Cover Art: Kegi Springfield
Chapter 72 - Just like Beacon
White walls, the acrid scent of disinfectant and the distant sounds of heart monitors and heavy breathing. Those were the sensations she awoke to, and they did little to mute the immediate pain she felt through her shoulder. She stifled a soft moan as her golden eyes blinked against the harsh light.
She was alive then… that or the afterlife was strangely like Beacon's infirmary. Blake tried to push herself up, only to wince and fall back as her arm gave way beneath her weight. The pain in her shoulder intensified, and she bit down on her lip as she rode it out.
What happened? The last thing I remember is Beacon being attacked and… and…
Her eyes snapped open and she struggled up into a sitting position. The room was empty, no Adam, no White Fang and no Grimm… did that mean they'd won? Ugh… it was difficult to think and her memory was hazy. She could recall seeing him, a fight and then pain – but nothing else. Unbidden, one hand came up to touch the bandages wrapped about her shoulder.
It sent an immediate pang of regret through her and she fell back onto the pillow in shame. She'd been defeated… taken out of the fight entirely. The realization was painful. More so than she'd expected.
Were the others okay? Had they come out of it in one piece? Beacon was still in one piece, so they had to have won – but why were her team not nearby? Blake scrunched her eyes shut and fought past the dry, scratchy pain in her voice.
"Jaune?" she croaked.
He didn't respond.
"Did we make it? What happened when I went out… did you possess me?"
She waited for his voice, only to frown when he was silent. What was wrong with him? Why wasn't he talking to her?
"This isn't funny, Jaune. I've just woken up and I've got no idea what's going on. Where is everyone?"
Someone coughed from some distance away, but apart from that and the occasional sound of a body rolling over in a bed, there was nothing.
Something unwelcome settled in her gut as she strained to look around. He wasn't beside her, nor was he above her. She could feel her pulse racing and as she tried to look up and behind the bed, her breath started to come out in frantic pants. "Jaune…? This isn't funny! Where are you?"
No, no, no, no, no. This couldn't be happening.
"Jaune!" She whispered, and it came out more as a whimper. "Please… stop it. Just answer me, please."
It was a sick joke. That was what it had to be. Anger raged through her and she ground her teeth together as she forced herself to turn onto her side and look for him. If he thought this was funny, she'd give him a piece of her mind for making her worry. They'd just come from such a terrible situation – he shouldn't be doing this to her.
The hospital bed was simple and small, tucked away into a corner with a cramped bedside desk next to it. It looked nothing like how she remembered, but with the curtains around her she could imagine that they'd been pressed for room. Atop the table, a small, golden figure caught her eye – and she gasped in relief as she snatched it.
"There you are," she whispered as she clutched the small bear between her breasts. "The hell is wrong with you? I thought the worst."
She waited for his apology… his excuses and his teasing over their position. She waited for so long. And then, when there was nothing, she closed her eyes and waited yet longer. Please, she begged inside her mind. Say something. Do something. Do anything!
She looked down into his face; the smiling button eyes and tiny nose. They looked back up at her, inert and dead… nothing more than plastic. The distinctive blue flames she'd gotten used to seeing were absent. It was nothing more than a stuffed toy.
She knew it then, as she looked down on it. Knew it, but refused to accept it. "Answer me," she begged, as she closed her eyes and concentrated. If she could just find their connection; if she could just sense his feelings.
There was nothing there.
She felt so cold… he wasn't there, and as the seconds dragged on and she pulled the bear up to cover her face with it, she realized he never would be. Was this what she had wanted to badly, back when it first began – to be alone?
She hated it.
She despised it.
"Come back… please come back."
She waited again, even though she knew it was pointless, even though she already knew the truth. She still waited, and waited, and waited…
He didn't come back.
She had no idea how long it had been. Perhaps she'd fallen asleep, and she felt she must have – for when she came back to, it was with a soft smile on her face. It faded a second later when she remembered what had happened, what she'd lost. Something warm brushed against her hair, a hand stroking her. She cracked her eyes open to look at who it was.
"You're awake," the older brunette smiled down on her, a nurse or doctor of some kind. "How are you feeling?"
How was she feeling? Blake wanted to scream, cry and hide away in a hole forever. The emotions were too raw and too sudden, but whatever they were, they didn't involve talking to some random person. She tilted her body, and with a grunt of pain, rolled over. Jau… the bear's body clutched to her chest. She buried her nose into it and steadfastly ignored the person.
"Not great?" they guessed.
Go away. Leave me alone. Blake clenched her eyes shut and tried to feign sleep, only to freeze when the hand came back to stroking her hair. The sensation was comforting, nice… everything she didn't want at that moment. She didn't want to feel good. She didn't want to feel reassured – she wanted to grieve and to be alone. "Stop it!" she hissed.
"You don't like it?" the woman asked. "Sorry… I just wanted to… well, I guess it was a bit odd. Sorry."
She squeezed the bear closer. "Leave me alone."
"What? But you've just woken up."
Blake took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. Didn't this person know she'd lost someone? Didn't they have any empathy?
"Are you…" the figure paused. "Are you angry at me?"
"Just go away, please… I want to sleep."
"You know, if you wanted to cuddle with something there's always me. I don't think Mr Tiddles can hug back anymore."
Something snapped within her and she rolled over to let this stupid, ignorant idiot know just what she fought of them – only to freeze before she could speak. How did she know what the bear was called?
"I mean, I know it's not the same," the brunette continued, "But I'm probably better at it now anyway. I mean, I'm warm… and uh… I have these." She cupped her breasts in both hands and pushed them upwards. "See, premium head rests – how awesome would that be?"
Something wasn't right…
"It would be girl on girl too," the girl cheered, "Which is like – totally amazing as far as I'm concerned. I'd be down for it."
The stupid jokes, the pointless perversion… Blake's eyes tracked his, but there was no blue within them. Still, somewhere, somehow… could it be? Her heart raced.
"Eh," the woman scratched the back of her head, and the action was so very him that her breath caught in her throat. "Maybe," she said, "Sort of… I guess. Well, it's probably getting old by this point but…" the woman shrugged with a familiar smile. "It's complicated."
It's complicated… something she'd heard from him oh so many times. Relief poured through her and a broken sob escaped her lips as she lurched forward. Arms wrapped around her as she nearly fell out of the bed entirely, too weak to properly move.
"Whoah, careful Blake – you shouldn't be moving so mu-ow!" The figure winced and held a hand to her left breast.
"You idiot," Blake hissed, drawing back her fist and slamming it against him once more. "You stupid, stupid, idiot…" The relief had turned to anger and rage before she could stop it, and she continued to punch him with what little strength she had. Bitter tears stung at the corners of her eyes and she forced them back with a telling sob. "I thought you were dead."
"Well, I kind of a-OW, stop that!"
She didn't… and in fact she reached back and drove her fist into his chest once more.
"Gods, I can't believe how much these things hurt," Jaune grumbled, "I mean, I always wondered what it would be like to be a girl, and now I find out tits hurt and once a month I get to experience my death all over again. How do you even put up with that?"
"S-Shut up," she buried her forehead into his clothing and took several deep breaths. His stupid jokes… she didn't want them. She didn't need them. She felt his arms wrap around her, and the whiny tone of his voice gave way to a soft, contented chuckle.
"Sorry," he whispered into her hair. "Just thought you might want me to lighten the mood."
Her fingers curled into his shoulders but she couldn't say anything. Instead, she breathed in deeply of his – or her – scent. He smelled like a forest, breezy and wet. "Is it…" she had to know, "Is it really you?"
"Do I need to grope you to prove it?" he asked. "Because I totally will."
She punched his shoulder again.
"Okay, okay," he laughed – and more than his words, it was the way he laughed that proved it to her. A familiar, often-heard sound. "It's me, Blake," he said, regardless. "You didn't think you were going to get rid of me that easily, did you?"
She released a ragged breath into his chest, but if he noticed how her hands tightened on him, he wisely chose not to mention it. "What happened?" she asked. "Is everyone else…?"
"They're all safe." He stroked her hair with one hand, and this time she not only allowed him but gave in to him entirely. "You were badly hurt but Penny and Yang were able to bring you to safety. They held your ex off long enough for me to come and kill him."
"He's dead?" She wasn't sure what she felt about that. If someone had asked her a week ago, she might have been angry and hurt – but now? He'd changed so much… she wasn't even sure she could have recognized him anymore.
"He's gone," Jaune said. "Also, while I realize killing your ex isn't the best way to express my feelings, I want it on record he gave me no choice and stabbed you first."
She hit him again, the bastard.
"After that, most of the recovery went on plan. Ozpin killed the dragon Grimm, the White Fang were rounded up and order was restored. Your team took some bruises and beating, but they've all come out of it in one piece."
Thank the gods…
"And the people who did this?" she asked.
"Escaped, for the most part. I…" he hesitated for a moment. "I let Cinder go. I wouldn't have been able to reach you on time and you were more important than her."
She didn't think anything of it. She would have done the same. "What's happened since?" she asked, if only to have him continue speaking.
"I didn't… I haven't told anyone about who I am, yet. They all think I'm Amber still. But as for what's been going on… rest and recovery for the most part. Ozpin's had me in meetings ever since, however."
"I've been locked into this body, and Penny in my robotic one. That means I'm the Maiden, for better or for worse. Cinder is still out there, and she's not going to give up until she gets the other half of this power inside me. She'll come back, either alone or with friends, and he wants me prepared for that. He also wants that threat away from Beacon… somewhere safe and isolated, where she can be fought off without risk to others."
Somewhere safe… somewhere away? Blake's heart turned to ice and she struggled to breathe for a moment.
"He wants me to travel," Jaune went on, unheeding of her state of mind, "Train, too… get stronger and prepare for what could happen. There are people he trusts, huntsman and huntresses, who can look after me."
"I see…" Blake said, voice cold and emotionless. Was it not everything she'd ever feared about him getting a mechanical body, except that now he had all the benefits of a real one? Her fingers turned white and she buried her face deeper into his top so he couldn't see her grief. She had to be strong. For him. "I guess this is goodbye then," she whispered.
"Goodbye? This isn't goodbye, Blake."
Of course it wasn't… she almost wept. "Later, then," she laughed. "I… I'll see you later?"
His hands cupped her face and drew it up, so that her tearstained eyes met his. His fingers brushed at her cheeks. "I'm not going anywhere."
"But Ozpin said-"
"Screw what Ozpin said," he growled. "He got to make every decision for Amber and this is what happened to her. I know her every memory, Blake. I know she was a strong woman, but also a frightened, sad and lonely girl. Call me selfish, call me a monster, but I refuse to live through that. I refuse to leave you behind after all of this! I told Ozpin he could get down on his knees and blow me. I'm staying right here."
He dragged her close and squashed her face against his neck, and she could feel him plant a kiss between her ears.
"That must have confused him…" she whispered.
"Huh? Oh wait, you mean the? Now that you mention it, he did look a little confused. Suddenly being a girl is a bit of a switch. It'll take some time to get used to."
Her eyes drifted shut as she nodded against his skin. She didn't trust herself to speak, not with how her limbs felt like jelly. He was going to stay. She wouldn't lose him. She didn't protest as he lowered her down, or as he tucked her back beneath the covers. She felt too drained to do so – all the swift changes in mood having robbed her of what little strength she had.
"You've been unconscious for five days," he said, "The others and I have been with you almost every moment. Tsune threw us out when we wouldn't stop getting in her way."
That… sounded like them, like everyone.
"You need to sleep. You'll be up and about soon enough, but get some rest for now."
He wrapped the blanket around her, but paused when her hand snagged his wrist. She teased her lower lip with her teeth, eyes half-shut. "Do you promise?"
"You weren't here when I woke up. Do you promise this time?"
Jaune didn't answer. He looked down on her for a moment, and as the words she'd uttered filtered into her mind, she turned over with red cheeks. Damn her addled mind. She sounded like some terrified little child. It had to be the pain, the near-death experience and whatever drugs the doctor had her filled up with. They were messing with her mind… her words.
She stiffened as she felt a gust of cool air against her back, and then something infinitely warmer settle behind her. A pair of arms wrapped around her midriff and pulled her close.
"Hey, look," he said, and his breath whispered against her ear, "This time you get to be the teddy bear."
She chuckled into the sheets. "This isn't what I meant when I said to promise me."
"Oh, I know… I just wanted to cop a feel." He didn't; and she knew he wouldn't. She shook her head and settled back into him, or her, as she he sighed against her back. "Things are going to be different now that I have a body."
"Funny… it doesn't feel very different."
"Do you honestly want it to?"
She had no answer.
"Hey Blake," he whispered, right when she was on the verge of falling asleep.
"What do you think of girl on girl?"
The question didn't even surprise her. She smiled into his arms. "I think if I had Gambol Shroud to hand, I'd stab you."
"That wasn't a no."
It wasn't; but she wouldn't give him the pleasure of hearing her say it. Instead, she leaned back into him and surrendered herself to the abyss.
Only for the door to slam open.
"Blake!" a frantic voice called. "We heard you woke up – are you okay, do you need anything? I brought cookies!"
"Don't crowd her, you dolt! She needs rest and support! Is the bed comfortable, Blake?"
"Forget that," Yang crowed, "She needs to know about the crazy girl telling everyone she's going to be her girlfri-" Her partner's voice caught for a moment, as the three no doubt looked over her bed and the position she was in. "Damn… she works fast."
Blake sighed and tilted her head to the side. "Everyone?" she asked, glaring blearily into Jaune's eyes.
"Well," he grinned, "Now that I have a body, I thought I'd try and stake my claim."
Eyes shut, Blake smiled and settled her head down into the crook of his shoulder. Oh, she'd punish him when she woke up. He could rest assured of that. But… he would be there for her to do that. He would be with her.
"You're an idiot."
"But am I your idiot?"
She chuckled and gave herself to rest, surrounded by his heat, his arms – and the voices of her beloved team, all alive and well. To a slumber from which she knew she'd awake, not only with them all, but in a world where the spectre of her past no longer hung over her. Before she did, however, she might have whispered something, too low for him to hear.
But she heard his breath catch, and felt his arms tighten around her.
She said yes.
Hm, it's worth noting that the ending of this changed a few times as the show's plot was revealed. Originally, this was intended as a tragedy, but given its comedy nature, I thought that would be too jarring an ending, even if it was on a happy note.
In the end, I decided on this – and why not. In terms of full stories, I only have two completed ones; "One Good Turn" and "Stress Relief", and I'd rather not create some kind of assumed legacy of how I end my fics. Also yes, Cinder hasn't been resolved, but I kind of didn't want it to be… the adventures always continue for these people. It's their life. But they'll face it together, at least. (Also, I couldn't have really resolved everything, since Salem was never planned in, and it's not like killing Cinder would prevent her plans anyway).
This fic… ah, it was neither my favourite nor my least liked. In a way, it sat snugly in the middle – which wasn't what I really wanted. I think the experiment as it were to try and do short chapters more often was a bit of a flop.
In terms of writing, it was easier – at least in pure effort. But at the same time, I just didn't enjoy the limiting word count.
That's why "White Sheep" is full-length, and is the story that has replaced this. So, to note, no NEW story will be coming out as this ends, because WS was released early for Xmas. I hope you all enjoyed this story, even if I don't think it was my best work. Blake and Jaune were always my favourite pairing, though given Blake's recent background info, I can admit to being very "meh" about her now. She went from "cat dragging herself out the gutter" to "runaway princess Weiss mk2.0" and that bores me – but hey ho, that's what fanfic is for, right?
For those who desire more Blake x Jaune – there is always my first story "One Good Turn Deserves Another", which started off rocky – but picks up fast in terms of quality. It still is, in all honesty, my favourite story that I've written.
Coeur out, and thank you for reading.
Complete: 29th January 2017
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur