Chapter up, shizzle my nizzle and all that.
"Hello there, Jaune."
The voice was familiar, and Jaune looked over to see a middle-aged woman whose brown hair had just started to show hints of grey. He'd never before been one for remembering faces and names, but somehow working like this had worked wonders for his memory and he recognised her instantly.
"Mrs Robertson," he greeted with a smile. "How's it going? I've not seen you and your son for a while."
They'd been regular customers back when he started out, Mrs Robertson along with her eleven-year-old son, Grey. From what he recalled, her husband worked at an office nearby, and they always came to meet him after work so they could spend time together as a family and visit the park. Since there was an hour or so between school ending and Mr Robertson's job, the two of them would usually wait at the diner, and he'd give them some cakes to keep them busy, along with some paper and crayons for Grey.
That had been a regular scene for a while, but he'd noticed their absence a few days ago. He hadn't seen them since. Not until now.
"Ha, yes, well…" She looked away awkwardly. "I felt you perhaps deserved an explanation for why we've been missing. You've been so good to us. My son, especially."
"Did something happen?" Jaune asked. His eyes widened as he realised just how rude a question that might be, and he shook his head a second later. "Forget I asked. You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to, and you don't have to explain yourself or something."
"No, no, it's fine." Mrs Robertson laughed prettily and smiled at him. "Grey is fine, as is my husband. There isn't anything wrong, it's just…" She sighed. "How do I put this? We've stopped coming around because… well, it wasn't anything you've done wrong…" She trailed off weakly.
So, it was a choice on their part to stop coming. He'd thought it was, even if he'd decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. And really, what was wrong with that? They were their own people and it wasn't like they had to come to his diner if they didn't want to. Jaune bit down on his disappointment and smiled.
"Like I said, it's fine. If you've found somewhere you like more, that's great an-"
"It's not that," she interrupted. The woman ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "I'm not sure how to say it kindly, so I'll just come out and say it. I don't feel comfortable bringing my son here anymore. It's not you," she added quickly, shooting him her kindest smile. "You're great, Jaune, and little Grey loves you. It's just… things don't feel quite as safe anymore."
She looked towards several guns and weapons lined against the walls meaningfully, and then to their wielders, who chatted and laughed between themselves, occupying more than half of the tables in his diner.
Huntsmen and huntresses…
"I just wanted to explain so you knew," she whispered. "I didn't want you to think you'd done something wrong, because you haven't. You've been amazing."
"You just don't feel comfortable around them," Jaune finished, sighing sadly. He felt a small flash of irritation, not towards her, but more at the thought of anyone being scared of someone like Ruby. "They're not bad people, you know. They're fighting to keep us safe from the Grimm."
"Oh, I know," Mrs Robertson assured. "If it wasn't for them, we'd have been overrun a long time ago. I respect them and I love them for what they do. It's just… I can respect them for what they are and what they do, but I still wouldn't trust my little boy around them. It's not unusual for bad things to happen around huntsmen and huntresses. Especially the younger ones…"
"They'd never do that."
"I'm not saying what they wouldn't intentionally do. More like what might happen accidentally. They don't know their own strength and-" It looked like she wanted to explain some more, but she sighed and gave up. "It doesn't matter. I'm not trying to change your mind, Jaune. I just wanted to talk to you so you didn't think you'd done anything wrong. Grey and I love it here, but I can't risk him. He's my baby, and he's all my husband and I have." She bowed her head. "I'm sorry. Good luck with everything, Jaune."
He watched the woman go sadly, and wondered if he should have said something more. The conversation had already left a foul taste in his mouth, though that wasn't anyone's fault. Ruby and the others wouldn't ever do something to hurt a child. Would they…?
No, of course not. The idea was ridiculous. He could imagine Ruby not knowing what to do with a young kid, but she'd never go out of her way to be cruel. She might make some mistakes by not knowing, but he could imagine Yang or Weiss taking over. Maybe if they replaced Blake's book with a children's story, she could manage it too.
He didn't think Mrs Robertson was wrong, though. Or at the very least, she wasn't alone in what she thought. Where he'd started to notice his diner becoming a huntsmen establishment before, it looked like that had been cemented now. A good eighty per cent or more of his clientele came with weaponry beside them, and those that didn't usually came to see the huntsmen. There was a small clique of girls from some upper-year school off to one side, but their eyes were firmly set on a pair of male Beacon students chatting between themselves.
He was fairly sure the girls were only there for the two of them, and judging from the looks on the guy's faces, they knew it too.
Huntsmen and huntresses had that kind of allure. He'd noticed it himself, mainly in how he'd yet to come across one of either gender which could be called ugly or lacking in some way. Team RWBY were knockouts, and even the guys were handsome – either effeminately beautiful, or with a roguish charm that made them stand out. Maybe it was the training, the peak physical fitness, or just something about their confidence. Whatever the case, they drew the eye, and it looked like a few people had noticed.
Team RWBY did the same, really. He wasn't sure they even noticed the college students watching them from a few tables down. Maybe Yang did, but ignored it. He very much doubted the other three had, however. Ruby would have gone bright red otherwise.
There's not a civilian adult in sight, though, he realised. Not a single person above the age of maybe twenty-two at most, and given that middle aged and above had made up just about three-quarters of his custom just two weeks ago, the absence was easily noticed.
No children, either. None at all…
Are they really that intimidated by them? They're just students, and it's not like there are any Grimm around here. In fact, apart from that general appeal they radiated, they were normal people. Normal people with weapons, yes, but it wasn't like any of them had been discharged. Most of the time, it looked like they carried them around because it felt natural.
With a sigh, Jaune ignored the whole thing and moved out onto the floor, collecting some empty mugs and cups. When he got to Team RWBY's table, Ruby looked up at him with a friendly smile.
"Thanks, Jaune!" She picked up her glass for him, and he held his tray out so she could help him put it on. She didn't have to, but Ruby always did that – and the others had taken to emulating it. It didn't exactly make his job any easier, but it was such a polite thing to do that he smiled nonetheless. They really were great girls.
"No problem, Ruby. What did you think of those cakes? You like them?"
"Did I!? Oh man, those were so good!"
"Got to say I agree," Yang said, flashing him a beautiful smile that would have had his pulse racing if he wasn't already sure she was so out of his league it would be pointless to get excited. "They were so cute, almost like a box of chocolates but cakes instead. They were adorable, right Blake?"
Blake nodded distractedly over her book, "Hm."
Yang rolled her eyes at him.
He laughed silently in return. That was Blake for you. Even from the short amount of time he'd known them, he felt he understood a little bit of their personalities.
"The platter was a good idea," Weiss said, placing her mug gently beside Ruby's. "I do wonder if you haven't made it a little too cheap, however."
"Really? It's pretty much the same price as it would be to order the same quantity but of a single cake."
"Yes, but you have to put in the extra work of arranging and shaping them," she pointed out. "You should have factored that into the price. Your time is a commodity as well, and should have a price tag attached to it. Remember that."
He shuffled awkwardly, but nodded his head nonetheless. She was probably right, even if the thought of over-charging made him feel uncomfortable. The cake platter had become something of a staple now, and it was getting tiring making them all. "Thanks, Weiss. I'll try and figure out a way to do it without making people upset."
"Tell them there was a price increase on you buying the ingredients."
Weiss sighed and looked towards the ceiling for help. "I'm not saying you have to deceive people. Just that if you don't feel comfortable telling the truth, you'll maybe have to bend it a little. You could just tell people it was hard work and you had to increase the price. They'll understand, or they'll order something else."
"Weiss…" Ruby groaned. "But I like the platter. Don't make it more expensive…"
"I'm not sure why you're complaining. I'm stuck paying for you all the time anyway. Whether the price rises or not is completely irrelevant from your point of view."
Ruby ducked her head and laughed guiltily. "You have more money than I do…"
"Don't you get pocket money from your father?" Weiss asked.
"I do, but… well…"
"It goes on cookies, comics and weapon magazines," Yang drawled.
"YANG!" Ruby gasped. "D-Don't listen to her, Weiss. It's slander!"
"Is it, though?" Blake asked lazily, turning a page. "It sounds like something you would do."
Ruby recoiled as if she'd been slapped. "You too, Blake? It's a mutiny!"
Jaune watched with thinly veiled amusement as Ruby and Yang descended into a fast-paced argument, with the smaller girl waving her arms wildly and Yang teasing in return. Blake went back to her book, while Weiss could only sigh.
"Another set of drinks?" he asked her.
She nodded. "Please. It looks like we'll be here for a while if this is any indication."
Jaune nodded and went back to make them some drinks, then delivered them a few minutes later. Team RWBY were a common and welcome sight for him, and sometimes they even came alone as well. He'd started to learn the names of a few other customers too, people such as Yatsuhashi and Fox, who apparently made up half of a team named CFVY. They always promised to bring their teammates down, though apparently it was hard because their leader instantly ran off to go shopping whenever they came to Vale.
He had a feeling the guys only came here because the alternative was being forced into lugging shopping bags around the mall. It reminded him back of life in Ansel, where he'd try and flee to a café with his Dad so they could avoid being forced to carry the girl's stuff.
Some things were the same whether you were a huntsman or not, it seemed.
So why had everyone started to avoid the place?
Things started to slow down as the day went on, and Jaune savoured those rare moments of peace where he could sit down behind the counter and rest his legs. Standing had never seemed so arduous a task before. It was exhausting. Little wonder I'd have never made it in Beacon if I can't do this. How bad would I be actually fighting against Grimm?
His father's sword, Crocea Mors, was still on the wall behind him, now more an ornament than anything else. He'd felt bad about that at first, but he had a feeling his father would approve. He'd always wanted an easier life for them all. This wasn't exactly what he'd class as easier, but oh well – it paid, he wasn't getting attacked by Grimm, and honestly, if he dared admit it, the work was actually quite fulfilling.
It was a strange and uplifting feeling.
Everything that stood before him, from the chairs to the tables, to the food and drink… it all belonged to him. Sure, some of it was rented and he was still paying it off, the furniture and machinery being a prime example, but it was still his. He'd made this.
When a customer left with a huge smile on their face, it was because of him. He'd served them well, provided good food and drink, or just created a place they could unwind in. Either way, they were happy because of something he'd done, which meant he was responsible for those moments.
It felt good… incredibly so.
"I'm still exhausted, though," he groaned, working his neck to get some kinks out. A yawn escaped him a moment later. That was another weird thing, too. He'd been exhausted before, usually when he tried to do training prior to Beacon, but he'd always hated it. Being tired was a bad thing, especially when it left you with a stitch and a sore throat. There was none of that here. He felt proud of it, and was left with a general sense of a job well done.
Which would have been even better had it been closer to closing time. Sadly it wasn't even four, and the after-work rush had yet to begin.
I'll just catch some rest while I can. Team RWBY and the others left to get back to their lessons, so it's not like I need to worry about Beacon students coming. The teachers would be off doing their own work, too. This would have been a perfect time for the concerned parents to drop by, but it looked like Mrs Robertson's words had proved prophetic.
Roman's too, now that he thought about it. He'd said civilians and huntsmen didn't mix.
"See it for myself, huh?" Jaune rolled his eyes and let out a defeated sigh. "What a cocky guy. He's not going to let me live this one down."
He could just imagine the guy with a huge smile. The words `Told you so, kid` came to mind. Roman would be the kind of person to rub that in, and Neo would probably stand there smirking at him. If she wasn't doing her best to make him blush, that was.
And speaking of blushes…
The two voices echoed through the door in unison, followed by the arrival of both girls stepping in with wide bright eyes and even brighter smiles. One was dressed in white, the other red, but apart from that, they were near mirror images of one another.
One thing was for sure, though. They were very beautiful.
His throat clammed up. "M-Miltia, Melanie. Hey. How's it going?"
The girls glanced at each other and shared a catty grin that instantly put him on edge. As one they turned back and sashayed towards the counter, their hips moving in unison and their eyes locked onto his.
Melanie, the one dressed in white, drew out a stool gracefully with one foot, then leaned her arm on the counter and tilted her head towards his. He wasn't sure if the action was designed to make him notice the swell of her breasts, but he did, and she knew it judging from the coy smile she shot him when he tore his eyes back up to hers.
"I'm good, Jaune," she purred, choosing not to call him out. "It's been a hard day though, hasn't it, Miltia?"
"Sure has." Miltia raised one arm above her head and linked her other with it, stretching her body. Her back arched, the smooth line of her throat bared as she relieved herself. The sounds didn't help. "Mm, hmm… so good. Oh, we've been working so hard."
