*Due to the length of the story, I had to state a lot more of my story than I would have normally wanted. Hopefully it doesn't take away from it too much -WG*

The Wolf's Mask

"Watch where you're going you DUNCE!"

Ruby flinched at the outburst, and immediately sprung to behind the legs of Blake, grabbing tightly to her calves. She poked her head out towards a furious Weiss with her trademarked Adorable Extract face, "Sorry Weiss, I-I just really like the festival"

Blake looked down to the red hooded huntress in training glued to her legs, unable to help herself as she giggled at the sight. Ruby's wolf ears flickered in fear from the wrath of her teammate, even though she knew that Weiss would never hurt her. Blake looked back up to the heiress to see her holding her forehead in her hands, irritated at both Ruby for getting in her way and herself for shouting at her.

"I'm sorry Ruby, I just, almost tripped. I would've ruined my combat skirt"

"Oh, that would have been the worst tragedy ever! Would you like me to play the world's smallest violin for you?", Yang snarled at the heiress, annoyed at her self-centeredness, while she rubbed her forefinger and thumb together.

Shaking Ruby off of her leg, Blake walked in between the two angry teammates before they went to blows. The two were reaching for their weapons, as they briskly stepped close to each other. Putting her hands outstretched towards each of them, she calmly spoke, "Relax girls, there's no need to get angry about this, it's all fine. See, Ruby's all good now", gesturing towards the wolf Faunus who was now excitedly playing with a butterfly. She was just too goddamn adorable for her own good, Blake's mouth was upturning at the sight.

Weiss and Yang both dropped their tensed shoulders, also catching sight of their team leader unintentionally calming tensions between them. They sheathed and retracted the weapons they were about to unveil, ending the standoff that was about to occur. This was a fairly regular occurrence in Team RWBY. Ruby would be unaware of her surroundings, Weiss would get mad at her, Yang would get mad at Weiss, and Blake would step in. It was almost like clockwork, to the point where Yang and Weiss would often just look over to the bow wearing girl before they even engaged each other.

Blake walked back over to the absentminded girl, who was still hunting the butterfly. Ruby noticed her teammate approaching her, and she stopped her assault on the insect, putting her arms behind her back pretending as if nothing was wrong.

"C'mon Ruby, let's go see the rest of the festival", Blake said with a grin on her face, holding out her hand to the smaller girl. They interwove their fingers, grasping each other's appendage with care, walking back to their team.

The two girls made a rather unlikely couple at a first glance, Blake was an extreme introvert, to the point where she spoke approximately 3 sentences in the first week of Beacon, and Ruby was a little fur ball of energy, always bouncing around and asking everyone questions at 1,000 miles per hour. But, as they say, opposites attract, and Ruby managed to pull the hermit out of her shell of books, and Blake was often the only one to be able to calm Ruby if she were to get too crazy. The two didn't bond at first, but after the first few weeks of Ruby's excitable personality brushing off on the serious girl, the two formed a relationship that had lasted the majority of the school year.

Ruby tried to sprint ahead to her team, but Blake held her back, at least to some degree. Blake did end up doing a half-jog to keep her hand in Ruby's, but it was nowhere near the instantaneous speed of Ruby's semblance that would have normally been used. Rejoining their team, Yang smiled at their smaller leader, asking her, "You ready to go inside, 'Lil Red?"

Ruby barked in response, and wagged her tail, and the three laughed with her and began to walk inside.

Blake walked through the festival grounds, alone this time, looking at all the happy families and groups enjoying the food and games. She herself had a stick of blue cotton candy that she had been working on for the last half hour, enjoying the web of pure sugar as she walked. It was getting later in the day, the sun was almost setting, and the shattered moon was beginning to rise. She looked around a little bit, trying to find her girlfriend. The finale was about to start.

A flash of red passed by her and a flurry of rose petals flew up into her face. Ah, there she was.

Blake prepared herself for the comeback, and she was not disappointed. This time, with evident experience, she snagged the speedster as she flew by, spinning Blake into a circle as she slowed the speed of her girlfriend. Lifting her up a little off the ground, she noticed that Ruby's legs were still running in the air. The wolf Faunus noticed that she had suddenly taken flight, and opened her eyes to see her lover smiling at her.

"Hi Blake!"

"Hey Rubes, how much cotton candy did you have"

"Yang gave me THREE cotton candy sticks! I ate all of them, and then I, kinda stole Weiss'," Ruby looked away guiltily as she knew she was caught, as she wouldn't be able to get away from the experienced grip of Blake. Blake laughed at sighed at the same time, enjoying the instant honesty from the smaller girl. From an outsider's perspective, it might look as if Blake was babysitting her cousin, or perhaps her younger sister, but, for all of Ruby's childlike innocence, there was a lot of wisdom in the girl. It wasn't exactly her fault that she acted so childish. She was unintentionally abandoned by her mother after they were attacked traversing the woods when she was 6, and Ruby was found 4 years later with a pack of wolves, living feral. It was almost amazing that she retained any social skills at all considering the trauma. Ruby was miraculously totally fine, despite having the social skills of a 4-year-old and many lupine habits; she managed to fight for her survival.

"Hey Blake, have you seen- Oh never mind, you got her," Ruby's half-sister sheepishly grinned at the cat Faunus, "I have to spoil her somehow"

Yang had been with her father at the time of Ruby's departure and her step mother's death, and she was left to live with him after she died. The blonde brawler had lost a lot of time to bond with her younger sister, and she had been doing her best to regain the lost years. Yang and her uncle were the ones who taught Ruby how to fight, Yang worked on aura, while her uncle Qrow taught her to wield a scythe.

Blake understood the want of the blonde girl to give everything to her sister, even though it did cause a lot of issues for the rest of the group sometimes, especially when she gave gifts of sugar.

"Oh, you're fine Yang, though I'm sure Ruby owes Weiss an apology. I was just about to find Ruby and take her to the finale."

On the way to the fireworks show, Ruby was telling Blake all about her day. It was the first time that she had been to the Vytal festival, at least, that she could remember. Yang swore upon the fact that she had taken her before, but Ruby was too young to remember.

"And then, we played this game where you had to knock down the bottles. I missed all 3 of my balls, but Yang hit them all down in one shot, and got me this giant bear", for emphasis, Ruby lifted the large stuffed bear for Blake to see. The two were still interlocking hands, as they approached the large crowd gathered for the fireworks.

"Alright Ruby, you can tell me the rest later, for now, the fireworks are about to start," Ruby could only guess what the word "fireworks" meant, but Blake seemed really happy about it, so it must be good. Ruby turned to try to look over the massive crowd in front of her, as the first fireworks went off

BOOM

A crackle of light flashed above the night sky, illuminating the crowd in a flash of color. Blake turned back down to her smaller girlfriend to see her first reaction to the beautiful explosion. She looked down to see nothing but a flurry of petals by her legs.

"Shit"

Blake sighing, disappointed to miss the show, headed back to Beacon's campus.

Blake scaled the walls of their school castle to a point about halfway up the side, and entered into a small alcove in the wall. Crawling through the small space, she entered into a small room where she could hardly stand. There was a makeshift cot on the one wall, along with a small desk and a lamp. Sitting on the cot was Ruby, trembling as the cat Faunus approached.

Blake plopped herself down on the cot next to her girlfriend, stroking her head to calm the girl's shaking. Soft mutterings of assurance to the girl and a few minutes of comfort was all that was needed to return Ruby to her. She had plenty of experience calming the girl, many times Ruby would flee from either an angry Weiss, or a sudden shock and Blake would have to find her and return her to her team. This particular spot was used so often by Ruby as an escape that she had begun to furnish it, almost as a second room.

Ruby stirred up, sitting on the cot, leaning against the strong body of Blake. This was odd, she was usually not this disturbed long after a shock, Blake supposed that Ruby must have been very startled by the explosions in the sky. Through the hole in the wall, the two could see the flashes of light across the sky, but the sounds did not reach them. Ruby remained leaning her weight onto the cat Faunus, while Blake stroked the wolf girl's side, the faint sounds of sobbing were picked up by Blake's sensitive ears, as Ruby began to cry into the girl's chest. Now this was very odd, Ruby hadn't cried after an episode since the beginning of the year, ever since they started dating.

"What's wrong Ruby?", she asked the still slightly shaking girl, expecting some non-answer about the fireworks spooking her. For all that Blake meant to the girl, she wasn't a very open person with her weaknesses, she hid to avoid other seeing her in such a state, and her time among wolves had left her with a crippling case of social anxiety.

Instead of the simple non answer, Blake first got nothing from the brunette. She stopped stroking her arm, and turned down to her girlfriend, inquisitively staring into her head, which was staring at the ground. Ruby sighed and turned back up to meet Blake's amber eyes.

"I-I don't know Blake, I just, want to know why I'm like this"

"Like what? A Faunus?"

"No, no, not like that. I mean why I'm so, you know, wolf-y," Blake again wore a face of confusion, unsure of what Ruby had meant by her statement, "I mean, like, you're a cat Faunus, but you don't just sleep all day, you don't hunt birds, and you don't chase laser pointers, well, other than that one time. And then me, I can't help myself but chase after a thrown ball, no matter who tosses it. I can only catch a Frisbee with my mouth. I was chasing a butterfly today for Pete's sake"

Blake knew where this was going and she wasn't going to like what she was going to have to say. Ruby was always filled with optimism, a child-like wonder of the world, always willing to play with a new friend. It was almost as if she was a puppy to the rest of the people, and that was exactly the issue. Blake had taken offense to Ruby's view of herself and how she handled herself in the first few weeks of school. Her disregard for humanity's standards for living infuriated her as she slowly tore away the work that Faunus rights activists had been working for generations for with each chased stick.

However, Blake saw how happy playing made Ruby, the elation in her eyes as she would get scratched behind her ears as Yang tossed a Frisbee, it was almost endearing to see just how much she loved life this way.

But it had come to an end.

"I feel like I'm being looked down on, like I'm-I'm, what's that word that begins with a 'd' that means small again?"

"Diminutive"

"Yeah, that's it, diminutive. Perfect example, right there. You know all these words, how to talk like a person, and I'm sitting here struggling to not bark out loud," Ruby looked down back at the ground as she said those last words, releasing another hidden secret for her girlfriend to digest.

"You know what Ruby? You're right, but you're wrong," Ruby looked back up to Blake, her ears perking up and her face showed confusion at the paradox, "Yeah, everyone seems to be more sophisticated, more mature than you, but you know, they're not."

This really threw Ruby for a loop. Everything she had seen everyone else do, all the evidence to show that she was really the child was being questioned by Blake.

"I don't understand, like Weiss, she is always so perfect, she can talk way better than I can, and use much bigger words. You're saying she's just as childish as me?"

"Yup, she just doesn't show it," Ruby began to make sense of her words as Blake explained herself, "You remember that time we borrowed Weiss' laptop and found that fanfiction of Yang shoving a pineapple up her butt?", Ruby's face reddened at the memory that she had clearly tried to forget, "There's no way that perfect little girl would write something so vulgar as that. On the inside, she's just as playful as you. You just don't see it."

Ruby pondered what her girlfriend was telling her, the revelation that nobody had it together was beginning to come to her.

"It's like a mask, Ruby, everyone has one. Every day, we put on our masks of politeness and propriety, for fear of being the only one that doesn't have it together. Every single person in this school, even Ozpin, is hiding themselves from everyone else, because nobody wants to be the childish one.

"But you don't care, you play as much as you want. You chase stick, you catch Frisbees, you hunt bugs because it's fun and you don't care about what anyone else thinks. You're who everyone really is and definitely wants to be"

Ruby looked back up into Blake's amber eyes, her own silver pair tearing up at the soliloquy. The gears in her mind understood what Blake was trying to say, but there was just one snag in her mind.

"But what if I don't want to be the childish one anymore"

Blake had been preparing herself for the response. Ruby had clearly begun to mature to near the level of her peers, but she had never learned how to hide herself from the world.

"Then, you just gotta make your mask"

Ruby turned away from the raven haired girl, processing what she said. She looked out towards the hole in the wall, looking again at the fireworks that had frightened her into a frenzy not 10 minutes ago.

"But how do you turn of the voice that keeps telling you to play? How you do ignore the call to fun?"

Now it was Blake's turn to look away from her partner, unsure of her response. She had her own voice inside, beckoning her to drop the worries of life and just chase birds in the trees, but it had been long snuffed out by years in the White Fang.

"You…you just gotta stop before you let it decide. Before it moves for you. You have to give power to the mask, and any other thoughts have to be second. Until you can take it off"

"And when's that?"

"When you're with your friends, your loved ones, when you're alone"

Ruby looked out again, staring at the explosions in the distance.

"That's kinda sad"

"…Yeah, yeah it is"