Last Huntress - Chapter 26
-And All You Did Will Be Undone-
As Weiss finished recounting a much shorter version of what truly had transpired on the day of the Breach, leaving out her talk with Ruby at the end, she felt a sudden sorrow creeping in on the edges of her heart. It had been so easy to dismiss Ruby that day, to hate the way the girl had sniveled and begged when she was responsible for so much loss. But now, it just felt like a hollow victory to announce this secret.
She had aired her frustration, and all that was left was a bitter taste of what could have been sadness or regret. It was hard to tell, as she stared at the wolf-girl who stood in the middle of the room, hair blocking any expression as the Faunus was staring at the ground, but Weiss could see the way those shoulders shook in fear. She reached up and grabbed at the stump of her right arm, gritting her teeth as a new wave of pain replaced the old. Since the explosion, her Aura hadn't truly recovered, leaving the pain worse than ever.
Had she truly hoped that this release would stop the pain? She didn't know anymore. But she knew now that it did not feel good, whatever it had done. Silence hung over the room like a smothering blanket, and it seemed no one dared to move until Blake was the one who spoke up.
They all took a step back in shock as a wave of petals exploded out from where the wolf-girl had stood, and the door that led out of Weiss' office slammed open, leaving a trail of rapidly disappearing petals as their former leader was suddenly gone. Blake reacted almost immediately, dashing after Ruby while calling out her name, with nothing but a tiny glance back towards Weiss. It was only a moment, but she could practically feel the impact of hatred from that glare.
She watched the door close with a quiet click, letting out a slow breath as she released the remnants of her right arm and turned to pick up the data drive from her desk. The holographic dossiers all winked out around the room, and she held it aloft with her lips set into a hard line.
Yang's voice was unusually small as the blonde looked at the door her sister had disappeared through. Weiss turned to her. "Yes, it's because of her we're all in this position to begin with. The Council was looking for a reason to shut the Hunters and Academies down, so it was bound to happen eventually." Sighing and shaking her head, she tossed the drive to the other woman, who caught it out of reflex in her stunned state. "But she gave them all the reason they would ever need."
Yang thumbed at the drive softly, running the ridges of her finger over the edges of the metal. "So that's the reason.." She mused to herself, but when Weiss moved to interrupt, the glare that looked to her choked the words in her throat. "No, not about what happened." There was a tinge of disbelief in the blonde's voice as her lilac colored eyes focused on the one-armed woman. "This is the reason why Ruby changed so much? This is why the last four years of her life have been hell?"
Weiss narrowed her eyes in annoyance, gesturing towards where the wolf-girl had ran off to. Her arm flared again, and she felt the veins in her neck pulse in pain, causing her to flinch in response. "Do you honestly think she deserves anything less, after what she did? Thousands died, Yang!"
"How can you stand there and just say that?!" It was only a few short steps before her former teammate was in her face, towering over her with glowing red eyes. For each movement Weiss took to back up, Yang moved forward, until she was pressed back against the edge of her desk, staring up at the blonde with the good sense to feel a sliver of fear. "She was your friend, your girlfriend! You loved her!"
The tense moment didn't defuse as they glared at each other, but then red eyes faded away, and Weiss watched as Yang leaned back and away from her, a suspicious expression replacing the angered one that had been there before. Weiss felt the pain ebb away for just a moment, affording her a clarity she had not had a moment ago. It left her wondering what she had done, what she was doing. Yang was right, she had loved Ruby. It was an emotion that seemed too far lost to memory to remember how that felt. "You.. You said something to her, didn't you? Something that made her so afraid to tell me."
"I-I only told her the truth." Had she? She couldn't rightly remember any more. Another wave of pain replaced the last and left her with a thought of the last time she hadn't been in agony. Days? Weeks? ..Longer? She stumbled back against the desk, barely catching herself with her hand.
She watched Yang close her eyes and shake her head in disappointment. "We were a team, Weiss." The regular cool lilac color met her gaze now, filled with judgment that struck to her core in a way that was somehow amplified by the throbbing in her arm. "No matter what, we should have been there for each other..I could have been there for her." It struck her then, that Yang's largest issue wasn't that it had all happened, but that it had been kept a secret for so long.
The other woman turned to leave then, walking a few steps towards the door before she slowed. Weiss let her gaze rise up from where it had been focused on the floor, shame in every thought as she stared at the back of Yang's head. "Did you know she tried to kill herself..?"
