Disclaimer: I own nothing of RWBY.
Why? Jaune Arc asked himself that a third time. Why did he agree to Nora Valkyrie giving him a haircut?
Oh. Right, right. Jaune did not.
A victim of circumstance. Just like all unfavorable events, Jaune squirmed fruitlessly in her hold. Nora acted like a thunderstorm. Upon waking up to the blurring brightness of the sunny sky, Nora had forced him onto her bed, wrapped a blanket around his neck with a pair of scissors armed and ready, and muttered; hold still. That guilty grin was not a comforting sight to behold first thing on a Saturday morning, nor was his other teammate's absence. Traitors. Maybe some calm, clear, concise reasoning was all he needed to escape her misguided judgment?
Whelp! That answered that. Options, options. Did he try to run? Flee? Nora plus a sharp object was a recipe for disaster. Safety scissors aside, those things cut hair. They had the power to poke and prod, possibly stab if someone acted angry or clumsy enough. Nora Valkyrie could become all those things and so much more.
"I'm going to make your hair match your itchy beard, so don't move!"
Jaune almost rolled his eyes before she tugged tighter. Okay. So, he neglected to shave. That wasn't his fault! His razor broke, and Ren never used one, sticking to StormFlower's curvature blades as a substitute. Cool factor aside, Team JNPR's leader lacked the backbone to maneuver StormFlower's chiseling blade anywhere near his delicate neck. Factoring in Pyrrha's butting in for studying and training for next week's exams, and things just fell apart. Who had the stomach to say no to the champion when she got extra pushy? Not him. So, a lack of spine and weak stomach made the mission of shaving an impossible one. Stubble inevitably formed. Did that demand a new look that Nora so eloquently put it?
Answering either yes or no probably had no outward effect. Nora already held his head in place with an arm wrapped squarely around his jaw, too busy maneuvering close to his luscious, shampooed locks. Both his teammates were missing in action. Jaune only had himself in this battle between him and a maddening Valkyrie—a struggle he stood zero chance of winning. Her strength, her insanity, her Nora-ness surpassed his Tall, Blond, and Scraggly boyish charm. Resigning himself to his fate, the Arc watched helplessly as snippets of his hair dropped to his lap. Nora cut hair as she fought on the battlefield, moving at a constant, half hazardous pace. Safety scissors snipped without pause. Did she even know how to cut hair or style locks? Ha. Of course, not. Only more of a reason to stop her, yet he did nothing.
Already? Jaune got to his feet when Nora freed him, touching his hair as he blinked slowly through the caressing of his mane. "That was fast. I barely had time to get comfortable."
Fast was using it in the lightest sense of the word. He had sat there, trapped for over a minute, and the Valkyrie finished in record time. Jaune inclined himself to believe she hardly damaged his golden locks, settling on the idea of her pulling his strings, but found that argument moot. His fingers unmistakably felt less volume and mass. Nora ended up snipping a generous amount of hair, and not just a bit, but the lion's share. The only mind-boggling question was how much remained?
How did it look?
Seven sisters prepared him for the worst. False confidence, far surpassing that of the stuff used to sneak into Beacon, pushed him toward the bathroom for the inevitable. Nora tagged along with an arm slung around her back, stretching her grin. Those few feet felt excruciatingly long, and he only realized his blindness when he slammed into the door headfirst.
"Arg! Ow, the pain."
He huffed when Nora giggled, most likely holding her sides from watching her Fearless Leader's antics. Fearless? Exactly. Jaune had to be that to walk around with his eyes closed. That was what made him leader material. If only that lessened the humiliation because her laughter jumped a few octaves. Ha-ha. Ignoring her chuckles of mutiny, Jaune harshly rubbed his forehead and stepped into the bathroom with the sharpest of turns toward the mirror. A reflection, not reflecting of past memories, stared right back at him. He blinked more than once to ingrain the image, and it seared into his brain with his hand drifting awkwardly across his stubbled jaw and freshly trimmed hair.
"Is that—is that me? Do I really look like that?"
Huh? All things considered, once he managed to move beyond the initial shock, Jaune admitted the look wasn't bad. He turned his head for a side profile, checking both corners for all changes. That quick waltz to the bathroom unveiled an entirely different Jaune Arc. The dashing way his locks twirled up, added along the fuzzy stubble, made for a decent upgrade. The bluish charm of his eyes popped out more. Less hair made the running of his hands through it more manageable—more fun. His once longish bangs, a signature style of all things Jaune Arc, did have their nightmarish mornings. None of that even took into consideration how unbearable it got during those rare days of humidity.
Jaune loathed to admit it with Nora standing behind him, but maybe this newish look could work?
The chips were already down regardless. It was far too late to complain. Best to turn this situation into not only a positive reality but a frugal learning experience. Yes, yes. Now, if only Nora would wipe that smug-smug grin from her face. Acts of rebellion were the last thing he cared to praise. Perhaps she knew that? Jaune then rolled his eyes at his reflection. Of course, Nora knew that. She purposely stood in front of the bathroom door, effectively blocking his only escape route, arms playfully hidden behind her back with that shark infested smirk painted like a blemish. Satisfaction; Nora sought that out and nothing more, and she wanted to hear her oh-so Fearless Leader utter the words of defeat with his reflection glaring back.
"Well?" Nora tiptoed with her singsonging every syllable. Her lips stretched, curving more and more as she began poking him stubbornly on the chest. "Admit it. You like it! Admit it!"
"You're dreaming. I don't know what you're talking about." Jaune flashed his bravest glare. Nora never faltered, never stopped poking him, relentless with her assault. "Fine! I like it. You win. Happy now?"
She pulled out her Scroll, saving a recording before snapping a few pictures. "I am now."
No! Drat! Before he managed to open his mouth, Nora zoomed away with a cloud of dust trailing her shadow. He raised a fist, shook it, and then dropped it, alongside his head. Nora was gone! Just like that, most likely off to show Ren and Pyrrha his new hairstyle while adding a mixture of her storytelling skills into the fray. Just great. Fantastic. That demanded a team meeting later. Speaking of his remaining friends, Jaune exited the bathroom and found the empty room a comforting consolation prize for however long that planned to last. A missing wildcard allowed him to focus on the more pressing matters at foot than his newish dew.
Like the upcoming exams.
He preferred not thinking about them. The Arc only wished Oum granted him such a luxury. Dragging his feet, Jaune plopped down onto his unkempt bed, whacking his head solidly on the pillow. Ow. Ignore it, he told himself, ignore it. It did not work. An arm reached underneath the pillow and pulled the History textbook, glaring with the intensity to burn paperback. Bits of the spine bent from the pressure, and he sighed. Rubbing his stubble, Team JNPR's leader banged the hardcover on his head before sitting up. The using your head idiom failed him here. The dreaded book just mocked him. It soured his mood. Why? Why, why, why? Its presence resembled that of a Beowolf.
Jaune tossed the ledger.
Midterms were next week. Sayonara, hopes of passing! Jaune clicked his teeth. Nora's wild haircut was a welcomed distraction, but it only lasted so long. He rubbed his stubble again with the infinite wisdom of a teenager and jumped to his feet. Studying with his team sounded idle to the average onlooker, only it was far from idle. Ren and Nora bounced off one another fine enough. Nope. The issue that dragged his feet was his partner. Pyrrha pushed hard for him to study, too much at times. Nora even nicknamed her Pushy Pyrrha. Which was fine and dandy at first, but her strict regime left little time to relax and allow the overabundance of information to sink. Jaune Arc was not his partner. His brain worked differently. Consuming knowledge was not his strongest suit compared to Pyrrha's depraved sponge of a brain. Mr. Smooth Talker needed breaks in-between, sometimes more than once, but less than three.
When he told Pyrrha that, she had just blinked before pressing a science textbook into his nose.
His spine shivered. Nope, nope. Never again. Grabbing his Scroll just in case of a Nora-level emergency, the Arc promptly decided the back end of the library would suffice for studying, away from prying eyes. Predictable Pyrrha was predictable. The best way to escape her iron grip was to hide in the one place she would not dare to look for him. Irony, thy name was Jaune Arc. So he slammed the door on his way out and never looked back.
Speed walking was his newest habit he just picked up. Jaune preferred not to linger with the eyes of the student body all over him. He absently rubbed his new hairdo. Heads turned. People blinked. The few who recognized the Arc underneath the stubble and style stopped to tilt their heads. Even Cardin dropped his trademark smirk once he noticed it.
Jaune briefly recalled waving awkwardly to his once upon a time bully. In fact, he found himself waving to anyone who stopped and gawked. Soon his arm grew tired as he went from speeding to practically jogging through the academy. People narrowly avoided him. Jaune just laughed. Opposed to what everyone assumed, courtesy of his countless courting attempts of Weiss Schnee, he preferred not to have wandering eyes watching his every move. Too many of those might end up with someone digging up his past. Forge transcripts irked his newly groomed head. Yeah. Those—alongside him—should remain outside the spotlight, but he did take immense delight when Professor Goodwitch stayed speechless just as she was about to yell at him for running in the halls.
Reaching the library, Jaune quietly slinked to the back room, passing the hushed whispers belonging to friend and foe alike. All the hairs on his neck stood up from the unconditionally cold hum of the air conditioner, an oddly new sensation. Tips of his skin stung from the chilling breeze.
"Were my ears always this cold?"
He tried not to think about it, spotting a secluded corner to call his own. Not a soul stood in his way. He breathed, grabbed the history text for Doctor Oobleck's exam, and placed his back toward the wall-sized window with his nerves coming undone. Studying was never his greatest strength. Schoolwork, in general, sucked the life out of him. He rejected that excuse nonetheless, still needing to devour the jargon information if he wished to regurgitate it later for a passing grade.
Just another losing battle in Jaune Arc's impressive Huntsman career, but a far cry compared to studying with Pushy Pyrrha Nikos.
Yang Xiao Long walked the walk.
She waltzed through Beacon's halls with confidence and a full stomach. Lunch was the best part of her day. Breakfast and dinner came in as a close second, just a smidge off, but one happened too early as the other came in too late. Unlike some feeble-minded, hived girls, Yang firmly believed in fighting off extra calories. Diets meant nothing in the face of arm and hammer. Working out demolished anything lousy rabbit food hoped to accomplish in the thriving world of meat. She smirked upon turning a corner, away from the battle arena.
Okay. Sometimes Yang talked the talk, and sometimes she preferred being a slug over burning off calories. Laziness came with a full stomach. Now happened to be one of those times. So what? She playfully scoffed and opted to mimic the beautiful and majestically misunderstood slug. Besides, the training rooms were devoid of life. Empty. Everyone and Weiss' grandma were much too busy cramming for the exams.
What everyone else saw as crunch time, Yang saw as munch time. Opportunity knocked on the door, and Yang Xiao Long came answering with the hopes of dragging her partner around for some random fun and away from the books. Finding Blake-y's hiding corner was the troublesome part. When her partner wanted privacy, she slipped into the darkest corners, and she hid. Mostly from her. Yang hardly cared. She enjoyed the thrill of the chase, somewhat tempted to use a laser pointer to lure her partner out in the open. That feline had only so many hiding places.
Like the library!
Yes. Yang knew her partner like the back of her palm. Sometimes it was too easy, like one, two, three. Snickering with her teeth showing, Yang merrily strolled into the library den and hunted. Checking the nearby computer terminals, scouting the ancient rows of bookcases, ducking between the hopeless students with all the grace of a lioness, Yang did it all, but no Blake. Nadda. Yang thinned her lips after checking the bathrooms. She slammed the door so hard that a few books fell from their shelves, but red eyes dared anyone to make a peep. Onward, Yang pressed with her search leading her to the end of the library. Very few students ever ventured this far, hence why she found only one person lolling about with his face hidden behind the thick textbook. He sat with his back pressed against the window as sunlight shined through.
"Huh?" Yang snorted. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was trying to hide his face."
No one just pressed a textbook to her face like that. She almost dropped it. Almost. That clothing appeared familiar. Curiosity demanded a double-take, and upon moving closer, her canines showed. Oh! Yang recognized that slouching posture from anywhere. Only one noodle she knew owned that hoodie. Heck! Thinking hard about it, Yang only knew of one noodle who wore that outside the privacy of their team's dorm.
Whelp. Not exactly Blake, but prey was prey. Knuckles cracked, feeling that oh-so teasing mood building up, and without her baby sister or partner in sight, Yang curved that smirk and stalked toward the unsuspecting Arc. She might have tiptoed. The closer she ventured, the more she realized how troubled he appeared. Judging by the way he groaned and hit his forehead on the pages, fingers gripped tightly on the spine, head buried deep in the pages, Vomit Boy had no clue to what he was reading. Yang shared the sentiment. History and she hated one another. Useless dates, blah-blah people, and boring quotes were a no-go for her. Give her combat class every day of the week.
She plopped right down across from him, crisscrossed applesauce. Book for brains didn't notice her. Yang rolled her eyes and used her finger to push the book down. "Hello—holy moly! What's this now? New haircut, Vomit Boy? What? Hoping to impress Weiss now?"
Thickening silence filled the appropriate library venue as Jaune glared with all the bite of Ruby's bark. Yang never removed her finger, pressing down. Noodle Boy finally closed the book once he realized that she had zero intention of letting him study. Not with her around. A girl needed to feel special somehow, and Yang noticed that Jaune didn't mind the distraction all that much. He probably feared Pyrrha's fiery smile that made Beowolves run. Yes, she, too, knew of Pushy Pyrrha's studying habits, yet her smirk grew the longer he chose to remain mute. Glaring at her with that newish due added nothing to his grrr factor, but Yang offered him points for trying.
Just another loss for Team JNPR's Fearless Leader.
Jaune's sigh resembled that of whenever her dad caught Ruby red handed with the cookie jar. Knowing he knew his secret was out, Yang delightfully snatched the book and carelessly tossed it over her shoulder, watching him run a hand through his new locks. As a hair lover such as herself, she wanted to run a few fingers through the tangled bush to see the handiwork for herself. When she poked him on the arm, Jaune breathed.
"Ha-ha." Jaune-Jaune droned. "No. Shaving's taken a backseat. You know how tests are coming up and how Pyrrha gets, and I'm out of razors, okay? The need to shave has dropped on my list. And you can thank Nora for the haircut."
Yang made a mental note to shake Nora's hand extra tight later. While she loathed to admit it to his face, Yang knew the haircut did him justice. It looked good. Real classy. Once overly long bangs curled with few sloping up from the natural unkemptness of his hair. Stubble added a sense of maturity that he severely lacked beforehand. Youthful features had their moments but appearing defined helped in the long run. Having his strong jaw helped. Weak jaws suffered in combat and love. All and all, Yang slapped his brand-new appearance with two thumbs up.
Who knew? Yang believed in lucky chances. Maybe Fearless Leader stood a chance with their resident Ice Queen if he managed to play it smooth and drop the whole overconfidence act. Confidence worked when used right, but too much of anything backfired horribly. Of course, said rule applied to everyone but her. Too much of her? Ha! Yang enjoyed the bravo of confidence.
"Hmmm?" Yang droned with her lips thinning, rubbing strands. "Interesting, very weird. I don't think I've ever seen you with short hair or stubble. Not bad. Gotta say, it's hard to see the resemblance between the old you and this one."
"... Is it really that bad?"
Yang snorted, punching his shoulder. "Hold your Grimm, Vomit Boy. I didn't say that. It suits you. It's definitely better than that mop of hair you used to have, now that was bad."
He frowned. "That mop of hair was me. It was my essential Jaune-ness."
She doubly made sure he noticed her eyes rolling. "Trust me on this, Jaune, this is the look you want. Take it from a girl who knows hair. Oh, and keep the stubble. It works with the whole short hair thing."
Gears. That was all Yang saw as those rusted bolts turned in that slow noggin of his. Lightbulbs went off, and she stretched her canine filled smirk. Yes, she cherished her hair. Dumb-dumb might have realized that, alongside the notion of not needing to shave daily. Keeping hair short would be annoying but very doable. She forgave him for his reluctance—not even Ruby trusted her in the looks department, courtesy of her squeezing those cheeks—but he folded at the allusion of possibly winning Weiss over. Throwing away her criticism was foolish befitting a royal jester, a real blemish on what could be a test drive of style. Besides, if he ended up hating it, Jaune could always grow it back.
She sure hoped he understood that as she plucked a lock from his mane.
One sigh later, Yang knew he folded. That overzealous confidence returned. Someone saw stars. He then grinned before glaring at the textbook that she had graciously tossed away, shifting back to easygoing.
"Wanna study together?"
Study? Together? Yang almost bonked him on the head, frowning as he openly widened her smile to persuade her. No, but she bit her tongue. In all honesty, Yang knew she should be hitting the books, and not with her fists. Why did he have to ask? Why study? Why now? Cramming when the sun shined with not a bothersome cloud in the sky went against everything she believed. Then again, after stealing a peek over his shoulder at the discarded history text, she had bombed her last exam. Whiney Weiss acted exactly like Pushy Pyrrha when it came to excellent marks and blah-blah-blah. Blake-y never said a word about it. Only her adorable sister resorted to disappointed looks and the occasional tug-and-switch with Zwei.
Somehow those stung the worst.
Humph! Sighing and weak to Jaune's tongue-tied grin, she ended up bonking him on the head before rubbing her locks in frustration. Yang plopped right down next to him, ordering him to fetch the book while she got comfortable. When she kicked him to hurry up, he only laughed. Fine, fine. An hour or two of studying wouldn't hurt. Mr. Sun still had many hours left for her, so after the mundaneness of hiding her head in the books, she would run out the door. Plus, Yang looked forward to his input due to the dryness of the text.
"Fine, fine, I got nothing better to do, Vomit Boy. So, what are we reading?"
Jaune reclaimed his spot on the floor, bumping shoulders. "The war between Faunus' Rights. We have to know how it started, how it ended, and whatever happened from point A to point B."
"... You really know how to suck the fun out of life, don't ya?"
He pressed the book into her lap. "Hey, this isn't my idea of spending my afternoon. I'd rather be anywhere else than trapped in the library. I much rather be reading these than some old general from who knows when?" Jaune pulled a few comics from underneath his hoodie. "Now, this is true literature."
Literature, huh? Yang swiped the comics from his grasp. "Hello! You got that right, and I'll be taking those for research purposes. But be careful what you call literature. Blake-y will fight you tooth and nail to prove you wrong."
"She can try."
Were those famous last words? Yang didn't know. The history book filled with useless quotes might have the answer. Then he pulled a comic free from her grip, playing the game of matching her smirk with the criminalist of smiles. Xiao Long allowed it. She just basked at the moment and sunk deeply into the pages of vivid imagination. Simple pages, the gentle hum of the air conditioner, a snicker or two, all of it drowned out in the library with the sun on their backs. Distractions melted away into the quiet humdrum of it all, yet peace enabled them to burn through the stack in little time.
Yang chuckled at something Arachnid Dude did, just catching Jaune reaching for the last comic from her corner vision. He watched her in one of those ways that said he didn't know she detected him. Jaune wore one of those sentimental expressions, probably commenting how nice it was to sit around without a care. A tremendous chunk of her understood the sentiment. Ren and Nora probably didn't share in the misunderstood masterpiece that was comics, and having Pyrrha around most likely than not stopped him from finishing his material. Yang saw through it all because her team acted the same way. Sure. Noisy teammates had their moments. While it remained helpful in the long run, every once in a while, between her weaker moments, she craved nothing more than to sit back and throw her worries away.
Thank Oum Yang had one regular friend in the bunch.
She saw it now. A million thoughts ran through that recently clipped head of his, thinking of countless ways of showing appreciation. Ruby showed the same look. Turning a page, she waited as he built up the courage for a simple thank you. Did she expect that? No. Team JNPR's leader never relied on simplicity.
Jaune proved her point by shoving her shoulder just as she reached the climax of her story. Dummy offered one of those harmless grins. "Hey, so, uh, thanks for not heckling about studying. I appreciate it. Anyone else would have grilled me and gotten on my back about it, but not you. Thanks for being so different."
Awww! Mood set, Yang smirked while elbowing back. "Different? Huh? How so, charmer?"
He hummed. "You know, I'm not so good with words. You're just different but in a good way. Not bad! Good. Really, really good!"
"What? That's it? Come on! You can't just quit halfway. I wanna know now. Spill, Arc."
Uh-uh! Her eyebrows rose when he shook his head, sighing exactly like Lie Ren. "I mean, it's obvious, like whenever you fight. You're like some bright star—the main attraction. No one else compares to you on or off the battlefield, not even Pyrrha. She's tough, but your confidence puts you above the rest. What can I say? I'm just glad behind that perfect smile of yours is someone who knows how to relax."
Compliments rarely affected her. Yang developed antibodies to such things years ago, but that awkward kind of mushy still snuck up on her time and again. Jaune acted as her defector. Self-consciousness shielded him whenever he behaved in a romantic sense with klutz antics. When he tried the reverse, the same problem arose. Jaune said things most never dared to speak. Complimenting her smile and burning spirit happened to fit into that category. No one. Not her partner. Not her sister. Not her team or anyone else praised her in such ways. Faceless people focused on looks with the shallowness of puddles. Not Mr. Tall, Blond, and Scraggly. For Jaune Arc, blind headed partner to one Pyrrha Nikos, the Hello Again Girl, to say that to her? She blinked with her grip on the comic wavering. Traitorous blood rushed to her stilled lips. Warmth filled her inner core as her heart fluttered and stomach knotted in mutiny. Heartburn. Right. From the food that she ate. Exactly. Yang played it off to her whatever strengths, mercilessly jabbing him in the ribs as her lips followed her jawline.
"Wow! That was corny! We're just missing some butter and a movie. What happened to Weiss?"
Red rushed to his cheeks with him hiding inside the colorful pages, dodging her tease. "S-Shut up! Just forget I said anything."
Hmmm? Teasing him would be way too easy. Yang mentally counted to ten and reasoned that playing coy with his comics would suffice. She still considered her options as she read the last page. Poke and prod? What about a bone? She tossed those out rarely, and that compliment hit like one hell of a doozy. Better than Pyrrha Nikos? Could she get that printed on a t-shirt? Yang would wear that until the words faded. Choices, options, and so much more in-between, so much so that she spared him the embarrassment by re-reading the first graphic novel he gave her.
Surprise-surprise, reading brain-melting comics improved his mood. Oh, Jaune still pretended what he said never happened. Just look at the oaf averting his gaze! Why she allowed him off the hook irked her somewhat. She had the thickest of troubles placing her finger on why with the reason dancing on the tip of Yang's tongue. Hm? No clue. She just chalked it up to a mutual understanding since having someone to suffer alongside the trauma of studying made the headaches all the easier to tolerate. Common enemies made for the bestest of friendships, and procrastination just had a habit of building a better foundation. In short, Yang had no plans of allowing that comment to slide forever, not while his cheeks blushed that ruby red hue.
"You know..." Yang sang sung after a brief respite. "Next time, try saying those things to Weiss. Drop the guitar and lose the overconfidence act, and you'd have a better chance with Ice Queen."
His jawline set to match his narrowing eyes. That adam's apple of his bobbed as he took his sweet time pondering over what she said. Yang kicked her feet out, easing downward to lean on the glass. For a few minutes, as she read the ads on the back of the comic, Jaune mindlessly flipped through the pages. He looked at none of it. Read zip. Jaune just kept flipping through the pages as those sprockets went into high gear. When that comic finally lowered to his lap, Yang expected eagerness, a declaration of joy for finally finding the silver lining to winning Snow Angel's heart, not a sigh that sounded like it hurt his throat.
"Nope, can't do it. What's done is done. I've already said everything I like about Weiss, and nothing's changed." Jaune shrugged. "I doubt a few more words and a new haircut's going to change that."
"Excuse me? What? You're serious?" Yang snorted. "What about all that mushy stuff you told me? That's prime gold."
He snorted right back. "Yang? Did you forget already? You're different. You stand out way more than she does. It's natural for me to say such things when there are so many positive words to choose from."
She humphed. See! Right there! Say that! "You make it sound like I'm perfect."
"No. You're not perfect. No one's perfect." Jaune laughed, and smiled grand as he lost himself in the artwork. "But if I'm honest, you're probably the closest thing to perfection."
Yang welcomed his distraction. That way, Jaune missed the way her lips thinned so impossibly tight with her fingers bending the stencil pages. The closest thing to perfection? Why did he have to say that? Seriously! Hello, where was this suave and confidence whenever he serenaded the resident Ice Queen? What? Did Jaune have the ability to butter people up by accident? Was he one of those guys? Denser than stone? Harder than steel? Yang even wondered if bonking him on the head accomplished anything.
Great. Fan freaking-tastic! Her heartburn made a damning return.
That numbskull grin of his dimly reminded her of someone else she knew, someone that made the bed lurking monsters disappear. It filled her with a denser sense of warmth. It felt safe. Like one of those blankets so heavy that it weighed at least ten pounds. An impossibly quick flash of another blond's grin zipped past her, instantly replacing that bothersome grin with something just as troublesome. Tch! Yang shook her head to bash away the insane thought before it festered and grew. Nope, not a chance, not today. Yang tossed the comics aside and stood with the fire in her belly burning twice as hot, expunging the mental image like the plague. She refused to waste another second in the library.
"Get up. Studying time is over. Done."
"What studying? We never even opened the book?"
She wisely ignored him and plucked the comic from his hands. "Up, up, up, now, it's my turn to choose what we do."
He tilted his head. Yang crossed her arms, begging him to argue. Useless, she knew he knew. Not like he showed any interest in hitting the books before she swiped his literature. Things hardly changed from their previous status quo. Besides, why waste time with history notes when she promised the whole day to him? This Jaune Arc, the one with the hair and loose tongue, she liked. So, a day out? Why not. It was high time he got to know the real deal Yang Xiao Long, beyond her pun-loving and the walking inferno that everyone else came to know.
Any excuse to escape studying.
He gave in way too quickly. "Sure. Fair is fair. Whatcha, have in mind? We're not going to get detention for it, are we?"
She rolled her eyes with half a mind to tease him with the longest of drawn-out no's, only for her team to emerge from the shadows. Weiss came in with her permanent scowl deeper than the sharp glint she shot at her. Blake showed no emotion. Only Ruby beamed when she spotted her, waving and yelling in a library. Poor Weiss and Blake absorbed the full-frontal judgemental blows of the other inhabitants glaring at them from all corners of the room as her precious sister remained blissfully immune.
"Finally!" Ruby groaned. "We've been looking all over for you. Why haven't you returned any of our messages?"
Messages? She never—had they sent her some? Checking her Scroll, Yang irises shrunk. What the what? A list of previous unread messages flashed on her screen, all mostly coming from Rubes with the few starry exceptions from Blake and Weiss. The vast majority all asked about studying and finding a place to meet up. They spanned between the minutes, dialing closer as Ruby grew more frustrated with her lack of responses. Yang only pouted.
How did she miss these?
Ruby brooded once she noticed her out-of-place quietness. She predictably raised her finger, ready to pry like any childish sister, only to feast and fester on Jaune, who managed his signature dopey smile. Silver eyes lingered a beat too long, back straightening as it was her turn to adopt that out-of-character stillness. Then she flashed over to her before Weiss and Blake managed a word in, elbowing her with all the excitement she got on her birthday with fluttering rose petals covering the out-of-touch carpet.
"Hey, Yang, when did dad get here?"
Hold the Scroll? Yang threw her head up. Her old man was here? Where? "Really? Dad's around? Why didn't you tell me? I didn't know he was stopping by for a visit. Where's he at?"
She looked and looked and looked some more around the library and then out the window. Yang endlessly paraded her sights for him, looking for him in a hundred-mile radius, and Ruby steamed with her boots snapped against the floor before pointing at the dumbstruck other leader.
"Yang! He's right there!"
Team RWBY followed Ruby's line of sight and discovered the somewhat unrecognizable blond dork in her finger's path, except for Yang. She just watched Weiss and Blake size up Jaune as if he was a foreign delicacy, probably beyond the scopes of confusion due to his youthful appearance. Yang immediately called Ruby's bluff. Clearly, the air from all the books finally got to her brain, and Ruby wasn't pointing at Jaune, but someone lurking behind him, yet that proved false when she found no one hiding in any corner. She even checked the ceiling as pops had the muscle to pull off such a daring prank, but she crossed upon discovering nothing in the empty crawlspace.
Yang visibly huffed, using Jaune's shoulder to rest her forearm. "Nope. I can't see him anywhere, Rubes. You sure you saw dad and not just someone who looks like him?"
Team RWBY rarely saw their leader close to a tantrum, fingers tightly bunched and legs locked, but the Aura around Ruby oozed out enough to attract a horde of Grimm. Yang had not the foggiest clue to her sister's quiet shaking, not until she huffed, flash petaled toward Jaune, and poked him stubbornly on the bunny stitched chest as if Yang was the unreasonable one.
"Do you need glasses, Yang? He's standing right here! Right! Here!"
Click-clock. The tick-tocking of the nearby clock landed on the newest hour in that monotone sound. Yang mumbled what while Blake and Weiss kept their mouths shut. Knife cutting tension filled the room to accompany the silence. Then a set of blondes turned to one another, one wobbling their lips as the other snickered. Older sibling telepathy bestowed Jaune the right to spoil Ruby's delusions since Yang held back the mother of all laughs. Jaune himself hardly fared better, holding back a chuckle that he coughed to hide, only to choke and grunt.
"Uh? Rubes?" Jaune grinned, rubbing his neck. "Last time I checked, I'm not your father. Maybe you need to get your eyes checked."
"Hold your Grimm!" Ruby removed her finger and narrowed her eyes, leaning on the toes of her boots. "That's not dad's voice."
Yang clicked her teeth when Ruby zoomed closer and pressed her digit right upon Jaune's nose, squishing skin with her nose scrunching. She hovered over his posture for however long she planned on using him as an armrest. More and more, she diminished the distance, and less and less she saw Tai, but the parallels between them still existed, or Yang belittled herself for believing that Ruby thought such a ridiculous notion. How? Yang saw none of it. Their hair? Sure, they shared the same color, but the hues of blond were worlds different. Jaune had a more sun kissed color compared to her dad's dirty sunseeds blend. Blue eyes, yes, they both had those, but the ones blinking so mutely at Ruby's silvery ones looked nothing like her old man's. That jawline had the same stubble but lacked the sturdiness of a hand-to-hand combatant's, yet her sister remained woefully unconvinced as she pulled his arm out.
A super quick trace along his muscles proved that those weren't dad's beefy forearms. Fibers existed—Yang painfully admitted that—but they lacked the sturdiness, the tattoos, and scars of a seasoned Huntsman's tendons. Least of all, Jaune's skin complexion was a fair bit lighter than their dad's tanner pigmentation. So, with all that treasure trove of evidence, Yang hoped that Ruby saw through the ruse she put over herself before oodles of blackmail material fell into her lap. Yang just loved teasing until her face turned tomato red.
"Rubes, what are you doing?"
Leave it to Jaune to snap her out of her stupor. Yang wished she captured a picture of Ruby balking. "Jaune? Is that you?"
"Who else would it be? Nora?"
"How? What the?" Ruby threw her arms up. "Why do you look like our dad?!"
Judging from the way he flinched, from Ruby's incredulous claim, and the turnabout of her octaves rising, Jaune was allegedly guilty of a crime he committed unintentionally. Yang eagerly watched from the sidelines. So much cheek pulling material just presented itself to her. How was Vomit Boy supposed to know that Ruby was as blind as a bat? Not exactly what she pictured his first thought might be over getting a new haircut. Yang figured Nora holding anything sharp and stabby near her leader's face had more than likely occupied his attention at the time. She never made the connection, so whatever mind-numbing comparison Ruby conjured up got left for debate, except, no, not really because Yang saw no resemblance.
The noodle turned to her after a dreaded moment of silence. "Yang? Do I look like your dad?"
Pfft! Yang's sprockets shifted into full overdrive. What kind of absurd question was that? Sure, she expected clueless Rubes to ask, but hearing it come out of her mouth was another subject entirely. Time to burst her bubble as all amazing older sisters did.
Looking like their dad?
Not a chance.
All that stale milk must be rotting Ruby's brain. Whatever similarities her blind sister saw were a mere fabrication, fragmentation of an overactive imagination. Yang offered a quick look-see just in case, but nothing. Blond hair, blue eyes, and stubble? Nothing out of the ordinary from what she saw. The only thing she cleverly deduced was their height. Both of them were taller than her, a little of that and some of this. Yang didn't mind too terribly, more concerned about Ruby's missing sense of humor and how worlds apart they were between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Ruby gawked. That mouth hung open as if Vale just banned firearms. Denial spewed across the flustered leader's pale skin, accompanied by her trembling in place. She fitted. Her arms spurted. Countless thoughts went through Ruby's head, and Yang knew each one. Was she pulling her leg? Was this a prank? Yang's only regret was she wished those were true. Dragging blondie here for a haircut to trick Ruby sounded just her alley. Nudging the Arc to play along would not be too hard, easy since Jaune was very gullible.
Things quickly fell apart.
Ruby rooted her feet on the spot, turning to her with that adorable pout. Yang flashed her best award-winning smile, only joined by Jaune with his devilish grin. If she found herself competing against him to the point their faces hurt from how hard they broadened their smirks, then it was all worth the skin tugging hassle from how close Mount Rose seemed to erupt. Explosion imminent, cataphoric failure guaranteed, Yang proceeded to reach out and squeeze those flushed cheeks.
It was like she never left home.
Ruby hit her hand away, glaring while rubbing her cheek. "Stop being dumb, Yang! Jaune totally looks like our dad! Look-look! He's even got that same dopey smile!"
Weiss pointedly coughed. "May we see a picture of your father? Proper comparison will erase any discrepancies."
"Here!" Ruby fished out her Scroll and flipped through the series of Zwei related pictures before landing on a snapshot of Taiyang Xiao Long in a pink apron. "See! I'm not crazy! Jaune looks just like him!"
Blake peeked over Weiss' shoulder so three heads could study the pancake flipping man. Yang huffed. She offered Jaune a reassuring face smack before using Ruby's head as a desk. Peeking over the fringe of reddish-black, she saw the photo. Again, Yang Xiao Long saw nothing familiar except for the same dopey smile. Similarities might exist for those who squinted and tilted their head. Maybe. Never for her, the differences were unmistakably clear. Why Ruby mistook Jaune here for their father left a bitter taste in her mouth. Add in some age, some extra beef, and ink in some tattoos, and Yang admitted to the potentiality of siblings. Twins, though?
Not on her life.
Which only bummed her out more when Blake decided she needed her eyes checked, too. "Personally, I wouldn't say he looks exactly like him. Maybe a younger version, but I do see what you mean."
Come again? A younger version. Yang suppressed a heartfelt laugh, and here she thought the naughty kitty had no sense of humor, except Ruby and Weiss neither giggled nor grunted out revulsion. Those dummies actually took her comparison to heart, with Ruby acting as the instigator. She nodded along, Weiss humphed once in approval, and Blake just behaved like Blake. Idiots, all of them. No. No! Just look at Jaune! Major dork alert! Okay, their dad, too, acted like a dork, but Uncle Qrow made everyone around him drop five points on the cool factor.
Troublemaker Ruby just kept nodding. "You might be right, Blake. He does look and act like a younger version of dad. Maybe that's why we found Yang with Jaune? And in the library, no less."
A vein popped.
Yang forced down a smile. One of her brows twitched with her cowlick standing at attention. Acting and looking like a younger version of dad? Now, Ruby was acting silly, and what did her baby sister mean by that? She hung out with Jaune to squash boredom and wait for this blasted heartburn to pass and nothing more. Anything beyond that was utterly untrue and complete fibs created by her clueless sister!
To throw salt into the wound, because Ruby just loved poking the stirring dragon, she Semblanced away, only to return post haste with a stack of books that overlooked over her lithe frame. Her shoulders sagged. The atmosphere in the room just dropped a few degrees. Weiss and Blake shared the same movements, eyeing the tower with obvious disdain.
"Anyway, I love the new haircut Jaune, but we're about to study. So grab a chair and plop your butt down, Yang! It's time to hit the books!"
Yang promptly ignored her. She laughed first. Ruby wanting to study? That had Ice Queen's stench all over it. Uh-uh. If she so much as read another printed word, regardless of material, she was going to rip them in half. Nope. N to the O. She instead pulled toward the library's exit.
"Uh? Yeah! So not gonna happen, Rubes. I already finished my quota of books for the day."
Weiss diligently pointed at the comic gripped between her fingers. "You mean the comic in your hand?"
"Like I said, quota done!"
Ruby dropped the stack with the librarian shushing them from far away. Uh oh. She adopted one of those leader's orders moods. Studying happened to be one of those team activities Ruby forced upon them. She watched her forsake them without so much as a second thought, eyes lingering on her armrest that she dragged out alongside her. Lights clicked in that whacky brain of Rubes'. She followed the contour of their body outline, picking at one or two small details before the slow bending of her lips transpired.
Yang recognized that look. The curving of her eyes. Those rosy dimples. Even the sly way she showed her teeth. That look only bloomed during a blood moon. Ruby Rose saw an opportunity to taunt her, grinning harmlessly in the most guilty of ways, and her hero vendetta stepped aside to play the villain.
"Are you sure that's the only reason? It's not because Jaune looks like dad, is it?"
Whatever witty comeback Yang prepared got immediately shot down by the team's first-class sharpshooter. Yang held her tongue. She was many things with Ruby right now. Proud, displeased, holding back a winning grin, and compelling herself not to wrangle her sister's neck all at once. More of this dad nonsense ticked her off. It was not like that. Jaune just got dragged along for the ride because of reasons.
Ruby cared not, shooting her the filthiest of smirks that Yang never thought she owned.
Yang humphed in a very Weiss-like way. Whatever. She dragged Jaune by the sleeves of his hoodie, pretending Ruby's tittering was the sound of her choking. Refusing to acknowledge her meant nothing. She only sped walked because she could not stand another minute inside the library. Blake-y and Weiss-cream just watched them retreat as Ruby refused her unending giggling. No goodbye, no see ya, Yang and Jaune left.
Weiss crossed her arms the second the two blondes vanished. "Ruby? What was that about?"
Team RWBY's leader ceased her laughter to turn and balance on the soles of her combat boots. "Believe me, Weiss, I love my dorky dad, but Yang takes the cake. If you thought my sister had a terrible sense of humor, you've never met our dad. He's like her personal hero. They're two peas in a pod!"
Weiss paused to peek at the photo of Taiyang with a more solemn glare. "You're joking... this is the same Yang we're talking around, right? Your older sister. The same one that charges into battle headfirst? That Yang?"
"I would never have pegged Yang as the hero type." Blake added. "Your father must be the epitome of cool."
"Cool? My dad?" Ruby burst into another fit, holding her sides. "No, no, no! Trust me, dad's the opposite of cool."
Blake blinked. Weiss shot a second glance at the apron-wearing man. Ruby prolonged her laughter, slowly lessening it as the clock ticked in the background. Blake checked the photo for a second time, seeing the paralleled similarities.
"So he's... Jaune?" Blake reasoned.
All of them restarted their brains at the thought. Same hair? Same stubble? Same clueless smile? Check. Check! Double-check! Were they both the walking epitome of uncool? Triple check. Whoa, freaky. Weiss and Blake both blinked in Ruby's direction, who grew paler. Something got stuck in her throat before she swallowed it back with her body shivering in goosebump-filled nausea.
Ruby most noticeably frowned. "This probably doesn't mean anything, right?"
Blake kept her lips sealed. Weiss offered a useless shrug. Ruby deepened her scowl, turning around as if the retreating blondes were anywhere in sight. Opportunity presented itself for the wayward members of Team RWBY. From the way Yang acted all defensive and denied their evidence-fueled accusations, well, how could anyone expect them to study? History exam? Tests?
Burying their heads in the books could wait.
Team RWBY never muttered another word amongst each other, leaving the treasury with the intent of observing Jaune and Yang interact for the sole purpose of juicy gossip and all the teasing material. Any possibility of studying for their upcoming exams got pushed to the darkest recess of their minds.
Outside the sanctuary of Beacon's fountain, Yang freed Jaune, holding a breath.
The Arc mercifully played mute, just giving her the space needed to collect her thoughts, like pranks, capers for Ruby. She thought buggy. Creepy crawlers. Maybe spiders? Ruby detested the creepy crawlies. Phew. She needed not to worry, not with the day still so very young.
"Yang?" Jaune asked sooner or later, coming up in her blind spot. "Are you alright?"
Blinking, Yang waved away the concern and regarded him with a cheeky smirk. "Nah! I'm good. Just thinking of ways to get Ruby back. Thanks for the help back there."
He returned the smile. "Don't mention it. I'm all for teasing younger sisters. Got seven back home."
She honored him with a brow raise. "Whoa! Seven! And I thought the one was bad enough, can't imagine seven, that's seven times the teasing!"
"Yup! It's a full-time job, but someone's gotta do it." Jaune's grin eventually morphed into a straight line. "Do I really look like your dad?"
Arg. Yang threw her head so far back that she almost fell into the fountain. Eyes closed, mouth thinned, fist locked, Yang promised Ruby a bowl of spiders underneath her pillow. She shot a sideways glare at the waiting Arc with her releasing that breath. Now that Ruby said that, Yang just knew he wouldn't keep bugging her until she gave him a straightforward answer. Stubbornness of that level was admirable. It briefly reminded her—! Nuh-uh! Not going there. Jaune Arc looked nothing like her father, regardless of what one kitty and brat said. She would deny it until her face turned blue and voice hoarse.
Yang fixed her posture to turn to him, unable to stop her mind from filling in the comparison for things she refused to believe. For a moment, just a split-second in the time dilation, that clueless, worrywart expression of his got replaced with something aligned to comfort and a safety blanket. Her face stilled. She swiftly looked away, frowned, and quickly shook her head. Idiot! Shoo! Dumb, dumb Ruby!
Of course, Jaune noticed her ill-fitted turmoil because he grabbed her shoulder. "Yang? What's wrong? Did I say something wrong?"
Yes. No. Yang didn't know. She blew a hair out of her face and bumped his shoulder with an overly saccharine grin. "No, I'm just acting silly. Don't worry about me. If anything, you should worry over Ruby after I get my hands on her."
That put him in a better mood. He grinned crookedly and bumped back. "So? Planning sweet revenge for annoying sisters aside, what's the game plan? It's your turn to pick."
Snatching the distraction like a lifesaver, Yang threw her shoulders up. "Beats me. Wanna hit up Vale and explore?"
Yang very much enjoyed the way he weighed his options as he bounced his head back-and-forth. Either he said no and studied with his team for dull exams, or he muttered yes and left. Consequences and rewards followed either option, but she knew him better than that. Escaping the mundaneness of academy life was its own reward. It also presented him the once in a lifetime opportunity to hang out with Yang Xiao Long, a limited time offer with an approaching expiration date.
Fortunately for casanova, Yang decided for him.
Across the student-filled courtyard, Team RWBY's remaining members poked their heads from the side of the wall just in time to spot Yang dragging Jaune to the Bullheads by the threading of his hoodie. Jaune fruitlessly attempted to balance himself upright as Yang pulled him backward, failing terribly at it with his footing awkward. That eventually turned into her pulling him, a small trail of dirt sliding off the soles of his shoes.
Weiss frowned, recovering from her post lapses of judgment. "Why are we following them? We should be focusing on our studies. Who cares what they're up to?"
Ruby squirmed. "Studying is a team activity. We can't do that without Yang."
"I disagree, Ruby. If anything, Yang's absence will allow us to study more." Blake poked the flawed logic. Then she paused. "However, as her friends, we should make sure she's safe."
A baseless statement.
All of Team RWBY knew Yang was the last person in need of saving, considerably less from the threat of one Jaune Arc. Team JNPR's leader, if anything, needed protection from Yang's roguish influence. She only acted defensively to Ruby's claims as if they held some truth. If that was partially true remained to be seen, but Blake nor Ruby dared to stay away with Weiss only mildly interested.
"Exactly!" Ruby chimed! "What kind of sister would I be if I didn't make sure Yang was okay!"
Weiss never blinked so hard.
Any chance of discussion got all but forfeited. The fire burned too brightly in overly eager eyes. She knew a one-sided argument when she heard one. Any quarrel readied, any point considered, all logical, logically or misinformed, all of it registered in one ear and out the other. Blake only made things worse by fueling the fires. Hitting the books wasn't an option until further notice, not until Ruby satisfied her appetite. So Weiss huffed with her eyes half-drawn, fixing her combat. At the very least of this whole charade, this would prove entertaining. If not? She never shied away from an I told you so once things inevitably blew up in Ruby's face.
She pointed at the distant Bullhead. "Any further delay, and we'll lose sight of them."
Ruby Rose demonstrated strength she never possessed amidst life-or-death combat, physically dragging both Blake and Weiss in her Semblance as if they weighed the combined mass of paper. The pulling of people by the threads of their outfits was presumably a family trait.
The Bullhead landed with an audible thump. Out stepped the two heroes of the story, basking in the glow of the sunny sun-sun sky with open arms. Okay. Only Yang threw her hands out. Jaune pretended the excessive vibrating of his Scroll was nothing more than a malfunction, holding the dreaded device tightly in a near-perfect attempt to turn it off. Anything too early would have his team suspicious. Extremely late could have the battery conking out on him. He needed to time this just—!
"Give me that!" Yang swiped the Scroll and clicked it off, shoving it back into his statue stilled arms. "There! All done! You can thank me later."
Yang left without him, brisking past the docking bay to the waiting Kingdom of Vale. His feet stayed frozen. One glance at the off device had him gulping, just stuck on the endless possibilities of Pyrrha panicking, Nora numbing, and Ren reflecting. Fretting about it now accomplished nothing, Jaune woefully reasoned, pocketing away the Scroll. Once he caught up to her, he matched her snipper snapper pace to ask as colorless as possible.
"So? Where to first?"
The circumference of her teeth stretched, and she shielded her eyes from the sun with the use of her palm, noting various shops on the horizon. Nimble feet hardly stayed on the pavement. Jaune threw his eyes in a loop from the way she lunged on a lamppost to extend her view. From the way she hummed, Jaune figured Yang hadn't the foggiest clue. As Nora once eloquently so put it, that was half the fun. She leaned further out for a better look. Jaune noticed that Yang spent a fair share of time eyeing the auto parts garbage, but what began as excitement quickly morphed into a frivolous nope. She pouted her cheeks in a way that just told Jaune she didn't know she was doing it intentionally.
Yang said no and spun in a different direction.
He followed her sights. Confidently false eyes scanned the nearby buildings, landing upon the same theater complex that had her bending both feet on the metal pool. She pointed with a toothy smirk.
"Let's see what's playing."
Movies? Jaune failed to recall the last time he saw a flick. He refrained from arguing for two reasons solely. Since exams fluttered around the corner, there would be a vacancy of seats, and Yang hated anything not action-based. Legroom? Action? Violence? She had him at let's.
"Sure, anything to escape this sun."
"What?" Yang flipped down, pushing his chest. "Can't stand the heat?"
"Yang... I'm wearing a hoodie, and it's like ninety-degree out."
She showed no mercy. "Boo-hoo. That's your fault. What kind of idiot wears a sweater in this weather, anyway?"
"Hey! I thought it made me look..." Jaune looked away, voice clipped. "Cool."
Her body contorted into a frenzy of reactions. Jaune bore witness to them all. First, she stiffened. Then she blinked. Froze. Bit her lip very hard, holding back the emerging grin from the depth of her ruthless soul. His only reaction to her nonsense was to hide by looking away, but Yang denied him such a luxury.
"Cool? Cool! Who even uses that word anymore?" Yang rhetorically asked with wobbling lips. "That word is so uncool! The only person I even know who uses that word is—?!"
Everything stopped. It just stopped. Yang went from one-hundred to zero in the blink of an eye, scratching at her hair just as fast. He had no idea how to react when she pulled her hair, bumping her head as if to punish her brain. She acted just like that time Jaune told Nora that pancakes weren't healthy. Straight up denial. Doing nothing was his best option. Yang made no effort to ask for help as she shook her head. When she shuffled her cheeks to expel whatever unpleasant thoughts had wormed their way into her imagination, Jaune only blinked when she stared at him for what felt like forever.
Then she found herself and remembered to hold her sides and laugh at the word cool.
Whatever inner turmoil she faced apparently paled in comparison to his saying of the word cool. He crossed his arms, twitching an eyebrow and groaning when she leaned on the post. Fine! He got it! People who tried to act cool rarely ever were. Case in point, Jaune Arc would never be cool.
At least he had his sense of humor.
Yang wholeheartedly agreed on that as the point-of-view switched over to her. She enjoyed a sincere laugh over any cool qualities any day. She preferred someone who made her chuckle. Much better than someone so full of themselves that their over-bloated ego ruined the fun.
What tanked was the ego blowing damage snickering at someone's proclamation caused. Yang's partner for the day just sulked and moved past her, reminded her of someone else who got defensive regularly and grumbled. Darn it! Another quick shake of the head later, and Yang berated her traitorous thoughts, promising agonizing revenge on Rubes later. Not like she knew of anyone who wore weird clothing to appear hip. Nope. No one came to mind.
"Let's just get out of the sun already. My skin's burning."
She saluted. "Whatever you say, Fearless Leader."
She tagged close to his shoulder, eye curving every time he sulked. A foolish Jaune was fun, but a scowling one had its merits. Various unfinished stalls surrounded them for the upcoming Vytal Tournament, and briefly, as she inhaled the aroma, she contemplated asking if he wanted to tag along for a day of exploring, after they won the tournament, of course. It seemed so far away, but time moved whimsically for a reason. Fickle, fickle, they reached the ticket stand with a gothic teen behind the counter. Straight black hair with a thousand-yard stare, one with the inner ability to rattle a Grimm's bones, eyed them. She scoped out the list of movies, finding only one worth watching.
Jaune-Jaune must have read his mind because he pushed his lien down and dipped his head toward the movie title. "Give me one ticket for—!"
"I mean two." Jaune paused and turned around. She played with her hair, saying nothing while offering him that innocent look that Ruby used on the weaker willed. "Wait? I'm paying for you?"
He gawked at her clever wordplay. "Hold up! Why do I have to pay for your ticket? Going to the movies was your idea. As a matter of fact, you should be paying for my ticket for dragging me along."
She didn't miss a beat. "Because you're supposed to be a gentleman, or was I wrong about the unbendable Arc honor?"
A minute passed. Yang threw down a challenge on the one thing he held above all else; that Arc pride. She smirked when he glared. When his sharpened, hers broadened. A breeze passed, one that tickled his ears, and then he dropped his head in defeat, pushing more lien toward the gothic ticket holder.
"Two tickets to Grimm Terminator Three, Extra-Extra Annihilation."
The goth felt no pity for the chained man watching a movie with a boisterous female. He offered them their tickets, said nothing along the lines of thank you, and waited for the next soulless bunch. A minute later, three more girls appeared, a color wheel of outfits. The shortest of the bunch slapped down a steel credit card that read Weiss Schnee on the front, eyes positively drooling with extraordinary animation.
"Three tickets to Grimm Terminator Three, Extra-Extra Annihilation! Please!"
He never showed a speck of emotion, handling the card while briefly wondering why the white-haired female fumed at the crimsonette and ushered the tickets out. Things went according to the guidebook, but before handing them over to the greedy girl's hands, he gouged her over-enthusiasm. Someone acted too excited for a movie such as this, especially for its targeted audience.
He pulled the tickets back before she managed to grab them, glaring so impassively that the black-haired one took notes on his technique. "This film is rated R, as in you got to be seventeen years old or older to watch this movie. I am going to need to see some ID from you."
The one named Weiss, who he suspected owned the credit card, coughed. "Ruby."
Ruby laughed it off, not cracking her cookie-cutter grin in the slightest. Impressive, sadly, the building sweat told so many lies. "Pssh! I can't remember the last time someone asked me for that. It makes me feel so young."
She feigned a cough and slowly searched her outfit, conveniently finding nothing. "Uh... I lost it?"
"How unfortunate. No seventeen, no ID, no movie."
She stomped her foot and gripped the marble counter in anger. "What?! That's stupid! I'm old enough to watch this movie."
He nonchalantly glared. "Judging by your outburst, I can safely assume that you are not."
Ruby squirmed in place and desperately kneeled on the ticket booth. "I'm good for it!"
"That would be an ill-placed judgment call to make. I do not know you. Therefore, I cannot accept your word. It holds no merit. Not to mention, your argument is pointless. You are meritless."
Ruby sulked, pretended to throw in the towel, and, in a last ditch effort, reached out to swipe the tickets from his hand, but he anticipated such a ploy from the start for someone her age. She ended up clawing fiercely at the bulletproof divider between their torso, snarling with him remaining undeterred.
Weiss hmphed and shooed her away.
"Ruby, refrain yourself. There's no reason to act like uncivilized children. I'm sure we can find a solution that fits everyone's needs. So..." Weiss glared at the name tag and did a double-take. "James the Goth, I'm positive we can reach some sort of understanding."
Weiss Schnee practiced the art of negotiation since infancy. Years of talent flowed through her business-like veins. Convincing one ticket cashier with the only black vest throughout the entire theater complex could not be that challenging. Right?
"Thank you. Come again."
Jaune grumbled the worst-best response a teenager with limited funds mustered. He dropped his lien on the counter, grabbed his jumbo popcorn, carried his overly enormous sodas, and bid the sweets vendor a farewell. Dodging the bumbling preteens tattered his nerves, but he managed while locating the perfect seats, grumbling as he sat down, crossing his arms and resting his feet on the vacant chair in front of him. Greedy fingers then snatched the food from his arms, kicking her legs out, too.
"Those prices were criminal. I could've bought all this for less than a fourth for what they cost outside."
"I know, huh? Good thing I didn't pay for it like some chumps." Yang remarked with a mouthful of popcorn. When she tasted the kernel delight, she immediately spat it out and stubbornly pish posh poked him in the shoulder. "Whoa, whoa, you forgot the butter. How's a girl supposed to enjoy popcorn without any butter? Whoever heard of popcorn without any butter, that's the real crime. Go get some."
"You're a slave driver."
"It's funny. I see your mouth moving, but not your legs."
Jaune turned into a statue with his skin's complexion turning into that of stone. Yang never missed a beat, idly flicking popcorn at his nose. She feigned innocence, smirking so horizontally that all her teeth showed. Another popped kernel flew between his eyes, butting his nose as she shook the box of butter-less popcorn.
"Oops, my finger slipped."
That sculpture eventually came to life with his fingers swiping the container, running a hand through her newest hair as he blew the first of many breaths. Neither noticed two familiar tufts of hair peeking from a few rows above them, hiding with an array of snacks used as gradually depleting camouflage.
Blake poked out between her fortress of gummy fish, swallowing the first of many treats that only her subspecies appreciated. "I cannot believe Jaune didn't see us. Your hair sticks out."
Weiss grumbled behind her extra-large popcorn with her side ponytail popping out the corner and ruining the facade as cover. An annoyed scrunching of her nose showed her displeasure, a marginal error that had nothing relating to the price of her snacks. She unladylike dipped her chin into the buttery morsels, chewing and talking because butter made everything ten times better.
"I still cannot fathom how that cashier beat me."
Blake only sipped a soda. "He did make some solid points. Ruby's already a loose cannon. She jumps headfirst into danger without considering the consequences. Indulging that behavior will only end up making our leader do it more often. This movie wouldn't be good for her. She does not need this type of stimulation."
Weiss chewed beef jerky. "I understand that. Believe me. I do. But what I don't get is why he wouldn't accept my generous donation."
"You mean bribe?"
Blake-y frowned. "If we can't follow the rules society's structured to maintain order, then we're practically begging for the Grimm to devour us. He was just making sure we didn't stray from our path, which is why we didn't let Ruby sneak into this movie."
Weiss humphed. Hard points to argue against, more so when Blake backed them up. "Do you think Ruby's okay in the other movie?"
"I'm sure Nigel Planter and the Sleeveless Sweater is fine."
A grumpy Rose fumed with her arms criss-crossed and legs stomped rigidly on the snack covered floor as the fifth installment of the Nigel Planter series rolled into the opening scene.
"Oh no, Nigel! Your sweater's sleeves have been torn asunder! Gee golly, tomfoolery, golly gee willikers! Do you suppose Lord Moldybutt had some hand in it?"
"I don't know, Lawn! Bloody hell, only one way to find out. Come on, Ivy!"
Ruby humped in her seat with her eyes thinned into razor slits. Of all things for the theater to show, and it had to be Nigel Planter. She should be watching Grimm Terminator Three, Extra-Extra Annihilation! Not this! Not this franchise! Nigel Planter was overrated. Overwritten! Boring! B-O-R-I-N-G! All of the above and so much more, but no! Her backstabbing teammates decided to support the self-righteous path of mutiny.
Jaune impatiently tapped the butter dispenser in an effort to douse the bag in what he concluded was an avalanche of buttery goodness. Tapping his knuckles against the marble top, he briefly contemplated the series of decisions that led him to his current whereabouts.
"Am I a pushover?"
He fretted over the evidence, like the haircut or studying that never happened, removing the outliers. Nora had no off switch. Things happened regardless of his involvement, but Yang acted like Pyrrha when it came to being pushy, an unintentional discovery. He plagued over that as he walked into the screening and the lobby. What irked him was his acceptance of the matter. Why didn't he mind when Yang bossed him around? Sure. He resisted somewhat, threw a fit, but ultimately gave in without so much as a fight. What if he had a thing for bossy girls? Look at Weiss with her controlling temper, in-your-face attitude, and humping. At least he knew her better now. Team RWBY's involvement helped curb some of that, still somewhat a smudge cruel, but better. Putting all that aside, perhaps he had more of a thing for assertive girls, not demanding. That line of thinking just led to more questions.
Running a hand through his shortened hair, Jaune rubbed his stubble. "Only one way to find out."
Attention returned to the film with a point-of-view switcharoo taking place.
Yang chuckled at the series of previews for the newest films. She spotted that bristled mop of hair from below, mouth-watering from the extra buttery popcorn he carried. Parsimonious hands snatched the bag before he so much as sat down, throwing away modesty in favor of worshipping the buttery gods. Slivers of kernel crumbs dripped down her cheeks, and with her cheeks stuffed, she blinked, looked to her right, and wondered why he stared at her so hard with the funniest of head dips. Swallowing the mouthful, Yang hugged the bag away from him, tossing one in the air to catch it with her tongue in an impressive display of useless skill. Arc just shook his head, maybe wondering where it all went like Nora and her black hole of a stomach.
Whatever gear grinding malfunction he had going on up there got cut short with the film rolling. Vomit Boy then settled into his seat and watched the blockbuster flick of the month. Yang said nothing, kicked her feet out and munched away as she offhandedly threw a popcorn kernel every once in a while at his cheek. Occasionally he caught them and openly grinned in that way that said I win. Halfway through the film, all of that salty food finally beat her throat, and she absently sipped some of her beverage, upchucking from the syrup-less flavor her soda lacked. A shudder edged her spine with the cowlick on her face shaking. She peeked around, grabbing for his drink, only for him to grasp her hand since he was parched, too.
Their separate, shocking jerk only lasted a brief respite, and Yang wouldn't risk it to fester. "Gimme some of yours. Mine's bad."
Jaune set his jaw. He grabbed her drink—slurp—and managed to keep a straight face until he didn't. Yang grinned in that see, I told you so way. It tasted like vitamin water mixed with a low sugar count beverage. She never suspected he would replace it, not with the movie's villain making his grand speech, so he allowed her to grab his drink and effectively say that they would share without uttering a syllable. Some of the lines on Jaune's face shuddered when he slurped a second helping of hers as if to see if he could stomach the flavor.
Whatever. Xiao Long happily accepted the situation, overlooking the sideways stare he gave her with the straw plucked between her lips. Sharing sodas wasn't anything out-of-this-world. Who cared about germs. More than once, she shared them with Ruby and her old—!
Yang slammed her drink into the cupholder, barely holding back her strength from exploding the cup. She attempted to focus solely on the movie, wishing, praying even, that nothing came from it, yet Yang heard the voice in her head now. Indirect kiss! Why it sounded like Ruby, she loathed whatever reason her poisoned brain dared to come with and promised her sister a knuckle sandwich. Focus. Everything the movie had to offer, she absorbed it and hoped that Jaune got the hint to look away from her minute meltdown. When his attention skewed over, she ever so slowly untensed her shoulders and allowed the action to numb her thoughts. For the time being, she flew on autopilot.
Her crushing victory only lasted so long. Autopilot worked wonders, but it did not take into account her surroundings.
The brushing of their fingers within the popcorn bag jolted Yang upright from the ends of her toes to the tip of her hair. All of that had been accidental. Clueless here didn't even notice, so dazed by the mindless conflict on the screen that he showed any signs of emotion when he inadvertently sipped some of her sweaty drink. Meaning nothing happened. Nothing might as well happened between the screen and them, and she embraced the ideology to the fullest. Other problems rooted up for her to deal with, like indigestion.
Darn popcorn and fizzy free soda made the heartburn return with a vengeance.
Yang reached for his drink, aching for something overly sugary to quench her troubled stomach, brushing their fingers once again because the Brothers loathed her. They taunted her since he noticed this time around, offering her a Jaune-Jaune smile as if nothing blood rushing just happened. Bastard even took the blame like some gentleman.
"Oops, my finger slipped. Sorry about that, didn't know you were reaching for it." Jaune offered her the drink. "Here. I'll get the refill."
The offered drink without a second thought wasn't anything universally game-changing, but it made an impression on her battlefield crowded mind. Many things granted a shift in perspective, not just the soda. She used it as a jumping point regardless. Everything that happened today affected her in ways she never experienced. Yang pretended it meant nothing, that all of it had no effect.
She never really was good at lying.
From the exact moment she bumped into him, Yang noticed, studied, and partook in a fundamental component of Jaune Arc's character. He acted tough for the sake of acting but had the biggest blindspot when it came to being a softie. Dorkly. She used that word to describe him, sometimes putting the adjective mega in front to emphasize it. Not that she considered that bad, far, far from it.
She—sigh—knew another guy who was the dictionary definition of a dork. Same hairstyle, same laid-back attitude, same smile, Yang knew of such a person who acted uncool for the sake of appearing hip. That same numbskull also brightened up her day without trying, saying, and doing the right things at the best possible times. Not to mention, and Yang admitted this in the worst possible ways, his smile seemed to erase the hair ripping feeling and lingering heartburn each time he directed it in her direction.
The best-worst part was Yang Xiao Long enjoyed hanging out with Jaune Arc.
Make fun of her. Call her insane! All of this, this jumbled mess, all of it was fun. Yang found him more bearable compared to her three teammates. She cherished her team, that was without a doubt, but their faults spoke louder than their actions at insufferable times. Ruby's Ruby-ness had its ups and downs. Blake-y's monotone personality sucked the life out of things when she plainly did not have the patience and energy to make up for the death of fun. Weiss was a prude on her worst day and a killjoy on her best. How? How was she supposed to kick back and relax under all that? Everyday? All day? Twenty-fours a day, seven days a week?
Yang said no to that.
When they beat down some villainous scum or saved the day, sure, it felt good, but outside that limited time window, well, Yang envied Pyrrha.
Jaune, however, indulged her whimsical schemes, following her through thick and thin because he preferred it. Partially she blamed his idiotic tendencies. Yang had trouble figuring him out. What if he only humored her because he lacked that backbone to her devious streak? While no Pushy Pyrrha, Yang yipped. If only some divine entity offered her a sign to prove she was not crazy. Hello? Anything? Any time now.
"You want to sneak into another movie after this?" Jaune whispered, flicking some popcorn to her cheek. "I heard there's this new horror movie out that made some reviewers wet their pants."
Yang paused. Blinking with what spread across her cheeks, Miss Melodramatic saw the sly smirk gradually building alongside his jaw. The meaning behind that rare sight of utmost confidence spoke loudly in the action-filled theater. Weiss or Pyrrha would have put their foot down to such an idea, blabbers on their own right. Not her. Not him. Not them. He and she were different. One of them smashed up a criminal's underground club looking for answers, and the other snuck into a life-and-death academy because he had something to prove.
Yang peeked down at the straw, heard Ruby's voice yell out things, and quietly held a pillow over them as she slurped with Cheshire Cat of smirks.
Her mind wasn't acting dumb at all.
"What do you mean you lost track of them?!" Ruby roared. "You mean I sat through Nigel Planter for nothing? Do you have any idea how dumb that movie is?! Well? Do you!"
The Faunus held her arms out. "Don't look at me. I wasn't the one wanting to wait to see if the director added any final scenes after the credits."
Blake Belladonna's description of the scenario was grossly undermarked by how passionate the action-suspense project touched an icy heart. Weiss Schnee got engrossed with the movie from the beginning until the very end. The Dust Heiress never knew how mindless violence could be so thrilling to watch, filling a void she never knew existed. What lunatic wouldn't wait to check if there was a bonus scene at the end of a masterpiece of a film? She paid for the movie. She purchased the snacks. She even sat away from the middle row. Weiss Schnee deserved to watch every second. No one, not Blake nor Ruby, would deny her.
Weiss made no show to defend herself, arms crossed in that passive defiance she trademarked for herself.
Ruby just sighed. She pinched her nose and sighed. Now, how was she supposed to tease Yang?
"That was scarier than I thought."
Yang wisely kept her mouth shut. Sneak Hug Surprise, a unique title for a movie in the horror genre, ended their day off with a bang since it had a double parter from the murder's vantage point. Watching guts spill out a second time from a different angle had its perks. She enjoyed that very much. Jaune, screaming like a child, stuck through both parts, having gripped her arms involuntarily through the more blood infested scenes. She never brought it up once, saving him the embarrassment, and not because she secretly enjoyed it. For someone who snuck into a Huntsmen academy for Grimm slaying, he freaked out easy.
