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Tip of the Spear

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They hardly have the time to slow down and talk about it. No one asks her and she doesn’t tell anyone.

They’re too busy, always so busy.

There’s discovering Ozpin’s lies, getting to Atlas, running and fighting.

If she’s a bit different, who has time to inquire? If she’s more snappish than usual, it’s just the high stress environment. So what if she scratches at her arm or it twitches sometimes?

Then there’s a few moments. They’re at Atlas and everything is okay…right?

It should be but everyone knows it isn’t.

On the surface level it is. They’re training with Ace Ops, working with General Ironwood, she’s even able to spend some time with Winter.

Revolution boils beneath the surface, Salem’s grasp closes around them, it’s not a real break. All of their breath is held, waiting for the next tragedy.

So, no one asks.

Winter isn’t nobody and when she finds out, she’s livid.

“She caught me staring. Staring, Weiss!” Yang’s cheeks are pink even at the memory, a clear look of abject horror painted on her face.

Weiss hides her smile, knowing it would only make Yang’s embarrassment worse. Yang has lamented over being caught at least a dozen times by now but Weiss doesn’t mind listening. It’s one of the few not terrible things going on in their world. She’s also happy that Yang is finally owning up to her real feelings for Blake. “Next time just tell her she looks cute.” Weiss advises.

“I did! Sort of, kind of. Should I just like, propose to her? She can’t think I’m just being friendly then, right?”

Weiss gives Yang a long look full of judgement. “You don’t get to complain that she’s misconstruing your words, you haven’t even tried talking to her about it. If you propose to her, I’m hunting Coco down so she can excommunicate you.”

“Excommunicated me from what?” Yang asks herself quietly.

“Aw! I miss Coco!” Ruby’s says excitedly as everyone walks in.

“Who’s Coco?” Winter asks Weiss.

“Everything okay?” Blake asks Yang, her brow furrowed at the tension in the room.

Weiss, like the good friend she is, defuses the situation. The last thing Yang needs is Blake pushing right now, when the idiot actually thinks a proposal is an acceptable way to talk about feelings for the first time. The last thing Weiss needs is Winter ever meeting Coco Adel. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. “You’re all ready?”

“We said we’d meet up ten minutes ago.” Blake says easily, sitting beside Yang on the bed.

“Ugh, we lost track of time.” Yang stands up and carelessy roots through her clothes.

A shirt hits Weiss in the face. “You’re disgusting.” Weiss shoves down the urge to throw something heavier and deadlier back, she knows better than to give that voice any footholds.

“You love me, Schnee.” Yang sings, apparently finding whatever she is looking for. “I melt the ice around your heart.”

Weiss shoots her another severe look as she goes through her own clothes. “Who will melt the ice when I freeze you solid?” Weiss threatens lightly, finding an outfit more suited for the club they’re all going to tonight. Weiss ignores the heart when she notices it’s an outfit Pyrrha gave her as a gift.

“I got enough heat for the both of us.” Yang says, obnoxiously wiggling her eyebrows.

Leave it to Yang to manage flirting with her but not being able to even approach Blake about her feelings.

Weiss arches a brow at Yang, threat laced in the small quirk of her lips. She has the power to destroy Yang’s entire life, she should realize messing with Weiss is not a smart move. Yang nervously looks away and laughs. Blake and Ruby watch them like they’re watching a match take place. “Anyways! Can’t wait to dance.” Yang retreats.

Weiss feels a bit of pride at that, she can still make them cower. That darker feeling, the one she is slowly growing used to, also preens at the thought.

She’s changing her clothes when a hand on her side stops her. Weiss hisses at the unexpected contact and her entire frame flinches away from the invading touch before she registers who it is. Winter’s jaw is locked tight and her eyes are flaming with rage, her fingers hover a few inches away from Weiss’ scar. The others stop their idle talk.

“What happened?” Winter’s words are forced, her control holding tight. Weiss nods and Winter presses her fingers against the scar again. Weiss doesn’t flinch in surprise this time but she twitches. “Gods Weiss, you need to get to a doctor. It’s on fire.” Winter looks about ready to carry her to one.

“No, it’s fine. It’s always hot.” Weiss looks away from Winter, embarrassment creeping up on her. She doesn’t want to tell the sister she’s always trying to impress how she was bested. She doesn’t want to talk about a weakness like this. She has too much shame over it, especially in front of Winter.

It opens doors.

She might slip and say something about the secrets she’s been keeping.

“Weiss.” Winter’s voice is commanding. It’s not the voice she uses in the military, the one that Weiss finds herself growing farther from. Disliking it more every time she hears it. It’s the one she used to use when they were kids. The one Winter would use when she knew Weiss was hiding something and that it was okay to talk about it, that Winter would take care of it.

There’s some things that not even Winter can save her from.

She can’t tell her of it.

She didn’t always tell Winter then, either. Weiss knew if she told Winter about the bruises around her wrist then she'd hurt Winter. There wasn’t anything Winter could do to really stop it and inaction would only make her suffer.

There isn’t anything she can do to stop this either. It’s too late, it’s already too deep into Weiss.

“We were fighting some of Salem’s lieutenants. I was fighting someone else and one of them saw fit to interrupt my fight. With a spear.”

Winter’s fingers twitch. “Who?”

Weiss knows saying who is as good as signing a death warrant. That’s why she doesn’t.

She hates that she doesn’t. She knows it’s right, isn’t it? Cinder killed Pyrrha, she messed up the whole world. She’s been working with Salem. She should want Cinder dead and Winter would ensure it.

She can’t let Cinder die.

She needs to confront Cinder. She needs to face the woman who chose her out of everyone, who decided to end her life. She knows without Jaune, she would be dead. She wants to fight Cinder in a real battle, not be struck down by a coward who didn’t even face her in combat.

She has to ask Cinder what she did to her and how to stop it.

It’s maddening.

She didn’t notice it at first. The emotions that aren’t hers. They were all so busy, how could she have? They’re all consuming now that she has noticed them. It’s like living with two different sets of emotions.

She didn’t connect the dots. She’d get angry at Ruby and lash out like she hasn’t done in years. She’d say something cruel and have to take it back, quick with her apologies. She’d fight hard, brutal, like she was fighting to kill, fighting to hurt.

It took her longer than she’d like to admit to separate the other feelings from her own. The anger she’d feel towards Ruby was not her own and she had to learn to control the emotions.

She knew immediately that the other set was Cinder.

She didn’t need to test it or think about it.

The scar burns with the phantom pain of Cinder’s touch, after all.

Her own emotions beat with her heart, clog her mind. They’re obstacles that she must overcome. Obstacles that her team has encouraged her to embrace. She knows where they come from.

She knows where Cinder’s come from too.

Cinder’s emotions radiate from the scar. It creates ripples of pain for Weiss as waves of emotion from Cinder pours out.

Rage, desperation, hunger, pain.

At first she thought Cinder a void. Nothing good comes or goes, unending displeasure and hate. So much so that it nullifies itself, it’s not a real feeling. She can’t have real emotions if her emotional range is agony and sadism. Her emotions have to be empty then, not whole.

Then the Apathy drains everything except Cinder.

She doesn’t know if they couldn’t drain Cinder’s emotions since she technically wasn’t there or because her emotions simply burned through the Apathy’s control.

Weiss latched onto those negative emotions and they helped keep her alive.

She knows it’s wrong but she continued to hold onto them, in some small way. Lost to a sea of apathy, Cinder’s emotions were her buoy.

Eventually, there’s more than just misery. Wry amusement, fondness, pride. There was always pride but it’s a different kind of pride, external instead of internal. She doesn’t know what changed for Cinder only that it was for the woman’s better.

Cinder changed a lot after that but remained largely the same. She’s still petty and evil and absolutely Weiss’ enemy.

Yet, she can’t arm Winter with the knowledge of Cinder’s name.

She needs Cinder to fix this, take away whatever perverse connection exists between them. Ever since Cinder threw that spear at her, something’s different about Weiss. Something remained after the spear disappeared and Jaune healed her. She doesn’t know if Cinder has managed to corrupt her maiden powers or it’s her semblance. All Weiss knows is that she wants it gone.

Above all, she just wants to see Cinder. She hates that feeling the most. It makes her feel wrong. She shouldn’t want to see Cinder. She can’t help it. It’s like she’s been living beside Cinder, experiencing life with her. Cinder resides within her in some ways and it terrifies Weiss.

Is it evil buried in her wound, whispering of dark desires and all the terrible ways to get them? Is it just a woman who feels just as much as Weiss?

Do Cinder's emotions change her?

“Cinder Fall, we’ve had run-ins with her before.” Ruby’s voice is as hard as any of them have heard.

“Cinder Fall.” Winter repeats the name, storing it away. Weiss knows she won’t forget it. Weiss controls her reaction carefully enough that even Winter would be impressed.

“It looks larger than the last time I saw it.” Blake murmurs, eyes shrouded and locked onto the scar. Weiss’ shoulders tense and she pulls away from Winter, putting her clothes on. She isn’t telling them that it is. That in a moment of desperation she reopened it, thinking that perhaps part of the spear remained inside her.

Winter loves Weiss more than anything, she knows this. Winter will kill Cinder.

Weiss thinks that’s why Winter loses the fight.

Winter is one of the best fighters in Remnant. She could take on Qrow. She’s Ironwood’s chosen maiden.

She shouldn’t have lost to Cinder, especially with Penny’s help. Yet, she did.

Weiss thinks it’s because Winter trains to eliminate emotions from fighting. She’s so used to isolating them and fighting without them, she got overwhelmed by fighting with them. She wanted to hurt Cinder, kill her, avenge Weiss, and in the end she lost.

Then everything went down.

No one expected Cinder to turn against Salem in the end.

No one except Weiss.

Weiss could feel the protective fury, possessiveness, and affection towards Emerald, Mercury, and Neo. The complicated hate-love and adoration for Salem snapped. Cinder wanted to prove herself to Salem, she wanted power like Weiss has never experienced.

Weiss does know something about trying to impress those who hurt you.

It’s a close thing, chance more than anything, but Cinder chooses her people over Salem.

Weiss wonders what exactly made up her mind, changed her loyalty. Does Cinder even have the concept of loyalty?

After Salem retreats and her forces are decimated, Atlas sets its sights on Cinder and her crew.

Cinder sits in a cell, guarded at all times.

They want information from her. Where her people went, where the lamp is, where Salem is, anything they can get from her. Cinder doesn’t give them anything but caustic remarks and fresh injuries if they underestimate her.

It leads to more than a few beatings. Which leads to Cinder's satisfaction, like she’s pleased to be proved right.

“Schnee, here to defend your sister’s honor?” Cinder taunts as Weiss walks into view. Weiss feels curiosity and hate swirling within Cinder. Weiss leans against the wall, facing Cinder’s cell. “Afraid to come too close to the peasantry?”

“Twelve guards have been dragged out of here in the past three days alone.” Weiss answers drolly.

Cinder’s head tilts and she leans forward, light falling on her face. Bruises line Cinder’s face and Weiss controls the urge to move closer. “So you are scared.”

“Cautious. Why haven’t you broken out yet?”

Cinder won’t break eye contact and Weiss returns the favor, not one to be cowed. “You think I can?”

“I know you can. You’re letting yourself remain in here, why?”

“Perhaps I just want to take advantage of such fine living quarters.” Weiss feels the hint of annoyance and knows Cinder doesn't like this inquiry.

Weiss wants to know if Cinder can feel her too, if that’s why she’s staying. Is she just stalling for her people? What’s Cinder’s plan?

“You hate Atlas.” Weiss knows she’s right. Cinder has felt uncomfortable and particularly angry since she’s gotten here. The rage flares whenever she talks to Ironwood or Winter, and now with Weiss.

“The only people who don’t hate Atlas are the ones who sit on top.” Cinder challenges and Weiss nods, conceding. Cinder blinks at her in surprise before she covers the expression up, it doesn’t matter, Weiss can still feel it thrum between them. Cinder’s recalculating, reconsider what she thinks of Weiss. Weiss isn’t still the girl she once was and she is aware of the corruption in Atlas. The way it holds Mantle beneath it is nothing short of evil, how fitting Jacques was one of the most prominent Atlesians.

“I would think you’re staying to destroy Atlas but your people have all left.”

“I hardly need their help.”

“It’s Ruby, isn’t it?” The bars of the cell explode and Cinder’s hand wraps around her throat. They explode through the side of the building and into a courtyard. Cinder’s rage is only tempered by a wild fear. The only time Weiss has ever felt Cinder this afraid was at some point when she was fighting Winter and when she saw Salem. Weiss wonders how Ruby would feel to know she inspires an instinctual fear in Cinder.

“I’m tired of your insolence.” Cinder seethes, pretending that it isn’t the thought of Ruby that sends her into such a state. Weiss knows. It only makes Cinder more interesting to Weiss. Cinder can sit in a cell and not feel a shred of fear at her fate but even a mention of Ruby’s name is enough to provoke her.

Weiss pulls Cinder’s hand off her throat and shoves her away. Cinder summons a sword and Weiss hesitantly draws her own. She doesn’t want to fight Cinder for a myriad of reasons. That ineffable something recoils at the thought and she knows she’ll be hard pressed to win. Cinder was able to take on Winter and Penny, she killed Pyrrha, Weiss is aware enough of her own strengths. Weiss is capable, she’s an incredibly strong huntress, but she won’t win a fight against Cinder.

It isn’t in her best interest to engage Cinder in a fight.

Cinder doesn’t give her time to talk her way out of it.

Weiss is quick to bring her rapier up when Cinder unexpectedly lashes out. It’s not entirely unexpected, Weiss gets a pull of intention right before Cinder strikes. Weiss needs to get Cinder off of her and establish some room so she can use her semblance. Cinder gets a hit against her arm and her aura quivers.

Weiss notes that she felt that intention as well but she was too caught up in thinking to let it guide her. She goes against all of her training and experience, she empties her mind and listens to that second heart. She lets Cinder guide her.

It changes the battle dramatically.

For every strike of Cinder’s, Weiss knows exactly when to back or side step. She blocks and retaliates without thought.

“Weiss!” Winter calls out, rushing to interrupt the fight.

“No.” Ironwood pulls Winter to a stop, hand tight around her arm. Weiss eyes lock onto the gesture. Ironwood’s voice holds command and Winter stops, just as she’s told. It causes a shudder to go up Weiss’ spine. Winter and her still haven’t talked about everything that happened when Salem attacked. RWBY’s relationship with Atlas is tentative at best, only not hostile since they need their help to get to Vacuo. None of them have forgotten how Ironwood was ready to abandon Mantle, how he sent Ace Ops after them, or how he shot Oscar.

Weiss has grown since she was a girl. She recognizes her privilege and knows that she was wrong for thinking about faunus how she had. She held a hate for anyone she deemed less than her and she deemed everyone less than her. She hated Ruby for a while. Weiss saw her as this incompetent fool who took her rightful place as team leader, she learned better. She hated all of her team at one point and all for preconceived notions. Notions that were put into her by Jacques and Atlas. They practically programmed her to despise anyone not Atlesian, not Schnee.

That’s the irony of it all. For all that she hates the Schnee name, for all that Winter and her clung together to survive their childhood, for all that she knew of the evils that exist within Atlas, she still thought them better.

She tries not to hate anyone anymore. Keep it objective. Take away that hate and replace it with something else. If they’re an enemy, they need to be taken down. Simple. She does hate Salem, she’ll say that much. Salem has ruined all their lives and Weiss knows the hate is well placed. Weiss fears misplacing her hate again, becoming that girl who was so lost she thought the only way to prove herself was on the backs of others.

Cinder is the opposite.

Cinder hates everyone and everything, the only exceptions are perhaps her people. Where Weiss tries to limit the people she hates, Cinder limits the people she can tolerate.

Weiss stumbles when Cinder’s fist and the handle of her sword smash into her face, if her aura wasn’t still intact that would have been bad. She got caught unaware.

Winter flinches and her body tenses, as if to help Weiss, but she stays by Ironwood’s side.

The hate builds.

To her surprise, Cinder doesn’t charge forward to press her advantage.

“You really hate him, don’t you?” Cinder chuckles, too close to be appropriate even if they are fighting. “Is it because your sister heels like a good dog?” Weiss’ jaw clenches and she wonders how much she looks like Winter in this moment, all restrained anger.

Weiss still hasn’t looked away from his hand restraining her sister.

“Let me ask you something, Schnee.” Cinder shifts closer and Weiss' attention breaks away from Ironwood and Winter to look into Cinder’s golden eye. “Do you think, even if I had a sword in your gut, she’d go against him to help you? I don’t. Let’s find out.”

Weiss intercepts Cinder’s sword and quickly deflects it, pressing forward to slash at Cinder’s stomach. With the space it gives Weiss, she uses her semblance. Cinder quickly dodges the large sword that tries to cut her in half and charges back towards Weiss, not wanting to give her space. Cinder laughs and Weiss feels the delighted challenge burn between them.

Weiss shifts between her dust searching for the right one. She should in theory use ice against Cinder. Her fingers stop on fire dust and Cinder’s grin grows.

The parameters of this battle have changed.

Ruby and the rest of their team joins the fray, coming to a stop near Winter. Weiss is close enough to hear Cinder’s breath catch, the fear overwhelming. Weiss shakes her head in Ruby’s direction, asking for her to let her handle this. Ruby nods but looks confused, hand twitching like she’ll jump in the moment Weiss is in danger. It warms Weiss’ heart.

“Think you can take me without your team?” Cinder goads and Weiss smirks, causing Cinder to falter.

“I’ve been doing it so far, haven’t I?” It’s an arrogant statement that makes Yang huff and Blake wince, as if she’s afraid she’s bitten off more than she could chew. In any other situation, Blake would be right.

This isn’t any situation.

Annoyance burns alongside interest. Cinder isn’t sure if she’s more annoyed at Weiss’ confidence or interested by the unexpected turn out.

Their fight is more like a dance, Weiss idly notes.

It reminds her of practicing with Winter when they were younger. Jacques would throw lavish balls and parties and of course they were expected to be present. They had to learn to dance and to do it well if they didn’t want his critique. It was never a good thing to get his attention. Disappointing him simply wasn’t an option, so they practiced dancing for hours.

Weiss sidesteps around her and Cinder twists in response, following her closely. Their swords meet with a clash, their bodies drawing closer. They don’t know the steps before they commit to them but they are undoubtedly following a silent beat. Weiss’ body pulls when Cinder pushes and they move, wrapping around one another. It’s a perfect harmony not likely to be seen anywhere else except the most expert of dancers. It’s a dangerous game for most, the intent to defeat the other leaves them both striking to hurt, but neither have fallen.

They won’t either, not at this pace. Weiss isn’t as good as Cinder yet but being able to tune into her moves leaves them equally matched.

“How do you think he got her so obedient? Think it’s anything like Jacques or do you think it’s more…intimate?” Cinder’s lips curl at the insinuation, revealing rows of sharp teeth. Rage boils over and Weiss lets her emotions get the better of her.

Her aura’s broken before she has time to consider the stupidity of following her anger and not Cinder’s emotions. Cinder’s sword cleaves straight down and buries itself into Weiss’ shoulder. Winter flinches forward and Ironwood’s hand tightens further, a low murmur of her sister’s name. Calling her to heel. His face is immovable, blank. Is he even a person anymore or has he killed everything inside?

Cinder pulls the blade out and Weiss shifts just as Cinder lunges, slashing at the back of Cinder’s knee. Her aura breaks and the wound goes deep, more or less making that leg useless.

A shoulder and knee wound, neither are in the best shape.

“Weiss!” Ruby shouts, moving forward. Weiss pins her with a glare, warning her that she won’t be interrupted.

“Am I the only one noticing how intense this fight is?” Yang mutters to Blake.

Cinder sends a spear by Weiss’ head and she dodged, only just. “It’s personal, isn’t it?” Cinder asks Weiss. A pleasure tingles along Weiss sense. Cinder likes the idea that Weiss is hung up on her. She is offly self-involved.

“So, you do remember.” Cinder hadn’t even mentioned the fact she nearly killed Weiss. She’s taunted her over Winter enough but not the obvious connection between them.

Does she know? Does she feel it too? Is she alone in this madness?

“How could I forget?” They’re circling, closer and closer. Blood trails in their wake, marking the steps to their dance of death. “You don’t forget the girl you impale.” The way Cinder’s voice practically purrs makes the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

Cinder is mere inches from her, neither are striking. Weiss tries not to think about how odd their battle is. Neither is using their semblance very much and Cinder has barely used her maiden abilities.

“You don’t forget being impaled, either.” Weiss replies but not hotly. It’s just a fact. She wouldn’t forget it. Cinder makes that impossible.

Cinder’s smirk grows once more, satisfaction alight in her eye. The sword is banished from Cinder’s hand and she leans forward, lips brushing against her ear. “It’s not Ruby I’m staying for, anymore.” It’s a threat, a promise. Weiss doesn’t know how she should feel about it. The same dilemma that’s been haunting her strikes her still. She shouldn’t want to see Cinder let alone have the woman stay out of some cruel interest but she can’t stand the thought of not being near Cinder.

Weiss doesn’t know what her face shows but she attempts to control her reaction. The others look perturbed at their interaction, unable to hear what’s been said, but don’t make a move to interrupt.

“Well, this has been fun.” Cinder’s eye rakes over her and Weiss feels her cheeks heat up. She knows Cinder is trying to unsettle her and it’s working. “I’m ready to go back to my cell now.” Cinder declares.

“You destroyed your cell.” Weiss says and it comes across almost too familiar. She adds a glare to hopefully make it more condemning.

“It had a terrible view.” Cinder replies easily, brushing against Weiss. Ironwood releases Winter’s arm and she moves forward with cuffs. Cinder shifts away from Winter and obnoxiously presses herself against Weiss. “I’d rather the other Schnee arrest me.”

Weiss isn’t sure what Cinder’s intentions are. She can feel the violence, interest, amusement, and a lick of her special brand of hate. Does it even count as hate if Cinder feels it for everyone? Doesn’t it lose its meaning? She knows by Cinder’s words and feelings that she’s intrigued by Weiss, perhaps even replacing Ruby with her as Cinder’s resident obsession. To what end? Does she want Weiss dead? She can feel that violence still thrumming so perhaps. Does she just want to mess with her head?

Does she feel it too? Does she know the complex feelings that Weiss has towards her and intends to use them?

“No.” Winter answers stonily.

“Then I won’t come peacefully.”

“Then we’ll incapacitate you.” Winter threatens.

“How many would I kill before you manage that? I’m sure that would make Atlas even more popular. Specialist Schnee let her pride kill countless innocents. Has a ring to it. Don’t you think, Weiss?” Weiss jolts at the use of her name but keeps her mouth shut. She isn’t humoring Cinder or angering Winter.

Winter’s free hand is clenched, knuckles white. She hands the cuffs over to Weiss, eyes trying to kill Cinder the whole time.

Cinder holds her hands up for Weiss. Weiss doesn’t look away from Cinder’s eye as she tightens the cuffs, even as she tightens it around that cursed Grimm arm.

Ironwood and Winter end up leading Cinder away back towards the cells. Just before she disappears, Cinder looks back at her.

“So, someone want to explain to me what that was?” Yang asks the team.

“Nothing important.” Weiss lies. Yang doesn’t look like she believes her but she doesn’t call her out.

She starts visiting Cinder regularly. She knows Ironwood knows but he isn’t stopping her. She doesn’t know what his game is.

She doesn’t know what Cinder’s game is either.

Cinder isn’t always there, not like before.

She breaks out regularly and no one can stop her. She disappears for a while, just long enough for an anxious tension to build between Weiss’s shoulders. She functions better knowing where a dangerous criminal is, that’s all.

Weiss doesn’t mention to anyone that she knows where Cinder goes. She feels the thread of friendly familiarity, proud leadership, and Weiss doesn’t say anything. When her team isn’t around, she broods over how terrible a huntress she is for keeping quiet.

Cinder always ends up strolling back into the prison as if she owns it. No guard lands a hit on her anymore, if they even try they leave as corpses. Everyone always knew Cinder was only a prisoner on her own terms and now she makes it obvious. The frantic obsession is gone. Before, all she wanted was Ruby and she was willing to let the guards get their licks in if it got her closer to her goal. Not anymore.

Now she snaps their necks and reduces them to charred meat if they so much as look in her direction and she does it all with a pleased expression.

She knows she can, she knows Weiss will still visit.

Weiss hates that confidence, the utter arrogance of Cinder thinking she understands her at all.

Weiss doesn’t go once, to prove a point. Days go by and she doesn’t go to the cells. Then a guard shoves Cinder and according to the new rules, she kills him and escapes.

Weiss feels off having not seen Cinder while she was there.

The first day when Cinder returns, she just grins as Weiss drags herself in.

Weiss has her limits and Cinder tests them in many ways. One of which proves nearly deadly.

Blake and Weiss are walking down the hall as the guards escort Cinder to her cell. Weiss feels cruel intent twist with curiosity and she knows something bad is about to happen.

Cinder breaks away from the guards, summoning a blade, and pulls Blake towards her. Blake’s hand is flying towards Gambol Shroud as Weiss slips to Myrtenaster. Weiss shoves Cinder away from Blake before she can get a solid hold. The heat burns her skin as she utilizes fire dust against Cinder. Cinder seemingly tears through the flames without being hurt let alone bothered.

Weiss is resolved. She switches to ice and lets whatever hope of being fixed slide away, she won’t let Blake get hurt because of her reluctance. She won’t let a team member suffer for an enemy’s sake.

She’ll kill Cinder to protect the people she cares about.

Cinder just relaxes once more, blade blinking out of existence. She hums, analyzing Weiss, before stepping back towards the guards.

Weiss knows she revealed something. A weakness? A strength? How will Cinder use it against her?

“You’re in a mood.” Cinder says as soon as Weiss comes into view.

“How’d you know?” Weiss asks, needing confirmation for an unasked question.

“You look like you came out of a meeting with Ironwood.” Weiss ignores how accurate that observation is.

She walks over and leans on the bars, facing Cinder. “We were discussing how to help Mantle.” The way Weiss scoffs at the word help is telling but she doesn’t care. Cinder already knows she hates Ironwood, it’s not like she’s giving Cinder insider information. Besides, she knows that’s one of the few things Cinder genuinely likes about her is her distaste for Ironwood.

“Let me guess, Winter agreed with him?” Weiss inhales sharply. Cinder only ever brings up Winter when she wants to mess with Weiss, draw out a reaction.

“Ruby didn’t.” Weiss returns the favor by mentioning the one person who makes Cinder’s heart race faster and her scowl to take place.

“I didn’t know we were drawing blood today. I would have dressed up.” Weiss’ eyes inadvertently drop to Cinder’s outfit. Cinder’s smirking when she looks back up.

“Do you feel it too?” Weiss’ asks her finally.

Cinder’s hand reaches through the bars, thumb brushes over her bottom lip. “I’ll feel whatever you want me too.” Weiss’ choking on a sadistic kind of satisfaction coming from Cinder. “What would daddy say about you feeling up an Atlesian criminal?” Cinder taunts, her lips twist into a smirk. She hates when Cinder tries to manipulate her, twisting her to and fro. Then again, that’s all Cinder really tries to do.

She still hasn’t answered whether or not she feels the bond and Weiss is this close to ending the woman. She needs a clear answer, not whatever Cinder is insinuating.

“Considering I locked him up, not much.” Weiss scoffs, finding herself in the maelstrom of alien emotions.

Cinder looks taken aback. Surprise, pride, growing interest. “How surprising.” Weiss pulls away from Cinder, not wanting her hands on her any longer. “So, why’d you come here?”

“I was frustrated.”

Something shifts in Cinder’s expression. “So you came to me?”

Misstep, big misstep. Weiss stands straight, away from the bars, and moves to leave. It’s too late, the knowing and triumphant look on Cinder’s face says as much.

It took Weiss a few weeks to place that particular emotion that Cinder gets. It’s like homesickness but not quite. Weiss doesn’t know if Cinder has a home but she knows she has people. Before Cinder started escaping, there was a bitter taste to it. It’s lighter now. It takes Weiss an embarrassingly long time to realize it’s happiness. The feeling of happiness within Cinder is so foreign it takes Weiss by surprise. She tries not to be unsettled by that fact.

She never really thought about what that means. What does that much unhappiness drive a person to do? To become?

Weiss thinks of the cruel smile on Salem’s face and the arm devouring Cinder and wonders what exactly got Cinder there.

Weiss never thought Cinder would take up so much of her thoughts.

Yang is passing Weiss notes at the meeting. Normally, Weiss would be appalled by Yang’s blatant disrespect. Considering it’s Ironwood talking, she opens it without even hiding what she’s doing. They’re leaving for Vacuo soon enough.

Think I could get Nora to “accidentally” destroy something to get us out of this?

Weiss’ lips tick up and she looks at Nora who’s scowling. She writes her answer, ignoring Ironwood’s direct gaze as he talks.

She looks like she’ll do it even if we don’t ask her.

Yang slid over what appeared to be a crude drawing of Nora bashing Ironwood’s head in with her hammer. This will go on Weiss’ fridge one day.

“As the last matter of business, we should eliminate Cinder Fall. She poses a threat, she’s killed several guards, and she’s offering no information. Next time she turns herself in, we need to execute her before she takes more lives.” Ironwood says.

The room is quiet for approximately a second before chaos erupts. Most of RWBY and JNR shoot to their feet, protests spilling over each other. Only Jaune, Ren, and her remain sitting. Eventually Ren stands beside Nora, showing his support but keeping quiet.

“She’s our prisoner!”

“That’s murder!”

“How could you suggest something like that?”

“She killed your friend, your teammate, she caused all of the chaos in Remnant. Killing her isn’t murder, it’s a mercy to the rest of the world. Isn’t that what Pyrrha Nikos strove for? Peace.”

“Don’t you dare say her name.” Jaune’s voice is soft but it cuts through the rest of their voices. “She would never stand for murder. Cinder is a monster and I will never forgive her but she helped us against Salem. We’d all probably be dead without her help, as much as I hate that we needed it. She hasn’t killed anyone but your guards. Guards who like you, abused their power. So no, you don’t get to ever use her name.”

Weiss cares for Jaune but most of the time she doesn’t like him very much. She owes him, she remembers her debts. He wouldn’t see it that way but she can’t see it any other way. Someone provides help and they must receive their dues. Despite this, he annoys her nearly every time he opens his mouth.

Even she has to respect the strength of his declaration.

“Regardless, we will execute her.” Ironwood dismisses Jaune’s words and Ren has to hold Nora back.

“Of course you’d be happy go murder! Not enough to subjugate a city, have to shoot a kid too. Some leader you are. We won’t let you just kill whoever you want.” Nora spits at him. They all grow darker, the fragile peace holding on by a thread. They don’t let Oscar anywhere near Atlas or Ironwood even if they have to play nice. Weiss is just counting down the days until they leave for Vacuo.

“That’s-” Winter starts to say but Ironwood cuts her off. Weiss’ hand tightens into a painful fist and Yang reaches out, loosening her fingers before they break skin. Winter’s eyes catch on the gesture.

“You don’t have the authority. She is a prisoner of Atlas and you’re just hunters. The military and the government decides on the next step and we’ve decided.”

“Judge, jury, and executioner.” Ruby looks livid. “You won’t receive any of our help with the remaining Grimm.”

“You’re a hunter, killing Grimm is your job. You’d let people die to prove a point?”

“Luckily, you have Ace Ops. They’ll just have to stop terrorizing Mantle and actually do their job.” Blake scoffs.

“Nothing to add?” Ironwood asks her, he hasn’t looked away from her this whole time. He’s looking for something and she refuses to give it to him.

“They already said everything. I’d get more out of a conversation with Jaune than with you, I won’t waste my breath.” Weiss examines her nails.

“Ouch.” Jaune replies.

“You have the conversational skills of an eleven year old.”

“I love you too.” Jaune grins, a little too genuine for Weiss. Seeing open displays of affection still makes her skin crawl. It’s too open. Her team members and Winter are some of the few she is comfortable being open near. Not Jaune and not in front of Ironwood.

“Die.” Weiss hisses. Yang’s eyebrow raises and Weiss blushes a bit. That’s not usually her reaction to Jaune. Usually.

“We’re leaving.” Ruby cuts in abruptly. RWBY and JNR follow her out, she doesn’t look back at the pair they leave.

Weiss is grateful when Yang starts making fun of Cardin. It takes away the tension but Weiss’ mind doesn’t stop running, she has a decision to make.

“You’re drifting, heiress.” Cinder’s fingers dig into her side, where the scar hides beneath her clothing. Somehow Cinder always ends up getting close to her, pressing how far Weiss will let her go.

“I don’t drift.” Weiss rebuts, knowing she’s been drifting.

“You’re not bored of me yet, are you?” Cinder’s voice is a little dangerous, like if Weiss doesn’t answer just right she’ll make sure Weiss can’t be bored.

“Not yet.” She answers simply, she can feel it irritates Cinder. Her mind is caught on the meeting with Ironwood. The hard planes of his face as he decides on execution, the way RWBY shot to their feet. If anyone should want Cinder’s death it’s RWBY and JNR. The thing is, they’re humans capable of emotions and know executing a prisoner because she won’t give information is morally dubious. Admittedly she’s killed a lot of guards but they always struck first. If a guard is that corrupt, the world’s better off without them.

Weiss feels her insides freeze up. Is that really something she thinks? Is killing ever okay? Is that just Cinder, or has she always thought that?

Weiss lets her head settle on the bars as the situation catches up to her, Cinder drops whatever threat was on the tip of her tongue. “What’s on your mind?”

“You need to escape, Cinder. Earlier than usual.” Weiss says lowly, hopefully quiet enough there’s no risk of being overheard.

“You’re telling me to escape?” Cinder’s emotions whirl with her words and Weiss sighs.

“You need to.”

Understanding. “He’s going to try and kill me?”

“I’m serious, go while you can.”

“I don’t run, Schnee. He couldn’t kill me if he tried.”

He could, he can, he will.

“Why do you always have to be like this? Why won’t you just escape?” Weiss growls and only just restrains the urge to stomp her feet.

“I want to see what you’ll do next.” Cinder says, walking away from Weiss and deeper into her cell.

Weiss wonders what she’ll do too.

Considering how different she’s been acting, she supposes forcibly breaking Cinder out of prison was to be expected.

She covers herself so the camera won’t catch her and brings a club. She hates the barbarism of blunt force but she just wants to knock the guards out, not kill them.

The guards drop as she goes and she rushes towards Cinder’s cell.

“Is this my daring rescue?” Weiss doesn’t answer as she opens the cell, not wanting her voice caught on the camera. Weiss gestures for Cinder to follow but she just shrugs. “I’m not worried about escaping.” Weiss hisses underneath her breath and grabs Cinder’s hand, forcibly pulling her along. She feels the other woman’s humor and tightens her grip.

They’re almost out of the base when Cinder attacks a guard.

Weiss still isn’t sure if her ease over Cinder killing guards who threaten her is her own feelings but she knows she only tolerates it since the guards attack first. This guard was just doing his job, he just tried to call in backup. Weiss could have immobilized him, Cinder could have as well. Cinder still crushes his head with her Grimm arm. She doesn’t even think about it. Weiss shudders at the wet sucking sound as Cinder’s arm retracts. Cinder shakes the hand, bits of gore flying off, as a dog would shake off water. It doesn’t even bother Cinder.

Weiss clenches her jaw, anger and disgust boiling in her gut. Why is she saving this cretin? Still, she can’t say anything until they are aware from the cameras.

The ship comes into view and Weiss lets out a sigh of relief, pulling Cinder along quicker.

“Well, this is cozy.” Cinder drawls with disdain, eyeing the grimy ship. She got something Cinder wouldn’t get caught in. It isn’t flashy or Atlesian, it’s utilitarian.

Weiss should have just let Ironwood kill her.

“Don’t get yourself arrested again, you’ll be killed on sight.” Weiss says harshly, turning to leave.

“Not so fast.” Cinder reaches out for her and Weiss slaps her hand away. Cinder’s mask is impeccable but Weiss feels the surge of surprise. “Oh, you’re angry at me now? I didn’t ask you to break me out, you did that all on your own.” There’s a tone to her voice that sets Weiss further on edge. She’s pleased. She thinks she has some hold on Weiss. Power, it always comes down to power for Cinder. Weiss knows people like her. She even understands the feeling. Power prevents people from being controlled, ruled over. Weiss has found her own power and liberated herself.

Cinder can never find enough power to feed the animal within. It’s a starving maw, consuming everything it comes in contact with.

Weiss rips her mask off so Cinder can see her eyes, her expression. She still doesn’t know if it’s two way, if Cinder even knows the bond exists, or if she can fix it. Weiss isn’t foolish enough to expose its existence if Cinder isn’t already aware. Cinder would only use it. “It’s the last thing I’ll ever do for you. If you come back, I won’t stop Ironwood. I’ll end you myself.”

“You’d kill me?” Cinder repeats it as if it’s the most hilarious idea in the world. She tries to step closer, push Weiss boundaries as she always does, but Weiss pushes her away again. Cinder scowls, anger building in her.

“I don’t need to. You’re already killing yourself.” Weiss casts a dirty look to Cinder’s Grimm arm, covers her face again, and turns to leave. Shame, violence, desperation, and indecision war within Cinder. She wants to hurt Weiss for her words but doesn’t at the same time.

“You can threaten me and run away. It means nothing. You kept visiting. You’re preoccupied with me, even Ironwood notices. You won’t kill me next time we meet. I can’t say that I won’t kill you.”

“I did, now I’m bored with you. Have fun dying, Cinder.” Weiss repeats Cinder’s own words back at her.

Cinder lets her go and flies away, angrier than she has been in months.

Weiss walks to her room and waits to see if she’s caught.

She isn’t.

Weiss tries to put Cinder and her invasive emotions out of her mind. She throws herself into training to avoid it all. Nights pass and dreams are filled with the crack of a skull and a thrill of victory.

As hard as she tries, Cinder still leaks into her life. Everyone is talking and Emerald gets brought up and next thing she knows, Weiss is defending her. She sees everyone surprised and worried looks and cuts herself off, leaving the room.

Stop thinking about her.

She hits harder than necessary during sparring and nearly shivers at the euphoria.

Stop thinking about her.

She stops herself from putting on an outfit she’d never wear.

Stop thinking about her.

She dreams of hunger that she’s never known.

Stop thinking about her.

The others have noticed something is different. They cast her questioning looks when she makes cutting remarks or is more violent than usual. They don’t question her. Weiss has always been prickly, they probably just think she’s reverting to how she used to be.

She doesn’t clarify because then she’d have to explain.

She’s terrified. She didn’t think so much of Cinder would slip across.

She mediates and tries to find control over herself.

She’s alone in the room when Cinder’s emotions spike.

Resolve, determination, abject fear.

All day, they’re stronger than usual.

The pain is minimal at first, near dinner. Weiss waved the others off when they invited her, Cinder’s anxiety getting to her. She’s glad she stayed behind.

The pain is hollow as it comes across the bond. It doesn’t feel like it would if Weiss were being hurt but Weiss knows how it would feel.

Cinder’s arm is practically screaming across the bond, maybe that’s just Cinder herself. Weiss can almost hear it, almost feel the way the vibrations would shake Weiss to her core.

It lasts for about a minute before it abates, a lingering deep pain remains.

Relief and more fear nearly drowns Weiss.

Weiss finds herself anxious after that day. She wonders if Cinder is okay and then curses herself in the same breath.

It arrives wrapped in Cinder’s cape. Weiss’ gut clenches before she even unwraps it. It has specks of blood dried on it and smells something awful. Weiss’ face is scrunched up as she delicately pulls at the cloth, as one might a dirty diaper. Weiss covers her mouth with the hand that was nowhere near the cape and heaves. Cinder sent Weiss her fucking Grimm arm.

She hates Cinder Fall so much.

Weiss peels the note free from the arm and if she keeps saying ew, she doesn’t think anyone could judge her.

You won’t ever be bored again.

Weiss didn’t need a stalker who sends her gorey gifts on top of everything else. No wonder Cinder has seemed so pleased with herself recently. Ruby owes her big time for taking Cinder off her hands.

She starts patrolling Mantle more, looking for the woman. She needs to end this before they leave for Vacuo. Their mission can’t be compromised by Cinder of all people.

She does as she did during her fight with Cinder, she lets the bond lead her. She finds a rundown house in Mantle but on the outskirts. She doesn’t even hesitate as her feet lead her up the porch, her hand pushing the door open. A hand lands on her chest and pushes her back, Emerald scowls at her. “How did you find us?” Instead of tensing up and readying for battle, she relaxes. She identifies the feeling of ease as Cinder’s rather than her own. It makes Emerald blink in surprise, expecting an attack.

“This house screams villain hang out.” Weiss answers.

“You walked right here, you didn’t even look at the houses around us.” Cinder says, standing by the window. Emerald begrudgingly moves aside and lets her in. Emerald shuts the door but doesn’t leave. Weiss feels her heart quicken at seeing Cinder again, hearing her voice again. She feels a measure of disgust being in this house with these people.

“Surprised?” Weiss asks even though she knows Cinder isn’t.

“What happened to never seeing me again? Killing me? Don’t tell me you lost your nerve.” Cinder purrs.

“Who says I’m not here to kill you? You did send me a severed arm.” Weiss challenges. She hears Emerald reach for her weapon and she reaches for her own.

“No need for that.” Cinder waves her hand. “You’re not here to kill me.”

“What is she here for?” Emerald asks.

