Note:

This was written for a friend as a Christmas gift. She liked it, and that is good. She also has permitted me to share it. I hope, for all of you who read it, this story will be enjoyable. And for those wondering about RedRum...

I'm not dead yet, and neither is it.

Joyeux Noël

Ѭ

Memory stayed with her, and that was just fine. She leaned back against the stone seat, her head rested on the tall and unforgivingly rigid slab that was the back. She took a deep, longing breath of the motionless air. There was no air at all, truth be told, but that did not stop the motion. The habit. The comforting gesture. And when her lungs were full to bursting with the still, quiet, palpable emptiness, she released in a long sigh.

The ivory robe felt good on her flesh. Or not-flesh, as it were. It was soft and warm, comforting like a mother's hug. It was securely enveloping and reassuring. It was touch, and along with it came reminiscence of soft covers, bedsheets warmed by a loving body beside her, the dark of night held at bay by the light of companionship.

She breathed in again. Memory returned again.

Chestnuts roasted to perfection over a hearth fire. Turkey cooked just right, seasoned and stuffed properly with delicacy. Aromatic salads laying out over virginal-white tablecloths. Ladles of butter and gravy sitting about an assortment of fishes and fowl, game and stock. Cranberries dried in a larder amid smoky, acrid air. Dried meats flavored and smelling of that same process, sliced to thin perfection and splayed as a hand of cards.

She sighed, then inhaled once more. Memory came a running.

Eggnog and spiced wine. Tea steaming and soda bubbling. Water pouring from a simple glass carafe. Mulled mead and coffees of all sorts, from all over the globe. Juices from fruits both familiar and foreign.

She exhaled, listened to the quiet dark around her. Memory trudged up beside and all about her.

People chatting of this and that. Smalltalk and light, coy giggles. All and sundry gossiping over who-knows-what. Glasses clinking as toasts were made. Sips taken lightly, politely, but loud enough to be heard over the calm, amicable din of the crowd. A hundred-hundred warm bodies all shuffling gently, milling about rather friendly, in evening dresses and fine suits. Fabric jostling to calm, almost sleepy motion.

She closed her eyes. The brilliant glow of her robe faded.

Replacing it came the twinkling, dancing luminescence of candles and small lights twisted about a monolithic conifer—the sort of tree one would imagine in a fairytale wood, where men had long feared to tread and the wilds had been left to grow unchecked. Where faeries and sprites would dance gaily beneath the glow of a full moon. Where will-o-wisps and shimmering mushrooms would light hidden, forgotten paths into the unknown…

All along the skirt of it, climbing to the tippy-most top, red and green and blue and white lights were wrapped. Candles stood as beaming sentinels on the branch tips, flickering and dancing as though they themselves were sprites followed with the tree from that fairytale wood. And at the very tip-top of the behemoth conifer, there sat a shining star, whose light was so bright as to shame the very heavens.

Her eyes peeled open to the lonely dark. Brilliant living silver peered on into nothing…

But her mind recalled indeed.

Ђ

"Plan to sleep the whole way?"

The voice was gentle, pretty, almost sing-song. It was feminine in a refined, mannered way that bespoke countless years of training. The voice of a singer-turned-angel, if you will, who had poured her whole self into the art for a not insubstantial portion of her life. It rang like gentle chimes, or perhaps the knell of a sacred bell.

And at the mere touch of it on her eardrums, Ruby couldn't help but smile.

"You say that like we're already there," she answered after a yawn.

"Well…"

The woman beside her—icy-blue eyes still asparkle—nudged Ruby's shoulder until she peeled her sleepy silvers open. At first, the interior of the airship was only a blur, obfuscated finely by the remains of sleep. When the image cleared and she followed her partner's pointing finger to the window, she saw that, indeed, they might as well have arrived.

Patch sat just at the horizon, closing further and further into view with every passing moment. The airship was moving along at a fair click. A sleepy pace, yes, but fast enough against other methods of travel. Thinking on it, Ruby imagined she must have dozed to the bob and rock of the gentle airborne giant.

"It's been a while since I've seen it," said the woman beside Ruby.

She looked back from the window, met the icy-blue eyes beside her, and beamed from ear to ear. And with all the comfortable, familiar ease of a long-standing relationship, Ruby leaned in quickly to plant a rather chaste kiss on the woman's lips.

"That was a fancy party your family threw, Weiss," she said, drawing slowly away. "I hope you'll enjoy this as much as I enjoyed that."

Weiss Schnee, eyes aglow and heart aflutter, cheeks as red as raging coals, smiled in return. She too leaned in after Ruby and gave her own short, chaste kiss. When she withdrew it was to a sight that even still would all but stop the steady rhythm of her heart. For even after having known her for quite a many years now, the sight of the slightly shorter, slightly younger woman in full blush and bashful repose had not lost its magic.

"As long as you're with me," said Weiss before reclining in her seat and shutting her eyes, a smile plastered wide and almost goofy across her face.

"Yeah," said Ruby, doing the same.

As long as…

Ђ

The airship made port not long after, perhaps as much as half an hour. Tickets were stamped, luggage was checked at the arrival counter. Hasty steps were made for the exit. Outside, the two women hailed a taxi and were off for the wooded outskirts of the sleepy little town in no time.

Another half-hour later and they had arrived. Yet again, they retrieved their luggage—from the cab's trunk this time, with the aid of the smiling cabby—and made yet more hurried steps up a long, winding path. Into woods thick with snow and ancient, megalithic trees. Weiss remembered the trek from her last visit. Though, as it was winter rather than summer this time, the walk was very nearly relaxing. By the time a cabin—chimney smoking, windows glowing, something delicious roasting and wafting on the cold air—came into view, her cheeks were rosy with good cheer.

They walked up to the front door chuckling and giggling. Ruby reached out and knocked. From inside came the sound of many wild footfalls, sounding as though an entire crowd came scrambling to answer the door. A moment later and the door flung open to reveal a small army of smiling faces within.

"Hey, Rubes," said an older, blonde-headed man. "You're just in time."

"Hi, Dad," Ruby answered. She closed in for a tight hug.

"How's my Little Rose doing?" came a woman's voice.

Ruby disengaged the embrace with her father and looked to the woman. Silver eyes met silver eyes, and another, longer hug was quickly entered into. To Weiss, the two women looked nearly identical, save that one was clearly a number of years older. It only barely showed, though, by the well-worn lines around her smiling cheeks.

"I missed you, Mom," Ruby said, face buried in her mother's collar.

The woman chuckled and said, "But it's only been a few months!"

"Yeah," answered Ruby, "but it's felt like years. Always does."

Weiss waited patiently for the exchange to play out. The older man, whom she'd met before and knew as Tai, watched on for a while as well. He smiled the entire time. But after a full minute had passed, he tapped the older woman on her shoulder, drawing her attention.

"Not gonna introduce yourself, Hun?" he said to her.

The woman looked over Ruby's shoulder, saw Weiss and gasped.

"Oh gosh!" she cried out, gently untangling from her daughter's arms. "Where are my manners?!"

Weiss found her free hand quickly taken up in both the older woman's, held up and shaken slightly. She couldn't help giving a cheerful grin at this.

"I'm Summer Rose," said the woman. "Ruby's told me all about you. Honestly, it's enough to make a mother jealous sometimes—but from what I've heard, I'm glad to finally meet you."

Ruby took the chance, free of her mother, to slip up beside Weiss and whisper, "She thought, since you're a Schnee, you might not be all that nice to me…"

"Oh, hush now!" shouted Summer playfully.

Seems she heard her daughter's comment, despite the effort of concealment. Ruby gave a coy grin and pranced on into the cottage. The heiress Schnee, however, found herself stuck at the door with her girlfriend's admittedly amiable parents.

"It's good to have you back, Weiss," said Tai.

"I'm glad to be back."

"And I am glad to meet you at last," Summer added. "You and Ruby have had the worst timing until now, you know? I always seem to be on a hunt when the two of you stop by…"

Summer made an odd pouting face along with her statement, and for a moment the heiress was struck with a dizzying sensation. The woman looked so very much like her adored rose, it felt like the fabric of reality wobbled around her. Ripples in an ocean perhaps, or snowfall on a late-spring morning. She shook it off though and smiled politely.

"Getting to meet the famous Summer Rose is a treat for me as well," said the heiress. "Sharing a Christmas meal with her, too? I'm honored I assure you."

The woman's happy smile quickly disappeared, became a flat and unreadable line on her lips. Her silver eyes narrowed and her grip on Weiss's hand tightened.

"Careful now," she said. "That sounds an awful lot like a Schnee thing to say."

Weiss froze. Tai watched the two with an equally unreadable expression. From inside there came the clatter and din of many people saying greetings and shuffling about. The heiress though, she was stuck—it was as though the mood had become a stone tied to her neck, cement on her feet.

"I'm joshing you, Weiss," said Summer, smile returning. "Come on in before we let all the heat out. Won't you?"

And with that, Summer released the heiress's hand and spun on one heel. She disappeared into the cottage leaving Tai and Weiss the only ones outside. The heiress took a deep, shaking breath. Tai did his best not to outright laugh at the exchange he'd just witnessed.

"She grows on you, I swear," he said to Weiss. "Now, let's do like she said. Grub's gonna get cold too if we just stand here staring."

"Yeah…" Weiss muttered.

She followed Tai into the cozy, warm, glowing cottage at the very edge of Patch, closing the door behind her.

Ϯ

What is a family?

Many times, Weiss had wondered this. Hers had not been the worst by far, but they were certainly worthy of their icy eyes. Cold shoulders and oft-cold hearts it seemed to her when growing up. Protective and providing, yes, but not always nurturing. Not always caring. Not always encouraging.

And so, she wondered, what is a family?

When she arrived at Beacon, now many years past, Weiss had been a different person. A girl at the time rather than a woman, but also of an altogether different disposition. Her own heart had matched her icy eyes. Her old nickname had followed her, as it ever did, and made just as much sense. Ice Queen they'd called her—nigh all and sundry—and her demeanor made it appropriate.

Then came the Emerald Forest. Then came the first test, and the beginning of her partnership with a most unusual sort. Then came…

Fate, wouldn't you know it? Wouldn't you say thanks for it?

'The first person you make eye-contact with,' that oaf of a headmaster had said.

And whose eyes were the first indeed, but those silvers of her now-beloved rose? Yes, they had been the first, and that first had begat this…

Weiss Schnee found herself sitting cramped at a clearly handmade table, just barely large enough to fit them all. On it was a rather drab old cloth, and on that was spread out the most delectable looking assortment of foodstuffs she had ever beheld. A finely cooked bird basted to heavenly perfection. Candied yams and beets laid out around it like a festive skirt. An assortment of salads put together by hand. Mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob that had been expertly grilled. Even the simply cooked rice smelled divine from such a short distance.

Her stomach rumbled, and her heart beat with warmth.

Directly to her right was Ruby, face aglow with all the cheer of the season. On her left, a boisterous blonde of bombshell proportions, laughing heartily at her own humor. Left of the blonde was a rather quiet brunette, her hair parted on top by a short pair of cat's ears. Both were once her partners as well, back at Beacon, and the heiress was duly heartened to be in their company again.

"Yang, Blake, Qrow," said Tai, standing and looking at a tall man a few seats down from Weiss. "Summer, Raven," he went on, addressing those on the heiress's right. Then he looked across the table from her. "Pyrrha, Jaune, Nora, and… uh…"

"Ren," said a rather handsome, all but silent young man.

"Yes, sorry…" Tai gave a shallow bow. "And Ren. I'm overjoyed you all made it here. But before we toast to the evening—the food and the presents—my daughter and her partner have a trophy to show off! Something from their biggest hunt yet, isn't that right?"

The blonde man looked Weiss's way, then at Ruby. He gave both a hearty smile before seating himself again.

"I'd rather not have all this pomp and circumstance," said Weiss. She and Ruby both stood, the latter fishing something from a small pouch on her belt. "But, I do suppose it's worth a little bragging…"

Ruby withdrew a fist-sized, positively luminous stone from the pouch and laid it on the table in a small clearing between the turkey and a nearby gravy boat. The thing shone with its own inner light, white as the driven snow and bright as any star. It nearly blinded the gathered, gawking eyes all trained on it. Pride welling up inside them, neither Ruby nor Weiss could suppress their satisfied smiles.

"As I live and breathe," came the still-cracking voice of Jaune.

"It really is, isn't it?" added the refined voice of Pyrrha.

"The real deal," said Qrow in his gravelly tone.

All the rest added something or other themselves, mumbling about the incredibility or amazement of the stone. Weiss cleared her throat and silenced them one and all.

"The Winter Maiden's Tear," said Ruby. "Pilfered by a smalltime crook; recovered by Team Rose!"

Tai, Raven, and Summer clapped for them. Yang stood to give both a pat on the back, one with each hand. Blake grinned and gave them a thumbs-up. Across the table, their old schoolmates—now members of a prestigious group of hunters—offered their own round of applause. When the commotion settled, Ruby returned the stone to her pouch and took her seat, as did Weiss.

"We'll be delivering it to Beacon tomorrow," said Ruby with a proud puff of her chest.

"As fine a present as any," said Raven. Weiss was fair sure it was the first time she'd heard the woman speak.

Not much more was said about the Tear, or about their adventure recovering it. Tai stood and made a toast to the season, the gathered kith and kin, and the feast laid before them. After that, they dug in—chatting and chuckling, drinking and eating, sharing stories of all sorts.

Summer told of a hunt she'd only just finished, chasing down a Grimm of primal origin. Raven regaled them with a story from hers and Summer's youth. This caused a small commotion between the two women, as well as an embarrassed plea from Tai to cease. Qrow went along with it and offered up a memory of Tai's troublesome youth at Beacon. Getting into the spirit, the younger alumni of Beacon began to add their own tales, one by one, into the fray.

The heiress told one of her own, near the end. Ruby finished it up after her. And the whole time…

Weiss believed she now knew what a family was.

Ђ

Once the meal was finished and dishes packed away—Ruby and Yang helped Tai wash, Summer and Raven dried and put them up—the whole gaggle moved unceremoniously to the slightly larger living room.

The tree, stood just left of the fireplace, was rather small Weiss thought. Tai had told them he felled it by his own hand, which she took to mean it came from the surrounding woods. That being the case, it was awfully small indeed. But even still, the thing was decorated just as cozy and lovely as the rest of the cottage. Tinsel and popcorn-twine wrapped around it from top to midway, the snack-string colored with many dyes. Brightly colored glass ornaments almost all over, twinkling globes that danced in the firelight. Stringed lights and various baubles filled out the tree from midway to top, and at the very tip there stood a trumpeting angel in mid-flight.

Beneath the tree were so very many presents, the heiress briefly wondered how they all fit. But ere long they had all sat down—stuffed on a small couch, in old wooden chairs, and some even on the floor—and begun handing out the gifts to one another. Ruby and Yang, closest to the tree, handled the bulk of this. When that was finished, and all had their three gifts, the real fun began.

One by one they shredded paper and undid bows, moving in a discombobulated counterclockwise fashion. Of a sort, that is.

When reflecting on it later, Weiss found she could not remember the presents all had received. Save for her own and Ruby's. What did stay with her, however, was the persisting embarrassment at having not brought any herself. She'd thought it would be only a meal and a short gathering after—not an entire exchanging of gifts and merrymaking. All she would receive on bringing this up to Ruby was a half-hearted sorry and a silly grin.

But then and there, amid the gathered camaraderie, Weiss was quite content and Ruby was outright joyous. They had some eggnog when the presents were done and the last of the evening turned to simple conversation. Happy smiles. Jovial giggles. Yet more stories of yore…

Ђ

Then, it finally ended. This was neither welcome nor unwelcome, the terminus of that visit. It came as many things in our lives—when it will, how it will, and to nearly no notice from the greater world—and left only a glowing warmth behind.

"Hope to see you both again soon," said Tai, giving first Ruby a hug, then Weiss.

"You take good care of my Little Rose, alright?" demanded Summer with a wide grin and stern, silver eyes.

Yang gave the heiress a friendly punch on the shoulder, saying, "Keep my baby sis safe out there, Icy. Hunting's a dangerous trade."

"You think she doesn't know that?" pondered Blake aloud, sipping on a mug of cocoa. "We all trained together—you know Princess is good for it."

The heiress shot her old comrade a glare. The faunus grinned and shrugged it off, then turned and walked back into the cottage. Yang looked Blake's way a moment longer. Summer and Ruby said their goodbyes, Tai following shortly after. Before she could do aught else, Weiss found herself pulled aside by Yang, led by the wrist.

Ruby didn't seem to notice.

"What's all this about?!" the heiress protested.

But the blonde did not answer. Not at first. Rather, she led the heiress along until they were near a shack at the edge of the yard. Just beyond—ten paces mayhap, fifteen tops—was the great wooded expanse Weiss was not looking forward to trekking through again. Colder now, and growing dark with the setting sun.

Weiss looked back, saw Ruby conversing with her father. Then she looked down, at the tracks she and Yang had left in the snow.

"I know you'll take care of her out there," said Yang at last, breaking the silence. "But later tonight—and don't try to brush me off—make sure the big bad wolf doesn't get her, alright?"

Weiss spun her head around to face Yang so quickly, a few spots in her neck audibly popped and crackled. The blonde actually winced at this, it was so loud. Then again, after what she'd said, she couldn't really call the reaction unexpected. Maybe she should've listened to Blake after all?

"Too late for that…" Yang muttered to herself.

"I… I beg your pardon?!" stuttered Weiss.

But the blonde only shook her head briefly, offering a rueful grin and wink.

"Hey, look," said she, "just forget that, ok? You're grown women. Both of you. It's just that… well, a big sister worries, you know?"

"I'm quite sure I have no idea what you're on about!" insisted the heiress.

For a good few minutes, the two women only stared one another down. The heiress held a look of utter incredulity on her features. The blonde bombshell tried to smirk—break the ice, as it were—but fell short in her own embarrassment. Between them the cold air grew thick and quite uncomfortable.

"Jeez, Yang, what is wrong with you?" said the blonde to herself, aloud. Then, to Weiss, "Really, really, just forget that. Ok? I was out of line. Merry Christmas, Weiss. I'm sure we'll see each other out there sometime, somewhere."

And with that (and a wave), Yang jogged off for the cottage. When she passed Ruby, her face was as bright red as a fresh tomato. She ignored her sister's calls after, giving only an over-the-shoulder wave.

"She alright?" Ruby asked, approaching the still-shocked heiress.

"I truly have no clue," Weiss sighed in response.

"What did she drag you over here for, anyway?"

At that, Weiss's face lit up as well.

"Nothing," she said sternly.

Ruby thought a moment to ask more, to push the bill. She decided not to. Instead, she took Weiss's hand in her own and smiled fondly at her.

"It's getting late," she said. "I'm ready to turn in for the night. How about you?"

"Is the cab here yet?"

The silver-eyed vixen shook her head, saying, "Haven't gotten a text yet, but it shouldn't be long. I've got our things though, so we could get a head start on that walk. Might even save a few Lien if we get there first."

"You know," said Weiss, focusing herself on Ruby's silver eyes, "that honestly sounds like a grand idea…"

Ѭ

"But, there never was a Christmas on Remnant, now was there?"

Ruby opened her eyes. The yawning dark flooded her vision again, broken only by the luminescence of her robe. Its ivory-white splendor cast off tendrils into the dark. Beneath her, the timeless stone reflected the glow. And at her foot, shimmering and shivering, a pool regarded her as if alive.

"I mean, Christmaswould require something never had. Wouldn't it?"

She leaned back on the stone seat again, forced her eyes shut and searched her mind. Joined now, as it was, with her predecessors. But the answer she sought would not come. If it existed at all, it was too long buried to dig up. Defeated—though not despondent—she sighed and relented.

"It's ok. I never knew either. It's a nice thing, the celebration and all, but the whole thing is so convoluted now. Just thought I'd ask…"

"Didn't you say you had somewhere to go?" Ruby asked the voice.

"I did. And I do. Not sure how long it takes to get going, though. First time doing and all."

She looked over, to her left, and saw the man standing there. At only a glance, she could see he wasn't lying. Whatever still held him there was only slight. Weak and weakening. His form was now mostly see-through and his face looked inhumanly tired. The mahogany-brown eyes in his sockets—formerly shimmering like jewels beneath the hood of his own ivory-white, shining robe—were as lusterless as rocks. Yet…

He looked relieved, somehow.

"Bet you'd rather not have my company right now, huh?" he asked her.

Ruby looked away and shook her head.

"It's not that," she said. "Though, there's company I rather have over you. You'll do though. It's gonna be a long time, didn't you say?"

"Long and longer still," agreed the fading man with a nod. "Time though, it's fickle here. Not quite there, not quite not. You'll only know its passage by your own. Does that make sense?"

"Doesn't have to."

"I suppose not. You'll see, after all, right?"

To that, Ruby only nodded. Once and slowly, up and down.

"I don't remember anymore. Not fully, at least," the man went on. He sounded further and further away with every passing… what, moment? Minute? Hour? "Mine was grand, too. Where I came from. Try not to miss it all, though—they're in your head now. Every one of them. You're responsible for them, so try not to miss them. Yeah?"

"I guess…" Ruby sighed.

"Oh, I think I'm due!" cried the man excitedly. "But before that, I would like to give you something. It is Christmas after all, so a present is only right!"

She felt his presence shift and looked over to see. All that remained was the outline of smiling, awfully crooked, terribly yellow teeth. That and a slight glimmer where his lusterless brown eyes had been. And as she watched, the outline of teeth opened up and began to move.

"She's in your head, Ruby Rose. You will get lonely while you wait. So don't forget that she's in your head, ok?"

Ruby stood like a flash and cried out, "What does that mean?!"

But nothing greeted her cry. The man was gone, his very presence snuffed out like a candle. She was alone in the dark, save for the stone seat and the shimmering pool at its foot. Rather than sad, or frightened, or even alone, she felt wroth. Irked and angry, she sat down and shut her eyes again.

Thinking. Recalling. Reliving…

Ђ

"Hey, Weiss…"

"Yeah?"

"…"

"Something wrong?"

"No, not really wrong. I'm… just curious about something…"

"What?"

"Do you dream a lot?"

"Uh, I guess? They don't usually stick with me though, long after waking. Why?"

"Mm… because."

"Because?"

"Well, it feels like I've been living a dream."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. With you, I mean."

"I don't follow…"

"You, Weiss."

"What about me?"

Ѭ

You're my dream come true…

Ђ

The air on the veranda, though cold and biting with the approaching blizzard, was as still and suffocating as could be. All of a sudden. Warm too, if she thought about it long. Really damn warm.

Weiss sat in her chair with her hand frozen over her mug of cocoa, staring at Ruby with jaw agape. Ruby, in turn, looked off into the grey skies as long as she could. They'd said things like this to each other no telling how many times now. Their early romance was long behind them, and they had even begun to speak in the truest language of lovers. Honest and unhindered, by word or cloth.

Why, then, did that simple statement set this air about them?

"You too," Weiss muttered at last.

Ruby finally turned her gaze, met silver to icy-blue. It felt as though her face would light aflame at any moment.

"You're my dream come true, too. You really are, Ruby."

Their chosen room was small. Patch didn't really have much to choose from though, so this was little surprise. However, they had picked this exact room for a very particular reason. Had even paid ahead almost a month to reserve it, not knowing at the time whether their work would permit them to come. Yet, some things require such persistence. And how.

"I'll never forget," said Ruby, turning back to watch the grey sky.

"Me either," agreed the heiress.

Both picked up on it quite immediately. No need to delve.

"Life's funny, isn't it?"

"Strange too," said Weiss with a slight smile.

They sat there for a time. Shared cocoa and memories for many an hour. Watched the rolling grey creep ever closer until the snow began. Even then, they remained on the veranda chatting for a while longer. From the moment the first snowflake fell, they shared a single, wide chair for warmth. As well as for the hell of it.

Ѭ

"Should I feel violated for this? For having my mind peeped in?" asked a very familiar voice. It was gentle, feminine, almost sing-song. It was pretty in a refined manner that bespoke years of honing, of training, and of song.

Ruby's eyes popped open and she spun her gaze right. There, against all she expected, stood an angelic form amid the dark expanse. At the foot of her seat, the shimmering pool stilled and merged with the grey mass all around. With its departure, only two sources of light remained…

Two bright, grossly incandescent presences.

One sat on a stone throne that reached to infinity above her raven locks, and the other stood some ten feet off on her right. One was ready to burst into tears with joy, and the other had already given into it. Both glowed not only for their pure presence—being nothing more than presence, may it do ya—but also for what welled up in their hearts at the sight of one another.

"How?" was all Ruby managed.

"I dunno," said the sing-song voice, its owner approaching. "Don't really care either. Do you?"

Ruby could only shake her head in a vehement no.

"Good. Not sure how long this will last anyway."

With the last step of approach, Weiss Schnee smiled as serenely as Ruby had ever seen. That smile filled her with all the joy that was surely possible. It was almost too much when, with another small step, Weiss sat herself on the right arm of the throne. One leg crossed over the other, she leaned back against the stone and simply stared into Ruby's tear-streaked silver eyes.

"You're really there, aren't you?" Ruby asked. She reached out a tentative, shaky hand and touched Weiss's knee. "You're really there…"

"In the fleece, as Yang would say," said Weiss with a short giggle.

"But…" Ruby muttered, "he said you were in my head…"

Weiss only shrugged. She then reached down, took hold of Ruby's extended hand and pulled it to her chest. Just over the sternum, she hugged it close, leaning at an awkward angle but completely at ease.

"Stranger things may be," said the heiress in her sing-song tone.

"I care not; thou'rt with me," answered Ruby.

"Merry Christmas, Ruby."

"Merry Christmas, Weiss."

They shared a long kiss, there on the stone seat. Amid the yawning dark. Atop the roiling mass of grey that stretched on forever. Yes, they shared a long kiss in that place, full of joy indescribable. And why not? Neither knew what was what, or why, or how in that place; they acted only as their hearts led, for the first time in a long time. As it should be.

As it should be…

-Fin-