"It looks like Jaune has too," Melanie pointed out, running a finger over his arm. He swallowed and tried to ignore the goose bumps it caused. "You're pretty quiet right now. Won't you share a table with us? We'll pay."
There was no reason not to. He was tired, the diner was empty, and they were two loyal customers. Well, there was no professional reason not to. There were plenty of other reasons, like how they both seemed to love his reactions, and how his body did too – but in a bad way – and how his pants were feeling a little tight at the moment.
"I-I shouldn't. I can get you some drinks if you like, though?"
The two shared another glance, a giggle, and probably some hidden message. "Okay," Miltia said. "We'll have two chocolate and cream cappuccinos with two straws."
"Make it quick, Jaune~" Melanie blew him a kiss as she went off to join her sister at a small, round table.
Those two would be the death of him. He wasn't sure what he'd done to earn their attention, other than make their favourite drinks, but ever since they'd seen him, they had both taken to making his life equal parts heaven and hell. It wasn't the same as Neo, who liked to make him flush then cackle in victory. The Malachite sisters took things much further.
That wasn't to say they weren't beautiful or that he didn't enjoy the attention. If anything, that was the problem. He enjoyed it too much. They're just teasing, though. They're out of my league anyway. Most of the girls who come here are. Besides, who wanted to eat somewhere and have the waiter try to chat you up? That had to be annoying. He'd already decided he wouldn't let his hormones ruin this job.
He wouldn't try and flirt with any of his customers. That way led ruin – both of the financial and self-respect variety. He hadn't exactly been a hit with the ladies back home. Then again, his sisters hadn't exactly helped…
"Here you go," he said, laying the two drinks down. He also placed a fresh platter of cakes before them, knowing they'd love it. "I'll jus-huh?"
There was a hand around each of his wrists, and the two girls smiled up at him.
"Did you think we'd give up so easily?" Miltia asked. She dragged him down with a girlish giggle, and Melanie helped her, pushing him into the seat between the two of them. His arms bumped against theirs and he froze up, more than aware of how close they were, if only because of the scent of their perfume. It was heady and intoxicating, and also different for each of them.
He wasn't sure why it was that he noticed, but he did.
"One is for you," Melanie said, pushing the drink towards him.
"What about-?" He trailed off when they dug the two straws into the last cup and shared it between them. That must have been their plan from the start. He sighed. "You two…"
"Hm, what about us?" Melanie made a happy noise as she sipped from the straw. "You should be grateful we came by to make you rest. You look exhausted."
"Such a hard worker," Miltia agreed, making a circle on the back of his palm with her finger. He wasn't sure if he should move his hand away or not. Would it be obvious if he did? Would it send the wrong message if he didn't? "All work and no play makes Jaune a dull boy."
What was the message he wanted to send, anyway?
"You should come and work for us."
"Miltia," Melanie hissed. "He can't do that."
"Because then who would work here and make cakes?"
"Ooh, good point." Miltia nodded and look up at him apologetically. "I'm sorry Jaune, but you can't work for us. It wouldn't work out."
His brow twitched. "I didn't even say I wanted to!"
"It's not you," Melanie agreed with a sigh. "It's us."
"We're not ready for that kind of commitment."
He growled something under his breath, mostly because his cheeks were too red and he couldn't actually find any words to say. The devious twins shared a look filled with amusement. All of it was at his expense, of course.
"You two will be the death of me, you know?"
"I hope not. Where would we find coffee like this if you died?" Melanie cupped two fingers to her lips and gasped. "Oh, and companionship as well," she hurried, voice thick with insincerity. "We obviously care for you as well, right Miltia?"
"Of course…" The twin in red batted her eyes sarcastically at him. "I care more than Mel, though."
"Oh, is that so, sister?"
"Yep. Red is the colour of passion, after all."
Miltia pressed her breasts against his arm as she said that. Her eyes fluttered up towards him, her lips parted as she breathed out softly onto his cheek. She was teasing him. He knew that. She wasn't being serious.
Why could his body not realise that?
"Hmph, as though Jaune would be interested in something like that. White is the colour of purity and innocence."
"Innocence," Miltia drawled. "You!?"
"S-Shut up. What is that supposed to mean?"
"I think you know, Melanie."
"I don't think I do. Maybe I'll ask you to elaborate as I smash your face through this table, hm?"
"Try it, bitch."
Jaune's eyes widened as he realised just where the conversation was going – and at a fast clip, too. He held his arms out between them, putting his face in the way. "Whoa, whoa, calm down! There's no need for fighting. You can't…" He trailed off.
Melanie smirked at him. Miltia had one elbow propped on the table, her cheek resting on her palm. Neither had made a move to attack the other, and both looked far too amused at his panic.
He groaned and cupped his face with both hands.
"I hate you both."
The two burst into laughter, Miltia pushing off him as she leaned back and laughed into her hand. It lasted for a good minute or so, even if it wasn't really that funny. Then again, it was probably his bright red face that kept setting them off. That and his pathetically weak glares. It was hard to give them a serious glare when their legs kept brushing against his.
And they knew that, damn it.
"Oh, you're so precious," Melanie said once they were both finally done. "You really are the cutest, and you have the best reactions, too."
"Not like the idiots we work with," Miltia agreed, her kind and gentle voice now replaced with something a little more caustic – something a little more honest, yet no less alluring. "Junior's cool, but he's gotten used to us and he's our boss. The boys, though? Ugh."
"They start off as cocky little shits, but that soon goes away. Problem is, they lose whatever spine they had before." Melanie hesitated. "Well… I guess it doesn't help that the older ones always tell them we're off limits of how scary we are."
"Which we are," Miltia added. "They're not lying."
"True, but it takes away our fun."
"And that's why you come to torture me instead?" Jaune asked. His face was flat, but his red ears gave him away. "I could bar you from the diner, you realise. It's within my power."
"Oh dear…" Miltia's shifted her legs beneath the table, dragging her leg up the inside of his. "And whatever would I have to do to earn back the right to enter?" She leaned forward and licked her lips. "Sexual favours, perhaps?"
It was too much. Jaune surged to his feet so fast he slammed his knees against the table, then fell back down with a groan of pain. "M-M-Miltia! Too far!"
"Heh. You're such a virgin."
His face was aflame, and their laughter didn't help. "S-So? I'm a virgin. Is that so weird?"
"I dunno," Miltia said. "You're what, eighteen?"
"Meh, I'd say fifty-fifty. It's not weird either way, but the way you react is cute. I can't help it. It's like… it's like teasing a puppy to see its reaction."
"If you didn't get so worked up, we wouldn't do it," Melanie said. "Then again, if that happened, we might get bored and not come around so much." She grinned at him. "Maybe you like it so much you put a show on for us. Maybe you don't want to get used to it."
"No… this is my actual reaction," Jaune said, groaning into the palm of one hand. "It's not like I've ever had a girlfriend before, so I guess I get worked up. You two hardly help, though," he glowered. "I won't ban you, but I can still cut you off from treats for a day."
"And I'll come pester you to give me some," Miltia said, utterly unconcerned with his threat. She looked him up and down carefully, then tilted her head to the side and hummed.
He blinked back. "What? Is there something on my face?"
"No. I'm just wondering if I would."
Miltia smiled evilly. "Wouldn't you like to know? It's girl talk. What do you think, sister? Would or wouldn't?"
"Well, he's not bad for sure. I wouldn't say one worth hunting down, but I might be interested if the opportunity came up. Nothing bad to look at and in good shape - and not an arrogant bastard either. It would be a first, too. Those are important."
"A man always remembers it," Miltia nodded. "Oh, it might be fun to be that. Can you imagine how it might be? With nothing to compare it to, you would become unforgettable. Would it forever linger in memory? Would it be what they think of late at night?"
"Hmm, I can imagine." Melanie chuckled darkly, watching him with lidded eyes. "Still, it might be fun. I'll say it's in the `would` column. You?"
"Oh, I definitely would. Just for fun, of course. I'm not ready for anything more."
Jaune looked between the two, trying to figure out what they meant. Their eyes were on him, though they glanced back to throw more veiled phrases towards one another every now and then. Even so, he couldn't help but feel like he was being measured in some way.
"This is one of those conversations where I need subtitles, isn't it?" he asked.
"Only if you're an idiot," Miltia snorted.
"Or innocent," her sister added, "which we know you are. Don't worry, Jaune." She patted his cheek lightly. "We'll take care of you. You're our favourite right now~"
"Your favourite what? Barista?"
Melanie smiled coyly but didn't say anything more. Miltia, as always, was far less subtle.