“You can’t return gifts so I know it isn’t that.” There’s almost a threat in her tone.

“You can’t send me things, you can’t communicate with me.” Weiss is annoyed she has to clarify this.

“Mm. It’s not that we’re communicating, it’s that they might find out.”

“I don’t want anything to do with you.”

“And yet, here you are. Do you even know why you are?”

“To put a stop to this.”

“There’s no stopping this now. Not until I’m through with you. Your only out now is death.”

“You’re dangerously incompetent. You’ve failed almost every scheme. You peaked, Cinder, and it’s downhill from here.” Weiss snorts, not impressed by Cinder’s threat.

Sheer rage and indignation pours out from Cinder

Cinder prowls closer and Weiss is sure that she’s going to strike her. Cinder feels like she wants to. She doesn’t. Cinder just takes her wrist. “Your pulse is racing. Afraid?” Cinder looks down at her wrist and back up to her, trying to get into Weiss’ head. Trying to understand her. That’s what seals it for Weiss. There’s no way the bond is two-way. If it was, Cinder wouldn’t need to try so hard to understand what she’s feeling. “No, it’s not fear.” Cinder’s smirks, rubbing her thumb across Weiss’ wrist. It’s soft and careful, a startling difference from her usual sadism. Despite the rather gentleness of it, the same feelings arise from whenever Cinder hurts someone.

It’s worse than if Cinder did hurt her. Cinder knows it too.

There’s a storm of feelings within Weiss that she can’t sort through, they come and leave too quickly. She’s overwhelmed by her own emotions, they aren’t Cinder’s. Cinder’s are just a simple smug triumph. Cinder looks down at her with a knowing look. When did she get so tall? Weiss hates it. She feels like Cinder is seeing something that she doesn’t. Finally, Cinder steps back.

Weiss steps back as well. “Don’t interfere with my mission in Vacuo.”

“We’re on the same side now, remember?”

“We’ll never be on the same side.” Weiss walks backwards, eyes on Cinder. Cinder watches her every movement. Emerald had left at some point. Weiss opens the door. “I won’t tolerate anyone trying to control me again.”

She only realizes she admitted she’d allow contact after she says it. “I’m not your sister. I’m not trying to fill the role your father left.”

“You don’t know a thing about her.”

“Don’t I?”

Weiss doesn’t answer her.

Cinder doesn’t visit her, thankfully. She sends letters. They’re discreet enough that no one picks up on it.

They’re sometimes brief nothings.

I’d rather live with a Grimm then all three of them at once.

Sometimes Cinder tries to provoke her.

Think my new arm can crack skulls like the last? Because of course Cinder noticed how much that bothered her.

She sends monologues too. Long letters that go on and on, seemingly never ending and with the single minded goal to cause Weiss’ eyes to bleed reading it all.

Vaguely violent and threatening letters are quite frequent.

It’s odd having a sociopath pen pal but Weiss makes due.

She’s meditating when a body settles beside her. Weiss cracks an eye, closing it again when she sees Winter. They don’t say anything and just mediate together for several minutes.

“You’ve been acting differently.” Winter says.

Irritation pools in her stomach. She hates that this has become her immediate feeling near Winter recently. She knows some of it is Cinder’s feelings and her manipulations, she also knows it isn’t all Cinder.

It hurts. Winter has always been her person. Weiss can’t recall a time she didn’t look up to Winter. She loved Winter before she loved herself, as messed up as that may be. Jacques saw to it that Weiss would be molded how he wanted but people have to be destroyed before they’re rebuilt. Winter was part of rebuilding her, the real her. The parts untouched by Jacques and not tainted by their family name. The part that let her friends in and would die to protect them.

“I am a different person, Winter. A lot has happened.”

“Not enough for you to look at me like I am a stranger.” Weiss turns her head and meets Winter’s eyes.

“You aren’t a stranger to me.” Weiss feels a hint of offense. She’d never look at Winter like she is less than what she used to be, who she used to be. Their lives are changing but what she means to Weiss won’t.

“You aren’t engaging me in a meaningful conversation, you’re evading.” Winter calls her out. What is it Winter expects her to say?

“What exactly is it you want to discuss?”

“Are we lost to one another?” Weiss flinches at the question, reaching out for Winter. It’s very unlike Winter, the near vulnerability of the question.

“Of course not!”

“You’ll leave and you won’t come back.” That explains it, she’s moved by urgency. Fact or fiction, Weiss doesn’t know. What is true is that Winter believes she’s almost out of time and she’s scrambling for purchase.

“You left for the military and I left for Beacon. We’ve kept our relationship together despite not seeing each other before.” She means it to be reassuring but it comes out petulant. She somehow sounds how she used to be. She sounds like she’s unsure and just saying it as some desperate need to be heard, to assure and be reassured by Winter. She doesn’t sound like the person who knows beyond a doubt, Winter isn’t going anywhere in her heart.

“Before there was a chance of seeing each other.”

“He won’t let you come see me.” Weiss says blandly, already knowing the answer.

“He won’t send me on a mission near you and if I ask for time off, he’ll ask why.”

Weiss scoffs, pulling back from Winter. The reaction causes a look of sorrow from Winter. It wasn’t Weiss’ intention. It feels like she’s proving Winter’s anxieties, likely Ironwood’s manipulation, true.“Why did you trade Jacques for Ironwood? Why did you just find another way to enslave yourself?”

“He isn’t-” Weiss stands up, unable to swallow more Ironwood propaganda.

“I am leaving to finish my mission. We have to choose our paths, right? I choose freedom and I won’t find that here. Not with him. You will always be the most important person to me, I’d do anything for you. Anything but come back here. I’ll write to you, I’ll see you if you leave the city and his hold, and I’ll spend every day hoping you will escape.”

Winter mulls over the words, warring between proprietary and honesty.

“Winter, it doesn’t have to be a choice. You don’t need to choose.” The desperation comes back strong and it’s all her, past and present. She doesn’t know her worth to Winter in this moment. Once upon a time it wouldn’t have even been a question, Winter would choose her over anything and anyone. It’s the worst feeling in the world, worse than being impaled or realizing she’s bonded to Cinder, worrying that Winter won’t choose her.

“I believe in your path forward but I believe in mine as well. The military is capable of so much good.” It’s an easy answer, almost neutral. She believes in both, she says she isn’t choosing. Why does it feel like Weiss just lost then?

Weiss walks away from her sister and towards her team, ready to head off to Vacuo. She leaves part of her heart there.

They actually take a ship this time.

It doesn’t take long to lose it.

Nora gets cramped and overexcited and next thing they all knew, they were running out of a smoking ship.

“Oops.” Nora rubs the back of her neck as Jaune looks at her like a disappointed brother.

“Good job, team leader.” Weiss remarks and he pouts.

“In his defense, it’s Nora.” Oscar says, a smile growing the further they get from Atlas. He of all people is happy to be away from that city.
They have to travel on foot after that and it adds a lot of travel time.

She learns two things.

She hates the desert and her pen pal has taken to following them.

Notes and hints that Cinder is around follow. She’s found several dead animals in her tent and considers asking Ruby to fry Cinder everytime. Would it still work?

She hears the tent open and she leans up to see how Blake’s talk with Yang went only to see a golden eye. She opens her mouth and in the same movement Cinder practically tackles her, her hand covering Weiss’ mouth. Weiss doesn’t feel afraid because she knows Cinder doesn’t mean her harm, this time at least. Weiss licks her hand to get her to take if off and Cinder only looks unimpressed. Weiss bites the hand instead and Cinder pulls it away with a severe look.

“Blake could be back anytime!” Weiss hisses.

“Trust me, heiress, she isn’t coming back anytime soon.” Cinder replies.

“Oh. Good for them.” Weiss actually smiles, happy the two of them are finally figuring themselves out.

Mystified.

Weiss looks back at Cinder, surprised by that emotion. What does it even mean?

Weiss notices how Cinder’s basically laying on top of her and she shoves her off. Cinder goes willingly but doesn’t go far, Weiss can feel the heat coming off of her body. “Why are you here?”

“To distract you long enough for Neo to take all your food.” Cinder replies, lips lifting with mirth.

Weiss rolls her eyes. “Missed me?” Weiss isn’t sure where it comes from and she wishes she could shove it back down.

Cinder grin grows further, sharp enough to cut Weiss. “I have your notes to keep me sated.” The way Cinder says sated causes the hair on the back of Weiss’ neck to stand at attention. It’s a reminder that even when Cinder seems nice, when Weiss could almost like her, she isn’t nice. She’s intrigued by Weiss for her own reasons. She sits on the razor edge of murder and obsession. She’s obsessed with Weiss in some way and it keeps her alive but it’s a near thing. Only Cinder’s intrigue keeps her from attacking. Cinder being nice is just another way to get at Weiss, another way to claw beneath her surface and take whatever it is she’s here for.

“Neo isn’t actually taking our food, right?”

Cinder doesn’t answer. She rolls over, her body entirely too close for Weiss’ comfort. “Aren’t rich people supposed to have manners?” Cinder says with her eye closed, an arm tucked beneath her head.

“You couldn’t spot manners if you had both eyes.”

“I’ll remember that when I kill you, make it last a little longer. You could share your blanket.”

Weiss is absolutely not sharing her blanket. “You could have brought your own.”

“I don’t even have a pillow.” Cinder sighs.

Weiss pinches the bridge of her nose in irritation and gives Cinder an edge of the blanket, just wanting the encounter to be over. Cinder takes it and slides in, closer to Weiss. She puts her head on Weiss’ pillow. Weiss huffs at the complete invasion of her space.

She falls asleep eventually despite not thinking she could with Cinder next to her. She wakes up with her head tucked into Cinder’s neck and legs tangled together. She pulls away quickly and stumbles to her feet, away from Cinder. She sees it’s still dark out but the sun is slowly rising. She kicks Cinder’s leg and crosses her arm. “It’s almost morning. Get out before Blake sneaks back in.”

Cinder gets up and fixes her clothes, running a hand through her hair to sort it out. “You push your luck.”

“All you do is push me.”

“I know, I like it when I do it. Less when you do.” Cinder replies, stopping to slip her a packaged food. “I’d save that if I were you.” Cinder laughs lightly.

Neo took their food.

Everyone loses their mind when they find out their main food stores are gone.

There’s a lot that Weiss expected of Vacuo. To have an armful of an almost crying Velvet was not one of them. Luckily she moves onto Ruby quick enough for Weiss not to put her foot in her mouth.

“Schnee.” Coco greets, not moving to hug her or shake her hand.

“Adel.”

Coco smiles surprisingly softly. They weren’t incredibly close. “It’s good to see you, kid. After Beacon we weren’t really sure who all made it. Velvet has been too afraid to use your teams’ pictures, wasn’t sure she’d get a chance to refill them.”

How very Coco to hide her worry behind Velvet’s. “You look good.” She isn’t sure what she expected CFVY to look like if they ever saw each other again. Rougher, maybe? More worn down?

“I always look good.” Coco gives her an appraising look.

“You should be careful checking out girls before Velvet notices.”

Coco winces at her words. “Velvet is maybe something with Yatsu? I don’t know.” Weiss gives her a judging look. “If he makes her happy, who am I to get between them?”

“I already had to excommunicate Yang, and now you.”

“Excommunicated from what?” Nora asks, butting in.

“Nothing.” Weiss says quickly, elbowing Coco when she opens her mouth.

Weiss feels her before she sees her, a flash of dark hair in the crowd. She doesn’t alert the others.

Vacuo is terrible. It’s ugly, sandy, and miserable. The locals pride themselves on “surviving” the desert. Weiss doesn’t know how anyone could find pride in this terrible place, her own is flagging.

She’s utterly miserable and as bad luck would have it, so is Cinder. Usually she’d welcome Cinder suffering, maybe it would humble her for once, it just stacks on top of Weiss’ irritation. She has double the irritation which means double the lashing out. Her team are the only ones brave enough to keep her company.

“Can you pass my drink?” Weiss jolts in surprise, a string of curses under her breath. Yang laughs at her reaction.

“Can you warn someone before you sneak up on them?” Weiss growls.

Yang looks confused, laughter fading. “I’ve been standing here for a while.”

Weiss feels her stomach swoop. “I must have been zoned out.”

She doesn’t mention that she didn’t see Yang because she is in Cinder’s blind spot. She doesn’t even want to think it even as she knows it’s true.

It needs to stop but Cinder’s only strengthening her hold over Weiss. What’s Cinder’s endgame? Is it truly to kill Weiss?

How did she get herself in this situation?

“If you keep scowling you’ll get lines.” Coco interrupts Weiss’ brooding.

“What’s your excuse?” Weiss mutters.

“You’re still in a mood.” Coco says unimpressed.

“What do you want?”

“I’ll take your mind off whatever’s bothering you.”

Weiss shoots her a scalding look. “We’re not having sex.”

“Oh good, I’d hate for my bits to freeze off. I’m taking you out so you can hopefully work through whatever is bothering you without killing Ruby.” Coco isn’t giving her an inch and Weiss wonders how easy it would be to kill her without anyone noticing.

Uh, no. “Let’s go.” Thoughts of killing Coco, even if they aren’t that serious, are alarming. She doesn’t like how much Cinder is coming to influence her behavior.

Coco does an admirable job at taking Weiss’ mind off of the issue, especially considering Coco has no clue what the issue is.

What doesn’t help is that Cinder is in the club with them, at one point pressed against Weiss’ back while she gets a drink.

She’s buzzing all night and she doesn’t have a drink of alcohol.

There’s something in the bond that whole night that makes Weiss’ blood feels hot and her heart too quick. She lays in bed as her team sleeps just staring at the ceiling.

Somehow the bond has been getting stronger, Weiss can feel it. It’s visceral in a way that terrifies Weiss. She can practically feel Cinder in, laying on her back and staring at the ceiling just as Weiss is. She doesn’t know if it’s her imagination but something tells her it isn’t. It’s real. It’s like she could feel Cinder’s breath on her skin, even if they were hundreds of miles apart.

She isn’t, her mind whispers.

She’s in town, close by. She’s laying in bed. She isn’t sleeping either, despite the late hour. She’s too caught up in her emotions, all of which are lain bare for Weiss.

Weiss is so familiar with Cinder’s emotions now. They each have their own grooves and bends, unique in their own ways. Weiss fits in them all. Did the bond force its way in and the emotions formed around her? Did Weiss mold the emotions to her make them easier to rest in? Is there something intrinsic about Cinder that Weiss matches? That thought should make her blood run cool but there’s no cooling her down.

She’s all heat and fire.

If the bond was reciprocal, would Cinder feel cold? Would she fit into Weiss’ emotions with ease?

Weiss settles further in her mattress, indulging in thoughts she should banish. It gets harder when she doesn’t have to pretend for her team. She wraps herself in the familiar blanket of Cinder: triumph, hunger, anger, affection for her people, sadism, loneliness. She can almost feel Cinder’s heartbeat along with hers, a slightly slower pace than her own.

She has the strange urge to talk. To whisper to the dark and to be heard.

Would the dark answer back?

She looks over at the window, the only light in the room.

Is she existing beside Cinder, with her, or within her? Which would Cinder prefer?

To consume her, Weiss is sure. This is probably exactly what she wants. Her obsession is a fine tuned thing. She wants Weiss thinking about her, worrying about her, waiting for her, killed by her. Is Weiss’ fixation on Cinder just the repercussion of Cinder’s obsession with her?

Maybe it’s not her own feelings at all.

Liar, her mind supplies.
She doesn’t stop herself from thinking about Cinder, not at night. Not when there’s no one to see through her lies.

Then Cinder, like always, ruins everything.

RWBY finds the Summer Maiden. It should have been easy, she’s alive and not imprisoned. Just go to her house and tell her everything that’s going on. Except the Summer Maiden isn’t there. A note on familiar paper is.

“It says ‘come find me’ with a terrible drawing beside it.” Blake says blandly, nose quirking at the art. “She draws like a twelve year old.”

“Sooo we’re not sending Weiss after the crazy murderer who’s obsessed with her, right?” Ruby says, looking between them all.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” Yang shrugs.

“Yang!” Ruby admonishes.

“I just don’t understand.” Blake is twisting the note to and fro, trying to make sense of the drawing.

“Let me see it.” Weiss sighs, holding out her hand. Weiss sighs heavier when she looks at the note. “It’s a snowflake that appears to be burning alive while crying.”

“Highly disturbing if it didn’t look like a bloated marshmallow.” Blake says.

“We can’t let Weiss become a bloated marshmallow! I say we ambush her.” Ruby nods, agreeing with herself.

“I’m ready for a rematch with Neopolitan.” Yang punches her hands, an eager grin.

Weiss raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t you have to be saved last time you fought her?”

“You get mean when you don’t get what you want.” Yang points out, her ego taking a dent.

“You’ve always known this about me.”

Yang smiles dopily and throws her arm around her shoulders. “You’re damn right.”

Weiss doesn’t argue against the plan. She’s planning on just sneaking out that night and finding Cinder. She spends the time instead planning just how she’s going to kill Cinder for being an idiot.

Cinder practically guides Weiss to her, the arrogant ass.

Cinder opens the door to her and Weiss strides in and pushes Cinder’s shoulders. “You almost exposed us!” Weiss is so beyond angry and Cinder is just smirking like she always does. “They want to ambush you, how am I going to explain that I came tonight?” Weiss drags her hand over her face, exhausted from Cinder’s games.

“So concerned about your friend finding out about us. You wouldn’t happen to be ashamed of me, would you?” Cinder’s baiting her, Weiss can feel it. She still goes after her.

“Of course I am!” Weiss throws her hands up dramatically and Cinder takes a step closer to her.

“Are you ashamed of me, or that you want me?” Cinder challenges. Weiss opens her mouth to protest and then shuts it. Cinder’s smirk turns into a full blown smile and not a nice one. Cinder walks closer to her and Weiss backs up, knees knocking against Cinder’s desk chair. Cinder follows easily, her legs bracketing Weiss’. Her hands on the chair beside Weiss' head and Cinder towers over her.

Weiss’ hands fall to Cinder’s waist to steady her, a fully unnecessary action. It felt right to do. Weiss considers dropping her hands on principle but knows it would only make Cinder more arrogant.

Weiss wasn’t aware of it.

That undercurrent to all of Cinder’s emotions. Weiss knew Cinder was obsessed, hunting her more or less, but not why. Weiss didn’t think about that swirling sensation that guided all the other emotions. She didn’t think the other woman was attracted to her.

Suddenly all those times Cinder tested her boundaries makes so much more sense. She wasn’t just testing how far she could push Weiss, she was seeing how far Weiss would let her come. It’s one thing to push but an entirely different thing to be welcomed closer. Cinder’s hands on her body, swiping across her lips, skin against skin, heavy gazes and loaded words.

She didn’t think she was attracted to Cinder too.

She isn’t. Not like she’s been attracted to people in the past. This isn’t the hopefulness of a crush, the heartache of pining, the easy camaraderie of a friend who’s growing to mean more.

This is an axe against the door. No matter how hard she presses against that door, trying to keep Cinder out, that door is coming down. Cinder won’t stop chopping, and piece by piece, shard by shard, it’s coming down. Has Weiss been opening it this whole time?

Weiss doesn’t want to be attracted to her enemy, someone who is in lack of better words, a complete bastard. Attraction is hardly a matter of want. She’s always thought Cinder was attractive, even way back when she was just Emerald’s absent teammate. She could have buried it, pretended it never existed. Instead she had to be buried in Cinder’s feelings.

How can she let go of that attraction when she’s lost in a sea of the other woman?

She feels all those terrible things Cinder enjoys and thrives in and Weiss feels sick.

She feels the lack of happiness and joy and Weiss feels worried.

She feels Cinder’s attraction to her and it only stokes Weiss’ own existing attraction.

Everything about this situation makes it impossible for Weiss to hide from her own feelings. She gets drawn closer and closer to Cinder and she doesn’t know when it stops, when she’s gotten too close to the flame.

She can’t indulge. This isn’t the night, this isn’t unseen.

She thinks of her friends’ faces, their reactions, and her gut lurches. She couldn’t do that to them. She couldn’t bear for them to look at her like that.

“Little Schnee, still scared about her reputation.” Cinder muses, nearly coos. Weiss stands up and Cinder quickly wraps her legs around Weiss’ waist. Weiss wants to just drop the woman and storm out, it’d be rather fitting. She instead sets her on the desk, not wanting to drop her even with all the anger building within her.

How is it possible to detest and care for someone all at once?

“How forward.” Cinder drawls, trying to pull Weiss closer. Weiss forcibly unwraps Cinder’s legs and gives her a pointed look.

“This can’t, in any world, happen.” Weiss says firmly.

Cinder smiles again, hand tracing up Weiss' side. She scrapes against Weiss’ scar despite not seeing it, ever placing herself in a superior position. She gets it already. Cinder impaled her, good for her. She’d think Cinder would move on at some point. That goes against the whole stalking situation, Weiss supposes. Cinder’s hand lands on her chest, against her heart. “You don’t deny it, then.”

Weiss’ pulse is ramming against her throat, irritation and arousal in equal part. “Are you planning on using the maiden?”

“No. The maiden is playing cards with Neo, they get along. It’s disconcerting. She’s all yours. You can even have the lamp.” Cinder leans down between them and Weiss takes a hasty step back, much to Cinder’s amusement. She opens the top drawer and pulls out the lamp, dangling it by a finger. Weiss steps forward to grab it and Cinder grabs Weiss’ hand.

“Why are you giving me them?” Weiss asks her.

“I know you. I know you’ll hide behind the mission as an excuse. I’m not letting you have that. You’ll have to deal with this all on your own.” Cinder says it almost softly and all of Weiss’ warning bells are going off. Cinder presses her lips below Weiss’ ear, another lower on Weiss’ throat, before pulling back with a chuckle. “I look forward to your panic.”

Weiss swallows her pride and gets out of there as quick as she can. She definitely ignores Neo’s knowing and smug smirk. Cinder and Neo, do they know any other expression? Someone should knock their opinions of themselves down a peg. She’s not gonna do it. She has other things to do. Like being anywhere else.

The others of course question why she went alone, how she got the lamp too. Weiss is able to dissuade them, saying she didn’t want to put them at risk. Blake and Ruby lectured her on being a team but eventually let it go. Yang doesn’t say a thing, she just watched Weiss.

As soon as Blake and Ruby are gone the next morning, Yang lets into her. She rips into her far worse than Blake and Ruby had. She’s pissed that Weiss risked her safety but she’s even more pissed that Weiss is lying.

“What makes you think I’m lying?” Weiss scoffs, crossing her arms.

“We’ve been friends for years.” Yang scowls. Weiss so rarely sees the expression on Yang’s face that it surprises her. She used to be a hot head, still is sometimes, but she never really got that look on her face.

“Just let it go.” Weiss grits out, tired of being lectured and feeling caged.

“No! You’ve been acting different lately, Cinder’s been tracking you, and now you run off to face her? What is going on!”

“Just drop it!” Weiss raises her voice, voice laced with poison. Yang flinches back with a look of confusion and concern. Weiss catches her reflection in the mirror.

Mirror, mirror.

Why won’t you let me hide from me?

Weiss flinches back from the golden eyes she sees in the mirror. She looks towards Yang who still looks dumbfounded. Dread and horror crash into her and she’s running, far away from Yang.

“Weiss!”

She doesn’t stop running.

Becoming like Jacques has been one of her worst fears for as long as she can remember. She knows Winter has the same fear. They’d crawl into bed and talk through the night. Sometimes they’d talk about nothing consequential, sometimes they’d talk about heavier subjects.

Winter confided that she fears herself. Whenever she starts admonishing Weiss or Whitley, she’s afraid that she’s trying to control them. She doesn’t grab onto anyone, especially not her siblings, without proper warning and even then it’s a light touch. Schnees’ are good at eliminating touch, marking it as a weakness. Needing a hug is synonymous with Jacques disapproval.

Whitley went the other way. If he hid in Jacques’ shadow with enough dedication, maybe his attention wouldn’t be drawn towards Whitley.

Weiss fell between the two of them. She had some of Whitley’s survival tactics, early on that is. Those were all but extinguished by the Fall of Beacon. She also had Winter’s crippling fear of who she would become. Every action she takes she wonders if she’ll slowly twist into Jacques. She never thought she’d make a friend recoil, she never thought her eyes would flash gold as she did so.

She avoids her team for the next few days. She’s surprisingly successful.

Yang’s wounded and worried expression dogs after her.

“Need a light?” Cinder asks her, her self-satisfied smirk looking too close to a genuine smile for Weiss’ comfort. They’re not supposed to be so comfortable in each other’s presence. Is Cinder like Weiss? Is she just so totally and utterly tired of having to be something, having to act a certain way?

Weiss’ smile comes unbidden, Cinder’s hint of a smile grows as well. It’s an ugly things they have but it’s theirs.

Didn’t she think something similar once upon a time, about Jacques. He isn’t the best father but he’s her father nonetheless, didn’t she owe him loyalty? In some ways, isn’t Cinder worse?

She’s so tired of fighting it all and just lets Cinder stroll into her space, a questioning look in her eye. “Long day?”

Weiss huffs a bitter laugh. “Long week.”

“Is this about our last conversation? Did I get in your head?” Cinder’s hand traces along the side of her head as if to prove a point. Weiss feels the contentness in Cinder’s chest and knows she just wanted to touch Weiss. To prove she could? To test Weiss? No, Weiss thinks it was just a desire. A want. She does seem pleased to have gotten under Weiss’ skin but she can hardly expect Cinder to change.

“Partially.” Weiss admits and Cinder looks surprised at the admittance. “I’m also fighting with Yang, sort of.”

Cinder looks like she swallows several remarks about Yang and nods. “Still against this?” Cinder brushes the back of her fingers down Weiss’ face, tempting but not pushing.

“I should be.”

Weiss often dreams of wildfire engulfing her. It surrounds her on all sides and presses in, robbing her of air and hope. Weiss always thought it was odd. It doesn’t hurt. She supposes dreams never do but she doesn’t feel afraid as the fire takes her. She doesn’t scream awake of fear falling back to sleep. She feels content as she blinks out of existence.

That’s cause for its own worry, whatever it means for her.

That’s how kissing Cinder feels.

She should be terrified, kicking and screaming until she can get to safety. She isn’t safe. She has never let whatever it is between them fool Weiss. Cinder isn’t a safe person, she doesn’t have Weiss’ best interests at heart, Cinder only thinks of herself.

Yet, Weiss returns the kiss. She pulls Cinder closer. She lets the burn spread.

Affection pulses across the bond and Weiss gasps.

She never thought at anypoint during this odd courting, of death and love, that Cinder would ever feel that way towards her. It’s the same feeling she has towards Neo, Emerald, and Mercury but with a twist in her gut. She’s affectionate in whatever capacity Cinder is capable but also possessive, wanting to lead and control.

Cinder eventually pulls back but not far. Weiss isn’t sure when she wrapped her arms around Cinder, when she pulled her closer. She doesn’t question it for once, letting what is going to happen, happen.

“What are you going to do?” Weiss eventually asks.

“You? Surely you mean we.”

Cinder has the power here, that been the whole point, hasn’t it? Constantly destabilize Weiss, throw her off, drag out these unspeakable things.

Wanting Cinder is akin to asking to die.

Cinder’s affection, however it may exist, is caustic. It’s going to destroy her.

Is Cinder offering her a choice? There is none. Her own affection, her desire, outweighs the hate. All sense of self-preservation fled the moment she considered how soft Cinder’s skin would be, how her lips would feel pressed against Weiss’.

“You really don’t know the effect you have on me, do you?” Weiss almost does a double take at Cinder’s words.

“We’ll destroy each other.”

Cinder nods, lips brushing Weiss’ again. “We will.”

“You’re okay with that?”

Cinder’s emotions swell too large and too quick in her chest, causing Weiss to take a deep breath. “Taking you apart has its upsides. I do like tearing pretty things apart.” Cinder muses to herself.

“But?”

“But, it would destroy me in the process.” Cinder replies forlornly.

“Why?” Weiss asks, confused. Not that she isn’t glad Cinder is curbing her more murderous tendencies.

“You really don’t know?” Cinder looks so surprised, almost painfully so. “Regardless, we can’t do this and survive.”

Weiss' heart clenches at the thought but she knows it’s best, even kissing Cinder wasn’t wise. “What solution do you propose?”

“I’m going to leave Vacuo and…we’ll see where we wind up.” Cinder says it like her team is already packed up, like she decided it long ago.

“What will you do?”

“Find a way to survive this. Amass power. Kill Ruby. I haven’t quite decided.” Cinder’s lips quirk up, happiness at the thought of killing Ruby. Weiss rolls her eyes, knowing it’s not a good reaction to a real death threat.

“I’ll keep saving the world so you can exploit it.” Weiss says dryly.

Cinder laughs and Weiss feels the vibrations across the bond and from the other woman’s chest. “See, you already understand our partnership.”

Weiss knows they have to seperate at some point. They have to walk away from each other and see what happens. It’s the best outcome for Weiss, who thought Cinder had her death planned months ago. Still, it’s harder than Weiss thought it would be. After her realization she had no time with Cinder. It’s all over before it really began and Weiss knows logically it’s for the best, she just can’t cope with it emotionally.

She’s tired of parting ways with people who come to mean so much to her.

“Heiress.” Cinder backs away, lifting a hood over her head and slinking back into the shadows.

“Cinder.” It comes out softer than Weiss means it to and she sees Cinder falter.

Eventually, Cinder melds into the darkness and Weiss is left standing alone.

Weiss numbly walks through the streets, not paying attention to a specific direction.

She hears the familiar rumble of Bumblebee and stops walking, panic seizing her.

Yang stops beside her, helmet and shades on as per usual. She holds out a spare helmet and taking a hint, Weiss gets behind Yang. Yang doesn’t say anything, she just takes off. They don’t go back to their room, Yang instead drives to the outskirts of town. Weiss wraps her arms around Yang’s midsection and holds on, burying her face between Yang’s shoulder blades as she processes everything.

Eventually, Yang pulls over. It’s just outside town, not too far that they’d be in much danger. Yang brought them to a cliff side that looks out at the desert.

Yang’s silent in the cool night, so unlike her that Weiss can’t help but stare. “Is it worth it?” Yang asks quietly, sincere. There’s no humor in her voice, no joke being set up.

Weiss looks away quickly, clearing her throat when it feels thick. “What?”

“Weiss…” Yang sighs, disappointed. Weiss isn’t sure she’s ever heard Yang really disappointed in her. “I know, okay? Just be honest. I’m here for you, I’m not going to judge you.” Weiss can’t help the tears that well up at that and she looks away. Yang pulls Weiss’ face back towards her, brushing off her tears with a too kind smile. Yang can’t possibly know if she’s still looking at Weiss like that. “I’m sorry it took me so long to notice, I’ve been too caught up in myself.” Weiss shakes her head and next thing she knows she’s buried in a too tight hug that only Yang gives.

She cries for what feels like a lifetime and Yang just holds onto her, murmuring soft reassuring words. At some point she must have spoken about her fears of Yang hating her because Yang keeps telling her how much she loves Weiss.

Weiss eventually calms down, feeling embarrassed. She doesn’t cry in front of people, not often. She only really feels comfortable crying in front of Winter. “Don’t hide from me, Schnee. I brought a shovel in case I gotta dig you out.” Yang pokes Weiss' side and she pulls away with a small smile at Yang’s weak attempt at cheering her up.

They stand together for a moment and stare at the desert, peaceful for once. “I don’t know if it’s worth it.” Weiss says eventually, Yang nods encouragingly. “I don’t know when it really started.” Weiss tilts her head back with a sigh, looking at the moon. “If I told you-”

“I’m not telling anyone, Weiss. Best friend privilege.”

“Blake’s your best friend, or Ruby…” Weiss refutes.

“Blake’s a bit more than a best friend, although she is that too, and Ruby’s my sister. Girlfriend and sister leaves me room for a whole best friend.”

“Blake’s your what!” Weiss shouts, turning to Yang with a beaming smile.

Yang blushes and scratches the back of her neck awkwardly. “Yeah so, I bit the bullet and just told her? Like you suggested so I am aware that you told me so. She kissed me, which, wow. Apparently she thought we were dating or that I was into you?” Yang’s face twists in confusion and Weiss smacks her shoulder with a laugh.

“Because you flirt with me constantly in front of her, you absolute buffoon.”

Yang somehow blushes darker. “That’s obviously friend flirting! Completely platonic.”

Weiss somehow got Remnant’s biggest idiot as her best friend. “You got into a weird friends-but-girlfriends phase with Blake, neither of you communicating what you really are to each other, and then flirted in front of her. You’re just lucky she took you.”

Yang holds a hand to her heart. “You think she could do better than me?”

Weiss gives her a condemning look. “I think she could go out onto the street, spin in a circle, and the first person she’d see would be better.”

“You get mean when you’re avoiding sharing your feelings.” Weiss scowls and looks away.

“It’s complicated. You know when I was impaled?”

It’s Yang’s turn to look unimpressed. “No, I often forget the most terrifying moments of my life.”

“Well! It didn’t just end there? Afterwards I could feel her. Her emotions and feelings. At first I just wanted her to fix it but then…” Then she got drawn into Cinder’s orbit and now she’ll never be able to get out. Then she felt the addictive quality that Cinder’s rare moments of happiness offer. Then she started thinking about Cinder as a person. Then the overwhelming tide of attraction took over every ounce of sense. “I know what she is, who she is. I haven’t forgotten all the terrible things she’s done. I won’t ever forget Pyrrha. I just-” She just doesn’t know how to not care about Cinder anymore.

“I think the only thing worse than hating someone, is loving someone you hate.” Yang says quietly.

The bond changes over the years.

It calms and becomes less devastating. It doesn’t try to consume Weiss at every given moment, letting her cherish what exists without terrifying her half to death.

Cinder changes.

She doesn’t miraculously become a good person. Weiss can still feel that sadism and anger flow through her, the thrill when Cinder kills someone. She does become a better person.

She kills less, far less. She becomes less bitter and angry over the years, settling into the companionship of her people.

Weiss is even able to name which of them inspires the happy feelings in Cinder. Mercury, Weiss associates with the slow trickle of affection. Emerald, the steady stream that never seems to end. Neo, the explosive bursts of joy. Others come along but Weiss has no name and no face to associate them with. Eventually she realizes Cinder has a full blown crew and is likely a crime lord or something. Maybe she’s a bandit like Raven. She’d hate the comparison. Weiss still has the note Cinder wrote about Raven. Technically, she still has all of Cinder’s notes.

How utterly impractical to use actual notes instead of messaging each other.

The note was cramped handwriting from the very beginning, like Cinder knew she’d need all the space she could get to rant about Raven.

Weiss' reply, equally long, was what inspired Cinder to crawl into her tent that night in the desert.

Weiss doesn’t feel guilty for hating Raven, she feels like it’s her duty as Yang’s best friend. Hate her shitty mom even if Yang has complicated feelings about her. She is just careful never to bring Raven up near Yang.

“You’re going to Vale?” Winter asks, breaking Weiss out of her reverie. Winter’s legs and pressed against her own as they lay side by side reading. Weiss is reading a report of activity in Vale and Winter’s reviewing her inbox. Winter’s inbox seems endless to Weiss, someone always needing something.

“Yeah. They have a large Grimm they don’t want to send any of Beacon’s students after.”

Winter’s eyebrow raises. “The teachers can’t kill it?”

“I think they’re going to try and get me to clean up a few and just want to get me there. I don’t mind, I haven’t been back to Beacon in a while.”

“Don’t let them take advantage of you.” Winter warns her.

“I know.” Weiss doesn’t roll her eyes but the urge is there, she’s hardly an inexperienced kid anymore.

“Want to spar before you go?” Winter offers, standing up.

“So I can lose?” Weiss complains but takes Winter’s hand, standing up as well. Weiss will never say no to more time or more training with Winter.

“You’re getting better.” Winter points out, as if she hasn’t been saying that for years. Weiss gives her a look that says as much and Winter almost smiles.
“How long do you have before Robyn needs you back?” Weiss asks, stepping away from Winter and getting her feet in position.

“She gave me the week.”

Winter wins, again.

Weiss might be a sore loser.

Weiss loves returning to Beacon. For as many bad memories exist, there’s more happy memories.

She stays longer than she means to. One Grimm becomes four becomes twenty and there’s rumors she is going to be stationed there. She doesn’t much mind anymore.

Her family: Winter, RWBY, and JNR all keep in contact. Some of them are near each other while others use messaging to keep in contact. CFVY is stationed near Vale, Velvet even took a teaching position at Beacon, so Weiss gets closer to them. She’s relatively happy.

She doesn’t think about that wistful part of her, the part that longs for the other half of her bond.

She doesn’t think about it until five months after being sent to Vale she feels the familiar rush of emotions nearby.

Surprise, elation, confidence, longing, desire.

Weiss’ head snaps up and she looks right in the direction Cinder is standing, watching her eat at a cafe. Cinder’s surprise redoubles at how Weiss found her so quickly. Weiss smiles easily, softly. The worry and hate and anger faded over the years. She can’t forget what Cinder did, who she is, but she’s more comfortable with Cinder. As much as she thought Cinder’s emotions molded around her once, she didn’t fully understand it. Now, she feels like she’s lived in part of Cinder’s soul for years. It’s an odd feeling but she feels confident she understands Cinder.

Cinder walks forward, her face carefully blank but her feelings anything but controlled. She slides into the seat in front of Weiss and the waitress brings another menu. Weiss thanks her and she walks away, leaving Weiss and Cinder alone for the first time in years.

“What do you reccomend?” Cinder asks without picking up the menu.

Skipping lunch, Weiss almost says. “The omelet.”
Cinder’s face twists. “Only you would recommend an omelet.”

“Because I’m a Schnee?” Banter with Cinder, she can handle this.

“Because you have the worst taste.” Cinder taunts, instead pulling Weiss’ plate towards her. She takes Weiss’ fork as well and digs into her food. Weiss should be offended but she just sighs fondly.

“I suppose that explains us.”

Cinder nods solemnly. “I wanted to see how many strips I could cut you into and you thought prison visits were a good idea.”

“You cuddled me in a tent.” Weiss shoots back.

Cinder near winces and Weiss laughs. “Tell no one that.” Weiss would be threatened if it were a few years earlier.

Cinder pushes the now empty plate away from her and Weiss gives her a look. Cinder puts money on the table and stands, waiting for Weiss to join her. Weiss follows Cinder down the street, their arms brushing throughout the walk.

“How’ve you been?” Weiss asks eventually.

Cinder looks at her and Weiss can practically see the gears moving in her head. Cinder eventually pulls them to a stop. “Do you remember that time, at the cell? You asked me if I felt it too. I thought you were just trying to seduce me but then you seemed clueless when I talked about our attraction. It took me a while to remember your question. Took even longer to figure it out.”

“What?” The question sounds breathless and Weiss is sure it is. She isn’t sure she’ll manage breathing until Cinder finishes her thought.

“Ask me again.” Cinder requests, stepping closer to Weiss.

“Do you feel it too?” Escapes Weiss in a rush.

Instead of her thumb along Weiss’ lip, Cinder captures them with her own. It’s soft, possessive, and overwhelming. It’s all the best and worst of Cinder. The same triumphant gloating sensation prickles around the bond but it's less about sadism and more about want.

“This whole time?” Weiss asks, heart in her throat.

“No, just after you broke me out. I was confused at first. I honestly had planned to kill you until then.”

“How romantic.” Weiss says blandly.

“I think so. I didn’t kill you, after all.” Cinder points out. Weiss isn’t giving her credit for not killing her. “It drives the others mad. Just last month I killed a traitor after only an hour of torture, Emerald looked disgusted by me for days.” Weiss doesn’t want to investigate if that’s a joke. Somehow knowing Cinder thinks only an hour of torture isn’t enough might make Weiss question all of her life decisions.

“Where are you staying, these days?”

Cinder warms at the suggestion, the pleased feeling bouncing between the bond. A bond they both feel, both acknowledge, and both want to seek out further. “Weiss Schnee, propositioning the most dangerous criminal in Remnant.”

“Weiss Schnee, about to walk away from the biggest asshole in Remnant.” Cinder takes the hint with a rough laugh, like she still isn’t really used to the sound, and drags Weiss away.

They still have obstacles and trauma between them. Pyrrha forever on Weiss’ consciousness. Weiss decides they can deal with it as it comes. For now, she wants to explore what is.

“Come on then, stay.” Cinder looks softer than Weiss has ever seen her and she’s tempted. Cinder’s eye even flashes blue for a brief moment, a tell Weiss is more than happy to exploit. Yang helped her get her emotions under control and it’s harder to get Weiss’ eyes to turn gold. She knows Cinder will never let her live it down whenever she first sees it.

“I know what it’s like. One flash of a different eye color and suddenly everyone thinks they know you. It leaves you exposed.” Yang said easily, as if it didn’t still bother her.

Her twin hearts call out to stay, demand to remain with Cinder. That’s not who Weiss is. She’ll never sacrifice who she is for someone else, not again.

“I want to.” Weiss leans over, covers pooling around their hips. “I can’t.” Weiss almost apologizes but in the same vein, she won’t apologize for who she is. Cold steel brushes against her cheek, a look of exasperated fondness.

“I’ll take the reins back up as RWBY’s number one enemy. You won’t be able to get away if I’m constantly trying to kill them.” Cinder threatens, half seriously.

Weiss isn’t sure if Yang was right, that night in the desert. She doesn’t know if she loves let alone hates Cinder.

Exasperated fondness, maybe that is enough.