Author's Note: My first RWBY fic.
Thank you OneirosTheWriter and The Flippant Writer for being good and fast beta readers.
Rest in peace, Monty Oum. Thank you for making me write again.
As a means to improve bonding and teamwork among students, the faculty at Beacon Academy had decided that all team members should switch their partners for two weeks. For team JNPR, it meant Ren and Jaune were paired up, while Pyrrha went together with Nora. For two weeks, the new and temporary partnerships were meant to socialize and train with each other. A couple of days ago, Jaune and Ren had decided to leave the academy for a lengthy, two-man mission, meaning for the next several days, Nora and Pyrrha had the dorm for themselves.
Pyrrha and Nora sat side by side on a bench within a training room, panting, their foreheads glistening with sweat after having recently finished a sparring match together. Despite the exhaustion, they smiled with satisfaction. Although it was fun to do things together with the whole team involved, both Pyrrha and Nora could see the benefits of splitting up into two groups occasionally. It was a welcome change of pace to be with each other without the charming, albeit clumsy Jaune, or the stoic Ren.
"That was an intense sparring match. You fought commendably, Nora." Pyrrha smiled and patted her friend's shoulder. "The speed and flexibility of your attacks with Magnhild have noticeably improved." Though the red-haired, Mistral champion had emerged as the winner, it had been a hard won victory. After she had trained so often with Jaune, it felt good to instead do so with the more energetic, battle-loving Nora.
"You weren't so bad yourself," retorted Nora with a snicker. "Can't believe I knocked your sword out of your hand… twice! Now I know how poor Jaune feels when you give him private lessons."
Pyrrha nodded. The playful tease from her friend nicked her pride. Losing the grip of my sword one time was bad enough .Two is unacceptable. "I hope he and Ren are having as much fun as we are, escorting those archaeologists," she said.
"Yep! Speaking of fun, what are we gonna do now?" Nora asked.
Just a moment ago, Nora had been exhausted. But now, to her amusement, Pyrrha thought her energetic and fun loving friend looked ready to throw herself at whatever next fun event they could come up with together.
Not even a lengthy and intense sparring match can sate your fun, Nora? Why am I not surprised. She felt, however, that she had had enough for one day. "I was thinking of having a shower, and then I'll rest in my bed together with a good book," she replied.
Nora rolled her eyes at the very mention of books, as she preferred comics. "Oh! I know!" she exclaimed with a wide grin and threw her arms up. "Let's go swim!" she excitedly suggested.
The suggestion caused Pyrrha to freeze. "S-swim? You mean… as in water?" she asked in an awkward manner.
"No, in mud!" quipped Nora and poked Pyrrha's nose, making her yelp lightly. "Of course I mean water, silly! Let's go to the academy's swimming pool!" she said, fidgeting with eagerness.
Pyrrha giggled shyly while rubbing the tip of her nose, her eyes averting away from Nora. "I… I'm not sure that's a good idea, Nora. I think I need to study." She looked down on the water bottle in her hand, her fingers uneasily fiddling against the plastic surface.
Her poor excuse lacked conviction and failed miserably to convince Nora, who shook her head. "Nice try! You think you need to study, but I know that you don't. Come ooon! You need it! You gotta give those awesome and well-shaped muscles of yours a chance to relax after training and fighting for hours," continued Nora and squeezed Pyrrha's upper arm.
"But…, but," whined Pyrrha while a color similar to her hair grew upon her face. She felt she was losing the battle to persuade Nora not to take her to the pool. There's only one thing left to say. "I don't even own any swimwear. Let's do something else instead."
"Don't let that stop you! You can borrow a spare bikini from me." Nora glanced quickly at the other's taller and curvier form. "You're bigger than me, but I'm sure you can fit into it. The material's pretty stretchy. You'll see. Pleeeeeease, Pyrrha? I don't wanna go alone."
The sad puppy-eyes that Nora put up melted Pyrrha's resistance. She knew that any further arguments would be pointless. Thus, she chose the easy way out. "O-okay then. I'll come with you, but not for too long."
"Yay! It's a date then!" Nora victoriously announced and thrust her arms up into the air.
After the agreement, she and Nora decided to go back to their dorm, shower, and rest for a couple of hours.
Pyrrha gulped, feeling an uncomfortable tension in her stomach. I hope I won't regret this decision. It's been more than a year. I should be able to handle a short and innocent visit to a swimming pool…
The scent of chlorinated water greeted Nora as she stepped into the swim hall, wearing her pink bikini adorned with white hearts, carrying a folded, orange towel. She grinned as she saw the sizable, rectangular shaped swimming pool filled with glistening blue water. The water was still, but she planned to ruin that stillness with plenty of ripples, bubbles, and splashes. With its slanting bottom, the shallow side of the pool was mere two feet deep, leading outward to the deeper areas where a couple of ladders and springboard had been placed. There were no other students or faculty members present, which suited her just fine.
"You coming?" she asked and looked behind at the ajar door leading to the women's locker room.
Pyrrha peeked out and took a quick glance. "Is anyone else out there with you?" she asked hesitantly.
Nora grinned slyly. "What's the matter, Pyrrha? Afraid that a bunch of guys will find you hot, wearing something like that? The girls too; the ones whose faces don't turn green with envy."
Realizing that she and Nora were indeed alone, Pyrrha cautiously stepped out and closed the door behind her. She wore a nearly identical bikini as Nora, except hers was of a darker shade of pink.
Nora held back a giggle and took a lengthy glance at her friend. Wow! Not every day I get to see Pyrrha without her uniform or armor on! "How does the bikini feel?" she asked with a smile, amused by the sight of someone else wearing her swimwear.
"Thank you for lending it to me" said Pyrrha and smiled. "It's a little… tight, but I can manage." She blushed faintly while adjusting her top.
"Looks awesome on you!" approved Nora and wolf-whistled.
I can't wait anymore! I must splash and wreak havoc in the pool!
Unable to contain her swelling excitement any longer, Nora dashed toward the pool, her bare feet moving so gracefully as if she was flying. She leaped off the tiled floor and curled herself together in mid-air. "Cannonball!" she yelled before she plunged into the water, splashing it into all directions. A few seconds later, she emerged and took a refreshing breath, wiping orange hair away from her eyes. The water felt warm. This was what she had longed for. "Come on, Pyrrha! The water's fine!"
She saw Pyrrha shift her feet timidly, averting her green eyes away from water. "I… I don't know. The water seems c-cold to me," she said while rubbing her bare arms.
"Nonsense! At least stick your cute toes in and try it out."
Nora's suggestion seemed to work. Carefully, Pyrrha approached the edge as if she was standing before a vast chasm. Taking a deep breath, she dipped her right toes in. Despite the pleasant temperature of the water, her leg began to shiver. She did not notice Nora, who grinned madly while approaching like a preying crocodile.
"Rawr!" Nora roared as her hands shot up from the surface and took a steady hold of Pyrrha's ankle, tugging at it hard. "I'm a hungry sea monster, and I'm gonna eat you! Swallow you whole! Bones and all!"
Pyrrha's eyes went wide as saucers. "Nora! No! Don't! I can't-" Her protests fell on deaf ears. The desperate attempt to set her foot free was in vain, as she fell screaming into the water. Another splash and multiple ripples were sent along the surface of the pool. She quickly resurfaced, spitting out some water.
Nora's hearty and hysterical laughter resonated throughout the swim hall. "Oh, that was hilarious! You should've seen your face!" I should've let someone record that with a camera! Hmm… what's she doing now?
Her mirth faded quickly, however, as she saw Pyrrha quickly swim closer to the shallower part of the pool. Her swim style, rather than steady and smooth, was instead irregular and panicky. "Hey, Pyrrha, you alright? Did you hurt yourself when you fell in?" she asked with apparent concern in her voice.
As soon as Pyrrha reached the shallow part of the pool where her feet could touch the smooth bottom, she began to run in a clumsy manner. Nora gasped as she saw her collapse and crawl toward the edge of the pool where the water only reached up just to below her knees.
Oh no! Something's wrong! The thought that it was her fault tore at Nora from within.
"Pyrrha?" She hurried over to her friend, who now cowered in the corner of the pool with her arms around her legs and her face buried between her knees, mumbling incoherently. She kneeled down and placed her hands caringly on Pyrrha's trembling shoulders. "Pyrrha?" she repeated.
Pyrrha flung her head up from between her knees. "I can't breathe. I can't breathe! I CAN'T BREATHE!" she hysterically shrieked in-between her rapid and short breathes. The alarmed gaze from her wide-open, eyes did not seem to be even aware of Nora's presence. She thrashed her arms, and it took a lot of strength from Nora to hold her still.
Hearing and seeing her friend act so strange was terrifying. Unreal. "Woah! Calm down! Pyrrha!" Nora yelled and gave her a shrug that had little to no effect. Instead, she leaned closer and placed her palms on her cheeks. "Pyrrha, look at me! I'm here!"
Her firm, yet caring words finally reached and snapped Pyrrha out of her panicked state. Her erratic, green eyes became still and gazed into Nora's turquoise ones. "N-Nora?" The whisper was so weak that she could only barely make out her words. Pyrrha threw her arms around her and hugged her so hard as if life depended on it, sobbing against her shoulder.
What… what's going on? Why did she suddenly get so scared? And hey, what's that sound? A muffled, incessant drumming caught her attention. She realized it was Pyrrha's heart. It drummed rapidly and strongly, as if it was trying to burst through her ribcage.
"Please, Nora," whined Pyrrha, "h-help me. I… I must get up from the water."
Nora did not understand why, but her friend begged for her help, and that was reason enough to act without question. She did her best to support Pyrrha as she helped her stand up on a pair of wobbly legs. Once they stepped out from the water, Pyrrha suddenly threw herself to a nearby trashcan and vomited. Nora, confused and worried, looked sympathetically on in silence.
After Pyrrha stopped vomiting, she was helped to sit down on a nearby bench. Nora sat down next to her and wrapped a large towel around themselves.
While a moment of uncomfortable silence passed between them, Nora was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. A few minutes ago, the two of were having fun. At least one of them was. Then, an overwhelmingly powerful sensation of fear had gripped the once proud warrior, and rendered her stricken with terror.
It was scary and painful for her to watch someone so brave and headstrong to act like that. That's not the Pyrrha I know. "What happened to you just now, Pyrrha? Are you sick?" asked Nora carefully, breaking the silence.
"It…," began Pyrrha, but her voice soon faded into a whisper. "It was nothing."
Nora frowned and reacted as if she was insulted. "Nothing?" she spat out harder than intended. "I just watched you have a panic attack! Don't you dare say that was nothing!" She took a deep breath, composing herself. Now was not the time to berate her. "You can't swim?" she asked with a more gentle voice.
"I can swim, but… I'm scared."
Pyrrha's answer made Nora more curious, as well as concerned. "Scared" she echoed. "Of the water?" she asked, briefly looking at the still water in the pool.
Pyrrha shook her head. "No, not the water itself. It's going beneath it… and never resurfacing again."
"You're scared of drowning?" asked Nora for confirmation. A word popped up in her head: Aquaphobia… that's the one where people are scared of water, to drown, right? Nora put her arm around Pyrrha's shoulders and leaned closer to her. Pyrrha smiled in appreciation. "I've never seen you so scared before, Pyrrha. How long have you been afraid? Wanna tell me?" she asked carefully, not wanting to pressure her.
Pyrrha nodded slowly, cleared her throat, and began to explain. "It began last winter… several days before my third Mistral regional tournament. I-I knew I was likely going to fight a renowned and skilled opponent who fights by covering the ground with ice to increase his mobility and slow his opponents. To prepare myself for that, I… I went out together with a couple of sparring partners onto a frozen lake where we practiced fighting on the slick ice. The ice was thick, but… I stepped onto an area where it was thinner. Just as I heard the ice crack beneath boots… my footing vanished and I plunged into the icy water."
After taking a drawn out breath, Pyrrha's gaze sank to the floor, her voice a mere whisper. "T-the next thing I felt was the impression of thousands of… ice needles pricking my skin and sapping my warmth. The water tried to squeeze the precious air out of my lungs. As… as I struggled, I looked up and saw the light of the sun seep through the hole in the ice. It was so close… almost within reach… but the light grew fainter and the hole smaller as I sank deeper."
Nora felt her hand being squeezed so hard it was almost painful, yet she endured and continued to listen. She felt her hair standing on end.
"I kept struggling to swim up until I felt like my head was about to explode. My armor was weighing me down. My lungs screamed for air. I had to take a breath… so I did." Pyrrha paused again, swallowing hard. "I drowned, Nora. I… died."
The heat from Nora's face was being drained as Pyrrha concluded what had happened to her. She felt so cold, as if she had fallen into icy water. She allowed an uneasy shiver to roll through her before she spoke. "How did you survive?"
"I'm not sure how much… time had passed when I woke up on top of the ice and coughed up water. My whole body felt like an icicle. One of my sparring partners had jumped in after me and pulled me up. They…," Pyrrha's voice faded again, her lip trembling, "They told me they… struggled for nearly two minutes to revive me." She sniffled, and wiped away the unshed tears away from her eyes. "Help shortly arrived and took us to a warm place where we could rest and recover." Pyrrha smiled, but it was a lifeless one. "In the end, all that training paid off. I fought the opponent I mentioned earlier, and won the tournament."
Nora felt stunned. It took several seconds for her to recover and figure out what to say. "Gosh, that sounds horrible! Why haven't you told any of us about this before?"
Pyrrha hesitated, looking ashamed and regretful. "I… thought I could move on and look back at the incident like a bad dream," she explained.
"So you never talked to anyone about it? You didn't seek professional help?"
Pyrrha shook her head slowly. "You're the first one I've told."
"Then why didn't you tell me before we came? I'm not blaming you or anything, but you know I would've understood." I wish I could agree with that myself… I've never been through any near-death experiences. How would I behave afterward?
"I know you would have, Nora," Pyrrha stated with a reassuring nod. "I wanted to believe I had gotten over it. You seemed so excited to swim, and I didn't want to ruin the moment for you." She put her arms around Nora. "I'm sorry for scaring you. I don't blame you for pulling me into the water."
Her words caused guilt to swell up in Nora's chest. She gritted her teeth hard while returning the hug to her friend. Stupid stupid me!
Pyrrha stood up without Nora's help, albeit slowly. She took a deep breath to gather herself. "I'm feeling a little bit better now. We should head back to the dorm now? Oh, and Nora, can we please keep this between to ourselves? I don't want Jaune and Ren to worry."
"Oh, okay. I promise!" agreed Nora hesitantly, not feeling sure whether it would be for the best to keep Pyrrha's phobia a secret from the others. It was up to Pyrrha if she wanted it to stay like that. A promise was a promise. It could be bad for her reputation if word got out she was scared of water. Cardin and his bully friends would probably revel in that!
The girls went back into the locker room, changed back into their regular outfits and returned to their dorms.
The rest of their evening was spent in relative silence. Nora sat on her bed and observed Pyrrha from a distance, who was looking down into a book. Pyrrha's gaze was distant, barely even blinking. Nora knew Pyrrha was not feeling alright, even if she was trying to keep up a charade.
It's been twenty minutes… and she still hasn't flipped a page.
Nora tried to cheer her up with some candy, but she politely declined, saying that swallowing so much water and then throwing up made her lose all appetite. It made sense to Nora that Pyrrha would not recover after such traumatic pool visit in just one evening, but she worried if she would ever truly overcome her fear of drowning. Her friend's incident from last year had clearly left deep wounds in her spirit that had never been fully healed, and then were brutally reopened unwittingly by her reckless actions. She feared she would live with the guilt for a long time.
Night approached. Nora shifted into her dark gray T-shirt and pink shorts and slid in beneath the bed sheets. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly while looking up into the ceiling. After such a long and eventful day, tucking herself into a cozy bed felt like a big relief. Despite being in bed, she still could not relax.
She looked back on her day with Pyrrha. Their intense sparring and the mirth they had shared had been fun, but Pyrrha's terrible panic attack blemished that memory. It still felt so unreal, like a nightmare that she was trying to wake up from. She wanted to believe the bonding between them had improved. Instead, she felt she had only grown a rift between them.
While half-awake in bed, Nora heard subtle movements within the dorm. A tall and slender figure, clad in a flimsy and purple nightgown, walked up and looked down on her.
"Nora," said Pyrrha and kneeled down. A pair of smooth hands took hold of Nora's, squeezing them gently. "I want to thank you for being such a good friend to me today. I'm not sure what I would've done if I had fallen into the pool without you. I'm sorry for ruining the evening for us," she said sincerely.
Nora grinned and ruffled Pyrrha's hair. "Don't worry about it, silly! I had lots of fun with you today, and I look forward to do it again." Pyrrha said nothing in response. With the dim light in their dorm, it was difficult to read her expression. Nora frowned and tilted her head. "Something wrong?"
"Is it… alright if I sleep with you? I think I don't want to be alone tonight," asked Pyrrha hesitantly.
The question took Nora by surprise. "S-sleep with… me?" she stuttered while feeling her face growing warm. "But, Pyrrha, you..., ooooh, you mean sleep with me. Sure!" It felt good to hear Pyrrha giggle, as if she had not done so in a long time. "Welcome to Queen Nora's cozy bed castle!" She smirked and lifted up the bed sheet. As Pyrrha laid herself next to her, Nora's fingers brushed briefly against Pyrrha's skin. "Eep! You feel cold as a Popsicle! Want me to hold you?"
"S-sure," replied Pyrrha.
Nora embraced her, cooing with delight. Mhm… this is the first time we're so close together. She's so warm and soft, like a comfy cloud to rest on!
The fact that they were half-naked only made things more cozy and exciting for Nora. Pyrrha felt tense and cold at first, but then gradually grew more relaxed and warmer. Nora tightened her arms around her waist, and inched herself closer to her.
A soft grumble of envy rolled through her throat while she rested her ear against Pyrrha's more endowed chest. She listened to the heart that beat within. Unlike earlier today, it now beat at a steady and healthy rate. Nora found the thumping, together with the warm, and soft mounds against her face to be relaxing, like listening to a soothing lullaby as a child.
I can definitely get used to this! Pyrrha and me should've done it a long time ago!
As Nora yawned deeply, her nose caught a familiar fragrance. "Pyrrha… you still smell of… chlorine. Didn't you shower after we left the pool?"
"I… must've forgotten. I'll do it in the morning, okay?" replied Pyrrha awkwardly.
Nora nodded. She felt Pyrrha's heart starting to beat faster. Her doubt quickly turned to worry.
Did she seriously forget to shower, or was it because… Nah, she's just a little spooked.
As she felt herself fading into sleep, she prayed that Pyrrha would soon be all right. If not, then she was going to need help from a caring friend.
End of Chapter 1
Author's note: This was originally meant to be a Jaune x Pyrrha fic. After I noticed how very few Nora x Pyrrha fics there are, I decided to help fix that. It became an interesting challenge. I initially had a small issue with capturing Nora's hyperactive and bubbly personality.
To prepare myself to write about Pyrrha's fear of drowning, I read stories about people who survived drowning, and developed some form of aquaphobia. It was interesting, but also a bit scary to read. I also read up on how people behave when having extreme panic attacks.
What gave me the idea for the setting? Pyrrha is based on Achilles, who was dipped into the river of Styx and made immortal. Thus, Pyrrha being scared of water is sort of ironic, in a tragic way of course.