Weiss couldn't disguise her expression when Yang turned to look back at her, couldn't held the brimming of tears beginning to pool in the corners of her eyes. She had lashed out at Ruby today in anger she couldn't even remember feeling. She felt her backbone impact the desk as she reached over and held the stump tight. "A year after it all happened. I found my sister in a bathroom, sitting in pools of her own blood. She was bordering on being unconscious and delirious from blood loss, and she didn't realize who I was." A long blonde ponytail swayed as Yang shook her head. "She just kept saying 'I'm sorry, Weiss.' over and over.. But I.. Never realized it was like this."
There was a long, heavy silence before Yang spoke again. "If you think she deserved that.." There was a soft resignation in the blonde woman's voice, a sense of disappointment. "Goodbye, Weiss."
It wasn't until the door closed again that the first tear slipped down Weiss' cheek, tracing down the edge of her faded scar. Her fingers dug into the sleeve of her collared shirt, gripping tight at the ruined limb beneath the fabric as another pulse felt like it traveled further up her neck than before. Why had she told them?
The image of Ruby standing there, too ashamed to look up from the ground, wolf ears laid so flat against her hair that they might as well have been pinned again. Weiss had festered in anger and hate for so long, but she could no longer remember why. Was it the pain she felt now, from a wound that would never heal, that she blamed on her former partner? What about the pain she had caused?
She dug her fingers into the remnant of her right arm, gritting her teeth against the guilt and the pain.
Blake reached the lobby in only a few seconds, her eyes following the trail of rose petals that careened off to the right, towards a now open door that led into what looked to be a bedroom. It was dark, the windows tinted near to black as she entered. It was a simple enough room, with the bare minimum of amenities, looking as if were only a place to crash for someone working very late.
Her torn cat ear flicked as she caught the quiet sound of sobbing coming from the other side of the bed, and she felt a frown grow over her lips as she stepped forward, her boots causing a slight echo. But it seemed the younger woman either did not notice or did not care that she was here, as she came around the side of the bed and saw Ruby sitting against the side of the bed, her arms cross over the her knees and her head buried into the loose embrace.
Slender shoulders were shaking with each sob, and Blake could hear the way each cry was tangled up in the way her girlfriend was trying to force them back down. She carefully slid down to sit beside the other Faunus, reaching out tentatively to wrap an arm around Ruby's shoulders. "..It's alright."
Her whispered words drew the wolf-girl from the enclosed space she had created, and silver eyes snapped her way, the left one bloodshot and wet with tears. "I.. I-" The way her breath heaved stopped Ruby from speaking fully. "I can't be f-forgiven for this.."
Blake let a small smile reach her lips as she leaned over, tilting her head to match the angle that her girlfriend's was at. She remembered all too well being told that if she knew this great secret, she would hate the younger woman, when they had gone to rescue Auburn. Now she knew, and the emotion welling up inside her heart was as far from hate as it could ever be. "Really? Says who, Weiss?" She reached over with her free hand, using her thumb to brush away tears from Ruby's cheek, and settled the digit upon the thin scars marking the pale skin. After a moment, she locked gazes with her girlfriend again, and spoke earnestly. "Can you forgive me, for all that I have done? For the people I have hurt, and killed?"
"I-It's not like tha-"
She shook her head, holding her comforting smile as Ruby shuddered in her arms, the sobs slowing down with each slow rubbing motion she made with her hand on the wolf-girl's shoulder. Blake heard the door shift, and glanced back to see Yang joining them before she looked back at the woman in her arms. "You've helped me.. I faced myself and I have started to let it all back in, the guilt and the horror. I'll make it through, because of you, Ruby."
"I love you, Ruby Rose.." She touched their lips together then, just a brief point of contact to convey what little she could not express purely in words. Blake followed through by pressing her forehead against the younger Faunus', closing her eyes and speaking softly. "And I forgive you, but you must forgive yourself."
As she pulled back, she could see how Ruby's eyes couldn't focus on any one thing, still wild and wide in shock before the wolf-girl looked down, speaking softly and steadily. "I.. I love you too, Blake."
There was a shifting on the bed as someone sat just behind them, and a warm hand pressed down on Ruby's shoulder, squeezing gently. "You can move forward from this, Ruby.." Yang's voice and touch calmed the youngest member of their team even more. "But you should have told me, should have let me help."
"I.." Ruby looked down, rubbing her eye with the back of her hand. "I was so afraid you would leave me.."
Her older sister squeezed her shoulder once again, while Blake's hand found its way to lacing their fingers together and holding her gently. Yang spoke softly, a smile on her lips as Ruby looked back up to them both. "It's okay, we're here now. We're gonna work through this, together."
Ruby leaned in to touch her cheek against the warm hand on her shoulder, and she let out a long, slow sigh. The panic and all the pain that had welled up began to bleed away. At least, until her sister spoke again. "But you should speak to Weiss."
"S-she doesn't want to see me.."
Ruby's eyes had shot up to latch onto Yang in a pleading expression, as if she knew at both times that it was the right course of action, and that she desperately wanted to do anything else. Yang only smiled a bit wider, squeezing that shoulder in her palm. "I.. Talked to her. It's important that you have some closure here, Ruby."
She looked back to Blake, who only offered a warm smile and a nod, and she just glanced back to her sister before mumbling out her next words. "..Closure, right."
Weiss reached up to brush away the tears that seemed not to end as she stared down into her reflection on the surface of her desk, her mind mulling over what Yang had said and the emotions that she found herself unable to stop. Perhaps it was having all four of them together, or just a chilling realization that she had chosen to be alone these last four years that left her bitter towards herself in the wake of what had happened. She hadn't been truly alone since then, either having Ironwood or Penny by her side at most times, but she had been lonely.
Every step, every decision since the Breach had been made towards the safety and betterment of Remnant and its people, except the choice to cut Ruby out and damage the younger woman in such a way that death had seemed preferable. She had to believe that what she was doing was towards that goal, that she had everything under control. Did the ends really justify the means anymore, when all it had done is leave her alone against an array of enemies that could undo all she had accomplished?
She did not honestly know.
"Were you.." Penny's voice cut through her internal thoughts, reminding her that one other soul had witnessed everything that had been said. She turned, sniffling to clear her nose and wiping at her cheeks before straightening her posture and smoothing out her vest. It was such practiced motion, making sure she was presentable at all times. "Were you really so cruel to Ruby?"
"I.. I was, Penny." Weiss saw the disappointment she saw in Penny's gaze, and looked away as she felt fresh tears reach her eyes. "I wish now that I had not been. It's been hell, feeling such hate towards her and.."
She trailed off, gulping as she felt the swell of pain in her heart. It was different than before, a pain that ached from within her. It felt pure, not like the burn in her veins. Seeing Ruby again, both silver eyes restored and staring back at her, it was hard not to admit to herself that through everything else.. "You still love her?"
Weiss couldn't deny it, that only through a fouled love could she feel such visceral hatred. She just didn't know who it was she hated anymore. "Not like I used to." She drew in a sharp breath, rubbing at her right shoulder as a spike of pain traveled through it. "I missed her, I missed them all.."
Penny was silent for a few moments, nervously shifting her weight from foot to foot. When she did speak up, Weiss could hear the uncertainty in her assistant's voice. "Should people know about this.. Know the truth?"
"No." Weiss closed her eyes, shaking her head. The long tied ponytail behind her swayed with the movement, and she turned back to face Penny directly. "This is a secret people should never know. The dismay it would cause would bring the Grimm down on us in force, so it must remain that the Breach was nothing more than a tragic accident."
She sighed, shrugging her shoulders as she turned back towards her desk. "It was an accident, after all."
Penny looked uncomfortable, moving towards the door with uncertain steps. Weiss watched as her assistant neared the door and then spun back with an expression that told her of the turmoil the young woman was facing. "If it was an accident.. Why have you treated Ruby so poorly?"
Opening her mouth to answer, she found that words failed her. As she struggled to find an explanation, she instead leaned back against her desk. There wasn't an answer she could find, a rational that allowed her to know why she had been so cruel. In one moment she felt nothing but revulsion and hatred for Ruby, in another she missed the girl and felt only guilt for how she had acted. It went against the control she displayed in all other facets of her life, to be thrown about on a whim of emotion. It had never been this bad, though. The severity of her actions towards Ruby, when placed alongside what Yang had told her and her own feelings, felt suddenly uncharacteristic of her.
There was a chill in her spine as she tried to recall the first day after she had woken up without her arm. Pain, yes, so much of it that she wanted to return to the blissful embrace of unconsciousness, but what of Ruby? She remembered sitting there in that hospital bed thinking through what she would say to the younger girl when she saw her, but none of the words she rehearsed, none of the words she had chosen had come forth. Weiss had never meant to be so cruel, had only wanted to point out Ruby's recklessness and it's consequences, not pin every death and injury on her. Not to call her girlfriend worthless.
She remembered the girl walking into her room, and in her mind's eye she could clearly see the bandage that covered the right side of Ruby's face, feel the sympathy that came with that sight and her relief that the girl was still breathing. But then..
Pain, so much pain that the last thing she saw with clarity was a single silver eye staring at her as emotions were twisted and turned into monstrous versions of themselves, growing inside until she felt nothing but desperation, hate, and obsession.
Penny must have sensed that something was wrong, because her eyes were filled with concern. Her mouth moved, but the hammering of Weiss' pulse in her ears drowned out all other noise. Control was paramount, control was how she was going to save the people of Remnant. "I'd.. I'd like to be alone.." Control had fled her a long time ago, it felt like.
How had she not realized that her coldness, her sudden willingness to do whatever was necessary was not built out of a mastery of self?
The door closed, drawing her gaze for a moment when she saw her assistant had followed her request, cold sweat beginning to gather as she was forced to confront a hard realization. If she had been influenced by this festering wound, what could she trust was a decision made by her own thoughts, what trust could she expect from others if they knew.
The next jolt of pain was so sudden, and cascaded through so much of her body, that her Aura flared as the shock of agony caused an unconscious reflex to project what meager defenses she could summon. It felt intentional, these waves of pain and agony that swept through her, igniting her Aura as it tried to push back against the venom.
But the shield of her energy was far too weak now to protect from the corruption inside her, and she stumbled back, her legs giving out as she reached for the nearby desk. Her fingers slipped against its surface, and the ground rushed to meet her, until her momentum was halted by arms wrapped about her.
The flash of bluish-white faded away as she grit her teeth, the last of her reserves spent, and now acutely aware of the malicious intent behind the venom trying to course through her. She had been so blind, so assured of her own will that she had never thought to question what this infection was doing to her beyond physical weakness. But as the slither of pain through her body continued, she felt herself being gently lowered, and then turned over. Two bright silver eyes stared down at her, scanning over her with the dry lips of their owner moving in quick, panicked motions.
She focused on the rose petals drifting through the air, and the pain drove her into unconsciousness.
It lasted only moments, but Weiss returned to consciousness with several uncomfortable pains bearing into the back of her body. Her hip and shoulder ached from the hard surface of her office floor as her eyes fluttered back open, and other senses slowly returned. "Weiss? Weiss!"
That voice. Her voice. She groaned as she craned her neck to see Ruby Rose peering down at her, a worried expression on a face that was scarred but somehow just as beautiful as she remembered.
Her hand pushed against a shoulder weakly, trying to get the other woman as far away from her as she could, but there was no true strength behind it as she snarled. "Weiss, it's me! It's just me!" Hands finally caught her wrist and brought her to a standstill long enough for sanity to return in a rush, leaving her panting as she felt the strain the last few days had taken on her body, between expending a large amount Aura, and the fact it was not recovering as it normally would.
"Yeah, I'm right here." Hands pulls her up from the ground, leaning her back against the edge of her desk in a sitting position. Her fingers trembled as she brought them to her chest, but fear lanced through her as she felt that sudden loss of control so clearly for the first time. Whatever was inside her, it had wanted to grip that exposed neck tight and crush the life from the woman helping her. "Are you.. Okay?"
Tears welled up in her eyes as her breath came in short, panting bursts. For all that she had done, she did not expect the softness that Ruby was showing her. She certainly didn't feel like she deserved it, the dark presence still lingering on the edge of her thoughts. Pride wasn't what kept her mouth closed, but a silent wondering if she could trust her former partner with the truth.
But then a palm rubbed down the shoulder of an arm that was still whole, and the simple contact left her unable to stop the word that escaped her lips. "..No." Her Aura sparked for a moment as she arched her back, pain lancing through her chest as she fought off another vicious thought that intruded into her mind. When it ceased as quickly as it had come, she lay back against the wooden supports of her desk, feeling the sweat clinging to the skin beneath her clothing as she looked up at Ruby. "I never wanted this between us.."
The wolf Faunus was staring at her in concern, kneeled down in front of her with silver eyes glancing about as if suddenly realizing just how awkward it was to be in this situation mere minutes after Weiss had done her best to tear her life apart. "Then.. Why? Why would you tell them now?" There was a desperation in that voice, and a pleading that filled those silver eyes. Even this close, Weiss could not tell that the right eye was an implant, even though she had seen the original organ clawed away. "You haven't told anyone, not in four years.."
