This was terrible.
Bunk beds crammed into a living space smaller than Weiss’ bathroom back home? A complete lack of any secluded rooms to study or be alone? Not one, but two open community spaces where people would be coming and going constantly?
How was Weiss supposed to get any privacy?
The Schnee estate, a complex that sprawled across half again as much land as Beacon Academy, had only ever housed a maximum of six people. Only two of them were people that Weiss actually enjoyed being around, and Winter had left home five years ago and Klein always had to serve her parents and brat of a little brother. As a result, Weiss had spent most of her time alone, and she had gotten used to that.
But this… Forced to live stuffed against the two loudest, most hot headed children she’d ever met? This was a hell crafted personally for Weiss, and she wasn’t sure what she’d done to warrant such a punishment.
The only silver lining to this–a phrase that made Weiss cringe to think about because it brought Ruby’s eyes to mind–was the piano in the foyer. There had been only two things Weiss had been sad to leave behind when she came to Vale: Klein, and the family’s grand piano. She’d brought her violin with her, but the piano had always been her favorite. At least she’d still have access to that here, even if it was in a wide open space where people would constantly be around.
She preemptively shuddered at the thought of Ruby coming up and trying to start a conversation while she was in the middle of a piece.
She walked into the room slowly, doing a slow spin to inspect her new prison cell as Ruby flitted from one thing to the next hyperactively.
Atrociously small beds–Weiss believed they were referred to as “twin size,” for some reason, even though the bigger bed sizes were named after monarchs.
Two wide desks against the wall with the entrance door, each with two chair tucked into them. Was she supposed to share a desk?
A short bookshelf ran underneath the sill of the single large window in the center of the far wall. Weiss suspected it wouldn’t be big enough for all of Blake’s books.
Doors next to either of the bunk beds led to other rooms that, upon inspection, revealed themselves to be insanely small bathrooms, both with minute walk-in closets attached. Weiss breathed a sigh of relief at the realization that she’d be sharing a bathroom with only one person instead of three. It was still a violation of human rights, but at least it wasn’t the end of the world.
When she walked back into the bedroom she was greeted by a smiling Ruby bouncing up to her. “Hey, Weiss?”
Was this a thing now? “Yes, Ruby?” she responded.
“Top or bottom?”
Uh… “Excuse me?”
Ruby frowned in confusion and pointed at the bunk bed next to them. “Which bunk do you want, silly?”
“Oh.” No. No no no. Not her. Nonononono. “You don’t want to bunk with your sister?” she asked hopefully, her stomach twisting into a knot that was tighter than the one on the sash around her waist. Blake wouldn’t be such a bad bunkmate. She’s quiet and likes books! That’s good, right?
“Nope!” beamed Ruby, apparently missing Weiss’ clear desire to not have to sleep anywhere near her. “Yang thought it would be a good idea for us to bunk with our partners, and we agreed!”
Weiss leaned to the side to peak around the girl in front of her. Sure enough, the other two girls had settled into the bed on the other side of the room, Blake relaxing sprawled out like a cat on the bottom bunk while Yang was sitting on the top bunk pinning up a gaudy poster of that one boy band that had become popular from that one-hit-wonder a year ago.
Closing her eyes for a moment, Weiss straightened back up and took a deep breath. Count to five.
This uncouth girl was going to be her bunkmate? Weiss couldn’t imagine a worse development.
She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d expected when she’d left home for a boarding school, but it wasn’t this. What had she expected?
She supposed she hadn’t given it much thought. She hadn’t imagined how different her life would be from her solitary existence in the Schnee manor. It was foolish of her to expect anything to be familiar.
It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? If she was bunking with Ruby that meant she wouldn’t have to see her and her antics across the room.
Weiss sighed and opened her eyes to find Ruby looking up at her anxiously. The girl glanced back at their other two teammates, then returned her attention to Weiss. “If… if I’m going to be a problem, I can see if they’d be willing to switch…” Her voice trailed away, the sadness in her eyes telling Weiss more than any words could just how much she was hurting this girl with her attitude.
Damn it, Weiss.
Winter had told her to give her team, her new family, a chance, and yet here she was making this girl miserable when she hadn’t done anything wrong beyond being a bit overzealous in a fight and excited to see her new school.
Weiss needed to do better. She’d agreed to staying with the team for lunch, and that had been an enjoyable experience overall, right?
She shook her head. “No, no you don’t need to do that,” she told Ruby softly. “I’m… I’m sorry. May I have the bottom bunk? The thought of sleeping in the air freaks me out.” Maybe that concession would help Ruby feel better after Weiss’ rudeness.
That apparently did the trick. Ruby’s ear-to-ear smile came back and her eyes lit up. “Sure thing! Do you need help getting your stuff set up? I don’t have much so I’ll be done quick.”
Weiss cringed at the thought of that. Unpacking was something she wanted to do herself. Organizing her belongings was something calming she was actually looking forward to.
“I’ll… let you know?” she hedged.
Ruby flashed her a big smile. “You got it, partner!” she chirped before bouncing over to her single suitcase and beginning to unpack.
It looked like Yang had a single large suitcase like her sister, and an additional large carry on bag that seemed to be filled entirely with hair care supplies. Blake had an extra suitcase, but it looked like it was mostly just used as a mobile library that she was now unloading into the small bookshelf.
Weiss glanced at her stack of seven massive, stainless steel suitcases. She’d thought she’d packed incredibly light, but now her stuff seemed… excessive compared to her teammates.
With a wad of clothes tangled up in her arms, Ruby dashed past Weiss to get to the closet with a rush of fragrant air and petals. Almost as soon as she was gone, she was back, unpacking and stacking what looked like comic books.
There’s no way she put those clothes away that fast, right?
Stalking back over to the closet, Weiss threw the door open in a huff. Sure enough, Ruby had just crammed her clothes into a couple of the cubbyholes meant for shoes and accessories.
Cool air and the scent of roses rolled into her gently from behind. “That’s me!”
Weiss turned to her teammate with a stomp of her heeled foot and pointed imperiously at the mess Ruby had left in their closet. “Do you find this acceptable?” If she was going to spend four years living with this dolt, Weiss needed to get her into shape as a livable roommate pronto.
Ruby looked at her crime, then at Weiss. Then again. And again. “Uh… Do you want them on, like, hangers or something?”
“Yes, Ruby!” She pointed at the hanger racks. “Day clothes go there.” She pointed at one of the two drawers on either side of the closet. “Pajamas and undergarments go there.” She pointed at the cubby holes currently stuffed with Ruby’s clothes. “Those are for shoes and jewelry stands.”
Ruby snickered behind her hand.
“What is so funny?” Weiss demanded.
Ruby looked up at her with a giggle. “You said ‘undergarment.’”
Weiss sighed. Child.
“Just put your clothes away correctly… Please?” She remembered to add that last part after a moment.
Ruby shuffled her feet and turned her eyes down to them. “I… uh… I didn’t pack any hangers.”
Weiss closed her eyes. Figures.
“I’m sorry!” Ruby whined. “I didn’t think about it. I’ll go see if Yang brou–”
“No,” Weiss cut her off with a wave of her hand. “I have extras. I’ll go get them for you.”
Ruby’s eyes went wide. “Really? Wow, thanks Weiss!”
Weiss gave her a small smile and headed back to her stuff. She flipped through the different tags on her suitcases and found the one that said “4 – Clothing Accessories” in her neat, flowing handwriting.
“Man, you have a lot of stuff!” Ruby intelligently observed from her side. “Did you label all of these? You have really neat handwriting! It looks like cursive, but I can actually read it!”
Weiss smirked at that. “My reading and writing tutor always told me that cursive was the idiot’s cheat for looking sophisticated.”
“Hey!” Yang grouched from her and Blake’s bathroom, where she was setting up her hair salon. “I write in cursive!”
“No you don’t!” Ruby countered, confusion pulling on her brow.
Yang sighed heavily, and Weiss was mildly impressed that she’d made it audible from that far away. “Ruby, you’re supposed to go with the joke,” she explained slowly.
Weiss internally groaned. She had meant for her remark to be heard by Ruby and Ruby alone. It wasn’t really all that bad that Yang and, presumably, Blake had heard, but it was yet another reminder of how little privacy or borders she’d have living here.
Bringing the conversation back around, Weiss tried to give Ruby a little lesson in being organized. “But yes, I did label all of these. It’ll make unpacking far easier.”
“Heh.” Ruby scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, that sounds like it was a lot of fun…”
Is having fun all this girl thinks about?
Weiss unzipped the suitcase and pulled out one of the two packs of extra hangers she’d brought with her for when she inevitably went shopping in Vale and brought back more clothes. “Here,” she said, handing Ruby the pack of hangers. “Let me know if you need more.”
Ruby took the hangers with a silly little hop and a smile. “Thank you! I won’t. I don’t have much stuff.”
That was true. From what Weiss had seen, Ruby couldn’t have more than seven or eight sets of clothes. That seemed incredibly… sad? But that meant that Weiss would have plenty of space for all of her stuff.
Weiss wanted to start with unpacking her clothes, but decided to on unpacking her school supplies–case 6–first to give Ruby time in the closet. She pulled out the binders, notebooks, reams of loose-leaf paper, pencil cases, and all the other supplies she’d brought and arranged them in neat piles on the carpet.
The cases with her writing and measuring utensils would go on the desk, probably tucked into the corner. The notebooks and binders could go on the small shelf overhang on the desk, along with the desklamp she’d wrapped with her clothes in another suitcase.
What about her Dust equipment? She’d brought a large amount of pre-packed cartridges for Myrtenaster, plus the personal loading and refining equipment that she’d learned to use over the past three years. It was expensive, delicate machinery and glassware… and should probably be kept away from these chuckleheads.
Weiss resigned to worry about that last.
She placed her little model of a kneeling knight on the desk and placed her fountain pen in his outstretched arms. A smile crept up on her when she looked at him. He was a replica of the knight she’d painted when she was little, a birthday gift from her sister.
Next, her normal pens and pencils in their case were placed on one side of the knight, and her case of colored pencils on the other. She lined up her empty binders and notebooks on the shelf, and suffered through the struggle of setting them up to not fall to the side immediately.
“Awwww, he’s so cute!” Ruby squealed just behind her shoulder. Weiss turned to see her partner looking at her knight, her hands to her cheeks like she was containing a cuteness overload.
Weiss smiled. “Thank you. He was a gift.”
“What’s his name?” Ruby bounced as she asked.
Weiss frowned. “Name?”
“Well, yeah,” Ruby said, looking at Weiss like she had grown a second head. “What do you call him?”
“I… I don’t call him anything, Ruby. I don’t talk to him. He’s just a statue.” Grimm, she really was a child.
Ruby leaned down and pretended to plug the knight’s ears. “Don’t listen to her, Sir Writes-a-Lot. She knows not of what she speaks.”
“Did you finish in the closet?” Weiss asked to get past this derangity.
“Yup! All set, everything in the right place. I think.”
“Look, I don’t know!” Ruby waved her hands around. “I’ve never had a closet that was, like, it’s own room before, okay?”
Weiss frowned at that. “You don’t have a walk-in closet at home?”
Ruby scratched the back of her head. “Is that what they’re called? Heh. That’s weird. Technically, you can walk into a normal closet, too, right?”
“But no, Ice Queen,” Yang spat as she came out of her bathroom. “We don’t have obnoxiously large super-closets back home. We’re not all heiresses, you know.”
Weiss recoiled at that. “That’s not what–I wasn’t…” She just hadn’t realized people didn’t all have walk-in closets in their home. She hadn’t expected them to have anything like what Weiss had, but to not have a walk-in at all? That seemed so… strange.
“Hey, don’t mind her.” Ruby reached out to give Weiss’ arm a reassuring pat, but Weiss cringed away from the contact, and Ruby noticed. “Oh, sorry,” she whispered. She pulled her hand back and clasped both behind her back nervously. “You’re good to unpack your clothes! You’ve got almost the entire closet of space. And let me know if I did something wrong with my stuff and I’ll come fix it.” She gave Weiss a friendly smile that Weiss tried her best to return.
With a grunt, Weiss dragged case one onto its wheels and brought it over to the closet. It looked like Ruby had, for the most part, done a decent job of fixing the mess she’d made. Her shirts were hung up, though they weren’t all facing left like they should have. She’d also folded her pants and placed them on top of the dresser for some reason, instead of hooking them on hangers of their own.
Sighing, Weiss went over to fix the issues herself. It would take too long and be too taxing on her sanity to explain to Ruby what was wrong and have her fix it. Weiss flipped the shirts that needed flipping, hung up the two pairs of dark jeans and placed the sweatpants into the drawer with the pajama shirts that she had to refold. She turned the single pair of boots in the cubby hole so they faced outwards.
There. Sanity saved.
She set to unpacking her own clothes now. Case 1 was her combat outfits and most of her shirts and blouses. She’d packed them all with their hangers, so putting them up was a simple task. She organized by function, then color: dress clothes first, then casual outing clothes, then the comfortable “night in” clothes she had hardly ever worn at home because Father found them unbecoming of a Schnee. Most of her stuff was white or blue, with some greys, aquas, and violets thrown in. Pale colors like that tended to go best with her complexion, not to mention her hair and eyes.
The contents of case one took up slightly more than half the hanger rack on Weiss’ side. She glanced back over at Ruby’s hung up belongings that took up less than a fifth of the other rack. Well, at least Weiss would have extra space for her stuff.
One case of clothes down. Three more to go.
She brought the empty suitcase back out to the room and grabbed Case 2.
“Need any help with that?” Ruby asked from her bunk where she was pinning up what looked like video game posters.
Weiss shook her head. “I got it.” She was in the zone. Organizing and cleaning put her in a relaxing zen state she sorely needed right now.
The rest of the suitcases went more slowly. There were pajamas and undergarments that had gotten jostled during the trip and needed to be refolded. She set up her jewelry boxes on her dresser, arranged her shoes in the cubbies, hung up her pants, skirts, and belts, hung up her full-size elliptical mirror, and set up her toiletries at the sink and shower (which was also a bathtub, for some reason).
The whole endeavor took about an hour and a half–an hour and a half of being left alone in relaxing bliss. Her stuff ended up all fitting, though she did need to end up using about half of the hanger rack on Ruby’s side of the closet. There was still space left for more clothes, though, so that was good. She was occasionally distracted by shouts and laughter from the two sisters across the thin wall. Towards the end, Weiss started slowing down, dreading the mandatory social interaction she’d have to endure once she went back out to the room.
Eventually, she steeled herself, taking a long moment to try to hold on to this calm she felt before venturing over to her team. She lingered in the doorway a moment to see that Blake was lying on her side on her bed reading a book, Yang was browsing on her scroll, and Ruby was… nowhere to be seen.
Blake noticed Weiss and flashed her a small smile before turning back to her book.
Gingerly, she pulled out her violin case. She undid the latches, opening for no other reason than to stare lovingly at the instrument. Music always helped her relax. She took a deep breath, inhaling the comforting smell of the wood and resin, then closed the case and set it next to the bookshelf.
Weiss finished setting up her school supplies, then popped open her last suitcase, the mini portable Dust refinery. She briefly inspected all the machines to make sure they were undamaged: Distiller? Check. Compactor? Check. Separator? Check. The empty vials were also in good condition. Excellent.
She took the small case of preloaded Dust vials for Myrtenaster and set it on the bookshelf, then closed the main case with all of the gear still in it and slid it under her bed. The desk might be big enough to serve as a workspace, but she’d need to put everything away each time or she wouldn’t have room for her regular homework stuff. That wasn’t too bad. If she had to put the equipment away after each use, she’d also have to clean it after each use, which was a good practice to have.
Finally, Weiss let herself collapse onto her new bed.
‘Oh no. This won’t do at all.
Was this a spring mattress? She’d had such a long day, after the forest trial, having her hopes and dreams destroyed in front of an auditorium full of strangers, the emotionally ravaging conversation with her sister, extended exposure to the sanity hazard that was her team leader, and unpacking… And her source of rest and comfort after all of that was a bed made out of bricks. She’d need to go into town and at least get a foam mattress cover or something, because she sure wouldn’t be able to deal with this for a year.
She pulled out her scroll and typed out a reminder for tomorrow.
12:00 – Shop for cover for brickbed. And more pillows. And a softer comforter.
With a heavy sigh, Weiss put her hands behind her head and fell back, trying to stretch out and will the tension in her muscles away.
Classes started the day after tomorrow, and then Weiss would have the challenge of being the best huntress ever to throw herself against. Everything else, the annoyance of her teammates and the discomfort of this less-than-optimal lifestyle, would hopefully fall away for her when she could focus all of her being on excelling.
Closing her eyes, she emptied her mind as she counted her breaths, and the occasional sound of Blake turning a page. She definitely felt like she’d earned some piano time today. She treated the piano as something of a personal reward that she’d only allow herself to indulge in if she felt she’d done well that day, and she considered the fact that she’d made it through the disaster that had been the last twelve hours without screaming incoherently at a wall a major personal victory.
Not that she’d ever do that. Such behaviour would be unbecoming of a lady.
“Guys! Guys! Guys!” came a squeaky voice from the hallway, getting progressively louder. A second later Ruby zoomed into the room, rose petals and fragrance wafting in with her entrance. “Guys!”
Weiss sighed. Moment of quiet peace, gone.
“What is it, Rubes?” Yang asked, swinging her feet over her bed.
“There’s a game room!” Ruby said with a squeal, jumping up and down.
Yang hopped down from her bed. “Yo, for real?”
Ruby practically pinballed around the room. “Yeah, it’s downstairs in a room off the lobby! There’s foosball and ping pong and air hockey and Team JNPR is already there and I wanna go let’s go let’s go let’s–” she paused to take a breath–”go!”
“Heck yes! Blake, you coming?” Yang asked her partner.
Blake sighed and rolled out of bed. “As long as I can bring my book.”
Yang frowned. “I mean, I’m not sure that counts as a ping pong paddle, but sure! Whatever, let’s go! I’m gonna mop the floor with you guys!” She skipped out of the room, voluminous golden hair bobbing up and down. Blake followed quietly after her while Ruby turned to Weiss for that inevitable, dreadful question.
“You coming, Weiss?”
Seven rambunctious teens in a room playing arcade games while practically sweating adrenaline and decibels? Ugh. “No, thank you.”
Ruby looked visibly distraught by that response. “But Weiss, it’ll be fun. I promise. Come hang out with your team,” she pleaded.
It didn’t at all seem like something that Weiss would find fun, that was something Ruby wouldn’t understand. “I’m sure it would be,” she said instead. “But I’m very tired and stressed and I’d just like to… have some me time.”
The words were honest, and Ruby seemed able to sense at least that. She nodded sadly and turned to leave. “Well, if you change your mind, it’s the door between the staircases downstairs.”
“Okay. Thank you, Ruby.” She wouldn’t be changing her mind, but it couldn’t hurt to show some appreciation for the invitation. It wasn’t the kind of thing she was usually wanted at. Ever, actually.
A part of Weiss’ heart twisted in disappointment in herself. Maybe she should go spend time with her team. She may be getting wanted now, but if she kept isolating herself like this, how long would it take before Ruby just stopped bothering to invite her?
But… She was just so worn out. She just wanted to relax for a long while and then go play the piano. The overstimulation of playing games with so many people seemed so daunting and stressful.
No. She needed to take care of herself and her mental well-being. She needed to be alone for a little bit.
After a long pause that Weiss could guess was her partner trying to figure out how to convince her to come, Ruby relented, turning to go. Stopping in the doorway, she turned and spoke softly, “I hope you have fun. Or… whatever?”
Weiss smiled. “You too, Ruby.”
The door closed with a quiet click, and Weiss was left alone with her thoughts.
Well, the past day had changed her life so much in ways that were so much worse than she’d hoped. The moment her eyes had settled on Ruby in the forest, she’d resigned herself to four years of disappointment. Though she supposed it could be worse: it could have been Yang. Ruby, though obnoxiously immature and alarmingly dense, was at least sweet and friendly, almost to a fault. Yang was… Well, Yang was treating Weiss the way she probably deserved to be treated, so she supposed she couldn’t fault the girl for that, even if it was unpleasant. Four years of Yang’s anger would be a toll. Blake seemed nice, and was quiet and thoughtful. Weiss would have preferred her over Ruby as a partner any day.
But the fact that Jaune “Vomit Boy” Arc had landed Pyrrha Nikos as his partner was so grating and undeserved and unfair… It made Weiss want to throw something.
Again, she would never do something so base, of course.
Another wave of self pity and frustration washed over Weiss. She’d spent the past five years–ever since Winter left home to join the Atlesian military–training, studying, practicing as hard as she could to earn her place at the most prestigious huntsman academy in Remnant, to make sure she was the caliber of huntress that would deserve the title of team leader, and Old Man Ozpin had just handed that incredible honor and responsibility to a child that has probably spent more time eating cookies than she has studying and training. A child that had no awareness of the world around her and had almost made Weiss set the forest on fire because of her cluelessness. A child that ran face first into a Death Stalker because she wanted to prove a point.
This girl was supposed to lead Weiss?
She felt tears of frustration building up again, and groaned and buried her face in her pillow to keep them at bay.
Winter had been supportive. Of course she had. But it was reassuring that she’d still thought Weiss was doing well even though she hadn’t been named team leader. She’d said Weiss needed to give her team a chance, that they’d be a family some day.
Weiss found it hard to believe that she could ever get along with Ruby or Yang, but Blake? Most likely.
And why had Winter been so reticent to talking about her own team, when she apparently had nothing but a positive outlook on the concept? Weiss would need to remember to ask her sister about that later.
The dorm building was nice. The architecture and furnishings were simple, classy, and beautiful. Weiss regretted that the piano was in such an open, public space, though. She hoped she’d be able to be left alone to play in the evenings. She’d need to figure out a time of day when there wouldn’t be walking through the lobby. Probably really late at night or early in the morning?
The room was terrible. No space, no privacy, no comfort. An entire year of this seemed like such an insurmountable trial, Weiss was getting anxious just thinking about it. And possibly longer than a year, depending on how housing was handled for second-year students and beyond.
She could tough it out though, right? Of course she could. She was Weiss Schnee. She could do anything she set her mind too.
That was what she needed to become a huntress more than anything–confidence. Confidence in herself. In her abilities. She could do this.
… Because she wasn’t sure what she’d do if she couldn’t.
After laying there with her thoughts for a long time, Weiss eventually pulled herself out of bed to head downstairs. She cracked the door open and heard a bunch of shouting and loud voices coming from the community living area, and took a deep breath before quickly and quietly shuffling out of the room and down the hall.
It was Team CRDL, the four boys playing some video game together on the television. Weiss silently crept behind them, and they thankfully never noticed her.
Her heels clicked on the staircase as she made her way down to the lobby. It was empty in here, though she could barely make out voices coming from behind the door Ruby had told her about.
Turning the other way, she stepped up to the piano, running her hand along the warm wood before taking a seat. She lifted the fallboard and gently trailed her fingers over the keys.
This was nice.
Something felt a little off, though. She stood and walked over to the far corner where the mech butler was apparently in sleep mode. She cleared her throat. “Um.. Excuse me… Bob?” It was hard to say that with a straight face.
The mech’s faceplate glowed orange as it cycled awake. “Miss Schnee,” it observed in its tiny voice. “How may I assist you?”
“Would it be possible to turn off the lights in here?” She wanted to feel a little more at home, and the lighting in the Schnee manor had always been dim.
“Certainly, Miss.” As he said that, the lights seemed to flick off of their own accord. “Anything else I can help you with?”
“No, that will be all,” Weiss said, already walking back to the piano. Now it was illuminated only by the moonlight flooding in through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows and the soft glow of the white Dust fixtures in the chandelier.
Weiss began to play. She hadn’t needed sheet music for most of her songs in a long, long time, playing from memory with her eyes closed. She stumbled a few times–the keys on this piano were slightly heavier than the one back home. But it was wonderful to play.
She started with a simple march, the first real classical pieces she’d learned when she was little. She transitioned into a soft waltz that forced her thin fingers to fly across the keys, then went straight into a sonata, the last piece she’d learned that she had fully memorized.
After she was done with those, she dove into the last song she’d been learning, though she once again get stuck at the same part that had been giving her trouble to remember. For some reason, the chord progression for the harmony kept slipping from her mind once she got to it.
Instead of letting herself stew in frustration at her incompetence like she usually did, she forced herself to go back to more familiar songs, replaying the ones she’d just finished and a couple more she knew by heart.
Falling into the music, he last track of all sense of time. Her stress and worries melted away, and she slipped into that lovely twilight state of conscious but thoughtless, acting only on muscle memory, that had gotten her through so many stressful nights back home.
She was just about to move into one of her original songs, and took a breath to begin singing, when Ruby’s grating voice cut through her bliss. “Wow, you’re incredible, Weiss!”
Weiss’ fingers immediately jerked off the keys. Slowly, she opened her eyes and glanced to the side to find both her team and Team JNPR all standing around staring at her, varying levels of surprise and approval on their faces. They were all arrayed by the stairs, but Ruby had walked up far closer and was standing wide-eyed at the foot of the platform. An anxious itch crept over Weiss to know she’d been listened to for who knows how long.
It wasn’t that she was nervous playing in front of others. She wasn’t. She’d done it plenty of times before at concerts. She had enough confidence in her skill that she wouldn’t make a mistake and embarrass herself. But when she’d played in front of others, she’d been playing for others. She’d known they’d be listening. But this… When she played normally, in moments like this, she was playing for herself. She didn’t like others listening to her music because it hadn’t been meant for them.
Weiss forced herself to breathe past the anxiety. A part of her was grateful for the compliment, and glad that her fellow students seemed so impressed with her skill. But another, larger part of her was just frustrated that her moment to herself was over.
“Did you have to interrupt me?” she hissed in a voice so low it was barely above a whisper.
Ruby’s face fell, her eyes shooting to the ground as she scratched the back of her head and rubbed one of her heels against her other ankle. “I-I… I’m sorry. I didn’t–I just wanted to tell you that you sounded great, I didn’t mean to–”
“Stop,” Weiss cut her off, guilt punching her in the gut as she watched Ruby stammer in shame. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. Thank you for the kind words.” The apology and reconciliation sounded stiff in Weiss’ own ears, but in her defense, she wasn’t used to issuing either.
Ruby gave her a small smile in response, and it looked like some of the sadness Weiss had just wrought had faded from her eyes.
Weiss nodded toward the others, most of whom had started heading back to their rooms now. “Did you have fun?” she asked.
Immediately, Ruby’s happy, bouncing persona came back in full force. “Totally! We played all the things! We tried playing three vee three ping pong, but that was kind of a disaster. It ended up just turning into Yang and Nora trying to see who could smack each other with the ball the hardest. And Ren! Freaking Ren is like the god of foosball! He moved his hands so fast, it was crazy! And Jaune was, well, he was Jaune. Pretty much everyone beat him up. Blake beat him in air hockey and she was playing with one hand while reading her book! Oh, and Nora…”
Weiss took a deep breath and lowered the fallboard and stood from the bench, falling in beside Ruby as they walked back to their room together, Ruby chattering the entire time.
This road wouldn’t be easy, and it would probably feel excruciatingly long, but as long she could find the time to make it to her happy place like she had just now, she felt like she could do this.
Ruby fell silent when they reached the second floor, and after a moment Weiss realized that the girl was looking at her expectantly.
“Have you ever played foosball before?” Ruby asked cheerily.
Weiss chuckled. “No, I can’t say that I have.”
“Ermahgersh, we have to play some time. It’s sooo much fun! So, it’s like soccer on a table, right? And all the players are attached to sticks–wait, that probably doesn’t make sense. Okay, let me start over! So the table is, like, a rectangle, right? I mean, duh. But there are holes in the side where the sticks go through…”
Weiss smiled to herself. At least she had a friendly partner.