“Welcome to Patchwork Bakery, how can I help you?” Yang asks, hair snapping behind her as she turns. There’s a pair in front of her, a woman and a guy, and there are pleasant smiles on both of their faces, although the guy’s is wider.
“Hi! We need a cake!” the guy announces, slamming his hands down on the counter. Yang nods, grabbing her notepad out of her apron.
“Alright, what kind of cake?” she asks, tucking the fly-away hairs behind her ears.
The guy’s smile wavers, and his eyes dart to the heavily freckled woman next to him. She sighs, and Yang gets the feeling she’s long-suffering. “A small Earl Gray cake with lemon buttercream, please.” Her voice is gravelly, but her eyes are bright.
“Alright, when do you need it by?”
“Er, as soon as possible?”
Yang raises her brows. “You realize most cake orders are placed a few days, if not weeks, in advance, right?”
Their faces drop, and the woman starts pulling on the ends of her ponytail. “We’re sorry for the short notice, but we only just got the news.”
“The news?” she repeats.
The guy beams at her. “Our friend left her asshole fiance!”
Yang blinks once, twice, before nodding. “Okay. Alright.” She nods again and repositions her pencil. “So what kind of message do you want on the cake?”
“You can do it?” the woman cuts in, brows furrowed.
Yang shrugs. “It’s a slow day. I can drop it off tonight.”
“Oh, thanks so much!” The guy is practically vibrating with excitement, and the woman sighs, but she smiles at Yang.
Yang smiles and shrugs again. “You’re lucky you came in when you did. Now, do you want a message, or do you just want some rosettes?”
“Can you write YAY! or Fuck him! on it?” the guy asks. The woman presses her fingers to her temple. “Definitely not We’re sorry for your loss, though.”
Yang looks back and forth between the two. “How about Congratulations instead?” she suggests gently, and the woman nods as her bare freckled shoulders sag in relief.
“Perfect. And could we also do the rosettes?”
“Of course. Rosettes are a necessary decoration to any and every cake,” Yang says with a wink. “Yellow okay?”
“And maybe some light purple?” the guy says. “If you can. If you can’t, no sweat.”
“No, no, I can do yellow and light purple.” She writes it all down, even though she’s pretty sure she can remember it all. Weiss has been on her back to keep an exact log, even though her own log is perfectly sufficient. “Anything else?”
“Uh, I want some of those pastries over there, but for this order, we’re good!” the guy says. “How much do we owe you?”
Yang does the math in her head. “Thirty lien, please.” They nod, and they each hand her fifteen, but not before tucking an extra five into her tip jar. She smiles at them and hands them back their receipt. “Thanks. Where am I taking this cake tonight?”
“3 Gatto Place, please. Ask for Ilia Amitola. And what time do you think you’ll get there?”
Yang rocks back and forth on her heels, mentally conjuring up a map of the city. “Probably around seven fifteen. Does that work?”
“That’s perfect, thank you.” The woman smiles at her before glancing back at her companion. “Sun, pick your pastries, and let’s go. We got a lot of other places to hit up before tonight.”
The guy, Sun, is already salivating over her display case, and Yang is really glad she wipes it down every morning and Weiss cleans it every night. His breath clouds the glass. “They all look amazing, Ilia, how can I pick?” he moans, rubbing his belly. He straightens up, mouth open. “Can I get three almond croissants?” he asks, pointing at the pastry with his pale tail.
Yang nods, snapping her gloves on before reaching in and grabbing them. She puts them in a bag and creases the top. “Seven fifty, please.”
He eagerly forks the cash over before reaching into the bag and biting into the croissant, the flaky pastry crumbling over his chest. “These are my favorite,” he groans through a full mouth. “Thank you so much.”
Yang laughs. “I’m glad you enjoy my work,” she says. “Always makes me happy to see someone enjoying my food.”
He nods, and there are crumbs on his lips. “Best place in Vale to get sweets!” he says, and pride straightens her shoulders for her.
“Well, thank you. Enjoy!”
They wave to her on the way out, and Yang turns back to her notepad. Small Earl Gray cake with lemon buttercream. Easy enough. She heads back into the kitchen and taps her sister on the shoulder. “Hey, it’s your turn to watch the counter. I got an order.”
Ruby groans, looking up from the dough she’s kneading. “You have to stop taking day-of orders,” she says, but she still takes off her gloves and exchanges them for a fresh pair. “You’re doing it just to spite me.”
“Just a little.” Ruby smacks her shoulder, and she laughs. “Nah, it shouldn’t take long, and you can get back to your goblin cave soon enough.”
“It’s our goblin cave, mind you!” Weiss says from over in the corner. The cupcakes she’s frosting look perfect and dainty, and she’s somehow managed to not get a spec of frosting on her, a talent Yang has somehow managed to never learn. “And it’s not a goblin cave, it’s a goblin palace. If we’re going to be goblins, we’re going to be high class goblins.”
“Why doesn’t Weiss go out and deal with people?” Ruby asks.
“Because you hate decorating.”
Ruby hangs her head, heading out to the counter with a sigh. “You’re the worst.”
Yang laughs, and she snaps her gloves before grabbing the ingredients she needs. The metal of her hand sometimes causes the flimsy gloves to snag and tear, and it never hurts to check that she hasn’t caught the material in her joints.
She hums as she plops her ingredients down on the table before grabbing a saucepan and pouring the tea leaves, milk, and vanilla into it. “Do you have to do that?” Weiss asks, not looking up from her cupcakes.
“Do what?” she asks, pouring a little extra milk in. She never manages to get the amount of tea infused milk right for this recipe, and it was better to make a little too much than too little. Patchwork is known for their flavors, and she’d be damned before she watered down the milk with non-infused milk.
“Sing while you bake.”
“This isn’t singing, this is humming.” She grins, even though Weiss can’t see her. “I can sing if you want me to.”
“Then turn the radio on.”
Weiss sighs, but music filters out of the tiny box, quiet enough that the front of the store can’t hear them over the cheerful front music but loud enough to settle Yang’s energy.
She leaves the milk to simmer before setting the oven and starting to cream the butter and sugar together. Ruby always joked that this was the “heart attack” stage, not the least because she loved to grab tastes of the sweet smoothness when she was younger. She still did it, but she refused to admit it to Yang, even though she could clearly see the indentations in her batter when they baked together at home.
Muscle memory takes over, and the cake is in the oven before she knows it. She rolls her shoulders back and sets about making the buttercream as the cake bakes. The Earl Gray and lemon buttercream cake is one of her favorites. Anything lemon is one of her favorites, if she’s honest, but infusing tea into cake is always fun, and she likes playing around with it. Even if she prefers coffee, tea is far more versatile when it comes to flavor profiles.
The cake finishes just as she finishes the buttercream, and the smell is subtle but lovely. She pokes it in the oven, checking to see if it jiggles before taking it out. Weiss and Ruby think she’s ridiculous and they both normally stick to timers and toothpicks, but there was no better way to determine a cake’s doneness than by its jiggle.
Yang takes it out of the tins to cool before refrigerating the frosting. She checks her phone with a furrowed brow, silently checking off her to-do list.
It had been a slow morning, so she had gotten most of her prep work for tomorrow done already. There were some tasks she couldn’t complete until right before she was due to leave, but her cleaning never took long, especially since Weiss and Ruby closed up shop and handled the heavy duty stuff. She still needed to do laundry when she got home, but if she was too tired she could technically push it off until tomorrow.
The delivery messed up her plan for the night slightly, but it only offset her timing by an hour, and it could be worse. She could pick up dinner from the diner at the corner instead of cooking tonight, and she’d still be in bed early enough to not feel like injecting pure caffeine straight into her veins tomorrow morning.
“Do you have time to get these into the oven?” Weiss asks. She’s still bent over the cupcakes, but at some point she had found the time to assemble the blueberry muffin batter from the looks of it.
“Yeah, I’m just waiting for the cake to cool, and then I’m out of here.” She grabs the bowl and starts scooping the mix into the tray, already prelined. “Do you have any plans for tonight?”
“Besides cleaning up your mess?” Weiss snips, but there’s no venom in it. It had taken a while, but she had finally accepted that Yang is a messy baker, and there’s nothing she could do to change that. Yang had tried, and failed, and tried again, but she’s a messy baker through and through. Weiss at least helped her clean up her messes now. “I think I’m going to go to bed early tonight. I’m planning on grabbing breakfast with Winter tomorrow.”
“Oh, Winter’s in town? You should’ve told me, I would’ve made something for her,” Yang says.
“She’s only here for the day, and she hates that you keep plying her with sugar. You know she can’t resist your brownies.”
“Exactly. She eats cleaner than anyone I know, the girl needs some sweetness in her life!” She plops the batter into the tin before raising her eyebrows. “Speaking of sweetness-”
“Nope, don’t even ask,” Weiss says, and Yang can hear the blush in her voice. “Do not go there.”
“Aw, come on! Give me something. I’m dying over here.”
“Fine!” Weiss sighs, and Yang is reminded of the girl from earlier. She wonders if all friend duos have one friend that sighs and another that induces the sighs. “She’s lovely .”
“Tell me more, tell me more!” Yang sings out, spinning around the counter to stare her in the eyes.
“Do not sing Grease at me.” Weiss flips her ponytail, and Yang was right, her cheeks are red. “She’s lovely, and I really like her.”
“When do we get to meet her?” Yang asks lightly. “You’ve been dating for a month.”
“Three weeks!” Weiss huffs. “And soon. I just want to be sure-”
“You’ve been officially dating for a month, and that’s not counting the three months of not-dating you two did. That’s pretty serious,” she says.
Weiss’s jaw tightens, and she stands up. “Courtship, and I just want to be sure!” she says.
“I know. But when you are, we’re excited to meet her.”
Weiss smiles at her, and some of the tension leaves her shoulders. “I know,” she says, rolling her eyes before bending back down to the cakes. “I think you’ll like her.”
“I know we will.”
Yang pops the muffins in the oven and turns back to her cake. Decorating has never been her strong suit, she’s not as good as Weiss, but she’s not as bad as Ruby. Her hands are either perfectly still for the work or shake beyond belief, and there’s no way for her to tell if it’s going to be a good day or a bad day for decorating. But rosettes and some light writing isn’t bad, and she can handle that.
Yang slathers a stiff layer between the layers before covering the entire thing in a thin crumb coat. The lemon makes her mouth water. She’ll have to bake something with lemon over the weekend to scratch the itch.
Once chilled, she takes the cake out and pipes the buttercream onto the cake. It’s smooth and classic, but she’s feeling fancy, so her decorations will be a little more extravagant than usual. She dyes the frosting a pale yellow and light purple before starting to pipe the delicate rosettes and full roses on the top and up the sides.
The “Congratulations!” is loopy and in her best cursive, which isn’t all that great, especially when compared to Weiss’s perfect penmanship, but it’s legible and better than her usual script. She lets her mind wander as she pipes the leaves and vines to connect the flowers.
She’s written odder messages before. Hell, “Congratulations” gets written what feels like every other day, but she’s never made a cake to celebrate an engagement being called off. The curiosity in her wants to know the story behind it all, but that’s prying, and that’s rude. Customers tell her what she needs to know, and if they share more than she needs, that’s on them. Sometimes she hates it, the way certain people drone on about how their niece is turning two and a half, but she usually loves it. She loves getting involved in people’s lives and listening and making something to mark the occasion, loves celebrating with them, for them.
Yang boxes up the cake and puts it in the fridge before cleaning up her station. Cleaning is never fun, and she never fails to surprise herself with how many places powdered sugar can get into. It’s a real annoyance, and if she didn’t love baking so much she would never bake again because of how messy it gets.
But she does love it. She loves creating something and trying out new recipes and tweaking old ones and finding a new combination. She loves baking. All the pieces fit together when she bakes. She feels whole when she bakes, and nothing makes Yang smile like watching someone enjoy her treats. Ruby thinks it’s creepy that she likes watching people eat, and when she says it like that, it kind of is, but she likes comforting, and there are few greater comforts than food.
Baking is in her genes. Ever since the first time she baked chocolate chip cookies for Ruby alone, it’s been a constant in her life. It clears her mind and steadies her heartbeat, and it doesn’t hurt that baking is literally in her blood.
Her smile fades slightly. Well, the blood that matters.
“I’m headed out,” she calls, and Weiss waves her out. “Text me when you’re both home!”
“Stop being such a worrier!” Ruby calls from the front, and she grins as she secures the cake box to her bike. Ruby never believed her when she said that the cakes she delivered on her bike arrived un-smushed and safe, but they did.
She slams her helmet on her head and flexes her hands before taking off. Vale is a small city, and she knows almost every street like the back of her hands. Gatto Place is a little further east than she usually heads, Yang lives in the west end, but she knows where it is. She flies past the flickering storefronts until the streets turn more residential, and she arrives at a small house on the edge of the city.
The house is a soft yellow, similar to the color of the flowers she frosted onto the cake, with light gray shutters. There are flowers out front in the window boxes, but they’re more dried than flowers should be. The grass is uncut with bright dandelions visible, even in the evening, and the majority of the house is dark.
She parks in the front of the house. Yang takes her helmet off and places it on her bike. She grabs the cake and heads up the driveway and onto the path to the white front door. She knocks, and the metal of her hand vibrates against the wood.
The door opens after a moment, but just a crack. “Who’s there?” a female voice asks.
“Patchwork Bakery. I was told to ask for an Ilia Amitola?” There’s a sigh, but the door opens all the way.
The woman behind the door is shorter than Yang, but not by much. She has long black hair and matching cat ears and gold eyes, although they’re red and puffy and tear stained. The woman sniffles, wiping at her face with her hand.
“I’m sorry, Ilia’s not here yet. She’s stuck in traffic.” Her voice is soft, and the woman is curled in on herself.
Yang shrugs, ignoring the way her heart has started racing. “I was just told to drop this cake off.” She tries to keep her voice light, but the woman still winces. Yang shifts her weight between her feet. “Are you okay?”
The woman’s head snaps up, and she nods, eyes wide. “I’m sorry, I’m not normally like this,” she says, taking the box out of Yang’s hands. “It’s been a rough few days.” There are purple bags under her gold eyes, and Yang’s heart pangs.
She smiles softly. “That’s okay. Everyone has them.” She pauses. “Do you need anything?”
The woman shakes her head and sniffles again. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.” There’s a smile plastered on her face, but it’s trembling.
Yang nods, and she steps back. She won’t push. “Okay. Have a good night, then.”
The door closes, and Yang heads back down the walkway. She gets back on her bike and looks back to the door, frowning. She sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose before slinging her helmet on. Yang starts her bike and drives away.
She’s probably fine. The woman had friends coming over soon, and she had one of Yang’s cakes. She would be fine.
Still, her stomach curdles at the thought of someone crying alone.
Yang fumbles for her keys to get into her apartment, cursing as she drops them to the floor. She finally manages to unlock the door and drops her stuff off on the table, too tired to bother sorting it all out where it’s meant to be. She sets her keys in the dish and shoves her shoes off, and that’s about all she can manage.
She brings the bag of food she picked up from the diner and plops it down on the counter. Yang washes her hands before grabbing a fork and digging into her veggie pasta. It’s good, way better than what she had planned on making, and she practically moans around the food. Her lunch break had been cut short today, not that she minded, but it meant that her lunch had gone half uneaten.
Her eyes flick to the clock, and she sighs as she realizes the time. It’s already eight, and she has to be up so early. It was just a matter if she would stay up late or wake up early to shower. She decides to wake up earlier, if only so she can get to bed sooner.
The apartment is quiet, too quiet. She doesn’t spend much time in her home, what with most of her time being occupied by the bakery. It’s not that she doesn’t like her apartment, she does. She and Ruby had spent enough time decorating it for it to feel like home, but it still didn’t feel right. It’s too quiet.
Ruby and Yang had used to share an apartment, so used to living together after so many years, but then Ruby had met Penny, and it had just made sense for Yang to move out. Dad had already moved back to Patch, too far away for her to commute, and she liked living in the city. Living in an apartment made sense.
Still, it’s too quiet.
She stretches upwards before packing away the rest of her dinner. Leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner, so at least she had that sorted. Yang washes the fork in the sink, leaving it to dry on the rack. She grabs a glass and fills it with water before draining it and filling it up again.
Yang pads to her room and gets into her pajamas. She can’t help the way something feels wrong. It’s not just the quiet, but that’s certainly not helping. No, something is wrong.
Golden eyes flash behind her lids, and she sighs.
Maybe she shouldn’t have left. Maybe she should have stayed until her friends got there. Maybe she should have insisted on making sure she was okay.
But Yang was a stranger to her, and that was weird. She always struggles with boundaries, never knowing when she’s supposed to push and pull away. Strangers don’t deliver cakes and stay. Strangers don’t invite themselves inside and ask what’s wrong and refuse to take bullshit answers. That’s what friends are for, and it was obvious to her the golden eyed woman had good friends. She didn’t need a weird baker harassing her.
But she’s always hated leaving someone in pain. She remembers when Ruby broke her arm the second time. Yang had to run and get help, and leaving her sister was the hardest thing she had ever done. She had known that she needed to get help, but she hated leaving her to suffer alone. She had never been good at leaving. It felt wrong to see someone hurting and to just ignore it.
She sighs, running a hand through her hair as she takes her ponytail out. One of the downsides to running a bakery, she supposes, is having to keep her hair up all the time. Yang likes it better when it’s flowing around her and she can feel it against her neck.
Her pajamas are soft and well-worn, and she eagerly pulls them on. She had planned on reading a little before bed, but her eyes are too heavy for her to bother. Yang undoes the covers and turns off the lights before crawling into bed, flopping on the mattress.
She stares at the ceiling for what feels like hours before getting up and turning the light on. She heads into the kitchen and grabs the prescription sleep medication Dr. Ozpin had prescribed her after she mentioned the nightmares from the accident. She hates using them, hates that she sometimes needs them, but she needs to be on top of things for tomorrow, and staying up the whole night helps no one.
She swallows the two blue pills without water and crawls back to bed.
She doesn’t dream.
“Welcome to Patchwork Bakery, how can I help ya?” Yang asks, turning around to face the door and the ringing bell. The pair from yesterday are back, and they rush the counter with wide eyes.
“Okay, that cake was ridiculous. What was in it, magic?” Sun demands.
“Normally, I would encourage you to dismiss every word out of his mouth as pure lunacy, but seriously, what was in that cake?” Ilia asks, hands on her hips.
Yang’s easy smile widened. “So your friend liked it, then?” she asks, wringing her hands as she wipes them on her apron. She flashes back to the red eyed woman she met, and guilt twinges in her stomach.
They nod in unison. “She loved it. Thank you.” Ilia smiles at her. “Really. Thank you. Can we place another order? Not for as soon as possible, this time.”
Yang nods, reaching to grab her notepad. “What’re you thinking? Same thing as last time, or do you want to try something different?”
“What other flavors do you have?” Sun asks.
Yang taps her pen against her chin. “We have a lot of flavors,” she says. “It might be faster if you tell me what flavors your friend likes and I can recommend from there.”
“She likes tea!” Sun says.
“And she doesn’t like it too sweet.”
“Okay, okay.” Yang rocks her head side to side. “Does she like chai tea?”
“She loves it,” Ilia says.
“How does a chai cake with cream cheese frosting sound?”
Sun’s eyes go as wide as saucers, and he starts rubbing his belly once more. Yang can’t contain her laugh, even as Ilia rolls her eyes. “She would love that,” he says, straightening up. “Tea and cake, her favorite things!”
“When do you want it for?” Yang asks with a laugh in her throat.
“How about next Thursday?” Ilia suggests. “Is that enough time?”
Yang turns and checks their schedule. “Yeah, that should be perfect, actually. You guys fit right in.” She writes them down on the schedule and straightens up. “That’ll be thirty lien.” They hand her the money once more, and Yang slams the register shut. “Do you two want a free sample of some amaretto cookies? They’re new to our menu.”
Sun nods and starts bouncing up and down. “Please!”
Ilia rolls her eyes again, but she’s wearing a smile. “That sounds nice,” she says, and Yang smoothly slides them the plate.
Sun shoves one in his mouth, and Ilia takes a small bite. Both of their eyes go wide, and Yang grins as she watches them swallow. “Good?” she asks, still unable to stop the nervousness that comes with watching others try a new recipe.
“So good,” Ilia says, brushing the crumbs from her lips. “Can I buy a few of these? Say, half a pound?”
Yang nods, and she measures out the cookies, adding an extra one for good measure. “That’ll be six lien,” she says, and Ilia hands her the money once more.
“I think my girlfriend will love these,” she says, something like mischief sparkling in her eyes, and Yang smiles.
“I hope she does. If she doesn’t, bring her back here, and we’ll find something for her,” Yang says, taping up the box. “Oh, and for the cake, same address as last time?”
Ilia nods. “Same time okay?”
“Yup, I’ll drop it off on my way home again.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize it was on your way home. You can drop it off earlier if that works better for you!” Ilia says, and Yang shrugs.
“Nah, you’re fine. Really.” She smiles, but she feels it flicker as the questions itch beneath her skin.
Is your friend okay?
Did she really like my cake?
Does she need anything?
But Yang forces them down and pastes on a smile.
“If you’re sure,” Ilia says, and uncertainty moves across her face.
“I’m sure,” she says, as kindly as she can manage. “Really.”
Ilia nods. “Okay. We’ll see you Thursday, then. If I don’t manage to keep myself from coming back for these,” she says, bouncing the box in her hands.
“You’re always welcome here,” Yang says, and she waves them out.
Yang slouches, cracking her neck before reaching for a towel to wipe down the counter. She slings the towel over her shoulder and dusts off her apron. The metal of her hand groans as she rolls her wrists and shakes her hands out. She opens the door to the kitchen to reveal Ruby and Weiss bickering.
“I’m telling you, you put too much vanilla in!” Ruby says, raising her hands above her head.
“Do you know how hard it is to put too much vanilla in? It’s basically impossible.”
“Well, you’ve achieved the impossible!”
“What happened?” Yang cuts in, separating the two of them.
“She says my frosting used too much vanilla!”
“She used too much vanilla!”
Yang sighs, and she grabs a spoon, dipping it into the bowl in question and bringing it to her lips. Her nose wrinkles, and she sighs. “Weiss, just how much vanilla did you put in?”
Weiss raises her chin. “Okay, maybe the bottle slipped, but-”
“How much?” she asks again, and Weiss slumps.
“Half the bottle,” she says, ducking her head.
“I told you!” Ruby says triumphantly, punching the air.
She cuts her sister a glance before turning back to Weiss. “Double, no, quadruple everything else in the recipe, and if that fails, put it in the fridge and label it. I’ll find something to do with it.”
Weiss nods, and she straightens up. “Got it.” Her eyes flicker back to Yang. “So who was that?” she asks, setting the bowl on the counter. “New customer?”
“Nah, the same people from yesterday. They wanted another cake, chai this time.” Yang stretches her arms out behind her. “I’ll make it Thursday.”
“You know, we’re going to be pretty tight with orders next week,” Ruby says. “Are you sure you have the time?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. It’s between the wedding and the birthday, so we should be fine.” She shrugs. “Besides, they really liked the last cake. A little extra kindness never hurt anyone.”
“Except you,” Weiss points out.
Ruby and Weiss exchange a glance, and she knows they’ve already coordinated an attack on her. “Are you sleeping okay?” Weiss asks, laying a light hand on her shoulder.
Yang resists the urge to roll her eyes and brushes Weiss’s hand off of her. “Yes, I’m sleeping fine.” Last night had been an exception. And she had done the right thing and taken her meds, so, really, there was no point in telling them when they would just get upset and coddle her when she didn’t need it.
“And you’re eating?” Ruby asks, worry wrinkling her brow.
“Yes, I’m eating.”
“It’s just-” Weiss sighs, turning towards her with crossed arms and a sharp gaze. “We don’t want you to overwhelm yourself, that’s all.”
She gives them both a tight smile. “I know. And I’m fine. Really. I know my limits, and we’re nowhere near them.”
“Yeah, well, don’t feel the need to press them,” Ruby says, and Yang rolls her eyes once more. “I’m serious!”
She kisses her sister’s cheek sloppily, making sure to leave saliva behind. Ruby groans and slaps her cheek before moving to the sink to wash off. “I’m fine. But thanks for the concern,” Yang says, straightening up. “But I am gonna take my lunch. You guys good for the hour?”
Weiss and Ruby both nod in unison. “What did you bring for lunch?” Ruby asks.
“I was actually gonna go grab some pizza and bring some back for you two,” she says, untying her apron and sliding into her riding jacket. “Any requests?”
“Just plain cheese for me, please!” Weiss pops up, and Ruby groans as she slips on a fresh pair of gloves.
“Not even pepperoni?” Ruby whines, kicking at the floor.
“How about half cheese, half pepperoni?” Yang says, and they both nod.
“What would we do without you?” Ruby asks, smiling as she resumes kneading the bread.
“Dissolve into chaos,” Yang says with a light laugh as she ducks out the door and onto the street. The air is brittle and chilly and feels sharp entering her lungs, but she doesn’t mind it. She won’t be outside for long, not when the pizzeria is just down the street. Still, Yang wraps her jacket tight around her and shoves her hands deep into her pockets.
The pizzeria isn’t too crowded, considering it’s not even noon, but she doesn’t particularly care. She orders two slices for herself and a pie for Ruby and Weiss. Yang sits at the counter and scarfs down her pizza, nearly scalding her mouth, but she’s starving. The pizza for Weiss and Ruby will be ready at the end of her break, so she decides to head out and pick up the pie afterwards.
Yang walks down the street and turns left where she normally turns right. Weiss’s birthday is coming up, and she needs to pick out something to get her. She decides to try out the bookstore, Belladonna’s Books, and enters the familiar cozy shop as the bell above her rings. She hasn’t visited in a few months, but Weiss was always dropping in and loved the shop, so it was a good place to start looking for a present for her.
The scent of paper fills the air, so unfamiliar and at odds to the usual sweetness that usually fills her nose. It’s a nice, comforting feeling, and she inhales sharply as she strides deeper into the stacks. Pleasant piano plays over the speakers, soft but only adding to the coziness of the store. There’s wall to wall shelves of books, and it’s bigger than she remembered. Yang ventures further into the store, and she sees a new book by Ruby’s favorite author on a table. She pauses and grabs the book, heading to the counter to check out.
She turns to the counter, and her stomach drops. It’s the woman from last night. Her eyes aren’t red anymore, they’re wide and gold with purple bags underneath them, and they’re staring right at her. Yang awkwardly waves the book in her hand at her. “Uh, hi?” she says, placing the book on the counter. “Can I buy this?” Her voice is higher than it normally is, and the woman looks like she’s two seconds away from bolting as she nods.
“Yeah, of course.” The woman’s voice is still soft, almost lyrical, but it’s stronger now. Yang watches as her slender throat bobs. The woman won’t meet her eyes, and she bags the book in silence. “That’ll be fifteen lien, please.”
Yang digs in her jacket pocket and pulls out a crumpled twenty. “Sorry,” she says, and a flicker of a smile graces the woman’s face before disappearing into a pleasant neutrality.
“No worries.” She puts the money in the register and hands Yang her change. The woman lowers her voice, finally meeting Yang’s gaze. Yang almost forgets how to breathe when she stares into her golden gaze. Something twists in her chest at the sight of bright eyes so dark. “I’m, uh, I’m sorry about last night. I’m not normally like that.”
“Don’t worry about it!” Yang says, her voice still too loud as she shakes her head. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay.” She smiles at her and tries to keep it gentle as to not freak the woman out too much. She wants to ask if she’s alright, but that’s too much, isn’t it? Fuck. “Did you like the cake?” she asks instead, biting her lip.
The woman nods, but her face is guarded. “It was delicious. I, um, I actually had some for breakfast,” she admits, and Yang’s eyes dart to her chest to see her name tag. Blake .
“We’ve all been there,” she says with a smile, checking behind her to see if there was anyone in line. She turns back to Blake and grins. “I run the bakery up the street, Patchwork Bakery? You should come by sometime. Get some more cake for breakfast.” She winks.
Blake nods, and something flickers in her eyes. “I think I will,” she says softly, and something in Yang’s heart twists.
Still, she grins, giving her a thumbs-up. “Awesome! I can’t wait.” She grabs the bag on the counter. “See you then!”
Yang turns around and forces herself out of the store. Her heart is racing.
She walks back down the street to pick up the pizza. She would check out books for Weiss another day. Yang wouldn’t force Blake to deal with her, not after she saw how she reacted. Blake almost looked scared of her. Sure, it was embarrassing to cry in front of someone else, but Yang had had her fair share of breaking down in front of strangers. It was embarrassing, but it didn’t make sense that Blake looked afraid.
Yang shakes her head and chases the thoughts out of her mind. It didn’t matter. Blake is a stranger, and she probably wouldn’t want someone like Yang prying into her personal life. Still, Yang can’t get her out of her mind as she pays for the pizza and walks back to the bakery.
Maybe it’s because she all too vividly remembers opening the door for delivery with tears still staining her cheeks. Maybe it’s because she’s been there, and she will never forget that. Maybe it’s because she remembers the kindness of friends and strangers alike and knows she will never be able to repay the debt she owes to them. But she can try.
Yang doesn’t see Blake Saturday. Or Sunday, or Monday, and she’s too afraid to go back to the bookstore. She doesn’t want to seem like she’s stalking her. Even if she’s not entirely sure she’s not. She shakes her head. No, she’s not a stalker. She’s just… curious? Worried? For absolutely no reason, but still. They were strangers. So she would be patient, and she would not harass the poor woman at her work.
She takes the cookies out of the oven and blows the fly-aways out of her face as she does. She places the cookies on the cooling rack, hissing as she burns her finger on the side of the tray. With one fireproof hand, it was all too easy to forget she needs oven mitts. Yang sighs and runs her fingers under cool water before wiping her hand on her apron. She pokes her head out to the counter.
“Hey, you want to switch?” she asks, and Ruby is back in the kitchen in an instant.
“Yes, yes, thank you so much!” her sister gushes.
Yang sighs. “Go back to your breads,” she teases, snapping on a new pair of gloves. Ruby salutes her and disappears into the racks as Yang heads out front. There’s no one in the store front except for a couple looking at some of her pastries, and they’re in deep conversation. She decides to leave them be. Anyone in that deep of a conversation over pastry should not be interrupted.
The bell rings, and her eyes snap up. Her heart starts racing. She’s here.
Blake smiles at her, a small slip of her lips, but she’s smiling, and Yang feels warm all over. She clears her throat and smiles back.
“Hey!” she says, waving. “Glad to see you come by.”
Blake draws closer, eyes wandering to their selection. “You have a lot of pastries.” There’s wonder in her voice, and Yang’s chest puffs out in pride.
“Yup! We’re big on variety here. Oh, and strong flavors. Subtly isn’t really my strong suit.”
Blake snorts, and her ears flatten against her head. “I know.” But she’s still smiling.
Yang leans over the counter on her elbows. “So, what are you looking for today? Snack for now, dessert for later, breakfast for tomorrow…” She trails off. Blake is biting her lips, and, wow, her lips look soft. They’re petal pink, and Yang is uncomfortably aware of the heat in her chest as she realizes she’s staring. She ducks her head.
“Uh, snack for now?”
Yang nods. “Ok, then may I recommend either the maple pecan braid or the lemon drizzle cake?”
“Pecan?” Blake repeats, except she says it wrong.
“No, it’s pecan.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s pecan.”
“I taught English, I’m pretty sure it’s pecan.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a baker, and I’m pretty sure it’s pecan.”
Blake’s eyes narrow, and then she’s laughing, and Yang is too. Blake covers her mouth as her eyes widen, but she’s still laughing. “I’m pretty sure you’re wrong, but let’s agree to disagree.”
“Agreed.” Yang winks at her. “But it’s pecan.” Blake rolls her eyes, but she’s blushing. Yang’s heart skips a beat, and her tongue feels heavy. “So, what’ll it be?”
Blake taps her chin. “The braid, please.”
“That’ll be two fifty, please.” Blake hands her the cash, and Yang hands her the receipt and her change. She grabs the braid and drops it in a bag before creasing the top closed. She slides the bag over to Blake and smiles. “Enjoy!”
“I will. Thank you, uh, what’s your name?”
“Yang. Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself the other day.” She extends her hand over the counter. “Yang Xiao Long.”
Blake grasps her hand, and she wishes she could feel the softness of her fingers. She wishes her hand could feel and she could see for herself how delicate her skin is. She shakes her head slightly, as if to chase the thoughts away. Bad Yang she chides gently.
“Blake. Blake Belladonna.”
“Oh, like Belladonna’s Books?”
Blake nods, and she retracts her hands. “Yeah, I took over for my parents a few weeks ago. Well, like two weeks ago.”
“How you holding up?” Yang asks.
Blake shrugs. “I think you saw me at my worst,” she says, averting her gaze, and Yang purses her lips.
“Well, if that’s your worst, I can’t wait to see your best,” she says carefully. Blake cocks her head. “You should have seen me when I took over this place from my dad. Absolute chaos, flour everywhere, you get the idea.” She chuckles. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”
Blake nods, and her lips twitch. “It is,” she agrees. She straightens her shoulders and brings her hands to her side. “It was nice meeting you properly, Yang.”
“You too, Blake.” She smiles, and she’s sad to watch her go.
Blake comes in again the next day. She’s smiling when she comes in this time, and her smile fills the room and makes Yang’s heart feel bright, but there are still purple bags under her golden eyes. “Hey, Yang,” she calls as she enters, as if Yang hadn’t clocked her from the second the bell above the door rang.
Yang waves, finishing up her transaction as quickly as her fingers can manage. “Here’s your change!” she says, practically shoving the money into her customer’s hand. “Have a nice day!”
Blake is next, and Yang leans over the counter once more. “So, what did you think of the braid?” she asks, practically hopping in her shoes.
“It was delicious,” Blake says, patting the top of her belly. “I’m not normally a fan of nuts, but that was so good.”
“Why you’d get it if you don’t like nuts?”
Blake shrugs. “You recommended it.”
Yang swallows air and nearly chokes. “Oh.” She beams at her, ignoring the way her heart is racing. “Well, I’m glad you enjoyed it, then. What’re we feeling today?”
“What do you think?” Blake asks, biting her lip again.
Yang taps her pen against her chin. “I’d go for the limoncello cookies, they’re fresh out of the oven, or a classic chocolate chip cookie.” She winks. “They’re our most popular item.” In truth, she’s sick of baking chocolate chip cookies. They are her most popular item, and they sell like crazy, but she’s tired of baking them. She bakes them off in huge batches, and she still bakes them what feels like every hour.
Blake’s nose wrinkles. “I’d like a limoncello cookie, please.”
“What’s with the look?” she asks, raising a brow.
“Oh, well, I’m just not a big fan of chocolate.”
Yang blinks at her. “You’re joking, right?”
Blake shakes her head. “I think I’m allergic, actually,” she admits, and her cheeks are pink.
“Everyone likes chocolate!” She points at herself. “Hell, I don’t even like chocolate chip cookies anymore and I still like chocolate!”
Blake raises her eyebrow. “You don’t like chocolate chip cookies?”
She shrugs. “I mean, I like them,” she admits. It was too much to explain her relationship with the famous cookie to a near stranger, wasn’t it? She bites her tongue. “But I’d rather have a snickerdoodle or a sugar cookie before a chocolate chip, you know?”
Blake nods. “Trust me, I get that,” she says, and her voice is light. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy for reaching for the oatmeal raisins before the chocolate chips.”
“Nah, you’re definitely not crazy. Oatmeal raisin is where it’s at .” She smiles at her. “I don’t think we have any oatmeal raisin today, but, if you come again tomorrow, I think we’ll have some.” She has the time later to bake them, she just might have to stay an hour past when she was supposed to leave, which would piss Ruby and Weiss off to no end, but she hasn’t pissed them off all day, so it was fine.
Blake’s eyes light up. “Really?” she asks, and she’s biting her rosy lip again.
Yang nods. “Definitely.”
“Thank you.” Blake digs into her purse. “How much do I owe you for the cookie?”
Blake hands her the money, and she drops it into the register before slamming it shut. Blake’s wince doesn’t escape her, but she pretends she didn’t see it. Yang grabs a cookie and wraps it up in a napkin before dropping it in a bag. On second thought, she drops another one in there. Blake doesn’t notice, but she will, and that’s enough.
She’s not sure why, but the idea of Blake smiling is enough to make her feel ecstatic.
“Have a good day, Yang!” Blake says, and she’s gone before Yang can respond.
Yang heads to Belladonna’s Books on Thursday on her break. The chai cake is cooling, and she can’t wait to hear Blake’s thoughts on it. She has a feeling it’s a surprise from Ilia and Sun, so she decides to keep quiet about it. She has the oatmeal raisin cookies in a bag, though, and she’s practically vibrating with the thought of Blake trying them. At the mere idea of making her smile. At the chance of bringing a sliver of happiness to those tired eyes.
She walks in with an easy smile, but that smile fades as soon as she opens the door. There’s a horned man at the counter, and he’s yelling at Blake. Yang’s stomach drops, and she curls her hands into fists as she walks up to the man. He doesn’t notice her, and she can practically see the spit spewing from his mouth as he talks.
“-you don’t get to walk away from this!” he says, slamming his hands down on the counter. Blake winces, shrinking back, and then she sees Yang, and her golden eyes go wide.
“Adam, you need to leave. Now .”
“We’re not finished-”
“I think you are,” Yang says coolly. She cocks her head and crosses her arms. “Do we have a problem here, Blake?”
Blake shakes her head, and the man, Adam, whirls around to face her. “And just who do you think you are?” he sneers, and Yang barely resists the urge to take a step back. His blue eyes are filled with burning rage.
Still, she raises her chin. “A friend. Fuck off.” She quirks her eyebrow. “Or do we need to take this outside?” She was rusty, but most people didn’t know how to fight in general, let alone how to fight someone with an arm of metal.
“Yang, you don’t need to-” Blake starts, but she stops as Adam turns back to glare at her. Her ears are flat against her head.
“I’ll be back, my love .” He roughly shoves past Yang, just narrowly avoiding hitting her, and slams the door shut behind him. The bell sings, but it feels hollow in the empty store.
Yang looks back up at Blake. Her face is pale. “You okay?” Yang asks softly, taking a tentative step closer to the counter. To Blake.
“Fine.” She watches as Blake’s slender throat bobs. “Just my ex.”
Ah. So that was the asshole ex-fiance. No wonder she had left him. Good fucking riddance if that was how he was going to act. “He seems real charming.”
Some of the tension snaps out of Blake’s posture as her shoulders sag. “You could say that,” she says. Her voice is shaking slightly, and she’s not looking at Yang.
Yang rubs the back of her neck with her free hand. She just stands there for a moment, unsure if she should press or if she could let Blake lead, but in the end, her hand curls around the cookie bag and crinkles it, reminding her she’s holding it. “Oh! I brought cookies!” she says hastily, stiffly holding out the bag across the counter with a forced smile on her face.
Some color returns to Blake’s cheeks, but the smile she gives her is wobbly. “You didn’t have to do that,” she says. Blake rubs her upper arms, holding herself like a child. It makes Yang’s heart ache, and she wishes there was something she could do.
But it wasn’t her place. So she says, “Oh no, I did. These are a bribe.”
Blake raises her eyebrow. “And exactly what are you bribing me for?”
“I need help finding a book.”
“You do realize that’s literally my job, right?”
Yang shrugs. “Yeah, but I promised you oatmeal raisin cookies, and it only feels right to bribe you with them. I’m gonna be a pain in the ass about this, so I need to keep on your good side.”
“Oh, so you think you’re on my good side?”
“Well, I hope I’m on your good side.” She winks. “I know you’re on mine.”
Something flickers in Blake’s face, but it’s gone before she can identify what it is. Blake accepts the bag of cookies, tucking them behind the counter. “Well, thank you,” she says. “And don’t think I didn’t notice the extra cookie yesterday. I already owe you.”
“Yeah, I’m buttering you up for this.” In truth, she hadn’t even thought about that, but she knew from experience that it was hard to accept help that only went one way. It was a white lie, but she did want to be on Blake’s good side. She wanted to help her, make her smile, and she didn’t know why.
“And what exactly is this?”
Yang sighs. “It’s my friend’s birthday in a few weeks, and she is an absolute terror to shop for. I was hoping you could help me find something for her.”
Blake nods. “I love a challenge,” she says, and Yang grins. “What does she like to read?”
“Well, that’s the problem,” Yang admits. “I feel like the way she picks books depends on a thousand things, none of which I know.”
“Okay, what books has she read and liked?”
“ The Complete History of Remnant , The Corpse Doctor , uh, I saw a book on sewing peeking out of her bag the other day.”
“Oh, perfect.” Blake tucks her hair behind her ears, and the ears on top of her head point upwards once more. “Okay, so, if she’s getting into sewing, she might enjoy a book on embroidery. Or she might like Ochre Kane’s new book if she liked The Corpse Doctor .”
“Actually, a book on embroidery sounds perfect for her. She loves all that sort of stuff.”
“What sort of stuff?”
Yang shrugs. “You know, crafting and all that. I think she’s determined to learn every single hobby out there and perfect it.” She tilts her head. “I honestly think that’s the only reason she works at the bakery.”
“To perfect her baking skills?”
She nods. “Well, that, and because she tried our cupcakes and went crazy for them. But she can have dual intentions.” Weiss, she knew, didn’t work at the bakery for any other reason besides to help them out, to help her out. She begrudgingly accepted a paycheck from Yang, but Weiss had started at the bakery because she wanted friends after moving from Atlas and stayed because she enjoyed it. Or so she hoped. But it was too complicated to explain, and even if it was simple, it wasn’t her place.
Blake smiles. “Here, I’ll show you where the crafting books are,” she says, coming out from behind the counter. Her hair is down and swaying around her hips, and Yang’s mouth goes dry. It looks so soft and silky and lovely.
Yang clears her throat. “Thanks,” she says, following her deeper into the stacks. Blake bends down to show her the shelf, and she starts picking out books.
“This one could be good for a beginner, but if she has experience with sewing, you might want this one, it’s a little more advanced.” She hands Yang the books as she pulls them out, and their fingers brush as she does. Yang hopes she doesn’t notice the way she blushes when she feels her hand. Her skin really is soft.
“Thanks. I’ll take a look at these.”
Blake nods, straightening up. “Let me know if you need any more help.” She smiles at her, and her stomach drops.
“Will do!” she says, and she hates how loud her voice gets. But Blake just smiles at her and leaves her to her browsing.
Yang peruses the pile of books in her hands, sitting on the floor with her back to the shelf as she skims each one. She doesn’t have much time left on her break, but Ruby and Weiss wouldn’t mind if she’s five minutes late. Hell, they’d probably throw a party to celebrate.
She traces the shiny pages of one book, brow furrowed. She doesn’t know much about embroidery or sewing, she’s never had the patience for it, much to Weiss’s chagrin, but the third one Blake handed her seems to be the best for Weiss. Basic enough that even Yang can understand, but it gets complex by the end, and that will give Weiss something to work towards. Weiss likes accomplishing things, and it was the perfect gift.
She puts the other books back on the shelves and strides up to the front where Blake is guiltily looking at her, crumbs on her shirt. Yang laughs. “Was it good?” she asks, sliding the book across the counter.
Blake nods, eyes wide. “So good!” She brushes the crumbs from her lips with the back of her hand. “Seriously, you’re like a magician. I don’t understand it.”
Yang shrugs. “It’s my secret ingredient,” she says with a wink.
“Oh? What’s your secret ingredient?” Blake asks, leaning over the counter.
Yang stares into her eyes and smiles. “It’s a secret, but I guess I can tell you.” She leans in close, close enough to feel Blake’s cinnamon-scented breath on her cheeks. “Me.” She steps back to where she was, watching as Blake stifles a laugh.
“And how exactly do you do that?”
“You know, I couldn’t tell you if I tried.” She shrugs, but she can’t fight back her grin. “You just have to bake from the heart.”
“That sounds exhausting,” Blake says.
Yang nods. “It can be,” she admits, “but it’s so worth it to see the smiles on people’s faces when they try something for the first time and love it. It’s amazing.”
Blake nods, and her cheeks are pink. “I’m dreadful at baking,” she says, scanning the book and handing it back to Yang.
“Well, then, I’ll just have to teach you.” The words leave her mouth before she realizes what she’s said, but she doesn’t regret it. Her smile brightens. “Seriously, you know, if you ever want to learn, you can come drop by my apartment and I can teach you some basic recipes. Everyone should know how to bake at least one thing they love.” She furrows her brow. “How much do I owe you?”
Blake waves her hand. “Consider this a bribe,” she says. Her eyes glint in the light. “If you’re going to teach me to bake, then you’re going to need a reason to stick with me. I really am horrible. I can’t even make slice n’ bakes.”
“Nah, you just haven’t had the right teacher.” Yang tentatively reaches for the book. “Are you sure?” she asks. “It feels wrong to not pay.”
Blake nods. “Now you know how I feel,” she teases, and there’s a small smile on her face. “But yes, I am sure. Consider it a gift.”
“If you’re sure,” she says, placing it in her bag. “When are you free?”
Blake taps her chin. “When are you free?” she counters. “I don’t do much outside of this.” She gestures around the shop.
“Same, so, really any day works for me.” She wrinkles her nose. “Well, it’d have to be at night. I work mornings. Is tomorrow night too short notice?”
“No, tomorrow night sounds perfect!” Blake rushes to say.
Yang’s eyes soften. “Alright. Uh, here’s my number, and here’s my address.” She grabs a pen and reaches for Blake’s hand before she can think. She drops her hand, blushing as she does. “Uh, sorry, I didn’t mean-”
But Blake holds out her hand once more. “It’s okay. I don’t have any Post Its on hand, anyways, so you might as well use my hand.”
Yang nods, and she carefully writes her number and address on her smooth skin. She’s careful not to smudge. She takes her time with writing each number and letter out, brow furrowed as she tries to keep her handwriting legible. Her hand really is soft. She releases her hand and drops the pen. “Can you read it?” she asks.
Blake looks down and nods. “Yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow. What time works for you?”
“Uh, how about five? And don’t worry about eating dinner, I got you.” Blake shakes her head and opens her mouth, but Yang puts up her hand. “Consider it a thank you.”
Blake’s shoulder slump, but she nods. “Well, then, thank you,” she says.
Yang smiles. “Of course.”
Yang goes back to the bakery with a skip in her step and a song on her lips, which pisses Weiss off to no end. “Do you ever stop humming?” Weiss snarks, and Yang just shrugs as she hangs her jacket back on the hook.
Weiss sighs. “You’re insufferable.”
“I’m adorable, and you love me.”
“You’re my boss, and I tolerate you.”
“It’s po-tay-to, po-tat-to, not potato, potato!”
“Like I said. Potato, potato.” From the way Weiss is gripping the frosting bag, Yang gets the impression she’s ready to strangle her. Yang wraps her apron around her and decides to relent for the sake of Weiss’s blood pressure. “Anyways, did anything exciting happen while I was out?”
“Ruby almost set fire to the bread again.”
Ruby’s head pokes into the kitchen. “I did not!”
“Get back to the register!” they call out in unison, and Ruby disappears with a flash.
“Why do you make her do the register when she hates it?” Weiss asks. “You know I don’t mind doing it.”
Yang ties her hair back up before washing her hands. “Yeah, but if she had her way, the only people she would ever talk to would be you, me, and Penny, and we can’t have that.”
“You’re hardly any better,” Weiss scoffs.
“I talk to people! I don’t ever shut up!”
“On the latter point, we can agree. But you haven’t gone out in ages.”
Yang shrugs. “I work the morning shift. I have to go to bed at like eight if I want to be functioning.”
“But I’m happy, and that’s what matters. Right?”
Weiss sighs, and Yang knows she’s won. “Right.”
Yang nods, taking the chai cake out of the fridge. “How’s the wedding cake for Jaune and Pyrrha coming?” she asks.
“It’s coming,” which is Weiss’s way of saying she wants to kill Yang. “I don’t know why anyone would want a red velvet wedding cake.”
“It’s their favorite, and you know they also ordered basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes for those who don’t like red velvet,” Yang points out. “Besides, you know they’re going to love whatever you come up with.”
“Which is exactly why I have to work extra hard to make it perfect!”
Yang rolls her eyes and grabs the frosting from earlier. She sets some aside in two small bowls to dye later to decorate. “They’re going to love it, and it’ll be great,” she says. Weiss’s sigh is audible from across the kitchen. “Would you rather talk about your sweetheart?”
“No, please, continue making fun of my perfectionism,” she grumbles. “But I’ll have you know that I think you’re going to meet her soon.”
Yang’s head snaps up. “Really?”
Weiss nods, but she’s not looking at Yang, still sketching in her book. “Yes. I think I’m going to have her drop by the bakery one of these days before we grab lunch.”
“Wait, you’ve been grabbing lunch with her on your breaks?”
“Okay, but that’s exciting! I can’t wait to meet her, Weiss.”
“You’re the worst.” But she can hear Weiss’s smile in her voice, and that’s what matters.
She drives up to Blake’s house on Bumblebee, and there are cars in the driveway this time. Yang retrieves the cake box from her bike and heads up the path to knock on the door. She prepares a smile on her face as the door opens.
“Oh, hey, Yang.” Blake’s brow furrows. “What’re you doing here?”
Yang extends the cake in her hands. “I was told to drop this off,” she says.
Blake sighs, turning back into the house. “I’m going to murder the both of you!” she calls, but she’s smiling. She turns back to Yang and accepts the cake box. “Thank you.”
“It’s not me you should be thanking,” Yang says.
“You’re the one baking and delivering the cake. I can thank you.”
“Well, then, you’re very welcome.” She bows at the waist, and her face flushes as Blake laughs. Yang straightens up with a grin. “We still good for tomorrow night?”
“Yup. I’ll see you then.” Blake hesitates. “Do you want to come in?” she asks, opening the door wider ever so slightly.
Yang shakes her head. “No, I’m okay.” Blake sags, and words force their way out of her mouth. “I mean, I want to, I just have to be up early tomorrow, like super early, and you should really spend time with your friends-”
“Yang. It’s okay. It was just an invitation.”
She nods, and her shoulders sag. “Another night?”
Blake nods back. “Another night.”
Still, she hates herself as Blake closes the door. Just a little bit.
Friday passes painfully slowly. Every hour feels like three, and every minute feels like an hour. She had deep cleaned her apartment last night in preparation for Blake, and then deep cleaned it again when she realized she somehow missed half of the apartment the first time. Cleaning is not her strong suit.
She still has to run to the grocery store on the way home and pick up the ingredients for dinner and the recipe she’s planning on teaching Blake, but everything else is set up for them. She’s bouncing out of her skin in anticipation.
“Okay, what gives?” Weiss demands. “You look like a kicked puppy.”
“I do not!”
“Yes, you do.” Weiss cuts her a glance. “You normally never look at the clock, and you’ve checked it three times in the last five minutes. What gives?”
Yang blushes, but she keeps her gaze focused on the cake she’s frosting. “I have plans,” she says slowly. “For tonight. And I’m excited.”
She is excited. She’s really excited. She loves baking, and she loves teaching people to bake, and she’s so excited to get to know Blake better. She wants to see her smile and hear her laugh again and again. It makes her heart race with anticipation.
“What are you up to?” Weiss asks, and Yang can tell she’s trying to sound disinterested but she can’t hide the curiosity in her voice.
“I’m teaching a new friend to bake, that’s all.”
“Ooh, a new friend,” Weiss drawls. “And how did you meet this friend ?”
“She runs Belladonna’s Books, and we got to talking the other day,” she says, ignoring Weiss’s added emphasis. It wasn’t exactly her place to tell anyone that Blake was a customer who had been crying when she opened the door and that was how they met.
“And you’re teaching her to bake?”
Yang turns around. “Why are you saying it like that?” she asks, but her cheeks turn red.
“Because you’re so obviously pining, it’s ridiculous!”
“I am not pining!” she insists.
“Then why do you keep looking at the clock?”
“Because I’m excited?”
“Because you’re pining!”
Yang laughs, rolling her eyes. “Yeah, right. And you’re one to talk!”
“Oh yeah. You practically ran out the door at lunch today.”
“I was hungry!”
“You were meeting your lover!”
“Oh, shut up!” Weiss is blushing, and she whirls back around on Yang. “Don’t call her that, and don’t think you’re getting out of this!”
“Out of what?” she asks, eyes wide. “Out of meeting your girlfriend? I’m so excited to meet her!”
Weiss rolls her eyes. “Shut up!” She crosses her arms and smirks at Yang. “And I’m excited to meet your lover.”
“She’s not my lover! We barely know each other.”
“But you want to know her better, don’t you?”
“You do! You’re blushing!”
Yang cuts her a glare. “So what if I want to get to know her better?”
“You find her attractive, don’t you?”
“So what if I do?” She raises her chin. “Like I said, I barely know her.”
“But you like her, don’t you?”
Yang sighs. “I think she’d make a good friend,” she says carefully. “And I want to get to know her better before anyone starts jumping to conclusions.” She glares at Weiss. “Right now, it’s just two maybe friends making baked goods, and that’s all.”
“Sure it is, Yang.” Weiss smirks at her. “Whatever you say.”
There’s a knock on her door a minute after five, not that Yang was obsessively watching the clock or anything. She runs and opens the door with a smile, revealing a big bouquet of flowers. “I, well, I wasn’t sure what to bring, so I brought flowers and wine,” Blake says from behind the blooms, partially hidden behind the bright petals.
Yang pretends to think for a moment. “Red or white?”
She opens the door further and waves her in. “You may proceed, Belladonna.” Blake smiles at her, and she hands her the bouquet as she enters. Yang takes a sniff. “These are beautiful,” she says, admiring the bright yellow blossoms. “I’ll get these in water right away.”
“Should I take my shoes off?” Blake asks, but Yang is already in the kitchen and grabbing a vase.
“Whatever you prefer!” she calls, filling the vase with water before arranging the flowers and then setting them on the table. Yang looks up to see Blake awkwardly standing in the doorway of the kitchen, lemon socks on her feet. She smirks. “I like your socks.” She means it, but Blake blushes.
“Shut up,” she says.
“No, really, I do,” She wiggles her own feet, decked out in colorful gummy bear socks. “I’m a huge fan of fun socks. I don’t think I own any plain socks anymore.”
“Nah, it’s just stubbornness.”
Blake shrugs. “Still impressive.”
Yang smiles at her before clearing her throat. “So, I, uh, forgot to ask if you had any allergies, so I just made pasta and red sauce, if that works for you.”
“No, that’s perfect. Thank you.”
“It should be ready in five minutes,” she says, eyes sliding to the timer above the oven. “Oh, I picked out three recipes for you that we could make tonight. I figured you’d want to choose rather than just making whatever I said.”
Blake blinks at her. “I choose?”
Yang nods, her brow furrowing, but she keeps smiling. “I mean, the whole point is to teach you to make something you like, right?”
Blake’s lips quirk up. “Thank you, Yang.”
“Yeah, of course, no prob.” She hands her the recipes she had picked out earlier. “So we have snickerdoodles, eclairs, and a lemon tart. The snickerdoodles are probably the easiest, the eclairs are fancy but surprisingly easy, if time consuming, and the lemon tart is a personal favorite.”
Blake’s eyes scan the papers before looking back up at Yang with a smile. “Let’s go with the lemon tart, then.”
“Are you sure? It’s your choice.”
Blake nods. “Lemon tart. It’s one of my favorites, too.” She brushes her hair behind her ears, and Yang forgets how to breathe.
Yang nods, tongue heavy in her mouth. “Alright, then. Lemon tart it is.” She leans back against the counter. “This is one of my favorite recipes.”
“Really? I would think that you wouldn’t have favorites.”
“Nah, I mean, I love all my bakes, but normally when I bake I don’t want to eat the stuff for a good couple hours. Lemon tart I could eat all day, every day.”
“I was wondering how you stayed so fit,” Blake says. She’s leaning against the table, and her arms are crossed over her midsection.
Yang flexes her arms and grins. “I go to the gym five days a week, I better be fit,” she says. “But yeah, being around baked goods all the time does not do me any favors.” She pats her soft belly. “Gotta test everything before it goes out, you know?”
“No, but I’ll take your word for it.” Blake ducks her chin. “But, um, I meant to say thank you yesterday. For dealing with Adam.” Yang watches as her throat bobs, and Blake doesn’t meet her gaze. “So, thank you.”
Yang shrugs. “It’s no problem,” she says honestly. “I hate it when people don’t respect boundaries.” But she can’t get the image of Blake’s pale and stricken face out of her mind. Adam was an asshole, obviously, and Blake deserves better than that. Deserves to be happy, deserves to not have bags under her eyes and to smile easily. And if she could help with that, she would. Standing up to an asshole was no problem.
“Still, thank you. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t showed up.”
“If he keeps harassing you at work, you might want to get a restraining order,” she suggests.
Blake sags. “I’m, uh, considering it.”
Yang nods. “That’s good.” She doesn’t press. Her fingers wrap around the counter. “You shouldn’t have to deal with his shit.”
“You sound like Ilia,” she says.
“Yeah, well, we’re both right,” Yang says. “You shouldn’t have to worry about getting harassed at work, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” Blake tucks her hair behind her ears. “It’s just Adam being Adam, though.”
“I have a feeling that Adam being Adam is a dick being a dick.”
Blake laughs. “You’re not wrong.”
The timer goes off before she can respond, and she pours the boiling water into the colander. She shakes out the excess water before pouring the pasta into two bowls and layering the sauce on top. She gives the spaghetti a quick stir before setting the bowls down on the table. “Do you want cheese?”
“That would be lovely, thank you.”
Yang hands her the cheese, which Blake sprinkles over her pasta. Yang takes it back and sprinkles it over her own dish before stirring it into the pasta. She carefully watches as Blake takes a bite, and her golden eyes roll to the back of her head.
“This is delicious,” she moans, and Yang’s chest puffs with pride. “Did you make the sauce?”
“Yeah. It’s my dad’s recipe, but I’ve tweaked it a little over the years.” She spins the pasta onto her fork and takes a bite. “Good?”
“Very.” Blake smiles up at her, and her ears are relaxed against her head.
Yang smiles. “I normally don’t cook, so you can tell me if it’s not,” Yang says.
Blake shakes her head. “It’s really, really good. Honest.” Her eyes are sparkling and staring into Yang’s, and Yang feels blush come over her cheeks.
“Well, then, thank you.” She takes a sip of water before sitting back up. “Oh shoot, you brought wine! Let me get glasses.” She brings back two glasses and a corkscrew, and Blake hands her the wine. She pops the bottle open and pours the both of them half glasses before setting the bottle between them.
“To baking,” she says, holding her glass out.
“To kindness,” Blake responds.
They clink glasses, and she takes a drink. “I do love sweet wine, how’d you know?” she asks, taking another sip.
“You run a bakery. I figured sweet was the way to go,” Blake says with a shrug.
“Well, good choice.”
Yang picks up her fork once more and digs in. “So, how is running a business going?” she asks between bites.
Blake sighs. Her fingers are tracing the rim of her glass. “There’s a learning curve,” she admits. “I mean, it’s nothing I haven’t done before, I was running half the store by the time I was in my teens, but I haven’t done it in a few years, and it’s weird not having my parents there.”
“It takes a while to get used to,” Yang says. “For the first two months, I called my dad every time I had to place a shipment order.”
“When did you take over the business?” Blake asks, taking a drink of her wine.
“A few years ago? Basically right after I graduated from college. My dad was really eager to retire,” she says.
“So were my parents. Did he stay in Vale, or did he move away?”
“He moved back to Patch, but he visits every couple months to check in. What about your parents?”
“They moved back to Menagerie.”
“Oh, cool! I’ve never left Vale,” she admits. “My friend, Weiss, is from Atlas, but she hated it there, so I’m not exactly inclined to go and visit, you know?” She clears her throat and leans in. “Did you grow up in Menagerie, or?”
Blake nods. “Yeah, I grew up there. My parents moved right before I went to university, which was good, because I went to Beacon.”
“No way! I went to Beacon! What did you go for?”
“English Literature. You?”
“Of course, that makes sense. I went for Business, but I could not tell you what I learned.” She cracks a grin, and Blake smiles back at her.
“I mean, English Literature isn’t exactly the most useful degree in the world,” she says, but Yang shakes her head.
“Nah, you’re good with words. That’s important,” Yang replies.
Blake raises an eyebrow. “And how do you know I’m good with words?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. You seem like the type to kick ass at Scrabble.”
“I’m actually really bad at Scrabble. Boggle, however, I am the best at.”
Blake’s eyes light up. “Oh, we have to play! Next time, you can come to mine, and we’ll play a few rounds. It’s so much fun.”
“Next time?” Yang repeats, and Blake stills.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just assumed-”
“No, no. I’m happy, I just wasn’t sure if you wanted there to be a next time.” She raises her eyebrows. “You haven’t gotten in the kitchen with me yet. You might want to murder me after this.”
Blake’s lips twitch, and Yang can tell she’s fighting back a grin and failing to keep it at bay. “I doubt that,” she says, and Yang shrugs.
“I don’t know, Weiss is always telling me that I’m a pain in the ass in the kitchen.”
“I don’t think you could ever be a pain in the ass.”
Yang smirks. “Is that a challenge?”
“Please don’t take it as one, I’m trying to compliment you.” Yang’s mouth goes dry. Blake’s cheeks are pink, and she’s not looking Yang in the eye.
“Well, then,” she says slowly, “thank you.” She clears her throat. “But next time, we will definitely play Boggle.”
Blake looks up at her, and the small smile she receives makes Yang glad she’s sitting. “It’ll be my turn to teach you something,” Blake says.
“I look forward to it, then,” Yang says. She cocks her head. “You’re probably gonna crush me.”
“Almost definitely,” Blake agrees. “But one must learn from the master, grasshopper.”
Yang bows her head. “Teach me, oh wise one.”
Blake snorts. “Sure, alright.”
Yang twirls her pasta once more and forks a bite into her mouth. “Do you need any help?” she asks after swallowing. “You know, with running the shop?”
Blake shakes her head, and her body visibly stiffens. “No, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I can’t help much, but even if you just need someone to bounce customer bullshit off of, I’m here.” She smiles. “Small business owners gotta stick together, you know?”
Blake shoulder’s slump as she nods. “That does sound nice,” she says, and Yang nods.
“Right? Like, I had a guy ask me if there were nuts in our peanut butter cookie. Peanut. Butter. Cookie.” She shakes her head. “I don’t understand people.”
“There’s a woman who came into the store six days in a row to exchange her book for the same different book. Book A returned, Book B bought, Book B returned, Book A bought, over and over again until I suggested she buy both.” Blake shakes her head. “I don’t understand people, either.”
“People are so weird,” Yang agrees. “But I do also get some really awesome customers.”
“Yeah, there’s this pair who came in last week to get an Earl Gray cake for their friend. Super nice, and the guy wanted to write some crazy messages on the cake. Gave me a laugh.” Yang winks. “They seemed like good friends.”
“They are,” Blake agrees. Her smile dims, and she takes a sip of her wine. “Yang, about that night-”
“You don’t have to tell me anything,” she interrupts, softening her gaze. “It’s your business, you know? You don’t have to tell me your business if you’re uncomfortable.”
Blake nods, and she bites her lip. “I just wanted to say thank you for that, actually. I was a mess, and I kind of still am, but you asked me if I was okay, and you asked me if I needed anything. Like, you were a total stranger just delivering cake, and you asked me if I needed anything. Who does that?” Yang winces, but Blake is staring at her. “I didn’t mean it like that, I meant it like, wow, what kind of amazing person checks in on a total stranger, you know? I know I’m talking a lot and I’m sorry about that, but it was just really nice.” Blake’s throat bobs. “It was really nice, and you’re really nice.” Blake nods. “You’re really nice.”
Yang’s heart is in her throat. “I’m just showing you basic human decency, Blake. Everyone should be this nice to you.”
“Well, they’re not, and you are. So thank you.”
Blake is blushing, and Yang is blushing, and she can feel the heat curling underneath her skin. “You’re welcome, then.” Blake smiles at her, and Yang barely resists the urge to reach for her hand. She’s staring into Blake’s eyes, so open and golden and beautiful, and she’s staring back at her, and Yang’s mouth is dry.
She clears her throat and averts her gaze. Her heart is racing beneath her chest, and she isn’t if she’s breathing when she looks back up and smiles into Blake’s eyes. “So, uh, you know what this means, right?”
“This just means I have to be extra nice to you.”
Blake shakes her head. “You’re already plenty nice, trust me. I don’t deserve it.”
“But you do.”
“You barely know me.”
Yang shrugs. “Yeah, but I have a good feeling about you. And I want to.” She clears her throat and taps her fingers against her fork. “I want to know you.”
Blake studies her for a minute, and it feels like an eternity before she nods. “I want to know you too.”
They’re staring at each other once more, and Yang’s gaze drifts down to Blake’s lips. Her breath catches in her throat as she looks at the soft pinkness, and her eyes shoot back up to her eyes. Blake is staring at her too.
Heat curls in her stomach, and her skin feels hot. Her mouth is dry. She reaches for her cup and takes a sip of water, breaking the spell, and Blake’s eyes dart down to her plate.
“So, once we’re done we’ll start baking.” Yang’s voice is too loud and too rushed, but Blake nods.
They finish their dinner in silence, but it’s a comfortable silence, and, for once, Yang doesn’t feel the urge to fill the air with words. She grabs Blake’s dish after they’ve finished, much to Blake’s frustration.
“Let me help with the dishes,” Blake tries, but Yang shakes her head.
“You’re the guest, let me,” she says. She brings the dishes to the sink and washes them, but Blake is at her side with a towel and drying them off as soon as she finishes washing them. She sighs. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Blake smiles at her.
They clear the dish drain, and Yang puts the dishes back where they belong. She turns back to Blake, who’s sipping on her wine. “Okay, so, lemon tart!” she says brightly. “First off, what’s your favorite color?”
“Uh, purple?” Blake says, puzzled.
Yang goes into the cupboard and digs inside until she finds a purple apron covered in a cupcake pattern. She tosses the balled up fabric to Blake, who catches it with ease. Yang picks out her trusted yellow one with sunflowers for herself. She ties it up and pulls her hair back, turning back around to face Blake.
She’s struggling with the straps.
“Do you need help?” she asks. Her voice is thick.
Blake nods, and she turns around. She’s holding her hair up, and Yang can see the top of her spine peeking up from underneath her top. Yang draws closer and grabs the ties, looping them through the cuts at the sides of Blake’s hips. Her fingers brush against Blake’s side, and they both jump. “Sorry,” she says, drawing back to the ribbon. She finishes the tie off with a neat bow. “You’re good to go.”
Blake turns back around, and she lets her hair down as she does. She shakes her head to move her dark waves back into place, and Yang’s mouth goes dry. “Do you, uh, want a hair tie?” she asks.
“I have, actually. Thanks anyways.” Blake moves to tie her hair up, and her ears twitch as she pulls the bundle behind her head.
Yang clears her throat, smoothing out her apron. “Okay, so we’re gonna start with the filling. It’s pretty easy, just combining everything until smooth, and then adding an ingredient, and then mixing until smooth part two, electric boogaloo.” Blake nods, and she tightens her ponytail. “Actually, first, we should wash our hands.”
She lets Blake wash her hands first, and she washes her hands afterwards. The scent of her berry soap fills the air, and Yang takes a deep breath. They dry them off on the towel, and she gestures Blake over to the counter. Yang grabs her mixer from underneath the garage and plugs it in. “Okay, so what do we do first, chef Blake?”
Blake blanches, and she grabs the recipe. “We, uh, crack four eggs into the mixer. We also need lemon juice and lemon zest.”
Yang nods, and she hands Blake the juicer and the zester. “I’ll cut, and you’ll zest and juice?”
“Sounds good to me,” Blake says.
She cuts the lemons in half, passing them to Blake as she cuts. They only need roughly three lemons, but she cuts a fourth just in case. If they don’t use it, she could use it in her water tomorrow.
“Lemons are so annoying,” Blake says. “So little juice in such a big thing.”
“Yeah, but they’re so worth it.” Yang shrugs. “They’re great.”
“You got that right,” Blake says.
She takes over the juicing after she finishes cutting the lemons. Blake zests, and then she juices. It’s a good system, and they get the third cup of juice and tablespoon of zest in no time. They dump in the juice and the zest along with eggs.
“Now what?” Yang asks.
Blake scans the page. “We need to add sugar to this and mix.”
“How much sugar?”
“One and a half cups.”
“Okay, here’s a tip. When you want to be really precise with baking, which you should technically always be when baking, you should spoon the sugar into the measuring cup and then level it off with a knife. But when I’m not in the bakery, I literally just scoop it and only bother doing all that for the flour.”
“That’s a lot of effort.”
“Yeah, that’s why I only do it for bakery bakes and the flour for at home bakes. You mess up the flour, and the entire bake is off. You mess up the sugar, eh, you probably won’t mess it up too too bad?”
Blake raises her eyebrows. “Probably?” she repeats, scooping the sugar into the bowl.
“It’s not an exact science.”
“It kind of is.”
“Which one of us does this professionally?”
Blake sighs. “I don’t know a lot about baking, but I do know that you have to be exact with everything.”
“It depends on what you’re baking, to be honest. Pastry, yes. Pastry, you start with the blood sacrifice, and then you measure. But for this, we can fudge it a little. Besides, this is supposed to be relaxed.”
Blake nods. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry,” she says with an easy shrug. “Now, what’s next?”
“We mix it all together, and then we add the butter. In a separate bowl, we combine flour and powdered sugar.”
“Alright, then, let’s get cracking!”
They make the shortbread mix and press it into the tin before pouring the filling into the tin and popping the tart into the oven. There’s powdered sugar on Blake’s nose, and she laughs at the sight. “You got a little…” She trails off, gesturing at her nose.
Blake turns red and swipes at her nose. “Did I get it?” she asks.
Yang shakes her head and reaches for her. “Here, let me,” she says. Blake stills as she touches her, and her golden eyes close. Yang carefully brushes the sugar off her nose with her thumb and, without thinking, puts her thumb in her mouth to suck the sugar off. She blushes as Blake opens her eyes, catching her with her thumb in her mouth. “Sorry, I’m so used to doing that for my sister,” she blabbers.
Blake nods, blinking rapidly. “Right,” she says, but her voice is distant. Too distant.
Yang studies her. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine. I think so? I don’t know.” Blake shakes her head. “Can I have some more water, please?”
“Yeah, of course.” Yang rushes to fill up her glass while Blake sits down. She hands her the glass, which Blake guzzles down. “Take a deep breath.”
Blake nods, cradling the glass in her hands. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me,” she says. She’s not looking at Yang. She looks small. Almost afraid.
Yang swallows hard. “That’s okay.” She sits down across from her. “We have about a half hour before the tart is ready, so take your time. Plus, it’ll have to cool after that, so we have all night. Or I can bring it to the shop tomorrow if that’s better.”
Blake closes her eyes. “I might head home, if that’s okay.”
“Yeah, of course that’s okay.” Blake stands up suddenly. “Are you okay? Do you need a ride home?” She didn’t feel right letting Blake leave like this, letting her leave when things all the sudden felt so wrong. She had fucked up, she had fucked up.
Blake shakes her head. “No, I’ll be okay. I just got a killer migraine all the sudden, that’s all.” She’s still not looking at her, and Yang trails Blake to the front door.
“Okay.” She watches as Blake gets her shoes and coat back on. “Text me when you get home, okay?” Her throat is thick.
“I will.” Blake opens the door, but she pauses to turn back to look at Yang. Her eyes are tired, but she’s smiling. It’s a small, shaking smile, but it seems real enough to her. “I had a really nice time tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow?” There’s a nervousness in her voice that makes Yang’s heart break.
She nods. “I’ll see me tomorrow. It’s a date.” She cringes at her choice of words, but Blake just smiles and nods.
“A date, then. I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”
And then she’s gone.
Yang dusts the tart with powdered sugar in the morning. She hates dealing with powdered sugar, it gets everywhere and poufs up in her face, but it’s the perfect finish for the tart, and it makes the glossy surface look even better, so she deals with it. She deals with it, because it has to be perfect.
Saturday is her day off, her only Saturday off for the month. She normally lets Ruby or Weiss take Saturdays off, but they had insisted she get at least one weekend a month after almost working herself to death a few years ago, so now she had an almost normal schedule. Besides the fact that she wakes up at the crack of dawn most days anyways.
She doesn’t have to head into town today, but she promised Blake. Besides, she can do laundry when she gets back, and she’ll make something that not just carbs for dinner tonight. Her days off usually consisted of trying out new recipes or working out, but Yang is feeling lazy. Lazy is the wrong word, but she’s feeling like doing things she doesn’t normally do.
Like sharing a tart with a cute bookshop owner.
She covers the tart in foil before attaching it to Bumblebee and setting off. There’s nothing like a ride to clear her mind, even in the traffic of the city. She loves the wind in her hair, the rumble of the engine beneath her hands, the way the city passes by her in blurs of color.
Ruby doesn’t understand how she isn’t afraid of driving after the accident. Ruby still doesn’t like getting in cars, nevermind getting on Yang’s bike. But Yang has control over her bike. Even if she can’t control getting into an accident, even if she can’t control drunk drivers, she can control herself. And she’s determined to not let that fear rule her life. Not anymore.
Her right hand flexes, and the metal clicks into place as her fingers twitch. Her prosthetic is comfortable, far more comfortable than she could have ever anticipated, but it still isn’t her hand. She misses being able to feel the dough beneath her fingers instead of having to relearn what touch felt like beneath the metal.
Yang parks Bumblebee on the street next to Belladonna’s Books. She looks up at the sign and smiles as she grabs the tart. It’s fine. She’s fine. And she is.
The bell rings as she opens the door, and Blake smiles from the counter as she enters. “Hey, Yang,” Blake calls. She comes out from behind the counter, but turns back to Sun, who is working with a customer at the other register. “Sun, can you watch the counter for a few minutes?” Sun nods, and he resumes his conversation with his customer as Blake walks over to her with a smile.
Yang takes her in, carefully searching her face. There are purple bags beneath her eyes again, and she looks tired, but her face is light as she smiles at Yang. She decides against pressing her. If Blake wanted to tell her, she would tell her.
She hands the tart to Blake and bows. “Our tart, Boggle Master,” she says.
Blake snorts, but she takes the tart from her hands. “Thank you, grasshopper.” She gestures Yang towards the back of the store, and Yang follows her through the door marked DO NOT ENTER.
“I kind of forgot utensils,” she admits. “And plates.”
Blake shrugs and sets the tart on the table before opening up a cabinet. “No worries, I should have-” Blake is reaching on the top shelf for the plate, and Yang can only watch as she tips the plates over. She darts for Blake and pulls her out of the way as the plates come crashing to the ground.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” The words are out of Blake’s mouth the second the plates hit the floor, and she’s in Yang’s arms and she’s shaking. She’s shaking.
Yang faces her, squaring her shoulders. “Hey. It’s okay. They’re just plates.” Blake’s golden eyes are wide and watery, but she nods. “They’re just plates. No one got hurt, and you’re okay. That’s what matters.” She rubs Blake’s shoulders. “You’re okay.”
“I’m not, though.” Blake’s voice is trembling, and it makes Yang’s heart ache. She keeps rubbing her arms, trying to provide her with some comfort.
“But you’re safe. It’s not a big deal. And you’re allowed to not be okay, Blake.” She brushes some of Blake’s hair behind her ear, more out of instinct than anything. She stares into her eyes and softens her gaze. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Blake opens her mouth, but then she shakes her head and ducks her chin. “I’m sorry,” she says.
“You don’t have to apologize. Not for that. Not to me.” She hesitates, but she adds, “Not to anyone.”
“I mean it. They’re just plates. Hell, they’re not even my plates, they’re your plates. You don’t need to apologize.” She can feel Blake shaking underneath her fingers. “I promise.”
Blake reaches up and rubs her eyes. “I’m sorry you always seem to see me like this,” she says, not looking at her.
“Don’t be.” She shrugs as nonchalantly as she can manage. “Do you know how many complete strangers have seen me cry? Way too many. I mean seriously, way too many.” She hopes for a small smile at that, but Blake doesn’t look at her. “And we’re not strangers, we’re friends.” She squeezes her shoulders. “We’re friends, Blake. Friends can support one another.”
“You barely know me.”
“But I want to.”
“You shouldn’t.” Blake averts her gaze. “I’m a mess, Yang.”
“So I shouldn’t be messing up your life!”
“Who said you would be messing it up?” Blake sighs, and Yang leans in closer. She can feel Blake’s breath on her collarbones. “Friendship is a two way street. I want to get to know you, and I think you want to get to know me, and that’s that.” She lowers her voice. “You’re not the only one with baggage, Blake. I have plenty of my own. Yours might be a little fresher, a little heavier, but we both have it.”
“I have a lot of it.”
Yang shrugs. “So do I.” She takes her left hand from Blake’s shoulder and carefully wipes the tears from Blake’s face with her thumb. Blake freezes as she does, but she doesn’t stop her. “You’re not alone. I want to be there for you.”
“Because I had people there for me when I needed it. Because I want to be there for you. Because you’re kind. Because you still need to kick my ass at Boggle.” Blake lets out a noise that sounds like a laugh, so Yang keeps going. “Because you seem like the kind of person that I want in my life.”
Blake meets her eyes once more, her golden ones filled with tears. “You shouldn’t.”
“But I do.” She smiles at her. “Besides. I still need to teach you to bake.”
“You don’t have to, Yang.”
“I want to. And that’s enough.” She squeezes her side once more. “I want to.”
Blake’s throat bobs. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she chides, but Blake shakes her head.
“I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”
She sighs. “You’re allowed to be a mess. You’re allowed to be human, Blake. But I’m allowed to want to stay.” Blake sags in her arms, and Yang tucks her head underneath her chin. “And I want to stay. So let me stay.”
They stay like that for what feels like hours, Blake in her arms and shuddering against her. Blake’s breath slowly evens out, she can feel her breathing against her chest, and Yang gently brushes the back of her head. She tangles her fingers in her hair and rubs her back. “You’re gonna be okay, Blake.”
Blake draws back, and their embrace is ended. Her eyes are red, and there are tear stains on her cheeks, but she nods. “I want to tell you why I’m like this,” she rasps, and Yang nods. “You need to know what you’re getting into.”
“It doesn’t have to be now. I’m here, and I’m ready to listen. But take your time. Whenever you’re ready.” She reaches for her hand and squeezes. “I’m not going to push you. But if you are going to tell me, I think you should do it over lemon tart.”
A small smile flickers on Blake’s face, and she nods. “I have to clean this up,” she starts, but Yang shakes her head.
“You sit down. I got this.”
Blake’s brows knit together. “It’s my mess, I need to clean it up.”
“We can clean it up together if you want, but after we get some tart in you. Go sit. I’ll fill up some glasses with water.”
Blake sighs, but she sits down at the table. Yang reaches up in the open cupboard for two glasses and fills them with water, setting them down on the table. She sits down beside Blake and pushes the water towards her. Blake takes a sip, and Yang takes a drink along with her.
Yang looks at Blake, but Blake is staring into her cup. “Do you remember the guy you yelled at the other day?” Blake asks quietly.
Blake nods, and she closes her eyes. “He was my fiancè.” Yang nods again, even though she knows Blake can’t see her. “We were together for almost twelve years. On and off a lot in the middle, but it was still a long time together.” Yang reaches for her hand, and Blake lets her. “We weren’t good together. He wasn’t good.” Blake’s throat bobs.
“He would lie. Cheat. Lie again. Isolate me. He did a lot of crappy things, and I let him. I let him,” Blake repeats, more to herself than to Yang. “But he never hit me. Not until we got engaged.” Yang stiffens, but Blake’s hand tightens around hers. “And I left. I tried to leave before, but it never stuck. But then he hit me, and I knew I had to get out of there.
“So I packed up shop and ran back home. I left my teaching job and started working here again.” Her throat bobs. “I left him just under a month ago. I took over the shop from my parents, they were looking to sell it, and they retired and left for Menagerie permanently because my dad was just elected Chieftain, and now it’s just me and Ilia and Sun. It’s just us. It’s just me.
“And I’m a fucking mess, Yang. If I told you half the things I do to try and feel safe, if I told you how crazy I actually am, you’d shoot off like a rocket. And you should! But I don’t want you to, and I’m being selfish, just like he said-”
“You are not selfish,” Yang interrupts. “You’re not. Wanting a friend is not selfish.”
Blake shakes her head. “He was right, though. I am selfish.”
Yang tightens her grip around her hand. “He’s wrong. You’re wrong. You’re not selfish.” She clears her throat. “You’re allowed to want things, Blake. You’re allowed to want things, and you deserve to get them.”
“No buts.” She squeezes her hand. “You’ve been through hell, Blake. You deserve some kindness.”
“It’s too much.”
“What’s too much?”
“Your kindness. I don’t deserve it.”
Yang’s heart breaks, and she gently tips Blake’s chin up to look her in the eyes. “You do. You deserve basic human decency and so much more, Blake.” Blake’s lips are wobbling. Yang squeezes her hand. “You deserve so much more.”
“Hey, Blake, where are the-” Sun starts as he opens the door, and they snap apart. He freezes. “Sorry to interrupt, I just-”
“No, it’s fine, Sun. I’m fine.” Blake stands up and rubs her eyes. “What do you need?”
He steps backward, hands raised. “It’s fine. It can wait. Continue!”
The door slams shut behind him, and Yang turns back to look at Blake, who’s sighing. “I’m sorry,” Blake says.
“You don’t need to say sorry. It’s not your fault.” She smiles at her. “And you’re gonna be okay.”
“How do you know that?”
Yang shrugs. “I didn’t go through what you went through,” she admits, retracting the hand on Blake’s chin, “but I went through my own shit, and, yeah, it took a while, but I’m okay. I’m okay.”
“What happened?” Blake asks, and she feels her freeze underneath her hand. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked-”
Yang raises her hand. “It’s okay. It’s only fair.” She runs her free hand through her hair. “I lost my mom and my arm in a car accident when I was seventeen. It sucked,” she admits. “Like, it really sucked. I didn’t get out of bed for weeks afterwards.”
“How did you get through that?” Blake asks, and her voice is shaking.
Yang shrugs. “I kind of didn’t,” she admits. “I buried it deep down and ignored it for a while. My dad was falling apart, and so was my sister, and I had to step up. So I did.” Her throat bobs. “And then I took over the bakery a few years later, and the nightmares got worse and worse and worse until I wasn’t sleeping and I basically shut down.
“Weiss and Ruby, Ruby’s my sister, made me take a month off and go to therapy. I hated it, at first, but it helps. And it turns out I have a bunch of mental health issues, and basically my brain just doesn’t work, but I got help.
“I’m not the same person as I was before, but that’s okay. Shit like this changes you, and it sucks, but you come out stronger. Sink or swim, and, for fuck’s sake, we have to swim. Sinking is not an option. We can’t let it be.” She squeezes her hand. “So we swim.”
“So we swim,” Blake repeats. Yang watches as she brushes tears from her face. “I’m so sorry, Yang. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
“But it’s not. It’s not fair.”
She shrugs. “It’s not fair that you went through that, either, but that’s life. And we’re still here, and we’re still kicking.”
“I feel like I’m sinking,” Blake says.
“But you’re not,” Yang insists. “You’re running a bookstore, you’re leaving the house, you’re making new friends! You’re trying. Trying is swimming.”
“When does it start to feel like that?”
Yang sighs. “It takes a while,” she admits. “But you just go through the motions, and, one day, you wake up, and you realize you’ve been doing it for a while. It takes time. And yes, the beginning sucks and everything is on fire, but it gets better. I promise you, it gets better.” She smiles at her. “I’ll be here until it does.”
Blake shakes her head. “I feel guilty,” she says.
“Because you shouldn’t have to do this!”
“But that’s the thing, Blake.” She levels her gaze. “I want to. I want to be there for you.”
“Because I didn’t understand how much I needed people there for me, and I didn’t know how to lean on them. But now I know, and I can be there for you, and I want to. Not just because I know what it’s like to suffer. Because I think you’re a strong, amazing person with rockin’ hair. Because I want to be your friend.” Yang rubs her thumb over the back of Blake’s hand. “I want to be your friend,” she repeats softly.
“I want to be your friend, too,” Blake says.
Yang smiles, and she squeezes Blake’s hand once more. “Then let’s be friends, and do things friends do. Like comfort each other, and bake, and play Boggle.” Blake laughs, or sniffles, Yang’s not really sure, but she’s stopped crying. “Oh, and eat this lemon tart.”
She grabs a fork and cuts a piece of the tart before taking a piece onto her fork and holding it to Blake’s lips. Blake rolls her eyes, but she obliges and takes a bite. Her mouth surrounds the fork, and Yang watches as her lips pull back. Blake wipes at her face, and she’s smiling now, even if it is shaky.
“That’s really good,” she hiccups.
“And you made that.”
Blake shakes her head. “No, we made that.”
Yang nods. “We did,” she agrees. “We did.” She doesn’t let go of Blake’s hand. “Can you take the rest of the day off?”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
Yang raises her eyebrow. “You don’t have to push yourself.”
“I think I need to work,” Blake says. “Keep busy, and all that.”
“Okay. If you’re sure.” She watches as Blake takes another bite. Yang stands up, stretching her back out. “Where’s your broom?”
“Oh, I got it!” Blake says, but Yang shakes her head.
“Finish the tart. I can start,” she says.
Blake sighs, but she nods towards a closet. “It’s in there.”
Yang retrieves the broom and starts sweeping up the broken plates. She can feel Blake’s eyes on her. She turns and smiles at her. “So, when’re you free next?” she asks as casually as she can manage. There’s a plastic bag on the counter, and she pours the broken shards into the bag before tying it up and dropping it in the trash. “You need to teach me to play Boggle.”
“How about Monday?” Blake suggests.
“That’s perfect. I actually have off, so whenever works for me.”
“I can make brunch,” Blake says. “I make a mean omelet.”
Yang flashes a grin at her. “I love omelets,” she says.
“Well, good.” Blake wipes her face once more. “And Yang?”
“Thank you. For everything.”
Yang nods. “Yeah, of course.”
Blake smiles at her. “But it’s not of course, you know that, right? Most people wouldn’t do this for another person.”
Yang shrugs. “I don’t know about that. I’d like to think that they would. And even if they won’t, I will, because we should.” She grabs her glass and takes a drink of water before washing it in the sink. “And Blake?”
“You’re stronger than you think you are.”
Blake blinks at her. “How do you know?”
“Because you are,” she says simply. “It takes a lot of courage to leave a relationship like that, it takes a lot of strength to start over again, and it takes a lot of willpower to finish out the day. So stay strong.” She smiles at her.
Blake nods. “I will.”
Yang taps her foot as she waits at the door for Blake. There’s croissants in her hands along with some raspberry pastries. She bakes when she’s nervous, and all she did Saturday when she got home was bake. Sunday should have helped keep her mind off of Blake, but they texted back and forth all day, until Weiss was threatening to throw her Scroll in the oven if she didn’t quit looking at it. She bites back a grin at the memory.
Blake opens the door with a smile. Her hair is up in a bun, and she’s wearing a soft smile. “Hey,” Blake says, opening the door further. “You ready for some Boggle?”
Yang smiles back, stepping inside. “Ready to get beaten? Definitely,” she says. She cocks her head and smirks. “But I think someone promised omelets first?”
Blake nods, and she leads her further into her house. The inside is cozy, and there are books on every available surface. Yang raises her eyebrows at the small towers piled in the living room. “You know, there are these things called bookshelves, they’re really helpful,” she says as they step into the kitchen.
“I think I’ve heard about them,” Blake muses, taking the tray from Yang’s hands. “You know, you didn’t have to bring anything.”
“Yeah, but I wanted to.”
“Don’t you get tired of baking?”
“Don’t you get tired of reading?”
Blake laughs. “Fair enough,” she cedes. “Thank you. I’m excited to try whatever you’ve brought me.”
“Croissants and raspberry pastries! I figured they would go nicely with the whole brunch theme.” She blinks as she sees Blake’s set up. “You didn’t have to do all this!” There’s fresh flowers on the table along with a French press and two already steaming mugs. She eyes the bowl of fresh fruit, and her stomach rumbles.
Blake shrugs. “If we’re gonna brunch, we gotta brunch right,” she says, but she seems pleased. “Now, what do you like in your omelet?”
“However you make yours, I’ll take mine. I trust you.” She winks.
“Alright, if you’re sure.”
“Can I help at all?” Yang asks, but Blake shakes her head.
“Nope, you can sit down and look pretty,” Blake says. Blake turns around to face the oven, but Yang could swear that her cheeks are pink. She smirks, although she’d be lying if she said her face wasn’t as red.
Yang begrudgingly sits down and takes a sip of her mug. “I thought you didn’t like nuts?” she asks, looking at the hazelnut coffee in her cup.
Blake shrugs, cracking the eggs. “I like things that taste like nuts, but not actual nuts.”
“Duly noted.” Yang sets a croissant and a pastry on Blake’s plate before taking another sip of her coffee. “You know, I had you pegged as a tea type,” she admits. “Didn’t think you’d be a coffee fan.”
“I like coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee,” Blake says. “So hazelnut, vanilla, that all works. Just not actual coffee. I do prefer tea, but I figured coffee was better for brunch.”
“What’s your favorite tea?” she asks.
“I have no idea. I have too many to have a favorite. I have a whole tea cabinet.”
“You’re joking.” Blake knocks on one of her cabinets before opening it to reveal canisters upon canisters of tea. “Okay, I stand corrected. That’s a lot of tea.”
“I’ll make you some after brunch,” she says. “I think you’d like chamomile.”
“That sounds nice,” she admits. “How do you normally take your tea?”
“If I don’t take it plain, I do honey.”
“Honey is the best way to take tea.”
“Right?” Blake shakes her head. “Sun takes his with milk, which would be fine if he didn’t pour the milk in before the water.”
“That’s Sun for you.”
Yang shivers. “Someone needs to ban him from having tea ever again,” she says.
“I’ve tried, but he does the same thing to coffee.”
“No drinks except water!”
“Trust me, he’d find some way to ruin it.”
“It’s water, how can you ruin water?”
Blake shrugs. “I don’t know, but he’d find a way.”
Yang laughs, and she can see Blake biting back a smile. Blake comes over and flips the omelet onto her plate. “You can start eating, it’s better while it’s hot.”
“Nah, I don’t mind waiting.” She takes a big sniff. “Smells delicious, though.”
“I hope it is.”
Blake makes her own omelet quickly, and she’s sitting across from Yang soon enough. Yang smiles at her before taking a bite of her omelet. It’s cooled down, but only slightly, and it tastes delicious. She moans and swallows, going in for another bite.
“Good?” Blake asks, and her voice is nervous.
Yang nods. “So good,” she moans, and Blake smiles.
She gobbles down the omelet and practically licks her plate clean. Yang helps herself to some fruit and spears a strawberry with her fork. “How did the rest of yesterday go?” she asks.
Blake shrugs. “It went,” she says. “Got shipment in, so I was dealing with that for most of the day. Sun took care of most of the customers while I dealt with that. What about you?”
“Weiss was ready to murder me.”
Blake snorts. “Why?”
“Because I kept checking my phone.”
She grins as Blake blushes. “It’s not good to be on your phone at work.”
“You’re not wrong,” she says. “But it was a slow day, and I finished everything early. So I thought it was okay.” She looks up innocently. “What’s your excuse?”
Blake laughs. “Lifting things is hard?”
Yang nods. “Try lifting flour without getting it all over you, I dare you.”
“Try lifting a stack of books without dropping at least one, I dare you.”
“You’re probably overstacking, then.”
“You sound like Ilia.”
Yang sticks her tongue out at her, and Blake laughs again. She loves that sound. It makes her feel light and warm and good. Blake makes her feel good. “So, how do you play Boggle?” she asks, gesturing towards the board game on the counter.
“It’ll be easier to show you, but basically there’s these sixteen letters, right? And they’re arranged in a four by four grid. You have to make words out of connecting letters. The letters have to connect when you make your word, and each word has to be at least three letters. The longer the word, the more points you get.”
“And we just make a bunch of words?” Yang asks, and Blake nods. “That is such an English major game.”
Blake rolls her eyes. “Would you rather play Monopoly?” she snipes back.
“No, Boggle sounds great!” she says. “I’m just making fun of you. But it sounds like a lot of fun.”
“Really? Because we can do something else, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“But I want to.” She nods and smiles, reaching over for Blake’s hand. “I want to.”
Blake blushes, and Yang’s pretty positive her own cheeks are red.
“Okay,” Blake says. “Let’s finish our food and then get playing.” Yang keeps holding her hand, and Blake doesn’t pull away either. Blake bites into a raspberry pastry, and she swoons in her chair. “Yang, you’re killing me,” she groans, taking another bite. “It’s so good.”
“Thank you,” she says, pleased. “But don’t die, because the croissant is better. In my humble opinion, at least.” She smiles pleasantly as Blake glares at her.
“I’m going to die if you keep plying me with sweets.”
“But what a way to go!”
Blake laughs. “True.”
Yang bites into her own croissant and hides her smile. “Besides, I’m not dead yet.”
“You go to the gym five times a week.”
Blake shrugs. “I have a good memory.”
Blake’s cheeks turn red, and her fingers curl underneath Yang’s hand. “But some of us just run.”
“You run? That’s really impressive.”
Blake shakes her head. “Not really. I used to do it in high school.”
“No, Blake, I cannot run.” She gestures to her chest with her free hand. “I give myself black eyes when I run, even with three sports bras. I cannot run. Also, I hate running.” Blake laughs, and her blush deepens. Yang smiles and leans in closer. She likes seeing Blake squirm, likes seeing her flush and laugh.
“Well, I hate the gym, so I think you’re really impressive,” Blake says.
Yang straightens up. “How about we’re both impressive?” she suggests.
Blake nods. “Sounds good to me.” And she’s smiling at Yang. Yang smiles back, and she tries to ignore her racing heart. She squeezes Blake’s hand once more. Blake averts her gaze, but she doesn’t retract her hand. “Yang?”
“This isn’t friendship, is it?”
Yang’s stomach drops. “What do you mean?” she asks carefully.
Blake’s eyes meet hers, and her gaze is soft. “This isn’t just friendship, is it?” Yang’s mouth is dry, and she slowly shakes her head. Blake nods. “I didn’t think so.”
“Are you okay with that?” she asks, biting her lip.
“I want to be.” Blake squeezes Yang’s hand.
“That’s not what I asked,” Yang says softly. “Are you okay with that? With this?”
Blake bites her lip, and it’s hard to focus on Blake’s eyes when her lips look so inviting. “I want to get to know you better,” Blake says slowly.
Yang nods. “I want to get to know you better, too,” she says softly. “But I don’t want to pressure you, Blake. In any way. We- whatever this is between us, friendship or more, we go at your pace. Because I don’t want to go too fast, and I want to take my time so I don’t ruin whatever this is, you know?”
