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stars in the darkness

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Blake’s ears perk up at the sight of Yang approaching her and Weiss, but they immediately flatten when she notices the puffiness around the blonde’s eyes. She exchanges a glance with Weiss, before standing to greet her.

“Hey, Yang. Is something wrong?” Blake asks as Yang slips a hand into hers unsteadily.

“Are you okay? Where’s Ruby?” Weiss inquires. “Did something happen?”

The haunted expression on her face doesn’t disappear as she turns to address Weiss. “I’ll be taking the evening patrol with Blake,” she tells her, voice slightly hoarse.

Blake raises an eyebrow while Weiss shakes her head vehemently. “Yang, we literally talked about this a few weeks ago. You need to stop taking up so much work.”

“That’s not it, Weiss. Ruby… needs you. Go back to the house.”

The air around them settles as Yang’s vague message sinks in. Blake tries to hold Yang’s gaze, but she just stares at Weiss. She’s never looked so defeated, not even when she’d come to Blake’s room late one night and cried to her.

Weiss exhales after a long moment before wrapping Yang into a hug. She pulls away and pauses for a second before lifting her heels off the ground and standing on her toes to press a kiss against her cheek. “Whatever happened, I hope everything ends up okay.”

Yang just smiles down sadly. “Thanks, Weiss.”

As Weiss walks away, sparing a glance before disappearing past the houses, Yang finally turns to Blake, her posture crumbling. She takes Weiss’s previous seat as though she couldn’t be more relieved that something besides her legs are holding her up.

“Everything okay?” Blake squeezes her fingers gently, wishing she could transfer some of her energy into her.

“Ruby was bit,” Yang finally tells her, then shakes her head. “I had to tell her that she was immune.”

“Shit,” Blake swears, shock gripping her. That couldn’t have ended well for either of them. “She didn’t react too well, did she?”

Yang shakes her head and releases a humorless, bitter laugh. “She hates that I kept it from her. And that I took away her choice. And that she’s a walking potential cure who had no idea the whole time.”

“You told her what Raven did to your family, right?” Blake asks, frowning. “She should understand you did this for her.”

“Ruby’s always clung to hope in the most bizarre places, and she hates that I’ve taken some of that from her. She thinks it’s her fucking job to save the world, even if it means she dies.”

“She knows that’s not probable, right?” Blake says, slightly exasperated.

“Sure. She doesn’t care, though. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible.”

Blake has read a book with a protagonist like this. One so filled with determination to protect those around him, hoping to fulfill himself just by being helpful. In the end, he was unsuccessful in his quest, and he’d never done anything meaningful for himself during his journey to look back on and smile.

Blake can only hope Ruby doesn’t let her over-selflessness be her own downfall.

“Is Ruby… upset with you then?” Blake questions haltingly.

Yang huffs out a breath and nods. “Yeah. Can’t blame her, though. I’d hate me too for lying for so long.”

“You did what you thought was right,” Blake reassures, squeezing her fingers and allowing her eyes to bore into Yang’s. “You wanted to protect your sister in a world that wants her dead. That’s an amazing thing to do.”

She smiles, genuine enough that her dimples pop and her eyes crinkle considerably. “Thanks, Blake,” she breathes, releasing her hand to pull her into a tight hug. “Are you hungry?”

Blake shrugs as nonchalantly as she can. “I could eat.” On cue, her stomach growls, and her cool demeanor drops instantly. “Okay, yeah, I’m hungry.”

Yang chuckles — a melody to Blake’s ears. “You’re cute,” she states, so casual that it feels like she’d just been talking about the weather. “Let’s go, then.”

***

“No fucking way,” Blake laughs out, her heels pressing into Shroud’s sides to continue their steady pace in the woods. “Your dad sounds like he was wild.”

“He was a pretty normal dad, actually,” Yang says fondly, petting Bumblebee’s neck absent-mindedly. “Considering, you know, the Grimm and shit. But he’d get all protective when I crushed on a girl, and he’d make the most ridiculous puns.”

“That’s where you get it from, then.”

She grins, unabashed. “Oh yeah. Taiyang and Yang. Two peas in the Xiao Long pod.”

Blake snickers at the image of Yang’s head in a peapod. “That’s adorable. I would have loved to meet your family.”

Yang’s affectionate expression doesn’t waver as she looks at the Faunus. “Hey, you’re family now too. But… they’d have loved you.” The conversation halts slightly, and lilac eyes widen. “A-And Weiss! When I said ‘you,’ I meant, like, plural. You and Weiss. That makes the… Xiao Long-Rose-Belladonna-Schnee family.”

“Why does Xiao Long go first in the name?” Blake frowns childishly.

“Because I’m the tallest. I went by height.”

“You should go by age,” Blake argues. “Belladonna-Schnee-Xiao Long-Rose.”

“Why do you want to flaunt around the fact that you’re a senior citizen so much?” Yang wonders aloud.

“If you want your last name to be first so bad, then I’m gonna go by level of dumbass.”

“Your brittle old man bones-“ Yang’s comeback never reaches her ears as their horses skid to a restless stop, their hooves anxiously tapping in place.

They exchange a curious glance.

“Grimm?” Blake guesses, though something tells her that isn’t the case.

“My eyes aren’t red,” Yang replies. “This is… something else.”

Blake concentrates hard, one of her ears turning towards the sound of shuffling just left of her. Alerted, she swivels the rest of her body towards it, narrowing her eyes through the darkness.

“What do you see?” Yang asks quietly, pulling Bumblebee closer to Blake’s side, drawing her bow.

“Nothing so far.” Blake thumbs the holster of her gun, prepared to pull it out at the first sign of danger. “I hear footsteps, but I can’t tell if they’re people or animals.”

She gently pulls Shroud forward, rubbing her neck reassuringly. Yang follows suit, close enough that Blake can hear her breathing from beside her. Then again, her heightened senses are probably responsible for that.

Forcing her focus away from the blonde next to her, she frowns at the weight of the footsteps. “I think they’re people. Too heavy to be anything else that would roam around these parts.”

Yang exhales audibly, bringing Blake’s attention right back to her. “We should check them out before we try to bring ‘em in. Did you count how many people?”

“Just two, I think. Could be a third.”

Yang hums in thought as she dismounts, digging into her pocket and pulling out a carrot to feed her horse. She tosses one to Blake, too, nodding at Shroud to indicate that she should feed him too.

Blake pats his nose once more before leading the way towards the noise, crouching low into the underbrush. She tries to blend in as much as she can with the orange and brown leaves as she can, but Yang’s bright presence stands out way too much.

She places a finger on her lips and stares warningly at Yang, who just nods, looking slightly reprimanded.

“How long do we need to scope out this fuckin’ town?” someone voices, growing louder as Blake edges nearer. “We had a perfect opportunity when those two girls were bawling their eyes out earlier.”

“Raven made her instructions very clear, Shay,” someone else replies, her voice indicating that she’s younger, but much more authoritative. “We don’t move in until she gives the go-ahead.”

Yang inhales sharply, likely at the mention of her mother. Blake notices her fingers twitch before reaching for her shotgun and smoothing her fingers along a line of rust — something that seems to bring her comfort.

“Don’t get why Raven would ever make a deal with that asshole anyway,” Shay scoffs. “You and I both know he’s more of a hindrance than a help.”

“He has supplies that Raven has had to kill for. Yes, his… mission is a little frustrating. But if we want a cure, we’re gonna have to go along with his requests.”

Yang tugs at Blake’s sleeve, pulling her out of earshot from the two cautiously.

“What is it?” Blake whispers, one of her brows pointing upwards.

“I-we n-need to…” Yang stumbles over her words slightly, swallowing. “I need to kill them.”

Blake blinks, registers her words. “What?” she hisses out after a moment of hesitation, hoping she heard her wrong.

“Raven’s here. She’s been watching us. Vale is in danger. I need to end these two right fucking now.” There’s a desperation to her voice as it cracks, her eyes frantic. “Blake, fuck, you don’t get it. We need to protect Vale and these guys deserve it. They work for the woman that killed my family.”

“They work for a woman that they believe is going to bring them a cure, Yang,” Blake says, pushing the panic down and trying to approach this as level-headed as possible. It’s clear one of them has to be the voice of reason right now. “You said yourself. You’ve never killed someone for no immediate reason.”

“Vale’s in danger-“

“You’re not doing this for Vale, and you know it!” Blake interjects, the only thing stopping her from raising her voice being the two others in the forest with them. “Think about it, Yang. You kill these two, and then what? Raven finds out, gets mad, and attacks Vale sooner than she planned? Her group here is obviously trying to keep the element of surprise on their side. If they know we know they’re coming, it could change things completely. We need to go back to Vale and warn everyone. Prepare ahead of time so we can have the upperhand.”

Yang glares in the direction of Raven’s people, anger coming off of her in waves. “This isn’t fucking fair.”

Blake sighs. “I know, but…” She pauses to gently pry Yang’s fingers off of her gun. “Your hands were never meant to kill. I know you want to protect the people you love,” she says, fingers tracing the lines on her calloused palm, “but don’t do it at the cost of yourself.”

“I’ve killed hundreds, Blake,” Yang murmurs. “I’m built to hurt people.”

Blake only shakes her head. “I’ve met people who’ve been born to cause harm. You aren’t one of them. You wouldn’t be so… considerate if you were. When you came to this town, you were given the option to continue fighting, but you chose to help build a community instead. You volunteered yourself and your soul for people you hardly knew. And when you touch me, you’re so attentive and careful.”

The Faunus releases her fingers in favor of cradling her jaw, thumb brushing under her eye, skin smooth to the touch.

Yang’s abandoned hand reaches upward to grab her forearm, as her face presses further into her hand. Her lips graze over the juncture between her hand and her arm, breath tickling the inside of her arm. She kisses her wrist once, eyes shut as though she’s reveling in the moment.

A shiver runs up Blake’s spine at the sensation, the hair on the back of her neck standing up. She doesn’t press further, though, knowing that doing any more would likely be highly inappropriate for their mission.

“Guess we should, ah, warn the town,” she says awkwardly, the pitch in her voice an octave higher than she’d wanted. “Murderous mom is coming to take away her daughter’s sister and will likely burn down anyone in her way.”

“Oh, right. The people need to know,” Yang adds in, dropping her hold on Blake’s hand and getting on her feet. She dusts off the dirt on her knees and offers a hand down to help Blake up. “Let’s go back?”

Blake takes her hand and stands.