"Tell you what, Jaune. If you ever ask me to, I'll say yes right then and there. Okay?"
"You'll say yes to what?" he asked.
She leaned forward and pushed her fingers against his lips. "Figure it out and you'll see. You'll like it. Trust me."
"You two are really weird," Jaune mumbled past her finger.
"No, we're just normal, everyday girls. You're the silly one, but you are blonde, so we'll let it go." She patted his arm. "Only because you're adorable, though. If you were all stuck-up, I'd have to cut you." She flashed a set of crimson claws, but they vanished a second later. Where, he had no idea. He really thought he should have been more worried about that than he was.
Subtitles… definitely a conversation that needed subtitles. He shook his head and sighed. I suppose I'll have to figure it out later. It's not like they'll ever give me a straight answer. "Enough with the word games," he sighed. "Isn't it four yet? I'm pretty sure Junior will start acting up if he doesn't get his caffeine fix."
"The man works behind a bar. He has soda on tap."
"I think he's trying to get rid of us, Miltia," Melanie teased. "I think he's a little flustered by us."
"Oh dear, really?" Miltia pressed her breasts against his arm once more and leaned in close. Too close. One of her legs actually mounted his as she pushed her face close to his. "Really, Jaune? Do we make you nervous, Jaune? Does this make you feel funny, Jaune?"
Miltia held her face so close to his he could taste her breath. She might have done more, had it not been for her control breaking. She sniggered before she could stop herself, and quickly descended into laughter a second later.
"It's too much fun," she said, sighing to herself as she extricated her body from his. "Ah, you're the best thing to happen around here lately. You really are." She flicked her hair back and skipped over to her sister. "You need to come around the club some time. We'll do you free entry and drinks."
"And maybe other things if you ask nicely."
"I'll keep it in mind," he said, for what felt like the fifth time. "You know I work late. It'll have to be when I get settled in enough to take a day off or hire some part-time staff."
"We could provide some."
"Part-time staff that aren't gangsters, Melanie."
"Boo. You're so picky." Melanie laid a hand on his left arm, and Miltia took the right. "Even so, the offer still stands. You need to loosen up and relax. You'll never get rid of that pesky V-card if you work all day, every day. Get out and meet some people."
And now they sounded like his Mom. That was more than a little awkward. They were probably right, though. All work and no play wasn't going to do anything but wear him out. "Tell you what, if I make up enough money at the end of the month, then I promise I'll come down for a night. That sound good?"
Apparently, it did.
"You promise?" Melanie asked, surprised. "Oh, who am I kidding? You're one of those guys who always does what they say, aren't you? Such a goody-goody. Well then, we'll hold you to that. Right, sis?"
"Damn right. I hope you can dance, lover-boy."
"I think I ca-" His words cut off as the bell on the door jingled, it opening far harder than it had any right to and slamming back against the wall. The person that pushed through was familiar, and judging by her red face, she'd run the entire way.
"Hey Jaune," Yang Xiao-Long yelled. "I lost my scroll somewhere. Did you see-"
She saw the two girls hanging off him.
Her eyes flashed red.
Yang took the scene in instantly. The two sisters – the same ones from Junior's club, and they each had a hand on Jaune, who looked none the wiser as to who they were or why he shouldn't be near them. They didn't have their weapons out, but she knew that could change without warning.
They've got him and I can't do anything while that's the case. I should have let the others help me look for my scroll. Damn it. Yang looked for any help, but the diner was empty apart from them. A perfect time for some mobsters like them to come by and try to shake him down. That he was unhurt was a good sign – she'd got here in time.
"Let him go and get out of here," she said. "If you're quick about it, we won't have any trouble."
"Oh, we won't? Isn't that kind of her, Melanie?"
The first turned to the second, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, so sweet. Sorry, Blondie, but we didn't come here to leave straight after. We've got an order, and we need a certain someone to fulfil that for us." The white-dressed girl leaned on Jaune's arm, her fingers trailing up his shoulder. "Why don't you split and leave it to us?"
And leave him with the two of them? Not happening. Ruby would freak if she found out something happened to her best friend. Yang wasn't going to be the one responsible for that. Besides, she liked the guy too.
Ember Celica clicked into place. The twins clearly recognised it and took a step back. Good.
Jaune was less pleased.
