“I need to make a call.”
Weiss’ tone had an air of finality to it that worried Ruby. She looked to Yang and Blake, eyes imploring them for help. The two girls were watching after Weiss, concern written all over their faces.
That only made Ruby feel worse. She wasn’t being paranoid, Yang and Blake thought something was wrong, too.
“Should I go after her?” Ruby asked as Weiss launched herself up to the roof in her peripheral vision.
The other two both turned and looked at her, Yang frowning in thought and Blake creasing her brow in determination.
“Yes,” Blake said, her voice hard with confidence. “Don’t let her be alone right now.”
Yang’s eyes flickered back up toward the edge of the roof. “But it’s Weiss. She likes being alone.”
“That doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for her right now,” Blake returned. “Besides,” she continued, glancing at Ruby, “she actually seems to like your sister’s company.”
Yang huffed a brief laugh out of her nose. “Yeah, not sure how the Crucible that happened.” She turned to Ruby. “Go make sure she’s okay, Rubes.”
That was all Ruby needed. She thought she should go to Weiss and both her teammates did too. With a deep breath, she shoved herself into Rose Form and looked up to the roof.
It seemed so far right now. She was sooo tired. She’d been shot for a solid thirty minutes, and she honestly just wanted to lay down and wait to fall asleep so her Aura could start recharging.
But she couldn’t. Instead, she poured some of the pittance that was left of her Aura into her heart and flew up to the roof, petals scattering around her as she landed. Yeah, she definitely shouldn’t risk using her Aura any more today. There was no sense in risking not having enough to get back from the Rose Dimension.
Over by what had quickly become “their spot” in the center of the roof, Weiss was pacing back and forth, her scroll gripped tightly in one hand. She had the same weirdly sad-but-furious frown that she’d had when Professor Awesome had accidently told her that her sister’s team was dead–and by the way, what the friCKITY FRACK?
Ruby shook her head. As depressing and deranged and heartbreaking it was that Winter and Professor Awesome had both lost their teammates, right now Ruby needed to take care of her own. And Weiss definitely needed to be taken care of.
Ruby walked up slowly, not because she was trying to sneak up on Weiss, but because she didn’t want to startle the girl. The red mark on Weiss’ arm where she’d pinched herself–hard–when she heard the awful news was visible even from ten feet away. And Ruby was pretty sure Weiss had no idea she was doing that. It was probably a subconscious thing, like the way Yang tended to flex when she listened to fast music that made her want to fight.
Weiss hadn’t noticed her, pacing as she was with her head down and turning in the opposite direction. Ruby should say something, right? Just standing here twiddling her thumbs nervously was useless and dumb and maybe a little creepy?
Weiss’ head snapped around like Ruby had just fired Crescent Rose, her eyes scarily… manic? She looked the way Ruby remembered her dad looking at Uncle Qrow that day he came home without Mom. Kind of… wild? Like she’d been so in her head that she’d forgotten there was a world around her, and fight or flight had kicked in instinctually.
But as soon as Weiss’ eye met Ruby’s, the wildness was blinked away, replaced by surprise.
“R-Ruby? What are y–I said I’d be right there.” She wrung her fingers together and twisted her hands around in the most blatant expression of nervousness Ruby had seen from her partner yet. Weiss usually kept a really tight lid on her emotions, that moment when Ruby had given her the paints aside. But right now…
Right now she looked the way Ruby had felt when she’d been named team captain and had no idea if she would be able to do it. Doubt? Insecurity?
Ruby really wished she was better at figuring out the different kinds of sad. She’d never really needed to know the differences between them–she and her family had only ever really felt loss, and other than that they were happy. But Weiss seemed to cycle through different types of sadness the way Yang flipped through her celebrity magazines.
What should she say? That Weiss looked sad and angry and Ruby wanted to make sure she was okay? That wouldn’t help, and might make things worse for the reminder of why Weiss was sad and angry. That she wanted to make sure Weiss wouldn’t pinch her arm off? No, that would just draw attention to the pain… What should she say?
“I… didn’t want you to be alone.”
Ruby was so nervous that Weiss would tell her to go away that she counted the seconds of silence, the time it took for Weiss to say something.
‘One Crescent Rose, two Crescent Rose, three Crescent Rose, four Crescent Rose, five Crescent Rose, s–’
“I’m just calling my sister, Ruby.” Weiss’ expression was soft, though her gaze flickered down to the ground and she frowned. Ruby knew her partner had just been reminded of what she wanted to call her sister about.
“Still… I don’t w–” Ruby stopped. No, that wasn’t the right way to say this. “If it’s okay, I’d like to keep you company.” It was important to make sure Weiss knew she could tell her to go away if she needed to.
Another stretch of silence–Ruby was willing to guess it was five seconds again–and Weiss gave her a soft nod.
Ruby smiled, but stayed where she was. Every muscle in her wanted to jump up and down and run to Weiss’ side, but her brain was telling her that would be wrong. Besides, she was really tired. So instead, she stood there, folding her hands in front of herself in that way Weiss did.
To push this interaction away from this awkwardness, Ruby asked a question that had popped into her head a while ago.
