It's been mentioned in other works, but I have a week away with family coming up and it will impact the next chapter of this story. I'll be away on the 20th, when this would normally update. As such, the next chapter of this story will be a week later, on the 27th. After that, things go back to normal.

Just letting people know here so no confusion.

Cover Art: Jack Wayne

Chapter 51

"Hey Ruby." Blake slid up to her team leader between lessons. "Can we have a quick word?"

It wasn't lost on Ruby how she'd asked as Yang and Weiss were mid-argument, something asinine. Yang had stolen Weiss' premium shampoo and given the sheer volume of her hair, had used just about all of it. Weiss wasn't happy. Blake lost interest before it even started but you didn't get between Weiss and her creature comforts, nor Yang and her hair.

"Yeeesssss…?" Ruby asked, dragging the word out and leaning away. "Unless this is about breaking up Yang and Weiss, in which case `nope`."

"It's not. Let them argue."

"Cool! Then sure. What's up?"

Blake glanced around at all the people filing out of lessons. "In private."

"Oh. One of those conversations. Sure."

What did Ruby think she was going to ask? Never mind. "One of those," she agreed, drawing Ruby away from the pack of students filing toward the dining hall like they hadn't eaten for a week. Finding a place with no traffic was as easy as stepping into Port's classroom. No student would dare brave one of his speeches willingly, but Port never hung around either.

Closing the door behind her, Blake leaned against Port's desk, letting Ruby hop up to sit on it and dangle her legs off the edge.

"So." said Ruby. "What's up?"

Many things. The ceiling for one. The poor joke was consigned to the back of her mind as more pressing issues came forth. Before, when she'd run off to combat the White Fang alone, she'd caused her team untold stress. She'd promised after never to do that again without consulting her team first. She intended to keep that promise. But, how to phrase this to Ruby?

Ah. Of course. The obvious choice.

"I have this friend…"

"No! No, no, no! No, you don't have a friend who has a problem. You have a problem!" Ruby's finger pushed Blake's nose upward, squashing it against her face. The girl's silver eyes were wild. "I'm sick and tired of all the dancing around. Why can't people just admit they have a problem? I know you have a problem. You know you have a problem. You know that I know that you have a problem. Just. Say. It! Argh!"

Blake was pinned against the blackboard, eyes wide and hands up before herself. Ruby's finger was about a millimetre from pushing right up her nostril. "Um. I know I have a problem. That's why I came to you for advice."

"Good!" Ruby glared at her. "Now, if the next words out of your mouth are about a hypothetical friend with a hypothetical problem, your new problem will be how to get my boot out of your rectum!"

That was… somewhat unlike the Ruby she knew. "Tough week?"

"Like you would not believe!"

"Is Mercury flirting with you again?"

"YES!" Ruby stomped one foot. "But that's not the biggest problem. Now talk!"

"Promise you won't stab my eye out with your finger?"


"O-Okay." Really tough week by the sound of it. And yet Ruby was still the better person to go to advice for than Yang or Weiss. What a world she lived in. "But I do have a friend." Ruby's finger pushed harder. "But I'm the one with the problem! I'm telling the truth! The friend is related!"

Ruby blinked. "Wait, so this isn't one of those `I have a friend who has a problem` things?"


"Ha ha. Oh. Ha." Ruby laughed and brought her finger back, hiding it behind her back. "Um. Let's pretend I didn't nearly pin you to the blackboard? So… this friend, who isn't you for a change. Wow. You have friends outside our team?"

Offended, she opened her mouth, then paused. "Well, no…"

Painful to admit.

"He's more of an ex-friend. Maybe. It's… complicated."

"How complicated can it be?"

"A train full of dead bodies, Schnee robots and broken promises complicated."

Ruby stared at her. "That's… pretty complicated."

"I don't do things by half. Oh, and he's also an ex-boyfriend that I dumped."

"Via text?"

"Via cutting a train connecting car abandoning him in the middle of a Grimm-infested forest with a host of murderous robots." Blake tried not to meet Ruby's eyes. "And the train may have been rigged to blow."


