The house was depressingly empty still. The living room featured a couple of chairs, barely used, and the boxes from their days at Beacon. Their bedroom was a set of mattresses and an end table. The kitchen was bare. When they were in town their food was provided via take-out.
There was nothing else to the four bedroom house that Ruby had planned on making into a home for herself and Weiss. The room large enough to turn into a gym, their office, the guest bedroom for when their friends visited from out of town... They all were empty and had stayed that way for years now. If not for their cleaning service they'd be covered in dust.
"We can stay a month this time!" Ruby whined in a way she knew Weiss couldn't resist. "Blake won't mind, and we need to at least get a couch in the living room."
She thought it was a whine Weiss couldn't resist. She knew 'The Voice' wasn't doing the trick when Weiss looked back. "Do you think Blake has taken a day off since she started? She has a good reason not to, and so do I."
How could she slow Weiss down? Refusing to go back out wouldn't do it. She tried that a year ago and found their bed empty the next morning. The anxiety she felt for the following week had nearly killed her.
There was an answer somewhere though. She just needed to find it. "Okay, then I'm going to invite Blake over. I want to see people before we go back out, and you know she's been worried about us."
A planned intervention? No, that would be a bad idea. Weiss would dig her heals in out of pure stubbornness if they did that. Like she had said, Ruby simply needed to see their friend. It would help her decompress at least a small amount before they went back beyond Vale's walls.
"Don't think she's going to convince me to stay longer," Weiss said, confirming Ruby's belief on how an intervention would go.
At least she could be completely honest at her wife's accusation. That was good since Ruby couldn't lie to save her life. "No, I just miss socializing with something besides grimm." And an obsessed wife, Ruby finished in her head.
Weiss snorted. Ruby thought Weiss believed her but wasn't happy at any distraction. Even the ones that didn't slow them down. "Maybe she'll have new information on other facilities," Ruby continued, hoping it would mollify Weiss.
"I'm not obsessed! Well, not obsessed beyond what's reasonable," Weiss responded to Ruby's unspoken thought, proving that the snort wasn't about the possible distraction. "Well, maybe a bit too much, but you have to admit I do have a good reason!" Even when at odds the two were too in tune with each other sometimes. It made hiding things impossible.
This was going to lead to an argument if Ruby wasn't careful. The week in town she had managed to get out of Weiss wasn't going to be wasted with negative distractions. "You are obsessed, and you do have reason," Ruby agreed placatingly. She decided to get a promise for the future instead. "But the next time Yang is in Vale we're going to stay in town at least a few weeks. I haven't seen her in almost a year now outside of my scroll."
Ruby put on her best stubborn face, which was a match for Weiss's. The only person she had ever loved accepted the compromise. "Okay." She didn't sound happy however. Ruby wasn't surprised.
Before Weiss had a chance to come up with another objection to her visit, Ruby pulled out her scroll and called Blake.
She kept her voice as happy as she could make it. "Hey Blake, it's Ruby," she started unnecessarily when she got Blake's voice mail. "Kinda tired so going to make the message short, but we just made it back home. Come over when you get the chance."
Hanging up she looked over at the most important person in her life. The one who was becoming more distant every time Ruby tried keeping her from an abyss Weiss couldn't see. The one she refused to see.
Please Blake, have some idea on how to help her, Ruby pleaded, despair soaking a bit deeper into her soul.
It was obvious. Even if she didn't know Ruby on nearly a spiritual level, Weiss would know the difference in their love making that night. There was a desperation and a depression about it. For the first time Weiss was unsatisfied when they went to sleep and was certain it had been the same for Ruby.
Of course Weiss knew why, and she wasn't angry at Ruby. Troubled would be a better word. It wasn't like she couldn't feel the strain on their relationship the hunt for SDC facilities was causing.
And there was no doubt, though Weiss hadn't said it out loud, that her father's company was the focus of her hunt. She had wanted to make the Schnee Dust Company a moral company again by taking over as the CEO. Getting disowned had made that impossible. Instead she was going to make them do the right thing by giving them no other options.
Each new facility, primarily mining, only reinforced her need. They were getting results too! Not all of it good unfortunately.
Some companies had responded by improving security, making the facilities safer for the faunus who worked there. The living conditions had also improved, making life more comfortable. At several facilities now they had found faunus content with their work and had no need to be saved. Some companies had even begun hiring humans once the conditions improved to a level that they would accept.
Then there was the other side; the companies leaving their facilities more open to attack from the grimm that surrounded them. They were recouping their losses by spending less money. They were as actively killing their faunus labor as putting a gun to their heads. She had a sickening feeling that some companies were literally doing it before the end of their contracts. It would save them from paying their bonus. Anything to save a copper.
Weiss's tunnel vision proved which side the SDC had fallen. How could she not be obsessed with that knowledge? How could she stop for even a moment? Obsession was getting results! Either her family's company was going to fall in line, or they were going to fall.
In her sleep Ruby rolled away, leaving the spooning position that she had started in. Weiss rolled a second later to face her lovers back, touching it tenderly with a single finger. I know she's only worried about me. She thinks she's saving me from myself, Weiss thought, feeling her heart ache. But she's wrong. I have to do this. If I don't see this through it'll eat at me until there's nothing left.
Her finger started drawing the pattern of Ruby's emblem, mimicking Ruby when they got engaged. Like then she felt their connection, their souls meeting in that single point of contact. How she loved this woman, who even in the darkest depths outside of Vale could smile with unrestrained joy.
This woman who hadn't smiled, truly smiled, in months. Weiss was killing Ruby's happiness. Killing the thing that Weiss loved the most about her. She wanted more than anything to bring that joy back.
The fact they weren't staying even a few extra days proved that was a lie. If Ruby's happiness was the most important thing she would give up, or at least slow down.
How could she help Ruby and still be true to herself? She had thought about leaving several times, and not come back until she was done. That wouldn't work. It wouldn't return Ruby's joy. It would destroy it, and her.
If she forced herself to stop Weiss feared her guilt would destroy her, and by extension destroy Ruby. Even slowing down felt unreasonable, remembering times when the destruction they found was only a few days old.
There were no other options that Weiss could see. She didn't stop tracing on her wife's back until sleep came for her, her thoughts looking for any compromise.
"I'm not going." Ruby said, leaving Weiss in a complete panic. This was familiar. It had happened years ago, but the pain was still the same. What was she going to do without Ruby at her side?
Though she argued her case, at one point yelling them and Ruby throwing them back at her, Weiss couldn't get Ruby to budge. The argument finished with Weiss yelling "if we wait more of them will die!" In all her time knowing Ruby she had never been angrier at her wife. How could Ruby, of all people, not understand?
Unable to come to terms, Weiss went to bed. Ruby fallowed, but there was no cuddling that night. Both hovered as close to the edge of their side of the bed as possible. It made it easier, in the end, for Weiss to get up and leave in the middle of the night.
Three days later Weiss was by herself looking at a facility devoid of life, the smell of blood still fresh in the air. She'd been too late. She could have gotten there faster if she hadn't been by herself. If she hadn't waited even the few hours it took for Ruby to fall asleep. She had been close.
Staggering backwards Weiss gagged at the smell. Her mind replayed every other failed attempt the two had made, finding a facility marked only by death. It never got easier. Out of a sense of misplaced anger she slaughtered the grimm that still inhabited the area, a few playing with portions of their victims like cat toys.
Weiss didn't wake up quickly. Not being a morning person, she never did. The dream faded away slowly, mixing with reality so for a few minutes she couldn't tell which was which. It started with her walking back to Vale, envisioning her wife's back with anger bordering on hatred. It ended when she finally came to the waking world, and she felt that hatred turn inwards knowing how she was twisting both of them up.
It had been a year since then, and to her perception only more death had been found with small pockets of success littering within. When would they win? When would she have her life back, contented to just be held by Ruby's loving arms?
The nightmare had to end, but if she stopped those deaths would visit her every night. She felt a bit of bile rise in her throat, burning the entire trip. She wasn't obsessed. She was desperate. Desperate of be done with this dark fate she had thrown herself into.
Ruby was awake of course, being a morning person, but she hadn't moved which was unusual for her. Gently she reached out to touch her wife's shoulder, needing at least some small comfort from her thoughts, fears, and guilt. A tightening of the back that shoulder was attached to made her hand fall away. There was no comfort there to be found.
The sound was a soft one, almost unheard. Ruby was crying. It had once been the rarest of sights. Pink unicorns were spotted more often. It had been. The memory, so fresh from her dream, of that past argument came to haunt her. Was her quest worth this?
Inching herself closer, she whispered in Ruby's ear "lets stay a bit longer. Maybe a month?"
Ruby shook her head violently, showing pain instead of relief at her words. "You were dreaming again... Talking... I heard you. Only bits and pieces. Not all of it made sense, but enough. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry I made you hate me." The tears were getting easier to hear, and her breathing was becoming labored.
Instantly Weiss had Ruby in her arms, hugging her close. "It was a dream, nothing more. How can I hate you? You're right. We need time off. A month will do us a lot of good."
The lie had been evident in her voice, and Weiss knew it. She didn't believe she needed that time. She would hate every day spent away. She had to be more honest or Ruby would never accept the offer. "You're right. I don't think I need the time off. I know you do though. I would hate myself if I hurt you any more than I already have."
Ruby's breathing eased up, though her tears had started dripping off her face and onto the arm Weiss was using to pillow her head. "Let's go find that couch you wanted to find when we get up."
A slight nod of the head was the only answer, but it was enough for now.
It was about eleven when Blake called, and Ruby answered with some of her old cheer restored. The smile on the other side of the screen told Ruby that her fake smile last night had been noticed, and Blake was happy to see the improvement.
Blake had changed slowly over the years. She had become comfortable with the informal business suits that Weiss had designed for her. Enjoyed might be a better word. She was rarely seen out of them now, and had become proficient at coming up with her own ensembles. Her hair had become more tamed as well, showing a sophistication that managed to be formal and casual at the same time. It suited her, and fit with her many roles as leader of Phoenix.
"I cleared my calendar for the evening," Blake was saying. "I'll need the time to relax after my interview anyways, and we need to talk."
"We need to talk" was perhaps the most feared four words in the spoken language, and the grim look on her friend's face said it was going to be a valid fear this time.
Ruby didn't press however. They would get to whatever subject she had in mind when they were face to face. "We're going furniture shopping this evening. Why don't you join us?"
"You mean you haven't even..." Blake's face registered shock. "Consider this an order from your boss. Take a couple of weeks off!"
Again that smile, though there was still a tinge of sadness around the edges. "We're taking a month!"
"Good." Blake paused for a second, composing herself. "I'll be at your door at about four. Sound good?"
Ruby nodded at the screen. "We'll be ready."
The time passed slowly for Ruby. She took care of the few mundanes that came with being out of town for a month. It included repairing, when possible, clothing and weapons, washing the rest, filling out reports for Alice on what they had been up to while out, and squashing her continued feeling of guilt.
In the end her and Weiss had been sitting with little to do but look at each other. Being together with no separation for over a month had left them nothing to talk about. Everything had already been said with nothing new to add. There was only one thing on the front of both of their minds, and it was something neither wanted to talk about.
When the door bell rang at three both jumped, surprised at Blake's early arrival. As far as Ruby could figure it, Blake should be finishing up with Teresa and friends. She had looked up the time of the show on her scroll. If they had a vid screen she would have loved to watch it. It was another in a long list of things they were getting today.
Heading to the door she found something else she should have known was coming: a yellow envelope. Where they came from, and how they managed to show up the day after they returned home, Ruby didn't know.
She knew and dreaded what was going to be inside the envelope: another tip on a corrupt business's barbaric activity outside of Vale, where the law didn't exist. She refused to look at the contents, and especially refused to let Weiss know they had gotten another one. All she would find were locations, reports, and, worst of all, pictures. They would anger Ruby and they'd drive Weiss to get back out in the field again.
They needed their time off! Looking at the envelope she knew exactly why Weiss wanted to be back out fighting. She felt it too. She could also accept that never stopping to rest was only going to get them killed. Then what good would they be to the ones they wanted to help?
Even though manipulating Weiss to stay longer hadn't been her intention, she felt guilty for doing it. That wasn't going to stop her from taking it. It could very well save her wife's life.
Quietly she hid the file in their mailbox by the front door. They would stay there until Ruby could hide it without Weiss knowing, there to stay for a month.
"Where's Blake?" Weiss asked.
While Ruby couldn't lie convincingly, she hoped she could tell the truth minus one detail. "She wasn't there. Not sure who it was, but they left before I got to the door."
It didn't fool Weiss. Not entirely at least. Ruby could tell and felt her nerves start to ratchet upwards seeing the doubt in her lover's eyes. Weiss let her off the hook however. "If you say so."
Ruby was saved from having to answer, and possibly incriminate herself, by a familiar voice from the door she accidentally left open. "You two really need to get an interior decorator," Blake commented, looking around the empty house. "I pay you enough to afford it."539Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkYngwuqDvZ