Pyrrha walked as quietly as she possibly could. In hindsight, she realized she should have put on her sneakers instead of her boots. She looked behind her. Nora was still following her up the stairs, moving in a manner that she thought looked stiff and robotic. The shorter girl held on to the railing tightly, and her heavy footsteps echoed throughout the stairwell. Nora was on edge, and Pyrrha knew why. She was sure she would be too if she were just moments away from finding out whether the person she loved would either accept or decline her feelings.

I'm sorry for putting you through this, Nora, but I see no other option. I need to talk to you, and I don't want to wait until tomorrow. She felt reckless for doing this in the middle of the night, but she knew it would be wrong of her to go back now. I've stalled long enough.

Once they reached the door to the rooftop, Pyrrha slowly opened it ajar and took a peek outside. As expected, the rooftop was empty. As soon as she pushed the door open and stepped out, she was greeted by a cold breeze caressing her face. She wrapped the blanket tighter around her. Even though it was early summer, the nights could still be chilly. The air felt moist and tense, as if it would start raining soon.

I hope Nora and I will be back before that happens.

The scenery around her was eerily quiet. She leaned her head back and gazed up. Thick clouds covered the dark sky, preventing her from seeing any stars. The shattered moon was visible in a narrow gap between the clouds. It felt peaceful watching the academy buildings covered in darkness and moonlight, the magnificent CCT tower towering over them all.

"Close the door behind you, carefully," she said to Nora, keeping her voice to a whisper. Nora did as she was told. Once she heard the door click shut behind her, Pyrrha turned around and slowly approached the edge of the roof. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with fresh, cold air. It was a simple, yet pleasant thing for her to do, especially since she still remembered, more vividly than she wanted to, the painful and traumatic experience of her lungs being filled with ice-cold water.

"You mean so much to me." The words that Nora had whispered in her ear while in bed still echoed in her mind. No friend or family has ever said that to me before…

To have heard it from Nora had caused her heart to flutter, and it still was. Nora's words inspired her to finally confront her doubts and get some final answers. She did not want to have a discussion that might change their lives for the better, or worse inside the dorm while Jaune and Ren was present, which was why she had brought Nora up to the roof. What would happen here, she was not entirely sure, but she at least had an idea on where to start. She hoped she would be able to decide whether she and Nora should remain as loyal and dependable friends, or if they could become more than that. But first, she needed to understand why Nora loved her.

"Pyrrha, you, uh... you wanted to talk about something?" asked Nora hesitantly behind her.

I do… but… I'm not sure what to say.

There were countless ways for her to break her silence that had been going on for longer than she wanted. As her mind frantically searched for something, anything to say, she stumbled on a not too old memory that inspired her. She turned around to face Nora and ask, "Do you remember the last time we were up here? About three weeks ago?" (Chapter 6)

"Huh?" uttered a confused Nora. She blinked and widened her eyes as the realization came to her. "Ooh, yeah. I found you here sitting by yourself in the middle of the night. You said you couldn't sleep, so you went for some fresh air, right? I got bit worried when I noticed you were missing. My awesome detective skills lead me up here," she said with a small smile which Pyrrha thought looked strained.

Pyrrha nodded, smiling momentarily at Nora's words before her worries came back in full force. She looked regretfully at her. Time to open up and confess…. "I'm sorry, Nora."

"S-sorry? For what?" stammered Nora nervously and widened her eyes. Seeing her friend so scared of what she might hear next caused an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of Pyrrha's stomach. I must choose my words carefully now.

"For not being entirely honest to you back then," continued Pyrrha. As painful as it had felt to lie to a dear friend, it was even more so to confess it to said friend. "It's true that I couldn't sleep, but what I needed wasn't fresh air. The reason I couldn't sleep… was because of you," she said hesitantly, only barely being able to look into Nora's eyes.

"Me?"

"Yes, you did something to me that I needed time and privacy to reflect on."

"What did I do? Whatever it was, I'm so sorry!" Nora whispered sincerely with a guilty expression on her face.

I don't blame you for not remembering.

She herself, however, remembered it as clearly as if it only happened a moment ago. Being up here on the roof in the middle of the night brought a sensation of déjà vu. "I'm not sure what you did was wrong or not. You… you kissed me, Nora."

The words hit Nora like a boulder as she widened her eyes and dropped her mouth slightly in realization. "Ooh…"

Pyrrha's mind travelled back a month ago, back to when Nora had given her a sponge bath inside the dorm bathroom, as her newly reawakened aquaphobia made it difficult for her to shower (Chapter 2). She remembered how Nora had asked her if she had kissed any cute boys before. She had not had much to say back then, because she had never been kissed by anyone at all. Pyrrha knew Nora was an unpredictable one, but she could never have imagined that she would actually lean forward and place her lips against hers. Her first kiss had been short and simple, but felt longer and more passionate.

Pyrrha continued and elaborated, "The first time you kissed me… I didn't think too much about it. I thought it was just another silly shenanigan from my playful and impulsive friend." She paused briefly as she remembered another detail. "Your lips, they tasted like… cherry, I think," she said while smiling. Just thinking about her first kiss made her face feel warm. It was a pleasant memory for her.

"Cherry?" echoed Nora with a smaller smile of her own. "Ooh, that must've been from my flavored lip balm. It's so tasty, so I lick my lips so much that I need to put on some more. It's a vicious but tasty cycle. Sometimes I can go through a whole tube in a day and…" Her voice trailed off as she realized that she was babbling at the wrong time. She gestured at Pyrrha, silently telling her to go on.

"When you kissed me the second time, I began to really wonder if you did it only to tease me, or if there was… something else behind. I kept asking myself over and over: did you kiss me because you wanted to kiss someone, or because you wanted to kiss me?" Pyrrha sighed and broke eye contact with Nora to look down at the ground between them, feeling guilt and regret swelling within her.

"After I survived my drowning accident, I was a fool to think that I could simply put it behind me and move on. Had I not been a coward back then, I could've started with therapy right from the beginning. Instead, because of my ignorance and pride, I buried my fear within me and allowed it to grow and fester, turning it into… something that I might never truly recover from. I did the exact same mistake when I chose not question why you kissed me the second time. If I had… then maybe things could have been different somehow."

Opening myself up to someone like this… It feels like I'm seeing my therapist again. As much as she needed Nora to hear her talk from the bottom of her heart, she herself needed to hear it as well.

She paused for a few seconds to give Nora a moment to take in all of her words. She glanced briefly at her; Nora was not saying anything, but her eyes that looked into hers revealed that she was keenly and sympathetically listening. "I walked up here on that night to think about what you did. In the end, I told myself that I was just overthinking things, and that you were only fooling around, because that's the Nora Valkyrie I know. I hid myself behind my veil of ignorance, because I got scared by the thought of you loving me."

"Why did you get scared by that?" asked Nora calmly after a brief moment of silence.

"Because… because… " Pyrrha tried to begin, but was not sure how to, much to her frustration. "It's not easy to explain." She struggled to find the words. I've come this far. It would be humiliating to go back now without finishing what I've started.

"Take your time. We have all the night for ourselves," said Nora, nodding sagely.

Pyrrha turned around, looking at the surrounding buildings, and found something in her mind to help her explain. "Before coming to Beacon, I was often surrounded by fans, people who praised me for my skills and deeds, but none of them saw me for being… me. It made it difficult for me to form long-lasting and meaningful friendships. Many of them were just interested in standing in the light of my fame."

She raised and spread both her open hands in front of her. "Here, I've found what I've always wanted: friends who I can talk to and rely on, people who accept and love me for who I am. The past year, I've done things that I could only dream of; I've been to cafés, theaters, shopping runs, even a nightclub, together with people who I can call friends." As she paused, she realized how widely she was smiling. "I couldn't be happier. I treasure my friendship with you, Jaune, Ren, Ruby, and the others. I would do anything to preserve it."

"So…" began Nora softly with a subtle, yet apparent sadness in her voice, "the reason you got scared of me being in love with you… was that you feared it might hurt our friendship? Is… is that why you're going decline my feelings, Pyrrha?" she asked and sniffled quietly. "I… I understand. I don't wanna risk our precious friendship either." Nora's words squeezed Pyrrha's heart painfully. She quickly turned around and took a step closer to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. As she looked up to her, she saw her eyes glistening in the night.

"Don't cry, Nora. Keep listening. I'm not done yet," said Pyrrha and wiped away a single tear that rolled down Nora's cheek. "I've never been in a relationship with anyone before. It's something that I've always wanted, yet I'm also terrified at the thought of bonding so closely to someone... someone who is a dear friend to me. I'm still getting used to having friends. I'm afraid that I won't know what to do, that I will somehow screw things up."

To her surprise, Nora giggled. It was short, quiet, yet genuine. Sweet music for Pyrrha's ears that helped her feel less tense. "Things are never easy when it comes to love, aren't they? Too bad there's no guide book we can follow step by step," said Nora. She reached up and took hold of her hand on her shoulders and led it to her cheek instead. She tenderly rubbed herself against Pyrrha's palm as if it was a soothing security blanket. "You know, Pyrrha... I can totally relate to being scared. I almost confessed my feelings for you when we were here on this roof three weeks ago, but…" her voice trailed off, looking uncertain whether to continue.

"Why didn't you?" asked Pyrrha in a gentle manner. She was curious to know, but at the same time she did not want to pressure Nora too much. She could not predict what would have happened between them if Nora had chosen to confess to her back then. She believed it would have been bad, that she would have said no to her almost immediately.

Nora sighed and continued, "Because I thought of him."

"Him? You mean your father?"

Nora nodded slowly. "I've never been in a relationship either, because I feared my dad wouldn't approve of me being together with a girl. It wasn't until I met you that I finally realized that I needed to come out of the closet and tell him the truth. Had I done that earlier, then maybe... things could've been better, somehow," she said, sounding disappointed. Likely in regret for not having approached her father earlier, Pyrrha assumed. I'm glad to have helped motivate her sexuality to her father. Even more so since he has accepted her.

"Meeting people can change our lives for the better or worse," said Pyrrha and smiled. "It's thanks to you I finally dared to let others know about my fear. I needed you to help me take the first step... and you did so by pulling me into the pool." (chapter 1)

Nora smiled sheepishly. "I'm really sorry about that. I hate myself for what I did to you!" she said and slapped her forehead. "Stupid Nora."

Pyrrha chuckled softly. Even though she had panicked back then, she still managed to look back on the incident and laugh. "Don't be. Your recklessness and caring heart have really helped me, even when you lured me to dive into the pool to save you from drowning." (chapter 5)

"You know I did it because I care about you, so very much."

Nora's response made her remember what Nora had confessed to her just days ago on the balcony of the nightclub: "I love you, Pyrrha." Four, short words had struck her like lightning from a clear sky, stunning her.

I must have known it before you confessed to me. Did I bury it behind my ignorance and fear?

"Nora, you once said that you love me. But what do you feel in your heart when you're together with me?" She finally brought out a question which she had kept in her for a long time, inspired by what Jaune had taught her earlier. Her nervousness skyrocketed, her body tensing up. Nora's answer might change her life, and she was not sure if would be for the better or worse.

"Uh… well… hmm…" Nora scratched her head while looking around and shifting her feet. Pyrrha did not blame her for having trouble finding words, for her question was a difficult one. She hoped, however, that Nora would be able to say something, anything.

Nora shook her head in frustration. "Look, I can't explain things with words as well you can. I'll show you how I feel." As she said that, she reached out and took hold around Pyrrha's open hand, leading and placing it on top of her left breast.

"N-nora! What are you doing?" Pyrrha protested, raising her voice slightly. "You… oh…" She was about to pull her hand away when she believed she understood what Nora was trying to show her: she felt Nora's heart, beating quickly and strongly. As she held her breath, Pyrrha could even just barely hear it. "You're so… warm," she whispered. It felt like Nora's body radiated heat that enveloped her, shielding her from the cold air around them. "Is this really how you feel?" she asked.

Nora nodded and placed her hand on top of Pyrrha's, interlocking her fingers with hers. "Every time when we're together. It beats the strongest when I'm alone with you, holding you like this."

"I miss you, Pyrrha," Pyrrha recalled Nora having said to her over the Scroll yesterday. She had heard the sincerity in her voice. Now I understand how much you missed me. It made her feel giddy, her own heart now throbbing with elation.

"Nora… I want us to-" She twitched and yelped as she felt a cold drop fall on the bare skin of her shoulder. Her hand clutched the shoulder tightly as if she was stung by a Rapier Wasp. She looked up into the dark clouds looming menacingly over her in the sky. Multiple, small rain drops fell down on her face, each one feeling so cold they drained the warmth from her skin. A strong shiver surged through her whole body, as the fear began growing in her subconscious, steadily poisoning and darkening her mind.

"Uh oh!" said an alarmed Nora. "Quick! Let's get you inside!" As she turned around and faced the door that would take them somewhere dry and warm, where Pyrrha would feel safe, Pyrrha reached out and took hold of her arm, stopping her. Nora looked at her, a concerned and equally confused expression on her face. "Pyrrha?"

"No... Stay out here… with me." Pyrrha squeezed the hoarse words out from her tight throat. "Please." Even though she had been caught off-guard by the rain, she decided to boldly challenge her fear once again, this time together with her friend by her side.

"O-of course. Anything for you," replied Nora reluctantly. She placed herself in front of her, holding both of her hands. Her very presence helped Pyrrha stay calm, but she was not sure it would be enough. She did her best to breathe slowly and deeply in a controlled manner. As the raindrops became heavier and more numerous, her clothes and hair quickly became soaked, making them feel cold and sticky. The sensation was eerily similar to when she had stepped through the ice last year. Her breathing grew shorter and faster.

It feels like… something is pressing itself against my chest.

Pyrrha desperately kept her tunnel vision locked onto Nora's face, seeking safety in her turquoise eyes. To her dread, her friend's appearance began to become fuzzy. The world spun around her, the buildings, ground, and door, even Nora, turned into unrecognizable blurs. She imagined the darkness around her to grow thicker and close in on her, threatening to envelop her completely and erase her very existence. She wanted to shriek, but felt like she could not get any air into her lungs. As she took a couple of wobbly steps backward, something took hold of her in a steady and soft embrace.

The sound of fierce rain was deafening, as if she was standing below a large waterfall. But then, she heard something else: "Pyrrha!" someone called out. It sounded distant, and she could not tell where it was coming from. An ember of hope was lit, as she no longer felt alone in the cold, wet darkness. "Pyrrha! Look at me!" the voice continued, now sounding closer and less distorted. Her blurry and spinning tunnel vision began to slow down and become clearer. Bit by bit, the world rematerialized around her. She found herself looking down on a young girl with short and soaked orange hair, turquoise eyes full of concern looking back at her. "Look at me! Don't panic!" urged the girl to her, keeping her warm hands on her cheeks.

"Nora…" whispered Pyrrha. Seeing her dear friend and hearing her voice filled her with a sensation of safety. Nora… she always makes me feel safe. She always knows how to make me smile or comfort me.

Pyrrha found the answer that she had been looking for.

"Things are going to be okay," said Nora soothingly. "I'll help you through this nightmare no matter how long it takes. I'm here for you. I'll always be here for you, Pyrrha! You have-"

Nora was not able to finish her sentence, as Pyrrha learned forward and placed her lips on top of hers, catching her completely off guard. Nora froze instantly, her eyes so wide open they might pop out of their sockets. Before she had a chance to recover and respond, Pyrrha withdrew. Pyrrha trembled from the adrenaline rush, her heart hammering in her chest. She had been kissed before, but to kiss someone for the first time was a completely different experience. She hoped Nora had enjoyed it, because she was not sure how to properly kiss someone.

Nora blinked rapidly, her trembling lips spreading and relaxing. She appeared beyond excited, breathless, waiting for Pyrrha to say something, anything.

"I... I love you," Pyrrha whispered while stroking Nora's cheek.

A wide grin spread across Nora's face. She still said nothing. Her eyes bristling with happiness, her whole body quivering, spoke loudly. She took a short step closer and placed herself on top of Pyrrha's boots. As she then stood on her toes, she evened out the height difference between them, putting her face closer to Pyrrha's. They both embraced each other and slowly leaned closer. Beneath the rain and the dark sky, they shared their first and true kiss together, as they slowly and softly pressed their smooth and wet lips against the other. For a brief, precious moment, Pyrrha forgot about the rain, her fear. The only thing that existed in her mind was Nora.

Their kiss ended as they withdrew. Neither of them said anything. There was no need to. Their smiles and gazes spoke a silent, purposeful language of their own. Pyrrha felt she had done the right thing. All of her doubts had been washed away, and instead been replaced with confidence and happiness. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off from her shoulders. She wanted to laugh and cry out with joy.

She noticed how the rain began to subside, turning into a drizzle. "I... I think I'm ready to go back in now," she said while looking down on hers and Nora's soaked clothes and hair.

"Y-yeah, let's do that before we both catch a cold," said Nora in agreement and stepped off of Pyrrha's boots. As they made their way over to the door, she felt Nora take her hand in hers, interlocking their fingers. Pyrrha smiled and squeezed.

"So, uh… do we go back to your bed, or mine?" asked Nora and giggled.

"Oh, Nora."

I don't know what tomorrow holds for me. I know, however, that I'll face it together with you.

End of chapter 19


Author's note:

Are you happy and satisfied with Pyrrha and Nora finally finding each other? Feel free to leave reviews about the chapter.

So, what is the future for Stay Afloat? To be honest, I'm not sure. I could let the story end here. I do, however, have ideas on how to continue it. Pyrrha's aquaphobia, one of the main things of the story, still exists. I can continue the story with her fighting it. I can also have story arcs about her new relationship with Nora, as they face happy moments but also challenges together. Stay Afloat can go on for many more chapters. I'm not sure if I want to or can though.

I've had a lot of fun writing this. Originally, it was only meant to be a few chapters long. But as I went on, the story and characters deepened, much to my liking. I feel I have become a better writer, much thanks to my reviewers and proofreaders. Writers block, busy times, and a lack of inspiration, however, have made it difficult for me to continue writing this. That does not mean I have given up on it.

I have over 15 ideas for RWBY fanfics. Some are oneshots, while others are longer. One of them is really long. The genre ideas are a varied bunch of comedy, action, sadness, etc. I would like to try writing some of these ideas. I don't want to spread myself thin, however, so I'll only take on a couple at a time. I think I'll start with a couple of oneshots first. I need some time to plan, and acquire inspiration.

So yeah, I won't say Stay Afloat has ended, nor will I say that I will continue it. I just don't know yet. For now, I'll put it on ice while I think. If you have questions and comments, you can PM me. I might be able to tell you some hints of the unwritten story arcs I have for Stay Afloat.

Volume 4 is almost here. I really look forward to it! I want to see what will happen to Jaune, Ren and Nora, how much they will grow as characters, how they will handle Pyrrha's death.