"I told you, it's complicated."

"Blake. I… You know Sun? He's a nice guy. Maybe let him down a little more gently. Okay?"

Blake's face burned with colour. "That's not exactly by standard dating procedure, Ruby! And it's not related. Well, it is but I'm not asking for dating advice."

"Really? Sounds like you need it."

"Ruby, you've never dated anyone."

"And yet my record still sounds less insane than yours."

Ugh. Touché. "My ex is back in Vale. And he made contact with me after the karaoke night."

"That sounds awkward," said Ruby. "It also sounds way out my area of expertise. Have you tried asking Yang? No, wait, of course you haven't. Yang would just say to beat him up. Um. Don't ask Yang, and definitely don't ask Weiss. Sheesh. Why am I the best person to ask? What's wrong with the people in Beacon?"

Blake asked herself that question every day.

"Okay. I can see why this would be complicated." Ruby swung her legs, humming in thought. It was a good sign that she was giving it the necessary attention. "Is there anything else I should know? Is he violent? Abusive? Dangerous?"

"He's a high-ranking member of the White Fang, and possibly the strongest faunus there."

Ruby stared at her.

"Maybe I should have led with that," Blake admitted.

"You think? Ugh, Blake." Ruby groaned into her hands. "The last time you had a problem it caused a fight that nearly burned the docks down. The next time, you had us fighting a giant killer robot. Now this? Why are you like this, Blake? What makes you this way?"

Wait, was Ruby putting this at her shoes? "This isn't my fault!"

Ruby stared at her.

"It's not! I didn't expect him or the White Fang to find me!"

"Blake, you didn't even change your name coming to Beacon. You didn't even cut your hair, swap your outfit or try to disguise yourself…"

"I wore a bow!"

Ruby stared even harder at her.

"A-And maybe a bow on its own wasn't enough, but hindsight is 20-20. How could I have known they'd see through it and discover my identity?"

Ruby's stare intensified.

"Advice, please!"

"Ugh." Ruby broke the stair. "I don't know what to say. Is he threatening you?"

"I… I don't think so." She'd really thought he would given how the split, but Adam's signs had made it clear there was to be no violence, not to mention he made no move to approach her. She'd been surrounded by her team at the time, but everyone had been distracted. If he'd really wanted to, he could have struck her down before she had a chance to detect him, let alone get her aura up. "He just sort of contacted me and made it clear he's here. But there was a letter by my locker this morning."

"He's in Beacon!?"

"No, no. But there are plenty of faunus here and it's not hard to imagine some might be members of the White Fang. Or sympathisers."

"What did it say?"

Blake hesitated to show Ruby the full details. "He wants to meet."

"In a deep, dark, shadowy alley late at night and on your own?"

"Actually, he's given me the choice of when and where."

Had it been the former, she'd have laughed in his face and tossed the letter away; she wasn't an idiot. But by letting her pick the time and place, Adam was putting his life in her hands. It wasn't much of a risk on his part. He knew she couldn't turn him in without revealing her part in the White Fang, and repentant or not that would still be worthy of a criminal record. Still, it at least implied he wasn't in it to kill her.

"I promised I'd talk to you all before I went and did anything stupid with the White Fang. I think this counts."

"Yeah." Ruby laughed. "But it's only stupid if you actually meet with him."

Blake looked away.

Ruby's laughter slowly died.

"Blake, no."

"Blake, maybe," she countered. "And I'm talking to you, aren't I? I thought… Yang and Weiss would be bad for this. They're too emotional. Or compromised. Weiss has good reason to hate him and Yang… I trust her, but you know she'd flip the table the second Adam said something bad about me. I don't want this to descent into a brawl."

"You want me to be a relationship counsellor? For terrorists…?"

"More moral support… and physical support if it gets violent."

Ruby stared at her. "Why are you like this?" she asked again. "What made you this way?"

"It's complicated." Her answer was the same. "And is that a yes to being my wingman?"

"If I say no, you're just going to sneak off and go on your own, anyway. Aren't you?"

Blake carefully chose not to respond to that.

