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we could follow the sparks (i'll drive)

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i.

We’re having people over for Christmas dinner and need some extra dining room chairs.  Does anyone have any we can borrow?

The email pops up on her phone in the middle of aimlessly scrolling through Twitter-- the only way she’s spent any evening since she moved in here, because unpacking is overrated and also deeply intimidating-- and Blake nearly drops her phone on her face when it vibrates.  It’s from the apartment building’s message board, the one that she’d logged into and then immediately forgotten about.

Blake cranes her neck up from where she’s sprawled inelegantly on her couch, the only surface in the apartment not covered in boxes, until she can see her kitchen table and the optimistic collection of four chairs surrounding it, and then flops back down and stares up at the ceiling.  It’s not like she’s going anywhere for Christmas this year, or having anyone over: her parents are going on a cruise, because they’re weird, and Blake’s lived in this city for two months and met zero people, because she’s carrying on the Belladonna weirdness tradition.  

Her phone vibrates again, and she drags it up to stare at it automatically.  It’s another email from the building message board.

We can pay in Christmas cookies that may or may not be deeply alcoholic!

She stares at the email for a long moment and weighs the possibility of cookies against the effort of having to talk to strangers on Christmas, a day she’d fully intended to spend getting shitfaced over Chinese takeout while watching Vanessa Hudgens Christmas movies on Netflix.  After the hours she’s been pulling at work, she’s completely certain she deserves a day of not having to talk to a single human being or putting on a bra, yet somehow her disobedient thumbs have already opened up the email and sent a reply.

I have four chairs you’re welcome to use.

With a groan, she drops her phone onto her chest and starts figuring out how to jigsaw her menagerie of unpacked boxes to free up all four chairs.  And so it is that on the morning of Christmas Eve, Blake finds herself hustling all four of her dining room chairs into the elevator-- 

We can come get them, it’s not a problem, Ruby from apartment 12F had written, and Blake had nearly dropped her phone in the sink while brushing her teeth and half-asleep.  

It’s okay, don’t worry about it.  I’ll bring them up Tuesday morning around ten if that’s fine, she’d written back, after retyping it a reasonable sixteen times and assuring herself that she sounded like a helpful neighbor and not someone with an apartment that absolutely is not fit for company in any way.

--and only banging her shin twice in the process.  She huffs out a breath and squeezes into the elevator and has to climb over the chairs to hit the button for the twelfth floor, already looking forward to the bottle of rum on her kitchen counter and a whole uninterrupted day of doing absolutely nothing productive.  

12F is, thankfully, only two doors down from the elevator.  Blake manhandles the chairs out into the hallway and then hauls two up under each arm and shuffles sideways like the world’s least graceful crab.  She hits the doorbell without thinking about it and then belatedly wonders if she should have put on literally any other shirt than the one with palm trees and Beachy Keen printed across the chest that she stole from Ilia three years ago.

Too late now.  There’s a yelp of “Just a sec!” from the other side of the door, and then possibly a crash, and then the door is flung open and a woman with an impressive amount of blonde hair piled up into a bun on top of her head and even more impressive shoulders is standing there and blinking at Blake.

“You’re not Weiss,” she says, and Blake blinks right back at her.

“I-- not,” she says, like an idiot, and then shakes her head and points stupidly at one of the chairs.  “You asked for chairs?”

“Oh,” the other woman says, and then her eyes go wide.  “Oh!  Chairs for dinner.  Right.”

She shakes her head and rubs a hand over the back of her neck, smile sheepish and freckles backlit by a delicate flush smearing across her cheeks.  “Here, let me help you.”

Before Blake can say anything, she’s leaned out and yanked up one of the chairs, hauling it into the apartment.  Blake shakes her head, feet rooted to the floor, unsure if she should follow or just wait in the hallway to hand chairs in.

“Come on in!”

Well, that answers that.  Blake hefts a chair and steps inside and is immediately beset by the fact that Christmas vomited all over the apartment.  There’s a tree in one corner of the living room that reaches right up to the ceiling, with enough lights that Blake’s absolutely certain it’s a fire hazard, and a pile of presents that would fill a small car stacked haphazardly under it and encroaching on a not-insignificant amount of floor space.  Christmas lights reach out from the tree and line the walls, twinkling cheerfully and wrapping around the entire living room.  The kitchen’s immediately to the left and every possible inch of counter is covered in what looks like enough food for a football team, and the dining table is pulled out from the wall and takes up enough space between the front door and the living room that Blake has to lift the chair up overhead to get past it to the open spaces at the far end.

“Maybe we should have left the empty spots by the front door.”  The blonde woman winks at her as she brushes back past Blake, and Blake drops the chair onto her foot because she only has so much self control when faced with a brick shithouse of a woman with a bright smile. Something beeps in the kitchen, and she frowns and darts away before Blake can say anything.  

Blake follows at a more normal pace, glancing at the enormous roast coming out of the oven as she retrieves another chair.  She turns around to carry it back inside and nearly walks straight into another person, this one shorter and with darker hair, the same wide grin.

“You brought chairs!” she lets out a cheer and yanks the chair out of Blake’s hands, leaving her standing there with her hands out in front of her for a long moment.  “You’re a lifesaver, thanks so much!”

“Um,” Blake says eloquently.  “You’re welcome.”  She busies herself with hauling the last chair inside, hefting it over the table on her way to the last empty spot.

“What’s your name?”  The tall one is back, hands in oven mitts and set lazily on her hips as she watches the other one fuss over the chair placement.

“Me?”

“Well, I already know my sister’s name,” she drawls out, and Blake normally would find the smothering affect of charm annoying at best but instead finds herself losing her equilibrium in the face of it.  She also doesn’t normally blush, not really, but if the heat smearing across her cheeks is anything to go by she certainly is now.

“Right,” she says, absolutely loving the first impression she’s making on the only people outside of work she’s spoken to in the whole city.  “Blake.  My name is Blake.”

“I’m Ruby,” the shorter one says, shifting the last chair Blake had set down until it’s dead center in front of the place setting, and tilts her head towards the supermodel in oven mitts.  “That’s Yang.” 

“A pleasure,” Yang says with a slow smile that Blake feels straight down her spine.  “You heading somewhere else for Christmas dinner?  Or do you just have an abnormal number of dining room chairs?”

“Not really.”  Blake shrugs and shoves her hands into her pockets, for lack of anything else to do.  “Normal amount of chairs.  No plans for the day.”

Ruby stops mid-sprint towards one of the bedrooms and pivots fast enough that surely she broke the sound barrier.  “What?”

Blake stares at her for a long moment, at a complete loss, because apparently her social capabilities atrophied since she moved here.

“You can’t spend Christmas alone!”

“Not everyone celebrates Christmas, Rubes,” Yang says.  She tosses the oven mitts onto one of the chairs and kicks the front door shut behind her.  

“Obviously,” Ruby huffs out.  “But that doesn’t mean anyone should spend it alone.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Yang starts to say, but is cut off by Ruby loudly talking over her.

“You should stay for dinner!” 

Blake nearly chokes on air.  She hasn’t spent a single minute outside of work interacting with anyone in months; she doesn’t know these people; she’s never cared about Christmas; there are a million reasons for her to say no, to go home, and she opens her mouth to excuse herself and instead blurts out “Okay,” because Yang’s watching her with her arms folded over her chest in a specific way that makes her biceps strain against her shirt and honestly nothing says Christmas spirit more than ogling the hot neighbor.

There’s another knock on the door, and the apartment fills with movement again: Yang to the door and Ruby to hooking an arm through Blake’s and pulling her over towards the couch with a skip in her step.  Blake lets herself be manhandled down onto the couch, still trying to parse through the fact that she just gave up her day of glorious nothing to spend it with a bunch of strangers, and blinks stupidly when Ruby produces a plate of cookies.

“They’re full of whiskey,” Ruby warns.  “Which I don’t like, so I have no idea how alcoholic they actually are, but Yang told me they’re delicious.”  

Blake takes one blindly, still staring, because there’s a yell of “Finally!” from the front door and then a yelp and then Ruby’s off like a shot to slam into Yang and whoever she’s hugging.  She takes a cautious bite of the cookie, eyes widening because it doesn’t taste like whiskey at all but does taste like some sort of heavenly chocolate, and watches as people pour into the apartment.  There’s a woman with white hair extricating herself from Yang’s hold, and a towering redhead, and then a shorter one, and then a blonde man, and then another blonde man, and then one with dark hair, and very suddenly the apartment is extremely crowded.  

Clearing her throat softly for something to do and hoping that no one notices her, Blake sinks further into the couch and takes another bite of the cookie.  The apartment is cacophonous and filled with people still crammed into the entryway, half of them caught up in a group hug that’s really more just a tangle of limbs, and Blake finishes the cookie and reaches for another one and wonders exactly what she got herself into.  

“Who are you?”  

Blake chokes on a bite of cookie and stares up at the tiny woman with the white hair who’s standing there with her hands on her hips and her head tilted to one side.

“Blake?” Blake says helpfully, and then shakes her head and stands up, offers her hand.  She can be a functional human.  She can absolutely do that.  “I’m Blake.  I live downstairs.”

The handshake is firmer than she expected from someone so small, the eyes appraising, and Blake’s already hunkering down for a fight when a pint-sized redheaded blur leaps onto the other woman’s back like a spidermonkey.

“Stop being weird, Weiss,” the spidermonkey yelps, and Weiss huffs out a breath and reaches back, grabbing for an ear and pulling until she’s released.  “Hi, I’m Nora, ignore Weiss, she doesn’t know how to talk to normal people.”

“Hey!” Weiss says indignantly, hands on her hips.  Nora hipchecks her cheerfully and props an elbow on her shoulder, grinning at Blake, who isn’t sure what she got herself into but is certain she’s not drunk enough for this.  

“Nice to meet you,” Blake says, for lack of anything better to do.  “Do you live in the building?”  

It’s not the worst conversation starter, but it’s hardly the best, either, and Blake winces when Yang catches her eye from the other side of the room and winks.  

“I live downtown,” Weiss says diplomatically, in a tone that Blake is somehow sure means I’m too rich for this building.  She picks up the plate of cookies and hands one to Nora blindly before sitting down and taking a bite out of one of them.  “I went to college with Yang.”

Nora flops down on the other side of Weiss, and Blake hesitates before squeezing herself back down onto the couch.  There’s room for the three of them, but only because Nora and Weiss alike are approximately half the height of a normal human.  

“So you live in the building?” Nora says through a mouthful of cookie.  “How’d you wind up here though?”

“Here as in the building?” Blake says.  She claims another cookie and breaks it in half.  “Or here as in here-here?”

“Either,” Nora says cheerfully, and Blake shoves half a cookie into her mouth instead of answering because suddenly Yang’s there, sitting on the arm of the couch behind her and bumping her knee against Blake’s side.  

“She brought us chairs,” Yang says, and leans past Blake to steal a cookie out of Weiss’s hands.  Blake freezes in place, halfway through chewing still, because the shirt Yang’s wearing does nothing to hide the ridged lines of muscle in her arm as she stretches dangerously close to Blake’s face.  “So that we had enough for all of you heathens.”

Another timer goes off in the kitchen, followed by a yelp and a crash, and Yang sighs.  She shoves the uneaten half of her cookie into Blake’s hands and stands, pushing off of Blake’s shoulder as she does, and Blake nearly chokes.  Her shoulder burns even after Yang’s already made it to the kitchen.

“So,” Weiss drawls out after a long moment.  Blake’s whips around to face her instead of staring after Yang, completely unsubtle and absolutely caught out, and clears her throat loudly.

“What?”

“You brought chairs.”  Weiss raises an eyebrow, and Blake is fairly certain that she’s about to be meticulously pulled to pieces.  “And now you’re staying for dinner?”

“I didn’t have any other plans,” Blake says weakly.  

“Oh, so they just adopted you.”  Nora sits back against the other arm of the couch, slinging her legs across Weiss’s lap with a grin that could light up a city.  “That’s sort of how they roll.  It’s why Weiss is here, after all.”

“Is not,” Weiss says, slapping at Nora’s shins.  

“Yes it is,” Ruby says, popping up so abruptly that Blake nearly falls off the couch.  “Come on, it’s time for dinner!”  She grabs at Blake’s arm and yanks her bodily into standing, carting her over to the table with a cookie still in hand.

There’s a riotous thirty seconds of people being shoved around the table and into chairs, and Blake finds herself feeling weirdly tiny in her seat between Yang and the tall redhead who introduces herself as Pyrrha, too polite and too quiet for the rest of the group even though she stands a head taller than most of them.  Dinner is an informal performance of barely-contained chaos, plates passed along piled with food and deposited in front of people, followed by bottles of wine and ginger beer, people digging in without hesitation.  

Before she knows it, Blake’s halfway into a plate and on her second glass of wine, slumping in her chair with a groan when Ruby interrupts everyone to yell out a toast to Blake and the chairs she brought.  Yang slings an arm around her, leaning close enough to tap her glass against Blake’s that Blake is practically pressed into her side and can smell wine and black pepper on her breath.  

Straight across from them is Taiyang, watching them with his own glass lifted and an eyebrow raised.  Blake swallows an entire glassful of wine to avoid his gaze and immediately feels it hitting her nervous system, and refocuses her attention to Weiss next to him, who’s making eyes at Pyrrha.  It’s a welcome distraction from the fact that Yang’s arm is still easy on her shoulders, chair flush up against Blake’s, and that Blake’s shoulders fit neatly into the lazy line of Yang’s embrace, and Blake accepts the refill Pyrrha offers her with a murmur of thanks and tracks her attention from Pyrrha to Weiss to Nora and back again.

“So,” Yang says, quiet enough that it disappears into the cacophonous sound of the rest of the table.  Blake fights the way her spine wants to shudder and shiver under the warm brush of Yang’s words against her skin.  “Worth it to be kidnapped by a bunch of strangers?”

“Depends,” Blake says, conspiratorial as she leans closer and tells herself it’s absolutely not because Yang is warm and solid and far too nice to be pressed up against.  “Which one of the redheads is Weiss’s date?”

There’s a burst of a laugh from Yang, barely held back under the volume of the rest of the room, and the way Yang’s lips turn up into a smile and her cheeks flush sets off a chain reaction of warmth in Blake’s stomach.  

“Nobody knows,” Yang says in a sneaky whisper.  “I’ve been contemplating throwing Weiss under some mistletoe just to see what happens, but I think my dad might kill me if I do it.”

“I’ll run interference,” Blake offers, because she’s on a roll for dumb choices for far today, so honestly, what’s one more?  

There’s a flash of bright in Yang’s eyes-- probably a reflection of the surely-dangerous number of Christmas lights around the apartment; possibly a reaction to Blake’s proximity, which Blake chooses to believe, because she’s drunk and Yang is very pretty-- and Blake’s stomach drops out with a dull roar.  Surely nothing could possibly go wrong here; it’s not like there’s a tsunami of potential bad decisions straining against the retaining walls of her better judgment.

Yang drags her arm away and lets her hand fall onto the edge of Blake’s chair against her leg as she leans closer, rattling out a shockingly detailed plan about shoving Weiss and Nora and Pyrrha all under some mistletoe to see what happens.  Blake downs another glass of wine and lets herself get swept away.


 

ii.

Blake wakes up to the sound of her phone vibrating and immediately drags a pillow over her head.

She groans again as the tail end of the day comes back to her: too far into the eggnog that was almost definitely mostly just vodka, her limbs loose and skin pleasantly warm as she stood in the doorway to Yang and Ruby’s apartment and promised it was fine if they kept the chairs until they were all less drunk; the unexpected moment of confidence despite their completely failed attempt at mistletoeing Weiss and Nora and Pyrrha, where she grabbed a pen from the sideboard and then Yang’s hand, inking her phone number into Yang’s palm.

She’d been so sure she was being suave then, as the clock crept closer to midnight and the day’s worth of socializing with strangers had caught up to her, but now she’s absolutely certain that she, unequivocally, was not smooth or suave at all and was, in fact, about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face.

“Goddammit,” she yells into the pillow over her face, and then sits up, because she’s an adult and she can deal with the consequences of her own stupid actions, even if those actions are openly thirsting after her neighbor with the muscles and the smile and the unbearably cute freckles throughout the entirety of a family-style Christmas dinner that she gatecrashed.  She yanks her phone petulantly up from her bedside table and then has to repress the urge to fling it across the room because there’s a text that’s unmistakably from Yang on it.

Let me know when I can bring the chairs back to you.  Also, we have leftovers for you!

There’s a picture, ostensibly of a stack of tupperware on the countertop, but really mostly of Yang grinning widely and pointing at the food, arms bared in a tank top and collarbones.  There’s a faint bruise on one arm and Blake remembers, hazily, the way Weiss had figured out their genius plan and had flushed red up to the tips of her ears and slammed a fist into Yang’s arm.  The rest of the evening-- more of those dangerously alcoholic cookies, and too much eggnog, sitting chastised on the couch while Weiss ranted at Yang for roping Blake into her shenanigans-- is a mildly fuzzy blur, a supercut of high-fives with Yang when Pyrrha and Nora and Weiss all left together, congratulatory shots with Yang, pretending she wasn’t being eyed appraisingly non-stop by Taiyang while sitting on the couch leaning lazily into Yang’s side.  

Instead of throwing her phone, Blake closes her eyes and then pries them open, breathes in deep enough that her head spins, and finally types out a response.

I would say today but I don’t think my hangover will handle it

She flips over to her email and scrolls through it aimlessly, telling herself that she’s a diligent employee and not someone waiting with her chest in knots for the girl she’s crushing on to respond.  The ruse works for three minutes until her phone vibrates again and she nearly drops it on her face.

Ruby’s coffee is a better hangover cure than advil, if you want some

Blake’s typed out okay before she can stop herself, and then she really does throw her phone.  Her hangover protests it but her nerves win out, driving her out of bed and into the hottest shower she can handle, because she may be a shamefaced idiot with zero game or self-control, but she can at least be one who doesn’t smell like stale eggnog and bad choices.

She’s only marginally more functional and is dragging her wet hair up into a ponytail so she can head upstairs when there’s a knock on her door.  Blake freezes, hairtie still caught between her teeth, and then shakes her head because it’s not that weird to have someone knocking on her door, even if it’s the day after Christmas and the only thing she’s interested in is the magic coffee waiting for her upstairs.

The hairtie drops out of her teeth when she opens the door, because Yang is standing on the other side with a chair and a cup of coffee.

“Uh,” Blake says eloquently.

“I figured it didn’t make sense for you to have to haul any chairs around if you’re hungover,” Yang says by way of greeting.  She holds the coffee mug out and Blake stares at it for an embarrassingly long time before realizing it’s for her.  

“Hi,” Blake says, and then shakes her head as she takes the coffee.  “I mean, thank you.”

Yang shrugs and leans on the back of the chair, flashing a smile at her that does more for Blake’s hangover than the-- admittedly delicious-- coffee.  “It’s only fair, after dragging you into causing trouble with me last night.”

Not the trouble I wanted to cause with you richochets off the back of Blake’s teeth, and she buries her face in the coffee and inhales the steam instead of saying something idiotic like the truth.

“Is Weiss still mad?”

Yang scoffs and flaps one hand lazily.  “Mad?  Nah.  The worst you ever get with Weiss is, like, vaguely cranky, and then if you give her fancy coffee she gets over it immediately.”

“Good thing you have miracle coffee, then,” Blake says.  “This is delicious.”

“Oh, that doesn’t count,” Yang says cheerfully.  Both hands flex against the back of the chair as she leans against it, and her triceps are practically begging for Blake’s attention as she does.  “She won’t touch anything that comes out of a drip coffeemaker.  It’s pour over or bust for her.”

“I have a pour over set,” Blake says, for no reason at all beyond the fact that when Yang leans further forward it highlights the strong line from her neck down towards her collarbone and, honestly, how is she supposed to carry on a useful conversation when she’s hungover and faced with that?  Besides, she does have a pour over set, for the rare days when she wants coffee over tea.  It’s relevant to the conversation.  Absolutely relevant and not at all an attempt to keep Yang and her flexing muscles in Blake’s doorway.

“Really?”  Yang’s fingers drum against the chair.  “Do you think I could--”

“Yes,” Blake rushes out.  She winces immediately after and takes a much too deep sip of coffee to cover it up.  “I mean-- you brought me coffee already, so I don’t even need it today.”

“You sure?”  Yang’s hands flex on the back of the chair again and Blake’s entire body nearly spasms in time with them, wholly inappropriate in any possible context but especially in response to her neighbor.

“Of course,” Blake says, already sidestepping into her kitchen, dodging the piles of boxes and retrieving the only actual kitchen implement she’d unpacked since she moved in.

“When did you move in again?”  

Blake glances back to where Yang’s leaning into the apartment, peering around at the shameful disaster of half-unpacked boxes and the artful disaster that is Blake’s approach to moving.

“I could tell you that, but then you’d judge me.”  Blake offers her the glass beaker, the metal filter stacked into it.  “Don’t worry, I’m properly shamed by my own procrastination.”

“If you say so,” Yang says doubtfully, somehow making it sound charming, and Blake rolls her eyes.  Yang hefts the chair and holds it out.  “No judgment from me, so long as you don’t judge the fact that we’ve lived here for years and are still borrowing your chairs and coffee paraphernalia.”

“Paraphernalia,” Blake mutters, rolling her eyes again.  “Go away.”

Please don’t though rumbles in her chest, and she bites down on the inside of her cheek to keep quiet.

Yang winks, bright and enticing, and Blake wraps her hands around her coffee mug to stop them from doing inappropriate things in response.  She hefts the pour over set and salutes Blake, stepping back into the hallway.  

“You’ll have it back before tomorrow, I promise,” she says solemnly.  

“If I don’t, I’ll come after you,” Blake says, as if she actually uses it more than once a week.  Yang just smiles and hums, unreadable and smirking as she waves goodbye and heads towards the elevators, leaving Blake to shut the door and mutter “I’ll come after you?” at herself.  So smooth, Belladonna.  She’s zero for two on playing it cool in front of her hot charming neighbor, but at least this time she didn’t drown herself in eggnog to deal with it, so maybe she’s on a positive trajectory.

She groans and picks her way back to the couch, flopping down onto it with a huff.  


 

iii.

Ostensibly, Blake owns a bottle opener.  She knows exactly which box it’s in; it’d be easy to get to.  She also doesn’t need a bottle opener for the six pack of beer she has in her fridge that’s meant to be the drinks facet of her beer-and-music-and-unpacking plans; she went to college, after all, she knows more ways to open a beer bottle than she can count and only three of them would require actual effort or damage her kitchen counters.

And yet.  And yet.  Here she is, knuckles rapping against Yang’s front door.  She drags a hand through her hair as she waits for a response and tells herself that the texts she’s been trading with Yang for the last two days means it’s not weird to be here at all.

Then again, there’s an argument to be made that not asking over text instead of showing up and panicking over her hair while she waits is, in fact, weird as hell.  She’s here now, though, and the door’s opening to reveal Yang with earbuds in and her phone in hand.

Sorry, she mouths, flashing a wide smile and waving Blake inside.  She closes the door and holds her phone up so Blake can see the contact picture-- Weiss-- and the call timer clicking up towards ten minutes.  

“Weiss,” Yang says presently.  She leans against the kitchen counter.  “Have you considered that--”

She cuts off with a frown, one eye screwing shut, and snatches one of the earbuds out of her ears.  The tinny sound of Weiss yelling at her indecipherably fills the kitchen, and Blake laughs into her hand.

“What-- no that, was Blake,” Yang says, rolling her eyes.  “I-- no, you aren’t on speaker, you moron.  Just give me a minute, will you?”

She doesn’t wait for an answer, slapping instead at the mute button on her phone and exhaling loudly.  “She’s still grumpy about the mistletoe thing,” she says by way of explanation.  “Apparently I was meddling.”

“Wasn’t that sort of the point, though?”  Blake is mildly interested in figuring out what’s happening between Weiss and Pyrrha and Nora, but mostly interested in the way Yang’s shoulders flex when she shrugs, the way her mouth moves when she exhales loudly.

“I mean, yeah, totally.”  She shrugs again, to Blake’s delight.  “I’m still convinced she’s dating one of them, I just don’t know which.”  She raps her knuckles against the counter, nods definitively.  “I will figure it out, though.”

“I’m sure you will,” Blake says, and she means for it to sound lighthearted but instead it sounds horrifyingly earnest, and Yang’s eyes flash, warm and bright, for a split second.

“Anyways.  Hi,” she says after a moment, all winning smiles and broad shoulders, and Blake’s fingers flex in her pockets.  “What’s up?”

“I, uh, wanted to see if I could borrow a bottle opener,” Blake says, about as smooth as a piece of sandpaper, and wonders if she can drag the words back.  Instead she plows ahead, because if she’s going to thirst so aggressively after her hot neighbor then, well, might as well commit to it.  “Mine is buried in a bunch of boxes.”

Yang stares at her for an uncomfortably long series of seconds, eyebrows climbing towards her hairline, and then smiles, shrugs, nods.  

“Sure.”  She blindly opens a drawer to her left and digs a bottle opener out, offering it to Blake.  “We have like a million, you can keep it if you want.”

“No!” Blake rushes out, like an idiot, and then winces.  “I mean-- I’ll bring it back.  Once I’m unpacked.”

“Suit yourself,” Yang says, slow and easy, and she leans an elbow on the counter.  “So I should expect it back sometime in about two years?”

“Har har,” Blake says drily.  “You’re hilarious.  And after I let you use my pour over set, too.”

“Are you implying that a bottle opener from a motel in Key West from 2006 doesn’t make us even?”  Yang gasps, a hand pressed against her sternum, and every bone in Blake’s body heats and hums.  

“You still have three of my chairs.”

“You abandoned them here,” Yang says with a scoff.  “They’re like safehaven babies now.  All mine.”

Blake’s mouth is open for what is surely going to be a devastating response, but she’s cut off by Yang’s phone ringing tinnily out from her one removed earbud.  Weiss’s picture flashes on the screen again.

“Are you that needy, woman?” Yang says incredulously as she answers.

“Stop putting me on hold so you can flirt, you asshole,” Weiss snaps back, loud enough that Blake can hear her and flush violently, but Yang only rolls her eyes.

“Weiss is just jealous I’m not flirting with her,” Yang says with a sniff.

“You wish,” Weiss says, indignation floating through the phone.  

“I’ll let you two have your lover’s spat,” Blake says.  It’s easy, somehow, despite the fact that her palms burn and want to touch Yang, despite the fact that every time Yang smiles at her Blake’s stomach drops out, to tease her and Weiss.  It could be that Yang is so sure that Weiss is dating someone else, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but either way Blake finds herself offering a salute with the bottle opener as Yang gasps indignantly and Weiss yells even more indignantly from over the phone.  “I’ll see myself out.  Have fun, you two.”

A wink would be too much, but somehow she finds herself winking at Yang over her shoulder on her way to the door.  It undercuts every miniscule shred of confidence she’d had in herself, no matter how brief, and the minute the door shuts behind her she considers smacking her forehead into the wall.  A wink.  As if anyone but Yang could pull off winking.

Her phone buzzes in the elevator, and she unlocks it without thinking and nearly drops it and the bottle opener onto her foot because Yang had just texted her a full wall of winking emojis, followed by You left the safehaven babies again, you monster.

So much for that positive trajectory.


 

iv.

The day before New Year’s eve, nearly two months after she’d moved in, Blake stands in the middle of her living room with her hands on her hips and realizes she can see the floor for the first time.  The boxes have all been unpacked and recycled, books shelved and clothes put away, her meager collection of kitchenware and already-expansive library of takeout menus organized into the kitchen.  She even got around to hanging all of her artwork.  Honestly, she deserves a medal.

Instead she flops onto the couch-- a much easier feat than it was this morning, now that a third of the couch isn’t doubling as her closet-- and considers the bottle opener sitting on her coffee table, left out so she’d remember to return it.  She glances at her watch and then back at the bottle opener, her kitchen table with just the one chair sitting at it, and pops back up to her feet without thinking about it.

She pauses just long enough to check her text messages again, flipping to the last one from Yang-- r’s out w dad so im spending the whole day stalking pyrrha and nora on instagram--  and then is out the door as she types out a response.

incoming for wayward chair babies

The door is open when she gets there, and Blake knocks against the doorjamb.  

“It’s obviously open,” Yang yells from the couch, one arm appearing and flailing lazily.  “Can’t believe you made me stand up on my day off.”

“Didn’t you say you had this whole week off?”  Blake shuts the door behind her and resettles one of her borrowed chairs over by the couch so she can sit in it.  For conversation purposes and not at all because the closer she is she can see every one of the freckles dusting across Yang’s cheekbones.  

“It’s the principle of the matter, Blake,” Yang says with a huff.  

“Any luck with your creepy stalking?”

“I’m not being creepy, I’m being a good friend,” Yang primly.  “And no.  Pyhrra posts, like, four times a year, and Nora posts like thirty times a day but it’s all like dogs she met in the park and, like, ice cream sandwiches.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” Blake deadpans.  “That must be very hard for you.”

“It’s torturous,” Yang says.  “Thank you for your sympathy in these trying times.”

“She really won’t just tell you?”  Blake hooks one knee over the other and settles more comfortably in the chair.  

“She makes it her mission in life to make me miserable,” Yang says forlornly.   “Ever since college.  What a monster.”

One arm is flung out off the couch, dramatic and straining towards the floor, and Blake’s fingers itch to touch it.  

“Isn’t she your best friend?”  She says instead, because she is an adult, thank you very much, and can control herself even when her brain is running rampant with the idea that she could just lay down right on top of Yang and feel exactly how strong her arms are.

“Which is why she should tell me these things, Blake!” 

“Uh huh.”  

“I’m an amazing friend, I deserve things,” Yang says with a whine.  

“I’m sure you’re the absolute best friend to ever friend,” Blake says consolingly.  

“I am,” Yang says with a sharp nod.  “I introduced her to both of them.  I made her favorite for Christmas dinner.  I adopted our wayward downstairs neighbor for the holidays--”

Blake lets out a disgruntled hmph at that one, ostensibly because she’s offended at the prospect of being saved but mostly because she can think of far more interesting things she’d like to do with Yang than be adopted.

“--I’m practically a saint right now, is the point,” Yang carries on.  She points at Blake.  “Right?”

“A saint,” Blake echoes.  “Yes.  Absolutely.”

“Thank you,” Yang says, sniffing.  “It’s good to be supported in these trying times.”

There’s a protracted moment of Yang looking deeply pleased with herself and Blake staring at her profile stupidly, wondering how it is that barely a week ago she hadn’t spoken to anyone in this entire city except the people she works with, and now she’s sitting in her neighbor’s apartment, easy as anything and pretending she isn’t aggressively attracted to every inch of her.

The front door opens, saving her from making any more of a fool of herself, and Yang’s head pops up off the couch.  “Weiss!  We were just talking about you.”

Weiss rolls her eyes so much her whole body moves with it, and Ruby laughs and shoves past her.  Nora follows, munching on a bouquet of churros.

“No Pyrrha?” Yang says, eyes wide and glancing over towards Blake.  The possibility of an answer burns bright in her eyes, intoxicating and magnetic, and Blake folds her arms over her chest and grips her own arms tight enough that surely she’s going to leave bruises.

“She’s at work,” Weiss says blandly, wrinkling her nose imperiously at Yang when she lets out a groan and flops back down onto the couch.  

“I’m just here to pick up my chairs,” Blake says, standing up in the now-crowded living room and dusting her hands on her jeans.  “So I’ll just--”

“You don’t have to go,” Yang says hurriedly, and Blake nearly bites through her tongue.

“We’re gonna play Super Smash Brothers,” Nora says, saving Blake from having to answer.  “Yang’s terrible.”

“I am not!”

“She really is.”  Weiss drags one of Blake’s chairs over towards the couch and settles down into it.  “It’s almost embarrassing.”

“Weiss’s opinion doesn’t count here because it’s the only game she knows how to play,” Yang says indignantly.  “She uses it as a therapy tool.”

“I’m not dignifying that with an answer.”

Ruby scoffs and shoves at Weiss’s shoulder on her way by.  “Blake, you staying?”

“I mean, since it sounds like I can’t possibly be the worst here, I think so.”  If it hadn’t backfired so astoundingly last time, she might try a wink when Yang lets out an offended yelp, but instead she settles for just resettling her chair near the couch and accepting the controller Ruby tosses her way.

Just before the game starts, she slots a glance over to where Yang is sprawled with her head in Ruby’s lap and feet in Nora’s and finds her staring back at her, unreadable and unexpectedly serious.  Blake clears her throat and looks back down at her controller, as if that will mask the fact that she’s certainly flushing under Yang’s gaze.

Two steps forward, one step back.  She can still count it as a positive trajectory.


 

one

“Hi,” Blake says stupidly, nearly flinging the door shut because her apartment  is already a mess and a new brand of shameful disaster even without the boxes.

“Hi,” Yang says, scratching absently at the back of her head.  There’s a familiar tinge of red behind the freckles on her cheeks, the same one that Blake can’t help but want to drag her fingertips across every time she sees it, and Blake shoves her hands into her pockets instead.  “I--uh-- wanted to see if I could borrow something.”

“Something,” Blake says, slow and uncertain.  It’s almost familiar, now, the back and forth of borrowed furniture and appliances they’ve been dancing around all week.  “Okay?”  

“Yeah,” Yang says faintly.  She’s staring at Blake, and Blake flushes under the weight of it and the way her hands curl into fists in her pockets so she doesn’t grab at the collar of Yang’s shirt and pull her closer until she can kiss her the way she’s wanted to since Christmas.  

“What?”

“What?”  Yang freezes, hand still at the back of her head and eyes going wide, spine snapping too straight, and Blake blinks at her.

“What do you need to borrow?” 

“Oh,” Yang says, and her flush deepens, and Blake clenches her fists in her pockets hard enough that she’s fairly certain she could launch herself into space at any moment.  “A--uh-- cup of sugar.”

“A cup of sugar,” Blake echoes.  “I-- might have some?” 

There’s a flash of what could almost be panic on Yang’s face, except surely not, because what could she possibly be panicking about over sugar, and Blake nearly reaches for her, and then--

“Just fucking ask her out!” Weiss’s bellow nearly jolts Blake right out of her skin.  She leans forward, pointedly ignoring how close to Yang it puts her, and peers down the hall towards the stairwell where Weiss and Ruby and Nora and Pyrrha are all about to tumble out the door trying to watch them.

“Um,” Yang says again, faintly, and flips a middle finger aggressively towards the rest of them.  “I mean--”

“You don’t actually need a cup of sugar?” Blake ventures a guess, faint and unsure, and only steadies when Yang clears her throat loudly.

“Not really,” Yang says, her voice nearly squeaking, and heat coils tight in Blake’s stomach, the last week’s worth of uncertainty rushing out of her limbs and leaving her lightheaded.  “I mean, what I wanted to ask was--”

“What she wants is that ass!” Nora howls, and Yang lets out a yelp and sets off down the hallway.  Blake grabs her without thinking, a hand hooking around one of the biceps she’s been ogling-- respectfully, certainly; she would never disrespectfully ogle anyone, thank you very much-- since Christmas and yanking Yang back and into her apartment.  The door slams behind her and Blake realizes abruptly that she aggressively miscalculated because now they’re both crammed into the entryway to her apartment, which is barely large enough for a Weiss and a Nora, much less a Blake and a set of broad shoulders straining deliciously against a flannel shirt that looks so soft Blake wants nothing more than to bury her face in it.  

“Sorry about that,” Yang huffs out, and then glances down to where Blake’s hand is still on her arm.  She exhales loudly through her nose and then settles aggressively, posture relaxing and bicep flexing under Blake’s hand.

“Uh,” Blake says intelligently, too focused on the shift of muscle under her hand.  “I mean.  It’s fine.”

One side of Yang’s mouth lifts up into a smile and Blake’s spine melts.  Her fingers flex on Yang’s arm without meaning to, and Yang’s grin widens.

“So,” Yang says after a protracted moment of Blake unabashedly ogling her arm.  Her free hand curls around the back of Blake’s, prying her fingers loose and disrupting Blake’s focus because Yang is holding her hand now and every higher brain function she has is shorting out in a display of fireworks that surely would set the whole city on fire.

“So,” Blake says, for lack of anything more appropriate to say, fingers winding between Yang’s and shoulders tilting forward, focus narrowed to Yang’s smile and the way there’s a freckle just above her upper lip.

“About that cup of sugar,” Yang says, and Blake laughs, somehow, despite the fact that she can barely breathe.  Yang’s smile brightens even more and Blake leans up on her toes, pushing her the last bit forward until she can brush a kiss to the freckle over her mouth.

“Yeah,” Blake says against her mouth, and Yang finally moves, hands at her hips and holding tight as she kisses Blake.  Blake pushes forward into her, hard enough that Yang stumbles back into the opposite wall but doesn’t break the kiss or the hold she has on Blake.  There’s a thunk of Yang’s shoulders hitting the plaster, and then another one from the front door, and Yang drags her head back enough to break the kiss and glance towards it, breath coming heavy.  The sound that spills out past her lips when Blake kisses the side of her neck rockets straight down Blake’s spine and her hands fist into Yang’s shirt.

“Wait,” Yang says, barely a whisper, hands flexing at Blake’s waist, and Blake yanks back abruptly, doused in ice water.  Yang puts a finger to her lips and winks, tilts her head towards the door when there’s another clunk and the sound of what is unmistakably Weiss whisper-shouting on the other side.  

Blake steps back, gesturing grandly towards the door, and Yang follows, one hand curling easily around Blake’s and the other reaching out until she can just reach the door and yank it open.  There’s a yelp when Ruby falls straight through onto the floor, sprawling out at their feet; Nora manages to stay upright but only because Weiss has a vice grip on one of her ears and is glaring at her.  A respectable distance back from the door is Pyrrha, arms up defensively, as if she can distance herself from the rest of them.

“Well?” Ruby exclaims from the floor, leaning up on her elbows and propping her chin in her hands.  

“Well what?” Yang says, one eyebrow skidding upwards, and Blake snorts into her free hand.

“Ruby, use your eyes,” Weiss says with a sigh.  She finally lets go of Nora’s ear and folds her arms over her chest.

“I’d say that’s a yes,” Pyrrha contributes, and Weiss nods smartly.  Blake swallows a laugh when Pyrrha flushes at Weiss’s agreement and glances over towards Yang, who rolls her eyes and shrugs.  The mystery continues.  

“Clearly,” Weiss says.  “Can we all move on then?  We have New Year’s plans to get to.”

Ruby scrambles up to her feet, practically vibrating with excitement and not blinking an eye when Weiss dusts at her hoodie with a scoff.  “Blake, what’re you doing for New Year’s!  You gotta come hang out with us.”

Blake, with Yang’s hand warm in hers, wants nothing more than to have no plans besides Yang and her bed and possibly some champagne, nearly just spits out Yang’s name in response, but manages to stop herself at the last minute.

“Oh, you know,” she says with a shrug.  “Nothing major.  Hanging out with my neighbors, I guess.”

Yang grins at her, wide and bright, and she lets go of Blake’s hand so she can wrap an arm around her shoulder instead.  “Who are they,” she says.  “They sound awesome.”

“Definitely not,” Blake says drily, and is rewarded with an unexpected laugh from Weiss and a melodramatic gasp from Yang.  She tilts more solidly into Yang’s side, warm in the circle of her arm, and curls an arm around her waist.  Nora and Ruby are already halfway down the hall, chattering loud enough that surely the whole floor can hear them, and Pyrrha’s trailing along behind them, Weiss at her side.  

Yang’s lips press suddenly against Blake’s hairline, and Blake feels it in her fingertips.  There’s a soft laugh from Yang, weighty with intent, and Blake shudders at the promise of it.  

“Come on,” Yang says, tilting her head towards the others.  “There’s still mistletoe up in the living room.”

“Well, when you put it that way,” Blake drawls out.  “How can a girl say no to that?”

“Exactly,” Yang says cheerily.  She glances back down the hallway-- the others have rounded the corner towards the elevators, out of sight but still audible, and then ducks down to press a kiss against Blake’s mouth.  Blake shivers at the slow drag of Yang’s lips over hers, one hand twisting into the flannel of her shirt without meaning to, and she practically lets out a whine when Yang pulls back and tugs her out into the hall and towards the elevators.  “Ready, neighbor?”

Blake barely manages to grab her keys and shut the door on her way out, unwilling to let go of Yang’s hand.  “You know, I’m pretty sure hooking up with your neighbor is somewhere in the same realm of bad etiquette as hooking up with your coworker.”

“Well,” Yang says, pausing and pivoting smoothly, backing Blake into a wall and leaning closer with a dangerous smile, one that promises terrible, amazing things.  “I guess I’m not a very good neighbor, am I?”

She tilts closer, close enough that Blake’s chin tilts up to kiss her again, and then pulls back abruptly, marching down the hall and leaving Blake slumped against the wall with a flush and a heat coiling dangerous and low in her stomach.

“Fuck,” Blake mutters, breathing in deep and searching for some way to make her legs work properly again.

“That’s later, darlin,” Yang calls over her shoulder, throwing a wink back at her, and Blake drops her head back against the wall behind her before setting off after her, riding her upward trajectory straight into the stratosphere.