The soft, nearly inaudible words at her back almost did her in right there. An invisible grip tightened around her throat, tears prickling at her eyes and distorting her vision. "Yeah," she replied, her own words barely slipping through. A blink cleared her vision and a forceful inhale relieved the pressure at her neck so that she could finish with, "Me too."
Yang felt a familiar vibration in the air; a distortion that existed for a moment and then it was gone. She slowly spun around, looking back, and saw nothing but a black feather lazily drifting down before it came to a rest upon the stone bridge. Her gaze trailed up, making sure…
She was gone, leaving Yang alone. Again.
The young Huntress faced forward, her features expressing nothing as she gathered and forced down the emotions that had attempted to bubble so violently to the surface. Bury them as she had done countless times before. She focused on the doorway that laid open before her and the desert that was beyond it, stretching endlessly past this new horizon.
Questions came and went at this strange phenomenon of how a doorway located deep underground in a dark cavern that was nonetheless decorated with illuminating life could lead to such a barren wasteland. The strangeness of the desert itself she noticed. It was hazy to her view as if distorted by a great heat but, even standing right in front of the portal, she couldn't feel anything that should be so oppressive. Stone particles from the three cracked platforms that lined themselves in front of her – big to small, oddly similar to the three glowing platforms that extended across the stone bridge right behind her -, hovered in the air with a curving line at each gravitating towards…something in the blank sky that Yang couldn't see.
They were curiosities but Yang was immune to them. All she cared about was what was atop the smallest platform: a makeshift podium of rock, and floating a hand above that was what had to be the Relic that everyone had been fighting so madly for.
She just wanted this over with. It was the thought that pushed her through the doorway and make the first mark on the landscape with her boot – a disturbance that hadn't been made by a mortal in who knew how long. When her foot left the ground, leaving a print behind, the sand that was kicked up froze and hovered eerily in the air while her form began to similarly shimmer with a heat that she could see but not feel. Ignoring yet another oddity of what could be another world for all she knew, Yang kept her attention stuck on the Relic.
For something that she was told to possess such fearsome power, it had a rather deceptive appearance. As she drew closer and could make out the finer details, what awaited her appeared to be nothing more than a lamp that wouldn't seem out of place in Mistral. A turquoise sphere that looked like it was glowing implanted in an ornate design of untouched and gleaming gold.
When Yang reached it and grabbed the handle with her sole hand, she expected at least a sign of some of its fabled world-altering capabilities. Yet, when she lifted it, all she felt was its weight and nothing else.
This is it then? she thought as she stared within the smooth sphere.
This was…a victory?
She stood still, holding the lamp in her outstretched arm, trying to get some sense of worth for all that it took to get here. All she saw was this unassuming object and all she felt was this heavy but overall empty weight.
But it broke through the shield of apathy that she had formed around her. It hit her suddenly and soundly. Memories flashed through her mind in an instant, good and bad. Her early childhood with her family – Ruby, Summer, Taiyang -, Summer's death and funeral, her life that did its best to continue on, finding out about her real mother, the dangerous searches that she would constantly pursue despite her responsibilities to Ruby and her future as a Huntress, her time at Signal, Beacon, the new friends she made, the fun they had together, the Vytal Festival, Beacon's fall, the loss of her arm and friends, her recovery, her travels to Mistral, Raven, Weiss, Ruby, another farewell from her mother…
All for this?
The tears came immediately, forming and spilling down her cheeks too fast for her to even try to stop them. The invisible blow that came from this rush of buried emotions that hit her took her breath away and the gasps she made were a struggle to try and breathe. Her knees buckled and folded beneath her, the strength in her arm – now shaking - failing with the lantern dropping into the sand with her while a muted sensation of pain resonated from where her right arm used to be.
She just knelt there, sobbing, barely keeping herself from falling the rest of the way into the sand despite this crippling weakness. She fought to breathe, fought to stop the tears that already soaked her cheeks and dripped from her chin to wet the sand beneath her. Minutes had to have gone by before she began to regain control, her breathing beginning to return to normal and the flow of tears slowing. For another minute she just stayed where she was.
This was a victory.
And yet all she could do was cry as the second wave hit, her sobbing renewing in this empty, lonely place.
"W-what…?" Blake began, her voice trembling with fear and Gambol Shroud held to defend her against a threat that had been right in front of her. "What was that?"
She wasn't the only one. Everyone had seen it. They were all standing with her, their weapons drawn, and all of them visibly shaken as they looked to each other, fear passing across all their faces.
