A commission for FleeingReality, with the conditions of Knightshade, and mindreading
'He's so adorable when he's sleeping.'
The bed was warm and soft, frustratingly so. Well, it wasn't that frustrating. It just meant that it would suck to get out of it. Jaune grabbed at a twist of comforter and pulled it to his chest.
'This boy is going to be the death of me. Look at him! He's like a big blonde puppy. And he's not even awake yet!'
His brow crinkled, and he turned over.
'Oh no, is he having a bad dream? What are you supposed to do when people have bad dreams? Wake them, not wake them? Or is that sleepwalking?'
What the hell? Pyrrha's voice sounded so odd. Echoey.
'Pyrrha, focus! You have to, um…Tuck him in? No, that sounds silly. Just…pet his hair. Yes. Make sure he's comfortable, and the dream will sort itself out.'
A smooth, soft, and slightly cool hand brushed through his hair, and he felt the springs of the bed shift as a weight settled next to him.
'It's so soft. I feel like I could touch him for days. No, that sounds creepy…'
Jaune's brow creased further, and as he sat up, the hand retracted as if it had been burned.
He hadn't realized there was a weight on his bed until it wasn't there anymore, and the creaking from nearby told him that it was…
"Good morning, Jaune", she looked up noncommittally, pulling her stockings over her feet.
'I hope he didn't catch me "copping a feel", as Yang puts it. Does it count if you're just…caressing a person's gorgeous, wonderfully soft hair?'
He rubbed at his eyes and then at his hair. 'I guess it's pretty soft, but…'
'Why hasn't he said anything? Jaune isn't usually this dead in the mornings.'
"I'm just not a morning person," he protested.
Pyrrha chuckled softly, like the chiming of a bell in the wind. "I know that, Jaune. I didn't expect you to be out and about immediately."
She sounded…different. Not different from how she normally sounded, but different from how she sounded a few seconds ago.
Was he still dreaming? Pyrrha wasn't normally this talkative, or…echo-y.
"Today is Thursday, so classes don't start for another forty-five minutes." Ren spoke as he stepped out of the bathroom, somehow talking intelligibly past a toothbrush. Jaune's gaze shifted from Pyrrha to him, and then…
'Where's Nora? Did she already go to breakfast? Did she remember to wear her socks? Is she in her uniform or combat dress? Where is she?'
Ren practically ran to his partner's bed, which was to say, he walked unusually fast, before slowing down and trying not to look too concerned.
'Oh god, is she injured? She's dying. This is the last I'll ever see her!'
Ren pulled at an enormous pile of pink comforters, to reveal one Nora Valkyrie, snot drooling from one nostril and bags under her eyes.
"Reeeeeen…I think I'm thick…" She coughed, and her whole body jumped on the bed.
'Oh god. Chicken noodle soup, four varieties of tea, every pancake I can make. I'll bring a specialist in from Vale and-'
"Don't worry." Nora smiled and clasped his hand. "I just need a wittle bit of west, is'all…."
Jaune looked at Nora.
'He always worries so much. He probably wanted to take me to the hospital or something.'
"I wasn't too worried. I just don't want you to get behind on school work."
'Liar. Not that I mind.'
Well said, Nora's voice in his head.
Wait a minute… Looking at Ren.
'I'll bring her breakfast, and take two sets of notes, and-'
Then to Nora…
'Oooooh, I wonder if I can get him to tuck me back in?'
'What's wrong with Jaune? He's just staring. Is he sick? Should I take him to the hospital. I should take his temperature. I wonder if I can get away with doing the forehead thing?'
The forehead thing? What-
Pyrrha stood up, and stepped toward him, with purpose in her emerald eyes.
"Nah, that's okay! I'm not sick, or anything!" Pyrrha didn't need to embarrass herself by having contact like that with a bozo like him.
Her face fell. 'Maybe next time…'
Jaune frowned, and rubbed his hands through his hair, scratching at his scalp. Nothing was making sense. This couldn't make sense if it was given a guidebook on how to make sense, including tips on where to buy materials to make your sense out of.
He could…what? He could read minds. But that was insane, people didn't have semblances like that.
This was…a massive invasion of privacy. The implications made him very uneasy. No one could keep secrets from him. No one could lie. If he was smart about what he said, he could convince anyone of almost anything.
'I could become such a monster.'
He could…make people love him. He could always know just what to say to impress someone, always have the answer in class. He could be smart, popular, sexy, but… None of it would really mean anything. It would be like cheating in a video game, the 'winning' wouldn't satisfying, because it wouldn't be hard. And then again…was that kind of 'winning' what he really wanted?
Should he tell someone?
This was all so insane. If he did tell someone, would they ever trust him, knowing that everything they thought or felt, the things they (sometimes rightly) wanted to hide from him; knowing that he would always know?
He looked up at Ren, who was somehow accomplishing the very difficult task of fussing over Nora while looking like he wasn't really worried.
'How did this even happen? Has it been cold outside? No, it's July. Does Nora have allergies? How could we not have noticed in the four months we've been here, let alone the last ten years? Okay, it's not a cold, it's not allergies-'
Jaune shifted his gaze, looking at Ren's bed, which was predictably, made. He'd probably washed all his sheets and pillowcase when he first woke up. As he stared at the bed, he heard…nothing. No voices in his head.
He looked at Nora. 'Mmmmm, I like his hands on me, even if it's just propping me up for more pillows. I should be sick more oft-'
And back to Ren's bed. Silence. Okay. He had to look at someone. Not make eye contact, necessarily, but focus on them. He looked at Pyrrha, who was sliding on her heeled shoes, but he closed his eyes. 'Should we go over shield-based combat tonight? Gods above, what came after the introduction to ambidexterity? Maybe we should just drill that more…?'
He turned his head, looking to where he expected Ren's bed to be. Nothing.
He shook his head and scratched at his head again. Okay, not concentration then. That was not consistent, and very confusing.
A door slammed in the hallway, before bursting open again. Loud footfalls were drowned out by louder shouting.
"We're not done talking about this!"
"I think we are!"
"Blake, look at yourself, you're a mess!"
"How flattering of you!"
"Don't try and turn this on me, you're not going to class!"
"No, I'm not!"
"Wait, that worked? You'll come back and go back to be-?"
"Because I'm going to the library! I care about what's happening in the outside world! I care about saving people!"
There was a long pause and the fading of footsteps before he heard infuriated screaming and something hitting the wall. Dust drifted down from the ceiling.
Everyone looked at the door…then looked at Jaune. He sighed, pulling the comforter away and padding to the door, pulling it open to reveal one of his recurring nightmares.
Yang Xiao Long stepped down the hallway like some terrifying beast of ancient myth, her eyes red, and aura licking at the ceiling.
"What do you want, Pumpkin Pete!?"
'How could Blake seriously think something like that?! Does she seriously think so lowly of everyone around her?! Oh, just because we're not freaking killing ourselves obviously means we just don't care about innocent people getting hurt! What about you, moron? You're getting hurt and we care about you!'
"Well?! Spit it out! What's wrong with you?!"
Jaune flinched away, back bumping into the door, which had mysteriously closed behind him. Traitors.
"Yang, what-? What's going on? How can we help?"
"Doesn't matter." 'We don't need your help. We're not weak or stupid or…whatever! We can handle this on our own.'
"Yang, it's not like that. We just want-"
"Like what, hunh?!" 'You think I can't do this!? You think I'm not strong enough, not smart enough to fix things with my own damn partner!?'
"Yang, you're not dumb or anything, but Blake seems to be pretty…uh…"
'Stupid, headstrong, idiot, self-centered-'
"Self-centered, right now."
"Exactly! She's being so-! So-!" Yang looked for a moment like she might actually combust. "So stupid!"
'I've tried everything, but she won't even talk to me.' Yang's whole body seemed to slump, and it was all Jaune could do not to step forward and hug her. 'I'm so tired of being shut out.'
"Yang, don't shut me out." This felt like cheating. This had to be cheating, in some way or another. "If Blake's being so dumb, it sounds like having more friends trying to help her wouldn't hurt, right?"
Yang glared at him, before relaxing again and hugging her arms around her chest. "I guess…"
Jaune thought back to their shouted conversation, trying to piece together some of what might be happening. "She's not sleeping, right?"
Yang nodded numbly. "She's going crazy over this White Fang stuff again."
He took a cautious step closer, and when Yang didn't react, he closed the distance, and set a hand on her shoulder. She looked surprised, but after a moment, she unclenched her arms, turned into him, and rested her palms on his back, giving him a small squeeze.
"You give good hugs."
Jaune shrugged. "Thanks. So what exactly is she doing?"
Yang turned her face down and spoke into his onesie, "I'm not really sure, I can't get a lot out of her. Based on what she said though, she seems really upset that the White Fang is working with Torchwick. She can't wrap her head around it. So she's been going over news reports, but that's not exactly the best place to find details, so…I don't know what she's doing now."
Jaune hummed, and Yang felt the vibrations reverberate in her chest. "Are you okay if I try to talk to her?" She snorted and pulled away, thumping a fist against his chest.
"And what are you gonna do, lady-killer? Serenade the secrets outta her?"
Jaune reached up and clasped her hand holding it for a moment. "I'm gonna do my best."
She rolled her eyes, and pulled her hand away, cracking open her door to step back inside. "You're a dork."
Jaune just sighed and stepped back inside, preparing to change for his day of classes.
Jaune Arc sat at the lunch table, surrounded by his group of friends, sans one quiet, dark-haired girl. Yang kept looking at him, and when he looked back, he suddenly knew why.
'I don't know whether I'm glad that he's given up, or mad that he went back on a promise…which he technically didn't make. He just asked if it was okay with me to talk to Blake. I didn't really answer him, did I…? And I can't exactly tell him now. That would be weird.'
Jaune shook his head, and a T-rex chicken nugget was torn into little pieces in his nervous hands.
He could read minds, which was like moral quicksand, and he didn't have a rope.
He wouldn't be a bad person if he used this power to help Blake, right? She was suffering, her team was suffering. If Jaune had the power to fix it, and didn't do anything, then…wasn't that itself, wrong?
Jaune tossed down the mashed nugget and placed his head in his hands, before letting out a frustrated little growl. Great, now he had bread crumbs in his hair.
Blake was hurting her team and herself. Jaune, with this new power, could help. Those were the barest of bare bones facts.
Jaune stood up. "I, uh…I'll seeya guys later." Their questions, concerns, and goodbyes went unnoticed and he left his tray and struggled with this moral quandary.
Blake, predictably enough, was in the library. She sat at a computer terminal, the pale green light washing over her face. Yang had been right, she looked terrible.
Her eyes looked hollow, with dark purple bags. Her hair was tangled and ratty, sticking up in odd places, and she looked like she hadn't showered, slept, or eaten in days.
'Witnesses claim that several armed, young men in dark outfits, all with faunus traits, rushed into the store, holding guns to the heads of each of the victims. Accounts differ on the number of attac-'
She didn't look up at him as he pulled a chair next to her. She didn't respond when he sat. She didn't seem to notice when he coughed to try and get her attention. He reached out and touched her shoulder.
Something had to have happened for him to end up on the floor. He looked up, and there Blake sat, typing at the touchscreen keys. Next to her was an overturned chair. Had she just…? She was fast.
He sighed, rubbing at his head. "Blake, we need to talk."
"What would we have to talk about?" Ouch. That stung. He knew the two of them hadn't talked a lot, but they were still friends…of a sort.