"H-Hey, no violence in the diner! Yang, please. It's fine. They're customers!"
"You've got no idea who they are!"
"Huh, they're Miltia and Melanie…"
Not what she meant, but that was fine. If he'd known the truth, he'd have been more afraid – but maybe ignorance was bliss. It wouldn't keep him safe if they decided to rough him up, however. That was up to a huntress like her.
Her fists thrust forward to fire a shot, but it wasn't like she was going to unload in a friend's place. The Malachites didn't know that, though, and raised their hands to shield their faces. That took them off Jaune, which was her main goal. Got to get him out before he gets hurt!
There was no time to be fancy, and no time to risk him. She caught him by the elbow and tugged him back and behind her – planning to cover him with her own body until they could get out of range. She dragged him roughly behind her, ignoring his sharp gasp.
There was no ignoring the crack, however.
He wasn't sure how it happened. One moment he'd been between the two sisters, and the next – Yang had his arm in a grip of pure steel and was pulling him away. He didn't have the time to complain, nor even to resist. Yang dragged him back behind her.
She meant well. He knew that.
She thought he was in trouble, that he needed help… that she was the only one around to provide it. That was probably why Melanie and Miltia didn't stop her, because they figured it would be safer if they didn't intervene and start a fight.
His body sailed back, still propelled from her initial tug and unable to catch his footing. She kept hold as he stumbled past, maybe thinking it a better idea not to let him fall through a window. Like a ball on the end of a piece of string, his body swung back, fuelled by her momentum. Her grip was tight, pulling him to a stop. The string, his arm, snapped taut.
Something had to give. With aura, training, and muscles like steel - it wasn't Yang.
It was a dry, crunchy sound that echoed unreasonably through the room, shocking even him by the sheer volume. A volume he could feel rumbling through his body. It took him a good second or two to realise what had happened – and a second longer for feeling to kick in.
Even then, he was so shocked that it came out more as a gasp than a cry.
It didn't express what he felt. Not even close. Agony seared through his left arm and raced up to his shoulder, where something throbbed, pulsed and twisted in equal measure. His legs buckled as a feeling of intense nausea rushed through him. It didn't get any better when he saw the shape of his shoulder. Though no flesh had torn, it was aligned in a way that could only be called wrong.
"Oh my God…"
Melanie stepped back. "I-I'll call an ambulance!"
"You fucking idiot!" Miltia roared. "What were you thinking!?"
"I-I didn't mean to… I-I just pulled him back!"
Yang's face filled his vision. She was frightened and afraid, her eyes filled with such horror and guilt that he wanted nothing more than to pretend nothing had happened, just to make her feel better. He couldn't, however. He couldn't say anything at all. His teeth were clenched shut, a low whine all he could manage. His eyes were filled with tears.
She hadn't meant to.
Yang hadn't meant to hurt him.
Miltia and Melanie hadn't meant to put him in danger.
It was an accident. No one was to blame.
But at that moment, as his vision faded, as he felt hands settle him down to the floor, even as Melanie's voice echoed in the background, calling out his address. At that very moment, he understood. Understood why huntsmen and civilians didn't mix. Why Mrs Robertson had hidden Grey away and wouldn't be coming back.
Because what a huntsmen meant, and what they were capable of, were two different things. Huntsmen and huntresses were brave, skilled and powerful.
He was fragile.
Sudden drama is sudden! Don't worry, this isn't a full-on genre shift.
Okay, I'll head this off here. No, this isn't character bashing. Already had that with a Hunter or Something where you write one scene where a beloved character is seen in a bad light and "oh noes, it's bashing". This isn't that. Yang made a mistake, but she acted on the limited information she had and had to make a decision. Was it the right one? No. Does that make her a bitch? Not really.
Do I think she could unintentionally do this? Well, yes… yes, I do. We see that Yang can punch a huge robot into a bridge if she is in the mood, so accidentally dislocating the arm of someone who doesn't even have aura? Very possible, and honestly, dangerously possible for someone who isn't used to holding back for weaker people.
What will this mean for Jaune?
Will he even be able to run his diner?
Who will Ozpin kill for cutting off his coffee? (Probably Ironwood. Always blame Ironwood.)
Find out next time, on… Service with a Dislocated Shoulder.
Next Chapter: 3rd October
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur