Folk Songs (Weiss Schnee builds a home in the aftermath)
She asks Winter if she ever wonders why Atlas is named the way it is. Surely, naming a floating city after someone who was almost always pinned to the ground by the weight of the world would have been a mistake. Icarus, she muses, if it were up to her, she would have named it Icarus.
(Icarus flew and Icarus fell. Icarus, a slave to his own ambitions)
“Is that who you feel like?” Winter asks. “Atlas?”
It’s an honest question put to someone who has spent significant time carrying the family name around, by someone who handed it over when she grew too tall for it. Weiss shrugs.
“It’s not that deep,” she says.
Winter responds to that by patting her back. “Isn’t it, though?” she says, pushing a hand so Weiss straightens her posture. Weiss is sure the movement is unconscious, instinctual. Then Winter moves her hand to adjust the collar of the shirt she’s wearing, and lets her hand rest on Weiss’ shoulder for the rest of the conversation. Neither of them mentions it.
She’s sitting at the piano when Ruby plops down next to her. “Teach me,” Ruby says, hitting a couple of disjointed notes.
Weiss, who is prone to losing her bearings when Ruby is near, plays a couple of notes in response. It’s supposed to be a tiny jingle, but she messes it up.
“I can’t play very well,” she, who has been trained to play the piano, the cello, and the violin since the age of five, says without a pause. Then she balls up her fists, because what she meant to say instead is — I can’t play very well when you’re around. Actually, I can’t do a lot of things very well when you’re around, Ruby.
(Blake and Yang need to come up with their combined manual on love soon. And when they do, she hopes there will be a section titled How to talk to girls you’ve kissed and sworn eternal devotion to but because there was a war going on neither of you ever sat down to define your relationship and now you don’t know what to do with your hands when she’s near. It can be a long section; she doesn’t mind as long as it gives her clear instructions.)
Ruby presses at a note. “What’s this?”
Another one. “This?”
“Either a C sharp or a D flat.”
Ruby stares hard at the piano, and Weiss entertains the crazy thought of kissing her frown away. She’s done it before — on sleepless nights, on ravaged battlefields, as a mark of comfort and of quiet, painful adoration. It’s damning how easy it is to bend to Ruby; every cell in her body calls out a primordial cry for her. How could she, mountain of carefully sculpted indifference, bow this effortlessly to fire?
(Her father, if she deigned to give him the time of day, would probably mutter something about how she’s a disgrace to the Schnee name, and she would disagree. What she feels in her heart for Ruby is nothing short of a miracle.)
“Here,” she says, pressing the notes in order, slowly so she’s sure Ruby can follow. “If you want to play a basic chord, you could just hold down C, E, and G notes together. That’s C major.”
“No, that’s….to the right. No, not that,” she pauses, brings up her own hand to press over Ruby’s and guide her. It isn’t until Weiss glances up once and sees the mischievous smile on her face that she realizes.
“Oh!” she says, her hands retreating to her lap.
“I’m sorry if I—“, Ruby starts, sounding guilty, and Weiss turns to her, quick as a whip.
“No!” she says, then realizes they’re both almost nose to nose. “Don’t — don’t be sorry, please.”
“Did you not like that?” Ruby asks, her voice soft.
Weiss laughs, and the sound seems nervous to her own ears. “No, I,” she says, “I liked it.”
Ruby’s answering smile is sunlight through her windows in the morning, gradual in its brightness until it’s too much to bear. Weiss shifts, rests her forehead on Ruby’s shirt clad shoulder. The fabric smells a little like detergent and a lot like Ruby’s fruity perfume.
“You know,” she says, her voice half muffled by the shirt. She knows Ruby can hear her though. “I can never look you right in the eye when I talk to you. It feels — feels too much like burning up.”
Ruby shakes: Weiss can almost see her laughing. “Do you know how you can never look me right in the eye when you talk to me? That’s when I get to stare at you. You talk and talk and I just keep looking at your pretty face.”
The sound that comes out of her throat at Ruby’s halting admission is a mixture of acute embarrassment, disbelief, and delight.
“I used to wait two hours for you to come back from your missions with Blake and Nora so we could eat together.”
She feels Ruby press a kiss to her temple. “I used to stay up until 2 am because that was the only time I could be alone with you.”
“I can’t sit next to you,” Weiss tells her, “it’s like there’s this thing between our arms — this—”
“—electricity,” Ruby completes, and slides her fingers through Weiss. Weiss closes her eyes from her very comfortable position and feels Ruby’s lips on her knuckles, soft, careful. When Ruby removes her hand, she feels the loss as acutely as something has been ripped out of her soul. Another random note rings out in the silence.
“Go out on a date with me.” Nowhere in the statement is a demand, or a presumption, just quiet assurance. “Weiss,” Ruby says, when she still doesn’t answer. “Go out on a date with me, please.”
Weiss nudges aside the collar of her shirt and kisses her neck. Then she leans back to look at Ruby.
“What if you don’t like me after we go on the date?”
The question is delivered with just enough amusement, but behind it lies real distress. What if this only works because we’ve been thrown together all these years fighting a weary battle? What if you only think you like me because you haven’t seen the rest of me yet? What if, when you see the rest of the world and start spending time with other people, you realize I’m not up to all that you’ve built up in your head?
“If I don’t like you after we go on that date, then you have my blessing to blast me into space with your Arma Gigas.”
“In what world,” Ruby cuts in smoothly, “do you imagine I wouldn’t like you back? In what world does my stomach not twist when you walk into the room, or my breathing not falter when you talk? I have heard a million voices in my lifetime, Weiss, but in what world is yours not the only one I want my heart to cut itself on?”
“Stop,” she says, face burning, eyes closed, “Ruby, you — just, stop talking, I’m going to—”
“Weiss,” Ruby says. “Go out on a date with me.”
Not that the answer is needed, but Weiss nods anyways.
Whitley is equal parts familiar and foreign. There’s the same bristling stance, the Schnee stamp prominent upon his features, his hair, still parted the same side as she would see back when they were children running around in their estate. What’s different is the thinly veiled animosity in his eyes, the angry twist to his mouth.
“You can’t just come in here,” he starts, waving a hand to wipe away the holographic design for SDC office headquarters Weiss has just pulled up, “and start ordering me around.”
“Whit,” she says, watching as he flinches at the old nickname. “I’m not ordering you around. I couldn’t. You’re the expert here—”
“—yeah, I am. The heir who stayed, remember?”
She is reminded, of a game of hide and seek on a Sunday a long time ago. Whitley had hidden himself so well that Weiss couldn’t find him even after wandering all around the estate. And then when Winter had come back from training, she’d abandoned the pursuit, running off to interrogate her sister instead.
You didn’t find me, Whitley had come running, crying after ten minutes, distraught. You and Winter, and — he’d paused to take in a wet shuddering breath too big for his ten-year-old body — you and Winter forgot about me. And she’d known, even then, that what he was protesting was being left alone when they were together.
“I do know a little bit of this, Whit,” she says, mildly. “I can help.”
“I don’t need your help!” he tells her, sharply.
“I’m sure you don’t,” Weiss says, “but we’re the last of Schnees, if you don’t count mom, and we should stick together. I’m not saying I know everything, but I have been training half my life for this, so I could contribute.”
“I’d rather,” he starts, then cuts off abruptly. I’d rather die, she completes in her head, and waits patiently for him to continue. He looks away. “So much for sticking together.”
She reaches out and pats the top of his head. He swivels away violently.
“You — stop, you, you don’t get to do that.”
“Actually, I do,” she replies smoothly, “I happen to be one of your sisters. Not historically a very good one, but I’m what you’ve got, so you’re going to have to make do.”
When Whitley speaks, every time Whitley speaks, all she hears is his ten-year-old version screaming You left me at her, upset and sulking. While Winter made sure Weiss was able to defend herself if she wasn’t around to do that for her, when opportunity to leave Atlas had arisen, Weiss herself had run off, too relieved about the freedom to worry too much about her brother.
He glares at her. “I’m guessing you’ll want something?” he says, flippantly. “The position of the CFO? A seat in the Board of Directors, maybe?”
“Not exactly,” she says, smiling as she messes up his hair one last time before she exits the room. “Dinner every Tuesday and Saturday evening. 7 pm. I’ll see you in two days.”
“Wha — what?” she hears him ask from behind. “What are you — no! I’m not doing…. Weiss!”
When Weiss goes to pick Ruby up for their date, she’s greeted by the entirety of Mantle and Atlas instead.
“We’re not that many people, please,” Blake says, before she joins Yang at the door. “Oh. Oh wow.”
“Do I — does this look, okay?” Weiss asks, smoothing the front of her dress nervously. She didn’t quite trust Jaune’s choice in dresses, but this was what Oscar, Robyn and Winter had collectively agreed on: a midnight blue slinky…. thing that didn’t quite reach her knees and was making her feel very awkward.
Yang’s jaw is still open, her head moving back and forth between Blake and her. Blake closes it for her.
“Okay?” Nora calls out, as Weiss enters the house further. “Girl, if Ruby doesn’t get down on her knees at the end of the night, I’ll give away all of my wealth to the good children of Mantle.”
“Nora!” you say, scandalized, the same time that Yang screams Ew.
“What? I didn’t mean it that way,” she says. “But don’t you think it’s interesting how both of you jumped to….”
Ren covers her mouth with his hand, smiles wryly at the rest of them.
“Also,” Emerald points out, poking her head out from behind the fridge. “Doesn’t Nora have like, five lien to her name?”
And that will not go to the good children of Mantle tonight, comes through in the muffled voice of a still incapacitated Nora. Weiss walks around the room, trying to calm her nerves. She doesn’t want to walk too fast and sweat through, or rip something, but there’s this electric charge festering under her skin everywhere, and no amount of balling up and releasing her own fists seems to help. She tries to take a deep breath, discovers her lungs aren’t ready for it yet.
“Hey,” Blake’s already at her side, one hand gently resting on her abdomen, the other on her back. “Breathe. Breathe with me, Weiss.”
She focuses on Blake’s steady voice, on the numbers she counts out, and slowly her breathing evens out. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”
“Please,” Yang says easily, “you should’ve seen Blake after I kissed her the first time. She nearly passed out.”
“That’s because you weren’t wearing clothes!” Blake shoots back, defensively.
“Oh yeah,” Yang says, staring off into space. “Wait, why wasn’t I wearing clothes?”
“Can I just say,” Ren said, looking pained, “how much I do not want to hear this story.”
“I’m okay now,” Weiss says. “Also, why aren’t you guys helping Ruby get ready?”
“You think I need help getting ready?” Ruby’s voice rings out from behind her, and Weiss turns, and
(Had she just thought that she was okay? Because she’d never been more wrong in her life.)
The sight of Ruby, standing near the door rips the breath from her lungs so fast she’s left reeling. It imprints itself upon her memory, a postcard polaroid for the end of all her days, and Weiss wonders where to look. Surely she’s not allowed to look at Ruby directly — isn’t it illegal to look upon angels? She wants to shield her eye, hide her face, wants to turn and run away because she’s sure there’s a world out there where she’s worthy of holding Ruby’s hand and walk beside her, but this can’t be it.
“What?” she says, stupidly, when she realizes Ruby had asked her something but for the life of her can’t remember what it was.
“I — nothing,” Ruby says, walking forward. “Weiss. You look….”
She trails off into silence, until Emerald says — Yo, can I get in on that bet you were talking about earlier — and gets shushed loudly.
(Weiss wants to warn her against it. She’s convinced she’s going to be the one getting down on her knees and proposing marriage at the end of the evening)
Life moves on. Weiss holds Ruby’s hands in hers, and watches autumn turn to winter. Whitley smiles at her on their fifth dinner date, and then, to make up for it, turns down all her proposals for the next two. Sun and Neptune come to visit, and Yang spends the entire time doing pushups ominously in full view of both Blake and Sun, to the former’s amusement and the latter’s bemusement. Oscar goes on his first date with a girl from Mantle, and discovers at the end of the night that Jaune, Ren, Nora and Emerald had been following them the entire time. Qrow makes a half-hearted attempt at warning her of the consequences of breaking Ruby’s heart, and when Whitley and Winter discover that, they kidnap Ruby for half a day. Ruby refuses to tell her what happened, but she also refuses to kiss her in public the whole next week.
Weiss decides to move out of the Schnee estate when she finds a tiny apartment in Mantle, a building over from where Blake, Yang and Ruby have theirs. There’s a lot of light and her favorite spot in the entire place is a corner where the previous family had marked the heights of their three children, apparently named Lee, August and Celia. Ruby draws a line next to it, names it Weiss’ patience level for the day and marks it at random points, depending on her mood. Her mother gifts her flower plants, and subsequently, vases, when Jaune breaks the few that Weiss already had.
The first night, when they’re all exhausted from the multiple trips up and down the stairs and are all crashed in the living room, Ruby finds her outside on the balcony. Weiss knows as soon as she enters through the door — Ruby’s presence carries trough the air — but she only looks back when there’s a red cloak wrapped around her from behind. She feels familiar arms wrap across her stomach and leans back.
“This is home now,” Weiss replies, and is surprised to find that the thought does make her a little sad, regardless. “But yes, I do.”
She’s going to miss living with Whitley and her mother, will miss sleepovers when Winter comes down to visit. All the loneliness in the world wrapped up in one large house, and it still stings to leave it behind.
“You know, I heard Robyn’s place isn’t too far from here,” Ruby says. “And if Robyn isn’t far, then—”
“—Winter isn’t too far.”
“—and Whitley and Oscar are already planning a video game session here next Friday.”
Weiss arches back, and kisses Ruby on the cheek. “Thank you.”
“Whatever for, my darling?”
“For,” she flounders for an explanation that sounds normal. Thank you for loving me, while accurate, isn’t a very healthy sentiment to express, “for keeping me warm, always.”
Ruby chuckles against her cheek. “Okay.”
“And Ruby?” she asks. “I know this is the first time I’ve moved out on my own, and I need to build my own life here, and I will. But. In a while — maybe….”
Ruby hums to let her know she’s waiting.
“I’m just saying, that there’s. I mean — I’ve left half my closet empty. So, if, in a while, you ever want to. I just want you to know that I want to build a life with you.”
“Weiss Schnee,” Ruby says, and even with her eyes closed Weiss can hear the smile in her words. “If in a while, you want to share your closet space with me, then it would be my greatest honor.”
She knows Ruby’s up even before she’s completely conscious.
It’s the little things — the fact that Ruby’s arm isn’t weighing on her shoulder, that her leg isn’t slung over her thighs. Weiss blinks, and turns over in bed, concerned.
Ruby stares back at her, wide-eyed.
“Can’t sleep?” Weiss whispers.
Ruby shakes her head slowly. There’s something in her expression that has Weiss worried. It’s not that she thinks they’re in any danger at the moment, but there’s some unsettling thought going on behind those beautiful eyes.
“I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch that movie,” she says, but Ruby shakes her head once again. “What? No ghosts scaring you?”
Ruby opens her mouth, clears her throat once. “Only the human kind,” she says.
“Hey,” Weiss asks, bringing up a hand to brush the hair off her forehead, “sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
“Does this still bother you?” Ruby asks her in return, her hand sliding under Weiss’ shirt to expose the scar Cinder had left behind when she had impaled her. Weiss looks down, struggles to make out the tiny line in the dark. She wants to ask another question, but at this rate they’ll be stuck in an eternal loop and she does want Ruby to get some sleep, because she tends to lose her appetite if she doesn’t.
“Sometimes,” she says. Then she smoothens out a tiny crease that’s formed between Ruby’s eyebrows. “You want to tell me what you’re thinking?
“I didn’t see her do it,” Ruby starts, after a while. “Cinder, I mean. I only turned when you fell and I. Weiss.”
“Ruby,” she says, pressing her forehead against Ruby, kissing her once. “Stop.”
“—no, I. And then I left to fight. I left you with Jaune and Ren and Nora, but I still left, and every day I think about it, every single day, I think about you lying on the ground, the blood spreading on your dress, and if Jaune hadn’t been there—”
“—but Jaune was there!” Weiss tells her, not knowing what to say to make it better. Ruby is in so much distress; her voice is in shreds, and there’s a tear making its way across her face. “I’m fine. I’m safe.”
“I’d have killed her,” Ruby says, simply, her voice raw. “I would have killed her. I should have.”
“If you’d — if something had happened to you,” Ruby says, pausing, frustrated. Her eyes are closed tight, more tears squeezing out of them by the second, and Weiss tips forward to kiss one away. I’m safe, she says. You’re safe. We’re all safe. Ruby, Ruby, Ruby. We’re safe, she says, as she kisses her temple, her rumpled up hair, the bridge of her nose, and she has no idea how or when her words turn into I love yous in her mouth. I love you, Ruby, she repeats over and over, wanting to imprint the words on Ruby’s skin, wanting to tattoo her kisses on her cheek so the mark never fades, so she’ll never forget, I love you so much. And it’s easy in the thin light of the moon, to pull out the words from where she’s been hiding them, keeping them safe her entire life. There’s a moon in the sky and Weiss loves Ruby. There’s a garden blooming in the balcony and Weiss loves Ruby. For as much as love threatens to bring about her end, Weiss loves Ruby, and that love is both the beginning and the never-ending middle to her story.
Tell me about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, Ruby asks her, laughing, one morning over breakfast, and Weiss tells her there is destruction, but also that love is born in the carnage.
“Our hearts are but collateral damage, my love,” Weiss says. “But my heart, regardless of the damage it bears, is yours to do with as you please.”
Robyn builds a school in Mantle.
No, that comes later. This comes first: Weiss grows tired of sitting in an office. She loves Whitley, but if she has to design one more plan, or take one more call talking to people about dust, she will kill herself.
Actually, wait. That comes second. This is what comes first.
Weiss grows tired of fighting.
“My name,” she says, knowing from the whispering going on in the rows, that the information she is about to share is redundant anyway, but formalities are important, “is Weiss Schnee, and in this class we will be learning Grimm Studies.”
She’s pretty sure she hears someone whisper Hero of Mantle somewhere in the back rows, but ignores it, in favor of writing a couple things on the board. She jots down the curriculum and a brief lesson plan, acutely conscious of whether the clothes she’d had Ruby pick out for her this morning were appropriate class attire. The tie with dogs on it wasn’t something she could have helped, anyway, since she’d lost a bet with Emerald a while back. After she’s done, she turns around and asks the class if they have any questions.
“I have one,” comes a voice from the door, and Weiss closes her eyes. Of course. Of course they would come. “Miss. Schnee,” Yang continues, jumping on top of a desk in front of what seems to be a very impressed student, “when will the kids be divided into teams?”
There’s a lot more pointing, whispering and an abundance of awed looks going on in the class now.
“That is not something the students need to be worried about right now,” she answers, evenly.
“Actually, jumping off of Yang’s very astute question,” Jaune chimes in, “will each team also have a leader?”
She’s going to kill them she’s going to kill them she’s going to kill them
“Yes,” she says, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Awesome!” Blake adds, brightly. “But, in the event that they do not like their leader, and think their leader is an incompetent idiot, what can they do?”
Nora and Ren titter from their place at the very back. And from where she’s sitting between them, feet kicked up onto her desk, as casual as she had been all those years ago at Beacon, Ruby smiles, and raises her hand.
“I’d like to know the answer to that myself,” Ruby says.
She takes in a deep breath, summons the Arma Gigas. Has him sit just behind her.
“Now,” she says in what’s her best attempt at authority, “not only will I not be answering any of those questions, but also, unfortunately, question time is over for the entire class. If that thing I have summoned behind me is scaring you, please do not worry, I will make sure it only stands up when one of the six idiots sitting amongst you say something stupid.”
“Okay so,” she says, then takes it all in. Thinks back to years and years ago, when she’d been one of the students sitting in a similar classroom in an academy, miles away, next to people who’d end up meaning more to her than she ever imagined. After all the years of fighting and bleeding, here they were, trying to do something to make the world a better place.
This is not a tale that ends in tragedy, she thinks, and starts talking.
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