He scowled and stood up, righting the chair, and facing her. It sounded like she was still reading the article. '-thorities quickly arrived on the scene, though the perpetrators escaped with most of the dust in the shop.'
She scowled. 'Idiot. Doesn't have much of a sense of self preservation.'
He gulped. As she'd already proven, Blake could kick his ass. She'd thrown him out of his chair faster than he could see, and she'd gone days without sleep. Even as exhausted as she was, Jaune couldn't make her do anything, not with how uncoordinated he was.
"Blake…why are you doing this?" That should give him some extra insight, right? He looked at her, doing his best not to make it seem like he was staring.
'The White Fang are my responsibility. I left them when my already twisted morals couldn't take anymore, like a rat from a sinking ship. I have to be the one to fix this, if only to clear my conscience. They aren't even the White Fang anymore, just a bunch of thugs Roman Torchwick is using to carry out his heists. I have to know why. I have to stop it. I have to…'
"Why does it matter to you?" Jaune had been so distracted by her thoughts that he almost didn't hear her real voice.
He turned away, facing out toward the empty library. Few enough people studied during lunch that they were alone. "Because you're my friend."
She snorted, and Jaune wasn't happy to notice that it was the first reaction he'd gotten from her. At least, one that wasn't violent. "Jaune, this is the first time we've done anything more than greet each other. I sincerely doubt that you care anything for my problems."
He winced. Had they really been so distant? He'd always thought that he was friendly, tried to get to know people.
"Okay fine, I don't care about your problems." She smirked, confident in her pessimistic assumptions, and she began to type something, her fingers fast across the glass panel. "But I care about Ruby." The tapping paused.
"Guilt won't work on me." Her expression hardened, and her voice continued in an entirely different setting, 'I promised my team. When I ran away, I promised them that I would come to them, that my problems were their problems, that we helped and supported each other.'
"That's what teams are for."
"What?" Blake actually looked at him this time, and Jaune was not pleased to carry the weight of her glare.
"No, you said something."
"Blake, I want to help your team, and I want to help you. Is there anything so wrong with that?"
She snorted and looked back to the computer, fingers tapping once again on the glass, long-since smudged with the oils of a thousand other fingers. "So you just have a bleeding heart. You want everyone to get over their nasty problems, so they can all be sunshine-y, happy friends again." Her sarcasm was biting, and her thoughts weren't any more charitable. 'He's worse than Ruby.'
"Blake, if you can help someone who needs it, isn't it your responsibility to do it?"
Her fingers stopped again, but for once, her mind was just as quiet. And then, he heard a voice from Blake's mind, but it wasn't hers. It was a boy's voice, a young man's, just a little deeper than Jaune's own.
'Power is responsibility, Blake. That's something the humans never understood. Those with power have a responsibility to protect those who don't.'
Without saying anything, Blake continued her tapping, but the pace was slower. "And what makes you think you can help me?"
"I'm not really sure. But I know what guilt feels like."
"Who says I'm guilty of anything?" The implied accusation was somehow soft, as if she knew just how guilty she truly was.
She looked at him sharply, 'What the hell does he know?'
"Blake, I've been talking with your team, and based on what you've been doing, it feels like…you're punishing yourself."
She was doing research on the White Fang, she was a faunus, and she was an incredible fighter. It wasn't hard to guess.
"For the White Fang."
For the third time in as many minutes, Blake's fingers went still on the keyboard, and her fingers curled into balled fists. "Who told you that?"
"Blake, you're a faunus, and you're crazy strong."
"Velvet's both of those!"
"Plus, I can see your screen."
"Blake, I don't know what you did, or what you thought you did, but…the White Fang isn't your responsibility."
"It is!" She turned and shouted at him, the echo of her voice dying among the papered shelves. "It's all my fault!"
Her hands rose and covered her face, and Jaune was surprised to see tears trail down her wrists.
Jaune looked around, before glancing down at Blake, panicked. What was he supposed to do? The last time he touched Blake he ended up on the floor, and she had been right: they weren't exactly super close.
As he looked down at her, he saw her misery. 'If I was still there, I'd know how to help them, guide them. I was chief of intelligence, I had power. "Power is responsibility, Blake." And I abandoned my duties for what? For some spoiled kids too bored to do the right thing!? Because of my own conscience!? What about them?! Did any of my subordinates feel easier about taking lives?!'
Jaune blanched. She'd been in the White Fang? Apparently someone important, too.
He wanted to reach out, do something to end this feeling of powerlessness, but he wasn't sure if it would do more harm to Blake than good.
"Blake, I-" God, where was he even supposed to start. "Sometimes…sometimes things get too big for us."
Blake sniffled and looked up at him. "What?"
"When you were in the White Fang, did you ever do stuff on your own?"
"Sometimes, yes, when the mission called for it."
"Yeah, but something like this? You would've had people, right? Someone to help you go over all the stuff you found out, to talk with you, support you, help decide what to do next. There's always someone."
"Yes…" She didn't continue, verbally, anyway. 'But this isn't like that. Yang and the rest won't help me and something has to be done. This is too important to just sit back and let the police handle it.''
"Blake…do you remember when you went away for that weekend?" She nodded, and sniffled again, wiping tears away from her face. "At the end, your team found you, and they talked to you. You guys got closer, but that goes two ways. They trust you, and you trust them. Do you seriously think they're just…ignoring the White Fang?"
Blake stared past him, and Jaune didn't think he'd ever seen someone look so tired. "They love you, Blake. And what you're putting yourself through, it's- they want to help, but you won't let them in. They don't deserve to be hurt."
She'd begun to wipe at her eyes, but she froze, and her face turned ashen. 'They didn't deserve to die!'
'And we didn't deserve a shit island, to be ostracized.'
'Adam! What's the point in justice if everyone is dead by the time we get there!?'
Okay…She knew someone, Adam, who'd gone too far. He could…this was so cheating…
"Have you ever done something, because you thought it was right, but it just ended up hurting people?"
She stared at him, and despite the tears beneath her cheeks, Jaune couldn't help but feel a little intimated.
'What about the crew members?'
'What about them?'
She blinked, once, twice, and looked away, glancing around their empty corner of library. And then, she looked down at her shaking hands.
"It's just me…"
"It's never just you, Blake. With everything you're putting yourself through…it's eating your team up."
She shifted uncomfortably, and closed her hands into fists.
"But…I can't just…let this go. I can't stop. Torchwick and the White Fang, they're moving forward, and I can't let them-"
"Blake." Despite his better judgement, Jaune reached forward, and clasped Blake's hands in his own. When his body was still intact the next second, he let out an uneasy breath, and continued, "You don't have to stop. Just…slow down…Lean on your team. You can rely on each other. I'm sure if you took better care of yourself, and just…trusted them…that they'll help."
Blake sighed as he did, and her breath was just as shaky as his own had been a moment ago. She pulled her hands away, and wiped at her face. "I…you're right. I'm sorry."
He chuckled, "You don't need to say that to me."
She nodded, hurriedly, and sniffled a final time as she stood. "I'll go talk to them."
Jaune stood as well, and shrugged. "Take care of them Blake. You know how silly Ruby is, always getting into trouble." She laughed shakily before striding past him and out to the double doors. As she left though, she might have moved her hand in something resembling a wave. Jaune couldn't be sure.
Jaune panted heavily, and his whole body ached from exhaustion. Pyrrha was…so much better than him. He winced as a step pulled one muscle or another. God, he was sore. The conversation with Blake earlier had suffused him with a weird, giddy energy.
He'd done something special. He'd helped someone in a way that no one else could. Others may be smarter, or stronger, or faster, but no one could have done what he'd done today.
As he walked down the hallway to his dorm, he couldn't help but feel…proud. Proud of himself. It was…unfamiliar. But incredible. He would give almost anything to feel like this all the time.
The door on his left opened, and a blur of blonde and orange hurtled into him. Two voices cried out as he fell to the floor, but his attacker remained wrapped around him.
"Thank you." Yang whispered, and it almost sounded like she was crying. She squeezed him and his ribs creaked in protest.
She ignored him, and continued whispering into his chest, "I don't know what you did, or what you said. I didn't think you could do it, but…she came back, and…we all talked. I just- Thank you."
Now that she wasn't trying to snap him in half, he returned the hug, giving her a soft squeeze. "You are super welcome."
She snorted and clambered up, hoisting him to his feet. "You're still a dork."
He shoved her, "Hey, this dork just got you back your partner."
Her smile faded from something teasing to something altogether more sincere, and she stepped forward, gently hugging him again. "I know. You still give good hugs."
"I've been told."
She chuckled, and released him, opening the door to her dorm before glancing back and waving slightly. "Good night, Jaune."
"Yeah, same. I mean-uh...good night."
She smirked and closed the door.
Jaune was not a person for fancy dress. Even for dances. He tugged at his collar. Pyrrha definitely tied this too tight.
It had been five or six days since his talk with Blake, and from what he heard, RWBY was tighter than ever. They'd apparently gone out into Vale and fought a giant wolf robot, or something. Again, the warm, pleased feeling tingled in his body, and he almost wanted to laugh from how good it felt.
The dance was tonight, and while things hadn't worked out with Weiss, that seemed a lot less important than it had a while ago. He was here for his team, for his friends, a chance to unwind before their missions tomo-
He stopped, just outside the door to the gym. Lights flashed from underneath, and something loud reverberated in his chest. But it wasn't the music that had caught his attention.
He turned slowly, off to the side, and there was- "Uh…hi, Blake."
She smiled at him, and Jaune didn't mind noticing that she was gorgeous. The circles under her eyes were long gone, her hair was sleek and gently wavy, but it was so much more. The way she held herself, her small smile, the way her hands were completely still instead of shaking. Blake was well.
"I'd hoped to talk to you."
"Uh…right." God, could he say anything more stupid? "Ummm…what did you…want to talk to me about?" He was a moron.
"I wanted to thank you, I- For helping me, earlier."
"You're…uh- you're welcome." Why didn't he say 'uh' a few more times, since he obviously liked the word so much?
Blake suddenly looked nervous, and she glanced around, as if to see if someone was watching them, before stepping close and-
She smelled like…violets, and a little of lavender. Warm arms wrapped around his chest, and she pressed her cheek against him, looking at the door as if waiting for someone to come through.
Just as he finally processed what was happening, she was gone, turning away, stopping just a few feet from him. "You never tell anyone that happened."
She turned to him one more time, then back to the door, then halfway. "I'd like…I'd like a dance."
"If that's not too much trouble."
"No, no, uh…I'd love to." Her smile was miniscule, and in the dark of the hallway he almost missed it, but it was definitely there.
"Good. I'm glad."
She turned away, and pulled the door open, flooding the hall with music and lights and a hazing smoke.
Blake coughed and swatted at the air, before gesturing to Jaune.
"Come on!" She had to shout over the music, "don't let me suffer alone!"
He smiled, and after taking the door from her and letting her move inside, he stepped after her.
A/N: So, as the initial author's notes says, this is a commission. Since this guy was a good friend, I'm giving him a slightly discounted price.
You should be happy to note: he wants to commission a sequel, so we can't to see Jaune and Blake's actual progression to romance!
I have to admit: I was really unhappy with the beginning. I wrote up to about Jaune first sitting next to Blake, and I was ready to scrap the whole thing and start over, cause it was such garbage. Got some encouragement from some friends, did some re-organization, and persevered, and now you have...whatever this is.
If you're interested in commissioning me, my prices are 5 cents for every 3 words, and you can PM to discuss details.