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Cold Enough To Chill My Bones

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A glass of wine here. “Mommy loves you very much, sweetheart. I’m just not feeling well.” A glass of wine there. “I’m very busy Weiss. The company needs me. I’ll read you a book some other time.” Half-hearted attempts to reassure her that everything was fine. “We promise to make it for your next rehearsal, okay?”

Weiss was a child when she realised that maybe her mother and father weren’t as in love as she once thought. Weiss was a child when she realised that her fairy tale books had lied; happy endings don’t always happen. Weiss was a child when she realised that everything started falling apart when Mother picked up that first glass of afternoon wine after yet another argument with Father. Weiss was a child then, but she wasn’t stupid.

A glass turned into two, then four, then five, into a bottle or two or three. Mother and Father’s arguments worsened. They screamed across the dinner table. Mother’s voice was raw and primal and hurt, Father yelled until his voice turned hoarse. Then he yelled some more. Winter had bitten her lip and stayed quiet, spearing her steak with far more force than necessary. Whitley was far too young to be anything but a toddler quivering as his Mom and Dad shouted at each other. Weiss was a child then, confused and lost, wondering why Mother and Father had to fight so much. Then she noticed the wine.

Against the backdrop of white, the white tablecloth, the white plates, the white clothes, the white everything, that gash of red cut through the fragility of their household like a knife to flesh. A simple glass of afternoon wine that Mom picked up with her pianist fingers and drank until there wasn’t a drop left. She had Klein pour her another glass. It was hard not to notice that red wound after that. Wine tainted everything from family dinners to recitals to even simple things like talking.

Ever since then, Mom had a laceration of red cutting through her ethereal white visage, a red spot sitting at the bottom of a tall glass. She would swirl and swirl and swirl that glass and anything Weiss might have said was swallowed by the taste of wine on Mother’s tongue.

Father had his red stain in his office. He would yell at Weiss to leave him in peace as he downed a glass in a single shot. Then he’d apologise for yelling, say it was for Weiss’ own good, and she would try again. Try to talk to the man she called father, and he’d yell once more, and down the hatch another glass went.

Bit by bit, Weiss watched the Schnee family be inundated in a torrent of red. It swept away everything in a tide of screaming and pain and loneliness and alcohol. Winter left, escaped the never-ending cycle of wine and screaming and wine and fighting. Weiss envied her. Winter had the strength to leave, the strength to pursue her own path, the strength to look Father in the eye and tell him that his plans for the Schnee family legacy weren’t for her and left.

But Weiss had also been happy for her.

She really was.

Winter was her sister and Weiss wanted her sister to be happy. Wanted her sister to pursue her dreams and follow her own path in life without Father puppeteering her. Wanted Winter to find her place in the world and smile a lot more.

But then.

There was the loneliness.

A cold, bitter isolation.

Having to face down Father’s expectations and Mother’s apathy day in and day out. Winter wasn’t there to shield her. Winter wasn’t there to hold her close and tell her stories. Winter wasn’t there to numb the pain of hearing Mother sob and wail in her room while Father valiantly ignored her existence.

Weiss spent her whole life with Winter. Protected by Winter. No matter what happened, despite all the booze and the fighting and the weight of Father’s plans shackling Weiss like chains, Winter was there.

Winter was always there.

The years of loneliness, of isolation, of nothing but Klein’s steady presence to ground her…

It hurt.

Atlas was always cold. A city high up in the clouds, an island drifting away from the rest of Solitas. Isolated. Removed. Filled with the elite turning their noses up at everything they disliked. Weiss had been surrounded by people, but she had always felt alone.

This place reminded her of Atlas.

Blake wrapped a blanket around her shivering shoulders. Weiss wanted to thank her, but all that came out was a soft, startled gasp. Blake threw her a fond smile, and took a seat behind Yang. Weiss remained on the floor, staring into the crackling fireplace, and willed the image of dessicated corpses out of her mind.

If it weren’t for the blizzard raging outside, Weiss wouldn’t spend a minute in this place. Brunswick Farms was depressing. A sombre melancholy permeated the walls, dampened the mood, and chilled the air even with the fire going. Even with the blanket Blake gave her, even if she was sitting right in front of the fireplace, even if the snow and the wind and the cold can’t enter the house, Weiss felt gelid.

There was something disquieting about this house. A feeling of wrongness. It lingered in every corner and lurked in every shadow, haunted Weiss’ thoughts, flashing images of the Brunswick couple’s decaying corpses tucked snugly in bed and Weiss didn’t know where the blankets came from and maybe it was a sickness and maybe the blankets were tainted and maybe it’s already infected her and maybe Weiss was going to die here and maybe that’s better than actually going back home to Atlas and being caged like a prized bird in her room for the rest of her life and

One by one, the team split up. Ruby’s Uncle Qrow had left to do another sweep of the area, Yang and Blake left to search for vehicles, Ruby was going somewhere and leaving Weiss alone in front of a fire that danced in a thousand different shapes that always ended up looking like Father’s imposing visage and she can’t-

Before Weiss could second guess herself, or think twice about it, she got up and moved away from the warmth of the fireplace.

Ruby didn’t leave without telling her. Ruby didn’t leave at all, actually. She simply shut the door after Blake and Yang, a quiet, pensive look on her face. Weiss felt stupid standing by the foyer, cloaked in a warm blanket, the firelight bouncing off of her. She didn’t know why she was so… concerned about being left alone. There were all these doubts in her mind, questions unanswered, fear and tiredness that she just couldn’t make out.

A tense silence passed between them, charged with an emotion Weiss couldn’t name.

She and Ruby stared at each other for what felt like hours.

“Food always makes me feel better,” said Ruby with a smile, finally breaking the silence. “Just saying.” Her eyes were still sad, and she didn’t have the same pep to her as she usually did. Weiss would be surprised if Ruby could still remain eternally cheerful, a perpetual sun even in this weather, even after the revelations with Professor Ozpin.

“Right,” said Weiss. She didn’t have the strength to return Ruby’s smile, couldn’t even fake one if she tried. But see, that’s the thing about Ruby. She never asked for Weiss to smile when she couldn’t, never asked for Weiss to pretend to be happy or pretend to live with the perfect family. Weiss didn’t have to pretend to be anything around her.

And maybe that’s why Weiss followed Ruby further into the house despite the sudden exhaustion that’s settled in her bones. They moved away from the comfortable living room, away from the crackling fire, away from the warmth. Their shoes clicked against the floor and echoed in the hush.

Weiss was so tired.

The hallway of the Brunswick Farms were nowhere near as wide or grandiose as the Schnee Manor. The floor was made of wood rather than tile, every other step Weiss took made the boards creak. There were no expensive paintings framed in gold to line the hallways, no embroidered silk curtains before every window. There were no servants milling about, bowing to her as though she were a princess when she passed by.

The silence though? The feeling of the walls closing in around her, the feeling of standing alone in a tempest as everything around her spun out of control? That was familiar.

Almost as familiar as the room she and Ruby came across. Weiss dropped her blanket halfway down the hall, just in case something came up, just in case Ruby needed backup. A wine storage certainly was no Grimm, but to Weiss, it was far worse than that.

When she drew Myrtenaster to light up the candles in the cellar, she had half a mind to let the embers fly to the bottles lined up on the shelves and watch them all ignite. But that was petty. Ruby didn’t need that, the team didn’t need that.

So Weiss just lit up the room. “There.” A storage was a storage, wine was wine, alcohol was alcohol. It didn’t have the fancy glasses or the glass chandelier or the butler waiting to be told which year to pop open, but it was all the same to Weiss. Her skin crawled. She wished that she still had the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. It felt as though this room was going to seep into her skin and ruin her the same way it ruined her Mother, her Father, her family.

She had to resist the urge to burn the place down.

“On second thought,” Ruby began, “maybe we should keep this room closed.” The smiles were gone, the warmth vanished. Ruby stared at the cellar the same way Weiss did back in Atlas. With sadness. With concern. With worry.

“Huh?”

“I’m just… not sure how well my Uncle’s taking all of this.” And then it hit Weiss. It hit Weiss like the force of Father’s palm against her cheek, like the force of the plane crash in her attempt to escape Atlas, like the bars of the gilded cage she tried so hard to break away from were squeezing tighter.

Qrow wasn’t like Father. Qrow didn’t hit Ruby, Qrow didn’t yell at Ruby, Qrow didn’t throw expensive glasses against the wall when Ruby bothered him when he was drinking. Qrow wasn’t like Mother. Qrow didn’t ignore ruby for his flask, Qrow didn’t tear apart his family for another bottle of almawt, Qrow didn’t isolate Ruby and force her to face everything on her own. Qrow wasn’t like Weiss’ parents. But Qrow was a drunkard. An alcoholic. And all the memories of Weiss’ childhood came rushing by. A tidal wave of emotion and pain and sadness.

All Weiss could muster in response was a quiet, disheartened, “Oh.”

What was she supposed to say? That she knew how Ruby felt, having family that turned to alcohol to hide away from the rest of the world? That part of the reason why Weiss hated being home was the fact that she had to be surrounded by the smell of liquor? That she would much rather endure the freezing winds outside than spend a minute longer in this placr?

Myrtenaster felt heavy in her hand. Weiss wanted to set fire to the whole room. Watch it all burn down around her, smell the ashes and feel the lick of flames against her skin. Destroy the very thing that tore her family to shreds.

“Come on,” said Ruby, trudging ahead, deeper still into the storage room, despite everything. “We’ll never get to Atlas on an empty stomach.” Forever an optimist.

Ruby sounded so sure, so certain. She opened a door that led further in. The wine bottles weren’t open, the corks still in place. It smelled like home. “Ruby?” Weiss prompted. Ruby turned around and Weiss felt a stone drop in the pit of her stomach. “Are we still going to Atlas?”

“Why wouldn’t we be?” It’s not the ‘no’ Weiss hoped it would be.

I don’t want to go back , she wanted to say. I don’t want to feel cold. I don’t want to be isolated. I don’t want to return to Atlas where everything is shrouded in a toxic, elitist veneer, and I don’t want to be separated from you. I don’t want to go back. Don’t make me go back. Please don’t leave me. I hate it back in Atlas. Don’t. Don’t. Let’s find another way. We can hide the relic in Vacuo. We can throw it down the well. I don’t want to go back to Atlas. Please don’t make me go.

“I mean, you heard what Jinn said,” Weiss sighed. It’s not what she wanted to say. Then again, she’s had a lifetime of experience hiding her emotions, hiding her thoughts, hiding her words and biting her tongue to say something more palatable to the ears of everyone save herself. “If there’s no way to kill Salem, then what’s the point in all this?” She shrugged, played it off as no big deal. Hide everything Weiss. Just like you always do . The musty smell of the cellar taunted her.

Ruby’s eyes widened. “Weiss, you can’t be serious.” And she was right. They had a duty. They needed to bring the relic to Atlas so it could be safe.

A shaky sigh left Weiss. “Sorry. I- I don’t know what I’m saying.” Don’t make me go back. But we have to. But why? Why can’t we just let everything go? Why do we have to be the ones to do anything? “I’m just really tired,” Then why continue? Because we need to. Because if we stop here, then there’s no one who can pick up the pieces. But is it worth it? Is it worth going back to Atlas and looking Father in the eye again? Is it worth becoming a prisoner in your own home? “-and I really, really hate this place.” It smelled like wine. It smelled like Mom.

Weiss couldn’t stand it.

Before Ruby could ask, before she could scrutinise the sag of Weiss’ shoulder or the quiver in her lips, before Ruby could care, Weiss pushed onwards. She ignored the desire to smash every bottle she saw against the wall and sheathed Myrtenaster. “Anything in there?” Weiss didn’t have the heart to tell her that she didn’t want to go back to Atlas. So Weiss stayed quiet. And she focused on finding some food. She didn’t want to think about home.

“More alcohol.” Ruby’s voice was exasperated. “At least we’ll never have problems starting a fire.”

Weiss clenched her fists and bit her tongue.

The inner room had a door leading further down, into what Weiss could only assume was a wine cellar. She really, truly hated this place. But at least they found food. And at least the smile was back on Ruby’s face. For better or worse, Weiss never could stay angry when Ruby beamed at her with the most triumphant look for someone who merely found a can of beans. Certainly not a meal by Weiss’ standers. But Ruby looked so happy. So it can’t be all bad.

“Well, I guess it’s better than nothing.” Ruby taught her many things, broadened her horizons. Showed her more than the skyline view of Atlas. Ruby taught her that it was alright to trust people. That Weiss didn’t have to walk through life alone, that she could rely on people and lean on them if she wanted to. Weiss was willing to bet that Ruby could somehow teach her how to enjoy canned food pillaged from an abandoned farm.

There was salt in the kitchen, a couple of pots to heat the beans up; they could make things work.

Weiss was so tired.

-

The blanket was somewhere. Weiss didn’t have the energy to look for it. Maybe blake found it. Or Yang. Or Ruby. Maybe one of them returned it to the pile of blankets and pillows in the living room. Weiss just couldn’t bring herself to concentrate on anything other than focusing on how the fireplace chased away the gloom in the house.

She sat between Yang and Blake as the three of them stared as the logs smoldered into cinders. There was tension in the air. Blake’s ears weren’t perked up like usual, there was a harshness in Yang’s eyes, their body languages were tense. Weiss half-expected a glass to materialise in their hands and an argument to bubble up between them. It never came. But it didn’t make the atmosphere any less overstrung.

Weiss focused on the flame. Focused on the sound of Oscar’s pacing, a habit he picked up from Ozpin, and everything spiralled back into their resolution to go to Atlas. Weiss still didn’t want to go. Weiss still had second doubts. Weiss was still scared. Damn the relic. She wanted to stay with her friends, with the people who actually cared about her, and just rest.

Weiss was so tired. So when Ruby suggested they sleep, she complied with nary a sound or a sigh or a word of contention. If they could, Weiss wanted to just stay here forever. There were no nightmares that plagued her dreams. No haunting images of the Brunswick family, no distorted images of Father, no wine, no nothing. Just a blissful slumber. An abyss that swallowed all her fears and her insecurities. She didn’t have to do anything. She didn’t have to go anywhere.

It was rudely interrupted when the curtains were thrown open and the sunlight streamed in. “Close the window,” she mumbled, still clinging onto the last dregs of her dreams. She was pulled back into consciousness by the sound of glass shattering not a few minutes later. Weiss jerked awake.

She was not at home. She was in a dingy old farm with a dingy old cellar with dingy old bottles of alcohol. Ruby called them all into action. Had them get up, leave their comfortable beds, had move for the trip to Atlas. The storm was gone. It was over. They could be on their merry way and carry on with their plan to protect the relic.

When Weiss stepped out the door, she caught sight of the shattered remains of a cheap bottle of alcohol. The shards looked painfully sharp and still carried the tang of liquor. Even with the lethargy weighing her down, even with the overwhelming desire to just sleep and let everything pass her by, a spark of something ignited in her heart.

There were two more bottles near a window. Both empty. An irrational urge to smash them regardless tugged at her. She ignored it. She needed to use Myrtenaster to modify Yang’s bike. Better things to do.

She really wanted to smash those bottles.

The dying embers of want that lingered in her fizzled out almost immediately. The tire popped, the relic fell in the well, and everyone was just so tired.

Weiss just didn’t see the point. “I’m starting to think the universe just doesn’t want us getting to Atlas,” Yang had grumbled. Weiss agreed. Better to forget about Atlas and stay here. Here, she could forget about Winter leaving her, forget about Mother ignoring her, forget about Father shunning her and Whitley despising her. Weiss didn’t want to do anything.

They didn’t have to go to Atlas. Weiss didn’t have to be in the stupid Schnee Manor, she didn’t have to smell the stupid alcohol, and she didn’t have to fucking watch her family poison themselves day in and day out. She was just so tired of it all!

But.

Ruby wanted them in Atlas. Ruby wanted to save the world even if the world didn’t seem like it deserved to be saved. And. Well. If Ruby was jumping into dark holes to rescue a glowing lamp, then Weiss will jump in with her.

“We’ll go down together,” Weiss sighed. She didn’t want to. But if Ruby was going down a dark place where she was certain she saw something staring back, then Weiss wasn’t going to leave her alone. Weiss won’t leave anyone alone. She won’t let her friends feel the way she did, surrounded by people but feeling isolated. Feeling like there was a mirror between them that she couldn’t break. No way was she letting Ruby know what that felt like.

So down the well they went.

The murky water soaked through Weiss’ leggings, wetting her toes, her heels. She shivered. Myrtenaster weighed like a sack of bricks by her waist. The tunnels seemed to pound, the walls caving in closer and closer. Weiss blinked. She saw white floors, white walls, white curtains. She felt the chill of snow and the biting words of Father. She blinked again. Back to the darkness of the well.

Something was wrong here. Something was seriously wrong.

Ruby screamed.

Just like that, all of her nerves were set alight. The nothingness she felt, the hollow ache in her chest bloomed instead with worry. Weiss almost tripped in her haste to run down the path Ruby disappeared to. All of her limbs were heavy. She was so tired.

“Ruby!?” Yang shouted in a panic. Ruby came to them with shaky legs. “What is it?” Yang reached out, steadied Ruby with a hand to her shoulder. Weiss wanted to unsheathe Myrtenaster. But she was just so tired.

Behind Ruby, groaning and growling as a pack, a kind of Grimm Weiss had never seen before shambled out. They looked human. But their limbs were misshapen, gangly, bent at odd angles. The skeletal armour on other Grimm formed a macabre imitation of a skeleton over their black, shadowy bodies. And the sounds. The sounds they made. A desperate kind of plea. Like the tempting beckon of an eternal sleep, thrumming just beneath Weiss’ skin. Like Mother’s voice back when Weiss was a child, before all the fighting and the hurt and the wine, lulling her to an afternoon nap.

Weiss was so tired. She forced herself to draw Myrtenaster anyway. It was Ruby who made the first move, firing shot after shot with Crescent Rose. The bullets bounced off the Grimm and they screeched together as a unit. A piercing sound that echoed in the cramped tunnel. A grating, violent noise.

Make it stop.

Weiss nearly collapsed. Simply holding onto Myrtenaster felt like a herculean task. Her ears were ringing. It felt like there were chains around every limb, a weight that sank into her very bones and petrified every fibre of her body. Weiss was so tired...

Make it stop.

“RUN!” Maria shouted from behind them. Urged. Demanded. It was disconcerting hearing her so panicked. Between retreating and the Grimm groaning and keening at them, the choice was obvious. Weiss sheathed Myrtenaster and ran. Her limbs felt like lead.

No matter how much she forced herself to move faster, run faster, she could never seem to muster up enough strength.

The Grimm blocked their way up the well. Weiss doubted she could even create a single glyph in her condition. Everything felt so heavy. She was so tired. She wanted to rest.

Ruby pointed down a different path. “This way!” Despite the torpor clinging to her, demanding her to rest, to sleep, Weiss shook herself awake.

She was scared. Her heart was pounding. Her legs were aching. It’s fine. She followed Ruby’s lead, winding down and around the labyrinthine halls. If Weiss lost focus for even a second, she could almost hear her shoes echoing against tiled floors. They could just rest. Let everything blow over . She might die here. She might die here and no one would know. Qrow and Oscar wouldn’t know. Winter wouldn’t know. But at least I’m not in Atlas .

She was so tired.

They reached the end. They were in a cellar. Weiss could see stairs leading up and out. They could do it. They can make it out of this stupid waterway and get away from such a creepy farm. Almost there.

The entire cellar reeked of wine.