"Damn it, Blake…"


Ruby kicked a foot against the back of her other heel. Dressed in the casual outfit she usually wore for going out in Vale, she stood next to Blake a small distance away from Jaune's. It was a Wednesday, which technically meant it was closed, but Jaune offered the use of the place when Blake asked. It was private and away from any innocents. Except Jaune, of course, but Blake was convinced Adam wouldn't harm him.

Ruby less so. "I don't like putting Jaune in danger. He's a civilian."

"I already told Adam the place and he said it's accorded neutral territory."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that the area is known and established as neutral territory to criminals in Vale." Blake teased her lip as she said it. "That means even the White Fang wouldn't dare cause trouble here."

"Walker Street is neutral territory?"

"No. Jaune's."

Ruby frowned. "Why is my best friend's diner criminal territory, Blake?"

"I don't know. I wouldn't read into it. It may just be that they picked a place at random. When opposing forces meet, they usually want it to be somewhere neutral, so no one side has the advantage. Kind of like meeting under a flag of truce. That's sort of what we're doing."

"You're sure Jaune will be fine? I… I don't want him in danger, Blake. He's squishy. He's vulnerable. I almost – I mean, we almost lost him when the Grimm attacked."

Blake looked at her team leader, recalling for a moment the agonised sobs of a girl wearing her fingernails thin digging through rubble, and the piercing scream when she discovered what she thought was evidence of Jaune's demise.

"If anything happens, you focus on getting Jaune out. I can hold Adam off for a while."

Ruby nodded.

"There is one other thing. I had to tell Adam I'd be bringing someone with me. He'd consider it a trap if we showed up without telling him. He's said he'll bring one person as well. Someone he trusts not to cause a scene. He said it wouldn't even be White Fang."

"Someone worse…?"

"Someone capable of fighting on our level for sure, but hopefully less involved in the White Fang's conflict." Blake sighed. "It'll be Adam and I talking. I think you and the other will be expected to sit on the side-lines. Really, you're just there to help us if things turn violent." Blake grinned weakly. "Consider it a double-date."

"Blake…" Ruby said her name softly. "I love you, I really do, but if I had to trust someone to set me up on a blind date, I think you would be the last person. I'd trust Nora to set me up before I do you."


Not that she could argue, but still. Ouch.

Blake walked toward the door, Ruby beside her. The interior was dimly lit despite the `closed` sign on the door, and when they came close, she could see shadows through the windows. Blake knocked on the glass front, waiting for someone inside to come and unlock it.

It was Miltia, not Jaune.


"It's a mass date," Miltia Malachite said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Same warning to you as I gave the others. Cause problems and I'll kick your ass."

Blake nodded, keeping her thoughts on how Yang had beaten both Miltia and Melanie to herself. There was no way she would be beating her or Adam, but she could at least get Jaune out of danger if something happened, and that was obviously her purpose here. One thing Miltia gave away was that Adam was already here. Swallowing, Blake looked over the girl's shoulder, espying two men, or she assumed they were men, sat at a table. Jaune was serving them coffee and chatting with them.

On the racks by the door, a familiar sword and sheathe lay.

"Weapons by the door," Miltia said.

Being disarmed wouldn't stop any of them fighting, but it lowered the tension. Blake made a show of putting hers down while Ruby did the same, leaving her scythe in its compact form by hanging it from one of the hooks.

Miltia could have checked them for more but Blake's outfit wasn't exactly designed to hide anything, and Ruby was well-known for essentially being married to Crescent Rose. She would never cheat on her baby by picking up another weapon.

Blake drew a deep breath and let it go. Talking about seeing Adam again was one thing. Actually doing it was another. She felt Ruby nudge her side, offering what support she could, and firmed her shaky resolve. If she couldn't be confident, she could at least act it.

She walked toward the table.

"Oh, and Blake is here." Jaune saw her first, wheeling himself back. "If you need anything, let us know. Even if we're not open, we still have some cakes left over and the ice-cream keeps for a while."

"That won't be necessary," Adam said. His rich voice had her shaking. "But thank you for offering."

He turned on his seat. His eyes pierced Blake's.

The only thing she could think was that he'd gone without his mask.

"Blake," he said.


"It's been a-"


Blake jumped, reaching for a weapon that wasn't there. Adam tensed as well, only to freeze along with her when they realised it wasn't either of them that had shouted the word with such fury, nor was it anyone by the door.

It was Ruby, pointing an accusatory finger at the person Adam had brought along.

"You!" she hissed. "You, you, you! Why is it you!?"

Mercury Black lowered his hood and winked at her. "Hey Ruby. Fancy meeting you here."

"Gah." Ruby glowered at him. "Why are you here?"

"Heh. I think I'm your date for the evening."

Ruby hissed like a wild animal.

A bubble of laughter threatened to come up inside her. It was swallowed quickly by the seriousness of the situation, but it didn't prevent a quick smile from appearing on her face as she watched Ruby stomp her foot and mutter about unfairness, stupid guys and how she needed to apply for a restraining order.

Of course, it wasn't lost on her that Mercury Black was apparently close to Adam Taurus.

That didn't bode well.

When the two went off to sit at their own table, Mercury to flirt and Ruby to glare, Blake sat in the seat opposite Adam, placing her hands upon the table so he would know she was unarmed. He knew what it meant and did the same, keeping one to the side and the other on the handle of a mug of coffee. A steaming cappuccino was already before her. Trusting Jaune, she sipped it. The copious sugar quantity was needed.

"I'm glad you came," said Adam. "I wasn't sure you would."

"Neither was I." She glanced to the side. "Why him? Anything I should know?"

"Nothing so dramatic. Mercury and I met here when there was too little room and he was made to sit by me. We became… I am not sure I would call it friends. We became acquainted. I needed someone to come with me today and it couldn't be anyone from the White Fang. You know why."

"My departure wasn't taken well, then."

"Your departure went mostly unnoticed. It was your reappearance which caused problems."

Her eyes narrowed. "Unnoticed?"

"Mostly unnoticed. I felt your absence, as did a few others, but you were hardly a high-ranking member of the organisation. It's not as though the White Fang fell to ruin when you didn't return. Some asked where you were, some assumed you had died and more still failed to note your absence in the first place."

Annoyed, Blake sipped a little more. She didn't think Adam was lying and that irked her more than she cared to admit. If it had been Adam to vanish, everyone would have been in uproar. Maybe she should have been thankful for that.

"And you?"

"I was hurt, admittedly."



Blake swallowed and leaned back. "And now?"

"My anger has faded." Adam sipped his drink. "Time has a way of cooling emotions, no matter how fiercely they burn. I suppose all that is left is disappointment."

"Disappointment!?" Blake slammed her hand on the table. "You wanted to kill innocent people!"

"I didn't say I was in the right." Adam waved a hand to calm down Mercury and Ruby, who had made to rise when Blake moved. "And I wasn't talking about the fact you chose to leave. That was always your decision to make."

She sat. "Then what are you talking about?"

"The fact you didn't come and talk to me first."

"You wouldn't have understood."

"Really? Did you not trust me to, or did you not care enough to try?"

Blake sucked in breath through her teeth. "Don't try and make this about me. You wanted to kill innocent people. I couldn't abide that, and it's not like I could have let you do it, then cornered you after to say I didn't like it. They'd still have died."

"You could have tried to stop me."

"I did!"

"You asked me about them and then chose to cut the train car. That's hardly effort, Blake."

"Since when is it my responsibility to control your actions? I think you're old enough to do that yourself, Adam. Or is it that you wanted me to wipe your behind and dress you, too?"

Adam sighed. "You're angry."

"You're damn right I'm angry. You're trying to turn what you did on me!"

"That wasn't my intent. I'm not actually talking about the incident on the train, more I'm trying to talk about us. What we were," he said when she made to argue that they were nothing. "I was under the impression that when we got together, we promised to support and help one another. I don't fault you for finding my actions detestable, but I do wish you would have come to me over that and not left. That you'd have given me a chance to improve."

"Would you have?"

"I don't know. The White Fang needs me as I am. But I would have tried…"

Tried and failed. Or maybe he could have succeeded. They'd never know, and she had a feeling that was what bothered him. Maybe it could have been handled better, but she hadn't exactly been in the right frame of mind for that. Giving him time would have led to those people dying.

"What do you want, Adam? Me back with you? That won't happen. Me back in the White Fang? Also not happening."

"Neither. You're a traitor to the White Fang, Blake. Not for leaving, but for your actions attacking us in Vale. As for us, I don't think I could trust you any more than you trust me now. Say what you will about my actions, but I never once betrayed you."

`You betrayed me`.

He didn't say it, but they both heard it. Blake gritted her teeth, fighting the urge to shout that he'd betrayed himself, his ideals or some other such nonsense. But in the end, it would have been just that. She had been the one to cut ties. Did she regret it? No. Did she think she was in the right to do so? Yes.

But that still didn't change the fact it was a betrayal. Even the evillest of people could be betrayed; it was just that you tended to call the people doing the betraying heroes.

In an ideal world she would have taken Adam with her. Saved him.

Remnant was not an ideal world.

"What do you want from this meeting, then?" she asked. "Why reach out?"

"I'm not one hundred per cent sure," he admitted. "I never intended to reach out, but I saw your performance the other night." His lips curled up, a cheeky, amused, smile on his face. One she'd once fallen for. "You sang well."

Her cheeks flushed. "I sang like an idiot!"

"Better than I could have."

"I didn't see you go up."

"That would have been a little awkward. Amusing, but awkward. You looked… I will not say happy, for you looked anything but at the time, but you were having fun. It didn't feel right to intrude on that."

"I'm surprised you care for what's rude or not, Adam. You're a terrorist."

"And so were you, Blake. Did that ever make you a monster?"

"It made me act like one."

"No." Adam leaned forward. "You being a terrorist did not make you act like a monster. You chose to join the White Fang and you chose to fight against the established order. Don't make excuses or blame it on some nebulous force controlling our minds. We made the decisions we did knowing what it meant, and I won't have you belittle the lives of those who died for it."

Blake looked away. "Sorry. You're right. I… I made poor choices. And I regret those choices now."

He nodded and sat down again. "As is your right. People leave the White Fang all the time. We don't exactly make it a habit to chase them down. Why would we? It only makes us look the villains and tells every faunus out there that there's no going back. Such pointless cruelty does us no favours."

"I don't care about the White Fang, though," he said. "I wanted to talk to you. Wanted to… I suppose what I wanted was to speak with you. To make peace."


"Not between the White Fang and you – those bridges are burned. But we were once, what we had…" He sighed. "I like to feel it was special. I like to feel it was real, at least for a while."

An uncomfortable feeling stirred in her gut. "It was," she said. "I did love you."

"And I, you," said Adam,

But not anymore.

Not from either of them.

"You're no fool, Blake. You know that our presence here means something in the future. If you continue to interfere, you'll be forced to face the might of the White Fang. You realise that."

"I won't sit by and pretend that nothing is happening in front of me. I'm a huntress now. If I see injustice, I will act."

Adam sighed. "Then we may end up facing one another on the battlefield."

"We may." The prospect had seemed so easy when she imagined Adam as a furious, hate-filled and blood-driven monster. So much harder to see him now, tired and human. So painfully normal. "It doesn't have to be this way. You could come with me and join Beacon."

"Inviting me to tag along now?" He laughed. "That's a little late, don't you think?"

It was.

Months late.

"I didn't give you the chance back then. I am now. Come with me. I can't promise we'll be the same as we once were, but…" She didn't know what the `but` was supposed to be. They could try? She wasn't sure she could. They could stay friends? That felt such a cop-out for someone she'd once trusted with her life.

Adam made the decision for her, smiling as he shook his head. "I cannot."

Even though she expected it, the answer hurt. Much more than she thought it would. "Why?"

"Because unlike you, I have people who have been relying on me. You were a passenger on that train, Blake, so jumping off only affected you. I'm the conductor. If I leave, everyone who trusts me to lead them safely to the destination will die." He finished his coffee. "I convinced people to join this train we call the White Fang, and for better or worse, I must see them to their destination."

"And what of your life?"

Adam smiled. "What about it?"

What about them? The words echoed in her head, yet now from the other direction. Her hands clenched into fists atop the table. Her mug shook. What an idiot. What an absolute moron. A stubborn fool who refused to change his mind once it had been made, and who would follow his cause to the end if needs be.

No wonder they'd fallen in love. They were the same.

"I guess that means we will see each other on the battlefield," she said, feeling weaker than she had when the day began. "I… I don't know what I expected from this, but I'm coming away with nothing. What a waste of time."

"This wasn't a waste," Adam countered. "If anything, I'm glad we met like this."

She looked up, surprised.

"We will fight, and we may be forced to bring an end to it there, but at least we'll do so having had this conversation. If we hadn't? I don't know how it would have been, but I would have regretted not speaking to you first. Don't you feel the same?"

Did she…?

Maybe she did, in a way.

Adam had been so important to her once, and she to him. If they did have to fight, at least they could do so knowing there were no unsaid words between them. Except for some, which she blurted out without thinking, "I don't hate you."

Adam's smile grew. "I don't hate you, either."

"But if I must, to protect Beacon and Vale, I… I will kill you, Adam."

"The same to you, though I will regret doing so."

"I'll feel the same way."

"Thank you." He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. "You would not understand how much knowing that helps."

I think I do understand. Blake watched him, feeling the pit of complicated emotions swirling around inside her. In the end, none of them mattered. She'd made her choice and he had his, and she would not let Beacon be taken away. I'm sorry, Adam. And… And I guess you are, too. We really are a pair of messed up people. Ruby was right about that.

"You never told me to give up and leave," Blake noted.

"Would you have?" He snorted. "I wouldn't insult you that brazenly."

Blake laughed. "I guess not. I insulted you by asking you to join Beacon, didn't I?"

"A little, but I'll forgive it this one time." He stood, and Blake did the same opposite him. For once, it didn't feel like an action born of defensiveness or anything more. There was no doubt in her mind that he'd let her go. "Fight for what you believe in and I shall do the same," he said. "No more regrets."

He extended a hand.

"I'll try."

Blake took it, then, on impulse, pulled him in. His eyes widened for a moment, then closed.

Short, warm, their kisses before had been something more, something desperate and heated as two people tried to escape the reality of life. There was none of that now; only a distant sense of familiarity and lingering comfort.

That comfort was lost as they drew apart.

"For what we once had," she said. "And a goodbye, I suppose. I never said it before. I just left you there, looking back at me like a lost puppy."

"Hmph. I wasn't so melodramatic."

"Sure you weren't. I… Adam, I-"

He laid a finger against her lips. "No more. Or this will become more difficult than it already is. We've said what must be said. If I die, see me buried. If you die, I will do the same and I will deliver the news to your parents myself. I will ensure their safety personally."

"Thank you, but I don't intend to die." She grinned weakly. "I'll visit your grave, though."

"Hm. We'll see."

Their hands fell, and they stepped back. Immediately, a gulf opened up between them, but she wasn't sure it was the same as before. It was a distance born of ideology, of necessity. Before, it had been a terrifying chasm she tried to pretend didn't exist. Adam, a distant nightmare she was afraid of running into. As always, the imagination made things so much worse than the reality.

Mercury yelped and scraped his chair back. Coffee dripped from him.

"You pig!" Ruby howled, eyes wide and empty mug extended. "You – You – This isn't a date and there's no way I'm doing that!"

"Hey. All I asked was if we were going to hit a cinema after."

"Y-Y-Y-Y-You mentioned a kiss!"

"Sure." Mercury wagged his eyebrows at her. "But isn't that how all good dates end?"

"This isn't a date!"

Adam's snort caught her attention. He wore a rueful smile, eyes closed and hands in his pockets. "It looks like someone is having fun. Perhaps there will be wedding bells in the future."

Blake laughed as Ruby howled and tried to stamp on Mercury's feet. His shoes must have been iron-shod because he didn't so much as flinch. Not that it stopped Ruby trying her hardest, or from looking like a loon as she chased Mercury around the inside of Jaune's diner.

"Don't even joke about that, Adam. I'm never going to hear the end of this."

"I'll leave while the timing is good, then." He drew his hoodie up, his features, even unmasked, too likely to draw attention. "I'd say goodbye but that doesn't feel right. I guess I'll… see you around."

Yes, she supposed they would see one another one last time. A melancholy, yet somehow peaceful, thought.

"See you later, Adam."


Mercury closed the door to his room.

"Where have you been?" Cinder asked immediately.

"Out with Adam. Men's night out. You know, talking to pretty girls, asking them out, drinking. Getting into brawls. The usual."

"I'm being serious, Mercury."

"Heh. So am I."

"That'd explain the print on your face," Emerald said snidely.

Cinder finally looked up from her dog, which she was grooming in her lap, to see the red handprint on Mercury's cheek. She rolled her eyes, shaking her head dismissively and accepting his words as truth.

"I asked a pretty girl for a kiss on the cheek. Probably should have specific with her lips."

Emerald snorted. "Not sure that would have helped you."

"Ha. Maybe not." Mercury swept in, nodded once to Neo, who was watching him with a knowing gaze – she nodded back, something she never did for Cinder – and he sat down on the couch next to her. "Maybe I wanted to be hit as some way of silently apologising for what we're going to do, the guilt getting to me but me unable to reveal the truth, and thus seeking absolution in another way."

Cinder didn't look up from Snowfall this time. "That doesn't sound like you."

"Ha. True." His expression morphed back into one of amusement. The concept of guilt had been knocked out of him by his dear old dad, along with a host of other things. Oh, he could still feel emotions, but it was stilted. Emerald called him a sociopath. She might have been right. "In truth, I just think she's super cute when she's angry, and she has the best reactions."

"As long as yours and Adam's burgeoning friendship doesn't get in the way of our goals."

"It won't. Adam was tying up loose ends tonight. Preparing himself for the end if you know what I mean." He kicked his feet up onto the desk in front of him, leaning back into the cushion and sighing heavily.

"That's quite the reaction," Cinder said. "Any reason for it?"

"Dunno. Guess I'm just confused."


"Why do people let themselves get into relationships and shit? Just looks complicated. And rough. I've never seen one actually work out, and sure, my dad wasn't exactly the best example, but it just looks like people get hurt when they open themselves up to others. Doesn't seem worth it."

"Spoken like a true idiot," Emerald sneered.

He offered her the middle finger. The only reason she stuck up for the concept was because she was obsessed with Cinder. That wasn't a secret to anyone in the room. Neo was the same with Roman, even if he wasn't sure how far that went, or in what way. Either way, Emerald would be crushed if Cinder died and Neo would go psycho if Roman did.

What was the point? You got hurt either way.

"I suppose there is no good answer," Cinder said, stroking her dog's fur. "Perhaps it is base human instinct, maybe it's weakness that causes people to seek comfort in others. I am not the best person to answer that question."

"Yeah, I guess not."

He closed his eyes. The slap hadn't even hurt; how could it when it was less painful than what Ruby would have done in Miss Goodwitch's class. The only reason it left a mark was because he'd purposefully lowered his aura to let it.

He fully intended to parade it in front of her team tomorrow and watch her squirm. The teasing from her stacked sister would be glorious, though it was always Ruby's reactions he wanted most. That was worth any tingling on his cheek.

Heh. Always knew I was messed up. At least Adam managed to sort something out in this shitty life of ours.

Good for him.

A chapter quite without Jaune.

Whenever I write Mercury Black, I always end up writing it as Blake, and for some reason I often write Mercury as Neptune. Obviously, there's both the planetary and deific connections there, but it's weird to keep seeing Neptune Blake appearing in my chapters.

Quick reminder that next chapter will be in three weeks.

Next Chapter: 27th August

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur