"Yes, I do think this will be good for you, don't you agree?"
"That remains to be seen."
"Weiss," Winter said. "I understand why you may be upset-"
"I am not."
A small smile showed through the CCT monitor. "Of course not. All I'm saying is, it would be perfectly understandable if you were. But I'm glad you appear to be in such high spirits."
Weiss sighed. "Why do I even try with you?"
"I've been wondering that myself for years."
"It's just… this is off record, right?"
Winter chuckled. "Yes, sister."
"It's damn frustrating! The both of them treat me as if I'm merely some asset, useful only for petty reasons, nothing to do at all with my own merits. I expect as much from father, but not the General."
"And is that what you seek value in? How they view you?"
"It's not that. Well… maybe partly. Some recognition from the General wouldn't be remiss, but Father can choke on his own Dust for all I care."
"General Ironwood respects you a great deal, Weiss. Of that I can assure you. But I thought you cared for Father?"
"Hah! I respect the man, in the most detached sense of the word. I can respect his abilities as a businessman, if not as a father. But care for him? I'd have to be incapable of recognizing his extortions, his manipulations. He's done too much, for far too long, for anything of the sort."
"Then why," Winter said, with a pause to sip her wine. "In the name of Dust, are you still working for him?"
"Our 'agreement'. I can only live whatever life I desire so long as I remain in a position such that he can easily monitor me."
"You are an Atlesian Specialist, well on your way to even more success, and you're twenty five years old. You're the only one giving him this power over you."
Weiss's eyes went wide. "Oh! I'd never realized that! Let me put you on hold, I need to go call Father and tell him to go get better acquainted with the digestive tract of a Nevermore." Her expression shifted into a harsh glare. "Please, Winter. Don't act as if I could follow you. You left the SDC to me. And I'll be damned if I let Whitely get his hands on it."
"Don't you think you're being a bit harsh on our brother?"
"When was the last time you were home? He's no more than a younger version of Father. I'm only surprised he hasn't tried some plot to undermine me and give Father an excuse to disinherit me. I can only assume he believes I'll disgrace myself in my own time."
"Fine," she took another sip of her wine. "You don't care for Father's attention. Then why do you care how he views you?"
"When did this become a profiling session?"
"When you'd finished three glasses before I one. Now talk."
Weiss glared at her sister. "Because I happen to value my time and skills, and they are being criminally underused."
"Careful, sister. Pride goeth before the fall."
"Then it's a fortunate thing this isn't my pride speaking. I am bored, Winter. Negotiations are droll, and the so-called missions Ironwood sends me on could be accomplished by mindless Knights."
"I won't dispute the first, but you're exaggerating the second. I've read the reports, and your missions have been routinely useful, productive, and successful."
"Routine being the operative word. If you've read the reports, tell me Winter, how many times have I been sent on a mission on which total success was not very nearly assured?"
"What is your point? That sounds like well planned and executed missions, to me."
"My point is as I've said. My talents are being wasted, and I don't know why. Not once have I felt as if I'd been needed for an operation. Meanwhile, I've been reading reports of my own. Expanding Grimm territory, increased White Fang activity, and not enough personnel to effectively deal with the threat. At times I feel like I was made a Specialist due to some damn political quid-pro-quo with Father."
"I've never considered you the type for a hero complex, sister. True, you are not being sent on high priority missions, ones that very well could use you. I won't deny that. In fact, it's been by my own hand that your name has been omitted from some of those operations."
"Winter! You cannot treat me like a child!"
"Yet you can act like one?" Weiss looked away from the screen and a silence stretched between the two sisters. "I apologize. that was uncalled for. You voice a valid complaint, but you mistake my motives. When have I ever coddled you, Weiss?"
Weiss was still somewhat shocked by her sister's uncharacteristic outburst. "Fine then, why?"
"You've nearly said as much yourself. You have great potential, Weiss. Enough that both I and General Ironwood have taken interest in you, regardless of family. But potential does not show up on records. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if the General placed you on those high profile missions. You've been a Specialist for but four years. And while attaining that at the age you did is commendable, it does not advance you any further than you are due. I was a specialist for five years before the General took me into his retinue. If you were to be shown similar favor, it would only invoke suspicions of nepotism, either from him or myself."
Weiss sat quiet for a while, absorbing the information. She understood her sister's logic, but that did little to actually appease her. It almost sounded as if she was being held back due to Winter's preexisting success. She voiced her concerns to the Lieutenant General.
"I suppose you're not wrong, in a way," Winter said. She sighed. "There is an awful lot of politicking amongst high ranking officers. You wouldn't believe the rumors that go around about myself and James - er- the General. But the more simple solution is that you simply haven't proven yourself yet."
"And how am I supposed to do that if I can't be assigned to meaningful missions?"
Winter grinned, something Weiss wasn't actually sure she'd seen before. "How indeed?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"If only there were some way for you to prove your worth as a specialist, but in a context separate from the Atlesian Military."
"What on Remnant are you- oh. Oh!" Weiss was confused. It was obvious what her sister was implying, but how could it have happened exactly as it did? "OH! This was your idea, wasn't it? This leave."
"Well, I must give the credit of the timing to Father. I'd heard he was planning on convincing you to take a break from your duties at the SDC, and decided you could use a similar leave from Atlas."
"Why didn't you just tell me all this?"
"It's good to keep one's mind active."
Weiss groaned. "You're still all Schnee. Damn mindgames. And you have the nerve to call me paranoid."
"So tell me," Winter said. "How goes your leave? I do assume you've been productive, even without my guidance."
"You assume correctly. I've joined, well I suppose- a team. For the time being."
"A team? As in a full hunting team?"
"Yes. Two Beacon graduates and one of unknown background, but acceptable skill, if all were honest in the debriefing."
"Debriefing? So you've already been on a mission?"
Weiss swallowed, memories of her breakdown closing her throat. The further she got from the mission itself, the more confused and frustrated she became with how she'd performed. One mistake was all it had taken for her to spiral out of control. And she wondered why she'd yet to be tested by Atlas…
"Of sorts," she said. "A simple one where the Beacon graduates, sisters, by the way, assessed mine and the other's capabilities."
Winter gave a soft chuckle. "For some reason I can't imagine you were too pleased by that. Having the implicit doubt of your abilities."
Weiss rolled her eyes. "I'm no child, I can understand the pragmatism of it. What I do take issue with is the youngest and least experienced amongst us proclaiming herself the leader."
"One of the sisters, I presume?"
"Yes. Horribly energetic too. And almost abhorrently optimistic. Still, she displays remarkable skill, that Ruby Rose."
Winter blinked. "Rose?"
"A Rose that graduated from Beacon, and has an older sister who did the same?"
"Yes. Winter, what-"
"Hahahahaha!" Winter laughed. Weiss tried to interject, but- "Hahahahahahahahaha!"
It took Winter a whole five minutes to settle down, and even then, she refused to tell Weiss what had sparked the meltdown in the first place.
What could have possibly had such an effect on her almost disturbingly stoic sister?
"Uncle Qrow!" Ruby jumped onto her uncle as he walked through the entrance to the Xiao Long household.
"Ergh!" He grunted, but still managed to support both his own and his niece's weight. "Think you might be getting a bit big for this, kiddo."
Ruby released him and fell to her feet. "Are you calling me fat?" She pouted.
Qrow blanched. "N-no! I just meant that, uh, that I'm too… Tai, please?"
Taiyang Xiao Long burst into laughter from behind his daughter. "No way, you're on your own!"
Then Qrow noticed the grin on Ruby's face. "You're awful, both of you. You know that?"
Ruby and her dad devolved into more laughter. "You shoulda seen the look on your face! Priceless!"
"Language, Qrow!" Tai said.
"Fuck you!" Qrow and Ruby said. The two shared a look before Qrow finally cracked a smile.
Tai rolled his eyes and walked up to his old teammate. "Glad you could make it." He clapped the graying man on the back.
"'Course. Wouldn't miss your steaks for the world."
"Huh, that's a weird way to say 'whisky'." Tai said.
"Hey! I'll also take gin."
"Yeah, yeah. You get that, Yang?" Tai called into the kitchen.
"What?" Yang called back. "Why am I your Grimmdamned bartender?"
"Because, you know, what else did I have kids for?"
"I'll take a Mantle Mule!" Ruby called to her sister.
"You all suck!"
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \
"So," Tai said, cutting into his steak. "You girls have got yourselves a team now, right?"
"Yep!" Ruby said. "We took 'em out on a pretty simple mission just to see what they got. They were awesome! Or at least, Weiss was. Didn't get a chance to see Blake."
"She kicked ass." Yang added.
"Hmm," Qrow said. "Weiss? That wouldn't be Weiss Schnee, would it?"
"Sure is," Yang said. "Not that Rubes here had any clue, but it was her. Even got all pissy and bought an airship to prove it."
"She kinda did, didn't she?" Ruby said. "Anyway, yeah, she was pretty great. She did this crazy thing where she just made Grimm appear! And good ones too! It's like she has an army or something!"
"Her too, huh?" Qrow mumbled under his breath.
"Whaddya mean?" Yang asked.
"Nothin', kiddo," Qrow said. He turned to Ruby. "You keep an eye on her, alright?"
"You know her?" Ruby asked.
"No, but I know… people like her. Not bad, but not exactly the heroes you and your sister try to be."
"Try?" Yang said. "We totally are heroes. Right Rubes?"
"Yep!" Ruby gave Yang a thumbs-up.
"Ehh," Qrow said. "You've done alright, but I dunno about 'heroes' yet."
"Meanie!" Ruby said.
There was a loud crash from Yang. "Sonuvabitch!"
The table looked over at her to find her knife had slipped, cutting into her thumb. Qrow shot up from his seat,and started toward Yang before Tai gave him a look.
"Sit down, Qrow," He said. "Yang, you okay?"
Yang was clutching her hand. As she obviously didn't have her aura protecting her,the knife looked to have gone pretty deep.
"Fuck," Yang muttered. "Yeah, I'll be fine. Just caught me off guard." A pale yellow glow enveloped the wound as her aura started the healing process.
"Great heroes, huh sis?" Ruby said.
Yang pouted. "That cuts deep, you know."
Ruby and Tai let out a shared groan.
"Qrow, man, sit down," Tai said. He was laughing, but his eyes were narrowed.
"Seriously old man, I'm fine." Yang said.
"No, I should go. Leavin' early on a mission tomorrow," Qrow said. "And I'm still not old!"
"You are?" Ruby said.
"Yes Ruby," Yang said. "He really is old."
"Quiet, you, " Qrow said. "Yeah, might be gone for a while too."
"Well… what's the mission?" Ruby asked.
"You always say that."
Qrow smirked. "'Cause it always is. Thanks, Tai, for having me."
Tai nodded. "Whatever you're doing out there, be safe, yeah?"
"Okay team!" Ruby said. "Let the first how-to-make-money-and-kill-grimm meeting… begin!"
Blake looked around at the others at the table, all of whom (save Ruby herself) seemed about as enthused as Blake felt. While all had agreed they needed to meet and more formally lay out a plan going forward, only Ruby appeared to be particularly excited about it. Still, here they all were; gathered around a chipped and cracked, yet still solid, table in the sisters' apartment.
"Isn't that what everything we do kinda boils down to?" Yang asked, shifting to sit backwards on her chair.
"Yes, you really might as well just call this a 'team meeting' or such. That description is less than helpful." Weiss said.
"Whatever, that's not the point!" Ruby said with a pout. "The point is that we've got stuff to do."
"Like?" Blake asked.
"Pay, for one. Only Yang and I were officially on the contract, so we each got half. Weiss, just need you to give me your ID number and I'll be able to get yours to you."
"Obviously." Weiss said.
"And for you," Ruby turned to look at Blake. "Still working on getting all your papers and stuff, so will cash do for now?"
"Oh," Blake said. She had forgotten about Yang's promise to make her a real Huntress. It still just seemed all too… easy. "Yeah, no problem."
"Great!" Yang said. She handed a wad of lien over to Blake. "Buy yourself somethin' nice." She winked.
Blake rolled her eyes. It was a decent sum, but nothing terribly-
Wait, what? She thought. There was more than double what she had been expecting. Twenty-five hundred lien… that can't be right.
"Uh, Yang," She leaned over and whispered. "Did we get a bonus or something?"
Yang grinned. "Nah, explain later."
The hell is that about?
"Anyway," Ruby said. "On to the meeting!"
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \
The meeting, as it turned out, consisted mostly of Weiss and Ruby… constructively and passionately discussing some major aspects of the team, with Blake weighing in with her opinion only when it concerned her, and Yang with a flirtatious comment or inappropriate joke at regular intervals.
They ended up deciding on missions focused on Grimm control around forests. None of them (as far as the other three knew) had much experience or desire in regards to fighting people, and the forests would play well to Blake's strength in hit-and-run while Ruby and Weiss could make use of the open space in the clearings. Yang didn't particularly care, so long as she could "turn the Grimm's insides to outsides, and outsides to paste".
The sisters held no misgivings on either Weiss or Blake's abilities, but all agreed they needed to become more comfortable with each other in combat before truly testing themselves, so it was decided they'd be taking mid-rated missions; those typically handled by a team or two.
"Now," Weiss said. "All that's left is to determine who shall be our leader."
"What?!" Weiss said. "Do you think this beneath you? That you should just automatically-"
"No, no," Ruby said. "We need to talk about this. Just don't wanna."
"Childish…" Weiss muttered, but Blake was fairly certain she was the only one who'd heard it. "Well. How do we want to do this?"
"We could fight for it!" Yang said.
"No, you brute." Weiss said.
"Just throwing it out there," Yang said. "For real though, it's gotta be one of you two, right?" She said, looking at Ruby and Weiss. "I mean, it's not gonna be me, and Blake…"
Blake shook her head. "No, you're right. It should be someone who knows what they're doing, and I'm still kinda new to the whole Hunting thing."
"That narrows it down, at least," Ruby said. "So whaddya think, Weissy?"
"Excuse me?" Weiss said.
"Um, who do you think it- uh, the leader, that is- should be, Weiss?"
"Are you really asking?" Weiss said while shaking her head. "We both think it should be ourselves, no?"
"Not really," Ruby said. "If you're really a better leader than me, I don't care. I just want the best Huntress for the job. It's the same for you, yeah?"
"I-well… I suppose," Weiss said. "But that doesn't change my answer. I should be leader."
There was a pause except for Ruby humming to herself. Eventually Yang coughed, snapping her sister back to the meeting.
"Okay." Ruby chirped.
"Wait, what?!" Weiss and Yang both said.
"Just like that?" Weiss said
"You're just gonna let her?!" Yang said.
Ruby smirked and looked to Blake. "You wanna add anything?"
"I think I'll just leave this one to you." Blake said. The brunette truly befuddled the faunus.
Ruby nodded. "Fair enough. Right, so yeah. I was leader on the last mission, so it's only fair that Weiss gets a shot, right?"
"So this is… temporary?" Weiss said.
"I just figured it'd be the best way to find out who it should be. If anyone else's got a better idea…?"
There was silence from the other three.
"Great! Weiss, you're leader for our next mission then. Don't let us down!"
"Another test, then…" Weiss muttered, again below human hearing. "Of course. Very well, I shall contact you all with the details of our next Hunt."
"Aye aye, cap'n!" Ruby saluted.
Weiss narrowed her eyes before turning on her heel and storming out the door.
"So," Blake said once the door had slammed shut. "Why'd we get so much more than expected?"
"Hmm?" Yang said. "Oh, the money. We uh, we didn't."
Blake raised a brow at the sisters.
"Well, Yang and I are pretty well off. I mean, not insanely like Weiss or anything, but we figured a lot better than you. With money! Er, with how much…" And suddenly the confident Huntress was gone, replaced with the awkward young woman once again.
"You're just… giving this to me?" Blake said, piecing together what Ruby was trying to say. "Your own earnings? Why?"
Yang put a hand on her shoulder. "Like she said, you need it more than we do."
Blake shoved the hand away. "I don't want… I don't need this!" She dug into her pockets for the lien. The last thing she wanted was for her new team to be treating her like some sort of… stray.
"Blake," Ruby said. "We're sorry. We just thought… it could help."
Blake put the extra money down on the table and turned to leave. "I don't want your charity."
"Wait," Yang said. "Are we wrong?"
Blake turned around. "What?"
"You do need it, don't you?"
"I'll manage. On my own."
"But why?" Ruby said. "You don't need to."
"I… just will," Blake said. "Thank you for trying, but I can't."
Yang sighed and picked up the money. "Do you even have a home?" Her voice was small, like she really cared.
Blake looked away.
"Blake…" Ruby said.
"I've been fine so far…"
She jumped as something started constricting her out of nowhere. Looking down, she saw Ruby's head buried in her neck; the brunette's arms were wrapped around her. This was admittedly rather new and unexpected to her.
Which Yang seemed to understand, and managed to pry her sister off.
Yang coughed. "You know, as a member of our team, you're a pretty important asset."
"So… it would be in our best interest to know that you're in good health and stuff, right?"
"Stop. I've already told you I'm fine."
Yang's eyes narrowed. "Who are you trying to convince?"
Blake started to respond before Yang cut her off.
"Like I said, you're important to us, as a member of the team and all. What if you- out there on the streets- can't get shelter from the rain and catch a cold? Where does that leave us, huh? Out of work, that's where. So stop being so damn stubborn."
Blake remained unimpressed. "That has yet to happen anytime in the past few years I've been out there, so I doubt it."
And then Ruby was attached to her again.
Blake grunted and pushed her off. Or at least attempted to; that girl had strength. Instead, she only managed to push her to arms length away.
"Ruby," Blake sighed. "I'll be fine. I mean it."
Ruby pouted. "Why do you have to be just 'fine'? Just stay here!"
"Excuse me?" Blake said once she'd processed the statement.
"We've only got two beds," Yang said. "So you'll have to share with me."
"She's being an ass," Ruby said. "We really do only have two rooms though, so you'd just be on the couch. Um, unless you want to share with Yang or something…"
The sisters looked at her expectantly. Ruby in particular with a puppy dog face that was far too good for a twenty-something. Still…
"I can't," Blake said. "You've already given me a job, I'm not going to inconvenience you further."
Yang rolled her eyes. "Grimmshit on all accounts, Belladonna. You working with us isn't an inconvenience, it's a goddamn blessing. You think the two of us could deal with Schnee without you?" She smiled before continuing. "But really, all we're offering you is a roof and a couch. And a shitty couch at that. Just don't be a pig or hog the bathroom and it'll be like nothing at all."
Maybe… maybe I could. Blake thought. They're completely insane for being so trusting, but it doesn't seem they'll take no for an answer. And honestly, they'd probably be more upset at me turning them down than putting them out, right? It'd just look suspicious if I refuse at this point...
"I…" Blake bowed her head. "Thank you."
This time it was more of a tackle than a hug.
After Blake had reminded Ruby of the concept of personal space she excused herself, saying she needed some air.
"I don't know Yang," Ruby said. "I still feel like we're tricking her."
"We're not, Rubes," Yang said. "I really do want to give her a place to live. Sure, it'll also be nice to be able to keep a closer eye on her, but it's not like we've bugged the place or anything."
"Um, should we?"
"'Course not. What's she gonna do, steal our fine paper china? She's a good person, just…"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I watched her bow like you said, and you're right. She probably has a good reason for not telling us though, right?"
Yang nodded. "Yeah. Honestly, getting her off the streets was my priority, trust me."
"Sure, Yang. I just hope everything works out."
"I bet you do," Yang snickered. "I saw the way you looked at the princess."
"Oh, shut up."
"No, I'm just glad my little sister is finally growing up."
Ruby smirked. "Mhm. Grown up enough to tell when your flirting isn't just for show. That was a cute blush you had when you offered Blake your bed."
Yang gave her sister an approving look. "Truce?"
A/N: So... not much to say other than that that was an embarrassingly long hiatus. I suck at editing stuff. Uh... yep, that's about it. Be on the look out for more much sooner though. Probably. Hopefully. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