Here we go.
Cover Art: JustFun101
Blake had gone to the dance with her partner.
Despite everything he'd decided, realised and promised himself, she was still the first thing he saw upon arrival. Dressed in purple and black, her hand in that of another man and with a bow perched cowardly upon her head. He felt a dull ache in his chest, followed by a surge of white hot anger.
What did that man have that he didn't? Blonde hair, blue eyes, a naïve and dim-witted expression. He was everything Adam wasn't, both his good points and his flaws. Blake had quite clearly chosen someone diametrically opposed to him in every conceivable way, whether or not they were going as romantic partners or friends. In that moment, Adam wanted nothing more than to storm over there and confront them.
And do what? Demand to know why she left him? Ask for a dance? Mock her? Plead with her? Try and rekindle what they once had? Angrily, he tore his eye away. It was dry as a bone and he didn't think tears would come at all – and that angered him as well, as if his emotions were telling him he'd wasted years of his life with Blake, with a woman he'd claimed to love but could let go so easily.
People move on, he told himself. I've moved on.
He had begun the process at any rate. All that was left was to continue it.
"What has you so surly now?" Weiss asked. "Don't tell me you're annoyed Yang isn't here. You know she has to handle the front desk until everyone is accounted for."
Weiss Schnee looked entirely too blanched in a white dress with white hair, white skin and pale blue eyes. He was aware of what the Schnee colour was, but surely a little variety wouldn't hurt.
Dimly, he knew that most of the criticism was born of hatred for her family and that constantly burning fire in the pit of his stomach. Objectively, Weiss looked pretty, even beautiful to some. Adam thought it strange that the only thing he thought looked good on her was the scar through her eye. It added character.
"Events like this aren't my forte," he said.
"I'd like to say they're not mine either but we'd both know that was a lie." Sighing, she brushed some hair from before her face. "At least I don't have to perform at this ball."
"What do you mean? Since when have you had to perform-?" She paused, noticing his dark smirk. "A terrorist joke. Really? Isn't that a little dark coming from you?"
"The dark jokes are the best jokes. I was at one of your shows once."
Weiss stiffened. "As a guest or…?"
"Our goal was to kidnap you."
"I am going to assume you were not turned away by the beauty of my song, driven to sympathy and left in a moment of questioning your motives before deciding to leave?"
"Your sister's security was too tight. The mission was called off."
"Of course." Weiss breathed out in a rush. "You know, in future you can keep any near-misses on my life a secret. I really don't mind living in ignorance, thank you very much."
"Easier that way, isn't it? To ignore the things your family-"
Weiss slapped his arm and scowled fiercely at him. "You're being awfully antagonistic all of a sudden. Why-? Oh please, don't tell me the girl you chased all the way to Beacon is here with a date and you're jealous."
Adam's face looked like thunder.
"I was right!?" Weiss slapped a hand to her face. "Adam, come on…"
"I've moved on," he grated.
"You quite clearly haven't."
"I have. I just…" An angry sigh, a guilty look down at his punch and a long, desperate drink. "It's taking time. I don't want to be back with her, but it drives me mad that she is moving on so freely."
"Would you rather she be miserable?"
Yes. Yes, he would. It was immature and Adam would be the first to admit that, but it pissed him the fuck off that Blake's departure had left him in emotional ruin, and she seemed to have no problem whatsoever. Had he meant that little to her? Did she ever care? His fingers tightened around the glass so hard it started to creak.
"Stop that." Gently, Weiss took his fingers in hers and pried them off before an accident could occur. "It always amazes me how you can be so mature in some aspects and so childish in others. If you're truly over her then you shouldn't care what she is doing or who she is with."
"I know. I was fine with that before. It's just… coming here and seeing her again. Everything was easier in my head. It's fine," he said, finishing the drink and setting it down. "I need this. Easier to rip the bandage off in one go."
"I'll take your word for it," Weiss said doubtfully. "I've never been in a relationship so I wouldn't know. Did it ever occur to you, though, that she might feel the same way?"