“I know,” Blake says. “I agree. I don’t- I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” Blake hesitates and tilts her head. “But I think if I was, I would want one with you.” Yang isn’t sure she’s breathing, and she watches as Blake’s slender throat bobs. “And I want to be ready, I wish I was ready, but I’m not, I’m just not, and I’m sorry-”
“Don’t be,” she interrupts, squeezing her hand. “Do not be sorry for taking care of yourself, okay?” She waits until Blake nods to continue. “Okay.” She gives her a small smile. “So let’s just do our thing, you know? Keep doing what we’re doing and go from there.”
Blake nods. “I like what we’re doing,” she admits. “I like spending time with you, Yang. But I don’t want to restrain you, or bother you, or-” Blake cuts herself off and averts her gaze. “You don’t have to wait for me, that’s all.”
Yang’s chest pangs. “What if I want to wait for you?” she asks. “Is that okay? Because I just realized that sounds kind of creepy, and I totally don’t mean it that way, like, I’m totally good with just being friends, but I mean we should probably talk about the fact that I think you’re beautiful and attractive and kind at some point, because that’ll probably make this whole friendship thing awkward if you don’t feel the same way, and you need to tell me if you don’t feel the same way because I don’t want to pressure you and-”
“Yang,” Blake interrupts, her cheeks flaming red. “It’s not creepy. I promise.” Blake squeezes her hand. “And I think you’re stunning. I don’t just mean physically, because that’s obvious, you’re a total knock-out, but your personality shines. You glow. I want to get to know you better, and I want to see where this goes. I just need time.”
Yang nods, ignoring the pleasant warmth in her chest at Blake’s compliments. “And that’s totally fine,” she says. “Because I want to be in your life. We can figure out in what capacity later.” She squeezes her hand. “But don’t lie to me, you know? If you don’t want me like- like the way I want you, you need to tell me.”
Blake gives her a look. “I just told you I think you’re stunning and a great person, and you don’t think I want you?” she asks, raising a brow. Her face is as red as Yang’s feels. “I want you, Yang. I just need to sort through some shit before I jump into a relationship.”
Yang nods. “I totally understand.” She smiles, carefully rubbing her thumb on the back of Blake’s palm. “But I’ll be here for you, Blake. In whatever capacity you want, need, whatever. I’ll be here, because I want you to be comfortable before we’re anything.” She softens her voice. “You just got out of a really, really stressful situation, Blake. I don’t want to add to your stress.”
“You don’t, I promise you, you don’t.” Blake hesitates. “But can I ask why?” Blake says, biting her lip. Yang blinks as she clarifies. “I mean, why do you want to be with me in any capacity? I’m such a mess, Yang, you’ve seen me cry half the times we’ve met in person, and I’m a total mess. You shouldn’t want me as a friend, nevermind as something more.”
Yang shrugs. “The heart wants what it wants,” she says lightly. At Blake’s look, she sighs. “And like I’ve said. I’ve been there.” Her throat thickens, but she continues. “I recognize the way you’re feeling. I want to be there for you, and you’re a good person. You’re intelligent, and adorable, and kind. It’s easy to want to want to be there for you.” She lightens her voice and adds, “It doesn’t hurt that you’re crazy beautiful, either.”
Blake rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling. “Thank you,” she says. “For understanding. For being patient. For everything.”
“Well, thank you for letting me be here,” she says lightly. “And thank you for teaching me to play Boggle.” She raises a brow and smirks. “Wanna play?”
“Sure.” Blake gets up and grabs the game before sitting back down and taking out some pens, paper, and a cage with dice in it.
“So, how do you play?” she asks, her brow furrowing in concentration.
“You see how here you can make the word sea ?” Blake says, tapping the dice with her pen.
“So that would be one point. You can go diagonally, but each letter can only be used once. And here, you see you can make the word read ?”
“That would be two points. Like I said, the longer the word, the more points. Basically, just subtract two from the number of letters in the word.”
“Except when there’s a circle around the letter and you make a word, like here, with raven , the v is circled, so you add two points back.”
Blake looks up at her. “Are you sure you want to play?” she asks softly.
Yang tightens her grip around Blake’s hand. “I’m sure,” she says. “Besides, I’ve been looking forward to you kicking my ass for days now.”
“You’ll get better as we play,” Blake says, but Yang can see the grin poking through her attempt at neutrality.
“I’m fine with losing, Blake. As long as we’re both having fun, I’m down.”
As long as we’re together, I’m down .
“You know, you don’t have to come here every day for lunch,” Blake says, sliding a plate in front of Yang. “I feel bad.”
“Why?” Yang asks, already cutting into the chicken Blake had brought her. “You feed me, and you’re wonderful company. If anything, I should feel bad for taking advantage of you for free food.” She gestures with her fork. “So don’t feel bad, because you feed me, and I will always be eternally grateful for that.”
Blake rolls her eyes. “You bring pastries every day, so don’t even start with that,” she says. “And I feel bad because I’m taking up so much of your time.”
“You’re not taking up my time, Blake,” she says. “I want to be here.” Yang shrugs. “And besides, there’s no better way to spend my break than with a friend.” She raises her glass of water and an eyebrow. “To friends.”
“To friends,” Blake says, clinking their glasses together before taking a deep drink. “But seriously, if you ever need to do something else, don’t feel obligated to come here.”
“I’ll let you know, but I don’t feel obligated. I’m here because I want to be.” She winks. “So, what do you want to cook this Friday? Any requests?” She cuts up her chicken some more and moans around her fork as she takes a bite. “Fuck, this is so good.”
“It’s literally just garlic,” Blake says. “But thank you. And how about oatmeal raisin cookies? I’ve had a craving for them ever since you gave them to me two weeks ago, I can’t get enough of them.”
“You should have told me!” she says. “I could’ve brought some today. But yeah, we can totally bake oatmeal raisin cookies.” Yang rolls her head around her shoulders. “We good for pizza for dinner?”
“We are always good for pizza for dinner,” Blake says, and there’s a brightness in her eyes that makes Yang’s heart pang. Ever since brunch two weeks ago, Blake has seemed lighter. Brighter. She still has dark bags under her eyes, but they’re faded. It’s good to see Blake like this, like she’s taking care of herself. It makes Yang warm inside.
Blake makes her warm inside.
“Hey, hey!” Yang chirps, her Scroll pressed between her ear and her shoulder. “What’s cracking?” If she hadn’t checked the caller ID, she would know it was Blake by the sigh that follows.
“What’s cracking? Really?”
Yang shrugs, even though she knows Blake can’t see her. “You know, what’s cracking? What’s up? You don’t like it?” she asks. She debates between grapefruit and orange and settles on the orange, vaguely recalling reading somewhere that grapefruit could mess with certain meds, and she was far too lazy to check if they would mess with hers, so orange it is. She places the oranges into her cart.
“No, I just wasn’t expecting it. I like it,” Blake says. “What’re you up to?”
“Grocery shopping. Do you need anything?” she asks. She’s already picked up some teas that Blake likes for her apartment and the ingredients for the cherry brownies they’re making tomorrow, but she doesn’t mind grabbing stuff for her, for anyone, really. When Ruby first moved in with Penny, Yang was positive she was doing half their grocery shopping because Ruby kept forgetting stuff at the store.
“I’m good, but thanks.”
Blake sighs, and Yang winces. “Long day?” Yang asks sympathetically, eyeing up some broccoli and carrots. She could make soup for tomorrow. Broccoli cheddar soup is perfect for cold nights, but she isn’t sure if that soup would be too heavy with the brownies. Still, she picks them up and puts them in her cart anyways.
“You have no idea,” Blake groans. “People are ridiculous.”
“Do you want to talk about it, or do you want a distraction from the ridiculousness of humanity?” Yang asks. “Because I’m a great listener, but I’m also a great talker. I mean, obviously, I am excellent at using the words.”
Blake laughs. “Distract me, please,” she says, and Yang can tell her ears are relaxing against her dark hair from the tone of her voice. She’s unwinding, just a touch, and it makes her glad to hear it. Blake needs to relax, needs to let herself be, and if Yang can help, she’s all too happy to do so.
“Alright, alright.” Yang pauses for a moment, and then she brightens. “Okay, okay, why do the melons have to get married?”
“Why?” Blake asks, letting out a soft laugh.
“Because they can’t elope! Get it? Can’t elope, cantaloupe? It’s genius!” Yang laughs, and Blake groans from the other end of the call, but Yang can hear the smile in her voice.
“That’s awful,” she says.
“I have more!” Yang says cheerfully. “What did the jalapeño say to his sad son?”
“What?” Blake sighs.
Silence from the other end.
“I am never asking you to distract me again.”
Yang smiles and huffs. “I can do better!” she says. “Ruby says hi, by the way. She wants to know when you’ll drop by the bakery next.” Ruby had taken to Blake like a moth to flame, and Blake had done the same. Blake had met everyone at the bakery, the same way Yang had met everyone at the bookstore, and Blake was adored by everyone at Patchwork. Ruby and Blake bonded over running, Weiss and Blake bonded over books, and Yang and Blake bonded over everything else. Even if they weren’t the same, they found themselves on the other side of the mirror. Inverses and identical at the same time.
“Probably Monday, I want to pick some pastries up for the backroom,” Blake says. “Sun demolishes whatever you leave me, so I should probably be a decent boss and just get him his own stash at this point.”
Yang snorts. “Good idea, and not the least because you’re buying from me,” she said. “He really likes the almond croissants.”
“Duly noted,” Blake says. “Are you working tomorrow?”
“Nah, I have the day off,” Yang says, tossing too many boxes of pasta into her cart. “What about you?”
“I managed to get all my paperwork done today, so I don’t have to go in tomorrow, so basically, yes.”
Yang hesitates and pushes her cart to the self checkout. “Do you want to come over early?” she asks. “We can have a lazy day. Watch some movies, or something. Pop some popcorn. I’ll even let you pick the movies!”
“You’ll regret letting me pick,” Blake says, but there’s no teasing in her voice. Something darker, more sorrowful.
“I doubt that. If it’s a bad movie, I’ll make fun of it and have a good time. If it’s a good movie, I’ll make comments and have a good time. Really, this is a win-win situation for you. You get to watch what you want, and you get to spend time with me,” she says, careful to keep her voice light.
Blake chuckles. “Alright, if you’re sure.” Her voice is still hesitant, but it’s lighter now.
“You know, I never took you as a cotton candy kind of person,” Blake says, delicately licking her own pistachio cone.
“Why?” Yang asks. It’s already starting to drip, and she quickly licks up the bright pink and blue cone to prevent it from getting on her hand. She switches the cone from her right hand to her left. Getting the sticky ice cream off of the metal was more frustrating than it was worth. “What does that even mean?”
Blake shrugs. “I don’t know,” she says. “I thought you would go for vanilla or chocolate and then do a bunch of mix-ins or something.”
“I do that sometimes,” she admits. She gestures with her cone before taking another lick of the sweet frozen treat. “But I was feeling something sweet today, and cotton candy is basically the sweetest of the sweet ice creams. Besides, like, birthday cake.” She rolls her shoulders back and leans against the wooden bench. “And sometimes you just want sweetness.” Yang winks at Blake, who laughs.
“That’s fair,” Blake says, but Yang doesn’t miss her light blush. “If I want sweet, I go for caramel. Like, vanilla soft serve with caramel sauce. It’s sticky, but it’s so worth it.”
“I’ll remember that,” Yang says. She licks her cone and smiles.
The weather was just starting to turn towards chilly and brisk, but it was never the wrong time for ice cream. She wraps her jacket closer around her and leans her head back to look at Blake. Her ears were relaxed against her head, and there was a pinkness to her cheeks and nose that made her just more adorable.
Yang’s stomach clenches, but she just smiles and takes another lick.
“What episode are we on again?” Blake asks, settling down on Yang’s couch as she sets the bowl of popcorn in her hands down on the table.
Yang is already seated on the couch having brought in their drinks from the kitchen. “I think episode eight,” she says, furrowing her brow as she goes to view the series. “I think the Dark Lord just captured the Sacred Fawn and is holding her hostage in exchange for Talu.”
“Oh, fuck,” Blake groans. “Now I remember. Brothers, this is gonna hurt.”
Yang gently bumps their shoulders together. “Yeah, but there’s a happy ending.”
“How do you know that?” Blake asks, leaning back into the couch with a raised brow.
“Ruby spoiled it for me.”
“I’m going to kill her.”
“I’m not going to spoil it for you!” Yang says with a laugh. “But it’s a happy ending. I promise.” She winks. “So don’t worry, because they get through it. Talu is safe!”
Blake nods, and her eyes turn to the screen. “Alright, hit PLAY,” she orders, reaching forward to grab a handful of popcorn. “We’re finishing season one today.”
“So bossy,” she mutters, but she knows she’s said something wrong when Blake freezes. Yang doesn’t hit PLAY and instead bumps Blake once more. “You’re good. We’re good. I promise,” she says lightly. “You okay?”
Blake sighs and turns back to Yang. “I just had a nightmare last night, that’s all,” Blake says, rubbing her brow. “Just brought some shit that he said up.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Yang asks slowly. “Because The Shadows of Isteria isn’t going anywhere.”
“Do you mind?” Blake asks softly.
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want you to,” Yang says. She turns more to Blake and relaxes her gaze. “So what happened?”
Blake blows her hair out of her face with a sigh, and Yang can smell the peppermint tea still lingering on her breath. “He was always telling me that I was too controlling,” Blake says. “Too much. That no one could love me or even like me because I demanded too much from everyone around me. That I was too bossy.” Blake scoffs. “The ironic part is I now realize that it was just because he wanted me to just listen to him and not think for myself, but I still can’t get his words out of my head.”
Yang’s heart twists, and she clenches her fists. But Blake continues. “I’m sorry. For talking about this. It just- it hits sometimes. And it’s hard.” Blake’s voice is a soft but steady whisper. “I left him, but he hasn’t left me.” Blake lets out a rough sigh. “And I’m scared he never will.”
“He might not,” Yang says, and Blake stiffens. “But his voice will get quieter and quieter as time goes on. As you go on.” She reaches for Blake’s hand and squeezes gently. “He might be with you for a long time, but you won’t hear him after a while. He will fade into nothing, and you will remain.”
“How do you know?” Blake asks.
Yang shrugs. “Because I know you,” she says. “You’re strong. You’re stubborn. And you’ll be rid of him eventually. Might take a while, but he won’t matter after a while. I promise.”
Blake nods, and her golden eyes are shining. “Thanks, Yang,” she says roughly. Yang nearly chokes on air as Blake turns back towards the screen and lays her head on Yang’s shoulder. “Is this okay?” she asks, her voice still barely above a whisper.
Yang nods, and she wraps her arm around Blake. “More than okay,” she says, and then she hits PLAY.
Yang bends over and pants, glaring as she looks up at Blake. “How are you not dying right now?” she asks breathlessly.
Blake just shrugs. Her forehead is just barely dotted with sweat, and if anything, she looks like she’s glowing, which is completely unfair when Yang knows she looks like a rat drowned in sweat.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” Blake says. “I’m used to it.”
“I still stand by my previous statement that running is evil,” Yang says. She slides her thumb underneath her bra straps and flicks. “I’m wearing two sports bras. Two. Fucking. Sports bras, and my chest still hurts. That’s ridiculous! Like, what? Running is evil.”
Blake lets out a soft laugh and hands Yang a water bottle, which she greedily sucks down. “You didn’t do half bad,” Blake says generously, even though Yang knows she’s lying.
“I was basically just walking for half of that,” she says, taking a break from drinking to breathe. “You don’t have to lie to me, it’s okay, I know I was horrible.”
“Seriously, for your first time, you did a decent job!” Blake tries. “And it’ll get easier.”
Yang rolls her eyes and straightens up. “Next time, I take you to my gym and see how you do boxing,” she says. “See how you do when hitting pads.”
“Oh, you’ll destroy me,” Blake says. “But it’ll be fun.”
“It will be,” she says. Yang stretches out her shoulders. “This was fun, even if I hated it.” She gives Blake a bright smile. “We should do this again.”
Blake’s smile makes her chest ache with how warm it makes her feel. “Definitely.”
Yang pops her pills in her mouth and takes a drink of water before picking up her Scroll. “What’s up?” she asks, tightening her ponytail. “I’m just about to leave.”
“Actually, I’m outside,” Blake says. “Do you mind buzzing me in?”
Yang’s brow furrows, but she moves to the door and hits the button to let Blake into the building. “You’re good to go!” she says.
“Great. I’ll see you in a minute.” Blake hangs up, and Yang stares at her Scroll before shrugging. She bends down and slips her sneakers on, tying them tight to her feet with a quick bow. Her sneakers are getting pretty beat up, and she’ll probably need to get a new pair soon if she doesn’t want to wear them until they have holes. Which she’s done before.
There’s a knock at the door, and Yang opens it without bothering to check through the peephole if it’s Blake. “Hey!” she says, inviting her inside.
Blake smiles at her, but she’s holding something behind her back as she steps inside. “Hey,” she greets. Her face is bright and kissed pink from the cold. “Sorry for just inviting myself in, I just wanted to show you something.”
“Nah, you’re fine,” she says with a shrug, trying to pretend that she’s not curious about what’s behind her back. “What’s up?”
Blake grins and holds her hands out. “A thank you,” she says as Yang’s heart drops. “For everything you’ve done for me the past few months, and for being my friend, and for generally just being awesome.” Yang’s throat goes dry as she takes in the bright purple cupcake enamel pin in Blake’s hands. The cupcake has a cute cartoonish face, and written on the wrapper of the cupcake in elegant but legible handwriting is YANG . “For your apron. I thought you would like it.” Blake bites her lip. “I know it’s small, but-”
“It’s great,” she breathes. She can’t stop the giant grin on her face. “This is so great, Blake. Thank you.” She carefully takes the bright pin from her hands and sets it down on the table by the door before taking Blake into her arms and squeezing her tight. “Seriously, this is great. You so didn’t have to!”
“But I wanted to,” Blake says. She can feel Blake’s throat bob. “I wanted to.”
Yang groans as the timer runs out for Boggle, and she drops her pen with a huff. “I swear, you’re a fucking genius,” she grumbles, eyeing Blake’s list, which is easily twice the size of Yang’s measly findings. “This is totally not fair.”
“I’ve been playing for years,” Blake says patiently, not looking up as she counts her words. “You’re getting better, grasshopper.”
“You’re just saying that.” She sighs. “How many did you get?”
“Fuck you, I only got twelve.” Yang stretches upwards, her arm metallically clicking as she moves her shoulders around. She takes a drink of her lukewarm coffee and tilts her head up towards the ceiling. “I need a break,” she announces. She stands up and moves for the coffee pot to pour herself another cup. “My ass is thoroughly kicked.”
Blake chuckles behind her, but once she stops, it’s too quiet. Yang can feel Blake’s gaze on her, and her cheeks heat up as she turns around and meets her golden eyes. Blake’s eyes are dark, and Yang swallows hard.
“Yang?” Blake says softly.
“We’ve known each other for three months now,” Blake begins, biting her lip. Yang’s heart skips a beat, but she forces herself to calmly sit down beside Blake. “And I don’t know if you still feel the same way, but I want to revisit that conversation from our first brunch.” Blake’s throat bobs. “About us.”
“Oh.” Yang isn’t sure she’s breathing. “What do you want to talk about?”
Blake clears her throat. “I really like you,” she says softly. “And I understand if you don’t feel that way about me anymore, but if you, by some miracle, still do, I want- I want to try. I want to try us.”
Yang can only stare at her for a moment. Her heart is racing beneath her chest, and she only realizes she’s taking too long to respond when Blake’s face pales. “I’m sorry, Yang, I shouldn’t have assumed-”
“No!” she interrupts quickly, reaching for Blake’s hand. “I just- I want you too.” She bites her lip. “I want to try too.”
“You don’t have to lie to me, Yang,” Blake says. “If you don’t want to, we can stay like this. I just want you in my life right now, if you’re okay with that.”
“Blake,” she says. “I want to be with you, however you want me. As friends, as more, I just want to be with you .” She swallows hard. “I want to try us.”
Blake’s eyes are glittering. “That’s good,” she says.
Yang smiles, and she reaches for Blake’s cheek. Blake nuzzles her hand back and presses Yang’s hand closer to her face. “I really want to try this,” she breathes. “But I don’t want to pressure you, and you have to tell me if I’m moving too fast or too slow or if I’m ever too much, and I just want to make you happy because you deserve to be happy-”
She nods and takes a breath. Blake’s fingers lace into hers. Blake is smiling gently at her, and Yang just knows she has the dumbest grin on her face. She scoots closer until she isn’t leaning across the table and Blake is mere inches away.
“Can I talk?”
She nods. “Please do. Please stop me from putting my foot in my mouth.”
Blake chuckles, and her head ducks. “I want you. And I trust you. I trust you, and I’m not scared of you. I will tell you if I need something, but right now, I just want to focus on us.” Blake’s hand tightens around Yang’s, and her skin is sinfully soft. “I want you.
Yang hesitates. “Can I kiss you?” she asks softly, leaning against Blake’s forehead.
She can see Blake swallow up close, see her throat contract and move and the way her mouth tightens. “Yes,” she says, but she’s still not looking at Yang.
“Are you sure?” she asks. She can smell the sweet coffee on Blake’s breath, they’re close enough for her to practically taste it, but she wants Blake to look at her. She wants to make sure she means it.
Blake looks up, and her golden eyes are soft and open and vulnerable. “Kiss me,” she breathes, and Yang is kissing her before she can think.
Blake’s lips are soft, just like the rest of her. Her hand curls into Blake’s waves, and her other hand still rests on Blake’s face. She wants to touch her, wants to feel the curves of her body under her fingertips, but she’s not going to push. She’s kissing Blake Belladonna, and that’s more than enough to send her off the deep end.
They break apart, foreheads touching. Yang grins dopily, and Blake is smiling back at her. Her cheeks are pink, and Yang reaches up to touch them. She thumbs the delicate skin and brushes her fingers across her face. “You are so beautiful.” The red spreads over Blake’s face, and the sadist in Yang wants to see how red she can make her.
“Kiss me again,” Blake says, eyes fluttering shut. Yang happily obliges.
She can taste the remnants of her coffee on her tongue, and her mouth is so sweet and hot. Yang pulls herself deeper into the kiss, letting her hand fall back down to grab Blake’s. Blake squeezes her fingers, and she grins into her lips. She feels Blake takes a breath against her, and she marvels at how delicate it is.
Blake’s hand snakes around Yang’s neck, and she’s pulling her deeper into her. Yang gladly obeys her request, bending her neck to press into her mouth. Blake tastes like hazelnuts and sweetness, and she is addicting. Yang wants to devour her, would let Blake devour her if it meant getting to kiss her like this forever.
Blake stands up from her chair, but her hands keep Yang from following. Their lips break apart, and Yang groans, eyes opening to see a red-lipped Blake smiling at her. She moves to straddle Yang, but Yang catches her by the hips and holds her there.
“Let’s go slow,” she forces herself to say. “Because I want to know your middle name before I touch you any further.”
“I don’t have a middle name.”
Yang laughs. “You know what I mean,” she says, and her hands gently squeeze Blake’s hips before drawing back to her sides. “We should go slow.”
Blake nods, sitting back down. Yang’s blood is pulsing, and she’s not sure if she’s breathing. Her lips are tingling, and she almost reaches a hand up to touch them.
“Was that- Was I okay?” Blake asks, biting her swollen lips.
“Baby, you were fantastic,” she says hoarsely.
“Baby?” Blake repeats.
“Do you not like that?” Her voice wavers.
“No, I do.” Blake’s lips twitch up in a smile. “I really do.”
Yang wants to kiss her again, but she settles for giving her a smile instead. “I think we should talk before I kiss you again.”
“Again?” Blake asks, and her voice is so hopeful that Yang melts.
“Yes, again. And again, and again, until you’re sick of me,” she teases.
“I doubt I could be sick of you,” Blake says.
“I’m gonna need that in writing.”
Blake rolls her eyes. “You’re too hard on yourself,” she says.
“I don’t know, baby. I can get pretty annoying.”
“No, you’re not. Eager, maybe, but not annoying. Never annoying.”
“Guess you’ll just have to spend more time with me and find out.”
“Guess I will,” Blake says, and, wow, her lips look delectable. Yang wants to kiss her again, but she forces herself to slide back to her proper place beside Blake at the table. She reaches for Blake’s hand, though, and Blake obliges. “So, what’re we talking about?” Her voice is husky, and it goes straight into Yang’s core.
“I want to take you out,” she blurts. “On a proper date. Like, I want to do things right and sweet, because you deserve it. And I want to do my best to give you what you deserve.” She swallows hard. “I want to take you out on a date. If that’s okay?”
“That’s more than okay, Yang,” Blake says. “I would like that. I would really like that.” Blake’s throat bobs. “I want to date you,” she says softly.
Yang nods. “I want to date you too.” She gives her a smile and squeezes her hand. “So let’s do this.”
Warning: brief homophobic language
Yang knocks on Blake’s door, and the metal of her hand vibrates against the wooden door. She steps back and holds the flowers in her hands. She brushes her hair behind her ears, and her smile only grows as Blake opens the door. She swallows hard as she takes in Blake.
Blake is wearing a soft lilac sweater dress with dark tights and boots. Her hair falls around her hips and shines bright in the dying light of the sunset. Yang isn’t sure she’s breathing as her eyes find Blake’s rosy lips and dark lashes that frame her glowing golden eyes, and she has to take a deep, steadying breath to not drool all over Blake.
“Hey, Blake,” she says roughly, holding out the flowers. She bites her lip and smiles. “You look, wow. You look amazing. Oh, and I got you these!”
“Thank you,” she says, and Blake is blushing, and Yang is blushing, and they’re both blushing. “Let me just put these in water, and then we can go.” Blake ushers her inside, and Yang takes a deep breath of the now familiar scent of books and lilac that she associates with Blake. She awkwardly stands in the doorway until Blake rounds the corner once more and shrugs on her jacket.
“You sure you’re okay with taking my bike?” she asks as Blake locks her door back up. “Because we can always walk, or order a taxi or something.” In truth, she’s excited to take Blake on her bike, but she knows that a lot of people are afraid of motorcycles. She wouldn’t blame her, especially when she’s related to Ruby and Ruby is terrified of her bike, but she wants Blake to love it like she does.
“I’m sure,” Blake says. “But I’ve never ridden before, so I might be a little skittish.”
“If you get nervous, just squeeze me, and I’ll slow down,” she says, handing Blake her helmet before putting her own on. She straddles the bike and adjusts Blake’s hands so she’s holding on tight. “Ready?”
“Ready,” Blake says, and Yang revs the engine before taking off. Bumblebee roars to life underneath her, and she can’t help her grin as Blake’s arms tighten around her. She keeps them at a safe pace, but the wind still whips her hair around and the engine makes her very bones vibrate. She’s riding, she’s riding with Blake, and it’s fucking amazing. Her blood comes to life, and she’s never felt so alive with Blake’s arms around her and the road beneath her.
They arrive at the restaurant in one piece, and she parks Bumblebee with ease. She takes off her helmet and shakes out her hair, turning back to look at Blake. “So?” she asks with a grin. “What did you think?”
Blake slowly takes off her helmet and smiles back at Yang. “That,” she says, “was amazing .”
Yang can’t help it as her grin grows wider at Blake’s pure delight. “Really?” she asks, biting her lip. “Because if you didn’t, I promise, we don’t have to do it again.”
“No, Yang, seriously. That was amazing,” she says as they get off the bike. Blake smooths out her dress and holds out her arm for Yang to take, which she gladly accepts. “I would tell you if I didn’t like it, and that was, wow, that was amazing.”
“Good! I’m glad, because I don’t drive cars, and this is literally my only mode of transport around town.” Yang brushes out her hair with her free hand and lets Blake lead her to the front door. “Have you been here before?”
Blake shakes her head as they go inside. “No,” she admits. “But I’ve heard good things.” Her golden eyes move up to the restaurant’s sign. “They have seafood, right?”
“Best in town,” Yang says, opening the door for the both of them. They approach the hostess, and Yang flashes her best smile. “Reservation for two under Xiao Long.”
The hostess checks her tablet and then nods with a bright smile that Yang recognizes as her customer service smile. “Right this way,” the hostess says smoothly, taking two menus and leading them deeper into the restaurant. They sit down, and the hostess hands them their menus with a smile. “Your waiter will be with you shortly,” she says, and then she’s gone.
Yang smiles at Blake from across the table and leans in, lowering her voice. “I’ve heard good things about the salmon. I’m personally partial to the shrimp scampi, but that’s just me.” She taps the menu with her fingernail. “Really, everything I’ve had here is good, if I’m honest.”
“Good to know,” Blake says, her eyes scanning the menu. A booted foot taps her ankle, but Blake doesn’t look up. Still, Yang smiles and gently rocks her ankle back and forth, and a smile appears on Blake’s face. Blake folds the menu back up. Her face is open and soft, and Yang realizes she hasn’t seen bags under her eyes in ages. “I think I’m going to get the salmon.”
“Good choice,” she says. Yang takes a drink of the water already poured in her glass. “So, baby, how was your day?”
Blake straightens up at the pet name, but her gaze remains vulnerable. “It was good,” Blake says. “Got a bunch of shipment in, so that took up most of my day. Sun had off today, so it was just me and Sage and Ilia, which was a lot. None of us thrive off of doing shipment like Sun does, but we got through it.” Blake takes a drink of her water, never breaking eye contact with Yang. “What about you?”
“Weiss nearly murdered me because I kept looking at the clock,” she admits. Blake’s cheeks tinge pink, and Yang can’t help the smirk that comes over her. “I guess I was a little excited. Just a little, of course.”
“Of course,” Blake agrees. “This is a totally normal, everyday thing.”
Yang reaches for Blake’s hand across the tables and squeezes. “But that’s the thing,” she says softly. “Even if this becomes a totally normal, everyday thing, it will still be exciting to me.” She brings Blake’s hands to her lips and gently presses a kiss to the back of her palm without breaking eye contact. “You wanna know how I know?”
“How?” Blake asks, raising a brow.
“Because I’m spending time with you,” Yang says simply. “And that will always be exciting to me.”
Blake rolls her eyes, but Yang doesn’t miss her blush. Blake squeezes her hand back and tucks her hair behind her ear. “You’re so cheesy,” she says.
“You like me cheesy!” Yang counters, puffing up her chest. “I’m adorable cheesy.”
“You’re not wrong,” Blake chuckles. Something flashes in her golden eyes, and Yang loses her breath at the sight. “Although adorable isn’t the first word that comes to mind when I think about you.” Her foot rubs against her ankle, and Blake smiles innocently.
Yang swallows hard. “So what is the first word that comes to mind when you think about me?” she asks, mouth dry.
Blake tilts her head. “Kindness,” she says after a moment. “You’re very kind.”
“Well, thank you very much,” Yang replies, lifting Blake’s hand once more to her lips in thanks. “But I’m only as kind as you deserve, baby.” She winks. “You bring out the best in me, after all.”
“I was trying to compliment you, stop turning it back on me!” Blake huffs.
“But that’s half the fun,” she says. “I like letting you know what I think about you. I like complimenting you. I like you , Blake, and I’m not afraid to tell you that, because you deserve to know. Plus, seeing you blush like that makes me very happy, so don’t think this is just me being altruistic, because it’s not. It’s definitely not.”
“I should’ve known you had ulterior motives,” Blake says. Her eyes sparkle in the light, and Yang can’t help but stare at them, at her. “Perhaps I should associate you with a different word.”
“And what word would that be?” she asks, leaning in closer.
Blake bites her lip, and Yang wants to feel their rosiness for herself. “Dazzling,” Blake says. “You dazzle me. You’re bright and distracting and beautiful, and you’re blinding. Absolutely blinding.” Blake squeezes her hand. “But I can’t look away. And I don’t want to.”
Yang isn’t sure she’s breathing.
“Hi, can I take your orders?” a peppy waiter asks, appearing at their table.
Yang grits her teeth and forces a smile at their waiter as Blake giggles. Holy shit, Blake is giggling. She tucks the sound away for later. She tries to focus on their waiter and ignores Blake swinging their feet together. “Can I please have the shrimp scampi?” she asks, handing her menu over.
“And for you?” the waiter asks.
“The salmon, please.” She can feel Blake’s gaze on her, but Yang keeps staring at the waiter. If she looks at her right now, she won’t be able to stop herself from kissing her, and it was most definitely not the time or place to kiss her like she wanted to.
“Thank you very much,” the waiter says, and with a smile, he’s gone.
Yang breathes a sigh of relief and turns back to Blake, who’s failing to hold back her laughter. Yang doesn’t mind. It’s a beautiful sound, one she could listen to for hours because it means Blake is happy. Blake smiles at her, and Yang grins back. The warmth in her chest grows, and she’s all too aware of the heat coming off of her skin.
“What were you saying?” she asks, as if she doesn’t know very well where they left off.
Blake snorts. “I think you mean what you were saying,” she says. Blake raises an arched brow and smirks. Brothers, Blake will be the death of her, but damn, what a way to go.
“I think I was going to say that I think you got the two of us confused,” she says slowly. “You’re the dazzling one. I can’t take my eyes off of you, and I really, really don’t want to.” She squeezes her hand. “But I can think of a better word that suits you.”
Yang nods mischievously. “I can think of many better words that suit you,” she admits. “Brilliant. Beautiful. Booty-ful.” She winks, and Blake snorts. “I don’t know as many words as you do, as obvious from Boggle, but I can spend the next few hours describing you if you want me to. Because if you do, I so will.” She grins, and she means it. She could spend ages waxing poetic about Blake, as Weiss and Ruby knew well by now.
“You’re incorrigible,” Blake says, but her eyes are glowing.
“You’re the one that lets me get away with it,” she points out.
Blake rolls her eyes, but her thumb starts stroking the back of Yang’s hand. “Maybe I like you incorrigible,” Blake says.
Fuck. Yang gives her a lazy grin. “Of course you do,” she says as casually as she can manage. “I’m delightful.”
And then they’re both laughing, and Yang can’t remember the last time she felt this light.
“I’m stuffed,” Yang announces, patting her belly.
“Me too,” Blake says. A pause. “Wanna get ice cream?”
“Fuck yeah, I wanna get ice cream.”
Blake giggles, and Yang imagines kissing her mouth when it’s sticky and sweet from the ice cream. She bites her lip and tries to pretend she’s not focusing on Blake’s mouth, something she is desperately failing at if the look Blake gives her is anything to go by.
But Blake leans over the table and kisses Yang’s lips. Soft. Tender. Chaste. Yang moves to kiss her back, but her lips are gone before she can respond. “Thank you,” Blake says. “For such a nice night.”
Yang raises a brow. “It’s not over yet, baby.” She holds her hand up and flicks her fingers up as she rattles off the rest of her plans. “We’re getting ice cream. We’re going for a walk through the park. And then we’re going back to my place and we’ll watch the series finale of The Shadows of Isteria .” She hesitates. “If you’re up for it? Because we don’t have to do all that, I know it’s a lot, so if you just want to go home I can drop you off-”
“Yang,” Blake interrupts, reaching for her hand, her gaze soft. “I’m down.”
Yang quiets and nods. “Okay.” She lets out a breath and smiles. “Great. Awesome.”
Blake nods and stands up, stretching up to the ceiling. “Ice cream isn’t going to wait,” she says, and her golden eyes flash with mischief, and fuck, Yang’s whole heart clenches at the sight. She’s stunning. She’s brilliant. She’s Blake.
Yang hurries to stand up and takes Blake’s outstretched hand as they walk back out through the restaurant. Blake’s skin is still smooth and silky, and Yang can’t get enough of touching her, of holding her hand, of kissing her mouth. She wants her not just because she’s beautiful but because she wants to feel her brilliance for herself, wants Blake because she’s Blake and she kicks her ass at Boggle and doesn’t like chocolate and has sweet lips.
Their hands swing between them as they walk out of the restaurant, and Yang feels Blake freeze before she sees him. She turns her head from Blake’s now-pale face to see the horned man from the bookshop all those months ago. Blake’s ex-fiancè. Adam.
Blake’s hand goes limp in Yang’s, but Yang squeezes her hand for reassurance. She doesn’t let go as Adam catches sight of them and a cruel smile twists his face. She pulls Blake along, hoping, praying, pleading that he won’t make a scene, that she can get Blake onto Bumblebee and get them both out of there, but no one is listening.
Adam stops in front of them and blocks their path. “Hey, Blake,” he says casually. His voice isn’t filled with fury, but Yang can see something slithering underneath his pleasant veneer. “How’s it going? Who’s this?”
“I’m Yang,” she says, keeping her voice short and cutting. “And we were just leaving.” She squeezes Blake’s hand once more, and she knows without looking that all the blood has flooded out of Blake’s face.
Adam frowns and crosses his arms. “I was talking to Blake,” he says.
“Adam, we really need to be going,” Blake says, her voice trembling ever so slightly.
“Fine. Leave.” He raises a brow. “It’s all you’re good at, isn’t it, my love?”
Yang clenches her jaw and moves to pull Blake along, but Adam doesn’t move, and she doesn’t trust herself to brush past him without throttling him. She pastes her customer service smile onto her face and channels her inner Weiss as best she can. “Our movie is about to start,” she lies. “As lovely as this reunion must be for you, we have to get going.”
Adam gives them an exaggerated bow and gets out of their way, but he never takes his eyes off of Blake. “My apologies,” he says. “I’ll just drop by the store, then. To properly catch up.” His voice stays still and pleasant, but Yang can feel the way the words cut into Blake.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Yang says.
“Well, I wasn’t asking for your opinion or your permission. If I want to visit Blake, I will.” His voice darkens slightly. “Just because she’s running around with a dyke now doesn’t mean that you own her.”
Yang grits her teeth, but Blake speaks before she can respond. “Adam,” Blake warns, and her voice is trembling, but she’s speaking. “If you use that word again-”
“You’ll what?” he asks, taking a step closer to them. “You’ll fuck her?” He spits on the ground. “I took you for a lot of things, my love, but I never took you as a dirty whore.”
Blake steps back, but Yang stays put and gets between them. She takes a deep breath and meets Adam’s gaze. “Say that again.” Her voice is too calm, even to her own ears, and she nearly cuts her tongue on the sharpness of the words. “Say that again, and I’ll rip your tongue out of your mouth.” Her voice is flat with fury, and anger burns her throat raw.
Adam smirks, turning to her. “Good luck with that.” He shoves his hands in his pockets and breezes past them. “Have a nice night, ladies.”
Yang wants to turn and follow him, wants to shout at him and force him to apologize, but she can feel Blake trembling. She takes a deep breath and carefully pulls Blake to Bumblebee. She silently hands her the helmet before putting her own on.
“Yang?” Blake asks quietly as Yang straddles the bike.
“Can you take me home?”
Yang nods. “Of course. Get on.” She doesn’t start the bike until Blake’s arms are wrapped around her. Her touch feels distant. Detached. Yang swallows hard and revs the engine. She takes off.
She would kill Adam. She would kill him for ruining this, for ruining their night. She would kill him for hurting Blake, for making the light in her eyes flicker out, for making her afraid. She would kill him.
Yang is gritting her teeth so hard her jaw hurts, but she tries to take deep breaths and focus on Blake. She needs to be there for her, and Blake probably won’t need her anger. If Yang is going to be there for her, which is where she wants to be, she’ll have to follow her cues and hold back her fury.
They pull up to Blake’s house, and Yang stops Bumblebee as Blake gets off.
“What’re you doing?” Blake asks, her brow furrowed as she takes off her helmet.
“Coming in with you?” she says. “If that’s okay, I mean. I just don’t want you to be alone right now. I don’t really feel comfortable leaving you alone after that, but if you want me gone, just say the word, and I’ll leave.”
Blake’s throat bobs as she studies Yang. Yang holds her breath as Blake stares at her. “You want to stay?” Blake asks finally, and her voice just barely breaks.
Still, Yang nods, and she gets off Bumblebee. “I want to stay,” she says.
Something flickers in Blake’s eyes, but it’s gone before Yang can identify it. “I want you to stay, too.” Blake nods, and Yang can see her stillness crack as she takes a deep breath.
Yang looks around and wraps an tentative arm around Blake to escort her to the front door. Blake feels frail beneath her, but Yang tries not to focus on that. She waits as Blake unlocks the door, and she takes off her shoes at the door. Blake locks the door behind them, and then she’s staring at Yang.
“I don’t- I don’t know what to do now,” Blake says.
“Go sit on the couch and grab a blanket,” Yang instructs. “I’ll start water for tea.”
Blake shakes her head. “You don’t have to-”
“But I want to,” she interrupts gently. She reaches for and gently squeezes her hand, forcing a small smile she doesn’t feel onto her face. “I want to. So go sit down, get some blankets for us, and I’ll come in once the tea is set up.”
Blake nods, and Yang doesn’t go into the kitchen until Blake pads to the couch. She quickly starts water for tea and grabs two mugs down from Blake’s cabinet. She grabs the biggest mug she can find for Blake, a giant purple flower mug, and a normal sized one for herself, but her mug is covered in quotes from a book she doesn’t recognize. She puts chamomile in both of their mugs before heading into the living room.
Blake is burritoed into a blanket, and her face is pale. Yang slowly sits down next to her and puts the blanket Blake laid out for her around her shoulders. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asks. “Or do you want a distraction?”
“Yang, you don’t have to do this,” Blake says. Her eyes are closed, but her mouth is shuddering and wobbling.
“Don’t have to do what?”
“You don’t have to deal with me right now,” she says. “It’s not your responsibility to take care of me, and I can handle myself.”
“I know you can,” Yang says. “But you don’t have to.” She gently nudges Blake’s shoulder, but Blake doesn’t look up at her. “And I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, Blake, but I want to be here. I want to be here for you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. I promise.”
Blake lets out a shaky breath, but stays silent. Yang decides to continue and repeats, “Do you want to talk about it?”
A moment of silence. Yang waits, and she watches Blake as her breathing grows shallower. “I should have known,” Blake croaks finally. “I should have known that he wouldn’t let me go that easily.”
Yang shivers. “You couldn’t have known,” she says gently. “It’s been months since you last saw him. You couldn’t have known, Blake.” She reaches for Blake’s hand and squeezes. “What happened tonight was a coincidence. A really, really shitty coincidence, but we’re okay. You’re okay.”
“But I’m not.” Blake sniffles, and Yang starts to see tears making their way down Blake’s cheeks. “He’s never going to leave me alone, Yang. He’s never going to let me go, and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?”
“For dragging you into the shitshow that is my life!” Blake takes a deep breath, but she still isn’t looking at Yang. “Adam is never going to let me go, and you should leave me, because I know he’ll do whatever it takes to get me back, and I can’t- I won’t forgive myself if he hurts you, Yang. I won’t.” Blake shakes her head. “You deserve better than me, because I’m not okay.”
“I’m not scared of Adam, Blake,” she says, and Blake snorts.
“You should be.”
“But I am scared for you, baby.” Blake finally looks at her, her jaw slack. Yang swallows hard. “I don’t want you to go through this alone. And when I said I want to be there for you, I didn’t just mean through the easy parts. I meant through it all.” She squeezes her hand. “I’m not letting this chase me off, I’m not letting Adam chase me off, I’m not letting you chase me off.” She tentatively brushes the hair out of Blake’s face, her own hand shaking. “So what if your ex is a homophobic dick? That has nothing to do with us.”
“He won’t leave me alone,” Blake whispers. “He thought I was going to come back.”
“Well, now he knows you’re not,” she says as lightly as she can manage. She carefully wipes the tears from Blake’s cheeks. “I like you, and I know you like me too. He’ll just have to deal with that. Because, baby?” She gives Blake a tentative and teary smile. “I’m not going anywhere. Not if you don’t want me to. I promise. As long as you want me here, I’ll be here.”
Blake lets out a broken sob. “I don’t deserve you.”
Yang shakes her head. “You deserve better than me,” she corrects. “But you’re stuck with me, baby.” She scoots closer to her. “I promise, I’ll be here for you. I’m not letting you go through this alone.” She carefully brushes through Blake’s hair with her fingers.
Blake curls into her side, and Yang wraps her arm around her back. “I’m just so scared,” Blake says. “I don’t want him to hurt you or me or anyone.”
“He won’t,” Yang assures.
“You don’t know that.”
“Maybe, but I know that I want to be with you.” She kisses the top of Blake’s head. “He won’t scare me off.” She keeps rubbing Blake’s back as she shudders beneath her touch. “I can make my own choices, Blake, and I choose you.”
Blake is sobbing then, and Yang holds her as she does. She’s not sure how long they stay like that for, but long enough for the tea to go off. Blake sits up and wipes at her face, and Yang carefully stands up to go get the tea ready. She comes back to the living room to see Blake rubbing her face. She sets the mugs down on the table and sits back down beside her, rubbing her back.
“Yang?” Blake asks quietly.
“Do you- you don’t have to, I just- do you mind staying here tonight? You can take my bed, I just don’t want to be alone tonight.” Her voice is small, but it breaks Yang’s heart. “And, fuck, you probably have work, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“Of course I’ll stay,” she says. “I’m not working tomorrow, so we’re all good. And you can sleep in your bed, I’ll take the couch.” She raises a brow and gently ribs, “Unless you want me to cuddle with you.” She wants to get a smile out of Blake, but Blake just looks up at her with her teary golden eyes and nods.
“Can we?” Blake asks, biting her lip. “I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t even be asking-”
“Hey, hey,” she interrupts, rubbing her back. “You’re fine. We can totally snuggle. Although, baby, if you wanted me in your bed that bad, you could have just asked.” She winks, her heart racing as she waits for Blake to respond. Did she push too far? Fuck.
But Blake laughs. It’s a small sound, a broken sound, but it’s her laugh. “You see right through me, don’t you?” she asks.
Yang kisses her forehead. “I just pay attention,” she says. She awkwardly clears her throat. “But, um, just to be clear, none of that tonight. Just snuggling.”
“Snuggling is more than enough for me,” Blake says. Some light returns to those golden eyes as Blake gives her a small smile. “But when I want you to fuck me, Yang, you’ll know.” Yang’s mouth goes dry as she nods. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Blake sees her reaction and laughs, bigger and brighter and bolder this time. “But seriously. Thank you.”
“You don’t need to thank me, but you’re welcome.” Yang takes a sip of her tea and smiles as it burns down her throat. “Do you happen to have a pair of pjs I could borrow?” she asks. “If you don’t, no worries.”
“I should have something,” Blake says, wiping at her eyes as she stands up. Blake reaches back for her, and Yang lets her pull her up to standing. She is pulled into Blake’s bedroom, and she sits on the bed as Blake digs around in her drawers for some clothes. “Here,” Blake says as she tosses Yang a lump of fabric. “Hope you’re okay with a sleep shirt.”
“I love sleep shirts,” she says honestly. She jerks her chin. “I’m gonna go get changed in the bathroom. You should get changed too. We can drink our tea and watch some TV before bed.”
Blake nods, and Yang heads down the hallway to the bathroom. She quickly strips off her clothes and washes her makeup off in the sink before slipping into the soft t-shirt. It falls down just past her fingertips and smells like lilac. Yang’s heart nearly stops as she realizes she’s wearing Blake’s clothes. Holy fuck, she’s wearing Blake’s clothes.
She swallows hard and folds her clothes up before padding back to the living room. Yang puts her clothes on top of the table and sits back down as she waits for Blake to come out. She takes a sip of her tea and lets the chamomile work its magic on her.
They’ll be okay.
Blake comes out, and Yang looks up and breaks out into peels of laughter. Blake’s brow furrows, but Yang can tell she’s barely holding back her own laughter.
“What is that ?” Yang asks, quirking an eyebrow.
“This is my onesie,” Blake says, giving Yang a twirl in the bright purple fuzz before sitting down beside her. “I only wear it when I’m really cold or when I’m really upset or had a really rough day.”
“Well, I’m told I’m like a furnace, so you’ll never be cold with me,” she says. She kisses Blake’s cheek before wrapping her arm around her. “You look really cute.” Blake’s hooded head falls on Yang’s shoulder, and Yang gently nuzzles her head in return. “Do you have more onesies?”
“Just the one,” Blake says, curling into Yang. Indeed, Blake is fuzzy and warm, and Yang probably doesn’t need the blanket with Blake on her, but she doesn’t mind. Instead, she holds Blake a little tighter. “I don’t wear it enough to necessitate having more than one.”
“That’s good,” Yang says. “Even if you are adorable in it, I’m glad you don’t need it more often.” Yang’s eyes flick to the clock, and she smiles. “Hey, The Shadows of Isteria finale is gonna be on soon. Do you want to watch it, or save it for another night?”
“Can we do another night?” Blake asks, but her voice wavers.
“Of course we can do another night,” she says. She lightens her voice. “Do you want to watch Lawfully Brunette ?” she asks gently. “I know it’s your favorite.”
Blake snorts, but she nods. “I would like that,” she says, and Yang nods as she reaches for the remote.
She quickly finds the movie and orders it, and she kisses Blake’s forehead as the movie loads up. “Do you need anything else?” she asks, leaning back into the couch and letting Blake curl back into her.
Blake shakes her head. “I have everything I need.”
Yang wakes up to the scent of lilac and books and curls deeper into the scent. She smiles faintly before the night comes back to her and she remembers why she’s in Blake’s bed, but her smile only fades slightly before brightening up again. Blake trusted her. Blake wanted her there. Blake let Yang take care of her.
She turns over in the bed and opens her eyes, but Blake isn’t there. Her brow furrows, and she can’t help the slight panic that rises in her throat. Yang swallows hard before sitting up and fixing herself. She carefully takes in her surroundings, and beneath the lilac and books is the unmistakable scent of bacon. Her stomach grumbles, and she pads out to the kitchen to see Blake, still in her bright purple onesie, humming and flipping what looks to be an omelet.
“Hey,” Yang says, her voice still gruff with sleep. “What’re you doing?”
Blake turns back to look at her and gives her a tentative smile. “Making breakfast,” she says. “I was just about to wake you up. I was surprised you slept this late.”
“What time is it?” she asks before her eyes flick to the clock. “Holy shit, it’s already eight?” She normally was up by five at latest on her days off, but they had stayed up late last night watching movies.
“My reaction exactly,” Blake says. There’s a lightness in her voice that eases some of the worry in Yang’s chest. “Go sit down. You can start eating. There’s coffee for you.”
“Thank you,” Yang says, awkwardly taking a seat at the table. She takes a deep drink of her coffee, the smell already waking her up. “Fuck, that’s good.” She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and smacks her lips together. “When did you get up?”
“A half hour or so ago?” Blake says, plating the omelet in the pan. Blake comes over and sits beside Yang. “I figured you would want breakfast when you woke up.”
“You didn’t have to do this,” Yang says, but Blake just shrugs.
“I wanted to,” Blake says. Her rosy lips quirk up as she tosses Yang’s words back at her. “Besides, consider this a thank you. For last night. For everything, really.” Blake’s smile fades slightly, and she looks down at her plate. “I feel like I should be embarrassed, but, honestly, I’m just grateful, Yang. I’m just really grateful you were there.”
“Me too,” Yang says. “I mean, I’m happy I could be there for you.” She clears her throat and takes another sip of coffee. “Just so you know, our second date may or may not incorporate ideas from last night.”
“And you’re sure you still want a second date?” Blake asks. She’s biting her lip, but she doesn’t seem as afraid that Yang will leave now. Still, Yang has no problem reminding her.
“I’m sure,” she says with a gentle smile. Yang shrugs. “You have a crazy ex. So what?”
Blake shifts in her seat. “I’m sorry,” Blake says softly. “I’m sorry about what he said.”
“Do not,” Yang cuts, leaning forward. “Do not apologize for his behavior, because it wasn’t your fault.” She hesitates, but she adds, “I’m more concerned about how you’re doing after all that he said and seeing him. Are you okay?”
Blake lets out a heavy breath. “I actually thought he would leave me alone.” Her throat bobs. “I actually believed he would let me go. I should have known that he would put up a fight, that he wouldn’t let me be happy. I should have known, and I feel like a fucking idiot.” Blake’s mouth wobbles. “I’m an idiot.”
“No, you’re not,” Yang says. She frowns. “Although you are attracted to me, so maybe you are an idiot.” Blake gives her a look, and Yang relents. “Seriously, baby. You’re not an idiot. You couldn’t have known. It’s been months since you last saw him, there was no way you could have anticipated seeing him last night or known what he was going to say. There’s no way.” She softens her gaze. “You’re not an idiot.”
“I should have known,” Blake insists.
Yang shakes her head, reaching across the table to stroke Blake’s hand. “There’s no way you could have known, baby.” She gave her a soft smile. “You don’t have to be afraid of him anymore. You’re not together, and he has no power over you. Not anymore.”
“I’m still scared of him,” Blake whispers.
“I know,” she said gently. “But I won’t let him hurt you. I promise.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about.”
Yang blinks. “What?”
“You stood up to him. He won’t forget that, Yang.” Blake’s mouth wobbles. “And if he hurts you, it’ll be my fault, and-”
“First off, he’s not going to hurt me,” she says, squeezing her hand. “Second, even if he did, which he’s not, it wouldn’t be your fault.” She shrugs. “And I’ve heard worse, Blake. He’s just a homophobic dick, but it’ll take a lot more than calling me some names to hurt me.” She straightens up. “He’s a disgusting asshole, but that’s all he is. He doesn’t get to control you anymore, baby. You’re free of him. Even if you’re still afraid, that’s okay. You just have to remember that you’re free from him.”
Blake nods. “I’m glad you were there,” she says softly. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“You would have gotten through it,” she says. “You’re strong.”
“I’m stronger with you,” Blake says. “I’m not naturally like this.”
“I think you are,” Yang says. “I think you just forgot.” She smiles at Blake. “And if I can help you remember your strength, I’m honored. Because you are strong, Blake.”
Blake flushes. “Thank you.”
Yang nods. “You’re welcome,” she says. She lightens her tone. “And despite Adam, I had a really nice time last night, Blake. I was happy to be with you at the beginning, and I was happy to be there for you at the end. Thank you for letting me in.”
“Thank you for staying,” Blake says. She bites her lip. “I felt, no, feel safe with you.”
“I feel safe with you too.” Yang squeezes her hand once more. “I have to head home at noon, but I can stay until then. But only if you want me to, I mean. I don’t want to impose.” She takes a deep breath. “I’m here for you is what I’m trying to say. As long as you want me.” Yang gives her a tight lipped smile.
“If you don’t mind,” Blake says. “I like having you here.”
Yang beams at her. “I like being here.”
“How was your date?” Ruby asks, dragging out date with a slight trill.
Yang rolls her eyes, but she can’t help the smile that tugs at her lips. “It was really, really good,” she admits. “We got dinner, and then we went back to her place and watched some movies, and I fell asleep there. She made me breakfast.” Her smile grows at the memory of Blake in her onesie, but she’ll keep that between her and Blake.
“You slept there?” Weiss asks, raising a brow and smirking.
“Oh, shut up,” Yang says. “We passed out after watching too many movies.”
“Ew, I so didn’t need to think about that,” Ruby says, her nose wrinkling.
“Great, thanks for making my sister think about my sex life,” she says with a sigh.
Weiss shrugs, somehow making the nonchalant motion delicate and elegant. “What? We were all thinking it,” she says.
“I’m going back out to the register!” Ruby announces, turning on her heel.
Yang barely bites back a snort and rolls out the butter onto the slab of pastry dough she had prepped. “Anyways,” she pivots, “how are the wedding cake ideas for Jaune and Pyrrha coming? When are you meeting with them?”
Weiss glares daggers at her, but she flips through her sketchbook. “I’ve narrowed it down to three design options for them, and I’m just cleaning the sketches up. They’ll be by tomorrow to select the final design, and then it’s just finicky details.” Weiss straightens up and leans over the table with her pencil in hand as she starts sketching once more. “I still don’t understand why they insisted on getting everything done so far in advance.”
“Because Pyrrha likes to be prepared and Jaune is just generally excited about sweets, so of course they wanted to get everything set up in advance,” Yang says patiently. “It’s important to them that it’s absolutely perfect.”
“Thank you for reminding me,” Weiss grumbles. “As if this wasn’t stressful enough already.” Weiss blows a nonexistent hair out of her face.
“You’re doing a great job,” she assures. “That’s why you’re in charge of the design, because I know you’ll do a great job and because you’re too much of a perfectionist to allow it any other way.”
Weiss glares at her once more, but she turns back to her sketchbook with a sigh. “But you enjoyed yourself?” she asks, not looking at Yang. “With Blake, I mean.”
“I did,” she says softly. “It was really nice.”
“Good,” Weiss says, still not looking up. “You deserve it.” Yang hums, not daring to respond. “How are you doing?” Weiss continues. “Have you seen Dr. Ozpin lately?”
“I had an appointment last week, and I have another next month,” she says as patiently as she can manage. “You don’t need to worry about me, Weiss. I’m taking care of myself, and I feel good. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Of course I have to worry about you, you’re my friend,” Weiss sniffs. “And just because you’re happy and taking care of yourself doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to still be concerned about you. I’m your friend, and I want to be sure you’re good.”
Yang’s heart warms, even as she rolls her eyes in frustration. “I’m fine, and I would tell you if I wasn’t,” she says.
“Would you?” Weiss asks.
“I would.” She stretches upwards, her arm metallically clicking into place before resuming rolling out the dough. “I learned my lesson, Weiss. I don’t need a reminder of it. I promise you, I’m doing good.”
“Taking your meds?” Weiss presses.
“Yup,” she says, popping the p .
“Have you seen Dr. Goodwitch lately?”
“Haven’t needed to, but I still have her contact information,” she says. She’s trying to keep the edge of annoyance out of her voice, but she can’t. “Seriously, Weiss. I’m doing good. I wouldn’t lie to you about that.”
Weiss lets out a breath. “I know. I just wanted to be sure that you’re okay. What with the anniversary coming up.”
The pure concern in her voice softens Yang, but she still stays stiff. “Then trust me,” she says. “Trust me when I say I feel good. Great, even.” She hasn’t felt like this in, honestly, ever. She’s as stable as she’s been in years, and Yang cares about Blake. She makes her happy, and that’s more than enough for her. She’s living again.
“Okay,” Weiss says softly. “Okay.” Weiss straightens her shoulders and looks up at her. “Is she coming to Ruby and Penny’s on Friday?”
“Fuck, I forgot to ask her.” Yang shakes her head. “I’ll ask her at dinner tonight.”
“Good. It’ll be good to see her.”
“Hey, baby?” Yang asks in between sips of soup.
“What’re you up to on Friday?”
“I’m working in the morning, but I get out around five. Why?”
“Ruby and Penny are having a party at their place. A bunch of our friends are gonna be there, and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me. You know, as my date.” Her throat bobs. “And you so don’t have to if you don’t want to, I totally get it if you don’t want to, but I think it could be fun, but seriously, you don’t have to if you don’t want to-”
“Yang,” Blake interrupts, her eyes kind. “That sounds like a nice time.”
Yang heaves out a breath of relief. “Okay, cool, cause I really want you there. The gang doesn’t all get together often, and I know you’ve already met Ruby and Weiss and Penny, but there’s some other really awesome people I think you’d get along really well with. And, you know, I want to show you off a little.”
Blake snorts. “There’s not much to show off.”
“I don’t know, I can think of a lot of things about you that I want to show off,” she says with a smile. “Do you want a reminder?”
Blake leans in. “Maybe,” she says, a slight smile on her face.
Yang runs her foot up Blake’s ankle. “You’re intelligent,” she starts. “You’re very generous. You’re beautiful, which is a word that doesn’t even start to describe you. You’re you,” she says simply. “You’re you.”
Blake blushes. “And you’re you.” Blake smiles at her. “I would love to go as your date.”
“We can leave whenever you want,” Yang promises as they walk up to Ruby’s and Penny’s door. “Just let me know, and we’ll go.”
Blake gives her a look. “I’ll be fine, but thank you,” she says, looping her arm through Yang’s. “I really appreciate it, but I’m going to be fine.”
“But if you need to leave-”
“I will tell you, and we’ll go back to your apartment and watch a movie.” She squeezes Yang’s forearm. “I’m going to be okay.”
Yang nods, and she knocks on the door.
“Salutations!” Penny squeals, practically knocking Yang over as she hugs her. “Oh, Yang, it is so good to see you!” She lets Yang go and turns to Blake, holding out her arms. “Blake, it is so lovely to see you as well!”
Yang watches as they hug, and then Penny ushers them inside. “We brought wine, and Blake made mac n’ cheese,” Yang says.
“Oh, I adore macaroni and cheese!” Penny smiles at them and takes the bottles and tray from their hands. “Ruby is in the living room, she will be most pleased to see you!”
She disappears into the kitchen, and Yang tugs Blake into the living room. They’re early, but Weiss is already there, and she’s helping Ruby arrange some snacks.
“Hey, good to see you two!” Ruby chirps, straightening up to throw herself into Yang’s arms. “Blake, I’m so happy you made it,” she muffles from inside Yang’s embrace.
Blake chuckles, tucking her hair behind her ears. “It’s good to be here.”
Yang releases her sister, but not before giving her a squeeze. “Where’s the girlfriend, Weiss?” she asks, sneaking a chip from the bowl. Weiss gives a glare.
“She’s in the bathroom,” she sniffs. “And don’t touch the chips until everyone else gets here!” She turns to Blake and gives an awkward wave. “Hi, Blake. Good to see you again.”
“Likewise,” Blake says.
“You two talk weird,” Ruby says.
“Ruby, we just sound like adults,” Weiss says with a sigh.
“Exactly, you talk weird.”
“Hey, I’m back-” Ilia rounds the corner, and Yang’s draw drops as her eyes dart between her and Weiss. “Oh, hey, Blake. Hey, Yang.”
“You’re dating Weiss?”
“You’re dating Ilia?”
Weiss and Ilia both blush and cross their arms in unison. “Surprise?” Ilia says with a shrug. Yang’s jaw drops.
“But you’ve been to the bakery!” Yang sputters.
Ilia nods. “Yeah, that’s how I knew where to get Blake’s cake. Weiss said it was the only place I was allowed to buy cake, anyways.”
“Why didn’t you go out and say hello, Weiss?” Yang asks.
“Because I was working, and that would be improper!” Weiss’s face is red.
“And someone was feeling shy,” Ilia says, bumping Weiss’s shoulder. “Weren’t you?”
“No comment,” Weiss grumbles, but she doesn’t shrink away from Ilia’s kiss on her cheek.
“So that’s where you’ve been going off and spending your lunch breaks!” Blake says. She’s still holding Yang’s hand, and Yang definitely does not mind.
Ilia nods. “Sorry to have kept it hidden, but like I said, someone was feeling shy.”
“You two have been dating for almost five months!” Ruby says, rolling her eyes.
“We’re here, aren’t we?” Weiss says.
“Took you long enough,” Ruby says, but her tone is light. She pokes Weiss. “Now, come on, I thought you were going to help me finish setting up!”
“We can all help,” Yang says. “Isn’t the party supposed to start in five minutes?”
“Yeah, but only Jaune and Pyrrha ever show up on time, Nora always makes Ren run late, Coco makes Velvet be fashionably late with her, and Oscar still gets lost on the way here, so we have time!” Ruby explains.
“What’s left?” Blake asks.
“We really just need to set the snacks out, and I have that handled. Really, you guys can sit.” Ruby flaps her hands. “Sit, sit!”
Yang pulls Blake onto the couch, and Blake’s thigh is on top of hers but just barely. It’s close to having her sit in her lap, and, by Blake’s blush, her girl knows it. She gives her the space to move, but Blake stays where she is.
Weiss and Ilia sit on the couch opposite them, but unlike Yang and Blake, they’re a proper social distance apart. Yang sticks her tongue out at Weiss, who merely shakes her head. “So, how’d you two meet?” Yang asks, leaning back into the couch.
Ilia and Weiss look at each other and both sigh. “How many times do you think we’re gonna be asked that tonight?” Ilia asks with a soft chuckle in her voice.
“Too many,” Weiss grumbles, but Ilia wraps an arm around her, and she softens, even as she straightens up. “We met when I went into the bookshop one day, plain and simple. Like how you two met.”
“Right,” Yang says, nodding. Blake shifts above her, and she squeezes her hand. “And how long did it take for Ilia to ask you on a date?”
“How do you know that I didn’t ask her out?” Weiss sniffs, crossing her arms.
“Because you’re more socially inept than me or Ruby, no matter how well you hide it.”
Weiss sputters, but Ilia grins. “You kind of are, sweetie,” Ilia says.
“Not you too!”
Then they’re all laughing, and Yang loves feeling the laughter shudder through her girl’s body, hearing the sweet sound from her mouth. She notes that the tension in Blake’s shoulders is mostly gone, and she rubs her thumb over the top of Blake’s hand to help ease the rest of it away.
“Now we just need to get Sun someone,” Ilia muses.
“I think he’s too in love with Yang’s baked goods to ever focus on anyone else.”
“I mean, I know someone else in love with Yang’s baked goods,” Ilia says, and Weiss elbows her as she raises her eyebrows. “What? We all love them. The best part of you two dating, besides the obvious, is all the sugar.”
“Well, I’m glad I’ve made such an impression,” Yang says.
“I’m sorry!” a familiar voice says as two people stumble into the room. “Are we interrupting?”
Yang turns to smile at Pyrrha and Jaune. “Never,” she says, waving. “Good to see you. Pyrrha, Jaune, this is Blake.”
“Nice to meet you!” Pyrrha says, moving to shake Blake’s hand. “Yang has told us much about you.” She turns and waves at Ilia and Weiss. “Good to see you again, Weiss, Ilia!”
“Wait, you knew they were dating?” Yang asks, and Pyrrha guiltily looks away. “But you’re horrible at keeping secrets!”
“Why do you think Weiss was so determined to keep me out of the store the past few months?” Pyrrha asks as she sits on the couch beside Yang, Jaune following suit. “I love your store, Blake, it’s absolutely lovely.”
“Thank you,” Blake says. “I thought you looked familiar. Do you run the-”
“The jewelry store down the street?” Jaune asks, leaning into Pyrrha. “Yes, she does. Oh, sorry for interrupting!” He smiles weakly at Blake, and she can feel Blake nod.
“No worries,” Blake says. Yang keeps stroking her hand. “I bought my mother’s last few birthday presents there. You make fantastic work.”
“Thank you!” Pyrrha says. “But I wouldn’t be able to do it without Jaune.”
“Pyrrha, your work is all your own,” Jaune says, and Yang rolls her eyes as they start into their old argument.
“Jaune, why don’t you tell Blake what do you do?” Yang interrupts before they can take it any further.
“Oh, right!” He smiles. “I teach at Beacon elementary. This year, I’m teaching second grade.”
“You’re a teacher?” Blake repeats, shifting towards him. Jaune nods. “I used to teach high school English.”
“Where?” Jaune asks.
She feels Blake tense, and Yang slows the pace of her thumb across her hand. “At Vale West High School. I was there for almost five years, but now I’m running the bookshop.”
Jaune nods. “I don’t think I could ever teach high school,” he admits. “They’re too big.”
“See, I knew from the beginning I could never teach elementary. There’s so many tiny beings, and the way they swarm is terrifying,” Blake says.
“They’re not so bad,” Jaune says with a shrug.
Pyrrha nudges him. “You love them,” she says, “don’t even lie.”
Jaune’s eyes soften, and he nods. “I love my kids.”
“I miss mine,” Blake says, and her voice is wistful. Yang squeezes her hand.
“Yeah, but now you have Sun, and he’s basically a kid,” Ilia says, and they laugh.
“You’re not wrong,” Blake says, and she’s leaning into Yang. Yang wraps her other arm around her and keeps their hands in her lap.
“Okay, begin the raiding of the snacks!” Ruby says, backing up from the table with waving hands. She already has a plate full of chips, and Weiss sighs.
“You’re gonna ruin your dinner,” Weiss warns, and Ruby sticks her tongue out at her.
“I didn’t eat lunch, I’ll be fine!”
“Oh no, she’s turning into Yang,” Weiss groans, leaning into Ilia’s shoulder.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Yang jokingly demands.
“You skip meals like it’s going out of style,” Weiss points out.
“Only lunch! And I make up for it.”
“You can’t make up for missing meals, you’re supposed to eat three square meals a day, not two and some snacks!”
“She hasn’t skipped lunch in a while,” Blake volunteers.
“Yeah, because now she has a reason to want to break for it,” Weiss says, and Blake squirms above her.
“Oh, salutations, Jaune and Pyrrha!” Penny chirps, stepping into the living room. She sits down between Ruby and Ilia. “I am very happy to see you both here!” Her brow furrows. “Where are Nora and Ren?”
Jaune sighs. “We tried knocking on their door, but no one answered, and it smelled like burnt pancakes and syrup. We figured it would be better to meet them here.”
“You left Ren alone with Nora when there’s pancakes involved?” Ruby asks. “He’s a goner.”
“He’ll be fine!” Weiss says.
“Hopefully,” Yang mutters.
There’s a knock on the door, and Ruby shoots up. “I got it!” she says, sprinting for the door.
“Does she run everywhere?” Blake asks.
Yang nods. “Everywhere. You two should race sometime!”
Blake shakes her head. “No, I’m not that fast!” she protests, but Penny is nodding.
“Ruby is very good at sprinting, and Yang tells us that you have good stamina.”
Ilia chokes. “Stamina?” she repeats as Weiss rubs her back.
“We started running together,” Blake explains, her fingers tightening around Yang’s.
“Yeah, and she runs circles around me,” Yang says. “I’d love to see someone beat Ruby in a race.”
“She’d have my ass kicked in a sprint.”
“Yeah, but long distance, you could totally wreck her,” Yang says.
“Who are we wrecking?” Ruby asks, dragging in Oscar behind her. Yang waves at him, and he gives her a small smile in return.
“You must be Blake, and you must be Ilia,” he says. “I’m Oscar.”
“Nice to meet you,” Blake and Ilia say in unison.
“Who are we wrecking?” Ruby repeats, crossing her arms.
“You,” Weiss says, smirking.
“Why?” Ruby asks, brow furrowed as she flops back down on the couch. “What did I do now ?”
“Nothing. We’re just talking about how you and Blake should race sometime,” Yang says, and Blake elbows her.
Ruby claps. “That would be so much fun!” she squeals, pumping her fist in the air. “We definitely should race sometime. If you’re up for the challenge.”
“Oh, I’m definitely up for the challenge,” Blake says. “Are you?”
Ruby grins at Blake. “This is going to be so much fun!” her sister gushes.
“But another night,” Weiss hastily adds.
“Not when there’s so much food to be eaten!” Penny says. “Jaune, I am excited to eat your pulled pork, it looks delightful!”
“Thank you, Penny,” he says, pleased. “I tried a different barbeque sauce this time, so it might taste different than last time.”
“That’s alright!” Penny says. “Food is food is food!”
Yang nods. “And it always tastes good, Jaune,” she says.
“Except the time you used hot sauce. I did not like that,” Weiss says, pulling a face.
“Yeah, that wasn’t your finest hour,” Oscar says.
“I liked it!” Pyrrha says, rubbing Jaune’s shoulders.
“No, you didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Oh, look what the cat dragged in,” Coco says as she enters, cocking her hip.
Yang slides a glance to Ruby. “Did you forget to lock the door?” she asks. “Again?”
Ruby shrugs. “Whoopsie.”
“We brought salad and grilled veggies!” Velvet says, thrusting the tray in her hands forward.
“And don’t worry, I already made all the rabbit food jokes,” Coco says, handing the bowl in her hands off to Penny. Velvet elbows her girlfriend, and she drags Coco to sit down on the fluffy chair beside the couches. One thing Penny and Ruby were not short on is places to sit.
Coco folds her sunglasses and drops them in her bag before turning to look at Blake. Yang tightens her arm around Blake, and Blake tucks her head onto Yang’s shoulder. “So, Yang, this is the girl you’re dating,” Coco purrs, and Yang nods.
“Yup,” she says, popping the p . “Blake, meet Coco and Velvet.”
“Nice to meet you!” Velvet says. “Don’t mind Coco, she’s just like that.”
“Hey!” Coco swats Velvet, who simply shrugs. “Don’t blame me for wanting to say who finally caught the attention of Blondie.”
“Finally?” Blake repeats, turning to look at Yang with raised brows. Yang shrugs and shoots a glare at Coco.
“Watch it, Adel,” she warns.
“What? We were all wondering when you’d finally get serious.”
Yang snorts. “You’re one to talk, Ladykiller.
“Hey, I settled down. Mostly.” Velvet elbows her. “But you were right out there with me until you weren’t.”
“Oh, really?” Blake says, leaning forward.
Yang rolls her eyes. “I was a wild teenager, what can I say?”
Coco snorts. “Absolutely wild. This girl could drink and party with the best of them.”
“Yeah, and then I grew up,” Yang says. “Took you long enough to join me.”
“Are they always like this?” Blake asks, and Velvet shrugs.
“You should see them when they really go at it,” she warns. “This is nothing.”
“Sorry we’re late!” Nora says as she enters the living room, dragging Ren in behind her. “I burned the pancakes, but I promise, these are unburned! Mostly. Okay, they’re a little toasty, but they’re all edible!”
“Ruby, go lock your door,” Yang says, and her sister scurries off.
“Ooh, is this Blake?” Nora asks, shoving the plate in her hands into Ren’s. “She’s really pretty!” She then turns to Ilia and waves. “Hi Ilia!”
“Did you tell everyone ?” Weiss asks, and Pyrrha at least has the decency to look ashamed.
“Yes, Blake is very pretty,” she says, lowering her voice. Blake blushes, and Yang pulls her closer. “Blake, meet Nora and Ren.”
“Nice to meet you, Blake,” Ren says as Nora plops down on the free couch. “Yang has told us much about you.”
“Has she?” Blake asks.
Yang shrugs. “Just a little bit.”
“More like you’re all she’s talked about for the few months!” Weiss cuts in, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
“Dinner time!” Penny calls from the kitchen, and they all stand up.
Yang stays by Blake’s side as they move through the kitchen and grab their plates. There’s a small mountain of food in front of them, and Yang piles her plate high. She sneaks extras onto Blake’s plate whenever her girl isn’t looking.
Blake smiles at her when she finally notices, but her eyes are distant. Yang gently nudges her. “You okay?” she asks, voice low.
Blake nods. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Something twists in her stomach. “Okay.” Yang presses a kiss to Blake’s forehead. “Get some of the pork, it’s always really good.”
“Okay.” Blake doesn’t leave her side, and they head back down to the living room together. Yang shovels food into her mouth, her stomach grumbling.
The rest of the night passes with great fun, but she can’t get close enough to Blake. They’re touching, but she’s still not close enough. Yang wants to talk to her, wants to press and ask what’s wrong, but it’s not time.
They leave the party late, later than Yang had planned, but they’re not far from Yang’s place.
“I can drive you home on Bumblebee,” Yang offers, but Blake shakes her head.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll walk.”
Yang nods, her arm looped around Blake’s. They walk in silence until Yang can’t hear the noises of the still going party. She clears her throat. “Can you tell me what’s wrong?” she says finally. “I’m getting worried.”
“I’m fine, I promise,” Blake says, but her voice wavers.
Yang sighs. “You’re not, baby. You’ve been off since the beginning of the party. Did you not like them?”
“No, no, everyone was great! It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
Blake sighs, and her ears sag. “Just everyone has known you for so long, and I still barely know you.”
“Baby, you know me.”
“But I didn’t know about your teens or-”
“Is that’s what this is about?” Yang asks, stomach turning. “Do you- do you not want to be with me because I used to sleep around?”
Blake turns and shakes her head, eyes wide. “No, no, that’s not it at all!” Her hand grabs Yang’s, and she squeezes. “It’s me, okay? It’s me.” She avoids Yang’s eyes, looking down. “It’s always me, isn’t it?” Her voice is bitter.
“Baby, no, of course not,” she says, rubbing her back. “What do you mean?”
Blake stares up at her. “I’ve never- I’ve only ever been with Adam, Yang. I don’t have experience, and I don’t know how relationships work, nevermind with another woman, forget one I really care about, and-”
Yang laughs, and there’s tears in her eyes as she strokes Blake’s cheeks. “You think anyone knows how relationships work?” she says. “I sure as hell don’t, baby. I just know that I like you, and I want to be with you, and I want to make this work, and that’s enough.”
“But I don’t want to force you to settle down if you don’t want to, and if you want to see someone else, that’s okay, really, I’ll be fine.”
Her heart drops, and she tilts Blake’s chin up towards her. “Baby, I just want you,” she says quietly. “In whatever capacity you’ll have me, I want you.” She smiles at her. “I used to sleep around, yeah. When I was a kid . I haven’t- I haven’t wanted to in a long, long time. Before you, I hadn’t gone out in years. Literal years, Blake. I’m not missing out on anything.” She tucks Blake’s hair behind her ears. “I’m gaining something whenever I’m with you.”
Blake smiles at her. “Are you sure?”
Blake sags in her arms. “I care about you. I just don’t want to mess this up.”
“You’re not. You won’t.” She kisses her forehead. “I care about you too.”
“I know. I know.”
Blake kisses her lips, soft but insistent. Yang melts into her arms. They’re in the middle of the sidewalk, but Yang doesn’t care. Her hands find Blake’s hips and hold her close to her. Blake’s hands wrap up in her hair, and Yang smiles against her lips.
“I’m sorry,” Blake says when they draw apart. “For ruining the evening.”
Yang shakes her head. “You didn’t ruin anything,” she says. “You make everything better. I’m just sorry you spent this whole time stressed.” She cups her face. “Talk to me when you get worried about this, okay? Whenever you’re worried about messing this up, talk to me. I’ll kiss the sense into you.”
Blake laughs, and the nervous energy settles in Yang’s stomach. “Okay, okay. I will.” Blake kisses her cheek. “I promise.”
Yang grabs her hand and threads their fingers together. “Do you want to have a sleepover tonight?” she asks. “And I mean just a sleepover, I can sleep on the couch-”
“Yes. And you are not sleeping on the couch in your own home.”
Yang shrugs. “I don’t mind.”
“Yang.” Blake kisses her cheek. “I would love to have a sleepover with you.”
Warning: smut!! If you're uncomfy reading this, you can skip to the next chapter. <3
They walk back home arm in arm, and Yang keeps stopping them to kiss Blake’s cold-reddened cheeks. The frost has turned both of their noses pink, but Yang is pretty sure Blake’s cheeks aren’t just red from the chill. She loves how easily her girl blushes, and she loves feeling the heat of her skin against her lips.
“Yang,” Blake says, tugging at her hand. “We’re going to freeze out here.”
“We are not, we’re almost there,” she says.
“Can we make tea when we get in?”
“Yeah, but I only have the chamomile you left from last time. I seriously need to stock up.” Blake kisses her cheek, and Yang smiles. “What’s that for?”
“Nothing. Just wanted to kiss you.” Blake’s hand tenses. “Is that okay?”
“Baby, that’s great. Kiss me whenever you want. Please kiss me whenever you want.” Yang grins at her, and Blake smiles back.
“I will.” Blake leans up to kiss her again, and Yang bends down to reach her. “But we should get inside,” Blake says, just as Yang’s a breath away from kissing her. There’s a flash of mischief in her golden eyes, and Yang groans.
“You’re a tease,” she says before pulling back. “I hate it, but damn, I love it.”
Blake smiles at her. “Come on, we’re almost at your apartment.”
They walk into the building still holding each other before heading up to Yang’s apartment. They strip off their jackets and shoes at the door, and Yang leaves Blake to start water for tea. She fills the kettle and starts the fire on the stove before grabbing the mugs down from the cupboard. Yang plops the tea bags into the mugs and turns to see Blake smiling at her. “What’s up?”
Blake shrugs, and she starts for Yang. Yang smiles as Blake slides her hands into Yang’s back pockets and pulls her close. “I like you,” Blake yawns, resting her head on Yang’s collarbones.
Yang hums, tucking Blake beneath her chin. “I like you too.”
Blake looks up at her. “You’re really kind and sweet, you know that?”
“So I’ve heard,” she says, but Blake shakes her head.
“Yeah, but do you know that?” she asks, brow furrowed. “Because I need you to know how much I appreciate you and care about you and how good you are.”
“I know, baby, I know.”
“I don’t think you do. But I want you to.” Blake leans up and catches her lips. Yang kisses her back on instinct, her hands moving to hold Blake’s hips. Blake breaks the kiss off, but she’s still pressing her forehead to Yang’s. “You need to know,” she insists, and there’s a sparkle in her eyes.
“I know. Your kisses are very convincing,” she says.
Blake smiles at her. “Good. But that just means I’ll have to kiss you more, then.” Blake pushes up to kiss her again, and her hands are running up Yang’s sides. Yang groans into the kiss, and she lets her girl do whatever she wants.
“Please do,” she rasps when they break for air. “Please, kiss some sense into me.”
And Blake obliges. Her lips are soft but insistent, and Yang lets Blake devour her. Blake starts kissing up her jaw and around to her ear before sliding her lips down her neck, and Yang leans against the counter. She shivers as Blake’s mouth suckles at her throat, and she has a feeling that she’s going to have to wear a turtleneck tomorrow. Not that she minds. She’s not ashamed to be Blake’s.
She tilts her head back to allow her easier access, hands curling around the counter as Blake nips her neck. Yang lets Blake touch her, lets her hands roam her body. Blake cups her hips and holds her waist tight, her thumbs brushing the undersides of her ribs and the boning of her bra. Yang lets out a moan, and she can feel Blake smile against her skin.
Blake’s hands start to pull at the buttons of her shirt, and Blake looks her in the eyes as she does. Yang nods, and Blake continues to open her shirt. Her fingers are cold against the tops of her breasts, and a shiver runs through her. Her shirt is fully open, and Blake slides her hands inside to hold her hips. Yang keeps her hands at her sides as Blake roams her skin and kisses down her neck, her sternum, her belly. She looks up at her, gold eyes soft.
Yang pulls her up by her chin to kiss her once more, and she loses herself in her lips. She threads her fingers into Blake’s hair, scratching her scalp. Blake gasps against her lips, and Yang pulls her close to her.
The kettle starts to whistle, and she sighs. “Tea first,” Yang says hoarsely as she breaks off their kiss. “But more of this after.” She nods, more to herself than to Blake. Yang studies Blake’s kissed-red and swollen lips, and she can’t hold back the grin on her face. She kisses Blake’s forehead and turns the stove off before pouring the tea. Her shirt is flowing around her, and she rolls up her sleeves, not bothering to close it.
The mugs are hot in her hands, but she hands Blake her cup anyways. Blake nods her thanks, putting the mug on the table. Yang leans against the counter once more, studying her girl as she does.
There’s a gentle flush across her cheeks and chest that dips below Blake’s collar, and her hair is mussed. She’s smiling at Yang, and Yang grins back at her. The mug is burning her hands, but it gives her something to hold. She wraps her fingers around it, fanning out against the ceramic.
“How far do you want to take this?” Blake asks slowly, mischief glimmering in her eyes. She’s sitting at the table, and Yang can’t help but watch as she crosses her legs.
She clears her throat, blushing. “Do you need to be up for anything tomorrow?” she asks, trying to keep her voice light but failing miserably.
“No. Do you?”
“Nope.” She flashes a grin. “However far you want, baby. We can do whatever you want, even if that means going to bed. Well, er, going to bed and actually going to bed, or going to bed . We can do either! I’m down.”
Blake laughs, and the sound soothes the nerves in her stomach. “Can we play it by ear?” she asks, brushing her hair behind her ears.
Yang nods. “Yeah, of course. Of course, baby.” She tightens her grip on the mug. “We should get pjs on after this.”
“Can I borrow some?” Blake asks, and Yang’s heart skips a beat.
Blake. In her clothes. Blake. In her clothes .
“Yes,” she says hoarsely, hiding her blush behind the mug as she takes a sip of the too hot tea. “Yes, I got plenty of pjs. Can’t have you falling asleep in your clothes.”
Blake shrugs. “It’s happened plenty of times,” she admits.
“Yeah. I get distracted, and then I’m asleep.”
“Not on my watch,” she says.
“Well, thanks.” Blake smiles at her, and Yang takes another sip of tea. It burns the inside of her mouth, but she doesn’t care. Not when Blake is smiling at her like that. Not when the heat is curling up in her stomach. Not when she has her girl inches away from her.
Yang comes and sits down across from Blake, hooking her ankle as she sits. She smiles innocently at her, but her smirk peeks through. Blake swings her foot back and forth, and they swing together as they sip at their tea.
“No honey tonight?” she asks.
Blake shakes her head. “It’s too late for sugar.”
“Nah, it’s never too late for some sugar,” Yang says, winking.
Blake blushes, and the swinging of their feet slows as she does. “You got that right,” she says, “but I want to fall asleep easily. Sugar keeps me up.”
“I thought that was my job,” she teases.
“Yeah, why do you think I’m able to text you every hour?”
She rolls her eyes and puts her hand over her heart. “I’m wounded, baby.”
“Don’t be. What sugar do you think I’m consuming?”
“My bakes aren’t just sugar!”
“They are sweet. That’s kind of the point of a baked good.”
“You know nothing about baking.”
“Well, that’s your fault, you’re my teacher.”
“Speaking of, is there anything you want to bake next Friday?”
Blake shakes her head, then she hesitates. Her foot creeps up Yang’s calf. “Could we bake a cake?” she asks. “The Earl Gray one.”
“Yeah, of course.” She pauses. “Is this just your way of reminding me to buy tea?”
“No. Maybe? I do genuinely want that cake, though.”
Yang laughs. “I am a culinary genius,” she says, her chest puffing with pride.
“You are,” Blake agrees. “You’ve managed to teach me how to bake. I think that takes a kind of genius.”
“Nah, you’re an eager student.” She raises her eyebrow. “It must help when you have the hots for teacher.”
Blake groans. “I have been waiting for you to make that joke for ages.”
“Yeah, I’m not above the low hanging fruit.” Yang takes a deep drink of her tea, now pleasantly warming her insides. “Wanna teach me something, baby?”
“It’s Ms. Belladonna to you,” Blake jokes.
“Ms. Belladonna, of course. Will you teach me something?” she asks.
Yang can’t hold back her smirk as Blake blushes and her ears sag against her head. “What do you want to learn?”
Yang leans over the table, staring into those golden eyes. “How to make you moan,” she says, and damn, if that’s not a line, but she doesn’t care. Blake’s eyes go dark, but she doesn’t stop. “What little noises you make. What big noises you make. What you taste like.” She licks her lips.
“What else?” Blake breathes. Yang reaches for her hand.
“How you fall asleep. What you look like first thing in the morning. What your early morning voice sounds like.” Her throat bobs. “I want to know all of you, baby.” Blake’s cheeks are red, and Yang leans closer. “And I want you to know all of me.” Blake’s lips part. Yang can feel Blake’s breath against her cheeks, and she presses their foreheads together. “However that looks. We can do this now, we can do this never. But I want you, baby. Don’t ever forget that.”
Her girl nods, and Blake catches her lips before Yang can press forward. Blake’s lips are smooth and sweet, but her mouth is hot. Yang can taste the tea on her teeth, and she pushes herself deeper into Blake’s lips, ignoring the way the table cuts into her hips. Blake stands up and pulls Yang with her. They move around the table until their hips crash together.
Yang grabs Blake by the backs of her thighs and picks her up. Blake lets out a gasp of a laugh, throwing her head back. “I didn’t know you could do that,” Blake says before leaning back down to take Yang’s lips. Her girl grabs her lower lip between her teeth and gently nips before releasing.
“You’re gonna be the death of me,” Yang groans, moving through her apartment. She brings them into her bedroom. She closes the door with a bump of her hip, and she pins Blake’s back against the door. Blake’s thighs slide out of her hands, and she falls against Yang as Blake’s feet land on the floor.
“You can’t die on me now,” Blake breathes. Her hands snake around Yang’s hips, her fingers cold to the touch. Yang shivers, but when Blake moves to retract them, Yang presses her hands back to her waist.
“If you stop touching me, I will,” she threatens. Blake’s hands grasp her sides, and she’s so glad she didn’t bother buttoning up her shirt again. Blake flips them around so Yang’s back is against the wall. Her eyes go wide, and Yang kisses her forehead, brushing Blake’s hair back behind her ears. “Don’t stop.”
Blake nods. Her eyes are shining bright in the moonlight, and Yang wants to keep kissing her. But Blake has other plans, and her girl starts kissing her neck. Yang knows she’s going to come away with even more marks but she doesn’t care. She tilts her head up to allow her easier access, and Blake makes use of the new space to kiss every inch of her skin. Yang hums, and Blake can’t contain her deep laugh as her throat vibrates.
“Don’t make me laugh,” Blake murmurs against her skin.
“But I love your laugh,” she says.
Blake pecks her lips before resuming her attack on Yang’s neck. She nips at Yang’s throat, and she groans as her flesh is pinched between her teeth. Yang lets her hands start to roam Blake’s sides. She doesn’t dip beneath her shirt, but Blake steps back and peels it off anyways.
Yang sucks in a breath. Blake is wearing a simple blake bra, and her jeans hang low on her hips, and all Yang wants to do is explore every inch of her newly exposed flesh with her hands, with her tongue. Blake pushes back into her and takes her lips once more. Her mouth is sweet, and she loves that her lips are all hers.
Blake’s hands start inching up Yang’s hip, waist, until they’re on top of her ribs and playing with the edge of her bra. Yang breaks their kiss and starts planting her mouth up her jaw and works her way up to her ear. “If you want something, baby, just ask,” she breathes into her ear, gently nipping the shell.
Her girl shudders against her. “Can I touch you?” Blake asks, and her voice is deep and sultry.
Yang hums, still playing with Blake’s ear. She can smell Blake’s shampoo, and she takes deep breaths of the sweet vanilla and coconut. She debates giving in, but she wants to hear her. She wants her voice in her head and crooning what she wants. She’s selfish, and she wants her. “Touch me where?” she asks, making her way back down Blake’s jaw and neck. She suckles where Blake’s neck meets her shoulder, and she smiles as Blake shudders against.
“Can I touch your- your-” Blake’s voice is breathy, and the heat continues pooling in Yang’s stomach.
“Say it, baby,” she says against her skin.
She feels Blake swallow. “Can I touch your breasts?”
Yang snorts, tightening her mouth around her neck before breaking away. “You can call them what they are, baby.” She looks into her eyes and brushes her own thumbs underneath the boning of Blake’s bra. “ Tits .”
Blake bites her lip. “Language,” she says, but she tentatively reaches to palm Yang’s chest.
Yang laughs, and she reaches behind her to unhook her bra. Her eyes never leave Blake’s as she shrugs out of her bra and throws it in the hamper. Blake’s eyes dart down to her chest before rising back up to meet Yang’s eyes. Her cheeks are red.
“How do I- What do I-”
Yang takes Blake’s hands into her own, still looking into her eyes. She presses her hands to her chest. “Touch me,” she says, and she’s surprised by the huskiness of her voice. Blake obliges, and her hands gently start to knead Yang’s chest. Yang leans her head against the wall, and Blake starts suckling her neck once more.
She goes weak in the knees. Yang lets out a breath, and her eyes want to roll to the back of her head, but she wants to touch Blake. She wants to touch her, please her, and her hands curl into fists as she barely resists reaching for her.
“I want to touch you so bad,” she hears herself say, and Blake leans back to face her. Her eyes are dark and bright, and her lips are swollen. Blake reaches behind her own back, her eyes never leaving Yang.
“Then why don’t you?” she says softly.
“Are you sure?” she asks, voice thick. “We don’t- as far as you’re comfortable, baby.”
Blake nods. “I’m sure.” She slips her bra down her arms, and all the air floods out of Yang’s lungs.
Blake’s skin is alabaster smooth, but her nipples are a rosy pink, and Yang wants them in her mouth. There’s a gentle red flush covering her cheeks and chest, and her skin is shining in the moonlight. Yang wants to kiss her flesh and see how red she can get. Blake shakes her hair back into place, and her ears are sagging against her head.
“Am I- Is this-”
“Stunning, baby. Absolutely stunning.” She grabs Blake by the hips and pulls her close once more. She kisses up her jaw and ends at her ear. “Gorgeous.” Her hand slides onto her waist. “Beautiful.” Yang brushes her ribs. “Magnificent.” She lets her thumb brush over Blake’s left nipple and she smirks at her girl’s gasp. She rolls her nipple between her thumb and forefinger, alternating pressure. “I’m the luckiest woman alive.”
“And I’m all yours,” Blake says, but Yang shakes her head.
“No,” Yang breathes, “I’m all yours.”
Blake practically melts in her hands. Yang meets her eyes and bends down, never breaking eye contact as she takes her rosy nipple into her mouth. Blake stiffens against her, but Yang starts stroking the side of her hip with her hand. Her tongue languidly plays with the bud, and she applies light suction. It stiffen in her mouth, and she gently nips at it with her teeth. She moves all over her breast, knowing she’ll be leaving a series of purple marks all over the sensitive skin. It’s only fair.
She switches breasts, but now she kisses around the nipple, careful to not touch. Her hand pinches and rolls the one she left behind, but she refuses to touch. Not until Blake begs.
“Yang,” Blake says.
She hums, letting her teeth scrape against the sensitive skin. Not good enough.
“Yang, please .”
Almost. Not quite.
“Yang, Yang, please . Touch me.”
She looks up at her girl as she takes the bud into her mouth and sucks . Blae crumples around her, but Yang doesn’t let up. Her tongue toys with the bud. She likes playing.
But Blake pulls her up by her chin, and she raises her into a kiss. Yang presses them together, and Blake’s hands are around her waist, and they’re pulling each other into one another. Blake’s tongue is soft and small, and Yang smiles as she tentatively swipes inside Yang’s mouth.
They break apart, and Blake’s lips have been kissed red. Yang smiles, pressing their foreheads together. “Hey, baby,” she says.
“How far do you want to take this?” she asks.
“Take me over the edge, baby ,” Blake says.
Yang grins, and she can’t resist planting another kiss on her lips before kissing down her jaw, her neck, her collarbones. She worships the flesh beneath her lips and presses her mouth over every inch of skin she can access. Yang ends her pilgrimage at Blake’s belly button, right above her pants. She looks up at her, eyes narrowed.
“Say please,” she says.
Blake’s hands curl into her hair. “Please, fuck me .”
She unbuttons Blake’s pants and helps her step out of them. Her panties are simple and black, and Yang reaches behind Blake’s knees to grab her. She pulls her into her arms and carries her to the bed, laying her down so that her legs fall over the edge.
Blake stares up at her, and her chest is rising and falling. Her nipples stand erect, and her gold eyes are half lidded and gazing up at her like Yang is the center of her universe. Yang swallows thickly, and she kneels on the floor before her, never breaking eye contact. She spreads her legs and kisses from the inside of her knee up to the innermost part of her thigh. Yang grabs the sides of Blake’s panties and moves back to pull them down her legs.
Blake’s knees twitch together, but Yang gently holds them apart, stroking the side of her flesh. “It’s just me, baby. Just me.”
Blake nods. “I know. I just- no one’s ever done this for me before.”
Fury curls up in Yang’s stomach, but she squashes it before it can do any real damage. She kisses the inside of her thigh once more, suckles the flesh. Her thighs are already wet. Blake is soaked .
Like she’s any better.
“It’s just me,” she repeats, voice thick. “And I just want to make you feel good.”
Blake lets out a breath, and Yang’s tongue slips inside her. Blake clenches, and she licks up and down her slit. Yang presses her mouth into Blake, slowly flicking her tongue around to get a feel of what her baby does and doesn’t like. Blake whimpers against her, tightening her thighs together once more, but Yang doesn’t mind. She sucks her lips and dives her tongue deep inside her.
A hand reaches down for her, and Yang holds her hand. Blake’s grip is tight. Yang peeks up to get a look at her, and she’s curled off the mattress, her head thrown back. Yang smiles into her. With her free hand, she starts massaging her thigh, gently pinching the flesh between her fingers. She rolls the skin, but she takes care to not hurt her. Just a pinch, just an edge, just enough.
Blake’s breath is going short above her, and Yang slows down, biting back a smirk.
“Yang,” Blake moans. “ Please .”
Yang doubles her efforts, and Blake crumbles around her. She slows her pace as Blake comes back to herself and moves back down her legs, kissing the inside of her thighs until she’s back at her knees.
“Get up here, now ,” Blake says, and Yang happily obeys. She crawls up her body, placing kisses on her flesh as she travels upwards, never breaking eye contact. Blake’s cheeks are flushed, and her chest is red and splotchy, and Yang kisses across her skin, enjoying the heat against her lips.
She ends her journey at Blake’s throat, and Blake pulls her up to her lips with her fingers. Yang kisses her slowly, gently pressing her lips into her and taking her time with savouring the taste. “Yang,” Blake breathes against her lips.
“Baby,” she says back, straddling her hips. She keeps pecking her lips, drawing back every time Blake tries to draw her in deeper. Yang smirks. “Do you need something?”
Blake glares at her, and it sends heat straight to her groin. “I need to kiss some sense into you,” she says, but her voice is breathless.
“Please, do. It’ll take a lot of kisses,” she says, leaving her lips just out of reach.
Blake bends up to meet her. “I hope it will.” She captures her lips, and Yang lets her. Blake pushes her up so Yang is sitting in her lap. Blake smirks at her, and Yang loses her breath. Her baby, her girl, her Blake is smiling and absolutely glowing in the moonlight. Yang drapes her hands over Blake’s shoulders and tangles her fingers into her hair. She smiles at her lazily. She can still taste Blake on her tongue.
“Hey, Blake?” Yang says softly, pressing her forehead against Blake’s.
Blake’s eyelashes flutter at her. “Yeah?”
“You’re beautiful.” Blake’s eyes duck, but she kisses her cheeks. “You’re so beautiful.” Yang wants to say more, wants to cut open her heart and tell her everything, but it’s not the time. So she just tells her the truth that she knows Blake needs to hear. “You are glorious.”
“Glorious, huh?” Blake says.
“Absolutely.” She kisses her forehead. “And I’m yours, baby.”
“And I’m yours.”
Yang takes her lips up once more. Her hips grind against Blake’s thighs, and her hands are still linked together around her neck. Blake’s hands start pulling at Yang’s pants. Yang pulls back, tossing her hair behind her shoulders.
Without breaking eye contact, she slips out of her pants as best she can. Blake laughs when she almost falls on top of her, but Yang just blushes and rolls her eyes. She moves to come back as Blake’s hands start pulling at her panties. Yang raises her eyebrows.
“You don’t have to do anything, baby,” she says, but Blake keeps pulling down her panties and throws them in her hamper.
“Yeah, but I want to.” Blake’s eyes flicker. “I want to touch you too.” Her throat bobs. “I just- I don’t really know how.”
Yang grabs her hand by the wrist and guides her to her entrance. “Touch me how you like to be touched,” she instructs. She pulls Blake by the back of her neck down on top of her as Yang’s back hits the mattress and bounces against it. Blake is biting her lip above her, but her fingers start moving inside her. “It’s, ah, easier like this.”
Blake nods and presses a kiss to her lips before moving back down her body. She slips her fingers in and out of her slowly, and her thumb gently starts rubbing Yang’s clit. Yang arches off the mattress. “More of that,” Yang breathes, “ please .”
Yang can hear herself, hear her slickness as it coats Blake’s fingers. She knows she’s soaked, and it makes her blush to hear herself. She rolls her hips to try and get some more friction from Blake’s hand. “Baby,” Yang says. “Baby, baby, baby.”
“Say my name,” Blake says.
“ Blake .” She arches her back off the mattress. “Blake, please, don’t stop, don’t stop, keep going-” Blake’s fingers curl inside her, and she cuts off her words with a gasp. “There, Blake, right there.”
She shuts her eyes, and she can hear Blake chuckle. “Tell me what you want.”
“I want more of that,” she says. Yang swallows, trying to wet her mouth. “I want your fingers to drive me up the wall. I want you to keep rubbing my clit, harder, baby, Blake, please. I want you to drive me over the edge.”
Still, Blake’s fingers don’t speed up. Her thumb slowly circles around her clit, and Yang grits her teeth as Blake presses deeper into her. Yang’s toes curl as Blake’s fingers pull in and out of her, curling and uncurling as they do. “Blake, please.”
She barely resists the urge to roll her eyes, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t love the taste of her own medicine. “Please, make me cum,” she breathes. She’s so close, close enough to taste it. Just a little more, and she’ll be right there.
Blake removes her hand from inside her, and Yang whines. “Blake, please.”
“Please, what?” she repeats, and it hits her.
“Please, Blake, make me cum.”
Her fingers come back, and Yang’s eyes roll to the back of her head. It doesn’t take much from Blake, a few circles of her thumb, and Yang is shaking. The pleasure electrocutes her every nerve, and she moans. Blake doesn’t let up. Her heart is racing in her chest, and every inch of her feels alive.
“Blake, baby, come here,” she manages. Blake moves up her body, and Yang reaches for her hand. Without breaking eye contact, she pulls her fingers into her mouth and sucks. Blake’s eyes go wide, and Yang gently licks up and down her fingers. She can taste herself, and the way Blake’s eyes darken sends a fresh batch of heat to her groin.
“You’re a miracle,” Blake breathes as she pulls her hand out of Yang’s mouth, and Yang sits up to kiss her lips.
“You’re the miracle, baby.” She smiles against her. “How you feeling?”
“Good. Great!” Blake flops down beside her. “Is this how it always feels?”
Yang shakes her head, and she reaches for her hand. “No,” she says, “just with you.” She means it.
Blake kisses her temple. “Can we sleep now?” she asks.
“Yeah. Do you want some pjs?”
Blake yawns. “That would be nice.” A pause. “I need to find my underwear.”
Yang wakes up with Blake in her arms. Well, more accurately, she’s in Blake’s arms. She can feel her breath against the back of her neck, and she does her best to not move too much, lest she wake her. Yang curls deeper inside her embrace and presses her hips back against Blake’s. Blake lets out a breath, and she stills.
When Blake starts to move, Yang flips onto her side to face her. She meets her gaze as Blake’s eyes sleepily open and a gentle smile curves open her face. “Good morning, baby,” Yang says, gently kissing the tip of her nose.
“Good morning.” Blake kisses her mouth softly. Yang lets her hand creep up Blake’s side to capture her hip. The flimsy pajama top has ridden up Blake’s side, and she wishes she could feel the soft silkiness of her skin through her metal hand. Still, she’s touching her. “What time is it?”
Yang’s eyes dart to the clock on the wall. “Only nine. We can go back to bed.”
Blake shakes her head. “We should get up. Make breakfast.”
“Scramble some eggs?” Yang asks, unable to hide her smirk.
Blake blushes. “You like your eggs hard boiled or in omelets, but if you insist.”
Yang kisses her again. “Is that your way of saying you’ll make breakfast?”
“If you start the coffee and tea. And heat up some croissants.”
“How do you know I have croissants?”
“You always have croissants.”
Yang chuckles. “Fair enough, baby. But yes, I will heat up the croissants and deal with the drinks.” She pulls herself closer to Blake. “Can we stay in bed a little longer?”
“I never took you for one to lounge about in bed.”
“Well, I’ve never had a reason to lounge about in bed before.”
Blake smiles. “Don’t flatter me.”
“It’s not flattering if it’s true.”
“Ten more minutes.”
Yang kisses her forehead. “Thank you.”
Blake’s eyes flutter shut once more, and Yang rests her forehead against Blake’s. Yang takes a deep breath. She closes her eyes once more, and she lets herself savor the moment. She savors the warmth of the blankets, the feeling of Blake’s breath on her cheeks, the easy morning mood.
She could get used to this. She could get used to waking up next to Blake and laying in with her when they can. She could get used to morning bartering over breakfast. She could get used to buttering up her girl so Blake knows she cares. She could get used to this.
Yang wants to get used to this. She wants this. She wants Blake.
Blake sits up next to her, and Yang’s eyes fly open. “Breakfast time,” Blake says. Yang watches as she turns over and stands up. She’s wearing one of Yang’s favorite pairs of pjs, and they’re just too big on her. The shorts hang low on her hips, and the collar of the shirt keeps slipping around. Not that Yang minds.
Yang stands up and stretches. She then reattaches her arm and follows Blake out to the kitchen and clears away their mugs from last night, dropping them in the sink to wash after breakfast. In silence, they set about their tasks, and before Yang knows it, she has a piping hot cup of coffee in her hands, a steaming mug of tea on the table for Blake, and two croissants on plates on her wrists.
“How do you do that?” Blake asks as she sets everything down.
“I waitressed in college. Well, I waitressed for two weeks before quitting. I did not like dealing with people.”
“Half your job is dealing with people.”
“Yeah, but it’s different. They’re not as mean to a baker as they are to waitresses.”
“True.” Blake sits down at the table, bringing omelets with her. “How’d you sleep?”
“Good. Great, actually.” She rolls her head around her shoulders. “You?”
“Really, really well.” Blake smiles at her. “I’ve missed waking up next to someone.”
“Yeah, me too.” Her hand reaches for Blake’s, and she squeezes. “But I wouldn’t want to wake up next to anyone beside you.”
Blake’s eyes flick up to her. “Really?” she asks, and her voice is soft.
“Yeah. Really.” Yang smiles at her, and her throat is thick. “Blake, you’re amazing.”
“No, really, baby, you are. And I don’t just mean last night, which was, whew, great, but you’re what made last night. You.” Her throat bobs. “You make everything. I love spending time with you, and I love getting to know you, and I think-” Her breath catches, and she nods. “I think you’re amazing.”
Blake brushes her hair behind her ears. “You’re the amazing one.”
Yang shakes her head. “Maybe we’re amazing together,” she says. There’s a lump in her throat. “Blake, can we make this official?”
Blake’s eyes are guarded, and her hand has tensed in Yang’s. “Are you sure?” she asks. Before Yang can respond, Blake’s eyes duck. “Are you sure you want me?”
“ Yes .” Blake looks up at her. “I want you, Blake. And I don’t want you to doubt that. If you want me, then let’s do this, baby. Let’s do this.”
“Okay. Okay.” Blake nods, and Yang’s heart stops. “Let’s do this.”
Yang can’t stop the grin that breaks out over her face. She takes Blake’s face in her hands and kisses her. Blake smiles against her, and she kisses her back. Yang breaks off the kiss, but she’s still holding her face. “Does that mean I can call you my girlfriend?” she asks, and Blake laughs.
“If I can call you mine.”
Yang pecks her lips. “I’m yours.”
Blake smiles again, and she leans back. “Okay, now that we’re sorted, we should eat before it gets cold.”
“If you insist,” Yang says, but she still takes a forkful of omelet into her mouth. She can’t stop grinning.
Blake’s foot hooks hers, and they swing back and forth as they eat. Her toes are cold, but Yang doesn’t mind. The shiver that runs up her is worth it if Blake is touching her.
They didn’t have any plans for today, so they could relax. She’s working tomorrow, and so is Blake, but Monday they can do breakfast, and Tuesday they can try the new cafe down the street, and Wednesday she’s going to bring in the salmon that Blake likes, and Thursday-
Her easy smile fades, and she clears her throat as her eyes dart between Blake’s eyes and her plate. “Hey, what are you up to Thursday?” she asks slowly.
“Working. What’s up?”
Yang swallows. “Um, so, next week is my mom’s anniversary. The anniversary of the accident.” She lowers her gaze to her plate. “And I was hoping you would spend it with me.” She tries to bite her tongue, but she can’t stop herself. “And you don’t have to, Blake, you so don’t have to. I just- Ruby is going to visit Dad with Penny, and I’d normally go with, but I don’t want to close the bakery for more than a day, and I don’t want to be alone.” She swallows. Her voice is too high. “But I’ll be fine if you can’t!”
“Yang,” Blake says, and her voice is soft. “Of course I’ll spend the day with you. I’m not going to leave you alone when you need me.” She squeezes Yang’s hand. “We’re there for each other. I’ll take the day off work, and we’ll do whatever you want, whatever you need to do.”
“You don’t have to do that-”
“No, I don’t,” Blake agrees, “but I want to.” She smiles at her. “It’s my turn to be here for you for once. And I’m here for you. However you need me, I’m here.”
Yang smiles, and she’s suddenly aware of the tears burning in her eyes. “Thank you.”
“Of course. Do you have anything in mind, or do you just want a quiet day?”
Yang sighs, taking a forkful of her eggs into her mouth. “A quiet day sounds nice,” she says. “Maybe I can teach you to bake oatmeal raisin cookies, or we can do the Earl Gray cake then. Order dinner in. Just nice and quiet.”
“Whatever you want.” Blake squeezes her hand. “Whatever you want.”
“Welcome to Patchwork Bakery, how can I help-” Her voice sticks in her throat as she turns around. “You.” She clears her throat, not taking her eyes off of him. “How can I help you today?”
“I was told this was the place for lemon cookies. Were they wrong?” Adam asks. He’s wearing an easy smile, and his shoulders are relaxed. Nothing like the man who had been yelling at Blake. Nothing like the man who had sneered at them. Nothing like she remembered. But she knows what he’s done, and she studies him and his big baby blue eyes. She wonders if he recognizes her.
Yang forces a smile and errs on the side of caution. “Nope. You’re lucky, we just baked off a fresh batch. How many do you need?”
“Just two.” He swaggers up to the counter, hand resting in his pocket.
“You got it.” Her hand shakes as she takes the cookies out of the case. Dammit, it’s not the time, it’s not the time. She grabs the cookies with her right hand and slyly drops her left to her side, clenching her hand into a fist as she does. Yang drops them in a bag and creases the top shut. “Two lien, please.”
Adam nods, digging into his pants for his wallet. Her heart is racing, and her breath is shallow in her chest.
“Just give me a sec, I know it’s in here somewhere,” he says, and his voice is still calm, still friendly.
“No worries,” she says. She’s tapping her foot. Her hand is still shaking.
He digs into his jacket and finally pulls out his wallet. “Two lien, you said?”
Adam hands her a five, and she grabs him his change. Brothers above, she wants to hit him. She wants to hit him, she wants to tear his tongue out of his throat, she wants to break his hands for ever having touched a hair on Blake’s head. Yang swallows fury and forces a polite smile as he takes his change, but he doesn’t move. He doesn’t leave.
“Is something wrong?” she asks, and she can hear the patience in her voice dissolving.
“Hm? Oh, sorry, I just got distracted,” he says, tucking the money back into his wallet as he straightens up. “See, I’m thinking about my fiancèe.”
Yang runs cold. “Your fiancèe?” she repeats.
Adam nods. “Yeah, lemon is her favorite. I thought I’d surprise her, get her something nice.” He looks back up at Yang. There’s a hard glint in his eyes. “We’ve been together for almost twelve years, you know.”
“Impressive.” Her voice is flat.
“Yeah, it is.” He chuckles. “Yeah, she can be a real handful, but I love her. And I’d do anything for her.” Adam shrugs. “Hell, I’d burn down the whole city for her. Even her favorite bakery. Just to make sure she knows how much I love her.” His voice is sharper now.
“I imagine she already knows,” she says stiffly.
He shakes his head. “See, but I don’t think she does. I think that she’s got some ridiculous fantasy in her head, and she doesn’t realize how much I love her, the ends to which I will go for her.” He smiles at Yang. “But you understand, don’t you?”
“I understand that you’re a dick,” she bites.
Fury flashes in his eyes, and Adam slams his fists down on the counter. Yang refuses to flinch. “Don’t make me spell it out, Blondie,” he sneers, and there he is. “I didn’t think you were that dumb.”
“Spell it out for me,” she says, cocking her head.
He leans over the counter. “Get away from my girl. Or else.”
“Or else what?” she spits.
He smiles faintly before reverting back to his sneer. “You got a nice place here, Blondie. I’d hate for someone to ruin that.”
“Are you threatening me?” She steps forward, eyes blazing.
Adam shrugs. “It’s not a threat. It’s a promise.”
“Wow, do you pull all of your threats out of bad movies?” she asks.
His eyes narrow. “Watch yourself. Leave Blake alone. Or else.”
His hands are clenched into fists, and Yang watches him as he takes a deep breath. “You’ll learn, Xiao Long.” He reaches into the bag and takes a bite of one of the cookies. “You’ll learn.”
“No, you’ll learn.” His head snaps up, but she keeps going. “Leave Blake alone, and we’ll leave you alone.”
He chuckles again, dropping the remnants of the cookie back into the bag. “I won’t get within spitting distance of her. I love her.” He looks up at her. “You, however.” He shrugs and holds out the bag. “Give her my love, won’t you?”
She takes a deep, shaking breath. “Keep the cookies,” she says tightly.
“Why? I thought you wanted all my sloppy seconds.”
Yang sees red. She curls her hands into fists. She cannot hit him, she cannot hit him, she cannot hit him .
“Give Blake my love.”
And then he’s gone.
Her hand is still shaking as she reaches for the phone.
Blake meets her at the police station. Her girl’s face is pale, like there’s no blood running through her. All the light has gone out in those golden eyes that she loves, and it makes her chest burn. Yang moves to take Blake into her arms, but Blake holds her by her elbows.
“Are you okay?” Blake asks, eyes searching her face. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, baby, I’m fine, I’m fine,” she says. “A little shaken, sure, but I’m fine.”
Blake looks into her eyes, and she crumples into Yang’s arms. “This is all my fault,” she breathes against Yang’s ear. “This is all my fault.” Yang shakes her head, but Blake plows on. “If you weren’t with me, he wouldn’t be targeting you. This is all my fault.”
“If you weren’t with me, he would be coming after you even more directly. And that’s not gonna fly.” She pulls back and holds Blake’s face in her hands. “I’m yours, and you’re mine, baby. And that means he’s our problem. Not just yours.”
“But I made him your problem, I-”
“He chose to make him my problem. He chose to keep this up. Not you. Not me. We just chose each other.” She brushes her thumb across Blake’s pale cheeks. “And I don’t regret choosing you for a second, baby.”
Blake’s lips wobble. “You should.”
“Maybe. But, Blake, baby, I want you. And this isn’t your fault. This is not your fault.”
Yang takes her into her arms once more and holds her tight as Blake shudders against her. “I’m so sorry,” Blake says into her chest. “I’m so sorry.”
She strokes her hair and her back. “It’s not your fault. It’s not.” She holds her tighter. “I’m just happy you’re here.”
Blake pulls back and studies her. “We need to get out of Vale.”
“What? No, baby, I just filed a police report, they’re going to be watching Adam, the bakery, the bookshop, both of our houses. We’ll be fine.”
“No, Yang, you don’t understand. If he threatened you, it means he already has a plan. It means we need to go. Now.”
“Baby, I’m not allowing this bastard to drive us out of our homes. We have businesses to run, we can’t just pack up and leave because he threatened me.” Yang rubs Blake’s shoulders. “If we leave, then we let him win.”
“We’re not letting him win, we’re escaping.” Blake shakes her head. “I can sell Belladonna’s Books, and we can move somewhere else.”
“And what if he follows us?”
“Then we move again!”
Yang shakes her head. “I’m not letting him turn us into refugees.” She looks her in the eyes. “This is our home. He’s the one barging in. He’s the one that’s stirring shit up. We don’t move. Not for him. We force him to deal with us.”
“I don’t want him to hurt you!” Blake’s breath is labored, and her eyes are wide. “I can’t let him hurt you, Yang.”
“You’re not letting him do anything, baby.” Her voice is gentle. “We’re just not going to uproot our lives because of this. You’ll get a restraining order, and I’ll get one, and that’ll be that.”
“That’s not going to stop him.”
“Uh, unless he wants to be arrested, it will.”
Blake shakes her head. “Adam’s avoided jail before. Why else do you think he’s still walking free?” Her voice is bitter, and Yang softens. “He doesn’t care about jail, he cares about revenge. I was so stupid to think that he would actually leave us alone, I was so stupid!”
“No, baby, you’re not stupid,” she tries, but Blake keeps talking.
“I should have known! I should have known better.”
“You couldn’t have known he would threaten me.”
“I should have. I should have known he wouldn’t let me go so easily. But it took so long, and I just- I thought I was free .” Her voice breaks, and Yang’s heart shatters as tears start to leak out of Blake’s eyes. “I thought we could be happy, I thought I could be happy, I thought I was safe, and now-”
“Now we’re going to keep being happy. We’re not going to let him ruin this. We’re not.”
Blake hesitates. “If I go back to him-”
Fear runs through Yang. “No! You are never, ever going back to that bastard.”
“Baby. Listen to me.” She cups her face. “It doesn’t matter what he does. He can do whatever he wants, but I’m yours, baby. Nothing changes that.” She brushes the tears from Blake’s face. “Nothing.”
“I just don’t want him to hurt you,” Blake whimpers.
Yang nods. “The police will do their job. They’re looking at the tapes from the store, but because I don’t have audio recording, there’s no actual proof of the threat. But they’re going to be monitoring the situation, and we will be okay.” She forces a small smile. “We’re going to be just fine.”
Blake winces in her hands. “What if we’re not?”
“Then we handle it. Together .” She brushes her hair behind her ears and kisses her forehead. “We do this together.”
Blake nods, but her eyes are distant. “Together,” she says.
“Together.” Yang lets her hands fall from her face to her shoulders. “Don’t lock me out now, baby. We’re in this together.”
“Miss Xiao Long,” Chief Ironwood interrupts. “Is this Miss Belladonna?”
Yang turns and nods, her hand grabbing for Blake’s as she turns. “Yes.”
“What do you need from me?” Blake asks.
Ironwood’s shoulders don’t sag, Yang doesn’t think he’s capable of slouching, but his posture softens, somehow. “We just need to ask you about the last time you had contact with Mister Taurus. Miss Xiao Long said that it was just under two weeks ago when you saw him last.”
Blake’s throat bobs. “I saw him a week ago.” Blake’s hand clenches around hers as Yang stiffens.
Ironwood looks between them, and he nods. “Would you like to sit, Miss Belladonna? We can go somewhere more private.”
“No. No, I want Yang here.”
Ironwood nods. “Of course. But let’s sit down. I can get you some water, or some tea.”
“Water would be nice,” Blake admits.
“Follow me, then,” Ironwood says, turning around. They follow him, and Blake keeps holding her hand. Yang’s mind whirls. Why hadn’t she told her?
He takes them to a room with couches, and they sit. He hands them both water. Yang watches as Blake sucks half the cup down. They’re still holding hands, and Yang can feel the tremble in Blake’s bones.
“Do you mind if I take notes?” he asks.
“Not at all. Please, do whatever you need to do,” Blake says.
Ironwood nods, taking a notepad and pen out of his pocket. He flips the pad open before looking at Blake. Blake’s hand tightens around hers.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened?” he says.
Yang squeezes her hand, and Blake’s shoulders sag. “He came to my store, Belladonna’s Books. It was right before lunch time. He was so angry. He was so angry,” she repeats. “I was the only one in the store, Ilia, one of my employees, had just gone on break. I think he knew. I think he’d been watching the store.
“He came into the store, and he slammed his hands down on the counter. There was no one else in the store. I think he’d been waiting.” Her hand tightens around Yang’s. “I have cameras in the store, I can give them to you later.”
“That would be helpful, Miss Belladonna. Please, continue.”
“He slammed his hands down on the counter, and he started yelling. He called me-” Blake breaks off, and Yang feels the shudder that runs through her. “He called me a lot of not very nice names. And he was yelling, and he just kept calling me horrible things. I was behind the counter, and I begged him to get out of the store, to leave.
“He stopped once I started begging.” Fury runs through Yang, and she strokes the back of her hands with her thumb. “He smiled, and then he started talking about Yang.”
“What did he say?”
“He said she was pretty. That’s all. And then he left.”
“He left?” Ironwood repeats.
“He left. I called Ilia back early, and then I called my lawyer. I sent the tapes to her already, but her hands are tied.”
Ironwood nods, and he flips his notepad shut. “We’ll have unmarked squad cars outside both your homes until we let Mister Taurus know of the pending restraining order Miss Xiao Long has issued. If he contacts either of you again, do not hesitate to call us.”
Yang nods. “We won’t. Hesitate, that is. We will call if necessary.”
“And you don’t need the car outside of my house. I’ll be staying with Yang. If that’s okay.”
“Yeah, of course that’s okay, baby.”
“Still, we’re going to keep the squad car there. Just in case he decides to act.”
They both nod. “Whatever you think is best, sir,” Blake says.
Ironwood smiles before resuming his tight neutral expression. “We’re going to deal with this as best we can. If you have any additional information, please let us know.”
“We will.” Yang hesitates. “Are we safe to go back to work?”
Ironwood nods. “Take the next day or two off if you can. Just in case he decides to harass you before we can let him know.”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll do that.”
“Would you ladies like an escort home?”
Yang looks to Blake, who shakes her head. “No, I think we’ll be okay. I think we both just want to get home.”
Ironwood nods. “Of course. Get home safe. Let us know if you need anything.”
“We will,” Yang promises. She escorts Blake out of there with her arm around her waist. The tension in her chest doesn’t loosen until they’re outside and she can breathe. “Are you sure you want to stay at my place?” she asks softly.
Blake looks up at her. “Do you mind?” she asks. “I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Neither do I,” she admits. “How did you get here? I came in on Bumblebee.”
“Are you okay going for a ride?”
Blake nods. “Yeah.
“Okay. We’ll head home, and then I’ll call Ruby and Weiss. Do you need to call Ilia and Sun?”
Blake shakes her head. “No, I left them running the store. They know something’s wrong. I can call them when we get home.”
“Okay.” Yang nods, more to herself than to Blake. “It’s a good thing I always carry an extra helmet.” She tries to keep her voice light, but she fails.
“Yeah, I guess it is.”
Yang takes her to her bike, and she saddles up, tossing her extra helmet to Blake before snapping on her own. Blake gets on behind her, and Yang pulls her arms around her. “Hold on tight, baby.”
Normally, she loves riding. Normally, the roar of the engine quells whatever anxieties she has brewing. Normally, the idea of taking Blake for a ride on Bumblebee would send her heart racing.
But this is not normal.
She gets them home relatively quickly. It’s early enough in the day that there’s no traffic, and she rolls up to her building. She locks Bumblebee up and takes Blake inside. She locks and double locks and triple locks the door, and she shuts the windows and curtains. Blake is already in the kitchen, and it sounds like she’s putting water on for tea.
Yang sighs, blowing her hair out of her face. She rubs her face as she heads into the kitchen. Blake’s back is to her.
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Blake says without turning around.
Yang nods, even though she can’t see her. “I know.”
“I didn’t think he’d be a problem after this.” Blake scoffs. “I was stupid. I thought he was just getting me one last time, one last final cut.”
“You’re not stupid, baby,” she says. “You were hopeful. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But I was! It’s my fault. I should have known.” Blake’s shoulders are shaking. “I should have known.”
Yang steps closer. “You couldn’t have known,” she says as gently as she can manage. “This isn’t your fault. This is all his.” Her voice hardens. “He’s the one deciding to do this. It’s his fault. Not yours.” She wraps her arms around Blake as she shudders.
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Blake says, her voice breaking into a sob.
Yang tucks her head over Blake’s shoulder. “You won’t.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I trust you. And you’d never hurt me.” She nuzzles her neck. “I’m yours.”
“And I’m yours,” Blake croaks. Yang brushes Blake’s hair off of her neck. “Aren’t you scared?”
“I’m scared,” she admits. “But he’s only human, and the police are on our side here. We’re safe.” She doesn’t talk about how badly she wanted to hurt him. She doesn’t talk about how her hand shaked. She doesn’t talk about the fury that curdles her blood. She doesn’t talk about what he said. She doesn’t tell her.
Maybe she should. But what good would it do?
“He’s not human. He’s a monster.”
They curl up in bed with a movie and bowl of popcorn, but neither of them are watching it. They’re both in pjs, but Yang can’t imagine that Blake is anymore comfortable than she is. Yang’s head is in Blake’s lap, and Blake is running her fingers through her hair and rubbing her scalp. It feels good, but there’s too much tension in her chest for her to enjoy it.
“You should go to Patch.”
Yang sighs. “I’m not leaving Vale, baby. I’m not leaving you.”
“We could both go to Patch. We could get away for the week. Spend the anniversary with your family. I’d love to meet your dad.”
“Don’t act like this is about meeting my dad. We’re not letting him win. This is our home. You love running the bookstore, and I love running the bakery. And I love being in Vale. Don’t you?”
Blake sighs. “Of course I do. But the more distance between Adam and us, the better I’ll feel.”
Guilt twinges in her stomach. “We can’t let fear rule our lives, baby,” she says as gently as she can manage. Yang sits up and looks Blake in the eyes, her own going soft. “But if you really, truly believe that leaving is the best option, then we’ll leave.” Her throat bobs. “We can stay with my dad while I sign over ownership of the bakery to Ruby, and we can open up new stores in Patch.”
Blake sighs, rubbing her face. “No, you love the bakery. I can’t make you leave it.”
“Then what will make you feel safe right now?” she asks. “ How do I make you feel safe?”
“It’s not your job to make me feel safe, Yang.”
“But neither of us can live like this. We can’t live with him constantly hovering over our heads!” She takes a deep breath. “I refuse to. We both deserve better.”
Blake takes her hand. “What do you want to do?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to leave, that’s for sure.” Her thumb runs over the top of Blake’s hand. “But I want you to feel safe. If leaving for the week will make you feel safe, we can leave for a week.” She looks her in the eyes. “But we are not letting him drive us out.”
“I know. I just… I need some distance between us right now.”
“Then we’ll get you distance, and we’ll come back, and we’ll deal with it.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“I know it won’t be, but we can always hope.” She squeezes her hand. “We can always hope. It got us this far.” She smiles as tenderly as she can manage. “It got me you.”
“I think persistence and coincidence got you me.”
“A cake.” A smile cracks over Blake’s face.
“A cake,” she repeats, kissing her cheek. “A cake got me you.”
“Hope and cake. Is that how we’re doing this?”
“It’s how I do everything.”
She feels Blake’s eyes on her as she lowers her gaze. “How are you doing?” Blake asks. “Really. Not just with Adam, but with the anniversary.”
Yang shrugs. “I’ve been better,” she admits. Her mouth dries up, and she looks at their touching hands. “My hand keeps shaking when I get nervous, or angry, or upset. It’s worse than usual this year.”
Blake shuffles closer to her, and Yang puts her head on her shoulder. She stays at the screen as she continues. “Honestly, I keep forgetting that it’ll be ten years, but then it’s all I can think about. It’s one or the other. And with Adam, I’m just so angry. I’m so angry that he’s still hurting you, and I want to hurt him back for hurting you.” The words leave her mouth before she can think, and she turns to face Blake. “Baby-”
“I want to hurt him too,” Blake says. She’s not looking at Yang. “Sometimes, I have dreams about hurting him. Sometimes I want revenge. But then I’m no better than him.”
“He deserves something for having hurt you.”
“Honestly? I’d rather just have him out of my life than have justice.”
Yang nods. “With luck, you’ll get both.”
“I’m not exactly lucky.”
“Yeah, but between the two of us, life has screwed us over enough. I think we’re entitled to some good luck now.”
“Don’t tempt it,” Blake warns.
“I’m not tempting it, I’m just saying. It’s not fair if we keep losing while people like Adam keep winning.”
“Haven’t you heard? Life isn’t fair.”
“Yeah, but sometimes it is.”
“You’re an optimist.”
“I’m a hopeful realist.”
“That’s an optimist.”
“And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Blake snuggles closer into her. “True.”
“And I want to believe that things will work out.”
“As long as one of us does.”
“They will, baby. They will.”
“Oh, this is so exciting!” Penny says as they walk up to the house. “I am so excited to see your father again. Blake, he’s just the loveliest man!”
“He’s alright,” Yang smirks. Ruby elbows her.
“I’m excited to meet Mr. Xiao Long,” Blake says, and Yang turns to look at her.
“Do not call him Mr. Xiao Long. He’ll lose his mind,” she says.
“Then what do I call him?”
“It still does not seem very proper to call him by his first name,” Penny admits.
“He’s not a very proper kind of guy. You’ll see,” Yang says. She moves hers and Blake’s bags to her right hand before knocking with her left on the door. She waits a beat before trying the knob. She sighs as she opens it. “Dad, you really have to stop leaving the door unlocked.”
“I knew you were coming, why would I lock it?” he calls.
“Like father, like daughter,” Blake murmurs.
“You better be talking about Ruby.”
“I am. Mostly.”
Yang rolls her eyes. “Where are you?” she calls.
“In the kitchen!”
The four of them move deeper into the house, and Yang’s eyes narrow as she surveys the kitchen. “Dad, I told you, you didn’t need to go all out,” she says, dropping their bags in the hall.
Taiyang shrugs, rubbing his hands on his apron. “It’s not every day both my daughters bring home their girlfriends. Heck, It’s not every day I get to even see my daughters!” Yang can’t resist the smile that breaks out over her face, and she and Ruby move in unison to tackle him. “Woah!”
“It’s good to see you, Dad,” Ruby says, and Yang hugs him tighter.
“It’s really good to see you,” she agrees.
Taiyang rubs her back. “I’ve missed you both so much,” he says. “And it’s always good to see you, Penny.”
They break apart, and Yang finds her eyes misty. She sniffs, wiping at her face with the back of her hand. “Dad, this is Blake.” She steps back and presses Blake forward. “Blake, this Dad.”
Taiyang smiles, holding out his hand. “Good to meet you,” he says as he shakes both of their hands. “My girls have told me a lot about you.”
“A lot?” Blake repeats, and Yang blushes.
“Oh, you have no idea how often Yang gushes about you,” Ruby says. “You’re basically all she talks about.”
“You’re hardly any better with Penny!” she protests.
“That’s not true, Ruby talks about many things,” Penny says. “Like baking!”
“It runs in the family,” Taiyang says. “We get real intense when it comes to baking.”
“Well, your daughter is a great teacher,” Blake says. “She’s been teaching me to bake for myself instead of having to rely on her for baked goods, although she keeps plying me with them.”
“You love it,” Yang says, bumping her side.
Blake sighs. “Yeah, I do.”
The oven goes off, and Taiyang scoots past to take his latest creation out of the oven. “Lunch is almost ready, so why don’t you four go get settled upstairs while I take care of this?”
“You sure you don’t need any help, Dad?” Ruby asks.
“I’m sure. Go unpack, lunch will be ready in like fifteen minutes.”
“You severely underestimate how long unpacking will take,” Yang says, but she takes up their bags once more and leads Blake upstairs.
“I’m so excited to see your room, Ruby!” Penny says as Yang and Blake turn the corner, and her voice becomes distant. Yang opens the door to her room and drops their bags on the bed.
“Welcome to my room,” she says, turning around.
Blake’s eyes are wide, and she’s circling around Yang’s room. “You really like bikes, huh?” she says as she takes in all of Yang’s old sketches of Bumblebee.
“You should’ve seen all the sketches. These are just the final products,” she says. Yang unzips her bag and starts putting clothes in her old dresser. “Here, you can have these two drawers. I’ll take the bottom two.”
Blake nods. “Sounds good.”
“If you get overwhelmed, just let me know, and I can take you for a ride through the forest, or we can go for a walk by the sea. I want to show you everything while we’re here.”
“Everything, huh?” Blake says. There’s a lightness to her voice Yang hasn’t heard in days, and she smiles.
“Everything.” She turns around and kisses her lips. Her heart is racing. “We’re going to have a nice, relaxing week. Okay?” She brushes Blake’s hair out of her face and cups her cheeks. “No more Adam for the week. No more business. Just you and me.”
Blake nods, and she nuzzles Yang’s hands. “Sounds good to me,” she says, and then she kisses Yang’s cheek. “Come on, we need to unpack.”
“What if I want to keep kissing you?” she asks, wrapping her hands around Blake’s hips.
Blake rolls her eyes. “We’ll be living out of our suitcases if I let you do that.”
“I’m okay with that,” she says, but Blake shakes her head.
“You brought that nice dress. I’m not letting it get wrinkled.”
Yang lets out an exaggerated sigh, but she nods. “Fine. But I want kisses later.”
“Oh, you’ll get kisses later,” Blake says before kissing her cheek once more.
They unpack in silence, with the exception of the sounds of the clothes hitting the wood and the groan of Yang’s arm. “And your dad is okay with us sharing a bed?” Blake asks as they finish.
Yang nods. “We’re all adults, baby. I’d be pissed if he wasn’t.”
“Still. It feels weird.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Are you saying you don’t want to share a bed? Because I can sleep on the couch.”
“No, no! It’s just, I don’t know, I’ve never met my girlfriend’s family before. I don’t know what’s normal and what’s not.”
“Well, first off, nothing about my family is normal, so this is a bad example.”
Blake’s lips quirk up. “Guess that means I’ll have to get a new girlfriend.”
“Oh, shut it.” She rolls her eyes. “But seriously. He’s just a person. Just be you, and he’ll love you because I-” Her voice catches, and she clears her throat. “Because I like-like you,” she finishes lamely.
Blake rolls her eyes, but she draws closer to Yang. “I like-like you too,” she says, kissing Yang’s lips. Yang smiles into her mouth, and she closes her eyes as she draws Blake closer by her waist.
“Lunch!” Taiyang calls, and Yang sighs.
“The one bad part about being home,” she says, drawing back. She takes Blake’s hand in her own. “Come on, let’s go see what my dad’s cooked up.” They hurry down the stairs, and the kitchen has been haphazardly cleaned and the table has been set.
“It smells delicious, Mr.- I mean, Taiyang,” Blake says as she sits. Yang squeezes her hand.
“Thank you, Blake. It’s just my lasagna and some roasted vegetables.” Still, it doesn’t escape Yang how her dad’s chest puffs with pride at her words.
“So this is who Ruby gets her pasta dishes from!” Penny says as Taiyang starts to cut the lasagna. “She is such a good cook, I am so excited to see where she got it from.”
“Well, I learned it from one of our neighbors, a nice woman named Maria Calverra. She taught me a lot about cooking. I was hopeless when it came to savoury stuff for years, until that woman taught me everything I know.”
“Yeah, when I was really little, Dad was still hopeless at cooking, but there was always sweets around,” Yang says, helping herself and Blake to some vegetables. “It was great.”
“Hey, you ate stuff besides sugar!”
“Yeah, but that stuff was like our dessert.”
“I got better!”
“You did, you did,” Yang soothes. “You taught us everything you know, after all.”
Taiyang smiles, and they all dig in.
“This is delicious!” Penny says. “Absolutely fantastic, sir!”
“Please, Penny, you know to call me Tai.”
Penny nods. “Absolutely fantastic, Tai!”
“What did you do to the veggies?” Blake asks.
“Just olive oil and garlic, little bit of salt and pepper. Really simple, really good.”
Blake nods. “You’re right about that,” she says.
Yang smiles around her fork. The familiar tang of the sauce eases some of the tension from her shoulders, and she feels good. Her girl is here, her sister is here, her family is here. It’s a good day. It’s a really good day.
“Hey, Dad?” she says.
“What’s up, buttercup?” he asks.
“Thanks for letting us stay for the week. We really appreciate it,” she says.
Taiyang shrugs. “You’re always welcome here, you know that.”
“Yeah, but still. It’s really good to be home and see you.” It was. Despite everything, it’s really good to be home.
“How’s the bakery doing? Besides some prick threatening to burn our baby down,” Taiyang says.
Blake stiffens beside her, and Yang runs her foot up her calf. “It’s good. I think I need to hire some more folks, actually.”
“What, are we not enough for you?” Ruby sniffs.
Yang rolls her eyes. “Do you want to be away from your bread constantly?” Ruby sighs and shakes her head. “That’s what I thought.” She turns back to Taiyang. “But I’m thinking another two or three people should be enough. We’ve had a real influx as of late in customers.”
“To think, Patchwork grew out of this kitchen,” Taiyang says, gesturing around. “Start small, and grow it.”
“Dad’s gotten into gardening lately,” Ruby explains.
“Oh, you girls haven’t seen my sunflowers yet!”
The rest of lunch falls into easy conversation. Blake keeps quiet, which she expected, but the tension from her girl’s shoulders slowly abates. She keeps her foot on her ankle, gently rubbing up and down the side.
They clean up lunch, and Yang takes Blake outside to the woods. She tucks her hair behind her ears, and she turns around so she’s facing Blake. Her girl’s eyes are wide and glowing in the sunlight, and Yang loses herself in them. “This is where you grew up?” Blake asks.
Yang nods. “Well, until high school. We moved to Vale then, but Dad moved back here a few years ago to retire.”
“Is he all alone out here?”
“Not really. Maria’s just down the road, and our Uncle Qrow comes and stays with him when he can. He does a monthly neighborhood potluck, too. He keeps busy.” Yang sighs. “We’re always trying to get him to do more, but he’s happy, and that’s what matters.”
“He’s really kind,” Blake says.
“Yeah. Yeah, he is,” Yang says.
“I guess that’s where you get it from.” Yang turns, and Blake is smiling tentatively at her.
“Runs in the family.” Her throat bobs. “Can I show you something?”
Blake nods, and Yang grabs her hand. She leads her deeper into the woods until they come to where the woods break, and they’re in a clearing. She slowly approaches the stone on the cliff. Her hand tightens around Blake’s.
“This is my mom,” she says tightly. Blake keeps quiet. She continues. “I don’t visit her often. Neither does my dad. Ruby visits a lot, but it’s hard for her, I think. It’s hard for all of us.” She leaves Blake’s hand behind and sits in front of the stone. “I don’t like to remember her here. I like to remember her actually living and breathing. Not in the ground.
“And I know that she’s happy to be here. She used to take me and Ruby for walks here when we were little, and she loved this cliffside. Couldn’t tell you why this cliff out of all the ones on Patch, but she loved this one.
“I try not to think of her here, though, which I know makes her sad. But it just hurts now, and I know she would want us to think of her here and happy and in her element, but I just can’t. It just hurts.”
“What stops the hurt?” Blake asks.
She swallows thickly. “Everything about her hurts. It’s not always a bad hurt. The happy things hurt, the sad things hurt, it all hurts. But it doesn’t stop it from feeling good at the same time. It hurts more to ignore it. Learned that the hard way.” She laughs, but it’s empty.
Blake wraps her up in her arms, and Yang sags against her. “What was she like?” Blake asks softly.
“She’s where all the sweetness in our family comes from. She loved baking, and she loved gardening, and she loved us. She was basically Super Mom. I don’t think I ever heard her yell, ever. She never got mad, just disappointed or upset. Well, we never saw her mad, at least. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
“Just like you,” Blake says, and Yang shakes her head.
“No, I have a few mean bones,” she says. “Well, I have a temper. I don’t like it when the people I care about are hurt.”
“That’s not a temper, that’s protectiveness.”
“Still. I used to jump to anger pretty quickly. I don’t know. It used to be worse. It got real bad for a while, and then I got some therapy in me.” She leans her head back against Blake’s. “Therapy is a damn gift.”
“I’ve never been,” Blake admits.
“Do you want to?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it.”
“Well, I can always ask my old therapist for recommendations in the area.”
“Do you still go?”
“I see a psychiatrist monthly. Mostly to just check in on my meds. I don’t need it the same way I used to, but the check in helps. It’s grounding.” She turns her head. “You’re grounding.”
“Yeah, you.” Yang shrugs. “I don’t know, I feel balanced around you. More me.”
“I feel more myself around you than anyone else.”
“Good. Because I like you.”
“I like you too.” Blake kisses her cheek. “Thank you for introducing me to her.”
“Yeah, of course. I wanted you to meet her however you could.” She smiles and closes her eyes. “I think she’d like you.”
Yang wakes up, and she immediately knows what day it is. She’s read books and seen movies where there’s a few moments between waking up and knowing, a few seconds of blissful ignorance. She’s never had that. She’s never woken up and not known where she is, what day it is, what she’s supposed to be doing. She wakes up, and she knows. There’s no beating around the bush.
Ten years. Ten years without her arm. Ten years without her mom. Ten years without , missing pieces of herself that can never be replaced. Not by metal, not by anyone. The hole in her chest will always be there, and she can never get her arm back. She can never get her mom back.
She lets loose a breath, turning onto her back. It’s one of the few days of the year she gives herself to think about the accident in detail. Normally, she doesn’t bother. Yang knows what happened, she lived it, and she’s still dealing with the consequences. What’s the point in thinking about it? But today, the groan of her arm makes her think of the shrieking of metal, and she knows it’s going to be a rough day.
Yang leaves the bed as quietly as she can as to not disturb Blake. The sun isn’t up yet, but she can already smell coffee brewing downstairs. She heads into the kitchen, and she sees Ruby is already awake and at the table. “Can’t sleep?” she asks, pouring herself a mug.
“If I go to bed, that means today is here,” Ruby says. She’s looking out the window, and there’s an empty mug in her hands. She’s draped in a red blanket, and it’s pulled tight around her. There are purple bags under her eyes.
Yang checks the clock on the wall. “It’s only five. You can still grab some shut eye and sleep late today.”
Ruby shakes her head. “I’m not tired,” she says, but not before yawning.
Yang sits down next to her. The outside is misty and dark. “You should sleep.”
“I know I should, but-”
“I know.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “I know.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t pull the whole, oh, Mom would want you to sleep card.”
“Not today. I’m not cruel.”
“No, you’re not.” Ruby sighs. “I’m just scared to wake up, you know? Scared to wake up and have to deal with everything.”
“I know. But I’ll be here when you wake up, and so will Dad, and Penny, and Blake. We’re all here.”
“I know.” Ruby leans her head onto Yang’s shoulder. “I miss her.”
Yang’s throat is thick. “I miss her too.”
“I still feel guilty.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Ruby.”
“I know that. It doesn’t stop me from feeling it like it was, though.”
“It was entirely his fault. Everything was his fault. And he’ll rot in prison for the rest of his life for it.”
“It doesn’t bring her back.”
Yang sighs. “No,” she agrees, “no, it doesn’t.” She lays her head on top of Ruby’s. “She wouldn’t want me to be angry, but I am.” Her voice thickens. “I’m so angry.”
“No, you’re not. At least, not like you used to be.”
“How do you know?”
Ruby shrugs. “You’re quieter now. Stable.”
“All thanks to you and Weiss.”
“No, all thanks to you. We just gave you a push. You did all the hard stuff.”
Yang snorts. “You had to fight me pretty hard. I’d say it was more than a push.”
“Still, you did all the hard parts. I’m proud of you, Yang.”
“I’m proud of you too.” She kisses her sister’s forehead. “We’ll get there, Ruby. We’ll get there. But for now, you need to get to bed.”
“Do I have to?”
“You know you should.”
Ruby sighs, and she stands up. “Keep the blanket,” she says, and Yang shakes her head.
“You need it more than I do,” she says. “Seriously. Go to bed. I’ll grab the other one from the living room. I’ll be fine.”
Ruby nods. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
After she hears Ruby’s door shut upstairs, Yang stands up and digs around in the cupboard for an apron. She pulls it on over her head and preheats the oven before taking out all of her ingredients.
She has a lot of baking to do.
“Chocolate chip pancakes!” Ruby squeals hours later. Yang smiles, flipping the latest batch on the griddle. “You shouldn’t have.” Her sister hugs her around the waist, and Yang keeps her arms above her grasp.
“Watch out, I don’t want to burn you,” she warns. “And they’re not all chocolate chip, just most.”
Ruby backs off. “Do you want me to wake up everyone else?” she asks.
“That would be good. Bring Dad some coffee, I made a fresh pot,” she directs, nodding in the direction of the coffee. “Don’t let him stay in bed.”
“Got it!” Her sister zips upstairs once more, and Yang finishes up the last of the batter. She’d already set the table, brewed the coffee and tea, squeezed oranges for orange juice, cut up fruit, and set up the fix-ins for pancakes. Everything was ready. She just needed everyone else now.
“Good morning, Yang!” Penny trills as she enters the kitchen. “Thank you for making breakfast!”
“No worries, Penny. Take a seat. Everyone should be down in a minute.”
“What were you saying about everyone?” Blake asks, coming over to kiss Yang’s cheek. “You could’ve woken me up, you know.”
Yang shrugs. “I figured it was best to let everyone sleep in a little.”
Blake kisses her again. “I’m here, baby. So let me be here.”
Yang turns. “I know. I just needed to do this,” she says, and Blake nods. She kisses her girl on the lips as she grabs the plate of pancakes. “Come on, let’s sit down.” She puts the plate on the table and takes her seat.
“Good morning, girls,” Taiyang yawns, stretching as he enters the room, Ruby right behind him. “Yang, I would’ve made them this year.”
Yang shrugs. “I wasn’t supposed to be here, so I figured it was my turn. Give the rest of you a chance to sleep in a little.” She helps herself to some pancakes. “Get them while they’re hot. I can make more batter if we’re still hungry.”
“No way, I have the next batch,” Ruby says as she sits down next to Penny. “It’s only fair.”
“How about we see how hungry we are after all this food?” Blake suggests.
Yang kisses her temple. “Always the peacemaker,” she teases.
“These are wonderful!” Penny exclaims. She eats so neatly, but she’s decimated nearly three pancakes since she sat down.
Yang smiles. “Thank you. I try,” she says, brushing her hair over her shoulder.
“Well, you succeed!”
They all laugh, and soon syrup is covering half of their plates and half the table. They don’t talk about the elephant in the room. Well, elephants. Between Ruby’s purple bags and Taiyang’s red eyes and Yang’s intermittently shaking hand, they’re not exactly the image of coping.
But they are coping.
“Okay, I’m stuffed,” Blake says. “Thank you for breakfast.”
“I got the dishes!” Ruby says, snatching their plates before Yang can protest. “You made breakfast, I got dishes!”
Yang sighs. “Sure, okay,” she says. She yawns.
“Do you wanna head back to bed?” Blake asks, but Yang shakes her head.
“No, I’m okay. Just need some more coffee, I guess.”
“Can’t live off of coffee.”
“Says the tea drinker. You know nothing about the wonders of coffee.”
“Coffee is a cult.”
“You’re not wrong.” She smiles up at her girl, and Blake smiles back.
Blake lowers her voice. “How are you doing?” she asks.
“I’m okay. Really.” She wrinkles her nose. “Might just need to head to bed early tonight.” Get this terrible day over with early.
Blake nods, and she kisses Yang’s cheek. “I’m here.” She smiles. “What do you want to do today?”
“Whatever you do, be back in time for dinner!” Taiyang says. “We’re ordering in, and if you’re not here, we will eat your food.”
“They’re worse than rabid animals,” Yang says, rolling her eyes. “We’ll be back. I was gonna take Blake into town and show her around.”
Taiyang nods. “I think Penny and Ruby are doing that tomorrow. Do me a favor, though, and check if there’s anymore chocolate chips at the store. I think your sister is going to eat the ones you left.”
“Ah, yes. Right. Because I definitely left chocolate chips in the bag.” She smiles innocently. “Well, we’re gonna get dressed, and then we’ll head out.”
Blake takes her by the hand and leads her back upstairs. “I can get changed in the bathroom,” she offers, but Yang shakes her head.
“Nah, it’s okay. Nothing I haven’t seen before, baby.” She smiles, but she knows it doesn’t reach her eyes. She definitely needs to pick up coffee while in town. Her eyes land on the bed, and she smiles. “You made the bed!”
Blake shrugs. “Least I could do,” she says, but Yang brings her into a hug.
“Thank you, baby,” she whispers into her ear. “Thank you.”
Blake’s arms tighten around her. “Of course, Yang. Anything for you.”
They break apart, and they’re both blushing. “Okay, let’s get changed and get our teeth brushed and hair brushed and all that,” she says. Yang strips off her pjs and slips into her bra and jeans before grabbing her favorite yellow flannel.
She brushes her teeth in the bathroom, and when she comes back to the room Blake is holding her hair brush. Yang raises her eyebrow. “What’re you gonna do with that?” she asks, eyeing her up and down.
Blake rolls her eyes. “Sit down, I’m gonna brush your hair,” she says.
“You don’t have to do that,” she protests, but Blake sits her on the bed and sits behind her.
“Yeah, but I want to.”
Her strokes are gentle, pulling at the knots she made in her sleep but never tugging at her scalp. Yang has a lot of hair, and it’s a monster to tame, but Blake brushes out every wave and tangle with patience. She’s taking her time to take care of Yang’s hair. Yang closes her eyes. “Thank you, Blake.” Her voice is hoarse.
Blake keeps brushing. “Of course. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.” Her free hand curls around one of Yang’s locks. “You have the best hair,” she murmurs, and Yang flushes.
Yang laughs. “I know. But yours is a close second.”
“Well, thank you so much for that concession,” Blake bites, but Yang can tell she’s barely holding back laughter. “Turn around, I need to brush out your bangs.”
“You really don’t,” Yang says, but she obeys.
Blake looks into her eyes, and she gently combs through her hair. She’s biting her lip, and her ears are poised in concentration. She pushes Yang’s bangs down and side to side before finally running through them with her fingers. Yang watches her work, and she can’t help the warmth that blooms in her chest when Blake smiles. “Finished!” she declares.
Yang shakes out her head. “Thank you, baby,” she says. She reaches for her hand. “Really. That was really nice.” She pecks her cheek. “You’re really nice.”
“You’re rubbing off on me,” Blake says. Yang picks her up and stands. “Yang! What’re you-”
She carries her down the stairs and out the door, but she doesn’t leave before saying, “We’re headed out!” She lets the door slam shut behind her, and she drops Blake on Bumblebee. Blake looks up at her, eyes narrowed.
“What was that for?” she asks, crossing her arms.
“That was my thank you. Because I know you like being carried, even if you won’t admit it.”
Instead, Yang kisses her forehead, and Blake sighs. “Okay, take me to town,” Blake says.
“Helmet first,” Yang says, passing her a helmet. “We’re going for a real ride this time.”
Blake’s brows raise before they’re covered by her helmet. “What makes this a real ride and the last few not real rides?”
“I go fast, baby. Really, really fast.” She smiles and straddles her bike. “If you need me to slow down, just tap me twice, and I’ll slow down.”
“You better,” Blake says, getting on behind her and wrapping her arms around her. “But I don’t think I’ll need you too.”
Yang chuckles. “Famous last words,” she says, starting her engine. Blake’s arms tighten around her, and she smiles. “Hold on, baby.”
They take off, and Yang laughs as Blake’s grasp tightens. Her heart is beating so fast, and she loves it. She loves feeling the rumble of the engine beneath her, she loves feeling Blake’s arms around her, she loves the wind whipping at her, she loves it. She loves this.
She speeds up. Yang can’t go fast in Vale, not like she can in Patch. There’s no one around for ages in these parts, and it’s a twenty minute drive even for Yang into town, a half hour if she’s feeling slow.
Her blood is pumping, and her lungs are breathing in clean air. Riding in Patch was like nothing else. Riding with Blake in Patch, however, was an entirely new experience. Yang revels in the warmth of her girl pressed against her back, in her tight embrace, in her. She loves riding, and she wants Blake to love it too. She wants, she wants, she wants.
Too soon, she has to slow down as she approaches the center of town. She parks them in front of the grocery store, whipping off her helmet and shaking her hair out. “How was that?” she asks.
Blake’s grinning at her, and Yang’s heart soars. “That was nothing like riding in Vale,” she says, and Yang grins.
“You got that right!” She laughs. “We can’t do that on the way home, it’ll probably be getting dark by the time we set out, so slower. Still fun, but slower.”
Blake nods. Her golden eyes are glowing. “We need to do this more often.”
Yang reaches for her hand and brings her knuckles to her lips for her to kiss. “We will,” she promises. “We will. But for now, let’s explore.”
She locks up Bumblebee and pockets the key before taking Blake in her hands. “Come on, there’s a fudge shop, and a really old bookstore I think you’d love, and an antique store, which I know sounds lame but is actually really cool.”
“You had me at bookstore,” Blake says, and she yelps as Yang drags her down the street and practically pushes her into the store.
“Is that Yang Xiao Long? In my bookstore?” Calverra asks, and Yang rolls her eyes. “I didn’t know you could read.”
“Maria, this is my girlfriend, Blake. Blake, this is Maria, the pain in my ass.”
Maria cackles, hopping down from behind the counter. “You found a girlfriend? Are you bribing her?”
“Only with kisses,” Blake says coolly, and Maria smiles.
“I like her. It’s nice to meet you, dearie. I’m just surprised Yang here would ever find a suitable girl.”
“Maria,” she warns, but Maria waves her off.
“Yes, yes, Blake is very pretty, but does she know her stuff?” Maria comes out from behind the counter and peers up at Blake. “Tell me, Blake, how does Yang take her coffee?”
“She drinks it black normally, but she likes it with honey and creamer on the weekends.”
Maria hmphs. “And what is her least favorite thing to bake?”
“Chocolate chip cookies.”
“Because she’s made them too much.” Blake’s eyes slide to her, and she softens her voice. “And because they remind her too much of the past.”
Maria nods, unperturbed. “And-”
“I think that’s enough questions about me, why don’t you ask Blake about her?” Yang cuts in.
“But I was having fun!” Maria’s eyes roll. “Fine. Blake, why don’t you leave Yang for someone less emotionally volatile and with all four functioning limbs?”
“Brothers above,” Yang swears, rubbing her forehead. “I just wanted to show her the books, Maria, not have her get grilled like this!”
“You should have known, Blondie.” Maria cackles.
Yang sighs. “I should have.” She pulls Blake deeper into the shop, but Blake stands her ground. “Blake?”
“Yang is my world. And she’s passionate, yes, but she’s not volatile, and she’s well beyond functioning. Yang is amazing, and you can pry into our relationship however much you want, but Yang deserves better than this, than you, than me.” Blake straightens her shoulders. “So to even suggest that there’s someone out there better than Yang Xiao Long is disgusting. Because there’s no one out there that’s kinder or better than her. No one.”
Maria’s face freezes before breaking into a grin. “Ooh, I really like her!” she says, clapping. “You have my blessing, dearies.”
Blake’s hand tenses in hers.
“That was your way of figuring out if she deserved your blessing?” Yang snaps.
Maria shrugs. “You don’t have the best judgement, Yang, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. And I needed to make sure that she cared about you. Your father has probably been nothing but welcoming and kind, and someone needs to spark fear in your girlfriend.”
“Did you do this to Ruby and Penny tomorrow?”
“Of course not, Ruby has her head set on her shoulders.”
“Are you saying I don’t?”
“I’m saying that you don’t.”
Yang twitches. “If you ever harass Blake like that again, I won’t bake you cookies anymore. You know the kind.”
Maria rolls her eyes and flaps her hands. “You need better threats than that, dearie. But I promise, it was just for the first meeting.” Maria turns to Blake and holds out her hand. “It really is lovely to meet you. Tai keeps saying how Yang talks non-stop about her girlfriend, and I’m glad that you exceed my expectations.”
“If you ever harass Yang like that again, I will eat all the cookies she bakes you.”
Maria smiles. “You picked a good one! I really, really like her.”
Yang sighs. “It’s good to see you too, Maria.”
“Of course it is! I’m a joy to be around.” Maria waves them off. “Now, go look around. Shoo, shoo! I have shipment to deal with.”
Yang pulls Blake into the stacks. “I am so sorry about her, I should have known better, she’s small but she’s really sharp, I am so-”
Blake is kissing her before she can finish. Yang’s eyes widen, and she closes them before kissing her back. Blake’s hands hold her hips and pulls her close, and Yang wraps her hands around Blake’s face.
“What’s this for?” she asks as they break off. “Not that I’m not happy, because believe me, that was a very nice surprise, but I was expecting you to want to murder me.”
“I want to murder her.”
Yang softens. “Don’t. She’s just protective, and that’s just how she shows it.” She raises her voice. “She’s a bitch, but she’s worth it.”
“Fuck you, Xiao Long!”
Still, Blake’s eyes are studying her. “Are you okay?” she asks.
Yang nods. “Are you?”
“I don’t like how she talked about you.”
“That’s just how we talk to each other. She’s a piece of shit, I’m a piece of shit, it works.”
Blake’s eyes soften. “No, you’re not. Don’t say you are.” Blake reaches behind Yang’s shoulder and tangles her fingers in her hair. “If you’re okay, then I’m okay.”
“And I’m fine. Maria’s got a mean bark, but she’s got no bite.”
“Fuck you, Xiao Long!”
She sighs. “Maria, I thought you had shipment!”
“Mind your own business!”
“Brothers above, Maria, take your own advice!” Yang sighs, looking back at Blake. “Did you really mean that?” she asks, biting her lip.
Blake nods. “Every word. There’s no one better out there than you.”
They head back to the house and bring home dinner from their favorite take out place. “How were you going to eat our dinners when we’re the ones picking it up?” Yang asks as she enters the house. “And, Dad, seriously, you need to lock your door.”
“We’re in the kitchen!” he calls cheerfully, and Yang just sighs.
“Table set?” she asks, shoving off her shoes.
“Yup!” Ruby says.
Yang brings the food into the kitchen and sets it down on the counter, only for the bag to be swarmed immediately. “Hungry?” she asks, stepping back. Blake already had their dishes in her hands, and Yang sits down next to her at the table.
“Starving!” Ruby says, plopping down across from her.
They all dig in, and the only sounds are the slurping of their food and the scrapping of utensils against their containers. Blake’s foot hooks hers, and they swing together as they eat their dinner.
“How was your day?” Penny asks.
“Blake met Maria.”
Taiyang chokes. “How’d that go?”
“How do you think?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Blake, how do you feel?” Taiyang asks.
Blake shrugs. “She’s interesting,” she says. “But she likes me.”
“Maria admitted to liking someone?” Ruby gasps.
“Yeah, it was shocking.” Yang rolls her eyes. “She’s still a pain in the ass, though.” Blake coughs next to her, but Yang thinks it’s to hide a laugh.
“I think she’s sweet!” Ruby says.
“Yeah, because she likes you.”
“She likes you too!”
“Yeah, but she prefers you.”
“She likes you both equally but different,” Taiyang says. “And I’m glad that she likes you, Blake. She’s a good judge of character.”
Yang raises her brow. “Were you aware of her tests?” she asks.
Taiyang sighs. “Did she really do that?”
“Yeah, she did. And I was ready to kill her. Kind of still am.”
“You’re always ready to kill her,” Ruby points out.
Yang shrugs. “She makes Blake uncomfortable one more time, I’m done baking her cookies.”
Ruby gasps. “That’s serious.”
“I’m not making Blake put up with her shit,” she says simply.
“Language!” Penny says, her brow creased. “No bad words at the dinner table!”
Yang nods. “Sorry, Penny.”
“It’s alright!” Penny chirps. “You can use your naughty words after dinner.”
Yang can’t hold back her laugh, and Blake joins her. Ruby glares at her, but soon she’s laughing too, and then they’re all laughing. Yang smiles, and it feels good. This feels good. Her heart feels light, and she doesn’t feel the same tension in her chest anymore.
“How was your guys’ day?” Blake asks finally.
Penny’s eyes light up. “Oh, it was wonderful! We gardened, and we went for a walk on the cliffs, and we made lunch, and then we ate lunch, and then we played board games! Taiyang said we can play more after dinner, if you two are up for it!”
“I think we’ll be up for it,” Blake says. Yang nods.
“Yeah, sounds like a good time,” she says. “Games before or after dessert?”
“Why not both?” Ruby says. “Play some Sorry? Or Twister?”
“No Twister, never again,” Yang says. “And there’s five of us. Blake and I can be a team for Sorry, though.”
“Nah, I’ll probably sit Sorry out,” Taiyang says.
“Well, I know a game we all can play,” Blake says mischievously. Yang groans.
“She’ll kill us all,” she says, slumping down to the table. Blake pats her shoulder.
“What game?” Ruby asks.
“Boggle,” she groans out at the same time as Blake. “Blake is ridiculously good at this stupid game, and she kicks my butt every time we play.”
“You’ve gotten better,” Blake soothes.
“We should play,” Yang says. “Maybe together we can beat her.”
“That’s not how the game works, but, sure, let’s see if one of you can beat me,” Blake says, and Yang loves the competitive edge in her voice. She doesn’t show it often, but it’s there, and Yang loves bringing it out.
“So that’s settled!” Ruby says. “We’ll play Boggle, and then we’ll have dessert, and then we’ll play more games, and then we’ll go to bed!”
“Sounds good to me, kids,” Taiyang says.
They clean up dinner, and Blake sets them up in the living room. “Why did you bring it?” Yang asks, and Blake shrugs.
“I was hoping we would play,” she says, and her eyes glint in the light.
“You planned this,” she accuses.
Blake shrugs. “Guilty.” She leans in to kiss Yang’s cheek. “What’re you gonna do about it?”
Yang bites back a smile and pulls Blake down next to her as she sits. After Blake explains the rules, during which Yang pays absolutely no attention and simply focuses on her girl’s face, Taiyang hands out paper and pencils.
“Ready, set, go!”
Yang searches the dice, but by the time she finds one, she can see that Blake already has three. She sighs, blowing her hair out of her face. She looks up to see Ruby and Penny and Taiyang all deep in concentration, their pens scratching the paper. She tries to focus on the dice, but it’s so much more interesting to watch everyone else.
“Stop cheating!” Ruby hisses, and Yang just shrugs.
“I’m not cheating.”
“Well, then, focus on your own paper!”
“Time!” Penny calls. “How many words does everyone have? I have twelve.”
“Eleven,” Ruby says.
“Eight,” Yang says.
“Thirteen,” Taiyang says.
Blake smirks next to her, although she does try to hide it. “Twenty one.”
“Why are you like this?” Yang groans.
They cross off repeat words, and, to no one’s surprise, Blake is the winner. They play a few more rounds, and Blake wins all of them. Penny almost wins a few times, but Blake clears the board.
“Dessert?” Yang suggests.
“Please, have mercy on us,” Ruby says, standing up. “What did you bake, Dad?”
They all head into the kitchen, and Taiyang takes the cake out of the fridge. Blake reaches for her hand, and Yang squeezes. “Penny, Blake, do you drink?” Taiyang asks. “I have a sweet white wine.”
“A small glass would be nice,” Penny says, and Blake nods.
“The same for me, please.”
Taiyang pours five glasses of wine and serves the tiramisu, and he gives Blake and Penny huge pieces. He hands out the glasses, and Yang takes hers in her right hand. Her left is shaking ever so slightly, but Blake is holding it tight.
“To Mom,” he says, raising his glass high.
“To Mom,” they echo, and they all clink glasses. Yang takes a deep drink, reveling in the sweetness of wine.
There’s a moment of silence as they drink. The silence makes her skin itch, and Yang clears her throat. She dips her fork into her tiramisu and raises her fork to Blake’s lips. Blake looks at her before biting the cake off her fork. Blake’s eyes never leave Yang’s, and her hand tightens around hers.
“It’s delicious, Taiyang,” Blake says, turning back to the rest of the table. “Absolutely delicious.”
“It is indeed!” Penny says.
“Seriously, Dad, some of your best work!” Ruby gushes, shoveling another bite into her mouth.
Yang nods, finally taking a forkful into her own mouth. “Really good, Dad.”
“Thanks, girls,” Taiyang says, but his shoulders are slumped.
They finish dessert largely in silence. Blake’s hand never leaves hers, and Yang is glad for it. Her girl is stabilizing, and she needs some stability right now.
“I think I’m gonna head to bed. And leave the dishes, I’ll deal with them in the morning,” Taiyang says, standing.
“Are you sure, Dad?” Yang asks, brows knitting together.
He nods. “I’m sure. You kids have fun.” She and Ruby exchange a look. “I’m fine. Just tired. Don’t stay up too late, now,” he warns.
“Okay,” Yang interrupts. “See you in the morning.”
Taiyang nods, kissing each of them goodnight before heading to his room. She can feel Ruby looking at her, but Yang just finishes her tiramisu. “Do we want to play more games?” she asks as lightly as she can manage.
“I think we should head to bed,” Ruby says, yawning. “I got the dishes. You guys head upstairs.”
“No, let us help,” Blake protests, but Ruby shakes her head.
“Yang did breakfast and you both picked up dinner. I got the dishes.”
“No, we got the dishes,” Penny says.
“Penny, I’m not letting you do the dishes, you’re a guest.”
“Then I’ll just dry them!”
“Are you sure you don’t need help?” Yang asks.
Ruby nods. “I’m sure.” Her eyes soften. “You two head to bed. We’ll see you in the morning.”
Yang allows Blake to lead her out of the kitchen and up the stairs. They get into their pjs without much fanfare, and before she knows it she’s curled up in Blake’s arms and under the covers.
“Do you need anything?” Blake asks against her ear.
“No, just you.” She snuggles deeper into Blake’s embrace. “Today was good.”
She nods. “It was.” Yang can feel Blake’s breath on the back of her neck through her hair.
“You’re so strong, Yang.”
Yang lets her eyes close. “You make it easy.”
Warning: brief violence
“Why are we heading to the beach?” Blake asks as they trod down the old stone path. “It’s basically freezing out, that water is bound to be ice.”
“Don’t worry, we’re not skinny dipping.” Yang pauses. “This time.” She smiles and laughs as Blake’s brow creases. “But it’s pretty, and it’ll be a nice walk.”
Yang pulls Blake along by her hand, and they walk down the cliffside through the well-worn path. Yang can’t count the hundreds of times she’s run up and down the path chasing Ruby, carrying beach gear and soaked towels. But in late winter, they’re covered in jackets and boots, and there will be no swimming.
“Okay, you’re not wrong,” Blake admits as they reach the rocky beach. “It is beautiful, even if the sky isn’t cooperating.”
Yang squeezes her hand, and they start walking along the beach. She pulls them close to the shoreline, close enough to just escape the spray of the waves. “Have you liked it here?” she asks, swinging their hands between them.
“It’s beautiful. Your dad is so kind, and the house is lovely. It must’ve been a great place to grow up.”
Yang nods. “It was,” she says, and it catches her off-guard with how wistful she is. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the city, I love the bakery, but I always thought I would retire here, or something. I don’t think I can live in the city forever.”
“Me neither,” Blake admits. “And if you can come home to some place like this, why wouldn’t you?”
There’s a lump in her throat, and she forces herself to swallow the words it brings. “Well, you’ll always be welcome, wherever I live,” she says lightly. “And we can always visit here again. You should see this place in summer, it’s absolutely beautiful. The beach is actually tolerable for swimming!”
Blake laughs. “That sounds nice.” She squeezes Yang’s hand. “But that means you’ll have to come to Menagerie some time. Meet my parents, see where I grew up.” Her voice is light, but Yang can hear the tension in it, the nerves.
“That would be really nice, baby,” she says. “You guys probably have a better beach than this, but yours are all sand, right?”
“Yeah, and sand gets everything,” Blake says. “Absolutely awful. Have you ever tried getting sand out of fur? It’s impossible!” Her ears flatten against her head, and Yang kisses the side of her temple.
“Well, next time I’ll help you,” she says. She rocks her head back and forth between her shoulders. “Hey, Blake?”
“We go home tomorrow.”
Blake stills in her hand, but they keep walking. “I know,” she says softly.
“Are you ready?”
A pause. “I don’t know.”
Yang nods. “That’s okay,” she says. “That’s okay. But are you gonna be okay?” She swallows. “We can stay here another week if you need, if you want. I don’t mind.”
Blake shakes her head. “No, it’ll be better to rip the band-aid off, won’t it?” She sighs. “I’m just scared. I feel safe out here. And I felt safe in the city, I feel safe with you, but he just comes in and ruins it. He ruins everything.”
Yang squeezes her hand. “No, he doesn’t. Sure, he makes it harder, but he can’t ruin this. He can’t ruin us .”
“I’m scared he will. I’m scared he’s going to hurt you.”
“I will be fine. There’s only so much he can do, and Ironwood said that the restraining order went through quickly. He also said that he’s gone nowhere near the bookstore or the bakery since we’ve been gone.” She stops them in the sand and tilts Blake’s chin up to look her in the eyes. “Hey. We’re gonna be okay.”
Blake nods. “I want to believe that.”
“I know. And it’s okay if you don’t. But let me help you believe that.” She kisses her forehead. “We’re in this together.”
“We’re in this together,” Blake repeats.
They get back to Yang’s apartment late, later than they had planned, but they had spent too long at a diner on the way home. Yang can’t say she regrets it. Diner food makes her happy, and she kept stealing Blake’s fries. It was a good night, but all she wants to do now is collapse into bed with her girl and sleep until noon.
Blake is right behind her, leaning on her shoulder as Yang fumbles with the keys. Blake yawns as Yang opens the door. They strip off their jackets and shoes, and Blake takes the bags before Yang can argue.
“You go start tea. I’ll put these away.”
Yang sighs, but she’s too tired to argue. She kisses her girl’s temple and heads into the kitchen. She fills the kettle with water and sets the stove on, humming as she does. The floor creaks behind her, and she smiles as she turns.
Before she’s fully turned around, before she can take it in, there’s a burning in her side, and there’s a scream. She thinks she might be screaming, but she’s not sure. Yang looks down, and there’s something sticking out of her hip.
There’s something inside her.
Yang’s eyes flash up, and she feels all the blood drain out of her face as she makes eye contact with baby blues. “I told you to get away from my girl,” Adam hisses. He whips the blade out of her, and it’s red. It’s so red.
She thinks she screams again. Yang tries to move for him, tries to grab something, grab him, anything, but she falls to her knees. Her hip is pulsing, and she’s covered in hot wetness. She doesn’t look down, she doesn’t look down.
“Fuck you,” she hisses. Adam’s eyes narrow.
She’s not sure how it happened, but now she’s on the floor, and her head is screaming. “Stubborn to the end, huh?” he croons above her, flipping the knife in his hand. “I could’ve made this painless, Blondie. I could’ve been merciful.” He crouches down, and she spits in his left eye. He winces, and then he backhands her. “I told you. Why didn’t you listen?”
She stares at him. Her breath is labored. “I said,” she starts, staring him in the eyes, “BLAKE, RUN!” The words tear out of her, and it hurts worse than her head, than her hip. Adam moves to shove his hand over her mouth, but she bites him, and he staggers back, cradling his hand. “BLAKE, RUN, BLAKE, CALL THE POLICE, RUN, RUN, RUN!” She doesn’t stop yelling for her girl to run until he stabs her again in the same hip, and this time what comes out is a wordless scream.
He leaves the knife in her this time. Adam cocks his brow as he stands. “You’ll be dead to her soon,” he sneers. “And, well, to everyone else.”
His hands go around her throat. She can’t breathe, and she chokes on nothing. Her hands are pulling and yanking at his, but he’s stronger. Instead, her right hand shoots up and digs into his right eye and scratches downwards onto his cheek. He howls, but he lets go.
Yang tries to stand and get on her feet, but the pain burns, and she crumples back down to the ground. She can only watch as he staggers backwards, holding his hands over his eye. There’s blood running over his fingers.
“You bitch !” he screams, and then he crumples to the ground. Blake stands behind him, a fire extinguisher in her hands. Her girl’s face is pale, but she brings it down on his chest, and Yang can hear an audible crack . Blake drops it on him, and she runs over to Yang.
“Yang?” she says, and there’s tears in her eyes.
“Hey, baby,” she says. Her hands are over hip, surrounding the blade of the knife still in her flesh. It’s hot and wet and red. She doesn’t look down, but she can see the red everywhere. She’s starting to feel a little lightheaded. Yang never liked blood.
Blake cups her face in her hands, cradles her body. “The police are on their way, baby, just hang on, hang,” she says. There’s a tremble in her body, and Yang wishes she could hold her and still it.
She swallows. Yang blinks, but her blinks are taking a long time. It’s getting harder and harder to keep her eyes open. Her entire hip is radiating fire, and she can’t focus on anything else except the pain.
Yang stares into Blake’s golden eyes. “I love you,” she breathes, and she forces a small smile. One last one, just for Blake.
The world goes black.
The first thing she’s aware of is the pain.
The second is that she doesn’t know where she is or how she got there.
The third is Blake.
The fourth is that she can’t speak.
The fifth is the thirst.
Yang’s eyes flutter open. They feel sticky, like they were glued shut. She can’t really see, everything is blurry, but she can hear, and there’s so much noise. So much noise.
“Yang, can you hear us?” a voice asks, and she tries to nod. “Good, good. Can you talk?” She shakes her head. “Okay. Do you want some water?” She nods. “On the rocks?”
Yang opens her mouth to spit out her usual cocky answer of Why would anyone put rocks in water , but her voice isn’t working, and all she can do is shake her head. Someone presses a cup to her lips, and she greedily sucks it down.
“More,” she rasps when the cup is pulled away. “Please.”
It takes three cups for her throat to stop feeling so dry, and her vision is still blurry but she can see machines and sterile whiteness and a friendly face.
“ Blake ,” she sobs, trying to get up and move, but her limbs are heavy. So very heavy, and the small tremor she manages sends avalanches of pain through her system. Yang blinks rapidly, and there are tears rolling down her cheeks. “Blake, Blake, Blake-”
“We need a sedative!” another voice calls, and Yang shakes her head.
“Blake, Blake, where’s Blake-”
And again, the world goes dark.
The next time she wakes up, the pain is somehow worse. She’s positioned somewhat upright in bed. There’s blankets and pillows and wires and machines all around her. Her gaze first focuses on her hand, her left hand. Her right is nowhere to be found, but that’s a problem for later.
Yang studies her remaining hand, and she looks at the IVs in her. They look like shots. She hates needles. She expects fear, she expects panic, but she doesn’t feel anything. Everything is so heavy, and she’s so tired, and she’s in so much pain.
She tries to think, but the pain stops all thoughts. All she can think about is the burning in her, the way her flesh feels like it’s trying to cleave itself in two, the way her skin screams. Everything hurts. Her head feels packed with cotton, and her mouth is dry. Her fingers twitch.
“Yang?” Ruby asks, appearing from the corner of her eye. Her sister’s face is red and teary, but she smiles as she sees Yang. “You’re awake! Oh, you’re awake.” She grabs Yang’s hand, but she doesn’t squeeze. She just holds it, running her fingers over Yang’s.
At least she can speak this time.
“Am I gonna die?” she asks. It feels like she is. But, then again, she should know better. Pain means she’s still living. Death is when the pain stops.
Ruby shakes her head, and her face crumples as tears start anew over her sister’s cheeks. “You’re gonna be okay,” she says, but her voice is wobbling. “You’re gonna be okay.”
Yang nods, but she must shift somehow, because the motion sends pain throughout every nerve. She closes her eyes. “Where’s Blake?” she rasps. She can feel a tremor in her chest, and the words threaten to break into a sob. “Is she okay?”
Ruby nods rapidly. “Blake is fine. She should be here soon, I sent her home last night, she needed to sleep in her own bed.”
The relief that breaks over her is enough to bring tears to her eyes, but she swallows them back. Blake isn’t in the hospital. Blake is fine. Blake will be here soon. It’s fine. Blake is fine, and that means Yang will be fine.
“How long-” Yang clears her throat. “How long have I been here?”
Ruby’s smile flickers. “This is your third day in the hospital. You’ve been in and out of it for a while, but you seem a lot more… present, now. How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been stabbed,” she says, but the joke falls flat. She shifts, and she bites her lip to keep herself from gasping at the pain that shoots up her side.
“The doctor should be in soon,” Ruby says, and Yang’s eyes dart up to meet hers.
“How long am I gonna be here?” she asks.
Ruby falters. “I don’t know,” she admits. “At least a week.”
Yang nods, but she’s already feeling distant. “I’m really tired, Ruby,” she mumbles, and she leans back into her pillows. “Where’s my arm?” she asks. “I want my arm.”
“Dr. Polendina took it in for cleaning. It was, uh, pretty covered,” Ruby explains. “He said he should get it back to you within the next day or so.”
“I want my arm,” she says, but her eyes are already fluttering closed. Dammit, she wants to stay awake, but something is pulling her under, and she can’t resist the painless sleep of dreams taunting her. “I love you, Ruby.”
“Yang?” Ruby’s voice breaks, and it’s the last thing she hears before she goes under again.
Yang wakes up, and she’s in a different room. She tries to sit up further, but the pain keeps her from moving. She grits her teeth, flopping back against the mattress. The flames eat around her hip. She can hardly breathe, the pain is so bad. It’s gotten better, but not by much.
The hospital room is dark, but she can still see everything. The lights aren’t off, just dulled, and her machines provide enough light for her to see them on her covers. Her arm is still gone. She flexes her hand, curling her nails into her palms as another wave of pain hits. Fuck .
Ruby is on the chair next to her bed, and she can hear Taiyang’s voice coming down the hall. Yang stares at her sister, curled up like a kitten. There’s drool coming out of her mouth.
Yang closes her eyes, and she lets sleep take her once more.
“Alright, Yang, we’re gonna try to take some steps today, okay?” one of the nurses, she can’t remember which, says.
“Do I have to?” she asks. Panic is still dulled, but she can feel it twisting underneath her skin now.
“It’ll be good for you. And you only have to walk to this chair,” the nurse promises. Indeed, the chair is only a few steps away. But a few steps has never seemed farther. Yang grunts as the nurse helps her into a sitting up position, and the new angle pulls on her hip differently.
“Lean on me for support, okay?” the nurse says once more, and Yang nods. “Three, two, one, let’s stand!” Yang’s knees buckle, but the nurse helps hold her upright. “You’re doing great, Yang,” she says.
Yang turns her head, clenching her eyes as her sock-covered feet fumble forwards. The pain is fresh now, and she can feel the skin pulling and itching and tearing as she moves. “You don’t have to go so fast,” the nurse says, but Yang is sitting in the chair. Her hand is shaking along with the rest of her.
“Okay, do you need a pillow?” the nurse asks.
Yang shakes her head. “No,” she says, gritting her teeth. She can do this. She can do this.
“We’re gonna try to have you sit up for a half hour today. Sound good?”
“Would it matter if it doesn’t?” she bites before guilt floods her system. “I’m sorry. You don’t deserve that.”
The nurse just shrugs. “You’re fine. You should hear some of the things people say to nurses.”
“You should hear some of the things people say to bakers,” she tries, and the nurse pities her by laughing.
“I can imagine. Now, I’m going to go check on some other patients. Your sister just left to go find one of your friends, and your father and uncle are getting food. They should all be back soon.”
Yang’s stomach turns, but she nods. “Thank you.”
The nurse smiles, and then she’s gone.
She curls her hands under the arms of the chair, digging her nails into the plush material. She can do this. She can do this. She can do this.
Yang is all too aware of how stiffly she’s sitting, of the burning flames licking at every nerve. She tries leaning deeper into the pillow the nurse had put behind the chair, but that pulls at her wound, and she forces herself to sit back up. It’s just a half hour. She can do this. She can do this. She can do this.
The clock has to be wrong. More than five minutes must’ve passed. She’s shaking from the pain, and she’s biting her lips so hard, she can taste blood.
Ruby barrels into the room with a smile on her face. “Yang!” she yelps, and Yang forces a smile.
“Hey, Ruby,” she says, slowly lifting an arm to wave.
Her sister comes to crouch by her. “Dr. Polendina said that your arm should be ready later today!” she chirps, and Yang nods.
“And what day is today?” she asks.
Ruby’s face flickers. “It’s Tuesday,” she says gently. “You keep asking everyone what day it is. Got a hot date?” she jokes, but Yang can hear the quiver in her voice.
“Oh, yeah. You know me. Hot dates a plenty.” It hits her out of nowhere. “The bakery, who’s running the bakery-”
“The bakery is fine,” Ruby soothes, placing her hands on top of Yang’s. “I closed it for the next two weeks. Weiss and I are handling the orders that were placed, and Dad is helping out when he’s not here, but we’re fine. It’s fine.” She taps her fingers against the back of Yang’s hand. “Really. Don’t worry about it.”
Yang nods. “Okay.” She can hardly think past the pain, but it loosens some of the tension from her shoulders. She doesn’t have to stress about the bakery. She feels bad about not thinking about it, but if there’s ever a time to not stress about it, it’s when she’s in the fucking hospital.
“How are you feeling?” Ruby asks, biting her lip.
“Awake. In pain.” She sighs. “Have you gone home since I’ve been here?”
“Yes. Well, I left when Dad got here to take a shower, and then I left to bake with Weiss, and then I took another shower, and then I’ve been here. But I’ll head home tonight.” Ruby smiles at her. “Don’t worry about me.”
“It’s my job to worry,” she says. The pain makes her dig her tongue into her canines. “Who’s here?”
“Dad and Uncle Qrow are grabbing breakfast. Weiss dropped off some cupcakes.”
Yang nods. “That’s kind of her.” Nevermind that food is literally the last thing on her mind. She’s not sure if she has the stomach for it right now. She hasn’t been hungry. That’s got to be from the IV or the pain or the drugs.
“Blake left with Weiss,” Ruby explains before she has to ask. “She needed to go home and rest.”
“Thanks, Ruby.” Her throat bobs. “And she’s okay?”
“She’s okay.” But Ruby isn’t looking at her.
Her heart skips a beat. “What’s wrong?”
“She’s fine. She’s just worried about you.”
Yang nods. She winces as the pain sparks through her again, and Ruby draws her hands back. “I’m fine,” she grits out. Her mouth tastes metallic.
“You’re healing,” Ruby protests.
Ruby sighs. “Do you need anything?” she asks. “We brought some blankets from your apartment.”
Her apartment. Red flashes behind her eyes, and she closes them. “Thanks, Ruby.” She tries to relax, but she can’t. Her posture is so stiff, she can’t move. Her eyes dart to the clock. Halfway there. She can do this.
There’s a lump in her throat. “How is the apartment?” she forces herself to ask.
“We cleaned it,” Ruby says quietly. “You’re good to go back home. If that’s what you want.”
Brothers, she’s going to have to go back home, isn’t she? It’s a good thing her lease is almost up. Her landlord probably won’t give her the security deposit back, though. He’ll find a speck of blood somewhere.
“Thanks, Ruby.” She closes her eyes. “I’m tired.” Her voice cracks.
Ruby shifts at her feet. “I know, Yang. I know.” Her fingers gently run over Yang’s own. “Just a little longer. You’re doing great.”
“I’m just sitting here.” Her voice is bitter. “I can’t even sit up.”
“Be patient with yourself. Your body needs rest.”
She nods. “I hate this.”
“I know. I know.”
“I can’t even stand up by myself.”
“You need to heal, Yang. You just underwent a really horrible experience.” Ruby’s voice is shaking. “You need to be patient. I know you have absolutely none of that, but you have to try. For me .”
Yang opens her eyes. She takes in her sister’s purple bags and sallow skin. She forces herself to relax as much as she can as she nods. The pain is burning up the back of her throat. “I’ll try,” she says, looking her in the eyes. “I’ll try. I promise, I will try.”
Trying doesn’t mean she’ll succeed. Trying doesn’t mean she won’t lose. Trying means shit.
But she will try. She’ll try for Ruby. She’ll be patient. Even if everything in her rejects the idea. Even if she wants to scream out of her skin. Even if she hates every piece of this. Even if the pain coats her tongue. Even if she loses her mind. She will try, and she will be patient.
Ruby sags against her, but she’s smiling. “I love you, Yang.”
“I know.” She cracks a smile. “I love you too.”
There is nothing as embarassing or frustrating as not being able to wipe her own ass.
Yang is pretty sure the TV never shuts off. Everytime she wakes up, it’s on. She knows there’s a remote somewhere, Ruby keeps offering to change the channel from whatever she’s watching, but Yang isn’t awake for long enough to bother to care.
She wakes up every couple minutes according to Ruby, but every time she wakes up, it feels like a whole day has passed. Whatever drugs they’re pumping into her system keep her in a dreamless sleep, and she can’t say she minds it. It’s a reprieve from the pain at least, even if she wakes up in confusion and even more pain. She hates the way the drugs make her feel like all of her emotions are smothered.
Yang doesn’t feel like herself. She’s not herself. She knows that. Sitting in a hospital bed isn’t her. This isn’t her body, this isn’t her brain. But it is, and she’s stuck in this painful flesh prison for the foreseeable future.
“We’re gonna change the bandage today, okay?” one of the doctors says.
Ruby said that they’ve changed it before, but she’s been asleep for it. Yang hasn’t seen it yet. She’s not sure she wants to.
They lower the mattress so she’s straight on her back. Yang stares at the ceiling as they raise her shirt and lower her pants. She closes her eyes as they start prying at the bandage. Their touch is soft, but it hurts like hell. She bites down as it comes off, and her hand clenches into a fist as her flesh tries to stick to it.
She doesn’t look. She doesn’t bother. She has plenty of time to see it, doesn’t she?
It’s a part of her now.
Yang keeps missing Blake, somehow. Ruby says she visits, says she’s there everyday, but somehow Yang is just never awake when she’s there. She sees her dad, she sees Uncle Qrow, she sees Ruby, hell, she even sees Weiss and Penny, but she doesn’t see Blake. When she’s awake for long enough to have thoughts not just about pain, she worries.
But she’s rarely awake for long enough.
“You should eat something,” Qrow says.
“I’m not hungry,” she says. She’s not. Between the drugs and the IV, she’s not hungry.
“You’re going to need to eat when you go home,” he points out.
“I’m not home yet.” It’s been a week. Just over a week, actually.
Qrow rubs his chin. “You don’t want any of this?” he asks, pointing at the tray in front of her. It’s chicken, carrots, and potatoes, and there’s empty cups of juice and water that she’s already sucked down. The drugs may have killed her hunger, but she’s thirsty as all get out.
She sighs. At least she has her arm back.
Yang tentatively reaches for her fork and spears three carrots. She brings it to her mouth and forces herself to chew and swallow before dropping the fork. It’s weird to eat. “Happy?”
Qrow sighs. “Better than nothing.”
“The cupcakes Weiss brought are going to go to waste.”
“Nah, we ate those days ago.”
She raises her brow. “You ate my cupcakes?”
“You’re not eating them.”
“You hate sugar.”
Qrow shrugs. “I’m sick of hospital food. Better sugar than that shit.”
Yang pushes her tray towards him. “You can eat this,” she offers. “It’s probably better than the cafeteria.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“If you’re sure.” Yang leans back in her bed. “Can you get me gummy bears?”
“You won’t eat this, but you’ll eat gummy bears?”
“I have a craving.”
He gets her gummy bears. She eats four.
“Fuck this.” She shakes her head. “I’m not getting in that.”
“Yang, you can’t walk to the car,” Taiyang says. He sounds tired. “Don’t you want to go home?”
She bites back a glare. The only reason they’re letting her go back to the apartment is because the police cleared it. She couldn’t spend two weeks in Ruby’s and Penny’s guestroom, she’d lose her mind. And getting to Patch would be too difficult, so she’s stuck in Vale. She might as well be stuck in her own home.
“I’m not getting in that,” she insists.
“Yang, please,” Ruby says.
She stares at the metal chair in front of her. “Please,” she begs, and she hates herself for her voice cracking. “I can walk, I can do this.” Don’t make me get in that .
“It’s safer for everyone if we wheel you out,” Qrow says.
A shiver runs through her, even though she’s not cold. Her hand is shaking. Yang sighs, and her shoulders crumple. “Fine.”
Ruby helps her sit up in bed, and Yang swings her legs over the side of the mattress. Her hip is aching, but she just grits her teeth. She can do this, dammit. She stands and sinks into the chair.
It’s just a chair. There’s no shame in needing it. There’s no shame in not being able to use her legs right now. There’s no shame.
But she’s Yang Xiao Long, she should be able to walk by herself, dammit. She should be able to do this. She’s on her feet baking for hours most days, and she runs with Blake, and she goes to the gym religiously. Her body shouldn’t be failing her like this.
Yang closes her eyes as they wheel her out. There’s a flutter in her chest, but she forces herself to smother it.
Yang must’ve fallen asleep in the car, because she wakes up, and she’s in her bed. Her bed. There’s no machines, there’s no dull lightness, there’s no sterility. Just her sunny duvet and soft fuzzy sheets and closed curtains. She stares at the window. It’s dark out.
Her throat is dry.
She rolls onto her side, wincing as she does. She pushes herself up with her arm, and she hates how her arm wobbles as she does. Her hip yelps in protest, but she’s sitting up right. Her feet touch the bottom of the floor, and she finds her slippers waiting for her. A half smile cracks open on her face, but it fades as she stands.
Yang takes a deep breath. She’s on her own two feet, and that counts for something.
She takes a step, and her knees buckle, but she’s still standing. Yang sucks in a breath, and then she takes another step. It’s more of a shuffle than anything, but she’s moving. Her chest is shaking as she moves, and she finally reaches the door.
Her hand grabs the knob, and she hates that she has to pause and take a breath before turning it. The door creaks open. She holds her breath as she shuffles out of the door. The lights in the living room are off, and she can hear Ruby snoring on her couch. She quietly walks past and into the kitchen.
It’s dark, but she knows where she’s going. She fumbles around in the cupboard for a glass, and she tips over one with a crack .
Red flashes behind her eyes, and Yang staggers backwards, running into the counter as she does. The sudden movement sparks the fire anew in her hip, and she barely holds in a scream. Her hand flies to her hip, and the pressure of her hand on her hip grounds her. She closes her eyes.
“Yang, what happened?” Ruby asks. Yang’s head shoots up as Ruby switches on the light.
“I just wanted some water,” she croaks.
Ruby’s eyes widen. “Yang, you’re bleeding.”
Yang looks down, and she wishes she hadn’t. The side of her hand is sliced open. Her stomach churns, and she crumples to the floor.
Ruby’s arms are around her, and she’s leaning into her sister’s chest and sobbing. She’s barely aware of the pain, but she’s all too aware of the blood starting to pool and stream down her hand. She flexes her fingers. The red sticky hotness makes her choke, and her breath is short.
“Yang?” Ruby asks, and her voice is shaky.
She takes a deep breath. “I think I need a bandage,” she says.
Ruby stands up. “Stay here,” she says.
Yang nods. She doesn’t think she could get up if she tried.
Ruby comes back with her First Aid kit, and she helps Yang sit on a chair before cleaning her up. Yang doesn’t look at her as she bandages her wound.
“I just wanted some water,” she repeats. Tears make her eyes run hot, and she clenches them shut. “I just wanted some fucking water!” She slams her metal hand into her thigh, and Ruby jumps. Tears pour over Yang’s cheeks. “I just wanted some water.”