Weiss’ lip twitched. “Yes, Ruby?”
“Isn’t your sister in Atlas?”
Weiss frowned at her questioningly. “Yes, unless she’s on an assignment right now. Why?”
“Don’t you need to go to the CCT to call other kingdoms?”
Realization flashed across Weiss’ face. “Ah.” She shifted her feet. “Normally, yes. But… I’m a Schnee.”
“But… how does that help you make intercontinental scroll calls?”
“Money.” Weiss said simply. “The tech to route scroll calls through the CCTs already exists–”
“Wait, it does?!” Ruby had no idea that was a thing. That’s awesome!
“Yes. It’s just very expensive to maintain. A couple thousand lien per day for each line, and even more if you actually make a call.”
“… Oh, wow.” Ruby had a hard time even imagining that kind of money. That was, like, over half a million lien per year! That was… a lot of cookies. All just to be able to make calls easier?
It must be really nice to be rich. To be able to just have whatever you needed and wanted. Imagine how awesome Crescent Rose will be when Ruby becomes a super rich and famous huntress! Goodbye, scrap metal blade melted down from Uncle Qrow’s first weapon, Omen, hello, super awesome folded steel from the best ore on the planet! And then she could put Dust ports on the blade ‘cause it would be thinner and–
And she was getting distracted.
“Okay, I’ll shut up now, sorry,” she said, taking a small step back.
“It’s okay,” Weiss said quietly, taking a seat on the raised bit of concrete. She took a deep breath, but then just sat there staring at the scroll in her hands.
A long moment passed and Ruby was hit again with just how tired she was. She really wanted to sit down.
She slowly approached Weiss, worried Weiss would tell her to give her space or privacy or something. But nothing happened. Weiss’ eyes flickered up when Ruby started moving, but just went back to her scroll. So she clearly knew Ruby was coming over and she was okay with it, right?
Ruby sat down beside her partner. Weiss’ expression was that still, blank mask that Ruby had no clue how to read. Was she hesitating to call because she was uncertain, unsure of what to say? Or was she sad? Or angry? Or confused? It was impossible to tell, though at the very least she wasn’t digging her fingernails into the pale skin of her arm again.
Maybe Ruby should say something? Prompt Weiss to come back from wherever she was right now?
“… You okay?”
The reaction was slow, like Weiss had been falling asleep and was trying to force herself to keep her eyes open, or like her thoughts were really far away and it took them a long time to get back.
“Hm?” she hummed, raising her eyebrows and turning toward Ruby. “Ah… Yes, Ruby. I’m fine.”
With that, she flicked her scroll open and pressed the screen a couple times to initiate a call. The picture-avatar of the young woman she was calling was very clearly her sister–pretty, pale-skinned, white haired, and eyes so blue the sky was probably jealous of them, white flecks like clouds dotting the irises.
Okay, that last part she couldn’t see from the picture on the scroll. But she could guess they were there ‘cause Weiss had them! Ruby snuck a quick peek at Weiss’ eyes just to make sure she hadn’t imagined those flecks the first four hundred and seventy three thousand bajillion million times she’d noticed them.
Yep, still there! Still super pretty.
Surprisingly, instead of raising the scroll to her ear, Weiss hit the megaphone button to put it on speaker. She was going to let Ruby listen to the whole conversation?! Ruby had been totally prepared to piece together everything from only half of the words being said, but it seemed she wouldn’t have to.
The tinny ‘bleep-bleep… bloop-bloop’ of the scroll call ringing felt abnormally loud as it filled the air around them. It only rang twice before there was a click, and deepish, clear, teachery voice answered.
“Weiss, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Weiss closed her eyes, hung her head, and shifted her scroll into one hand, slowly popping the knuckles on her other hand with her thumb. They each only popped once, but she kept going through that motion over and over.
“Weiss?” Winter’s voice pressed after the pause had stretched for a long time.
A deep breath. “We had our first class with Professor Rustheart today,” Weiss finally responded.
There was another pause, this time from Winter. “Oh? I hadn’t realized he was teaching the first years… How did it go?”
Weiss opened her eyes and narrowed them at the scroll in suspicion, adding yet another pause to the conversation. Ruby did her best not to wiggle restlessly, but dang, these two were going a little hard on the whole ‘thoughtful silence’ thing.
“It was… fine. We did an affinity test.”
There was a light huff on the other end of the line. “Really? How very standard of him.”
“He said he knows you,” Weiss said, her tone hanging the last two words like an invitation.
There was another long pause. “Yes. Yes we’ve worked–fought–together before. A few missions. He’s skilled. And powerful. And he has a sense of duty that makes him a good soldier, even with all his silly bluster.”
Weiss gave Ruby a sidelong glance at that last part that Ruby wasn’t sure what to make of. Then she turned back to her phone.
“But why did he go with you?”
Weiss pursed her lips, considering how to phrase her question. “Why did he go with you when you already have your own team?”
Ruby jerked her head, surprised. Professor Awesome said Winter’s team had died. Was Weiss confused? Was Ruby confused? Maybe she’d misunderstood something?