"She hates me," he said instantly.
"Not that. I meant in terms of also watching you. You're assuming she's moved on easily and doesn't feel a thing, but maybe she's doing the same as you and just as badly. You don't know."
He didn't, but then he also didn't want to think on it since even the thought of Blake was enough to make his stomach roll.
"No date tonight?" Honestly, he didn't care. It was selfish and he admitted it, but Adam was more focused on himself. Still, it was only polite to show concern, even if it was abundantly clear she didn't need it.
"There's no one I really wanted to go with. I had a few offers, some sweeter than others, but I didn't want to get their hopes up and said no. One was Cardin," she added menacingly. "He didn't appreciate being told no. Even claimed I was going with an `animal` like you instead of him. His words."
"Is it?" she asked. "I did tell him I wouldn't abide such language about a teammate."
"Not that," Adam said, smirking. "I'm more thinking the impotent rage he'll feel knowing he was one-upped by a filthy animal. Doesn't say much about his place in the world, does it?"
Weiss stared at him, aghast, then laughed. "You're so vicious!"
"I was a terrorist, Weiss. I'm not a `good` person."
"I happen to disagree," she said. "And I would like you to take me to the dancefloor, sir." She offered her hand. Or, well, she placed it in his like she was forcing herself upon him. "Before Yang is done. I wouldn't want to steal her date."
"What's in it for me?"
"Other than the chance to dance with me?"
"Other than that."
"How about the chance to horrify my father, his managers and all the SDC's investors when they see me dancing romantically with a faunus? How about the chance to rub Cardin's nose in it along with everyone else who likes to judge you by those horns on your head?"
Adam's hand snaked around her waist and dragged her in possessively. Ruby would have squeaked, Yang would have gasped and made a panicky joke, but Weiss only rolled her eyes as if she'd expected no less.
"You have a way with words," he purred seductively.
"Har. Har." Weiss laugh was flat and sarcastic. "And you, Adam, are incredibly petty." Her lips quirked up and her eyes sparkled a little. "I can be as well. Just thinking about the aneurism father will have is enough to make this worth it."
They moved out together and Adam felt the gazes of many upon him. Some were curious – after all, Weiss was famous and he was not only a faunus but visibly scarred, with a black silken cloth over half his face – but there were just as many who were obviously angered by his presence, either in general or with a pretty young human in hand.
Adam relished it. The hatred, the anger and the insecurity of those people satisfied him in a way he couldn't describe. It was almost the same feeling as a successful White Fang raid, the same rush of adrenaline and pleasure culminating with a crushing victory.
That it let him ignore Blake and her own date was another benefit altogether.
He was no slouch as a dancer, but Weiss was better. Trained. They moved together easily enough, and she made it look far more effortless than he. What surprised him more was her willingness to be dragged back against his chest, to have his hands on the small of her back or be surrounded by the powerful arms of a terrorist who had wanted her dead less than a year ago.
Trust, he realised, was a dangerous thing. A frightening thing. Adam swallowed and loosened his hold a little, afraid he might break it. Or her. He felt a fresh pair of eyes and attention upon him and looked over to see Ozpin and Goodwitch watching. The latter was tense, but the former raised an eyebrow and a mug, saluting him.
Adam scowled and turned back to Weiss. Meddling old men shouldn't involve themselves in things like this. And whatever Ozpin thought this was, he was wildly wrong.
"Should I be concerned that my date has been tearing up the dance floor with my own teammate?" Yang asked when he and Weiss stepped off together, still hand in hand.
Tired, but viciously pleased, Weiss let go of him. "We were just tweaking a few noses." Weiss looked up at him with a smug smile. "Right, Adam?"
He smirked back. "That's right."
"You two really do think alike sometimes. It's scary." Yang laughed it off and reached out, grabbing his arm and yanking him in against her side. "Yoink. He's mine now, Weiss. You've had your fun."
"I suppose I have. Thank you for the dance, good sir."
"Thank you for the chance to upset people," Adam replied. And for the distraction from Blake, he silently added. He wasn't sure if this whole scheme to anger her father was honest or if it wasn't an excuse for her to help him with his issues. Either way, he was grateful.
Weiss' eyes said it might be either. "It was my pleasure. I'm going to go find Ruby before she makes an excuse to sneak away and work on her scythe. You two have fun."
"We will!" Yang promised, bumping herself against him. "Come on, mister. You don't get to dance like that with your teammate and not with your date!"
Adam was panting slightly when Yang finally had enough. They'd danced for almost an hour, both slow and fast, and his feet were starting to hurt. How she managed it in heels he had no idea – nor how Weiss fought in them. He was saved by Yang's need to `freshen up` in the restroom and took the chance to help himself to two glasses of punch, one for his date.
The punch was spiked. He wasn't surprised in the slightest and was even a little relieved. It wasn't heavy enough to get roaring drunk off, but it took the edge off. Adam downed his glass and picked up another, sighing at the pleasant burn. If only the Sienna Khan could see him now, dancing with not one but two humans. That would turn heads.
"What do you think you're doing?"
That voice. Adam would know it anywhere and his heart stopped, skipped a beat and then pounded in his chest. He wanted to spin around but forced himself to slowly turn, unsure if the feeling rising up from his stomach to his throat was joy, suspense of bile.
Blake. His- No, not his. Never again. She had abandoned or lost her date somewhere and was stood by the wall next to him with her hands on her hips and her eyes narrowed and sharp. Was this the first time she'd spoken to him since coming to Beacon? It felt like it.
"Blake." Though he tried not to sound interested, his voice came out husky. "You look…" Ravishing. Angry. Beautiful. Selfish. Independent. Bitchy. "You look well."
"Enough," she snapped. "I'm sick and tired of having to tiptoe around Beacon avoiding you, Adam. Why don't you stop playing around and do what you came here to do?"
"And what would that be?"
"Kill me. Face me. Take me back. Whichever it is."
"Awfully arrogant of you to assume the only reason I could possibly be in Beacon is for you…"
"Is it? Then why not tell me why you're really here."
The smug smile was wiped off his face. He was here for her. He had come to Beacon for any one of those three things. Hearing her acknowledge it was something he didn't appreciate, however. Adam scowled and downed Yang's glass, setting it on the table in an effort to gather himself.
Goodwitch was watching. Of course she was. She knew Blake was White Fang as much as she did him, but it was one rule for her and another for him apparently. Don't cause a scene. It's what she wants.
"I'm here because it's the school dance and I'm expected to be."
"Don't give me that. You know that's not what I mean. Why are you in Vale? What does the White Fang plan? I know they're active in the area, Adam. You haven't been subtle."
"I haven't been…? Or they…?"
Blake crossed her arms and said, "You and they are the same thing."
"Oh, really?" He turned to face her fully, rising to his full height and offering the most condescending smirk he could. "Judging people without having all the facts? Your disguise as a human goes beyond just hiding your ears, I see. I've left the White Fang. This is my chance for redemption-"
"Please, we both know you don't care about redemption."
Again, she had the uncanny ability to suck the joy out of everything. Adam's smile died for a second time. She was right. Technically. He hadn't come for redemption and he didn't care for it. He had done bad things, and it felt stupid to suggest those could be forgotten if he did a few good things. The real reason he'd come was too stupid to give words to. Too naïve and hopeless to accept anymore.
"That's just like you," he said instead. "You were just as guilty as I, Blake. Everything we did, we did as a team, so whatever horrors you're accusing me of, you're just as guilty of yourself. And yet you think you are the only one worthy of redemption. Is that it?"
"Don't put words in my mouth, Adam."
"Then don't put words in mine. You're not the main character in some tragic drama. You're not the only one that matters in life. If you think you should be granted a second chance, then you have to accept I do as well. And every faunus who wants to leave the Fang, regardless of what they've done."
"Everyone deserves that chance."
"Except me? Or is it that you're so arrogant as to think no one else could possibly be as good a person as you?"
"It's that you don't want it," she said. "If someone really wanted to change, I'd welcome it, but you're the same. It shows in the ways you dealt with those racists. Always with violence."
"And your way is better?" He reached for her bow and she jumped back. "Hiding what you are. Pretending to be human so you don't have to face the problem head on. I never pegged you for a coward."
Blake's eyes burned with liquid fire. "Does your date know what you were?"
His heart turned to ice.
"Is it?" she hissed. "Or are you scared of her finding out, Adam? Scared of the truth coming out? Funny how you insult me for hiding my past when you're hiding your own. I'll reveal my ears," she said, reaching up to them. "In exchange, you reveal what you were – tell everyone who Adam Taurus really is."
Bitch. Adam's tongue ran over his teeth and the insides of his cheeks, lashing about angrily. "Ozpin has instructed me not to cause a scene," he finally said. "So, I can't take you up on that."
Blake saw through it. "Who's the coward now?"
"Still you. The only argument you have is that we might both be. Are we done here? Don't you have your date to return to?" He couldn't stop the bile in that word. He wished he could because she looked pleased with it.
"Problem, Adam? We're done. I can date whomever I want."
"I think I should be the one with the problem here," Yang said, appearing behind Blake with an expression every bit as pissed off as he felt. Blake stiffened and ducked to the side, all but confirming they'd met before. "Adam," Yang said, ignoring Blake. "Hope I didn't keep you long."
"Not at all." He brushed past Blake and slipped an arm around Yang's waist. "And one last thing, Blake," he sneered. "You're not the only one free to move on. Remember that."
Yang hooked her own arm around him and shepherded Adam away before they could make any more of a scene than they already had. He felt Blake's eyes on his back the whole way and resisted the urge to turn around to see her expression. It would only ruin the moment.
Once they were away, however, Yang stepped away from him, turned and punched his arm. Hard. Adam winced and held it. Yang was no slouch when it came to crushing nerves against bone.
"What was that for?"
"I should be asking the same thing, asshole."
"She came to talk to me."
"Not that," she snapped. "You're not the only one free to move on," she said, mimicking his voice. "The fuck, Adam. I'm not going to be some weapon you can use to piss off your ex."
"I didn't-" He had meant it, and there was no point denying that. He'd said it precisely to upset Blake and they both knew it. "I'm sorry," he said gruffly. "You're right; I shouldn't involve you in it, especially not when we're doing this as friends."
"That's not the point I was… ugh, you're hopeless." Yang pinched the bridge of her nose. "Aren't you even going to say anything? Do I look good? I freshened up for you, you know."
He'd seen the dress Yang was wearing but he now noticed the little extra steps she'd taken, from makeup to perfume, the scent of which was a little too strong to have been applied at the start of the night and last all this time. She must have put some more on in the restroom.
"You look stunning."
Yang's looked at him sideways, one eye narrowed. "That better not be a get out of the doghouse card you're playing."
"It's not. Do you really need me to tell you that, though? You know you're one of, if not the, best looking person in our year. I always thought you'd be confident enough not to care about anyone doubting that."
"I am," she insisted, then looked away. "But there are certain people you want to hear it from regardless. My date should be one of them."
"Then you look beautiful," he said honestly.
One lilac eye flicked back. "Better than her?"
"I thought you didn't want to get involved with that…"
"I don't." Yang crossed her arms. "But do I look better than her?"
This and that were surely two separate things. She couldn't say she didn't want to be compared to Blake and then directly ask it. Adam wasn't sure what the answer was, either. They were two different people, as anyone with a functioning set of eyes could attest to, but Yang was asking a loaded question. Even if he felt she was herself attractive, and she was, that wouldn't change the fact he'd been in love with Blake for a long time.
Love warped you. It changed you. If someone were to objectively ask what his type was, it would be dark hair and fair of skin, because that was what Blake was. He'd been in love with her, and so his tastes had quite naturally altered to favour a similar body and personality type. Objectively, Yang was prettier. Subjectively, she just wasn't `Blake` enough for his preferences.
"Do you really want the answer to that?" he asked. "If we're going to talk about my ex-girlfriend then this wouldn't be much of a date. Why don't we get some fresh air instead?"
Yang looked like she might argue, then sighed. "Yeah. Good idea."
The outer courtyard wasn't quite as abandoned as one might have expected. Some couples had already come out to hold hands, gaze at the stars or, and more commonly, make out in the dark corners of the trees. They were teenagers in a profession where life was short; it was expected. Professor Port was there to make sure things didn't go too far, leaning back against a wall with a glass of punch and an amused twinkle in his eye.
"Sorry about back there," Yang said out of nowhere. "I guess seeing her pissed me off. You don't have to answer that question."
That was a relief. "You're not the only one who feels that way."
"Oh, I know. Saw your expression. I could tell there's not much love there anymore." Not much, she said, but not none at all. Yang wasn't blind. "Did she come up to make peace and it went bad, or was that as antagonistic as it looked?"
"I'm not sure what her original intent was but there wasn't much peace involved. I don't think she and I will be putting this behind us and becoming friends anytime soon."
"Shame." The way Yang said it made it sound a very dishonest sentiment. "To hell with her. You've got me – us," she corrected immediately. "Team RYST. If you want to move on, the best way is to actually do it. You could go out with someone else instead." She laughed. "I mean, I bet there is someone in Beacon who would date your grumpy butt. Not Velvet or Coco but-"
Yang's tongue tangled in her mouth. "I-I didn't say that…"
"No, but I think you meant it…"
The blood had already drained from her face. Yang looked left and right urgently, then whispered quietly. "How long have you known…?"
"For sure? Only about two minutes ago," Adam admitted. "Though I had my suspicions when we went out shopping for outfits. I'm not stupid, Yang. Give me enough hints and I'll figure it out."
Yang looked embarrassed, frightened… and hopeful. "And…?"
"And I'm not sure if you really want this," he said. "This is about what happened before, isn't it? I thought you wanted it to be a casual thing. Something that happened once, and we'd never talk about it again. When did that change?"
Yang looked down and kicked one foot against the back of her heel, looking very much like Ruby for a moment. "Dunno," she muttered. "I wasn't even sure I did. I thought maybe this would be a safe way to find out."
"Did it work?"
"I don't know again," she said, huffing and looking back up. "This is stupid," she complained, now very much sounding like herself. "I've had crushes on guys before and trust me, they were a lot friendlier guys than you."
Adam smirked. "Not exactly a high bar there."
"Tell me about it. You've got the whole dark and edgy thing going on. Maybe it's that `something new` that caught me. I've never felt so unsure on my feelings before. I'm not even sure if this would be a good idea…"
"It wouldn't be." His words must have sounded callous because Yang clung to her elbows and looked away, lips twisting in pain. "Not like that," he said. "I just mean that dating between teammates has a lot of ways it can go wrong. If we were to try and break up as badly as Blake and I did, it might mean the end of Team RYST."
"If it doesn't work…" she mumbled.
"If," he agreed. "Maybe it does and we're happy and everything is rainbows and sunshine."
Yang snorted. "That sounds creepy as hell coming from you. But yeah, I get it. If it works, it works, but if it fails, it fails big. Even worse since Ruby and Weiss would be so torn up. Couldn't we be mature about it, though?"
"Maybe. If our breakup was on friendly terms, I imagine nothing would change. The problem is more on what happens if it isn't. I…" Adam sighed. "I wasn't a good boyfriend for Blake."
"Looks to me she wasn't a good girlfriend…"
"Then we were both bad at it." That wasn't hard to imagine. They'd been too young to really commit as adults, and the White Fang was hardly a stable place for them to grow. "You've heard of toxic boyfriends, I assume. I'm pretty sure my face is in there as the definition. Not on purpose, but still…"
He couldn't really deny it. Adam didn't think he'd been cruel as her boyfriend, but chasing her to Beacon all to prove her wrong? Well, that wasn't exactly a good look for him.
"Is this a no?" Yang asked.
"It's an I don't know. I do like you, Yang. As a friend," he added, "but I won't lie and say the idea of something more doesn't appeal to me."
Her eyes lit up. She winked at him. "Oh yeah? Tell me more."
"Can we be serious here?"
"I don't know. Serious is hard and scary. Can't we be jokey?" Yang's grin faltered under his stare. "Yeah, alright. Serious it is. I mean… it's just… I don't even know if I like you. We could try dating, right? See if it works out?"
"Gah. Do you have to sound so emotionally detached about this?"
"I'm trying to be mature."
"I don't want mature," she argued. "I want to know if you could see us working out. Us. How is it you're such an angry ball of repressed emotions around Blake, then some super mature adult with me?"
That was a difficult question. He'd always believed it'd be him and Blake together until the end of time or faunus equality, whichever came first. He'd been so hooked on her, so obsessed, that he hadn't imagined a world in which he could be with anyone else.
I have to, don't I? Blake and I are done. I need to move on.
The question was, did he like Yang as a person? Or was he only interested because she would be a chance to move on from Blake? One was a perfectly good reason to pursue a relationship. The other was a horrible and abusive thing.
"I don't want to use you as a way to forget about her…"
Yang's face softened. "Adam…"
"I'm scared," he admitted. "Not of commitment or not being good enough or some ridiculous concept that dating me will bring you ruin. I'm scared that I might only accept this because you're an easy way to move on from her, and what that might do to us and our team. I don't want to make a tool out of someone I'm beginning to like and respect."
Through all her emotions and the heavy atmosphere, she managed a wry smile. "Beginning to respect? Man, you're such an asshole, even when you're trying not to be."
He grinned weakly back. "You've got a lot of flaws, Yang. There's a lot not to like."
"Yeah, sure, like you can talk." Yang stepped up to him. "Sounds like we're both unsure."
He stood his ground. "Sounds like it."
"Do you want to… do a test? You know…"
"A kiss?" He knew he'd guessed correctly when her cheeks darkened. "What's with that reaction? We've gone a lot further than a kiss under the moonlight, Yang. A whole lot further. You won't be my first and I highly doubt I'm about to be yours."
"Shut up, ass." She punched his arm again, deadening it. "This and that are two different things. There wasn't nearly enough alcohol in that punch to make this easy for me." Another step brought her face close to his. He could smell her perfume, soft and light and like a spring meadow. "But yeah, a kiss. See if it sparks anything. Maybe it's just nice and friendly and we can move on and know it was just a fling."
"Maybe it is," he admitted.
"M-Maybe it's not, though," she whispered. "Maybe it's something more."
Adam stared at her lips and hoped the excitement he felt was genuine. For both their sakes. "Maybe it is."
He leaned in.
"Yang! Adam-" Weiss skidded to a halt. "O-Oh. Am I interrupting something?"
Groaning, Yang rested her forehead against his. "Take a wild guess…"
"I-I see. My apologies. It's just that I can't find Ruby anywhere."
"Unless my sister is in mortal peril right now, I could not care less-"
The side of the CCT Tower exploded in a shower of glass. A single loud crack of a sniper rifle echoed from within, drawing startled gazes from all the students below, as well as a louder groan from Yang.
"One job, sis. You had one job…"
Taking my car for its MoT tomorrow. I know it's all inconvenient due to lockdown, but I called the garage two whole weeks ago to book it for my MoT running out tomorrow and they were like, "Ugh, we could really do with more advance notice than this…"
Like, more advance notice than 14 days? That feels like a lot!
Next Chapter: 23rd March
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur