Chapter 1: Prologue: En route to Atlas
Weiss sat alone against the cool hull of the airship. She closed her eyes and allowed a moment of true reprieve for what felt like the first time that day.
The lighting from the cockpit was sparse, and all the metal did little to help mitigate the bite of the elements. Overall, the atmosphere reminded her somewhat of Atlas proper. Cold. Dark. Manufactured, in more ways than one. Rather fitting, in a way, for the next leg of their obscure war.
This sense of dreary calm was suddenly perturbed when a body inserted itself into her personal space. Despite the suddenness of the presence, the boreal chill somehow seemed the less austere for it. Only one soul among them could have had such an effect recently, even under the most pressing of times.
Ruby sat down next to Weiss, their shoulders touching, and their breaths audible in the relative silence. The airship did little for keeping warmth, but it did go some way to keeping the wind's whistle at bay.
They were quiet at first, and just took everything in. Blake and Yang were no longer in the conscious realm. They'd drifted off, once again at peace. JNPR wasn't faring much better, lounging about in a pile of body parts, like they'd been a family for years already. The silence was only cut by the occasional curt whispers coming from the pilots' seats, probably Maria's rambling.
Ruby leaned her head against the cold hull, and craned her neck to face her partner. Their conversation too was kept barely above the level of a whisper.
"Are you OK?"
There it was again - that question. Ok? Maybe not. Maybe Atlas was the last place in all of Remnant she'd want to be, but she couldn't say that. Not again. The prospect of being back in the Schnee Manor terrified her, and the future more broadly terrified her. But she'd survive. That would have to suffice.
"I'm... OK," she said weakly. Weakly enough, in fact, that she knew Ruby wouldn't buy it. "Or, at least, I will be."
She'd expected more silence, expected Ruby to leave them with an awkward, open ending. She was surprised when a sympathetic warmth took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Talk to me, Weiss."
But Weiss wasn't sure what to say exactly. She didn't know what to do in their situation, didn't know how they'd fare in the Atlesian airspace, and didn't know where this part of the journey would end. What could she say?
"Ruby," she said with a huff, "I really didn't want to come back to Atlas." She looked out the small window, at clustered, individual stars in the skies over Solitas. "I hate the place."
She didn't look back at her partner, but kept her gaze trained on the open sky. "I know we have to be here. And, I trust that you'll do your best to reassure me. But I can't help but feel…afraid. Of what will happen when we get to Atlas, of what Ironwood will say, of whether or not I'll find Winter, and of what will ultimately become of all of us."
For her part, Ruby didn't interject. She turned her own gaze to the wall, without a word, and they fell back into a silence. This spell was far less pleasant. After a solid minute, Weiss began to wonder if maybe she'd been laying out her grievances a bit thick.
"You know, " she eventually said, "it's OK to feel that way. Considering your position, I think I'd be more worried if you didn't."
A few more seconds went by, while they both contemplated their feelings.
“And, I'm terrified sometimes too."
Weiss turned to see her face.
"I don't know if it's been obvious or not, but I'm afraid sometimes, Weiss. This whole war is terrifying."
It was obvious, if nothing else, that Ruby was being open about her fears. She'd only rarely used that tone - that heavy, emotional whine that instilled a protective instinct in Weiss’s heart.
"When I found out I was being hunted for something I had no control over, it was scary. It made me feel so vulnerable. And then, around ever corner, as we learned more and more about the truth, we could never be sure if our next discovery would be something good, or if it would be something even more horrible.
Ruby's features retained a semblance of comfort and curiosity, but there was no masking the apprehension. She was still their competent leader, but even she wasn’t fearless in all of this. "So, believe me, you're not alone in that either."
Somewhere in her mind, Weiss did find it a bit helpful to be able talk with Ruby. "I just-" she shifted her position to face her more directly "-get tired, more recently than ever, of all of the unknowns."
She subconsciously tightened their handhold. "All my life I've been treated like a tool, and kept in the dark. And now, it feels like my life is coming around in a circle. There's so much we don't know, and so much being kept from us. I get tired of it all."
Ruby's response was quick – she huffed again, wistfully.
'Weiss," she started, "I understand. Probably better than most people, I understand wanting to know - wanting some sort of answer to our longest-held questions, for any amount of closure." She stared now, at something Weiss couldn't see, as if there were a hidden layer beneath the bite of the tundra.
"I've probably asked myself more times than I can count, if my life as a huntress would have a happy ending. Or, if I'll... just go missing someday."
The mood between them was now saturated with a sort of uncertainty. For all her vocal talent, Weiss had never been particularly knowledgeable about raising spirits in situations such as this. So, she relied on her limited experience to speak from the heart.
"Ruby, I don't know if any of us will get our happy endings." She cupped the side of her partner's face, and brought their eyes to level. "But, if there is a happy ending, if there is a light at the end of this war,-" her eyes looked down to Ruby's lips before returning to meet her eyes once more "-then I think I'd like to have you in it."
Ruby flashed that familiar comforting smile, accompanied by a resounding hum. Their hands joined, Ruby rested her head on Weiss's shoulder, and they resigned to wait out the rest of the flight in relative peace.
Even before the fall, Weiss didn't tend to put much stock in the pursuit of happy endings. There was more or less a plan for her life - she'd become a huntress, eventually take over the SDC, and spend the rest of her life leading the company to an image in which her grandfather could take pride. Maybe that was still a possibility. Or, maybe, it was lost to her. Maybe the SDC would end sooner than later, and it's legacy would be unsalvageable from the poison of her father's touch. To Weiss, the prospect represented a great loss.
Then she thought of the girl on her shoulder, her partner, and the rest of her family of a team. Whatever the future had in store, she was glad to have her best friend, and her family there for it.
Later, when they stood and witnessed the Atlesian fleet in aggressive formation, Weiss took Ruby's hand almost instinctually. She wasn't alone. They were in it together
Chapter 2: Chapter 1: Familiarity
Atlas is simultaneously familiar and strange.
This was certainly…something. Wholesome, and on some level a cause for awe. Penny Polendina, alive. Alive, and as enthusiastic as ever, if not more so.
Weiss rolled her eyes and sheathed her weapon along with the rest of the crew. Who could have imagined this reunion? Penny had been so excited to embrace her old friend after all the months, she full-on tackled her while holding nothing back. She propelled herself forward, and the two crashed to the ground with hearty thuds. As she approached their downed leader, Weiss couldn’t help but let out the beginning of a chuckle at the scene. Encounters such as these brought about a strong sense of déjà vu.
She was reminded of every ill-advised tackle of which she’d had the pleasure of being on the receiving end. For sure, it had been a nuisance at first, having her personal space violated in such a forward manner. But she did come to discreetly enjoy it. It was so Ruby. The memories from Beacon were a mixed bag of emotions now, but Weiss liked to think she’d hold on to the more innocent escapades for some time, mostly to remember the energy Ruby always gave off.
In the present, it seemed the time for such energies was fleeting, with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Even before The Fall, it had been some weeks since Ruby had last embraced her with such force. The Vital Festival and its grandeur had given them plenty of distraction. Put on a good show, and prove yourself in battle. The victory, the glory, the pride – none of it meant much now. Thinking back, she wished they could have done more. For the most part, the development of her relationships had been cast to the wayside, in favor of gaining an upper hand. There were so many instances, early on, in which she’d scoffed at strangers and rivals in silence for their apparent mismanagement of time, favoring study or practice. Even in the heat of the festival itself, relationship bonding had been more of a side-objective than anything. In all of it, how much time had been wasted? How many opportunities squandered? And what had it gotten her, in the short term? An empty, childish fascination with a guy who flirted with absolutely anything with a pulse, tossed to the wind over a course of hours.
All of it was why, at the least, she’d try to savor what she had now. Her relationship with Ruby – while she wasn’t sure exactly what to call it, she was certainly going to appreciate the moments together.
On the ground, Ruby’s eyes might as well have been rolling over, rattled by the high-speed collision. Weiss shook herself out of the reverie and extended her hand with a playful smile. “Well, at least now you know how it feels.”
“Ugh,” Ruby grunted. “There’s a difference!” She took the firm hand and began to regain her bearings. “My tackles were always full of love! And, -” she compressed a dull pain in her shoulder “- I’m not made of metal alloy.”
Weiss mimicked a scoff at the excuses. “Maybe not. But, at your speeds, sometimes I wonder if Yang’s literal punches would pack less of a punch than your hugs.”
“I was never that rough,” she muttered with a pout.
“Hellooo,” Yang drawled. Need I remind you, I’m right here?” Yang had been grinning at the strange wholesomeness of it all. “No offense Weiss, but a punch like mine would probably put you out cold.” She leaned on her partner and flexed her digital joints to accentuate the point.
“I resent that claim.” She crossed her arms, ignoring the wordplay. In the past, she’d let the brawler get under her skin a few times too many. Not anymore. “I do believe I’ve survived far worse.”
An ugly burning sensation reared in her abdomen at the mention, and it took a mountain of composure to avoid a wince.
“Barely,” Yang said with a sharper tone. Her postured straightened and her gaze fixed. “We just got lucky Jaune’s semblance unlocked when it did. You probably would’ve–OOF.” An elbow struck her in the side, and she was cut off with a forced exhale.
A hand wrapped itself tightly around Weiss’s own with a surprising amount of force. Weiss turned her head and was met with her partner’s gaze, noticeably more downtrodden than it had been just a moment ago. They exchanged looks for a briefly, before Ruby averted her attention to her friend risen from the dead.
Weiss was struck by a pang of guilt. It’d only been a few days shy of three weeks since the incident – her near death experience. Ruby’s distress had been no secret between the two of them, devotedly quelled by a tight embrace in the battle’s aftermath. It was a long, emotional night, but they’d survived. Now, Weiss felt a fool for treating it as ammunition in their banter, but was slow on the draw to voice her apology.
“Penny,” Ruby said, still a bit shaken at seeing her friend risen, after being torn apart. “I thought, you…” she trailed.
“Thought she died?” Moving them along, Pietro seemed more than willing to bridge those gaps, and with utmost transparency. He struck Weiss as an open, straight-forward type. Refreshing, really, considering recent developments. “Well, in a manner of speaking, I suppose she did.”
When they were abruptly bound and accosted, Weiss barely had time to gasp in surprise. Other than the grunts coming from the others, the takedowns were quick and quiet. She was forced to watch Ruby go last, too slow in her reflexes to shout a warning. There wasn’t even enough time to summon her gigas before one of the figures stepped into view. As their weapons were seized, she watched with fearful anticipation and bated breath as the most forward of their apprehenders approached Ruby’s immobile form, and reached out. She allowed a breath seeing that she was not being harmed, but cursed under it at the realization that relic was being taken.
Pietro shouted at them. “What is the meaning of this? What’re the Ace-Ops even doing down here, in Mantle!” He erupted into a coughing fit.
Ace-Ops? She remembered that name. She racked her memory, trying to recall something, anything specific about the group. Aside from the common media reports, she mustered vague recollections, of fliers circulating about Atlas Academy’s news space, and of some pitch the general had made to her regarding her future, many months ago.
As the Ace-Ops and the Knights began forcing them into a transport, Weiss, for the umpteenth time in her life, lauded the fact that looks don’t kill. If they could, Atlas would have been short at least one huntsman that night.
As the vehicle made its way, Weiss wrestled with the sudden disappointment of having been separated from her partner. A part of her heart had sunk when she noticed she and Ruby were the second-to-last and first people loaded into the back. She pushed her head against the inside, and surveyed the group. All looked similarly disheartened.
Past the hunched forms of her teammates, her gaze met Ruby’s once again. Ruby tried to front a reassuring smile, but it didn’t fare well as she probably hoped. Instead, it was apparent that she was struggling with some of the same feelings.
And this situation too, was familiar. They were again huddled in the back of an airship, watching the distant architectural flourishes pass them by. This time however, they were without their freedom – prisoners, in a sense, of the Atlesian bureaucracy. Dreadfully familiar. It reminded Weiss all too much of exactly why she hated the place.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2: Dreams
Dreams change, and choices can be complicated.
They stepped into one of the academy’s dorm rooms. Ruby’s eyelids were heavy; the past twenty-four hours had been some of the most intense the journey thus far. Despite the ever-present itch for exploration in the back of her mind, after everything in Argus and with their meeting with Ironwood, staying awake was a hard battle in and of itself.
As soon as the door shut closed, she burst forth and upward to one of the beds with high ground, and relished in the dorm-room feeling – something that felt both new and nostalgic, her body practically ready to fall into the realm of sleep.
Though they probably weren’t faring much better, she heard her team’s voices ringing out around her, commenting on the architecture, the beds, the colors and the stylish hallways. But, she’s too tired to jump into the conversation. Their words go right through the other ear, and soon she falls into dark.
Dreams can be funny things. Not funny in the sense that they make you laugh or making you happy, but in the sense that they can be mysterious, or difficult, or both at the same time. Sometimes, dreams can make you wish for nothing more than for the dark to go away.
When Ruby was a little girl, she dreamed of being a fantastical huntress – of helping people, and living the life of adventure she’d always been told stories of. She’d be living a hero’s life of crime-fighting, grimm extermination, and discovery. Some of her stories also ended with the hero getting the sweetheart, but as a child Ruby never thought much about that part of her future. Why would you need all that stuff when you lived life like a fairy tale? If she were honest with herself, friends hadn’t even made their way into her dreams when she envisioned the life of a huntress. All of that only started to change when she got to Beacon.
Going to Beacon was kind of like its own adventure, and it started off great. Looking back, it wasn’t hard to see that it was RWBY’s last chance to live as care-free kids just having fun – going to classes, getting away with antics, and whatever else. Most importantly, her friends truly became part of the adventure for the first time. It wasn’t a solo journey anymore. Her team and their classmates may have had their personal goals and motivations, but at the end of the day they all wanted some of the same things.
Like her, Yang craved the adventure of it all, with good deeds sprinkled in. Blake had more complicated problems, but it boiled down to helping the vulnerable. And then there was Weiss. And Weiss’s ambition was something else altogether.
The drive is part of what makes her great. Sure, she was pretty harsh at first, but that didn’t cancel out everything she’d become. In a way, Weiss threw a bigger wrench into that grand huntress dream than anyone at Beacon.
It used to be that Ruby envisioned touring the world and its kingdoms, saving lives and slaying any grimm to be found, not paying much attention to the safety risks. In her dreams as a trainee, there’d been an enthusiasm to risk her life wholeheartedly. But with all the lessons they’ve been learning, she wondered if she’d actually begun to find one worth saving it for, and sharing the adventure with.
The partnership between them was one thing that made her dreams change. Before long, everything had changed. Beacon fell. People died. Pyrrha died, and Penny was torn apart. Yang was in no condition to fight, Weiss had been taken away from them, and RWBY, for all intents and purposes, didn’t exist for months.
Across the journey, her dreams had transformed each part of the way, and it was terrible. What had once long ago been bright, heroic futures directly became dark, unrelenting disasters. They were the same series of things, several nights a week for months. Not getting to Penny in time, not getting to Pyrrha in time, and being powerless to fight as Weiss was taken or disappeared into the shadows. In the weeks after the fall, Ruby’d felt as if she were experiencing her own, blood-borne brand of loneliness. That was mostly how her dreams stayed, until she got close to Mistral.
After the day she learned the truth about the relics and their gods, the dreamland was always a roller coaster. Weird lights and figures after hearing the story, terror and fear after her encounter with Tyrian, hope when they reached Mistral, peace after reuniting with her sister and her partner, loneliness after Weiss’s injury, and helplessness the night after their encounter with the apathy. There was one saving grace in that whole thing: maybe to her guilty pleasure, it had taken a night of Weiss’s close embrace to make sleep come easily. Now, in Atlas, she found her dreams changing again. She dreamed of a crossroads, at an intersection of choices. The weight of the world bore on her shoulders, and the roads were twisted and filled with misdirection.
Over the months her dreams had changed drastically and quickly. Once carefree and fun-filled, they were now distraught and fear-filled more often than not. They were out of her control , and on some nights made sleep a chore. She was reminded of this when she woke up in the middle of the night with a light sweat.
Weiss woke to the sound of a yelp just above her. Her eyes popped open, and her groggy mind urged a return to unconsciousness. This was made difficult by the quick ruffling of sheets and a sigh. Was Ruby awake?
The answer was clear when a body lept down from the higher bed and landed with a light thud. She contemplated reaching out, but didn’t act on it, hoping out of concern that it was nothing important. Those hopes were shaken when her partner opened the door and walked out, gently enough that she barely made a whisper.
She shook the tired haze out of her muscles and rubbed her eyes out. Remembering the shared dorm, she worried for a second that Blake and Yang had been stirred by the sudden movements, but they gave no indication of it. Their breaths were steady and subdued. Yang was sprawled out as usual, probably out cold. Blake made herself smaller in her sleep, her arms folded and clutching at shoulders. Seeing no change in their rhythms, Weiss went out the door and into the light.
Said light hit her like a truck, and her eyes clenched shut as they adjusted. Moving along slowly, she made her way through hallways and across common areas, searching for the missing huntress. Her concern spiked when all of the closest sites turned up empty, save for the occasional student or two, asleep and completely unaware.
She racked her brain, trying to think of alternatives. Would Ruby have gone to a different floor? Why? A visit to the academy’s workshop? No, she couldn’t have known where she was going, already. She’d started to consider going back to the room, before a stray memory came back from one of their most notable Beacon memories.
She recalled a warm, clear evening. A stressful, treacherous evening, but one that had appeared to signal a promising future at the time. It was a huddle just after their victory over the White Fang in Vale, shared between the team on one of Beacon’s landing platforms. That was when they were but trainees, but with the victory, they felt on top of the world. It was a euphoric aftermath, regardless of the loose ends. If Ruby were looking for an easy place away, that would do it.
Rather than spend an hour checking the lounges floor-by-floor, Weiss took the elevator to ground floor. She stepped out of the lobby and into open air, hugging herself close as the Atlesian chill bit at her. The shivers compelled some part of her to question what in the world inspired the girl to come out here in the dead of night, but her rational side already had a good idea.
Despite bright white lights meshing with the city’s sleek blues, Ruby’s form stuck out on the landing pad. She was sitting near the edge, her arms resting atop folded knees. More than most things, Weiss found the riveting hair to be an alluring beacon from a distance.
The ex-heiress approached slowly from the side. “You really shouldn’t be out here,” she called.
Ruby turned her head at the voice and offered a small smile, looking far less forced than her earlier attempt.
They sat side-by-side without another word and looked out at the city, taking in the view in a companionable silence, only upset by the rush of wind, followed by shivers.
Episodes such as these were not as plentiful as they would have liked. They were interspersed between periods of intense stress, and ended too soon before the next hiatus.
Being here, and after coming this far, it made it easier to realize how these moments had grown in their importance. During their time at Beacon, it was all about doing things. About team bonding activities, or studying, or the odd card game. But ever since Mistral? And since Haven? Silence seemed to speak volumes. Every sympathetic caress and appreciative clutch communicated a wish or relief. I missed you. I don’t want to lose you. Speech was no longer required in their shared moments, but Ruby did eventually break the spell with a question.
She laid her head on a comforting shoulder, and gave it a nuzzle.
“How are you?” she asked softly.
Weiss ran her fingers through the hair. “I feel like I need to be asking you that.” A breeze made them cuddle tighter, personal space be damned.
“I suppose you’re having trouble sleeping?”
“You could say that.” Ruby let out a sigh. “Can I ask you something?”
“I believe you’ve asked me several somethings, already.” She couldn’t help but grin at her own dumb joke. Truly, Yang’s influence was ruining her.
Ruby pouted. “Weeeeiis,” she uttered with false annoyance.
“I’m joking, I’m joking,” she said. “What is it?”
Ruby took her hand, and rubbed along the joints. “Do you think what I did was right?”
She pondered a moment. “That’s a complicated question.” For certain, it was a difficult situation on all sides.
“It’s just… do you think I should have told him the whole truth? Should I have done, I don’t know, better?”
“Well, how you feel about your choice?”
“I” – Ruby squeezed her hand a little harder – “felt pretty sure, at first.” It was probably easy, she thought, leaving out large swaths of the story. The jarring state of Mantle had left them all on edge. “After seeing things in Mantle, I was sure we shouldn’t really trust him yet. But then, when he gave me back the lamp,-” she looked to the ground, remembering how taken aback she’d been on the inside “-I felt kind of guilty.”
Ruby was struggling with her decision. Weiss didn’t blame her. The general certainly seemed genuine. And she took no pleasure in having to conceal their hand from him. But, if she’d learned anything from the past three-to-four weeks, it was that at the end of the day most people are promoting an agenda, and are often misled by what they believe is right.
“For what it’s worth,” – she took Ruby by the chin, and met her brilliant, argent eyes with her own – “I think you made a sound decision. We’ll play along for a while, before we make another major decision.” She brushed her cheek with her thumb. “I do believe in you, you know.”
They embraced in a proper hug. Weiss wrapped her arms around Ruby’s waist, feeling another pair wrap itself around her neck. They remained in that position for as long as they needed. If it weren’t for the exceptional Atlesian climate, they might almost have forgotten they were standing outside. After pulling away, they were so close they could almost feel the pink rising in each other’s face. Weiss stole a glance at enticing lips, before being re-entranced with striking eyes. Ruby’s smile was both affectionate and anticipating, as if communicating an unspoken invitation.
In a show of strength that was sure to rival even the hardiest of military commanders and the most potent feats of magic, Weiss brought herself to pull slightly away, one hand still cupping her partner’s cheek. She was met with a look of surprise, and then what was probably stinging disappointment.
“I’m pretty sure we both know what we want,” she said, in as loving a tone as she could currently muster. “But I’d like to wait, just a little while.” She gestured to their setting. “We’re both tired, we’re outside on a landing pad, and tomorrow is a big day. I’m not asking to wait a long time; I just want to be able to do this properly with you, on an opportune day. You deserve that much.”
Ruby didn’t say anything, initially. She was quiet, and looked away at the background, in thought. Before Weiss could think she’d made a mistake, she looked back and gave another nuzzle. “Yeah, ok. I can do that.”
With that, they separated but their hands stayed joint as they moved back inside. “Nice Weiss strikes again,” she slipped in.
She had to make a conscious effort to suppress a groan at the comment.
They were contentedly quiet on the way back past the lobby and up the elevator. Their last shared words of the night came when they reached the room. Just as Ruby was about to open the door, she turned around, and planted a quick, firm kiss on her partner’s cheek. “Thanks, Weiss. You’re the best.”
Weiss was filled with a special sort of elation. She flashed a proud smile in return. “Of course. I promised, didn’t I?”
After gently resettling into bed, neither suffered bad dreams, at least for the night.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3: Partner Looks
Partners and their looks can be fascinating things.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Weiss perused herself in the mirror, satisfied with the changes to her persona. They brought out new, decorative elements, but still retained that elegant air about her, keeping the graceful poise in her walk. The makeup was maybe a bit of an indulgence, but it felt so right, as if the look were necessarily lesser without it.
The hair was honestly an experiment, but the tightly wound braid was as distinctive as she’d hoped. It was an outspoken style on her part, and it was working rather great.
However extraordinary, she couldn’t deny that that they were changes long overdue. Switching out clothes, it felt like the end of an era. Her previous dress had been donned even before her involvement in this war – before she had any idea that magic was real, that souls could be reincarnated, or that some of humanity’s most fundamental gifts existed in tangible forms. She’d been little more than kid, separated from her teammates, and reeling from the greatest loss thus far in her life.
It was an article that had been up to her choice, sure, but it was just that – one choice, from a selection expressly permitted by her father. It appeared elegant and enticing, but it was never out of concern for her approval; it was an order she reservedly obeyed.
But now, this was entirely her. It represented everything she was and everything she valued, from the versatility allowed by the combat skirt, to the regality afforded to the tiara, to the pride in the name Schnee and the symbolism in her rubies.
So, she guessed that in a way, it is the end of an era. Despite the challenges, they were all alive, and different huntsmen from what they’d started as. There was a light bitter-sweetness in the realization that they could never go back to innocence of Beacon, but it was an important, necessary part of progress, Ren would say. And it went a great way to filling her with pride.
Her stare in the mirror dragged on some time, as she fully came to term with the changes. At some point, she noticed another figure in the reflection.
She smiled at her. “You look beautiful, Ruby.” She also took it upon herself to give her a thorough appraisal, the admiring expression plastered all over her face.
Ruby stepped into the room and out of the doorway, and Weiss turned away from the mirror to meet her gaze directly. She hoped as strongly as a person could hope that the budding warmth in her cheeks didn’t manifest as a full-fledged blush. Nobody needed for them to turn into messes subject to one-another’s scrutiny. Brothers knew that one pair was enough.
Ignoring the warmth for the time-being, Ruby was a sight to behold at first glance. Her outfit was reminiscent of something right out of a warrior damsel’s storybook. The wild, unkempt hair – as outspoken as her own – had a heroic air about it, complimented by the belts and rounds on her waist. It was absolutely beautiful in its own right, but also expressed the willingness to kill whenever the need should arise.
“You do too, Weiss!” she said, excitedly. “You look like some kind of awesome warrior princess, except better than a princess, because you’re not stuck in a castle!”
“Well, I’m glad you like it.” She crossed her arms with a giggle. “And, thank you, for your help with the braid.”
“Oh yeah, anytime. Yang probably could have made it faster, though. I’ve never really had to practice braids before.” Ruby rubbed the back of her head, as if out of some embarrassment.
“Nonsense, you did fine. It came out great.” Weiss put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, before Ruby’s attention turned to the rubies of Weiss’s own. She showed a coy grin. “Are…these for me?”
“Perhaps.” Weiss tried not to give any indication of her own embarrassment. “I thought it would be fitting.” They were one of her favorite parts of the ensemble.
Ruby hummed in approval. “I think they go well with the rest of your red.” Appreciating her somewhat-girlfriend’s outfit, Ruby apparently came to a startling realization. Her face twisted into one of horror, and surprise.
“Hey,” Weiss tried to console, “what’s wrong?”
“I just realized. I don’t have any special charms to symbolize you.” She let out a whine.
Weiss chuckled. “Ruby, it’s ok. This isn’t a transaction.” She combed her free hand through her partner’s hair, learning the feel of the spikier, choppier style. “It was a spur of the moment decision, just because I like you so much.” She accentuated the point by pinching the girl’s cheek.
Ruby pouted. “You know, I punched Yang the last time she pinched my cheeks like that.”
Another chuckle had to be suppressed. “Are you going to punch me?”
For a second, it seemed Ruby was truly considering her answer, before she snorted a laugh. “Nah. You’re just lucky you’re cute.
“Wow, the bubbly, optimistic girl with silver eyes, calling me cute?” They hugged. “I’m honored. But, you’re cute too.”
They touched foreheads with a gentle fondness, and nuzzled cheeks, but postponed anything more.
“As much as I enjoy this,” Weiss conceded, with a sigh, “I do believe we have an airship to catch.”
Ruby nodded in agreement. “You’re right.” But that wasn’t it. It was obvious there was more just beyond her horizon – a question unasked, or a concern unvoiced, until it was. “But, how about we hang out, afterwards? A partner bonding activity?”
Weiss smiled again. “A partner bonding activity, then.”
Successful landing strategies all around. You gotta love to see it.
Ruby was excited. Not only to see more pro huntsmen in action, but also to see this abandoned mine, and the grimm it definitely hid.
Just as she was about to rush ahead, she overheard Yang fumbling around with her words. Not a common occurrence, really.
“Uh, sorry, just not used to the new hair yet.”
She rolled her eyes. She was glad her sister could be there for Blake, but the awkwardness of some of their interactions was grinding to watch.
She turned to Weiss, who had a similar impression. “We’re not that bad, are we?”
Weiss pondered briefly. “I certainly hope not. Otherwise, we’re some fairly big hypocrites.”
The first draft of this chapter was from Ruby's perspective, but in the end, it seemed maybe Weiss was more fitting for all the introspection over outfits.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4: Family
They say you don't choose your family. Team RWBY would disagree.
“Ha ha, this isn’t the schoolyard, kid.”
Well, that sounded condescending, Weiss thought. Granted, Ruby did have her bouts of unbridled enthusiasm, but her wish to aspire to a higher standard of cooperation with the team was nothing to laugh off. To Weiss, it seemed a goal that would always be worth striving for.
“But I mean, when you go through so much with someone, it kind of changes things, doesn’t it?”
Nobody needed to look in Yang’s direction to know what was on her mind. Her tone conveyed it just fine – she was confident things could certainly change. And she wasn’t the only one. At the mention of change, Weiss turned her attention to Yang and her question, and allowed a stolen glance at her partner. Ruby must not have noticed – she didn’t break her concerned gaze.
“… but that’s the job. We don’t confuse the two.” Harriet went to take her leave of them, apparently taking little interest in the prospect of mixing work and positive relationships.
On that sour note, Weiss didn’t immediately return focus to her team. Instead, she looked on, at their new allies. She thought back to a time she might have agreed with them – a time in which the work and her personal mission were all that mattered, a mentality thrown out the window after experiencing the loss of those relationships.
Their neglect is a sad mistake, she thought. Hopefully, they’d eventually realize it.
After a few seconds of unpleasant silence had passed between them, their leader appeared to bounce back, and regained her charming, hopeful demeanor.
“ooh! What do you guys want to do when we get back to Atlas? Sightseeing? Oh, what would we visit first?”
Internally, Weiss was hoping, for once, that Ruby wouldn’t look directly at her. As cute and inspiring as the girl was, sightseeing in Atlas was not how she wanted to spend the rest of the day before she was properly rested. At least, not with the entire team. Blake and Yang were family now, without a doubt, but a tour of the city also sounded like a prime idea for a one-on-one outing.
Blake let out a yawn, walking away. “How about our beds?”
Weiss breathed a silent, shallow sigh of relief.
“Oh, come on, guys! This is a great time to go exploring!”
“Ruby,” Weiss interjected, “We did just explore a whole continent on foot, before flying to this one.” Some part of her was certainly apologetic at helping to shut her down, but in this case, it was a small part.
“Not to mention the fact that we almost died,” Yang added.
Ruby snorted a playful scoff at the complaint, but her mood is dashed further as Yang too walks away.
As cold as Weiss was, she was no longer heartless. She gave Ruby a gentle pat on the back. She was such an adventurer.
“It’s fine, honestly. Just give it some time, before we go scaling skyscrapers and flying the city limits.”
Ruby’s pout did little in the way of change. Weiss started lightly rubbing the blades of her shoulder.
“At least we still have our partner bonding activity later, right?”
That did seem to raise the girl’s spirits a bit. She was clearly still deflated from not being able to dive head-first into exploring the novel kingdom, but their plan saved it from being a total bust.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“Hey. Head’s up.” Qrow grabbed their attention, and Clover commanded the leaders’ presence. This was where they’d separate.
That’s you’re calling,” Weiss conceded. They exchanged a nod and a grin, before Ruby took her leave.
She expected this to happen. It was always a foregone conclusion that this encounter would come to pass; she just didn’t think it would be here, and now.
The sight of the SDC transport brought a feeling of uncompromising cold – not in fear, but out of disgust. She no longer feared him and his threats, but now his very presence was repugnant. Now, Weiss thought she could finally understand some of what Winter had grappled with in the months after her leaving.
With every meeting, the reactions had become more austere: a counter-argument to the slightest challenge, a sneer at the smallest SDC corporate interest, and complete distaste for any number of attempted, nonessential communications. It was because Jacques Schnee is a repulsive human being. Weiss hadn’t been able to see it clearly before, being too innocent to see the writing on the wall and too immersed in his planning to seek it out. Not anymore.
She stood with her head held high, flanked by her teammates. She wondered what exactly their first impressions might be, but didn’t much doubt they’d feel similarly.
So, when he approached, and went on about his own character, Weiss could only roll her eyes. Gone was the image of her father as her imposing patriarch, and emblazoned was her perception of a tyrannical wretch that needed to be taken down several pegs.
All of that resolve held firm, and went some way to showing him as much. But she hadn’t expected him to mention mother, hadn’t expected him to play so dirty so quick. In hindsight, she shouldn’t have expected any less.
Ruby had never really been in the business of hating people. It wasn’t necessarily that she tried to see the good in everyone, it was more like she didn’t feel the impulse to see other people the same way she saw the monsters they killed.
Bullies? Misguided jerks, but better left ignored unless they threatened you with violence. Street criminals? Scum to be stopped, but not worth more time than it takes to bring them to justice. In her youth, she’d even managed to avoid most of the racial tensions that embroiled the world.
But Jacques Schnee? More in that moment than ever before, she hated Jacques Schnee with a focus. In that moment, so many things – things she’d only ever been told, or been given glimpses of – became clear. Weiss’s journey for change, Winter’s distant persona, and Qrow’s mocking tone at most mentions of the Schnee name in conversation. All of it made a little more sense. It was all because of him.
She didn’t show it the same way the others did. Blake’s judging scowl was clear and visible for all to see, her contempt open and concentrated. Yang’s face wasn’t as harsh, but it was easy to tell that she was itching for some justice to be brought upon this man. They all stepped forward, as a team. Ruby took one of Weiss’s hands in her own, and gave a supportive smile, a reaffirmation of a promise she would never be keen to break.
After all, they were family. All four of them.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5: Varieties of sparks.
With this new order, you've got all kinds of sparks.
This one was was hard, and I have mixed feelings about it. The lack of actual White Rose content was bad enough, but the start of a new semester certainly doesn't help.
“Good morning, Team RWBY!” Weiss was awoken by the harsh screech of an enthusiastic voice. Anyone who’d known her a year ago might have expected her to twist, turn, or toss a pillow in the direction of the auditory assailant. And true to form, she almost did turn over and ignore it, before she realized who the culprit was. For a year of her life she’d grown accustomed to Ruby being the one to wake them in the mornings with a raucous shriek. Now, together in the Atlas dorm, she’d half-expected it to be Ruby again, despite whatever growth they’d been through.
But in a way, this was worse. This one didn’t sleep at all, and Weiss was less inclined to tell them off.
“Ugh, Penny. What time is it?” Yang asked.
Too early, Weiss thought silently. Some part of her knew it was necessary to wake up at such an hour, but the other part was resentful.
“Time to be huntresses, of course!”
She groaned in harmony with half of her team, while Ruby cheered, already halfway dressed. Compared to their leader, the members of Team RWBY were slow to get up and ready. Weiss was still rubbing the fatigue out of her eyes when hands wrapped themselves around her wrists, and slid into her own.
“Come on, Weiss! We gotta go see the mission boards!” That was really just Ruby’s way of saying they had a mandatory briefing.
She let out a yawn, and nodded in surrender. “I know, I know. Just give me a minute, or two.” At that, Ruby allowed her some space, and resigned to excitedly pacing around the room, asking Penny about the more high-venture missions, and all the while with that animated pep in her step. Weiss had to grin at the energy. Maybe waking up would be easier if the alarm clock came with that girl’s charm.
This idea came to her again, when, after a long day of guarding resources, she could feel herself dosing off on her partner’s shoulder.
“I just wanted to say how excited I am to work with you in a professional capacity!”
“Ha, me too, Penny.”
It really was something, working with Penny again. Ruby had never really expected to get another opportunity, after everything. It was a relief, getting this chance at friendship again.
“Really, relationships are so interesting, and varied!”
The mention of relationships brought Ruby’s mind flushing with some of the ones she’d fostered over the years – all of them changed and tested, in their own ways. None of these relationships had been tested more than between her and her team. An almost ever-present big sister, a passionate activist, and a white-haired beauty.
“Speaking of friends…” she started, trying not to get off track. “Have you been able to make any new ones? Since, you know?” As happy as she was to see Penny alive, Ruby also had to hold out hope that the protector hadn’t been friendless in the interim.
Apparently, Penny hadn’t been so lucky thus far. On some level, Ruby couldn’t be surprised by Ironwood’s priorities. It didn’t make it any less sad, though.
“Oh, uh, how do you feel about that?”
“ I feel like… I wish I could do both the things I need to do, and the things I want to do. Is that normal?”
Ruby chuckled at the honesty of the question. “Penny, trying to find a perfect balance between our duties and our desires is about as normal as it gets. I think it’s one of life’s great, basic human challenges.
“I see. That is very encouraging.” Penny stared out at the tundra, as if in hard thought. It’s kind of funny, in a way, watching her navigate such human struggles.
“So then, how do you and Weiss find a balance?”
Ruby’s face flared warm. She hadn’t been expecting Penny, or anyone, to bring it up so soon. She looked to the floor of the transport. “Ha, you noticed, huh?”
Penny returned a pleasant blank, expression. “Oh, of course. Your bond is quite clear.” Before Ruby could respond, Penny leaned closer, up to her ear, and whispered in a hushed tone. “Or is it supposed to be a secret?”
“It isn’t,” she clarified. “We just haven’t really, officially, told anyone yet.”
“Oh. Well, worry not, dear friend! I am sure everyone has noticed, already!” Somehow, Ruby began to realize her friend still needed more work on emotional support.
“That’s cool, I guess.” She looked up again. “But to answer your question: Weiss and I are still figuring that out. We’re not even really together yet, actually. We’re just… waiting for the right time. We’ll know it when we see it.”
“Truly?” Penny asked, with a curious gusto.
“Truly.” Ruby crossed one leg over the other and leaned her head back, summing the journey in her head. “Neither of us has ever really been in a military order before. It’s hard to know what to expect from our time, or even if there is time for a girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend…” Penny repeated the word to herself, as if it were something she’d read in a book once. “Regardless of your decision to take it slow, I do believe congratulations are in order. So, congratulations, Ruby!”
Ruby laughed under a breath. “Thank you, Penny.”
“I don’t know. I just wish we could try harder to work together, instead of against each other.” From what Weiss could tell, the supplies had gotten to Amity in the end, and without spilled blood. But still, she didn’t blame Ruby for feeling this way. It was a tough set of circumstances.
“I don’t disagree.” She joined their hands, and led them over to sit on one of the room’s many raised blocks. She gently pat her on the back, before bringing her in for a hug. “For now, I suppose we just have to keep our heads down; we need to keep our eyes on Amity, right?”
Ruby nodded. “Yeah, I guess.” She leaned her head against Weiss’s shoulder. “By the way, what do they have you doing right now? Just training?”
Before Ruby’d even finished her sentence, the door to the arena slid open with a deep electric hum. They both looked over to see Winter, as professional and upright as ever. They quickly separated, but not before receiving a curious look.
“Sister.” She looked to Ruby. “Ruby.”
Ruby brought her hands together upfront, and awkwardly bowed her head. “Winter; Operative; Ms. Schnee?”
“Winter will suffice, thank you.” She said with a straight face. “I’m afraid I must ask you to give us some time to talk, alone.”
“Oh, of course.” She put her hands up in reconciliation. “Don’t mind me, I’ll just be on my way. As always, I look forward to our next meeting!”
Ruby gave Weiss a smile, which was mirrored, and moved to leave.
“Oh, and Ms. Rose?”
She stopped, and turned just enough to face them again.
“Thank you, for taking a special interest in my sister.” It wasn’t quite a smile, but Winter had the working parts of a grin on her face.
Ruby rubbed the back of her head, and instantly looked a bit rosier. “She’s pretty great, isn’t she?”
Winter answered in a nonchalant tone, without looking away. “She’s satisfactory.”
With that, Weiss huffed, and Ruby stepped out.
“I see you two have grown closer.” Winter assumed a fighting stance.
“You have no idea,” Weiss said, gripping the hilt of her weapon.