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Star-Crossed

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How long had it been since Blake felt so excited and nervous at the same time?  The last time she remembered anything remotely similar was her graduation from the Academy - the day she became an ISA officer.  The ceremony included a graduating class in the hundreds along with their families and friends.  They were presented as a group and hailed as the future of security across the system.

Today was even better than that day.  And, even though it had only just begun, she knew she would treasure its memory for the rest of her life.

“Look who’s here,” the receptionist greeted her as soon as she walked through the doors.  “Bright and early too.”

“Wasn’t going to be a minute late,” she replied before nodding past the lobby.  “Is she ready?”

“See for yourself.”  

When the woman waved towards the security checkpoint, Blake headed that way with growing anticipation.  The security process was tedious, as usual, but today she emptied her pockets and passed through the scanner without complaint.

“We’ll miss seeing you around every day,” the security guard told her while handing over a visitor’s badge.

“But I won’t miss being here,” she teased in return, much to his amusement.  

Even though she accepted the badge, she didn’t bother putting it on while walking to the door at the end of the hall.  The guards standing there knew her well by now, having pried her for details of her time with the Blackguards many times.  After glancing at each other, they smiled, opened the door, and motioned her inside.

“Congratulations,” one of them murmured as she grinned at them and hurried into the room beyond.

Every day for the past twelve months, she’d followed the same routine.  Through the lobby, through security, into the large, open visitation room.  The benches, chairs, and vending machines were the same.  The armed guards stationed at every exit were the same.  The low drone of inmates speaking to their friends and family members was the same.  Everything was the same.  But today...everything was about to change.

Rather than sitting alone while waiting for Blake to join her, Yang was perched on top of one of the tables chatting with another inmate.  But today, she was no longer one of them.  That was made all the more apparent by her casual attire, which replaced the soft orange, brown, or green jumpsuits the reformatory alternated between. 

The moment Yang caught sight of Blake, she broke into one of those bright, warm smiles that melted Blake’s heart each time.  Then she stood up, glanced at the nearby guard, who gave her a subtle nod and even subtler smile, and walked over without supervision.  

She was free.

Seconds later, Blake threw her arms around Yang’s neck while Yang’s arm wrapped around her waist.  She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t get too emotional, but tears stung her eyes while she burrowed her face in Yang’s shoulder and ran her fingers through Yang’s hair.

“Hey there,” Yang whispered, prompting Blake to lean away and look into cheerful lilac eyes.

“Hey there,” she replied before running her fingers around Yang’s ear and pulling her into a kiss.  

After suffering through months and months of little-to-no intimacy, she couldn’t wait any longer.  She had to feel Yang’s lips, as soft, warm, and gentle as ever, and confirm what she’d suspected for quite some time now - that this forced separation had only brought them closer than ever.

When whistles and cheers reached their ears, Yang pulled away and laughed when she saw the blush heating Blake’s cheeks.

“Wanna get outta here?” she asked while extending her hand.

“Pretty sure that’s your best idea yet.”  

Accepting Yang’s hand, Blake smiled and turned back the way she just came.  She probably wouldn’t stop smiling anytime soon, and that untouchable happiness only grew when they reached the exit and the guards calmly opened the doors for them to leave.

Before leaving the visitation room, however, Yang took a deep breath, turned around, and waved to the people she was leaving behind.  Many of them clapped, whistled, or cheered for her release - the show of friendship and camaraderie putting a smile on her lips as she stepped through the doorway.

To Blake, walking out of the reformatory was the same as walking out of any building, except today it didn’t make her heart ache while leaving Yang behind.  To Yang...well, she’d never left the building at all, outside of using the fenced recreational area in back.

“Congratulations,” Blake whispered, squeezing Yang’s hand and smiling up at her.

“I can’t believe it’s actually happening.”  

Yang’s wide eyes said as much, and she looked in all directions before being waved down by the receptionist.

“Don’t forget your things.”  

The woman handed over a bag filled with the few belongings Yang had accumulated, and Yang smiled while accepting it.

“Thank you.”

“No need to thank me,” the woman replied with a smile and wave.  “Now get outta here.”

