A gust of wind and rose petals is the only warning Weiss receives before Ruby rockets past the elevator doors moments before they close shut. She slams face first into the back wall and rattles the entire lift. She grunts in pain. Then, a laugh.
“Made it!” Ruby cheers, pumping her fist into the air. With victory in her clutches, she finally takes a second to survey her surroundings and takes notice of one Weiss Schnee staring at her. There’s thinly veiled annoyance on Weiss’s face, which by her standards means a scowl. Ruby rubs the back of her head. “Eheh. Fancy meeting you here.”
Scoff. Weiss crosses her arms and faces the doors. Friend or not, elevator etiquette comes first. “Was making this ride worth putting yourself at risk for a concussion? There’s another neighboring elevator, you know.”
And now a deadpan crosses her face. Thankfully, a deadpan is a universally accepted expression, Weiss standards or not. “Just tell me what floor you’re going to,” she says as she presses the button for hers and alights it. Ruby responds in a civilized fashion by hopping forward and smashing her fist against the panel. Multiple surrounding buttons spark to life, caught in the crossfire. Weiss’s eye twitches as it takes all of her willpower to not say something.
The hum of the elevator pierces the silence. Other than that, there’s not a peep. The pair of partners stare straight ahead, not moving, not saying a word, nothing more than the occasional cleared throat to signal that the other is still there and not lost to the mysterious vertical hallway that an elevator resides in, never to be seen again.
It’s awkward. So painfully awkward.
Weiss hazards a sidelong glance at Ruby, only to flinch when Ruby is doing the exact same thing to her. They both straighten up as if jolted, eyes locking onto the doors again. Weiss’s train of thought screeches to a halt. Gods, it’s like they’ve just met again. Except they’re both Weiss. She has to resist the urge to pinch her nose and sigh, but a defiant feeling roots itself in her thoughts instead. Is she seriously going to let this hang in the air with Ruby of all people? She’s Weiss Schnee, and she’s not going to let a period of distancing in their friendship ruin what they have. She steels her nerves and prepares to turn to Ruby. She may be used to battling the creatures of grimm, but this will be a battle of emotions. Her words will be her weapon, her thoughts her shield.
Silence, and it’s not just because Ruby hasn’t responded. They both jump at the elevator suddenly decelerating, and its familiar warm hum stripping away. The quietness of jarring, eerie even.
“It stopped,” Ruby says. She stares up at the ceiling, eyes wide with disbelief.
“I never would have guessed.” This time, the urge to sigh wins out. Wonderful, just wonderful. What a marvelous development in an already splendid day. One day off a month, and she gets to spend it in a suspended metal cube with a partner she should be able to talk to but just. Can’t.
“What now?” Ruby asks. Weiss huffs.
“We call for help obviously.” She moves to retrieve her scroll, only to tense up when she grasps at an empty pocket. This was only supposed to be a quick trip from and back to the dorm room, and she hadn’t thought to bring it along. How convenient. She snaps her gaze towards Ruby, not bothering to hide the irritation in her voice. She doubts she could if she tried. “Do you have your scroll?” Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes and let them get this sorted quickly.
She pat-pats her empty pockets. “Um. If I say yes anyways, would it make you happy?”
For the love of--! Weiss groans with all the patience of a grimm stalking its prey. None at all.
As Weiss’s face meets the palms of her hands, Ruby finally picks up on her friend’s sour mood. She bounces in place, a mixture of concern and carefully placed optimism on her features. Weiss is familiar with it. It’s the same expression she’s used ever since Beacon days whenever Weiss locked herself away into the confines of a bad mood. It’s a little nostalgic, if she’s being honest. It’s almost enough to lighten her mood by a smidge.
Ruby pumps her fist against her chest. “Don’t worry for a moment, Weiss! I’ve got this.” She throws her red hood over her head and takes her cape in one arm, holding it as if she were on the cover of a comic about superheroes. Weiss knows she’s just trying to cheer her up, and figures the least she can do is humor her even if it doesn’t have the complete intended effect.
“My hero,” she says, forcing her lip to quirk upward. Most would call it a smile. She would call it a patented ‘pleasant yet practiced’ Schnee neutral expression. Ruby buys it every time. She beams a little too enthusiastically at the comment, but Weiss can tell it’s genuine. Then she’s smacked into the back wall as Crescent Rose unfurls to it’s full size within a very much not full size elevator. Cold steel juts against her ribs at all the wrong angles. Gods, it’s like Ruby is purposefully pointing the sharpest edges at her. “Ruby!”
“Sorry, sorry! I just need to…” She holds the scythe by upward half of the handle near the blade, carefully fidgeting with something that’s blocked from Weiss’s view. She’s about to voice another complaint when the girl lets out a cheer--and tosses a control panel lid over her shoulder. Finally, Crescent Rose folds back up and releases Weiss from its cruel clutches.
She shoots Weiss another grin before burying herself in her work as if she were at a tool bench, working on the latest upgrades for her weapon. Instead of instruments of battle, this time her hands fly over wires and buttons.
Weiss looks over Ruby’s shoulder, not having a clue if she knows what she’s doing. Part of her is scared to find out. “Unless I’ve been left in the dark about a sudden career change, you’re not an electrician. You know what you’re looking at, right?”
Weiss’s eyes narrow. “I’d hope so. Because I’d hate for tomorrow’s headlines to be ‘Schnee girl killed by falling elevator, death was completely avoidable.’”
“Uh-huh.” She mumbles something under her breath, and it takes Weiss a moment to decipher it as a song she’s humming as she works.
Well at least they’re talking, even if Ruby is only half listening. Maybe a change in subject is due. “You know, you could have just used Myrtenaster to pry open the panel. It’d certainly be more wieldy in here.”
Then Ruby hesitates, pausing. It’s only for a split second, but it doesn’t go beneath Weiss’s notice. Come on, it’s not like it’s an unreasonable suggestion, she thinks. But Ruby’s already back to fiddling with the elevator’s system by the time she speaks again. “I’ve never held Myrtenaster before.”
Weiss can’t quite place the underlying tone in her reply. It’s clearly hesitant, but… yearning? No. Nervous? Surely that can’t be it either. So she presses on. “And I’ve never held Crescent Rose. So what? It would have been practical.”
“I guess so.”
And there it is, the awkward silence that her and Ruby have so often shared nowadays. A weak attempt at conversation, a meager response, and the death of a friendship. Well, Weiss wouldn’t go as far as to say that yet. Not if she has anything to say about it. “Don’t tell me you’re so used to your scythe that the thought of a short sword is unbearable.”
She’s only half joking, and Ruby chooses the serious half. She glances to Weiss again, chewing her lip as she thinks of a response. Honestly, it’s like Weiss can see the gears turning in her cute little head--her head. That’s what she meant to think. Obviously.
“Weapons are an extension of ourselves,” Ruby starts. “I heard that growing up. It’d feel weird to use someone else’s just to attack an elevator. It’s a personal thing to hold a piece of someone else in your hands, I think?”
Oh. Well she wasn’t expecting a philosophical thesis as a rebuttal, not that she disagrees entirely. “Aren’t we close enough by now? ”
“We were. I mean, we are! I just… I dunno?”
“Yang has held Gambol Shroud plenty of times. Blake doesn’t mind.”
“That’s ‘cause they’re them.
“What’s the difference between them and us?” Ruby has the gall to deadpan at her. It genuinely takes Weiss by surprise. When did she develop the attitude to do that? Yeesh, maybe it has been a while since they last spent time together… And that doesn’t answer her question. “Ruby?”
And then there’s a guilty expression on Ruby’s face, and Weiss can’t fathom why. “Weiss, I--”
Darkness. Murky, overwhelming darkness within a metal cube that encompasses the word limbo in its entirety. If there exists a plane between life and death, a stopped elevator without the decency to stay alight must be the closest approximation humans are capable of creating.
You cannot be serious, Weiss thinks as her mouth hangs agape.
“Weiss? Weiss! The lights went out!”
“You think I haven’t noticed?!” A pair of hands fall onto Weiss and walk their way onto her shoulders, gripping tight. Weiss has half a mind to shove Ruby away, but the urge fades quickly when she hears a twinge of nervousness in Ruby’s voice. Darn you, Rose…
“I miiiight have pulled the wrong wire.”
“I told you you shouldn’t have messed with it.”
“I was trying to save us!”
“How noble.” Unfortunately, praise only comes after a successful rescue attempt. She merely shakes her head even though neither of them can see it.
Ruby’s grip loosens when she seems confident Weiss isn’t going anywhere, though she doesn’t take her hands away. “What now?”
Weiss ignores the fact that Ruby has asked her that twice within ten minutes. “We wait. At some point someone’s going to notice this elevator isn’t responding, or that we’re both missing. Or both.”
“Oh.” Weiss hears clothes rustling. Maybe Ruby’s glancing around? “How long will that take?”
She opens her mouth to respond, but her voice hitches. Just how long will it take? Surely an hour at most. Atlas academy is a busy place, and someone is bound to request a lift. “I doubt we’ll be waiting long,” Weiss says, straying away from giving an actual timeframe. Ruby makes a noise of agreement, noticeably more chipper than before. See? All they have to do is wait a little while…
In a dark, enclosed space with nothing but each other and their mutual awkwardness.
Well, how bad could it possibly be?