swallow it. 

“So?” Ruby asked, leaning on the counter, her eyes searching. “Itph… great …” Yang managed, tapping her fingers to fight the cough scratching at the back of her throat. “Mmm… pho good…” Oh gods, it was stuck. She could feel the lump of charred bread stuck in her throat. “Yang…?” 

“Fine- I’m fine-” Yang sputtered, trying to hold back the building urge to cough. She reached for another piece of the utterly burned loaf of bread, determined to prove her statement. It was quickly karate-chopped from her hand, as Nora grabbed her by the shirt. “Are you out of your mind ?” She exclaimed, all but shaking Yang in place. 

“It does seem unwise.” Ren admitted, gaze traveling from the crumbling remains of what once might have been bread, and Nora trying to wrestle it away from Yang’s mouth. 

“It’s certainly... “ Pyrrha coughed into her hand as she tried not to linger on the smoky texture herself. “...something…” She struggled through an assuring smile, and they all turned their attention as Jaune staggered back in the door, looking pale in the face and ill everywhere else. He leaned against the kitchen counter and tried to ground himself, and Pyrrha found herself chuckling good naturedly at his miserable state, although it was cut short, as it seemed she had rolled a piece of char the wrong way in her mouth. 

“Ruby- and I mean this in the nicest way possible-” Jaune took a deep, embodying breath and placed his hands firmly on Ruby’s shoulders. “I cannot sell this bread or my parents will kill me for killing our customers.”

Ruby sputtered at this, her brow furrowing in a pout. “Yang’s eating it, and she hasn’t died.” She gestured at Yang, who despite Nora’s grappling had managed to shove another piece of charred bread into her mouth. Yang shuddered as it entered her mouth, but she struggled to raise two thumbs toward her baby sister, who damn-near glowed with pride. Unfortunately, there was now far too much grossness in her mouth that was very much not bread, and even without Nora’s pseudo-Heimlich, her taste buds had had about enough, commencing with the backup plan of ejecting whatever was taking up space in her mouth. Nora had the good sense to move out of the way as Yang lunged for the industrial sized sink, spitting but the charred up mush with a shudder and a groan. From where her head was currently leaning into the sink, Yang could make out Jaune remarking on the relevance of his own nickname, and the irony of the situation. 

She raised her head, pushing her hair back and turning on her boot heels. “You just got back from hurling in the bathroom; I’d say it’s still pretty relevant.” She scoffed, although there was only amusement in her voice, and nausea. Jaune pouted, but Ruby was quick to pick up where her sister’s teasing had left off, and Yang grinned proudly at her as she got her bearings. 

Gods, she was never going to get that char taste out of her mouth… but it was worth it. It had been a stressful week at the Xiao Long-Rose-Branwen homestead. The tension was thick in nearly every corner of the property- even just sitting in her room felt wrong, especially while her parents were doing their best to avoid each other. At least, Raven and Tai were. Summer had been trying to act as a middle ground between the two, but it was clearly not working. Yang hadn’t been getting much sleep during the week, however much she wished she could. The result was dragged out wake-ups after late, late nights, her mind racing enough as it was, without trying to avoid looking at the couch, where Raven had obviously been sleeping. She didn’t know what Tai was doing, but if she had to guess, Yang assumed he was sleeping out in the shed. 

She’d admittedly confessed to Blake about her suspicions during the one night she’d managed to sleep more than three hours that week. That night in particular she had drowned the sound of her parents’ arguing out with her many decorative pillows. Ruby was lucky enough to have a way to listen to music- Yang would have to look into that, not that she had any particular music in mind. She’d been surprised to find Blake in her dreams once again, surprised to see her, but not put off by any means. 

It had been a few days at that point since the bonfire incident, and at work the first few days they’d sort of avoided the topic- although not entirely on purpose. Yang was just… bad with words. And she was still figuring all this out herself. Raven hadn’t had any more to say about her confession, or about Yang’s newfound identity, which was frustrating, to say the least, but Yang could manage on her own. She’d spent the better part of her nights out in the woods, trying to get a handle on whatever heat magic she’d inherited. It seemed the only real discovery she had made was that her body kept her warm, even in the cold of night when she sometimes fell asleep against a tree stump or a particularly large rock. 

Summer had been real mad at her for that- Blake had too, although that was far more surprising. When they’d both turned up in the dream, and Blake realized they were in the woods, her concern had been clear. Yang had tried to assure her that she was alright, just camped not too far from the homestead, but it was clear Blake was worried. They’d ended up laying on the mossy forest floor, Blake curled up against Yang, not immune to the bone chilling breeze blowing its way through the trees. But Yang’s overheated temperature made it better. She supposed that was one good thing about this whole ordeal. 

They talked about what had happened over the following couple of days, however in passing it was. Tai’s work on the Schnee residence was a full time job, and sometimes he asked Ruby to stand in for her sister at the shop so that Yang could help him with some of the hard work. Yang was more than willing, although it was a bit awkward, in the silence of the drive. Yang knew her father was feeling very conflicted about the whole ordeal, and about the truth of his own family heritage. But there was also something about it- a form of solidarity, maybe- that came with being lied to about the Xiao Longs. The work was difficult, but not overly so. Tai only gave her tasks he knew she could handle. This was the first living space she’d ever helped to construct- she’d helped him build a shed before, and a deck, and obviously many smaller projects, but she'd never assisted in something this extensive before. She’d nearly had to sit down when she saw the blueprints. The thing was going to be massive- not to mention elaborate- but she could have guessed that from the framework he’d already laid out. 

Today was one of those days that she was helping him with the residence- this was technically her lunch break. She’d promised she’d check in on Ruby, and grab them some grub. Her dad wanted one of the personal pizzas that Velvet was renowned for, but after working up a sweat, she’d decided an egg salad sandwich sounded much better. She’d been able to cross two things off her list, finding Ruby on her own lunch break at Jaune’s family’s cafe and bakery, where she’d intended to get her sandwich. Ren and Nora it seemed had the day off, which explained why they were also there, chatting with Jaune and Pyrrha as Jaune’s older sister took over his shift. 

And here they were, mucking about the kitchen, and stomaching Ruby’s terrible attempt at bread, which had been Jaune’s goading, and his downfall, ultimately. Yang hadn’t planned on staying so long, admittedly, but seeing Ruby enjoying herself had convinced her to stay. It had been a tough week at home, and it was clear that with everything going on, no matter how positive she tried to be, Ruby wasn’t feeling the greatest. Yang tried to amend that at every chance she got. Hence the choking down of the burnt husk of a loaf of bread. But a quick look at the clock mounted on the wall made Yang’s stomach churn. She didn’t want to leave- she was having an awful lot of fun… but she had a job to do too, and a hungry dad to feed. 

So, she said her goodbyes, waving at her friends, and prying Nora off of her as she left the kitchen, although, she did stop in the doorway, if only to catch one last glimpse of her sister enjoying herself. And then it was through the main doors into the cafe, with an acknowledging nod and wave of the hand to Jaune’s sister, before she stepped out the front door and onto the sidewalk. 

It wasn’t extremely busy that Friday; about as busy as noon on a Friday usually got. Shops had begun to put out various fall decorations, which Yang hardly minded- she was sure Tai would have her put theirs up sometime soon as well. It was kinda nice, seeing the jack o'lanterns and leaf decor already in the windows, although if Tai were with her, he’d have spent the entire walk complaining about the people putting their pumpkins out so early. Summer tended to rub off on him, in that regard. 

Scarlatina Pizzeria wasn’t exactly crowded, but it still took Yang a moment to reach the counter, leaning forward as she did. “Hey Velvet.” She grinned, and behind the counter, Velvet jumped in surprise, turning to look at her and blinking as she processed that it was just Yang. “Oh! Hello Yang.” She breathed, tying her apron tighter, first around the back and then in a little bow in the front. “‘Been a while since you’ve been around here.” She teased lightly, and Yang had to laugh. “‘Been tryin’ to eat better.” Yang quipped in response, and Velvet gave her a look, as though to say ‘touche’. 

“The old man’s craving the usual.” She explained, and Velvet waved her hand in passing as she moved to grab some dough and begin on the order. “Sure thing.” As she tossed the dough in rapid succession, dropping it onto the counter, Yang tapped her shoes against the floor. “How's business been, besides my dad?” 

“Oh, pretty good. Getting a lot more deliveries- Coco’s been swamped this past week.” Velvet informed her, spreading around the sauce and sprinkling a hearty amount of cheese over it. “Really? Must be fun for her.” Yang murmured the last bit to herself, but Velvet caught it with a giggle. “Yeah.. she tries not to pout about it, but she wouldn’t be Coco if she didn’t gripe from time to time.” 

“I have to admit, I laughed when I saw her in the uniform.” Yang snickered, and Velvet tried to stifle her own. “I did too, not that she has to know that.” She winked, and Yang pretended to zip her lips as Velvet put the pizza in the big brick oven behind her. She almost didn’t catch the mischievous twinkle in Velvets eye. Almost. “How are things over at your dad’s?” Velvet wiped her hands on a rag and paused a moment to talk with her friend while the pizza was in the oven. She was still the same Velvet Yang had known growing up- still as quick witted and intuitive as ever. “‘Been good. I’ve been manning the wood shop, and helpin’ him with a project on the side.” 

“Anything else…?” She tapped the counter, and Yang’s cheeks flushed. “Velvet what are you gettin’ at?” Velvet raised her hands in surrender. “Oh nothing, nothing at all. Just having some fun and pulling your chain.” Yeah… Yang didn’t trust that. “Uh huh…” 

“I’m just disappointed you weren’t planning on telling me about your girlfriend.” Aaaand there it was. Yang sputtered, blushing as Velvet giggled to herself, walking down the length of the counter and putting on an oven mitt. Yang tried to collect herself as Velvet pulled a tray of cheesy looking bread sticks out of the miniature oven. While they were still hot, she placed them into a little breadbasket, and pushed it toward Yang. “Order up.” 

Yang looked from the bread sticks and to Velvet, the confusion clear in her features. “I didn’t-” 

“No, but your girlfriend did.” She pointed toward one of the booths in the back, and Yang’s heart dropped into her stomach. Sure enough, she glanced back over her shoulder and sitting there in the farthest most booth was Blake, trying very hard it seemed not to appear to have been snooping. But Yang knew better. Blushing, she waved with her free hand, and Blake flushed, nodding subtly with her head for Yang to come join her. Yang knew the pizza would be about 20 minutes- she could afford to sit down for a moment. And admittedly, she wanted to sit and talk with her girlfriend in a non-work related setting. Gods, it was still so weird to her- hearing herself call Blake her girlfriend. She’d never actually had a girlfriend before now. It was certainly an exciting feeling, she could say that much.

Blake smiled embarrassedly as Yang reached the table, although Yang wasn’t entirely sure why. If anyone should have been embarrassed, it should have been Yang. “Bread sticks for table 10?” Yang smiled in turn, trying to say something quirky to get Blake to smile- honestly, that was her favorite part of the day- getting Blake to smile, maybe even laugh that adorable snorty laugh of hers. It seemed to work for the most part. Blake snorted, looking up at Yang with that snarky look on her face. “This is booth 8. I’m afraid you have the wrong table.” 

“Ah..” Yang’s cheeks burned, and she fumbled with a clever retort- it was more of Blake’s expertise, but there was no reason she couldn’t try and hope to get lucky. “Well, my mistake.” She straightened up, “I’ll take these to the right table then.” 

“Now hold it right there- I think I want those bread sticks after all.” Blake snickered, however she tried to keep her coy pretense. She caught Yang’s shirt- another henley- by the sleeve, and Yang faked a heavy sigh. “I’m terribly sorry, ma’am but you’ve said it yourself- these bread sticks aren’t yours.”

“Well, I’m more than happy to share.” She promised, and Yang mulled it over. She hadn’t been planning on keeping the gag up much longer, but those big amber eyes always made her melty. “...well, that's a very kind offer.” She smiled, setting the basket on the table and her hands on her hips. “I suppose I could join you…” Blake made a motion for her to take a seat across the booth, and Yang wasted no time plopping down, readjusting her snapback. 

Blake snickered as she did. “So, snapback and a henley today, hm?” She asked, and despite the teasing tone, Yang knew she didn’t mean it any other way than curious. Still, she scratched at her cheek, deliberating what to say in her defense. “...too much?” She finally settled on, adjusting her hat and tucking whatever loose strands of hair had curled around her ears under its brim. Blake shook her head, reaching forward and adjusting the cap until the hole in front was centered with her forehead. “There. Just right.” 

Something about that warmed Yang, inside and out. “Thanks…” She blushed, scratching at her chin. Blake caught the motion, and her hand, lowering it to the table and intertwining their fingers. “...any reason in particular for… well, for this?” She asked, and admittedly, Yang’s stomach curled in on itself. Normally, she’d pass it off as just having a certain style, or wanting to look cool… but… she didn’t feel like she needed to do that with Blake. “Honestly?” She murmured, brushing the back of Blake’s hand with her thumb. “...Dad asked me to help with the Schnee place- which, I mean, you know about-” Blake nodded. “...and well.. I..” Yang bit her lip. “The other day we were working, and I was having a good time, I guess… and one of the guys dad had hired came over and dad introduced me to him…” 

Blake nodded along, listening and playing absentmindedly with Yang’s hand. Yang hesitated. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. She’d never really admitted it out loud before… and she and Blake had only just started dating. What if… what if Blake didn’t get it, or… thought she was weird? Not that she wasn’t already… “Yang?”  Yang snapped out of it, blinking. “Huh?” 

Blake looked a little concerned, but patient. “Are you alright?” She asked, and Yang nearly tripped over herself nodding in response. “Yeah- Yeah sorry, just… thinking.” She admitted, and Blake’s lips turned down in a frown. “Whatever it is, Yang, I’ll listen to whatever you want to share.” Yang contemplated that, and admittedly, it helped to quell some of fears popping up in the back of her head. “I guess I just… I wanted to… look more manly…?” She tried to put the words together as best as she could manage, with… varying degrees of success. Blake seemed to be processing this. “...oh.” She finally remarked, seemingly in surprise. Yang flushed in embarrassment, her stomach twisting. “I- It’s stupid-” She tried to retract the statement, but Blake was quick to reassure her. “No no- It’s okay! That’s- I mean… Yang, that's perfectly alright.” 

Yang, although not entirely convinced, did feel a little better about it with Blake’s assurance. “You don't...mind?” 

“Mind?” Blake blinked for a moment. “Why would I mind something like that?” Yang shrugged, and kinda felt a little stupid for asking. “I- I dunno… I mean… we’re dating… and I guess…” Yang tiptoed around the subject. “Just.. that it’s probably not what you thought you were getting into…” Blake just looked even more confused, and somewhere between sad and agitated that made Yang panic just a slight amount. “Yang, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m dating you because I like you, not…” Her cheeks flushed, and she seemed to be reconsidering her phrasing. “...You’re important to me… I don’t care if you wear spaghetti straps or muscle tanks. If you want to dress more manly… then I’m right beside you.” 

Yang really, really wished she wasn’t a crybaby by nature. It took all the self control she possessed not to start bawling at her girlfriend’s consideration. The struggle must’ve been clear on her face, because Blake gave her hand a squeeze. “Do you- is there anything I can do? Do you want me to um… to call you anything different or-” Yang couldn’t help the little emotional laugh that slipped out as she shook her head. “No, no.. I- um… to be honest… It’s not- I don’t think it’s like that… I just…I’m still figuring things out.” 

Blake nodded in understanding. “Okay… well if there's anything at all-” 

“You’ll be the first to know.” Yang promised, and her heart was singing and aching in such a great way. She never wanted it to stop. But all too soon, Velvet was calling her from the counter, and she knew her dad would be pissed if she took much longer. “Shit… I should go…” She murmured, more to herself than anything. Blake was quick to look at her wrist- and the small black wristwatch there. “Now that you mention it, lunch break is just about up as well.” She sighed, and Yang couldn't help but scoff bemusedly, although not at her. “Someone should probably tell Rubes.” 

Blake rolled her eyes, tearing off a chunk of bread stick and taking a bite as Yang pushed herself to stand, trying to take her eyes off of Blake and motivate herself to grab the pizza and get back to work. “Well… if you’d like, I could walk you back to the shop.” She offered instead, but Blake knew better. “I’m sure you parked nowhere near the shop.” 

Yang snapped her fingers, pursing her lips. “Can’t get anything past you, can I?” Blake giggled to herself, wiping her cheesy, oily fingers on a napkin. “Is working on-site really so bad?” 

“No, you’re just incredibly distracting.” Yang admitted with a sigh and a smile, and watching the glow in Blake’s expression, which was enough to set her on fire- at least, emotionally. She was lucky she hadn’t literally caught on fire. “Well, I could always drop by and distract you there too.” Blake teased, and Yang had to tug at the collar of the henley. “Ohhh boy, please don’t do that. My dad might actually kill me if I get something wrong in my haze.” She breathed, and Blake smiled a little into her sweater sleeve. “I make you hazy…?” 

Yang really needed to shut up now. 

“Xiao Long!” A familiar voice called from the front, and Yang barely registered it as Coco before a straw wrapper hit her in the back of the head. “Come get your pizza, kid!” She called, and behind her Velvet giggled to herself. Yang’s cheeks burned. “I’m comin’!” She shouted back, and Blake snorted quietly to herself, before rising from her seat at the booth. “Reconsidered my offer?” Yang asked, a little hopeful, but mischief was twinkling in Blake’s eyes. Instead of answering outright, she looped her arm through Yang’s, and started walking her to the counter. Coco whistled as they approached, and Yang’s face was burning. “Well lookie here…” 

“Shut uppp….” Yang groaned as Velvet handed her her dad’s medium personal pizza. Coco grinned, popping her sunglasses up to rest on the top of her head. “Seems like you’ve moved on from little ‘ol me. Ouch.” 

“Ah… so this is the older girl.” Blake’s gaze traveled between them, and Yang blustered, but didn’t deny it. Coco’s eyebrows shot up in amusement, and Yang wanted to bang her head against the counter. “Oh… so you tell people about me.” Coco grinned, and Yang fought to not say anything stupid, or damning. “I- pft. No.” Smooth, Yang, real smooth. 

“I don’t tell everyone… ” She tried to amend, and Velvet laughed. “Good. Her ego’s big enough as is.” She snarked, and Coco winked at her. “You love me.” Velvet rolled her eyes and turned back to the oven, sticking a tray of bread sticks in. “Unfortunately.” 

“Glad I missed out.” Yang grimaced, although admittedly, her heart ached with the sight of them. Blake’s grip tightened around her arm, and the tension in her body relaxed. “Thanks for the pizza, Velvet.” Yang got out her wallet and paid the usual amount, and then some. Velvet accepted the tip with a pleasant smile and a salute, and then Blake walked her to the door. “This is me.” Yang joked as they reached the double doors, and Blake snorted. Yang pushed through and took in the fall atmosphere. She had only been inside for at most half an hour, but still, it all seemed to hit her again. Fall was probably her least favorite season, but she could appreciate the pretty colors, at least. 

“Don’t get distracted at work. I’d hate for you to hurt yourself… which you have a habit of doing.” Blake chuckled, and Yang gasped, feigning hurt. “I’m offended you think I get distracted that easily.” 

“Do I think wrong?” She arched an eyebrow, and Yang had to admit, she was pretty in the right, actually. “No, no…” Yang scratched at her cheek. “You got me there.” 

“Well, I wish you good luck in not getting distracted.” She giggled, and Yang’s heart melted- and apparently so did her filter. “I’m gonna need a little more than luck, since I’ll be thinking about you…” She blushed and Blake seemed to stall in place, scuffing her boots against the concrete. “Yang…?” 

Yang’s ears flushed red. “I- sorry, that was a bit-” She stopped as she felt Blake’s hand curl around her bicep. “Blake?” She turned to look at her, the pit in her stomach churning, and nearly had an aneurysm as she felt Blake’s other hand grip the fabric of her henley around the waist. Oh brothers. 

Yang hadn’t been expecting it, really. She hadn’t been prepared for the feeling of soft, downy lips- like cotton candy, or clouds, or- fuck it. She had no real comparison. It took all of her brain power to process that it was happening at all. 

Okay, it probably wasn’t as earth-shattering as her thundering heart and stupid brain were making it seem. Once she blinked back into reality, Yang realized it had only been a quick peck, and not one of those time-stopping magical fairy tale kisses. Actually, Yang was pretty sure it hadn’t even landed on her lips, not that she had the feeling back in her face. The corner of her mouth was tingling. “Uh…” Was about all she managed, gaping like a codfish. Yang hoped Blake was into codfish, because her face might have been stuck like that. 

Or not. Blake lifted her hand and aided Yang in closing her mouth. “...Are- Are you free tomorrow…?” Yang found herself asking, clearing her throat. Blake’s cheeks bloomed with a smile. “I am…” She chuckled. “Now, I think my bread sticks are getting cold…” 

“Oh! Shit- yeah… I won’t um- I won't keep you.” Yang stuttered, and Blake squeezed her hand, slowly letting go as she stepped back toward the door. She hesitated as she reached it, however. “...was… was that too forward of me?” Yang blinked, processing the question. “I- You know… I’ll be honest… I’ve been hoping for a while now that… that you’d kiss me.” She scratched at her cheek, and Blake pursed her lips in amusement. “Is that so? Then… why didn’t you do it first?” She asked, and Yang hesitated. Apparently for a little too long. 

“‘How tremendous the agony of unmade decisions.’” Blake smiled that damnable pretty smile, and once again, Yang was enamored with her way of words. “I’ll see you tomorrow... “

“I’ll- I’ll pick you up around noonish…?” Yang asked, unable to restrain the cheeky smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth. Blake nodded, and the butterflies swarmed. “It’s a date.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~



Blake had been right- it was almost impossible for Yang to work the rest of the afternoon, still high on the memory of her lips, and the look in her eyes, and the promise of seeing her the next day. She nearly took her father’s head off, hefting a handful of boards from one side of the room to the other and accidentally spacing out with the thought of the next day and any more kisses that would be waiting for her. She stained the wrong piece of wood, nearly tripped on a stack of beams, and thankfully, before she could injure herself using the nail gun, Tai called it- that would be enough for the time being. 

He let her drive home, his exhaustion clear. A part of her was a little worried about him- he typically pushed himself in the shop, and with work, but… she could tell this was different. This was a huge project. On a normal schedule, it would be done just before winter could hit- but Tai seemed to be pouring as much time as possible into the project. She’d watched him sit for a total of five minutes to scarf down half of his personal pizza, and then immediately go back to nailing down floorboards. 

Yang understood her dad was under a lot of stress. She knew that these clients were likely wealthier and more influential than he’d ever carpentered for, and she knew that he was still trying to deny his father’s identity as a witch. Things weren’t going too well with her mothers either. 

She made up her mind as they pulled into the dirt driveway, rolling up to the garage and putting the beast of a truck into park. In the split second her father reached for his handle, Yang pushed down on the button that locked the doors. Tai blinked, as though processing this, before his gaze turned to his daughter. “Uh- Yang.”

“We… need to talk.” She breathed, and he scoffed bemusedly, although she could see the fright flickering in the twitches of his face- it was near heartbreaking. “Isn’t that my line…?” 

Yang played with the brim of her hat, twisting it around the right way on her head. “...Could you just- will you listen to what I gotta say, and… not get mad?” She tried, and although he remained quiet, she took his silence as a promise. “...I’m worried about you, Dad.” She breathed, and she hated the way her voice wavered. He caught it- it was clear in the shifting of his arms and the uncomfortable expression on his face that he did. “Yang… kiddo… you shouldn’t have to-” 

“I know. And it’s fucked up that I have to, and I don't want to have to…” She gripped the steering wheel, keeping her eyes forward. If she looked at him she’d just start bawling, and that was the last thing either of them needed. “I know you’ve been sleeping in the shed… and you’ve been working so much more now…”

“It’s a big project…” He tried to assure her, but there was no heart in it- only defeat. “ Dad… ” Yang finally looked at him, and she wished she hadn’t. His head was bowed, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. He looked like he was struggling to stay composed. She choked back the mucus building in the back of her throat. She just needed to say it. She had to know. “Dad, are- are you and Ma...okay?” He raised his head, looking at her like it physically hurt him. “Yang…” 

She leaned her head against the headrest, closing her eyes. “Even though she lied… about so much… do you still love her?” She choked, and she felt his hand reach across the seat divider, taking hers tightly. “Yang, look at me.” He murmured slowly, and reluctantly, Yang opened her eyes, turning her head to look at her father. “Your mother… she has only ever wanted the best for you…” He cleared his throat, but she caught the hitch there. “...She lied because- well, I guess because she thought that's what the best for you meant. The truth is that no- no we’re not okay.” He nearly broke, but cleared his throat again, as though trying to force the sorrow from his heart. “Yang I am so damn mad, I can hardly see straight. And I know she feels bad about it but-” He squeezed her hand. “I don’t know if I can forgive her.” He admitted, and Yang’s heart broke. However mad she was with Raven, and however much she felt that Raven deserved to feel guilty, she couldn’t help the agony that came with the verbal confirmation that her family was breaking apart- and that it was all her fault. 

Maybe that wasn’t fair. Maybe that wasn’t technically correct. A huge part of her knew that it was a great deal Raven’s fault, and a huge part of her was so viscerally angry about that. But it didn’t matter. Because no matter how small it whispered in the back of her head, no matter how irrational it was, Yang believed it. She was to blame for this. 

The tears wouldn’t stop. No matter how much she mentally berated herself, no matter how embarrassed it made her, no matter how much she told herself that she was supposed to be helping him confront his feelings, and not the other way around, she couldn’t stop the sobs fighting their way up from her throat. Choking them back only made them worse. She tried to hold her breath, but all it did was make her gasp for air in desperation. The divider went up, and she heard her dad unbuckle, scooting closer and pulling her into a hug. He held her as she cried, and he smelled like wood and stain and her dad, and it made her feel so much better. Once she’d calmed down a little, he patted her back lightly, rubbing in large, gentle circles with his large man hands, like he used to do when she was littler. “I love you so much, kiddo.” He murmured into her hat. “...We’ll figure this out. I promise…I’ll-...” He hesitated, before squeezing her close. “...I’ll talk to Raven… and we’ll try to figure this out… okay?” 

Yang nodded, enjoying the comforting embrace for a few more moments before pulling away and sniffling. Tai adjusted his hat, and Yang took the keys out of the ignition, handing them to him. She didn’t look at Raven, who was leaning against the wall by the front door, as she climbed the steps of the porch and headed inside the house. She found Summer on the couch, curled up with a book, and promptly walked over, curling up with her. Summer seemed surprised at first, but quickly adjusted, putting her book down and holding Yang instead. 

Yang closed her eyes and tried to ignore the throbbing of her head and the aching behind her eyes. She tried to focus instead on Summer’s soft humming, and her fingers combing gently through Yang’s wild curls. She tried to lose herself in the comfort. 

She was probably too big for this. She was nearly an adult, and far larger than her mom… but still… it was nice. It was so unbelievably nice. She didn’t even realize she’d dozed off until there was a light shake of her shoulder, she groggily she came to, looking around. 

It was dark in the living room, except for the faint warm light from the lamp on the end table. It took her a moment to register the soft snoring coming from behind her was Summer, and that the tall, shadowy figure standing over her was Raven. “Come on, Yang… let’s get you in bed.” She murmured, and Yang was too tired to argue. Or maybe her heart just hurt too much. With a little careful aid from Raven, Yang managed to slip out of Summer’s arms without waking her, trudging sleepily up the stairs as Raven followed behind. Yang thought about dissuading her from it, but by the fact she couldn’t walk straight very long without veering off course or swaying, she figured it was probably for the best. Raven hung back as she trudged to the bathroom, brushing her teeth with half-lidded, puffy eyes and trudging back out and into her bedroom. The only light came from the hallway, where the bathroom light shone through. Raven’s silhouette blocked some of it, but Yang could see enough anyway. She tossed her hat somewhere and shed her henley, flopping down to lay on her back across her bed. She took a moment, pressing the heels of her palms into her eyes and watching the colors swirl, before popping back up into a sitting position and prying her boots off her feet, chucking those somewhere as well. She sat there, hunched for a moment, and Raven shifted, leaning against the door frame with her arms crossed. It was too dark to see her expression, and Yang couldn’t have seen straight if she had tried, anyway. 

“Yang…” She broke the silence eventually, and Yang turned her bowed head to look at her mother, eyes squinting in the light of the bathroom, which shone on her face in contrast with the dark of the room. “...I’m sorry…” Was all she managed, and Yang knew she meant it. It hurt more than anything, but Yang was too tired to feel it right that moment. “...me too…” She murmured back, raising herself from her seat on the bed and laying down, turning away from the light and onto her side. She was too tired to change. Sleeping in her jeans was perfectly fine, and the chill of the room and the top of her comforter against her burning skin was relaxing.

She wasn’t sure if Raven left before or after she fell back asleep, but regardless, she fell asleep with her door open, the bathroom light turned off.

Chapter Text

“You’re sure your parents won't mind us hanging around?” Blake asked fiddling with her hair. It was cute: the style, and the action. She’d put it up in a half-ponytail, and Yang just wanted to play with it, quite honestly. Her bangs were haphazardly blown about her forehead and pushed back, but Yang supposed that was probably partly her fault. She’d taken the truck to pick Blake up, since Mr. Belladonna was likely to be home, and the last thing she wanted was to disregard his feelings for Blake’s safety so blatantly and in his face. They could work up to the bike. On the drive back to her house, Blake had rolled her window down, and Yang had tried her absolute hardest to stay focused on the road, and not on Blake, face turned to the rushing wind, lips curling and nose scrunching, humming along with the radio. How was it possible for someone to be so beautiful? Yang had tried her best not to get lost in Blake’s dimples, or her long, thick lashes, or the freckle that revealed itself as having hidden under her bangs when the wind blew them up. Thank gods there was nobody else on the road that time of day. 

“Well, we’re just going to stop in for a minute, and then head out for the real date.” She hadn’t had anything in mind when she’d asked Blake on a date, but that morning- or rather, that almost-afternoon, when she had woken from her deep, exhausted sleep- she’d had the perfect idea. She hadn’t told Blake to wear anything specific at the pizzeria, and as much as she was absolutely loving the comfy, oversized amber sweater and leggings, it might make her plan a little bit trickier. She found herself thinking about it as they walked around the front yard, and Blake bent down to interact with the chickens. Of course, as soon as she’d heard the truck pull back up into the driveway, Ember and the gaggle had come swarming to greet them. They had not, however, been expecting Gambol to jump out from the passenger seat. There was immediate panic as the chickens began to work themselves into a frenzy. Gambol, it seemed, was unaffected, swishing her tail back and forth along the ground and purring slowly. To be honest, Yang hadn’t been expecting Gambol to come either, but she’d made an appearance when Yang had picked Blake up, and as always, Yang was weak to her charms. Blake seemed surprised when she had no qualms about allowing the cat to tag along.

“Really?” She asked, blinking in surprise as they got back into the truck, and Gambol slipped out of Blake’s arms and sauntered her way over to Yang, nuzzling her head against Yang’s arm and purring. Yang had spared no hesitation in rubbing behind Gambol’s ears, smiling to herself as she shifted the car into gear, and Gambol climbed into her lap, circling and laying down in a ball. “Why not? I have to admit- I’ve missed her.” She chuckled, a faint blush blooming on her cheeks. With work, and Ember, and all of the nonsense she’d had to deal with, she’d admittedly had little time to think of Gambol and how she had used to hang around. She really did miss that. 

Ember was the only chicken who didn’t flee to the other side of the yard with Gambol’s arrival, but that might’ve only been due to her connection with Yang. She didn’t necessarily seem hostile toward the cat, but Yang could definitely feel the hesitation there. Yang knelt down, and Ember was quick to run over, hopping up into her arms as Yang scooped her up. Ember immediately began to preen at Yang’s hair, and in her chest, Yang could feel Ember’s distrust, and worry for Yang’s well being. Yang tried her best not to laugh. 

“Why don’t you stay here and keep an eye on Ruby today, Ember.” There was hesitance too, but if she was being honest, Yang wanted to have as much alone time with Blake as possible. Gambol was an okay addition, but both familiars, at odds of all things, might be a bit much. Ember, although not entirely in agreeance, let the matter go, and Yang set her back on the ground just in time for Ruby to exit the garage, hefting several wooden signs in her arms and trying to systematically avoid the chicken shit littered around. She jumped a bit as she took notice of them standing there. “Oh! You’re back!” 

Yang chuckled and strode over, lifting one of the wooden posts and giving her little sister a bit more wiggle room with the others. “She only lives like ten minutes away. And don’t get too comfy- we’re heading back out, now that dad’s got the truck again.” She slung the sign over her shoulder, twirling her dad’s keys on her fingers with the free hand. 

“Well, could you help me get some of the heavier signs out before you go?” Ruby pouted, and Blake stood up, brushing her leggings off. “I’d be happy to give you a hand, Ruby.” Ruby was practically glowing, and Yang had to roll her eyes as her sister gave her a pointed look. “Why thank you, Blake! Such a helpful friend.” 

“Yeah yeah… come on, squirt.” Yang scoffed, turning toward the yard and carrying the post she’d taken to the small pile already laying in the grass. As Ruby and Blake each set some down as well, they were joined by Tai, who rounded the corner of the house, although it was closer in actuality to Summer dragging him by the arm. She smiled as she took notice of the little group, waving pleasantly to them. “Hello again, Blake!” She called, and Tai raised his hand in greeting as well. 

“Thanks for taking care of those signs, Rubes.” He ruffled his youngest daughter’s hair as they joined them, and Ruby shied away from the invasion of her head space. “Dad! Hey!” She tried to dodge and he only pulled her in closer, draping an arm around her shoulder and messing with her hair more. Yang took that as a sign that they should probably get going. “We’re going to get going-” She jangled her dad’s keys to get his attention, and he caught them in his free hand as she tossed them toward him. “-bring me back some cider?” Summer’s hand brushed her shoulder as she started toward the car, laughing to herself. “Sure thing. Blake, would you like anything? Cider, apples…?” 

Blake blinked, and Yang realized she hadn’t mentioned that her parents were leaving for the day too. “Mom and Dad are going to the farmers market and the hardware store.” She clarified, and Blake nodded slowly in understanding. “Ah… well-” 

“Ooh! Ooh! Bring me back some candied apples!” Ruby all but beamed, and Summer laughed goodhearted. “Maybe…”

“Maybe?” She balked, and Yang had to snicker, which earned her a slap on the arm from her disgruntled baby sister. Summer raised an eyebrow. “Be nice to your sister. I say maybe, because I know you. You’ll eat them all in one night and get a stomach ache.” Ruby pouted, but didn’t refute the claim. Instead she pulled out the puppy dog eyes. “Pretty please…?” Summer seemed reluctant to budge, but it took Tai all of three seconds to cave. “Sure, Rubes. I suppose you have done some good work helping me with the signs.”

It was Yang’s turn to balk, and Ruby stuck her tongue out at her. “Excuse me, but this little turd did about a third of that ‘good work’.” Tai shrugged, and Yang gaped. Their antics were interrupted by Blake’s quiet, amused giggle, although that was hardly a bad thing. Yang came back to her senses, closing her mouth, and fighting the raging blush that painted her cheeks as she felt Blake’s fingers slide against hers, and intertwine. Summer noticed almost immediately, and Yang cleared her throat. “Well, we’ll see you later. Love you- bye.” She tried to subtly shoo them away. They both definitely got the message. Before Summer could open her mouth and fret over the appropriateness of leaving them alone, Tai came to his daughter’s rescue, letting go of Ruby and taking his wife’s arm instead. “We should head out, before the roads get too busy.” Summer begrudgingly took the hint, although she could barely tear her gaze away from them as they got into the truck. Yang, Blake and Ruby all watched and waved as they drove off, the dust picking up behind them. 

“So, you keep mentioning us going somewhere else for this date.” Blake noted, eyebrow quirked, and Yang flushed. “Yeah-  I uh- I was thinking we could take a hike…? I know this place... “ She scratched at her chin, avoiding those intense honey-gold eyes for fear she’d crumble away and lose her resolve. “It’s a bit of a walk, but… I think you’ll appreciate it.” 

Blake seemed to think about that, mulling it over. “Well… I’m afraid I didn’t exactly dress for a hike…” She nodded down toward her wedges, and Yang took notice of the footwear. “Ah… well, I have some spare hiking boots… or um- or we don’t have to go hiking!” She amended quickly, not wanting Blake to feel like the hike was mandatory. Blake blinked, her own cheeks darkening as she shuffled slightly in place. “No, no- I mean… I’d love to take a hike.” She amended. “Do you mind me borrowing your boots…?” 

“No! Not at all!” Yang promised, smiling a little reassuringly, although her nerves were still crawling. “They’re a few years old, so they’re just spares now.” She promised. “It’s mostly by road, so, it’s more of a walk than a hike, to be honest…” She chuckled slightly, and she could feel her cheek getting agitated with the scratching. Blake seemed to notice too, but before she could point it out, Ruby made a gagging sound. “You two are gross.” She remarked, and Yang immediately sent the urge for Ember to charge her to her familiar. Ember was eager to do as she was asked, crowing and speed-running toward Ruby, who screamed, booking it toward the house. Yang couldn’t help but smile in amusement at the sight, and she was gifted with Blake’s boisterous laughter. There was nothing prettier than that sound- Yang swore it. Feeling a little bit flirty, and maybe a little dorky, Yang extended her arm for Blake, who took it with a smile once her giggles had subsided, her hand curling around Yang’s bicep, making Yang’s heart go doki doki. 

It wasn’t hard to find her old boots- she kept them in the back of her closet with her other non-everyday shoes. They were a few sizes too small for her now, but thankfully they fit Blake almost perfectly. Yang tried to keep her nerves in check as Blake sat on the bed, pulling the boots on and lacing them, glancing around and taking in Yang’s room. Yang was suddenly all too aware of all the silly pillows on her bed, and the random plastered concert tickets, posters and drawings scattered on various walls. The thing that Blake stopped to linger on however was the certificate framed on the far wall, by her dresser. Yang flushed as Blake examined it, running her fingers lightly over the black frame. “High School Graduate, hm?” 

Yang tried to be nonchalant, leaning against a wall. “Yep…” Blake turned to look at her, her eyebrow quirked again, and Yang flushed. “I thought  you were turning 18 this November…?”

“Well, I am… I just graduated early.” Yang shrugged, messing with her hair. Blake seemed to accept the reasoning. “That’s pretty impressive.” 

“I mean… not incredibly… I just took summer classes and got all my credits early…” Yang murmured, and Blake took the hint that she was embarrassed with the topic. “You said you’re not much older than me… are you a senior this year, or…?” Yang found herself asking, and it was Blake’s turn to flush, and admittedly, to look a bit embarrassed, her ears flattening against her head. “I’m-... I was a college freshman. Briefly.” She tacked on, fiddling with the sleeves of her sweater. “I dropped out, though…” She admitted quietly, and Yang stayed quiet. She didn’t want to ask why and make her uncomfortable… It seemed Blake was ahead of her though. “Are… are you planning on going to college…? Or…?” She seemed to search for the words. This wasn’t exactly how Yang had planned their date going, she had to admit. 

Their date. Of course they were getting sidetracked. “We um… we should probably head out. It’s a long walk.” Yang tried to turn the conversation, and immediately wanted to kick herself with the expression on Blake’s face. She offered her hand, hoping and praying Blake would take it, even though she’d just completely shut her down, probably incredibly rudely. “Of course.” Blake took the hand, and smiled slightly, and Yang’s body flooded with relief at the forgiving gesture. 

“Well, let's go then.” She smiled back, and led Blake back downstairs, and out of the house. Ruby was lounging on the couch eating whipped cream out of the can, and Yang could hear the music blaring through her earbud. Blake could too, by the painful expression and flattened ears. “I hate to use that dad phrase… but she’s going to go deaf.” Blake remarked as they trekked through the backyard, past the greenhouse, the shed and the coop and into the woods. “She’ll be alright. It’s not like she’ll take the criticism anyway.” Yang snorted, and pushed aside a tree branch for Blake to pass under. 

The walk was easier, in the daylight. It was only slightly uphill for the first section of the walk, and then they reached the fork in the road, and the large boulder. If she looked close enough, Yang could make out a droplet or two of something dark against dirt that she was daily certain was the blood from when she’d absolutely wrecked her feet. They didn’t turn down the more ragged path, Yang leading Blake down the long winding dirt road instead. 

Now that she wasn’t in a rush, and she wasn’t terrified of her mother catching up, or missing her chance to meet the girl of her dreams, the scenery was beautiful. For the most part, they walked in silence. But it was a nice kind of silence. A pleasant silence. Instead of talking, Yang took in the birds chirping from tree to tree, and the blue of the sky over the canopy, and the sunny weather. Blake seemed to be enjoying herself as well, her ears flicking with the sounds of wildlife and the forest, and her gait long and relaxed. This was really nice. She almost didn’t notice as they neared the end of the road, and the terrain got a bit topsy turvy. They stepped over a tree trunk that had fallen, resting in the path, and Blake took her hand as she climbed over it, and didn’t let go afterwards. Yang found her temperature climbing again, even with such a simple action. But she had to admit… something was different now. Ever since Blake’s pseudo-kiss, Yang had admittedly felt unsure just what to do, or how to act around her. Even something so simple as holding her hand felt unimaginably personal and… Yang snapped herself out of it as they neared the entrance to the clearing. It was show time. 

“We’re just about there- are you ready?” She asked, and Blake smiled. “Should I close my eyes?” She teased, and Yang snickered. “If you want to.” Blake seemed to ponder that. “Will you close them for me..?” 

“Uh….” Aaaand there went her coherent thought. “Su-sure.” She managed, although she seemed to hover there awkwardly for a moment. She led Blake forward slightly by the hand, and once she closed her eyes, Yang moved to stand behind her. Her hair smelled so nice- like jasmine and sage and soap- Yang found herself melting into the closeness, even as her heart thundered in her chest. She tried her best not to drag it out, reaching up and covering Blake’s eyes with one hand. Two felt like it would be awkward, and with one, she could guide Blake with her free hand. “Just move straight forward…” She murmured, and she watched as Blake’s ears twitched, and a shiver ran up her spine. “Alright…” She murmured back, and stepped forward to the entrance to the clearing. Unfortunately, Yang wasn’t prepared for there to be several obstacles littered on the ground: various small rocks and discarded branches. She became aware as suddenly Blake pitched forward. Yang reacted much without thought or hesitation. The arm that had been reached around her waist, holding one of her hands, curled and caught her around the middle, pulling her back and against Yang. Blake breathed shakily, and straightened out, and Yang was sure she could hear her heart in her ear canals. “You okay…?” She murmured, before realizing she was all but kissing the back of Blake’s head. Her cheeks flared, and she moved her head- and her body- back. But the damage was done. Blake cleared her throat, getting her bearings, and nodded. “Yeah… I’m alright.” 

She said that, but Yang could feel the tension in her body- this promptly caused Yang to realize she was still holding Blake around the midriff. She retracted her hand, letting it rest on her side instead- for safety, really. She was glad Blake couldn’t see her right now, because Yang doubted she’d ever been this red with embarrassment before. “Should I keep going?” Blake asked, turning her head slightly back toward Yang. Yang. in her stupor, nodded, before realizing Blake couldn’t see her. “Yeah.. Just- slow.” 

Blake did just that, stepping forward slowly, almost sweeping with her feet for more debris. Thankfully, she seemed to avoid most of it. They stepped past the brush, and the sun shone overhead one again on their skin, and Yang gently squeezed Blake’s hip. “Okay… stop here.” She swallowed, and Blake’s body shoulders tensed again, her eyes flicking. Yang took a deep breath. She really, really hoped Blake liked it. She figured… what better place for a first date, than the place they first met? 

“Can I open them?” Blake asked, and Yang slowly retracted her hand from where it had rested over Blake’s eyes. “Go ahead.” 

It took Blake a moment, it looked like, but once she got it, Yang saw the hitching of her shoulders with her breath. “Oh…” She managed, and Yang stepped back, moving to stand out a little bit in the clearing. She hoped her nerves weren't showing on her face. “What do you think? I know it’s probably not as exciting without all the lights, or the music, or the dancing…” 

“This is where we met, that night…” Blake realized, and Yang watched as a myriad of emotions passed over her face, settling against her cheeks and the curve of her lips, and the tilt of her eyebrows. She looked around, as though searching for something. “Where…?” 

Yang stepped out of the way, and Blake’s gaze landed on the little alcove where they’d hidden away from the rest of the dance, blushing in the dark. Yang reached out, offering her hand, and Blake took it, almost on autopilot as Yang led her to the familiar little hideaway. It was shaded by the small canopy of the branches from the trees above, and the grass was cool to the touch as Blake got down and ran her hand along it. 

Everything was dying, slowly but surely, but this place was still clinging to the memory of summer. Yang recognized that just as much as Blake. “I thought we could set out a blanket… picnic here, and just… relax. We’ve got the whole field to ourselves… I figured it might be nice to just…” Yang fiddled with the hem of her t-shirt, and Blake stood back up, turning to look at her. “Yang…”

“I mean, if you’d rather sit out in the sun, I’m totally happy with that too-” 

Yang .” 

Yang blinked as she felt a dainty hand against the flat of her stomach, her cheeks coloring as Blake reached up and pulled the baseball cap off of her head, turning it backwards atop Yang’s messy, wispy tangled curls. “Blake..?” She asked quietly, her gaze drawn entirely and only to those eyes like honeycomb and sap. She just couldn’t seem to swim free of them. “Yesterday… I got a little nervous.” Blake admitted quietly, and Yang couldn’t seem to find a way to tease her about that. “I messed up… Can I try again…?” She bit her lip, and Yang blinked, gaping as she searched for the words. Try again? Try what again? Kiss her? Kiss her again? Yang wanted to say something smooth, or assuring, but what actually came out was a garbled, tongue-tied, “Go for it.” 

She didn’t have to wait in anticipation for too long. Her body was practically buzzing with nervous excitement as Blake’s hands rested against her shoulder blades, sliding up over her shoulder and draping there, her breath warm against Yang’s cheek and the curve of her lips. Yang wasn’t sure she had any brain cells left to process what was happening, but as soon as Blake’s lips slowly pressed to hers, warm and soft, Yang found her hands wrapping around Blake’s waist, holding onto her sweater. She could feel Blake’s eyelashes fluttering against her nose and her cheeks as she moved her head away, and Yang wasn’t sure she had a human heart anymore. What was it Summer had told her once a few springs ago? Hummingbird hearts beat like, 1,000 times a minute or something? 

Regardless, as Blake retracted her kiss, Yang couldn’t help the smile that blossomed on her lips, which were still tingling with the feeling. “Can I- Ca-can I kiss you…?” She found herself mumbling and she watched as Blake’s expression passed from disbelief to amusement. “I just kissed you first- you don't have to ask…” She snickered, snorting, and Yang had to laugh at her own absurdity. She really really hoped she was doing alright as she leaned forward, placing a soft kiss against Blake’s lips. As Blake took the initiative and kissed back, Yang found that was a very different sensation to when she’d been all but frozen in place just a moment ago. Blake tasted like lip balm and fruit punch, and Yang could feel the curve of her smile against her lips. It wasn’t like she’d never kissed before- she’d tried, in the past but… she’d never kissed Blake before. That was an entirely different thing, she was learning. Or maybe she had just never kissed anyone as good at it as Blake. 

When Blake’s fingers tangled in her hair at the nape of her neck, Yang had to take a step back. Blake looked immediately concerned, and however embarrassing it was, Yang rushed to assure her that it wasn't any fault of hers. “Wow. Um. Holy shit.” She breathed, and she was sure her smile was ear to ear. “I’m sorry, I got carried away-” Blake tried to apologize, her cheeks flushed, and Yang probably darkened them by a shade as she leaned back across the divide and kissed her sweetly. “You are-” She breathed, against her lips. “ -so insanely amazing.” She promised, and the relief that flooded Blake’s body and eased away her tension was palpable as she pecked Yang endearingly on the lips. “Yeah…?” She asked, her dark lashes fluttering, and Yang thought she might have a heart attack. “I- Shit, yeah Blake.” She laughed, and Blake chortled into her shoulder. Yang took a breather, looking up at the sky. She certainly needed it. “I uh- I think I have to take a minute though. My heart’s like.. On the verge of exploding here.” She laughed, although she probably shouldn’t have, considering it was less of a joke and more of a serious occurrence. 

“Ah…” Blake seemed to realize stepping back and brushing her hair behind her ear, giving Yang some space to breathe. There was mischief in her eyes, and Yang didn’t much like that, since it typically resulted in her getting flustered. “So… you pulled away because you were getting too horny?” She snickered, and Yang knew her face was giving her away. “I- No!” She blustered, but it was clear from the increasingly painful pounding in her chest, and the snap behind her eyes that she was lying. Blake blinked in surprise, her expression surprised, and then concerned. “Yang? It’s alright- I was just teasing you… Your eyes…” She murmured the last bit, almost as though it had slipped out without though. That brought Yang back down to earth. “My-” She reached up, hand hovering near her eyes. “Shit- I’m sorry, Blake.” She turned her glance away.

She was surprised to find Blake’s hand slip into hers. “Yang… Could you lean down for a moment…?” Yang blinked, unsure how to respond to that, other than to lean down a little. “Like.. this?” She asked tentatively, and Blake brushed the stray curls out of her face, nodding. “Close your eyes for me?” That, Yang could do. She was sure seeing them so red right now was unsettling, and the last thing she wanted to do was unsettle Blake. That being said, she wasn’t prepared to feel the light, tickling sensation of Blake’s downy lips pressing against her eyelids one at a time. When Blake pulled away, Yang’s eyes fluttered open, and she had to admit, she was at a loss for words. What do you say after that…? It seemed she didn’t need to say anything. Blake walked around her and helped her shed the backpack she’d brought along, grunting a bit with the weight. Yang straightened up, and Blake set the bag on the ground, unzipping it. “I think you mentioned a picnic?” She breathed, and Yang snapped back into it. “Oh uh- yeah. Yeah, I packed us lunch and a blanket and uh- some water..” Blake fished each thing out of the bag, setting the tupperware and the bottled water aside and grabbing the blanket roll. “Give me a hand?” She asked, looking over her shoulder, and Yang started to the other side of the alcove, near the trees. “Oh! Yeah.” She grabbed the edges of the blanket at Blake unfurled them, and they both slowly lowered it to the coarse grass. Once it was down. Yang used the backpack and the tupperware to hold down two corners, untying her boots and using those for another corner. Blake watched her for a moment, before doing the same. 

Yang flopped down on the blanket beside where Blake was sitting, and stared up at the sky. It was such a pretty blue, and rolling with fluffy clouds. She was glad the day had been nice- they couldn’t have made the trip up if it hadn’t been. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Blake lay down, staring up at the sky as well. The sun and the shade marbled on her face, and Yang knew she was staring, but she couldn’t help it. She ended up turning on her side, her adoring gaze on her girlfriend, rather than the pretty sky. The corners of Blake’s mouth turned up, and Yang fought the urge to kiss her dimples. And then her brow furrowed with the thought. Why fight it? Leaning over the gap between them, Yang softly kissed the place where Blake’s cheeks dimpled, which made Blake giggle, and turn toward her. “Yang! What was that for?” She snorted, and Yang smiled, kissing her sweetly. “I love your dimples… and I wanted to kiss them…” She smiled, and Blake snorted again, leaning her face into Yang’s shoulder, her hair splayed against her cheek. Yang reached over and brushed the stay strands behind her ear. 

Maybe she was still high on the buzz of all Blake’s kisses, but Yang was feeling rather bold. “Hey Blake…?” She murmured, and Blake pulled her head from Yang’s shoulder, looking up at her. “Yeah…?”

“Can I- Can I kiss-” And now that she was saying it, there were definitely far worse ways to phrase it. “... things I love about you…?” 

Blake caught the wording faster than Yang was hoping, looking startled, and Yang quickly tried to fix that. “N-not like that! I mean- shit- Just like… Like your dimples… and… your freckle… and…” Blake lifted her finger to Yang’s lips, quieting her. “I suppose… but I have to ask if-” Blake bit the inside of her lip, and Yang’s heart swelled. “-If I can do the same.”

Well, that certainly seemed fair. “That sounds okay to me.” She agreed, and Blake smiled, her ears flicking and turning. “Then kiss away.” 

Oh boy. Here came the fun part. Actually doing the bold thing she’d flirted about. Fantastic. 

Yang took a deep breath. It was no big deal. They were just kisses… She’d already kissed her dimples… But then, seeing them again, the feeling only returned once again, and she felt no hesitance reaching toward her and kissing her dimples sweetly, and softly, her lips just barely ghosting over her cheek. Then it was up to her nose; Yang placed a light kiss to the tip of her nose, and Blake fought a giggle as she moved upward, kissing the sloping shape of her bridge. She unearthed the freckle from its hiding place under Blake’s bangs, and kissed its spot on her forehead with all the love she could muster. Blake laughed at her absurdity, but Yang meant every kiss. She meant it as she sat back down, and moved her kiss to Blake’s lips, and to her jaw, the latter of which made Blake snort with laughter. When she was seemingly all done with her barrage of kisses, Blake scooted close to do the same, but Yang shook her head. “I’ve got one more… but I want to ask first.” She clarified, and watched the confusion that passed over Blake’s features. “Would it be alright if I kissed your ears…?” She asked softly, and Blake visibly tensed. “I-...” She seemed at a loss for words, and Yang worried she’d overstepped a boundary. 

“You… you love my ears…?” She asked, seemingly genuinely confused, and almost… lost? Yang wasn’t sure if admitting it would make it better or worse. But… honesty was the best way to go. “...I do.” She nodded. “I love a lot of things about you Blake… and-” Yang felt her cheeks began to burn with what she was about to admit- it was probably really stupid, and not proper first-date etiquette or whatever… But she couldn’t think of any reason not to let Blake know exactly how she felt about her. “-... I love you . Your ears are a part of you.. Like your freckle, or your dimples… how could I not love them too?” 

Whatever she was expecting, it wasn’t to make Blake cry. It was gradual, but Yang watched as Blake’s eyes became dewy and glassy, and as the tears broke free and ran down her cheeks. She watched helplessly as Blake tried to wipe them away, pressing the heels of her palms into her eyes. Small, choked sobs shook her, and Yang’s heart broke. “Blake…? Blake I- I’m sorry… I didn’t want to make you cry…” She hesitated to reach for her, not wanting to invade her space. “What can I do?” She asked, desperate to make Blake happy again. Except, when Blake removed her hands from her eyes, dropping them into her lap, Yang was perplexed to see her smiling

“Never change…” Blake sniffled, and Yang reached across the divide to wipe at a tear before it could drip off Blake’s chin. “You’re so good … I- I-” For once, it seemed like Blake didn’t have any words. No analogies, no poems, no clever one-liners. So Yang wasn’t all that surprised when she opted to forgo words, reaching across the space between them and kissing Yang with abandon. “I love you too…” She laughed, shaking her head at the absurdity of it all. “I don’t know how… but somehow, I fell in love with you in a little over two months.” She sniffled, and Yang rested her hand against Blake’s cheek, the pad of her thumb brushing at the wisps of hair near her ears. She couldn’t help the smile that was beginning to tug at her lips too- or the tears picking behind her eyes. “It’s kinda wild, huh…?” She admitted with a laugh, and Blake snorted a few times, dropping her head to hide in Yang’s shoulder. 

Yang loved when she did that. From her shoulder, she felt Blake’s lips brushing against her neck, and it took all her restraint not to jump off the blanket in surprise, not that she assumed it was on purpose. She should have, because she felt Blake’s lips turn up in a soft smile. Figures. “...You can kiss them, if you’d like.” That surprised Yang. “Are you sure…?” She clarified, and she felt Blake nod into her neck. Cheeks burning, Yang mustered her courage. This was clearly a big deal, especially considering what Sun had told her about trust and being a Faunus. Wasting no time, but being as tender and gentle as possible, Yang placed a delicate kiss to the back of one of Blake’s ears. The thin skin flicked when her lips met it, and she felt Blake’s grip on her shirt tighten slightly. “...was that alright?” She asked softly, and Blake nodded again. “Yeah…” She murmured.

Once Blake’s tears had subsided, Yang was ready to offer her some water, and a sandwich, but Blake had other plans. “Okay.” She sniffed. “My turn.” She straightened herself out, and Yang blinked. “Huh?” 

Blake gave her a pointed look. “You got all your kisses in- now it’s my turn.” Yang blushed. Shit. “Uh… just curious… how many kisses am I getting exactly..?” She asked, just a tad bit nervous. “I think my heart could probably take like…. three right now. Maybe .” Blake snickered, and as much as that wasn’t a joke, and Yang was afraid her body would go into cardiac arrest, she had to admit that her gut was beginning to knot with the idea of Blake loving anything at all about her, let alone kissing her in those places. Blake seemed to ponder this. “Hm… three… I suppose I’ll have to narrow down the list…” 

“List?” Yang scoffed in disbelief, and Blake held a finger to her lips again. Reluctantly, Yang kept quiet as Blake scanned her features. “Well… first things first-” Yang blinked in surprise as Blake leaned over her, removing her hat and running her hands through Yang’s hair. That ‘three’ was getting awfully close to ‘one’, her heart racing as Blake’s nimble fingers played with her curls and raked across her scalp. “I can’t kiss all of your hair… so I’m calling this one a free-by.” She smirked, and Yang was tempted to inform her those were very much not the rules, but that thought was shattered entirely as Blake kissed her forehead once- and then again, but slightly to the left, and then to the right, and then down, and all over her cheeks and jaw and chin. Yang could barely get enough air to giggle at the barrage. “I love your freckles…” she explained, pressing her lips to one Yang knew was more prominent near the corner of her eye. She gave Yang a moment to catch her breath- but only a moment, before her lips were delicately pressing to the agitated skin of Yang’s cheeks. Yang flushed in realization, and surprise. “You love my scratching…?” Blake smiled, pecking her softly on the lips. “I think it’s adorable. Maybe not so good for your skin…” She admitted with a chuckle, “But one of the mannerisms that make you you.” 

“What’s-” Yang cleared her throat, trying to maintain her composure. “What’s the third thing?” Blake smiled coyly, and Yang knew she was up to something. “What? What is it?” 

Blake just smiled to herself, shaking her head and tucking her chin into her knees as she glanced out toward the field. “...I’m starting to realize that however much I love everything about your freckles, and your eyes, and your smile… the things I love the most about you are who you are as a person…” She ran her fingers along the blanket, and Yang blinked, her heart aching delightfully. Sure, she liked being called pretty… but Blake liking her for things she did and said? That hit different. “...really?” she asked, hiking up one of her own knees to pull to her chest. 

Blake breathed through her nose in an almost-sigh, looking over her shoulder at Yang. “You make me feel safe… and seen… and like-” She seemed to hesitate. “Like… how I feel actually matters.” She breathed, and Yang let go of her knee, her brow furrowing. “I’m not used to that… and it’s really nice..” 

There was quiet, excepting the singing of the birds, and the rustling of the trees. Yang didn’t know what to say really. Blake hadn’t talked much about… whoever she’d run away from before she’d arrived in Vale. Yang didn’t want to overstep by asking, either. That was Blake’s experience to share, if she wanted to share it. 

The moment was broken, however, as a grumbling permeated the silence, growing louder by the second. Yang blinked, unsure where it had come from- at least, until Blake’s ears turned down, and her cheeks flushed. “You uh… said you packed lunch?”

Yang had to laugh, falling down to lay on her back, and Blake giggled herself. When Yang had composed herself, she pushed up from the blanket and grabbed the tupperware from where they’d used it as a blanket weight. Summer had made cucumber sandwiches with her that morning, when she’d told her that Blake was coming over for a date day. 

It had been fun, working in tandem with her mom in the kitchen, even if it was kind of a simple recipe. She unwrapped the triangles from their tinfoil prisons and handed one to Blake, who took it with a smile, blowing her a kiss. Yang blushed, fumbling to catch it and not drop her sandwich in the process. 

Yang had never seen a face light up as quickly as when Blake took a bite of her cucumber sandwich half. It was like watching Ruby eat cotton candy every summer at the Vytal Fair. Maybe she’d get to buy Blake some cotton candy at next year’s fair, she found herself thinking fondly. She was quickly struck with just what that implied. That they’d be together for that long. 

The thought admittedly made her a bit giddy, but she kept it to herself. Living in the here and now was plenty fine. They finished their sandwiches, and Yang passed Blake a water bottle, saving one for herself. The sun was still shining overhead, but the shade was nice, and Yang found herself laying back on the blanket, closing her eyes and placing her baseball cap over her face. She felt a weight settle against her chest, and tilting the cap upward and her chin down, found Blake curled against her side. “Naptime..?” Yang asked, chuckling softly. “Mm… sounds good.” Blake purred, and Yang laid her head back down, placing the cap back over her eyes. 

Yeah… it really did sound good.

Chapter Text

Yang blinked awake as she felt something bop her deftly in the nose. She squinted against the cloudy sky, shifting and stretching out her back. This time she was more aware as Gambol reached over and bopped her nose again, mrowing in her ear. Yang yawned, shifting slightly, and from where she’d been laying with her head on Yang’s chest, Blake stirred. “Hm…?” She grumbled, yawning into Yang’s shirt. Yang blushed, running her hands through her hair and trying to wake up. “Looks like we napped a little longer than usual…” She groaned as Gambol hopped onto her stomach, and Blake scowled. “...can’t we just keep sleeping…?” She yawned, and Yang smiled tiredly, throwing her head back. “Probably not… gotta walk home…” She reminded her girlfriend, who groaned, picking up Yang’s discarded hat and placing it over her own face, rolling off of her and onto her back, seemingly without the energy to move. 

As much as Yang could sit there and talk about this for hours, a quick glance up at the sky alerted Yang that it was starting to get dark- or at least, it would start getting dark by the time they were on the move. Yang was starting to worry she’d have to carry poor, exhausted Blake the whole way back, but Blake powered through, sitting up and taking the baseball cap off her face, putting it on her head instead, her ears disappearing. “...Gambol’s got a weird feeling. We should probably head back.” She still seemed tired, which in itself was adorable. On impulse, Yang leaned in to kiss her sweetly on the cheek, before standing and brushing herself off. Blake reached up her hand for an assist, and Yang took it, pulling her to her feet. Once they were standing, Blake returned the favor, kissing the corner of Yang’s mouth and pouting as she apparently missed her target. Not that Yang was complaining. 

She stretched, reaching her arms up into the sky and groaning at the popping muscles in her back. “As much as I could sit here and kiss you the rest of the day, it’ll be dark soon. I’m sure your dad will let me have it if I keep you out too late…” She chuckled a little darkly, scratching at her chin in thought. Blake snorted, helping Yang to pick up the blanket and the empty tupper ware container. “Are you really worried about what my dad thinks?” 

Yang blinked, hesitating as she helped Blake shove the blanket back into the backpack. “...Honestly? Yeah.” She admitted, and Blake watched her carefully, almost like she was confused as Yang slung the bag over her shoulders. “...why?” She asked, and Yang wasn’t sure she entirely knew the reason herself. They started walking back toward the entrance to the clearing, and Yang thought about it as they pushed through the brush. “I guess… I think about how my parents worry… and that makes me not want to put your parents through that with you.” She shrugged, her cheeks coloring. “And I guess… I want them to like me. To trust that… that I care about you… and I have respect for them…” Yang was struggling to put her thoughts into words. It was hard, trying to justify something that just felt… natural. Thankfully, Blake seemed to get that. “You’re so different from… from people I used to spend time with.” Yang glanced at her as they kept down the dirt road. It would be a long walk, and the sky was just beginning to pinken, but Yang didn’t feel a need to rush, at least, not in that moment. “I am?” 

Blake nodded. “My-” She hesitated, clearing her throat, and Yang didn’t fail to notice the shaking of her hands. Wordlessly, Yang slipped her hand gently into her girlfriend’s. “ Adam - he wasn’t like you. I mean…” She bit her lip. “At first he was respectful, and thoughtful, in his own way… He used to bring me flowers…” She remembered, and her tone was quiet, and somber. “...but he wasn’t respectful, he was polite for appearance’s sake. And he wasn’t thoughtful, not in the way you are.” Her tone hardened, and Yang felt Blake’s grip on her hand tighten. Yang knew that talking about this guy- who apparently was named Adam- was hard for Blake. She knew that it was a lot of trust that Blake was giving to her right now. So she let Blake tell her, and she listened. “When I spend time with you, I don’t feel like I have to earn your attention… you’re always so aware of me, and you’re so patient… Adam wasn’t like that-” She breathed, before faltering. “I’m sorry… Here I am talking about how you’re so aware of me and my feelings, and I just keep comparing you to my ex…” She scoffed darkly, and Yang watched from the corner of her eye as Blake fiddled with her hair, tucking the soft ebony waves behind her human ears. 

Yang interlaced their fingers. “...I’ll admit, it’s not something i'm used to…” She chuckled quietly, scratching at her cheek and glancing at the treeline and the branches swaying lightly in the forming breeze. “...but I understand. For what it’s worth… I like that you notice that stuff. I just… I want to be a good-” Yang hesitated, if only a moment, before fumbling to finish her sentence. “-girlfriend.” 

Blake caught the hesitation- Yang knew she had, because she felt Blake’s fingers flex against her hand. It was quiet for a few moments, the only sound the scuffing of their shoes against the dirt, and the rustling of the remaining red and yellow leaves in the dying trees. 

“Yang… I know you said it was complicated… and that you’re not sure about things…” Blake started, and Yang’s heart and stomach both tightened with nerves. “I know you said you don't want me to call you any other sort of name…” Yang appreciated that Blake was easing into whatever she was trying to say, but at the same time, the anxiety was eating away at her. “...But would you like me to refer to you as something different from ‘girlfriend’?” 

Yang had thought about it, admittedly. She’d thought about a lot of things she’d never tell Blake about- at least not anytime soon. She’d thought about Blake calling her something else, and she’d thought about telling her parents, and she’d thought about what pronouns she might like- Nora had tried to help with that one, thank gods. She’d tested things out in her head… but she was too chicken to actually do anything about it. “Yang?” 

Yang snapped out of her thoughts, blinking. “Uh… I mean…” She could feel her cheeks burning up. “If you want to… then I’d like that.” She admitted, and Blake frowned slightly. “I’d be more than happy to… but do you want me to?” 

Yang felt her stomach twinge a bit. This was… not something she’d thought about. “Whatever makes you comfortable-” Blake stopped walking, and Yang slowed to a stop just a few paces ahead of her. Yang’s stomach dropped at the sad and frustrated expression that formed on Blake’s face. “This isn’t about my comfort, it’s about yours… I love that you’re so conscious about other people, and about me and my comfort levels… but you need to take care of yourself too.” 

Yang shuffled in place, scuffing the dirt with her boots. “Shit Blake…” She bit her bottom lip, thumbing at her chin. “I don’t-” She sighed, and let go of Blake’s hand to cross her arms across her chest. “I don’t know...” She admitted. “I just… don’t really like being- being a girlfriend all the time… I mean- I do! I want to be your girlfriend- I-” Yang tripped over her explanation, and Blake stepped closer, brushing the hair from Yang’s face. “Yang… it’s alright. All I want to know is if you’d be comfortable with me using something more… neutral.” Yang took a breath. That… actually sounded really nice. “...I think I’d like that.” She nodded. 

Blake kissed her sweetly on the tip of her nose, and the butterflies buried in Yang’s gut fluttered. “Alright. I can do that.” She promised, and Yang drank in the curve of her smile, and the intensity of her eyes, and the love in her heart. “Have I mentioned I love you…?” Yang asked quietly, and Blake snorted. “Yes… I faintly remember that.” 

The kiss was sweet, and dense, like the honey Summer stirred into their milk on late, sleepless nights. Everything about Blake was like honey; her kisses, her eyes, her words... “How did I ever live without this…?” She asked, almost without thought, murmured against the supple surface of Blake’s soft lips. She felt the corner of Blake’s lips turn up. “‘Hell is the absence of people you long for.’” 

Yang couldn’t help but agree. “That ones’ not a poem...is it?” She asked, and Blake laughed, shaking her head and pulling back to scuff Yang’s boots in the dirt and continue on down the road. “No… that one’s from a book.” 

Yang watched her walk away, a stupidly dopey smile eating at her cheeks. “Full of surprises…” They carried on until the sun dipped below the treeline and the soft pinks and oranges faded to purples, bantering and meandering. There was no real hurry, even with the darkening sky. It was probably close to six in the afternoon by the time they reached the cross roads. They took a short break, leaning against the sizable boulder as Yang zipped open the backpack and handed Blake a water bottle. After a few sips she passed it back, and Yang took a swig for herself, pouring some into the empty tupper ware for Gambol, before closing the cap and putting it back inside. Once gambol had lapped at it for a bit, Yang dumped the rest and put that back in the bag as well. “It’s about another half hour back this way, and then we should be back at the house.” Yang nodded toward the trail leading back to her home. “You’re welcome to stay for dinner. I know Summer and Dad were going to make taquitos tonight.” 

“That sounds nice.” Blake smiled, blush faintly dusting her cheeks. “Last time I stayed over for dinner went well enough. Although, this will make two times now I’ve eaten over; I hope you know my mom will be all but demanding you stay over for dinner soon as retaliation.” She chuckled, and Yang had to laugh. “Your mom got me a whole pizza last time I was there. I’m almost scared to see what the next level is.” 

“You should be.” Blake snorted. “Although after last time I came over for dinner, I’m a little worried about your dad trying to beef me up too.” She grimaced, and Yang almost snorted herself. “The mountain of mashed potato he gave you was hysterical.” She snickered, and Blake shoved her arm playfully. “I don’t need that many carbs! I’m not a bodybuilder!” She defended, and Yang slung an arm around her shoulder, kissing her playfully on the dimples in her cheeks. “I’ll tell dad to lay off the side dishes tonight, just for you. Mom’ll stuff you full of taquitos anyway.” Blake groaned, and Yang giggled. 

“I’m telling my mom to go nuts with the fish tacos then.” Her retaliation came quick, and Yang grinned at her in teasing. “Bring it on. Fish tacos are actually pretty good.” 

“You’re a dork.” Blake chuckled, and Yang took the lead, turning around to talk to Blake while walking backward. “But I’m your dork.” 

Yang was about to continue her teasing, when Blake's attention turned suddenly to the woods to the right of them. “Blake?” 

Blake held up a finger to her lips, glancing briefly at Yang before turning her attention to the woods. “There’s something out there.” She murmured lowly, and it took Yang’s brain a moment to process the words, and then shift into the right gear. “...a big cat?” She asked, and Blake listened for a moment, her cheek twitching. “...no.” Gambol’s hackles rose, and she hissed in the direction of the woods.

Yang was startled as suddenly from above there was a load cawing. She shot up straight and looked up at the sky. It only took her a moment to recognize the bird circling above them. “Omen?” Yang blinked, and the bird damn-near dive bombed her, snapping Blake out of her focus and making Yang’s anxiety skyrocket. The large bird flapped its wings and perched on Yang’s shoulder, cawing loudly in her ear. To say Yang was confused was an understatement. Meanwhile, Blake was watching her with a cautious and antagonized expression. “Yang why is there another bird? Why is it bigger and why does it have a name?” She asked, looking between them warily. “This is my mother’s familiar, Omen. I don’t know why he’s out here… it’s nearly dark.” Yang’s brow furrowed in worry. At night the owls came out, and Omen was at a higher risk of being attacked. It was one of the reasons Yang had been able to get away from Raven that night- she knew Raven wouldn’t send Omen out far, or he’d get hurt. If he was out here now… and Raven wasn’t nearby… that wasn’t good.

“Where was your mother today, anyway?” Blake asked, still eyeing the bird hesitantly. Omen eyed her with just as much distrust. “...She took off this morning before I woke up. Mom said she needed alone time.” Yang answered, although her mind was still reeling. “Omen, can you take us to Raven?” It was a long shot; she didn’t know if Omen had just flown a little too far away, or if something was seriously wrong, but either way, Yang would feel better about it once her mother had her familiar back. It seemed Omen was eager to return to Raven as well, because after digging his talons in her shoulders, he cawed at Yang relentlessly, flapping higher and higher until he was circling around them. Blake winced at the volume of the bird’s cries, and Yang turned to her to clarify the situation. “Something’s not right. I know we were going to go back and have dinner… but I need to follow Omen. You don’t have to come-”

“Are you kidding?” Blake was looking at her as though she had two heads. “Of course I’m coming.” She took Yang’s hand, and Yang lifted it to her lips, kissing the backside softly. “Okay…” Looking up at Omen, she cupped one hand around her mouth. “Show us the way to Raven, Omen!” They didn’t need to ask twice. Omen flapped in place for a moment, before taking off in the direction of the road she’d traveled with Raven that night of the festival, and he was not waiting up for them. Yang and Blake let go of each other and gained chase, following after the bird. They were running for the better part of ten minutes, stopping momentarily here and there to catch their breath, and continuing on until they reached a parting in the brush, and found a weather-beaten path forged through the foliage, years in the making, it looked like. Omen flew down to join them, perching on Yang’s shoulder again, talons dug into her sharply. Yang grit her teeth, but didn’t try to shoo the bird off of her. He didn’t have Raven right now- the last thing she wanted was for him to get ganged up on by a bunch of owls because she wouldn’t let him perch on her. Asshole or no, the bird was family. “Down this path?” She asked, and Omen ruffled his feathers. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She murmured, and Blake followed behind as they pushed through the brush and down the shoddy trail. It was getting ever darker, and harder to see, but it wasn’t pitch black yet. The farther they went, the antsier Omen got, kneading her shoulder and flapping his wings. When he cawed suddenly, and pecked at her collar bone, Yang yelped and glowered at the bird, before considering that they were probably close. “She’s around here?” She clarified, and he pecked her again. Blake winced, and Yang bit her lip. “Would you stop with the pecking?” She hissed, and Omen shuffled in place on her shoulder instead. “Could you nod? Yes-” She nodded up and down. “Or no-” She shook her head. 

Omen pecked her on the top of the head, and she swore, smoldering. “Omen…” Blake tried, stepping closer. “Peck once for yes, two for no.” She tried, and Yang looked at her in betrayal. “Hey! Who’s side are you- FuCk! OW!” She swore as Omen pecked her on the head. Although looking sympathetic to her partner’s plight, it seemed Blake wasn’t done. “Which way is she? Down the road? One for yes. Two for no.” 

Omen pecked Yang’s shoulder twice, much to Yang’s displeasure. “Okay, which way then?” Omen hopped off of Yang’s shoulder, thankfully, and flew to a nearby tree branch. They both walked over, Yang rubbing her head as Omen flew quickly to another tree a couple feet away, headed in the same direction. Off the path, the dirt and grass coasted down into a heavily tree-littered slope. Yang was careful with her footing, holding Blake’s hand as the two of them shuffle slowly and carefully down the steep decline. Gambol trotted down the slope carefully as well, although it was getting harder to see her in the dark, with her black coat. Omen flew off ahead of them, and though her nerves spiked a bit, Yang had to admit she was relieved to see him go, the little shit. “Hey, I love you and all, but why the bird-induced torture?” Yang breathed as she helped Blake around a massive tree with large winding and tangled roots. Blake blushed in the dark of the night, and snickered to herself. “Sorry… it just seemed he responded better to pecking.” 

“Mhm…” She murmured, carefully, slowly reaching the bottom. As they approached the flat ground of the base of the hill, Yang squinted, spotting a dark shape ahead. “Yang.” Blake murmured, her tone alert. “What-” 

“It’s your mother. Down there.” She informed her, quickening her pace. Yang’s heart rate spiked, and she followed after, shuffling through the slippery leaves and trying not to fall. The closer they got, the more apparent it was that it was indeed Raven at the bottom of the slope, sitting on the forest floor and leaning against a tree. “Ma? Ma!” Yang called, and Raven looked over her shoulder at them. “Yang? Brothers…” Her mother swore, and as Yang and Blake reached her position, and tried to push herself up, using the tree bark as leverage. “What are you two- mother fucker -” She grit her teeth and wavered, falling back down to where she was sitting, hissing air through her teeth. “Ma? Shit, what’s wrong?” Yang faltered, unsure just what was happening with her. It was getting dark, and the thick canopy overhead did little to help that. Thankfully, Blake seemed to have that covered. “Your leg, it’s-” 

“Broken.” Raven finished for her. “How astute of you to notice.” She snapped, and Yang got down to see it a little better. “What happened? Why are you down here?”

Raven shifted slightly and seemed to try to fight a groan of pain. “I fell down the hill. Thought I saw something… so I climbed down to investigate. I tripped on a root somewhere… you can see what happened next.” 

Yang stood, rubbing at her face and running her hands through her hair. “Shit- how long ago was that?” This was not good. This was not good at all. It was an hour walk back to the house, and uphill at that. “Hard to tell. I’d guess an hour, maybe two.”  

“I can’t see for shit. Blake-” Blake was already on it. “This looks pretty bad, Yang.” She admitted, and there was wariness in her tone. “Kid, you seem nice, but has anyone ever told you to keep diagnoses like that to yourself?” Raven grunted. 

“Ma, just try to relax, okay.” Yang was trying to keep calm herself, but inside she was a mess. This was so not good. Her attention turned to Blake. “How hard would it be to carry her up the hill? Do you think the leg will give us trouble?” 

“I-” Blake faltered, seeming unsure, but Raven was quick to shut down the idea. “No. You try to carry me and we all go tumbling. The longer we sit here the more dangerous this gets.” 

“Then what do we do, Ma? We’re not just going to leave you here-” Yang felt herself beginning to well up with frustration. “Yes, you are. Run home. Stay on the road and get Tai and Summer. You can get flashlights, and the truck.” Blake and Yang shared a glance in the growing darkness. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving you here-” Yang tried to admit, but Raven wasn’t having it. It was too dark to see most of the details of her expression, but Yang could tell it wasn’t a pleasant one. “I want you to go, and I want you to run . There’s something out here- a mountain lion, I think. It’s been wandering around… I keep hearing it in the distance.” 

“I’m sorry- a mountain lion ? And you didn’t think to lead with that?” Yang blustered. “Shit, Ma! Now I’m definitely not leaving you here!” She threw her hands up in exasperation, and Blake was quick to intervene. “I can run and get them. Gambol can stay here with you. So I’ll be able to find you again” From where she’d curled around Blake’s ankles, Gambol mrowed to get their attention. Raven scoffed, although it was almost a laugh. “No offense, but I doubt a house cat is going to last very long against a mountain lion.” 

“Yang, do you trust me?” Blake suddenly turned her attention to Yang, who blinked in surprise. “I- Yes… yes I do.” She nodded, and Raven looked between the two of them like they were crazy. “This is the absolute worst plan-”

Yang had just about had it. “Ma, for the love of the brothers, shush.” She snapped and Raven gaped at her. “Don’t you shush me- I am your mother!” 

“I’m staying here. Blake’s going to go for help. That’s how it’s going to be, and unless you can stop us, you’re going to have to deal with it.” Yang put her foot down, and although it was certainly an odd reversal of roles, it was almost cathartic. And surprisingly, Raven didn’t argue this time. Instead, she rested her head against the trunk of the tree, sighing. “You better run fast, kid… Take Omen.” She gave in, and Blake wasted little time, not sparing even a moment to be surprised by the allowance of her familiar as a guide back up and to the house. Leaning in to kiss Yang quickly, she stepped around them, and Gambol sat down where she had been. “I’ll be back with help soon.” She promised, and true to her word, she took off up the hill, Omen following after her. Yang couldn’t help the pang of worry that vibrated through her chest as she watched her go. Gambol seemed to sense this, mewling quietly and climbing into her lap, hopping up to perch on her shoulder. She nuzzled Yang’s cheek, and Yang felt a little bit of her tension melt away as she reached up and scratched lightly behind Gambol’s little ears. 

She’d almost forgotten her mother was sitting right beside her. At least, until Raven spoke in the silence of the night, and Yang’s heart nearly jumped into her throat. “So… that’s new.” Raven remarked, and once she’d calmed herself down, Yang tried to find an answer for her. “What’s new?” She managed, and even in the darkness, Yang could feel her mother’s eyes rolling in her head. “What do you think I mean, Yang.” She sighed, Yang bit her lip. “...the kiss?” 

“Well, that’s one thing, sure.” She shifted slightly and promptly winced. “I meant you and her-”

“Blake.” Yang was quick to correct and Raven was clearly nearing her limit on the sass, because the continuation of her sentence was strained with frustration. “-Blake. You and Blake. You’re dating. That’s new.” She got her point across quick enough. Yang’s stomach twisted, and she didn’t particularly like the way her mother was referring to it, but she had to remind herself that Raven was injured, and irrational. “Yeah… it’s new. We’ve been dancing around it for a little while now…” 

“So what changed?” 

Yang wasn’t expecting that one, though. “Huh?” 

“What changed- what brought you together?” Her mother clarified, and Yang blinked, mulling it over. What had brought them together? What had changed? “I guess… I did.” She answered herself. “I changed… and I think maybe she did too.” For once, Raven was quiet, allowing her to work it out on her own. “When I saw her in that first dream… and in the dreams after that… I think I saw her as this… perfect, unattainable, ethereal girl… but she’s not. She’s Blake . She’s… gods, she’s so smart, and so sassy, and I feel like… like I could get lost in her.” She admitted, her heart thundering away in her chest. Maybe it was cheesy. Maybe it was stupid and shortsighted. Maybe Yang was just unequivocally and irrevocably in love with her. 

Raven chuckled deeply, and Yang snapped herself out of her overthinking. “You have it almost as bad as I did, it sounds like.” 

Gambol hopped off her shoulder, and Yang watched as she patrolled around them in a tight circle. “You mean when you met mom?” It was too dark to see much, now. The darkness had fully set in. But just because Yang couldn't see her, didn’t mean that she wasn’t listening. “She was…” Raven seemed to be searching for the words, turning a stray pebble around in her finger as she did. “She was witty, and bratty, and sweet…” She recalled, and Yang couldn’t help but smirk. “I don’t think much has changed, there.” Raven tossed the pebble lazily toward her. “She’s still my Sum…” As odd as it was, Yang could practically hear the pleasant smile on her mother’s face. “...Clover told me that you and Qrow both liked her… that you fought for her attention…” 

Raven scoffed. “Well, I don’t know who this ‘Clover’ is, but he’s absolutely right. I love my brother, but when Summer had her back turned on us? It was war .” She laughed, and Yang frowned at the sound of Raven shifting and wincing again. “...is there anything I can do, Ma?” 

“...” Silence for a moment, in the empty, quiet dark. And then Raven, her tone tired, answered. “No, Yang-” 

They both froze as from not too far off in the distance, the distinctive sound of a mountain lion screaming echoed through the woods. There was a shift of fabric from Raven, and Yang felt a dense, cold tab of something metal press into her open palm. “Ma?” 

“Take it. You’re in a better position than me to use it.” Raven’s bluntness was usually unsettling, but what was the most upsetting was the fright she was trying to hide, wavering in the back of her throat. It took Yang less than a few seconds to connect the dots, opening the Branwen switchblade with a flick of the wrist. There was no light for it to gleam under, but Yang remembered the carvings in the handle well enough, running her fingers over them. Gambol’s hackles had risen again, her attention pointed in the direction the big cat cries had come from. 

“Yang?” Raven asked in the thick silence that followed. Yang turned her attention to her mother. “Yeah?” She flicked the blade closed, lowering it. “Blake… she left her cat-”

“Gambol.” “ -Gambol . She left Gambol here… from the way she was talking, I’m going to guess a familiar, then?” Yang nodded, before realizing that was pointless. “Yeah.” 

Gambol grumbled at the woods, and they both watched her, pacing back and forth around them, the leaves crinkling under her paws. A much louder rustling sounded from the foliage and Yang and Raven both tensed. Yang flicked open the blade again. “Ma… can you reach my back pocket…?” She asked quietly, her eyes trained on what little she could see of the bushes. Raven shifted, and Yang flinched with the groan of discomfort as Raven tried to reach forward. Thankfully, Raven was just within reach, and Yang felt the absence of a slight weight in her pocket as her mother removed the lighter she’d forgotten was in the back pocket of her jeans. She hadn’t intended to bring it with them on the trip out to the clearing, but thankfully her forgetful nature had prevented her from leaving this behind. 

“A lighter? Why do you have a lighter?” Raven grunted breathily, and Yang glanced back momentarily as Raven pushed herself back against the tree, trying to stand on her good leg. “I’ve been tinkering with it. I didn’t mean to bring it, but this is probably the best use for it.” She explained, turning her eyes to the other side of the brush where the rustling started up again, and Gambol’s hairs were all up on end. “What did you do to it-” Her mother’s tone was one of worry, but Yang’s attention was on the woods. She had a bad feeling. Her stomach was all twisted up in knots. “Strike it. But don’t hold it too close.” 

Raven did as her daughter suggested, striking the pad of her thumb against the lighter top and quickly pushing it further away from her face as the flame fwooshed up in a tall arc, lighting up the forest. “Shit-!” Raven jumped in surprised, and Yang jumped as from the bushes she was suddenly very visually aware of the mountain lion preparing to pounce. “Fuck!” She bit, and in the flickering light of the lighter, she readied the knife, her hands shaking. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.” She swore, backing up, and the mountain lion grumbled lowly, stepping forward. Her palms were getting sweaty, even in the chill of the night. But then, her body was on fire. Her nerves were shot, her heart was pounding in her chest, and she could hardly breathe. 

No, no she had to stay positive. She had to stay collected. Raven was too injured to do much, and Blake had trusted her with Gambol. “Fuck fuck fuck.” Yang swore as she tried to steel her nerves, flipping the knife’s rotation in her hand, her fist tightening around the silver pommel. Around her legs, Gambol had hissed at the larger cat, which hissed back, sending a shiver through Yang’s spine and a tension into her gut. They didn’t have long with the lighter. The fuel would run out quick-

Yang’s thoughts, it seemed, were right on point, because the light began to sputter and die behind her, and Raven hissed at what Yang assumed was the heat of the thumb pad. The light flickered and died, throwing them into darkness, and Yang’s body tensed as the mountain lion roared. She barely had time to brace herself as something heavy- the mountain lion- knocked the wind from her, sending her sprawling to the forest floor. “YANG!” Raven screamed in the darkness, and Yang’s heart was racing as she tried to push the big cat off of her, all snapping teeth and crushing weight. She was laying on her back, the damp leaves soaking into her back, and hot breath billowing down on her face as its teeth snapped at her. It tried to take a swing at her with one of it’s massive paws, and on instinct she reached up to block, swearing as it’s claws tore through her forearm.

Yang managed to get a leg up under her, using it as leverage to get all its weight off of her. Her hands were both occupied, holding it at bay and trying to angle its face away from her at the same time, the knife useless while there was still a chance she’d get eaten if she moved her hand. If she could just push it off- 

“HEY!” Raven screamed, and Yang looked away as there was suddenly light again. There was no way Raven was using the lighter. It would be out of fuel by now, no doubt. It didn’t matter. The big cat’s head turned toward Raven, and Yang caught sight of something she hadn’t been expecting. No, no that made no sense. It glinted in the light, and as Yang smelled something burning, the big cat turned its attention back to her, taking her by surprise. It’s teeth nearly reached her nose, but mustering what strength she had based on the adrenaline in her body, Yang shoved it off of her, her fist closing around the oddity and pulling it off the cat’s body. 

She rolled away from it, hopping to her feet and clenching the knife tightly. Gambol hissed at the now clearly pissed off, larger cat, and the two began to circle each other. Yang’s heart was in her throat. “Gambol!” She screamed as it lunged at her, and Yang felt a familiar snap behind her eyes. Gambol flinched as one of its massive paws came down on her, flinging her in the opposite direction like she was nothing. The mountain lion turned its attention on Yang. 

The flickering light from whatever Raven had set ablaze had since grown, lighting the base of the hill, ash and embers billowing around them. Yang stood on the high ground, knife at the ready. She could feel the sweltering heat of the area- she could feel it in her muscles and in her bones- and she could feel the anger. 

Yang was not violent. She was not a cruel person. And never in her life would she have considered using that pocket knife. Except for that one moment. In that moment, Yang saw nothing but red. 

It must have been a truly terrifying sight- Yang, eyes burning and red, bloodied and furious, nearly surrounded by growing wildfire. A part of Yang realized that as the mountain lion began to slowly back into the shadows, ears low and tail tucked. A larger part of her realized it as she turned, and took in the sight of the fire that was racing its way up the tree Raven had been leaning against. Raven was on the ground, sitting as upright as she could manage, the lighter on the ground, next to the remains of a bush that Yang realized must have been dry enough to catch one of the few remaining sparks from the lighter. 

Raven was watching her, the firelight casting shadows on her face to match the ones there no quite of purpose- the disbelief, and the fear. Yang hesitated, gripping the knife tighter. The silver slipped between her fingers, slick with the blood dripping down her arms and hitting the ground with sizzle sounds. She tried to put the thought from her mind, ignoring the irate throb that matched her heart rate as she closed the pocket knife and stumbled after Gambol.

She was relieved to see that it didn’t look too bad- two gashes about the size of her pinky fingers had torn down Gambol’s side, and it was clearly painful. Yang all but tore the shirt from her sweat- soaked torso, pulling it over her head and using it as a makeshift sling. Gambol licked the palm of her hand with her sandpaper tongue as Yang carefully bundled her in the shirt, carrying her over to Raven. “Ma? Ma how’re you doing?” She asked over the crackling of the fire. It was beginning to spread to other trees, the leaves crackling and burning and dropping to the ground. The embers caught on a few more dry bushes, and they watched as it spread. This was not good. 

Raven wasn’t looking too hot either- she was certainly sweating, but between that and the obviously excruciating pain of her leg, she seemed reluctant to move. “Fine I’m- I’m fine.” She managed, trying to pull herself up and to Yang’s surprise, nearly crying with the effort. “Ma stop. Stop .” It took physically restraining her with the only free hand she had- the wounded one- for Raven to stop struggling to stand. “Take Gambol.” Yang charged her, gently placing the bundle into her mother’s arms. “Hold her gently.” Raven, although seeming confused, did as her daughter asked, and Yang stood up, glancing around. 

She tried listening, but there were no sounds besides the crackling fire. Even then, they were fifteen minutes from the road. She tried to calculate how long Blake had been gone. The answer was not long enough. She was startled from her train of thought as a branch came crashing down not too far from them, her heart pounding at the suddenness of it. It wasn’t safe here. They needed to move. She turned to Raven. “Ma, you’re not going to like this, but we need to go- and we need to go now. ” She reached a hand to her mother, who took it, grimacing as they both managed to get her up. In the bright light of the raging fire, Yang could see what Blake had meant before, when she said it wasn’t good. The curve of her mother’s thigh was bowed, far too much to be natural. Out of little holes torn in the fabric of her jeans, which were stained dark, Yang could only barely process bone protruding. She tried to keep her cool. They had to go with her plan now- there was no alternative. 

“Ma I need you to listen to me.” She spoke clearly over the raging fire, and she felt her mother’s hand slide from hers, gripping her forearm for balance, and as a show of trust, Yang could only assume from the look glinting in her mother's eyes. “I’m listening.”

“I’m going to carry you up the hill. We have to get out of here before this all comes down on us.” Another branch came crashing down, sending a plume of sparks and smoke with it. Raven turned her face away, and Yang tucked hers into her arm, the sparks hitting her bare torso with tiny stinging burns. 

“Can you do that?” Raven called back down at her, the worry apparent in her features. She looked so much older like that- so stressed, and scared- it broke Yang’s heart. It didn’t matter if she thought she could or not- she had to. And so, kneeling down quickly so that Raven could rest on her leg, Yang wrapped her arms around her mother’s legs and her torso and lifted, grunting with the weight as she hefted her up bridal style. Raven bit her lip to force a swear from leaking out , and Yang’s heart quivered with guilt. But this was the least dangerous way she could think of. “Hang in there Ma…” She grunted, pushing through the debris and past the burning tree, up the hillside. 

Yang’s hands were sweating more than she thought they ever had. Her legs wobbled with the weight as she carefully tried to find footing up the steep incline. Her arm was throbbing dully and her head was pounding and her eyes and lungs were burning. Every step of the way she wanted to quit. Every step she fought for her balance, and her breath. She wasn’t sure how far they made it- it might have been just about half way up the hill- but it felt like eons. And then there was rustling coming down toward them, and lights, and Yang dropped to her knees as carefully as she could manage while absolutely exhausted. Her breathing was louder than anything else in her ears as Tai came skidding down the hill toward them, Summer lifting the roots in his path. 

She blacked out for a moment- Tai took Raven from her, and Summer gave Yang a water bottle. Yang chugged it faster than she realized, nearly missing her mouth. The water ran down the corners of her mouth and dripped from her chin, and Yang gasped like a fish out of water as she finished it off. She hadn’t even realized Summer had been bandaging her arm until her heart rate started to go back to normal, and the pressure of the cloth tied so tightly around her forearm ached dully. Together they climbed the rest of the hill, Summer supporting her and holding her tight around the waist as they took it one step at a time. The whole time, it was eating at her. It was the top question in her mind. They reached the top of the hill and subsequently the truck, and Yang lost all control of her filter. “Where’s Blake?” Her eyes scanned the truck, and the road. Nothing. 

Summer led her to the truck bed, her brow furrowed. “She’s at the house- she’s alright.” She assured her daughter, rubbing little circles on her back. Yang almost melted into the touch, but snapped herself out of it. “Alright? Why would she be-? What happened-”

“Yang. Yang . It’s okay, honeybee. She had some phantom pain. Ruby’s keeping her company at the house. She wanted to come back with us, but I made her stay with your sister.” Summer tried to soothe her worries, and while Yang’s nerves were beyond shot at this point, she didn’t have any more interjections. Tai meanwhile was trying to get Raven in the back of the truck. They stepped out of the way to let them work it out, before Tai called Yang in to help. “Sugarsnap, can you give me a hand? How’s your arm feelin’?” He asked, the worry dancing in his eyes and features. “Well enough.” She offered, hopping up into the truck bed with a grunt. Her arms felt like they were made of gelatin, in truth. But that wasn’t going to help anyone. Carefully, Tai set Raven on the edge of the tailgate. Yang hooked her elbows under her mother's arms, and with Tai lifting her legs, they managed to move her onto the actual truck bed. Tai closed the tailgate, leaning over it to speak with Yang. “Stay with her, ‘kay? I’m so proud of you, I-” Tai shook his head, bowing it and clearly trying to ward against the pressure building behind his eyes. “We’re almost home. Hold on tight..” He managed, kissing her forehead. 

He quickly pulled away, all but running to the drivers side and pulling himself in as Yang swallowed the lump in her throat, sitting down on the ledge of the wall beside her mother. Tai tore off, making a three point turn and speeding down the dirt road back toward the house. It was still pitch black out, and even what little light the moon shone down on them wasn’t much. She glanced upward, the breath catching in her throat and the words popping into her head as she took in the thousands and thousands of stars speckling the sky. When they reached the property, driving out across the back lawn and toward the front of the house, Yang gripped the edge of the truck and glimpsed at the porch, her heart stopping. As Tai shifted gears, Yang took the opportunity to use her good arm and vault over the wall, landing on her feet and pitching forward toward the truck. She barely registered Raven screaming after her as she raced toward the porch, meeting Blake on the stairwell and engulfing her in a hug. She smelled like jasmine and soap and Yang never ignored the thought that she could have died tonight and never smelled that again. Never hugged her again. 

Blake clung to her just as tightly, and as Yang kissed her temple, Blake stepped back, clearly looking for words. “What- are- how- Gambol?” She finally managed, and Yang seemed to snap back into reality. “Truck- fuck, uh, she’s in the truck, with Ma.” Blake seemed relieved to hear it, squeezing her hand. “Ma.. It’s real bad, you weren’t kidding.” She acknowledged. “I think we’re gonna have to take her to the hospital.” 

“Shit, Yang…” Blake breathed, and Yang thought that might have been the first time she heard her swear. “You go see Gambol. I’ll grab Ruby and we can go-”

“Not so fast there, Spitfire.” A gruff voice spoke up from the front door, and Yang nearly had a heart attack, not expecting anyone else. She was surprised as Qrow stepped through the threshold. “Uncle Qrow?” She balked. “What-”

“He got here not too long after your parents left.” Blake murmured, taking her hand. Yang intertwined their fingers. “Qrow, Ma’s hurt re-” 

“-real bad. Yeah, I heard ya.” He acknowledged. “I was just coming by for a visit… figures this is what happens.” He scoffed, scratching at the back of his neck. “Excuse me, but it’s not Raven’s fault she tripped down the hill.” Blake bit in Raven’s defense, much to Yang’s surprise. Qrow only scowled, his usual humor run dry. “You must be Blake.” He noted, and Yang tried desperately to defuse the situation. “I’m going with them to town. Blake, if you come with me, we can take Gambol to An-”

“Will she even be open this late?” She asked, the worry clear in her expression. Yang kissed the frown from her cheeks. “She’ll help.” 

Qrow cleared his throat. “I’ll be staying here and keeping an eye on the squirt.” 

Yang turned her attention to her uncle. “Where is Ruby? I thought she’d be out here at the first sound of the truck.” Qrow was quick to assure her. “She’s up in her room. I told her to stay put-” 

Mom !” Ruby came booking it out the door past them, sprinting clumsily down the steps and toward the truck before any of them could grab her. This would not be good. The last thing Yang wanted was for Ruby to see that. “RUBY!” She yelled, gaining chase. Ruby was fast, and Yang’s legs were exhausted, but this mattered more. She managed to catch the fabric of her baby sister’s tank top as she reached the wall of the truck bed, yanking her back and into her arms. Ruby fought it, squirming and struggling and kicking, and Yang winced as one of Ruby’s elbows collided with the open gashed in her arm, soaking the white fabric even further with blood. “Ruby don’t look!” Raven yelled from inside the truck bed, and Ruby fought it. “Let me go, Yang! Let me go!”

“Ruby Rose I don’t want you to see this.” Raven snapped. “So stop it! Go inside- now!” 

Ruby stopped. She stopped squirming, and just stared at the truck where Raven was hidden. “But-” Yang held her tighter. “Rubes, listen… please.” 

“Mom…” She all but whimpered, and Yang’s heart broke. “Go, Ruby... “ Raven’s tone was hard, and distant, but Yang knew that was the farthest thing from the truth. “I want to come with you…” Ruby sniffled, “I want to make sure you’re okay.” Raven’s breathing wavered, and all of Yang’s chips were in making sure Ruby went inside. “...Keep your room tidy while I’m getting fixed up, alright? Or we’ll have a problem when I’m back.” 

Ruby started crying, and Yang’s heart splintered into pieces. “It’s okay, Rubes… She’ll be okay…” She promised, and slowly started to back toward the house with her baby sister wrapped in her arms, sniffling and shivering in the cold of the autumn night. 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

In the end, it took nearly ten minutes to get Ruby calmed down and settled. Blake and Yang both opted to follow Summer, Tai and Raven into town, borrowing Qrow’s car to get to the Ren’s clinic while they took Raven to the emergency room. Raven’s leg was more than salve could fix. Much much more. When they rang the doorbell, at first no one answered, but after a bit more belligerent ringing, Li Ren answered, looking agitated. That look didn’t much fade from his face as he let them in, but then, that was just Li. He took Gambol from them more gently than one would have assumed or imagined, cradling her and calling to An, who came down in scrubs, prepared for emergency visits at that hour. It seemed that they had interrupted dinner. But An and Li hardly minded. It was bizarre and amazing, watching them work so perfectly in tandem to help the three of them at the drop of a hat. While An patched up Gambol, Blake holding her in her lap and holding her paw, Li took a look at Yang’s arm. After a painful disinfecting, a Novocaine shot and stitches, as well as a tight bandaging, she knew it would be better eventually. Infection was not something she wanted to deal with. An was just as diligent and careful with Gambol, stitching her up and praising her and Blake both for being so calm and collected. 

Yang ended up haggling with An for the better part of a half an hour afterward over paying for the supplies they’d used, but Li eventually intervened, striking up a deal with her. If Yang fixed the wiring for the lighting in their upstairs bathroom, they’d call it even. Yang agreed to those terms, and much to the relief of everyone involved, they called it a night, Blake cradling Gambol as they got into Yang’s uncle’s old weather-beat car. She dropped Blake off at her house, walking her to the porch and kissing both her and Gambol goodnight. Before she could step down the front steps and back to her car, however, Blake stopped her. “Yang?”

Yang glanced back at her. “About tonight… I- When we stopped at the rock? Do you remember when I heard something? Right before Omen showed up?” Yang’s brow furrowed, but she nodded, turning fully to look at her. “Yeah…?” 

Blake bit her lip, glancing around for a moment. “I thought… I thought I saw… someone.” 

“Someone?” Yang blinked. A couple different people flashed through her mind. One the most concerning by far. “Did you know them, or-” Blake was quick to shake her head. “No. I’d never seen that person before. They had short hair, and light eyes…” She recalled, a frown setting into her dimply cheeks. Yang stewed on that. Without warning, she reached across the divide and kissed Blake on the bridge of her nose, and watching Blake’s long eyelashes flutter in surprise warmed her heart. “We’ll talk more tomorrow, okay? We’ll figure this all out…” She promised softly, fully intending to keep that promise. Blake believed her. “Alright. Goodnight, Yang.” 

The goodnight kiss was sweet, and tender, and broken by Gambol’s soft mewling. Yang kissed the top of her little head, and departed to her uncle's car, waving as she got in and drove back to her house. 

Qrow and Ruby were asleep on the couch when she got home, snoring and tangled amid a mess of empty popcorn bags and whipped cream cans. She couldn’t help but smile, throwing a blanket over each of them. 

With none of her parents home, and certainly needing the emotional support, Yang changed into her pajamas and promptly let Ember out of the chicken coop, carrying her inside and up to Yang’s room, where she closed the door, flopped down on her bed, winced at the tenderness of her muscles, and cuddled her chicken. 

As she blinked, her eyelids growing heavy with sleep, her gaze traveled to the necklace hanging from where she’d draped it on her dresser. The necklace she’d ripped from the mountain lion's throat. 

The necklace with a pendant of hammered steel, engraved with interlocking gears.

Chapter Text

“Why we went with pirates, I’ll never know.” Blake murmured as she struggled to pull on one of her incredibly tall boots. Even through the annoyance, Yang knew Blake was happy with the choice. When they’d taken Ruby two towns over to the massive halloween party store in search of decor and costume accessories a week or so ago, while Ruby had been gathering supplies, Yang and Blake had pursued the costumes, if jokingly at first. However, the more they’d toyed with the idea, the more they’d liked it. She adjusted her tricorn hat as she checked her makeup in her vanity mirror. Yang was shoddy at makeup on a normal day, but halloween was a whole other ballgame. She’d gotten her basics down- foundation, blush, a little bit of aesthetic dirt; she was just struggling with her eyeliner now. 

While she was on the verge of asking her girlfriend for help, she ultimately didn’t have to, as she felt a dainty hand rest against the center of her back, and Blake’s chin rest on her shoulder. “Need a hand?” She giggled, and despite her pouting, Yang handed over the eyeliner. “You’re my only hope.” She sighed dramatically, and turned around as Blake cued her to with a tap on the shoulder. “Close your eyes.” She smiled, keeping Yang’s chin steady by pinching it with her free hand, the other holding the brush. It was bad enough that Blake was always insufferably pretty. But she made quite the beautiful pirate too. Yang would be lying if she said the position she was in didn’t put butterflies in her stomach, but the thought colored her cheeks far too much for her to actually say that out loud. She tried to stay as still as possible as Blake artfully and skillfully applied the eyeliner, blowing lightly on Yang’s eyelids once she was done, which made them flutter, and Yang start a bit. Blake snorted in amusement, and Yang repaid her by hopping up and taking her face lightly in her hands, and delivering an absolutely devastating rain of smooches. 

Blake laughed, and her ears twitched, the gold rings she’d put in jangling when they did. She really did look fantastic- she always did, but something about the swashbuckler headband and the high waisted leather leggings, and the baggy tunic top tucked in was entrancing; and entirely Blake. It seemed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because in retaliation for the kisses, Blake reached up and snatched the tricorn hat from Yang’s head. As Yang gaped, reaching up, Blake giggled, placing it atop her own head. “Thief.” She dubbed, scoffing in amusement. Blake only smiled, sauntering up to her, and far too close for Yang’s modesty’s sake. “Pirate.” She corrected quietly, and Yang regretted picking pirates. Blake was clearly very very into this roll. Although, Yang had to admit she was actually rather enjoying this.

Blake was very close, and Yang wondered to herself how she could do that- how she could just turn on and off at will the flirtatious air she seemed to walk with, and certainly knew how to use. Yang swallowed as Blake's arms slid up her vest and over her shoulders, and let her hands casually rest against Blake’s hips. “You’re very good at this…” She chuckled, and Blake’s brow furrowed a bit. “Good at what?” Yang blushed, unable to help the dorky smile that tugged at the corner of her lips. “...being a pirate… flirting… making me weak in the knees… The list goes on and on, really…” She laughed a little, and Blake blushed, playing with the wispy strands of hair around Yang’s ears. 

“You think I’m a flirt?” She asked, and Yang scoffed. “I know you’re a flirt.” 

“Are you quite sure?” She was getting ever so closer to Yang’s lips, and Yang knew she was teasing her. “Oh I’m very sure. You’re a flirt and a tease…” She murmured, their lips just barely brushing. Blake seemed amused by this, the curve of her lips turning up in a smile, curling the wisp of wild hair around her finger, her eyelashes close enough to flutter against Yang’s cheeks. “A tease, hm?” 

“That’s what I-” It wasn’t forceful, the way Blake kissed her. It was tentative, and sweet, and delicate, and everything right with the world. And it was over far too soon for her liking. 

“Gross! Close your door!” Ruby gagged, and Blake’s lips retreated, Yang blinking in limbo for a moment before coming back into focus. Ruby was dressed like a vampire, which was unsurprising, really. It fit well with her aesthetic; from the grungy looking spiked boots to the corset and cape, to the choker- she was only a few marks off from her usual attire. The only major difference was the fangs, and the direction she’d gelled her hair: back, rather than spiky. 

“You look good, Rubes.” Yang complemented her sister as Blake handed her back her hat, sitting it squarely atop the bandanna Yang had tied around the top of her head. “You guys do too, even if you’re gross.” Ruby stuck her tongue out at them, and Yang stuck hers out back. “I’m gonna go help mom with the corn maze. Raven says you’re on sign and cobweb duty.” She informed her, and Yang was suddenly struck with the thought. “Oh, ‘kay. Know where I could find her? I want to ask her something first.” 

It had been a week since the incident with the mountain lion, and thankfully Raven was doing okay- at least, as okay as someone in a thigh-high cast could be. It had been pretty bad, from what the Summer had told them, but thankfully they hadn’t needed to amputate or anything. In the week since the event, Yang hadn’t had much of a chance to ask her mother about the necklace she’d torn from the big cat’s throat. She’d kept it on her, in her pocket at first, and more recently around her neck. She was wearing it at the moment, the cool hammered steel against the dip in her chest under the creme colored fabric of the costume tunic. 

“She’s on the deck, telling Dad where to put decorations.” Ruby informed her, before stomping  her way down the stairs, off to give Summer a hand. Yang readjusted her hat, and peaking around the corner, stole another quick sweet kiss from Blake, who giggled against her lips. Backing out the doorway, Yang blew her a kiss. “I’m gonna go talk to her real quick- I’ll see you outside?” Blake nodded, running a hand along her dresser. “I’ll probably see if I can give your parents a hand.” She brushed her hair behind her human ear, the feline ones vanishing. Yang hesitated in the doorway a moment. “Hey Blake…?” 

Blake looked up, her attention steadfast. “Yes?” Yang bit the inside of her cheek, trying to figure out how to get across what she wanted to say. “We haven't talked much about… well, about your ears… or the faunus.” She breached the topic, and it was automatically sombering of the mood. Blake seemed guarded, if that was the best word for it, looking at Yang with uncertainty. 

“I’m gonna be honest with you…” Yang scratched at her cheek. “I don’t really know anything about the faunus, beside what Sun told me.” 

“What did Sun tell you…?” She asked, shifting her weight to the opposite foot. She was definitely nervous, or uncomfortable, and Yang very much didn’t want to make her either of those things. But… she figured they probably needed to talk about this. “I know that when you show me your ears, it’s a big deal… it's a lot of trust, right?” 

Blake nodded, playing with her fingers absentmindedly. “Sun said that other witches don’t really get along well with faunus-” 

“It’s not that they don’t get along with us, it’s that they can’t stand us.” Blake bristled, and Yang froze, fearing she’d said the wrong thing. Blake relaxed slightly after a moment, but there was still something burning in her eyes; simmering low and restrained. “I don’t know why… it’s just always been like that. They see us as freaks; we’re likened to familiars, and treated with less respect.” She crossed her arms over her chest, biting at her thumb nail. Yang’s features turned down, a frown biting into her cheeks and her brow furrowing. “Shit, Blake…”

“Showing you my ears… I don’t know why I did it that first night…” She admitted quietly. “I don’t think I was thinking. But you…” She hesitated, pursing her lips, and Yang reached out, offering her hand to take. Blake took it, squeezing gently. “You’ve never given me any reason not to trust you… I’ve never felt like-... like if I showed them to you, you’d reject them, or me…” She admitted. “I’m so used to seeing the bad side of non-faunus witches… Everywhere I went with- with Adam, and the rest of the faunus… we were outcasts. Disdained and mistreated. And then I came here… and my parents told me that it was a little town, and there weren’t any witches for miles…” A soft smile tugged at the corners of her lips, and she intertwined her fingers with Yang’s. “And then I met you… and your family.” 

Yang’s thumb brushed against the back of her girlfriend’s hand gently, listening as she spoke. “I know it’s not my place to tell you what to do, or to advise you on… being yourself.” Yang bit her lip. She really wanted to word this right. She wasn’t good with words. She really wasn’t. But she needed Blake to know just how much she cared. “...but you’re as good as a part of this family too, Blake. You mean everything to me, and i-” She blustered, feeling heat rush up the back of her neck and to her ears. “I know showing your ears is a big deal… and it’s about trust… and feeling like you’re accepted… And I want you to know that you are accepted here… Summer, Tai, Raven, Ruby… none of ‘em are gonna like you any less for being yourself.”

“Yang…?” Blake seemed unsure what she was getting at, although a blush had colored her cheeks. Yang swore internally. She was no good at this. “I just want you to know that I love you, ears and all, and that- that- if you wanted to- and you felt comfortable-” Yang started to trip over herself, and thank brothers Blake seemed to get the picture, realizing dawning on her features. “...you think your parents would be alright with that? With me being a faunus…?” 

Yang blinked. In truth, there had been no reason for Yang to doubt that they would be. But she knew her mothers, and her father; it might take Tai a moment to adjust, but he certainly wouldn’t be anything like Blake had described being subjected to before. In place of an answer, she took both of Blake’s hands and kissed the tops of her knuckles. “Even if they weren’t… I wouldn’t want you to have to hide who you are… it’s not right…” She murmured against the delicate, scared skin of Blake’s hands. 

Blake’s smile was bittersweet. “...that’s what it means to be a faunus, Yang. I always have to hide…” She let go of Yang’s hands and reached up instead to tuck the stay curls by Yang’s ears back. “We’ll talk more about this later… okay? We have all the time in the world.” She promised, and Yang nodded, completely understanding. “Of course. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable…” She apologized, and Blake shook her head, kissing her sweetly on the corner of her mouth. “You’re too considerate for your own good. Now, weren’t you going to go talk to your mother?” She reminded her forgetful partner, and Yang blinked back into focus, remembering she indeed had wanted to speak with Raven. “Shit- you’re right. I’ll see you out back in a bit.” She promised, kissing Blake goodbye before rushing downstairs. It wasn’t like Raven could get anywhere fast nowadays, but Yang had hoped to catch her alone, in order to speak in private. 

She wasn’t prepared, however, to rush out the back sliding glass doors and nearly run headfirst into Raven, who, Yang was almost positive, was wrapped head to toe in bandages. She put the breaks on just as she reached her, coming to a thundering halt and nearly giving Raven a heart attack, it looked like. “Brothers, Yang, slow down.” Raven chided, but Yang was still mesmerized by the costume. Raven rolled her eyes. “Your sister’s idea.” She informed her oldest daughter, and Yang couldn’t help but snicker. Of course Ruby had something to do with this. 

“Did she tell you you’re on sign and cobweb duty?” Raven asked, wheeling around to face her. It was odd, looking down at her mother rather than up, but she was getting used to it. Yang nodded. “Yeah. I was hoping to talk to you about something first, though.” She spared a glance out on the yard, looking for her father. Summer had done a fantastic job on the yard- where there had previously been a large open space in the lawn, Summer had grown a small pumpkin patch. The chickens were milling about, Ember included, although she was distinguishable from the other chickens by the parakeet costume Yang and Blake had managed to find at a pet store near the halloween one. As the others tried to meander their way around the pumpkins, hoping to peck themselves off a piece, Ember was quick to holler and charge, defending Summer’s hard work. It was an amusing sight, to say the least. Finally, her gaze landed on her father over by the coop and the work shed, standing atop a ladder and attaching lights to the roofing. He was far out of earshot, it seemed. “Well, what is it you want to talk about, Yang?” 

Reaching down into her shirt, Yang lifted the pendant up and over her head, taking it off and handing it to her mother. “I took this off the mountain lion last week, while I was trying to get it off me.” Raven took the necklace, her brow furrowed as she ran her fingers over the hammered steel. “Is it-”

“It’s Branwen, alright.” Raven acknowledged, although her expression was guarded. “And I know exactly who it belongs to.” 

Yang blinked, surprised. She had been hoping Raven could confirm her theory of its origin, but she hadn’t been expecting something so clear cut. “You do?” 

Raven nodded. She looked almost sad as she ran her thumb around the rim of the pendant, tracing the gears with the pad of her finger. “It used to be mine.” Whatever Yang had been expecting, it wasn't that. “I gave it away before I left the coven. There was this kid I used to watch: Vernal… I gave it to her before I left.” She seemed to mull over that fact, and Yang was aware of the implications. She wasn't prepared for her mother to hand the pendant back, however. “Here. You can hold onto this for now.”

“Are you sure?” She glanced at it momentarily, her gaze traveling between the two. Raven nodded, seemingly ready to be done with the conversation. “Yeah. Now go give your father a hand, before he has an aneurysm trying to get all the decor up in time.” A part of Yang wanted to argue, but she knew better. Putting it back on and tucking it back into her shirt, Yang hopped down the steps as Raven rolled into the house, presumably to start prepping the food. These parties were always a hit around town, so the week leading up to the party, the Xiao Long-Rose-Branwen household always made sure to stock up on enough party snacks and candy for the whole of Vale. It had been trickier this time, with the sudden need for a hospital visit, but Raven had insisted they not cancel. And so, Tai came to the rescue with the idea of mummy dogs. Ruby would be on oven duty- or at least, she would have been, had she not enlisted some help from Jaune and Ren, who surprisingly volunteered. Raven was prepping the hundred-some hotdogs on baking sheets and wrapping them in strips of crescent dough while Ruby helped Summer with the maze-

Speaking of; as Yang reached Tai’s, the ground gave a tremble, and she rushed to steady the ladder, which wobbled a bit, to her father’s tension. She held it in place until the rumbling stopped, and Tai breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, kiddo.” He nailed the last line of lights to the side of the roofing, and looked down at her. “Didja’ get started on those signs yet?” Yang was getting real tired of people asking her that. “I’m gonna go do that now. Be careful up there.” She asked of him, and let go of the ladder, off to hammer in the signs that he’d left around in piles for her. She took care of the ones near the coop and the shed first, pointing one in the direction of the left of the house, and one toward the pumpkin patch, which Ember was still valiantly guarding. Yang gave her a loving little pat as she passed to the other side of the patch, hammering in one of the two signs there, pointing toward the mushroom circles Summer had grown along the treeline. It was always cute when little kids dressed like characterized witches came to the party, and so Summer had started a tradition of including ‘fairy circles’ of toadstools for them to stand in and pose for pictures for their parents. 

As she reached to pick up the second sign in the dirt of the patch, her brow furrowed, and instead, she reached down and brushed the soil with her fingers, tracing the distinct shape of a shoe print. It seemed odd- the shape of the print was distinctly boot-like. She shrugged it off. Plenty of them were wearing boots- Ruby probably ran by on her way to the fairy circles. Paying it no more mind than that, Yang picked up the sign and hammered it in, pointing it toward the greenhouse, where Summer and Ruby had set up a haunted hallway of sorts. 

After doing one final sweep of the back yard, Ember clucking at her heels, Yang found her way around the side of the house and toward the corn maze that Summer and Ruby were finishing up. Summer seemed to have a handle on it as the last few ears popped up on the top of their stalks, but Ruby was sweating a bit. Yang gave her an encouraging shoulder squeeze as she passed, picking up one of the nearby signs ready for hammering. “One over here by the entrance, Yang, and another over on that side.” Summer directed, wiping her forehead with the back of her gloved hand, careful not to wipe the paint from her cheeks or her nose. She had decided to dress as a scarecrow, and Yang had to admit she pulled it off quite well. “Got it.” She hammered in the first sign, and then the second. “Oh, and Rubes, careful where you’re running. Don’t want to accidentally squash a pumpkin.” She lightly jested, and Ruby’s brow only furrowed. 

“Where’s Blake? Is she out here-” That was answered in turn by Blake closing the front door, jogging over to them and smiling a bit embarrassedly. “Sorry, Sorry… I got a bit side-tracked. Ren brought taiyaki…” She chuckled, and Yang noted a crumb hanging onto the corner of her lip. “I’ll have to grab one, they’re super good.” She reached over and brushed the crumb away, kissing her on the cheek. Blake’s cheeks flared darkly, and suddenly Yang remembered they were in the company of her mother as her own cheeks flared up, and Ruby made a gagging sound. “Gross…. I’m gonna go splash the side of the shed with fake blood.” Ruby excused herself, and Summer cleared her throat, gaining both Blake and Yang’s attention. “Well, girls… We still have some cobwebs and stickers to put up, if you’d like to help…?” She looked between them, and they both nodded. “Yeah-” “Yes, ma’am-” They were off before Summer could say anything else, to her apparent amusement. 

They soon reached the garage, Yang moving right into grabbing the box full of fake cobwebs. “Well, we’ve got half an hour. Are you up to some speed-decorating?” She breathed, and Blake looked like she was still processing what had happened only a few moments prior. “Hm? Yeah. Yes. Um- stickers..?” She glanced around, and Yang set her box down, ducking into the garage to look. It was dark, the lights out, but then she didn’t really need any lights. She knew where she was going, pretty much. There was bound to be a box around here somewhere. “Aha!” She grinned as she caught sight of something shimmery in a box toward the back work table. She gave her bike a pat as she passed it, and approached the box, hands on her hips. “I’ve got you now-” 

There was a crash to the side of her, and she jumped, grabbing a wrench off the bench on instinct. Her body was tense, and her breath was held as she glanced around the dark garage. Everything was deadly silent. “Hello…?” She asked quietly, stepping forward, wrench clenched in hand. Something moved out of the corner of her eye- it did, she saw it. Her muscles were all tensed. “Nora, if you’re planning on jump scaring me, I have a wrench and I will hit you- you’ve been warned!” She declared. She didn’t like this. She didn’t like this at all. Her skin was crawling. 

“Yang? Yang is everything okay?” Blake’s voice broke through the eerie tension in the air, thank the brothers. Grabbing the box of stickers, Yang approached the side door as quickly as possible, setting the wrench down on her way out. Blake was waiting for her on the other side, her expression concerned. “Is everything alright?”

Yang brushed the feeling of being watched off of herself. It was halloween. She was just being paranoid. “Yeah. Yeah, everything’s fine.” She promised, and handed Blake the box, kissing her assuredly on the temple. Blake’s nose scrunched up as she did, but she smiled as Yang grabbed the box of cotton cobwebs. “Let’s get started.” 

They made quick work of stringing cobwebs across the property, and slapping stickers of spiders and hand prints and skeletal parts around. As darkness fell and the first car arrived, they finished spreading cobwebs around the front door. They both recognized the vehicle rather quickly, Blake the most so, hopping down from the ladder as Yang stepped out of the way, running to meet them. Ghira and Kali Belladonna stepped out of the car on opposite sides, and Yang had to restrain her laughter. Kali Belladonna, the sweetest woman Yang had had the pleasure of meeting who wasn’t her mother, was dressed in a welterweight boxing robe, and a champion belt almost as large as her. Ghira, likewise, was dressed in what appeared to be one of his wife’s kimonos, wearing it with all the confidence he usually expelled. Blake greeted them with a smile, and gestured toward Yang, and the house. They looked up at her as she did, and Yang waved pleasantly, trying to keep the nerves from slipping into her smile. She really wanted them to like her, especially now that she and Blake were officially dating. 

Kali greeted Yang first, pulling her into a tight hug, much to Yang’s surprise, and Blake’s embarrassment. “Mom!” Blake grumbled, and Kali shushed her, taking Yang’s hands in her own. She was wearing weighted gloves, too, seemingly very into the costume. “Yang! Oh, it’s been so long since you’ve been over! You look so nice! Blake told me about your matching costumes, and I thought it was such a cute idea, and look! I was right!” She grinned, and Yang blushed. “Thank you, Mrs. Belladonna. You look great too.” Well, it seemed Kali was approving. Now all that stood between Yang and having a stress-free night was- “Ghira, say hello.” Kali moved out of the way to let Ghira greet Yang, and Yang’s anxieties skyrocketed as she shook the hand that he offered to her. “Miss Xiao Long.” He nodded, and she nodded back. “I’ll admit, I was surprised when Blake informed me of your relationship…” 

“Dad…” Blake started, her tone wary, and Ghira gave her an assuring look, before turning his attention back to Yang, his grip on her hand tightening a bit. “...but I have to say, I approve. You seem like a nice young woman. I’m glad my daughter has found a girlfriend who will, as she has assured me, respect her and treat her with admiration.” Yang blinked, glancing at her girlfriend, who blushed. She opened her mouth, ignoring the twisting in her gut as she attempted to assure him, but she was interrupted by Blake settling beside her, and slipping her free hand into Yang’s. “Actually, dad, Yang is my partner.” 

If it was possible to set fireworks off inside a human being, Blake seemed to have accomplished it, as Yang’s cheeks flared and her heart nearly stopped with the correction. “Yang is my romantic partner, not my girlfriend.” 

Ghira and Kali shared a glance, before Kali smiled at the both of them. “Wonderful. I don’t doubt Yang will be a great partner for you, honey. And Yang, I don’t doubt you’re just the person Blake needs as a partner.” Yang felt like she was gonna cry. Damnit, she hated being a crybaby. Blake seemed to sense that, because she was quick to point her parents in Summer’s direction, giving Yang a reprieve. Once they were out of earshot and around the house, Blake turned to her, wiping at the tears that had slipped from the corners of Yang’s eyes. “Was that okay..? Did I do alright?” She asked, and Yang could only hug her in response. Blake seemed surprised at first, but quickly melted into the embrace, running her hands through Yang’s hair; that only made her want to cry more. Everything about Blake was so nice, and so soft and good. She smelled like lavender, and Yang wanted to stay nestled there in the crook of her neck forever. But they didn’t have forever. So she kissed the soft skin of Blake’s shoulder and raised her head, and Blake brushed the hair that had slipped from her hat back behind her ears. “I love you…” She murmured, and Blake tipped her hat down in response, kissing her long and sweet. 

It was Blake who broke away, her attention turned toward the garage, her brow furrowed. But she quickly blinked back to reality as Yang adjusted her hat, and a few more cars pulled into the driveway. It was going to be a long night, but a fun one at that. 

They greeted their friends and acquaintances as they arrived, until Tai took over, allowing them the chance to enjoy the festivities. Summer manned the haunted hallway, a line around the pumpkin patch growing as kids took pictures and played in the mushroom rings. Raven had a setup at the shed where she painted faces, and as always, did a pretty surprisingly good job. She even humored Blake during a slow spell, painting a skull and crossbones on one of her cheeks. Blake had to fight Yang off to keep her from kissing that cheek, until Raven reminded them that their cute couple's antics were going to give Ruby a stomachache. Reluctantly, they settled for other antics. Yang managed to snag a taiyaki from Ren before Ruby ate them all, splitting it with Blake, who lit up like a child on christmas as Yang awarded her the larger half. Once they were done snacking, Yang suggested taking a waltz through the maze, and Blake was hesitant to agree. “Between the two of us, we have half a working sense of direction- and you want to go through a maze ?” She snickered, and Yang beamed at her, trying and failing to pout. “Come on- mazes are super fun. And it’s not like we can get too lost; it’s only so big. We’ve hiked through the woods way farther.” She pointed out, and Blake sighed, fighting a smile of her own. “The things I do for love.” She gave in, and Yang grinned, intertwining their fingers as they reached the entrance to the maze. “So we don’t get separated.” She kissed Blake’s knuckles, and some nearby middle school kid dressed up as a skeleton made a ‘bleh’ face at them. Yang ‘bleh’ed right back at him, earning a giggle and a snort from Blake, who was amused, despite herself. 

Summer had done a great job with the maze- the stalks were too tall to see over, and just winding enough that neither of them had any idea where they were going. Eventually they came to an intersection, and Yang stopped to scratch at her chin in confusion. “Okay… so I think we’ve been here before. I’m like… 99% sure.” She admitted, and Blake sighed, although there was no malice in it, only amusement. “I hate to say I told you so…” 

Yang was quick to stop that right there. “Now hold on a second- I can do this. I will get us to the center, just you wait.” She promised, and turned to the two paths they could take, deliberating. She suddenly noticed, however, that Blake’s grip on her hand tightened, and suddenly Blake was pulling her toward the left route. “Blake?” She blinked, and catching a glimpse of her girlfriend’s face, she was surprised to see a deep terror behind her eyes. “Let’s try this way.” She murmured, and as they charged forward, Blake kept glimpsing over her shoulder. “Blake, what’s the matter?” She asked as they came to another stop, this time four ways. There was a feminine laugh ahead of them, and Blake tensed, clenching Yang’s hand tightly. She glanced around, picking the path on the right, and rushing to get away from whatever was scaring her so bad. About halfway down the path, Yang dug her boots into the dirt, grounding herself. “Blake, what’s going on? What are we running from-” 

“Adam.” Blake gasped, and it was clear now that they had stopped that Blake was trembling. Yang’s face immediately fell, and she wrapped Blake in her arms. “He’s here?” She asked quietly, and she could practically feel Blake’s heart racing in her chest. “It’s okay… it’s okay. I’ve got you.” She promised, and Blake tensed again, all but whimpering into her shoulder. “There- behind you-” She managed, and Yang pivoted on her heels, catching a glimpse of something ducking behind a wall of corn, the stalks rustling. Yang’s hold on Blake tightened slightly. “We’re gonna make our way out the way we came… it’s alright. I won’t let him hurt you.” She promised quietly, turning back the direction they came. Blake slipped her arms around Yang’s waist, hiding her face in her back, and slowly they forged their way back the direction they’d come. Yang thought carefully about every turn she took- the faster she got Blake out of the maze, the better. 

“I’m right here…” She assured her, feeling Blake’s arms tighten around her, gripping at her tunic. She kept her eyes peeled, glancing around every corner as they approached the entrance to the maze. Once they were out, Blake shakily let go of her back, stepping around her and glancing in all directions with worry beat into her features. “He’s here- he’s- they’re.. I thought I saw-” She tried to take deep breaths, but they came out stunted and shallow. “Blake… Blake, look at me.” Yang murmured, cupping her cheeks gently in her hands. “I promised I wouldn’t let him hurt you… I promised…” Blake tried to focus, nodding along with her words and holding the hands that cupped her cheeks. “Do you want me to take you where he can’t get you?” Blake nodded wordlessly, and Yang didn’t hesitate, reaching down and sweeping Blake up into her arms. Although seeming surprised at first, Blake quickly buried her face in Yang’s shoulder, holding onto her tightly. Ignoring glances from the occasional patron and parent, Yang carried Blake to the house, her eyes scanning the entire way. Inside, she was boiling. She was absolutely pissed the fuck off. 

That he would dare show up here- that he could cause such a reaction in Blake- even having not known much about Blake’s ex-partner, Yang did not like him. She very very much despised him. And it took all her self control not to make sure Blake was safe, and then return to the maze to throw hands with him. She lightly kicked her bedroom door open and closed, and set Blake down on the bed. Blake was seemingly working on getting her breathing under control, murmuring to herself as Yang closed the open window and tossed off her hat, pulling the shades down. Blake’s gaze was locked on the door, and Yang made quick work of locking it. Once all precautions were taken, and she’d got a handle on her more fiery emotions, all that remained in the forefront of her mind was concern for Blake. 

Yang joined her by the bed, getting down on her knees and taking Blake’s hands as gently as possible. Blake still flinched, but as she met Yang’s eyes, she relaxed slightly. The terror that had rooted itself in her honey-dew eyes was heartbreaking, and Yang tried her best to help Blake ride out the tremors running through her body. “What can I do…?” She asked softly, and Blake barely opened her lips to speak. “Hold me-” She croaked out, and Yang wrapped her in safely in her arms, holding her close and shifting to sit with her on the bed. She didn’t say anything as Blake clung to her. She just held her. 

When it seemed the worst of it had died down, Blake rested her forehead against Yang’s cheek, shuddering out a breath, which blew hot against Yang’s jaw. “Thank you…” She swallowed, and Yang held her tighter, kissing the freckle hidden under the swashbuckler headband she was still wearing. “Do you want to stay here tonight…?” She found herself asking, and Blake was quiet for a while. “...would that be okay…?” She glanced up to meet Yang’s eyes, and Yang kissed the side of her nose. “Always.” She promised. 

Blake sat on the edge of the bed as Yang fished around in her closet for some comfortable pajamas. She grabbed one of her favorite sleep shirts from a convention her dad had gone to in Atlas years back, and a pair of comfortable flannel pajama pants she saved for colder nights. She handed them to her girlfriend with a kiss, and moved to leave the room in search of a spare toothbrush, but Blake’s fingers curled around her wrist, Her expression tense, and Yang realized that was a bad idea. So she kissed Blake on the temple and turned around, her eyes closed and her hands covering them, for good measure. She was such a moron. Leaving the room when Blake so clearly was anxious about being alone? What had she been thinking? 

She was pulled from her thoughts as arms wrapped around her torso, and Blake rested her chin against Yang’s shoulder, the weight of another body braced against her back. Yang removed her hands from her eyes, and let her hands rest over Blake’s. “...could we… cuddle…?” Blake murmured against her shoulder blade, and Yang was weak to the request. She was weak to everything Blake, but this hit different. This dependent Blake. Even when she had talked about Adam and the things that bothered her; even when she was guarded, and mysterious; she was always so self-reliant. So strong willed. Like she was pushing forward; like she didn’t have anyone but herself to rely on. 

Maybe that's what hit different. That Blake was relying on her.

Yang turned, and Blake let go of her hold on her waist, blinking as Yang dipped against and as slowly and carefully as she could manage, scooped Blake back up into her arms. Blake wrapped her arms around Yang’s neck, looking up at her in momentary surprise. Yang just smiled, and carried her over to the bed. If she were anyone else, Yang would have dropped her right in the center of the hoard of pillows; but she was Blake, and she needed something more gentle. And so Yang laid her against the pillows, watching the color burn on Blake’s face as she did, leaning over her and kissing her temple slowly, and with all the softhearted love she could translate over from her heart. 

She was well aware of Blake’s arms reaching up and hooking under hers, and she was well aware of Blake holding her breath- but she wasn't prepared for Blake to turn onto her side, pulling Yang over her and rolling her onto the bed with a slight bounce as her weight hit the mattress. She stared up at the ceiling for a moment, processing, before it gave way to laughter, and she turned on her side to question Blake on where that had come from- at least, until they were nose-to-nose, and all Yang’s words died away in her throat. 

She’d never seen such sorrowful and light eyes. 

“Do you ever get a word stuck in your head, for no reason at all…?” She asked quietly, in nearly a whisper, and Blake nodded, shifting to clutch at the pillow she was laying on. “What’s the word?” Blake asked, swallowing, and Yang had to pull herself out of the sea of amber in order to find the words to answer. “Dichotomy.” 

Blake’s brow furrowed, but Yang was relieved to see it was in amusement, as the corner of her lips twitched, and she leaned forward, her eyelashes fluttering lazily against Yang’s cheeks. “I didn’t know you knew the word dichotomy…” She murmured, her lips brushing the freckles on Yang’s chin, her ears twitching against her head. Yang laughed in offense, her cheeks pulling against Blake’s as she felt her arms wrapping around her securely, Blake fitting against her like a puzzle piece, nestled safe and warm. 

Yang felt warm. She always felt warm, but with Blake here, with Blake in her arms, against her heart, tucked so close, she felt warmer than warm- she felt it in her chest, and in her gut, and in her cheeks- she felt it in her soul. And she never wanted to be cold again. 

Blake tucked her head down to nuzzle against Yang’s neck, her fingers pulling and retracting and gripping the fabric of Yang’s soft cotton tunic shirt. In turn, Yang’s fingers played with the dark, stray waves that ebbed and flowed around both sets of Blake’s ears. She wasn’t sure when Blake started humming, but it started low, rumbling in her chest, and against Yang’s throat. The melody was soft, and easy to follow, and Yang found her fingers lightly tracing the tune against the dark skin of Blake’s arms, melting into the lullaby. 

“Can I tell you something…?” Blake ventured as her humming slowed and stopped, her fingers sliding up to rest against Yang’s chest. “Of course.” Yang murmured softly against her forehead, and Blake took a shallow breath, blowing out hotly against Yang’s throat. “...I told my parents when it happened that I dropped a glass, and cut my hands… but that wasn’t true.” She admitted, and Yang continued to comfortingly draw imaginary spires against Blake’s skin. “...it was Adam… he got mad. He broke the glass… and I picked it up.” 

Yang was quiet. Inside, she was brewing; storming and burning and boiling. But she put it aside, and she held Blake tighter. Blake gripped the front of her shirt, and it was quiet for a long while, before Yang spoke. “...I don’t ever want to be someone like that to you, Blake…” 

“...you won’t be…” Blake murmured back, almost in a sniffle. “You couldn’t be.” 

The silence was comfortable, and between the warmth of the bed and the pillows and the covers, and Yang’s body temperature, and the close proximity to each other, it wasn’t long before Yang felt Blake’s body relax, any remaining tension melting away as her eyelids fluttered with the beginnings of dreams. 

Yang would be better than Adam. She would prove Blake right. Kissing each of Blake’s little hand scars goodnight, Yang let herself relax, confident in the safety of the locked door and the closed window. Blake was safe. Everything would be alright. 

Everything would be alright. 

 

Chapter Text

Everything was burning.

All Yang could see for miles was white-hot sand, blistering and sweltering and burning all it touched. Yang’s body was on fire. Not literally- she didn’t think- but everything was hot. The sweat poured off of her in waves- tsunamis that dried up and died as they hit the dunes below her feet, which were bare and blistering. The sky was too bright- Yang squinted up in an effort to see, but it hurt too much. So she stumbled forward. 

The grains of sand bit into the sores forming on the bottom of her feet as she shuffled along, her feet submerging with each step in the tumultuous dunes. Where was she? Why was she here? Each step the questions worsened. Each question the heat blistered further, beating down on her without mercy. And then she saw it; there, in the distance: an oasis. Her feet bit and stung as she ran, kicking up sand as she sprinted tiredly, tripping over herself to reach the small body of water, surrounded by a generous patch of green. 

The grass was cool against her feet, and the relief was palpable as she wiggled her toes between the blades, nearly falling to her knees at the water’s edge. The water was clear; an alluring aqua blue that mirrored the sky. Yang’s mouth, dry with the heat, all but quivered with want as she reached with cupped hands to drink. She froze, however, at the huffed sound of short, snorted breath, and the stomping of hooves into the ground. Lifting her gaze slowly, she was made aware of a very familiar bull, gleaming red in the haze of the heat, watching her from across the water. The waves rippled with its breath, and Yang’s heart beat rapidly. She could feel the anger radiating from it- from it’s tensed shoulders, and lowered head, horns sharps and reflected in the pool. It stomped into the damp sand at the water’s edge, and Yang lowered her hands nice and slowly, letting her fingers gently brush the same sand; a mirror image. 

And then it reared its head, and gave a bellow that rippled the water and sent Yang’s pulse racing. She scrambled to her feet as it charged across the oasis at her. Her throat clenched, and she tried to scream- to shout- to scare it away. The sound fizzled and died, barely a whisper past her lips as it grew closer. She threw her arms out in an attempt to strike it- but her fists remained frozen. No matter how fast, how hard, how desperately she punched out, her hands halted just short of her target. And all too soon her target was upon her, far too fast and far too close. 

There was pain, there was darkness as she shut her eyes tight, and then there was light.

Yang gasped for air as she was wretched from her dream, sputtering as she tried to rein in her heart rate. Everything was on fire. She tried to take stock of where she was- what was happening. She shifted, pushing herself to sit, and immediately jumped, startled at the figure beside her on the bed. It took her a moment to register it was only Blake, and that helped to relax her nerves slightly, but still her heart beat rapidly in her chest, and she faintly noted the dampness of her face as she pushed her bangs up and back, leaning her head back against the wall. 

She willed it to go away- to stop. She hated this; she hated the sweating and she hated the stress and she hated the eyes and she hated the dreams. “...Yang?” She swallowed, her throat unbearably dry as she glanced down at Blake, who had since rolled over, looking at her in sleep-lagged concern. “I’m sorry.. Did-” Yang took a moment, struggling through the pressure in her ribcage. “-Did I wake you up?” 

Blake’s brow furrowed, and she blinked, her ears flicking attop her head, and turning. The concern increased. “No, I- Yang are you alright?” She asked, blinking the sleep away and pushing herself up onto her elbows. Yang’s jaw clenched. No. No she was not. She very much was not. Everything hurt. Everything burned. Her throat was dry and she was soaked through with sweat and she felt gross and scared and-

“Yang, breathe.” She blinked back into focus as she felt Blake’s hands resting softly against her cheeks, much closer than she had been just a moment ago. Yang took a breath, swallowing the air greedily, and gulping it down. And then she remembered. It must have been record time, how fast Yang shut her eyes. 

“Yang-” 

“Don’t- dont look.” She asked, and there was silence in the darkness behind her eyes. She could feel the coarse, raised texture of the scars along Blake’s fingers and palms tracing the lines and grooves and freckles of her face. “You’re really warm…” 

Yang's heart skipped a beat. Blake’s tone itself was warm, and soft, and it made Yang weak in the knees. Gradually, her heart rate slowed. She swallowed again. “...can you- could you grab me that water on the table…?” She asked quietly, and the hands retreated, replaced with the distinct, light feathery touch of lips against her forehead, and soon the lukewarm thermos of water almost as sweaty as her against her fingers. Yang opened her eye, if only a crack, uncapping the thermos and nearly chugging the contents. And all the while, Blake watched, quiet as a mouse, ears flicking alertly to and fro. “Thank you…” Yang handed it back to her, and Blake held it for a moment, the thermos almost comically large in her dainty hands compared to Yang’s. She watched Yang for a moment, her eyes flicking over her, and Yang watched her in turn, at least, as much as she dared. Any time they bordered on meeting gazes, Yang looked away. 

She knew what they were. What horrific and sickening shade her eyes had turned. 

She didn’t mind when it faded, the red merging with the purple. But ever since that night not truly so long ago, Yang hated that shade of red. And she didn’t want Blake to have to look at it either. 

But to her bafflement, Blake didn’t seem to care. “Yang, can you look at me, please?”

“No.” Yang stoutly refused.

“Why?” Came the retaliation. Blake’s frustration was clear, and Yang’s stomach swirled with guilt. But she stayed stuck in her way, her mind made up. “Because.” 

“Yang… I know you don’t like them when they’re red…” She ventured, and Yang felt her hand rest gently against her leg. Even so, something in Yang snapped. “I hate them, Blake.” She tensed. “I hate them. They’re so bright, and- and startling and-” Yang took a deep breath through her nose, trying to collect herself. “I’m sorry… I just- I hate them like this…” She admitted, swallowing back the bile in her throat as the pressure built behind those eyes. It was quiet for a long while. 

“I don’t hate them.” Blake broke that silence, and Yang glanced her way. “...what?” 

“I don’t hate them… when they’re red.” She clarified, brushing a stray, dark curl behind her ear. “When I first saw them… I was a bit surprised, I’ll admit. It was that night at the equinox. I saw you through the brush, and they were so unusual-” Yang’s shoulder’s tensed, but so did Blake’s hand on her leg. “-but as the night went on, they bled into purple, and it was the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.” 

“...I don’t mind that so much…” Yang breathed. “But the red-”

“The red is pretty too, Yang.” Blake assured her softly, and Yang was loath to agree. They weren’t pretty. They were intense and scary looking and unnatural. “No, it’s not.” She really didn’t want to argue this. She really really didn’t. But this was something she wasn’t going to budge on. It seemed Blake understood that, as she didn’t push it any further. Yang’s chest ached as her ears turned down. The last thing she wanted was to upset her girlfriend. 

“I had a dream…” She changed the topic, shifting slightly, and Blake’s attention turned back to her. “I think it has something to do with the Xiao-Long Coven.” That was certainly food for thought. Blake blinked, like she was processing that. “The Xiao-Long Coven…? How do you know?” 

“I don’t.” Yang sighed, resting the hand that had run through her hair over her raised knee. “It’s just a hunch. But…” 

“But…?” Blake shifted to sit up against the wall with her, tucking her legs underneath her neatly. She looked so pretty like that- her hair kinked and wild with bedhead, wearing Yang’s favorite pajamas. It helped to bring Yang out from behind the wall she’d put up. “My dreams are different. They’re magic.” She explained, playing with her fingers absentmindedly. “Branwen magic.” 

Blake nodded in understanding. “Premonitions.” Sometimes Yang forgot that Blake was apparently very well versed in witch lore and history. “I have dreams about animals… They warn me about things that are going to happen. Bears mean the next morning something bad is going to happen.” She breathed, and internally, she was glad there had been no bears in this one. “The bull is less clear. When I dream about the bull, it’s usually a week before something bad happens… and it’s always someone I care about getting hurt.” That was more worrying. Yang knew it didn’t matter how much she tried to prevent it, how protective and careful she was- someone was going to get hurt. And she desperately did not want that to be Blake. 

Blake seemed to be processing this. “And this dream…? Was it the bull? Or the bears…?” She swallowed, and Yang noticed her hands trembling. Yang stayed quiet and took her hand firmly, intertwining her fingers in place of an answer. “Adam is a bull Faunus.”

It was barely more than a whisper, but it was enough to curdle Yang’s blood, and cement her fear of this dream’s target. “He’s not going to come fifty feet of you.” She promised. “He’s not getting near you period .” And she meant it. 

“...you said you thought this dream was about the Xiao-Long Coven?” She changed the subject, her ears flicking downward, and Yang nodded. “I was in the desert and it was so hot. It was like when my Xiao-Long magic acts up… but worse.” She explained. “The only problem is I don’t know what it could mean exactly.” She scoffed, the thought suddenly coming to mind. “It’s not like I know anything at all about them, beyond the obvious.” Blake squeezed her hand in comfort, and Yang returned the favor. 

“Before you, I’d never met a Xiao-Long in person… but I heard stories. Legends and myths. The Xiao-Long and the Faunus have more in common than the Faunus and the rest of witch kind, really.” Blake sighed, resting her head against Yang’s shoulder. Yang hummed, listening as she played with Blake’s hair. “The Xiao-Long coven are less of a coven and more like nomads- like your mother told you- its nearly impossible to find more than one in the same place, at the same time. They don’t leave roots, and they don’t linger long enough to be anything more than a fleeting memory.”

“My grandad wasn’t like that.” She murmured, tracing patterns on Blake’s shoulder. “I don’t remember much about him… he smelled like woodsmoke, and I remember him brewing beer in the kitchen with my dad when I was little. It smelled terrible.” A smile tugged at the corner of her lips, and Blake tenderly kissed the square of her jaw. “Everyone always talks about him so fondly… everyone misses him. He raised my dad here… and then he helped my dad and my moms with me… He spent almost 25 years here, in this little town.” She swallowed. Yang almost couldn’t imagine that. Spending 25 years in Beacon. Her stomach tightened slightly as the thought rolled around in her head. She loved her home. She loved her family. But she didn’t want to spend her whole life in one place. 

Maybe she was more Xiao-Long than she realized. 

“Well… maybe your dream is trying to tell you to find a Xiao-Long.” Blake vocalized her own thoughts, and Yang had to admit, that would make sense. “Where would I even start? I don’t know anything about where their ancestral home is, or how to recognize a Xiao-Long when I see them. And then what? I tell them I’m a freak of magic and my Branwen half told me to find them?” Crazy. That was straight up crazy. Blake seemed to follow that same train of thought. “Hmm… well… maybe you should follow a trail that’s already marked.” She suggested, and Yang blinked, earning an endearing smile from her girlfriend. “Do you guys still have any of your grandad’s stuff?” She asked, Yang realized just where she was going with this. “You think… that my grandad could lead us to the other Xiao-Longs?” Blake nodded.

Yang contemplated that. “I don’t think we have anything here… my dad kept all his tools… and his hat… but if I had to guess-” Then it dawned on her. The Cadillac. If Raven had put the car her grandfather had bought her in the storage locker… then what else of his had gone in there as well? “There’s a ton of totes and boxes in the storage locker down the road. If there’s anything useful… it’s got to be in there.” She turned her gaze down to Blake’s, and she was surprised to see a smile dimpling her beautiful dark cheeks. “What? Why so smiley?” She asked, a grin tugging at her own lips. “Your eyes light up when you get excited about things.” Blake hummed, and Yang’s cheeks flushed pink. “Do they always do that?” She chuckled a little nervously as Blake shifted on her side, and onto her knees, capturing Yang’s lips softly. “Only when you want an adventure.” 

“And is this-'' Yang smiled against Blake’s lips. “-going to be-” Another tender kiss. “-an adventure?” She couldn’t help the slightly startled noise that squeaked up from her throat as suddenly Blake was sitting in her lap, her legs on either side of Yang's hips. “Uhh…” She malfunctioned, her face hot. Blake smirked, although she was clearly trying not to. She could be so coy… Yang would never tell her, but god, she loved it. “I think it will be plenty adventurous.” She promised, draping her arms around her partner’s neck, curling Yang’s hair around her fingers, and looking down at her through amused, half-lidded eyes. “...are you trying to kill me?” Yang breathed a laugh, her hands lightly grazing Blake’s sides, where the fabric of her shirt and pajama bottoms met. In retaliation for the mischief, Yang let the pad of her thumb gently caress the skin of Blake’s hips, lightly tracing circles, like she’d been doing against her arms previously. Blake tensed, and Yang stopped, panic punching her in the gut. Shit. Had she gone too far? “Blake?” She asked, worried, her eyes scanning. She was met with the darkest blush she had yet to see splattered across Blake’s soft, dainty features, her eyebrows furrowed in conflict. “Was that too much…?” Yang asked, the worry eating at her. A part of her was a little smug she could make Blake so flustered with just a touch- a turn of the tables, for once- but a larger part- the dominant part of her- feared she’d seriously overstepped. She had no idea the extent to which Adam had hurt Blake- it was clearly a great deal. For all she knew, Adam could have touched her the same way. 

The thought made Yang angrier than anything, which in turn raised her core temperature, she found, as Blake gasped quietly, and Yang removed her hands entirely. “Sorry, I-” She stumbled, but Blake stumbled right along with her, shaking her head almost erratically. “No-no you’re alright. It’s- I-” She bit her lip, and her ears twitched, lying back. “I like it.” She admitted, and Yang nearly had an aneurysm. “Oh- OH. Uh.” She blushed, and slowly, ever so slowly, placed her hands back against Blake’s hips. Blake took a little breath, and seemed to relax a bit. “I realize it’s probably not so- um- hot- to ask, but… we did just wake up, so… um… do you- would you like to make out… with me…?” Blake managed, a nervous smile tugging at her lips and dimpling her cheeks. Yang’s face was on fire. Not literally- but close enough. “Yes!” She blurted, her embarrassment growing with every second. 

It was a little sloppy, admittedly; Yang missed the target a bit as her nerves rattled around in her ribcage, her lips a fraction off, before Blake corrected her, kissing her tenderly, and running her fingers through Yang’s hair. She didn’t intend to- Yang knew she didn’t intend to, because she immediately removed her hands, apologizing breathily- but a sound Yang didn’t think she’d ever heard from herself rippled from her throat as Blake accidentally tugged at her hair. Yang registered it the moment it happened, and she was very aware of the snap in her eyes and the beating of her heart as she leaned forward, hiding her face against Blake’s collar bone. She had never been so embarrassed in her life . “Yang?” Blake asked, the concern clear in the tone of her voice. She rubbed circles against Yang’s back, and Yang tried to get a handle on her breathing. “Shit, Blake…” She swallowed, and her lips throbbed. It was quiet a while, and finally, Yang raised her head, receiving a sweet peck to the tip of her nose. “If turning you on is going to give you heart attacks, maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.” Blake joked lightly, her gaze soft and her touch softer as she traced the freckles on Yang’s chin. 

Yang’s cheeks burned, but she couldn’t vocalize a reply to that. So she settled for nestling her face back into the sweet-smelling security of Blake’s neck. Blake played gently with the curls at the nape of Yang’s neck, running her fingers through them. It was nice, while it lasted. 

They both startled as there was a loud, frantic banging on the door, and Blake jumped about ten feet from Yang, her ears up and alert. “Shit…” Yang swore, throwing her legs over the side of the bed and trying to collect herself. She reached the door and turned the lock, and no sooner did she unlock the door, than it burst open, Ember clucking madly and flapping at her. Yang soon realized her panic was likely fueled by the several worry-inducing times her heart had gone into maximum overdrive. Still, she had questions as she scooped the chicken up into her arms. “Ember? What- how did you-” 

Your bird woke me up. ” Yang looked up and blinked in surprise to see her baby sister standing in the doorway, looking ragged, feathered and pecked. She seemed less than impressed, still sporting her wild behead and tattered old pajamas, her expression tired, and angry. “It pooped on my bed, Yang.” She deadpanned. “It wouldn’t stop screaming at me .” Her eye twitched, and Yang snickered. 

“Don’t laugh at me!” Ruby blustered, stomping her bare feet against the carpet. “It was terrifying!” 

Ember clucked, preening Yang’s hair a moment, before preening herself. Yang smirked as she felt Ember’s testimony to that. “She thinks you deserved it.” She teased, sticking her tongue out at her sister. Ruby gave a shout of frustration, stomping off back up to her room. The three of them watched her go, and even Blake repressed a smile as Yang closed the door again and turned around, setting Ember on the floor. “You’re awfully mean to her.” She remarked, and Yang rolled her eyes. “It’s my job to frustrate her. What kind of big sister would I be if I didn’t have fun picking on her from time to time?” She hummed, reaching out and taking Blake’s hand, twirling her as she stepped closer. Blake laughed a little, snorting. “I don’t think that’s how siblings should behave.”

Yang cocked an eyebrow, and Ember copied her, cocking her head to the side. “So you’ve never contemplated the pros and cons of pushing Sun down the stairs?” Blake gaped at her, scoffing, but she stumbled to answer, and Yang’s grin grew. “I can guarantee you it’s a weekly occurrence for Ruby to contemplate how much trouble she’d get in for burying me alive.” She snickered. “It’d save her some teasing for sure.” Blake scoffed, “Although I doubt your parents would tolerate it.” 

“Probably not.” Yang smiled. And then she caught a whiff of the scent that had wafted through the door in the brief interval it had been open. “Speaking of… How about we get some breakfast.” She offered, and Blake’s stomach didn’t have to growl for her to recognize that as a good call. “We can get dressed after we’re done, and then go investigate the storage locker for a while.” She was practically bouncing, ready to do something productive. Blake seemed to find it amusing at least.”Okay.” She giggled, taking the hand that Yang offered her. 

When they opened the door, the smell became even more enticing, and it was nearly a race to reach the bottom of the stairs. They were laughing quietly between themselves as they stepped out of the stairwell and up to the island, hungry for whatever was being prepared. They found Tai at the stove, simmering something. The kitchen smelled like pork and caramelized onions and soy sauce, and Yang’s stomach grumbled hungrily. As he was clearly busy, Summer, who was at the other side of the island shaping balls of dough and paste, greeted them instead. “Oh! Hello girls!” She smiled, although her expression changed, and she blinked slowly glancing over them. She didn’t even seem to notice as one of the balls didn’t get closed properly, paste seeping out. “Mom- the bun?” Yang gestured, and Summer blinked, looking down and hurrying to lift the ball out of the bamboo steamer. “Ah, grapes…” She sighed, looking at the mess on the counter now from the failed bun. Tai leaned over, leaving the pork and onions for a moment to look over his wife’s work. From what Yang could see, they weren’t the prettiest buns in the world, but Tai didn’t seem to mind, and really neither did Yang. “You’re doin’ great, Sugarsnap.” He encouraged her with a kiss to her temple, before returning to the meat mixture and adding another dash of soy sauce. 

“So, baozi for breakfast?” Yang asked the obvious, her hands slapping the counter rhythmically. Her parents exchanged a look, and Tai raised an eyebrow at her, snorting in amusement. “It’s like, 11 in the morning, kiddo. You missed breakfast by a couple hours.” Yang’s face fell. 

“You’re kidding.” She deadpanned, and Tai shook his head, looking to Summer. “Your wife owes me ten bucks.” Summer flicked a bit of bean paste at him, and he flinched, pouting at the back of his shirt over his shoulder, earning a smirk from her. “Before noon, she’s your wife.” She retaliated. 

“Woah woah woah. Who’s taking bets about what now?” Yang looked between them, suspicious. “Who’s whose wife..? I’m confused.” Blake whispered to her under her breath. 

Tai threw a clean rag over his shoulder and moved the meat mixture to an off burner, turning to the counter to grab some now risen dough from a bowl, prepping it. “After you two disappeared last night, Raven and I made a bet. She said you wouldn’t show ‘til lunch. I said you’d be up early. Clearly, I underestimated the sleeping-in gene on her side of the family.” He sighed, and Summer scoffed. “She sleeps until noon every day, if you let her. I told you it was a silly bet.” She tutted, and Tai pouted as they worked in tandem at the counter. 

Yang frowned. She was going to choose to ignore the betting. But she supposed it was clear that breakfast was long gone, and lunch was a ways way. “Alright, well, we’re going to go get ready for the day then.” She informed them, turning toward the stairs. Blake followed behind closely. However, as they reached the stairs, Summer called out to them. “Hang on just a minute.” 

Yang’s hand had just rested on the hand rail, and her foot hesitated over the first step. “...Yeah?” She glanced behind her, and Summer made a finger motion for her to turn around. Oh, great. This was going to go well. 

“Before that, there’s something we do want to talk about with you two.” Summer informed them, clapping the flour from her hands and wiping the excess on her apron. She pointed to the two stools at their end of the island, and Blake and Yang shared a look of mild concern as they did as they were told. “You’re not in trouble, so you can relax.” She assured them, and while it was meant to be reassuring, it just confused them more. “So… what are we sitting here for then?” Yang ventured, and Summer gave her a look. “I was getting to that, Ms. Impatient.” 

Yang’s cheeks flushed, and Blake took her hand under the counter, hiding the amused smile biting into her cheeks behind a carefully placed hand. It quickly evaporated, however, replaced with a blush just as dark, if not more so. “Your dad and Raven and I were talking about it last night, and we think it’s important that we set some ground rules for the house.” 

“Ground rules…?” Yang cleared her throat, shifting in her seat. Summer eyed her, trying to seem impartial, and failing. “Yes, ground rules. We don’t have a problem with you and Blake having… sleepovers-” “MOM!” Yang shot up from her seat, her neck and ears burning. 

“Sit back down, I’m not done.” Summer scolded, and reluctantly, Yang lowered herself into her seat, the embarrassment crawling down her spine and settling in the pit of her stomach. “We’d just like a bit of a warning. It would have been nice if you’d asked … since, you know, other people live here as well…” Summer not so subtly chided, and Yang really, really wanted this conversation to be over. 

Blake was seemingly just as embarrassed, her face red, and her fingers gripping the marble of the island counter top. “Can we not talk about this right now?” Yang hissed lowly at her mother, and it seemed Tai decided to put his two cents in then. “No, we should- we should talk ‘bout it.” He gruffed. It was clear he was uncomfortable, but he was trying, which was certainly something. Either way, this did not need to be discussed at that moment. “Guys.” She asserted, capturing their attention successfully for a moment. “Blake and I haven’t-'' He stomach dropped out from under her, but she continued. “-It’s not like that. Blake was just scared… so I brought her up to my room to relax, and crash for the night.” She told them honestly. It was clear that Summer and Tai both were contemplating that- and Yang was relieved as their guard dropped, and they seemingly believed her. “Alright… well, our bad, then. Just- let us know if-'' Summer tiptoed, and Yang was quick to assure her. “We will! I promise . Can we go now?” 

Tai scoffed bemusedly, wiping his hands on the rag and nodding toward the stairs. “Go on- git.” Blake and Yang both stood, and Blake gave a slight wave as they began to ascend the stairs once again. “Oh, Yang.” Her dad suddenly called, and Yang looked back at him. “Go get your sister and tell her I need help with the bao.” Summer guffawed at him, slapping her husband lightly on the shoulder with a floury hand. Tai’s laughter followed them up the stairs, and once they reached the safe-haven of Yang’s room, it seemed they both let out a collectively shared breath. “Your parents are… sweet.” Blake considered, but the embarrassment was still flowing pretty freely in Yang. “They’re embarrassing is what they are…” She grumbled under her breath, before stretching out her arms and back. Ember had balled herself up and nestled between all of Yang’s pillows, seemingly taking a breather now that Yang wasn’t in possible danger. She supposed the chicken would just have to stay home for the day. 

“Alright, well, I definitely need a shower, because I’m gross and sweaty. But you’re more than welcome to the first one.” Yang offered, and Blake shook her head. “No, no, I’m alright.” She chuckled a little nervously, playing with the hem of Yang’s shirt absentmindedly. “You sure? It’s no trouble-”

“I’m sure. Really. I’ll just have a bath later in the evening.” She assured her, and Yang took no for an answer. “Alright. Well, let me find you something to wear for the day. I’m sure you’re not too keen on walking around like a pirate all day.” Yang moved to her closet, flipping through hangers for something to loan her girlfriend. “Any style preference?” She asked with a chuckle, although there wasn’t much in the way of Blake’s usual classy, dark attire. “Anything is more than fine, really.” 

So Yang flipped through the options, before settling on one she thought might work. “How about this?” She pulled two hangers from the closet, showing them to Blake. Blake blinked a moment, before a smile crept up onto her lips, and she took them without a word. 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“It was nice of your parents to send us with lunch.” Blake noted, nodding toward the bamboo steamer basket in her arms. Tai had sent them with both sweet and savory buns, at Yang’s request, and while they were both rather hungry, they agreed to wait until they got to the storage unit to dig in. It wasn’t particularly warm or hot out, but it wasn’t chilly either, and Yang was glad the outfits they’d settled on were alright for the weather that day. Yang had pondered over it for a while in the shower, but had ended up going with another henley and pair of dark jeans. It was enough to keep her warm, despite her already warm natural temperature, and the henley provided the added bonus of Blake’s wandering eyes. 

Likewise, Yang was having a hard time not glancing at her girlfriend from time to time. The short acid washed dungarees were a nice change of color, especially paired with the one black sweatshirt Yang had to her name. It was old- like, really old- and there were a few tatters and holes in the sleeves, but Blake had loved it the moment she’d seen it. Yang couldn’t even remember exactly where she’d gotten it, or how long ago exactly it was, but she’d already promised Blake she could keep it. After all, Blake had more love to give to it than Yang. 

They decided to walk to the storage locker, rather than take the bike. Yang had talked with Blake before they’d left, and they’d agreed that Yang dropping Blake off at her house on the back of a motorcycle after disappearing for the night was bound to go poorly. So, they’d roused Raven from her sleep and asked her permission to borrow the Cadillac. Or, rather, they’d asked, and Raven had thrown a pillow at them, the two taking the hint and leaving her to sleep in the dark of the room, taking the cadi keys from the hook by the door. 

Yang would have been lying if she said she wasn’t a little excited to show off for her girlfriend. And she did, once they reached the storage locker, opening the door with the little remote and backing the old car out, parking it just to the side of the unit. Blake watched from the sidelines as she did, and Yang’s stomach fluttered with the amused half-smile perched on her full lips. “I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t know a thing about cars.” Blake confided in her, leaning against the side of the vehicle and setting the bamboo steamer box on the roof. Yang twirled the key ring around on her finger, leaning against the car as well. She shoved the keys into her back pocket and shifted her footing to appear more casual- at least, her idea of it. “Well that just means I get to impress you with my surmountable knowledge.” Yang pointed out, and Blake rolled her eyes. “Should we get started, or do you want to eat first?” She chuckled, and Yang bounced on the balls of her feet, turning to face the car and grabbing the box. “Uh, eat. Definitely eat.” She twisted open the top, pulling it away and beaming as the smell wafted through the air. “Do you want bean paste or pork?” She asked, sticking one in her mouth and offering the box to Blake. 

Blake seemed unsure. “I don’t know about bean paste…” Her nose scrunched up and Yang took a bite of the one hanging from her mouth, chewing it a moment. “They don’t taste like the beans you're thinking of. They’re sweet red beans.” She explained, offering the baozi to Blake. “You can try a bite of mine and see if you like it.” She shrugged. Although she seemed hesitant, Blake ended up taking her up on the offer, taking the bitten bao bun and biting into it lightly. She chewed a moment, before handing it back. “...not bad.” She admitted, and Yang grinned. “See- I told you.” 

Blake snorted bemusedly and grabbed a pork one from the bottom shelf of the steamer, seeming much more eager to try that one. They sat in relative quiet, albeit with slight chatter here and there in between bites of steamed bun, before Yang thought to bring up something that was on her mind. “Hey Blake?” She furrowed her brow, munching on a pork bun. Blake looked up at her, finishing off her own. “Yes?”

“You’re not a fan of bean paste… so how come you like taiyaki so much?” Blake blinked at that, as though the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. “Oh… I guess, because I’ve never had a bean taiyaki.” She shrugged. “My mom makes hers with sweet potato… and your friend Ren puts nutella in his.” 

“Huh.. go figure.” Yang shrugged, popping the rest of the bun into her mouth and finishing it off. Wiping off her hands, she stretched and turned to look at the open storage locker. “Well… I’m about stuffed for now. How about we start lookin’?” She rested her hands on her hips, and Blake snorted, pushing herself off the side of the car and over to her partner, rolling up the sleeves of her sweatshirt. “Let’s get to it.”

It was a long and tedious process, removing the totes and checking labels, sorting through what totes belonged to who. There were a few with old winter clothes, and a few with spare utensils and cutlery and cups marked for Yang, oddly enough, although Yang was quick to move those out of sight and out of mind. Now wasn’t the time for that. They found a bunch of old sleds and things Tai had built over the years, and a few different toolboxes he’d put away in favor of new ones over the years. They had little luck, really, finding anything. At least, until they reached the very back of the locker. There was one tote in the entirety of the locker with any promise, and that was a half-empty tote labeled ‘Dad’. Yang knew it wasn’t Tai. Tai had all his things labeled as ‘Tai’, and nothing else. This was different. 

It wasn’t very heavy. Yang hefted it out of the garage and beside the car as Blake put back one of the totes they’d been investigating. It clearly hadn’t been touched in ages. The top was covered in dust and cobweb, and Yang brushed it clean, her nose twitching with the plume of dust that blew up at her as she did. It was much clearer now, the looping, bold black lettering of ‘Dad’ across the top. Without all the dust, Yang could tell more clearly it was Raven’s handwriting. She always wrote her a’s weird. She was stalling- alright, that was enough of that. 

Yang unlocked the sides of the tote, setting the lid aside as Blake got down on her knees beside her. The inside of the tote smelled like mothballs, and Yang briefly lifted the front of her henley over her nose. Inside the tote, Yang could see a manila envelope, a few small leather bound books, and at the bottom, what looked like a leather jacket. “What do you want to start with?” Blake asked softly, and Yang mulled that over. “I guess the envelope…” She shrugged, rolling up her sleeves to her elbows and lifting the envelope out of the tote. It was yellowed and spotted with age, and the inside contents shifted as it was lifted. Photos, Yang realized. Reaching inside, she pulled out a handful of photographs, although not all of them in the least. 

Handing the envelope off to Blake, she adjusted and shifted the photos so they were in an orderly pile to flip through. And there he was. In the very first photo at the top of the pile, her grandad was looking right at her, leaning on a counter top and cocking an eyebrow in a very Yang manner. He was a young man- he looked like he was in his early twenties- and he was almost indistinguishable from Tai, save for the large birthmark over his left eyebrow. “Is that him?” Blake asked, looking over her shoulder. Yang nodded. “Yeah. This must’ve been ages ago…” She murmured to herself, turning the photo over and sliding it onto the bottom of the pile. The following one he was older, closer to how he was when she was little. Her dad was in this one too. He looked to be around Ruby’s age, maybe a little bit younger, beaming at the camera. His dad’s arm was slung around his shoulder, the other hand ruffling Tai’s hair. Yang smiled a little fondly.

There were more- plenty more. Pictures of Tai as a little boy, pictures of her moms, pictures of all of them. There were a handful from what looked like one afternoon, Summer and Raven sitting on the couch and floor respectively, passing baby Yang between them. Yang’s cheeks colored, and she moved through those ones quickly. Blake didn’t need to see her chunky little baby pictures, chewing on her fist. Blake, of course, got a good look however, and smiled into her shoulder mischievously. And then they hit the gold of the photo envelope. There were three photographs that Yang set aside from the rest. There was a photograph of her grandad laying on the couch, a hat over his face, and Yang, maybe three years old, lying on top of him with a baby cap over her own face. The second photo was her grandad leaning against the newly built, it would seem, greenhouse, a green bean hanging from his teeth, and baby Yang hanging out of the inside of his coveralls like a baby sling, munching gummily on a green bean clenched in her ravioli sized baby fist. Yang liked those ones… she hoped her parents wouldn’t mind if she framed them for her room. 

The last one was truly the most informing. It was her grandad, a young man again, and some other guy, sitting at a bar. Yang studied that one a bit closer. There were no distinguishing features to tell her what bar it was… but then she put two and two together. Beacon didn’t have a bar. There was a pub, but it looked nothing like this. This was old, and western looking- Vacuo. This was in Vacuo. She turned the photo over. Bingo. In old pen scrawl, there was an inscription. ‘ baby brother’s first beer’.

Brother? She studied the two subjects of the photo again, this time her eyes searching for similarities. They were there; they were scarce, but they were there. They had the same face shape- the same chin, and the same eyes. But everything else was different. “This is a start.” She breathed, setting the photo down with the other two. She picked up the leather bound books next. They were small, and light, and as she opened the first one, she noted it was completely blank. The only distinction it belonged to him, was his name scrawled on the inside of the front cover. She handed that one over to Blake, and untied the other one. This one had clearly seen more wear. His name was scrawled on the inside cover of this one as well. Most of the pages were scrawled with notes and math problems and prices for supplies like tools and wood. There were a handful of sketchy plans- she recognized some of the sketches as plans for their house. But all in all, there was nothing of use. Yang tried not to feel disappointed as she handed that one off to Blake as well, standing and brushing herself off. 

All she had now was an old photo of a mysterious brother she’d never heard about, and a bar somewhere in Vacuo. Vacuo was huge. There was no telling where exactly it was. “Yang?” Blake’s voice broke through Yang’s train of thought, and she turned to look at her, hands on her hips. “Yeah?” 

Blake was flipping through the second notebook, although her finger was marking a specific page, it looked like. When she glanced back up and found Yang looking at her, she flipped back to that page. “I think I found something.” Yang walked back over and dropped down into a squat beside her, resting her hand on Blake’s back both to support her weight and just… to be close to her. She couldn’t really see her face, but the shudder that ran quickly up Blake’s spine was telling enough. Still, Yang turned her attention down to the book, looking over her girlfriend’s shoulder. “Look here-” Blake murmured, gesturing to the bottom right corner of the page. It had been torn off, but there was a slight line of pen ink protruding from that direction. “There was something written here.” She confirmed, glancing over her shoulder at Yang. They were very close- and Yang had been right about that blush- but now wasn’t the time. Yang nodded. “Well, shit- if it's ripped then there’s nothing we can do.” Yang sighed, scratching her cheek. Blake, however, had that glint in her eye, and Yang figured that wasn’t exactly the case. “...right?” 

“Do you have a pencil…?” Blake asked, and Yang blinked. “Uh… hang on a minute.” She hopped up. She didn’t have one on her, no… but she thought she remembered seeing one with her dad’s old tools. After scrounging around a bit, she found it, bringing it back to Blake, who had turned to the next page. There wasn’t much on that one- just some measurements at the top. The bottom right corner was intact, and Yang realized why that was a good thing as Blake began rubbing the graphite end of the pencil on the paper- revealing to Yang’s astonishment- an address. “Boom.” Blake set the pencil down, handing the book up to her partner and smirking proudly. Yang took it, blinking as she processed what Blake had just done. “Do you think…? Do you think this is it?” She murmured, and Blake pushed herself up to stand. “It’s anyone’s guess. But it’s a start.” She grunted, stretching. It had been several hours since they’d started, and it had begun to get chilly as the night neared. They had maybe another hour, tops, before it started to get dark. 

Putting the garage back together took nearly half an hour, putting all the totes, her grandad’s included, back into place. She put the bamboo steamer in the back seat as they prepared to leave, opening the door for Blake with a flourish and a light bow. Blake giggled at her and got in, awarding her a kiss on the cheek and going around the hood to hop in the drivers side. It took her a moment to get used to the old car, having spent her time mostly driving her dad’s truck, but once she settled in, it became second nature, closing the garage door and pulling out of the lot and onto the road. 

Ghira’s car was in the driveway, which was intimidating enough without him standing on the porch, arms crossed over his chest and face set in a disapproving frown. Yang parked the car, and swallowed her nerves. This was fine. Everything was fine. Blake stepped out of the passenger side door, and Yang got out as well, intending on walking her to the front door at least, and apologizing to her parents. “Blake- inside. Now.” Ghira asked of her, his tone tense, and his unyielding gaze on Yang. This was not fine. 

“Dad, it’s alright.” She assured him, her ears down turned as she ascended the steps. He looked at her and his expression softened into one of worry. “Your mother and I were worried last night when we couldn’t find you. And then Taiyang informed me of you and Miss Xiao-Long’s… exit from the event. Blake I don’t-”

“Dad, I promise you, it was nothing like that. I-” Blake hesitated, and her ears pinned back as she tugged at the sleeves over her newly acquired sweatshirt. “-I just got a little overwhelmed… Yang took me inside to calm down, and… I felt safer falling asleep there for the night.” She admitted, her cheeks coloring. Yang meanwhile stood at the base of the stairs, waiting for a turn to speak, and not wanting to interrupt. “Are you upset…?” Blake murmured, barely a whisper, and Ghira pulled her into his arms. “No… no I could never be truly upset with you. Especially over something like that. I- I apologize, for assuming.” He gruffed, rubbing her back for a moment, before letting her out of the hug and turning his attention to Yang. “Miss-” Ghira cleared his throat, and it almost seemed as if he had been practicing. “Yang.” He corrected himself. “I’d like to apologize for… any hostility I seemed to direct your way.”

While admittedly Yang had been about ready to shit her pants, she managed a little understanding smile and a wave. “It’s understandable, sir.” She assured him. “I should apologize to you as well, for- well for worrying you.” She scratched at her chin, and he nodded his acceptance of the apology. Clearing his throat, Ghira stepped toward the front door, only for it to open, and Kali to come popping out. “Blake! My baby!” She fretted, rushing over to them and engulfing Blake in a smaller version of Ghira’s bear hug. “Mom… I’m alright…” Blake assured her mother, her cheeks red and her ears pinned down. “Oh, I know... I know… I was listening through the door-” Her mother pulled herself together, stepping back, and Blake looked beyond incensed. “Mom!” 

But Kali was already on to other things- specifically noticing Yang still hanging around by the bottom step. “Oh, Yang! Dear come inside, it’s getting chilly-” She offered, and both Blake and Ghira were quick to try to shoot that down, although Yang expected for different reasons. “Mom-” “Kali-”

Blake and Ghira shared a look, seemingly locked in a silent conversation. “Mom, Yang should be going. Her parents will worry-” Blake cleared her throat, trying to get her mother to take the hint. Unfortunately, Kali seemed to be willfully ignoring her daughter. “Nonsense. If they can steal you for a night, we can borrow Yang for a little while.” She reasoned, and then her attention was on Yang, and Yang blinked back into focus. “Come on in and have some tea, dear. Warm up a bit before you drive home.” She offered, and although both Blake and her father seemed to be sending her signals to very much not say yes, Yang couldn’t look at Kali and turn her down. “...sure!” She smiled, and Kali beamed, stepping down the front steps and taking her by the arm, surprisingly, pulling her toward the door. They took their shoes off at the entrance and Kali led her through the foyer and around the hall, past the ornate dining room and toward the large kitchen. Yang remembered the area vaguely from her brief time helping them unpack, but in the few months they’d been in town, it had taken on an entirely different appearance, now decorated to their tastes. It was very much a rich person house, Yang noted to herself, from the fine china in a display in the dining room, to the kabuki masks hanging along the walls, to the tall potted plants and expansive space itself. They reached the kitchen and Kali immediately put the kettle on, fussing over finding a tea set as Yang glanced around. It was a very nice kitchen. Raven would have had a hay day cooking in it, if she ever had the chance. 

“What kind of tea do you like, Yang?” Kali asked over the counter, and Yang blinked, starling slightly as she realized she didn’t know. She didn’t think she actually liked tea… Blake must have seen her struggling, because there was the feeling of a dainty hand slipping into her own, and Blake was at her side. “Chai is fine, Mom.” Blake informed her mother, and Kali perked up, smiling at them and not so subtly sizing them up together. A blush fought its way up Yang’s neck and to her ears. “Blake dear, why don’t you give Yang a tour while the water boils? She’s only seen the front of the house.” Kali suggested, and Blake seemed reluctant, but gave in quickly enough. “Sure… Yang?” She nodded in the opposite direction, and Yang nearly stumbled over herself to follow her. “Yeah- yes, cool.” She nodded, flushing as Blake led her off deeper into the house, and away from Kali. 

Yang liked Kali; she was sweet, and she seemed like a good mom. But Yang also had the sneaking suspicion that she was much more queued into her and Blake’s relationship than Ghira. Whether that intimidated her or embarrassed her was uncertain, but it would definitely take her a little bit to get used to Kali’s enthusiasm. 

Blake gave her a basic tour of the house, even as nothing about the house was basic at all. There were five bedrooms, two offices, four bathrooms, and the three living spaces: the dining room, living room and kitchen. Two of the bedrooms were inhabited- one for Blake’s parents, and one for Blake. The other three were guest rooms. It was almost enough to give her whiplash, but she managed. The final destination on their tour was Blake’s room. Yang wasn’t sure what she had been expecting really, but it wasn’t what she saw.

Blake’s room was decently large, and the walls were a soft lilac color. In the center of the room, and drawing the most attention, was a four-poster bed with gauzimer black drapery,adorned in royal purple covers and no decorative pillows or stuffed animals to speak of, save for one tattered, earless brown teddy bear sitting upright on the left hand side. Yang couldn’t help but grin at the idea of Blake sleeping with a teddy bear- it was adorable really. Blake followed her gaze, however, and cheeks burning bright, pulled the drapery closed. Yang respected that, turning to look to her left first. That wall, to Yang’s astonishment, was floor to ceiling and wall to wall composed of book shelves. Some shelves were less full than others, some were more disorganized, and some were littered with post it notes. A decent amount of books were piled in the corner, where, curiously enough, there was a single, unmade twin mattress. Yang’s brow furrowed as she walked over to it, and Blake walked with her, playing with her sweatshirt strings quietly. “Why the second mattress…?” Yang asked, taking note of the guitar case also on the floor nearby. Blake scuffed her fluffy socks on the carpet and shuffled over to it, sitting down on the mattress and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Honestly…?” 

She patted the mattress, and Yang took the silent indication, moving to join her on the floor. Once she’d sat down, she took Blake’s hand in her own, intertwining their fingers, and Blake smiled a little wistfully. “...my parents put all this together for me. The big fancy bed… the personal library… and it’s very sweet. I try to sleep on the bed as often as possible… but sometimes it’s hard. I’m so used to couch surfing, and sleeping on simple, temporary mattresses like these. There were a lot of times when it was just-” She hesitated, taking a breath, and Yang rubbed the back of her hand with her thumb soothingly. “- it was just me and Adam and Sienna and Ilia, camping out in the woods, on sleeping bags. It’s… it’s hard sometimes to get used to something so different.” She murmured. 

“When I can’t sleep, I read, or I write poetry, or I just play until I get tired… and then I’m out like a light…” She chuckled lightly, and a little self-consciously. Yang smiled fondly, just drinking in her smile. And then her gaze drifted and fell on the far wall opposite the mini library, and the look of shock that must have rolled over her face… Yang lifted a hand, pointing, and turning to Blake to confirm. Blake’s head was in her hands, peeking out through her fingers in embarrassment. She gave a single nod, and Yang hopped to her feet, nearly sleep walking over to the wall, which was covered in a well organized hanging display of over twenty different swords. Yang actually stood and counted. “Oh… my… gods…” She murmured as Blake reluctantly joined her, leaning against the post of her bed. “I don’t believe it… do you- know how to use theses…?” She asked, and a part- the gay part, most likely- was praying the answer was yes. She glanced over her shoulder at Blake, just in time to catch her shy nod. Yang was… was dumbfound the word she was looking for? “You’re a sword bisexual.” Yang snorted, and suddenly it seemed like the funniest thing in the world. Blake’s cheeks burned, and Yang received a vicious slap to the shoulder. “Y-You don’t even have the internet! How do you know what a sword bisexual is?” She blustered, and Yang cackled, curling in on herself. She barely managed a gasped ‘Nora’ before she was on the ground, and Blake was left standing, trying to manage her embarrassment. Once she’d calmed down, Blake kindly helped her to her feet, and Yang awarded her a sweet peck to the dimple in the form of an apology.

It was then that Blake seemed to remember something, a thoughtful look crossing her face. “Oh! Um… do you want your flannel back?” Yang blinked, and she realized she’d completely forgotten that Blake had those. “Oh, uh, I mean you’re welcome to keep it.” She shrugged, scratching her chin, and while Blake looked at her almost chidingly, Yang dropping her hand sheepishly, Blake seemed reluctant to make good on that. “I can’t keep stealing all your clothes… soon you won’t have any.” She chuckled, and Yang blushed. “If you really want me to take it back… I’ll take it back. It’s just…” She bit her lip, recalling that night in the car. “You said it makes you feel safe right…? I’d hate to take that away from you.” She shrugged, and Blake seemed to be processing that, as though she was surprised Yang had remembered that conversation. 

She toyed with the strings of her hoodie- Yang’s hoodie- and contemplated that. Yang loved that expression- she loved how Blake’s ears twitched when she was thinking, and how her brow furrowed, and how she pursed her lips on one side of her face. “I don’t think it’s just the flannel… It’s you. It smells like you… and I guess… it tricks my brain into thinking I’m with you… and I feel safe.” She murmured, tucking her chin into the hoodie, covering her lips. Yang’s brain was on fire. She just sort of gaped for a moment, and Blake retreated further into the hoodie. Yang started, and did the only thing her malfunctioning brain could manage at the moment. She reached out, dropped down and scooped Blake up into her arms. Blake squeaked, clinging to her shirt, and Yang then began to process what she’d done, her ears burning and her cheeks following right behind. “Uh… I- I’m gonna be real… I don’t know why I did that.” She murmured, and Blake blinked, processing, before a giggle erupted from her throat, forming into a full, throaty laugh, snorting as she leaned into her partner’s shoulder. 

Yang found herself laughing along with her, setting her back down with a bit of flourish to make up for the awkwardness. Blake wiped the tears from her eyes and played with her hoodie strings, and that thoughtful look returned. “I guess… since I have so many of your clothes, it’s only fair you have something of mine.” She deliberated, and Yang blinked. “Uh… no offense babe, but I don’t think I’d fit in your clothes…” Yang grinned a little sheepishly, and Blake’s eyes nearly popped from her head, as Yang realized her slip of the tongue. But Blake didn’t appear to want to address it at the moment. Instead, she changed the topic. “Well… I have one thing that would fit. And it’s kind of your style…” She turned toward the closet, which was built into the wall and housed a sliding door. She slid the door open and sorted through hangers for a moment, before seemingly finding what she was looking for. Yang recognized it immediately. “Is that-” 

“It’s… not for sports.” Blake clarified. “I wasn’t a sports kid in high school.” She bit her lip, holding it up for Yang to see a bit better. It was a Letterman jacket, approximately four times too big for Blake, in scarlet and black. The front letter was a B, and the back, in big white letters, spelled ‘Team Captain’ across the top and bottom. Yang was speechless. She took it as Blake handed it to her, looking over it and feeling the material as Blake watched, biting the inside of her cheek. “...you said it’s not for sports… so what team were you captain of?” She asked, a bit of smirk tugging at the corner of her lips unintentionally. 

Blake shuffled her feet as Yang took it gingerly off the hanger, setting the hanger on the bed and pulling her arms in one at a time. “...the speech team, actually.” She admitted. “I tried debating too… but I liked speech more.” The jacket fit Yang like a glove, and she was extra careful with it as she adjusted the collar and sleeves. It made sense, she supposed, that Blake would have been a speech kid. She was so literary, and so intellectual. “I thought about speech back in high school. A friend talked me into going to a meeting, but I decided it wasn’t really for me.” She admitted with a bit of a cheeky grin. Then a thought struck her. “Where did you go to school?” She asked, cocking her head and placing her hands on her hips. It seemed Blake was frozen, processing Yang’s new look, and it took her a minute to blink back into reality. Yang couldn’t help the little smirk that tugged at the corner of her lips.

“Uh- oh, um… I went to school in Kuo Kuana.” She cleared her throat, tucking her hair behind her ears as the ones on the top of her head twitched, and she glanced away. “It’s a little village in Menagerie. The school wasn’t very big, so there wasn’t a wide variety of extra curriculars, but we were lucky enough to have a small speech team, by popular demand.” She shrugged, and Yang leaned against the post of the bed. “Where did you go to school?” She changed the subject, and Yang smiled easily. “Beacon High. It’s two towns over, but it’s where most of the highschoolers go. Vale has an elementary school and a middle school, but sadly, no high school.” She shrugged. “Ruby goes to Beacon part-time. She just started her sophomore year last month, actually.” She smiled, and Blake smiled right back. 

There was a bit of a lull in the conversation, and this time Yang caught Blake’s eyes wandering again rather quickly, her brow furrowed adorably in thought. Smirking, and struck a pose. “I take it I look pretty good?” She laughed a little to herself and Blake blushed indignantly. “You’re incorrigible.” Blake scolded, but couldn’t help the smile growing on her own lips. “But… yeah. You look pretty good.” She giggled, and Yang beamed. “Do I look like a jock?” She prodded, mock-flexing. Blake outright laughed, a knowing look glinting in her eyes. “I doubt you’ve ever played a sport in your life.” 

Yang feigned hurt at that. “Ouch! Murder my pride, why don’t you.” Blake snorted, and Yang crossed her arms, pouting, although she wasn’t serious by a long shot. “I’ll have you know I did do a sport for a while.” She sidled up to her girlfriend, who cocked an eyebrow in mild disbelief and slid her hands up the front of Yang’s new jacket, draping over her shoulders and around her neck. She had to stand on her tip-toes to be nose to nose with her, without the boots, and it was certainly adorable. “Mhmm… and what sport would that be?” She hummed as Yang’s hands wrapped around her, holding her firmly at the waist. “I was a varsity wrestler.” Yang smirked, her cheeks burning as her lips brushed Blake’s lightly. Blake blinked for a moment in bewilderment, her long dark lashes tickling Yang’s cheeks. “Oh?” 

Yang smiled, and Blake smiled right along with her, dipping her head embarrassedly. “You’re not going to ask me to prove it, are you?” Yang found herself asking cheekily, and Blake actually laughed, short and barked, quickly burying her face in Yang’s shoulder. “I suppose that explains how you’re so good at picking me up all the time…” She murmured, and Yang’s brain suddenly sparked with an idea, although an impulsive one. “...do you trust me?” She asked softly, and Blake’s head shot up at her, cheeks burning. She looked considerably pensive, her lips pursed, but she nodded. “...yes.” 

“Can I try something?” Yang asked quietly, and while inside she was mentally berating herself, her hands were steady, and her smile was easy. Blake nodded slowly, and Yang’s grip tightened slightly on her waist. “Hold on, okay?” She instructed, and in one swift motion, her arm muscles flexing with only slight strain, she lifted Blake upward, quickly moving her hands from their hold on her waist to wrap around her back. Blake squeaked in surprise, but quickly got the memo, wrapping her legs around Yang’s waist and holding her tighter around the neck. Yang grinned at her as Blake got a grip on just what was happening. She blustered a moment, blinking, before a giggle started to build in her throat, bubbling out into a laugh, and soon Yang was joining her, giggling to herself. “Impressive?” She asked, and Blake snorted, trying to get a hold on herself. “Very impressive.” She giggled, and there was a moment when their faces were flush with each other, and all they could seem to do was stare into each other’s eyes. 

The way Blake looked at her… it was like magic. 

It was sweet, and tentative the way she kissed her, like it was the last one she’d ever get, and the very first she’d ever received. Yang was grounded, her feet planted firmly in the carpeting, but somehow it still felt like she was floating. There was nothing rushed, or tense about the exchange. There was no fervance, or desperation. It felt like they had all the time in the world. And they did. Maybe not literally, and maybe not consecutively, but in the long run? Neither of them were going anywhere. They had forever to be like this. 

At least, until there was a knock on the doorway, and the both of them simultaneously realized the door was open. Blake all but shoved herself away from Yang, and Yang was no better, basically tossing Blake onto her bed, through the black gossamer drapery. She tried to act as casual as possible, stumbling and leaning against a pillar of the bed. Blake peeked her head through the drapery, her expression mortified, particularly as her gaze landed on her mother standing in the doorway, tea tray in hand. Kali seemed highly amused, to say the least.

The tea was alright- Yang had been right when she’d thought to herself that she wasn’t a tea person- but she drank it, if only to please Kali, who’d taken the time to make it. They chatted idly, and a little awkwardly, as they drank their tea and sat around Blake’s room. Kali promised to keep quiet about their private time, much to both Blake and Yang’s relief, and Yang made sure to greet Ghira on her way out, shaking his hand again in respect, and slight guilt for making out with his daughter only a floor above him. 

Blake walked her to her car, and they found Sun examining it in his pajama pants, munching on a banana and taking in all the cool older features. “This yours, Xiao-Long?” He whistled, and Yang tried not to grimace at the banana mush in his mouth. “Not really. It’s a mother’s.” She swung the keys around on her index finger, leaning against the hood for a moment. “Sun, could we have a moment?” Blake asked, shooting him a look Yang never wanted to be on the receiving end of. He raised his hands in surrender, backing away as he munched on his banana, tail swinging around to and fro, and curling around his waist as he reached the garage side door. “Don’t you guys have like three spare rooms? Why does he live in the garage?” Yang murmured, pondering out loud. Blake’s ears went back. “He was a good friend to me when I was passing through Mistral. He wouldn’t let me just go it on my own, and so I let him tag along when I went back to my parents. My dad didn’t like him much- he still doesn’t- but he let him stay. I guess when we moved here, Sun volunteered to stay in the guest house to give us our space.” She smiled a little appreciatively. 

“That was nice of him.” Yang noted, and Blake nodded. “Yeah… he’s a good friend.” She smiled, pulling down her sweatshirt sleeves over her hands as a chill blew through the air. It was almost dark, the sky a pretty haze of pink and orange, and Yang knew it was probably around dinner time. “I should get home…” She addressed, and Blake nodded. She seemed a little tense, playing with her sweatshirt strings, her brow furrowed again. Yang smiled and took her hands in her own. “Everything okay?” She checked, and Blake nodded, blushing. “Could I-... Could I have a hug? Before you go?” She bit her lip, and Yang melted inside and out. “Of course…” She murmured, pulling Blake into her and hugging her close. Blake held onto her tight, as she pulled away, Yang kissed her sweetly on the cheek, right on her dimple. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow, Ms. Speech Team Captain.” She teased lightly, stepping around her car and to the drivers side door, opening it up as Blake crossed her arms, teasing her right back. “See you work, Varsity Wrestler Xiao-Long.” Yang hopped into her seat and closed the door, winking at her, earning a smile from her girlfriend as she turned on the car and drove out of the driveway, onto the main road and toward her own home, the only thought buzzing around in her head Blake and her sweet kisses.

Raven and Tai were working on dinner when she arrived, and after helping them prep the chili con carne, she was dismissed to do as she pleased until dinner. The first thing she did was set the notebook with the address in it on her bedside table, taking the photos she’d kept out and tucking them away inside her vanity drawer. She’d have to find some frames for those. She carefully shed the Letterman jacket, hanging it up and placing it in her closet, and shedding her socks, tossing them into her laundry basket. If only she was as good at basketball as she was at sock tossing. 

She deliberated taking a shower, but decided to save it for the morning, instead going up to her sister’s room to check on her. Ruby was hunched over her desk, headphones on, pouting at her homework assignment as she tapped her pencil to the paper. She seemed busy, and Yang didn’t want to distract her. So, she stood in the doorway, watching her fondly for a moment, before returning back to the first floor, and all but skipping out the door. As she neared the coop, she became suddenly plagued by a strong feeling of anxiety, and panic. Her strides got a little faster, and soon she reached Ember and the rest of the chickens, who were milling about the yard collectively. Ember charged at her as soon as she came into view, clucking like a mad-chicken. Yang frowned worriedly, soothing down her feathers and scooping her up into her arms, sitting down in the dying grass. “Em… What’s going on?” She murmured, and Ember stopped clucking, the feelings remained. Yang furrowed her brow, petting her familiar calmingly. It took a long while, but Ember calmed down eventually, preening herself and then Yang, and setting in her lap. Yang was admittedly a little worried, but everything seemed alright for the moment. She’d have to keep a close eye on her, though. Yang was sure her parents would be alright with Ember sleeping up in her room, particularly if something was going on with her. 

The thought was interrupted as Summer called her for dinner from the sliding glass doors. Yang lifted her chicken out of her lap and stood, brushing herself off. She fed the chickens first, filling their food and water inside the enclosure, and tossing them a few grubs, via tongs, as there was no way she was touching bugs. She allowed Ember a few extra bugs, as a treat, and then with a pat on the head, it was off to dinner. 

It was nice, the five of them sitting around the island and enjoying the chile con carne together. Summer had made atole, and it was refreshing to catch Raven’s eyes lighting up as her wife handed her a mug, kissing her on the temple. Ruby stuck her tongue out in a grimace, which set Tai on a tirade of teasing, pinching her cheek as she fought to push him away. Between school, work, big events like the halloween party, and all the chaos and drama, it had been a while since they’d all gotten to sit and share a meal like this. It was really nice. 

She helped Summer with the dishes, clearing the table and scrubbing the pots. Ruby was on dry duty, towling them off as she finished rinsing them. They were a pretty good team, getting the task done rather quickly, at their mom’s praise. When they were finished, Ruby excused herself to take Zwei for a walk, and Yang kissed Summer’s cheek in passing as she made her way first outside, putting the rest of the chickens away and retrieving Ember, and then heading back upstairs, ready to get in bed. It had been a long day, and she was eager to change into pajamas and relax. 

The first thing she noticed when she entered the room was that the window was open. Yang’s brow furrowed. That hadn’t been like that before… She was almost certain of it. Cautiously, she made her way over to the window and peaked her head out. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary outside; it was dark out now, so she couldn’t exactly see very well. Beside her, Ember clucked lowly, the panic returned, and Yang pulled her head back inside the window, frowning as she closed it, pulling down the blinds and closing those too. And then she looked down, and blinked in confusion. It was gone. 

Yang tried not to panic as she realized that her grandad’s notebook- her only lead- was missing from the place she’d set it on the end table by her bed. Maybe it had just fallen- maybe there had been a breeze. She dropped down and looked all around the floor surrounding the stand, and then under the bed, and then behind her pillows. Nothing. This was not good. This was not good at all…. “Shit!” Yang swore, running her hands through her hair. Maybe her parents had seen it. Maybe Ruby? Yang threw open her door, hesitating a moment and nonverbally asking Ember to stay put as she rushed down the stairs. Tai was helping Raven to the bedroom, and Summer was tidying up the living room, and all three of them turned their attention on her as she came bounding down the stairs. “Has anyone seen my book?” She asked, trying and failing to keep the stress from leaking into her voice. This was bad this was bad this was bad. 

Summer and Tai exchanged a confused glance, and Raven looked indifferent. “No… I can’t say we have.” Summer answered, and Yang swore, scratching at her chin agitatedly. Not good. “I left it on my nightstand like an hour or two ago. It was- fuck! It was right there!” She threw her hands up, and her parents blinked, a little startled by the outburst. “Yang watch your language!” Summer chided, but the concern was forefront in her features. “My window was closed, and I set the book down, and then I came down here, and I just went up and it’s gone, and the window was open-” She explained, and Tai frowned, interjecting. “Do you think someone broke in?” That got everyone’s attention. Yang was frazzled, but she couldn’t think of anyone who’d- 

Fuck.

“Adam.” She murmured, biting her nail. “Adam? Who’s Adam?” Raven chimed in, and Yang’s skin crawled. “...Blake’s ex. He was at the party last night… it’s why I took Blake inside.” She informed them, and all three of them shared a glance. “She was so scared of him- I- Shit do you think…?” She murmured, glancing up at the ceiling, where her room was positioned above them. She didn’t like that. She didn’t like that at all. Tai was quick to try to reassure her. “Did you actually see him last night? With your own eyes?” He clarified, and Yang thought about it. “I…” had she? She’d seen… something. A shadow of a person moving, really. But… “No… I didn’t.” 

Tai pondered that, and Summer looked extremely concerned. “I don’t like this…” Raven breathed out heavily, shifting her weight on her good foot. “I don’t think any of us do, Sum.”

“Keep your door open, alright? And lock your window.” Tai gruffed, rubbing at his scruff in thought. “I’ll keep an ear out tonight… and we’ll go up and do a sweep of the rooms upstairs.” Yang nodded in understanding, and waited patiently as Tai helped Raven to bed, coming back with a baseball bat, to her surprise and worry. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. They did a sweep of the upstairs, Tai leading the charge and Yang close behind as they combed through every hiding spot on the second floor, and then Ruby’s room for good measure. There was nothing to be found. When they were certain the coast was clear, Tai ran his fingers through his hair and set the bat down against the wall. “Well… if anyone was here, they didn’t leave a trace.” He sighed, and Yang’s stomach twisted. “What’s so damn special about that book that ‘e’d want it enough to break in?” He gruffed, and Yang’s chest tightened. She wasn’t sure why she did it… but before she could take it back it was done. “Blake gave it to me.” She answered, and realization flashed across both Tai and Summer’s faces. “I see…” he nodded. Sighing, he picked up the bat and swung it loosely in his hand. “Well, like I said, kiddo. I’ll keep an ear out tonight. Something happens- you scream and you scream loud . I’ll come runnin’.” He promised. 

It did little to sway Yang’s nerves, but it was appreciated. 

She went to bed that night with a pit in her stomach, and the light on, shielding her from the dark, and what might come with it. All the while, it ate at her: the fact she’d lost something so precious- that it had been stolen from right under her nose. But as she rolled over onto her side, hidden under her covers and clutched the pillows that still smelled like Blake, she refused to cry. She refused to mourn the loss of her chance for reunion with other Xiao-Longs. She closed her eyes and she willed the pressure behind her eyes to go away, and she prayed that this was not the end of that story in her life. 

She slept dreamlessly that night, her stomach twisted in knots.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t a lie, per say, when Yang told her parents she was taking Blake out of town on a date. It was a lie, however, when she said they were going to Mistral to see a movie. A part of her felt guilty for lying to them, especially with the hypocritical nature of the reason why. She knew if she told them they were going to Vacuo, they would demand a reason why. And then she would have to admit she lied about the book too. And Yang couldn’t stomach thinking about that for longer than a few seconds. 

It had been a few days since the incident, and asking Tai for Wednesday off of work hadn’t been too tricky. Ruby was off school that day anyway, so she’d been entrusted with the shop while Blake joined Yang for a day-long outing. Of course, Yang had informed Blake of the possible break-in and the vanishing of the book that following morning before she and Tai had gone to work on the Schnee residence. It was incredibly lucky that Blake remembered the address in the book. Yang had felt all the relief flood through her body as Blake had assured her that she remembered it perfectly. Together, they’d come up with the idea of following it, and seeing just where it led them. If they were lucky- if Yang was lucky- it would lead to more Xiao Longs. 

Blake had been very supportive as they’d talked it over, laying on her big bed after work. She’d played with Yang’s hair, and talked in soft tones as they discussed what to do. They had run through the pros and the cons, and the risk of the lies- the risk of the distance from home, and the risk of the disappearance of the book coming back to bite them. They’d talked about the girl in the woods- or at least, her familiar- and they talked about all the little things that Yang hadn’t given much thought; the boot print, and the person in the garage. Yang wasn’t crazy- she’d laid her head on Blake’s lap, and Blake had run her fingers through her partner’s hair, and Yang had told her about the person in the garage- how she’d been so certain someone was there. Blake had listened, her brow furrowed, but she said nothing. Instead, she’d kissed Yang’s forehead, and the conversation turned again.

Yang had picked her up in the early afternoon the next day, the windows of the truck rolled down and the speakers mumbling pop music as she’d pulled up the driveway. She’d hopped out dressed for the fall- a large, fluffy sweater and long dark pants. Blake had dressed similarly- thick black leggings and warm looking purple flannel jacket lined with wool. They waved goodbye to her parents, who were doing their own thing- Kali sweeping leaves off the front steps, and Ghira and Sun moving a large, heavy looking wood stove into the garage. Sun had tried to wave them off, but the action had stunted their movement, and he’d quickly resumed his half of the weight under Ghira’s narrow stare. 

They had asked Sun if he had wanted to join them- as a guide really, having grown up in Vacuo- but he’d surprised them, or least, he’d surprised Blake, when she’d cornered him to talk it over after dinner one night. He’d confided that in all honesty, he had no interest in going back to Vacuo- at least, no time soon. She’d asked if it was any reason in particular, and if he wanted to talk about it… but he’d just smiled at her, apparently, hanging from the loft of his guest house by his knees. There was no dark, sad reason: he just didn’t have any interest in going. And Blake didn’t push that.

If anything, it made it easier to pass the trip off as a movie date, Yang had to admit. And although she hadn’t had a chance to mention it to Blake… it was exciting, going off to another part of the continent with her girlfriend, with no parents or friends breathing down their necks. It felt like freedom. 

Sure, Yang had access to a truck, and her bike, and her mom’s Caddy… Sure, she could go anywhere she wanted, really, as long as she paid for gas… but she never actually went very far. The farthest she’d ever actually gone was on a day trip to Mistral with Ren and Nora. But this… this was different. This was twice the distance, and she wasn’t going to be dealing with Nora’s stinky socks on her dashboard or Ren’s horrendous snoring, or the both of them clamoring over the nutritional value of devil dogs versus beef jerky sticks. This was Blake. This was going to be a long car ride with Blake; an investigation with Blake; a day-long, 100% private date with Blake Belladonna. The thought brought a smile to her lips as she shifted the truck into gear and started off down the never ending road, in the opposite direction from where she’d driven her mother to the mountain that storming night not so long ago, when she’d slipped and hit her head, and learned far too many unsettling truth

“What are you smiling about?” The corners of Blake’s lips turned up and her cheeks dimpled with the action, turning her glance away from the rolling hills to simmer over Yang sitting tall in the driver's seat. Yang tried not to squirm under her stare, sure her cheeks were flushing. Instead, she cleared her throat, shaking her head slightly. Inside, she debated the relevance of bringing up her train of thought- did Blake care really about her weird logic?

That was a silly question, and Yang should have known it, really. Of course Blake cared. Blake always cared. “‘Thinkin’ about Nora’s stinky feet and how much I don’t miss them on my dash.” She answered, signaling as she turned off the long road and onto the on ramp to the highway that would take them the fast way to Vacuo- at least, as far as the map she’d managed to find buried in her dad’s garage junk had directed her. 

Blake snorted at the absurdity of the mental image, clearly amused, and Yang near glowed with pride. Maybe it was just a little thing, but making her laugh always felt to Yang like winning the Blue Ribbon at the Vytal Fair. That snorty little laugh was the most beautiful sound in the world, and Yang would never ever get tired of hearing it. 

“So Nora puts her stinky feet up on your dashboard, huh?” Blake giggled, and Yang sighed in mock annoyance. “Gods, Blake, it’s terrible. Between her gross foot-stank and Ren’s weird organic snacks, road trips are always… long. Very long.” She chuckled lightly under her breath, merging into the right lane. “But what can you do.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I drove Pyrrha once to one of her track meets, when her permit expired. It was a four hour car ride, and she was like, perfect . Literally.” She snorted, sparing a quick affirming glance at Blake’s amused expression. “You think I’m kidding.” She giggled a little, “She dropped a couple of goldfish in between my seats and picked them all out one by one, and then tried to buy me coffee when we stopped as an apology.” 

Blake’s eyebrow rose in incredulity. “Did you-”

“No, I didn’t take the coffee!” Yang gaped at her girlfriend, although it was all in disbelieving humor. Blake sniggered, and turned her attention back to the road and the cars all filing in around them. Dusk was beginning to set in, even with the early time, but then, a quick glance at her cell phone alerted Blake it was already nearly three in the afternoon. In Beacon, she’d been told by many towns folk that once the cold crept in, the days ended closer to four in the afternoon. That was one of the main reasons they’d opted for warm attire rather than obvious hot-weather clothes. The desert would get cold at night, or so she’d read, at least. There was also the fact that their parents believed them to be going in completely the opposite direction. 

It was quiet for a long while, pop music turned down low and barely audible, but as usual, the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. It never was with Blake. Her attention was out the window, her gaze reflected in the window. She looked pensive, and focused. Her brow furrowed momentarily, her lashes flickering- Yang had to tear her eyes away, grimacing to herself as she signaled at the last second, turning onto the exit they needed to take. According to the map, they’d short cut through this little town, and then they’d pop back onto the interstate and it would only be another two hours from there until they reached Vacuo. By then, they’d already been on the road for a little over an hour, although it hadn’t felt much like it at all; Yang liked that about being able to drive- time flew so much faster behind the wheel than it ever had in the passenger seat. But that hardly seemed to matter to Blake. 

She’d taken to tracing the grooves of the plastic in the side of the door, her attention fully and undividedly on the simple task. It was fascinating to catch glimpses of, and subtly Yang wondered if this was what Blake saw when she did the same thing to Blake’s skin as they cuddled. Yang’s cheeks flushed. Great, now she was thinking about her newfound habit. She wasn’t sure when exactly it had started- although she had a hunch- but she had unconsciously begun to stroke small circles and patterns into Blake’s skin as a sort of soothant. She barely noticed each time she did so, but afterwards the realization would come flooring in, and she’d have to think about the intimacy of such a simple gesture. And she didn’t mean intimacy like- like intimacy; that wasn’t- 

Yang found her cheeks coloring the more and more she let her thoughts spiral into a place she was very much not ready to visit yet. She shook her head to clear herself of it, only to catch the sign for the on-ramp out of the corner of her eye- one very very sharp, last second turn away. Yang swore, making the turn by a hair, and startling poor Blake nearly out of her seat. Her girlfriend took a moment, her chest rising and falling with surprised breaths, before she tugged on her bucket hat and slumped a bit back in her seat. Yang murmured an apology, sparing a second to peck her apologetically on the cheek, albeit having to duck under the hat, before turning her attention back to the interstate. 

“...darling, I love you, but I’m questioning your ability to drive…” Blake grumbled from her slump in the passenger seat. Barring the fluttering in her chest, Yang sheepishly smiled a little in her girlfriend's direction. “I can usually drive just fine…” She admitted, and mentally, she willed herself not to be embarrassing as she contemplated if now was the time for flirting. Blake made it look so easy…

“So what’s stopping you today?” Ever the detective, Blake was right on her case. Yang kept her eyes on the road as she fumbled for a moment, clearing her throat a bit quietly, her ears and neck starting to burn. “...well, you uh- it’s hard to- you’re pretty…” She ended up murmuring, and promptly flushing with embarrassment as Blake sniggered, snorting and falling into laughter, albeit muffled by her hand. “I’m pretty, huh?”

Yang kept quiet, reaching up with one hand to scratch at her chin. It seemed that Blake realized her embarrassment, however, because her small, dainty hand reached up and intercepted the action, intertwining their fingers and bringing their hands down to rest on the center console. Yang spared her a quick glance, and was awarded a kiss on the back of her hand. “Thank you…” Blake murmured against her skin, and Yang’s stomach pitted, her grip on the steering wheel tightening. “...you don’t need to thank me… it’s the truth.” She couldn’t help the low tone of her voice. She was… feeling a lot of things. “You’re beautiful… no matter how anyone… else makes you feel.”

The car grew silent, and this time it was less comfortable. Blake shifted in her seat, but she didn’t pull her hand away- instead, she squeezed Yang’s hand tighter. “He never used to call me pretty… He called me beautiful… but he never meant it the way you do.” She admitted, biting her lip. Her brow was knit, and her expression was unreadable. The way the sun, which had dipped half a horizon low, illuminated the car in shades of orange and ochre and deep vibrant purples. It was breathtaking; Blake was breathtaking. 

“You’re breathtaking.” Yang told her honestly, in the quiet. But it hardly mattered- Blake had heard her, and she had meant her to hear it. “Every time I look at you, it gets hard to breathe. And… and my stomach does like, flips… and I just… I can’t believe I get to be around you.” 

Again, silence. And then Blake broke through the tension. “I want you to know that the second we’re not on the interstate, I’m going to kiss you.” 

It took Yang off guard, how forceful the declaration sounded, actually startling a nervous laugh out of her. “Oh?” 

But Blake was serious, it seemed, because she didn’t laugh. Yang didn’t know whether to be excited or scared. And she kinda liked it. 

The first exit she found with a rest-stop, she took at Blake’s insistence. It wasn’t very busy, which wasn’t exactly surprising. Not many people were traveling three days into November, it seemed. That being said, finding a place to park seemed to be the most difficult part of the entire ordeal. She’d moved to park near the building itself, but a quick glance at Blake and the promise of a kiss seemed to sway her toward the idea of parking slightly farther away. Once the truck had rolled to a stop in a free parking space, Yang put it in park and turned off the ignition. The truck sputtered and hummed into silence, and Yang could nearly hear her heart racing in her chest. It was getting darker- the purple haze had melted and mingled in with the dark blue of night. It wasn’t exactly pitch black yet, thankfully, but it was getting there. By the time they crossed lines into Vacuo, it would be ungodly dark out, especially for only 6 or so in the evening. 

True to her declaration, once they were stationary Blake shifted in her seat, unbuckling herself. Yang’s pulse hammered, and she too unbuckled, turning slightly to look at her girlfriend. Blake was looking at her in a way that struck Yang right through the center. She looked content, and at ease, but her eyes were focused, and her brow was furrowed, however slightly. The result was a look that Yang could only describe as soft… and somehow hungry. Yearning . The word was yearning. Yang opened her mouth, but Blake shut it for her, lifting the middle console and bridging the gap between them, kissing her so, so softly, and yet… there was so much there, hiding just around the corner. She was holding back. In a way, Yang was thankful for that. She didn’t know if she could handle too much too quickly. But that wasn’t very fair to Blake. It wasn’t Blake’s fault Yang’s body shut her down too quickly. 

Being honest, it kind of pissed Yang off. She should have been able to make out with her girlfriend without having a heart attack, for fucks sake. 

Yang hadn’t realized she’d started to heat up until Blake gasped lightly against her lips, sending a ripple up Yang’s spine and deep into her stomach. Opening her eyes, she pulled her hands away from where they’d rested lightly on Blake’s sides, preparing to murmur an apology. She wasn’t prepared to see the flood of color pooling in Blake’s cheeks, or to feel her shuddered, shallow breaths blowing warmly against her face. Blake ran a hand through her hair for a moment, pushing her bucket hat off in the process and pushing back her bangs, although it didn’t quite take, to Yang’s faint amusement. Even still, Yang leaned forward and pressed her lips to the little hidden freckle at the top of her brow. Blake let her, turning herself so she was all but sitting flush with Yang’s lap, her arms creeping up, up, up until they draped themselves around her partner’s neck. 

Fuck , Yang couldn’t help but think, eyes be damned. And in one swift motion, she trailed her hands down to cradle Blake’s behind, lifting her up and onto her lap. Their faces were less than centimeters apart with the action, in the small space of the front seat. Blake’s eyelashes fluttered against Yang’s nose and her cheeks, and so close, Yang could count the speckles of gold leaf floating suspended in a sea of sticky amber. It was Blake who kissed her once again, the fervency deafening in the silence as she curled her fingers in the golden hair at the base of Yang’s neck. That in itself was enough to proverbially set poor Yang on fire. Her temperature flared, and Blake made a sound that only made it so much worse. 

Even though she’d shut off the car and the heat with it, it was beginning to swelter in the truck. It was when Blake parted her lips and dared to dart her tongue out that Yang jumped, her elbow slipping and hitting the wheel- at least, that’s what would have happened, had her arm not slipped, sending her head back into the glass of the window. Blake gasped, covering her mouth with her hand as Yang swore, letting go of her girlfriend to cradle the back of her head. “Are you alright?” Blake asked, the concern eating at her expression. “I’m so sorry, I-“

But Yang waved her off, grimacing as she straightened herself out and rubbed the spot where her head had made contact. “I’m okay… I’m okay. It was just a little tap.” She assured, but it was clear to see the guilt building in Blake’s eyes, and the down turned twitch of her lips. Brushing her cheek with the pad of her thumb, Yang kissed those downturned corners in a silent promise. “I’m okay babe…” 

Blake all but melted into her touch, leaning into it with her gaze pointed down in what Yang figured might be embarrassment. She murmured something, resting her head against Yang’s shoulder. “What..?” Yang murmured back, unsure what she’d said. Blake turned so her face was nuzzled in the warmth of Yang’s neck, engulfed in her curls. She felt the answer more than she heard it as Blake’s lips ghosted faintly over her skin. “Sorry…”

Yang frowned, shifting her arms to wrap around her in a hug, letting her thumbs trace soft spiral patterns against Blake’s arms. “Blake… you really don’t need to apologise for-” 

But Blake sat up straight, shaking her head. Her ears were down, and pointed back, fitting with the guilty glint flickering in her eyes and pulling at her brow. “Not for that… for-” She shuddered a breath. “-for making you take this detour, and… and for making you make out with me...I-” She bit her lip, tearing her eyes away from Yang’s admittedly surprised and a little confused expression. But Yang didn’t interrupt; words were hard, and she knew that. “I should have asked you before I- I’m sorry.” She managed, beginning to wring her hands and play with her fingers in a sort of nervous tick. 

“Blake… you didn’t make me do anything. I don’t care about having to take a detour- considering I got to make out with you, there really was no downside.” She chuckled quietly, attempting to bring a smile to her girlfriends face. It wasn’t quite working. “You get overwhelmed with these things though, and I knew that and I still just went ahead and-” 

“I’m going to stop you right there.” Yang placed a gentle finger in front of Blake’s lips. “I get too overstimulated sometimes, yeah. It fuckin’ sucks.” She huffed out a breath of hot air. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to jump at the chance to get to make out with you… I love you Blake- I… I want to be able to do those things with you.” She felt her cheeks color, but somehow she wasn’t losing her words just yet. She kept on. “I understand why you’re beatin’ yourself up about this… but you don’t have to.”

Blake turned her eyes back on her partner, wide set and vulnerable. “I do though… I don’t want you to just… feel like you have to because I said so… I don’t want to just assume what's good for me is- is good for you.” She flushed, hanging her head a little bit. Yang lifted it back up, mulling it over. “Then let’s not assume… Why don’t we just tell each other what we- hell, I mean… what we like?” She shrugged, a little bit of filtered nervous laughter leaking out toward the tail-end of the suggestion. Blake blinked at her a moment, before rubbing at the corners of her eyes, nodding in silent affirmation. Yang pulled her gently back into the hug, and Blake held on tight. “I’d like that…” 

And they did talk about it, once they’d both buckled back up and Yang had restarted the truck. They’d stopped inside the rest stop briefly, once Yang had parked much closer, and had grabbed a few snacks for the rest of the drive there, and some for the drive back. They’d grabbed a handful of kinds of chips and some sweets- Blake had quite the sweet tooth it seemed, as she selected a few different kinds of sweet treats. Yang reserved herself to a peppermint patty and a few different kinds of salty snacks, and they both decided on water for the time being. Yang could always grab a coffee on their way back if she needed an extra kick. When they left the stop, descending the concrete stairs, they were both surprised to find snowflakes fluttering down, blowing aimlessly with the wind. Blake caught one in the palm of her hand, turning her head just in time to watch one land on Yang’s nose, promptly melting. 

The turn back on to the interstate was quiet, but only marginally tense. The securing of snacks and the treat of witnessing the first flakes of winter had been enough to mellow the remaining nervousness of the impending conversation. It started slow, their admissions, and surprisingly enough it was Blake who started, her voice soft. “I like when you… heat up, I guess. You’re very warm.” Yang flushed, but kept her attention on the road. “You always pull away like you think you’ll burn me… but I like it.” She breathed, and although her heart was pumping a little at Blake’s honesty, she reached down with a spare hand, offering it to Blake, who took it. Yang’s turn. Gathering her courage, Yang spoke. “I like when you play with my hair. Especially near the back of my neck…” She bit the inside of her cheek. “And… when you pulled it that one time.” She swallowed, eyes flickering to Blake, gauging her reaction. Blake looked pensive, but there was no judgement there. “Okay.” She nodded thoughtfully, and squeezed Yang’s hand in turn. They went back and forth like that for a little while, the mood lightening significantly as some of the things brought to attention caused the faintest snickers from the both of them alike. 

All the while, Yang held her hand, tracing the scars and the dips and grooves with the pad of her thumb. As they passed over the line into Vacuo, Blake hummed thoughtfully, interlacing their fingers. “I like this too… the thing you do with your thumb?” She glanced sparingly at Yang, who glanced back before turning her attention back to the road. “You do?” She clarified, and she caught the smile on Blake’s lips out of the corner of her eye. “It’s nice…” 

As the truck rolled on and the scenery changed and morphed into the dunes of the desert, the anticipation and nerves began to eat away at Yang, her grip on the wheel tightening with every passing mile. This could be it. This could be her chance to meet other members of her grandfather’s coven. And even if that wasn’t the case… even if all the Xiao Longs were gone and scattered… maybe she could at least find a place to start. 

She pulled off the main road, the truck jostling with the cracked, sandy asphalt of the long, seemingly endless desert road. She’d been correct- it was pitch black outside as they rolled along the road, brights on and eyes peeled for the telltale sign that would tell them how far to their destination. The address Blake had memorized had put them in the town of Tuff- which Blake had sniggered at. “Seems appropriate.” She’d remarked, and Yang had chortled in turn. “Well… Vacuo isn’t really known for being anything but.” 

“That’s true, I suppose.” Blake had nodded in agreeance, and all too soon there was a large green sign, informing them of the close nature of the town. Only two miles to go. 

“Are you nervous?” Blake asked her as they puttered along, growing ever closer. Yang nodded steadily. “I don’t think we ever talked too much about what would happen if we actually found another Xiao Long…” 

“We didn't.” Yang breathed in confirmation. She’d thought about it way too much, honestly. What if they did find another Xiao Long? What would she do? What would she say? How much would she tell them? That she was some strange magical cross-breed and just happened to be part Xiao Long? She was sure that would go over well. 

All too soon they were rolling down what must have been the main street. It was an old looking town, like it was stuck 50 years in the past with its simple slat buildings with tiled roofs and western style two story businesses. Most seemed to be closed for the evening, the lights out; there were a few lights on in some upstairs portions of various buildings, but for the most part, it appeared only one or two establishments were still open in the dark of the evening. Yang checked the time on the dashboard as she rolled up to the curb outside a particularly lively looking wooden building with a wooden porch. It was only seven o’ clock, but with the dark of night and the few poorly lit street lamps, Yang supposed it made sense that everyone was inside for the evening- or at least, most people. As they got out of the truck, it became apparent that the building they’d parked in front of was a pub- and Yang’s heart beat steadily in her chest. She’d borrowed her granddad’s cap, and now she fed her ponytail through the back, securing it over her head tightly. It was ragged and worn, but it calmed her, and that was what she needed in the moment.

In her pocket, she thumbed the photographs she’d brought with her as well- two of them: the first was the photograph of her grandfather and the other young man. The second was one of two from just before he’d passed, when she was a baby. She’d picked the one of them by the greenhouse, even if showing a bunch of strangers a picture of her as a baby felt strange. A few gruff looking young men stood around the boarded windows smoking, the wisps flying up and curling in the air- spiraling up up up in plumes. The light from the cinders illuminated ragged, sand-worn faces, and as Blake and Yang stepped closer to the entrance, two of them found their eyes wandering in a way Yang didn’t like. It was shifty, and predatory, the way they glanced over them. She felt Blake’s tension at her side, and took her hand for good measure, squeezing it in assurance. Feigning a polite disposition, Yang nodded to the men and reached forward, pushing in the saloon door. It was much brighter inside, and bustling a little more busily than Yang had been anticipating. The bar was nearly full, but there seemed to be some openings toward the back. Around the space were a handful of tables, most full to capacity or overflowing with invested card games. There was an old piano in the back, where a strawberry blonde was animatedly tickling the ivories, so to speak. She seemed jovial enough, but Yang didn’t want to disrupt the music to speak to her. So she turned her attention back to the bar.

The woman working the bar was indifferent as they stepped up to the empty space near the back, ignoring the glances they were receiving from other patrons as they did so. After she had waited on a few other patrons, she made her way over to them, slinging a cleaning rag over her shoulder. “What can I do you two for?” She gruffed, and Yang cleared her throat, stepping forward. “Hi I uh, my name is Yang Xiao Long-” 

“Didn’t ask.” She gruffed, and Yang frowned, tapping the counter slightly. “My name is Yang Xiao Long. I’m looking for anyone you might know with that last name that lives around here or- or used to, a long time ago.” The barmaid sighed in presumable agitation, crossing her arms. “How long are we talkin’, kid? Ain't never heard of no Xiao-Long’s in these parts.” She sniffed, and Yang bit the inside of her cheek again, flinching with the sting of it. “About 20 years ago.” Blake spoke up, stepping closer to the counter. The woman cocked an eyebrow, and Yang had the good sense to pull the photos from her pocket, fanning them in the barkeep’s direction. “Him, at the very least?” She glanced over the more recent of the two a moment, eyes flickering to Yang in a way that made her cheeks glow with embarrassment. “This twenty years ago?” She nodded toward the photo, and they both nodded in turn. “Yes.” Yang nearly tripped over her tongue, a spike of hope shooting through her. 

The barkeep seemed to mull it over for a minute or two, before shrugging and turning away from them. “Sorry kid. Ain’t ever seen him before. And I ain't never heard of Xiao-Longs.” She cleared her throat, crossing her arms and lazily rolling her attention back to the two of them, glancing first at Yang, and then Blake. “We don’t take loiterers here, so if ya ain't drinkin’, then you kids best be on yer way.” Blake didn’t seem to like that answer, and being honest, Yang didn’t like it much either. “Please- this man, he had the address for this bar, and- and he used to come up to Vacuo plenty-” 

“I don’t care. I ain't seen him. I’m gettin’ real close to askin’ ya to leave.” The barmaid leaned forward a bit, her expression promising violence. Yang felt her eyelid twitch, and her grip tightened on the corners of the photos. “I don’t want to know if you’ve seen him recently; he’s been dead for 16 years.” She bit, leaning forward a little to meet the woman’s smoking stare. Blake gripped the sleeve of her sweater under the table. “I just wanna know if you recognize the name. If he had a house or something here, or- shit, if he had a brother!” She threw the photograph of her grandfather and the other young man down on the bar’s grainy surface. In the background of the photo, a large mounted boar head and a plaque decorated the wall, amid several framed photos. Yang blinked for a moment, as she gaze glossed, traveling to land just behind the barmaid's head. A boar's head… and a bunch of pictures. “Here… he came here before.” She murmured. Beside her, Blake inhaled sharply as she realized the same thing. “Incredible... “ She mumbled, squeezing Yang’s arm. Somehow, someway, they’d managed to pick the same bar as in the photo. 

It seemed the bartender was not having it, however. She picked up the photo roughly, and Yang seethed. Giving it a closer once-over, she scowled, throwing it back down on the counter. Yang promptly picked up both photos, holding them close to her. “ I ain't seen him. Before my time. You’re welcome to bug anyone you like but me, or my payin’ customers- I got shit to do, and they don’t want nothin’ to do with you either.” Yang scowled, but as much as she felt her anger flare, the defeat weighed far heavier on her heart. “Thanks for your time.” She murmured, turning away and pretending she couldn’t feel the barmaid’s glower burning into her back. There was no use starting anything over it- it was clear that they’d hit a dead end. Yang’s stomach churned with the idea of it- at least, it was churning, until she felt a tug on her sleeve that most certainly was not Blake on their way to the door, a small, dainty rattling clearing of a throat alerting Yang to a handful of older women sitting around one of the tables. From the bar, the barmaid scowled, groaning with annoyance before moving on to wait on other patrons, it seemed. “Excuse me young lady… but did you say you were looking for someone…?” The older woman who’d grabbed her by the sweater asked, and Yang blinked a moment, before nodding. “Yeah, I uh- we’re looking for other people with my last name… uh- family, I guess.” She admitted sheepishly, and the old woman smiled sympathetically. “I noticed you had some photos… mind if I take a look-see?” She asked, and while Yang was reluctant to just hand them back out after the incident at the counter, the older woman seemed harmless enough. Beside her, Blake squeezed her arm in what Yang assumed was silent reassurance. “...sure.” She relented, extending the photos to the white-haired old woman. 

The woman looked at them for a moment, and the two others at the table glanced over in mild fascination, nursing their drinks. It didn’t take long for recognition to pass over their features, and the woman who was holding the photos handed them back ever so carefully, as though they were made of glass. “Girlie you best hold onto those and never let ‘em go.” She breathed. “Those are probably worth more than the Atlisian Diamond.” 

Both Yang and Blake blinked in surprise, but it was Blake who spoke up. “I beg your pardon?” 

The older woman only smiled, although the crinkles around her eyes looked wistful. “He never liked photographs… didn’t like being on camera, I don’t think. I remember- I tried to take his picture once, and he right near stopped talking to me for a couple of days.” She shook her head, chuckling lowly. “Always thought it made no sense- he had one of the prettiest faces I’ve ever seen.” 

One of the two women, the shorter of the two who had yet to speak, snorted into her mug, setting it down harsher than necessary. “Oh please, Fria, he was in town for a month at the most-” The third woman chimed in as well, running her finger around the rim of the top of her own mug, her expression pulled taut in disappointment. “You had about as much of a chance as the rest of us, until he found-” 

“Sandy.” The three of them chimed, nearly practiced. Yang and Blake shared a glance, and Fria spared them an apologetic smile. “Sit, sit… we can tell you as much as we know about him, dears.” She promised, patting the table with a weathered, veiny hand. The shortest old woman scoffed, rolling her eyes. “It isn’t like we know much, Fria. He was only a drifter-”

“A very handsome drifter-” Chimed in the second, and Fria shook her head. “A very charming drifter.” She sighed. Although a bit reluctantly, Yang and Blake accepted the offer to talk, taking the two available seats across from the older women. “I could recognize that birthmark anywhere…” She chuckled, shakily taping her temple in the spot Yang’s grandfather had had a large mole. “Didn’t think I’d ever see it again, though.” 

Yang shifted in her seat, the nerves swirling in the pit of her stomach. “So you knew him? How long ago?” Fria mulled that over, and the second spoke in her stead. “How old are you? Twice that much time ago, I’d suppose.” She shrugged and Fria nodded. “About forty years back now...yes.” Forty years… that was a long time. “Did he have a brother?” She asked, and pointed to the other young man in the photo. “The back of the photo indicates he does… or- did…” Blake cleared her throat, clearly trying to tiptoe around the subject. Fria just sighed. “No, no, no brother we ever saw… that right there is Sunny, though. Good man. He passed on just last month, god rest his soul… but he and your grandaddy were close.” She assured Yang, her smile kind, and Yang was admittedly a little surprised to hear the old woman address the vague man so forwardly as her grandfather. “How did you-” 

“It wasn’t hard, hon. You’re looking for family, and you’ve got a baby picture with him- and you’ve got his face.” She chuckled deeply, the wistfulness returning. “I used to dream of that- of little babies with that pretty face of his… Sandy got to him first, though. And I’m not bitter about it. Not one bit, because his pretty face passed on to you, didn’t it? Well I say that’s good enough.” She smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling, and Yang flushed with the compliment, and the implications. “You keep mentioning this ‘Sandy’... who was she?” Yang managed, once she’d pulled herself from her thoughts. The three old women shifted slightly in their seats. Maybe that remark of not being bitter didn’t quite extend to the other two who seemed particularly concerned with the whole story. 

The shorter one took a drink from her stein, and not-quite scoffed. “Nobody, really. At least, that’s what we all thought. Tiny little thing who worked the till at the general store-” 

“Cordovin, who exactly are you calling tiny?” The other asked- the only one yet to be named. Fria didn’t seem to pay much attention to either of them, her attention squarely on Blake and Yang. “The truth of the matter is, dear, that none of us really knew him too well… he breezed in here one day, and he stuck around for about a month, and the two of them left. Off to travel Sanus and further, I’d imagined.” She reached over, patting Yang delicately on the hand. Yang’s brow furrowed, and her gut twisted… but she supposed she should be thankful for whatever information she could get. “And he was the only person you ever met with… with the last name Xiao Long?” 

Fria’s expression bled sympathy, and Yang knew she hadn’t. Ignoring the churning in her stomach, Yang offered her hands to the sweet old woman, who took them and squeezed as tight as her veiny hands could manage. “I’m truly sorry, dear, that we can’t help you where you need it…” 

Yang shook her head, and the smile on her lips was sad, but genuine. “No.. I- Thank you. Closure is good.” She breathed, raising slowly to stand. She hesitated. “May I, uh-..” She faintly gestured in Fria’s general direction, her arms open. The old woman’s expression said it all, and she lifted herself as well as gave her a gentle, grateful hug. When Yang pulled away, Fria dabbed at her eyes. “Ma’am, are you alright?” A sweet voice asked, and Yang’s attention was drawn to the jolly redheaded girl who had been playing the piano, her freckled cheeks plagued with concern. Fria smiled easily, waving her off. “Yes, dear. You keep on playing now- such beautiful music…” She murmured, lowering herself again with the aid of Cordovin. As though she could read Yang’s curiosity on her face, she smiled, nodding toward the girl again, who had reluctantly turned to begin playing once again. “My ward… a sweet girl.” 

Blake nodded in understanding, and offered her own hand to Fria in thanks. “Thank you again for speaking with us-”

Fria waved her off, smiling as she squeezed Blake’s hand with the tenderness of a grandmother. “Of course, dear… I hope what little I know helps you.” She seemed genuinely hopeful, and both Yang and Blake seemingly felt that deep down. 

Yang had never had a grandmother- she’d never had that feeling. Her dad’s mother had passed when he was just small, and her mothers’ mothers were not spoken of in their house… It set an ache in Yang’s stomach as they pushed their way out of the pub and into the chilly night air, illuminated in half- lit flickering street lamps. The loiterers had left, the only remnants of their existence the stubs of cigarettes ground into the sandy stone sidewalk, and the remaining wisps of smoke dancing in the frigid air. “How are you feeling…?” Blake asked quietly, and when Yang turned her head, she expected to find Blake’s eyes on her. But she didn’t; Blake’s stare was set on the sky, eyelashes fluttering with the twinkling of the stars in the dark. She breathed deeply, and a plume of hot breath filtered up and among them, shrouding them from view. 

Honestly? Yang was feeling a lot of things. But she wasn’t at that breaking point yet. Not yet.

“I think I need a minute… and then I’ll be okay.” She murmured, and Blake nodded in understanding, turning her gaze on her partner. Those eyes… always filled with such sorrow. Yang reached forward and cupped her cheeks gently in her hands, kissing her temple. Blake shuddered against the heat of Yang’s body, and Yang didn’t pull away, and Blake’s fingers curled around the fabric of her sweater, holding on tight. “I’m going to take a moment… could you wait for me in the car?” She murmured against her skin, and Blake hesitated, but nodded, reaching up and placing a soft kiss to her lips, in a way that made Yang’s heart flutter. And all too soon she was stepping away, and moving toward the truck with keys in hand. Yang blinked, feeling around her pockets for a moment. Blake winked at her, before swinging them around on her finger and unlocking the vehicle, stepping up and swinging herself inside. 

Yang breathed out, her breath billowing on the breeze, and her heart thumping in her chest. “What a woman…” She murmured to herself, turning the opposite direction and looking out on the sleeping township. It was only eight-something… but she figured by the time they got on the road, they wouldn’t be home until close to midnight. She’d certainly have some explaining to do… if her parents didn’t buy the late night movie excuse. She tried not to think about it too hard, her feet carrying her down the sidewalk as she thought. Before long she reached the end of the sidewalk. She would have turned around and headed back to the truck, when something caught her eye. There, around the corner of the building closest to her. It looked like some kind of lizard… in the dark it was hard to tell, but then she wouldn’t have been surprised. This was the middle of the desert after all. Although… the fact that it was out in the cold of night was… strange. “Hey there buddy…” She mumbled, squatting down and turning her head slightly, squinting in an effort to understand. It scuttled forward, and she tensed, but only momentarily. It was a beardie, she realized, blinking in surprise. “Oh… huh. Well hi there…” She chuckled lightly, letting her palm rest up against the sidewalk, hoping it wouldn’t be too frightened of her. Closer now, she could see the underside of its neck was dark- nearly as black as the night sky itself. What little light leaked around the corner illuminated the greenish yellowish color of its body, rippled with brown markings. “What a cutie…” She smiled as it testingly grew closer, only to immediately turn and start to scuttle away, nails clicking and scraping against the concrete. Yang furrowed her brow. She knew she shouldn’t… but a part of her wanted to catch up to it and bring it home- at the very least let it keep warm in the truck, or on her. The poor thing would freeze out in the cold of the night.

“Hang on buddy! Where are you going?” She called, standing and starting to walk swiftly after him, even after he’d disappeared into the shadows. “It’s… cold.” She murmured, her breath shallow in plumes of dense heat as she came to a faltered stop. She had been keeping her eyes on the ground so she couldn’t accidentally squish him… but now she found herself staring at a pair of worn brown boots, hidden in the shadow of the building. Yang’s stomach plummeted a couple stories as she realized just how far she’d gotten from the truck. Yang swallowed, and took a step back. The boots stepped closer. “Stay back.” She warned, her tone gravely. Not good not good not good…

The boots stepped close again, and this time the dim lamplight around the corner illuminated the figure just enough. She was small, slight, and serious, from the look of her expression. She was dressed warmly, and Yang could see why- nestled inside the fur of her jacket was the beardie, snuggled warm and cozy. Yang swore internally. A familiar. 

“Who are you? What do you want?” She asked, gritting her teeth. She supposed it was better to get to the point. Ponytail swishing, the girl tossed something at Yang’s feet. Yang jumped, her heart pounding- but then she blinked, realizing just what it was. Shakily, eyes never leaving the stranger, she reached down and picked up the notebook that had been stolen from her room. “Who. Are. You.” She asked, ignoring the trembling of her vocal cords. Whether it was in fear or anger, she wasn’t quite sure yet. And then the girl had the nerve to smile at her. Now Yang was sure which one it was. She clenched her fingers against the pages of the discarded book.

“My name is Ilia. And this is a warning.” She spoke, her tone ringing dangerous and low in the dark of the alley. “Stay away from Blake.” 

“Excuse me..?” Yang all but whispered; she was afraid that anything more than a whisper would send her over the edge. “You don’t get to tell me who I spend my time with… especially when you break into my house, you psycho.” She bit, and the girl- Ilia- frowned. “When it comes to Blake, I do get to tell you who not to spend time with. I’ve known her since we were still children… How long have you known her? Two months?” She scoffed. “Blake doesn’t belong in that backwater little town. And certainly not with you.” She sneered, and Yang was getting real close to breaking some teeth. 

“Blake can make her own decisions. She’s a grown woman, and she can go or stay as she pleases. I don’t own her, and I’d never want to. Unlike some people.” She quipped with a sneer of her own, and while it seemed she’d taken Ilia by surprise for a moment, there was a dark, bitter anger bubbling up in the smaller girl too. “You don’t know anything about her. How much has she actually told you, anyway?” She was switching tactics, and Yang did not like it. Not one bit. 

“Has she told you about Menagerie? About the Faunus?” She purred, and Yang opened her mouth, but Ilia wasn’t done- there was malice in her eyes. “I bet she did… but not very in detail, huh? I bet she hasn’t told you about her magic… or about the things she’s done… I bet she's never even mentioned me… and to think, we used to be the best of friends.” She shook her head in mock-sorrow, but Yang could see it, glinting in the faint light of her eyes. The hurt. 

“Blake doesn’t need to tell me. She will when she wants to.” Yang managed, and Ilia looked at her in incredulity. “You’re kidding.” She had the audacity to bark out a laugh. “How much of an idiot can you be? You think she cares about you? You think she’s not just using you as a rebound for Adam?” Yang’s stomach clenched, and so did her jaw. There was an audible snap, and Ilia stopped, a small gasp filtering through her lips. However, it soon gave way to a smile- a triumphant smile. “What? Did I strike a cord?” 

Yang wasn’t entirely self aware as she reached forward, grabbing Ilia by the fabric of her jacket and spinning on her heels, pinning her to the wall with a slam ! Her eyes were burning, her hands were sweating, and her temple was pounding; Yang was seeing red. “Blake is a victim of abuse… and she has not shared with me just how bad it was but the more you speak the more I’m inclined to shut your mouth for you…” Yang murmured, and Ilia’s eyes were wide with terror, the space between them far far smaller than Ilia had ever seemingly planned there to be. Her feet dangled off the ground, and Yang’s biceps trembled with the constant effort of lifting her, and the anger boiling her inside and out. “I’m going to say this once… and I want you to run back to Adam and tell him for me… stay out of my house… leave my girlfriend alone… or you will wish you had.” Beneath her hands, Ilia was trembling, and in the dark of night, Yang watched as her freckles flickered in a rainbow of iridescent colors. 

Reigning herself in as she realized boiling the smaller girl alive wouldn’t do anyone any good, she let go, dropping Ilia to the ground and stepping away from her. The fabric of her jacket was singed in the shape of long, well proportioned fingers, and Yang grimaced as she took note of them. Ilia’s cheeks were red, presumably with the close, terrifying nature of Yang’s eyes, and the threat of her heat. It seemed she’d taken Yang’s message to heart, because she was silent as she backed away, turning and breaking into a sprint down the sidewalk, into the shadows of the night. 

Yang let loose a shaky breath, and leaned her head upward, watching the steam billowing off her body and into the night air. She sucked in a painful breath of cold, fresh air, and took a moment to compose herself. She couldn’t go back to the truck still steaming like this… quite literally. So she paced back and forth, trying to calm herself. It seemed to work- at least, marginally. When her skin felt lukewarm to the touch, she steadied her breathing and returned the way she’d come. The truck was still parked down the street, outside the pub, and under the lamplight Yang could make out Blake sitting in the passenger seat, catching her eyes as she neared. She watched Blake’s brow furrow with concern as she neared the truck- but she didn’t open the door, or dismount the vehicle. It was once Yang hopped into the driver's seat that Blake took in her burning eyes and the rise in temperature as she entered the car. “Yang…?” She ventured, but Yang kept her jaw locked. She couldn’t yet. She couldn’t open her mouth without wanting to scream in such vehement anger. But not at Blake. Never at Blake. Instead, she turned the key in the ignition, and shifted the car into gear, and turned them back around the way they’d come. 

It was quiet until they got back on the interstate. By then, Yang had managed to get a handle on her anger. “I met Ilia.” She murmured, knowing Blake could hear her. And she did, her ears twitching, and then her whole body tensing. “...what?” 

“She cornered me… and told me to stay away from you. She tried to manipulate me with a bunch of bullshit…” Yang found herself grumbling. “I… should apologize. I kinda smashed her into a wall…” She mumbled the last bit as a pit welled up in her stomach. She’d never really done anything so violent to another person- at least, not with the intent to harm them. She’d wrestled with Nora plenty… but what she’d done to Ilia was different, and she knew that. 

“Was… was Adam there-” Blake managed to choke out, and Yang’s brow furrowed in concern, and assurance as she offered her hand. Blake took it, squeezing tight. “No… I don’t think so. Just Ilia and her bearded dragon.” 

“Lash.” Blake murmured, seeming saddened to hear it. “I… I miss Lash.”

Yang spared a glance at her, before turning back to the road. “...do you miss Ilia too?” Blake stiffened, but it wasn’t accusatory. Just… tired. “...sometimes.”

It was an answer enough, and Yang took it. “What was the bullshit?” She asked, and Yang blinked for a moment. “What?” 

“The bullshit she tried to manipulate you with… what was it?” She asked, and the fear there hurt Yang deep in her soul. Reluctantly, Yang answered. “She… tried to convince me you were using me as a rebound… and that I was stupid for trusting you to come to me with stuff when you were ready- Blake, I know that’s all bullshit, okay?” She promised softly, squeezing her girlfriend’s hand. “It’s bullshit, and it’s abuse rhetoric and-” Yang faltered as Blake squeezed her hand tighter- almost painfully so. Yang stopped talking. 

It was silent a while, before Blake spoke, filling the quiet. “I love you, Yang… I really do.” She admitted, and her voice trembled a bit. “And that scares me so bad….” She breathed shakily. “I met Adam when I was 13… and I thought I knew him… and I was so sure I did love him…” She paced herself, her gaze on the never-ending sea of tail lights ahead of them. “I’ve known you for a couple months… and I’m so in love with you it’s crazy.” She laughed, snorting a little snottily as she started to tear up. 

“Blake…” Yang murmured, but there was no objection. She wished she could hold her more than anything, but that was impossible while they were on the interstate. “And-and I’ve been so worried lately… about Adam and-and that he could find us, and he could hurt you… because he would, Yang.” She sniffled. Wiping at her eyes with the hand that wasn’t intertwined with Yang’s. “He would jump at the chance to- to hurt you. And that scares me…” 

“He’s not going to hurt me, Blake…” Yang assured her girlfriend softly, lifting their hands to place a kiss to the tender, light skin of Blake’s palm. “He’s not going to hurt anyone-” 

“He broke into your house! Into your room !” She sniffled, the concern clearly eating away at her. Yang pursed her lips. “It wasn’t Adam… it was Ilia. That’s how she found us in Tuff… she had the book.” 

Blake blinked for a moment, before seemingly relaxing, however slightly, “...I still don’t like it…” Yang frowned a little, her mind rolling with all the ways she could try to help assure Blake she would be okay. But once again, Blake beat her to it. “Will you… will you stay with me tonight? At my house?” She swallowed, and Yang blinked in surprise. There was no way she could say no, even if she wanted to. “Of course… if that will make you feel better, of course I will…” She promised, ignoring the coloring of her cheeks. “Your dad won’t kill me though, right?” She joked, and Blake snorted, giving way to giggles. Those giggles… Yang could listen to them for hours, the relief settling in her body like a stone dropped into the ocean. “No… he won’t.” She promised in turn. 

The rest of the drive was quiet, but it was a nice quiet. As the time dragged closer and closer to midnight, Blake began to doze in the passenger seat, her head leaning against the window, ears down and twitching every now and then with the flutter of her eyelids. Yang smiled at the sight of it, and deep in her heart she knew she loved Blake just as scarily as Blake had admitted to her earlier. It was such a strange feeling… but Yang liked it. She loved the ache of it, and the tenderness of it. She loved the certainty of it. And she’d cherish it as long as she could. 

When they stopped at the rest stop an hour from town, Yang bought herself a cup of hot coffee and used the payphone mounted to the side of the building to call her parents. They hadn’t been very happy, being informed that not only would they be in at close to one in the morning, but she’d be staying at the Belladonna’s. Yang made sure to inform them of the situation- at least, as much as their cover story could allow. Thankfully, all it really took was saying that an old friend of Blake’s had tracked them down at the movies and that Blake was worried about her after the break in, and Summer caved. If only to assure her parents further, and partially in guilt toward the Belladonnas, she asked her mother to have Tai call Mr. Belladonna and inform him of when they’d be back, and the sleeping situation. Summer seemed to appreciate that, and after a goodnight and a ‘love you’, she was back in the car and on the road, sipping from her paper cup of black coffee. 

Mr. Belladonna was indeed waiting for them when they pulled in the driveway, as Yang had expected of him. Blake had long since fallen asleep, snoring softly with her cheek pressed to the glass of the truck. It was absolutely adorable, but Yang made a note to tease her about it later. Hopping out of the drivers side, she gave a slight wave to Blake’s father in acknowledgement, before walking around to Blake’s side. When she pulled the door open, Blake blinked groggily, shutting her eyes tightly and rubbing at her face. “Whattimeisit…” She grumbled, and Yang couldn’t help the little grin that tugged at her lips. “It’s about bedtime, baby.” She murmured with a chuckle, and Blake pouted, but reached out for Yang, who restrained a laugh, scooping her up easily into her arms in a bridal carry. Once she was secure, Blake wrapped her arms around her partner’s neck, resting her head against her shoulder and nuzzling close to her. Yang’s cheeks burned as she closed the car door, and carried Blake up the stone steps to the porch, where Ghira waited  by the door. “Miss Xiao-” He faltered, and his glance passed quickly between her and Blake. “...Yang. Thank you for bringing her home safe.” He gruffed, and it was clear he was trying to make conversation that was not remarking on the fact that Yang was effortlessly carrying his daughter as though she were still a little girl. “Your parents called. They informed me of the… situation.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry your evening suffered such a hiccup.” 

It was endearing, she had to admit, how much he was trying to get acclimated to this whole situation. “It’s alright, sir. We still had a great time. It was uh.. It was a great movie.” She smiled, and prayed her bullshit lying skills held true this one time. Thankfully, Mr. Belladonna seemed too tired to look too deeply into it. “Your parents informed me of the… sleeping arrangements tonight.” He sighed, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes with large hands. “Normally I would not be comfortable with this… and I want you to understand that goes for any suitor Blake would pursue… but…” he sighed, and the sorrowful glance he spared his daughter reminded Yang all too entirely of Blake. “...she needs this. And you, I suppose. So I’m going to trust you.” 

“Thank you, sir.” Yang nodded, swallowing. He nodded in passing, and stepped aside to let her in the door. As she moved to step inside, he stopped her however, resting one of his large hands on her shoulder. He was quiet, but his expression was pensive, in a very Blake fashion. With his large hand, he patted her strongly on the shoulder. “...I’m glad Blake has a partner who will take care of her like you do, Yang. You’re… you're a very compassionate young person.” 

Fuck , she was going to cry. No no no, don’t cry in front of her dad, don’t do that, thank you very much, she willed herself, managing a smile as the goosebumps rose on her arms. “I-” She swallowed. “Thank you, sir.” 

It seemed he got the memo, because he let go of her shoulder with a final comforting squeeze, and she entered the house as he directed. She managed to kick off her boots with Blake still in her arms, while Mr. Belladonna removed Blake’s, setting both pairs on the mat by the door. Going up the stairs was a little tricky, but it wasn’t like Yang hadn’t routinely carried Ruby up to her room on far narrower stairs. Even in the dark, she remembered which room belonged to Blake, careful not to make too much noise. She didn’t want to wake Mrs. Belladonna at such a late hour. 

Blake’s room was pitch black, and she almost tripped over what must have been books. Thankfully, she caught her balance, and Blake only shifted in her arms. Breathing a sigh of relief, Yang felt around with her foot for the bedpost. After nearly ramming her toes into it, she shuffled forward slowly until she found the downy surface, using her head to push away the shroud, and set Blake gently on the covers. Now that her arms were free, Yang could look for a light… 

She found one with little effort, turning on the lamp on the bedside table. The faint orange glow illuminated the room in a soft, warm hue, the shadows dancing on the walls where the light couldn’t quite reach. Blake shifted on the bed, frowning as she searched for the warmth that had been Yang’s body heat. Yang flushed, but remembering her promise to Ghira, she didn’t want to push it. So, she did the next logical thing. Reaching down, she pulled her sweater up and over her head. It was huge- comfortably baggy on Yang, but enormous on Blake. It was also almost fresh-out-the-dryer warm. Thankfully Yang had opted for a tank top under the sweater. It wasn’t like she’d get cold during the night- her body wouldn’t really let that happen. It was Blake who needed heat. Yang didn’t know where she kept her pajamas, and even if she did, there was no way she was going to change Blake, or wake her just to change clothes. So the next best thing was to get her as comfortable in bed as possible, as warm as possible, and then sleep on the spare mattress so she didn’t piss Ghira off. Especially after he’d tried to meet her in the middle. 

Blake shifted when Yang leaned over her, wrapping her in the warm sweater. She nestled into it, her brow furrowed, and Yang couldn’t help but grin like a dope. Her girlfriend was so cute… how the hell did she ever get this lucky? It took Yang a moment to come out of her thoughts, and in turn, to notice that Blake had slipped her hands under Yang’s arms, attempting very sleepily to pull her in for a cuddle. Yang leaned down and kissed her temple instead. “Get some sleep… It’s very late.” She mumbled, and Blake shook her head, her grip only tightening. “Lay down with me…” She murmured, sleep lacing her voice. Yang bit her lit. “Blake… I promised your dad-” 

“Promised him what?” She asked, opening her eyes groggily. It was an honest question, the way she framed it, but there was also a hint of something there- something mischievous. Good gods this girl...

“I-” Yang faltered, glancing away sheepishly. “I mean… it was more that he said he trusts me…”

“He trusts you not to make out with me- or worse?” She murmured, and this time there was a hint of teasing there. Yang’s brow furrowed. “Blake…” She murmured in warning, although her cheeks were colored. This was not the time- because this was the perfect time. The tension had been eating at them all day, especially in the car, and now it was dark and light and they were in her bed, and they were barely a few inches from each other, and it would have been all too easy to lean forward and kiss her. It would have been all too easy to taste her lips, and her tongue, and to burn inside and out… to feel her skin swirling under the pads of her thumbs, and to caress the curves of her body and to revel in her beauty and to give in. It was far too easy. 

And Yang couldn’t do it. 

Instead, she leaned forward and placed a delicate kiss on Blake's lips. And then she walked around the expanse of the bed and laid down next to her. Blake didn’t have any complaints, and Yang closed her eyes as Blake’s head rested on her chest, curling up to her side. Yang realized she’d started to do the thumb stroking on her arms again, but she didn’t stop. Blake seemed content, humming softly to herself. She was a self-soother, Yang guessed, but a little extra soothing never hurt. Yang found herself staring up at the canopy of black gossamer, flickering with the draft of the open bedroom door like a flame in the soft orange lighting. “Hey Blake…?” She murmured absentmindedly and Blake hummed against her chest in affirmation. “Would you tell me a poem?” 

“A poem…?” Yang felt her eyelashes flutter against her chest and the thin fabric of her tank top. “Mhm…” 

Blake seemed to ponder that a moment, before intertwining their fingers. “‘Some say the world will end in fire, some in ice… from what I’ve taste of desire, I hold with those who favor fire…’” She whispered, and her breath was warm against Yang’s skin, her heart fluttering in her chest. “‘But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate…’” She took a shaky breath. “‘..to say that for destruction ice is also great… and would suffice.’” 

“...do you favor fire…?” Yang found herself asking quietly. The silence was deafening, but the snuggling of Blake cuddling close to her- burying her face in Yang’s neck and holding on so much tighter was all the confirmation Yang needed. She held Blake tight. And she held her like that all night. If Blake needed fire, Yang would be that for her. Yang would simmer, Yang would warm, Yang would brighten. 

But Yang would never burn.

Chapter Text

“Knock Knock.” 

There was a tapping against the hardwood that Yang registered as a crutch- there was no door to be knocked on, with her laying sprawled on the living room floor. She glanced up through half-lidded eyes, registering her mother towering over her before there was a harsh tap in her side. “Ow! Hey-” 

“Get off the floor- what are you doing?” Raven chided, and Yang pouted, propping herself up on her elbows. Zwei shifted from where he had been draped over her stomach, curling up at her side instead. She scratched at his short little hairs, under his ears and over his chest. He was such a sweet boy. “I don’t know, just lying here.” She shrugged, answering her mother. She received another tap in the ribs with the crutch. Yang swore, scowling up at her mother, who only rolled her eyes. “Come on… I want to talk to you privately about something.” She gruffed, gesturing with a nod of her head for Yang to stand. At that, Yang’s brow furrowed, but she did as she was asked, kissing Zwei on the head and hopping up. “Bedroom.” Raven nodded again past the couch and toward her, Summer and Tai’s room. 

Yang spared a cautious glance toward Summer, who was arranging sunflowers at the island, and Raven shifted slightly on her crutches. “Oh-kaaaay….” She resigned, and followed as her mother led her toward the dark room. The darkness was quickly remedied as Raven set her crutches down against the bed, hopping on her good foot over to the window and pulling open the curtains a bit. She lowered herself to sit, and rested her casted leg at a comfortable angle. Yang leaned against the wardrobe to the left of the door, and Raven turned to look at her. “Close the door.” 

Admittedly, a tension spread through Yang’s chest, pulling tightly. “You’re… not gonna yell at me for something, right?” She asked tentatively, and Raven sighed in exasperation. “For Brother’s sake, Yang, no. Do you want me to?” Yang decided to shut her mouth, quickly closing the door as she’d been directed, resting against it now a little more on edge; if Raven noticed, she seemed regretful for it. “Unless you’ve done something to warrant it, then no, I’m not going to yell at you.” She shifted her leg, grimacing for a second as she attempted to get at least somewhat comfortable. “I have a present for you. In the wardrobe.” She gestured with a wave of her hand, and Yang blinked. “I wanted to give it to you before the party. Figured you might want to… well… see for yourself.” She sighed, and Yang pretended she didn’t catch the shake at the end of her breathing- something like nerves. Tentatively, Yang moved closer to the wardrobe, running her hands over the finished acacia. She had helped her dad build this one summer- possibly the first summer he’d started to let her lend a hand. She didn’t feel for them, but she knew underneath the massive wooden cupboard, two hand carved little signatures were etched into the wood. 

As she pulled open the doors, Raven continued to speak; she’d never been one for silences, comfortable or otherwise. “I… I’m not stupid kid. I know you’ve been… different. For a long time.” She cleared her throat, and Yang’s hands hesitated on the zipper of the large black dress bag that was quite out of place in Raven’s wardrobe. Raven didn’t seem to notice. “I’m not saying I understand… because I really don’t- but I figure… I know what it’s like to not feel like..- like you can be you…? Christ, Yang can you please just open the bag.” Raven was fidgeting now, and Yang could see her bouncing her non-numb leg with nerves in a very familiar habit. Ruby did the same thing- and it was nearly as endearing now too, even if Yang’s stomach was tied in knots with dread. 

Rip off the bandaid, Xiao Long … she hyped herself up as she removed the bag from the wardrobe, turning to face Raven as she slowly unzipped the bag from the top. She wasn’t expecting a crisp black collar, or the velvety maroon color bleeding out and around it. “What…?” She murmured, her brow furrowing, and admittedly, her heart racing. Raven shifted, using the nightstand by the bed to push herself back up to stand. “Lay it on the bed… get a good look at it.” She breathed, composed to her credit as she used Yang’s shoulder as a brace, her hand firm. Yang swallowed, but nodded, carefully- as though it were made of glass- removing the suit from it’s bag and laying it down flat on the bed. It was… phew. Yang was going to need a moment. She could feel something bubbling in her gut- fizzing up into her lungs like the carbonation in soda. It was definitely something bordering giddy glee. She kept herself restrained, however, letting her fingers ghost over the achingly soft velvet material. The color was certainly an interesting choice. Raven gruffed, as though reading her thoughts on her face. “We compromised on the color… your sister suggested yellow… I told her she could dress you like a banana when I’m dead and buried.” 

“Ruby helped with this…?” She murmured, admittedly surprised. Little brat… she’d have to thank her- 

“Ruby helped compromise on the color… I picked it out, and bought it for you.” She explained, shifting her weight slightly. Yang briefly helped to stabilize her, before Raven signaled she was fine. “I wanted red…  Blake suggested maroon.” She hummed. “‘Knew I liked that girl for a reason.” She snorted lightly, and Yang’s cheeks colored. “Blake was in on this too?” 

Raven huffed in amusement, patting her daughter’s shoulder forcefully, but with love. “No, not really. I asked what color she’d like to see you in. I probably confused the hell out of her.” She sighed, but there was a smile tugging there, in the corner of her lips. “She sounded excited, though.” And now it was a full, mirthful smile. Yang’s cheeks darkened. “Mother!” 

Raven rolled her eyes. “Relax. This is meant as a birthday present from me to you, Yang. I tease… but this one’s all me, to you.” The teasing was gone in an instant, replaced with a nervous sincerity Yang rarely got to see in Raven. “...I know it doesn’t make up for what I did… what I kept from you… and it’s not meant to-” She was very firm about that point, her brow furrowing, before softening again rather quickly. “...but I hope we can be more forthright from here on… starting with this. I was hoping maybe… this could be a start to figuring out… whatever you need to figure out for yourself.” She swallowed, and although she struggled to keep Yang’s gaze in that Raven way of hers, Yang couldn’t help the heat searing in her stomach, warming her from the inside out and tickling her tear-ducts. 

Yang cleared back the bile threatening to overtake her throat with the sentiment, blinking rapidly to hide the impact of the implications. She thumbed over the velvety fabric, fingers dancing over the lapel, and the shiny black buttons trailing down, down, down. It was a nice suit- a very nice suit. “Ma-” She swallowed, but it seemed Raven still had a little tidbit of information. “Your sister’s present is inside. I uh- I’ll help you straighten everything out and fix the tie… but the inside is all you, Yang. I uh- I don’t think I’m quite ready to think about that, yet.” She gruffed, and Yang’s heart was playing Pong in her ribcage. “Inside…?” Her gaze fell to the black button down inside the suit jacket. 

Raven ended up leaving her in the room with her thoughts, hopping her way out with the aid of her crutches, and leaving Yang to mull over her words… and the increasingly more obvious attempt at subtly. The last thing echoed around in her head- about the inside being all on her… and no one else. That was the implication, at least… She was sure there was an actual, physical gift from Ruby inside the suit… but the metaphor wouldn’t shake from Yang’s mind either. It really was a nice suit… she swallowed, her eyes turning back to the door, if only instinctually. There was a feeling, rolling around in her gut, that Yang wasn’t sure if she liked or not yet. It was eating away at her stomach, and clawing up into her chest. It was more than an ache- she shook her head and began to unbutton the suit jacket, revealing the black button up underneath. She had to admit, the maroon was very pretty. It had been a while since that first snapping of her eyes- since they’d burned that disgusting red. She’d learned to tolerate it, at Blake’s imploring. She’d tried to see them how Blake saw them- she tried to look at herself in the mirror and say ‘they’re pretty’ but… it was always harder than it sounded. 

The pants were on the hanger underneath the button down, it would seem, and so Yang began to unbutton the shirt. She stopped about halfway down, blinking in confusion. Running her fingers over the tan fabric, her heart skipped a beat. There was something pointy inside- Yang reached down the collar and under the fabric, her fingers brushing over cardstock. She pulled out a little index card, with a cartoonish figure of her sister’s face on it, sticking her tongue out and holding up a peace sign- “That little shit…” Yang had to laugh quietly to herself, biting her lip as she flipped over the card. The only thing written on the other side was ‘Happy Birthday’. 

She pulled the binder and the pants underneath away from the button down, lifting the binder off the hanger and setting it gingerly on the bed, doing the same with the pants. She took a minute to look over it all, taking a deep, settling breath and resting her hands on her hips. She could do this… she could do this. She repeated this like a mantra over and over as she lifted the binder from the bed- she and Blake had spent one afternoon laying on Yang’s bedroom floor, scrolling through internet websites to look at them… Yang had admitted that it might be nice to have one, but… she hadn’t been expecting it to happen. Like most things, she had been prepared for and okay with it falling through the cracks, and never being addressed. But Ruby must have noticed; Yang couldn’t help but scoff, scratching at her cheek. Ruby always noticed. 

It was a struggle at first- figuring out how to put it on. She had the fore-thought to tie her hair back, not wanting to deal with the tangles, but once it was over her head, the struggle began. The fabric was tight, and it was a fight to pull it down over her chest, but eventually she managed, tugging it on the right way with a huff. There was a pressure over her chest now, and it felt like a hug as she just stood there for a moment, taking a deep steadying breath. It was… nice. 

It became nicer and nicer as she pulled on the black button down, buttoning it higher and higher, until it was only the collar left undone. Yang spared a glance then at the tall mirror in the corner of the room, and her breath caught. It wasn’t an end-all be-all… there was still a definite mass there where her chest would normally have filled out the material… but it was muted, and much flatter now. She rolled up her sleeves, cuffing them and sliding the fabric to her elbows as she turned slowly, taking in this new form. As