Sun sat outside the clinic's observation room, looking through the window at his best friend and his girlfriend. He could say she was with Neptune because she really couldn't be any other place until the doctors released her, but lying to himself really wasn't his style. Part of him was happy for it. Neptune was going to need someone to be at his side. Someone who could be doing it as more than just a friend to prove his looks weren't all that mattered.
Watching them he could almost accept what Yang was asking for. He wanted to accept it, and he had enjoyed parts of it. He didn't think that would last for long though. He was going to get jealous; Neptune was going to get jealous; and the two of them would only bring Yang down, not help her as she seemed to think they could.
And right now Neptune needed her more than he did. He was going to bow out, he just wasn't sure how. If he did as things stood now Neptune would be pissed and feel like some sort of charity case. Yang would feel like she'd pushed him away, and in fairness both were right to a degree. He thought about making up a reason to fight and leave in a fit of anger, but he couldn't think of one that either of them would believe. Heck, he couldn't even claim he found someone else. Yang would probably welcome that with the twisted way she thinks about relationships.
Sun realized suddenly that her idea of a relationship could actually be more secure. He wanted to hold on to her so tight that no one would take her from him, but what if there was no 'take' just 'add?' It could work he realized. From what Yang had told him it did work for her parents.
"You're going to leave her, aren't you?" came Nora's unexpected voice.
Sun was fully aware Nora had come to feel like some sort of relationship doctor, which was a bit annoying. It was fine when someone came to her and asked, but Sun hadn't. Instead she was butting her nose in. Still, he could use someone to talk to who wasn't Yang. "Do you blame me?"
She laughed gaily. "I would probably stay. I mean, yeah how she wants to live is more than a bit weird, and I'm not exactly sure I wouldn't end up killing whoever else she was dating, but who knows? We might even become friends, which is something you already have with Neptune in spades."
"And if you want to beat the crap out of your best friend because of it?"
"I'd make it a damn good fight! If it was Neptune I'd make it a food fight, just cause splattering him in mustard would piss him off. Remember the one we had freshman year? Oh, the look on his face! A bit of fighting is a good thing you know." Why the hell was she so casual about that?
"But I don't want to hate him. He's my friend!"
She laughed again, as if he had told a good joke. "I didn't say hate him. I said fight. Get out some aggression. Maybe make it a challenge. The winner gets to go out with Yang that night? Oh, now there's a fun thought! Yeah, I could get behind that."
"I don't think Yang would agree," he said, remembering a conversation about winning and losing they had not that long ago.
"It's called a compromise," Nora said reasonably. "She wants something you two aren't ready for. She should have to give in on something too, don't you think?"
"You realize your idea of a compromise is pretty blood thirsty."
"Well d'uh." Sun almost laughed despite his frustration. Nora and blood thirsty went hand in hand. 'D'uh' was an understatement. "Fighting is honest. You can't really hide much besides how you're going to hit your opponent next, and that is a pretty short lived deception."
Sun sighed deeply. "You may have a point. Right now it isn't going to be much of a fight though. I'm going to leave her."
"Wimp. Honorable wimp, but still a wimp," Nora quipped. "At least tell me when Neptune is recovered you'll fight for what you love?"
He gave that question some real thought, and for once Nora stayed quiet long enough for him to work through it all. "I don't know. I can't rule it out though."
"I look forward to it," she said as if he hadn't left any wiggle room, then headed into the room.
Yang looked down at Neptune trying to collect her thoughts. She had not failed him. She really could believe that now. They were out played and this is the consequence of the lives they live. That didn't mean she was off the hook though. He had been there for her; she was going to be there for him. It wasn't only because of what he had done for her though. She simply wanted to. This might not be love, at least not yet, but she did care for him deeply.
She felt she had a good grasp on Neptune and what made him tick. That was a good thing because otherwise she'd have tried ripping his arms off years ago. That knowledge told her he was not going to come out of this unscathed emotionally as well as physically. He was going to need to find a source of confidence outside of his looks. A confidence born from who he actually is, which she didn't think he had ever done. It was ironic that he was going to think that this would ruin him, and she was fairly sure this was going to make him look better in her eyes.
And then there was the balancing act of not neglecting Sun. She got the feeling he was close to being able to enjoy her lifestyle, but not so close that he could handle her attention on someone else for days at a time. Her dad always said that there were good times and bad times in his relationship with his two wives; times when jealousy was inevitable. He maintained the belief that jealousy wasn't a problem; it was a symptom of a problem. Usually that was insecurity in their relationship. She agreed with him and didn't want to feed into Sun's.
She looked down at Neptune's face again, half wrapped in bandages. She was told the scarring under those bandages was going to be significant. She wanted to see under them to know for herself. Not because she cared personally, but so she could judge how badly he was going to handle the change. If they had been subtle scars like the one she now bore across her eyes, he might be able to recover quickly.
Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. The state of his goggles alone told her that. The left side had been untouched. The right side was like scattered puzzle pieces, most of which were missing. The remainder had been thrown into a blender. Yang pictured that the left side of his face would look like undercooked ground beef that had gotten into a losing battle with a dull serrated knife.
Why hadn't she been honest with Sun from the moment they started dating? Either he'd have accepted it, or he wouldn't. If he hadn't then there wouldn't be a need to balance her time. If he'd stayed he might have another girlfriend by now to help with the balance. Now she didn't know and had to live with the regret.
The door opened behind her. She expected it to be Sun and was a bit surprised when she heard Nora's voice instead. "How is he?"
"About the same. The longer he stays in the coma the worse his scars are going to be. I keep hoping that it'll be any minute now that I see those blue eyes of his."
"Do you think it matters how bad the scars are going to be? They're going to be bad at this point no matter when he wakes up. We both know how he's going to take that. I bet you were obsessing over it right now in fact." Yang didn't answer, which was answer enough. "You're going to show him otherwise, I already know that. Everyone already knows that. Sun knows that too. You're going to lose him over it. Are you ready?"
Nora had only told her everything she already knew, but hearing it from an outside source made it harder to deny. "I know I am, and I'm not sure how I'll handle it when he does. It won't be easy."
"Glad to hear you'd given it some thought, not that I expected otherwise. What you probably haven't counted on is he might come back. I dropped a few things for him to think about on my way in, and I'm pretty confident it will work for you."
Looking downwards she made a small grunt of amusement as she smiled. Leave it to Nora to add a silver lining to a storm cloud that had none. "Thanks."
"It's what I do, apparently. I should set up a love doctor booth. I'd make a fortune I think."
Now Yang openly laughed. "You probably would, once people started taking you seriously."
"That's a wonderful sound to wake up to." The IV tubes, bandages, and six levels of other medical equipment, wasn't what stopped Yang from squeezing the life out of Neptune in a giant hug. It was the simple knowledge that if she did she probably really would kill him in his current state.
"I'll get the docs," Nora said as she left almost running through Sun who was coming in at the same time.
Ruby and Weiss sat staring at each other, neither knowing exactly where to start. Ruby looked at Weiss and couldn't stop seeing the blood that had covered her, and felt the shame that went with it. Weiss looked at Ruby and saw the member of the white fang's head disappear like a popped grape. She knew she was going to die if Ruby hadn't killed him and she was thankful for that. She couldn't think of anything else Ruby could have done differently. That didn't change the new reality. Ruby was a killer, trained by the best Academy in Vale and arguably all of Remnant.
Yet Ruby was an innocent, a bane to the soulless, and a champion of the light. Maybe Ruby's idealistic views of the world had affected her more than Weiss wanted to admit. She didn't want to believe that Ruby was capable of killing.
Weiss wanted to be cold and calculating about it. It would be easier than these feelings which were so messy and wrong. She remembered being told how feelings were never wrong, and the people who had told her that were idiots. It was wrong! Ruby had to choose between her blood and that of a killer. If she'd been in Ruby's position she would make the same choice without a second thought.
"Do you think this is what it was like for Blake?" Ruby asked quietly into the silence.
Weiss remembered Blake after her battle with Adam. He'd made sure that the rest of RWBY was busy with his White Fang so he could fight Blake alone. She wouldn't talk about the battle much, but afterwards the normally quiet faunus might as well have been struck mute for a month. "Worse." The faunus blood on Ruby's hands had been a stranger's, not a previous lover. There was no comparison.
The one word answer was obviously not enough for Ruby. She needed comforting from Weiss, and possibly forgiveness? Weiss wasn't sure on that last. Weiss didn't have any words to give though that properly expressed all of the conflicting emotions, so instead she reached out and pulled Ruby in close. She held her with all of her love showing, her masks falling off for her without any reservation. She cried tears of relief, of fear, of anger, and of love. She felt Ruby respond in kind. Then she did find the words. "You didn't let me fall."
Several hours later a knocking came from the door. "Ruby, we need your help if you're up to it," Jaune's voice came through. Weiss had almost fallen asleep. "We'll be in my room when you're ready."
There was something in his voice that said this had some measure of urgency. Given everything that happened last night this warranted Ruby pulling herself together, wiping the last of the tears off her face, and answering. "Give me a couple minutes and I'll be right over." She leaned in one last time and kissed Weiss on the cheek. "I'll be back."
It took Ruby a few minutes to clear up most of the traces of her tears, then she left with one last look over her shoulder.
Less than a minute later another knock came at the door. "Weiss, it's Pyrrha. Can I come in?"
Weiss hadn't taken the time to clear up her tears thinking she'd be alone for a while. "One second," she said as she quickly used her sheets to blot most of them up. She knew it would still be clear she'd been crying.
Weiss knew what was coming. More emotion delving was ahead that she would like to avoid. Not simply because it dealt with how she felt towards Nora and Ruby being together, but also because of the pain she'd caused Pyrrha. Not only had she not realized she had caused it at the time, but she never gave any thought about the possibility afterwards.
"Okay, I'm decent," she said through the door and watched as Pyrrha came in.
Pyrrha was wearing her school uniform instead of her traditional armor. Weiss guessed that it was a subtle message that they were at peace with each other. Nora's influence again she guessed (correctly). It worked and she watched Pyrrha settle into a chair across from her.
Once settled Weiss started talking before her friend could. Any predestined speeches Pyrrha had prepared weren't what she wanted. This needed to be honest in a way only spontaneous conversations could be. "Why didn't you tell me sooner about you and Jaune?"
Pyrrha may be a master at shields, but her fighting style was mainly offensive. This was reflected in how she approached conversations that could be emotionally challenging. Weiss taking the initiative completely threw her off the planned attack. "Well, I guess it's because I wanted him to have what he wanted most."
"No, no, not that. I get that, even if it is a bit boneheaded. I want to know why you didn't tell me after. I feel like a heel not talking to you and clearing things up."
"What would you have said?" The shield mistress asked simply.
"Well sorry, obviously."
"Is that all?" And just like that Pyrrha had the initiative back.
Weiss stopped and thought about it. "Well, yes. I'd want your forgiveness."
That bright honest smile crossed Pyrrha's face. "You already had it. Telling you wouldn't have done anything but cause you pain."
"Wait a minute, you said you wanted to hurt me for what I did," Weiss pointed out in confusion. "That doesn't sound like forgiveness."
"Does that mean you haven't forgiven Nora then?"
That was a silly question if she'd ever heard one. "Of course not! I didn't know what I was doing to you. She knew exactly what she was doing to me."
"Did she?" her friend asked calmly and added "what was she doing to you?"
"She was taking Ruby and keeping her to herself!" She felt her anger building. What was wrong with Pyrrha? How could she not be angry at Nora?
Yet Pyrrha stayed calm and ignored the heat in Weiss's voice. "You believe if Nora hadn't been involved you and Ruby would have gotten together sooner?"
"Well..," Weiss started, confused. "Well maybe."
"Let me ask you something else then. When did you first realize you were attracted to Ruby?"
Confused went out the window and was replaced by wild bewilderment. "Uh..."
Pyrrha leaned back, her smile never leaving her face. "Think it over, I'll wait."
Weiss realized Pyrrha wasn't going to let her off the hook, and was smart enough to know exactly where Pyrrha was going with this question. She sat thinking, but not about when she realized she first was attracted to Ruby. She knew the exact moment that happened. She was trying to find a way out of the trap she found herself in. It would force her to admit she had no one, especially Nora, to blame for not being with Ruby sooner. It was a wasted effort.
"During the food fight our freshman year," she finally admitted, defeated. She remembered looking up at Ruby after hitting a wall a bit too hard. Ruby was being over dramatic about it, of course, and Weiss couldn't help but find it charming. She didn't know it at the time, but that was when her perception of Ruby had changed.
Pyrrha nodded, though she looked a bit surprised. "That's about a year sooner than I expected, and two years before the rest of us guessed you two would end up together. It is safe to say then that you had plenty of time to act before Nora became a factor."
And there was the point Weiss knew she was going to arrive at. "In battle they say fortune favors the bold. RWBY is proof of how true that statement is. When I realized I wished to be with Jaune I didn't act right away. By the time I was ready he had already set his sights on you. I lacked boldness to act. We were all young and uncertain then which leads to hesitation and we both did. Those were our mistakes though and no one else. I was angry with you. I was also angry with myself. Is it not the same with you and Nora?"
It was, and Weiss knew it. She'd known it all along. The horrid truth was she really wasn't angry with Nora at all. She was mad at herself for all of it, but she was throwing all that anger at Nora. She had her opportunity, but because of her youth, and not understanding herself enough to recognize herself as bisexual, she looked away; concentrating on what was 'safe.' Neptune had been safe. He was cool, suave, and male. He might not be rich by her standards, but he could mingle with her crowds without sticking out. Father wouldn't fully approve, but better than bringing home a girl! She had been such a child back then.
"Thank you Pyrrha."
"You are my friend and comrade. You would do no less in my situation. It is why I was able to move past my anger. I expect it will be the same for you and Nora eventually."
Eventually. Weiss wasn't sure how long before she truly could move past the anger, but she would, eventually. She could fully accept that now.
Ruby entered JNPR's dorm room expecting to find Jaune, Pyrrha, Ren and Nora. Who she found instead was Jaune, Blake, and Coco. Including herself that was four leaders in various ways, and all four were hock deep in the conflict with the Reapers. "War council?" she asked.
Jaune nodded his head in agreement. "Blake's been in contact with all the heads of Phoenix that she can. Her Defense head is still missing. She's going to go meet each one individually rather than putting them all in one spot. One of us will shadow her and then be introduced to whichever head she's meeting. The idea is to introduce the two and start coordinating and training."
"You still think they're going to be able to help us with the Reapers, don't you?" Ruby asked, though really it was a statement.
Blake answered the question anyways. "Maybe. We have to try at least. They're using White Fang members to help. People will notice eventually and it will be Torchwick all over again."
Jaune added "The meetings are also going to be during the day. We think they're only going to attack at night. They revealed themselves to us but I think it was on accident. They don't want people to know what they are and are trying to avoid any hard evidence. All we got is a wild story that even the cops don't believe. They wrote last night off as a mugging of all things. Like common crooks could take on four huntresses."
"The only proof we had that RWBY was attacked had been their wounds and that White Fang's body," Coco pointed out. "I'm having trouble understanding how a grimm and a faunus could work together, and I really do believe you. With only the faunus body it was easy to write it off like they had."
A shiver ran up Ruby's spine at once again being reminded of the life she took. The image was still clear in her mind. The triumphant smile she had on her face. The joy felt at killing a soulless grimm, and the rage that followed when she realized she'd been tricked. "So who's first?" she said in a flat voice.
"The easiest and most important is Alice," Blake said sounding resolute. "She's already well trained and her wing is the one most important in finding these Reapers."
"I want to be the one to meet her," Coco said instantly, a bit of humor was unmistakable in her voice.
Blake looked at her instantly. "How do you know her?" Now that may not be an important question right now, but it was something that Ruby would really like to know anyways. Blake had an even better reason to need that knowledge since it involved one of her heads.
"She was a friend at Westbrook Academy," she said simply. "I bet she still says she's never been caught, isn't she?" Blake nodded her agreement. "Well that's mostly true, if you don't include the time she was caught stealing the answers to the midterm exams. She was expelled with no chance at getting admitted into Beacon. Still, she has skills. I'll vouch for her, if that is what you're worried about. She's a thief, but she is honorable too."
Well that was ballsy. Westbrook Academy was the Academy of the rich and famous, and had the security systems that went with that. Stealing anything there would be like trying to rob a bank in the middle of the day without being seen. "Given the age she had to have been it was no wonder that she'd been caught," Jaune whispered in awe.
"Yeah," Coco agreed. "Going after them for four semesters in a row was pushing things. Sad part was she only did it for the fun. She knew everything already, and she didn't sell any of them. She just showed off the envelope to a few of her friends then burned it in front of us. She can be a real showoff, so it's no wonder we got along."
Jaune had a thoughtful look on his face. "If she went to Westbrook her family has money, so why is she thieving? She could be living the highlife."
"For the same reason I became a Huntress: the challenge." She smiled at Jaune. "Not all of us became huntresses because of a sense of honor like you did."
A sheepish smile crossed Jaune's face. "Fair enough."
Ruby made another connection. Faunus, generally speaking, weren't rich. Middle class was the most many of them could hope for. Alice was a rare item then to be well enough off to attend Westbrook. That narrowed down who her family was rather dramatically, and you didn't have a Schnee as a teammate without picking up at least the basics of the who's who in business. "Greychild isn't her real last name, is it?"
"Is that what she is going by now?" Coco grinned. "Well, I guess it's appropriate. She is the black sheep of her family."
Blake made the connection next. "She's a Whitmore?" Black sheep of a Whit-e family… This Alice definitely had an odd sense of humor.
"That is her family," Coco agreed. "They're good people. I was at their last family gathering and had a good time. Alice wasn't there of course. It wasn't that she doesn't love them, but when she chose her lifestyle she way her father wouldn't accept it. She's wrong though. Me and Johnathan had a long talk about his daughter. He's actually been keeping a close eye on her."
The Whitmore's and the Schnee's were also business rivals, which was amusing to Ruby. SDC had the edge, but mainly because of the prejudice that was stacked against the Whitmore's. That spoke volumes for how canny Johnathan Whitmore was at business. She couldn't wait to tell Weiss!
"So when do we…" Jaune started, but was interrupted by Blake's scroll.
"It's Thompson!" Blake said with a bit more excitement than Ruby would have expected. She answered it quickly. "Where have you..?" Blake's face suddenly drained of blood. "Where?" she asked, then paused for the answer. "We'll be there."
She looked around at everyone's expectant expressions. "The Reapers have Alice."766Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡtKK8aGSpzI