Setting her pen down with a sigh, Weiss sat back in her chair and rubbed her tired eyes.
There was so much material to learn and not enough time. But that was the purpose of the most prestigious huntsmen academies, wasn't it? Inundate exhausted students with as much information as possible - watch the leaders emerge while the less fortunate fell behind.
While she wasn't concerned about falling behind, she was a little concerned about maintaining her position at the top of the class. No one was close to surpassing her test scores at the moment, but...well, failure grew out of complacency. And she was anything but a failure.
A couple minutes later, her miniscule break ended and she went back to work - burying her nose in her textbook and taking meticulous notes at the same time. Their upcoming exam would source questions from fifteen chapters worth of very specific herbology topics, so she needed to memorize as many details as possible over the next few days. Shouldn't be too difficult if she put her mind to it and cut out all unnecessary distractions.
Hearing the dorm room door open, she glanced towards the sound while Yang and Blake walked in.
"You're so wrong," Yang said, dropping her gauntlets on the floor just inside the door. "No way that would work!"
"You'd be surprised."
As usual, Blake wore an amused smirk at whatever topic they were talking about. But she was almost always amused when talking to Yang - something about the blonde pulled easy smiles out of the normally-stoic Faunus.
With a huff of disbelief, Yang turned to Weiss and smiled.
"Hey Weiss, missed you at dinner!"
"Are you still studying?" Blake added, walking over to the desk and looking at Weiss' work.
"Of course. There's a lot of material to -"
A breeze blew through the room as Ruby suddenly appeared - and promptly tripped over Ember Celica.
"Woah!" she cried out as she stumbled forward, nearly falling on her face in the process. Fortunately, she caught herself by crashing into the side of Weiss' desk - knocking everything else asunder in the process.
"Sorry!" Dropping the plate that was in her hands onto the desk, Ruby dove across the books and notebooks to grab Weiss' pen before it rolled away.
It was such a normal entrance that Weiss hardly flinched. Ruby always arrived in a hurry, left in a hurry, and caused near-catastrophes at any point in between. Luckily for them, the number of successful catastrophes had dropped since the beginning of the year.
"It's ok," Weiss replied, accepting her pen from Ruby and taking that as a signal to get back to work.
"I brought you food!"
When Ruby pushed the plate forward, Weiss found it held all of the most-easily stolen items from the cafeteria - two dinner rolls, a granola bar, and five cookies. A nutritious meal, by Ruby's standards.
Fortunately, Weiss had learned that gratitude was an endeavor worth pursuing with her teammates, and the easiest way to show gratitude was to accept their gestures of kindness - especially when they were as thoughtful and caring as Ruby's was. So, even though eating fell under the 'mostly unnecessary when there was studying to be done' category, she reached out and took the granola bar off the plate.
"Thank you, Ruby."
Pleased with the success of her thoughtfulness, Ruby grinned and raced over to her bed. Blake and Yang also busied themselves going about their end of night routines - reading a book or magazine, playing a game on their scrolls, or otherwise decompressing after another long day.
Weiss, meanwhile, unwrapped the granola bar and went back to studying. It wasn't until she took her first bite that she realized how hungry she was - it was easy to forget food when there was so much to learn.
"Are you going to study all night?"
Sighing at yet another interruption, Weiss turned around and found concerned silver eyes watching her.
"I'm going to study until I know all of it."
For a split second, it looked like Ruby wanted to argue with the answer, but then smiled, nodded, and jumped onto her bed.
Taking that response as Ruby finally leaving her be, Weiss sighed again, turned around, and went back to work.
For the most part, her teammates understood that she was slightly obsessive about studying - what they didn't understand was why. And she wouldn't expect them to understand, as they hadn't grown up with her family. They didn't know how much pressure was placed upon her to be perfect, which meant she needed to study harder and longer than anyone else at Beacon. She'd already accepted that she wasn't the most physically-gifted fighter at Beacon - but she was the smartest. She had to be the smartest.
Her teammates didn't understand but, as long as they gave her space and time to study, that was ok.
Initially, it was infuriating to watch them slack off and shirk studies. Over time, she acknowledged their different priorities. Yang got decent grades with decent studying, but her real effort went into her training and fighting. Blake cared about certain subjects more than others, but her energy was spent trying to address inequality. Ruby was so far behind that it wasn't even fair to expect her to excel in the classroom. She still tried - and Weiss admired that - but her focus was much like Yang: excel on the battlefield.
These days, it was less frustrating and more just...a fact of life with four very different personalities grouped together.
By the time the lights turned off and sounds of life gave way to sounds of sleep, Weiss was only halfway done. If she wanted a complete set of notes to review tomorrow, she needed several more hours of dedicated work - which meant she quickly decided she wouldn't sleep tonight. It was easier to make that decision up front - otherwise, her body would hope for rest that would never come.
Hours later, when her back hurt from the chair and her hand hurt from holding her pen too tight, her stomach grumbled. The sound was absurdly loud in the quiet room but, thankfully, didn't disturb her teammates' peaceful slumbers. Still...a grumbling stomach was an additional distraction she didn't need.
Glancing towards the plate of food and deciding that one cookie wouldn't be so bad, Weiss was already reaching for it when she heard someone drop to the ground behind her. From the weight of the sound, she already knew who it was, and turned around to find Ruby sneaking over.
"Can't sleep?" Weiss asked.
"No...can you come with me?"
When Ruby grabbed Weiss by the hand and tugged, she leaned back in her chair to resist the motion.
"What? But Ruby -" Weiss gestured towards her work as an explanation, but Ruby tugged again, more firmly this time.
"It won't take long, promise!"
Understanding that Ruby wasn't going to leave her alone unless she relented, Weiss sighed and let Ruby pull her out of the room. Realistically, a short walk wouldn't be a bad thing. Increased circulation would wake up her brain and help her absorb more information when they got back.
At first, she thought they'd walk down the hall and back - or down to the common area and back - but when Ruby pushed open the door to the dorm building and led them outside, Weiss finally had to ask -
"Where are we going?"
Irritation prickled Weiss' skin as Ruby led them further and further away from the room. The further they walked, the longer it would take to get back, and the longer it would be before Weiss got back to studying.
"It's nice out, right?" Ruby asked, swinging her free hand as they went, oblivious to Weiss' mounting annoyance with the situation.
The weather was nice though. The air was warm, but not too warm, and the full moon hung in the night sky above them - lighting the way. On many other nights, Weiss wouldn't mind going for a walk with Ruby, but not on nights when she had studying to do - and Ruby knew this.
"Here we are!"
Rushing down a set of steps, Ruby gripped Weiss' hand a little tighter and led them to the edge of Beacon's pool. The large pool was used for a variety of purposes by Beacon's students - for fun, for exercise, and for the ill-advised underwater battles the upperclassmen liked to have.
At night, the pool was lit by soft-yellow lights placed around the perimeter and along the bottom of the basin. While the deck around the pool was mostly dark, the glowing blue water sparkled like a giant nightlight.
"Great," Weiss said when Ruby released her hand. "Now we can go back."
Huffing in annoyance, Weiss crossed her arms and gave Ruby a stern look - a look Ruby no longer shrank away from.
For some reason, the question made Ruby smile - and then she gestured to the water.
"What?" Looking at the pool, Weiss scoffed and shook her head. "Ruby, it's the middle of the night -"
"l don't care! Jump in."
"Why on earth would I do that?"
Ruby thought about the question for a second - her silver eyes reflecting the light of the pool - before she nodded once.
"Because I'm team captain."
"Oh, you're going to play that card?" Weiss retorted, her defiance rising at Ruby's audacity to drag her away from her studies for this. "How about this? No."
Re-setting her arms firmly across her chest, Weiss glared while Ruby nodded - as if she'd expected the answer.
"Then you leave me no choice."
Before the words sank into Weiss' mind, two strong arms wrapped around her waist and pulled. She yelped in surprise - and then she hit the cold water with a splash.
For a second she was so shocked, she didn't even move. She just stared at her new environment - surrounded by water while chlorine stung her eyes - before finally kicking her feet and propelling herself upward.
"Ruby!" she screeched the moment she broke through the surface, wiping water from her eyes. "Why the hell did you do that?!"
Finding Ruby treading water beside her, Weiss splashed some water that way - twice as annoyed as she'd previously been.
Of course, Ruby just laughed and splashed right back.
"To get you outta your crazy state!"
"You're the crazy one here!"
Fed up with her partner, Weiss started swimming towards the edge of the pool, but Ruby quickly swam in front of her to block the exit.
"Ruby!" Weiss shouted, even more agitated now. "It's freezing in here!"
"Really? Is it?"
When Ruby asked the question, Weiss realized that she wasn't that cold now that she was moving around and angry. But that was beside the point.
"I have more important things to do -"
"Yeah, so did I!" Ruby interrupted, moving to block Weiss' escape yet again. "Like sleeping! But I can't sleep when I'm worried about you!"
Making a noise in frustration, Weiss spun around and tried to make it to the shallow end of the pool instead. Seeing as how Ruby was the faster swimmer, she quickly raced in front of Weiss and cut off her exit a third time - both of them now in shallow enough water that they could stand.
"What do you want?" Weiss finally yelled, figuring it was better to ask so she could get this over with.
"I want you to take care of yourself!"
"I am -"
"NOT," Ruby interrupted, shocking Weiss into silence with her gall. "You skipped every meal yesterday to study, and you didn't sleep last night either!"
"This test is important -"
"Well you'll miss it if you end up in the hospital!" Ruby broke in. "Why are you pushing yourself so hard?"
"Because I have to!"
Weiss hadn't meant to shout the words, but now they hung in the air, filling the silence broken only by the soft noise of water moving along the edges of the pool.
She hadn't meant to get so heated and angry - not with Ruby. Ruby was only trying to help, in her own weird way.
Turning away and sighing, Weiss lifted her hands from the pool then dropped them back in.
"Because my father expects that of me," she explained, feeling a bit of normalcy return when a soft breeze caused goosebumps to rise along her arms. "Because everyone expects that of me. If I don't get the best grades, then I'm just a..."
Trailing off, she raised one hand and tried to think of the word - watching droplets of water fall from her fingertips.
"Someone who's still smarter than everyone else?" Ruby offered, taking a step closer in the pool.
Dropping her hand, Weiss let it hit the surface of the water with an audible smack.
It was as simple as that. If she got the best grades, she was successful. If she didn't, she failed. There was no in between.
"But Weiss…" Ruby whispered, hopping forward until they were right in front of each other. "It's ok to fail..."
"Not in my family."
"Well then I've got bad news for your family," Ruby replied with a grin. "Because you fail all the time."
Taken aback by the response, Weiss hadn't decided yet whether she was offended or just curious before Ruby continued.
"You messed up that partner move we tried yesterday, remember?" Ruby explained, reaching out and grabbing one of Weiss' hands under the surface of the water. "I messed it up too! We failed like...a hundred times in a row! And then, remember how you rolled up that piece of paper and tried to throw it across the room into the trash? And you missed? Man, that was a failure too -"
"Wait," Ruby said, squeezing Weiss' hand. "Don't forget just a few minutes ago - you totally failed to figure out what I was going to do and ended up getting tossed into the pool."
"I get it," Weiss replied, shaking her head at the list that made her more and more uncomfortable as it grew.
Meeting Ruby's earnest eyes, Weiss shook her head one more time, trying to dislodge the perfectionism that had dogged her for her entire life. She was expected to be perfect - she expected herself to be perfect.
"We learn through failures!" Ruby added. "If we don't fail, we don't get better. We totally nailed down that new move after a hundred failures. And you got the paper into the trashcan on the second shot, and I bet you're not standing anywhere I can grab you the next time we're near a pool!"
Scoffing at the list, Weiss looked down at their hands - her view of them shifting as the surface of the water moved.
Trying to be perfect was such a hard way to live...and sometimes, she really hated it. She hated that she had nightmares about seeing red marks on her assignments. She hated that she dwelled on small failures to the point of obsession.
Maybe Ruby was right. Maybe it was time to try a different approach - seeing failure not as an end result, but as a way to grow.
"You bet I'm not," she finally replied, feeling a smile appear when Ruby beamed. "And I guess you might be right...I don't need to work myself to exhaustion simply to avoid a learning opportunity."
Raising one hand out of the water, Ruby cringed when she accidentally splashed Weiss in the process. While Weiss wiped the water from her face, Ruby thought of an idea - evident in her suddenly-glowing grin.
"Time for a partner hug!" she called out. "Hold your breath!"
Before Weiss digested that instruction, Ruby tackled her into the water for a hug - both of them falling under the surface and doing a quick Ruby-induced roll before popping back to their feet.
"Ruby!" Weiss shouted again, wiping water from her eyes and pushing her hair back into place.
"Looks like you failed to see that coming!" Ruby chirped, laughing when Weiss splashed water at her.
This time, Weiss rolled her eyes at the good-natured tease.
"Would you like me to point out your own failures, Ruby Rose?" she asked, smiling as an idea for revenge appeared in her mind.
"Sure! I'm all ears!"
Taking two steps back, Weiss smirked while spooling her semblance and locating the perfect placement for two glyphs on opposite sides of Ruby.
"You forgot my semblance."
This time, it was Ruby who didn't have time to process the words before two giant waves of water were shoved towards her from two directions - crashing together over her head before sending rocky waves through the rest of the pool.
Laughing at the drenched girl standing in front of her, Weiss felt abundantly lighter - like a giant weight had just lifted from her shoulders.
"Ok," Ruby said, wiping water out of her eyes - grinning all the while. "Not gonna lie - that was pretty cool."
"Does that mean you want to see it again?" Weiss teased as they finally walked towards the side of the pool.
"I'm good for now!"
Weiss smiled while accepting Ruby's help out of the pool and back to the deck - both of them dripping water from their soaked clothes.
"Thank you, Ruby," she whispered as they trudged towards the dorm room, savoring the feeling of freedom she'd just been granted. It might only be temporary, but she knew that if she ever went down that myopic path again...well, she might find herself thrown into another pool - and that wasn't a bad thing.
She was lucky to have a partner who cared about her like Ruby did - someone willing to stand up and point out when Weiss tunneled in on an objective to the detriment of her health. She was lucky to have someone willing to throw her into a pool so that she would go to sleep and eat regularly. She was just...lucky. Because, even though Ruby might be far from perfect, she was perfect for Weiss.