Hunting – 3.8

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“Now before we go in there…” Weiss started, coming to a halt in front of Cerise Moran’s. She fiddled with the clasp of her clutch that held her scroll and wallet, then leveled a look at Yang. “You have to promise to behave.” 

“Yeah, Ruby,” Yang agreed, not noticing Weiss’ pointed stare. 

Blake cleared her throat and leaned a bit towards her partner. “I think she’s talking to you,” she whispered. 

“I—hwaaa?” 

“Ruby was very well-behaved when we were here,” Weiss stated with a prim nod. “A little loud, but very good by Ruby standards.” 

“Thanks!” Ruby grinned, apparently not bothered at all about what Weiss was implying. “It was probably the lady stilts.”

“I-I don’t have any trouble behaving!” Yang declared indignantly. “I’m basically an adult! And I’m older than all of you, so… yeah!” 

“All three of us are seventeen, Yang,” Blake informed her, pointing between herself, Yang, and Weiss. 

“Yeah, but when’s your birthday?” 

“April.” 

“Crap. Weiss?” 

“December.” 

“Damn it!” Yang huffed and swung her fists around her hips. Like a ‘goomba’, Ruby would probably say. “Well I’m still the tallest!” 

“Just be the most behaved, please,” Weiss sighed. She considered addressing Blake, too, but… no need. Blake was refined. 

She lead the group in, Yang still blustering about. She went quiet when she got inside though, stunned into silence. 

Looking around the store, Blake let out a low whistle. 

The store was the same elegant display of high end clothing as it had been before. Today there was a scent of lemon and wood varnish hanging in the air, an aroma that matched the yellow-orange lighting and dark wood furniture quite well. 

There were a few other people in here today, a man and woman couple in business casual attire that were looking at ties and suit jackets, two women in matching blue-green sundresses that looked like they might be sisters, and a lone girl with green hair in a tight fitting, skimpy outfit that Weiss had to concede did a decent job of showing off her toned midriff.  

Thankfully, the condescending woman that had looked down at Ruby wasn’t here today. Instead, there was a man in his late twenties or early thirties, a crisp suit on his slim frame. 

Blake let out a low whistle as they all took in the store together. Like last time, Ruby was bouncing up and down excitedly, clearly eager to look around. 

“Right, behave,” Yang said with a nod, apparently realizing what kind of place this was and what Weiss had meant. 

“Yang, Blake, where would you two like to start?” Weiss asked. 

“Oh, are we shopping for me too?” Blake asked, blinking rapidly. 

“Of course! This is for everyone. Ruby, you’re welcome to get some more stuff here too, but it doesn’t look like they’ve gotten anything new since last week…” 

“Maybe my shirt’s in, though!” Ruby chirped. 

Weiss shook her head. “They would have texted me. Want to look at some more heels, though?” she teased. 

Ruby shook her head violently. “Nope! I’m gonna find stuff for you to get!” She skipped towards one of the accessory tables, then switched to a goofy power walk before Weiss got a chance to yell at her. 

‘Good luck finding punky tomboy styles here,’ Weiss grinned to herself. 

Yang scanned the walls, then beelined towards the casual women’s section with a visible selection of crop tops. 

“I should have seen this coming,” Weiss muttered to herself. 

“Probably,” Blake agreed with a smile, stepping up to Weiss’ side. 

“Where do you want to start?” Weiss asked her. 

With a frown, Blake shrugged. “What’s Ruby trying to find for you?” 

“Stuff in her style,” Weiss sighed. 

“Ah, well… She can have fun with that. Those dresses look nice though.” Blake pointed to the far end of the store where the corner was a display of dresses on mannequins that would look at home in a Red Carpet Gala and put any other room to shame. 

Weiss loved them. 

She nodded her head towards them and started walking, glancing back to make sure Blake followed. She did, though hesitantly. 

There were five different styles of dresses on display, each with varying skirt lengths, sleeves and/or shoulders, trims and waistlines. Different colors, too, though they all had the color cards this store used showing other options. 

Blake seemed to take a liking to the most scandalous little slip on. It was a pale orange, silken thing with a yellow floral patten of lace down the sides that would give a see-through view of skin and a low cut across the chest. A loop of cloth connected the two strips that covered the breasts by running around the neck. There was almost no back. 

It was racey. 

Blake had the figure for it, though, and with her look and the way she held herself she’d probably look confident and classy more than slutty.

Should Weiss say something? Ask Blake if she liked it? Maybe what colors she’d like to try on? This was probably a point where a conversation was supposed to start, but Weiss and Blake were both quiet people, so it just… didn’t. 

After walking a circle around the one mannequin, Blake glanced at another. 

“D-did you want to try it on?” Weiss asked. It felt like she needed to say something, and Blake had spent long enough inspecting the dress that Weiss was fairly sure she liked it. Kind of hard to tell though. Blake’s expression didn’t betray anything other than curiosity, and she looked at the next dress with the same keen eye. 

And Weiss wasn’t great with people. 

“A little bit,” Blake answered. “It seems a little…” 

“Racey?” Weiss suggested. 

Blake gave a small smile. “Yes. Though I think Yang might like it a lot.” 

“I’m not sure it’s the right kind of cut for her.” 

That made Blake raise an eyebrow at her. “I meant Yang might like it a lot on me.” 

Weiss went pink in the face. “Oh.” 

Blake grinned a bit wider. 

“Well, I’m sure a lot of people would,” Weiss said with a light cough to fill the awkward silence. Any idiot with eyeballs would be able to see Blake is attractive, even without considering the dress. 

Yang was right about one thing: Team RWBY was a bunch of babes. 

“I’m flattered you think so,” Blake grinned at her. 

Weiss cleared her throat. “There’s a purple one with black lace,” she commented, pointing at the color card. The style name was apparently ‘Nightspice’, the color purple-black color combo labelled ‘Regal Star’. Kinda pretentious sounding but whatever. “Seems like your colors.” 

“It does, doesn’t it.” Blake murmured, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “But… Weiss, I don’t know how I feel about you buying me things.” She flicked her eyes sideways to meet Weiss’. 

Ah. ‘That’s what all the hesitation’s been about.’ 

“I know all the stuff you said to Yang,” she continued softly, “to get her to let you pamper Ruby.” 

“I’m not pam–” 

“I get why you want to. I understand. I’d probably be happy with it, but… things are different. For me.” 

“Why?” Weiss asked, feeling a little bit angry but much more confused, to the point she wasn’t sure she was supposed be angry at all. She didn’t understand what Blake was saying.

“Your money is…” Blake broke eye contact with her as she trailed off. 

“Bad?” Weiss finished, getting a little heated.

Blake sighed and went back to inspecting the skimpy dress. “No. Money isn’t good or bad. It’s not anything. We literally made it up. But what people do for it? That can be bad, and… your family has gotten a lot through some pretty not good ways.” 

That pissed Weiss off a little bit. Like the Schnees were some sort of villain. Like Weiss was some sort of villain. Because apparently being successful was a crime? 

She was about to retort something but Blake raised a hand to cut her off. 

“Don’t! Don’t get mad. I didn’t… I’m sorry. I know that you haven’t done anything, and you probably don’t even agree with me about what’s bad. I just… I’ll show you what I mean… someday. Give you a different perspective. Maybe you’ll see what I see. I… Sorry. I’m being stupid. I’ll shut up and try on some clothes.” 

Weiss’ head was spinning. What just happened? Blake had just rubberbanded in three different directions there. 

Was Weiss supposed to be mad about the insinuations about her family, or concerned about whatever getting ‘a different perspective’ meant, or apologizing for making Blake feel sorry about… nothing?

“Um… so you think purple and black?” Blake asked, trying to push the conversation back to a better tone. “What about the black and white? That’s even more me.” 

It took Weiss a second to shift gears back to clothes. “Ah. Um. But the color would look good on you! And the purple would bring out the darkness of your hair more than the black would. Contrast, and when you’re in the sun the highlights can look violet sometimes.” 

Blake cocked her head to the side at that. “They do?” 

Weiss nodded tightly.

“You really like my hair or something? Pay that much attention to it?” Blake teased, reaching over to give Weiss a light poke on the arm. Light enough that it didn’t trigger Weiss’ twitch from physical contact. 

“I just notice colors,” Weiss said truthfully. “An… artist’s tick I never shook even after I quit painting.” 

“Uh-huh.” 

“Just go ask to try it on and stop being annoying,” Weiss huffed. “Or I’m gonna get you a parka instead.” 

“That… is a very lame threat.” 

She hadn’t really wanted to make a good threat, but now that Blake had said that, Weiss felt compelled to deliver one. “Fine, we can settle this between Myrtenaster and Gambol Shroud!” 

That made Blake snort a laugh. “That’s better. A little Ruby-ish, with the referring to weapons like people, but pretty good. And I’d love to duel you, actually.” 

“Well–! Oh, yeah?”

“Sure! Fighting is fun. It’s like dancing but doing it well might actually help you in life. And sword fights are the best kind.” 

That was an interesting way to look at it. 

Wait, did that mean Blake wanted to dance with her?!

‘No, that’s stupid.’

“So I just go ask the guy if I can try on a purple one of these?” Blake asked, pointing towards the worker waiting at the desk flipping through some papers. 

“Correct.” 

“Mm,” Blake hummed, idling nervously. 

Did talking to strangers bother her too? 

“I can ask him for you,” Weiss offered. She never relished instigating conversations with strangers, but the customer-employee relationship dynamic was one that she was familiar and comfortable with. She wanted things, the employee provided them. It was simple and clean. 

Blake nodded eagerly at Weiss’ offer, which Weiss hadn’t really expected. She’s always thought Blake was the Quiet Confidence to match Yang’s Loud, but apparently this man in a suit made her nervous. 

That was fine. This was a moment Weiss could step up in. It was… not really comparable to Blake helping her through the Hunt yesterday, but still… it was something. 

“Excuse me,” Weiss said as she approached the counter. There was no way he hadn’t noticed her walking up to him, but he continued skimming through what looked like a catalogue until Weiss addressed him. Then he straightened up and gave her wide Customer Service Smile. 

“Yes ma’am! How can I help you?” 

“My friend would like to try on the, ah, Nightspice? Size… One? The purple and black if you have it.” 

Size 1 seemed like a good guess. Blake was pretty much the same size as Weiss. She just had a little more… more on her. In certain places. 

The employee nodded, then nodded past Weiss to Blake, who gave him an awkward little wave. “I’ll be right back with that,” he said, then turned and headed into the back. 

As Weiss walked back over to Blake, Yang joined them. 

“Whatcha getting?” she asked. Then her eyes fell on the Nightspice and widened. “Oh, please tell me it’s that one. Blake, you’d look sooo–” 

“It’s that one,” Blake interrupted her. 

“Yessss,” Yang hissed under her breath, making Blake roll her eyes and blush. 

“I’m just trying it on. I don’t know if I’m gonna–” 

“Uh-huh, uh-huh. You getting the purple one? That’s what these cards mean, right Weiss? The different colors they come in.” 

Weiss was feeling a little pink in the face just from secondhand embarrassment for Blake. Yang was… incredibly forward. 

She nodded in reply.

“Weiss!” Ruby screeched, practically bounding into her from out of nowhere. “Try this hat on!” She tried to mash it down on Weiss’ head herself before Weiss could even respond, but Weiss ducked away. 

“Ruby! Behave! And…” She looked at the hat. It was one of those boxy thinbrim hats that hip hop artists and punks and gangsters like to wear. Disgusting. The only redeeming feature about it was it was white, with dark blue cursive lettering spelling out ‘Cerise’ across the front. 

In cursive. Ugh.

“… That’s gross,” she finished. 

“Wei-eissss,” Ruby whined, bouncing up and down. “You promised to try on the stuff I picked!” 

“Oooooh,” Yang cooed, grinning wickedly. “Did she now?” 

Shit.’

“Yeah! So she has to try this hat on!” Ruby reiterated. 

Weiss huffed, annoyed by all of this. “If you’re gonna force me to wear a hat, can’t you find, like, a cute beret or a flatcap or something?” 

“No!” 

Yang snorted. “Berets. You’re such a dork.” 

“I look cute in berets!” Weiss protested, struggling to keep her voice at a respectful, low volume. 

“I’m sure you do,” Yang placated her. “But I bet you’d look cute with this too.” 

“Hmph.” 

“You promised Rubyyy,” she sing-songed. 

“Yeah, you promised!” Ruby said again, for some reason. 

Weiss could try denying this, say she never made such a promise, but… that would mean trying to convince Yang that Ruby was lying…

It would probably be impossible to convince a random stranger off the street that Ruby would lie. 

Thinking about strangers prompted Weiss to glance around at the other people in the store. The lone green-haired girl was watching them (understandable with how loud and obnoxious these two buffoons were being) from behind a jewelry display, though she looked away was soon as Weiss made eye contact with her. The couple was still looking at ties. The two probably-sisters in sundresses had apparently left. 

Probably to get away from this shrieking bobblehead that was still trying to jam a hat on Weiss’ head. 

“Fine!” Weiss hissed, snatching the disgusting thing from Ruby’s hands. She took a deep breath, then daintily placed it on top of her head, letting it touch as little of her hair as possible. 

“… You look dumb,” Ruby grumped at her. 

Weiss knew it was because she hadn’t really put the hat on, just stacked it on her head, but she tried to use Ruby’s judgement as an excuse anyway. 

“Exactly!” 

“No!” Yang snarked, her hand whipping out to grab the hat right before Weiss was about to take it off. “That’s ‘cause you’re wearing it wrong and you know it.”

Weiss put on the grumpiest frown she could manage, but Yang ignored it. She undid the velcro strap on the back of the cap (because these savages wanted to make Weiss wear velcro, apparently) and then stepped up to Weiss to wrap the straps around her head. 

The sudden invasion of personal space and Yang’s sheer, physical presence made Weiss freeze. The scent of cinnamon from Yang’s hair was suddenly overwhelming as Yang pressed the velcro bits back together underneath Weiss’ ponytail. When she pulled back, one of her hands brushed Weiss’ ears and Weiss almost flinch from how ridiculously hot Yang’s skin was. 

Apparently Yang felt something too, because she blinked wide and pressed the backs of her fingers against Weiss’ cheek, muttering, “How are you so cold?”

“Just contrast from you being so hot,” Weiss guessed quietly. 

“Ayyyyy,” Yang said with a grin. She snapped her fingers and pointed two finger guns at Weiss. 

“Are you physically capable of not acting like an idiot when someone says that?” Blake sighed. 

“Nope!” 

“You look super cute, Weiss!” Ruby perked up. 

Of course, Weiss couldn’t believe that. She felt like some sort of thug. She gave Ruby a frown to communicate her disatisfaction. Maybe if she just looked extra miserable with this thing on her head then Ruby would give up on it. 

The expression just made Ruby giggle though, which Weiss honestly should have seen coming at this point. 

Ruby reached up to give the brim of the hat a tiny wiggle, then giggled again. 

“She’s right, Weiss,” Blake added. “It looks good.” 

“You somehow make a windball cap look pretty,” Yang said incredulously. “How does that even work?” 

“It’s ‘cause Weiss is so pretty,” Ruby stated simply, nodding to herself. 

What was with everyone today and making Weiss blush?

If Blake and Yang were saying it looked good too, maybe Weiss should go take a look in a mirror. There were a couple around the store. She could just take a quick peek…

The employee walked out from the back of the store, a dress on a hanger and in a clear protective sheet of plastic draped over one arm. He approached the group, gave them all a cursory once-over, then presented the garment to Blake. 

“Your dress, madam.” 

Blake took it gingerly. “‘Madam’, am I? I like the sound of that.”

“Well, you’re shopping with me now, so you can get used to that,” Weiss preened with a smile, rocking up onto her toes and clasping her hands together behind her. 

Weirdly, Blake didn’t break into a happy, grateful smile at that. Instead, she frowned. 

Weiss really didn’t get people sometimes. She thought she’d said something nice. 

“The changing room is right this way,” the employee said, leading Blake away. 

Ruby tugged on Weiss’ hand. “Come check out how cute you look!” she chirped, dragging Weiss towards the nearest body-sized mirror. 

She looked… hm. 

The hat was still atrocious, of course. It looked thugish and poor, like something a faunus should wear, not Weiss Schnee. And it was angled because Weiss’ ponytail was off-centered, which made it look even more base. But… well, it was hard to argue with Ruby: Weiss was very pretty. So maybe in this case… the hat looked pretty cute. On Weiss!

“See?” Ruby smiled at her in the mirror. “You look like a hipster princess!” 

“Oh gods, get this off me,” Weiss grimaced, reaching up to remove the hat.. 

Ruby blanched and started waving her hands around erratically. “What?! No, I meant that as a compliment!” 

She grabbed onto Weiss’ wrists, something that set subconscious alarm bells ringing in Weiss’ head, but instead of… doing anything violent, Ruby just hugged Weiss’ arms to her chest and gave her a pleading pout. 

“Don’t take it ooooooff!” she whined. 

Weiss rolled her eyes. “Let go of me ,dolt.” 

“Not until you promise!” 

Struggling a bit to maneuver her hands around, Weiss was able to push a finger up to poke Ruby’s cheek. “Leggo!” 

“No!” Ruby squeaked, squeezing her eyes shut and puffing out her lower lip as Weiss continued to poke her. 

Obstinate little dolt. 

“Fine, I promise not to take it off,” Weiss conceded. If looking like a ‘hipster princess’ would get her her hands back, it was… probably worth it?

“Yesss!” Ruby grinned, releasing Weiss’ hands. 

Weiss rubbed at her wrists and gave Ruby a glare, but the girl didn’t notice or didn’t mind. 

“You’re gonna get it, right?” Ruby asked excitedly. “You gotta get it. I’m choosing it, and you said you’d g–” 

“Yes, fine! I’ll get it! Stop being annoying!” 

“Woohoo!” cheered Ruby, bouncing forward to give Weiss a quick hug. “I’ll go find more stuff!” she rushed out before speed-shuffling away. 

Weiss took a moment to look at herself in the mirror a bit more. It was pretty cute on her. Although the angle was obnoxious. She took it off and undid her ponytail, then pulled it back together in a centered spot, then put the hat back on. 

Better. 

Blake was off in the changing room now and Ruby had run off (to the Men’s belt rack, for whatever reason), so Weiss faced the choice of browsing in solitude–which sounded great–or walking back over to Yang, which… 

Ugh. They were here mostly because Yang had wanted to do some clothes shopping with Weiss. It would only be considerate to go join her. 

Plus, she’d been right about this hat looking good on Weiss, so she was in Weiss’ good books right now. 

She was browsing the casual tops and turned to greet Weiss when she approached. 

“Oh, your ponytail has a symmetrical setting, huh?” she joked, making Weiss roll  her eyes. “It looks good,” she added quickly. Then she held up one of the blouses she had been looking at and placed it in front of her torso. “Whadaya think?” 

It was a crop top, a frilly red thing with tassels dangling down from the hem. Very cute, actually, but… 

“What would you wear under it?” Weiss asked, already suspecting the answer. 

“Why would I need to wear anything under it?” Yang replied. 

Another eyeroll. This wasn’t an issue of style–Yang looked great in crop tops. But they were supposed to be a respectable team of huntresses, and their public persona shouldn’t be them dressed like… all slutty and stuff. 

Weiss couldn’t bring herself to voice that, though. It would just lead to an argument and Yang wouldn’t listen anyway. 

Yang moved past the issue. “What do you think, this red one or the orange one?” She grabbed an orange version of the top from the rack and pressed that to her front instead. No color cards here, just a single example blouse of each of the available colors. 

“Orange,” Weiss answered easily. It went with Yang’s hair more. Plus, red was Ruby’s color. 

“‘Kay.” 

Speaking of the red one, this would look pretty cute on a certain someone… 

“Hey, Ruby!” Weiss whisper-shouted to her partner, (thankfully) drawing her away from the belts. 

“Yeah!” she said as she bounced over to Weiss’ side. 

“What do you think of this one?” Weiss asked her, pointing at the red crop top still in Yang’s hand. 

Yang held it up to Ruby’s chest. “Bet you’d look like a cutie patootie,” she said. 

“It’s so short, though,” Ruby said, tugging down on one of the tassels. 

“You can just wear something under it,” Weiss reminded her. 

“Or not,” Yang added, playfully narrowing her eyes at Weiss. 

Ruby shook her head, though. “I just meant these little bobby thingies might tickle me,” she said. She knocked the tassels at the hem from side to side. 

“Tassels,” Weiss informed her with a roll of her eyes, “and if you wear a shirt under it, how would they tickle you?” 

“Hm… True! I’ll go try it on!” She skipped over to the counter to talk to the worker and Weiss didn’t have it in her to yell at the girl to slow down and walk like a normal human.

Yang wandered around, inspecting the various clothes hung on the wall, and Weiss decided to check out some of the shoes on the tables in the middle of the store. Would Yang be able to walk in heels, or was she as cluelessly unfeminine as Ruby was?

Although… they couldn’t really be blamed for that, could they? Their mom was gone. Both of Yang’s moms were gone. So… maybe it was forgivable if they hadn’t been trained to walk in heels. 

That was one of the few pleasant memories Weiss had of her mother. It made her sad to think that Ruby and Yang might never have had that, especially considering how much more loving their relationship with Summer was than Weiss’ was with her own mother. 

There were a few lower key heels to choose from: an ankle boot, a block heeled sandal, even a pump with a sling back heel (that looked atrocious). Maybe it had been wrong of Weiss to start Ruby off with stilettos, when considering what she was now. Even Weiss’ mother had started her off small… 

Hm. 

These ankle boots were cute, and would fit with both of the sisters’ styles. They’d probably both be fine walking in them, considering their combat boots had heels that were almost as ta–

“Hey,” a voice said from behind her. 

It was Ruby. Weird, she’d sounded… not-bubbly enough. And she didn’t have the wide-eyed uber-happy expression that was her norm. She was holding a red faux-leather pants in her hands and standing an abnormally long distance away. Usually she had no issues just jumping into Weiss’ face. 

And wasn’t she supposed to be trying on the tasseled crop top right now?

“Hey,” Weiss smiled at her, injecting artificial cheer into her voice to try to get Ruby to… perk up, or something. Subdued Ruby was off-putting. “What’s up?” 

Ruby held the jacket out to her, still not stepping closer. “Try this on. Uh, please.”

Why was she being so weird?

“Okayyy,” Weiss said, slowly inching forward and reaching out to grab the pants. 

“Red’s your color, though,” she told her partner. “Did you see if there’s a blue or a white or a grey or something?” 

Ruby shrugged. “I… think the red would look good on you. Go try it on. I can hold your purse.”

“My…? Uh, okay.” Weiss would have been fine just bringing her clutch with her, but it made no difference to her. Ruby would do anything terrible with it anyway. She was Ruby. 

Maybe she wanted to snoop in Weiss’ stuff for gift ideas. Weiss was pretty certain the dolt was still trying to scheme up a present to get Weiss for no reason whatsoever. As long as she didn’t bankrupt herself and Yang trying to get those earrings, Weiss wouldn’t mind. It was cute, and Weiss would just end up spending more on the doofus to cover the cost of whatever her gift was anyway. 

Also, Weiss was a little eager to see what kind of gift Ruby would get her. The last one, the paints, were… well, they reduced Weiss to a sobbing, blubbering mess, but once she got over that she was so happy to have them. 

Hopefully Ruby would at least wait until her birthday or Vytal Day before she threw a present at Weiss though, so Weiss would be ready to reciprocate. 

“Alright,” Weiss said, handing Ruby her clutch. “Don’t lose that.” 

Ruby nodded. 

“Did you already try on the crop top?” Weiss asked. “I wanted to see.” 

“Oh, uh… not yet. I was gonna, but I saw this and wanted to give it to you,” she said, staring at the floor. 

The longer response gave Weiss a chance to listen to her partner and realize another thing that felt off right now. Ruby sounded different. Like her voice was lower, quieter–not just in the volume sense, but in the expressive sense–and the usual inflection points and lilt to her words was all off. 

Was she just really nervous or excited to see Weiss in this jacket or something? 

Weird. 

Weiss honestly had no idea what to think of this random shift in behaviour. Maybe Yang could give her a translation of this later. Weiss could see her now in her peripheral vision looking at something in the corner formed by a wall jutting out in the middle of the store.

“Alright,” she said again. “Be right back.” 

She weaved through the display tables to approach the counter in the back where the employee was. 

“Sir, could I use a changing room?” 

“Apologies, miss,” he answered. “They are both currently occupied.”

“Ah. I’ll wait then.” 

“Unless your friends are fine with you joining one of them?” he suggested tentatively.

Eh. Weiss wouldn’t be too crazy about that. She wouldn’t want to take her skirt off with Blake or Y–

Wait, Yang was still out here. Weiss had just seen her. She turned to see Yang walking briskly towards her, a confused frown on her face. 

And Weiss was confused too. So Ruby was in the other room? 

She looked around at the rest of the store. The couple was still in the men’s section and the green-haired girl was near where Weiss had just been talking to Ruby, heading towards the door. Nobody else was there. So Ruby was in the changing room now. Had she just run past Weiss to the changing room just now without Weiss noticing?

Yang reached her and blinked at her in confusion. “Yo, Weiss.” 

“Hm,” Weiss intoned, still trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. 

“Why… did you give that girl your purse?” 

That… was strange. “‘That girl’? You mean Ruby?” 

Yang frowned at her. “That wasn’t…” She trailed off and turned to look at the green-haired girl, who was now pushing the door open. 

“Hey–HEY!” Yang shouted, breaking into a run towards the stranger, making Weiss jump out of her skin and startling the couple off to the side too. 

The green-haired girl started running, dashing out of view past the right window of the storefront. 

Did… was that Weiss’ clutch in her hand?!

How did she take it from Ruby?! When did she take it from Ruby?!

“I–” Weiss started, before cutting herself off. 

Who was she talking to? 

The door bell rang as Yang dashed outside to chase after the girl. 

‘Damn it, Weiss, do something!’

She hated herself when she froze like this. Indecisiveness wasn’t even the issue here; it was pretty clear she should be running after the girl with her purse. And yet she was still standing here, frozen. 

“Gah!” 

She turned and laid the pants on the counter in front of the employee. “Sorry!” she wailed, before turning to sprint after Yang and the thief, who were now both out of view. 

Her glyphs helped her move fast, though she was in heels instead of her combat boots, and maintaining her balance was a lot harder in these. She almost launched herself into the doorframe, slamming her hands into the glass to stop her momentum, which she immediately felt guilty about. There were fingerprints on the glass now. 

‘Damn it, Weiss, that’s not important!’

The bell dinged again as Weiss yanked the door open. It was bright outside, not a cloud in the sky to filter the sunlight, and it took a second for Weiss’ eyes to adjust from the dimness she’d just come from. 

Once that was done, though, it was easy to spot Yang’s abnormally bright yellow hair bouncing up and down through the light crowd as she sprinted down the sidewalk a ways away. It looked like the thief was just running past storefronts towards the exit of the plaza.

Startled pedestrians that the thief and Yang had pushed past separated Weiss from the other two, and she didn’t have any desire to push through a bunch of people herself. Instead, she launched herself up and made a bridge of glyphs about ten feet above the sidewalk, skating along that. 

She was gaining ground pretty quickly. 

From up here she could see the thief too, and she saw the girl dash into an alley separating two of the stores. 

Freaking thieves and their freaking alleys. 

Yang ran after her, and Weiss was now only about fifteen feet behind her. When she rounded the corner, Weiss could see the girl about halfway down the alley, trying to climb up the side of the building on the left. She flicked her hand out and summoned a white glyph right where the girl was about to place her hand, shoving a blast of aura through it to expand the push effect of the glyph out. The force hit the girl’s hand, sending her arm reeling back and knocking the girl away from the wall as she let out a cry of surprise. She fell six feet down to the ground, and Weiss was barely quick enough to get a black glyph right underneath the girl before she landed on her ass. The thief let out another shout as she hit the ground, either of surprise or pain or both. 

She was pinned down by the glyph now, and evidently wasn’t able to get out. She also clearly didn’t seem to understand what the glyph was, throwing her weight against it and audibly crying, “No no no no!” 

Yang ran up to the trapped girl, flicking her wrists to expand her gauntlets and standing above the girl, fists raised. Weiss hadn’t even realized Yang had Ember Celica on her. Guess there was something to be said about having a weapon that was easily concealable as jewelry. 

The thief froze at Yang standing over her, clearly terrified. Even from all the way over here, Weiss could see the whites of her eyes. 

Weiss dropped down to the ground and walked over, keeping her glyph up to keep the girl in place. 

Yang reached down and snatched Weiss’ clutch from the girl, who let out a shriek that must have been surprise or fear because Yang didn’t actually hurt her. 

When Weiss approached, Yang held her clutch out to her, not turning away from glaring down at the girl in front of them. 

“Thank you, Yang.” 

“Mm.” 

The thief was still wide-eyed, eyes flicking back and forth between Weiss and Yang. “Please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered. 

“We’re not–” Weiss started.

“Why did Weiss think you were my sister?” Yang spat, cutting Weiss off.

Oh, right. 

“I-I…” the girl stammered, still going all deer-in-headlights. “The girl in red?” 

“Yeah, the girl in red,” Yang growled. “You got some sort of illusion semblance?” 

The girl swallowed, then nodded. 

Something about the way it was spelled out now made Weiss start to hyperventilate. Someone who didn’t even know Weiss was able to manipulate her with her relationship to Ruby. There was no way Weiss would ever have given her clutch to anyone else.

She let herself get too close, and this was the price she paid. 

Weakness. Stupidity. 

Now she was angry. 

“Who sent you?” she demanded, taking a half-step forward and balling her fist. 

From the way the girl jerked, she was clearly trying to scramble back but couldn’t because of Weiss’ glyph. Weiss dialed up the aura she was pouring into it just a tad, making the girl whimper a bit. 

“What were you after?” Weiss pressed. “My scroll? Who wants it? Who sent you?” 

If someone wanted to get her scroll for company secrets, they’d be sorely disappointed. Weiss didn’t have anything saved on her scroll. Father had even had it security checked before she left for Beacon. 

Although she did have contact info for a some important people on there, like her father and Winter and a few SDC board members that she never talked to. Their scroll IDs might be worth a lot of–

“What? N-no! I just… I just wanted your wallet.” The thief looked like she was trying to hide her face in shame but couldn’t move her arms, so she settled on craning her neck away. 