“Ah,” Winter said after a moment. Ruby wasn’t sure what realization she’d just come to, but–
“He told you.”
Weiss’ jaw set and her eyes flashed angrily. “Yes. And you didn’t.”
Another painful pause. “No. No I didn–”
“Why not?!” Weiss exploded at her phone. Ruby jumped back in surprise, but Weiss didn’t notice. “How could you keep something like the fr-f-fff… Were you ever going to tell me? Did you think I wouldn’t care? I’m not… I d-don’t… I… “
She started stammering, unable to form words or even thoughts past her fast, shallow breathing.
“Weiss.” Winter’s voice was calm, hard. “Breathe. Count to five.”
‘So that’s where that comes from,’ Ruby thought.
Weiss huffed a dry laugh, rolling her eyes angrily, but she did it anyway. She took in two deep lungfuls of air, her shoulders moving up and down while her hands shook, pulled in tight toward herself. She hugged her hands to her chest and crossed her ankles, pressing her legs together. It was like she was trying to shrink in on herself, or hold herself together.
It was strange to watch for Ruby. Angry Weiss was so… still. Despite her deep breathing, trembling hands, and fluttering eyelids, she was almost statuesque. It was like she was frozen with emotion. It was so different from Angry Yang, who swung her arms around and yelled and did everything she could to let the world and everyone in it know she was upset. It was like instead of lashing out like Yang, Weiss lashed in. Was that a thing?
Angry Yang was dangerous. Angry Weiss was… vulnerable.
Ruby just wanted to give her a hug, but it seemed like a touch might break her.
“I don’t under–you didn’t t–why di–”
“Weiss. Count to five again.”
“I don’t want to count to five,” Weiss growled back. The words seemed to shock her as soon as they left her mouth, though. Her eyes widened in surprise and she seemed to shrink down on herself even more in shame.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
Winter somehow heard her quiet apology. “It’s alright,” she said. “Just take a moment and figure out what you want to say… Honestly, I’d like a chance to do the same.”
That admission seemed to surprise Weiss, making her squint at her scroll in confusion.
This was so weird to watch. When Ruby and Yang had fights–and at this point she wasn’t even sure if Weiss and Winter were having a fight–they’d just yell at each other and say everything that came to mind. Sometimes, for the really serious fights like whose turn it was for the remote or who-would-win arguments (Ruby insisted every time that Uncle Qrow could beat everyone in Wonder Studio’s The Revengers, but Yang said she was dumb), they’d end up wrestling. It always ended with Ruby getting hurt somehow and Yang apologizing a billion times and letting her win the argument and giving her hugs and giving her the cookie jar from where Dad kept it on the top shelf.
Yang had nobody to blame but herself when she griped about Ruby being so ‘argumentative’. Why wouldn’t she like to argue when it got her Sister Hugs and cookies?
But Weiss and Winter were different. Their arguments seemed to be a lot of silence and thoughtfulness, two things Ruby and Yang sucked at–or rather, had zero interest in getting good at.
“Alright,” Weiss sighed.
On the other side of the scroll call, Winter cleared her throat. “Go ahead.”
“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me,” Weiss repeated from earlier, her voice almost a whisper. She sounded so sad and… defeated? Or disappointed? Whatever it was, she was really, really sad. “Why wouldn’t you tell me?” The way her eyebrows scrunched together and upward, it looked like she was scared of Winter’s answer.
There was another stressfully long pause, and Ruby couldn’t stop herself from fidgeting. Her knee bounced up and down at about a million bajillion miles an hour. Weiss gave her a glance and reached out to gently press down on Ruby’s thigh.
Ruby’s knee stopped bouncing. As soon as Weiss removed her hand, it started bouncing again. Weiss rolled her eyes and turned back to her phone.
“I never chose not to tell you, Weiss,” Winter said, breaking the silence. “I chose not to talk about it at all.”
Weiss scowled at that. “But Professor Rustheart knew. “
“He knows because of necessity and circumstance. I didn’t even tell him, Qrow did.”
“Wait, she knows Uncle Qrow?” Ruby blurted out before she could stop herself. She flinched, ready for Weiss to yell at her for interrupting, but she didn’t. She just gave Ruby a light frown and nodded.
“Who was that?” Winter asked.
Weiss sighed. “It’s Ruby. She’s sitting here with me.”
“Ah. I see… That’s good.” Weiss’ expression quirked at that assessment, but Winter continued. “Hello, Ruby.”
“Hi,” Ruby squeaked. She looked to Weiss to gauge her reaction and was encouraged by the small smile she found on her partner’s face. “It’s nice to sorta-kinda meet Weiss’ awesome super soldier sister!”
Winter huffed a laugh much the way Weiss does. “Is that how she describes me? I’m flattered.”
“I definitely used far more accurate terminology,” Weiss muttered, glowering at Ruby before turning back to the scroll. “But why did Mister Qrow know?”
“Ha! ‘Mister Qrow’. He’d get a kick out of that.” Winter sighed. “He knew because he was there. He’s the only reason I didn’t die along with my team that day.”
“What?” Ruby and Weiss said in unison, both of their eyes going wide.
Winter stayed silent.
“He was there?” Ruby asked, unable to keep herself from staying quiet.
“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” Winter said curtly.
“Winter, tell me what h–”
“Weiss.” Winter used her sister’s name like a gavel, the tone of authority silencing Weiss completely. “I am not prepared to to talk about this. It was the single worst day of my life and not something I want to relive right now. Respect that .It’s not an attack on you, it’s not me saying I don’t trust you or don’t think you care. I simply don’t have it in me to talk about it… It’s not about you.”
Weiss sat quiet, stunned. Winter stayed silent, waiting for her sister’s response. Slowly, Weiss’ shoulders began to untense and she stopped trying to pop her already popped knuckles.
Ruby didn’t know what to do. The words Winter had said seemed to be kinda mean, but it made Weiss relax? She didn’t understand enough about why Weiss had been upset in the first place to know what she’d reassuring now.
So instead, she decided not to try to figure it out. She reached out and lightly, hesitantly gave Weiss a supportive rub on the back–something that always made Ruby feel better when Yang did it. Weiss initially stiffened at the contact, and Ruby immediately stopped, but didn’t pull her hand away, waiting to see how Weiss would react. ‘Gotta give her her five seconds, right?’
When Weiss turned and gave her another tiny smile, Ruby knew it was okay, and she recommenced Operation Supportive Back Rubs.
“I’m sorry, Weiss,” Winter said. “ I was never deliberately keeping anything from you. I just couldn’t talk about it for so long, and after a while it just felt better to not bring it up.”
Sadness flickered across Weiss’ eyes. “When did it happen?”
“Three years ago.”
Weiss nodded slowly, like she’d been expecting that answer. “That’s why I didn’t hear from you for so long. Almost two years.”
“Yes,” Winter confirmed, a strain in her voice.
Wow, Weiss didn’t get to talk to her sister for two years? Ruby couldn’t imagine going two days without Yang.
“I thought I’d said something wrong,” Weiss confessed.
“No. No.” Winter’s voice had a bit of that hard edge again there. “It wasn’t you, Weiss. I’m so sorry that you ever thought that. I didn’t know. I just… shut down. I… “
“You lost your family,” Weiss finished for her.
Weiss’ face twisted again. “I’m your family too, Winter.”
The deep breath Winter took was audible over the scroll. “I know, Weiss. I’m sorry if I made you feel like we weren’t. I didn’t know how to deal with… everything, and you wouldn’t have been able to relate–”
“That’s not fair,” Weiss cut in.
“Really?” Winter asked. “Do you think you would have understood how my team was my family, my brother and sister’s in arms, three years ago? Do you remember the conversation we had less than a week ago?”
Weiss deflated, shoulders slumping. It was weird seeing her without her perfect posture. She glanced at Ruby with a weird look on her face–was that guilt?–before quickly looking away.
“I would have tried,” Weiss protested weakly.
“I know, Little Sister. I just… I needed time, and solitude. At least, I thought I did.”
Weiss’ chin raised at that. “So will you talk to me about it now? Not today! But… later?”
She looked so hopeful and distressed at the same time, Ruby just wanted to hug her and never let go.
“Yes,” answered Winter, causing Weiss to let out the breath she was holding. “Not right now, probably not in the immediate future. I need to prepare for that conversation, and I have responsibilities right now that I need to be focused on. And I’ll probably consult my therapist before we talk. You’re coming back to Atlas for winter break, correct?”
Ruby wanted to giggle at the weirdness of a girl named Winter talking about winter break, but Weiss was still in super serious mode, so she stopped herself.
“I am,” Weiss replied. “You’re seeing a therapist?”
“… I am. General Ironwood has been insisting I see one since that day. I finally relented a bit over a year ago. It’s helped.”
Weiss gave a non-committal “hm”.
“Therapy is one of many things our father is wrong about, Weiss.”
That made Weiss frown and look away. Ruby wondered what Weiss’ dad thought about therapy, then. Did he not like it?
“‘Therapy is help, and needing help means weakness,’” Weiss said in a monotone voice, like she was reciting something.
“‘And Schnees aren’t weak,’” Winter finished. “I know. But he’s wrong. It’s… We’ll discuss this later, if that’s alright. In person.”
Weiss’ gaze flickered back over to Ruby, and it took her a moment to realize what might be going on.
“Oh! I can go–”
She’d hopped to her feet and was ready to run and give the Schneesters some privacy, but Weiss’ hand shot out and grabbed hers before she could go anywhere.
“No! Stay… please.” Weiss frowned and looked down at her lap as she said the last word, and she pulled her hand back quickly. “I mean, I’d appreciate if… you can… I–”
Ruby plopped back down with a smile. It was official–they were friends! Weiss wanted Ruby to stay! That was pretty cool.
Ruby wiggled back and forth happily, bumping Weiss’ shoulder with her own with her movement. Weiss didn’t seem to mind too much.
“Well,” Winter spoke up, and her voice was different now, warmer, “how did class go other than the world shattering secret revealing? How was the affinity test?”
“Sweet!” Ruby chirped immediately. “Weiss shot me a bunch and it turns out I have super high resistances to everything and gravity is my best one and Professor Awesome said that means I’ll be a good team leader and it turns out Yang is even stronger than I thought she was and Weiss is too and it was really cool!”
There was a pause after Ruby stopped talking. Weiss was looking at her, lips pursed in amusement.
“I take it Nidas is Professor Awesome?” Winter said.
Winter chuckled at that, a sound that was less jingly than the wind-chime sound Weiss made when she chuckled, but more resonant. “And you, Weiss? Is ice still your forte?”
“What about you, Miss Winter?” Ruby asked. “Are you the same as Weiss? All ice magic-y?”
Weiss raised an eyebrow at her while Winter answered. “I was. Earth is actually my highest affinity now.”
“Wait, really?” Weiss asked, jerking in surprise.
“It can change?” Ruby added.
“Yes, really,” Winter answered. “And yes, Ruby. The numbers will always be fluctuating as you grow, though usually the order of your affinities stays the same. I am a… special case. Though it’s not too strange–earth was my second highest by a pretty close margin before.”
Weiss frowned. “Winter, Professor Awes–Rustheart–” she scowled at Ruby, but Ruby just grinned in response and booped her shoulder– “said he believes affinity is related to personality.”
“Yes, that doesn’t surprise me.”
There was another of Winter’s thoughtful pauses. “…. I think I see the merits in the theory. Moreso now that I’ve met so many huntsman with so many affinities that seem to match their character.”
Weiss slumped again at that. “So… what does it mean that my best element is ice? Am I cold and mean?”
Ruby laughed at that, but when Weiss turned to her with a sad, confused look, Ruby shut up.
“Weiss,” she said, giving her a small, one-armed sideways hug, “you’re awesome! Don’t be ridiculous!”
Her partner gave her a tiny, grateful smile and leaned into the hug a bit as Winter spoke up.
“No, Weiss. It doesn’t mean you’re cold and mean. It means you’re calm and thoughtful. The theory in full says that the meaning of the affinity order is largely based on the actual order itself. Are you secondary and tertiary affinities still water and air?”
“Yes.” Weiss answered.
Holy crapoly, it was so cool that Winter remembered all that. Should Ruby have Yang’s affinities memorized? Was that a thing you were supposed to do, memorize your sister’s affinities?
“If you’d like,” Winter continued, “I can link you an article–well, a paper, really–that Doctor Watts wrote on the subject, back before he… suffered a mental break.”
Weiss raised her eyebrow at that. “Is it… accurate? Or crazy?”
Winter chuckled. “The man was still brilliant, despite his tragic fall. He did extensive studies and the paper he wrote was incredibly in-depth. It’s worth reading, if you’re interested in understanding the theory.”
Weiss nodded slowly to herself. “Yes, I’d like that. Thank you, Winter.”
“Of course, Little Sister. And I–oh, one second.” There was the sound of another voice from Weiss’ scroll, and Winter had a short conversation with whoever else was there. “Yes…. Alright, and Penny?… And Titus?… Alright, tell them I’ll be there shortly… Yes.” The sound of a door closing clicked across the line, and Winter sighed.
“Duty calls, Little Snowflake. I’m afraid I have to go.”
Weiss put on one of those weirdly sad smiles. “It’s okay. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.”
‘What the heck?’ Who talks like that? Who talks to their sister like that. Weiss was so weird…
“Of course. I look forward to hearing from you again soon. I love you, Weiss.”
Weiss’ smile lost some of its sadness. “I love you, too.”
As soon as the line went dead, Weiss breathed out a deep, shuddering sigh. She stared down at her hands, lacing her fingers together and turning her palms up, her scroll laid across them. The anger that had been boiling in her before the call was gone now, but some of the sadness was still there for some reason.
“You okay?” Ruby asked after the silence had grown unbearably long.
Weiss straightened up with a princessy “ahem”, paused, and then slumped again with a sigh. “I don’t know,” she admitted.
“But what’s wrong?” Ruby pressed, confused. “Wasn’t what she said… good?” Winter had said it wasn’t Weiss’ fault, that she hadn’t deliberately kept anything from Weiss, she just hadn’t wanted to talk about it at all. That was good for Weiss, right?
“Yeah,” Weiss sighed. “It’s just… Imagine what it would feel like if Yang felt like she couldn’t talk to you about the worst day of her life, ever.”
Ruby paused and tried to imagine that. She tried to imagine anything–good or bad–happening to Yang and her not telling Ruby about it as soon as they saw each other again.
She tried… But she couldn’t.
“I can’t. Yang and I tell each other everything.” Now she could see the problem Weiss was dealing with, why she was sad. If Yang somehow kept a big, giant, terrible secret from Ruby and Ruby ended up finding out on accident from a professor, she’d probably be upset too.
Weiss simply nodded. “Yeah. Winter and I aren’t close in the same way you and Yang are, but I thought we shared everything important with each other. For so long she was all I had, and then I lost her for a bit and didn’t understand why, and now I have her back, but it turns out I didn’t. Not totally. I just… Ugh!” She dropped her face into her hands and took another shaky breath.
Ruby wrapped her arm around her partner again and doubled down on Operation Supportive Back Rubs.
There was a ding! from Weiss’ scroll, and she pulled it open and briefly checked a message before closing it with another of her tiny smiles. It was too fast for Ruby to see what the message said.
“What was that?” she asked, hoping the question wasn’t too nosey.
“Oh, just the link to the paper Winter talked about. I’ll read it later.”
“Oh, right. Is that just a thing you and your sister do? Read scientist research papers?”
Weiss did that smiley-eye roll. “Yes, we enjoy being educated and informed. Science papers, business reports, political articles, agricultural forecasts… It’s a habit our father ingrained in us.” Her face fell as she mentioned him. “A good one, though.”
“Well that sounds… super smartical!” Ruby chirped. She’d been thinking it sounded boring, but that would be mean and probably dumb to say. If Weiss read that stuff, that meant smart people read that stuff, so she shouldn’t make fun of if. Maybe she should read it too? If she wanted to be the best team leader ever, she’d need to be smart and stuff.
“Is ‘smartical’ one of your and Yang’s special ‘intellectual adjacent’ words?” Weiss asked with a teasing lip quirk.
“Yeah! We have dibs. Hands off.”
Weiss raised her hands in mock surrender and leaned into Ruby’s side-hug. After a moment, she said, “Thanks for… being here. With me.”
Ruby gave the girl a squeeze. “Of course, Weiss. We’re partners. And…” she glanced at Weiss. “Friends?”
Weiss gave her a big, happy looking smile. “Friends,” she confirmed with a nod.
Ruby gave a happy side-to-side wiggle at that. “… BFFs?” she asked. She’d always wanted a BF–
Ruby’s eyes went wide. That was totally not the reaction she was expecting. “Oh, okay.”
“No, Ruby, I mean what does that even mean?”
“Oh!” Ruby let out a breathless laugh as her nerves came back. “It means ‘best friends forever’!”
“That sounds dumb.”
Weiss gave a light, wind-chimey chuckle at Ruby’s face and patted her knee. “So… I know I promised extra dolt-ery tonight, but I’d like to play the piano for a bit before we do that.”
That made sense. Playing music seemed to be Weiss’ relaxation technique, like Ruby and Yang with their shows and games–or Yang with her freaking hair brushing. (Seriously, she really likes brushing her hair.) And Ruby could imagine Weiss needed to relax right now.
“Okay! Do you mind if I listen?”
Another smile. “Not at all. Just…” Weiss’ expression flickered. “I’m feeling alright now. Don’t feel like you need to stick around and be bored listening to me play an instrument just to make sure I’m okay.”
Ruby gave her partner another squeeze. “Don’t be a doofus, Weiss! Your music sounds awesome! And I can go grab some paper and doodle and stuff.”
Weiss gave an adorable frowny-pout. “I’m not a doofus.” Ruby giggled. “But that sounds nice. You know… you could also read the other chapter for History.”
Ruby scrunched her nose at that, earning an amused huff from Weiss. “But then we couldn’t read it together!” Ruby countered.
Weiss blinked strangely at that, opening her mouth and then immediately closing it like she didn’t know how to respond.
“Can I ask you for a favor, though?” Ruby asked, changing the subject so Weiss wouldn’t be stuck awkwardly floundering.
Ruby glanced at the edge of the roof. “Can you help me get down? I’m kinda burned out on Aura.” She couldn’t stop the sheepish, embarrassed grin that crept onto her face at having to ask for such silly help. This wouldn’t be an issue if she was just stronger and had more Aura!
But Weiss just chuckled lightly, standing and offering a hand to Ruby, pulling her to her feet. “Of course,” she repeated.
Woohoo! That meant Ruby would get to jump around on Weiss’ glyphs!
Together, they walked to the edge of the rooftop. With a soft hum, two grey snowflakes appeared in the air a few feet below them.
“Ooh, why are they grey?” Ruby asked as she peered down at the two spinning designs.
Weiss did the weird head tilt shrug. “The coloring is based on which direction they’re applying force. White is push. Black is pull. Grey is just… there. A solid platform.” As she finished her explanation, two more glyphs appeared further and lower out, and then another pair.
“Oh, so you’re making stairs!” Ruby realized.
She’d already jumped down to the first ‘stairflake’ when Weiss replied, “Indeed.”
It was weird, just standing in midair. She definitely felt like she was standing on a surface, but when she reached down to experimentally poke the glyph, it didn’t feel like anything. Her finger pressed against what could only be described as a section of solidified air. A little cold to the touch. It was just… there. A force.
“This is awesome!” she cheered as she carefully hopped down the next two glyphs and then onto the grass at the base of the dorm building.
Weiss landed beside her elegantly, using one hand to keep her skirt from billowing up. “I’m glad you like them,” she said as she unsummoned the glyphs. Unsummoned? Was that a good word for it? Maybe dismiss? Or dematerialize?
Hmph. A conunderum.
She followed her partner into the dorm. “Hi Bob!” she greeted the robo-butler with a wave.
“Greetings, Miss Rose. How might I assist you today?”
Woops. “Oh, no, you’re good. I was just saying hi.”
Weiss turned to give Ruby an amused smirk, to which Ruby just shrugged.
When Weiss walked past the piano, though, Ruby got confused. “Didn’t you want to play?” she asked, pointing toward the small stage.
“Yes, I just want to put up Myrtenaster first.”
“Oh, right.” Ruby had honestly forgotten she’d had Crescent Rose hooked on her back, she was so used to and comfortable with her presence. Although she supposed it might be weird to sit on the piano bench chair thingy with a sword strapped to her side, so Weiss wanting to put up her weapon made sense.
When they got back into their room, Weiss went about putting Myrtenaster in its case, meticulously removing the Dust vials she’d loaded into it and placing them in the little indent slots in the case’s padding. Ruby grabbed some loose printer paper from her stack on her desk and some colored pencils. She also begrudgingly grabbed the dumb textbook, ‘A Stupid Study of the Four Lamedoms’. She probably wouldn’t read it, but it would make for a good hard surface to draw on.
But then Weiss shot her a proud smile when she grabbed the book, and Ruby internally groaned as she realized she now had to read it. She couldn’t make Weiss that proud and then disappoint her. No way.
After she got everything ready, Ruby looked around and wondered, ‘Wait, where are Yang and Blake?’ They’d come back to the room, hadn’t they?
Ruby wandered around, peeking under the beds, half expecting her sister to jump out and try to scare her (it never worked, though, never ever, at all). Nope, nobody there. Their bathroom door was open and the light was off, so they weren’t there either. Out of consequence of looking around more than anything else, Ruby looked at the window and–
Aha! Yang’s bright yellow hair was easily visible through the blinds. She was down in the courtyard that sat between their dorm and the other three dorms for the other class years. She was laying on her back, head resting on her hands, her feet propped up against the tree whose shade she was enjoying. From the way she was moving her head and sometimes waving her arm, it looked like she was talking. And that meant…
Yep! There was Blake, sitting back against the tree, perpendicular to Yang, a book propped up on her folded legs. It was kinda hard to tell ‘cause they were so far away, but it looked like Blake wasn’t getting much reading done ‘cause she kept turning to say something to Yang.
Then Yang started doing sit-ups, and Blake turned back to her book.
Weiss walked up beside Ruby and followed her gaze. She rolled her eyes when she found Yang. “How she has the energy to workout right now is beyond me,” she muttered.
Ruby giggled. “Yang is super stronk!” she answered simply.
“Stronk?” Weiss asked, an eyebrow raised.
Weiss rolled her eyes and shook her head, turning back to look at their two teammates. “Poor Blake,” she sighed.
Weiss gestured at the pair below them, where Yang had finished however many sit-ups she was doing in a set and was laying down again, arms splayed out like she was making a grass angel and stopped to take a break. “She’s just trying to read, and she has to deal with that ridiculous monkey of a person while she does!”
Ruby laughed. Monkey person. “Yeah, but now she gets to read and talk to Yang. That’s, like, a super win!”
Weiss snorted and turned away. “You clearly can’t be objective when it comes to your sister.”
“Yuh-huh I can! Yang is awesome!” Ruby sorta-whined back.
Weiss turned and gave her a look, like she’d missed something very obvious. She had no idea what it could be, though…
Regardless, she fell in step beside Weiss as they made their way back down to the lobby, clutching her textbook and paper and colored pencils to her chest. It looked like Weiss had a binder in her hands.
“What’s that?” she asked, nodding to the item in question with her chin.
“Sheet music,” Weis answered, flipping it open to give Ruby a glance at the first page.
‘Canon in D’. Hm. Cannons were cool. A little outdated though.
“I have most of these memorized,” Weiss said, rifling through the pages to find a particular song. “But I only started this one a couple months ago. I’m still trying to get it down.”
‘Moonlight Sonata.’ Ruby had no idea what a sonata was, but moonlight was pretty! And the moon itself was really pretty too, even with all the broken bits. Maybe because of the broken bits.
“I’m sure you’ll get it,” Ruby said, giving Weiss a shoulder bump of encouragement.
Weiss nodded. “I’m sure I will, too. Just need practice.” She started and quickly turned to Ruby. “Oh! I mean… thank you.”
Ruby giggled, but settled on another shoulder bump rather than more words. She was feeling pretty tired, and it was hard to think of anything to say. She just hoped Weiss wouldn’t end up pinching herself for messing up notes on this ‘Moonlight Sonata’ like she’d pinched herself a couple days ago over that note on the violin. She’d have to make sure to watch for that.
Ruby plopped down on one of the sofas arranged around the glass table in the center of the lobby while Weiss set herself up at the piano. It wasn’t a terribly comfy couch–rough cloth instead of leather and set a bit too far away from the table for her to actually set her papers down. The whole set up was made more to look good than it was to actually be nice to sit at.
Ruby did her best to get comfortable, wiggling her butt into the cushions and tucking her legs up, leaning back. She rested her textbook on her legs, so she kinda looked like Blake did sitting against the tree, and placed a sheet of paper on the hardcover. She got her normal pencil and started drawing–the great Battle of Beacon, in which General Flappy Feet and his trusty second-in-command, Captain Pecks-a-Lot, had to fight back hordes of evil aliens while Admiral Zymdood of the Alien Armada cackled maniacally in the background from on top of his giant UFO.
Yeah, it was a work of art.
The whole battle was created with Weiss’ awesomely pretty piano music. She clearly started with the things she knew, because it all flowed perfectly and just sounded… really good. Ruby wasn’t sure how to “talk music”, but she knew it sounded amazing. Really relaxing.
Keeping her knees tucked up was getting really tiring… She decided to lie down, holding the textbook and paper with one hand and lightly shading in some color with the other (she always started with red, of course). Weiss kept her music going, something soft like a lullaby.
The textbook was really heavy too… With a sigh, Ruby set her stuff down on the floor in front of the couch and decided to just listen to the music. It was really nice, after all.
Dang, the lights were also really bright… Ruby closed her eyes so she could just focus on the music… There was a fast bit, and then a slow bit, and then…
“Hrrrmph?” she grunted as something jostled her.
“It’s just me, Rubes,” Yang’s voice answered her. She picked Ruby up, one hand under her shoulders and another under her knees. “Let’s get you to bed, ‘kay?”
“Okerhh,” she answered, leaning into her sister’s warmth and giving up on opening her eyes. “Wurr’s Weiss?” she mumbled, swinging a hand out like she could grab her partner out of the air.
A cool hand grabbed hers and tucked it into her side, wedging it between her body and Yang’s. “I’m right here, Ruby,” Weiss’ princessy voice answered.
“Ah liked yur musihh…” Ruby said, trying and failing to turn her head toward her partner.
“Thank you,” came Weiss’ reply. “I like your… penguin… huntsman… aliens.” She heard the sound of a paper rustling. Weiss must be carrying her stuff.
She giggled, though she was really sleepy and it kinda just came out as a huff. “I’sss Gernal Furpy Feet,” she explained.
She heard Yang whisper, “General Flappy Feet”, and Weiss gave a small “Ah”.
Ruby snuggled into Yang some more, and their movement changed. They were going upstairs now.
Blake’s voice came from behind her. “Does this guy have a name?”
Ruby felt Yang turn slightly. “That’s General Zymdood.”
“Ahmir-rlll!” Ruby corrected.
“Right, sorry. Admiral Zymdood. He’s the bad guy alien dude.”
“So these are recurring characters?” Weiss asked.
Ruby’s face got bopped with some of Yang’s hair as her sister nodded. “They’ve been in a great war for Remnant for two years now.” There was a pause, then she spoke up again. “What’s that smile doing there, Weiss? I think it must be lost!”
“Shut up, you oaf,” Weiss retorted, though she didn’t sound very angry. “It’s a cute picture. And it’s pretty decent artwork, too.”
“Yeah,” came Blake’s voice again. “It’s… I mean, those are very clearly penguins. And those are very clearly aliens. And I’m pretty sure that’s Beacon Tower, right?”
“Yeah, looks like it,” Weiss responded.
“Yrr,” Ruby confirmed for them.
Blake laughed at the noise, and Yang gave Ruby a kiss on the forehead, which made her wrinkle her nose as Yang’s hair tickled her face again. “Hrrrrr!” she protested, to no avail. It just made Yang chuckle and then lick her forehead, just to be a jerk.
“HRRrrr!” Ruby whined, trying to wipe her face off on Yang’s sleeve.
“You’re deranged,” she heard Weiss say, hopefully to Yang and not her.
Yang just laughed.
They stopped. “Could you get the door, Blakey-Blake?” Yang said. Ruby felt someone brush past her, then heard the whir and click of the door unlocking.
“I don’ werna go ta bed,” she grumbled as she was carried into their room.
“Well… You may get your wish, Rubes, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I can’t get you up there,” Yang said. Sleepy Ruby brain took a moment to realize she meant her top bunk.
“It’s okay,” she heard Weiss say. “Just put her in mine.”
“Really?” Yang asked, clearly surprised.
Ruby felt her sister shrug, and then she was being lowered. Weiss’ bed was as soft as Ruby’s, but it had the added bonus of Weiss-scented pillows. Yang tucked her in.
“Mm. Smells like cake,” Ruby mumbled as she turned onto her side and snuggled into the pillows.
“I have vanilla scented… ampoo. That mus… king about,” Weiss said. Ruby didn’t catch all the words. She was really comfy and really, really tired.
“I’m feelin… ired too… ant a nap,” came Blake’s voice.
Yang said something to that, something like offering to put a ninja babe to bed or something. Ruby was too sleepy to figure out what that meant.
She wiggled a bit to get more comfy. This pillow smelled really nice… Why did it smell so nice?… It was also really cold, in that good way that good cold pillows were cold and good and pillowy…
She dreamed of cookies and snowflakes and penguins.