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A Good Idea

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First impression of Atlas?  Cold.

Second impression of Atlas?  Really, really cold.

Third impression?  So soul-crushingly cold, Ruby wished the streets were paved in hot coals instead of pavement.  Not even coals - how about fire?  Fire would work too.

“Sorry, Weiss,” Yang grumbled as they looked down the street where actual people were shopping outside.  Outside.   In the elements.  Or the singular cold, freezing element.  “We’ve been here three minutes, and this place kinda sucks.” 

“I’m well aware...” Weiss muttered.  The cold didn’t seem to bother her as much, but something else clearly did.  From the way her eyes darted around the street, checking each and every face passing by, it looked like she expected someone to attack at any second.  

Not on Ruby’s watch.  Although, it’d be a little harder to protect anyone if she froze into a human icicle...

“It’s t-too cold,” Blake added, teeth chattering as she ran her hands up and down her arms.  

“Y-yeah,” Ruby agreed while doing the same.  “T-totally agree.”

Now that they were here, Ruby understood Atlas’ greatest tactical advantage.  It wasn’t discipline.  It wasn’t technology.  It was the bone-chilling, mind-numbing cold that froze outsiders to the ground before they presented any danger.

“Well, of course it’s cold.  You’re hardly wearing anything,” Weiss scolded them, but her eyes were soft when she looked at Ruby.  After a second of careful consideration, she reached up to undo Ruby’s cloak, which she’d worn all the way here.  “You should take this back -”

“No!”  Ruby waved both hands in front of her.  “I’m fine - really.  Like, not c-cold at all.”

The answer would’ve been more convincing had her teeth not chattered in the middle.  Weiss noticed, so she kept untying the cloak.

“Seriously,” Ruby added, keeping her shivers in check this time.  “I’d rather you wear it.” 

“But -” 

“Nope!  You’re keeping it.”  To make her point, Ruby crossed her arms and nodded.  Crossing her arms also warmed them a little, for which she was grateful (and she wouldn’t uncross them anytime soon).

Weiss looked like she wanted to argue, but then her gaze flitted over Ruby’s shoulder and her brow furrowed.  Curious, Ruby turned around and discovered that Blake had grown tired of their back-and-forth, or the cold (or both), and decided to take matters into her own hands - she was already halfway through the door of a nearby department store with Yang right on her heels.

“Hmm...good idea.”

Before Ruby processed the response, Weiss grabbed her arm and pulled her after their teammates.  She nearly asked what this good idea was, but then they walked into the store and she knew.  It wasn’t just a good idea, either - it was a great idea.  One of the best, most incredible ideas anyone had ever had.

“Ahh...” Ruby sighed while the heaters just inside the doors blasted her face with hot air.  “You’re so right...”

“Come on.” 

Before Ruby fully thawed in front of the wondrous heat lamps, Weiss dragged her further into the store.

“Uh, Weiss?” she asked, not pulling away but confused about where they were going now.  “Is there a reason why we aren’t taking the ‘fast thaw’ option?” 

When Weiss gave her a confused look, Ruby gestured to the heaters they just left behind.  Sure, the rest of the store was also nice and warm, but those heaters...

“You want to stand there and get burned?” 

“Yes, please,” Ruby said, which only made Weiss laugh while leading her further away from the doors.  

“I have a better idea.”

Ruby was about to ask what could possibly be better, but then they turned the corner and she understood. 

“Oh...” she said as her eyes flitted around the room.  Weiss released her arm then, allowing her to walk into what might as well be heaven.  

“You’re right.  This is a better idea.”

This section of the store was filled with clothing racks.  On those racks were hangers, and on those hangers were the fluffiest, softest, warmest-looking winter coats Ruby had ever seen.  Each one looked ready to combat the fiercest enemy she’d ever faced - the chill of Atlas.  Each looked ready to slay the beast of frost and conquer the king of ice.  Impervious to cold.  Invincible to winter.  If she had one of these jackets, she would be…

“I’ll get you one.”

Pulled from her thoughts, Ruby blinked before looking at Weiss.  

“What?”

“I’ll get you one,” Weiss repeated before nodding to the selection.

“Oh.  You don’t have to do that…” 

“But I want to.” 

“Yeah, but -”

“Do you want me to keep wearing your cloak?” 

Staring at Weiss, Ruby thought about the question and how she wanted to respond.  Honestly, she thought Weiss looked great in her cloak - the red went really well with Weiss’ white outfit and hair.  Plus, she loved that Weiss wore the cloak at all.  It was something of Ruby’s, but Weiss was willing to wear it, because she was willing to share with her partner.

On the flip side, Ruby was more than willing to let Weiss use, take, or have anything and everything she owned.  That’s what being partners was about, wasn’t it?  Giving everything you had to each other and never expecting anything in return.  Even if that wasn’t in the Beacon handbook, that’s how Ruby wanted her partnership to work, and she was grateful that Weiss seemed to feel the same.

“I think it looks really good on you,” Ruby admitted.  Weiss briefly looked surprised by the answer, but she quickly nodded.

“If I’m wearing this, then you need something warmer.  And, as a thank you, I’d like to get you one of these.” 

Weiss waved at the rows of jackets, which Ruby considered for a long second.  While she wanted one, and having one was probably good for her health, it didn’t seem like a fair trade.

“I don’t know...” 

“But I get to pick which one.”

That gave Ruby reason to pause.  Not because she thought Weiss would choose something horrible, but because the risk of Weiss choosing something horrible somehow made the situation much more equitable.

“Deal!” Ruby agreed, noting Weiss’ smile while sticking out her hand to shake on it.  “Do your worst.”  

When Weiss’ smile grew a little more smug, Ruby felt a pinprick of worry.  And when Weiss walked over to a hunter-green camouflage jacket that would look horrible with Crescent Rose, Ruby cringed.

Maybe this was a slightly bad idea...

Weiss probably heard Ruby’s sigh of relief when she changed directions and moved to another rack - this one with mostly black coats.  Which...black was fine, although more of Blake’s color.  But Ruby could do black.  It’d be easy to keep clean too.  Well, not easy to keep clean, but it wouldn’t show the dirt and blood and stuff as much.

“Hmm...” Weiss hummed while picking up the sleeve and glancing at Ruby.  Sensing an opportunity, Ruby waltzed over to help.  

“Want me to try it on?”  

She must have looked too eager because Weiss dropped the sleeve and shook her head.  

“No, that’s not the one for you,” she said before moving to the next rack.

“Where do you think Blake and Yang went?” Ruby asked while following Weiss past a row of blue jackets that were, thankfully, quickly dismissed.  

“They sell heat lamps somewhere near the front of the store,” Weiss mused, her attention on a hideous floral-printed jacket that Ruby scrunched her nose at.  “I imagine Blake found those in a hurry.”

That sounded like the perfect spot for Blake to recuperate for a half hour or so.  After all the turmoil she went through combined with the worse-than-expected temperature in Atlas, she probably needed a few minutes to soak up some serious warmth. 

“Poor Yang though,” Ruby added, internally sighing in relief when Weiss left the floral print behind.  “She’s gotta be burning up by now.” 

“But she’s probably happy as long as Blake is.”

After briefly considering the answer, Ruby nodded and caught up to Weiss.

“You’re right,” she added for good measure, but Weiss only smirked before passing the rack filled with perfect red jackets.  Ruby considered saying something, or whining, but she’d agreed to let Weiss choose...so that’s exactly what she’d do.

“Have you ever realized that my name basically means ‘red red,’” she commented instead, noticing the twitch of Weiss’ lips.  “Like, ruby is a type of red.  And rose is also a type of red.” 

Weiss wanted to smile - Ruby could tell she did - but she forced a straight face instead.

“You’re right,” she said, her tone giving away the playfulness as much as her eyes.  “And Crescent Rose is red,” she added before turning away with a laugh that lifted Ruby’s heart.  “Thank you for pointing that out, Ruby,” she teased while bypassing the red jackets entirely.  “I learn something new every day.”

Even though Ruby knew Weiss was teasing her, she didn’t mind in the slightest.  Actually, she liked when Weiss teased her.  It was especially nice right now, knowing that Weiss was stressed about being in Atlas but still able to relax enough to poke fun at Ruby.  

Ruby meant what she said about staying by Weiss’ side no matter what, and she felt sorry for the fool who tried to make her fail that mission.  They were partners, and she would do whatever it took to help Weiss through this.  Whatever it took.

“Try this one.” 

When Weiss pressed something into her hands, Ruby found a white jacket with small but tasteful black accents.  It looked very much like something Weiss would wear, but Ruby wasn’t about to complain.

“Ok,” she agreed, more than ready to try one of these things on.  After sliding her arms through the sleeves and zipping it up, she wrapped her arms around herself and sighed.  It was better than she’d dreamed.  

“Do you like it?”

Opening her eyes, she found Weiss watching her.  

“It’s like being hugged by a cloud.  A really, warm, really comfortable cloud.” 

“Then you like it?” 

“I love it!” 

“And the color?” 

Ruby laughed at the question, which felt very much like Weiss giving her the chance to complain.

“You get to pick,” Ruby reminded her.  “What do you think about the color?”

The question gave Weiss reason to study Ruby closely, looking over every piece of the jacket with an intent, analytical gaze.  Ruby had grown used to that look over time - it meant Weiss was taking in every bit of information she could find before making a decision.  In this instance, that piece of information was Ruby.  Well, Ruby and the jacket.

Once the analysis was done, Weiss smiled.

“I think it suits you.”

That answer alone was enough for Ruby to wear the jacket for the rest of her life.  But Weiss nodded to a nearby mirror, so Ruby walked over and checked her reflection.  Weiss was right - the color worked well with Ruby’s red combat outfit.  And, while it might be more difficult to keep clean, the contrast was pretty striking.

“What do you think?” Weiss asked, standing by Ruby’s shoulder and leaning close to give the jacket another glance.

To answer that question, Ruby looked at their reflection - her wearing her traditional red with a jacket in Weiss’ color and Weiss wearing her traditional white with Ruby’s red cloak.  It might seem like a silly thing, but...they matched.  And that was totally a partner thing to do.

“I love it,” Ruby replied, smiling when Weiss met her gaze for confirmation.  “I really do,” she added, taking another look at her new outfit while her heart beat loudly.  “Thank you, Weiss.”

Weiss hummed in response, but Ruby hoped she understood the gratitude wasn’t just for the jacket.  It was for being Ruby’s friend, her teammate, her partner, and everything that came with it.  Maybe they didn’t have the smoothest start but now...she couldn’t imagine having any other partner in the world.

“Come on,” Weiss added, a mischievous glint in her eyes as she caught Ruby’s gaze in the mirror.  “Let’s pick out something horrendous for your sister and Blake.”

Laughing at the idea - probably one of their best yet - Ruby willingly followed Weiss away from the mirror.  

“I think one of them will love camouflage.”