Feels like it's been a long time since a chapter of this was written. I… ahem… I read the last chapter and had almost forgotten what my plan for this chapter was. Had to sit down and think about it for a while. Dangers of writing so many stories is that they inevitably get muddled up in your head.
The hardest part is that I don't fully remember exactly what I wanted Yang to say to Adam. I know the basics, the plan, but I also know I had something really specific in my head for her to say and now my brain is just sort of shrugging helplessly. Damn it.
Cover Art: JustFun101
Yang was waiting for him in clear view by the CCT tower, but she flicked her head to the side and led him deeper into the trees that made up the gardens of Beacon, away from the beaten path and anyone who might overhear them. He wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not.
Under the shade of the trees, Yang finally came to a stop and stood facing the opposite direction. Adam stayed quiet; she'd been the one to call him here, so she had to have something to say.
"I thought we should talk," Yang said.
"Is that all you have? A grunt?"
"It was meant as acceptance," he said slowly. "I didn't mean anything."
Yang brought a hand up and through her long, golden hair, looking away. "Right, yeah. Look, I figured we should talk about what happened – between us," she added needlessly.
"Why? I thought we'd dealt with that. What happened was a result of alcohol and atmosphere, nothing more." If she was worried otherwise, she needn't be. "It didn't mean anything."
"Is that all it was?"
"Yes." That was what they agreed, so that was all it was meant to be, surely. Adam wouldn't claim to be an expert on such things, but he'd expected a little more relief from his teammate. "Why? Did I do something to imply it was more? I'm sorry if I did-"
"You didn't do anything," she whispered, still looking away. "Nothing at all. It's clear as day it meant nothing to you."
Adam's eye narrowed. Was that the problem? "I know it was your first time," he said slowly. "I'm sorry that it had to be in this way. I should have had better control of myself, both in drink and beyond."
"I don't care about that!"
"Then what is the problem?" he demanded. While he didn't want to be brusque, he had a forsaken mission with Qrow and Winter tonight and that was taking up most of his attention. Winter fricking Schnee. It was doomed to be a disaster. "If you called me here for something then tell me what it's for. I don't have all day."
"What are we?"
"What-? We are teammates. We are friends." Adam picked each word carefully. "We are roommates and fellow students at Beacon, training to become huntsmen and huntresses. What else would we be? What else do you want us to be?"
"Your ex confronted me today."
A pit opened up in his stomach and nearly swallowed him whole. What had Blake told her? How much? Did Yang know about his past in the White Fang? He was suddenly on the backfoot and he didn't like it one bit. "Blake did-?" he asked, for a moment forgetting that she could be lying and tricking him into giving her name.
"Yeah. Real piece of work, she is. She saw us at the pharmacy and instantly put it together. Blake confronted me and knows what we did and believe me when I say she isn't happy."
Irrational anger burned to the fore. "Why is it any of her business?"
"It's not. I said as much. Still, she felt she had to warn me about you. Warn me not to get too involved. I ignored most of it but there is something I have to know." Yang's arms crossed and she finally turned to face him, expression steely. "Did you ever hit her?"
Adam was caught flatfooted. "In training?"
"Outside that. To get what you wanted. Make her do what you want."
"Blake accused me of abusing her!?" he would have roared if it didn't come out a shocked rattle. "I'd never- Yang, I did not once raise my hand against her. I promise you!"
Her shoulders softened a little. "I believe you. To be honest, I didn't believe her when she said it. You don't seem the type."
He still couldn't get over the fact Blake suggested it at all to feel happy about Yang's defence. While he'd been ruthless in training and strict in making her keep up with it, that was only because he cared, and Blake always said she understood that. He could not abide the notion of anyone striking another – man or woman – in order to control them. That was too close to what the SDC had done to him.
Not all abuse was physical however and while he knew he should not take her word as proof, the fact Blake brought it up made him doubt himself. Did I emotionally abuse her? Did I play mind games? He was sure he hadn't. Blake had known full well what she was getting into with him – they'd joined the White Fang together after all! There was no manipulation on his part.
The accusation should have offended and angered him, but it instead left him tired. While he'd accepted that he no longer loved her, a small part of him still held Blake dear. He couldn't prevent that, and he'd clung to the notion that a small part of her might have felt the same way for him. Apparently, that wasn't so.
Abuse, he thought, still shaken to his core. Did I do that? Perhaps without realising? No, I was always… well, apart from making decisions for the White Fang, but I was the chosen leader. She couldn't expect me to defer to her in that. It wouldn't have been fair to everyone else in the White Fang. It would have been favouritism.
"I don't know what abuse she speaks of," he eventually said. "I've never intentionally abused her. I certainly never wanted to. If I've done something she thinks is then I don't know what to say…"
Yang grimaced. "You can't give an easy yes or no on that one?"
He returned her expression. Without knowing what it was he was accused of, he really couldn't say. He wished he could deny it outright and be sure of the fact, but he may have done something unconsciously.
"You don't think you have, though?" she asked.
"No. And if I did, it was never intentional…"
"Guess that'll have to do for now," she whispered. "So, just to check, you're over her, right? It's done? No lingering feelings?"
"Good. I mean, not good, but you know. Best to move on and all. Find someone else." Yang scratched her ear, brushing some hair back and exposing her neck. "I…I guess that's all I wanted to ask. I didn't believe her or anything, but I had to know. F-For Ruby, you know. I have to look out for her."
"Ruby is a little too young for me," he said, snorting.
"Ha. Yeah, I agree. Blake was seventeen, though, so…" She trailed off and didn't pick up again even when Adam prompted her to with an inquisitive hum. "Forget it. You said you were busy, right? Do what you have to do."
Qrow. Winter. Adam sighed. "Yes. I'll talk with you later, Yang. There's actually something I wanted to say to you as well."
"Oh?" Yang perked up visibly, and then just as visibly tried to pretend she hadn't. "I mean, yeah? You can say it now. Unless you want to save it for a better moment, I mean. It's just that we're in private now so if it's about us then the others don't have to hear-"
"It's about the team."
"Oh. Oh right." Yang laughed weakly. "Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, there's nothing actually between us, is there? Nothing but friendship. Best teammates in Beacon."
"Of course." Adam chuckled. "We'll rock the Vytal Festival."
"Yeah. Yeah, we sure will." Yang sighed and turned away again, hair whipping across his chest. "I just forgot I have to do something. I'll see you later, teammate."
Adam watched her go, frowning slightly. Why did he have the feeling he'd said something wrong? Maybe she'd been looking for more answers about Blake and him. Shaking his head, he moved away. There was time to think more on it after the White Fang were dealt with.
Adam wasn't best pleased to find that he'd be travelling into Vale via the hospitality of Atlesian airlines, certainly not with Winter Schnee strapped into the seat opposite him, glaring hatefully at his bandaged face. Two of her soldiers sat on either side of her while the seats by him were bare, making him feel like a prisoner being shipped off to some distant prison complex. He wouldn't have been surprised if she betrayed Ozpin and did just that.
"I have no idea what lies you have fed the headmaster to make him believe you, but they shall not work on me," she warned him. "Rest assured that I will be watching your every move, Taurus. One step out of line and I will personally haul you to a cell to waste away for the remainder of your days."
"This inflight entertainment leaves something to be desired. Are there no tiny bottles of rum?"
"Mock all you like. I am a Specialist of Atlas and am above such things."
"But not above pointless threats," he said, smirking as her body went rigid. "You can't touch me, Schnee, and you know it. Stop wasting both our time and focus on the mission. If you can show the professionalism required, that is."
"My behaviour is not what is in question, terrorist."
"I'll keep that in mind, slaver."
Winter sucked in a sharp breath of air and for a moment looked like she might implode. That moment passed as she released it, closed her eyes and leaned back, apparently done with the conversation. Adam chalked it up as his victory all the same. Baiting a Schnee was never a wasted experience, and now that he felt some small reluctance to do so with Weiss – at least maliciously – he would take whatever chances he could with her sister.
"I will say one thing, Taurus."
"I should be so lucky, Schnee, but go on."
"Harm my sister and I shall repay it tenfold."
Adam snorted. Such a threat wasn't worth responding to, nor was the accusation he would be anything but a good teammate. Weiss is not like you, for all she wishes she could be. Yang may call her ice queen but it's clear she's passionate about her career and her team.
Winter was colder than snow.
The Bullhead landed at a privately owned airstrip in Vale, or privately rented for all Adam knew. They came off with Winter and her cohort in the lead and him strolling behind, and he never thought he'd be pleased to see Qrow Branwen waiting for him.
"Enjoy the trip?" he asked.
"It was frigidly cold but other than that uneventful." Under his breath, he added, "Keep her away from me or things will end poorly."
"I said as much," Qrow whispered back. "Ozpin's hands were tied. It wasn't either of our choices for her lot to come along." Louder, he added, "They're too obvious. Imagine us trying to stake out the White Fang with those three dressed in full white uniform. Talk about standing out."
"Faunus have excellent night vision," one of the soldiers replied. "The colour of our uniforms won't matter."
Idiots. While faunus could see well in the dark it was not perfect, and darker colours were still harder to pick out than stark white contrasting with everything around them. No wonder he and the White Fang had run rings around them for so long.
"What is the plan?" Adam asked Qrow.
"Torchwick is starting his foray at the abandoned factory we found but we're not going to hit there for fear of spooking them into fixing their security. Instead, we're going to ambush them at the docks where the SDC shipment is coming through."
"The SDC is aware of this and has agreed to play bait," Winter said.
"Sure. Why not? By attacking them at the docks we can leave them thinking we just predicted their move," Qrow explained. "Ozpin is hoping that will keep them changing the scrolls or adding in a new cypher. Your thoughts?"
It was good Qrow sought to involve him. "If they are smart, they'll change the cypher anyway and restructure. I would do that after every few missions, success or not. Your enemy does not sleep. That said, it's not a bad plan for now. Have the docks been alerted?"
"Those in charge have but we've kept it quiet. The workers don't know but they also shouldn't be there at night. The police haven't been told but Ozpin is ready to call and explain the very second any action starts. That'll keep them off our backs but not run the risk of any spies in the force finding out until it's too late."
Adam nodded. Ozpin had a clear grasp on things it seemed.
"Our goal is to capture Torchwick," Winter explained. "He is clearly the ringleader of this operation and we want to know more about why he is doing this and what the White Fang intend. Anything else is secondary. Know that I will be reporting on the outcome of this to General Ironwood," she warned him. "As such, any hesitation on your part shall be noted."
"Hey, hey, we're all on the same side here," Qrow interrupted. "Ozpin vouches for him. That's enough for Ironwood and it ought to be enough for you."
"Once a killer always a killer," Winter snapped back.
Rather than Adam, it was Qrow who flinched.
Her nerves were already so on edge that Ruby's plea had her flinching. "What?" she snapped, defensive. "I didn't say anything." It took her a second to notice Ruby looking upset and deflate. "Sorry, what is it? Are you alright?"
"Can we talk?"
"Course!" Yang made room for her on the bed. Weiss was out doing whatever, so it was just the two of them. Adam hadn't come back from their chat. He did say he had something to do. I wonder what that is. "What's the matter, sis? I know it can't be you doubting being a good leader again since even Weiss is pleased with how things are going."
"It's not Weiss. It's… It's about Adam."
Yang's heart started to race a little faster. "Yeah?" she laughed. "What of it?" If Blake said anything, she was dead.
"You missed Weiss' sister talking about him. She was really mean." Ruby went over the details as best she could remember and Yang listened, feeling her temper mount.
Why? Adam could look after himself and would literally think mud of Winter's opinion, so why was she the one getting upset? Yang had a feeling she knew why, even if she wanted to ignore it, and that only made her angrier. Stupid Adam. This was his problem, not hers. Why did she have to get so involved?
"So what? Another person judging him for his race? That's not new at this point."
"It didn't feel like that. It was like she knew him personally…"
"That's not impossible, sis. Maybe they didn't get on and she just doesn't like him. It's not any of our business what the reason for that is, or any of hers as to us being friends with Adam. Or Weiss, since I assume it was aimed at her."
"Yeah, I guess. It's just… I talked to Adam after and he said… he asked what I'd think if he had done horrible things. I didn't know what to say!"
Did Ruby think she knew what to say? Damn it, why did Adam have to be so complicated? I sure chose the wrong person to sleep with, that's for sure. Argh. And now Ruby wanted advice. Yang wished it could be as simple as telling her not to worry about such things.
"Well… maybe you should talk to Adam about it," she suggested lamely. "It sounded like he wanted to tell you something so maybe you should have listened."
Ruby bit her lip. "What if I don't like what I hear?"
"I can't tell you how to react to that. It's going to depend on what you feel. I mean, how bad can it be? You like Adam, right?" Her words prompted an immediate nod. "He's a great partner, right?" Another nod. "Then what can get in the way of that? It's probably not even as bad as you think. Maybe he used to be a thief or something. Maybe he did drugs."
Bad stuff, sure, but not world ending. They could get over that. Ruby didn't look happy with the answer; she'd probably wanted something easier or maybe for Yang to make the decision for her.
Sorry, sis. I have my own problems to deal with and I can barely handle those.
"M-Maybe I should listen to him then. Do you know where he is?"
"Nope. Said he had something to do. Try texting him."
Ruby pulled out her scroll and did it then and there which wasn't exactly what Yang had intended. After a minute or two and no response, Ruby bit her lip. "He isn't answering. What if he's upset?"
"Uh. What if he's just not noticed? It's not like he's glued to his scroll."
"Right." Ruby swallowed. "He's a good guy, isn't he?"
Uh-oh. Those were dangerous waters. "Yeah…"
"He helps us a lot."
"He cares about the team."
"We all do."
"Then it's sorted." Ruby nodded urgently. "If Adam is hurting because of something in his past then we need to be the ones to help him."
Yang groaned. Trust Ruby to add two and two and get thirteen. "Rubes, no, if he wants to tell us about his past he will. Maybe he did with you. You can't push him and it's definitely not something you can just fix. Same as you can't fix my mom running out on us. That stuff has already happened."
Her little sister looked deflated but not defeated. Yang had a feeling she'd be alright and rubbed her head.
"Relax. Give Adam a chance to come to you, yeah? And this time don't push him away just because you're scared of what he might have to say."
And maybe, just maybe, that was some advice she could employ as well.
Adam crouched at the alley of the logistical centre and tried hard not to think about Winter Schnee's eyes boring into his back. He had one hand on the Wilt, the other on the closest wall to support himself. His red hair was hidden under a black hood of a raincoat he'd pulled on just for that purpose. Red tended to stand out in a shipyard otherwise dotted with grey and black.
If all was well, Qrow would be… somewhere. The huntsman had been very vague on his position but promised he'd have a bird's eye view, so presumably he was atop one of the many cranes. Winter and her lot refused to give up their location, still refusing to trust him and making that clear at every moment.
Not entirely unexpected. Trust did not come easily, and Adam would be the first to admit he deserved very little of it. The only frustration was just how much Blake had received despite having much the same background as he. They were both terrorists, both ex-White Fang and both looking to get out of the business, and yet he had to prove himself time and time again while she was allowed to slot into Beacon without so much as a raised eyebrow.
Focus, he chastised. Distracted thoughts will jeopardise the mission.
The docks were quiet. Empty. Whether they were always devoid of workers or the foreman had chosen tonight to send them away he didn't know, but aside from a few cameras there was precious little security. Strange given that even ignoring the SDC dust, there had to be hundreds of thousands of lien in various goods being shipped here. Perhaps Vale thought no one could move the containers. Naïve. Or simply uncaring. He supposed they would leave security to the individual companies, and insurance existed for a reason. The perimeter fencing would have kept out common thieves anyway.
Roman Torchwick was no common thief. Adam sighed when the Bullheads approached, brazenly flying through Vale's airspace and undoubtedly drawing the attention of both the people and the authorities.
A fast raid, he thought. One where subtly was thrown out the window in favour of a lightning attack. He wasn't a fan of them himself because they inevitably meant little time to plan and limited information, but he would admit they had their place. I doubt Roman cares about the lives of the faunus he's using here, so to him the risk is minimal.
No. He'd met enough humans that were different to that. Adam disliked his own thoughts and shook his head to clear them away. The plan had already been set so he knew his purpose even before the White Fang touched the ground and started to circle the SDC containers, securing hooks to the top and attaching the metal coils to the Bullhead.
Wilt slid free from Blush with a soft click.
If Atlas wanted their prove he'd best give it to them. Lunging from cover, Adam crossed the ground between his position and the White Fang. His former comrades were catastrophically slow to react. His sect wouldn't have been. Adam trained his people hard and drilled them harder, the better to expect them to come home alive to their families. These were volunteers, civilians wearing masks, chaff recruited by speeches, given a mask and a vest and told to die for the cause. It was sickening. As sickening as the society which gave rise to such people.
"What's this-whoah!" Torchwick's pithy remark was ripped away as Wilt slashed across his abdomen. The attack was sudden and ruthless, driving him back with a yelp. No words here, no games and no wasted time. Before the thief could recover, Adam lunged, piercing Torchwick's coat as he scrambled away. "You're no Huntsman-"
Reversing his blade, Adam cut a line across a container, showering sparks on the ground. Torchwick crawled away on all fours, leaving his bowler hat behind.
"Get him! Kill him you stupid animals!"
Several guns came up. "White Fang!" Adam boomed. "Stand down!"
Some of them hesitated. They were unhappy people playing at something they didn't understand; he doubted they even knew why they were listening to a human like Torchwick. Two held their ground and opened fire but two was not enough. Adam weaved through the fire, tanking some on his aura, and drove a fist into the stomach of a girl who couldn't be older than Ruby. She dropped without a word and he moved onto the next, a much older man that could easily have been her grandfather. He, too, fell silently.
This wasn't right. Not the White Fang but the methods on show here. Adam wouldn't have accepted such applicants, and neither would Sienna. Optics were as important as skill, especially when their movement relied on faunus seeing them as their best option. You didn't set a good message when you sent the young and the old to be slaughtered.
"Adam-" someone whispered. "That's Adam Taurus. But why is he fighting us!?"
Why are you working with a human? He didn't respond that way because there was no need to. No excuse he gave would make them understand. Nothing they said to him would do the same. He had chosen to come to Beacon on a whim, to prove Blake wrong and win her back. That goal may have changed but so had his expectations.
There was a problem in Remnant. Faunus might not ever live equally with humans, and that had to change. Something had to be done. But the White Fang wasn't the solution. He wished it was with all his heart because that would mean he hadn't wasted years of his life, but there was no arguing with results. Their Grimm masks painted them as monsters, not equals.
"White Fang!" Winter Schnee's voice was magnified by her megaphone. "You are surrounded by the military might of Atlas. Surrender and throw down your weapons."
What incredible arrogance. There were three of them – along with air support – and that wasn't enough to deal with any real resistance. Even if it was, his men and women would have fought to the last breath. Adam was not surprised when every faunus here threw their weapons to the ground.
He wasn't surprised, but he was certainly disappointed.
"Useless animals!" Roman hissed. "Never send a dog to do a man's job."
Adam chased the voice. Roman was trained and able, knowledgeable enough to know he could escape if he was quick. Not on my watch. Whatever you're using the White Fang for stops now.
Sliding low, Adam swept under Torchwick's wild strike and kicked his legs out from under him. Not letting up for a second, he jumped on top and drew his sword, holding it against the man's throat.
"Game over, Torchwick!" he snarled.
"I… I know you. You're the one eyed bastard that stopped me at that dust store! You're Adam Taurus! W-What are you doing fighting me, eh?" He smiled nervously. "We're all on the same side here. The White Fang and I are in something of a business venture."
"That venture ends now!"
"I don't think it does, Taurus."
Roman's eyes slid to the left and that was all the warning Adam needed. He rolled aside, dragging the thief with him as a human shield. A thin blade drew back, afraid to pierce through his hostage. Adam yanked Roman up and faced the girl with hair a shade of pink and brown, eye narrowed and sword held to Roman's throat.
"You'll stay back if you don't want me to slit his throat."
The girl pouted, seemingly more annoyed than afraid. Her eyes glanced to Roman and then away, lighting up suddenly as Winter Schnee came rushing through the containers. Before Adam could question what was happening, the man in his arms – his hostage – became a whole lot shorter. Roman's bright orange hair became purest white. Suddenly, Adam wasn't holding a six foot man at all but Weiss Schnee.
Except that he wasn't. Adam could feel that his arm was around the man's shoulders even if his eyes told him it was much lower. He also couldn't feel the hair against his chest.
"Taurus!" Winter screeched. "Unhand her!"
"It's not Weiss!" he bellowed. "Use your brain, Schnee-"
A pure white Beowolf was on top of him before he could finish his sentence, jaws snapping and ripping at his throat.
Weiss sat huddled in the library, hunched over the terminal in a pose that was sure to do damage to her back and would have had her entire family berating her. She couldn't have cared less at that moment. Her fingers flew over the keys and she eyed everyone who came near, frightening them away with an evil glower.
Her sister had been downright rude to Adam, both to his face and behind it. Ruby was right to be angry and Weiss felt some of that same rage too, but she also couldn't believe Winter would do that without good reason. It simply wasn't in her character.
There's history between Adam and my sister, that much is clear. How could Adam know a Specialist like her, however? Did he study in Atlas before coming here?
If so, she wasn't sure why the animosity. A random idea had been that they dated. It was ridiculous, she would admit, but Adam was older than them and closer to Winter's age than her own, so it wasn't that far removed. Still, she was sure she would have heard of her sister having a boyfriend, and she'd have certainly heard the fury from her father if it turned out to be a faunus.
No, there was something else going on here, and Weiss was determined to find what that was. Searching `Winter Schnee` brought up too many results, her sister being a public figure of some renown, but `Adam Taurus` brought up less. His recent debacle in the newspapers aside, there were a few other results. More interesting was the words at the bottom of the page.
6,452 results have been removed from this search engine.
That… That was odd. Removal could mean anything from copyrighted videos to legal requests, but she doubted Adam was some lost pop star striking illegal music videos posted online. Why so many deleted results then? It was like someone wanted to keep him out the public eye. Odd, since he never made any effort to be in it anyway.
`Adam Taurus Winter Schnee` she searched, going out on a limb. A news article came forth, along with a few other `removed results` that had her eyes narrowing. Weiss opened the article to a Mistral-based online newspaper, noting that it seemed to be from a company that had already gone out of business. Luckily, its old content had remained online. The headline was quick to catch her eye.
"Atlas convoy attacked by White Fang extremists."
Weiss' breath caught in her throat. "W-What…?"
Wait a minute… a chapter in which it isn't Blake causing Adam trouble. What's going on here?
Next Chapter: 26th January (Edited to correct date)
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