“Why?” Weiss followed up. “Trying to get my ID? I don’t even carry my KCID with me, and–” 

“No!” the girl interrupted her. “I-I just wanted your money… Because I don’t have any, and you look like you have a lot.” 

“… Oh.” 

Weiss relaxed a bit. So this was just a simple robbery, assuming the girl was telling the truth. It wasn’t about Weiss being a Schnee–or it was, but only indirectly in that it made her rich. 

She noticed Yang unclench her fists, her expression softening to… was that sympathy?

“Weiss, let her go,” she said quietly.

 After a moment’s hesitation, Weiss obliged. It wasn’t like the thief could go anywhere. 

As soon as she was free of Weiss’ glyph, the girl scrabbled back to the wall behind her and hugged her knees to her chest, turtling up and staring fearfully up at them. Her shoulders heaved up and down as she panic-panted. 

With a series of clicks and whirs, Yang set her gauntlets back to “bracelet mode”. She held her hands up in the air and approached the girl slowly, like she was a frightened animal or something.

Weiss supposed in some ways, she was. 

The girl made no attempt to flee, and seemed to calm down a little at Yang’s more soothing new demeanor. 

Weiss had absolutely no idea what Yang was doing now. 

When she was about a foot away from the girl, Yang knelt down to put herself at eye level with her. 

“Hey,” she said. 

The girl made some grunty-whimper noise of acknowledgement in response. 

The way they were positioned, Yang’s back was to Weiss now, so Weiss circled around to the side a bit to get a better look at her face in the vain hope that she could discern something about what the hell they were doing right now from Yang’s expression. The girl didn’t seemed to think Weiss was getting into position to attack her or something, though, because she reacted with more hyperventilation and pushed herself to the side a bit to try to keep Yang between herself and Weiss.

Yang raised her hands and tried to calm her back down. “Shhh. Sh sh sh. Hey, we’re not gonna hurt you. Hey, relax.” She waited until the girl met her eyes before she spoke again. “I’m Yang. What’s your name?”

‘So we’re just playing Introductions with a criminal now, are we?’ 

The girl responded with an almost-whisper that Weiss couldn’t make out, but apparently Yang had heard. 

“Hi, Emerald,” she said. “How old are you?” 

“… Sixteen,” Emerald answered hesitantly. 

Yang gave her a good natured smile. “Well at least I’m older than someone today.” 

Emerald just frowned in confusion at her though, because she wasn’t in on the reference that Yang was making. 

Yang floundered a bit as her joke failed to get a reaction (Weiss honestly wasn’t sure what the buffoon was expecting, but whatever). “Ahem! Um… Where do you live, Emerald?” 

Emerald shrugged as much as she was able while squeezing her knees to her chest. 

Weiss didn’t blame her for not answering. If someone you’d just attempted to rob asked you where you lived, that might seem a bit concerning. She also wasn’t sure why Yang wanted to know. 

Yang glanced over at Weiss, frowning in a way that Weiss took to mean she trying to figure out how to say something. 

She turned back to Emerald. “Do… do you have a home?”

Emerald’s lower lip trembled slightly as she shook her head. 

‘Oh.’

Yang sucked in a breath and again glanced at Weiss, who returned the eye contact with the best ‘what the Crucible are you looking at me for?’ look she could manage. Weiss had absolutely no clue what they were supposed to do here. She wanted to call the police, but now that she knew this girl was underage and homeless… that felt a little mean.

“What… um…” Yang started again, trying to find words. “Where are your parents?” 

Again, Emerald shrugged, but after a few seconds of silence while Yang struggled to figure out what to say next, she whispered, “Saffron Hills.” 

Saffron Hills? Wasn’t that in the Vale City metroplex?

And it meant she wasn’t an orphan.

“Saf–so why aren’t you with them?” Yang asked, perplexed. 

Emerald shook her head. “They’re… not nice people.” 

Weiss snorted at that dismissively. Her parents weren’t nice either. That wasn’t an excuse to make yourself a criminal hobo. 

Yang shot her a glare that instinctively made Weiss feel like she’d done something wrong, but then her rationale caught up to her and she glared back indignantly. Yang rolled her eyes angrily at her and turned back to Emerald. 

“Do you, um, have you tried going to a shelter or, like, an orphanage or something?” 

Emerald nodded, then quickly shook her head. “They just try to send me back to… them.” 

“And that’s… very bad?” Yang asked, fishing for more clarification. 

Emerald just nodded. 

Giving up on getting more info on that, Yang sighed and sat back on her heels. One side of her mouth creased down in a thoughtful frown as she looked at Emerald. A long moment passed, then Yang took a deep breath and nodded her chin at the girl. 

“How much money you got?” 

“W-what?” Emerald stammered, her eyes going wide. Weiss didn’t really understand that reaction, but Yang read into it better than she did. 

“I’m not trying to take anything from you!” Yang said quickly. “I just meant, like, do you have enough for food?” 

“N-no. I don’t have anything.” 

Weiss wanted to comment that she should try getting a job, but it didn’t feel like a good time for such a remark. Besides, she must have already tried, right? Unless she was just a total idiot. 

“What are you going to do for food tonight?” Yang asked. 

Emerald glanced over at the clutch Weiss was gripping in her hand, then back at Yang. “W-well, there’s a waiter at a diner close by that brings leftover plates out back to me. Hopefully he’s working tonight. If not, I… I might–I was probably gonna steal something.” She looked down at the ground between her legs as she finished. 

Yep. This girl was a criminal. Wasn’t their responsibility as huntresses to turn her over to the authorities, not sit here talking nicely to her and trying to relate and make friendly conversation?

Yang apparently didn’t feel the same, though. She sighed sadly again and picked at the bottom of her shorts for a couple seconds before setting her jaw. Reaching back, she pulled her thin wallet out of her back pocket and flicked it open. “Here,” she said, pulling out the stack of paper lien she had. 

“What?! Yang–” 

“Shut up, Weiss,” Yang shot at her, not venomous but forceful enough that Weiss immediately obliged. 

“I’ve got… this should be seventy…” Yang counted out the bills she held while Emerald stared wide-eyed, her focus darting between the lien and Yang’s face. “Yeah, seventy-five lien. It’s all the cash I’ve got, but hopefully it will help you. Should keep you fed for a bit at least.” 

“I-I don’t know what to say,” Emerald sputtered quietly. 

“You don’t have to say anything,” Yang replied softly. “I’m sorry that this is happening to you.” 

That simple sentence cracked whatever composure Emerald had built up. Her lower lip trembled again and tears built up in her eyes, one of them spilling over her lashes and flowing down her cheek.

Yang gave her a small, sad smile. “You sure you can’t go to a shelter or Child Services or something?” 

Another tear splashed down her cheek as Emerald shook her head again, which was a potentially confusing answer considering the way the question was phrased, but Yang assumed the intent and moved on. 

“You got any friends you could stay with?”

“I–” Emerald stopped as her voice cracked, and she sniffled and whipped a bare arm across her eyes before trying again. “I wore out all their charity already.” 

Yang looked over at Weiss with a pained expression, though Weiss kept her face blank. 

“Well,” Yang started, “you’re sixteen, right? You could try, um… We go to Beacon–” 

Yang!” Weiss hissed. 

Why the hell was she telling this thief where they live and go to school?!

Yang just ignored her though. “You’ve got aura and a semblance that you’ve clearly got a hang of,” she continued. 

That reminder just pissed Weiss off even more. This girl had manipulated her using her relationship with Ruby. Ruby, who was the one genuinely pure and perfectly good person Weiss had ever met. The fact that something so good had been twisted into something so wrong was… it made Weiss’ skin itch and her stomach turn. 

And it made her furious.

“I could ask the professors, see if they’ll let you do, like, a tryout or something,” Yang said. “Maybe you could get in. My sister got a scholarship, maybe you could too.” 

The idea that someone like this could get into Beacon–the fact that Yang was even entertaining the idea–was so… There weren’t words for how mad Weiss was right now. She wanted to scream at Yang to stop, that they should call the police and get this criminal behind bars, that anybody that could use Ruby for something as base as petty theft didn’t deserve people to be nice to her. She couldn’t, though. She was doing that thing she does when she gets emotional, just freezing. The hand holding her clutch was squeezing so hard she almost feel her fingernails biting into her palm through the thin leather and the other was balled into a fist that she was dimly aware was shaking at her side, but beyond that she felt like she couldn’t move. Definitely couldn’t speak. 

“Y-you would do that?” Emerald asked, tears now streaming down her face in rivers. 

“I can’t promise anything,” Yang said quickly. “But I can ask.” 

Emerald’s chest heaved with emotion and her face contorted like she was about to start openly sobbing, but then she quickly changed her expression, glaring at Yang intensely. Yang frowned in confusion, taken aback, but this… this was one time Weiss was able to read expressions better, at least. She knew this face, what Emerald was doing. It was one she’d put on many times in shouting matches with her parents. She wasn’t really angry, it was just easier to hold back tears through a glare. 

That one tiny bit of relatability served to abate a good deal of Weiss’ own anger. 

“Are-are you okay?” Yang asked cautiously. 

Emerald nodded emphatically, her appropriately colored hair flying around with the motion. “Yes!” she gasped. “I’m sorry, I just… thank you.” 

Yang nodded slowly. “You any good in a fight?” 

The girl perked up, then deflated. “I dunno. I was the best in our self defense classes at school by a lot, but I’m not sure how much that’s worth compared to a huntress.” 

“Is this at an intermediary academy?” Yang asked. 

“N-no. Just… regular middle school.” 

“Oh. Right. Well it will definitely still help to have that.” 

Emerald’s eyes widened and brightened and she nodded eagerly again, hanging on Yang’s words, despite them being a kind lie.

Yang cleared her throat. “I, uh… Do you have a scroll?” 

Emerald shook her head, then said, “Well, yes, but it doesn’t have service. My… parents cut it off when I ran away.” She sneered out the word ‘parents’ with a hateful derision that Weiss felt an unsettling kinship with.

“Well… shiet,” Yang sighed. “I-I can give you my scroll ID anyway? You can go in to a library and message me if you’ve got a ValeMail account, and those are free.” 

“Y-yes, please,” Emerald agreed with another, eager nod.

“Okay, um…” Yang patted her pockets like she was looking for something. “I don’t-do you have a pen or something?” 

“Um.” Emerald started checking her own pockets. Couple of idiots. With how small girls’ pockets are, you’d think it would be pretty obvious if they had a pen in one of them. 

Weiss robotically opened her clutch and pulled out the pen and sticky notepad she kept in it but never used because her memory was good enough that it wasn’t necessary. She basically just had it for moments like this, when other people were buffoons. She mutely held them out to Yang. 

“Oh, sweet! Thanks Weiss,” she said, grabbing them. 

Weiss just nodded slightly. 

Yang jotted down her scroll ID and peeled the stickynote off to hand to Emerald. The girl squinted and tilted her head as she read it. 

“It’s a G,” Yang sighed. 

“Oh,” Emerald said innocently. “Dragon… Fast Nine Thousand xxx?” 

“Dragon Fist Nine Thousand,” Yang corrected. 

“Oh. Got it, thanks.” 

“My handwriting is not that bad,” Yang protested. 

“Yes it is,” Weiss said.

“Maaaaan, shudup.” 

Emerald cracked the smallest of smiles.

Yang stood and held a hand out to help the thief to her feet. “Well… that’s all I’ve got. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”

“N-no!” Emerald quickly rejected the apology. “You’ve done… so much. Thank you.” 

Yang scratched her head nervously with one hand and snapped with the other, making a finger gun and shooting Emerald with it. “Chu got it, dude,” she said with an awkward smile. “Now get outta here.” 

 Emerald started backing away out to the front of the alley. “Thank you again,” she said, looking at both Yang and Weiss, then she turned and ran off.

A moment of silence fell as Weiss and Yang both stared at the corner the criminal just disappeared around. Then Yang abruptly turned to Weiss and held out the pen and notepad. 

“Don’t start,” she said tersely.

“I don’t understand what just happened,” Weiss replied, snatching her belongings back and stuffing them into her clutch. 

“Yeah, that figures,” Yang muttered, turning and walking off. She was moving fast, to the point Weiss almost had to jog to keep up with her, like she wanted to get back to the store as fast as possible and not have this conversation. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Weiss demanded. 

Yang didn’t turn around as she answered, “It means sometimes it seems like you don’t have a sympathetic bone in your body. Or is it empathetic? Whatever, they’re both good bones and you don’t have either.” 

“If having them means I’d do stuff like that, then good!” Weiss shot back. She was trying to keep her voice down to avoid drawing the attention of the other pedestrians on the sidewalk but still be loud enough that Rudey McSpeedFace here could still hear her.

Yang didn’t respond. 

“Yang, she impersonated your sister, stole from your teammate, and admitted that she steals from others and you rewarded her with giving her money and telling her you’d try to help her get into the most prestigious huntsman academy in the world!” 

Yang suddenly stopped and spun to face her, so quickly that Weiss didn’t react in time to not walk into her. The collision didn’t even budge Yang, though, and she caught Weiss by the arms and kept her steady. For a brief moment, her grip was tight enough that Weiss felt a little bit… not scared, but… concerned. It was only a moment, though, and it passed quickly enough that Weiss felt like it might be dismissable as just reflex. 

Yang held Weiss’ forearms to help her keep balance as she settled at arms length, then let her go to just stare at her with a look of exasperation. 

“What?” Weiss challenged her. 

“How can you–!” Yang shot off, quickly and angrily, before stopping herself. She let out a deep breath and glared at the ground. 

A second passed. Then three. Then five. Then Yang met Weiss’ eyes again. “Weiss, what was the worst day of your life?” 

Instinctually, Weiss wanted to shoot off an answer along the lines of ‘the day I got stuck on a team with you’, but that wouldn’t be nice or fair or true. One specific day immediately came to mind: her 10th birthday, when her parents had had the shouting match that ended up fracturing the nice, fragile illusion of a functional family. They’d screamed at each other and then, when Weiss started crying because she didn’t understand what was going on and felt like she’d done something wrong to start the fight, they’d screamed at her too. And then Winter had screamed at them for screaming at Weiss, and so they’d screamed at her too. And Whitley was crying the whole while, just sitting in the corner trying to look small and unnoticeable so nobody started screaming at him too.

That was the first possibility that came to mind, the day when everything broke. 

There was another possible day, though, that came a week after that one. In those early days of the Post-Birthday Disaster era, Mother and Father hadn’t settled into the separations they had from each other now. They had kept trying to sleep in the same bed, Mother was still trying to be active in company affairs in her role as Chief of Marketing, they’d both been feigning interest in being actual parents. It meant that once the Big Fight had happened, they were still around each other a lot, screaming and fighting on an almost hourly basis, often while their children were in the room. It had only taken a week of that for Weiss to hit the point where she…

She glanced down at her right wrist, where she knew a thing pale scar was that failed to stand out against her already extremely pale skin. There had been so many stupid reasons and justifications in her head when she did it: that she was hurting inside and felt like she should be hurting outside too, that she deserved to hurt because the Fight had been her fault, that it supposedly helped other people cope with sadness so it might help her too. Looking back at it now, though, all it looked like was a cry for help, a desperate plea to her parents to notice how much they were hurting her. 

Which was stupid. Stupid and weak. 

And it didn’t even work anyway. They hadn’t noticed.  

Winter had, though, almost as soon as Weiss had walked out of her room after… doing the thing. She’d said a lot of things then. She’d made Weiss swear to never do it again. An easy promise to make–Weiss had hated the pain. And the blood. The part of that conversation that stuck out the most in that memory, though, was that it was the moment when Weiss realized just how much Winter hated their parents. 

The birthday was the day everything broke, but that day a week after was the day Weiss realized just how broken it was. Just how miserable she was. 

Apparently she spent too long wallowing in those memories, because she was pulled out by Yang talking again instead of waiting for an answer. 

“Alright, you don’t have to say, but I’m gonna guess it was something about your parents being shitty, yeah?” 

Weiss blinked at her. 

“Yeah. And I’m guessing it was awful. And I’m guessing on that day when you were at your lowest and everything sucked, you would have liked it if someone decided to be nice to you.” 

“I had Winter,” Weiss said defiantly. 

“Oh, good,” Yang conceded. “So even on your worst day in your life you still had someone that was there for you. That’s good.” 

Weiss blinked again, realizing she’d completely missed what Yang had been getting at. 

“Now imagine that you didn’t have Winter–that you didn’t have anybody–and instead of going to sleep after all that awfulness in a giant… feather bed or whatever in a big castle, you had to go to sleep on the streets, hungry and cold and alone.” 

Weiss could have interrupted there, said she often had gone to bed hungry, many times. By choice. She’d practically starved herself back then hoping her parents would see something was wrong. They hadn’t, again. Even now she still barely ate, partly because she’d gotten used to eating smaller portions and partly because now she viewed food as a reward to give herself for doing well. 

She knew that wasn’t what Yang meant, though, so she stayed quiet as Yang continued. 

“And imagine that that wasn’t even the worst day of your life. Imagine that was just… your life. Every day. And you could only survive by stealing and begging for scraps. Imagine that was you. Do you think it would feel fair if someone thought about the way you’re thinking about that girl right now?” 

“Well, no, but–”

“But nothing!” 

“You don’t know her story! Maybe it’s her fault her life is like that now.” Even as she spoke the words, she realized how flimsy and awful of an argument it was. 

Yang’s expression went a shade darker. “You don’t know her story either,” she said coldly. “So maybe it isn’t her fault. Maybe–ugh.” She sputtered a bit for words, her fists noticeably clenching as she angrily tried to figure out what to say. 

Then she sighed and rolled her eyes, turning away. “Whatever. Let’s just go b–”

“No!” Weiss said quickly, reaching out to lightly hook Yang’s blouse to try to keep her from leaving the conversation. “You–you’re right. I’m sorry.” 

Memories of those days after the fight were flooding her mind now. Even more than the memories, the emotions she felt during them. Her pure, unfiltered misery and guilt and anger. She’d gotten so terrified of being alone with those emotions that she insisted on following Winter around all day, even during their lessons that were supposed to be separate. Their tutors had been very confused about how to handle the situation, but Winter had convinced them not to bring it up with their parents. Even as a teenager she’d had a voice of authority. 

And in addition to Winter, she’d had Klein making sure every one of her needs was met and that she always had pleasant company even when Winter was out. And he had noticed that she wasn’t eating enough, though at the time that hadn’t meant much to Weiss. Her parents had mattered more to her then. 

Stupid girl.

If Weiss hadn’t had Winter and Klein… She rubbed at her wrist. She imagined she might have ended up being somebody that current Weiss wouldn’t like very much. 

Yang looked at her like she’d suddenly grown a second head, then squinted at her suspiciously. “I am?” 

Weiss rolled her eyes at that. “I know, it’s a huge abnormality, but it’s actually true.” 

Yang grinned and gave her the finger. “I’m right all the time, fyi. I’m just surprised you’re admit–did you just say ‘abnormality’?” 

“… Yes? It’s a perfectly good word!” 

“Heh,” she grinned. “Well I’m glad you agree.” 

“I still think the Beacon thing was too far.” 

Yang rolled her eyes again. “Literally all I said was I’d ask.” 

“There are people that train their whole lives for a spot in Beacon.” 

“Yeah, well that’s not what gets you in. Skill does, so if she’s skilled enough then… whatever. I doubt she will be anyway.” 

“Then why–” 

“I don’t know, dude!” Yang bursted out, flailing her arms in that Yang way and turning to walk back to the store. “She’s freaking homeless and I was trying to give her options! Fuck off!” 

That explosive reaction told Weiss that Yang might be thinking that the idea had been a mistake too. “Okay, I’m sorry!” she cried, hurrying to Yang’s side. She wasn’t sure why, but it was imperative to her to make sure Yang wasn’t mad at her. 

Stupid. 

“… Shit, dude, did you see how hopeful she looked?” Yang muttered, quiet enough that Weiss wasn’t sure whether the words were meant for her or not. “Fack.”

“I’m sure it will all be okay,” Weiss lied. That was what she was supposed to say, right? She still thought they should have called the police. If not to arrest her, at least to send her back home and get her off the streets. But instead of doing anything about it, she just froze and let Yang do her thing, so…

One of the many things that Weiss really, really hated about herself. 

They got in sight of the front of Cerise Moran’s and both stopped. Ruby was on the other side of the nearest window-wall, hopping up and down and waving at them and yelling words they couldn’t hear. 

“Oh dear,” Weiss said quietly. 

“Mm,” Yang agreed with a smile. She turned to Weiss. “You good?” 

“Um…” Weiss wasn’t really sure what she meant by that. She was physically fine and had her clutch back. Emotionally she was… fine? Taking a walk through her past had been a bit of a downer, but… they were just memories. They couldn’t hurt her. She refused to let them. And Ruby was just on the other side of a pane of glass. Once they were reunited, Weiss was sure she’d cheer up. 

Wait, where was that coming from? 

“Maybe just don’t mention that whole thing to Ruby, yeah?” Yang said. “She can’t really… deal with stuff like homelessness or abusive parents and whatnot. So she just gets sad. Which is sad itself.” 

“Alright,” Weiss agreed. That… sounded like Ruby. Although she wouldn’t get any better at dealing with that kind of stuff if she was shielded from it, and… huntresses were probably going to end up exposed to a lot of it. 

“Aight, c’mon, before Ruby explodes,” Yang said. 

A quick glance told Weiss the Ruby’s bouncing and flailing had gotten even more erratic as Weiss and Yang had stopped in front of her. 

She began her word volcano eruption of doom before the door’s announcement bell had even started dinging. 

“Guyswhattheheck! The dude said you guys ran after a thief and Blake and I were gonna follow but then he told us we couldn’t leave ‘cause we were wearing store clothes–”

“Ruby,” Weiss tried to interrupt.

“–and I was like ‘hm’ and then we started waiting but then I thought maybe I should change back to chase after you guys and help–”

“Ruby.”

“–‘cause I’m super fast and I could chase down the bad guy and like superhero tackle them but then Blake was like ‘nah they got it’ and I wasn’t sure so I was waiting at the window for like EVER and then you–” 

“Ruby!” 

Ruby stopped and blinked at her. 

“We’re fine. We got my purse back. And… that’s it. We did it.” 

“Butwhahappened?!” Ruby blurted. “How’d someone even steal from you?! You’re a wizard!” 

“Oh, well–” 

“Daaaaaaaaaamn, girl!” Yang cooed loudly, abruptly cutting Weiss off and making her follow the blonde’s gaze. 

‘What?… Oh.’

It was Blake. In the Nightspice dress. Leaning against one of the shoe display tables, giving Yang a seductive grin. 

“What do you think?” she asked, even though it was pretty obvious what Yang thought. 

And Weiss had to agree with her. 

“Ahem! Excuse me, ladies,” Yang said, pushing between Weiss and Ruby to walk over to her partner. 

Weiss sighed and rolled her eyes. When she turned back to her own partner, though, she found Ruby staring at her expectantly, wide-eyed and slightly vibrating up and down on the balls of her feet. 

“What?” Weiss demanded. 

“How’dsomeonestealfromawizard?!” 

“Oh, right.” Weiss grimaced. How much detail did she have to give here? She couldn’t lie to Ruby, obviously, but she didn’t necessarily have to say everything, right? 

“She asked me for my clutch.” 

Ruby’s brow furrowed. “Your what?”

“My purse.” 

“Oh, right. Wait, she really just walked up and asked you for it?” 

“Mhm.” 

“Huh. And… you gave it to her?” 

Weiss inspected her toes, making sure she hadn’t scuffed her heels during the chase… No, they looked fine. “Yes.” 

“Um. Does breakfast sausage make you go mildly crazy or something?” 

Weiss couldn’t help cracking a smile at that. “Guess so.” 

“That makes no sense,” Ruby pouted. 

“Well you said it!” 

“But why would you give a stranger your stuff?!” 

Weiss stomped a foot impatiently. “I thought she was you!” 

The look Ruby gave her was so strikingly similar to the when Yang had given her when she’d told her she was right. Bewildered concern. “Uh, do I have like a secret, long lost evil doppelganger twin or something?” she asked. 

“No, dolt. The thief had some sort of illusion semblance that made her look like you. She walked up and asked me for your purse and…” 

“Awww, and you just gave it to me? I mean her. Her-me?” 

Weiss rolled her eyes. 

“But why would I want your purse?” Ruby mused. 

“She gave me some pants and told me to go try them on and she’d hold my purse for me,” Weiss explained, annoyed and ready to talk about something else. 

“Oh. But couldn’t you just take it in–” 

I thought she was you!” Weiss whisper-screamed. “Why would I ever think that you’d do something bad with my stuff?!” 

That admission of blind trust made Weiss blush, which made her angry because she felt like she was being dumb. 

Ruby blinked at her. “… True. I could totally prank you and fill it with Cheez-Whiz if I wanted.” 

For about the billionth time, Weiss was mentally floored at Ruby’s reaction. She didn’t make a big deal about or even seem to notice anything abnormal about Weiss just blindly trusting her with her clutch. It was just assumed. Normal. 

Emotions were spiralling through Weiss and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to hug her partner or run away and never see her again, so she settled on following the distraction Ruby had provided.

“You don’t… have any Cheez-Whiz,” Weiss pointed out. 

Ruby made the most comically sad face ever and slumped her shoulders forward. “I knooow.” 

Anyway,” Weiss stressed. She took a moment to fish for a change of topic, then realized that Ruby was wearing the tasseled blouse. “That looks very nice on you,” she complimented her partner. 

At this point she was fairly certain Ruby would look good in anything. 

“Oh yeah?” Ruby perked up. She gave a goofy little spin that was much too fast for Weiss to actually get a look at how looked from the back, but the way she giggled and looked down at herself told Weiss she was probably just spinning to whip the tassels around. Dolt. “Whadaya think, should I embrace my inner Yang and take the undershirt off. 

Weiss felt her cheeks pink slightly. “That’s… not necessary. You already look great as it is.” 

“Hm,” Ruby hummed. She stared down at her torso, then quickly lifted the front of her blouse up, paused, then pulled it back down. Then lifted it up again, then pulled it back down again. 

‘What in the world is she doing?’ Weiss wondered tiredly. She could ask but she doubted whatever answer she got would abate her confusion. 

“Would you like to get it?” she asked instead. 

“You think I should?” Ruby replied, still staring down at herself. She lifted the blouse again, then lowered it again. 

“I do,” Weiss encouraged her, trying to avoid laughing or having an aneurism as she watched Ruby’s nonsensical antics. 

“Okay!” Ruby agreed with a big smile. Then her eyes widened. “Ee-gasp! I also found something for you!”

“Oh?” Weiss said, trying to keep her apprehension out of her tone. 

“C’mon!” chirped the dolt, grabbing Weiss’ hand and dragging her across the store. To the Men’s section. 

“Ruby, slow down!” Weiss snapped. 

Ruby ever so slightly slowed, bringing them to a stop in front of a wall-hung faux-leather black jacket. It had overly large steel buttons along opposite sides running down the middle and a plethora of pockets, each with a zipper seal. And there were a couple random zippers that seemed to serve no practical purpose at all, and buckles along the top running from the collar to the shoulders that could not possibly serve any practical function. 

It looked like something a videogame or cartoon character would where. 

Or Ruby. 

It also looked somewhat… familiar… 

“Ruby…” 

“You promised you’d let me pick stuff for you!” Ruby wailed, taking Weiss’ reaction as a rejection. 

“Ruby, there’s a girl version of this right over there,” Weiss said, pointing almost directly across the store. 

Ruby looked over at where Weiss was pointing, then back at the jacket the were standing in front of, then back across the store. “… Huh. How’d I miss that?” 

“You’re a dolt?” Weiss suggested. 

“… Yeah, guess so. So that’s a no to this one?” 

Weiss half-rolled her eyes. “Ruby, my shoulders are never going to fit in a jacket cut for men.” 

Ruby looked down at Weiss’ shoulders. “True. You are incredibly princessy.” 

“Does ‘princessy’ just mean ‘petite’ to you?” 

“It means whatever you look like!” Ruby grinned. “Like, in the Rubytionary the definition of ‘princess’ is just a picture of you.” 

Weiss suppressed a smile at that wonderful little compliment. “The Rubytionary is not and never will be a thing,” she teased. 

“Yuh-huh!” 

“Nope.” 

“Just watch, I’ll write it. For realz. And I’ll publish it and it’ll be a bestseller!” 

“Nnnope!”

“Pfft, whatever. You just don’t appreciate good linguicism.” 

Weiss blinked. “That’s not… nevermind. Did you want to go look at the women’s version of this?” 

“Sure!” Ruby cheered, once again dragging Weiss across the store. “I hope it’s got the same colors!” 

“Slow–! Ugh,” Weiss huffed, giving up on trying to get Ruby to install a brake system. 

“Yes!” Ruby squeaked as they drew up to the display. The women’s version was strikingly similar to the men’s, though it was a half jacket that ended at about hip length and thus had a couple less pockets. The buckles on the shoulders were also absent. “Okay, so there’s a the black, and then a white and a red. And this icky tanny-brown color, but we can forget about that one.” 

“You want–but red is your color,” Weiss protested. It was… kind of a silly argument. She’d worn red before, though not much because she felt it was too ‘loud’ on her. There was even a bit on the inside of her combat outfit. But now that she knew Ruby, the color felt like it belonged to her. 

“It could still look good on you!” Ruby said, undeterred. “Having a cute jacket like this to give you a colorful splash of poof could be nice!” 

“‘Splash of poof’?” Weiss repeated with a raised eyebrow. 

“Yeah!” Ruby smiled. “You should try it! And the white one, ‘cause duh. And the black one ‘cause it would look sweet. Actually, you should just get all three. You could wear the white one to look chic and the black one to look badass and the red one to look cutesy… And I could carry around the other two for you all day and you can just switch them out whenever you want to swap to a different look!” 

Weiss waited patiently to make sure Ruby was done talking before she spoke up. “That’s dumb,” she said flatly.

“Pleeeeeeeease?” Ruby begged. She grabbed Weiss’ hands and whipped them from side to side. “Pleeeeeeeeeeee–” 

“Sweet Light, fine!” Weiss exclaimed in exasperation. “Let me go see if they have them to try on.” 

“Woohoo!” Ruby cheered in triumph. “You’ll look so cool! Like a princessy anime protagonist with–awwww, what? This one doesn’t have the buckley bits!” 

Weiss sighed. 

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