“I know, Yang. I know.”
She wakes up, and the sun is peering in through the window. Normally, she would sit up and start her day. Normally, she would have already been up for hours. Normally, she wouldn’t be in pain like this, but this isn’t normal.
Yang stares at her left hand. The bandage loosened while she slept, and the blood soaked through a little. She looks away.
Her eyes close, and her throat tightens. “Ruby?” she calls.
The door opens, and her sister is at her side in seconds. “I was just about to wake you up!” Ruby says. “Do you need help getting up?”
Yang nods. “Figured we don’t want a repeat of last night,” she says as lightly as she can manage.
Ruby helps her sit upright. Yang clenches her jaw as she settles herself. “Do you want to stay in here today, or do you want to come out into the living room?”
“I can stay in here. Do you mind just helping me arrange some pillows so I can sit up?” she asks. She can’t lift or twist, according to her doctors.
Ruby plies her with pillows and blankets, and then she opens the windows. “Do you want your laptop? A book? Water?”
Yang shakes her head, then pauses. “Maybe some water, please?” she asks. She hates that she can’t move. She hates that it takes so much out of her. She hates this.
Ruby salutes her. “Right away!” And then she zips off.
Yang settles into the pillows, and then Ruby is back. She’s holding something in her hand, and she looks guiltily at Yang. “What now?” Yang groans.
Ruby holds out her hand. “You need to take these,” she says.
There’s five pills, two pale blue, a circular white, a pink and white, and a ovular yellow. Yang only recognizes the circular white and the ovular yellow as her meds, but she doesn’t bother fighting it. She swallows them dry, then takes the water from Ruby and swallows that.
“You know, you’re supposed to take the pills with water,” Ruby says.
“Water to swallow them.”
“I didn’t want to.”
Ruby sighs. “I’m gonna make some breakfast. Do you want pancakes?”
“Pancakes sound great.” Her shoulders sag. “Thanks, Ruby. Really.”
Her sister shrugs. “No prob, Bob.” Ruby hesitates. “Blake said she would try to drop by around noon. Do you want me to wake you up, or-”
“Wake me up when she gets here,” she says. “Please.” She’s been sleeping enough.
Ruby nods. “I figured,” she says. “She said she’s bringing lunch, too.”
Her stomach rumbles. “I can eat.”
“I’ll get right on the pancakes,” Ruby promises. “Call me if you need anything.” She leaves the door open, which she knows Yang hates, but she doesn’t bother protesting. If something goes wrong, then Ruby needs to hear her. But nothing will go wrong. She’ll be fine. Won’t she?
She sinks further into her pillows and looks out the window.
She’ll be fine.
Blake will be here soon. Her heart leaps. She’ll be here soon, and they’ll be able to talk. Talk about what, though?
Her thoughts are still murky, but it’s the clearest she’s felt in days. Her brain doesn’t want to cooperate. She can force it, force herself to think, and she needs to. She needs to figure out what to say to Blake, needs to figure out what her girl needs to hear. Her girl. Her baby.
Yang closes her eyes. She hopes that Ilia and Sun have been there for her. She hopes her girl hasn’t been alone. She knows Blake is bound to feel guilty. She knows that much.
It’s not her fault. Yang hasn’t been able to think much about the whole affair, hell, she can’t even call it what it was, but she knows that much. It wasn’t Blake’s fault. It was his. Her breath catches. It was Adam’s fault. He’s the one who hurt her. Not Blake. Blake would never, ever hurt her.
And all Yang wants right now is for her girl to hold her. She wants to see for herself that Blake is okay. She wants to feel the warmth of her embrace. She wants to wake up with Blake’s breath against the back of her next. She wants her girl with her.
She wants Blake with her.
Yang wakes up to hands on her shoulders, and she jolts awake. Her breath is short and ragged, and she tries to sit up, but hands hold her down. “Hey, it’s just me,” a familiar voice says, stroking her shoulders. “It’s just me.”
She focuses on Ruby’s face, and she nods. “Sorry, I- I just didn’t expect that,” she says, tongue thick. Her heart is racing, and Yang blinks the sleep from her eyes. Her brain feels mushy, and she’s aware of the pain once more, sharply cutting through the slush of her brain matter. “What’s happening?” she asks, and her mouth is dry.
Ruby holds out a glass of water, which she gratefully takes and downs half of before handing it back. “Blake’s here,” Ruby says, and Yang’s brain fog clears, just a little, just enough.
“Blake?” she repeats, distant.
Ruby nods, eyes soft. “Do you want to see her?” she asks. Her hands are still on Yang, and they’re gentle, barely there. She appreciates the constantness, the human touch. Her body still feels so sterile. She wants to shower in too hot water and have her skin feel like hers again.
She blinks back to herself. Blake. Blake . “Yes!” she says, too loudly. “Yes, I want to see her.” She needs to see her.
“Okay. I’ll send her in.” Ruby brushes her hair back out of her face. “Call me if you need anything, okay?”
“I will. Thanks, Ruby.” She hesitates, forcing a half smile onto her face. “Next time, don’t wake me up like that, okay? Please?” Her voice cracks, and she hates herself for it.
“I won’t,” she promises, and then she’s gone.
Yang adjusts the pillows behind her, ignoring the pain the twisting causes. She wants to sit up and look Blake in the eyes. She leans back into her pillow cocoon and pulls the blanket up over her. Her hand is shaking, and she hides it underneath the blankets. She’s breathing hard, and she takes another sip of water.
The door creaks open, and her heart stops. Blake .
Her girl closes the door behind her, and she stands at the other side of the room. They just look at each other. Yang takes her in. Her face is pale, and there’s bruise-like bags underneath her eyes. There’s the slightest pink in her cheeks. Her lips are wobbling, and Yang stills as tears start to pour over Blake’s cheeks.
“Get over here,” Yang says, patting the mattress. Her voice is thick, and she realizes her own eyes are hot with tears. “I need to see you up close.” Blake shuffles forward. “Sit on the bed. I’d get up, but Ruby would yell at me.” She tries for a smile, but Blake sniffles, and it breaks. “Come here, baby.” Blake tentatively sits on the mattress. Yang shifts forward and sits up, despite the pain in her side.
Panic flares in Blake’s eyes, and she reaches out her hands. “Don’t!” she says, sitting down. “Don’t hurt yourself!”
Yang smiles, gritting her teeth. “I’m fine,” she insists. “Besides, I need to sit up for a few hours today, anyways.” It’s weird to not be leaning against pillows, to feel nothing against her back, but she can’t get close enough to her girl. Yang reaches for Blake’s hand. “Hey,” she says softly.
“Hey.” Blake’s trying to smile, and the obvious effort squeezes Yang’s heart.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Yang’s voice breaks. She runs her fingers over Blake’s knuckles. “I’ve been so worried-” A sob breaks out of her chest, cutting off the rest of her sentence, and she clenches her eyes shut as tears start to pour down her face.
Blake’s hand reaches for her shoulder, rubbing gently. “I’ve missed you too,” Blake says, voice soft. “I was so scared.” Blake sniffles. “I was so scared.”
“I know, baby. I know.” There’s a tremor in her chest, and Yang leans forward, pressing her forehead to Blake’s. “I’ve missed you so much,” she repeats, closing her eyes. She can feel Blake’s breath on her cheeks, and the familiarity of it all soothes something she didn’t know was raw in her chest.
“I’m so sorry, Yang.”
Yang shakes her head, sitting up. “You have nothing to be sorry for,” she insists, squeezing Blake’s hand. “Absolutely nothing.”
Blake’s eyes are sparkling with tears. “I have so much to be sorry for,” she rasps. “If it wasn’t for me-”
“If it wasn’t for you, I would be dead,” Yang says simply. “You saved my life. Thank you .”
A sob breaks out of Blake’s lips. “You shouldn’t be thanking me,” she sobs. “You should be cursing me, hating me, you should hate me-”
“I could never hate you, baby.” She brushes Blake’s hair out of her face and cups her cheek. “I meant what I said, Blake.” Her voice is thick. “I love you.” Blake winces, but she keeps going. “I love you, and I know we’ve only known each other for a few months, but I’ve known for ages now, and I need you to know that. I love you, and you don’t have to say it back, but you need to know.” She brushes the tears off of Blake’s cheeks. “I could never hate you.”
“You should.” Blake’s lips are wobbling. “You should hate me.”
“Don’t say that,” she says. “This wasn’t your fault.”
Blake shakes her head. “This is all my fault,” she says. “If it wasn’t for me, Adam would’ve never hurt you.”
“But he would have hurt you,” she says. “And I would rather go through this again than let that happen.”
“Don’t say that.”
“I would.” She forces herself closer. “I would rather him hurt me than to ever lay a finger on you again.” She means it. “But this isn’t your fault, Blake. He made his choice, and it’s not your fault.”
“But if I had just listened-”
“To that abusive asshole, you would be in hell right now. And I could never forgive myself if you went back to him.”
“And I can’t forgive myself because you got hurt because of me!”
“It wasn’t your fault.” She leans her forehead against Blake’s. “It wasn’t your fault. What happened wasn’t your fault. You saved me.”
“I shouldn’t have had to save you!”
“But you did. You saved me from him.” She smiles. It’s a broken smile, but it’s still a smile. “You hit him with a fire extinguisher, and you saved me.”
“I put you in danger in the first place!”
She shrugs. “Maybe. Maybe not. But I chose you, Blake. I chose you, and I continue to choose you. Neither of us could have known he would have done this, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have given you up. Because you deserve better than him. And maybe you deserve better than me, but right now, I can be here for you, and I want to be here for you.”
Blake winces back like Yang struck her. She staggers back off the bed, and Yang can only watch. “Blake?”
“I shouldn’t have come,” she whispers hoarsely. Yang runs cold. “I knew I should’ve left, but I wanted to see you, I wanted to see you, and you were never awake, and I was being selfish, and I should’ve left. I shouldn’t have come.”
“Why not?” she asks.
“Because I can’t leave when you say things like that!”
“What do you mean, leave ?” Blake looks down. “Baby, talk to me ,” Yang pleads.
“I shouldn’t be here.”
“Where else should you be?”
“As far away from you as I can get.”
“Because I hurt you!” Blake’s head shoots up, and her eyes are wide. “I hurt you, and it’s my fault, even if you don’t blame me, I know it’s my fault. It’s my fault, and I hurt you, and I can’t forgive myself. I should get far away from you, and take all my problems with me.” Blake’s lip wobbles. “But I’m selfish, and I don’t want to go.” Her voice breaks, and it makes Yang’s heart shatter.
“I don’t want you to go!” Yang’s hand is shaking harder now. “Why would you leave?”
“Because I hurt you! I hurt you, and I can’t forgive myself.”
“I need you, Blake,” she begs. “I need you with me. What could make you think that I don’t need you?”
“You’re strong, Yang. But I’m just going to hurt you if I stay.”
“You’re going to hurt me more if you leave.” Her chest cleaves open. “Blake, you can’t- please don’t abandon this. Abandon us.” She takes a deep breath. “I love you. Why wouldn’t I want you here?”
“You think I want to leave?” Blake asks. Her voice is bitter. “But I have to. I can’t let you get hurt because of me again.”
“He’s going to prison. He can’t hurt either of us again.”
“But I’m nothing but trouble! I shouldn’t- I shouldn’t be burdening you with my issues.”
“Blake,” she says softly, “you’re not a burden. You’re nowhere near a burden.”
Blake’s lip trembles. “I won’t be. Not if I leave.”
“Don’t,” she begs. “Don’t leave this. Don’t leave me .” Her voice cracks. “I love you.” It’s a plea and a hope. “Nothing’s changed for me. I still care about you, and I want you in my life. Baby, I need you in my life.” Her head is spinning. “I can’t do this without you.”
“You can, Yang,” Blake says. “You’re strong. I’m just weighing you down.”
“You keep me standing!” Yang throws her legs over the side of the mattress as she rips the blanket off. She forces herself to her feet, her hip screaming and burning and shrieking as she does. “Say I don’t need you, which I do. I want you, Blake. I choose you.” Her chest is heaving. “Unless you don’t want me.”
Blake’s eyes widen. “Of course I want you, Yang! How can I not?”
“Then stay,” she pleads. “Stay because I want you, and you want me, and we can make this work. We already make this work.” Her lip wobbles. “I want you to stay. So stay for me.”
“I’m leaving for you.”
“No, you’re not.” Yang shakes her head. “You’re not. You don’t get to decide what’s best for me. I decide what’s best for me, and right now, I need you.” She steps forward, gritting her teeth as her hip roars. “I need you, Blake. I want you. I choose you. So choose me .”
Blake covers her face with her hands and sinks to her knees. Yang gets down on her knees beside her, rubbing her back. “Choose us, baby,” Yang says softly. “We’re gonna be okay, baby. We’re gonna be okay.” The words taste like a lie, but she ignores it. They’ll be okay. She just has to believe. They both do.
She runs her hands through Blake’s curls as she rubs her back. Yang’s crying too, and her chest is hiccuping. “We’re gonna be okay.” Yang cups Blake’s cheeks and forces Blake to look at her. “We’re gonna be okay.”
Yang brushes the tears from Blake’s face, and Blake does the same. A smile breaks out over Yang’s face, and a broken laugh leaves her chest. “I love you,” she says, because it’s all she can say. Blake flinches from the words, but Yang keeps her touch gentle. “I just need you to know that. And you don’t need to say it back, because I know you care about me, and that’s more than enough for me.” She keeps her hands soft on Blake’s face. “You’re more than enough for me. But I need you.”
She can feel the tears spilling over Blake’s cheeks, and she brushes them away with her fingers. “I don’t deserve you,” Blake whispers.
Yang shakes her head. “You do. You deserve me, and every good thing in this world. I love you, and I’m yours.”
“And I’m yours,” Blake says, hiccuping as she does.
“So you’ll stay?” Hope burns in her chest.
Blake nods. “I won’t go anywhere,” she croaks.
Yang throws her arms around her, holding her tight. “I love you,” she breathes. “So believe me, Blake. Believe me when I say this was not your fault. Believe me when I say I love you, that I want you, that you are worth it, because you are, and I do, and I need to know that you’re okay.” Her voice cracks. “I need to know you’re okay, and if you’re not, then I need to talk to me, or Ilia, or Sun, or someone.”
They break apart, but Yang’s hands are on Blake’s face, and Blake presses her lips against Yang’s palm. “I will be fine. I will.” Blake smiles, and there’s still tears caught in her eyelashes, but she is smiling.
“We need to talk about all of this,” Yang says.
“Not now, baby. Not now. Right now, you need to lay down.” Blake helps Yang get up and get back into bed. Her hip is screaming, and she doesn’t protest when Blake tucks her in. “Right now, we need to focus on you.” Yang shakes her head, but Blake shushes her. “I need to know what’s going on in your head. I need to know how you’re feeling just as much as you need to know how I am.” Blake squeezes her hand. “I want to know. So let me in. Let me be here for you.”
Her preprogrammed words freeze in her throat. She knows what she should say. She knows what Blake needs to hear, but it’s not what she wants to hear. Her girl wants the truth. And maybe Yang should give it to her.
Yang sags. “I don’t know,” she admits. “I don’t know.” Tears blur her vision once more, and she sucks in a breath. “I don’t know how I am.” She just knows that she wants Blake, and that’s it.
“That’s okay,” Blake soothes, and her hands are gently wiping away the tears as they fall. “That’s okay, baby.” One of her hands moves to the back of Yang’s neck and tangles in her hair. Yang sighs at the familiar feeling. “Have you thought about reaching out to your old therapist?”
“I’ve barely been conscious,” she says. “But that’s a good idea. A really, really good idea.”
Blake smiles at her, and Yang feels whole.
“How are you doing today, Yang?” Dr. Glynda Goodwitch asks, leaning back in her chair.
Yang stretches her legs on the couch, leaning back into the plushness. Her hip aches against the motion, but she grits her teeth and moves through the pain. “I’ve been better,” she admits.
Glynda nods. “Would you like some tea?” She gestures towards the teapot and cups on the table. “It’s Earl Gray.”
“That would be nice,” she says. She knows by now that Glynda likes to pour, so she watches as she does, the steaming liquid neatly pouring into the cup. “Two sugars, please.”
Glynda raises her brow, plunking the cubes in and stirring. “I’d almost forgotten your sweet tooth.”
“I run a bakery, Glynda. It’s basically part of the job,” she says. “Oh, and Ruby made some rolls for you.” She hands over the bright yellow box with Patchwork’s sticker on it. It aches to lean forward, but she does it anyway. “She tried to make croissants, but you know how she is with lamination.”
Glynda accepts the box and puts it on her desk. “Thank you, Yang. That’s very kind of you and Ruby.” She leans back in her chair, her arms in her lap. “So, where do you want to start?”
Yang sighs, pulling her hair over her shoulder. “I got a girlfriend,” she says. “Her name’s Blake. She runs Belladonna’s Books?”
“I’m familiar,” Glynda says.
Yang nods. “Right. Well, uh, we’ve been dating for like six months. And it’s great, it’s really, really great.” She swallows thickly. “But she has this ex, Adam. He’s a real ass, a real fuckhead. He abused her. And she left him not long before we met, right? So we thought we were fine and safe.
“But then he came into the bakery and threatened me and the shop. So I called the police, and Blake freaked out. She said we had to leave the city, because he was going to hurt me.” She laughs, but it’s a dark sound. “I didn’t believe her. I thought we were safe.
“But it was the anniversary of mom and my arm, and Ruby and Penny were heading to Patch to hang with Dad, and we decided that we needed to get out for the week. Take a break, let the police do their job, relax. And it was great. It was really, really great.” She swallows thickly. “Dad likes Blake, Blake likes Dad, and even Maria likes Blake, although I was ready to kill her, I swear. She’s such a hardass.”
Her easy smile fades. “And then we came home.” Yang takes a deep breath. “And Adam was waiting.”
Glynda nods, leaning forward. “Take breath, Yang,” she instructs.
Yang nods. In and out. Her shoulders relax. “Right. Well, he stabbed me, and then he yelled at me, and then he stabbed me again, and then Blake hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher, and then I told her I love her, and then I passed out, and then I woke up in the hospital. So, you know, I’ve had a great time.”
“It sounds like it,” Glynda says. “How are you healing?”
“I hurt like hell,” she says flatly. “I’ve been out of the hospital for over a week, and I only got the go ahead to use the bathroom by myself two days ago. Do you know how embarrassing it is for your sister to wipe your ass?” She shakes her head. “It fucking sucks.”
“I can imagine,” Glynda says, but there’s a lightness in her voice, a soothing quality that prevents Yang from wanting to hit her. “You hate needing someone else.”
“I hate not being able to take care of myself,” Yang corrects. “I hate that I can’t use my body like I should be able to. This isn’t me, this isn’t my body. I shouldn’t- You know, they had to wheel me out of the hospital in a chair?” She crosses her arms. “I couldn’t even walk.”
“You’re healing, Yang.”
“I know, but still. I should be further along than this. I should be able to take care of myself.”
Glynda raises her brows. “You do realize you were stabbed. Twice.”
Yang sighs. “I know. I know. But I hate this. I hate feeling like this.”
“What did your doctors say in terms of a timeline for you?”
“That it’ll take a few months to a year to get back to full strength. That if I’m in pain I should go to physical therapy. That I should only push until it hurts, because if it hurts, I’m doing damage, and then it’ll just take longer to heal.”
“Did they say anything about patience?”
“You and your patience,” Yang says. Her hand twitches. “I still haven’t figured out patience. I bake pastry for a living, and I still don’t have patience.”
“You’ve gained a lot of patience since we first started,” Glynda offers. “How did you do that?”
“With your help.”
Glynda shakes her head. “You did the work, Yang. I just guided you.”
Yang shifts under her gaze, directly her attention to the wall just behind Glynda instead of having to make eye contact. “It’s just like, again ? I have to deal with the physical therapy and the pain and the feeling inept and useless again ?” She shakes her head. “It’s fucking bullshit. It’s not fair.”
Glynda raises her brows. “What’s making us go to the it’s-not-fair place today, Yang?”
“The fact that it’s not fucking fair?”
“You’re not wrong,” Glynda says, pushing up her glasses. “It’s not fair. You’re so young, and you’ve been through so much. From the accident and the loss of your mother, the loss of your arm, and now this. You’re right. It’s not fair.”
Yang sighs, uncrossing her arms as she slumps back into the touch. “But?”
“No but, Yang. It’s not fair.” Glynda tilts her head. “What did you think I was going to say?”
“That life’s not fair, but we’re still here, and we have to deal with it. That just because something’s not fair doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with it, that we don’t have to keep fighting. That fairness doesn’t matter, what matters is how we cope.”
“And if I said that, what would you say?”
Yang sighs. “That you’re not wrong. I need to cope with this and not stay in the it’s-not-fair place. But it’s hard.” Her voice cracks. “It’s like, really? Life has to kick me down again? Can’t I be done with the pain? Can’t I just enjoy my life?”
“What’s stopping you from enjoying your life?”
Yang blinks at her, rolling her eyes. “You expect an answer, don’t you?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
“I don’t know, the fact that I can’t even drive here by myself because I’m not allowed on my bike? The fact that I can’t bake because I can’t stand up for that long? The fact that someone stabbed me and my girlfriend blames herself? The fact that I’m in enough pain to keep me on a steady diet of painkillers? The fact that I keep breaking down randomly and can’t stop crying?”
“Let’s take those one by one,” Glynda says. “Your biggest enemy right now seems to be time. It’s not forever, it’s just right now. I imagine your doctor gave you exercises to work on?” Yang nods. “Think of them as working towards something. You have to do reps at the gym in order to complete sets, right? That’s what this is. You can’t go straight into a deadlift. You have to work up.”
“But I shouldn’t have to!”
“But you do,” Glynda says gently. “We can’t change that. You need to take care of your body right now, and you’re excellent at that. Just because it looks different doesn’t mean it is different.”
“I feel like I’m starting back at level one when I should be at level fifty.”
“You are. But you’ll work your way up.”
“How do you know?”
“You’ve done it before.”
Yang sighs. “I don’t want to do it again. What if I can’t?”
“You can,” Glynda says. “You can. You’re strong, Yang. I’m here, and so is Ruby, and Weiss, and Blake. You do so much on your own, you may need to lean on others right now. They want to be there for you, don’t they?” Yang nods. “Then lean on them. Needing help isn’t a weakness.”
“It feels like it is.”
“You’re used to nurturing others. You could use a little nurture.”
“I could use a drink,” she says.
“You don’t drink.”
“I could start.”
Glynda gives Yang her Therapist Look, the look that makes Yang sigh. “Acceptance is hard to achieve, Yang. It’s not easy to accept these new limitations. But they’re not forever.”
“It feels like forever.”
“You have a timeline. It’s not something you should constantly measure yourself to, but it’s a rough estimate, and that will be helpful. You can’t push yourself too hard. You need to push just enough to keep progressing, but, largely, what you need is rest.”
“I hate resting.”
Glynda laughs. “I know. But what you said about being unable to stand to bake, why not pick a simple recipe and bake sitting down? Or bake with someone to have that help. You don’t have to cut it out of your life, you can modify it so that you can do it.”
“I hate baking sitting down.”
“But you can do it, and it won’t hurt to try. Or pick a quick recipe, something small. Chocolate covered strawberries.”
“Chocolate covered strawberries isn’t baking.”
“But it’s something, isn’t it? And isn’t something better than nothing?”
Yang sighs, nodding. “That’s a good plan. I’ll send Ruby out to get the stuff for something later.”
Glynda smiles at her before straightening up. “Now, how about we talk about this girlfriend of yours?”
“Alright.” Yang leans back. “She thinks it’s her fault that I got stabbed.”
“Why do you think she feels this way?”
“Because Adam wouldn’t have come after me if we weren’t together.”
“And you don’t blame her?”
“Of course not,” she says, blowing her hair out of her face with a sharp breath. “It’s not her fault. At all. It was his choice. And I keep telling her that, but she doesn’t believe me when I say it’s not her fault, because it’s not.” There’s a lump in her throat. “It’s not her fault, and I just wish I could make her understand that.”
“It’s understandable that she’s struggling with guilt, Yang. In her eyes, I imagine it’s all too easy to blame herself.” She shifts forward. “Is she seeing anyone?”
“Uh, yeah, she’s seeing me.”
“No, Yang, for therapy.”
Yang nods. “She made an appointment with Ann Greene when I called you.” They had done it together. Yang had called Glynda, and Blake had called the therapist that Ilia had recommended. “She’s got an appointment for later today.”
“That’s good. Ann is good.” Glynda leans in. “You can’t singlehandedly get Blake to stop feeling guilty, Yang. You can only support her. And she can only support you.”
“I know. But I want to be there.”
“And you are there. But don’t be afraid to give her space, either, and to ask for space if you need it. You two went through a very traumatic experience together, but your experiences are very different. You are going to have different needs, and that’s okay.” She leans forward. “What do you need, Yang?”
There’s a lump in her throat. “I don’t know,” she admits.
“Okay, let’s think about what you want, then. What do you want?”
“I want things to go back to normal.” She swallows. “I want to be able to just have a normal, every day kind of life with my girlfriend and my sister and my friends, and I want to be able to do my job. I want to be able to wake up and not be in pain. Is that too much to ask?”
“You’ll get there, Yang.”
“Well, it’s up to you.” Glynda’s eyes glint. “You have to take care of yourself if you want to get there. And you make your normal. You decide what your normal is. Don’t forget that. You have the control here.”
“Really? Cause I feel pretty fucking helpless.”
“You’re not helpless, but you do need help. And there’s no shame in that.”
“Then why do I feel ashamed?” Her blood quickens. “Why do I hate myself for needing help?”
“You rely on being self-sufficient. But you can’t do everything alone, Yang.”
She blows her hair out of her face. “I know, but I don’t like it.”
“You don’t understand it. You’re used to being the provider. You don’t like being vulnerable.”
Yang gives her a look. “Alright, enough psychoanalysis. What do I do about it?”
Glynda sighs. “Ask for help when you need it, and accept others’ help. The more you do that, the easier it will get. Think about how you like to take care of others, and understand that sometimes, the people you take care of need to reciprocate.”
“And how do I accept that?”
“It takes time. You’re going to need some patience, Yang. This isn’t a quick fix, this is long term.”
Glynda’s lips quirk up. “You’ll be great. And I’m here to help you through this.”
“And your sister and your girlfriend and your friends are all here for you too. Lean on them.”
“You will. I believe in you.”
Something flutters in Yang’s stomach, and she looks down into her lap. “Thank you.”
Yang wakes up. The world around her is gray and hazy with early morning light. Everything is fine. Everything is normal. But her heart is racing, and there’s sweat beading her brow. She carefully sits up in bed and takes deep, shuddering breaths. Her mind flashes with the dream, the nightmare, if she’s honest, and it’s simultaneously all too clear and out of reach. It shifts out of her mind’s eyes, and all she has left is scraps of the dream.
Red. Pain. Screaming.
She winces, pulling her knees to her chest. There’s a pounding in her head. She needs to breathe, dammit, she needs to breathe. It wasn’t real. The dream wasn’t real. Not anymore.
The nightmares had started a few days after being released from the hospital. Yang didn’t remember all of them, but she woke up panicked and with a scream in her throat some mornings. Too many mornings. She was surprised Ruby or Blake hadn’t heard her, given how raw her throat felt when she woke up covered in sweat and her eyes hot with tears. In fairness, it wasn’t like she had told them about the nightmares, so they didn’t know, and she didn’t want them to. It was bad enough the two of them traded off staying with her to take care of her, they didn’t need to worry about her more than they already were.
She sighs and wipes the sweat from her brow. Shakily, she stands up and reattaches her arm with a metallic click. Yang flexes her fingers into a fist before relaxing. She squares her shoulders and pads out to the kitchen where Blake is already making breakfast. Yang smiles faintly as she sees Blake in her bright purple onesie, and, a faint smile crossing her lips despite everything, she takes a seat at the counter. “Hey,” Yang says. “What’s cookin’, good lookin’?”
Blake snorts, but she doesn’t turn around. “Pancakes and bacon,” she says.
Yang’s stomach grumbles. Her appetite had returned a few days after leaving the hospital, but it was still small. She tries not to think about all the weight and muscle she had lost in the hospital. Instead, she clears her throat and says, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Blake slides her a plate filled with pancakes. “Dig in. The bacon will be ready in a few minutes.”
Yang takes another deep breath to prepare her stomach and nibbles on a pancake. “What’s the plan for today?” she asks after swallowing.
“You have your first physical therapy appointment at three.”
“Right,” she says slowly. Fuck. She had completely forgotten. Fear twists in her stomach, but she takes another bite of her pancakes. “Are you taking me?”
“Penny said she would drive you,” Blake says. “I have to drop by the bookstore, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Yang says. “You need to work, baby. I’d never hold that against you.” She bites her lip. “How was your session with Ann yesterday?” she asks carefully. Yang had fallen asleep before Blake got home yesterday. She was still sleeping a ridiculous amount, but she tries not to begrudge herself that. She needs the rest, she knows that, and she’s not in pain when she’s asleep. It’s the only time she’s not in pain.
“It was good.” Blake takes a deep breath, and Yang takes another bite of her pancakes as she waits for Blake to gather her thoughts. “It was a lot, but it was good. She’s very nice. I felt safe. And we have another session next week. I’m, well, excited isn’t the right word, but hopeful, I guess. I want this to help. I want this to work.”
“I’m glad,” Yang says. “I’m glad that you feel safe with her.”
“How about you?” Blake asks, leaning across the counter. “How were things with Glynda?”
“Good,” Yang says. “It was good to see her again.” She bites her lip as her hip flares with pain, but she breathes through it. She clenches her jaw and takes a deep breath. “We’ll get through this, Blake. Together.”
Something flashes in Blake’s eyes, but she nods. Blake’s ears stiffen before falling flat against her hair. “I still don’t get it,” Blake says quietly. “I still don’t understand how you can stand to be with me, how you don’t blame me.”
Yang reaches across the counter for Blake’s hand and squeezes. “Because it wasn’t your fault.” Her throat thickens, and she averts her gaze. “It’s my fault.” Blake stiffens and starts shaking her head, but Yang presses on. “I didn’t listen to you. I should have listened, and I should have taken Adam more seriously. And I’m sorry, Blake. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“But you did,” Blake protests. “And you couldn’t have known that he was going to do that.”
“You couldn’t have known, either,” she points out. She gives her girlfriend a tired half smile. “I know we both feel guilty and it’s shitty, but it wasn’t your fault. So don’t blame yourself, baby. You can’t.”
“Neither can you,” Blake says. “Like you said, this is Adam’s fault. Not yours.” Blake takes a deep breath. “And a part of me knows it’s not mine, either, even though I feel guilty. This is Adam’s fault. You- We didn’t do anything wrong. So don’t feel guilty, because you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty for, Yang. Absolutely nothing.”
“I should have listened,” she insists. “And I know that my reasoning is shitty and stupid and illogical, but it’s how I feel.”
Blake nods. “I get that,” she says. “But it’s not your fault.”
Yang nods back, and she tries to believe her.
“Alright, Yang, just another ten seconds,” Peter Port says.
Yang sucks in a sharp breath as her core wobbles, and she collapses to the floor. “Fuck!” She sits up, wincing as the wound on her hip stretches with her movements. “Why can’t I do this?” she asked, clenching her fists. Three weeks of physical therapy, and she still couldn’t do this. Yang closes her eyes and takes a deep, shaking breath.
“Get a drink of water,” Port says. “Water, and then we’ll try one more time. You can do this, Yang.”
She blows the hairs that have come loose from her ponytail out of her face and nods, standing up. She walks over to the water cooler and down a cup before refilling. Her core is burning and shaking, and she’s never felt this weak before. She hates it, hates how damaged her body is. Yang hates how damaged she is.
Yang strides back to the yoga mat she’s been planking on and slowly settles back onto the floor with awkward movements. “Ready, set, go!” Port shouts, and Yang lifts herself into the hair and holds herself up. Forty five seconds. For fuck’s sake, she should be able to plank for forty five seconds. She grits her teeth and breathes hard through her clenched jaw, the pain and ache and burn starting up again almost immediately. Just forty five seconds. She can do this. She has to do this.
“Five, four, three, two, one!” Port shouts, and Yang lets herself drop to the floor. She’s panting, and her core is burning. “You’re doing a great job, Yang! That’s all for today, but I have some homework for you.”
She sits up and raises a brow. “Homework?” she repeats, trying to hide her frustration. She’s still out of breath.
Port nods, puffing out his chest. “Yes, homework!” He moves to help her to her feet, but Yang brushes him off and forces herself to rise. “Each morning when you wake up, three sets of three forty five second planks, and each night, the same thing.” Yang can’t hold back her groan, and Port frowns. “I know it’s hard,” he said, surprisingly gentle, “but this will make it easier.”
She clenches her fist, but she nods, looking at the floor. “I know.” Yang shrugs her jacket on and waves her goodbye. Blake is waiting for her in the hallway, reading the book Yang had given her a few weeks ago. She smiles faintly at the sight. “Ready when you are,” she says.
Blake closes her books and places her bookmark in. She smiles at her, but her golden gaze is tired and distant. “How was it?” Blake asks, standing up and handing Yang a bottle of water, which she gratefully accepts. “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” she lies, carefully bringing her hand down to her side to hide the slight tremors.
“Alright, so now we need to fold the whipped cream into the strawberry mix,” Blake reads from the recipe, her brow furrowed in concentration.
“I got that!” Yang says, reaching across the table for the bowl. The skin around her hip pulls taught and barks with pain, but she can move. She can do this.
Blake backs up, hands raised. “I wasn’t going to stop you. I can only fold sheets.”
“Nah, you’ve gotten better,” Yang says, sitting back down before taking the spatula and running it around the sides of the bowl before scooping under and over. “Next time, you’re going to do this.”
“I did the cake,” Blake says as she slides the cakes out of the oven. “I’m busy.”
“Next time, we’re switching roles.”
“Alright, alright,” Blake says with a huff.
Yang smiles, setting down the spatula and crossing her arms. “Come here.”
Blake does, and Yang leans in to kiss her. Once Blake’s eyes are closed, she swipes a finger into the strawberry mousse and smears it across Blake’s lips. Blake jerks back, and Yang’s finger trails across her cheek, leaving a smear of pink across her face. Blake’s eyes narrow, and she dives for the bowl.
“Don’t make me take this away from you!” Blake threatens, but Yang snatches the bowl and turns. Her hip groans once more, but it’s not bad enough to make her wince. She stands up from her chair and holds the bowl above her head, sticking her tongue out.
“Try it,” she says, eyes flashing as she smirks. Blake’s hands dart around her waist, and she presses her lips all over Yang’s face, smearing the mousse as she does. Yang licks the mousse from Blake’s lips as she passes over her mouth, and she smiles as Blake leans in to kiss her. She closes her eyes, and she puts the bowl down on the table as she reaches with her free hand around Blake’s waist.
They break apart, and there’s pink smeared over both of their mouths, but Yang doesn’t care. She gently brushes her fingers against Blake’s face, taking off the rest of the mousse as she does. She sticks her finger in her mouth, eyes never leaving Blake’s. “That tastes good,” she says. “Not as good as you, though.”
Blake rolls her eyes, but she’s blushing bright. “You’re such a dork,” she says, gently batting at Yang. “A flirtatious dork, but a dork, nonetheless.”
“I’m a dork who loves you,” she says, and Blake averts her gaze. Something in her stomach curdles. “Do you not want me to say that?” she forces herself to ask, voice soft. “Because I don’t have to say it, baby.”
Yang doesn’t. She wants to, wants to let Blake know how much she cares, wants her girl to know that she means the world and more to her, but if Blake doesn’t want to move that fast, can’t move that fast, that’s okay. It’s okay, because what matters more than making her feelings known is making sure Blake is okay. Making sure that they’re okay.
“No. Well, maybe?” Blake shakes her head, and Yang’s hand drops from her face as she draws into herself. “I like hearing it, I do, I really, really do. But it makes me feel…” Blake pauses, ducking her chin. “Guilty.”
“Why guilty?” she asks, gently looping her arms around Blake’s waist.
Blake shrugs. She’s still not looking at her. “I don’t know.”
“Is it because of Adam?” she presses. She forces herself to use his name, even though the taste is bitter and bloody on her tongue. His name in her mouth makes her whole body retch, but she somehow manages to stay still as stone.
“Kind of? Maybe? I don’t know.”
“That’s okay,” she says. She swallows and sits down at the counter. “That’s okay. But do you want to talk it out, or?”
Blake sits down beside her and puts her head in her hands. “Do you really want to do this now?” she asks finally, looking up with silver lining her golden eyes. “Because I- I don’t want to be the only one talking about it.”
Yang takes a deep breath, steadying her racing heart. “Yeah,” she says. “Let’s do this.” She sneaks a look at Blake. “Do you want to go first, or should I?” She hasn’t found the words yet to tell Blake everything, but she’s been trying. Trying to tell someone besides Glynda about the nightmares, trying to be honest, trying, dammit. She was trying, and she would keep trying. For Blake. For Blake, she would try.
“Do you mind if I go first?” Blake asks, biting her lip. “I just- I have a lot that I want to say. If it becomes too much, just let me know, because I don’t want to overwhelm you, and I know this is gonna be hard, and I just-” Blake is blabbering, Yang realizes. She’s never seen her blabber before. Blake takes a deep breath. “I don’t want to hurt you any more.”
Yang softens. “You haven’t hurt me,” she says. “But yeah, I’ll let you know.” She gives her a tender smile. “We’re in this together, baby.”
“Okay. Okay.” Blake takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “I thought you were going to die.”
“I thought you were dying, and I thought I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. I’ve never seen that much blood before. And you were in and out of it, and I didn’t know what to do, and I was so scared Adam was going to get back up and hurt you-” Blake shivers. “I was so scared I was going to lose you. The only thing I knew for sure was that Adam had hurt you and it was my fault that he came after you. It was my fault. And maybe it wasn’t, but it felt, feels, like it was.”
Yang opens her mouth, but Blake doesn’t stop. “You can say it wasn’t my fault. You can say you don’t blame me. But that doesn’t change the fact that Adam would have never done this to you if not for me.” Blake’s mouth wobbles. “He hurt you to get to me. I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. I don’t understand how you can love me when- I don’t understand how you can love me.”
“How can I not?” Yang asks softly. “How can I not love you?” Blake’s throat bobs. She keeps going. “You stayed,” she says simply. “You stayed, and you’re staying. That’s what matters, Blake. You’re here for me. How could I not love you?” She reaches for Blake’s hand and squeezes. “You stayed, and I love you. It’s that simple for me, baby.”
“But it shouldn’t be!” Blake protests. “It shouldn’t be that simple.”
Yang smiles sadly. “But it is,” she says as gently as she can manage. “At least, it is for me.” Her smile fades slightly. “And I get that it’s not that simple for you. I get that, baby. But I love you. What happened didn’t change that, doesn’t change that. I love you, and I’ve loved you for a few weeks now. And yeah, it’s complicated and awkward and kind of awful right now, but it’s going to get better. I want it to get better with you.”
Blake’s throat bobs. “It’s getting better,” she says. “At least, I want to believe it is.”
“It is,” she says. “It is.”
“Can I ask a favor?”
Yang takes a deep breath. “I need some help in the shower. Can you help me?”
Blake looks up at her from her book, face soft. “Of course. Now, or later?”
“Now, if that’s okay. If I put it off, I might fall asleep, and I really don’t want to wait until the next time I see you.”
“How have you been showering?” Blake asks as she stands up.
“I haven’t. Ruby’s been giving me sponge baths, and they are not fun. I haven’t exactly been allowed to shower, but now I can. Doctor finally gave the okay.” Her easy smile flickers. “But I think I’m gonna need some help.” She wiggles her brows. “And the other kind of help, too.”
Blake sighs, but her cheeks are red. “Not in the shower, Yang. With our luck, one of us is bound to slip, and I’d hate to go back to the hospital and explain that.”
“Man, but what a reason to go back to the hospital for,” she says wistfully. “But afterwards?”
“If you’re still feeling up for it.” Blake kisses her forehead as she helps her up. “I’m willing to just cuddle you to sleep.” Blake has been alternating nights with Ruby and staying over Yang’s apartment to take care of her. She didn’t need it, not really, but she’d be lying if she said it wasn’t helpful. Besides, it was nice to have a reason to wake up next to her girl.
“These drugs may kill my sex drive, but I still want you.” She walks to the bathroom, closing the door behind her and Blake. “I always want you, baby.”
“Shut up, and get naked.” There’s a smirk on Blake’s face as she peels off her shirt. Yang quickly follows suit, taking the time to detach her arm and lay it on her bed.
Blake’s eyes dart to her hip, and Yang barely resists the urge to cover the bandage with her hands. “I’m fine,” she says, more forcefully than she intends. “I just need to shower right now.”
Blake nods, and she looks back up at Yang. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t say sorry, get in the tub with me.”
“I thought we were supposed to be showering?”
She bites her lip and sighs. “I don’t know if I can stand up for that long.” It’s a truth she hates, and her shoulders slump.
But Blake just raises an eyebrow. “Just how long are we spending in here?”
“Until we’re prunes.”
Blake smiles. “Fair enough.”
Yang steps into the tub as Blake turns the water on, and her toes curl as the water splashes her. Blake gets in behind her. Yang leans into her arms, her head tilting back to see her. “Hey,” she says. Blake kisses her forehead.
The water is half way up to her hips, and it’s warm. It skims the edge of the bandage, and she watches as the bandage gets soaked with water. She winces as the warmth starts to heat up her wound, and pain sparks outward.
“You okay?” Blake asks, rubbing her arms.
“It feels weird. Like it’s bubbling.”
“Does it hurt?”
“A little,” she admits. “But the water feels nice everywhere else.” She smiles. “You feel nice.”
Blake hums. “I’m supposed to be helping you,” she says, but Blake’s head comes forward to kiss Yang’s cheek.
“You are,” Yang says. “I want to go slow. I don’t think I can go fast right now.”
“Then we’ll go slow, but we need to wash you.”
“What about you?”
“You first. I washed my hair this morning, so I’m good.”
“But while we’re here.”
“While we’re here,” Blake agrees.
Blake kisses the back of her neck, and Yang pulls her hair aside as she does. Blake’s hands are on Yang’s side and arm, and she’s holding her. Blake’s fingers skim her right bicep, her touch gentle and featherlight. “You don’t have to do that,” Yang says hastily, her throat thick. “I know it’s weird.” The scar tissue works up to her bicep, and it’s not pretty. Her prosthetic usually covers it, but she knows it’s jarring to see. Blake has only seen it a few times, but right now it feels especially vulnerable.
“It’s not weird. You’re not weird. Well, you are, but this isn’t weird.”
Yang tilts her head back. “It’s weird,” she says. “I know it’s weird.” She waves her right arm in the air. “This is weird!”
“But it’s you,” Blake says simply. “You can’t make me uncomfortable. You’re you.” Blake wraps her arms around Yang’s midsection. “And I want to know all of you.”
There’s a lump in Yang’s throat, but she swallows it. “It’s not pretty,” she says, moving her bicep in front of her.
“So? I’m not pretty when I cry, and you still like me then.” Blake kisses the side of her neck. “I like you. Scars and all, Yang. If you don’t want me to see your scars, that’s one thing. But don’t feel like you have to hide them from me.”
Yang turns around and faces her girl. She reaches with her left hand and grabs Blake’s hand. “Touch me,” she says softly. “Touch my arm.”
Blake’s hand lands on her bicep. Yang watches as she traces the scar tissue down, down, down, until Blake comes to the end of her arm. It’s weird to feel someone touch her there, but it’s nice. Blake’s fingers are tender and careful as she feels her skin. Her nerves spark as Blake touches the end of her arm, and she gives a gentle shake. “Nice to meet you,” she says tightly. “I’m what’s left of Yang’s arm.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Blake replies, shaking back. “See, this is why you’re weird.”
“Yeah, but you played along.” Yang smiles at her. “So who’s weirder?”
Blake sighs. “Turn around,” she says.
“Why?” she asks, but she listens. She twists her head to look at Blake, but Blake gently tips her chin so she’s facing forward. “What’re you doing?”
“Just wait,” Blake says, and she pushes Yang’s hair over her shoulder. Yang waits for Blake to touch her again, her skin prickling in anticipation.
She jumps as something soft brushes her back. Yang settles in as Blake washes her back, gently rubbing in circles as she tranverses her skin. Yang straightens up and holds her hair out of the way. She can smell the almond body wash she uses, and she relaxes as the scent penetrates her nostrils.
“No wonder you always smell so good,” Blake says. Yang can feel her skin lathering up, the soap bubbling. “I thought it was all the baking, but this explains it. Lift your arms.”
Yang laughs, but she does as Blake commands. She lifts her hands from the water, the droplets dripping down her arms. Blake runs the washcloth up and down her arms and in her armpits. “Seriously?” she asks.
“You need to be washed,” Blake says simply. “I’m going to wash you.”
“You don’t have to, I can clean my own arms,” she says.
“But I want to,” she says. “So let me.”
Yang sags. “Okay.”
Her girl runs the washcloth down her arms, and then she passes it under and around Yang’s breasts. Her nipples pebble as Blake washes her chest. The lather makes her skin feel slick, and she can feel the heat starting to coil in her stomach. “This isn’t fair,” she whines, and she can practically hear Blake’s smirk.
“We need to wash you,” Blake says, still kneading her chest. Just as Yang starts to feel the electricity spark in her blood, Blake pulls away.
“I’m going to die,” she groans as Blake washes down her tummy.
“You won’t,” her girl says, kissing the back of her ear. “You love this too much.”
“You’re horrible,” she says. “But I love you.” She’s happy she can say it now, happy that she gets to let her girl know how much she cares.
“I know.” Blake washes her legs in short succession. “Here, close your eyes.” Yang does, and she shivers as water pours over her head. She keeps her eyes closed as Blake kisses her cheek. “You can open now.”
“What’re you doing now?” she asks, blinking the water out of her eyes.
“Washing your hair.” Indeed, Yang can smell her citrus shampoo in the air. Blake’s hands are soft but strong as her fingers thread into Yang’s hair and latch onto her scalp. Yang practically groans as Blake massages her scalp, forming a foamy lather as she does. “You have so much hair.”
“Need more shampoo?” she asks, closing her eyes once more.
Blake hums, scrunching up her fingers. “Not yet.” Her fingers feel like heaven on her skull, and she’s aware of the weight of her hair for the first time in a long time. She hears the plug to the tub open, but Blake’s hands are still in her hair, curling and twisting. It feels good.
“Do you want to stand up, or do you want me to detach the head and hose you down?”
“Please, hose me down,” she says, smirking.
“Alright, I will.” Blake stands up behind her, and she hears the water turn on. Yang feels the water on her hair, and she shakes her head to get the shampoo out. Blake washes the rest of her with the shower head.
“Alright, help me up, I can do the conditioner myself,” she says.
Blake helps her up. “I’m finishing the job, baby,” Blake says, and Yang’s heart skips a beat. Her hands curl into Yang’s waves once more, and Yang focuses on the sensation. She loves the deftness of her fingers working against her scalp. “Almost done, and then we can get into pjs.”
Yang hums. “Sounds good.”
The water turns off, and Blake steps out of the tub. Her girl wraps herself in a towel before opening another one and holding it open. “Come here,” she says, and Yang goes into her arms. She holds her as Blake wraps her up. “Let’s get you dried off.”
They get dressed. She has to focus more on dressing when she doesn’t have her arm on, but she’s in her pjs soon enough. Yang heads back into the bathroom and puts her arm back on, clicking it into place.
“I love you.”
Blake sighs, running her hand through her hair. “You know, I still don’t know how to respond when you say that,” she says.
“Do you want me to not say it?” she asks.
Blake shakes her head. “No, I do,” she admits. “I like hearing it. I just don’t know what to say afterwards.”
“Say the truth. Say whatever you feel.” She clears her throat. “I love you.”
“I know.” Yang bursts into peels of laughter as Blake turns red. “I’m sorry, that-”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Yes, it was,” Yang insists. “Because it was honest.”
“Why do you have so much shit?” Weiss complains, wiping her brow as she places a cardboard box marked PLATES N SHIT in sparkly silver marker on the ground. “Seriously, how much stuff do you need?”
A smile tugs at the corners of her mouth, and Yang shrugs.
“You should’ve seen how much we started with,” Blake says. Her hair, newly shorn into a cute long bob, is pulled back with a headband, and there’s sweat beading her forehead as well. “We got rid of so much shit, it’s ridiculous.”
Yang rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. “I wasn’t that bad,” she complains, turning back to the chicken she’s cooking and flipping it over. “And come on, Weiss, you have way more shit than I do, so don’t even.”
“She’s not wrong,” Ilia pipes up, and Yang grins as she hears a loud wet kiss and Weiss’s shriek. “You do have a lot of stuff.”
“Oh, shut up,” Weiss says, but Yang knows she’s blushing and grinning. Ilia has that effect on her. “Also, that’s the last of the boxes. What’s up next?”
“Food!” Yang declares, turning and pushing a plate of chicken quesadillas and fixins over the counter towards the group. Her hip groans from the motion, and she sucks in a breath as the blood drains from her face. “Hey, I need some help,” she says, freezing in place as she tries to ride out the pain. She’s been needing more and more help lately, and she still can’t stand for long, but she’s getting stronger and stronger every day. Or so she tells herself.
Blake is at her side in an instant, and her girl helps her sit down at the counter. “I’ll finish up,” Blake promises. “Sit down, eat, and I’ll grab you a glass of water for your meds.” Her golden eyes flick to the clock and narrow as they dart back to Yang. “Which you were supposed to take an hour ago.”
“Whoops?” Yang shrugs, smiling through her gritted teeth.
Blake sighs, and she refills Yang’s glass and gets her a quesadilla before plopping them both in front of her. “Eat, and I’ll go grab your meds,” Blake says. “Ilia, Weiss, take a break while the food is hot.”
Guilt twinges in her stomach as Blake turns to the cupboard and fetches her meds. Yang holds her hand out for the three pills she takes in the afternoon, and she puts them on the edge of her plate. “Thank you,” she says quietly.
“Eat,” Blake says, raising a brow.
Yang rolls her eyes, but she digs into her quesadilla. “You too,” she says through a mouthful of chicken and cheese. “You haven’t eaten anything in hours.”
Blake sits beside her, and Ilia and Weiss come to sit to Blake’s right. They eat in comfortable silence, all of them too hungry to bother with conversation. Yang’s stomach tightens as she finishes half of her quesadilla, and she takes another drink of her water to calm it.
“What’s next?” Ilia asks finally, turning in her chair to look down the counter at them.
“I think we’re done for today,” Blake says carefully. “It’s getting late.”
“So?” Weiss dismisses with a wave of her hand. “You need help, and neither of us are working tomorrow, so we might as well stay and help.”
Blake’s eyes flick to Yang, and something shifts over her face. It’s your call her girlfriend seems to say with a slight shrug of her shoulders. Yang takes another drink of her water. “I can keep going,” she says, but the words come out more feebly than she intended. She winces slightly, and the pain flickers through her body.
Weiss purses her lips and turns to Blake. “Yeah, okay, we’ll head out,” she says. “So long as you two promise not to do any more until we come by tomorrow.”
She opens her mouth to argue, but Blake cuts her off. “We promise,” she says. Yang shoots her a look, and Blake raises a brow. “We promise, and we’ll head to bed once we clean up.” Blake rolls her sleeves up and starts on the dishes. Yang would stand up and try to help her, but another wave of pain starts as she tries to stand up, and she’s forced to remain seated.
Weiss and Ilia bid their goodbyes and let themselves out, and Yang pokes her water glass around the counter as she watches Blake work. She hates feeling helpless, hates not being able to pull her weight, but she takes a deep breath and stretches out, working through the pain. It’s sharp and sparking, but it slowly fades with her breathing and stretching. “I’m gonna go get into pjs,” she says finally, taking her time to rise to her feet and pushing off the counter.
“Alright,” Blake says, but Blake gently grabs her by the wrist as she passes and kisses her cheek. “You okay?” she asks, nuzzling her cheek.
“Fine,” she lies, and she knows that Blake knows it. She shrugs and kisses Blake’s forehead. “I’m fine.”
“Do you want to take your sleepy meds?” Blake asks. “Make sure you get good quality sleep tonight?” Her voice is painfully gentle, and Yang stiffens. “We can sleep in tomorrow, and I want you to be as comfortable tonight because you’re probably going to be in pain tomorrow.”
Yang flinches, but she sags and nods. “Yeah,” she says quietly. She stays still as Blake hands her the pills and her glass of water, and Yang swallows the pale blue pill quickly. It’ll kick in soon, probably within a half hour, and she’ll be out like a light. She doesn’t dream when she takes the sleepy meds now, or she does and she can’t wake herself up. She has no way of knowing which it’ll be, which is why she tends to use them as a last resort.
She pads off to the bedroom and grabs her pjs from the top of her travel bag that she had packed with the essentials, knowing that they wouldn’t finish unpacking all her shit into Blake’s house that night. Yang had packed pjs, clothes, toiletries, and whatever other stuff she would need come tomorrow.
She strips off her clothes, moving slowly through the pain, and sighs with relief as she takes off her bra and stretches out her shoulders. Yang peels the covers down from the bed and ties her hair up in a ponytail. She brushes her teeth slowly, the sleepy meds already starting to kick in. Damn, they were fast. She walks back out to the kitchen and comes up behind Blake to kiss her cheek.
“Thank you,” she says softly. “For everything.”
Blake turns and shrugs. “It’s no problem,” she says. “I want you here, you didn’t want to be in your apartment anymore, I mean, it just… it makes sense. And I want you here, really, really want you here, so don’t thank me, because this is me being selfish.”
Yang shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “No, it’s you being kind ,” she corrects. “And I love you for that.” Blake’s smile slips a little, but it comes back full force. “Are you sure you don’t need help? I can help you clean up.”
Blake shakes her head and boops Yang’s nose with her finger. “I’m sure,” she says, eyes shining bright. “I’ll be in soon. Go get some rest.”
So Yang kisses her lips, slowly and softly, and then heads to bed.
Yang awakens to Blake shuddering in her sleep. Yang twists up, ignoring the sharp pain that accompanies the motion, and carefully starts to shake Blake awake. “Blake,” she says roughly, her voice still hoarse with sleep. Blake thrashes against her some more, and Yang shakes her a little harder. “Blake!”
Blake’s eyes snap open, and her golden eyes are filled with fear. “Yang?” she gasps, jerking and sitting up. There’s sweat beading her furrowed brow and it’s glowing silver in the moonlight streaming in through the window, and Yang carefully rubs her back. She can feel Blake’s quirky heartbeat racing, and Yang swallows hard. “What- what’s going on?”
“You were having a nightmare,” she says thickly. Yang averts her gaze to her lap and keeps rubbing Blake’s back. “Do you, um, do you want to talk about it? Or I can make you a cup of tea.” Spring is just flowering, and she knows it’s a matter of weeks, if not days, before it burns away to summer, but Blake likes hot tea all the time.
“Stay,” Blake says. “Just, stay.”
Yang nods, and she keeps rubbing Blake’s back. “I’m here,” she says. “I’m here, Blake.” Blake curls into her chest, and Yang wraps her arms around her. “I’m here.” Blake lets out a sharp breath that sounds like a dark chuckle, so she tucks Blake’s head underneath her chin. “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”
They sit like that for a few minutes, Yang not daring to speak again until Blake’s breath evens out. She keeps her focus on rubbing Blake’s back and soothing her as best she can. Blake is curled up in her lap, and Yang holds her tight to her chest. She’s not small, but Blake shrinks when she has nightmares. Her entire body folds inward, and Yang has to carefully pull her back out of herself. She doesn’t mind it, not when Blake does the same for her.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she repeats quietly.
Blake chokes out a shaky breath. “I just want to go back to bed,” she says.
Yang bites her tongue and nods, shifting them back onto the bed so that she’s spooning Blake. “I’m here for you, you know,” she says against the back of Blake’s neck. “You can talk to me about this if you want to. If you need to.”
Blake shifts closer into Yang. “I know,” she says quietly. “I know.”
And Yang knows that Blake is doing what she does, that she can’t vocalize the terror that strikes her. So she doesn’t push, even though she wants to. Blake will tell her when she wants to, needs to, and all she can do is be there for her when she does.
Yang takes a seat at the counter of the kitchen, watching as Weiss spins around and whisks cream and sugar and vanilla together. Her breath is thin and ragged, and she holds her hand against her hip for comfort. She’s been standing for too long, moving too much, and Weiss had demanded she sit down for a few minutes. She takes a sip of water and swallows a painkiller, the pill a powdery white and chalky. It would take a few minutes to kick in, but it would kick in, and then she can get back on her feet.
“Don’t you need to eat something before you take those?” Weiss asks, not looking up from her bowl.
Yang shrugs. “I’ll eat later,” she dismisses, even as her stomach tightens with hunger. Her appetite is still shaky at best from all the meds, and food didn’t delight her as it used to. Still, it was getting better. She was getting better.
Weiss glares daggers at her and stops whisking before reaching into the fridge and shoving a sandwich at Yang. “Here,” she says. “I made an extra one this morning.”
“Thank you,” she says, and she accepts the chicken, mozzarella, and pesto sandwich with a sagging of her shoulders. She takes an apprehensive bite and slowly chews, the flavors exploding on her tongue. “Did you make the pesto?”
“Ilia did,” Weiss says.
Yang nods. “Tell her it’s really good.”
The kitchen falls into silence, and Yang takes another bite. Her stomach tightens once more, the food already pressing against the organ’s walls. Still, she takes another bite, and another, and another, until the sandwich is nothing but crumbs. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and leans back in her chair. Her stomach is achingly full, but she knows it’s better that she eats too much than not enough, especially with the meds she’s on.
Yang sighs and leans back in the chair. “How are Neon and Elm doing?” she asks finally. She had gone through applications for the new positions Ruby and Weiss had posted at the bakery, and Neon and Elm had been the two they had all agreed would be the best fit. They had started two weeks ago, but Yang had just met them in person for the first time today. Neon is currently on break, and Elm is doing the register with Ruby in the front of the bakery.
“Ruby is very happy to have someone as passionate about bread as Elm,” Weiss says. “And Neon does good work. They’re picking everything up quite quickly.”
“Good, that’s good.” Yang closes her eyes and breathes through the sudden sharp pain. “I’m glad it’s working out.”
“Me too,” Weiss says, her voice surprisingly soft. But she straightens up and brushes off an invisible speck of sugar on her apron. “We’ve been so busy, I don’t know what we would’ve done if they weren’t.” Yang’s throat bobs with guilt, but Weiss shoots her a sharp glance. “Do not,” she warns. “It’s not your fault, and you did more than enough. Too much, honestly.”
Yang nods, but she takes another drink of water. “Did Jaune and Pyrrha settle on a final design, then?” she asks in a vain attempt to change the subject.
But Weiss obliges her, or pities her, and she’s not sure which is worse. “They did,” she says, and she stops whisking the cream together to push her sketchbook across the counter to Yang. “Last page.”
Yang flips through the countless drawings and settles on the tiered masterpiece that Weiss has lovingly created in watercolor and ink. She doesn’t dare to touch the page, instead letting her fingers ghost over the lines. “This is beautiful,” she says. “You did an amazing job.” She takes in the details written in Weiss’s perfect penmanship and starts working out the specifics.
“Well, you’re the one that has to make the sketch real,” Weiss says. “I just designed it, but you’ll bring it to life.”
Yang shrugs. “I couldn’t do that without you,” she points out.
“Whatever you say,” Weiss dismisses with a flick of her hand. Her icy eyes fall on Yang before she looks away. “How are you feeling?” she asks, her voice simultaneously tight and gentle. Before Yang can answer, Weiss looks back up at her. “And don’t bullshit me, Yang. How are you doing?”
Yang bites her tongue. “I’m fine,” she says. “I’m feeling great.” At Weiss’s look, she amends, “As great as can be expected.” She shrugs Weiss’s worry off and stands. Her hip aches, and she should probably keep sitting until the painkiller kicks in, but she has a point to prove. She snaps on a pair of gloves and moves back to her station where her choux mix ingredients are waiting. Yang starts boiling the water and butter together and adds, “I feel good.”
Yang wakes up with her breath in her throat and her heart racing in her chest. She pants and sits up, pressing her hand to her chest to try to calm down. She tries to take deep breaths, but her breath feels weak and shallow. She can’t get enough air in her lungs, she can’t breathe, and she’s failing.
She looks to Blake and swallows hard as she carefully shakes Blake awake. “Wha’s ‘appening?” Blake mumbles, curling deeper into her pillow.
Yang barks out a sharp laugh, and her chest tightens. “I had a nightmare.” The words are silly to her ears, and she winces. “Nevermind. Just go back to bed, baby.”
But Blake blinks slowly at her, and Yang watches as she pushes herself up. “Do you want to talk about it?” Blake asks slowly, a yawn stretching out her words, but her eyes are alert and open. Blake reaches for her hand and runs her thumb over the back of her palm. “Do you want to take a drink of water?”
Yang nods, and she clumsily pulls her hand back from Blake’s to take a sip of the water she keeps by her bed. She lets her hand slip back into Blake’s, and she takes a deep breath. With Blake by her side, the panic rooted in her mind is slowly starting to loosen its grip. “I had a nightmare,” she repeats quietly.
Blake stays quiet, so Yang continues, the words clumsily falling out of her mouth from a place deep inside her. “I’ve been having nightmares. A lot, actually, and I’m doing okay, but I just need you right now, and I just need to know that we’re okay, and you’re okay, and I’m okay, and we’re okay. Because we’re okay, and we’re okay.”
“We’re okay,” Blake breathes, moving to cup her face. “We’re okay. I promise you, we’re okay. And you’re going to be okay. We’ve made it this far, baby.”
Yang nods, and she leans into the warmth of her hand. Her heart rate is slowing down, and she breathes in the scent of her skin and closes her eyes. “I’m tired,” she admits. Her hand is shaking ever so slightly, and she sighs. “I just want to be okay again.”
“You will be,” Blake says. “One day, you’ll realize you’ve been swimming all along.”
Yang rolls her eyes, but she smiles. “I give awful advice.”
“No, you give great advice. Learn to take it.”
Yang takes a sip of her wine, savoring the slight burn. It’s been ages since she’s had a drink, even though she’s been off the over the counter painkillers for weeks. She still has a prescription for the heavy duty stuff for the bad days, but she hasn’t needed to refill it since she had finished her first bottle. The doctors had said she could start drinking again once she was off her painkillers for a few days, but she hasn’t had reason to celebrate in ages.
She leans back in her chair and brings the wine to her lips once more. Most of the party is on the dance floor, bopping and writhing to the beat, but she and Blake sit at their table and relax. Wearing heels is usually an experience and a half for her, but she is still unused to the added height and aches that come after. Her weakness isn’t helping, either, but she had wanted to dress up tonight, had wanted to feel what it was like to wear fine clothes and dance and celebrate again. It had been so long.
The wine glass is slippery with condensation, but Yang holds it carefully and brings it to her lips. The beat of the music is pulsing, making her blood pound in time, and a part of her longs to go onto the dancefloor and let loose. But a larger part of her is tired, so she takes another sip of her drink. Her eyes dart between Blake and Weiss, the two of them chatting easily. Ilia is on the dancefloor and bouncing with Ruby and Penny and Nora, the four of them scream-singing an old song that Yang knows Ruby loves.
Jaune and Pyrrha are dancing in the center of it all. Jaune looks as spiffy as she’s ever seen him, his navy suit shining under the dancefloor’s lights. His red bow tie matches Pyrrha’s bright hair, and her dress seems to glow along with her golden jewelry. Hell, the couple seems to burn with brightness, their matching smiles infectious and lovely and sweet, and Yang is happy to see them so filled with delight. The two of them deserve it, deserve the happy ever after they’ve carved out for themselves.
Her eyes slide back to Blake, and the tightness in her chest loosens. Her girl is smiling and laughing, and her ears are relaxed back against her head. Blake looks beautiful. She’s wearing a wispy high-necked lilac dress that resembles the layered petals of a flower. There’s golden cuffs at her wrists and delicate hair pins holding the strands out of her face. She looks ethereal, dreamlike, exquisite. It’s been hard to take her eyes off of her.
Yang is wearing a yellow to white ombre dress. It’s tight to her chest and waist, but the dress flows out into a full skirt that’s perfect for spinning around in. She forewent any jewelry save for the earrings Weiss had given her for her birthday a few years ago, delicate golden hoops that caress the edge of her jaw. Her shoes are already killing her, white heels that would definitely be off her feet the second she was able to.
She smooths her skirt and straightens up. There’s a slight pounding in her head, and she can’t tell if it’s from the music or the wine, but she doesn’t particularly care. She feels good in a way she hasn’t felt in a long time, a sheer delight that only comes from celebration that’s usually inaccessible in everyday life. Even if she gets to spend her days and nights with Blake, there’s nothing like a good party to liven her up, and it’s even better because Blake is with her.
Another sip of wine, and then she reaches under the table to grab Blake’s hand. Blake squeezes her hand and turns, a smile on her lips. “You guys wanna dance?” Yang asks, raising a brow and leaning forward. The song is just ending, and it’s the perfect time to join the dancefloor. Her blood, her heartbeat, her everything demands that she joins the dancefloor.
“Lets,” Blake says, rising from her seat and helping Yang to her feet. Weiss stands with them from the table and they make for the rest of their group, Yang already bopping and swaying in time to the upbeat music. She doesn’t let go of Blake’s hand as they start dancing alongside Ruby, Penny, Ilia, and Nora, and Blake lifts her arm as Yang twirls underneath.
They don’t stop dancing for what feels like an eternity and a moment. Adrenaline is singing through her veins, and she knows her feet are going to kill when she finally stops moving, but she doesn’t stop. They dance and dance and dance, and she’s touching Blake the entire time. Holding her hand, cupping her hip, caressing her with quick kisses every time their faces are close enough. They dance, and Yang can’t remember the last time she’s felt so alive.
Her ears are ringing as they walk off the dance floor and the cake is wheeled in. Yang smiles at the gasps of the crowd as people snap photos of her creation. The red velvet cake is carefully crowned in gold ribbons and red flowers, all edible and handmade, and she had spent ages perfecting the cream cheese frosting to the perfect pipeable consistency. The cupcakes surrounding the cake are decorated with gemstone chocolates and bunnies, something Weiss had begrudgingly designed in honor of Jaune’s and Pyrrha’s pet rabbits, Crocea and Miló. Yang had been delighted to pipe the tiny eyes and noses, although she’s quite proud of how the gemstones had turned out.
Yang finds her throat thick as Jaune and Pyrrha cut the cake and feed it to each other. Blake reaches for her hand, and Yang’s gaze quickly slides from the happy couple to her girlfriend. Blake is smiling as she squeezes her hand, and Yang’s heart skips a beat.
Yang lays a kiss on Blake’s warm cheek before letting her head fall onto Blake’s shoulder. She’s tired, but there’s plenty of partying left to do, so she’ll push through. Not because she has to, but because she wants to. She wants to enjoy tonight with Blake and dance the night away and go home silly with exhaustion.
Before she can blink, there’s a neat slice of cake in front of her, and everyone around her is digging in. Yang takes a moment to watch as everyone smiles in delight, and her heart lifts. Something in the back of her head clicks open, and she smiles. A genuine, bright slip of her lips that makes her feel warm inside in a way she hasn’t felt in ages. There’s nothing like seeing people enjoy her creations, and seeing the sheer happiness on Jaune’s and Pyrrha’s faces makes her feel happy inside.
Her fork easily parts a bite of the cake, and she brings it to her mouth. Yang grins at the explosion of sweetness from the cake and slight tartness of the cream cheese frosting. She did a damn good job, and she revels in not only having made a good cake but having made a moment, a memory for Jaune and Pyrrha. For her friends, she did something. She did this.
She may not be back to full health, but she could do this much.
Soon, everyone is back on the dancefloor, the music slower, softer this time. Blake extends a hand to her with a gentle smile, and Yang gratefully accepts it, allowing herself to be pulled to her feet and onto the dancefloor and into Blake’s arms in a few fluid motions. They sway together easily, Blake’s arms wrapped around her neck while Yang holds her hips. Blake’s golden gaze sparkles in the multicolored lights, and Yang loses her breath as she looks at her.
She’s the luckiest woman alive.
“You can’t even pretend that I’ve gotten better?” Yang complains, groaning and dropping her pen down onto the table. Blake is giggling across the table from her, giggles that turn into full on full-bellied laughter as Yang crosses her arms and glares. “I’m crippled, damn you, pity me!”
Blake rolls her eyes and neatens the papers they’ve spent the past hour and a half writing on. “I think that’s enough for tonight,” she says. “If you’re playing the woe-is-me card, I think you’ve had enough.”
Yang sticks her tongue out at her, and Blake sticks her tongue out right back. Yang laughs and helps her clean up Boggle, carelessly brushing their hands together as they move. She slings her finger around Blake’s and holds it, gently tugging her girlfriend forward until their bodies are close and Yang can feel Blake’s quiet warmth. “Hey,” she says softly.
Blake’s throat visibly bobs, and Yang takes the time to stroke up her wrist. “Hey yourself,” Blake says back, but her voice is thick. Yang lays her chin on Blake’s shoulder, closing her eyes and humming. “You okay?” Blake asks as Yang lays her hands on her waist.
“Mhm,” Yang responds, keeping her eyes closed and barely holding back a yawn. Her heart skips a beat in her chest, but she still forces herself to ask, “What if they don’t like me?”
Blake sighs, but she nuzzles Yang’s cheek. “They already love you,” Blake says. “You know that.”
Yang holds her tongue.
Blake sighs again. “My parents are jsut excited to meet you in person. That’s all. And I know you’re nervous, but you know they know you make me happy, and that is all they need to know to like you, Yang. And they know so much more, and like you so much.” Blake snorts. “My dad keeps asking about you whenever we’re on the phone together. I think you’re his new best friend.”
“Your mom is going to threaten me,” she points out.
“Yeah, but she only threatens the people I really care about.”
Yang rolls her eyes, but she smiles. “So you really care about me, huh?” She starts swaying, pulling Blake along for the ride with her.
“Yes, Yang,” Blake says patiently. “I really care about you.” Her voice is filled with an emotion Yang can’t quite place, and Yang kisses the side of her throat in response. “One might even say I like-like you.”
“That’s my line!” she weakly protests.
“Well, it’s true.” Blake’s breath is warm on her throat, sending a tingling sensation through her skin. “So don’t be worried. We’ve done video calls and phone calls and you even started playing checkers with my dad online, I think you’re more than ready for this.” Blake huffs. “And it’s got to be less terrifying than meeting Maria.”
“Okay, fair enough.” Yang smiles. “Oh brothers, imagine Maria and your mom meeting.”
“They would tear the town apart,” Blake murmurs, her voice quiet and lulled. Blake’s hands skim Yang’s waist until she’s holding her, and Yang nearly whimpers as Blake’s touch solidifies against her. “We should finish cleaning up,” Blake says, but she doesn’t so much as twitch beneath Yang’s touch.
“We should,” she agrees, but she doesn’t move either.
Yang looks at her naked body in the mirror and frowns. She’s still too thin, her muscles no longer as defined, but her skin is flush with color, and she’s packed on some weight in the past few months. Her eyes slowly flick to her hip, and she forces herself to take a deep breath.
The scar is still an angry pink, and it’s raised up from the rest of her skin. She carefully traces her fingers over the raised edge. Her split nerves flicker and whine, numbness and pain cracking and entwining from her touch. She flinches slightly from the sensation, but she forces herself to keep tracing it. It feels like skin, feels elastic and soft like skin, but it doesn’t feel like her skin. She knows there’s nerve damage there, and she may never gain total sensation back.
She sighs, and her hands drop to her side.
There’s a knock on the door. “Yang?”
“Just a sec,” Yang calls, wrapping herself up in a towel. She pads out to the bedroom where Blake is sitting on the bed. “What’s up?” she asks, reaching for her brush and moving it through her hair and tearing out the knots without so much as a flinch. Blake comes up behind her and gently kisses her neck. Yang hums, setting the brush back down on the nightstand. “What’s up?” she repeats, brow furrowing.
“I just want you to know I like you,” Blake says, her breath warm and curling against her neck. “I like you a lot.” Yang can feel her smile as Blake starts to play with the ends of Yang’s hair. Yang turns around and stares at Blake. Her face is open and soft, and Yang’s breath catches. “I- fuck, I’m sorry, I-” Blake’s smile teeters, and she starts shaking her head.
“It’s okay,” Yang says softly. “You don’t have to say it.”
“But I want to,” Blake says. “I want to say it, because I feel it.” Her slender throat bobs. “I love you, Yang, and I want you to know that.” Yang’s breath catches at the words, and a stupid smile breaks out over her face. “I love you,” Blake repeats, and a grin matching Yang’s own appears. “I love you, Yang.”
Yang presses their foreheads together. “I love you too,” she says, and she can’t stop grinning. She carefully kisses Blake’s plush lips. Her mouth is sweet and hot, and she smiles into her lips. I love you. I love you. I love you . Blake’s words echo on repeat through her mind, and she wraps her arm around Blake’s waist.
She pulls back and stares into Blake’s eyes. “I love you so much.”
“I know,” Blake says, her smile turning into a smirk in a flash.
Yang laughs. “I’m yours,” she says. Her scar throbs, and she takes a deep breath and smiles through the sensation. “I’m all yours.”
Blake tucks a stray strand of hair behind Yang’s ear. “We belong to each other.”
Yang fiddles with the lace edge of her panties, carefully un-creasing them and laying them flat against her soft tummy. The high rise crotchless lingerie covers her scar, and she knows from experience that Blake would worship her skin and kiss the raised skin until Yang is squirming from her love, but that’s not what she wants tonight to be about.
She studies herself in the mirror. The lingerie is soft, framing her skin in glowing yellow lace. It’s an old set, but one she hasn’t worn in months. She hasn’t worn lingerie in months, but now she wants to. Not just because she wants to surprise Blake, not just because she’s finally feeling like herself again, not just because she loves her girlfriend and wants to thank her, but because she wants to. It’s her choice, and she’s in a place where she can finally afford to choose it.
So Yang adjusts the straps of the babydoll and smiles at herself. Her body is her body, her mind is her mind, and her heart is her heart. It’s her choice, and she is choosing Blake. She’s choosing herself.
Yang sets up on the couch, a book in hand, and she waits. She’s waited long enough. A few more minutes is nothing.
“Here,” Yang says, handing Blake a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Her girlfriend smiles faintly as she accepts the glass but doesn’t look up from her book. Yang sits down on the porch next to her, taking a deep inhale of the sweet florals on the hot wind. She had gotten off work early, and it was going to be a quiet night for the two of them.
“I feel good,” she says suddenly, taking a sip from her own glass. The lemon puckers her mouth, but she added enough sweetness to ease the tartness.
“Mhm?” Blake says. Her hand reaches for Yang’s and squeezes, still not looking up from her book.
“Yeah.” Yang looks up at the sky. “I feel good.”
Yang wakes up, but it’s not from a nightmare. She wakes up, and the morning light is filtering silver through the curtains. She wakes up, and her breathing is slow and still. She wakes up, and Blake is holding her, even asleep. She wakes up, and she’s okay. She’s okay.
She wakes up, and she goes back to bed.
Yang hums to herself and brushes her hair behind her ear as she spins the stir fry around in the pan. Blake is setting the table and had made dessert for them earlier, something that had filled their home with the scent of sweet and bright lemons. It’s simple fare, purposely so. Neither of them had wanted to go all out for dinner, not when there were far better and far more important things to devote their energy to. But Yang had done her best to find a recipe that would fill and satisfy them while still being easy to make.
She plates the mix of veggies and shrimp and noodles. It looks divine and smells even better, and she’s been starving for the past few hours, even if they were eating earlier than usual. Yang puts the plates on the table and sits down in her seat as Blake pours the chilled wine into their glasses. She takes a drink of water as Blake sits down beside her, and their feet instinctively lock together and begin to swing in time to some unknown beat.
“Smells delicious,” Blake says. “How was your day?”
Yang smiles and starts to dig in. “It was good,” she says. “I missed you, though.”
Blake rolls her eyes, but she’s blushing. A year in, and Yang still can make her girlfriend blush, a fact she is incredibly proud of. “I missed you too,” Blake says dryly, but there’s warmth in her voice. “I loved the cookie bouquet, by the way. They were very pretty, and they were very tasty. Thank you.”
Yang beams. “I’m glad!” She had spent most of the morning working on decorating the lavender and lemon cookies into resembling lilacs and sunflowers before arranging them in a flower pot she had sculpted last most when they went to a pottery class. Blake had made a beautiful vase that is currently holding the flowers Blake had given Yang this morning while the flower pot she had made more closely resembled a very sad smushed frog that Blake had nicknamed Smoosh. “I threatened Sun within an inch of his life if he ate any before you got to them.”
“Thank you for that,” Blake says. “No wonder he looked so sad today.” Yang laughs, and she slurps up a noodle. Blake crinkles her nose at the sounds but rolls her eyes. “You know, it’s not like I can eat two dozen cookies by myself.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t want him getting to them before you did,” she points out.
“Well, thank you,” Blake says, inclining her head. “I had customers oohing and aahing over it all day, even after we had decimated the majority of it. Ilia says thanks too, and she also says that if you ever get tired of baking just for me, you can always bake for her.”
“I’m sure Weiss would love that,” Yang says. “She nearly killed me when I offered to help with Ilia’s birthday cake.” Blake laughs, and a smile tugs at Yang’s lips. She sips her wine and swings their feet back and forth, running her bare foot up Blake’s ankle. “Hey, hey, hey Blake,” she coos.
Blake rolls her eyes once more, because she already knows what’s coming, but that’s part of the fun for Yang. “Hey, Yang,” she responds.
“I love you,” she says brightly, and she leans across the table to kiss Blake’s temple. “I love you.” Blake laughs, and then her girlfriend tilts her head up towards her and captures her lips in a quiet kiss. Her lips are soft, even as the weather has gotten colder once more, and she could spend hours kissing her, hell, she has spent hours kissing Blake. They might have dinner to eat and plans for afterwards, but what’s an anniversary without an impromptu make out session?
Blake pulls Yang closer to her, and Yang is straddling her lap and kissing Blake deeper. Fuck, they really should eat while the food is hot, but how can she be expected to do that when her girlfriend is right there? Yang smiles at the thought, and she breaks away to kiss up Blake’s jaw. She gently nibbles her ear, and Blake lets out a soft laugh as she does. Brothers, she could listen to that sound all day, every day, and she would never get sick of it, never get sick of the sound of Blake’s joy.
Her stomach grumbles, and they both let out a laugh, even as Yang’s cheeks flame. “Sorry,” she says, straightening up and slowly sliding off Blake’s lap and back to her chair.
“Don’t be,” Blake says, and she reaches forward once more to kiss Yang’s mouth, softer and sweeter this time. “You worked hard today, and we have plenty of time for that afterwards. Plus, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t starving, baby.”
Yang smiles, and she leans back in her chair and takes a drink of water before digging in once more. “Thank you,” she says in between bites. “I’m sorry I missed lunch today, we got super busy and I didn’t get to break-”
“It’s okay!” Blake interrupts, her face open and smiling. “It’s really okay. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.” Blake’s smile is warm. “Plus, it meant I got home earlier than you for once, which means I got to set everything up all of the surprises.”
Yang raises a brow. “Surprises?” she repeats.
“Surprises,” Blake says, and there’s a brightness in her golden gaze that makes Yang want to grin like a fool. “It’s our first anniversary. I wanted to do something special.”
“I am the worst gift giver, Blake, you can’t do this to me!” she protests.
“First off, that is a bald-faced lie,” Blake says. “You are an amazing gift giver, and I had to seriously up my game to compete with you. Second, I wanted to, because you are an amazing partner and I love you and I wanted to do something nice for you. So, suck it up.”
Yang rolls her eyes, but she can’t deny her smile. “Well, thank you,” she says. “I’m genuinely worried now.”
“Because now I have to worry about what I’m going to do next year to up you.”
Blake laughs. “You certainly can try,” she says, eyes blazing. “But I’m not gonna lie, I think you’re gonna really like this. Well, I hope you do. I really hope you do, but if you don’t, you can just let me know and I’ll do something different-”
“Blake,” she interrupts. “You’re fine. You’re so fine, baby, and I know that your gift is perfect because it’s coming from you.”
“That’s so cheesy,” Blake says. “You’re so cheesy.”
“Yeah, but you like cheesy,” she counters.
“Never said I didn’t.”
Yang smiles, and it’s all teeth. “We can be cheesy together, then,” she says. “Speaking of presents, you’re either going to love or hate yours, and I’m already sorry.” Blake rolls her eyes and opens her mouth to speak, but Yang hastily adds, “I just want it to be perfect for you too.” Her easy smile fades slightly, and she averts her gaze. “I want to be perfect for you.”
Blake’s smile softens. “You are,” she says, and she reaches across the table to squeeze Yang’s wrist. “You are, Yang.” Her golden eyes are burning bright as the setting sun, and the view of her girlfriend smiling at her is enough to make her heart seize. “And I’m sure that it’s perfect.” Blake winks at her. “Unless it’s chocolate.”
Yang chuckles, the tension flooding out of her system. “No, definitely not chocolate.”
“Then it’s already perfect.” Blake spins the noodles onto her fork and precisely slurps them up, still smiling. Yang’s foot brushes up Blake’s ankle, and they start swaying together.
Her heart skips a beat, but she still grins back stupidly, doing her best to ignore the nerves twisting in her stomach. She had gotten the idea for Blake’s present a few months back, and it had taken some planning and secret excursions and maneuvering to keep it hidden from Blake. Yang thinks Blake still doesn’t know, though, and that’s what matters. She wants it to be a surprise, wants her girl to be surprised and to enjoy it.
They eat the rest of their dinner in a quiet and comfortable silence, but the air between them is filled with nerves. Good nerves, anticipation for what is to come. Yang keeps sneaking glances at Blake, and she doesn’t have to sneak, she can stare at her girlfriend for as long as she wants, but it feels like everything is new once more. Her heart flutters in her chest, and she clears her throat to shake some of the nerves from her system.
“I got the dishes tonight,” Blake says as they clear their plates. Yang shakes her head, but Blake holds up a hand. “You made dinner. It’s only fair.”
“But it’s our anniversary, and I want to help,” she protests.
“How about you go get everything ready, and I’ll meet you in the living room when I’m done?” Blake says with a smile.
Yang eyes her up and gives a dramatic sigh. “If you insist,” she says. She stands up and pecks the side of Blake’s forehead. “Thank you.”
She heads out of the kitchen and into their bedroom. Yang had hidden Blake’s presents in the back of their closets behind Blake’s thick winter sweaters, the ones she only wore on snow days. She carefully pulls out the wrapped boxes, a small one that fits in her palm and one that’s about the size of a textbook. She had wrapped them in cupcake printed purple wrapping paper and stuck bows and ribbons on top. Yang had learned from Blake’s birthday that she liked bows after Ilia had stuck two mismatched bows on either side of her head, and Blake hadn’t taken them off the whole night.
Yang runs her hands over the wrapped presents, her heart jumping as she walks back out of the bedroom. She knows Blake will love whatever she gets her, but she wants her to genuinely love her presents, wants her to be surprised and feel how much she loves her. Yang takes a deep breath and settles onto the couch, carefully positioning the presents just so. The smaller box is on top, and the metallic ribbons glint and shimmer in the light. Restless, Yang begins tapping her foot against the floor and holds herself tight as Blake finishes the washing up. She tries not to stiffen as Blake enters the living room, envelope in hand.
She smiles as Blake sits down next to her and shifts toward her, biting her lip. “Do you mind if I go first?” she asks hastily, inclining her head toward the presents on the table. “I don’t think I can’t take it any longer.”
“Alright,” Blake says. Yang grins dopily at her and tucks her hair behind her ear. “Is there one I should open first, or-”
“The one on top!”
Blake laughs, and Yang’s chest warms. “Okay.” Blake reaches for the smaller box, her smile widening as she takes in the bows and ribbons and peels them off. Yang watches as her girlfriend carefully unwraps the box, and Yang takes the bow Blake sets aside and bops her on the head with it. Blake rolls her eyes, but she doesn’t stop unwrapping. Yang holds her breath as Blake takes in the small black box. She keeps focused on Blake’s face as the box opens, and her heart seizes as Blake’s face softens.
“Oh, baby,” Blake breathes.
“Do you like it?” she asks, still chewing on her lip. “Because if you don’t, I can return it and get something else, I just- I looked at it and thought of you.” Yang swallows hard.
Blake meets her gaze. “It’s beautiful.”
Relief makes her shoulders sag, and she exhales sharply. Yang scoots closer to Blake and the interior of the box comes into view. The ring inside, handcrafted by Pyrrha, is pale gold with an ovular opal set in the center. The opal is moonlight white with a heartbeat of faint cosmic purple pumping throughout, and the stone practically glows in the light.
“It’s a promise,” she says softly. “A promise that I’ll be here for you, that I love you, and that I will always love you.” Her breath catches, and she averts her gaze. “And I know, I know we’ve been through a lot this year. But, I mean, we got through it, so we can get through anything. As long as we’re together. So, as long as you want me here, baby, I’m here.”
Yang isn’t sure she’s breathing as Blake sets the box down on the table. She freezes when her girlfriend reaches for her hand, and she tentatively looks up into her gaze to see the beautiful golden eyes wet with tears. She immediately moves closer and holds out her arms, her heart stopping in her chest. “Oh, baby, I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean to upset you, I just-”
“No, you dork!” Blake sniffs, wiping her eyes as Yang takes her into her arms. “I love it, dammit, and I love you.” Blake lays her head against Yang’s heart, which feels like it has stopped beating.
Yang’s throat is thick, and when she goes to swallow she finds her eyes similarly wet to Blake’s. “I know we don’t want to get married yet,” she says. “But consider this an engagement to an engagement. Okay?” She pulls back and brushes her thumb over Blake’s tears. “If you’re okay with that.”
“I’m more than okay with that.” Blake’s ears fall back against the side of her head, and her girl is smiling. “I can’t believe I’m crying right now.”
“This next one is just cheesy, but I think you’re going to like it,” Yang says, carefully stretching for the larger box and placing it in Blake’s lap. “So I don’t think you’re going to cry again. But if you do, that’s okay, I’m not saying that it’s not okay, I’m just not used to happy tears and-”
“I’m going to open this now, okay?” Blake says, moving her arm up to squeeze Yang’s arm. Yang shuts her mouth and nods. Blake smiles back at her, and Yang melts. She keeps her gaze focused on Blake as her girlfriend opens the present, and her leg resumes shaking as Blake carefully takes the book out of the box. Blake’s hands run over the soft cover, and she looks up at Yang. “What is this?”
“Open it up,” she manages to say. She bites her lip to keep quiet until Blake has gone through a few of the pages. “It’s every recipe we’ve made ever together. All in one place, and with room to grow, of course.” Blake stays quiet, and Yang shifts closer once more. “I know you like your books, and I just thought-”
“Dammit, Yang!” Blake says suddenly. “You do not get to say you’re a bad gift giver. Baby, this is- you are amazing.” Yang watches as Blake’s hand traces over the pages. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she says. “It’s just, you know, I thought it would be cute. And we can keep growing it as we grow together. Wait, that’s so cheesy, oh my gosh!” She buries her face in her hands as Blake laughs. “But you like it?” she asks, still holding her face.
“I love it,” Blake says, and then her hand is gently pulling at Yang’s chin and bringing her up. “I really, really love it.” Blake presses a soft kiss to Yang’s lips, and her heart skips a beat. “You’re perfect, baby,” she murmurs into Yang’s mouth, and Yang nearly stops breathing again. But Blake pulls back and sets the book side. “But now it’s my turn.” Blake hands her the slim envelope. “There’s more, but, um, I want you to read this first.”
Yang nods, and she quickly tears open the envelope. Blake’s loopy and lovely penmanship fills the page, the ink dark and smooth across the page.
Happy one year anniversary! I love you so much, but Brothers, this is awkward. I’ve never been good at vocalizing what I want to say, and I thought writing it all down would be easier, but somehow it’s not. Still, I hope it’ll be worth the awkwardness on my part to make you happy. I hope you like this, and I know you keep saying you’ll like anything I give you, but still. I want you to like this.
I really struggled with what to get you. I’ve been thinking about this since we hit six months, and while we had bigger issues going on then, I knew we would make it to a year and beyond, so I needed to start thinking. I needed to focus on something positive, and I needed to find something perfect for you.
As easy going as you are, you are a horror to shop for, baby. I didn’t want you to just like your present, I want you to love it and remember it. I want you to remember this, and that’s when it hit me; (yes I’m using a semicolon, shush up and keep reading) I could take you through my memories of you. Of how I fell in love with you. Of how easy it is to love you.
I never told you this, partially because it seemed so silly and it was embarrassing, but that night we first met, I thought you were the most ridiculous person I’d ever met. I couldn’t comprehend the idea of someone, anyone but especially a stranger, comforting me. I didn’t deserve, at least, I didn’t think I did, and yet you did. You asked if I was okay, and then you asked me if I needed anything.
Up until that point, I hadn’t really considered what I needed. I thought about bare minimum necessities, but you asked me if I needed anything, and you made me think about long term needs. What did I need to not just get through the day, the hour, the minute, but what did I need to get through the week, the month, the year? And, eventually, I learned that I needed you. Not in the sense that I couldn’t function without you, but I needed your kindness. I needed to accept your kindness, I needed your easy smiles and bright laugh and warm heart. I needed you in my life, and even now, even though I don’t need you like I did, I still want you. I choose you.
I don’t know who I’d be without you, and I don’t want to know, because I get to choose you. I am privileged enough to want you and be wanted by you, and I want to take full advantage. And I have.
The past year, I’ve been lavished in your love. The past year, I’ve been spoiled absolutely rotten by your consistency and your kindness and you. The past year, I’ve fallen in love with you. I should have known from the start that you were meant for me and I was meant for you, but that doesn’t matter when we’ve chosen each other. You chose me, despite everything. And I will always choose you.
You are so easy to love. I’ve loved you for longer than I’ve been in love with you, true, but you are so easy to fall in love with. It was so easy to fall in love with you, all of you.
The way you hum when you’re baking, even and maybe especially when you’re off-key and forget what song you’re singing and transition to a different one. The all or nothingness of your heart, the sheer beauty of your extremes. The way your competitive spirit never dies no matter how many times I crush you at Boggle. The way you shriek and whine when you get brain freeze and still go right back in for another bite. The open vulnerability you never hide. The way you shake out your hair after a long day at the bakery. The endless depths of your kindness. The boundlessness of your strength, physical and mental and emotional. The gentle way your hands hold me after a long day, or even a short one. The excitement that gleams in your eyes when you finally figure out a new recipe. The way your eyes glow when you look at those you love. The way you don’t just wear your heart on your sleeve but offer it and share it.
I could go on. The point is how loveable you are. But you are so much more than the sum of your parts, baby, and I could spend years trying to tell you why I love you and fail to capture the singular essence of you. You are bright and beautiful and, baby, you are mine and I am yours. We belong to each other and to ourselves.
I never thought I would find a love like you. A love out of a myth or movie, and I still sometimes wake up next to you and have to pinch myself that you’re real, that we’re real. I never thought I could deserve someone like you, and now you won’t let me forget that you love me and I deserve your love. Every day, I try to be someone who is deserving of you, and maybe I don’t always succeed, but I will always try because you are worth the effort.
I love you. I’m in love with you, Yang Xiao Long, and now, when I think about my future, you’re always there, as sure as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. You are my sun, you are my consistency and my bright light and something otherworldly. You are my sun, Yang, and I know you will always be there. How could I not love you?
I think I’ve known you were the one for me since you said you wanted to wait for me. No one has wanted to wait for me before. No one has even wanted me like you want me before, and I don’t just mean romantically, I mean in every sense. No one has wanted me, they’ve wanted the idea of me or a percentage, but not all of me. No one has ever wanted all of me in their life the way you want me in yours, and it’s intense enough to stop my heart mid-beat, but I wouldn’t have it, I wouldn’t have you, any other way. No one has ever wanted me, and you do.
You were terrifying to me because you love with every atom of your being, and I didn’t think I could ever be enough for you. I didn’t know I could ever deserve you, but you tell me I do, and I can’t dishonor you and not believe you. It was scary to know that you wanted me back because I didn’t think I could ever be enough to hold your love.
But I have, and you make it so easy. You make it easy to be loved and you make it easy to love. Everything with you is so easy, it’s as natural as breathing. Life isn’t easy, and yet you are. You make me see clearly. I love you.
I feel like I’m blabbering, like I’m writing utter nonsense, but I need you to know that I love you.
You told me once that you bake from the heart, and, Yang, sweetheart, you do everything from the heart. Every movement, every breath, every thought comes directly from your heart. I don’t understand how you can have such a capacity for love and passion and drive, but I will never, ever complain about that. Everything about you comes from the heart. You’re earnest and true and loving. And I love you because you never shy away from yourself.
You are always you. And that’s all I could ever ask for, but you give me so much more.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
Yang is only aware she’s crying when her tears drip onto the page, and she frantically throws the letter onto the table as she wipes her eyes to keep from smearing the ink. “Fuck,” she croaks, furiously wiping at her eyes. “Fuck, baby.”
“Do you like it?” Blake asks, and her voice wavers and makes Yang’s heart pulse. “I know it’s not great, but I just- I wanted you to know that. All of that. I wanted you to know everything, and I love you, and I want you to be sure that I love you.” Blake’s throat bobs. “I want you to have proof that I love you.”
Instead of answering, Yang immediately brings Blake into her arms and hugs her to her chest. Her shampoo is sweet and musky and familiar, and Yang closes her eyes as she inhales. She can feel Blake’s heartbeat against her chest, and she doesn’t bother restraining herself as she whispers, “I love you so much.”
Her own chest feels like it’s shaking, fluttering, and her tears break into laughter as she holds Blake. She hears Blake sniffling and feels her tears wetting her shoulder, but she doesn’t pull back even as their breathing becomes steady. Yang closes her eyes.
“I love you,” she repeats.
“I love you too,” Blake says, her voice muffled in Yang’s shoulder.
Yang pulls back and studies her girl, her lovely girl, her Blake. She’s beautiful and cozy and home. Yang smiles, and she savors the moment of being able to look at her on a quiet evening. They would have the rest of their lives together for Yang to stare at Blake, but it was never going to be something she took for granted. Blake was never going to be someone she took for granted.
Blake wipes at her eyes. “I made cake too,” she says hoarsely.
Yang smiles and laughs. “Baby, you just made my night,” she teases. “What kind?”
“Earl Gray Lemon. The first cake you ever brought me,” Blake adds, as if Yang could ever forget. “It’s definitely not as good as yours, but-”
“You made it from the heart, and that’s what matters,” Yang finishes. “That’s all that matters.”