Weiss opened her mouth, but no answer came forth in her thoughts, and she resigned to the truth of it. "I don't know. There are times when.. There is.." She felt her breath quicken as silver eyes looked back to her in confusion, and she raised her remaining hand to begin and undo the buttons of the intricately decorate vest she wore. "I can show you."
She wasn't sure how much of that was an explanation to Ruby, or a reassurance to herself that she could trust the younger woman with this. Only a few people, those who had been close to her in the building of the Barricade Program, knew of the venom that had been inside her. None of them knew the extent of what it was doing to her, though, she had been unable to believe that anyone could trust her after knowing this. But she had to say it, had to show it. "..Dammit!"
If only her fingers wouldn't shake and fumble with the buttons. She could feel her painfully low Aura reserves, already taxed with holding back the venom inside her, beginning to wane. "Weiss..?"
"..Just help me, please." Despite an incredulous expression, Ruby closed the gap and took over, not asking any further questions. It was mostly due to the way the white-haired woman had admitted she needed assistance, swallowing pride to ask her, of all people, to assist with this bizarre display. She didn't feel like she needed to question it, it must have been important.
She unbuttoned the vest, letting it fall to the sides, and when the older woman moved to unbutton the dark grey collared shirt as well, she reached up and moved Weiss' hand out of the way to undo those as well. It was incredibly awkward in the silence of the office, but Ruby shook her head and continued with the task, hoping there was some explanation at the end of this. She rocked back onto her knee as the undershirt was revealed, the red stripes on a high collar running over bright white flanking a zipper. This was a mechanism that Weiss seemed to be able to work, even in her weakened state, as she unzipped it down a few inches.
"Look." Weiss' tone was low, serious, and left her without a doubt that the older woman's intentions were important. The sole hand her former partner had pulled the undershirt away from her skin and folded it down, before pulling both of the overshirts off her right shoulder to let them fall a few inches. Ruby gasped, her hand flying up to cover her mouth as her eyes widened.
It was not her first time of seeing the porcelain skin of Weiss Schnee's collarbone, but it was a far cry from the flawless landscape she could remember. A network of vicious-looking black veins tangled up from the stump of Weiss' right arm, the sundered limb revealed and looking just as ruined as she remembered it being four years ago. If not worse. The only piece of it all that looked improvement was the end of the limb, the torn skin having been expertly sewed together to create an almost seamless round end to it.
But those horrible veins, the ones that seemed to pulsate as she stared at them, they traveled from the ruined arm and up the right side of Weiss' neck. Pale blue eyes were looking away, and the expression on the other girl's face was one of supreme shame and exposure, similar to the one she herself had worn just a few minutes ago when her deepest secret was revealed. "It.." Ruby couldn't help but to move forward, placing a hand gently on the bare shoulder. It may have been her imagination, but she could feel a sharp chill tracing over her palm with each pulse running through the darkened veins. "It never healed?"
White bangs slid across a forehead that had accumulated a layer of sweat from everything that had happened, catching a few errant strands, and finally Weiss found her gaze for a brief moment. "It only got worse.. But, it's more than just pain." She sucked in a breath, and Ruby watched as tears fell from the corners of those pale eyes. "I feel.. Angry when it comes. Hateful. I can't stop myself. I saw you standing there in that hospital room and I couldn't think of anything like I can right now. Our nights studying, kissing on the courtyard grass, hours upon hours of sparring and studying. I looked at you and saw only a monster."
Ruby was surprised to find a tear down her own cheek as her fingers grazed over the corrupted veins. She remembered all too clearly a memory she had tried desperately to drink away, could recall watching black drip through white bandages. All of the venom that had been released when that King Taijitu died, without a shred of Aura to stop it. It was a miracle Weiss was still alive. She gulped, and finally looked away from the old wound to meet the blue-eyed gaze.
They sat there, closer than they had been in four years, with both silent as Ruby's fingers ghosted over the infected veins that stood out next to incredibly pale skin. She traced them down to the stump before following them back up. Many disappeared beneath the undershirt, deeper into Weiss' chest, but the dozen or so that snaked up to her neck looked to be the worst of all.
Weiss, for her credit, stood remarkably still under the examination, not used to anyone other than Amber looking over the wound. But without that influence of pain and aggression washing over her mind, it was easy to look at the Faunus before her and remember how much she used to trust the younger woman. It was far too easy, and it made her feel all the more a fool for what she had done.
"Has it taken over like that since?" Ruby's question was innocuous enough, and she put on a display of perfect innocence as she inquired about it.
The answer was almost immediate, and carried with it a tone of acceptance. "Once. A year after the Breach." Weiss's eyes fell to the floor. "I wasn't sure.. Until it happened today. I wanted you to suffer.."
"A year.." Ruby chose to ignore the voice within her head, leaning back with her eyes wide. "Jacques?"
A nod was her only answer, blue eyes closing as more tears fell down the incredibly pale cheeks. From this close, Ruby could see how gaunt the woman had become. It was so easy to see now, how while she had been consumed by regret and self-hatred, Weiss had suffered a similar fate these last four years. She imagined this was similar to what Blake must have felt when she saw Ruby standing there before the White Fang, ears out and proudly dyed red. Like time had robbed them of the lives they should have led, time and whatever this infection was.
"Look what you did to her.. It's all your fault."
She grit her teeth against that damned voice, closing her eyes for a moment. It wasn't as if she had thought a single talk would make her guilt go away, but the renewed presence of the voice was a reminder of the road left ahead of her. A road she was ready to start on, once she had some closure with her former partner, as Yang had suggested.
There was a spark of bright energy over Weiss' body as muscles tensed below Ruby, and an expression of pain crossed over the haunted features before her. "Y-your Aura is holding it back, right?"
"For now.. Yes." Weiss placed her palm on the floor and used it to shift the way she was sitting, feeling a bit more self conscious of the way Ruby's eyes kept looking over the half of her body that sill carried that old wound. It was.. Ugly. Misshapen and deformed with the essence of Grimm inside her. She had never wanted anyone who did not absolutely have to see her like this. Weak, and broken. "It has trouble recovering, as I'm sure you've noticed."
"Hm.. I'm sorry."
Laughing weakly, Weiss looked over the Faunus, feeling the lack of strength in her body as her dwindling Aura did it's best to fight off the venom. "About what?"
Silver eyes glanced down to the floor, and the wolf ears drooped as Ruby let out a sigh. "You lost your arm to save me.. And also for this." She reached out, placing her right hand flat in the center of Weiss's chest, while her left reached up to rest on the older woman's cheek, the black of the tattooed emblem on the back of that hand standing out even more against the paleness of Weiss' skin.
"W-wait!" Weiss' eyes shot open as she realized what was about to happen, but Ruby persisted. She had to try, had to fix this as best she could. Fingers closed about the wrist of her hand that was pressed onto the older woman's chest as she summoned up her Aura and willed it to spill forth. It flowed through her fingertips in a display of bright red sparks, and as she saw the pain this transference was causing glare in those pale blue eyes, Ruby watched as the red color of her Aura filled those irises, granting Weiss a unique aspect as she pushed all of what energy she could into the body beneath her.
Weiss' back had arched in pain, her grip growing stronger with each second her Aura was being bolstered and restored by her former partner's energy. It was like fire sweeping through every vein as the crimson energy seared through her body, setting muscle and blood ablaze. Were she not so accustomed to feeling as if she was being burned from the inside out, she would have screamed out. She managed to keep quiet, though she felt her nails dig into the exposed skin of Ruby's forearm, drawing blood as the wolf-girl's own protection was momentarily lost.
There was something more, a primal and hateful sense of fear clawing its way into the back of her mind that made her wild eyes narrow into a glare for a brief second before the presence was torn from her thoughts, and after several moments of this agony she was left panting against the desk, the infusion finished. Sweat had soaked through her undershirt, and she could feel it sticking the slacks she wore to the back of her knees. Her chest was heaving under Ruby's palm, panting for breath that just wouldn't come.
She would have panicked, would have dwelled on Dr. Amber's warnings that an Aura infusion was as likely to advance the infection than bolster her own natural defense against it, and that was only if the venom didn't follow the retreating Aura of the other person back into their own body. But as her body cooled from the sudden burst of intense heat that had washed through it, Weiss felt.. Okay. Her breathing slowed, and the Faunus above her sagged against her, forehead pressed to bare shoulder as Ruby was left drained by all that she had given to the Human woman.
It was natural, in the aftermath of a sharing of Aura, that she slipped her tattooed hand away from Weiss' angular cheek and over a shoulder, hugging her former partner briefly. The rush of emotion faded quickly, and Ruby pulled back with a start that left her slightly off balance, and she had to fall back onto her rear, leaning herself back on both hands. She sat there, drawing in deep breaths in an effort to calm her body's response to such reckless exertion.
"Y-..You idiot.." The words were spoken through gritted teeth and between breaths as Weiss glared at the younger woman, who only offered a tired chuckle and a helpless shrug. With a layer of sweat glistening on the wolf-girl's face and dyed bangs haphazardly strewn about and stuck to scarred skin, it was hard for her to maintain that glare. "Do you.. H-Have any idea what that could have done to you?!"
Ruby's mirth didn't fade as she blew out a long breath from between pursed lips, looking over at the fuming Human. "I had to try." Silver eyes refocused, scanning over the revealed skin on the right side of Weiss' body. Red sparks were fading away, but it looked as if they hadchased the black veins back a short amount of distance. "..How do you feel?"
Laying her head back against the desk, Weiss felt the wrapped cloth of her ponytail shifting some as she reached over to touch the stump of her right arm. Amber had warned her that it was incredibly dangerous to try, and that they would approach an Aura infusion only if they came to a point where there was no other option. Ruby had been stupid to try, unaware of the danger she had put both herself and Weiss in by doing so. But, Weiss did feel strength returning to a level she had not experienced in a couple of years. The veins in her neck didn't feel stiff or inflamed anymore, and a touch at where it met her shoulder revealed the venom had receded somewhat from its attempt to strangle the life from her. It didn't feel so present anymore, and she had to hope that this stupidity from Ruby had also damaged its ability to influence her mind.
"Better.." Her admittance of it shocked the Faunus, and silver eyes went a bit wide before a satisfied grin spread over Ruby's face, much to Weiss' chagrin as she let out a annoyed sigh. "You still shouldn't have tried! Didn't you think that would be the first thing I would have tried? The Doctors warned it would be too dangerous to do so.."
The leftmost wolf ear was tilted out to the side, while its partner was standing straight up as Ruby stared at her, a bit of contriteness showing on the scarred features. "I'd have accepted the consequences for my actions.. Even if it did just end up being a few claw marks." The Faunus held up her right arm, the small trails of blood showing where Weiss' nails had dug in and scratched.
Weiss glared a second more before sighing and letting the act fully drop. There was such a relief from the pain now that she was left no recourse but to accept that Ruby had helped, as dangerous as it had been. That impulsiveness had carried dire consequences before, though, and she had hoped that her former partner had moved past such things. "I'm.. Sorry about those." She bit at her lip, idly zipping her undershirt back up before tugging her shirt and vest back up over the corrupted skin of her shoulder. "A-and about earlier, I-"
"It was my fault, Weiss. All of it." Wolf ears had dropped low to the hair beneath them, and Ruby's eyes were downcast now, avoiding her gaze. "I have lived with that truth every day since then. But because of what you did today.." Silver orbs shot a glance towards the door that led out of her office, and Weiss found herself wondering how the talk with Blake and Yang had gone for the Faunus. "I don't think I have to live with it alone anymore."
Weiss watched the younger woman for a few moments in silence, her thoughts racing more clear than they had been in months, no longer mired in paranoia and obsession. "Ruby." The name sounded just as foreign on her lips as she expected, but it drew the attention of the wolf-girl, whose lupine ears perked up and swiveled back towards her. "We can't be what we were.. But maybe we can be something.. Different?"
She held up her hand to indicate she had more to say, and the other woman remained quiet, watching her with unabashed curiosity. "It might be too raw still, but you have my scroll number.. And I think we still stand on the same side of things, where the safety of Remnant is concerned." Weiss looked away, focusing on fidgeting with her clothing to smooth it out and return it to its place with immaculate precision. As her fingers, now once again possessed of dexterous motor control, did up the buttons for the collared shirt, she mused over a few thoughts before speaking again. "The Council was behind the explosion at the memorial. At least one of them, but I suspect he was not acting alone. I could.. Use someone I trust at my side."
"And you.. Trust me?" Ruby spoke softly, a small tremor in her voice as she unconsciously pulled her legs in closer to her chest.
"..Perhaps not like I did, but.. With my life, it seems." Weiss struggled up to her feet, using the desk as a crutch to stay upright as she stepped around it. She moved to the high backed chair beside it, dropping down into its cushion with a heavy groan. "When you aren't trying to fix things with reckless ideas, that is.."
Ruby had stood by the time she sat down, the younger woman looking a little unsteady on her feet for a moment before shaking her head and righting herself. Silver eyes settled back on Weiss with a sheepish expression, and she mused over her decision before opening a drawer on the desk and pulling out a scroll. The small device was placed on the glass surface in front of her, its interface lighting up. "This scroll is designed to send and receive encrypted transmissions. Take it."
With a raised eyebrow, Ruby moved forward and took the scroll from the desk, bouncing it in her palm a few times. "The Council, The White Fang, Torchwick, and whoever Ozpin was hunting.." She laughed, shaking her head at how complicated her life had gotten these past few months. "Never a dull moment when we all get together, is it?"
"Ruby.. Thank you."
Her wolf ear twitched up as her eyes snapped to the older woman, but Weiss' pale blue gaze was fixated on studying the glove that covered the woman's solitary hand. "Hm?"
"After everything, you were willing to listen, and risk harm to help me.." Shoulders sagged a bit with a sigh from the Human.
Ruby only smiled, tilting her head as she leaned forward a bit. "I wasn't about to let you die from a wound you only have because of me, Weiss." She spun the scroll once before deftly sliding it into the pocket of the jeans she had borrowed from Yang. "But.. I am glad to know it wasn't entirely you saying those things. It hurt, when you said we were than I thought it ever could.."
Weiss wasn't sure how to respond, not truly wishing to reveal that Yang had told her just what those words had led to. She could see the scars now, deep, jagged, and traveling down each wrist. Guilt gnawed at her, but there was some hope beneath it now that hadn't been there before. Created by a comforting thought that Ruby remained, at least in part, someone who wanted to change the world for the better.
With no further answer forthcoming, the wolf Faunus let out a small noise of acceptance, and turned to leave. Ruby paused a few steps towards the door, turning back slightly to speak up. "You lost a lot, too.. And my sister is right. It'll take closure to move forward from this, for all of us." Despite the dried tear-streaked cheek and bloodshot eye, the Ruby Rose that Weiss set her gaze upon when she looked up was the eternal optimist she remembered befriending and falling for back in Beacon. Even the scars faded away before her as a small grin reached the brunette's lips and she tossed once last glance back towards her. The Faunus looked exhausted, likely from the foolish but successful attempt to help her in any small way, but still lit up with that grin.
And this time there was no twisting influence on the warmth in Weiss' chest, no bitterness to turn her towards hate. It seemed that, for now at least, she was free. "See you around, Weiss."
As the door began to close, Weiss rolled her shoulders, feeling spots of discomfort from the tense and torn muscles as her mostly restored Aura did its best to wipe away the smaller pains that ailed her. Her former partner had possibly only delayed the inevitable, as each tiny expenditure of Aura would lead her down the same road to being on the verge of having no defense against this infection, but that thought did not diminish the relief she felt when she leaned back in the chair and pursed her lips together.
She couldn't help the smile that took over her features, stumbling again on the thought that had restored a bit of her hope as she tapped her fingers against the glass of her desk.
Perhaps the world wasn't quite done with Ruby Rose yet.
Author's Note: This may be the most rewritten chapter I have ever done since I started writing fanfiction. Thanks to some advice and ideas from RealTerminal(especially gotta credit 'em with the corruption caused by the Grimm venom one, friggin' genius), I decided to take Weiss in a bit different direction. When I set out to make this story, Weiss was an antagonist, embittered and hateful from the get go and working against Ruby due to her obsession with the Barricade program. But as I did more with her, none of it planned, I realized she was kinda a protagonist in her own right. Despite this, I pushed on with my original idea, and so RealTerminal's very useful idea gave me a bit of an out here with her! Though I wouldn't say Ruby and Weiss are out of the woods yet. Ruby's 'voice' remains, and the venom is only being held back for now..
Thank you to everyone who reviewed, I'm glad so many of you are enjoying the story still! There's nothing quite like seeing a username I haven't seen in two years pop up with a review, and the support you guys have shown me is just nothing short of awesome! I love all of you for taking the time to give me a gauge on how I'm doing(and an idea to maybe do a prequel when all is said and done showing off Ruby's misadventures as a bounty hunter, hm.. Might be a little too depressing, even for me)!
And of course a thank you to everyone who has followed and favorited, you guys rock! Let me know what you think of this chapter, your feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated! 'Til next time! 3 -Fox
PS, at the time of posting this chapter this story has 666 followers. Impressive as that is for one of my stories, it's mostly just hilarious!