"What do you mean they aren't back yet?"
Blake's ears pulled back as Fiona looked back at her in dismay, worry and anguish on her face at the information she just relayed to the group. Ruby's hand slipped into hers to calm her down, and Weiss narrowed her eyes, standing just to her left in the tent. Joanna was seated in the corner, cradling her weapon while also keeping an eye on the group and Fiona.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. They were only supposed to do a quick Grimm sweep. But, at one point Yang called in to say there was some sort of emergency, and that I wouldn't understand." Fiona trailed off at the end, her sheep ears lowering on her head. Blake felt some of her anger dissipate into the air, but her ears remained pinned due to the anxiety swirling in her stomach. "I haven't been able to contact any of them since then. I can't even read their aura levels anymore."
Blake's ears sprang up on her head at that, and she hastily pulled out her scroll from her pocket. Sure enough, as Fiona said, none of their aura levels were showing up. When Blake attempted to call Yang, only the outgoing call message flashed on her screen, indicating no signal on the other end.
"Do you have any idea where they would have gone?" Ruby piped in now, and with a squeeze to Blake's hand, she let go of her to step forward, addressing both Fiona and Joanna directly. "If their auras won't show, that means they went far, right?"
Fiona and Joanna looked at each other, then returned their gazes to the three women in front of them.
"I have no clue." Fiona said softly. Weiss let out a sharp exhale next to her and sat down on one of the many crates in the tent, and Ruby ran a hand through her hair. Blake pocketed her scroll and pursed her lips, ears lowering again as she crossed her arms.
The silence was deafening in the tent, none of them having any idea what to do next. All Blake knew was she needed to get out there, needed to do something even if they had no idea where to start. The other group should have been back by now, should have been in range for their auras to be shown, for them to be connected to a call. When they were in Atlas, it made sense- it's all the way above Mantle, so when Ruby couldn't get a hold of Yang, it made sense to Blake that maybe it was just bad connection between the cities. But, if they're even too far away while they're in Mantle, then...
Blake's ears perked up- the right first, then the left followed. She looked up at everyone with wide eyes.
"The tundra." Blake whispered, almost afraid to break the solemn, quiet atmosphere in the tent. Everyone's eyes shot to her as she said that, and Weiss stood off the crate immediately, with Ruby turning to her with unreadable silver eyes.
"What?" Fiona replied, sheep ears twitching. Blake sighed and leaned forward, and with Fiona's permission, began looking over the map spread out on the table in front of them. There wasn't much out in the tundra, besides mountains and hills of snow. But, there, right in the middle of the tundra, only a few miles away from the hole in Mantle's wall, was a single outpost marker. Blake pointed her finger at it, an unnamed feeling surging through her when she saw that small, minuscule area.
"The tundra. That has to be where they are." Blake said. Fiona furrowed her eyebrows and looked over the map with her, eyes tracing the snowy outlines of the tundra.
"But, why...?" Fiona began, only for Blake to cut her off.
"Our scrolls won't connect to theirs, we can't read their aura levels at all. It means they're either broken beyond repair, too far away from us, or both." Blake interjected, looking up at Fiona, feeling everyone else's eyes on her back. "This looks like an outpost of some sort, yeah?"
Fiona looked over the small dot near Blake's finger for a few seconds, before nodding.
"I think so. It was abandoned some time ago, though." She replied.
Blake pulled away from the map table and stepped back a little, looking at Weiss and Ruby.
"Something made them go out there. I don't know why, or what, but it doesn't matter. If I know Ren, he would have noticed an outpost along their way in case they got stranded. And if I know Yang..." Blake trailed off, a prick of pain settling into her heart for a brief moment before she recovered. "She wouldn't have ignored our calls on purpose. Not at a time like this."
"You're right." Weiss cut in, her eyebrows pulled together. "But, what do we do? We can't leave Mantle on its own."
"We can handle it." Joanna cut in, standing up off her own crate to stand next to Fiona. Ruby, Weiss and Blake looked to each other before looking at the two Happy Huntress' again.
"Are you sure?" Ruby said. Joanna laid an arm around Fiona, who squeaked and flushed red when the taller woman pulled her into her side.
"Most of the citizens and sectors have been cleared of Grimm. Your friends were a huge help in all this, so I think it's time we also return the favour." Joanna said with a smirk, motioning towards the open flap of the tent. "If something happened to them, you better go. They were useful in helping around here, I don't wanna lose that."
All three of them sighed with relief, before nodding and immediately heading out of the tent.
May was still inside the airship they had stolen to get down to Mantle when they entered it. She jumped at the sounds of their footsteps and turned around from the fiddling with the controls, frown on her face.
"We need you to fly this out to the tundra." Weiss cut her off, and May raised an eyebrow at the demanding tone.
"The tundra? There's nothing out there." May replied in confusion, looking between them all. Blake clenched her jaw, but Ruby beat her to the punch.
"The other group hasn't made it back yet. Their auras won't show on our scrolls, and we can't contact them. We have no other leads on where they are, so please, May. We need you." Ruby said in desperation. Blake flicked her eyes between May and Ruby as they had a stare down for several moments, until finally May sighed and slumped down into the pilot's seat.
"Hold on tight, then."
"Is that the outpost?" Weiss yelled over the roar of the engine in the airship, all three women piled next to each other to look out the window. May hummed in acknowledgement, starting to descend the airship closer to the abandoned, dark outpost.
Blake looked down at the small building, a pool of anxiety working its way into her stomach again. There were no bikes around the outpost, no indication that any of the other group had even been there. Her ears curled on her head with worry, and the minute that May landed the airship, she opened the door and rushed outside, pulling Gambol Shroud from her back. She went to the entrance of the outpost, looking inside.
Her heart dropped into her stomach when she saw that it was empty. All that was left, she realised when she walked in further, was a single piece of one of the bikes the group had used, laying on the worktable with tools scattered around. She blinked as she stopped in front of it, eyes drawn to the purple, cylinder part inside of the bike, tightened and put together to perfection. Her ears flicked- only one person would have had the expertise to do this.
She jumped and whipped around, Ruby standing inside the entrance of the outpost. She swallowed thickly at the worry on Ruby's face, but cleared her throat and gestured to the piece of the bike.
"They were here." She said, and Ruby nodded once at her. She pointed her thumb behind her.
"You need to see this." Ruby replied.
Soon enough, she, Ruby, Weiss and May stood outside of the outpost, right near a large crack in the ground that looked unnatural, damp and dark down below. Blake's ears flicked on her head as she crouched down, looking into the abyss.
May followed her lead and crouched next to her, while Ruby and Weiss readied their weapons in case anything jumped out. May leaned over and frowned, tilting her head.
The group jumped away from the crater in the ground and readied their weapons, looking around frantically as a gut-wrenching and horrendous scream echoed around them, bouncing off the snowy hills and mountains.
"That was Jaune!" Weiss screeched.
Suddenly, a deep rumbling started on the ground underneath their feat. They pulled away from the crack in the ground and looked around, Blake swivelling her ears this way and that. Another painful scream travelled towards them, this one sounding just like...
"Yang." Blake breathed out, gripping Gambol Shroud tightly in her hands. Without hesitation, she stepped around the crater in the ground and began sprinting.
"Blake, wait!" Ruby called after her, but she didn't hear. She didn't care, didn't think of anything other than Yang, and where the hell she was.
"Yang!" Blake called desperately, stomach flipping upside down with sickness when she got nothing in return. The snow blew in her face and blurred her vision as she attempted to round one of the many snowy hills near the outpost. She vaguely heard the pounding of feet behind her, indicating Weiss, Ruby and possibly May were tailing her as well. She grunted when a particular blast of cold hit her in the face, but she continued on into the tundra.
"Yang!" She yelled into the milky white all around her. Tears bubbled beneath the surface, threatening to overtake her and crumble her entire body to the ground. She never should have left Yang here in Mantle, never should have left things the way they did. She should have been here, should have told her-
Blake's ears perked up instantly at that sound, her vision finally clearing slightly when the snow calmed down. She had rounded the hill, and what greeted her was the worst possible sight of her entire life.
A Grimm, one she had never seen or heard of before, stood tall and imposing above the trio they had been looking for the entire time. The elongated body of the Grimm poked out of the snowy ground below it, as if it had been tunnelling underneath. Its mouth opened wide and many of the smaller fish-like additions around its mouth detached from the body they had created, scattering around on the snow. It roared, the force almost sending her flying back into her companions behind her, who had just joined her in the chaos.
"Oh my god." May breathed out in disbelief, and she didn't have to look to know that Weiss and Ruby were probably speechless and in disbelief too. Blake's eyes shot down to an even worse mess. Jaune, in a crouch with his sword and shield barely held up in front of him. Ren, guns beaten away from him and his back pressed to the snow. Her eyes finally found a sliver of gold in the blindness of the cold and snow. Her eyes widened at the state of her partner, her gauntlet bashed in as she laid there next to Ren, the Grimm circling around and looming over her.
Blake rushed forward, no communication needed for the rest of her team to follow. She saw Weiss throw glyphs out to stop the mini fish from overwhelming Jaune and helped him to his feet, his face bloody and aura most likely depleted completely. Ruby went in for Ren, using her semblance to get them out of there and back towards where May was at the edge of the hill.
"Yang!" Blake yelled, sprinting to her fallen partner just as the Grimm reeled back to send another blow onto her. Blake threw out Gambol Shroud, catching the Grimm on the side of its mouth and tugging. It roared in pain and reared back, away from the pair of black and yellow for a brief moment. She tugged Gambol back towards her and then slid on her knees to make it to Yang's side, her eyes widening and heart constricting now that she saw, properly, the state she was in.
Bruises and cuts littered her once flawless, strong features. Blood seeped from every wound, leaking into her parted lips where uneasy, weak breaths were being expelled from. Her eyes were just barely closed, a few coughs escaping her throat. Blake whimpered and reached out, cradling Yang's face in her hands.
"Hey, hey. You're gonna be okay." Blake's voice cracked. Yang seemed to recognise someone was touching her, and she raised her eyes to look up at Blake, her eyebrows furrowing.
"B...lak...e?" Yang's voice was practically gone, only the tiniest, raspiest, broken utterance of her name being heard from those once delicate and soft lips. Now, they pooled with blood, slight gurgling and coughing coming from the golden girl every few seconds due to the excess dripping into her mouth. Blake felt sick, her insides rearranging themselves and the feeling of bile wanting to crawl out of her becoming stronger the longer she look at her broken partner.
"We need to go. I've got you." Blake said softly, a couple of tears dropping from her eyes to mix in with Yang's blood. Yang managed a faint nod, before Blake sucked in a breath harshly and pulled herself up, hoisting Yang into her arms in a bridal style. She spun around to look at the rest of the team, Ruby and Weiss performing Iceflower to distract the giant Grimm. May held both Jaune and Ren near the hill, and once she saw Blake had Yang, she yelled to them all.
"Back to the airship! We can't deal with this on our own. Not like this!" May screamed. The creature screeched in pain when Ruby sliced her scythe through its side, Weiss sending a glyph out to cushion her partner's fall after launching herself up that high. Ruby grunted when she landed, but the glyph steadied her somewhat. Blake watched Weiss erase the glyph and reach out to Ruby, their hands interlocking as they ran away from the Grimm.
Blake held Yang closer to her chest and sprinted as fast her burning legs could carry her. She heard the Grimm roar behind them, and when she looked back, she realised it was burrowing itself under the ground again, the ground rumbling beneath everyone's feet as they rounded the hill.
"Let's go!" May yelled, speeding up despite the fact both Jaune and Ren could hardly keep up with her strides, her arms around both of them to hold them up. The airship wasn't far away now, and they were approaching fast despite the quakes caused by the Grimm chasing them. Ruby looked back at Blake as she carried Yang, motioning her to pick up the pace.
"I can use my semblance!" Ruby yelled through the chaos, and Blake hoisted Yang higher and closer to her, gripping her tightly as she quickened her steps. She almost tumbled when the Grimm broke through the ground, at the crack that it had made prior near the outpost. She stumbled slightly, and just before it was able to swing down and hit her, Ruby gathered them all together and threw her cloak around them all, sending them towards the airship and inside with a trail of rose petals behind them.
Blake held on to Yang as she stumbled out of Ruby's semblance, planting her feet as steadily as she could. Everyone else materialised alongside her, Ren and Jaune being placed onto the floor of the ship by May. They leaned against each other, eyes barely opening and bodies immobile in their current broken states. May shook off the effects of Ruby's semblance and rushed to the pilot's seat, pressing buttons on the control panel.
"Lock the door!" She yelled back at the team.
Weiss took initiative and slid the door shut just as the Grimm made another pass at them. It knocked into the side of the airship, some of the lights inside flashing red at the impact. Blake slid her and Yang down to the floor, placing her head in her lap as May finally got the engine running, lifting them into the air and avoiding another attack from the creature.
Everyone breathed heavily and stayed absolutely still, drinking in the roars of the Grimm as they soared into the sky, away from the outpost and on their way back to the city of Mantle.
Blake's breaths puffed out quickly, the adrenaline coursing through her veins slightly subsiding the further they got away from that horrendous creature. She had know idea where it came from or why it was there. But, that didn't matter now.
Blake slowed her breathing as best she could and looked down at the bundle of gold in her lap. Her heart stuttered in her chest at the sight of Yang's closed eyes, breathing still shallow and face completely drenched in blood. Some of it had dried in the scuffle with the Grimm, but some wounds still oozed blood, dipping onto her pants. She glanced up and saw Ruby watching them from across the airship, Weiss stuck to her side and their arms looped together. Ruby met her eyes, sent her an uneasy, but optimistic smile- almost as if to say, "You got this. It's okay."
Blake gulped and looked down again, just as Yang fluttered her lilac eyes open. She glanced around for a second to get her bearings, but finally her eyes met hers, and although the light had dimmed in them, she could still see the telltale sparkle of recognition in those lilac orbs, a small spark when she looked at Blake. She tried to speak, but her words turned into a few coughs, and Blake shook her head, cupping her bloody cheeks with her hands, not caring if her skin stained red. Not when Yang needed her.
"Shhh, it's okay. Take it easy, okay?" Blake murmured. Yang cleared her throat and nodded slowly, hands lifting up to lay over top Blake's on her cheeks. Her touch was soft and gentle, as always, and it almost sent another round of tears out of her eyes because of how broken Yang looked. She ran her thumbs along Yang's bruised and scraped cheeks, running them gently over her cheekbones. Yang winced, but her grip tightened on Blake's hands when she tried to pull them away, apology dying on her tongue when Yang's lips parted.
"Blake." She wheezed, and her heart surged into the heavens at that beautiful, sweet sound. Blake swallowed, ears lowering on her head as she leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together as delicately as possible.
"I'm here. I'm here, now. Don't worry. You'll be okay." Blake whispered in the limited space between them. One of Yang's eyes closed due to the pain surrounding it, the black and blue indicative of a harsh bruise. Her left eye remained open to look into her amber orbs. Despite her injuries, the blood and the awful black and blue littering her face, Blake still found her the most beautiful in the room.
Yang took a shaky, painful sounding breath. "Oscar..."
She trailed off, and Blake blinked at her. Once the most of her adrenaline seeped out from her, it clicked in her brain that this group was one farm boy short. She crinkled her forehead at this.
"Yang?" Ruby chimed in, not even bothering to hide the pain in her voice at the mention of Oscar, who everyone realised was nowhere to be found with the group. "He's just... Helping in Mantle, isn't he?" Ruby said, and Blake watched Yang tilt her head towards her sister, a look of sorrow passing between them. Ruby sucked in a breath at the silence, letting it out slowly and shakily while Weiss leaned into her partner. Ruby swallowed and buried her face into Weiss' neck, the ex-heiress cradling the back of her head as she did so.
"Salem has him." Yang said brokenly, and Blake could see all the anger, regret, and sadness mixed into one on Yang's bloodied face in that moment. Blake quickly shook her head and ran a hand through Yang's hair briefly, gathering her attention.
"It's not your fault." Blake said. "Oscar is stronger than we give him credit for. We'll get him back."
Yang didn't seem all that convinced, but she still nodded back at her partner solemnly. Blake pursed her lips and sighed lightly, before Yang took a breath and looked into her eyes again, licking her lips.
"Blake." Yang said softly, and Blake hummed in response.
"I'm sorry. With how I- how I left... Things." Yang rasped, her throat bobbing with Blake could only assume was pain.
"Yang, don't." Blake tried to stop her from using too much of her energy, from hurting herself further for these ridiculous apologies that Blake didn't need to hear. All she cared about was that her partner was safe, now, and in her arms and looking radiant even with the mess on her face. Her golden hair splayed over her lap like a halo, and as she pressed her forehead into hers, their noses brushing, her heart lurched in her chest and almost flew out of her when Yang's lip quirked into the slightest of smiles. Blake looked into her one eye that was still open and smiled back, relief oozing from her at the sight of Yang's.
It was almost as if it was just the two of them, here. With no other teammates around, no May, no airship. Just them, Blake holding the most important person in her life in her arms, Yang looking up at her like that even if it was through only one functioning eye right now. Blake licked her lips, but before she could do anything, Yang spoke again.
"Blake?" Yang mumbled, and Blake nodded in acknowledgement. Yang sighed, and her warm breath fanned out over her lips. She suppressed a shudder and tuned back in to the conversation, just barely.
"Do... Do you think less of me?" Yang said in a small voice, the smallest that Blake had ever heard. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she blinked at Yang in confusion, the pieces floating around in her mind at what that meant. When it those pieces clicked together in her brain, her ears curled sadly, still pinned down on her head. Yang took another shaky breath, and when she started up again, Blake's jaw set in determination.
"For, you know-"
Blake surged forward, mindful of the cuts and bruises on Yang's skin, and sealed their lips together. Yang let out an 'mmph' at the action, momentarily stunned into not moving for a solid few seconds, before she picked up the rhythm Blake had started. Blake pressed closer, her back beginning to hurt from the hunched over position she was in, but she didn't care. No, all that mattered was Yang's lips on hers, finally, her delicate and gentle kiss sending her onto cloud 9 and filling her up with a warmth and love she had never felt before. She shuddered when Yang's left hand raised to press into the back of her neck, fingers gently caressing the skin there as they kissed.
Maybe it was ill-timed, maybe it would have been better if the others weren't witnessing their first ever kiss. Maybe it would be better if Yang was in better shape, and she didn't taste the metallic tang of her blood on her tongue. It would be better if Oscar were here, Weiss covering his eyes in order to shield him from this sort of display. All of these things rushed into Blake's mind, the last one settling a sadness in her heart, even though she had faith they would get Oscar back soon.
Yang's lips slotted against hers so perfectly, so softly that all of these things turned into background noise to her in the moment, allowing herself this one beautiful thing before the fight for Mantle, Atlas, and now Oscar overtook them again.
She wouldn't have had it any other way. In her mind, it was perfect for them.
She practically smirked in triumph when she sucked on Yang's bottom lip, a whine escaping from the beautiful goddess in her lap at that one simple action alone. Oh, she thought, that'd be nice to hear more often.
When her lungs began to burn and her body began to seize up from the uncomfortable position, she finally pulled away from Yang's intoxicating lips. Their pants mixed together, and she greedily gulped in some air in order to get the words out that were lodged in her throat.
"I would never." She said breathlessly, and when she opened her eyes, she flushed when she saw both of Yang's already open, looking back up at her with all the love and adoration in the world. She smiled slightly down at her partner, and Yang returned it, her hand slipping from the back of Blake's neck to her cheek, her thumb running along her cheekbone.
"Okay." Yang breathed out, giddy look in her lilac eyes when Blake brushed their lips together once more, very briefly. She was still very aware of the eyes on them in the airship, and the limited time they had now until they landed.
Her musings of how beautiful and soft Yang looked in her arms were cut short when Yang's body started vibrating with giggles, and Blake pulled back a little to look down at her properly, eyebrow raised. Yang let out a tiny laugh at the look on her face, then pointed to her with one rough looking finger.
"Gross, you just kissed my mouth full of blood." Yang teased, and Blake instantly felt red flood her cheeks, a groan slipping past her lips. Yang continued to cackle in her lap, pressing her face into her stomach and smearing blood all over the pristine white of her jacket. Blake sighed, ear perking up at the melodic sound of her partner's laughter, briefly interjecting into the solemn and despair ridden atmosphere of the airship because of the events that had transpired. Her laughter still made Blake smile, and out of the corner of her eye, she could see Weiss still holding Ruby close to her, exasperated look on her face, and Ruby even allowing a tiny smile on her lips at the sound of her sister and the sight of them both pressed together like they were.
Blake huffed and rolled her eyes, shaking her head and running her hand through Yang's golden tresses. Her giggles subsided soon enough, and silence overtook the group once more. There were so many more problems now, so many more things throwing a wrench into all of their plans, all of their hopes to help Mantle and Atlas.
But love was a beautiful thing, and even in the most dire of times, it can be its own beacon of hope and light in the darkness.
Yang would never be less to her. Yang was her light- her rock, her support and one of the people she valued most in this world, loved most in this world. Even if they disagreed, even if they get angry in the future, even if things don't go their way- they would always make it through in the end, she was sure of it.
Yang was enough for her, and will always be enough for her.
More than enough.