More than ready to heed the advice, Yang grinned at Blake before pulling her out the doors leading to the large parking lot outside.  Icion’s capital loomed in the distance, but the immediate vicinity consisted of low-rises, forests, and plenty of open space.  Blake had yet to get used to the trees with flaming-red leaves, which always reminded her of Yang.  Today, however, Yang’s eyes were bright and lilac.

“So nice to be outside,” she sighed before turning towards Blake.  “Even nicer to be out here with you.”

Feeling the kiss coming, Blake eagerly tilted her chin up to accept it.  The sidewalk in front of the reformatory might be the furthest thing from romantic, but that didn’t matter to either of them.  After months of supervised interactions and no privacy to speak of, they could finally do what they wanted, when they wanted.

When Yang’s hand trailed down Blake’s side and a corresponding fire lit in her chest, she ended the kiss and backed away with a growing blush.  Maybe they couldn’t do whatever they wanted, especially with plenty of cameras and people around to see them.

“Hold that thought?”

“I’ve been holding it for a year,” Yang replied with a wink.  “I think I can manage a little longer.”

“It won’t be long, promise.”  

Once Yang nodded, Blake stared for a few seconds before turning away to escape the butterflies in her chest.  After waiting so long for this moment, she couldn’t escape how surreal it felt.  Yang was free.  She’d served her time, stayed on her best behavior, and earned an early release.

Now, Blake wished she could teleport them home.  Unfortunately, they would have to get home the long way.

“That’s our transport.”  

Nodding towards the vehicle waiting for them, she pulled Yang that way.  She didn’t want to rush, but she also didn’t want to dawdle at the reformatory when they had far better places to be...and better things to do.

“Too bad Sun’s not working today...” Yang mused while getting into the vehicle.  After ducking in right after, Blake nodded to the driver and sat beside Yang with a scoff.

“Like you haven’t seen enough of him already.” 

“You’re cute when you’re jealous.”

“He’s only gotten to spend eight hours a day with you for the past twelve months - why would I be jealous?”  

Any hope Blake had of maintaining the surly pretense melted the instant Yang laughed and leaned into her side.

“You realize we didn’t spend all that time together, right?  Besides, there was...competition...for his attention.”  When Blake raised one brow, Yang nodded.  “Seriously.  It’s the perfect job for him - hundreds of girls clamoring for his attention.  And he’s a pro at getting them to do what he wants without being...you know...creepy.”

Sun did seem to enjoy his new job, and he’d provided plenty of updates to Blake over the past year.  More importantly, she’d counted on him for details that Yang left out.

“That reminds me…” Blake mused while the transport slid onto the main road and left the reformatory behind.  “Now that we’re never going back, you can tell me which ones tried to sleep with you.” 

Yang laughed at the ongoing joke that Blake only took half-seriously.  The sound was like music to her ears.

“Uh, no one.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously!” 

“Are you lying?”  

Blake squinted her eyes as if she could see through the lie, but Yang laughed again and slid closer to her side.

“I’m serious,” Yang said while setting her hand on Blake’s thigh.  “And I don’t blame them for staying away - they’re all scared of you.” 

This time, it was Blake’s turn to laugh.  

“Why would they be scared of me?” 

“Why wouldn’t they be?  I told them all about how you took down Cinder and Adam single-handedly.” 

“That’s not entirely true...”

“Adam’s limping around a tiny jail cell for the rest of his life,” Yang pointed out.  “And Cinder’s never talking again, which the entire universe should be celebrating as far as I’m concerned.”

“Let’s not talk about them today,” Blake said, pressing a finger to Yang’s lips to keep that topic away from their perfect day.  Adam and Cinder were spending the rest of their lives in maximum security cells - that was all that mattered to her right now. 

“You want me to talk about how gorgeous you are instead?”

From the question, the look in Yang’s eyes, and the way she ran her hand up and down Blake’s thigh, Blake wished that they were alone right now.  Unfortunately, they would have to wait until they got home - and a little longer still.

“I hope you don’t mind…but some people wanted to see you.  Just a small get together, and they swore not to stay long.”

“As long as it’s not your parents, I think I’ll survive.”  When Blake remained playfully silent, Yang sat forward and looked her in the eyes.  “It’s not your parents, right?  You can’t let me meet your parents right now - I have months of prison to wash off!”

“Not them,” Blake finally admitted, smiling at Yang’s visible relief.  “But you’ll have to meet them eventually; I’ve told them a lot about you.  Also...Sun might have told them how you ‘stabbed’ him and threw him off a cliff.”  When Yang grimaced at the story, Blake patted her knee.  “Sorry.  I left him alone for two seconds and that’s what he brought up.”

“They’re going to hate me…” Yang groaned.  When she put her head in her hand though, Blake laughed and gently lifted her chin.

“How can they hate the person who saved my life?” she asked, and Yang finally smiled - the expression cheerful enough to lift Blake’s heart to new highs.

“Can you keep reminding them of that?”

“I plan on it.”

When Yang settled back into her side, Blake smiled and glanced at the changing scenery outside.  The red forests dwindled to nothing more than smatterings of red trees, and more and more buildings sprang up in between.  

Since she went straight from her parent’s house to ISA to the Blackguards, she’d never had an apartment of her own.  Thankfully, Ruby and Weiss were more than willing to help her find and decorate a space while waiting for Yang’s release.  Their combined efforts had resulted in a comfortable apartment that she hoped Yang would be happy to call home.  Or, at least, home for as long as they decided to stay on Icion.

“It’s right there.”  

Blake pointed to the apartment building up ahead, and Yang shifted her attention outside the window. 

“I just got really nervous…” 

“You have nothing to be nervous about,” Blake assured her, squeezing her leg as the transport slid to a stop in front of a tall building in one of the ‘new’ neighborhoods.  

“That’s what you say now…” Yang whispered while accepting Blake’s hand and getting out of the vehicle.  

It didn’t escape Blake’s amusement that Yang - one of the strongest, most courageous people she’d ever met - was nervous about seeing the same people she’d seen religiously over the past twelve months.  Or maybe something else caused her nerves.  The idea of having a new home?  Or having a new home with Blake?

“If this is too fast, you’d tell me, right?”

Yang’s look of disbelief made her feel better in no time.

“You think I’m nervous about being here with you?”  When Blake shrugged, Yang shook her head.  “No way.  I’m worried that...I don’t know, that I’ve forgotten how to be a normal person.”

“Hate to break it to you,” Blake said while pulling Yang into the lift and pressing the button for the fourth floor.  “But you’ve never been normal.”

“Because I’m different?”

That word, which once scared her, now meant more to her than she could ever describe.

“You are different,” she agreed, tugging Yang into the hall.  “And that’s a wonderful thing.”

Yang’s smile assured her that they were ready for this next step in their relationship, and she wasted no time leading them to the door of their new apartment.  Stopping just outside, she couldn’t help but smile while watching Yang look over the door, the doorframe, the keypad, and every other detail she could find.  Once she’d committed everything to memory, her gaze landed on Blake, and a smile pulled at her lips.

“Is this it?”

“It is.  Are you ready?”

Considering the question seriously, Yang stared at the door for several long seconds before taking a deep breath and nodding.

“Yes.  More than ready.”  

Smiling at the response, Blake opened the door and motioned Yang inside.  As soon as she stepped through the doorway and saw the room beyond, she froze.

“Welcome home!” Ruby shouted while popping up from behind the sofa.

“Ruby…” Weiss softly scolded her while standing up.  “We were supposed to wait for her to pass the table, remember?”

“Oh, crap.  I got too excited.”

“But welcome home!” Sun added before pointing at the ‘welcome home’ banner hanging over the living room.  “I hung that, by the way.”

“Yes, ‘you’ did,” Weiss replied with a roll of her eyes.

“You guys…”  

Still holding Blake’s hand, as if she wanted physical support entering this new chapter of her life, Yang took several more steps into the apartment before stopping.  Looking at the decorations, and the furniture, and everything she’d only seen in pictures before, her eyes filled with emotion.

“Thank you…” she whispered while Ruby rushed over for a hug.

“It’s not every day my sister gets out of prison!”

“But it’s hopefully the last time your sister gets out of prison,” Yang replied with a laugh before her gaze landed on the cake sitting on the table.  “Is that…a cake with prison bars on it?”

“So when you cut it, it’s like breaking out of prison!” Sun explained.  “Me ‘n the guys thought of it - isn’t it cool?”

After exchanging a look with Blake, who’d felt too indebted to deny Sun’s one request, Yang laughed.

“‘Cool’ is one way of putting it…”

“You should try it now!” Ruby suggested, even going so far as to hand Yang a cake knife.

“Yes, please cut it now so Ruby can have some.  She’s been drooling over it for hours.”

Shushing Weiss, who smiled and shook her head, Ruby backed away and motioned for Yang to cut the cake.  Yang, meanwhile, looked at the knife in her hand with a strange, almost unreadable expression.  It took a few more seconds before Blake realized that any type of weapon, including metal silverware, had been strictly off limits to Yang for quite some time.

“Let me help you,” she offered.  Instead of taking the knife, however, she wrapped her hand around Yang’s and gently guided it into place before making the first cut in the cake.  “How big of a piece do you want?” she asked while they cut the first row.

“Uh...probably like...a decent piece…”

Shaking her head at the unspoken request for an extra large piece, she glanced at Sun.  “And you?”

“A huge one!” he answered, and she rolled her eyes while Yang chuckled in her ear.  Together, they cut several pieces before Yang set the knife aside, and Blake handed out slices of cake to the two people most eager to eat.

“How does getting out of prison taste?” Yang joked while Ruby took a big bite.

“Mm!  Tastes great!”

“Good.”  Chuckling at Ruby’s happiness, Yang reached down and found Blake’s hand to hold once again.  

“But the more important question…”  Sticking her fork in the cake, Ruby met Yang’s gaze and smiled.  “How does it feel?”

The room quieted at the question, and all eyes focused on Yang while she thought of her answer.  After giving up her freedom for a year, how did it feel to suddenly be back in the real world?  There was bound to be some shocks and growing pains, as she just proved, but where was she, mentally?

The moment she smiled, Blake’s heart filled with joy.

“I feel great, actually.” 

“Yeah?”  Ruby was excited now too, which made Yang’s smile grow.  

“Yeah!  It’s awesome to be here with you guys and not have to deal with the guards and rules anymore - no offense, Sun.  But...it wasn’t so bad in there anyway.  It was actually kind of nice.” 

“How so?” Weiss gently prodded while Ruby nodded and moved closer to her side.

“Because…I was running from everything for so long, trying not to think about anything other than staying alive and finding you.”  After nodding towards Ruby, Yang paused and frowned while sorting through her feelings.  “Sure, it was prison, but for the first time, I got to stop and think.  And kind of...I don’t know, come to terms with some stuff.”

When Blake set a hand on Yang’s shoulder, Yang looked over and smiled.  Her change in demeanor and outlook on life had been noticeable with every visit, and Blake couldn’t wait to see how the next few months or years of their lives added to that progress.  The biggest change, in Blake’s mind, was a gradual shift from guilt and regret to thankfulness and determination to make a positive impact in the future.  Yang wore her mistakes on her sleeve, but she wouldn’t let them define the rest of her life.

“Now I just need to figure out what to do next,” she added before chuckling.  “Guess I need to get a job or something.  Although I don’t even know what I’d do...” 

After exchanging a smile with Ruby and Weiss, Blake turned back to Yang and squeezed her shoulder.

“l don’t think you need to worry about that for a while.”

“No way.  I’m not letting you do all the work while I’m some kind of, like, deadbeat ex-criminal girlfriend.  I want to help.”

“And you can, but you don’t have to do that by working.”

“You probably don’t need to work at all,” Weiss pointed out while Ruby grinned.  

“Yeah, cuz you’re actually, like, super loaded.” 

When Sun laughed and Ruby giggled, Yang looked around the room in confusion.

“Uh...what’re you talking about?” 

“You have plenty of money,” Blake explained.  “Because ISA paid you thirty-five million credits for turning in Adam and Cinder.” 

There was a long pause as Yang stared at them, then her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

“Are you...kidding me?” she asked, looking around the room while the four of them laughed.

“We’re not.”

“I already set up an account for you,” Blake added, beyond pleased that they managed to keep this secret from Yang for so long.  “The money’s there now, and you can do whatever you want with it.” 

“I...wow.  Ok...first, pay you back -”  

When Yang pointed at Weiss, Weiss scoffed and waved her hand.

“Please.  I don’t need your money, and that’s not why I helped.”  

Weiss’ gaze slid to Ruby with the statement, and a small, nearly imperceptible smile lifted her lips.  Unfortunately for her, nearly imperceptible wasn’t the same as imperceptible, and spending a year in prison hadn’t made Yang blind.  She was still rather astute, actually, as her brow briefly furrowed before she caught on and scoffed.

Weiss’ attention snapped away from Ruby at the sound, but she’d already made her feelings abundantly clear.  

“Oh, I see,” Yang said, giving Weiss a far more searching look.  “Well we can discuss that later...since I don’t think thirty-five mil is enough.”

After pursing her lips and looking at Ruby, who gave a bright, unassuming smile in return, Weiss nodded.

“I’m open to negotiation.” 

“I’ll bet you are,” Yang replied before chuckling and squeezing Blake’s hand.  “But alright, if we don’t have to repay the princess, then I guess...we’ll have to decide what we want to do.”  After a few seconds of thought, she nodded at Ruby’s necklace.  “Mom left us a bit of a mystery.  What do you think about figuring it out?”

“I want to.”  Pulling out her necklace, with the star pendant still hanging upon it, Ruby ran her finger across the precious metal before letting it drop back into place.  “She always said it was important, but what am I supposed to do with it?  Hang on to it forever?  Give it to someone else?”

“If anything, at least we know that you have a potential target around your neck,” Weiss commented while moving closer to Ruby’s side, a subtle motion that said more than met the eye.  “I can’t believe we traipsed around the galaxy with you wearing a priceless artifact for everyone to see.”

“But it turned out fine!” 

“I suppose…” Weiss muttered, but she lost her surly demeanor the moment Ruby giggled.  Blake, however, suffered a sudden burst of worry when her mind returned to Planet TS72.

“You won’t open the mines, will you?” 

“No way,” Yang said while Ruby shook her head.  “At least, not until we know what we’re dealing with.  Maybe Ruby’s supposed to open them...”

“Like to save the universe from impending doom!” Ruby joked, and Weiss actually broke out a smile.

“Sounds like quite the adventure - when do we leave?”

“Can I come??”

“Sun!” Blake said in surprise, but he shrugged and gave her an innocent expression.

“What?  I missed the first one.  No way you’re leaving me out again!”

“The more the merrier,” Ruby agreed while Yang laughed and wrapped her arm around Blake’s shoulders.  Sun, meanwhile, pumped his fist to celebrate being invited wherever life took them next.  

Before any of that happened, however, they needed to settle into their new lives first.  And part of the settling process could start now, as Blake met Ruby’s gaze and nodded that it was time.  Immediately breaking into a big smile, Ruby rushed into the kitchen and retrieved the box she brought over early this morning.

“But first…” she said before holding it out to Yang.  “We have something for you.”

When Yang gave each of them a look, Blake nodded for her to open the box.  After removing her arm from around Blake’s shoulders, she lifted the lid and froze as soon as she saw what rested inside.

“Ruby worked her magic on it,” Blake explained while Yang continued to stare.

The prosthetic arm resting in the box was nowhere near as intimidating as the original, but that was by design.  Understanding that Yang was doing everything in her power to leave that life and image behind, Ruby and Blake had decided a few changes were in order.  Now, sections of bright yellow offset some of the implied strength while black accents added a bit of flair - ‘because she is a badass’ as Ruby put it.  It looked sleeker than the first, and gone were the scratches, phaser burns, and evidence of battle.

“It’s almost as strong!” Ruby said after several seconds of silence.  “It just...looks different.”

“We thought you’d like a fresh start…” Blake added, suddenly worried that their gift wasn’t such a great idea.  When Yang looked up with tears in her eyes, however, that worry disappeared.

“Thank you,” she whispered before pulling Blake into a hug and kissing her temple.  Backing away, she lifted the prosthetic from the box and beamed.  “You have no idea how much I’ve missed having two hands…”

“Let me help you!” Ruby offered, and Yang willingly handed over the arm so Ruby could fix it into place.  Once it was attached, Yang rolled her shoulders, lifted her new hand, and watched the fingers move in turn.  Apparently, she liked what she saw, as she grinned and gave Ruby a big hug.

“Thank you,” she said before releasing Ruby and hugging Weiss.  “And you - thank you for your help.”  Next, she hugged Sun, lifting his feet right off the floor in the process.  “And you - thanks for being such a great friend.”

“No problem,” he chuckled after she set him down.  “That reminds me...I need to work out more.”  When he lifted his arms and flexed his muscles, which weren’t puny by any means, Yang laughed and gave him a playful pat on the shoulder with her new hand. 

“Maybe one day you’ll be as strong as me.”

“One day soon.”

“Like tonight in your dreams?”

While they teased each other, Weiss shook her head and reached for Ruby’s hand.  As soon as she realized what she was doing, however, she backed away and cleared her throat.  “We’ll leave you two alone now,” she said before motioning Ruby after her.  “But we’ll see you soon.”

“Oh, right - definitely!  Like tomorrow morning?”  After glancing between Yang and Blake, Ruby laughed.  “Or maybe tomorrow afternoon, so you can sleep in.”

“Blake’s the one who’ll probably need the rest...” Weiss muttered under her breath, but threw on an innocent smile when Blake looked her way.

“You can always hang out, if you want?” Yang offered, but they shook their heads and opened the door.

“We’ll have plenty of time for that later.”

“Like tomorrow!” Ruby added before sending Sun a meaningful look.

“Oh!  Right.  I have things to do too!”  

While he hurried after them, Blake caught Yang’s gaze and rolled her eyes.  They could be a little more obvious about their intentions, but she wasn’t about to complain.

“Alright, see you later then!” Yang called out, smiling as their guests quickly bid goodbye and closed the door behind them.  Blake listened to their cheerful voices move down in the hall but was quickly distracted when Yang narrowed her eyes at the door.

“What is it?”

“Weiss Schnee…” Yang mused before turning towards Blake.  “Is she screwing my sister?”

“Well…”  When Yang’s brow rose, Blake laughed and didn’t bother trying to lie.  “Yes, she most definitely is.”

“Seriously??  How could you not tell me?”

“I wasn’t telling you anything that risked you spending more time in there,” she replied with a point in the general direction of the reformatory.  

“I hate to break it to you…”  When Yang set her hand on Blake’s waist and looked at her with those beautiful lilac eyes, Blake’s skin tingled with excitement.  “But you missed your golden opportunity - because nothing would’ve made me risk getting back to you as soon as possible.  Including some Atlesian princess getting down and dirty with my little sister.”

“In that case...I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”  As Yang’s new hand settled on Blake’s waist, creating that hard and soft contrast she’d missed so much, she smiled.  “But they’re definitely together and have been for a while - they’ve been waiting to tell you.” 

Even though Yang blew a breath through her lips and shook her head, she didn’t look too upset by the news.  If anything, she looked rather amused by the unexpected change in Ruby’s relationship status.

“I’ve seen you every day for a year - how did you keep that a secret?”

“I’m a trained undercover agent, remember?” Blake playfully boasted in return.  “That included learning how to lie.”

“You slept with a Blackguard while undercover.”

“No, I slept with you.  And you were never one of them.”  

When Yang opened her mouth but found no words, Blake smiled at having won that light-hearted argument.  If she had to, she would remind Yang every day for the rest of their lives that wearing the armor didn’t make someone a Blackguard.  

“Well,” Yang finally said, giving up the argument with a smile.  “Fortunately for Weiss, I have more important things to dwell upon.”  Taking Blake’s hand, Yang raised it to her lips and kissed Blake’s fingers.  “Like you.”

This was the moment Blake had waited for, and she intertwined her fingers with Yang’s as an inevitable smile appeared on her lips.

“I’m so glad it’s finally over…” she sighed, moving closer when Yang wrapped an arm around her waist.

“You and me both...oh.  Before I forget...I made something for you.”  

Much to Blake’s consternation, Yang backed away from the embrace and searched her pockets.  After finding what looked like nothing more than a small piece of paper, she offered it to Blake, who gave it a curious glance before taking it.  No sooner had she unfolded it did her surprise grow, and her heart started beating incredibly fast.

Written on the slip were Valerian runes -

“On second thought -”  Before Blake even started reading, Yang grabbed the paper and crumpled it in her hand.  Once done, she cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders.  “Um, have I told you about the time I bent a sword around this guy’s hands to use as handcuffs?” 

“Yes, you have.”  Blake reached for the paper but Yang moved it out of reach, so Blake sent her a serious look.  “Multiple times, actually.  Now give me that.”  

When Yang finally relented, Blake snatched the paper out of her hand, uncrumpled it, and read the runes in full.

You saved my life.

You saved my soul.  

For that and so much more, I love you.

The words, and the thought behind them, made Blake’s heart sing.  Once upon a time, she wished to never see a Valerian rune again.  She wanted to put the lost language far from her mind, dreams, and nightmares.  But the Valerians brought her and Yang together - saved them both, really - and for that, she could be nothing but grateful and overwhelmingly in love with the person standing in front of her.

Still holding the paper, which she would treasure forever, she wrapped her arms around Yang’s neck and smiled.  

“Yang...” she began slowly, knowing she might have to reiterate this multiple times over the coming years but not minding in the slightest.  “You don’t always have to be the strongest and toughest anymore.  You can be sensitive - I love when you are.” 

The response worked, as a smile slowly eased onto Yang’s lips.  

“Yeah?” 

“Yes.  I didn’t fall for you because you can wrap a sword into handcuffs with your bare hands, as impressive as that is.”  Once Yang chuckled, Blake smiled.  “I fell for you because you’re sweet, and kind, and do adorable things like learn how to write Valerian.”

“You really know how to make someone want to do super cheesy things.” 

“Good.  Please do, because I love them.  And...I love you.  More than I ever thought possible.”

The moment Yang’s expression lit up, Blake couldn’t help noticing the irony in who Yang pretended to be and who she truly was.  Inside the heart of that stern, regimented, closed-off Blackguard was a soft, gentle soul who just wanted to be loved.  And Blake loved her, so much that it was overwhelming at times, such as moments like this.

“It’s way harder than I thought,” Yang added while Blake ducked her gaze and struggled to reel in her blossoming adoration.  “I thought I could master it in like a few months, but...I’m really impressed you can read it at all.  More impressed than I already was, at least.  You’re amazing, you know that?”

The adoration wasn’t going away.  Instead, it grew with every second Yang rambled about anything crossing her mind.  The realization that this was actually happening took hold of Blake’s thoughts and refused to let go, and she suddenly felt like crying, laughing, singing, and dancing all at once.  Instead, she pulled Yang close and buried her face in the crook of Yang’s neck.

Sensing the moment, Yang stopped talking and wrapped her arms around Blake in return.  Then she sighed, a long, deep sigh that sounded like it had been held in for quite some time, and tears sprang into Blake’s eyes.

“You give the best hugs,” Yang whispered.  “Don’t tell Ruby.”

Hearing the happiness in Yang’s voice, Blake laughed - one of the best feelings in the world outside of the hard-yet-soft sensation that came with Yang’s hugs.

“I love you,” she said again, because it felt so good to say those words aloud.

“I love you too,” Yang replied, proving that it was even better to hear those words in return.  When she hugged Blake closer, Blake understood that they might spend an hour like this before doing anything else, and that was fine with her.  

In this moment, they shared their vulnerabilities.  They shared their worries, concerns, and hopes for the future.  It was just a hug...but to them, it meant much more than that.

“So…” Yang whispered before too long.  “What do you think about saving the universe with me?”

Laughing at the question, Blake leaned back and confirmed that Yang was serious.

“You know I’ll follow you anywhere,” she answered, curling her fingers around Yang’s ear before pulling her into a kiss.  The moment their lips touched, butterflies fluttered in her chest and unmistakable happiness tingled through her veins.

This was that other world she’d dreamed about - the one that couldn’t exist.  It existed.  Through a great deal of trial and effort on their part, they found it.  Now, they were free to be themselves, and be together, without repercussions.  They would no longer be treated as pawns.  Their voices wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.  Their lives would belong to each other, and no one else.

What would they do next?  That choice was theirs, and theirs alone.

But apparently they had a universe to save.