I started writing this before I saw the episode "Punished," so sorry that it doesn't follow the exact characterization and storyline set up there. Heck, this idea has been banging around my head since I saw the intro for Volume 4 (I seriously didn't recognize Ironwood and thought he was some military dude Papa Schnee was going to marry her off to), so now's as good a time to post it as ever, right? The rating is for some implied stuff and crude language, but nothing major. I doubt I'll continue this story, since I love where they're going with Weiss, but I thought it might be an interesting "What if" scenario. Please enjoy!

Proposal

It was another cold day in the Schnee mansion. Weiss paced her opulent bedroom, worries buzzing around her head like mosquitos. Father was certainly still angry with her over the outburst at the concert. She'd been confined to her room from the moment they got home, with Klein bringing her meals and stealing the occasional moment to keep her company. The trusted butler assured her that the whole thing would blow over eventually. The Heiress was doubtful, though. She knew her father had something planned to keep her in her place.

She hadn't meant to attack anyone. She just couldn't help it. How dare that woman insult Beacon? People died in that battle, students, civilians, and Hunters alike. She lost friends that day. And that woman had the absolute gall to claim Vale had it coming?

Thank Oum for General Ironwood, she thought, letting out a soft sigh as she walked over to the window. That was another thing on her mind. Ironwood had told her there was a place for her at Atlas Academy. Part of her wanted to take him up on his offer, enroll in his school and continue the pursuit of her dream to bring honor back to the Schnee name. It would certainly get her out of the mansion, where her father's oppressive rule made her feel as if she wasn't safe in her own house.

But another part of her knew she wouldn't be at home there, either. She pressed her forehead against the cool windowpane, watching her breath gently fog up the glass. Beacon was her home. Team RWBY was her family. Could she possibly find the same happiness at another academy, with another team? And she doubted she'd be free of her father there, either. She had chosen Beacon specifically because she knew Professor Ozpin wouldn't be swayed by the Schnee Dust Company's money or influence. She could prove herself as a true Huntress, and her father couldn't interfere. And while the General was by all accounts a good headmaster, she knew that the man couldn't avoid Jacques Schnee's influence entirely, not when the military relied so much on his Dust resources.

"If you lean there much longer, I fear you may stick to the glass."

Weiss jerked away from the window, startled by her brother's voice. Did he forget to knock, or did she simply not hear him? She quickly composed herself, turning around to face him. "If I did, at least I'd have a lovely view. Did you want something?"

Whitley gave an innocuous smile. She wondered if it was something he had developed himself, or if Father taught him. She knew he was being groomed as the next head of the company, especially with her continued defiance of Father's wishes, so naturally he had to know how to appear harmless. It was one of the reasons she was finding it hard to trust him. He was acting perfectly nice to her, but a year under the tutelage of Jacques Schnee was not something she planned to take lightly. And he had certainly never been this nice before.

"Actually, I thought I should let you know that Father and General Ironwood had another argument. Ordinarily it wouldn't be any of my business, but your name came up."

The Ice Queen blinked in surprise. "My name? Was it about what happened at the party? I promise I didn't mean to summon that Boarbatusk—"

Whitley shook his head. "I couldn't hear much, but it seemed to have something to do with last night's Council meeting. The General seemed quite indignant when he left Father's study, and he asked me to fetch you. He said he wished to speak with you privately about some important matters."

"Did he?" This was slightly concerning. While she had known James Ironwood since childhood, it was unusual for him to request to speak with her alone. And why would the Council mention her? She clasped her hands together to prevent them from trembling. "Where might I find him?"

Whitley gave a sweeping bow. "I believe he said he would be in the garden. Said he needed some fresh air. Would you like me to escort you, dear sister?"

Straightening her posture, she schooled her features. "No thank you, Whitley," she said primly. "I may have been away at school for a while, but I'm certain I can find my way around my own house."

He gave her a placating grin as she strode past him, chin up, shoulders back, just like the heiress she was. She remained that way up until she reached the large, French doors to the garden where she paused, pensive. Would General Ironwood arrest her? He had certainly defended her at the party, but maybe the Council was forcing him to do so now. Maybe that's what he and Father were arguing about, she thought. It made sense. Jacques would be furious about the PR scandal of his own daughter getting arrested.

Still, there was no sense in standing at the doors, wishing for her problems to go away. If she was to be a Huntress, she had to face her problems head-on. Grasping the silver handles, she opened the doors, crossing into the beautiful garden. Large trees, blooming blue flowers, and the soft sound of a fountain welcomed her. It was well past noon, so she doubted Mother was still in there. At least she hoped not. Her mother had enough troubles; she didn't need to see her youngest daughter get arrested.

Wiess found Ironwood sitting on a stone bench, taking a long pull from his flask. She found her lips twisting in distaste. Was the garden the designated drinking spot in this house? Still, she supposed she couldn't entirely blame him. With the debacle at Beacon, it really was a miracle that he hadn't been stripped of his rank. He really must be under immense pressure, she thought, looking him over. The 5 o'clock shadow he now sported had the strange effect of making him look both weary and what Yang or Blake might describe as "ruggedly handsome." Wrinkles and bags were forming under his piercing blue eyes, making her wonder if the man was getting enough sleep. His uniform still fitted him impeccably, but he looked thinner, leaner. Yes, the past six months had clearly taken a toll. She wouldn't begrudge him one drink.

She cleared her throat delicately. "General Ironwood? Whitley said you asked to speak with me."

The General's head jerked in surprise, quickly tucking his flask into his coat. "Oh! Apologies, Miss Schnee; I didn't hear you come in." He stood up and gave a short, formal bow. "And yes, we have an important matter to discuss."

"Are you here to arrest me?"

He blinked, once again caught off guard. How was a teenager able to do that twice in less than a minute? Was he getting old? "Arrest you? Why—ah. No, the woman was…convinced to not press charges."

It was Weiss' turn to blink in surprise. "Oh. Well, that's…good, I suppose. Though I do promise I never meant to attack her. I haven't quite gotten the hang of summoning yet." She bit her lip in apprehension. "But it does beg the question as to why you wished to speak with me." As relieved as she was to not be headed off to jail, this entire situation was raising too many red flags.

He sighed, running a hand through his greying hair. "I really wish we didn't have to have this conversation, but you have the right to know. Your father is threatening to stop providing the Atlas military with Dust."

Taking a step back, the Heiress actually gaped at him. "What? That's insane! Considering how he can't sell outside the continent, he'd be losing his best customer. He has to be bluffing."

Ironwood shook his head. "No. He's completely serious, which makes it worse. He feels that with my embargo on foreign shipments, I've both cost him an immense amount of business and insulted him personally. He hopes to discredit me in front of the council by limiting my resources under the claim of showing the other kingdoms we don't want war. Unless, of course, I make a deal with him."

"What kind of deal?"

Weiss knew it was a bad sign when the usually up-front man wouldn't look directly at her. "Miss Schnee, please understand, I have made no agreement to his offer, but your father is putting me in an incredibly difficult position. He's basically holding the military hostage. I've voiced my disdain for his suggestion, but given the circumstances, I have few alternatives. However, considering you have a stake in this, you have every right to know."

Weiss stared at him. She had been familiar with the General since childhood, as the Atlas Military and SDC had always had a close business relationship. And in all the time she'd known him, she'd never seen Ironwood so uncomfortable. And if her father was involving her, it couldn't be good. "What did he propose?"

He barked out a laugh. "I must say, your choice of words is uncanny!"

Weiss stared at him, sharp mind quickly coming up with the answer. "You can't possibly mean…"

The General turned solemn, finally looking her in the eye. "Unfortunately, I do. He claims that it's for the sake of the country, as the best way to secure Atlas' longevity at this point is if both the Schnee Dust Company and the Atlas Military were indelibly linked. Through marriage. And many members of the Council are beginning to agree."

"But…well, no offense, Sir, but you're—"

"—about two decades older than you. I know." He started pacing back and forth like a restless Beowulf. "Jacques' original suggestion was that I marry Winter. He's been hinting at it for years. I was able to refuse that match on the grounds that she's my subordinate, so it would be against numerous regulations unless she were to leave the military. Luckily, your sister is a revered enough soldier that the council didn't want to risk losing such an asset. So, it came down to you."

The Heiress could barely keep her knees from buckling. Marriage? To General Ironwood? She didn't bother wondering if her father was serious. Of course he was. As far as he was concerned, she was just another pawn to be used, sacrificed for the sake of gaining a better position on the board. But the idea of marriage as a political move left a foul taste in her mouth.

Ironwood caught her elbow and gently led her over to the bench, clearly seeing how close she was to collapsing. "Miss Schnee…Weiss. Believe me when I say that I don't want this either. But your father has me in a difficult position. I can't risk losing the Schnee Dust Company's resources, not after what happened to Beacon. Both my students and my troops are depending on me, and I will make whatever sacrifices I must to ensure their safety."

"And what about me?" she said bitterly, holding back tears of rage and frustration. "There's no way I can enroll in Atlas Academy if we're married. He's not just trapping you; he's ensuring my chances of being a Huntress are over. I'll just be a trophy wife!"

She felt Ironwood's human hand gently grasp her own. She looked up to find him staring at her intensely.

"Weiss, I know this isn't fair to you. If it were up to me, I'd laugh in Jacques' face and enroll you in Atlas Academy. Or adopt you. Because you deserve to get out from under your father's thumb." He smiled at her surprised expression. "Anyone willing to look can see how he treats you. I certainly saw it at the concert. That, and Winter can be very candid about how terribly the two of you were treated when she's gotten a few drinks in her."

Weiss found herself cracking a tiny smile. "And when did you, General Ironwood, get the opportunity to witness my sister drunk?"

He smirked. "Myself and a few other officers took her out for drinks last time she was promoted. She's not exactly a heavyweight, especially when whiskey is involved. She had some rather…unpleasant things to say regarding your upbringing." His smile fell away and his eyes turned serious once again. "If I can't convince the council that this entire marriage idea is ridiculous, I may have no choice but to agree. And while I'm sure you don't want to, I doubt Jacques will let you refuse. So, I want to assure you that, should it come to this, I will treat you well. I will never lay a hand on you. And I would never touch you without your consent." He paused, considering. "Though, I suppose those are really the bare minimum qualifications for husband material, aren't they? But most importantly, I will not stand in the way of you becoming a Huntress. In fact, I'll do everything I can to help you achieve it, whether by enrolling you in another academy or training you myself."

She blinked, surprised. "Are you sure? I don't think Father would be very happy with the idea. I had to fight tooth and nail just to get him to let me go to Beacon, and even then he tried to sabotage me by cutting off my finances."

He gave her a mischievous smile, and she found herself thinking that it was actually quite handsome. "Well, if your new husband thinks you've got too much potential as a Huntress to let you waste away as a trophy wife, I don't think there's very much that he can do about it, is there?" At that moment, he realizes he was still holding her hand and promptly let go. Oddly enough, Weiss found herself mourning its loss. Though the idea of marrying Ironwood was still distasteful, his hand felt…nice. Strong and secure, and it was the warmest she'd felt since Beacon.

She quickly brushed away such thoughts, turning to look out at the garden. "Thank you, General Ironwood. For understanding. But I sincerely hope you change the Council's minds."

He pinched his brow, feeling a headache coming on. "As do I. I'm certain Winter would kill me before I could even get to the church. And your team. Glynda too, possibly. I doubt she'd approve of me marrying one of her students."

A small giggle escaped her lips. "It does send a rather unfortunate message."

There was an awkward pause as the weight of the situation fell between them. James had never really seen himself as the type to settle down. Certainly, he had teased the idea of a life with Glynda, but he had always been a man who put his career before anything else, so it had been nothing more than the occasional daydream. And if he did marry Weiss, what kind of future could they really have? Would they be expected to have children? He inwardly shuddered at the thought, grabbing his flask again and taking a long drink. Winter would certainly murder him before that happened. Probably by summoning the biggest Grimm she'd ever slain. He couldn't deny Weiss was a beautiful young woman, but she was barely eighteen. She was still young enough to be a student. Oh, Oum, she definitely couldn't enroll at Atlas Academy; she'd have to deal with the stigma of being a Schnee and the Headmaster's wife.

Meanwhile, Weiss was dealing with torrential thoughts of her own. If she married the General, could she really continue being a Huntress? He said he'd support her, but it seemed doubtful that her father wouldn't still try and interfere. And she certainly wouldn't be a member of Team RWBY anymore. Oum above, what would the girls think? Ruby and Yang would either laugh themselves into a coma or completely freak out and attack him. Or demand to be bridesmaids. She was never quite sure with those two. Blake would probably be more sympathetic, maybe even offer to help her escape. And she could already picture Winter swooping in on a giant, summoned Nevermore, leaping off to punch the General in the face the second he opened his mouth to say "I do." All those scenarios would lead to disaster.

Unconsciously, Weiss found herself grabbing the flask from the General's hand and taking a hearty gulp herself. She immediately regretted it as a harsh burning sensation made its way down her throat. Weiss coughed uselessly, attempting to extract the liquid that was apparently determined to remove the lining of her esophagus.

Ironwood couldn't help himself, cracking up at the sight of the Heiress as he oh-so-helpfully patted her back. "I'm sorry," he managed to get out in between cackles. "But it seems you and your sister have more in common than I thought. She reacted the same way the first time she tried whiskey!"

Glaring as the burning sensation finally began to subside, she sputtered, "You could have warned me!"

"How could I have warned you when you snatched the flask right out of my hand?"

"I—" She scowled, realizing he was right. "How can you drink that stuff, anyway? It literally tastes like burning! If it doesn't even taste good, what's the point?"

Shaking his head, he took back the flask. "Everyone has their own reasons, I suppose, but the most common one is to forget your troubles. Or at least numb the pain."

"Ah." Suddenly, her mother's daily drinking made more sense. She briefly wondered if she was doomed to follow in her footsteps. Ironwood could make all the promises he wanted, but she was quickly discovering that at the end of the day, if Father decided her fate, there was nothing she could do. Winter might have been able to escape, but Jacques Schnee never let the same mistake happen twice.

Ironwood seemed to sense her thoughts and cupped her chin, gently turning her to face him. "Weiss, I don't care what it takes; whether I have to marry you, or you rescue yourself like the Huntress I know you are, you will break free of your father's rule. If you could take on the White Fang, an invasion of Grimm, and the best technology Atlas has to offer, you can defeat a man who's not even a real Schnee."

Weiss found her lips slowly forming a smile. He was right. The past six months may have made her doubt herself, but damn it, he was right. She was a true Schnee. She had endured harsh training, helped stop a criminal organization, saved lives, fought the creatures of Grimm, and most importantly, proven that she belonged out in the world as a Huntress. Jacques may have tried to wear her down and strip her of that knowledge, but the truth could never be destroyed. She knew all of this; Ironwood was just the first person in a long while that was able to remind her.

"Thank you, General Ironwood."

"Call me James. We're a bit past formalities at this point, aren't we?"

"Yes, I suppose we are."

James found himself pleasantly surprised at how much prettier Weiss was when she smiled. In a few years, he was certain she could rival Winter or even Glynda herself with her beauty. He blanched and pulled away, disgusted with himself. Perhaps if he were ten years younger, such thoughts would be more appropriate, but the reality was that he could not even deliberate such a thing. He then finally realized another reason Jacques had offered up Weiss; to make him a laughingstock. Oh, the things that would be said the moment their engagement reached those high society twats' ears. How General James Ironwood was nothing more than a dirty old man, marrying a girl almost half his age. How he was no better than Jacques, marrying into a famous name to get their money. They'd probably come up with all sorts of depraved scenarios, too, making him out to be a total pervert preying upon an innocent young girl.

And if they didn't consummate the marriage, the rumors would be just as bad. He already knew there were people who whispered about just how far his metal prosthetics went. His high status and eternal bachelorhood had managed to keep such talk to a minimum, but the number of uncomfortable questions that Weiss would be subjected to by the other socialites and occasional bold man was not a pleasant thought. For all their poise and fancy clothes, the conversations at many of the high society parties he'd been privy to were really no better than those found in the seedy taverns Qrow tended to frequent.

Weiss tried not to be saddened when James pulled away. He was no Neptune, but he really was quite handsome, in that older-man kind of way. If he were ten years younger, or she were older, such a match wouldn't be so objectionable. But the age difference meant more than that. She had no real experience with boys, much less men. Sure, she'd flirted and even managed to steal a kiss at the dance back in Beacon, but marriage? She'd blushed that time she'd borrowed one of Blake's books. James said he'd never touch her without her consent, but what if they were expected to have children? Could he even have kids? She forced her eyes to not stray down to his trousers. You are not Yang, she chided herself, cheeks turning bright red.

James stood up, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Well, Weiss, as I said, I will do my best to change the Council's mind." He turned to her and held out a hand to assist her up, which she graciously took. "But if I can't, I hope we can make this work, despite our misgivings."

"Thank you, James." His name felt odd coming from her lips, but she found she didn't hate it. Had circumstances been different, she might even find herself enjoying the way it felt on her tongue. "Though please don't be offended if I choose to instead fight my way out and abandon my position to become a Huntress."

He gave her a secretive smile, mischief twinkling in his blue eyes. Now this was the Weiss Schnee he could put his faith in. "If you do, I'm sure there are some people that could provide you with transportation off the continent. I hear Haven is especially lovely this time of year."

The two allowed their hands to remain linked for a moment longer before breaking apart, going their separate ways. Jacques Schnee could try to break them all he liked, but they would endure, whether together or apart. But Remnant needed them as individuals; James leading the military and preventing Jacques from over-extending the SDC's reach in the hopes of preventing war, and Weiss escaping her father's oppressive rule and protecting the world as a Huntress. No, marriage would not be the end of them, but it would certainly be another obstacle in the way of their goals, and neither could afford that right now.

But both found themselves smiling slightly at the knowledge that at least they weren't alone in their fight.

End

Hope you all liked! I'm suddenly really glad I watched episode 7 before I finished this, because it let me make the ending a lot more hopeful and Weiss a lot stronger than when I started. I actually kind of lowkey ship these two right now, even though I think I just made a pretty good argument as to why they won't work. Damn it, why must I sink my own ships? Oh well, I do hope we get to see more interactions between the two in the series proper, and if anyone else wants to write about this new guilty pleasure pair, feel free to let me know! And certainly don't hesitate to review to give praise or constructive criticism.