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Papercuts

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Not that long ago, Weiss lived according to her father’s rules.  She went to the best schools, got the best grades, and tried her damndest to be the best at everything she did.  Schmoozing at corporate dinners took up her evenings.  Meeting well-heeled, horribly-arrogant ‘associates’ took up her weekends.  And, if there was any time for herself, she spent it wondering when the constant social climbing would stop.

A missing manhole cover answered that question for her.  It also granted her freedoms she’d never experienced before - most importantly, the freedom to use her intellect and social skills to forge her own path.

So she finished school and moved into the city, where everything was crowded, dirty, and small.  She rented an apartment and got a roommate, which surely earned her father’s hellbound ire.  She accepted a job ‘beneath’ her prestigious upbringing and relished the opportunity to work with people who didn’t speak in bank balances.  And, possibly the biggest change, she made friends - honest-to-goodness, real friends - her roommate being just one of them.

Her father never wanted her to have friends; he wanted her to have useful acquaintances.  Regardless, she’d learned on her own how to befriend others.  By altering her behavior and trying to treat someone like a decent human being, sometimes they liked her in return.

The change was a work in progress, and sometimes she fell back into her ‘polished, put-together’ act.  But, overall, she felt more connected to others than she ever had.  People weren’t put on the planet to be used and discarded; some of them were worth keeping around.

That newfound mentality explained why she slipped out of the apartment on a Saturday morning, and why she ventured outside of her neighborhood in search of a store she’d never visited before.  

Today, she wasn’t looking for a way to advance her social standing or flex her perfected demeanor.  Her goal was far simpler than that: shopping for a birthday gift.  And, because she didn’t want to be caught  while shopping for that gift - there was no faster way to spoil a surprise than being seen buying it - she went out of her way to shop in private.

While inconvenient and vaguely annoying, going out of her way was one of the many ways to show that she cared about someone and valued them as a person.  For someone she truly cared about, she would gladly sacrifice a bit of her time.

If her father was around to add his two cents, he would bellow that everyone should bend over backwards for her, not the other way around.  Fortunately, he didn’t get to bellow anymore.  Or maybe he was, but his voice couldn’t reach her from the depths of hell.  

Regardless, she didn’t plan on spending hours upon hours picking out a present.  She already had several ideas as to what she wanted to buy and only needed a small recommendation as to which of those ideas was best.  Unfortunately, in order to acquire that recommendation and the gift, she would have to suffer the indignity of setting foot in a store called Papercuts.

The bookstore was named Papercuts, for crying out loud.  

It was almost as if the owner didn’t want customers.  Or, if they did, they wanted each one to be reminded of the most pointlessly-painful injuries in existence.  But she was determined to keep this gift a surprise, which meant she couldn’t be spotted in the bookstore closer to home, which meant she had to shop here.  In a bookstore named Papercuts.

Remarkably, the store looked almost identical to the one in her neighborhood, except with an edgy logo and that ridiculous name.  The surrounding area was quaint with a friendly, prosperous atmosphere, assuring her that she wasn’t walking into some front for money laundering when she opened the door and stepped inside.  The door jingled as it fell shut behind her, drawing one of the employee’s gazes her way.

“Hey there!”  

The Papercuts employee - a girl near Weiss’ age with long, blonde hair and a warm smile - set a stack of books on a display table and turned Weiss’ way.  

“Can I help with something?”

Faced with the girl’s obvious beauty, one of the most blatant status symbols, Weiss’ instinct was to charm.  She even put on the smile for it - then she remembered she was only here for a birthday present, and this girl had already offered to help.

“I’m looking for a gift,” she replied with a more friendly, less charming smile.  “I was hoping you could recommend something?”

“Oh, uh, I’m not the best with recommendations, but Ruby can help.”  Before Weiss could respond, the girl turned towards the back of the shop and shouted, “Ruby!  Come help someone!”

“Coming!” someone yelled from the rear of the store, and the blonde turned back to Weiss with another warm smile.

“She’ll be right out,” she concluded before picking up the stack of books and carrying them towards another set of shelves.

Left on her own, Weiss looked around the store and felt moderately impressed by what she saw.  The aisles were spacious, the shelves were well-organized, the display tables were tidy, and several armchairs invited customers to stay awhile.  If she was the type who read in bookstores, as if she couldn’t possibly wait until she got home to crack open her newest novel, she might consider this a nice place to spend some time.  Today, however, she was only here to pick out a gift.

“Sorry for the wait!”

The wait hadn’t been long, but when she turned and opened her mouth to say as much, she found herself face-to-face with quite possibly the most attractive girl she’d ever seen.  

“I was making one of our new displays,” the girl explained with a smile, thankfully oblivious to Weiss’ growing disbelief.  “I’m Ruby,” she added while extending her hand for a handshake.

Weiss managed to shake Ruby’s hand, but she couldn’t convince herself to stop staring.  Not only did Ruby have the prettiest silver eyes she’d ever seen, but those eyes were coupled with an infectious smile and short brown hair that looked like it had a mind of its own.

She was cute.  

She was so cute that she looked more fit for a palace than a bookstore, with her effortless cuteness capturing hearts and convincing world leaders to do whatever she asked.

Faced with such off-the-charts social clout, Weiss didn’t know if she should be charming or friendly.  Was she supposed to win Ruby over?  She should try, but what type of smile should she use?  She should smile - was she smiling?  But she also needed to say something.  Start with her name.

“I’m Weiss,” she replied with what she hoped was a charming smile.  “It’s nice to meet you, Ruby.”

It was a proper greeting, but Ruby giggled, making Weiss’ heart flutter in the process.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Weiss!” she replied with a smile that outshone Weiss’ best attempt at one.  

How did she smile like that?  Had she been taught or was it natural?  Because it felt very natural - although what it did to Weiss’ heart was most assuredly not.

“So…” Ruby began to say, and Weiss - realizing she was being a poor host - spit out the first words that came to mind.

“So, Ruby, what brings you here today?”

As soon as confusion flickered through Ruby’s beautiful eyes, Weiss heard her mistake and silently scolded herself for such a stupid question.  But it was ok.  She could recover from that god-awful beginning.

“Uh...I’m here because I...kinda work here?”  

Ruby was gracious enough to smile with her answer, a welcome but undeserved reward for the blunder.

“Oh, right.”  After waving off the response as if it was obvious, Weiss tried another smile.  Smiles usually worked.  “For a second, I thought you were another customer.”

When Ruby’s brow furrowed and she glanced down at her shirt, which very clearly said Papercuts on it, Weiss struggled to keep her confident, unflappable smile in place.  That might have just been one of the dumbest things she’d ever said, but she refused to let her incredulity show.

“Guess I could be a customer,” Ruby finally replied with a soft laugh that granted a semblance of clemency.  Whether that laugh was at Weiss’ comment or the situation in general, Weiss didn’t know.  What she did know was that Ruby had the cutest laugh she’d ever heard.  

“But I actually work here, so...Ruby Rose, at your service.”  

When Ruby bowed after the introduction, Weiss’ heart responded with another flutter.

Who was this person, and how was she making Weiss so flustered?  She grew up rubbing elbows with some of the most elite members of their society.  She’d learned all of the skills necessary to charm and flatter anyone she met.

“Have you been here before?” Ruby asked after straightening up and subtly pulling her shirt back into place.

“I haven’t, actually.”

“Then welcome to Papercuts!  Please handle the books carefully.”

Spotting the playful gleam in Ruby’s eyes, Weiss laughed - a loud, obnoxious laugh that was the furthest thing from poised, graceful, or normal.  

Fortunately, Ruby grinned at the response.  Clearly, she didn’t mind that Weiss was making an utter and absolute fool of herself.  Which made one of them, but at least one of them was better than none of them.

“Yang said you needed help,” Ruby continued while gesturing in the blonde’s direction.  “So...what can I help with?”

“Um, yes.”  

Weiss probably had a reason for requesting assistance, but she couldn’t remember what that reason was.  Now, all she could think about was asking Ruby on a date.  Was it inappropriate to ask someone out after having known them for three minutes?

“I’m all ears.”  After waving towards one ear, Ruby smiled and shook her head.  “I mean, not all ears, but I have a couple.”

Again, Weiss laughed.  Again, it wasn’t her usual laugh.  It was...louder and probably more annoying.  She needed her good laugh back, but right now she couldn’t even remember what that one sounded like.

She just needed to start a conversation like a normal person.  Once they started talking, she would settle into a rhythm and woo Ruby’s socks off in no time.  Preferably more than just Ruby’s socks, but she needed to take baby steps at the moment.

“I’m looking for a book,” she said with confidence, only to freeze and shake her head when she realized that she was in a bookstore.  Of course she was looking for a book.  

Yet Ruby laughed, and the light, joyful sound was enough to make her smile at the mistake.  Smile and cringe a bit, because that was still the opposite of smooth.

Smooth!  That’s what she needed to be.

“You came to the right place,” Ruby replied, her smile making Weiss’ heart do inexcusably-unrealistic things.  “What kind of books do you like?”

“Well, I don’t read as much as I used to,” she admitted, feeling compelled to honesty under Ruby’s gorgeous silver gaze.  “I like to read mysteries though.”

“Those are fun!  Have you read any of the new stuff, like from the last year or so?”

“Unfortunately not.  I’ve been pretty busy working, but my - oh.  Wait.”  Abruptly remembering the real reason she was there, she shifted gears mid-sentence.   “Actually, I’m looking for a birthday gift.”

That was the exact opposite of smooth, which was why Ruby’s brow furrowed.

“For...yourself?”

She was already looking at what she wanted for her birthday.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t buy people.  Not anymore, at least.  

“For my roommate, Blake,” she replied, and silently congratulated herself for not continuing the trend of stupid answers.

“Is Blake a guy roommate or girl roommate?”  

“A girl, but we’re not dating.”  

Why did she add that part?  

“Not that I care if she’s a girl,” she added, making matters not-at-all better.  “I mean, her gender doesn’t matter - I’d date her.  But she’s just - we’re just friends.”

“Ok…got it.”  Thankfully, Ruby nodded and kept her smile.  If anything, it looked like she was enjoying their conversation - hopefully?  “So you’re looking for a birthday gift for your roommate, Blake, who’s a girl and only a friend.”

“Exactly,” Weiss replied with a sigh of relief. 

“I think we’re on the same page now,” Ruby said, the sparkle in her eyes suggesting even more happiness.  “And I can help you find something for her!  What kind of books does she like?”

“Mostly trashy romance novels.”  That was not what Weiss meant to say, but Ruby’s brow had already risen in surprise.  “I mean, really trashy stuff,” her mouth continued as if it had a mind of its own.  “I don’t even know where she finds some of it, honestly.”

“Uh, well, we have an adult section...”  

When Ruby pointed towards the far back corner of the store, Weiss shook her head and begged for the social deities to save her.  She’d taken plenty of etiquette courses during her childhood, yet discussing romance novels with strangers had never come up.  Probably because it was so far outside the realm of acceptable social behavior that the instructors figured the answer should be obvious.

“Oh, that’s fine.”  It was perfectly fine because she shouldn’t have brought it up to begin with.  “I made a list -”  

After patting several pockets in search of her cheat sheet, she cringed when she realized that not only had she forgone a paper list - typically, she had no issue remembering three titles on her own - but she also just made it sound like she made a list of trashy romance novels.  

“Actually…”  Giving Ruby an apologetic look, both for this conversation and for taking up so much time, Weiss slowly backed towards the door.  “I must’ve left it at home, so I’ll have to come back some other time.  Are you usually here on the weekends?”

“Yeah, I work all day on Saturdays and Sundays.”

“Good.  Then maybe you can think of some recommendations.”  As soon as Weiss saw the blush rising on Ruby’s cheeks, she shook her head.  “Not those!  I don’t need any of those - really, we already have too many.  She!  She has too many.  I’ve never read them.  I mean, I sneak a few chapters every once in a while but -”

She needed to leave.

“But I’ll come back another time,” she concluded.  “When I’m...more prepared to make a purchase.”

Ruby had hardly nodded before Weiss bolted through the door and left Papercuts behind.  It was only when several blocks separated her from that cursed store that she sighed and mourned the loss of her dignity.

She was a Schnee, dammit.  She might have left the company behind and eschewed a life of excess and fortune, but she was still a Schnee!  Just because she gave up that life didn’t mean she’d forgotten everything she learned.  She could still schmooze with the best of them.  Just last week, she accidentally convinced Sun to give her a hundred dollars.

That was only Sun, but still.  She hadn’t even meant to do that.  If she could do that on accident, then why couldn’t she make a positive impression when she tried?  What made Ruby different?

“She’s so cute...” Weiss muttered to herself while hurrying home.  She might have just mortally embarrassed herself but one thing was for certain - she was going back next Saturday.