What opposed them was an empty hall, but that hadn't been the case mere moments ago. They had been fighting against Emerald, Mercury, and another giant of a man with Dust crystals embedded in his arms. They had them backed into a corner, but that was before the room suddenly reddened, a black mist appearing, expanding, and then morphing into a monstrous image of a black-robed woman that towered over them all.
A woman with skin of a deathly pallor like her hair, deep purple veins standing out prominently on arms that twisted and folded with hands that seemed to lack bones. But what had truly frightened Blake was the head that spun sickeningly to them, revealing a neck and face with those same sickly veins, eyes of glowing red irises split with serpent-like pupils that were the midnight black as the sclera they were set in. Her mouth had opened impossibly wide with a screech that nearly shattered both pairs of the faunus's ears. A screech that she could feel in her bones before the horrifying thing swept down like a phantom, reaching for all of them-
And then they were back here again, except there were no signs of the villains that they had been fighting. It was only them and the terror that they were still trying to recover from.
"An illusion," an unfamiliar voice answered. Blake turned, her shaking finally subsiding, and spotted the young boy who had been fighting with them. A poor farmer, she thought, with those trousers and suspenders that had seen some needed patchwork along with the stained white shirt. However, the tone he spoke with – and the cane he was using for support – struck a familiar chord. "But an accurate one." He looked to the gathered members of RWB and JNR with an expression that did not fit his youthful, sun-tanned features. "That…was Salem."
Salem? The name was unknown to her, but a quick glance at Ruby and Weiss showed that they knew it with how their eyes widened, both in recognition…and the fearful realization of just what this Salem was. Blake felt the same thing. Having a name did not make what she just saw any less terrifying.
"It must've been Emerald's doing," Ruby deduced. She suddenly blinked and looked at where their opponents had been. "Wait, they're gone!"
"In a full retreat, I suspect," the farmboy spoke with far too much experience. He sagged further against the familiar cane. Nearby, who Blake knew to be Ruby's uncle Qrow stepped over to him worriedly. "It may not be what we wanted, but I think it's safe to say that the battle is won here."
The young leader scanned the area, taking stock of the damage and, more importantly, how everyone was on the verge of collapsing. Those silver eyes briefly met Blake's and the cat faunus was relieved when she saw a smile sprout on Ruby's face.
"Yeah, I…" Ruby switched over to her partner, Blake catching the brief look that Ruby made to the tear and surrounding bloodstains in Weiss's dress located at her torso before meeting the heiress's eyes, her smile growing. "Yeah, I guess this is a victory."
Weiss smiled in return and, to Blake's mild surprise, she saw Weiss take her partner's hand and slip her fingers through them, a visible squeeze following which was answered by Ruby.
The declaration was enough for the rest. Blake saw Jaune practically fall onto his butt, his sword and shield clattering next to him, the leader visibly drained. It didn't stop him from lifting a thumbs-up to his subordinates which was answered by Nora, the hammer-wielder also sitting down. The only reason she wasn't splayed out on the floor was because she had her back against Ren and vice versa, the partners supporting each other from a complete collapse. Qrow was ushering the farmboy to a corner, directing him to sit.
The sights convinced Blake to finally put her weapon away, sighing in relief. Her cat ears twitched, detecting the footsteps at the entrance to the hall, and it was for her to see her parents rushing to her, Sun trailing behind them. There was no need for words, Blake meeting them and being swept in a group hug, a large but comforting arm from Ghira enfolding around her shoulders while Kali's swung around and tightened around her back. The same feeling that she experienced after the chaos in Menagerie came over her – the near-overwhelming relief of another battle done with everyone alive and safe and her able to bask in this loving embrace.
"The police have rounded up the remaining White Fang members," Kali spoke when they separated. "Haven is safe."
A frown weighed heavily on Ghira. "Unfortunately, it appears that Adam escaped."
That bit of news did accomplish in dampening Blake's spirits, remembering too clearly that it was her who decided to not chase him when she saw him retreat. It had been her call, making it when Sun expressed how badly he wanted to get him. Her initial reaction was to go after to him too, but out of all the combatants that they brought with them, it was only her and Sun that were in a position to pursue and fight him if it came to it. And even with the two of them, Blake wasn't sure that they would've been able to defeat Adam. She of all people knew how strong Adam was and, more worriedly, she knew and saw for herself how unhinged he was becoming. That was not the kind of opponent she wanted to fight.
Maybe I should've chased him anyway, she thought, doubt hanging over her.
"It's okay." Through the destroyed entrance came Illia, the chameleon faunus's skin lightening from a more shadowy complexion as she approached them. It made her grin better visible. "He was the only one to escape tonight. Those in the White Fang that followed him won't support a leader that abandons his people. He won't have their help after this. He'll have no one at all. And the White Fang will be left divided."
Her friend's words helped clear the doubt, Blake soothed by the smile she was able to share with Illia when their gazes met and it prevented her from regretting going after Adam. It was a minor defeat amongst the victories they won. Her family was alive, the faunus of Menagerie driven to stop their brethren and assist humanity, Illia was still her friend, and leaving Adam allowed Blake to make sure her team and other friends were alive and able to experience their own wins.
She would face Adam again, of that she was sure. For now though, he can do the running and Blake would do her best to prepare for him. When he decided to come for her again, she'll be waiting for him.
"We've been fighting amongst ourselves for too long," Ghira interjected, the big chieftain sounding weary which evolved into optimism. "Perhaps it's time for a new brotherhood – a new family for faunus truly working for a better world."
Kali placed a hand on her husband, smirking at catching the spark in his eye. "They'll need a new leader."
The passion Blake saw building fell, her father grumbling in exasperation when he looked down at Kali, but she still spotted that same, familiar spark that her mother saw regardless.
Meanwhile, Sun was looking past the Belladonnas, a grin reaching ear-to-ear when he saw Ruby and the rest. He waved, catching their attention, and was jogging over to meet them before he stopped and his tail suddenly snapped back, looping partially around Blake's waist and tugging her over.
Blake had squeaked at the sudden pull, instinctively glaring at Sun who waved her towards her teammates and Beacon classmates. "You've got some catching up to do!"
Her annoyance died when she stared ahead, once again staring at her friends. There were no battles or other worries this time though, leaving Blake vulnerable to the uncertainty gnawing at the pit of her stomach. She remembered the smile Ruby gave her and as she caught her leader's eye again, she nonetheless felt scared.
She left them, and there wasn't a day that went by where she questioned if they would forgive her, and many more of which she was certain they wouldn't. And not in her wildest dreams did she think she would meet up with them again like this with all of them in Mistral. Even as she saw Ruby smiling at her again and Weiss raising a weary arm, beckoning her over, Blake was still afraid. Most of all though, she was afraid to speak to her partner again as she was sure that Yang had to harbor bitterness for her-
That was when Blake finally noticed. Where was Yang? She did see her, their eyes meeting when she had checked to see what was going on earlier before Ruby had ordered her to-
A rumbling attracted everyone's attention to the rear of the hall, an elevator ascending behind them.
The Relic hung at Yang's side during the entire elevator ride up, her grip loose enough that it wouldn't have been surprising if the handle slipped out and the lantern fell. She didn't think she would bother picking it up again. She held onto it though and she barely noticed when the elevator came to a stop, the platform returning to its original position at the top of the hall's staircase.
Though a numbness had descended firmly on her by the time she left the desert with the Relic, Yang had enough in her to look and see for herself that everything had gone well in her absence. She experienced relief, but it was brief and snuffed out once she confirmed there was nothing for her to worry about.
Ruby's voice, close but sounding strangely distant, drew Yang down to see her sister smiling up at her from below. Yang cracked a smile, but felt the barest hint of emotion behind it. It and the slight nod she gave to Ruby was to show that she registered her.
She couldn't remember consciously doing it, but before she knew it she was going down the flight of stairs. Each step felt heavy, each landing jostling the lantern she held just enough to once again risk her letting go and letting it roll down without her, and she wasn't sure she was walking that straight either. She got to the bottom though, and the one to meet her was none other than Qrow. She didn't look at his face, her eyes low, but she recognized his clothes. She mustered up what effort she could to hold the lantern ahead of her enough to show that she expected Qrow to take it.
There was silence though, Qrow's hand hesitating until it slowly came up and gently took possession of the lantern. Yang's arm fell back to her side, fingers slack.
Another couple seconds, and then came Qrow's soft, "What happened?"
Yang shrugged, and she was beset by that ghostly sensation of being able to feel the pained reminder of her missing right arm when she moved both shoulders. That suffocating ball rose up from within her chest, coming close to her throat, but it dropped back down. "I don't know. When I got down there Cinder was gone, and Vernal was dead."
She refused to look up at her uncle, still locked on his feet.
"…And Raven?" Qrow asked after another round of hesitation, his voice remaining gentle.
Sudden but soft the breath came, almost hiding how it shook, and Yang felt the warming pinpricks of yet more tears gathering. She held that breath and then calmly let it out. "Gone," she all but whispered.
Another round of silence, Yang unable to see Qrow's expression but able to witness how the fingers of his free hand twitched, raised, stopped, lowered, and then came up the rest of the way to clasp her shoulder. "Well…we're all still glad you're here, firecracker."
It was meant to be comforting but Yang felt the slight sag in her shoulder, the weight of her uncle's hand as unnaturally heavy as the rest of her was. She waited for him to let go and drop it but it remained, and Qrow wasn't making a sign of stepping aside.
"Vernal…" she eventually said, thinking that she had to say something to satisfy him and get him to move.
There was a moment of digestion. "We'll take care of her," Qrow assured. A pause, then there was a light but oddly heavy squeeze at her shoulder before his hand finally fell away. His feet slid to the side, out of her path. "Just…take care of yourself, okay?"
Yang made the slightest of nods and walked past him.
It wasn't just Qrow. Every single person in the room knew something was wrong as soon as Yang came down.
Ruby's call practically confirmed it. Even so far back, Blake saw it. Yang's head drifted, catching sight of Ruby, the weak nod, and then that slow, unsteady descent down the stairs and to her exchange with Qrow.
Blake's cat ears perked up as the two spoke, catching names. Cinder. Vernal.
It startled Blake, the faunus flashing back to those better days in Beacon. When Yang had cornered her and revealed to her the existence of a mother kept secret from her and who she had been trying to find all throughout her life for answers.
Blake had also caught another word, no matter how quiet it was.
The hushed conversation came and went without incident, Qrow stepping aside with obvious reluctance, his touch disappearing from his niece who resumed that slow walk, but this time with a slight sway that her body was free to make without that lantern weighing her down.
Ruby was the first to attempt to act. She made a move that clearly indicated her want to go to Yang but her legs unexpectedly dropped out from under her. If it wasn't for Weiss being so close, she probably would've went face-first into the floor. As it was, her partner reinforced her handhold with an arm around Ruby's waist, catching and shifting the weight into her and getting both Huntresses to drop to their knees.
"Are you okay?" Weiss asked, concerned.
"I'm…" Ruby started, weakness evident, but she shook her head and looked to Yang. "Yang…!"
"You can't even stand up!" Weiss scolded, pulling Ruby back from reaching out to Yang.
"Yang will be fine." With that, Weiss then looked straight at Blake.
Blake started upon being caught, the Schnee heiress's look surprisingly pointed as it regarded her. Her ponytail shook when she thrust her chin in Yang's direction, the signal clear. Blake followed it, and she became centered on the slow-moving Yang, the usually powerful blonde small and weak with her head down.
But Blake didn't approach, and wasn't doing so for what had to be too long because that was when there came a nudge at the small of her back, the fuzzy feeling letting her know before she looked that it was Sun who was responsible. He was staring at her, unusually serious and, like Weiss, he gestured her to Yang.
Blake's instinct was to look back at her parents and Illia, but found all three to be confused at what was going on, none of them knowing. Blake switched back to Sun, then to Weiss, and found herself under assault by another when she found Ruby, apparently catching on, silently beseeching her with watery silver eyes.
She had no chance. What lingering fears and misgivings at facing Yang again withered against this triple assault, and another glance at her former partner motivated her.
She still cared for them, especially Yang. The circumstances that landed her here with them together again was beyond unexpected, but seeing them here, seeing Yang, and to witness all these miracles that were happening in spite of the horrors that had led to their tragedies at Beacon…she couldn't deny this. She couldn't deny her hopes of one last miracle being performed tonight. Fists clenched at her sides, she pushed herself forward.
Blake didn't know where Yang was going and she was growing to suspect that she didn't know either and was settling with wandering forward until the next path came to her. So it was unexpected to her when Yang did stop. Motionless and downcast, Yang then bent and reached down, picking up something from the ground before she lowered into a seated position on the floor. Blake didn't catch it, not until she was already halfway to her, and when she did see it she had to momentarily halt, her throat thickening.
The stump of Yang's right arm had come to be positioned in front of her. Held in a shaking left hand was her golden prosthetic and she was trying to reattach it to the metal coupling that was at her elbow.
That horrible night came to Blake full force and the scar at her side prickled with the memory of Adam's blade stabbing there, forcing her to cry out and coerce Yang into the rage that had recklessly thrown her at Adam and right into his waiting strike that had severed her arm and sent it flying.
I'm sorry, Blake thought the same words she first spoke when wrapping the tourniquet, Yang's blood and her wound and the rush to flee from Adam making her sick in the stomach, sick in the soul. I'm sorry. It was my fault.
And I'm going to make this right.
Blake was mere feet from Yang when she heard it. She couldn't see Yang's expression, a curtain of yellow curls hiding her face, but she heard the labored breathing, interrupted with heavy gulps. She was still trying to insert her prosthetic, the shaking making it too difficult, and Blake heard a choked noise when the arm slipped from Yang's fingers, dropping to the floor.
She didn't pick it up right away. She remained there, hunched over, taking unsteady breaths, and Blake caught the light that reflected on the droplets that fell and landed on the tiled floor – a couple more on her prosthetic. Finally she tried again, her fingers touching and sliding against the metal, finally getting a proper grip.
Blake knelt down, gently touching the metal hand and the flesh and blood one that held it. "Yang."
Yang went motionless, her hands going still at Blake's touch.
Blake hesitated, then the faunus pushed those curls up from Yang's face.
She was crying, and probably had been long before that. New tears fell through old tracks at her cheeks, her lilac eyes so distressingly red and puffy from prolonged sobbing. They looked up to Blake nonetheless, distant and empty, but a flicker of recognition bravely breaking through.
"Blake?" Yang whispered, her voice incredibly hoarse.
Blake's throat rethickened, the tears at Yang's eyes influencing her own that gathered. She swallowed thickly, trying to clear herself enough so that she could get out what she knew she needed to say before all else. "I'm here, Yang," Blake whispered. "I'm back. I'm so sorry I left you, but I'm here and I want to be back for you for good-"
Yang stared at her with those sorrowful eyes as Blake apologized, saying nothing as tears continued sliding and falling from her face, Blake feeling them landing on her own hands. But then the faunus's apologies became interrupted when Yang let go of her prosthetic, letting it drop, and Blake's words became choked when Yang leaned forward, her head pressing against Blake's middle, her left arm coming around her, gripping onto her coat, and what of her right arm attempting to get what of Blake it could.
It was impulse that had Blake's arms partially encircling Yang when the human leaned into her, and they remained there for the seconds that Blake was shocked into thoughtlessness. Feeling the tight grip around her though, the stump that brushed desperately for her, the shaking body against her own, and the cold tears at her bare skin persuaded her too easily to complete the embrace. She pulled Yang's head against her, her chin resting atop of it as she held her tight.
Yang was openly weeping now, free to do it. Blake's ears heard her muffled sobs, felt them against her skin, and Blake was more than happy to provide what she could, the tears she was letting flow freely down her cheeks but stubbornly keeping her own cries silent. This was for Yang, someone who had so desperately needed this that Blake's heart was breaking with how she should've been here to do this for her sooner.
So engrossed in this duty that she didn't feel a third arm wrap around her until Ruby's head was positioned next to hers, the young leader's cheek touching as she sought to bury her face in her sister's locks. Soon, Weiss fell in position at Blake's other side, doing her best to take all three of her teammates into her arms. Blake caught the heiress's eye, saw her own icy blues watering, but also caught the beaming smile of a family reunited.
They were all here, together again, with none of them going anywhere else.
That was all that mattered.
Author's Note: Heyo, haven't seen me in a while! I'll make my explanation quick: moved to a new state, changed up my job a little, been spending the many months of my absence just getting settled in and all the paper/moneywork taken care of, and all that jazz. I'm still hovering around the RWBY fandom, still enjoying the show, thought Volume 5 was actually good and, while I wished for more out of certain things, I thought the finale was okay. Not great, but not terrible either. Just okay.
Obviously this fic that I decided to just type up when I couldn't sleep was me wanting to get just a little more out of the Beeeeeesssss and their reunion! And RWBY! Short, 4500k word fic to get out there after quite a long time of not getting anything out. So glad RWBY is back together and all I want out of Volume 6 is RWBY, RWBY, RWBY, RWBY, RWBY, RWBY, RWBY! Give me the antics and other fun times again and adorable moments for my shipping fuel!
Anyway, is this a mark of my return to fic writing? Honestly, can't say. I have been trying to write again since my move but my muse has apparently gone dormant. I'll think up ideas, I'll get started, but in a day or two my motivation vanishes and the ideas are left to die. A little disheartening to say the least. Maybe getting something like this out there will be a little push to get me going again. Maybe it won't. Nonetheless, I am still here and I am still enjoying RWBY! And I hope you guys enjoyed this piece!
Until a possible next time.