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stars in the darkness

Chapter Text

The cool metal of Tai’s old pump-shotgun is a comfort to Yang. It offers security, a defense and offense to the world ahead of her and Ruby. She runs her fingertips across the barrel, tracing a line of rust with a sigh.

From her right, she hears Ruby mutter something in her sleep before turning over and burying her face in her arms. Yang rubs her back soothingly, humming a soft tune that she remembers from their mother. It’d be better for both of them if at least one of them manages to get a good night’s rest.

Ruby stirs anyway, because of course she does. Yang can’t remember a single time her sister ever slept through an entire night without a fitful nightmare full of fire and blood and death.

Fire and blood and death is their life now. They see it everyday when they travel, and every night when they sleep.

Ruby’s eyelids flutter open, and for a moment she lays still and stares at the star-filled sky, the little balls of light reflecting the gleam in her silver eyes. Yang admires that about her, the way she always has a spark of hope, one that would never die down. She wishes, almost bitterly, that she could have even a fraction of that optimism.

“I can take the next watch,” Ruby offers, voice above a whisper.

“Not sure I’ll get much sleep,” Yang admits, but she lies down anyway, willing a slumber to overtake her.

Although her eyes remain closed and her posture relaxes as much as she’ll allow it to, she still struggles to find any semblance of peace in the silence of the woods. Yang’s on a tattered sleeping bag that’s known years of being draped on a forest floor. She turns on her side, her forehead making contact with Ruby’s knee.

Her younger sister, who’s sitting criss-cross above her, decides then to pick the dirt out of her hair, unknowingly lulling Yang into a doze. Maybe she can get an hour or two of sleep tonight.

“Grimm,” Ruby whispers suddenly, a familiar fear lacing her voice. She shifts away, her warmth drawing away and forcing Yang onto her feet.

The blonde, fatigued, draws her shotgun into her arms and shoves two knives into the belt around her waist. Ruby’s already on high alert, body straight, pistol in hand. Yang pockets her revolver; can’t be too prepared in a post-apocalyptic world.

“Let’s get this over with,” Yang grumbles. “So tired of these fuckers for trying to ruin my sleep every night.”

It’s dark, but the light of their shattered moon is enough for Yang to see Ruby look at her face.

“Red eyes,” she confirms.

“They’re close.” Yang nods grimly. “Hopefully not too many.”

A low roar echoes through the trees, and soon after, the sight of a Grimm hoard emerged. Some seem to be newly-turned Grimm, limping on two legs and mumbling gibberish under their breath. But a few of the others look like they’ve been Grimm for at least a few weeks, any semblance of their humanity gone. They stalk over to the sisters, bodies completely black, eyes glowing red, faces white, and teeth bared.

Yang levels her shotgun up, takes aim, and pulls the trigger. She is accustomed to the recoil by now, taking it with a grunt as her bullet soars directly into one of the Grimm’s foreheads, successfully knocking it off its feet.

The other Grimm advance faster now, and Ruby is quick to fire two shots into one of their bodies, its blood splattering as it falls. Yang readies another shot, though with quicker targets and limited ammunition, she knows she needs to be careful.

But she’s always careful.

With ease, she clears the head of a Grimm clean off, her next bullet striking through its fragile neck. When another Grimm suddenly approaches her from her right, a startled sound escapes her throat before she smashes its head with the butt of her gun. It crashes into her anyway, knocking her right off her feet, and at this point, her shotgun is the only thing between Yang and being bitten.

She struggles under its jaws, angling her face away. She’s about to muster up the strength to shove it off when suddenly, a shot rings out and the weight is completely thrown off her.

“Got you, Yang!” Ruby calls out. “Only three more!”

Yang scrambles to her feet, shaking off the fact that she’d almost turned. There’s no point in thinking about it in the middle of a fight.

She nods gratefully at her younger sister. “Thanks, Rubes. I owe you one.”

Ruby whirls onto her next Grimm, leaving Yang with the last two. It should be easy enough, though. Considering their size, they must’ve been teenagers when they turned. The blonde ignores the lump in her throat; she’s doing them a favor because she knows nobody would want to stay in a state like this.

So, deciding to make it quick, she twirls the revolver out of her belt and shoots two rapid shots into their chests, then just as quickly places it back into her belt.

By the time she finishes them off and turns to see if Ruby’s okay, Yang is tackled into a hug. She returns it gently, her pounding heart gradually calming down at the prospect of surviving another attack.

“You clean?” Ruby asks urgently.

“Yeah,” Yang assures. “You?” Yang separates from her, placing her arms on Ruby’s shoulders and scouring her body quickly to see if there were any bite marks.

“Please, Yang, they didn’t even come close to me,” Ruby says with a smug smile.

“Yeah, yeah, my capable baby sister saved my ass. Nothing new.” Yang rolls her eyes, though she knows Ruby’s arrogance is deserved. She’s grown into a skilled fighter, a quick thinker, and a reliable companion.

“We should move,” Ruby says, packing their sleeping bags and stamping out the last of their campfire. Yang helps her, and the two are back on the move, the sun beginning to peak from the horizon.

The forest would seem serene with its chirping birds and crickets, but the two sisters know better. Somewhere in the dark, there’s terror upon terror lurking, waiting to leap onto unknowing travelers.

“We should find an area to squat. Clear out an area, gather up some supplies, maybe stay a few nights,” Yang says.

Ruby thumbs her backpack straps, expression downtrodden. “Then it’s back on the road?”

“Then it’s back on the road.”

Ruby looks like she wants to say more, argue, shout maybe, but she doesn’t. They’ve had this discussion more than once, and every time, Yang has to put her foot down and tell her it’s final.

They have to stay on the move. Whether Ruby wants to or not, Yang’s priority is keeping her sister safe.

The sky is filled with light hues of orange and yellow when Yang and Ruby find a (relatively) structurally sound house covered in moss and nettles. Yang’s eyes flare red, and she’s about to tell Ruby that they can take the Grimm, when a gunshot rings from inside the house.

“Someone’s already there,” Ruby tells Yang the moment the blonde realizes it herself.

“Maybe we shouldn’t-“

But Ruby is already continuing ahead, reloading her pistol and disappearing into the entrance. Yang’s shoulders sag in defeat and she follows the shorter girl, her shotgun at the ready.

The first thing Yang sees when she enters the house is a Grimm on fire, wailing as it tumbles down the stairs. Her lilac eyes widen, and she exchanges a bewildered glance with Ruby.

“Whoever’s been squatting here does not play games.” Yang whistles lowly, and Ruby nods in agreement.

“Let’s go meet them!” she exclaims, shooting a Grimm in the leg casually before running up the stairs.

“Rubes, wait!” Yang calls from behind her, hurrying after her. When she catches up to her, she wrestles a Grimm off of her, crushing its hand under her foot and hitting it with the front of the shotgun. It continues to squirm under her, so she jams the gun further into it, and soon the struggles stop. “Don’t run ahead!” she shouts, turning to her sister, her eyes still red.

Ruby ducks her head, looking ashamed, and Yang instantly cools down. She’s about to apologize when she hears a click behind her, and something presses against the small of her back.

“Lower your gun,” a cool voice demands, and Yang immediately places it onto the ground and kicks it away. She puts her hands up in surrender and turns to face the person who was pointing the gun at her.

“We’re not here to hurt you. We just wanted a place to squat,” Yang says steadily, but her breath catches as her eyes fall down on a gorgeous brunette. She has dirt and blood caked over her face, and her cheeks look slightly sunken in, but the defiant gold of her eyes and clenched jaw somehow make her look like she’d dropped from every fantasy Yang has ever had. Her eyes flick up in surprise at the cat ears on top of her head, but Ruby points it out before Yang can.

“You’re a Faunus?” Ruby gasps. “I didn’t realize there were any left.”

The cat Faunus’s eyes narrow, and she tightens her grip on the gun. “Clearly there are,” she hisses. “I’m already staying here, so you’ll need to find someplace else.”

“Wait!” Yang pleads. “Just for a few nights. We have our own supplies, so you don’t need to share.”

“We’ll be right out of your hair after that.” Ruby moves forward, but the pretty brunette’s ears flatten, so she stops halfway through her step.

“I can’t trust you,” she mutters. “You humans kill every Faunus you see. The only reason you haven’t killed me is ‘cause I have a gun pointed to-“

Yang cuts her off by grabbing her wrist, yanking her arm upward, then spinning her around and knocking her off her feet. The Faunus grunts, but Yang doesn’t let her fall hard on the ground. She lightly presses her knee against her back, her fingers still wrapped around her wrist.

“Yang!” Ruby cries in exasperation.

“You really think you’d be able to take both of us?” Yang asks, but she hopes she doesn’t sound too menacing. She just wants to prove a point. “If I wanted you dead, I’d have done it by now.”

She lets go of her and stands, offering a hand to help her up. The Faunus seems confused, but she hesitantly takes the offer. Her fingers are calloused, but that’s to be expected. Still, they’re softer and smaller than Yang’s, though more nimble. As though she hasn’t been fighting just to survive every day of the better part of her life, always having a community to depend on.

“So you’re not gonna kill me?” she asks warily.

Yang lets her fingers linger against her palm for a few moments longer than needed, then grins. “Nah. We’re strictly Grimm killers.”

“Some people blame Faunus for the Salem Virus. You’re… not one of those people?”

“Well considering you’re the first Faunus we’ve ever met,” Ruby says with a shrug, “the Salem Virus is still going on, even though the general population of Faunus are gone. Pretty clear the government was wrong about you guys.”

The brunette’s expression is a mixture of shock and relief, and she nods gravely. “They wanted someone to blame, and who better than the Faunus? Humans hate us because they fear us. We remind them of Grimm. Our heightened senses, our ability to see in the dark, our animal-like features.”

“Yeah, but…” Yang scratches the back of her head, slightly bemused. “You’ve got a lot more human traits than you do Grimm traits. You can, you know, talk and feel and shit. And I’m pretty sure if you bit me, I wouldn’t turn into a raging beast.”

I’d totally let you bite me, though, just to test it out, Yang thinks, one side of her mouth quirking upwards in amusement at her own inner dialogue.

“Oh! Totally forgot to introduce ourselves!” Ruby smacks the palm onto her forehead and shoots her a friendly smile. Yang knows that the inviting look would be all that the Faunus needed to trust them. Ruby just has that effect on people. “I’m Ruby. And this total show-off is my sister, Yang.”

The Faunus chews on her bottom lip and finally lowers her gun. “Blake,” she responds. “Sorry for pointing a gun at you. I-I can’t be sure who to trust.”

“Don’t sweat it.” Yang shrugs good-heartedly. “Sorry for pinning you down.”

“No you’re not,” Ruby snickers, then lets out an oof! when Yang elbows her sharply.

Blake just smiles, only a slight trace of humor crinkling in her eyes. Then suddenly her smile drops, and her jaw slackens slightly. She stares deeply at Yang’s face, eyebrows furrowing in thought.

“I could’ve swore your eyes were purple before,” she murmurs.

Yang curses under her breath and quickly grabs her shotgun from the ground. “Grimm,” she sighs out. “Look, it’s hard to explain ‘cause I don’t even know why it happens, but my eyes turn red whenever there are Grimm nearby.”

“Yeah, and she goes, like, beast mode whenever her eyes turn red, too,” Ruby adds in. “Her fighting skills somehow just improve. Better aim, harder hits, more agile.”

“I’ve never even heard of something like that before,” Blake says, surprise clear in her tone.

Yang can’t blame her. As far as she knows, she’s the only person in the world with an ability like that.

“Yeah, well.” Yang bounces her shoulders up in another shrug, this one to punctuate the conversation. “No time to chat. Got some Grimm to kill.”

She reloads her gun, pulling the pump back, well aware that her eyes are blazing. She turns to look down the stairwell where a few recently-turned Grimm were trying to climb up to them. She pulls the trigger, and her bullet digs itself into one of their shoulders, the impact knocking it down the stairs and taking another one down with it.

Ruby is quick to help, shooting the legs off of a Grimm, but it just uses its arms to continue forward instead. It wails, louder than the others, as though it’s in pain. It drags itself up the stairs, a maroon-ish liquid (that Yang can only guess is its blood) spurts out of what remains of its legs.

“That’s… disgusting,” Yang comments, screwing up her nose.

“I should’ve just shot it in the head!” Ruby exclaims, repugnance clear in her own expression.

“Step back,” Blake orders, her voice somehow even. She takes something from her bag — a bottle? Yang doesn’t get a chance to question it before Blake lights it up and chucks it down at the incoming Grimm. They all simultaneously screech, flames engulfing their bodies as they limp away and right out of the house.

Ruby gasps in amazement, her eyes nearly glowing as she takes several steps too close to Blake. She gets onto her toes to stare right at Blake’s face. “What. Was. That?” she squeals, bouncing in place.

“Molotov cocktail,” Blake replies, inching away just slightly from Ruby.

“You have to teach me how to make one!” Ruby demands. “How effective would you say they are? Do you come across the needed ingredients often? What are the needed ingredients? Did someone teach you about them, or did you teach yourself? When’s my first lesson?”

“Calm down, Rubes,” Yang chuckles, placing a hand on her shoulder to quell her ecstatic jumps. “But she’s got a point.” She turns to look at Blake, smiling genuinely. “That’s seriously impressive.”

“And highly dangerous,” an unfamiliar and cocky voice from the bottom of the stairs chimes in. They all turn back to look at who’d just joined them, Blake immediately reaching for her gun, and Ruby glancing from behind Yang’s body to see who it was. The newcomer’s very clearly pretty, and somehow clean. She holds herself in a manner that demands every speck of dirt to leave the white of her hair, as though it doesn’t deserve to be on her. Yang chances a glance at her own condition; her clothes worn out, her hair probably a tangled mess in its ponytail. “One wrong move, and you could’ve burned the entire house down.”

“Who are you?” Blake inquires, voice hard.

“I should be asking you. This is clearly marked as Vale territory.” She points at a symbol of a gear on the wall, one that Yang missed when she’d chased after Ruby into the house. “You’re trespassing.”

“Pretty sure there’s no such thing as trespassing in a lawless world,” Yang replies. She turns to Ruby, just to check in, but she seems to be completely taken by the sight of the new girl. Her silver eyes remain unblinking, her lips parted and a few shaky exhales escaping her. Yang just raises an eyebrow and waits for the other girl’s response.

The white-haired girl sniffs, her sharp blue eyes observing the three girls, as though to test if they’re trustworthy. She seems to come to a conclusion, because she begins to speak. “You asked for my name, and I suppose it’d only be courteous to answer such a simple request. I’m Weiss, and I live in a community called Vale just north of here. I’m on a patrol to clear this area of any intruding Grimm.”

“What about intruding humans?” Ruby asks, voice small, not like she’s scared, but like she’s nervous. Yang can hardly believe the tone she’s hearing from her regularly bubbly sister.

“Well… should you try to fight back, I’ll have no choice but to shoot you. Out of my own defense, and the defense of Vale.”

“And if we don’t fight back? You’ll let us go?” Yang asks, fingers itching to just get a move on. This isn’t the same scenario as Blake. She was pointing a gun close enough to Yang that the blonde could easily disarm her. Even if they had an advantage of numbers, Yang knows she can’t risk trying to fight Weiss at this distance, not if she wants to escape unscathed.

“Oh no.” Weiss’s mouth curves up just slightly at the corners. “You’ll be joining me and the rest of my patrol group so that Ozpin can determine your fate.”