Oh well, like all good things, they all came to their inevitable end as the duo trudged back to their team's dorm room. Ready to face the music, the conversation back stayed mostly clipped to one-liners. Jaune tried to keep the atmosphere outgoing, but it was painfully awkward with his attempts just making things that much worse. He knew that. So why did he keep trying to uplift their spirits when unneeded?
Chalking it up as nothing more than nervous jitters, Yang filled the void with idle chit-chat reserved for at least one to two worded answers. Things turned better. Some of the grooves returned. Jokes made their comeback two-fold. Only when they reached the hallway did she understand the sudden need to psych himself up.
Yikes! She forgot. When it came to team warnings, Yang had her work cut out for her. She doubted reprimanding of any kind waited for her behind that door. Ruby? Tough love? Those two things never mixed. Blake played bystander anything outside of Faunus' rights. Even Weiss cared not how she spent her free time as long as she kept her marks up and made Team RWBY look excellent on the books. Jaune, though, she offered her best oops shrug. Pyrrha was Pyrrha. Nora acted innocent and overly hyperactive, but she feared that of an overprotective Ursa Major. Ren, too, gave off one of those vibes that wormed into the skin. Plus, he had so many miss calls.
Hehe. Ha. Yup. Whoops. Jaune Arc had hell to pay in the next few minutes.
Knowing his doom was one door away, Yang slapped him squarely on the back. "Whelp! It's been a blast, Vomit Boy, but momma's gotta recharge. See ya."
She bumped her fist against his broad shoulder, stretched her arms over her head, with her spine adjusting to her curves, ready to study without an excess of energy keeping her distracted. Before she grabbed her Scroll, before she kicked her team's door down, before anything happened, Jaune seized her wrist. All of it was so sudden. Yang felt her world spin when she turned around, realizing that he was having the most difficult time meeting her eyes. Funny, but not in the ha-ha way, more in the oh way.
Yang tried to silence the stammering thump-thump-thump in her ears. What if psyching himself up was not for his team?
"Yang? Hey, you know, if you're not busy next week, maybe, after the exams, we could go to the street fair for the Vytal Festival? Just you and me."
Jaune, bless his wayward heart, tried his hardest to act casual about the whole thing, giving his best and most honest smile with his nerves a jumbled mess. It was, without a doubt, the cheesiest and most cliché way to ask any girl out. He probably rehearsed some smooth speech in his head, accidentally blurting out something random when the time came. Little did the Arc know the honest gesture was the equivalence to that of a double rainbow.
No one had ever asked Yang Xiao Long out.
Various factors kept it from happening. Ruby's presence repelled others at times. Her father worked for a professor as Signal. After factoring those examples, the humiliating fact was that no one had ever built up the courage to ask her out. Yang Xiao Long had that unapproachable quality to her. People feared what they failed to understand. Friends kept their distance. Call her old school, but she wanted guys to make the first move. Yang preferred confidence, character, and charisma. How Jaune Arc managed to succeed where others have failed due to his counterfeit courage, stunning quality, and boyish charm failed everything logically, right down to layman's terms.
She only knew of one person with the courage to speak his mind around her without fear of consequences.
They even shared the same dopey smile.
"Only if you promise to win me a stuffed animal."
"Okay, this was funny before, but now it's just weird. Is anyone else freaking out because I'm freaking out?"
Weiss and Blake shared sympathy for their lethargic leader, sitting together with the members of Team JNPR and away from the lovey-dovey couple. Ruby kept twitching in the same eye as she watched Jaune and Yang walk away, hand-and-hand, across the bustling courtyard. The first week had been all fun and games. Ruby managed to tease to her heart's relentless content. Days then turned to weeks until three months passed. Their relationship remained more energetic than ever, and her playfulness soon turned into a queasy sensation that burned her ill-equipped stomach.
No amount of eye bleach or scrubbing of her brain rid the thought of how her fellow leader looked like her father or how Yang preferred his stubble and short hair. His dorkiness just made everything a billion times weirder! Why did he own a bunny hoodie for Monty's sake? Whenever Ruby voiced out her concerns—a commence occurrence the passing days—Yang merely shrugged it off like some cheap pun.
Suffice to say, when this unprepared Rose walked into her sister pressing Team JNPR's Fearless Leader to the wall, lips locked with his arms shoved above his head, her brain just shut down. Hook, line, and sinker was how she described the situation. Ruby used that anecdote when Jaune eventually noticed her presence and awkwardly greeted her with bruised lips, arms much too busy trapped between Yang's selfish digits.
Yang only added fuel to the fire as she chewed on his neck. Unpredictably kept her on her feet. She only separated her slippery assault when Jaune coughed, alerting to Ruby's occupation, but the scene already damaged Ruby's psyche. Yang knew this. She figured why not and pushed Ruby deeper into the bottomless abyss by kicking the door close with a deviously moist smirk. Jaune's friendship status with her only upped the weird factor. Speaking of the noodle, Ruby tugged at her hair.
Jaune Arc, by textbook definition, was a doting boyfriend. Once they managed to move beyond the awkward phase, which Yang helped with plenty of flirting, that time-honored Arc honor revved up past anything Bumblebee ever hoped to accomplish. He did the typical movie gagging things. Jaune brought her flowers, rubbed her shoulders after a workout, combed her hair, took her on dates, and Ruby just sulked from all the overly mushy things they did. Weiss offhandedly commented on jealousy once. Ruby accidentally showed her the pointy end of Crescent Rose. Multiples times. The real surprise, however, the real kicker, was Yang basked in being spoiled. She loved it. L-O-V-E-D I-T. Tough on the outside, but creamy soft on the inside, that was how Yang acted from all the romance. Ruby only learned about that when she stumbled upon Jaune serenading Yang with his guitar, El Diablo. Yang had swooned over the tone-deaf verse.
That song still shivered her spine.
Watching Ruby flop, Nora leaned across the table for her to hear. "Imagine if they had sex. It'd be like your older sister and your old man getting it on."
Gah! Ruby pulled her cape around her ears and banged her head on the wooden table to bash away the plaguing imagery. "Eww! Why would you say that? Now I can't get the picture out of my head! Gross! Bad thoughts! Bad thoughts!"
Nora sharkishly grinned with another mind-numbing quip ready, but Ren grabbed her shoulder and covered her mouth. Anymore joking could potentially cause Ruby to haywire. Her eyebrows still twitched. Nora naturally licked Ren's palm, and he stayed stoic.
"I apologize for Nora."
Ruby huffed and slammed a fist onto the table. "It's fine! Make all the jokes you want because tomorrow everything goes back to normal."
Ren hummed dryly. "Why tomorrow?"
Ruby Rose laughed maniacally.
Arms stretched over tangled sunny burned locks. Yang yawned, bending her spine while pushing away her oversized chicken stuffed animal. Twice her size, taking more than half her bed, Yang slept with the glowing gift every night, a gift from her and Jaune's first date. Who knew Jaune had a knack for skeeball. Those points just kept racking up that day until the shopkeeper shushed them away with her prize in hand. She remembered how fondly overjoyed he threw his hands up when she hugged it. Besides the stuffed animal, something she ordered Zwei to keep his paws off of, Yang snagged one final item for snoozing.
Jaune's prized Pumpkin Pete hoodie hung off her bare shoulders.
Blake-y and Weiss-cream wisely kept their opinions about sleeping with his hoodie in their pie holes, but Ruby played devil's advocate and glared at every opportunity that arose. Since she wore it as a prize, Ruby frowned plenty for one so happy-go-lucky. That tension between them never seemed to thin through the months, so Yang made sure to wear it only in the bedroom.
Cherishing memories aside, Yang watched Ruby wake up with her spirits unusually high. Today was parent-teacher conference day, so Yang supposed Ruby missed Uncle Qrow considering the Scarecrow tagged along for everything Ruby-related. What she did not acknowledge forewarning was the way her sister twiddled her fingers together like some insane scientist. To her, that was Ruby. A costly mistake as the Rose jumped to her feet without any sand lingering in her form.
Yang watched as she was unable to hold back her excitement. As Ruby dashed toward the dresser and got ready in record time, a tornado or rose petals filled the room with Weiss huffing them away from her corner. Then she stopped. A ticking time bomb clocked in the dorm of Team RWBY with their leader sitting at the edge of her bed, fitting in adorable fisted excitement with what Yang only guessed was Uncle Qrow anticipation. Yang reacted as if nothing came from it. Blake and Weiss, on the other hand, shared a silent look that she missed while yawning a second time. So she rubbed her hair, stretched her limbs, ignored her sister's feet shuffling, and sniffed the hoodie to start her morning.
She welcomed Ruby's distracted mind. Knowing her, knowing everything, she suspected Crater Face missed hanging out with her first friend since she occupied ninety-nine percent of Jaune time. Yang knew she wished for some normalcy, something graspable of the past. Some things were simply unavoidable. Hopefully, their family's visit would have her mellow out. Maybe flesh out that nervous tick? Pops had a habit of rising with the sun, not Uncle Qrow, but since the schedule demanded earlier rather than later, Ruby fleshed out her appearance.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
"Yes! Dad and Uncle Qrow are finally here!"
Yang offered a careless glance at the door, much too burdened with drowsiness to care. A bedridden mind failed to register her nightwear. No sense of urgency hit. No panic. No instinct or anything. Nothing went off when Ruby threw the door open, or when she dragged their father and uncle inside without muttering a hello, and not even when dad crushed them all in an awkward hug as Blake and Weiss photographed the event of her smoldering. Those supposed bells and whistles stayed quiet. At least her guard went up when Qrow nudged his flask against her shoulder, and pulled the worn thread with something aligned to a snort.
"Hey, kiddo, where'd you get the getup?" Qrow grunted. "I'm not Yang-expert, but that doesn't seem like something you would be caught dead in, so spill, which bet did you lose?"
"Bet? You know me. I don't lose bets. And it's Jaune's!" Yang swiftly realized her mistake and felt the sudden sets of eyes glued to her back. "I mean... uh? So? How was your trip?"
Ha. Hehe. Oops. Yang felt the atmosphere dimmed to near-zero temperatures. Tai's vibrant smile slowed to a halt. His grin remained ever eternal, only cracking and threatening to split at the drop of a pin. Fists wanted to form, and she thanked the Gods he showed some restraint, but that was a losing battle. She suddenly felt childish when his eyes adopted that vacant stare that frightened the elderly.
"Sunflower? Who's Jaune?"
Uh-oh. Yang blindly refused the request, fascinated with the hoodie's threading that survived countless battles. She fixed her hair, not at all enjoying the third degree. Commonly, she found herself going into overprotective mode when it came to guys, and primarily over Ruby. Reverse? Whoa! The stitching was beyond impressive—was he still—yup, still waiting. Yang held her breath in the hopes he grew bored.
Ruby showed no such qualms. "Her boyfriend."
She mocked innocence. "What? It's true."
Yang's eyes turned that healthy shade of red. Strangling her sister, would Vale's PD call it a crime of passion? She briefly considered it, twitching her fingers alongside her eyebrow, but Tai's deep voice interrupted any sister killing schemes.
"Boyfriend! You have a boyfriend? When did that—why wasn't I aware of this—and why are you wearing his clothes to bed?!" Tai stepped up to his precious daughter? "Well? Explain yourself, young lady."
Qrow and Ruby joined the statutes of Weiss and Blake with their arms stuck to their sides and hairs raised on their necks. For such a dork in fashion, etiquette, and just everything, people forgot how imposing Taiyang Xiao Long was for such a well-built man, and he just found out his precious sunflower had a potential pollinator, possibly a deflowerer. Who blamed them for turning into living statues under such conditions?
Knock! Knock! Knock!
"Yang! It's Jaune! I made you breakfast! Can I come inside? The plate's hot!"
Yang acted as her life depended on it. She opened her mouth to warn Jaune, thwarted when Tai cupped it shut, and silently cued Qrow to open the door. No. No! Uncle Qrow, for once, didn't quip or argue and almost tore the hinges off. His imposing figure blocked the doorway. Yang panicked. She thought of licking her dad's palm. All useless ideas because the Fairytale Huntsman just stood there, stiff like a board, and rubbed his eyes a few times before Qrow peeked over his shoulder to gesture toward the teenager in front of him.
"Well?" Tai demanded. "What's the holdup?"
"Uh?" Qrow moved out of the way and scratched his head. "I got nothing."
Neither did Tai.
Yang blinked at the way her dad and uncle froze as if they saw a doppelgänger. Standing at the other end of the doorway was just Jaune holding a plate of mouth-watering ham and well-made sunnyside eggs. Her favorite. He mirrored her pop's reaction, frozen, at a loss for words before glancing around the room to study the other occupants holding their collective breaths in earnest. Whoops. The Blake was out of the bag. She only prayed he acted his best when the situation called for it because this was a high threat emergency.
His first mistake was foolishly walking into the lion's den. Number two was following her dad's arm to her cupped mouth. "Yang? Who's this?"
Tai regained his footing and hardened with his eyes sharper than daggers. "Her father. Please, come in."
Yang wanted to roll her eyes at the way Jaune realized the trouble he walked into, smiling so thinly that he sweated. He turned around. "Nah. I'm good. I can see you're busy catching up. Family's important. I'll just come back at a better time."
Qrow's hand grabbed his shoulder and pulled him inside. "We insist. Do come in."
He closed the door with a slight kick with his show, towering over the Arc with projecting Aura. Jaune flinched underneath uncaring eyes. "Uh? Hi?"
"Got a name, squirt?"
Yang almost laughed from the way he wiped his hand on his side, offering with the hospitality he learned in a household of seven sisters. "Jaune, Jaune Arc. It's nice to meet you..."
"Qrow Branwen. Yang's uncle."
Tai finally released her and engaged Jaune. "And I'm Taiyang Xiao Long, Yang's father."
He looked to her for some help, but Yang knew whatever she offered was virtually worthless. So, she offered a shrug and a brittle smile for her trapped boyfriend. Mr. Tall, Blond, and Kissable was on their own. So he squared his shoulders, mustered all the confidence in the tiny room, and challenged her father head-on, but she knew better. All of that was a front. Jaune probably wanted nothing more than to sink into the floorboard. Only Ruby seemed un-tense in the room as she waved her finger back-and-forth between, as she was explaining some secret message for her to understand, but for the life of her, Yang failed to comprehend.
What? What was she trying to say?
Jaune? Yang almost snorted. She feared for her man, but not that much. All of it came to how much ground he stood up for himself. Dad was a tremendous softie in disguise. Uncle Qrow was the walking disaster with his Bad Luck Semblance throwing oomph to the fire. What he lacked in personality, he made up for in endless tact. Yang knew that much as they stood between Jaune and his only exit. Still, she worried. Wearing the hoodie did not set a forgiving mood at all. While on the subject of her father, Yang thinned her mouth from the way he studied Jaune.
Taiyang kept getting a closer look at Jaune, checking his fashion sense and facial features. One of his brows rose, alongside his upper lip in that way that he said he approved of someone's style. Then overprotective dad checked the contents of the breakfast in his hands, glaring so much that Yang's Aura reacted. He timidly shook his head at the food to carbs ratio, a sucker for breakfast etiquette. Yang knew her father better than Ruby. Better than Uncle Qrow. He approved on some level of breakfast in bed. She released the lightest sigh when he crossed his arms.
"So? Let's not beat around the bush. It's safe to assume that's your hoodie my daughter's wearing?" Taiyang regarded Jaune's silence as confirmation. "What are your intentions with my daughter?"
He gulped in the behemoth that was her father. He glanced toward her for the right answer. More shoulder shrugging, more sighing, and Jaune met Tai's eyes. "Uh? To date her?"
"You have some nerve." Tai warned and eyed the tray of delectable treats in his hand. He paused, sniffed the food, and shot an agile glance over his shoulder to her before snapping right back at Jaune. "Tell me, what do you like about her?"
Jaune bit his tongue and inhaled deeply. Huh. Yang recognized that expression. That was his note serious face look. He used it once to explain the difference between tomatoes from a fruit and vegetable standpoint, and she remembered thinking of waddling penguins when he got into seeds. So cute. Wait. Drama! Yang focused just in time to watch him hold his head up high.
"Yang... can be a bit boneheaded sometimes, but I like that about her. I know she's beautiful, but what I like the most about her is her eyes. They're so full of emotion and strength. When she smiles, I can feel it. She lights up the entire room."
Yang mentally noted to smother him in kisses after her father pounded him into grade-A meat. Although, from the trained eye, Tai's shoulders eased for the briefest of seconds. Just a hair fracture, but he untensed. That was good. Which meant he agreed that part of her was boneheaded. Yang would not forget such a comment, promising herself to bring it up next time she caught him alone, but that endearing quality worked to his favor. Tai respected that answer. Perfection was fleeting at best and troublesome at worst. Enjoying the quirky faults made relationships last, that much she knew from her father.
Uncle Qrow thought so with that quirky of his brow and slight smirk. He watched with a mixture of annoyance and fascination. Yang desperately wished she could read his mind, but her crazy uncle remained a mystery. When he scratched that stubble of his, Yang just knew digging would result in nothing ventured, nothing gained. Her attention proved better watching Jaune tank Tai's questioning with those impressive reserves of Aura.
Tai's next question was interrupted by the sweet aroma sucker punching his sense of smell. Yang sniffed, too. Her stomach growled for the food, and she wondered if sneaking the plate away from Jaune while her father grilled him would be out-of-the-question? Mmmm. Yang figured no, not after her dad pointed down at the silverware of food.
"What's that in your hands?"
Jaune stilled and then lifted the plate. "B-Breakfast. I-I made it for Yang."
Qrow snorted. "You made that?"
Beacon Academy served many things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It stood as a pinnacle for food, except during the weekends. During those days, students had to fend for themselves. Something, anything, teaching independence, union strike, and responsibility. Yang never understood the logistics of it. So her boyfriend took it upon himself to craft a scrumptious but healthy alternative for his precious flower. Her father's appearance most likely canned any appetite he might have had, but not her. She appreciated his skills in the kitchen and awed at his lack of shame in his culinary skills.
Jaune made this apparent by frowning at her uncle. "Yeah, well, what else is Yang supposed to eat? Breakfast bars? Everyone needs a good breakfast to start the day."
Only Yang noticed her dad's glare vanish. Those drawn emotions screeched with his gears stopping. Now she really wished for the Semblance of mind-reading because as Qrow and Jaune had a staredown, her dad maintained a black stare. What went through that head of his? Yang held her breath at the endless possibilities. She snuck a peek at Jaune's just-because gesture. Oh! He styled some of the bacon to look like a happy face. Her lovable knight knew she loved to act as a Grimm to devour any and all happy faces. Would she comment on the heart-shaped eggs and rolled up sausages? Not while her father studied them as if they held the secrets of the universe.
"You don't only cook, but you decorate the food, too?" Tai finally asked. "Dare I ask why?"
Jaune held the food up for Tai to inspect. "Is it so wrong for a guy to know how to cook? Should he not want to make breakfast for his special girl?"
Everyone held their breath.
Yang secretly swooned. Then she worried. Then she panicked when Tai suddenly wrapped an arm around Jaune's shoulder, only for her, and the rest of the part, going huh when he laughed. He slapped Jaune on the shoulder with that dopey smile.
"No. No, it's not!"
No. Seriously. What? Yang clocked her head to the side, followed by everyone in the room. Taiyang, before Yang or anyone, managed to move a muscle, grabbed the plate, and pushed it into her petrified arms as he led the Arc outside the room with the most fun kick in his step. He laughed. Her dad uproared as if the universe gave him the thumbs up. Virulence, whatever remained from his tone all but dissipated.
"You know what? I like you, Jaune. Walk with me, talk to me. Tell me, what's your opinion on gardening? Do you know how to?"
"I have seven sisters and a mother who thought I wasn't getting enough attention."
"Really? What else? Know how to dance? Every man should know how to."
Their voices grew dimmer the further they traveled down the hallway. Yang huffed, scarfed down her breakfast with the appetite of a predator, and chased them down the hallway with bits of syrup dripping down her chin. No way was she going to allow her dad to steal away her Saturday's plans. A quick grab of a pair of shorts, and she ran after them while still wearing the Pumpkin Pete.
"Hey! Wait up! Hold it!"
Seconds later, Ruby glimpsed down the hallway with her jaw hanging. Any chance of normalcy slipped away with the retreating blondes. Things fell apart. Her plans crumbled. Everything just went whoosh. Ruby never understood it. She only glanced at her team and uncle with her eyes so far-flung that the pupils shrunk.
"What just happened?"
Qrow shook his head. He said not a word, followed the hallway to watch Yang tackle the two idiots in a pile of limbs. All three of them laughed. Ruby followed his gaze, hiding underneath his chin with this miserable sigh that did things to his chest. Any chance of sanity she longed for was for naught. Tai loved Jaune. Yang and Jaune worked like two missing puzzle pieces. All her plans went up in smoke. Where the cookie hell did she go wrong?
Feeling her broken resolve, Qrow hovered over Ruby's shoulder and looked down at his shaking niece, gulping a quick whiff of the good stuff. Alcohol gave him the fake courage needed to point out the burning obvious. "You know something, kiddo, he kind of looks like your old man. It's a little weird."
Qrow smirked. Ruby knew he figured it out, knew he saw through her classic setup and schemes, but it mattered not anymore. Qrow Branwen then offered the only thing he had to donate to her for his condolences.
Ruby tore her vision away from the blondes to the stainless steel flask that her uncle offered. The hand holding it shuffled the container a few times until her eyes ripped themselves away to glance up. The dead eyes shining back refrained from sugar-coating his intentions.
"You know what, don't tell your pops this, but you wanna drink, kiddo, looks like you need one."
Qrow Branwen expected the little cinnamon roll to screech out no. He offered plenty of times. A few times, Tai caught and gave him a verbal lashing that tickled. Other times she used two percent milk as a substitute. He never pictured the scene of her slapping away his decoy flask for the higher quality scotch he kept in his coat pocket. She snatched that one, unscrewed the cap, and drank the alcohol in one fell swoop.
Ruby Rose welcomed the throat burning heartburn.
Author Notes: Rewritten. Considering this is my favorite one-shot I've written for RWBY, I decided to rewrite it and fix the point-of-view issues my early writing had, amongst other things. Private message me for the original.