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Bass thrummed through her bones, forcing her ears to pin back to her head. Not for the first time tonight, Blake wondered what had changed so drastically in her mind to let her think that an Atlesian dance club was a good idea.

A few years ago, the mere concept of a club at all would have sent her skittering away. Flashing lights, loud noises, and four walls packed with intoxicated humans was bad enough, let alone that the club itself was in Atlas. On top of that, she’d passed up going to a political rally - which, for a lot of reasons, would have been her preferred choice. Still packed with humans, still full of loud noises, but at least she would learn something somewhat important.

Then again, a lot of things had changed in the past couple years. And Yang Xiao Long had always been pretty good at motivating her to leave her comfort zone.

A playful bump to her shoulder brought her mind back to the present. Lilac eyes shone in the flashing lights, blonde hair swaying as Yang bobbed to the beat, grinning wildly. She looked happy. Bouncy, even. 

Blake wasn’t sure if she’d seen Yang like that since Beacon.

She bumped her back, doing her best to match the rhythm Yang had found, and pinned her ears further against her head. It wasn’t that loud.

But, of course, Yang was far more than just a pretty face, and not much escaped her.

Her eyes flashed to Blake’s ears as they laced back. She blinked, grin fading. “You okay?” Her voice finally reached Blake’s ears as the song faded, allowing her to lift her ears slightly.

She tried to grin back, opening her mouth to insist that no, she was fine, it wasn’t that bad.

As if on cue, the next track picked up with a thrum of bass even deeper than the last song. Blake winced before she could stop herself. To make matters worse, she recognized the song - it was one of Yang’s favourites. 

Even as Yang’s eyes lit up with obvious excitement, her gaze stayed focused on Blake, concern quickly swallowing her recognition. “We should go outside.” She saw the offer more than she heard it, the music drowning out any speech between them.

Blake shook her head immediately. “No, you stay.” She mouthed, gesturing at Yang to stay put. As much as she wanted to insist that she was fine, between Yang’s concerned eyes and the pounding that was beginning to burrow its way behind her temple, Blake knew that staying on the dance floor wasn’t a wise idea. Instead, she tapped her chest and pointed to the bar, placed just far enough away from the speakers to allow patrons to order their drinks without having to scream. “I’ll get a drink and come back.”

Yang’s eyes flicked between her and the bar. Something else flicked behind her gaze - hesitation.

“I won't go anywhere.” This time she raised her voice enough to be heard, locking eyes with Yang.

“I know.” But Yang still didn’t move right away - neither did Blake. Perhaps realizing that she had to be the one to say she was okay, Yang reached out and gently bumped her on the shoulder. “Let me know if we need to leave, we’ll find somewhere else to go.” She grinned, not quite disguising the anxiety that Blake wasn’t sure if anyone else could see.

Blake returned the gesture, smiling back. “I will.”

The first few steps she took were backwards. Even when she did finally turn around, she couldn’t quite stop herself from turning to keep Yang in her sight. 

Yang’s eyes stayed on her until she vanished behind the mass of people. Immediately, the club’s walls shrunk inwards, the bodies around her were much closer and more threatening, and the music was far more grating.

Blake finally turned her eyes back to the bar, forcing herself to inhale. As much as she hated it, Marrow’d had a point. She did need to get better about being apart from Yang.

She quickly covered the distance between the dance floor and the bar, avoiding the eyes of those around her. Most of the patrons inside the bar were Atlas students, and notably more individually minded than the Atlesian military seemed to be. Few paid her any mind - though she wondered if many of them just hadn’t seen her ears, or hadn’t recognized her. 

The bar covered most of the back left wall, but it was being more or less ignored now that most of the population had already drank as much as they were comfortable with. A single bartender was leaning off to the side, checking his scroll. As she approached, she could see a cooler on the back shelf, cased with glass. Rows of bottles met her gaze, containing drinks both alcoholic and not. A familiar bottle stared back at her, decorated with the image of a sunflower.

Then a white and pink blur popped up between her and the fridge, startling her. “Finally, some civilized company!”

Blake’s ears pinned flat again, for an entirely different reason. “Hi Neon.”

Neon Kyatt’s tail thrashed back and forth, as though laughing at an unspoken joke. “Shame you and Yang only got tonight off - would have been way more fun if you’d caught me on a night I wasn’t working.” She winked and leaned against the bar. “What can I get’cha?”

Blake could never tell if the girl was being flirtatious, or just... Neon. She quickly decided it was annoying either way, and forced herself to smile back at her. “Just water.”

“Well that’s boring.” But Neon didn’t hesitate, turning to dig a bottle out of the fridge and nod to the barstool across from her. “Where’s Blondie?”

She quietly sighed in resignation, and slid onto the seat. It was wiser to just amuse her - she’d be far more annoying if she caught on that she was making Blake uncomfortable. “Dancing.”

“And you’re not with her?” Neon clunked the glass down in front of her, continuing to finish washing a glass. “I was starting to think you two were joined at the hip.”

Blake just shrugged, sipping the water.

Neon tilted her head, and for a split second the bubbly, happy look lapsed. The bright eyes examined her with something mildly more serious than before. “Music too loud?”

Blake hesitated. “...a bit.”

Neon quirked an eyebrow. Then she leaned backwards, looking over towards the man at the other end of the bar. “You good if I go on break?” He just waved to her, intently watching what looked like election coverage on his scroll.

Neon stretched, waving towards a staircase to the side of the room as she grabbed a can of what looked like some kind of energy drink out of the fridge. As she dug through the fridge, Blake turned in her seat, looking over the dance floor. 

Even at a distance, it was impossible to miss Yang. The light always caught her just right, like it couldn’t resist the pull she always seemed to have. She knew if she spoke up, Yang would have no problem with leaving. She would probably rush to. 

A tap on her shoulder yanked her out of her thoughts. Neon rolled her eyes, the grin never faltering. “Come on, there’s a patio on the roof. I need to get out for a bit anyways, it’s getting too hot for me with Xiao Long in the building anyways.”

She was suddenly very, very glad that she had an excuse to keep her ears pinned down as she stood to follow the shorter faunus. As she walked, she glanced back over her shoulder. 

Yang’s eyes had lifted to find her. She saw the split second of panic as she realized Blake was walking away.

‘Roof,’ she mouthed, pointing upwards. But she hesitated, waiting for Yang to shake her head, beg her to stay within sight. Her head was starting to hurt, but that would be okay, if Yang needed her to stay.

Yang hesitated for a moment. Then she nodded, smiling, sending back a thumbs up. But her eyes stayed on Blake as she stepped towards the stairs, then followed Neon up the narrow stairway. 

Without her skates, the Atlesian cat faunus was somehow even smaller than she’d seemed before. She was only slightly taller than what Neopolitan had been. In the back of her mind, Blake wondered what it was about very short women and annoying Yang. Maybe it was just jealousy.

“See? Much quieter out here.” Neon held the door to the rooftop patio open for her, stepping back with a flourish.

“Thanks.” She muttered as she finished climbing the stairs and slipped past.

As the door swung behind them, Blake was instantly relieved that she’d ended up taking the offer. The cool breeze swept over her, and the music below faded to a low hum. A few tables had been set out, and an empty bar sat off to one side, but there were no other people on the roof with them. 

The shifting northern lights lit the metal railings around them, and Blake couldn’t help but blink. “...wow.”

“Right?” Neon’s voice softened slightly as she passed, leaning against the railing. “I come up here on my breaks all the time. We’re not really supposed to be up here, but Indigo’s dad won’t mind. It’s not like we’re doing anything but getting away for a bit.” 

That wasn’t exactly soothing. But Blake followed her to the edge of the building, resting her forearms on the railing. She’d admit, the cityscape before her was pretty. It felt more like a giant metal sculpture than a city, though, and it made her uneasy in a way she couldn’t quite define.

Of course, the peace didn’t last.

“Soooo...” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Neon lean over the railing. “What’s Yang’s deal?”

The pulsing music suddenly seemed preferable to the roof. “What do you mean, ‘her deal’?” She grunted, trying to focus on the utilitarian space below.

“Oh come on. Look at her. I’d think a woman with that kind of muscle and... energy would have women hanging off her at all times. But she doesn’t seem to take the bait whenever I see someone make a pass at her. I don’t believe for a second that she’s even slightly interested in men, so, what’s the deal?” She grinned at Blake’s stone face. “Unless, maybe, she’s taken?”

“I wouldn’t know.” She pointedly stared off to the horizon. 

“That surprises me, considering she refused to accept my invitation unless I promised that you could come too.”

That caught Blake’s attention. She glanced over to find Neon’s tail smugly swishing her tail back and forth. “Don’t get me wrong, I would have invited you too anyways. But she was very insistent.” She raised an eyebrow. 

Really, was she surprised? Her and Yang had barely left each other’s sides since... well. Adam. Her knuckles involuntarily tightened on the railing, and Blake turned back to the cityscape. “...We’ve been through a lot. We get nervous without each other right now, that’s probably why she asked.”

“Cool. In that case, seriously, is she single?”

“Is it any of your business?” Blake snapped before she could stop herself, turning, fully prepared to see a grinning, smug face.

Instead, she found a far more somber look than she’d ever seen on the upbeat faunus’ face. Neon slowly blinked, a half smile appearing on one side of her face. “I’m giving you a hard time, Blake. A blind man could see that she’s only got eyes for you.”

Blake slowly, uncomfortably turned her ears back. “...is it that obvious?”

“Oh my Gods. It’s painful .” Neon groaned theatrically. “I could see it all the way back in the tournament, but back then it was kinda like catching someone’s music in their headphones, right? You’re pretty sure you know what song it is, but you only heard it for a second. But since you guys showed up here it’s like being front row in a concert.”

Neon was surprisingly good at putting things into words, and Blake would die before she ever admitted it. “Thanks.” Blake replied dryly. 

“Hey, don’t get me wrong. It’s kinda nice to watch someone else struggle with dating a human for once.”

Her first instinct was to immediately deny she was dating Yang - but the implication caught her attention. Blake blinked, staring at the girl. “...who are you dating?”

“Were.” Neon corrected, leaned forwards to rest her chin on her hand. Her usual peppy demeanor seemed to fade, leaving behind a wistful sort of look. “...I go through people, y’know? Don’t stay in one place too long. Only exception is Flynt, and that isn’t really... dating. Or at least not exactly.”

She had her attention now. Blake settled her weight onto one foot, watching the other faunus’ expression. “Flynt is your partner, right?” 

“On paper, yeah. In reality... mm.” Neon tilted her head at nothing in particular. Her voice was slow, as though she’d never shared it before. “It’s... kinda weird and hard to put into words. I’m always seeing different people, he’s never interested in seeing anyone at all - but we’re never apart. He’s always there if I need something, I’m always there if he does. Someone asked about it once and he had a great way of putting it; it’s like we have the other half of each other. I see him get into trouble, and I react like it’s me that’s in danger. Don’t even feel that way about my own sisters, or anyone I’ve ever been with.”

Blake’s ears tipped further and further forwards as Neon spoke, fascination growing with every word. Once upon a time, the interest might have been because she might have been entranced by the idea. Now, it was because Blake recognized it. “...do you think it’s a partner thing, or...” She let it trail off. There was another option. She wasn’t going to consider it right now.

The other faunus wasn’t as kind. “Honestly? Pretty sure it’s some form of love.” She pushed off the rail, rolling her shoulders. 

That wasn’t the answer she was hoping for, and Blake immediately shoved away any possible connection between their situations. “...why aren’t you with him, then?”

“I am. It’s not a real romantic thing - we’re partners, we’re loyal to each other above all else. I know I can depend on him no matter what it comes down to. Plus, between you and me, people can still be idiots about it. Faunus and humans and that shit.” She rolled her eyes, almost cavalier given the topic. “I don’t give a shit at this point, and I don’t think he does either, but it gets kinda rough sometimes, y’know?”

She knew that particular feeling entirely too well. “I’m not surprised.” Blake rested her own chin on her crossed arms. “People can be cruel.” 

“Yeah. But I think you’ve had more than your share of that.” Pink and white shifted in the corner of her eye as Neon examined her, the gaze making the back of Blake’s neck prickle. 

Something deep in Blake’s gut tensed. “I’m sorry?” 

Neon’s voice didn’t sound at all like the high-pitched, peppy tone when she replied. “I was there when Beacon fell. I wasn’t in the room, but some of the cameras caught it. I saw the asshole with the red hair, and I heard what happened to Yang. It wasn’t really that hard to put it together.”

Her fingers tightened, but not nearly as much as her gut did. The words brought an instant memory with them. Red light, shifting on walls, Grimm howling, pain in her side. She clamped down on it, shoving the memory away. “I don’t really want to talk about that, Neon.” Her voice sounded hollow in her ears.

“I know.” She could feel Neon’s gaze on her. “But have you talked to her about it?”

Blake’s ears snapped back to pin against her head as she finally whirled to face the shorter woman. “Are you always this annoying?”

Neon met her gaze without a beat of hesitation. “When I need to be.” But, to Blake’s surprise, Neon pushed off the railing. “Speaking of past trauma - Flynt’s going to have a heart attack if Schnee wins the damn election. I’m gonna go down there and peel him away from the TV.”

Blake bit her lip as the shorter girl stretched, an odd pang of guilt spiking at her chest. “...thank you. For taking me up here and talking.”

A sincere smile almost looked out of place on the girl’s face. “My pleasure. Actually - here, gimme your scroll for a sec.” Blake slowly handed it over, quietly relieved that she hadn’t set the picture of her and Yang as the background yet. The girl pulled her own scroll out of her pocket, placing them close together and tapping a prompt on both screens. She handed it back to Blake with a grin that looked more like the Neon she expected. “Send me a message anytime.”

“Careful, Neon.” Blake grunted dryly, storing the scroll away. “Someone’s gonna think you’re flirting with me.”

Neon quirked an eyebrow, With a push of her foot, she slid closer to Blake, tail curling behind her. With a single finger, she tilted Blake’s head towards her, and whispered into her ear. “I would be, if you weren’t so blatantly taken.”

With that, she clapped Blake’s shoulder and walked past, tail swishing behind her. “I’ll tell Yang you’re getting some fresh air.”

“Thanks.” She mumbled, feeling her face burn. She turned back to the city, not wanting to give Neon the benefit of seeing it.

As the door closed behind her, the cold air grew quiet around her. It had been a while since she’d been completely on her own. The dull sounds of the city around her and the muttering voices from behind the door seemed far away now. The quiet wasn’t completely unwelcome - a few years ago, it would have been ideal. 

Now it just felt lonely, and the silence left room for other thoughts to swirl around in her skull.

The description of what Neon shared with Flynt still ricocheted around in her head. It’s like we have the other half of each other.

Blake had never really taken the time to consider what she felt for Yang, or put it into words. She’d always felt close to the blonde boxer, right from the moment she’d found her punching the Darkness out of a pack of Ursa in the Emerald Forest. She’d written it off on everything and anything - Yang was useful, Yang was fair, Yang was a good partner, Yang was a close friend. Things that had been easy to pass their closeness as normal, even when she didn’t feel the same thing for her other teammates, or Ilia, or even Sun. 

Yet, of all the people that Blake would have expected to have any kind of ability to put things into words, Neon had nailed it with infuriating accuracy. And she hadn’t even been talking about them.

Was there even any point in denying that she had feelings for Yang? They hadn’t really talked about it - but maybe it had always been obvious.

It had certainly been obvious enough for Adam to notice.

She lowered her head, ears pinning back. He’s dead. She reminded herself, eyes still squeezed shut. Dead at the bottom of a river. You put him there. Both of you put him there.

It wasn’t exactly a reassurance. 

She hadn’t wanted to kill Adam. Despite everything he’d done, everything he’d threatened to do, Blake still didn’t believe he’d deserved to die. She still believed that no one truly did.

Though, the night he’d taken Yang’s arm, she’d almost considered it.

The cold Atlas air pressed in on Blake even past the thermo-controlled dome covering the sky. Yet, somehow, Blake felt heat. Fire. Phantom smells of smoke and blood flitted by. The scar on her hip throbbed again.

That was the biggest difference between her and Neon; Blake hadn’t always been there for Yang.

Blake violently shook her head, and she was cold and alone again, with bass pulsing below her and the flickering city in the clouds stretching out in front of her. She tilted her head back and watched the greenish trails of light weave through the sky.

Later, she would realize that she never actually heard anyone approaching the door. Though, past the low base, she might not have been able to. But when the door squeaked open, she most certainly heard it.

Blake automatically reached for a weapon she didn’t have, whirling on her heel, inhaling-

Yang sheepishly lifted her hands, standing awkwardly in the doorway. “Sorry.”

The sight of her had already eased any worry Blake might have had. She exhaled, leaning back against the rail. “It’s okay, you didn’t startle me.”

“You sure?” Yang’s half smile grew a little as she drew closer. “You looked a little startled.”

Her ears laced back against her head in irritation that was only half genuine, and huffed. “I’m jumpy.”

The reaction seemed to calm Yang, somehow. An odd sort of smile split her face, before she blinked and concern knit her eyebrows together. “...are you okay?” It was so rare to see Yang in any kind of light that wasn’t calm and confident - yet there she was, lit by the pulsating lights behind her, eyes flicking up and down Blake as though looking for any visible pain.

She moved her head back and forth, the mock anger fading. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” It was hard not to smile at her partner, standing awkward and nervous in the light from the club. “You can go back down if you want to, I’ll be back in-”

Yang shook her head before Blake had even finished talking, stuffing her hands into her pockets. “No, actually. I uh. I’d rather be out here anyways.” The wind ruffled her jacket collar as she walked closer, leaning against the railing beside her.

Even in the cold, warmth seemed to radiate from her. Blake stifled the urge to lean into her, instead shooting her a tiny smirk. “Neon’s finally getting on your nerves?” 

Yang rolled her eyes. “Neon is always on my nerves. Seems like it’s her favourite place to be.”

“Short women really don’t like you.” Blake tilted her head, raising an eyebrow. “Or maybe they like you too much?”

“Nah, they’re just jealous.” Yang tossed her hair over her shoulder with a sly grin.

 Blake wondered if she knew exactly how good she looked. But if she dared complement her, something else entirely might come spilling out. So instead, she rested her chin on one hand. “...Neon didn’t really invite me did she?”

Yang’s grin turned somewhat sheepish, lifting her shoulders into a shrug. “Not at first. I told her I was bringing you with me - I knew better than to give her a choice.”

“Wise. Brothers know what FNKI might do to you if you’d gone alone. You’d come back covered in glowsticks and regret.”

The sheepish expression cracked. Yang outright cackled, head tilting back. Blake couldn’t help but laugh with her. Less out of amusement at her own - admittedly bad - joke, but out of desire to join in on the noise, like wolves howling in the night.

The sound slowly faded from giggles to smiles, and then the noise faded away entirely, letting the night surround them again. Blake couldn’t keep looking at Yang - she’d go blind, she’d lose her mind - and her gaze turned back to the city below.  

Cars passed by on the road beneath, honking occasionally. The base finally faded behind them. In the quiet, Blake heard the chatter of many voices in the building behind them before a different beat started up, only slightly less grating than the last.

“I wasn’t sure if you would come, actually.” Yang’s voice was quiet beside her. “I wasn’t going to make you, and I know, uh... parties aren’t usually your thing.”

“It’s a change of scenery.” Blake shrugged, watching a large truck pass by below. “I may as well be able to say I’ve gone to a dance club in Atlas, right?”

“Mm-hm.” Out of the corner of her eye, a small, crooked smile told her that Yang hadn’t believed her. 

It was Blake’s turn to roll her eyes. “...plus I know from experience that you’re very, very good at convincing me to show up at social gatherings. You don’t need to have your ego fanned any more.”

The smile sprouted into a grin. “You just wanted to hang out with me, didn’t you?”

Of course, she was supposed to deny it, send the little sarcastic game along, where Yang would tease her, Blake would tease back, and they’d go round and round.

The green glow from above looked so good on her. Her hair shifted in the mixture of lights, turning from blonde to green to purple, like it was an entity of its own. The lilac eyes shone.

Blake turned to lean against the railing, bobbing her head back and forth as though thinking. “Maybe.”

Yang’s reaction was absolutely worth any vulnerability she might have exposed. She blinked, as though startled. Red flushed into her cheeks a second later, almost completely betraying her smug reply. “What was that about not fanning my ego?”

She heaved her shoulders with the force of an exaggerated sigh. “It’s a hopeless case now. I’ve given up.”

“You poor thing, getting stuck with me.” Despite the tease, Yang’s face softened. “...Hey. For real, though. Do you want to head for home?”

The real answer was yes. But Blake shook her head, “No, no we’ve been stuck in the dumb dorm rooms for way too long, we need to get out. I’m fine.” 

Yang’s eyebrows came up slightly. “...we can walk around and find somewhere to sit and have a drink.” 

Blake sighed, looking back up at the shifting light above her. “Yang, it’s okay, I don’t want you to leave if you’re having fun.”

“I’m not.”

That caught her attention. Blake glanced over, and found a weary, crooked smile waiting for her. “Like I’d have fun going anywhere without you.”

Her breath stuck in her throat.

“Plus, well,” Yang tilted her head, “if I walk back in there, Neon’s going to start hitting on me again and I might have to put her through a wall. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really interested in trying to explain that one to Ironwood.”

“Me neither.” An odd mixture of relief and anxiety seeped into her gut, but the song had faded into a low beat that was more bearable, and she pushed off the railing. “Let’s get out of here before something bad happens, then.”

She ended up walking a half step behind Yang as they slowly descended back down the stairs. Even with a less grating song, the bass still thrummed in her bones, forcing her to grit her teeth. 

The big screen TV to the side was showing the latest polls, which were... not looking great. Robyn Hill still had a decent lead, but every update showed Jacques Schnee creeping closer. Blake’s ears pinned at the image of the pale, moustached face plastered on the TV, looking at all of them with a smug look. 

Flynt looked over his shoulder as they passed. His face was tense, but he blinked it back, waving one hand. “You two heading out?” Blake read his lips more than she heard his voice.

“Yep!” Yang was a master of sounding casual in these kinds of situations. She waved back, hollering, “Getting late, thanks for having us!”

A blur of pink and white popped up from behind the bar again. Neon grinned widely, waving as Flynt gave something of a salute. 

Yang had already turned away. But Blake didn’t miss the cat faunus’ sly wink from across the room - or the feeling of her eyes locked on them as they disappeared into the crowd.

Both girls wordlessly moved for the side room that was both a coat check and a weapons check. Shroud’s cold metal felt reassuring against her fingers as she hooked it back onto her back. Yang, technically, had never really been disarmed (a fact she’d made a low joke about after handing over Ember), but Blake could see a trace of relief as she secured the gold gauntlet back onto her arm.

As they pushed through the throng of people that had congregated around the exit, a large burly man pushed between them. Blake stumbled back, automatically bristling - but the man didn’t seem to have even noticed her, instead moving further into the club.

She hissed to herself, turning back to-

Yang was gone.

Blake’s breath caught in her throat, eyes widening. She couldn’t have gotten far. She must have headed towards the entrance. If it hadn’t been for the stupid music pounding in her ears, she might have been able to hear her, but all she could hear was music and the hum of voices.

The walls and crowd pressed in on her.

Get out.

Blake surged forwards, ducking under arms and past people. The open door promised escape.

What if someone had hit Yang? What if she was on the ground somewhere?

Blake hesitated in the doorway, staring backwards into the club. Nothing. Out of desperation, she turned back. If she wasn’t outside, Blake would have to turn around and find her. She couldn’t leave Yang behind, what if something had happened, what if she was hurt-

There was a mess of people outside the club - some waiting to get in, others outside for fresh air. Blonde hair, turning in the light as Yang frantically looked around, face paling. 

All of the terror evaporated, and suddenly Blake was back in Atlas. She hadn’t even realized she was anywhere else.

The taller woman jumped as Blake more or less collided with her. Yang’s arm clamped around her shoulders, and an exhale racked the ribcage next to her. No one seemed to notice the pair of women hurrying past the line and down the sidewalk.

Blake couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief as they moved away from the building, the low thrumming bass slowly fading from her ears.

It took longer for both of them to relax. The arm around her shoulders lifted, and Blake had to stop herself from protesting it’s absence. Still, her hand shook when she ran it through her hair. 

Blake had come to recognize that look. “Hey. You okay?”

“Yeah.” The reply came too fast - even Yang seemed to realize it, and she hesitated. Then sighed. “...Not really. Mostly, though.”

“I meant it when I said I wasn’t leaving, Yang.” Her voice was soft, more regretful than accusatory.

“I know. I know you did. I believe you.” She watched Yang’s hand run through the blonde, shining hair. “But... not all of me does, y’know? There’s parts of me that I can’t talk to. Kind of sucks when those are the ones that can reach a ‘panic’ button.”

“Yeah.” Blake looked down. “Yeah. I know how that goes.”

Yang tried to laugh, her voice still a little shaky. “Maybe Marrow had a point. We might need to get better at being apart.”

“Marrow can kiss a beowolf.” Blake snapped before she could stop herself, and Yang broke into a startled laugh. Some of the tension eased from Blake’s gut - but not all of it.

Blake found herself scanning around the streets, looking for a shop, a café, a distraction. The windows around them were either dark, or overflowing with rowdy patrons. As they passed, one stared at her ears for half a second too long, and Blake looked away, pinning them back. It was a much better idea to just keep walking and get home, she rationalized, trying not to focus on-

“Want tea?”

She blinked, looking over in time to see Yang pointing at a small café that she hadn’t spotted yet, warm light spilling onto the street. There was no place to sit, only a counter to order from. Good enough.

Blake didn’t bother replying - both of them had already started walking.

The lone staff member at the counter barely glanced at them, tiredly taking both their orders and busying herself with getting the drinks ready.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Yang glance over to her. “Better?”

“Yeah.” She watched steam rise from behind the counter, then looked back to her. “...you’re sure you didn’t want to stay?”

Yang shifted her weight, biting her lip as though uncomfortable. “...to be honest, clubs aren’t really as fun as they used to be anymore. Or, I guess, they aren’t to me.”

Blake slowly cocked her head. “Oh?”

Her partner shrugged. “It’s a lot of people. Didn’t used to mind that, but... I dunno. It feels kind of cramped now. Like if I had to fight something, it’d be hard to do. Plus it’s... y’know. Kinda loud.” 

Blake couldn’t help to smile. “Welcome to my life.” She gently bumped her with a teasing smile.

“Is that what clubs always felt like to you? Crowded and loud and scary?”

“We’ve kind of swapped places, actually.” She said thoughtfully, watching as the cafe’s lights reflected off Yang’s hair. “I used to hate them a lot more than what I do now. But that used to also be because I was...” She hesitated. Now probably wasn’t a good time. 

Yang’s eyes stared into her, and she found the words. 

“...I was scared of who I couldn’t see. That I might turn around and see someone I didn’t want to be near when I turned around.”

The lilac eyes stayed on hers. “...were you like that before he got to you?”

Of course, when Neon brought him up Blake would bristle, but when Yang didn’t she wouldn’t. She sighed, looked away, and tried to remember. “...I’m not sure. I was... pretty young when Adam and I first met.” 

A clatter caught her attention ahead of them. The tired-looking girl plopped a pair of cups in front of them with a curt nod.

Blake returned the gesture, claiming her own drink and turning back to the street. The tea was bitter and hot, shaking any exhaustion that might have dragged on her senses.

Yang’s silences were different from the ones from other people around her. Usually those were awkward, or impatient, or judgmental. Yang’s were always just... quiet. Like she could wait years for a reply without a second thought. It should have been odd that the brash, heavy-hitting, hot-headed member of their team could be the patient one. Usually Blake kept those questions in her head, neatly bottled, labeled, and placed on shelves in order. But the street was just loud enough to keep their conversation private, just busy enough that no one was going to bother with watching them see them.

As they walked, Blake looked over to her. “Were you always this patient with Ruby? Or do I get special treatment?”

Yang seemed taken aback at the question, perhaps used to Blake’s communication being mostly sideways glances and the occasional dry remark. Or maybe they hadn’t really... talked in a while. At least, not about themselves. It really had been a while, she realized as she thought back. It would have been in Beacon. It felt like lifetimes ago now - in a way, it really was.

Yang’s confusion was only momentary, and she had replied before Blake had fully left her own thoughts. “To be fair, Ruby was always a pretty good kid. It’s hard not to be patient with her when all the kid wants is to save people and build weapons. Made babysitting hard sometimes though.”

Blake couldn’t help but grin at that thought. “I’m assuming the hobby started early?”

“The obsession started early.” Yang moaned theatrically, rubbing her face. “I was there when she started building Crescent Rose. You want to talk about balancing urges, I couldn’t decide whether what she was doing was REALLY cool or REALLY stupid.”

Blake couldn’t help but smile. “That does sound like our Ruby. The girl’s a force of nature.” 

“You’re telling me.” But Yang was looking sideways at her. “...maybe that’s why she’s always gotten along so well with you.”

That got her attention. Blake blinked. “...who doesn’t get along with Ruby?”

“Weiss.”

“Weiss doesn’t count, Weiss doesn’t get along with anyone .” 

“I mean, can we blame her? Apparently it’s rough being a Schnee.” Yang’s eyes caught on one of the screens as they passed, and she slowed, her expression changing. “...or at least, it’s rough being related to them.”

Blake followed her gaze. Jacques and Robyn were emblazoned on the screen, and now only ten percent separated them. She felt her ears pin back, and grabbed Yang’s arm, pulling her along. “C’mon. I don’t want to watch it.”

Yang didn’t complain as she was pulled away, but the moment had changed. They walked in silence for a bit, wordlessly sipping from the cups of steaming liquid. The street lights cast long shadows that moved with them as they left the bustling street behind, moving into a calmer area with towering skyscrapers. Truth be told, Blake wasn’t sure if she liked the feeling that much. She had no problem with tight spaces, but the man-made structures above her were a different matter entirely. With no one around, the street lights didn’t quite reach them anymore, but there was more than enough light from the shattered moon and shifting auroras above. 

Blake glanced sideways. Yang looked faraway now as she took another drink of what Blake assumed had to be tea as well, as if thinking about something else. She bit her lip, leading them back to the previous conversation. “I honestly didn’t think I got along with Ruby better than anyone else did.” 

“She certainly thinks the world of you.” Yang tilted her head. “Most people do.”

Blake snorted. “Flatterer.”

“I’m serious. Both Ruby and Weiss defended you when...” Her voice abruptly cut out, eyes widening slightly as though realizing what she’d said.

Blake blinked, her ears slowly falling back against her head. “When I ran off?” Her voice was quiet.

“...yeah.” 

Silence tightened around them. They hadn’t been here before, they hadn’t wandered into this territory before. They’d tiptoed and slid around it and even just looked away entirely to avoid it. But now it was out in the open. 

She knew she couldn’t leave Yang waiting. She’d kept her waiting long enough.

“...I’m sorry.” It sounded so hollow, like trying to fill a crater with a pebble. She cleared her throat and inhaled, trying to find something to say that might even come close to what needed to be said. “I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t, I know that now, I was just running.” Yang still hadn’t spoken, and Blake couldn’t stop speaking. “By the time I realized what I’d done, I was on the other side of Remnant and I knew there wasn’t...” 

Her words ran out.

Either mercifully or tragically, a surge of noise from a nearby screen caught her ear. Before she could stop herself, one ear flicked sideways. 

Thankfully, Yang’s gaze tracked sideways as well, looking up as a chorus of angry voices reached them. Blake bit her lip, walking closer, feeling Yang following alongside her. 

As they turned a corner, the source of the yelling became immediately apparent. A small group of people had gathered around a TV. Jacques Schee’s face was plastered across it, along with an excitable reporter waiting for the man to emerge and discuss his victory. The people were already starting to disperse, muttering to each other. Really, even if they disliked him, they had nothing to lose - this was Atlas. Even if they weren’t one of the elites, or they had a beef with Schnee himself, they wouldn’t suffer any consequences of his rule.

The people below them, however...

“We should get home.” Yang’s voice was soft beside her, but not necessarily any attempt at calming. She could feel Yang’s anger vibrating in the way she quickly downed the last of whatever drink she had left, tossing the cup into a nearby trash can. 

“Yeah.” Blake took a step backwards, realizing her ears had pinned back to her head as she took a sip of the tea, trying to remain somewhat casual. “I’d rather not be-”

As if on cue, the woman on screen jerked, hand flying to her head. A moment of silence, then she began to quickly speak. “Sources say that Robyn Hill’s rally took a violent turn tonight-”

Yang froze beside her. Blake stared at the screen, eyes wide.

As if something from a nightmare, Penny appeared on screen, whirling back and forth with her blades, blood painting the ground around her. 

Blake opened her mouth, turning, but Yang had already grabbed for her scroll, pressing it to her ear. She rocked back and forth on her heels slightly, eyes wide, staring at the screen. 

Please pick up. Blake willed Ruby from a distance, turning to look up at the screen again. Please pick up.

Blake could hear what would be the final ring - then, miraculously, a high-pitched voice. “Yang?”

Yang’s voice cracked, turning on her heel. “Where are you? We’re on our way.” 

“We’re fine. It’s not Penny, it’s Tyrian, I don’t know what’s going on.” Ruby’s voice sounded even higher through the tinny speaker. “Penny flew off. There’s Grimm coming but we should be fine - head to Atlas, see if she went there.”

Blake pitched the half-finished drink into a can as they rushed past, keeping pace with Yang. Her partner’s eyes were still wide, clutching her scroll with more force than necessary. “We’re coming to help. Weiss and the boys are probably closer to Atlas, I’ll phone them-”

“Yang. We’re okay. I’ll call Weiss to tell her, but I need you to go there first. We have Marrow and the rest of the Ace Ops are headed down. We’re okay. Penny might not be.”

Her knuckles had turned white on the scroll. “...promise me you’ll call the second something looks like it might be bad.” 

“I will.”

Yang’s jaw tightened. But her thumb tapped the button that would end the call, as though afraid she wouldn’t be able to if she didn’t do it right away. The scroll folded up in her hands. For a moment, both of them just stood on the street, unable to move. 

Blake began to walk first, gently tugging on one of Yang’s arms. “C’mon.” 

She still didn’t look up - but she followed, head low, eyes darting back and forth.

Atlas was almost sickening in its neutrality. Despite the fact that Darkness was almost certainly breaking loose below them, the people around them seemed almost jovial. Clearly, a lot of people had been rooting for Schnee. 

Blake kept her ears pinned back against her head as they walked, reaching up to tousle her hair over them. It wasn’t a foolproof disguise, but it would work for just moving through a crowd.

“Hate that you have to do that.” Yang’s low voice finally pierced through the air, one eye on her. 

“I don’t, really.” Blake muttered. “I just don’t want us to get slowed down by some drunk asshole looking to pick a fight.”

“Go for it.” She glanced over, finding Yang staring into the distance. “I could use a fight to get into, honestly.” This was more than just nerves about Ruby, she realized. Her fists were still curled, shoulders tensed. 

Blake quietly stepped closer as they walked. “We’re okay.”

Yang glanced sideways. She leaned a little closer. “Yeah. Just... feels a bit too familiar.”

She hadn’t made the connection, too focused on the details. Crowds of people, horror unfolding on screens, Grimm, confusion...

At least she was walking beside Yang, and not dragging her. 

Suddenly, keeping her ears pinned back was no trouble at all. 

They didn’t speak again as they hurried towards Atlas Academy, tall and obvious in the night sky, like a giant on the horizon. Unfortunately, the academy was neatly stationed on the top of what must have once been a mountain, before it had been lifted into the sky along with the rest of the topography. It wasn’t exactly an easy climb. 

Instead, a series of light tracks formed a rail to the academy. Functionally, it was no different than the trolleys they’d used in Argus, but of course Atlas always seemed to feel a need to make things look more complicated.

Unfortunately, that meant that rather than getting to the academy on their own, she and Yang had to sit around and wait for the next transport. 

The platform, mercifully, was empty and allowed the two of them some ability to breathe as they waited. Yang paced the edge, while Blake found herself leaning against a streetlight, no less anxious but less willing to do anything that might waste energy.

“I didn’t blame you.” 

Blake’s head jerked up. 

Yang had stopped moving, looking back at her with too many expressions to easily read. Her voice was slow, put together in fragments, and Blake realized that her pacing might have had less to do with the current situation and more to do with her trying to put the right words in order. “What you said earlier. About leaving. I didn’t blame you.”

It only took a second to connect the dots. The confusion only lasted a second before guilt surged to take its place. “...why?”

Yang blinked, as though taken aback. “Why would I?”

“Why wouldn’t you? I-” Nausea swept up, threatening to drown the rest of what she had to say. She swallowed, pressing through her own discomfort, through Yang’s increasingly concerned stare. “I-”

“Yang!”

Both girls jumped, looking up.

Jaune waved as he jumped up onto the platform, brow knit together. Behind him, Weiss and Oscar followed suit - Weiss’ gaze immediately focused on the two of them with a sort of laser focus absent from the two boys. 

A low voice from behind her. “Later. We gotta talk.”

Blake lowered her chin in a barely perceptible nod, hoping it was doing a passable job of hiding the anxiety that was eating through her like acid.

Yang did a moderately better job, waving back with an unsteady metallic hand. “You guys moved fast.”

“We were already headed back when Ruby called.” Jaune shrugged, a nervous energy of his own seeping into his movements. “Someone’s scroll was still on during the movie. An alert went off when it happened.” 

Weiss’ icy eyes flicked between Blake and Yang. “Were you still at the club when she called?”

“No, we were heading here already.” Blake trusted herself enough to speak, at least now that there was a distraction. Weiss was a little too poised, a little too expressionless. “You okay?”

Her lips tightened slightly. “Not really. You?” 

Yang gave a low, tired laugh. “Close enough.”

Even Oscar seemed to catch on to the exhausted sort of fear exchanging between them. But, before he or Jaune could press the matter, a low hum announced the arrival of the white and metal transport, barely more than a series of three aerodynamic boxes on a blue track.

The small group wordlessly boarded the train and found seats. Blake instinctively moved towards the back of the transport, choosing a seat as close to the corner as she could manage. Yang heavily thunked down next to her, watching as the other three sat just ahead of them, Weiss leaning against one of the windows. She looked faraway, tired. 

Sympathy panged in her chest. Out of everyone in Atlas, Weiss had probably dreaded her father winning the most. Blake hadn’t forgotten the slight tremble in her friend’s fingers when she’d taken her hand on the platform, facing down the pale, moustached man. Weiss knew better than anyone else what he was capable of.  

But, as Blake’s eyes landed on her, Weiss glanced back at them and gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head. She didn’t want to talk about it. 

Yang’s metallic arm reached past her, and gave Weiss’ shoulder a small squeeze.

Weiss returned a small smile, then turned her gaze back to the window as the train’s engine whined to life below them.

The transport smoothly glided away from the city, speeding off towards the raised track to Atlas. Beside her, Yang kept clenching and unclenching her mechanical arm. Blake, on the other hand, kept her head low, watching silently as the city glittered outside.

It was nothing like Beacon, she reminded herself. The city wasn’t falling. Not yet.

Warmth pressed against her leg, startling her. She turned, and found Yang. She still looked unnerved, a little too on edge. But her eyes were as soft as ever as leg moved to firmly press against Blake’s, hidden from the other’s eyes. 

Deep in the pit of Blake’s stomach, guilt writhed, awoken by the situation and her own recalled memories. But she kept her leg pressed against Yang’s, and offered a tiny smile. 

Neither distracted her from the anxiety flaring in her gut.

The transport, mercifully, was a fast journey. The dust engines whined as they ground to a halt, doors rolling open to reveal the towering, metal monstrosity that was Atlas Academy.

A pair of soldiers stationed beside the heavy front doors glanced at the small group as they passed, but didn’t move to stop them. Blake suspected they had a very small list of people that they would let pass. The rest of the building seemed to be empty, save for the faint footsteps and muted speech that Blake could hear drifting from the floors above them.

Jaune turned as they passed through the heavy doors into the elevator, opening his mouth as though to suggest a plan. Weiss, however, was already talking as the doors rolled shut. “You and Oscar go and tell Ironwood we’re back, see if there’s something we can do. Blake, Yang and I will go up to Penny’s quarters and see if she’s up there.”

The hilariously mismatched boys glanced at each other. Oscar spoke first. “...what if he doesn’t have anything we should do?”

“Then we may as well get some rest now. Chances are, if Mantle doesn’t need our help tonight, they will in the morning.”

As they turned and headed down the corridor, Weiss turned back to Blake and Yang. “...you two good with that?”

Blake nodded, managing a weak smile. “Ironwood is the last person I want to talk to right now.”

That seemed to be all that needed to be said, because both Weiss and Yang headed towards a heading down the corridor towards where they slept. Penny’s sleeping quarters - well, quarters, she didn’t really sleep the same way they did - were on the same floor as the rest of the dorms, but behind a secured doorway. Not that it wasn’t still worth trying.

Naturally, they weren’t that lucky.

The keypad just beeped in what sounded a lot like irritation as Weiss tried to scan her scroll once, then again with a muttered growl under her breath. 

Old habits die hard, and Blake found her fingers twitching as she watched Weiss struggle with the keypad. Atlas tech was so infuriatingly easy to dismantle if you knew where to start. It wouldn’t be that hard. She leaned closer. “...do you want me to-”

“No.” Weiss didn’t even let her finish, turning back with a glare. “Do you want my sister to arrest you?”

As if on cue, the keypad on the other side of the door beeped. The scrape of the doors sliding open nearly drowned out a low, tired voice. “Depends on what I’m arresting her for.”

Winter Schnee looked like she’d aged ten years since Blake had last seen here - and she’d had the same thought process the time before. Her hair was pulled back into its usual immaculate bun, but Blake could see the rough edges where, perhaps, Ironwood’s right-hand woman hadn’t been paying attention and missed the odd flyaway hair. 

Weiss spoke first, wisely choosing to just let the previous conversation pass. “Penny-”

“I know.” Winter sighed, and showed a rare moment of vulnerability as she rubbed her face, the doors sliding shut behind her. “She’s here, she’s safe. I’ve called Pierto to come up for her.”

Weiss audibly sighed with relief beside her. Yang finally spoke up. “We can go get him.”

Winter already shook her head, walking past them. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to go myself. I have some questions I want to ask him.” She muttered as she continued down the hallway. 

“What do you want us to do?” Yang turned to follow her, eyes focused on Winter’s back.

“Stay here.” Her steps slowed. “That was... unfortunately public. She swears the footage was doctored, and Marrow’s report supports her, but the public doesn’t know it. If an angry mob finds its way to Atlas, I’d prefer that the guards have backup.” Winter glanced over her shoulder. “And rest up. Tomorrow is not likely to be better.”

At moments like this, it was clear that Winter and Weiss were siblings. Winter was even harder to read than her sister, the exterior even more icy and distanced. But the same defiant fire was there, gleaming in the way her voice vibrated slightly below the clipped tone, the way her skin was just slightly too tight around the eyes. Winter was probably closer to Penny than anyone else in Atlas - she wasn’t upset that this had happened. She was angry. 

She could feel her teammates about to disagree. But Yang was hot-headed, and Blake didn’t know if Weiss was self-aware enough to recognize the look. Blake had learned long ago that Weiss shouldn’t be tangled with when she had that look, and Winter was likely even more stubborn. 

So Blake reluctantly inhaled. “Yes ma’am.”

For a split second Winter looked confused - as though, out of the three girls, Blake was the last person she’d expected to listen. But the crack in her stone demeanour was only visible for a second before Winter turned away and strode off towards the elevator. 

Silence fell over them. Yang rubbed her face, sighing. Out of the corner of her eye, Blake saw Weiss look over her scroll. “So...”

Yang’s voice filtered out from behind her hands. “She has a point. We’re not gonna get another chance to rest - Ruby’s smart enough to know when she needs help, and the Ace-Ops can probably take care of the Grimm. They aren’t the only huntsmen in Atlas.” Despite the deceptively calm tone, Yang was still vibrating with a nervous sort of energy beside her - a kind that someone unfamiliar with Yang might mistake for anger or impatience. Some of it bled through as she added. “But I don’t like Ruby being alone with Tyrian here. Last time she saw him, he was trying to kidnap her.”

Blake felt the same - but her own was all swirling internally, hidden from the surface. She hoped she sounded even half as calm as she replied. “They were in an abandoned settlement in the depths of Anima then. They’re in the middle of a crowded city now. Plus, if he was going to go for her, he’d have already done it. I’m sure the guards can take care of themselves - but I’d feel terrible if someone actually did get through.”

Weiss tiredly laughed, the sound startling both girls out of their thoughts. “You two can just admit that you’re exhausted and need to rest. It’s okay.” Yang opened her mouth, but Weiss had already held up her hand. “If either of you could look at your scrolls for longer than ten seconds, you’d see that Ruby’s heading back right now with Ren and Nora. Marrow kicked them out and sent them home.”

It was far too late, but Blake still sheepishly reached for her scroll. Ruby’s message was the first thing that greeted her eyes, then a message from Jaune relaying that Ironwood had also told them to stay in Atlas. She slowly put it away again. “...we wait, then.”

Weiss had a habit of looking smug at all times. Yet, somehow, the smile just looked tired as she passed by. “Yeah. I say we wait.” When she nodded towards the hall, Yang followed, still rubbing her face.

At first, they’d intended to wait in the front entrance. That idea quickly passed as they reached their dorm room and decided that they’d all had enough of standing around. Despite that, no one changed out of their outfits - or even placed their weapons back in the locker. Blake heavily sat on her bunk, pretending to read election coverage on her phone, and Yang rested beside her. She would feel better once Ruby was back and there was no resemblance left to Beacon.

Thankfully, Ruby didn’t keep them waiting long. Weiss had finished refilling dust cartridges, an Yang looked half asleep when Blake heard voices muttering down the hall. She perked up as she recognized a high-pitched tone, and approaching footsteps. “She’s back.” 

Yang must have been watching Blake’s ears through half-closed eyes, because she was already sitting up before Blake even spoke.

Their leader stumbled through the door half a second later, hair mussed and eyes tired. Blake didn’t have the energy to do much other than give a relieved wave, while Yang hopped off the bed and immediately drowned her sister in a bear hug and Weiss immediately began to interrogate her about what happened. 

Ruby just seemed tired as she replied to each question. But Blake didn’t miss the bloodstain on one of her gloves that she was being careful to hide from the rest of the group. 

As Ruby passed to get to the washroom, she muttered under her breath, “Wash it in the sink with cold water. It’ll come out.”

The silver eyes caught on her for a second too long as Ruby walked away. Blake watched her go with a twinge of pain. Of all the people in the world, Ruby was the last person she wanted to see break down.

Weiss was quick to excuse herself next, leaving to change out of her own clothes and brush her teeth.

The room seemed to close in as she heard Yang shift her weight behind her, digging out the pair of dull Atlas pyjamas that they’d all been issued. She could feel the lilac eyes on her. She knew she was about to speak, and she knew what she was about to ask.

Fear and guilt sunk its teeth into Blake’s gut. “...can we talk tomorrow?” She didn’t dare glance backwards.

Yang’s voice was low, soft, and far too understanding. “For sure.”

You can’t run away forever. You need to tell her everything. 

She wasn’t running away, she told herself. Just... dodging.

She grabbed her own pair of pyjamas and followed Weiss towards the bathroom, hating the fact that she still couldn’t look at Yang.

By the time all four of them had changed and settled into a bedtime routine, the worst of the moment had passed. Yang seemed no worse for the wear, settling onto the bunk above Blake with a practiced sort of ease. Sometimes she took the metal arm off to sleep - tonight was not one of those nights.

Blake didn’t lock Gambol in its locker as they all settled into bed. She wasn’t the only one, she quickly realized - Myrtenaster and Crescent Rose sat together next to the bunk beside them. Despite the nerves they were all clearly feeling, the sound of Ruby’s soft snores quickly filled the air, followed by the sound of Weiss’s tossing and turning finally settling into quiet.

It should have been an easy enough transition to go to bed, as Blake curled on her side and closed her eyes.

Should have been.

Hours later, Blake stared straight up at the Yang’s bunk, silently trying to settle her own thoughts. Too many colours wove through her mind, mixing shifting green with raging red, soft lilac eyes with blue flashing underneath an expressionless mask.

To make matters worse, the aurora outside of their window had only intensified as the sky got darker, and tinges of red had snuck into the green light show. And flickering red light on the wall was the last thing she wanted to be confronted with.

She pulled the blanket over her head, hoping to block out the light. Unfortunately, darkness only  made matters worse. Blake grimaced, biting her lip. Then she rolled, reaching for her scroll. She needed a distraction - and she happened to know someone who was gifted in that particular art.

Weiss and Ruby were definitely asleep, but she couldn’t be sure about Yang. Usually she snored a little louder than Ruby did, but tonight it was difficult to tell if the slow breathing above her was from her partner sleeping, or doing a good job of pretending to. Blake was careful to arrange the blanket around her to muffle the light of the scroll, but leaving a big enough space to see if something outside changed.

Her fingers hesitated on the scroll for a full five minutes before she finally typed the message.

It’s Blake. Text me when you get up, nothing serious, just wanted to ask about something.

She set her scroll down, exhaling. Then jumped as a message flashed below hers.

Like anyone in this city is sleeping. What’cha need kitty?

It was weirdly freeing to see the word, knowing for sure that, for once, it couldn’t be meant in a derogatory manner. She slowly typed back, Fair i guess. You guys okay?

Hating life, living the dream, nothing new <3 You?

We’re fine. Bit shaken up, but okay.

Blake’s fingers hesitated on the keys, trying to think. Her question was difficult to put into words, exactly. It wasn’t even really a question - more of a hesitation. She wished she’d been able to ask Ilia, but... it hadn’t felt fair. Not with what she knew now. 

Neon was the last person whose opinion she cared about, really. Blake didn’t even like the other faunus. But she and Blake held something in common, and she was the only one who might have decent advice.

The screen flashed as another message popped up. Shaken up, hmm? Rethinking your life choices a bit?

The prompt was all she needed. Blake slowly typed back, feeling her shoulders tighten. More like wondering if I’ve missed a chance.

Blondie?

Her face burned. Maybe.

How’d you manage to screw it up that bad in a couple hours?!? Did you tell her she was top-heavy???

No, this happened a long time ago.  

Her fingers hesitated, but Neon seemed to be waiting this time. Nothing but a blank screen stared back at her as Blake wrestled with her thoughts

She’d thought it might be easier to type. Instead, every letter seemed to take more effort than the last, until she was left with barely enough energy to hit ‘send’ and stare at her own words. You know how you said you and Flynt are always there for each other? You can always depend on each other? I wasn’t there for her when she needed me the most. She says she’s forgiven me, but I don’t think I believe her.

Neon took a long time to reply - long enough that Blake thought she might have gotten pulled away, or she might not have anything useful to say. But, the little icon that indicated that Neon was typing came back up. Why’d you do it?

I’m an idiot - delete, delete, delete - I’m a coward - delete, delete, delete - I’m not worth her time - delete, delete, delete - Why does she even still talk to me - delete, delete, delete-

Neon’s icon popped up. Better question - do you regret it?

This time, she didn’t hesitate. Every second of every day.

Does she know that?

Blake’s eyes slowly pulled towards the silent bunk above her. The way Yang’s eyes seemed so soft, her tone quiet. Yeah. I think she does.

This time, the response took longer. Long enough for her to look up at the bunk above her, where she could hear Yang shifting on the mattress. Blake’s gaze tracked back down as the message appeared - then blinked at the length of it. 

Flynt and I only pretended to get along for a solid year. We liked each other, deep down, but we were both headstrong and we didn’t want to listen to each other. Plus, he was the team leader, and I thought I should have been. We had a pretty big fight over something stupid, then the next day we got assigned to clear out some Grimm. I let him take a hit. Wanted to remind him that my loyalty is earned, not granted. 

Grimm was way stronger than I thought, and his aura was lower than I thought. Hurt him really badly. I killed it before it could do anything worse, but I panicked. Realized I’d crossed a line, and I knew he wouldn’t trust me after that. One of our instructors came running, and I just told the truth. Before they carted us back to Atlas, he asked me why I didn’t lie. Just told him that there wasn’t a point.

Got back to Atlas, they shipped him off to the medic bay, and I just sat in my dorm and waited for Ironwood to show up so I could tell him the truth and get expelled. Instead, he came in and praised me for following my leader’s orders, then warned me not to lie to my superiors to cover for him again. Flynt had lied through his teeth and said that he’d ordered me to stand by while he tried to kill the Grimm on his own. He’s my leader, they had to take his word over mine. 

He learned that I was an honest person with a temper, not a spiteful person with an agenda. I learned that he was a smart person with a stubborn streak, not an arrogant person with a hero complex. I think Ironwood suspected something had happened, he watched us pretty carefully for a while, but we never had another issue again.

tl;dr - ‘forgiveness’ doesn’t matter as much as you think. All that matters is that you understand who she is, and she understands who you are.

Blake stared at the text for a long, long time, struggling to process the information she was being given. Her breath escaped in a low, quiet sigh. She could reply, she could explain, she could try to find a way for it to not apply to her, for her own guilt to win. But Neon was far, far smarter than Blake had given her credit for.

One more message followed. Also, she’s head over heels for you, moron. 

Blake’s face burned, and she was finally able to type back. I was just about to tell you that you’re smarter than you act, but now you’re just insufferable again.

I’m gonna print this out and frame it. <3 

“Blake?”

She jumped, automatically closing the window, looking up.

Golden hair streamed down from the edge of the bunk bed, lit in the pale blue light of her scroll. If she’d been able to see any text from the conversation, she didn’t show it. “Want to get something to eat?” Her voice was nearly silent - they’d long since figured out at Beacon that Blake could still hear her with nearly no noise.

Blake, on the other hand, still had to be careful to have some volume. She blinked, daring to glance back at the clock on her scroll. “...It’s one-thirty, no one’s gonna be in the cafeteria.” 

“There’s a vending machine. It’s broken, but...” Watching someone shrug at a nearly upside-down angle was not a sight Blake would have ever had expected she’d become used to. 

Blake raised her eyebrows. But she sat up, stretching. “Good enough for me.”

Yang carefully swung downwards, landing silently. She still hadn’t taken off her prosthetic arm, and the light from it glinted in the green and red light outside.

Blake turned completely backwards as Yang slowly eased the door open, watching the two bunks on the far side of the room. Neither Weiss or Ruby stirred as Yang pulled the door open, she backed through it, then carefully closed it again.

As they turned away and began to head down the darkened corridor, Yang began to absent-mindedly rub at her right shoulder. Blake hesitantly spoke. “...is your shoulder okay?”

“Yeah.” Yang spoke in a louder, but still low tone. “Arm is just kinda heavier than... y’know. The real one was. It’s not bad, would rather have it on just in case we have to jump up in the middle of the night.”

“Ah.” Blake nodded, falling quiet. But the lopsided silhouette pulled at her gut. 

Apparently it also pulled on her eyes, because Blake didn’t fully realize they’d reached the cafeteria until Yang suddenly stopped walking. She nearly ran into her partner’s back, before catching sight of the doorway she’d stopped in.

The northern lights still had some green left, but red had almost completely overwhelmed it now. The aurora danced like flames outside of the window, painting the entire cafeteria in red hues. It had high windows and long tables. They were all in one piece, and the room was empty; but she could see the broken tables and shattered windows. She could smell the smoke.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. Yang had turned to look at her.

It took everything Blake had to turn and look back.

Her eyes were slightly wider than they should have been. But her lips were set in a straight line. Blake heard tiny motors whine as Yang’s hand clenched into a fist. Any question that she might have had that Yang was seeing the same thing faded.

She should offer to go somewhere else, anywhere else.

She should keep running.

The connection was all her mind needed to stop, shift, think.

He’s dead. We’re running away from a ghost.

Air flowed in through her nose.

The moment her foot left the ground, the fearful voices stopped. Maybe they were too scared to speak, but it didn’t matter why they had stopped talking as long as they stayed quiet.. 

The vending machine that Yang had mentioned was only about ten feet away. Red light was reflected in it. She ignored it. Her pulse was still pounding in her ears, and when she lifted a hand, it shook. She ignored that too, punching in a code without looking to see what it corresponded to, and waited for the machine to grumble to life.

It didn't. Blake blinked, belatedly realizing that the machine was making no noise at all, there was no light coming from it, and the keypad hadn’t responded to her touch.

Warmth passed behind her. “It’s broken.”

Even with the strange light, she could tell that Yang’s face had lost some colour. But her brow was set, her eyes focused on the machine. She stepped towards the machine, sizing it up like it was a Grimm. Then she dropped her bad shoulder and shoulder-checked it, rattling the entire machine. 

There really was something to be said about how blind Atlas was to its faults. Immediately, four bags of assorted snacks dropped from their places, rattling at the bottom of the machine.

Blake slowly raised her eyebrows.

Just as slowly, Yang grinned. “...there’s a dent where people have been doing that. Noticed it a couple days ago, but I was with Harriet. Figured she’d rat me out if I tried.”

Maybe it was the mixture of emotions, the bursts of adrenaline that she had been fighting back, or even just the absurdity of the situation - but Blake burst out laughing.

Yang didn’t waste any time in joining her, probably just as unnerved at the entire situation. 

Green started to filter back into the room as Blake reached into the machine to claim their ill-gotten snacks, still chuckling under her breath.

“We can go back into the hall to eat?” Yang was still watching her even as her own laughs were dying down, even as she took the bags that Blake offered her.

Blake looked over her shoulder. The cafeteria behind her was Atlas. Cold, icy, the furthest thing from fire. 

“I’m okay to stay.” She glanced up. “As long as you are.”

Yang slowly nodded. Instead of replying, she took a step sideways, turning while nodding ahead. Blake followed as the taller girl led her to the very edge of the cafeteria, to the doorway to a thin balcony. The heaters were shockingly strong on the other side of the door, the air outside only slightly colder than the inside. Still, it felt like the very furthest thing from a burning cafeteria, and the chill of the metal as she rested against the railing was a relief.

Yang leaned next to her, ripping open what had looked like some kind of barbeque flavour chips, and offering them. Blake took one without hesitation, and turned her gaze skyward.

Green slowly wove back through the red, dancing above them as they woked their way through the bag of chips. Blake’s shoulders slowly eased. 

As the rustling of chip bags and crunching faded, she started to remember what Neon had said. Choices, true natures, how someone tried to fight against the darker parts of their own - or how they didn’t.

“Blake?”

Her head jerked up. She hadn’t been expecting her partner to actually speak. 

Yang chewed on her lip, still next to her. “Can I ask you about it?”

She didn’t have to clear up what she meant. With the cafeteria from so long ago still fresh in her brain, Blake was already in the same place. 

The lilac eyes held hers. She knew Yang wouldn’t make her say anything. 

“Yes.” She didn’t look away. 

Yang slowly blinked. She inhaled. “What actually happened? After I... you know. After I was out.”

Somehow, the question still wasn’t what she was expecting. Or, maybe she hadn’t fully realized that Yang didn’t know. Blake’s breath stuck in her throat. “I...”

“You don’t have to say.” Yang’s voice cut back in too quickly, vibrating with nervous energy. “I know you... they told me you dragged me back to the group. I know... I know whatever happened was...”

Blake raised a hand, and Yang’s voice fell, watching quietly. It still took a moment for her to find the right words, grasping at countless nightmares, fears, regrets.

And, like always, Yang just waited. She wasn’t that patient with Grimm, with men, with life itself. But she was patient with her.

All that matters is that you understand who she is, and she understands who you are.

There was no way to guarantee Yang thought the same. But she’d been in the dark for too long. If nothing else, she deserved the truth.

A lump rose in Blake’s throat. “...where do you want me to start?”

Yang blinked, like she hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. She looked down for a moment, before she hesitantly spoke. “...I saw him standing over you. I saw him...” Her voice faded, and the scar on Blake’s hip ached, so faintly that it could have been her imagination. “...after that. I guess. I have questions about before, but... maybe not right now.” 

She nodded, biting her lip. “...when you hit the ground, he... started walking towards you. I got between you.”

“He attacked you again?”

“Yeah.”

Yang’s gaze rested on the back of her neck. “I thought he just left after-”

“No.” Blake choked out a short laugh. “He was always more dramatic than that.”

She could hear the questions swirling beside her. Yang had been unconscious, and Blake had been injured. Of course she’d assumed that Adam must have simply walked away and left Blake with the consequences of her choices. It wasn’t really a bad assumption, it made sense for Adam. 

But, of course, he’d been crueler than that. He hadn’t wanted to leave her with an injured partner, he’d intended to leave her with the corpse of one.

She didn’t give Yang the chance to voice them out loud - there was no point, if she knew what they were anyways.

Instead, Blake’s voice slowly spilled out onto the still air around them.


The heat was what she remembered most. The cafeteria was dark, lit only by the flaming ruins outside. Smoke burnt at her nostrils.

The mask staring down at her was so, so familiar and yet an utter stranger. 

“Why must you hurt me like this, Blake?” Someone who didn’t know him might have thought he sounded broken. Someone who did knew it was just spite. It was all spite, all the way down to his core.

She bared her teeth and stayed exactly where she was, between him and Yang.


Her mouth moved without her thoughts behind it, trying to relay the story re-playing in her head. “He meant to kill you. I got between you two. He... took a swing at me.”


The sword came up, and somehow she wasn’t expecting him to actually do it. She knew he was petty, she knew he fought dirty. But she hadn’t expected him to actually turn the business end of the sword on her.

Blake had gotten faster and faster at pulling her clones up. 

No one would ever know that his blade had nicked the very edge of her neck on its way through the clone’s. 


“He missed.”


The force of adrenaline and fear in her veins made Yang feel light against her. In the blink of an eye she’d grabbed her around the waist, scrambled to her feet, and sprinted towards the hole in the wall that the Grimm had left.

She hadn’t been able to stop herself. She looked over her shoulder as she bolted away.

Adam stood in the ruins of the building that had become her home, one with the fire consuming it.

The moment she saw the scene, she knew that she would see it again. Again and again and again, in her dreams and in the dark space behind her eyelids.

Tears had started to blur the edges of her vision when she turned back to the darkness ahead.


“I took you and I ran.”


Yang was so, so still. Was she breathing? She didn’t have time to stop and check, and that was scarier than anything else. Her partner, her friend, the only person who had come to find her when she’d run off alone, could be dead and gone and it could all be nothing.

Warmth dripped down the arm that was holding Yang against her. She told herself that it meant her heart was still beating.

“I’m sorry.” She choked out as she ran. If Yang was still there, she didn’t want her to die without hearing it. “You’re gonna be okay. I swear, I swear to the Brothers you’ll be okay.”


“You were... I didn’t know if you were alive. I started... I think I was trying to bribe you into surviving. Started promising you things.”


“I’ll do anything.” 

Grimm were turning to look, and Blake felt panic begin to nip at her. Adam had broken her aura, and she’d used whatever she’d managed to build up to make a clone and get out of the way. She wasn’t going to be able to fight anything that came for her.

She kept running, her arm pressing Yang against her side.

“I’ll kill him for you. I’ll rip off my arm and give it to you. I’ll stay by your side forever. Please don’t die.”


“...I broke every single one.”


When a beowolf dove for her, she dragged Yang sideways. She was going off her own stamina now, with no aura. Her hip hurt. It hurt so, so much. Her shoulders burned. 

She didn’t remember pulling the trigger, but Gambol fired. The Grimm must have been injured already, and it collapsed from the single shot, fading into a puff of smoke.

Faintly, she heard a yell. Words didn’t really matter anymore.


“Weiss and Sun found me first.”


“Blake?!”

She couldn’t lift her head. The pavestones were still moving underneath her feet. That meant she was still moving, still going towards safety. But she was moving slower now.

Words faded into noises. 

Yang’s weight moved.

Blake’s head jerked up, hissing in fury, waiting to see Adam trying to drag her away. 

Sun’s dark eyes looked dead into hers as she pulled Yang’s other arm over her shoulder. 


“...Weiss told me she found us in front of the tower.” Yang’s voice was soft, but confused.


Her knees started to give out. “She needs... help...” Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth.

The world tilted.

A pair of arms caught her. She glimpsed immaculate white sleeves wrapping around her, lowering her carefully to the ground. Above her, a massive black shadow circled Beacon tower.


“She did.”

Yang’s eyes widened. “...you ran from the cafeteria to Beacon tower with no aura.”

Blake slowly laid her head onto her arms, crossed over the railing. “I would have gone further.”


She was all Blake could see. A fallen goddess, a broken phoenix.

Muffled voices echoed beside her. All Blake could think about was reaching for Yang’s hand. 

“I’m sorry.”

Yang’s face didn’t move as she gripped her fingers tighter.

“I’m so sorry.”


Yang hadn’t moved, hadn’t asked. But her face said it all. She was looking away, trying to connect the dots.

Blake didn’t make her ask. “When the medics got to us, they took you first. Once you were gone, I... it hit me.”


Golden hair moved away, disappearing behind the medic van’s door. 

Blake wanted to scream, thrash, break away from the woman that had rolled her onto her back, trying to heal the gash on her hip. The only thing she had the energy to do was stare at the medic van as it rumbled to life, and lifted, soaring away. Carrying her partner away with it.

And then Blake was alone again. 

Darkness pressed in on all sides. This was all her fault. He’d followed her. He’d known. Of course he’d known.

And Yang had just walked in at the exact wrong time. 

Pain in her hip briefly distracted her. The woman above her frowned as she hissed, moving. “Sorry. I was hoping it wasn’t going to need a stitch, but it looks like it will. Don’t worry, I’ve got something that-”

“Just do it.” Blake hissed.

“Tough girl. Trust me, it’ll scar a lot less if you let me-”

She pulled herself up onto her elbows, stared the woman in the eye, and hissed. “There’s someone here that will kill everyone in this place if he decides he wants to get to me. Stitch me up now .”


“I convinced the medic to stitch me up on the spot, then let me go. I wanted to leave as fast as I could. I was afraid...” She could feel Yang’s eyes on her. “...I didn’t know where he was. If he’d left, or if he’d followed me. He’d already... I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t just charge in and attack again. I wanted to draw him away if he was.”

Yang stared at her, and she forced herself to inhale. “You were already gone. They were wheeling Ruby away, and Weiss had gone with her. I waited until they cleared.”


Her hip still hurt. She still limped with every step - but her aura was starting to build again, with less of a wound to heal. 

She slowly, clumsily, climbed to the top of a rooftop. 

In the distance stood what was left of Beacon tower, now with a massive stone dragon atop it.

She gritted her teeth and began to walk. 

She thought of Yang, in a hospital bed alone, somewhere. 

Tears that had nothing to do with pain welled in her eyes. 

She landed too hard from the first jump, rolling to her knees with a loud yelp of pain. For a long moment, she didn’t get to her feet.

She wanted to go back to her bunk, underneath Yang’s, listening to her snore.

But that bunk had been burned to the ground. Yang would look at her and see the pain and devastation she’d brought. 

“You’ve never been one to run from a fight, Blake.”

She wanted to laugh, bitterly, as she stood, remembering Yang’s words. How wrong she’d been in the end. 

Of course she’d run.


She couldn’t bring herself to retell it all to Yang. The pain in her gut, the loneliness, the knowledge that she couldn’t stay, couldn’t put her in any more danger.

But Yang deserved to hear something that was at least the abbreviated truth.

She thought of Sun, sitting on her parents couch with a patch taped to his shoulder. “I’d do it all again if it meant protecting you. And I know Yang would say the same thing.”  

But Yang hadn’t asked to lose her arm.

She inhaled, cursing herself as Yang watched her, waiting, as she struggled to find the right words. “I regret... I regret doing what I did. I should have stayed. I just couldn’t...” She shook her head, furiously scrubbing at her eyes as they stung. 

You did this. Own up to it.  

In her mind, her voice was steady and calm. In reality, it cracked and shook. “It was my fault.”

It was finally there, out in the open, settling between them. 

She didn’t dare look up at Yang as she continued, cold biting into her arms from the metal rail. “He hurt you because he... he knew . He told me that he’d...”

Her voice ran out. But Yang was next to her, still waiting after all this time. The other half of me .

“He told me he’d destroy everything I loved. And you were right there . He looked at me, he looked at you, and he just. He knew.”

She could feel Yang’s eyes on her, thought she could even hear her blinking in surprise. 

She didn’t dare look. She didn’t dare acknowledge what she’d just said. Her words just kept tumbling out, terrified of what a silence might bring. “He knew you’d replaced him and he was angry at me, you just... the only thing you did wrong was try to protect me and he was waiting-”

Warmth settled over her hand.

Her eyes still refused to look away from the railing, but she let Yang’s fingers gently twine between hers. “I told myself I was protecting you. I knew I wasn’t.” She forced herself to inhale. “I knew when you woke up, you’d... you’d know what I’d done. And I’m such a goddamned coward, Yang, I couldn’t - I knew you’d hate me for it but... but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t make myself stay when I knew the next time you’d look at me it’d be with hatred, because there wasn’t...”

Yang’s voice finally sounded, soft and quiet beside her. “...wasn’t what?”

It took Blake a long time to find the right word - and the only reason she spoke it at all was because of the waiting silence beside her. “Hope.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Yang tilt her head. “...hope for what?”

It wasn’t fair that Yang probably looked so, so good when Blake couldn’t turn around to look at her. “Hope that you’d forgive me.” She mumbled. 

She heard Yang draw breath. Normally, she wouldn’t have silenced her - but she knew Yang was going to try to say that she had, and that things were okay. Blake knew she couldn’t bear to hear her partner lie. 

“I know you haven’t. You shouldn’t. I abandoned you when you needed me most. And I knew it was the worst thing I could have done, I knew you’d been left before, and I’m just as horrible as she-”

The fingers around her hand tightened. “Blake.”

Even with her rant, even with her fear, even with everything Blake felt - she stopped, and looked up. 

The aurora’s red hue had faded, leaving the familiar green. Yang’s eyes were locked on hers, and for a moment Blake remembered kneeling beside a waterfall, a pair of mismatched hands on her shoulders. “You’re not Raven. Even... even when I was at my worst, I knew that. I knew you wouldn’t have run off if you didn’t... you didn’t think you had to.” Her brows knit together. “I won’t lie to you. I was angry. I didn’t understand. I thought... I thought maybe I... maybe you thought I couldn’t protect you. And you had to run to be safe.”

Blake felt her body stop moving, stare with wide eyes. She wasn’t sure how she hadn’t thought of it sooner, hadn’t realized that maybe that was what had been plaguing Yang, why she’d been so quick to pull her hand away when Blake had told her that she’d protect her. Why that might have hurt. 

It was her turn not to speak, to wait for the right moment. She watched as Yang set her jaw. “I was never angry at you. I wanted to be, I really did. I made Weiss and Ruby think I was, I think. I... said some stuff I regret now.” She added, in a smaller voice, then inhaled as if steeling herself. “I’m not going to forget that it happened. And... I think I’ll always be scared for a second if I turn around and you’re not there. Might be that I can’t forgive what happened.”

Blake’s eyes slowly fell.

“But.” Her eyes jerked back up to find Yang staring back into her. “ You aren’t what has happened. You aren’t your mistakes. And I never had to forgive you, because I never blamed you.”

The ground was gone. So was the sky, the earth, the world. The only real thing in the world was Yang, standing behind her as waves of light rolled above them, and the fact that somehow she could still tell that the eyes that had welled up with tears were lilac. 

“I only ever blamed one person for what happened to us. And it sure as Darkness wasn’t you.” Yang’s breath shook as she inhaled, “And I’m so, so sorry that you ever thought it was.”

This time, Blake went to her first. She turned, half stepped, half fell forwards, and pressed herself against Yang’s body, burying her face in her shoulder. 

One arm closed around her waist. The other crossed over her back and shoulders, cool metal gently pressed against her. “And I love you too.”

In hindsight, it really should not have been a surprise. But Blake wasn’t paying attention to logic anymore, or even the flood of emotion that was threatening to drown her. All that mattered was the warmth she was pressed against, and the waist her arms had anchored themselves around.

She hadn’t actually said it. She’d made it clear, but she hadn’t actually said the words.

“I love you.” She choked on an inhale, shoving her face deeper into the crook of Yang’s shoulder. “I love you so, so much.”

The arms around her tightened a little more. When Yang inhaled, it sounded unsteady.

The northern lights danced above, lighting both girls in shifting, gleaming light. When Blake exhaled, it felt like all of the air left her lungs for the first time since Beacon. Like she could finally, finally breathe.

A low, quiet voice in her ear. “Can I ask you for something?”

“Yeah.” She replied, instantly. She’d already promised that she’d be there, that she wouldn’t leave, but she would have promised Yang the moon and sky if she’d asked for them.

A gentle push on her shoulder, and Blake leaned back, creating space between them. Yang smiled. “Never call yourself a coward again. You’re the bravest damn person I’ve ever met in my life.”

It was so unexpected that she nearly laughed. But there was something in Yang’s smile that suggested it wasn’t a joke. That she was serious. 

Tears stung at her eyes. “I’ll try. Is that good enough?”

A smile creased the skin around the lilac eyes. “That works.” Yang’s head dipped, touching their foreheads again. She wasn’t sure if they’d been this close since Adam had stumbled off the edge of the waterfall. 

She watched the lights reflect through her skin, her hair, her eyes, and thought that she could get a lot closer.

And, as though on cue, the scroll she’d hastily shoved in her pocket buzzed. 

Both girls jumped at the noise, breaking the spell that Blake hadn’t realized she was under. Yang awkwardly reached up to scratch her head, grinning sheepishly as Blake fumbled for her scroll. “Guessing Weiss?”

“Prob-” Her scroll flicked open. 

Heads up, Ace Ops just walked in and Marrow is notorious for ratting people out if they’re out late. Not that there’d be anything inappropriate happening. <3

“-bably.” She snapped it closed. She’d forgotten, with everything happening, that Neon was still technically a student and was living somewhere inside Atlas as well. It was far, far too easy to imagine her watching or listening. “But maybe we should head back.” 

A tiny bit of red coloured Yang’s face as she glanced upwards, as though looking for windows. “Gods I hope she’s not watching.” She mumbled under her breath.

Blake slowly blinked, wondering if Yang had somehow managed to read her mind. “...Our dorm is a ways away, I don’t think Weiss could see.”

Yang hesitated, as though belatedly realizing what she’d said. “Right. Yes. Absolutely.”

A smile pulled at her lips. “...You saw the text conversation, didn’t you?”

The redness across her face deepened. “...sort of, but um. I did. I did uh. Look I was a little scared she was gonna push you off a railing and say it was an accident, I promise I wasn’t eavesdropping, I couldn’t hear anything you were saying, I wasn’t even gonna stay, she just came back out right at the wrong moment and-”

So that was why she hadn’t heard Yang approaching the patio. She was already there. Blake cut off the nervous rambling with a hand on Yang’s shoulder. “Yang. It’s okay.” She tilted her head, watching her partner blush. “I’m guessing she saw you when she went back in?”

“...yes.” Yang weakly smiled. “She was a little surprised that I was there, but she just, uh. Laughed at me a bit and kept walking.”

Also, she’s head over heels for you, moron. She wasn’t going to give Neon credit for reading that one right; if Yang had looked anything like she did now, even Blake wouldn't have been able to deny it.

Blake slowly shook her head, and gave a soft, resigned sigh. “I take it back.”

A split second of panic crossed Yang’s face, then dissolved into an embarrassed sort of relief as Blake continued, the mock solemn tone dissolving into a laugh. “Maybe you are capable of some stealth.”

The skin around the lilac eyes crinkled slightly, highlight by a burst of light above them. When Blake’s hand came up and the smallest finger gently looped around the smallest on the metal hand, Yang easily followed her back through the doorway.