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you're a mountain, full of glory

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Chapter 9 - fall like an avalanche

So give me one night, one minute
And I'll watch you fall like an avalanche
Let your walls down, I swear you won't regret it
Hold on tight, baby, if you can
We'll be rolling fast and crashing hard
Hear the mountains roar to the beat of our hearts
And we'll be falling like an avalanche

[FLETCHER, Avalanche]

Blake leaves, and Yang stands barefoot in the driveway until she can no longer feel the pavement beneath her, the skin of her feet pale to the point of looking sickly. She can sense eyes on her (though she doesn’t look towards the front-facing window of the apartment for confirmation), but neither Ruby or Weiss emerge. This is a mercy, she knows, and it’s the thought of them worried (debating inside about who should come get her and when) rather than the threat of losing a toe to the frost, that has her trudging towards the stairs and making the climb to the front door. There’s a scuffle when she reaches it, which explains why both her roommates look so carefully preoccupied when she walks in; Weiss with a cup of coffee and a rumpled newspaper, Ruby with a bowl of cereal — clearly soggy and obviously untouched — and her phone upside down, directly in front of her face. If Yang had words, she would offer them, no matter how full of falsities or platitudes, but they’ve abandoned her completely, leaving only numbness in their wake.

Instead of searching for them, she finds herself walking into the kitchen, opening a cabinet door, pulling a box of Pop-Tarts and — not bothering with toasters or plates — slumping into one of the counter stools with the entire container. Had the room been a little less quiet, had there been any conversation at all, it might have been less awkward, the noisy crinkle of the pouch as she tears into it with her teeth. But at the very least, the sight of Yang biting into one of them (cookies and cream, Ruby’s god-awful choice) seems to break Weiss from her self-imposed stupor.

“Yang — ”


She stands; the abruptness — the panic in it — knocks the stool over. The sound of it hitting the ground makes Weiss flinch and Yang barely has it in her to feel bad. There’s something rising in her chest, the early tremors of a quake, threatening to crack the thin coat of ice that’s settled. She pushes against it. Numbness is easier. A simple calm without doubt or worry or thought.

(No room for the questions that hurt. Even in her periphery they’re too bright; Will Blake be back? Will she keep her promise? Will she always see her past when she looks at Yang now? Will she blame Yang for that? Will she, will she, will she.)

“Yang, we should — ”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She barely recognizes her own voice, but focuses on the lack of a shake instead. “I don’t want to think about it. She left. That’s it. ”

Ruby stands too, eyes wide, hand stretched out — the slightest amount — on the table in front of her.

“Maybe if you just tell us what she said we could — ”

“No,” Yang says again, without force or feeling, and it helps, lets her slip back into the cold. “I don’t want to talk, Ruby. Not today.”

Is it hypocritical? To run away now, just as Blake had done? She’s sure it is, in one way or another, even if she’s only retreating to her room, only pulling away because she doesn’t know how long she’ll last if she stays in one place. Pull away or be pulled apart. (Is this what Blake had felt? she wonders, briefly, until the thought becomes almost instantly unbearable to hold on to.)

“Tomorrow then.”

Ruby’s rarely firm, but she is now, under the layers of concern, under the aching love that Yang has to tense her shoulders against, lest she fall into it, right then.

“Tomorrow,” she promises, because it’s a lifeline she’s not so cruel as to deny (and karma’s at her heels).

Numbness only lasts for so long; afterwards, Yang tries out blame.

She oscillates rapidly, from herself to Blake to the universe to Weiss, back to herself again. Ruby and Weiss, aching to console, to understand what happened, listen in silence as she runs through it all, words rapid-fire and scattered, her blast pattern like a shotgun. She’d promised them words today, but surely they hadn’t expected this. Hadn’t wanted this. Yang, who feels much of the same, understands, but doesn’t stop.

“I’m such a fucking idiot.”

This is what she keeps coming back to, the day after Blake leaves. She knows it isn’t helpful. Knows she can’t change the events that led to Blake running out the door of the apartment, leaving a pair of socks and an old Penguins jersey — one that’s technically Yang’s but had been stolen so often that it’d become saturated with Blake’s scent and thus ownership — behind. She knows that everything about repeatedly smashing the same thought against the interior of her skull is as fruitless as it is painful.

She knows all this, and it doesn’t help at all.

“She only gave me every possible fucking clue in the fucking universe. Every time she spoke about that fuckwad and the stories about him running the circuit and the legal issues and — fuck! — even talking about how he dyed his hair a super unnatural color! What more could she have possibly given me?” Her fingers curl into fists, tight enough to hurt. “I should have put it together. I should have realized. Then she wouldn’t have been so surprised and she wouldn’t have run out and we wouldn’t be here at all.”

It’s a variation of the same rant she’s run through ten times in the last twelve hours in her head, though, somehow, it sounds far more unhinged out loud. This isn’t her, not for anyone, but especially not for the two women in front of her now, both doing their best to look unconcerned, but failing, as much as Yang is in general.

“Yang,” Ruby begins, and it’s already too much. “It’s not your fault.”

“It’s someone’s. Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. We were — god — we were doing so good. I thought — ” She cuts herself off, because if Ruby’s soft tone had been too much, dwelling on precisely what Yang had thought when it’d come to Blake is far beyond what she can possibly endure.

“Then let it be mine.” Weiss says it matter-of-fact, ready to shoulder any blame Yang might pass on without a second thought, spine ramrod straight, as though already bracing herself for the additional weight. “I met her first. I knew she’d been involved with someone who was — to put it frankly — abusive. And obviously I was following Adam’s trial. I should have connected the dots. It’s perfectly reasonable that you’d blame me.”

It’s not, though Yang had mentally gone through the same line of reasoning, rather uncharitably. It sounds ridiculous now, though, and it’s almost a relief to tell Weiss so, nearly the first time Yang feels she can take a half breath. She can’t find consolation for herself, but she can for the people she cares for most, and that’s almost the same thing (maybe better).

“That’s — “ She shakes her head twice in quick succession. “Come on, Weiss. You’d have to have read her mind to get all that.”

“I agree.” Weiss smiles — the high school debate club one — and Yang nearly groans. “Now, simply apply the same logic towards your own line of thinking and stop blaming yourself.”

“It’s different.” Weiss waits, brow arched, and Yang lets out a long, exasperated breath. “It’s different because Blake told me so much. I didn’t have to read her mind; she told me everything I needed to know.”

“Except for the things you actually needed to know,” Ruby cuts in, words not as hesitant as her smile as she starts to count off on her fingers. “She didn’t tell you his name. Or what he looked like. Or what he did to make him such a dick outside of their relationship. Or go into any of the details that would have helped you connect him with what already knew. Like, sure, if Blake had said he’d pushed another snowboarder off a mountain at an Olympics Qualifier in Salt Lake, maybe you would have been able to piece it together, but… she didn’t. And that’s not really the issue anyways, is it?”

It’s not. Of course. But it’s easier than what actually is.

(The issue being that Blake had left. Not because she blamed Yang. Or Weiss. Or anyone other than herself. The issue being, that guilt didn’t rest on miscommunication (a stupidly easy fix), but on causing the hurt in the first place — the hurt that Yang had experienced before either of them had known of the existence of each other — with a sort of irrationality couldn’t so easily be talked down with one of Weiss’s clever debate tactics. The issue being that Blake had always so feared she was the cause of pain in the people around her — had been trained to believe it — and she’d found another way for the universe to prove her right.)

“No,” Yang agrees with a sigh. “It’s not.”

Neither of them have a solution for that. This Yang knows long before they come to the conclusion themselves.

She settles on indifference another day later. It’s the closest she can come to the numbness that’d kept her hand from shaking whenever she thought about all the things she’s had to lose. It’s the only way she can keep herself from spilling outwards, a threat to those around her.

“Who cares if she comes back?” Yang lies, so poorly that Ruby, who’d tentatively offered reassurances on Blake’s return, only stares.

It leaves Yang with nothing to do but fold one arm over the other, to settle into the lie and the cushions of her couch. She watches Say Yes to the Dress with a fervent intensity that no one has ever applied to the show, hardly blinking, and beside her, Weiss — who’d been the one to turn the TV on in the first place — clicks off the screen without further discussion.

“I was watching that.”

There’s no emotion in Yang’s voice, but there’s plenty in Ruby’s.

“You don’t mean that.”

“I was looking directly at it, wasn’t I?”

Weiss takes over, after a fretful glance from Ruby in her direction. “Not that. You care if Blake comes back. Obviously you care if Blake comes back, Yang. We all do.”

“And she will,” Ruby adds, far too soft.

Yang stands, because she’s settled on indifference and the tightness in her throat doesn’t fit with it at all. She stands, and she walks away, and she’s fine.

“She can do whatever she wants. She already did.” A wave over her shoulder is all she can give. “I’m going to take a nap.”

She stares at her ceiling for two hours, shuts her eyes tight when Ruby opens the door a crack to check on her, opens them when she leaves, and keeps her mouth in a straight and careful line throughout all of it. And she’s fine. Maybe if she keeps lying, she’ll be totally fine.

Four days after Blake leaves, Yang slips into a stream of anger, caught and pulled like a riptide. It starts early in the day, a small incident setting her off, and it feels good, settling into the warmth of the burn. She falls into rage. She lets her thoughts boil. But with nothing to feed it, it falls away, and so she heads to the gym and sinks into the soothing repetition of beating her fists into something and hopes the flame will last long enough to burn her down to her core, reveal something better and familiar, her old self under the excess.

It doesn’t.

The anger quickly fades with only mindless action to hold onto and towards the end of the session, she’s left with monotony instead. It’s familiar at this point, and familiar is unacceptable (familiar is where she only has despondence, where she can only see the wait stretching out before her). She rallies against it, trying to fall into the excitement behind Nora’s shouts, always crescendoing towards a point.

“We’re breaking patterns today, we’re training that shoulder to do something different!”

The dull thud of her gloves against the focus mitts sounds across the gym, over and over.

“Fluidity! Don’t let me see that standard one-two punch, Yang. Don’t let me see the six-three-two! Don’t do it!”

She tries again to lose herself in it; in the noise, in the vibration, in the satisfaction of her fists hitting something solid. It’s not the first time she’s used exercise as a means of distraction, though this time, she stops short of using her instructor as well.

“Put your worries in that hook! Put your anger in your uppercut! Put your sadness in a jab!”

Nora’s tucked her hair behind her ears, trapped her bangs underneath a pride flag headband, but wisps of vivid orange stick out from under the blue, pink, and white, about as likely to be tamed as Nora herself. There’s a special intensity to her today, and Yang hadn’t quite caught on to it until just now, when Nora’s words — a clear battle cry — fall short of their intended purpose, and Yang lets her fists drop. Her trainer, never one to hide a single emotion, admits to the failure readily, looking about as abashed as the woman ever gets.

“But also, talking about your emotions is healthy so — ”

Yang sighs, pulling at the Velcro at her wrists, tugging her left glove off with her teeth. “Who told you?”

“No one!”

The next glove Yang takes off, she throws at Nora’s face.

“Okay, okay!” Nora rolls her eyes in a way that’s purposefully meant for Yang, rather than being the result of any kind of reflex. “When we all went to Beacon last night we asked about you because you weren’t there and Weiss got that look — you know the look — which meant that things were not great and then we all sort of put it together when Blake didn’t show up.” She takes a breath and proceeds with renewed speed. “Also Sun told Neptune who told Velvet who told Ren who told me. And Weiss probably told Pyrrha, but Pyrrha didn’t say anything because it’s Pyrrha. So… yeah, everyone knows.”


They’ve tucked away into the corner bag at the gym, which Yang now realizes — as Nora stares at her with wide, sympathetic eyes clearly meant to encourage her to dump all her messy feelings out, right there on the mat — that this was most likely by design. (Normally, Nora prefers a more central location, somewhere she might show the both of them off. Yang’s never minded, in fact, she’s always enjoyed it. Today, she hadn’t noticed either way.)

“So if you want to talk — ” Nora leads, after approximately two seconds of silence. (Patience not ranking very high up on her list of virtues.)

“Honestly, Nora, I’m all talked out. And I’m fine. Really.”

She turns to grab her water bottle, hoping the frustration doesn’t show on her face. It’s not something she’s particularly proud of; she knows Blake needs time, knows she needs to give it to her, knows that it’s only been a few days and she trusts Blake enough not to break her promise. But a cold layout of the facts did little to quell the unrest pitching about in Yang’s stomach. (Though Weiss had put in a valiant effort involving a flowchart cataloguing the history of Yang’s relationship with Blake, and the ‘great strides’ each had made to make it work, sometime around day two.) In the end, it didn’t matter.

Because in the end, no matter what Yang might try, no matter what emotion she might sink into, it never lasts, it never works. Underneath it all, it’s always the same. Numb, stoic, angry, hurt — dive a little deeper and the same thing is beneath; she’s waiting for Blake. No amount of talking or exercise or denial could change that.

She always comes back to wanting, the deep want that only waiting could cause.

All she can do is pass the time.

“Which is why you came here.” Nora’s voice is full of empathy and — when Yang looks back over — so is her calm nod. Yang feels a momentary flush of relief at the simple act of being understood. Until Nora grins, fists lifting upwards. “To ask me and Mew-Mew to break her kneecaps!”

“Jesus fuck! No.” There’s something absolutely terrifying about the way Nora deflates, casting an almost mournful glance over at the sledgehammer resting pride of place against the stack of tires across the room. “Don’t make me remind you of the ban — the one that was made for you, specifically — on taking that thing out of the gym.”

“You know how hurtful I find that ban, Yang.” Nora crosses her arms, tosses her head to the side. “Don’t be mean when I’m only trying to support you. Threatening to inflict bodily harm on the women who wrong you is how I show love!” Her hand lifts to scratch at her head, eyes squinting in thought. “Not that I’ve ever had to do that before. Usually you’re the one wronging women.”


“Just a joke! A half joke. Mostly a joke.” With the sort of irreverence only Nora can provide, she ignores the lingering dour mood and throws her head back in laughter. “Remember when you broke up with Nebula and she started that rumor that your tongue was too short to — ”

“Keep it up and I’m going to turn your precious Mew-Mew against you,” Yang grumbles, and Nora gasps, both hands lifting to cover her mouth.

“She would never betray me like that, you monster.”

Clearly, the workout is over. Yang would feel regretful if it hadn’t gone so south towards the end; in the middle of Nora’s most challenging sets, she’d almost managed to stop thinking about Blake for a full two seconds. Almost.

“‘She’ is a sledgehammer.” Yang wipes at the back of her neck with her towel before tossing it in her bag, strips off her tank and pulls on a fresh t-shirt, black with the words ‘not for male consumption’ stamped across it in a bright yellow. “Also, you’re not allowed to call me a monster right now. I’m fragile, or whatever.”

“I thought you were fine?” There’s a surprisingly lack of laughter in Nora’s eyes now, and the woman is a lot closer than Yang remembers her being five seconds ago when she’d looked away to start putting her things away.

Yang swallows, averts her eyes, keeps her voice flat. “I was joking,”

“About which thing?” Nora tilts her head; the motion might be called lazy if her blue eyes weren’t so sharp. This is not Nora at her most typical, but it’s a dangerous side of her, far too perceptive to allow for the ignorance of bliss. “Being fine or being fragile?”

“The second one.” Packing a gym bag has never held her attention quite as much as it does now; Yang puts her things away with a slow, single-minded focus. And when she zips it up, it’s with treemendous finality. “I’m fine, Nora. Really. But I’ve got to go.”

She should feel grateful, probably. Nora’s lips are twisting in concern — none of her worry for Yang obscured by the bright smile she’s seen wearing more often than not — and it’s obvious that Nora only wants to make her feel better. Things with Nora had always been easy — no complications even as they navigated what Yang was only recently realizing could be a minefield of emotions — so it’s no surprise it’s as simple as this: Nora will help in whatever way Yang will let her. It’s enough to get Yang to yield, at least a little.

“Thanks for helping me get my mind off things,” Yang adds, softer now, with as much as a touch of the genuine as she can manage without losing grip on everything else. “That helps more than anything else, I think. Otherwise I just get stuck in thinking about how much waiting to hear from her sucks.”

Nora nods slowly, her observation of Yang conducted with a microscope, but only for a second longer, intent expression replaced by a grin when Yang blinks again. “Come back tomorrow; I’ll have something more challenging set up for you. My new goal is having you drop unconscious at the end.”

Others would take it as a threat, but for Yang, it sounds startlingly like bliss. She’s aware enough to know she shouldn’t admit that, though, and instead slings the strap of her bag over her shoulder with a sigh.

“Maybe dial that back a little.” She offers a salute, which Nora — weirdly enough — returns with snappy precision that falls into sloppy mirth almost immediately. “See you tomorrow, Nora.”

“Get ready for some body saws, Xiao Long!” Nora calls after her, loud enough (and with enough promise) that one of the gym patrons shoots Yang a sympathetic look as she passes by on her way out.

If only you knew, Yang thinks of saying, but finds even the thought of these words so unbearably self-pitying that she has the sudden and strong desire to put her hand through the sliding glass entrance doors. Whether she’s stopped by common sense kicking in or the sight of Ruby — bouncing from foot to foot just outside of the gym’s front door — she can’t say for sure, but she sincerely hopes for the former.

“Finally!” Ruby’s groan can be heard across the parking lot, and her dramatic walk over — head thrown back, shoulders slumped, arms dangling uselessly against her sides — is meant to be just as apparent in its meaning. “You were in there forever! How long can anyone possibly work out for?”

When she’s close enough, Yang tosses Ruby her bag; it nearly knocks her over, despite containing nothing heavier than Yang’s wallet. “You definitely wouldn’t know, would you, noodle arms?”

Ruby leans in, gingerly sniffing at the air above the gym bag she now finds herself holding, and immediately recoils. “You think I want to go inside that place when it’s full of people smelling as bad as your clothes do? No way.”

“You think Weiss would come here if it was really that bad? Try again.”

It would have been a foolproof counter if Ruby had been at all invested in the debate; when her eyebrows lift at Weiss’s name, though, it’s clear her aim had been for something entirely different.

“Since you brought her up — ”

Yang shakes her head, considers shaking a finger as well. “No. I didn’t. Not like that.”

This, at least, explains why Ruby is here; any sign of a roommate squabble and she’s always the first to intervene, always the peacemaker. Yang feels guilty every time, having to drag her sister into the middle of anything unpleasant, and today is no exception. If only Ruby didn’t always use this to her advantage, widening her eyes and letting her lower lip curl out in a pout that could incapacitate both Yang and Weiss at the worst of times.

Yang.” And there they are now: the eyes, the pout; Yang gives up with a sigh, knowing the futility of any continued attempt at silence.

(It hadn’t been a big thing, really. A normal conversation over breakfast where Weiss — only into her first cup of coffee and without any of the tact a second up might have afforded — had made the offhand comment that maybe Blake deserved a little more patience from Yang, and Yang had returned with the offhand reply that maybe Yang deserved a little more loyalty from her so-called ‘best friend’. And then Weiss had gone back to her coffee with a glower and Yang had made the unrelated decision to go to the gym immediately. Anger, she’d decided then, she’d try being angry next.)

“I don’t get what’s so wrong about wanting her to be on my side.” She gives Ruby a wide berth as she walks past her towards the Jeep, but the avoidance is — once again — all for naught; Ruby’s bike is already attached to the back of Yang’s car, an admittedly clever tactic to get a ride back no matter how the conversation ended up progressing.

“She’s on your side,” Ruby says simply. “You know that.”

“Do I? She acts like I don’t have a right to be upset! Like it’s not a big deal that Blake just — ” Yang crosses one arm over the other, doesn’t turn around to see Ruby’s expression that’s most certainly full of the sort of sympathy that will soothe the anger that Yang isn’t ready to let go, now that the memory of it has returned to her. “I know she said she’d be back. I know she just needs time. But she still left, Ruby. I’m allowed to be mad about that.”

“Sure.” Silence with Ruby is always dangerous, and in the five beats that follow, that’s proven once again; Yang holds her breath until Ruby’s at her side, placing a careful hand on the back of her shoulder. “But don’t you think Weiss is a little justified in asking you to be patient? She understands needing time to commit to something. Probably wishes someone had been around to say something similar when she needed it.”

When Yang tenses, she knows Ruby can feel it. “It’s not the same thing.”

“No, but it’s close enough, probably.” Ruby circles around, bending a little to put her face firmly in view, interrupting Yang’s stare, so intently tracing the long crack in the asphalt beneath her feet. “I’m not saying it’s fair or right or whatever. I’m just saying that maybe Weiss thinks everything she’s saying is being on your side. Because she wants to keep you from going through the same sort of stuff Pyrrha did when she didn’t wait for Weiss as long as either of them would have liked, now. And,” Ruby adds, poking a finger into Yang’s stomach, “if you don’t think she hasn’t sent Blake about a billion messages telling her not to make the same mistakes she did, way back when, you’re out of your mind.”

Ruby’s right, but she’s also kind, so when Yang sighs and nods, there’s no smugness in her smile, or — after she stands up straight — in her soft squeeze of Yang’s shoulder.

“Alright,” Yang sighs. “I think we’ve covered the two extreme ends of friendship with Weiss offering caution born from experience and Nora offering to take out Blake’s kneecaps. So, I hope whatever sisterly advice you’re here to provide finds a nice middle ground that actually makes me feel better.”

“Wait, I have to do more?” Ruby makes a face. “I just helped with the Weiss thing! And I biked here to see you.”

“Well that’s because if you get one more count of reckless driving, they’re going to lock you up for the safety of all of mankind. ”

“‘Reckless driving’ sounds so bad! The last one wasn’t even my fault,” Ruby whines, slumping against the side of Yang’s car. “I had to swerve! I don’t care what people say; I’m not going to hit a bunny!”

“So instead you almost hit a biker. I see your logic.”

“He was wearing spandex, Yang. The bunny deserved it way less.”

Tugging on the back of Ruby’s hoodie, Yang pulls her upright once again. “Fair enough, but you still don’t get extra points for the biking aspect. Especially when you assumed I’d give you a ride home.” She shakes her head, gesturing towards the bike. “So presumptive.”

“Not home.” And here, Ruby grins, the one that means her plans are all falling into place. “I was lying about being done with sisterly duties. I have a surprise for you!”

“A surprise that I’m driving us to.” Despite the drawl of her words, Yang’s expression is fond, and she can’t stop herself from rubbing the top of Ruby’s head, musing her hair as she always did when they were kids.

Or you could let me drive!” Ruby beams, holding out her hand for the key, but quickly deflates when Yang laughs loudly, opening up the passenger door for her instead.

“Yeah, sure, I don’t value my life at all.” She pushes Ruby towards the seat, too gently to result in any actual movement, though Ruby (of course) makes a show of stumbling into the car, hands flailing as she catches herself against the leather. “Get in, loser.”

“Fine. But it’s still a surprise so I’m going to tell you where to turn, okay?”

This — Yang knows — will undoubtedly go poorly, but dampening Ruby’s excitement isn’t something she likes to do if she can avoid it, and so she tosses her bag in the back of the car, slides into the front seat, and prepares herself for some sharp turns and misdirection.

“Where to, Rubes?”

Yang misses three turns and nearly flips her Jeep, but after about 20 minutes, she figures out where they’re going and their trip proceeds far more smoothly, no longer reliant on Ruby’s directions (seemingly always involving the use of landmarks the car had already passed). It’s hard to be mad, though; solving the mystery releases a wave of affection for her sister, a woman as bad at driving as she was good at knowing previously what might Yang feel better at any given time. Given that, Yang can’t bring herself to ruin the surprise, and plays along until Ruby’s loud tada! as the sign for the Wasatch Community Gardens comes into view.

“They all made it!” Ruby exclaims, who always could bring herself to ruin the surprise, mainly because she couldn’t help herself. “I was here yesterday to take off the winter compost and check on the graft union and all of our rose bushes look great! The leaf buds have started to swell so — ” She bounces in her seat as Yang pulls into the parking lot. “I thought we could start pruning and feeding today!”

The warming weather certainly hadn’t helped Yang’s mood over the past couple days, but this, at least, is one thing about the increase in temperature that could boost her temperament; the mountain would close in less than a week, but Ruby is here to remind her of one unique joy that happens only in spring.

That doesn’t mean Yang’s not going to tease her for it, just a little.

(They both had their sisterly duties to uphold after all.)

“Only if you promise not to cry this time.”

“Yang!” Yang laughs as she jumps out of the car and circles around, watching Ruby struggle with her backpack and — once Yang presses the lock button on her key fob — opening the door to get out. “Yang!” she whines again.

“I don’t hear you promising.”

Ruby manages to get the lock up, but Yang hits the button again with merciless, timed precision.

“I was four years old! I thought we were hurting the plant!”

Tapping her fingers against her lips in obvious and forced thought, Yang sighs. “Are you really all that better now? I mean, you’ve named all our rose bushes. Can you promise you won’t lose it when I have to put the shears to Mr. Scythey? What if this year we have to break the curve of his stems for the good of the bloom?”

She nearly has her; she’s so, so close to actually getting a genuine promise, the white flag of the game they’re playing, but then Ruby deploys her greatest weapon. She presses her face against the glass and lets loose her lower lip. A window-framed pout isn’t something Yang has the capacity to ignore. This time, when Ruby pulls up the lock, she lets her.

“Ha!” Ruby emerges triumphant, shaking out her hair and putting both hands to her hips. “We’ll never take out Mr. Scythey’s bend! He’s beautiful just the way he is.”

“Fine, fine.” She punches Ruby in the shoulder, light enough to not send her stumbling. “Let’s go visit all of them, then. You bring everything with you?”

“Even mom’s secret rose food! I mixed it up last night.”

Asking isn’t really necessary; after nearly two decades of caring for plants, Ruby’s a seasoned gardener, at least as good as Yang herself. What had started as a way to connect to the past had turned into something more, to the point that the local Rose Society had once asked them to come in and speak at one of their meetings after Ruby and Yang’s rose bushes had been some of the few to survive a particularly brutal winter. For Yang, there’s a certain satisfaction in the cycle of it all, in the concept of renewal; she loves stepping into the garden and smelling the start of spring, feeling the fertile soil underneath. But what she likes most of all is having time set aside that belonged solely to her and Ruby, that connected them to each other as much as it did to the person they’d loved so naturally, so innocently, so long ago.

“Hello, my pretties!” Ruby calls, spreading her arms wide as soon as they make it to their plot. “Say hello to mother!”

“Really wish you wouldn’t call yourself that.” Yang would be more convincing if it didn’t make her laugh; Ruby takes none of it to heart and squirms out of her backpack, tossing it to the side for Yang to sort through as she greets each rose bush by name and congratulates them on a successful season of dormancy. (Vladimir gets a special shoutout for beating a nasty bit of black spot earlier on in the year, but Mr. Scythey always wins out on Ruby’s time, in the end, and she ends up there last, checking on his stems’ curvature.)

She’s still going at it when Yang pulls out her gloves and starts to clear off the leaves and dead or weak wood, and open up the center of the closest bush (Flara Croft) with quick, practiced snips. It’s a familiar background noise; Ruby had picked up the habit when she was a child and continued it into adulthood. Some people listen to music while they garden, others talk with their friends, but Yang doesn’t think she’d be able to properly prune without listening to Ruby softly tell their plants about her day. Which is maybe why when Ruby starts talking to her, it’s such a shock (while in any other setting, the exact opposite would be true).

“Do you remember what mom said to me that first time she showed us how to prune?”

She sounds quiet too, or maybe just pointed. Yang can’t sort it out, and so she teases instead; a cheap fallback that gives her time to process.

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to bring up you crying over plants.”

Ruby doesn’t bite, ignoring Yang’s drawl as she grabs gloves and shears of her own, bumping into Yang purposefully as she passes. “Do you remember?”

“I mean, not really. I was like six! How do you remember?” Ruby just shrugs at the accusation, and Yang, realizing she’s not going to get anything further out of her, continues in an obedient drawl. “She told us why it was important to prune certain plants.”

“Okay. And why is it important to prune certain plants?”

Still the same eerily calm tone, like she’s mocking a stereotype from a cartoon, the wise wizard with the level voice; Yang makes sure Ruby can see her long, exaggerated eye roll.

“C’mon, Ruby. What is this? Am I giving a gardening class? Am I being interviewed for an unpaid, volunteer position here? Are you making sure I’m qualified?”

“It’s important because…?” Ruby prompts, a little louder this time.

Yang sighs. “It’s important because otherwise the plant will put too much energy into repairing the broken parts, which could cause harm in the long run.”

Ruby’s smile is reward enough for playing along.

“Right. Mom said that she liked growing roses because the rose bush never recognizes a lost cause. That even when there’s a problem with one of the flowers, the plant will keep trying to keep it alive, no matter what. Mom said that was a good thing, sometimes, because it’s good to help all the flowers, even when it’s not convenient or when it’s hard.” Ruby frowns in thought, remembering the lesson.

Yang remembers too. (Ruby’s face had been red with her tantrum, Summer’s touch had been gentle as she’d wiped the tears off her cheeks and rubbed soothingly at Yang’s back. The three of them had been in the garden, kneeling in the dirt. Yang hadn’t dropped the shears when Ruby had started crying, right after she’d made her first cut; she’d gripped them tight in her hand, and panicked until Summer had stepped in.)

“But sometimes,” Yang murmurs, picking up the story with ease, “there isn’t anything to be done for a certain part of the plant. If the gardener doesn’t do something, the whole plant could die.”

“Which is what Mom told me that day,” Ruby finishes, soft. “That a rose bush needs help letting things go, sometimes, so that’s why we cut parts of it off, because the plant can’t do that itself, but it needs to. It looks mean, but we’re helping it grow.”

It’s obvious what Ruby’s doing, but Yang doesn’t feel any irritation over the guileless push.

“So you’re trying to make this a lesson for my current predicament, huh?”

Ruby flushes a soft pink. “Kind of!” She sputters a bit, attempting to bring forth further explanation, but eventually gives up with a shrug.

“So is Blake the plant and I’m the gardener? Or am I the plant and you’re the gardener? Or are Blake and I both plants and gardeners at the same time in some weird — ”

“It’s a multipurpose metaphor!” Ruby squeaks, shears waving through the air in a dangerous arc as she gesticulates. “I was going to go for the cheesy ‘good things come to those that wait’ one and talk about how it takes all season for certain roses to bloom, blah blah blah. But I just — ” She lets out a long breath, hands settling. “It’s hard to let things go sometimes. Even the things that hurt to hold onto. Blake has a lot of that, I think. But you do too, a little, even if you always try to hide it. So it’s a good lesson, right? No matter which way you come at it. You have to figure out what’s right for you — what things are worth waiting for and what things you need to let go — and I’ll be here to help you no matter how it all sorts out.”

Ruby doesn’t look much different than she had at 18 or even younger; she’d reached her peak height at 12, could still wear the same shoes she wore in 7th grade, and hasn’t done anything particularly drastic to her hair since an ill-informed adventure with Nora and a bottle of pink hair dye. But watching her now — her smile sure, even as her fingers twitch and drum along her own thigh — it’s clear how much she’s grown.

“Well, I still don’t know what bits of myself or Blake I’m meant to be pruning, and I don’t know how this is all going to go, but — ” She leans in, finds Ruby’s free hand with her own, and gives it a soft squeeze. “You’ve always got my back, huh?”


In a flash, Ruby’s tossed her shears onto the ground and pulled Yang in for a full hug, clearly not satisfied by a measly handhold in the midst of such dramatic sisterly bonding. Yang snorts softly, but doesn’t pull away; instead, she drops her own shears and wraps both arms around her sister, squeezing tight and lifting, until Ruby’s feet dangle off the ground.

“I hate being left,” she admits, more of a fact than anything else.

Ruby doesn’t respond. Not even when Yang has to pause, has to release a breath that nearly shakes. She only holds Yang a little tighter.

“But she said she’d come back,” Yang continues, the words slow, leveled, another simple fact. “And she’s worth the wait.”

That’s the short of it really. That’s been the short of it from the start. Yang will wait for Blake. She’ll wait for however long she needs. Because Blake had asked and Yang loves her.

But if there’s anything that makes waiting easier, it’s having someone to share the wait with. And as Ruby clutches Yang around her neck, kicks her feet until she’s placed back on the ground, Yang knows she’ll never be waiting alone.

“Alright, my dude, it’s go time! Just like we practiced.”

She lifts the bar, and the boy makes sure his sigh is loud enough to be heard over the mechanical whir of the chairlift.

“You don’t have to say that every time, Yang,” he grumbles, burying his face in his scarf. “I’ve done this a million times now.”

Five days after Blake leaves, Yang has run out of options for how she’s meant to feel, and so she returns to a normal schedule. She smiles, she goes out, she makes jokes, she does her job, and she waits. She’s not sure the return to normalcy makes the time go by any faster, but it makes the time less painful, not having to put up with any stares of pity. Oscar, wonderfully ignorant, fits that requirement exactly.

“That’s what makes it funny, man.”

Clearly, he disagrees, swinging his board out with a precise little flip that’s about as close as he’ll ever come to being described with the word ‘sassy’. If Yang were a lesser instructor, she would trip him up on the dismount, but, given her deep professionalism, she waits until he’s completely clear of the ramp before she shoves him into a snowbank.

“Yang!” the boy sputters, swerving in an attempt to correct his balance, but ultimately failing (and falling).

“Learning how to fall is a very important part of the instructional process.”

“I’ve been taking lessons all season!”

“Never too late to work on basics.”

Looking up from the pile of snow he’s fallen into, Oscar looks particularly pathetic, enough so that Yang almost feels bad for the prank. But not bad enough to not laugh when a gust of wind catches on the nearby snowblower and gives him a face-full of newly made snow.

“Oh, come on!” His hands move up and down, dropping into the snowbank and sending flurries into the air. And it’s with this action that Yang’s smile grows.

“You missing something, bud?”

It takes him a moment, but the cold eventually seeps into his bare skin, exposed to the elements by the missing glove on his hand.

“Oh, come on!” he shouts again, dropping back into the snow, limbs outstretched like a snow angel. Yang relishes in the laugh that comes on, even though it’s at Oscar’s expense; she lets it wash over her, lets it shake her shoulders fully. There might be too much relief to it, but it feels good.

“I think you dropped something.”

Her laugh stops abruptly, cut short like flipping a switch on the very existence of sound.

She’d know the voice anywhere, of course. Recognize the throwback in any situation. The goosebumps come right away as well, along with the panic and excitement and trepidation and the flood of affection that she’s felt since the very first meeting she’d had with Blake, the one they’re mirroring now. When she turns around though — when she turns around and actually looks at Blake, catches the strained smile barely catching her lips — the feelings refresh, stronger, more focused.

The first time Yang had seen Blake Belladonna, she’d thought she was beautiful, maybe the most gorgeous woman alive. Now, she knows why. It’s in her bottom lip, fuller than the top and just a little uneven. In the way those lips don’t curl upwards at just anything, but when they do, her smile is bright, as bright as the gold of her eyes. It’s in her kindness, the quiet way she talks to her students, the warmth in her tone when she’s helping someone else. In the steadiness of her touch, offered sparingly to strangers, but constant once earned. Perhaps most of all, it’s in the way she stands in front of Yang now: jeans, plain long-sleeve shirt, no gloves, strapped to the back-up skis she always keeps in her car. There’s such urgency to her, from the ill-suited clothing to the hasty ponytail she’s pulled her hair up into. And in that, there’s more life than Yang’s ever seen in another person, any other thing. Blake is breathless and flushed and she’s here, and that alone makes her deeply, achingly beautiful, a wildfire in Yang’s neurons, a hunger in some buried core of her, a need that’s as base as breathing.

She’s not sure she can call it relief, seeing Blake then, only necessity.