Weiss hated it. Hated it. Hated it with every nerve and every muscle and every fibre. Hated it with every pump of her beating heart. She fucking hated-

The Grimm screamed again. High-pitched. Close. Closer. They were nestled in the corner, beside huge barrels of alcohol and they screeched and screamed and howled. The Grimm with their too-long limbs and their too-loud voices. Groaning and groaning and their voices penetrated Weiss’ mind, scraped the inside of her skull, picked apart everything she knew and left behind nothingness.

What was she so angry for? Why the hell did she hate this place so much? It’s just wine. It’s just alcohol. It’s not as if it’s poison or venom or anything like that. She shouldn’t be so unnerved by having the scent of booze stick to her clothes, her hair. So what? It’s just like home. She’s lived with this smell for years. What’s a few seconds in a cellar?

She was so tired.

They had all collapsed to their knees.

Weiss felt weak.

“I can’t do this,” Yang gasped. “I can’t.” She crawled forward still, trying in vain to reach the stairs, to reach safety. Yang’s robotic arm made faint clicking sounds against the stone floor.

Weiss couldn’t even crawl. She only stared at the ground. Trying to catch her breath. Voices swam in her head. She can’t think.

“An exit!” Maria cried desperately. “An exit!” If it was meant to push the group forward, it failed. Weiss didn’t want to move.

Ruby’s hand landed on her shoulder. “Come on!” Still trying so hard. Even when she was so tired. Weiss’ vision was hazy. Even when she looked up, Ruby was distorted. Like she was behind glass. Behind a mirror. Behind a barrier that couldn’t be shattered.

So tired. It smells like Mom. Maybe she’ll sing me her lullaby if I’m lucky. Maybe she’s not so drunk today. I hate it when she’s drunk. I can’t. It’s fine if I die here. It’s fine. At least I’m not in Atlas. At least I’m not cold. At least my friends are here.

I’m just so tired.

“BLAKE!”

A flash.

Ruby’s silver eyes lit up the cellar for a few, precious seconds. Like rain in a desert. A blinding ray of sunlight that pierced through even the darkest of storms. A spot of warmth in a blizzard. Hot chocolate. Melodic laughter. A determined smile. Mom brushing Weiss’ hair back. Winter teaching her how to hold her rapier. Yang’s stupid puns. Blake’s fond eye rolls. Ruby’s hand reaching out, steadying her when she faltered.

A brutal, lovely scythe cutting through the glass, cutting through a cage, cutting through the chains.

It smelled like alcohol down in the cellar.

Weiss fucking hated it.

She wanted out.

Whatever was causing her to doubt, to hesitate, to worry, whatever was bringing up her fears and insecurities and dulling all of her senses was because of the Grimm. The Grimm that hunted them down. The Grimm that tried to kill them. They had the power to fill Weiss and everyone else with nothingness. Ruby’s silver eyes stopped them for now. But now won’t last forever.

Before they could recover, before she could question her resolve, Weiss picked herself up from the floor and ran. She ran past Maria, ran up the stairs, and pushed the doors open. “They’re locked!” she exclaimed. They can’t die here. They can’t. Weiss refused to die in a dustdamned wine cellar . Not like this.

“Out of my way!” Yang rushed up after her. She could force the doors open. Or at the very least, create a commotion loud enough for Qrow or Oscar to hear. Ruby was limping with Blake closer to the stairs. The Grimm were crowding closer.

Weiss felt helpless. She refused to die here!

Another scream.

Cotton filled her head and she slumped down on the stairs. Breathing was a chore. Keeping her eyes open was a chore. She can’t. She can’t even prop herself up anymore. Maria was saying something, something important, but Weiss just couldn’t bring herself to care.

The stench of this place reminded Weiss of home. Of having nothing but Klein doing their best to lessen the blow of neglect Weiss had suffered. Of Mother staring out from her balcony, onto the city of Atlas far away from their home. Of Father’s harshness and the recitals Weiss was expected to sing at and all his rich friends who treated her like an accessory to ‘Jacque’s legacy.’

I don’t want to die.

She forced herself up on her knees, forced herself to grab the blasted door by the handles, forced herself to move. To rattle the doors as much as she can in a pathetic cry for help. To try. To try and live. To try and keep fighting. She can’t fall here.

I don’t want to die.

The last thing Weiss would take with her into the afterlife would be the disgusting, sickening, smell of a musty cellar. Whitley would languish and buckle under Father’s expectations. Winter would blame herself for Weiss’ death. Mother would cry and cry and drink even more wine. She has so much to live for. She can’t die.

I don’t want to die here.

Another, brighter flash. Ruby’s silver eyes disintegrating the Grimm in the cellar. Weiss’ head was pounding. Yang growled as she stalked up the stairs. With a single, powerful blast from Ember Celica, Yang forced the doors open and marched up and out.

“We’re back in the house?”

The candles Weiss lit were still there. The bottles still lined the wall. Qrow was slumped over a counter; drunk. Deaf to the rattling of the cellar door. “Uncle Qrow get up!” Ruby urged, tried to shake him to awareness.

“We’re leaving,” Maria announced. Yang took Blake’s hand and ran, Maria following after them with as much haste as her age allowed.

Weiss should follow them. She’s wanted to leave this place since the moment they got here. The bottles taunted her from their shelves. Memories of Mother and Father clinging against every surface. Their arguments sang in Weiss’ ears, louder than the Grimm’s ghastly wails. “Not yet,” Weiss resolved. Not yet. There’s been one thing on her mind the moment she found this room, this room with every wall filled with shelves of liquor, this room with the glasses and the barstools and the counter.

The candles flickered.

Weiss took the first bottle with shaky hands. And she flung it across the room, watched it shatter against the open door of the cellar, watched the wine pool from the broken glass. Watched it bleed on the floor, a laceration of red cutting through the dusty old floor. Then she grabbed a few more bottles and hurled them with all of her anger, all of her sadness, all of her pain and loneliness and want of a better childhood.

Smash!

For every recital her parents didn’t attend.

Smash!

For every argument she had to endure over dinner.

Smash!

For every half-assed excuse she was given.

No words could describe the satisfaction she felt at that moment. No words could describe the feeling of peace, of relief. The feeling of cleansing herself of something vile.

The remaining Grimm in the tunnels caught up, rising up the cellar like weeds in a garden. They grasped at empty air, groaning. Weiss didn’t care about them. Weiss didn’t care about Qrow shouting in indignation. Weiss only cared about one thing, and one thing only at that moment.

Myrtenaster flowed with every gesture. A river winding through the mountains, a rush of water that swept everything away. Weiss switched her dust chamber. The Grimm inched closer. Weiss cast a glyph. The Grimm’s contorted hands got soaked in wine as they climbed out the cellar.

And in one fluid movement, Weiss set them all ablaze.

They caught fire silently. A cloak of flame shrouding their bodies as they groaned and writhed as a pack. Soon, they would climb out of the cellar and ransack the room. They would knock over the bottles of wine and beer and vodka and whiskey. And those bottles would burn too.

It would never be the same as the fantasy of setting fire to the Schnee Manor’s wine room. It would never be the same as watching the expensive dalbergia tables be reduced to nothing more than kindling. Not quite the same as watching all of Mother’s vintage chadrieu rouge be set alight. But it was good enough.

It was catharsis.

“Now we can leave.”

It was strange. Weiss didn’t feel frustrated with Qrow, even when she had to help Ruby drag him out. Weiss didn’t feel bothered by the scent of cheap booze that permeated Qrow’s clothes, his breath, his hair. Weiss didn’t feel bothered by the heat glancing off her back, or of the Grimm calling out behind her. When the three of them managed to get on the flatbed, and when Yang revved Bumbleby up to full throttle, Weiss didn’t feel panicked or afraid or harried.

She just felt at peace.

She looked back at the Brunswick Farms, looked back at the house, looked back at the black smog rising up from the inferno. A dark blot against an otherwise perfect sky. A dark wound against the ethereal white visage of the heavens. A gust of wind made the bruise billow.

The scent of smoke followed them away.