“Thanks,” she breathes (almost gasps) and because she remembers her line and little else, adds, “Skier/snowboarder solidarity, huh?”

It’s only then that Yang thinks to take the glove from her hand, and she does it carefully, the slowest shuffle closer, sliding her board forward with the same hesitation a new snowboarder might display. Too much, too fast after all this might fry something vital, and so she takes Oscar’s glove without touching Blake’s bare skin, an obvious live wire.

“Something like that,” Blake murmurs, breaking script and the slowly steadying beat of Yang’s heart all at once.

“Um. Yang?”

She’d forgotten about Oscar, even while holding his glove with such care. Blake is startled as well, blinking away from Yang’s stare and down towards the small snowboarder who, Yang can only imagine from the cadence of his voice, looks deeply uncomfortable. She doesn’t turn away to confirm, only digs into her pocket and pulls out a twenty, then shoves that and the lost glove in his general direction.

“Time for a break, yeah? Go to the ski-in waffle place and get whatever you want.” The money and glove leave her grip without further fuss. “And yes, this is totally a bribe that you just fully accepted; we’ll go over terms later.”

“It’ll take me a while to decide on toppings,” Oscar mumbles, not at all slyly, which makes it all the more endearing. “Might take me like, fifteen minutes, even.”

“Good man.”

He takes off, a little blur of green and brown, nearly running into a skier as he slides across the clearing; not a surprising turn of events, given how often he looks back at the two women he’s left behind. Yang only catches it out of the side of her eye; the corner of Blake’s mouth has lifted with the exchange, and she’s never seen anything more fascinating than the precise way it curls, less than half an inch.

“So.” Yang starts to laugh and she’s not entirely sure why, but Blake gives her a reason when she joins in, a little shaky, a little hysterical, maybe, but clear. (Beautiful, again. Always.) “Hi.”

“Hi,” Blake returns, just as breathless, words fragmented and halting. “I shouldn’t have — I called, but your phone was — I called Weiss after and she said — she told me you were on the mountain. I shouldn’t have interrupted your lesson.”

Yang nearly starts laughing again. She’s lightheaded and it shows; altitude sickness, but the height isn’t physical. “No. It’s — I mean, it’s fine.”

“I just — ” Blake takes in a sharp breath, lifting her shoulders and parting her lips with the force of it. She’s steadying herself for something important, and Yang tries to brace. “I didn’t want to make you wait any more.” Her breath hitches, tripping over itself midway through exhalation. “I didn’t want to make you wait at all. Yang, I’m so — ”

Without goggles, without a helmet, without any of her gear at all, Blake looks bare on the slope, a sort of vulnerable Yang’s only seen a few times before, and never so clearly, never so openly. She slides closer, stops only when her board is overlapping Blake’s old skis, and — risking something she can’t name — takes one of Blake’s hands in between her own.

“I know. It’s — look — it’ll be okay. I mean, you’re back, right?”

Blake nods (the motion looks out of place on Blake, would suit someone like Ruby far more) and curls her fingers — cold and pale — around Yang’s with a desperation Yang recognizes in herself. “I just needed — we can talk more and I’ll explain everything, but, let me just — ” Yang watches the swallow traverse her throat. “I’m so sorry, Yang.”

There’d been a part of Yang that had worried this wouldn’t be enough. She’d always known she would wait, but she hadn’t been sure how easily the return would clear the air. Hadn’t been sure how much of her earlier spurts of emotion would make a resurgence. But Blake’s soft apology, the damp of her eyelashes, the careful set of her lips, it’s all more than she needs. A little time, maybe, to sort it all out, but she doesn’t feel doubt any longer.

Because when Blake’s bottom lip twitches — not quite a full quiver — Yang can’t think about anything other than making sure she’s alright; it’s this slightest movement that does her in, and she closes the space between them.

(She and Blake, they’re going to be fine, she knows. Blake’s fingers dig into her back, forehead presses to the bend of Yang’s neck, and it’s clear to Yang; A little time and they’ll be more than fine.)

“It’s alright,” she returns, softer than she realized she could. “We’re gonna be alright.”

“You’re — ” She can barely hear Blake, muffled as she is by Yang’s skin, but the vibrations convey something just as significant. “Okay. Okay.”

She recognizes the shakiness for what it is, feels a bit of it herself. This isn’t the place for it, but Blake had been right to rush; it’s stupid, maybe, but without Blake, time hadn’t moved like it should have, stretching the seconds into bits of infinity.

“Let’s sit.” (This isn’t the place for it, but they can carve out a piece of it anyways. Like they’ve airways done.) “Oscar will be busy for a little bit. So let’s — let’s just sit.”

They disentangle and find a small bench across the trailhead, close enough that Yang can (theoretically) watch Oscar as he putters around near the line for the waffle shack, his furtive glances in their direction as frequent as they are unsubtle. Yang hangs onto her calm, focuses on maintaining the thin veneer of steadiness. One thing betrays her, and that’s the way she refuses to move her hand from Blake (the small of her back, her hip, her shoulder, whatever she can reach). If Blake notices, she doesn’t mind, keeps Yang close, reaches out when it seems like there’s a potential for accidental separation. If there’s to be another disappearing act, this time, Yang will be close enough to foil the trick (or maybe Blake will instead, the unwitting participant from the audience).

“I know I should have — ” Blake speaks before they’re fully settled, before Yang has properly sat down. She cuts herself off though, and in the silence of Blake rearranging her thoughts, Yang takes the time to do the same with her position, clicking her boots out of her board and pressing a thigh to Blake’s, curling an arm carefully around her back. Blake doesn’t bother with her skis, fiddling with her fingers instead, eyebrows pinched towards each other. “I shouldn’t have left so suddenly,” she says eventually, looking up at Yang, but only briefly.

“So why did you, then?” Yang does her best to leave out any trace accusation; it’s not that, not even a little bit, but the words hold some of that weight, regardless. She could have formed better ones if she’d taken her time, but patience is harder now — especially with herself — after the end of her waiting. She hopes the soft touch at Blake’s back makes up for it, the soothing circles of her nails over the thin fabric of Blake’s shirt.

“I panicked,” Blake says simply. She presses her palms to her thighs, smoothing down the slightly damp denim. “When it comes to Adam I’ve — I’ve spent so long guarding myself against him, been so careful to remove every trace of him from my life, that when I realized — when he was suddenly there again, hurting the person I love, I — ”

Blake must realize at the same time as Yang does, how significant of a confession this is. They’ve yet to say it out loud (though that seems wrong and Yang’s thoughts race through history to make sure), though both of them are well aware the feelings are there. And maybe it shouldn’t be such a significant thing when it's so obvious, but it is, and neither of them are ready to assign that moment to this conversation, given the way they rush past it, given the way Blake pushes forwards, stumbling over her next few words in her haste.

“I — I just — it didn’t matter that it happened a long time ago. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t known you then. When I realized it was him, I felt — ” She shrugs, helpless, shaking her head, clearing her thoughts. “I felt like he’d found a way to ruin things again. He always promised he would. After I left, I mean. He told me he’d make everyone around me pay. And it just — it felt like the cruelest trick in the world, that he’d somehow already done that, before I had a chance to find you myself. It felt like he’d found a way to punish me — and you — for finding happiness. For being able to finally — ” She breaks off again, and Yang reaches around to grasp her hand, to settle the nervous motion. Blake stares, eyes flicking along the tattoos and hidden scars for a long moment. “It felt like my fault,” she murmurs, a quiet and hesitant admission.

Yang’s never wanted to protest something so much, never felt objection build up in her with such speed and ferocity; it takes all her love for Blake to push against it, to make her words just as quiet when she responds, as simple as she can manage.

“It’s not.” Her grip tightens as Blake shakes her head again. “No, I mean it. I know it’s not like — I know it’s not as easy as that, like, I say it’s not your fault and suddenly everything is fixed. But, there’s no universe where I blame you for this, Blake. Not one.”

Some of her intensity must make it into her tone, because Blake looks up and this time, the stare sticks.

“I know you believe that. And I know that’s — ” She struggles with her next word, opening and closing her mouth several times before she finds it. “ — logical. But logic never seemed to matter with Adam. It never mattered what was real or what made sense. He always found a way to make things my fault. To make me question everything. It’s taken me a long time to unlearn that.” She pauses, lips twitching once. “Well. A long time and a good therapist. But as soon as I realized that Adam was the person who’d caused your injuries — when it all came together so fast — it was like I was right back there, where even the things I knew without question weren’t necessarily true. When everything that went wrong really was my fault. I started thinking, maybe I made him mad the day he pushed you, or maybe I said something wrong, or maybe I hadn’t been impressed enough with his silver medal. Maybe he’d already known what you would mean to me, way back then. When I was with Adam I was never sure if the sky was really blue. What’s a little bending of time and space, on top of that?”

The area around them is full of people, whining children and exasperated adults and tired employees. Blake glances around at all of it, as though making sure she’s not being overheard, and her shoulders hunch slightly as she does, mouth pinches in discomfort or maybe shame (but probably both). Yang wants to wipe it from her expression, her feelings, her memories, wants to take it all on herself. If Adam could bend time and space, Yang will learn to do the same, break this world apart and use the pieces to make something new, one where Blake never felt this sort of pain.

“That makes sense,” she says instead, clumsy and powerless. “I mean, I get it, why you’d feel like you had to leave, after all that. But I — ” She doesn’t have any clever words to fix it all, no powers to reform the world instantaneously. But she has the truth. “I’m glad you came back. I don’t know about anything else, but I think we can make anything work when we’re together.” Her wince lessens the earnestness of the words, but it makes Blake smile, just a little, so it might be a fair trade off. “Is that too cheesy?”

“No.” Blake’s fingers curl around her own, sure once more in their motion. “That’s why I came back. Maybe I’ll never be fully rid of him. Maybe I’ll just go longer and longer without thinking about him. Maybe the stretch of time between those moments will get to be so long that it’s like he never existed at all. But either way it’s not — those moments don’t matter as much as what I do in between them. And what I want to do in between them is — ”

Blake flushes a little, looking more like her usual self, and Yang responds in kind.

“Me?” The grin and joke are both half-hearted, but even half-hearted is enough to break the mood, crack the film that’s settled over them. Blake laughs and Yang breathes again, as deep as she pleases.

Be with you,” Blake corrects, grin wide enough to show a flash of teeth. “But yeah, some of that as well.”

There’s never been a better suggestion on how to pass the time, Yang’s pretty sure. It’s too soon, but she knows she wouldn’t mind passing all her time, for the rest of her life, in such a way.

“That works for me,” she says, easy and sure. “Really works for me.”

“Okay, then.” A loud exhale, and Blake is left blinking, removed of an ever-present burden and now unsure what to do with the hands that’d been carrying it. “Now what?”

“Well.” Yang considers this, thinks on all the ways they might start anew. “It’s Thursday. How’s movie night sound?”

Blake’s eyes crinkle with the size of her smile and Yang knows she’s chosen right.

There’s never been a reason to cancel movie night — not one unilaterally approved by the group — in the ten years since they’ve kept the tradition.

(When she’d been in the hospital, confined to a bed between surgeries two and three, barely able to twist one way or the other, they’d brought movie night to her. She had begged for a skip week, but been overruled in a way that rarely happened: firm and unyielding. They’d brought one of Yang’s favorites, Walk the Line, though it’d been Ruby’s turn to pick, who’d praised the movie wholly unconvincingly and then promptly fallen asleep against Yang’s unbroken leg, twenty minutes in. Weiss had hummed along to all the songs, teared up at the end, and braided Yang’s hair without saying much else. The evening had been one of Yang’s only good ones during her stay, and it held her over for longer than she’d ever been able to admit to either girl afterwards.)

Given that, Yang’s recent fluctuations of mood had hardly been worthy of any alteration of their schedule, and there’s no surprise when she shows up in the living room at the standard time, fresh out of the shower and decked out in a pair of worn, grey pajama shorts and a Washington Justice tank top that Ruby had ordered for herself in the wrong size (and had thus been passed on to someone with shoulders broad enough to hold it up). Neither Weiss or Ruby had been around when she’d come home, and so it’s hard to say what they think of her vastly improved mood as she strolls in, an easy smile in place.

But perhaps that’s more due to their apparent unconcern with her, in general. It’s Weiss’s night to pick (it always seems to be Weiss’s night to pick, even though they’re on a simple rotating schedule), and Yang can hear her from her room, debating her movie selection on the phone with the only other person who would possibly care to discuss the pros and cons of Shakespeare in Love and Atonement. Ruby, entrenched in the kitchen, at least calls her name when she hears Yang enter, but little more; there’s flour in her hair and an odd smell coming from the oven, and Yang makes a conscious decision not to journey further in.

She’s saved by the buzzer; either Weiss has (wisely) decided to order cookies after catching sight or smell of Ruby’s current attempt or Blake is here early. Yang rushes there with the hope of the latter (though admittedly, the former wouldn’t be a horrible turn of events) and is rewarded by the sight of a Blake Belladonna, wearing purple joggers, a plain black Park City Mountain sweatshirt, and a somewhat sheepish smile.

“I know I’m a little early,” Blake begins, but cuts herself off when Yang steps forward to wrap her in a hug, tight and inevitable, in a way Yang can’t expound on further. Her fingers slide into Blake’s hair, hand cupping the back of her head, and Blake falls into it as easily as she ever has.

“I don’t mind.” An understatement, if there ever was one. “Let’s just say fuck patience for a while. We’re totally allowed to be unbearable when it comes to any amount of waiting for the next week, right?”

“That seems fair.” Though Blake, mouth pressed to Yang’s neck (less of a kiss than an attempt to be as close as possible), seems like she might agree to anything, just about then.

“Though, Weiss is on the phone with Pyrrha, so that rule might not last for long. Did I tell you she got one of those ugly Bluetooth headsets? She looks like a full blown corporate lawyer, but instead of protecting big business, she’s arguing with Pyrrha about who should hang up first. It’s been disgusting.”

Blake laughs, warm breath flowing across Yang’s skin, bringing forth a shiver. “I think we have to cut Weiss a bit of slack, given what she’s had to put up with. We’d be total hypocrites otherwise.”

“Love being a hypocrite when it comes to Weiss. It makes my day, honestly.”

Another laugh, this time with the addition of a harmless swat — nearly a gentle stroke — across Yang’s back. “Be nice. Imagine the restraint she’s had to have. When I talked to her this afternoon, I — ”

“Blake!” The rest of Blake's sentence, and all of Yang’s questions about it, are pushed aside with Ruby’s enthusiasm. Yang pulls away from Blake, but only enough to crane her neck in the direction of the loud shout from the kitchen, where Ruby is apparently still holed up. “I made your favorite!” She sing-songs. “Peanut butter chocolate-chip! There have been a few minor setbacks, but all-in-all I think everyone is going to have to admit that these cookies are the best ones I’ve ever made. Probably because they were made for — ”

“Someone you had no idea was coming over for movie night?”

It’s Weiss, no longer on the phone and no longer looking quite so lovestruck, replaced instead by full exasperation, hands on her hips (power pose number two, if not for the addition of the rolling eyes, which negated the power of the pose completely). They’d drifted into the kitchen as Ruby’s ramble continued onwards and now catch the guilty look Weiss’s veiled reprimand draws forth; Ruby’s eyes dart between Weiss, Blake, and finally Yang, looking more and more chastened with each jump.

“Um. Whoops?”

Ruby,” Weiss sighs.

“Okay.” Yang looks around, adopting a power pose of her own (arms crossed, feet shoulder width apart; Weiss had always claimed to admire how naturally it came to her). “Someone explain.”

“We were going to wait until you made the big announcement.”

“But then you didn’t say anything!”

“And now Blake is, clearly, here.”

“And it just accidentally slipped out!”

This back and forth explains absolutely nothing, but then Blake steps forward, fingers brushing over Yang’s forearm, and clears things up.

“Actually, I told them I was coming over.” Her fingers drift downwards, until she can take Yang’s hand in her own. “Sorry to spoil the big surprise, but I had a couple more apologies to make. I figured I’d get them out of the way before coming over. I didn’t realize you hadn’t told them.”

“I hadn’t had a chance,” Yang admits, but then laughs, somehow pleased by the absurdity of it all. “Okay, we’re going to improve our communication skills starting now. As a group.”

“I’ve been saying,” Weiss sniffs.

“Weiss is still annoyed that my personal issues had to pop up so soon to the website’s launch,” Blake whispers, overly loud, and Weiss huffs, just as audible.

“I most certainly didn’t say that.” Which is as good as admitting it. “Obviously the happiness of my friends is more important than keeping on schedule. Even if the schedule was ratified by all parties with the understanding that delays were unacceptable,” she adds, rushing through the end, nearly mumbling it under her breath.

“Oh, obviously,” Yang drawls.

Blake waves in Weiss's direction, giving Yang a pointed look. “You see why I had to call.”

“Well, when Blake called me, we just ended up talking about the cute kitty I saw in the PCM parking lot that definitely didn’t have a collar and seemed very deserving of a warm home no matter what Weiss seems to think.”

“Our apartment has a strict no pet policy!”

“When Blake moves in it’s going to be way easier to outvote you,” Ruby says, matter-of-fact until she sticks out her tongue.

“Wait, when I what?

Yang laughs again, loud enough to stop the spiraling conversation, and bring everyone’s attention back towards her. It’s not her intention, mainly because she’s without any intention at all. She’s just happy, purely happy, and it's clearly the infectious sort, because the rest of the room joins in, without any further reason. The group hug follows naturally, somehow, without further prompting. It just feels right to collapse into each other, as soon as Weiss and Ruby scoot a little closer, driven by mirth. And then Ruby’s at her other side and Weiss is sliding into Blake and it’s a small circle of relief, arms tangled around each other, heads leaning in towards the center. It’s messy and chessy and Ruby steps on her foot.

Nothing is perfect, but a few things come close.

Sometimes love is easy like that.

Weiss settles on Shakespeare In Love. She begins to explain her decision making process, but then Ruby brings out her cookies, and they all have to spend the next five minutes utterly focused on striking the balance between not hurting her feelings and also making sure she never again makes these particular monstrosities.

(Weiss suggests, once Ruby leaves the room, that there may be some use for the substance in areas related to construction, if nothing else.)

In this way and every other, it’s a typical movie night. Everyone argues over pillow distribution, Ruby takes a sip of Weiss’s wine and promptly spits it out, Blake slips away and comes back with Yang’s Penguins jersey on (rightfully reclaimed), Yang makes fun of Weiss for her movie choice, Ruby falls asleep after they’re a quarter of the way in, and Weiss cries somewhere near the end.

Not perfect, but close.

(Close enough to count, Yang thinks.)

They leave Ruby curled up in the corner of the couch and clean up slowly afterwards; Blake and Weiss wash the dishes and Yang finds herself watching instead of clearing the table, like she’s meant to be doing. And for some reason, it’s in that moment that the world finally rights itself again. Domestic tasks, an early night, a bit of soap on Blake’s cheek, a nearly finished beer in Yang’s hand, Weiss’s lips twisting as she explains the flawed time-travel logic of The Edge of Tomorrow (Yang’s last movie pick), Ruby’s soft snores filling the room, and the ground feels stable under Yang’s feet. And when Blake looks her way — just happens to glance up and smile — it gets pulled out from under her again, but only in the way she likes, in the way that allows for a freefall without fear, a soft mat to land on at the end.

“I still have some schoolwork to do, so I’ll leave you to it,” Weiss announces, breaking Yang from her thoughts, disrupting the stare between her and Blake (which, most likely, was Weiss’s intention in the first place). “Bring Ruby to bed when you’re done; you know she’ll whine all day if we let her sleep like that all night.”

Yang salutes and Weiss rolls her eyes and everything is right where it should be.

But then Weiss hesitates on her way out, turns back with a light blush, a corner of her lips lifted despite her clear attempts to smooth it out. “Glad to have you both back. It didn’t feel right, this past week.”

Blake nods, and Yang’s pleased to see that a little less guilt shows, each time it's brought up; it’s down to a manageable level now, contentment outweighing anything else. “I agree,” she says simply, and then nods again, saying something different this time (a brief thanks, an acknowledgement of something important). “Goodnight, Weiss.”

“Night, Weiss.”

She slips into the hallway without saying anything more, door to her room shutting softly a second later. With the sound, Blake steps closer, hands fitting against Yang’s hips, and Yang finds her smile shifting into a grin.

“Alone at last?”

It occurs to Yang that there’s one last thing they’ve waited on, and Blake must realize it as well, because she presses up onto the balls of her feet, sure and ready in the movement, and kisses Yang without further delay. Her lips are soft, a trace of the taste of her wine still there, and they brush gently against Yang’s with familiarity, a renewed greeting more than anything else. There’s no rush to the action, no destination, and it’s easy to accept, to return with the same level of ease, her palm finding Blake’s cheek.

“Would you like to go to dinner with me?” Blake murmurs, once they’re separated enough that she can breathe the words against Yang’s lips. “Tomorrow. I was thinking that Italian place you’re obsessed with.”

“Blake Belladonna,” Yang’s smile spreads before she can finish the thought, but pushes past the glee. “Are you asking me out on a date?”

Blake doesn’t blink, and her lips mirror Yang’s own. “That’s exactly what I’m doing. I think we deserve a redo. And this time, I want to do things right. What do you say?”

There’s only one possible verbal response to the question, but Yang fears she’d wake Ruby with it. Instead, she kisses Blake again. (Given enough time, the point will come across just fine.)

Yang recants her earlier thought; some things are perfect and this moment in time is proof.