Playing Favourites - Part 2
In the quiet of night, May found herself standing in front of the public bathhouse. It had been two months since the new facility suddenly appeared at the base level of the building. Most of the other residents must have experienced it by now. Robyn had invited her on countless occasions, but May wasn't ready. She wasn't sure if she was ready now. She was fine with Robyn, but not so much when she imagined herself in the same space with the other girls.
So here she was in the dead of night, just a few steps away from the curtain that acted as the threshold between dry land and the world of steam. All she needed to do was get in there and spend about half an hour indulging in various soaps and scents. She had had very high confidence that her privacy would not be rudely interrupted, but that level had been slowly dwindling since she made the journey down the elevator. As she was considering the odds while biting on her fingernails, a memory of her being teased and taunted by several teenage boys in a similar bathhouse setting flashed across her mind.
"You know, they have private rooms," a stranger's voice of reason broke the silence.
Startled, May looked to her right to find a rat Faunus eyeing her quizzically with a canned drink in her hand. May mentally corrected herself. Her next door neighbour, Freya Crescent, may look the part and could understandably be mistaken as one, but the dragoon was no Faunus. May learned the difference on the day she moved here. It was rare to see her in casual wear and without her trademark red hat, her white locks flowing freely past her shoulder. Then again, she rarely came out of her room.
"Wha—? You here for a bath too?" May blurted and hoped she did not sound like a thief caught red-handed. If Freya answered yes, then May decided she would take this as an excuse to bolt. Try again another night.
Freya had cracked the can open and took a sip. "I'll pass. Writing a letter to Fratley. Came down for a drink." She pointed at the vending machine in the hallway. "Then I saw you."
"Oh," May said. Neither of them were familiar with each other, with Freya being even more of a recluse since her demotion and May having a secret only Robyn and Blake knew. Well, secret might be the wrong word. It's only a secret if she's actively hiding it from people who needed to know. It felt like a secret when she first came out to Robyn, but not so much when she told Blake and the other interns that time in the Schnee manor.
"They're open 24 hours, but I guess I don't have to tell you that. You wouldn't be here if you didn't know. Talk to the granny working the booth, take your robe, then ask for the private room," Freya spoke some more. When the silence dragged on, she added, "I haven't been in there myself but I hear stories, mostly from Dagger and Beatrix. The private room was their suggestion. I know they're just being considerate but, like I said, I'll pass."
Having someone to talk to eventually relaxed her nerves and provided May with a much needed distraction. She let out a long sigh and proceeded to lean against the wall, her arms hanging freely and her eyes scanning the empty hallway. Freya didn't seem to be in any rush to leave soon, suddenly taking interest in the contents of her drink.
"So what's your story?" May started. She had the feeling she could vibe with this strange woman from another game world. They were neighbours after all, and right then she had wanted to kick herself for not knocking on Freya's door more often before this.
"Hmm?" Freya turned her head sideways to look at May and swallowed her drink. She had hoped they could continue to talk but wasn't quite sure what she should expect. Somewhere deep down, she desired a connection, otherwise she wouldn't have lingered.
"You said your friends invited you. Why didn't you go?"
"Oh. That. Isn't it obvious?" Freya answered, then pointed to all of her.
May used to do that. That day when she told the Happy Huntresses the truth and finally got it off her chest.
"Your... um..." May didn't want to be disrespectful but suddenly she wasn't sure where to look. Her eyes trailed downwards and eventually settled on the dragoon's clawed feet.
"Don't get the wrong idea. I never hide who I am but anyone with eyes can tell I have different... biology." May cringed slightly at the B word but Freya didn't notice. The dragoon extended her free hand, admiring the results of the manicure she performed on herself just days ago. Her tail, and the orange ribbon strapped onto it, flicked in the background for extra emphasis. "Thanks to evolution, my nails are sharper than the average human's and I can easily step on someone else's foot with all the foam in the way. Oh, my fur sheds. I wouldn't want to clog the bath in there. One of the moogles working here is a plumber and I bet I'm on his black list. This new public bathhouse thing looks pretty neat though." She paused to observe the bathhouse that only had one entrance, having no need to set up a second one for men. "I'm not sure what's holding you back but I don't think you'll want to back out after coming down here at this hour. That's what you're looking for, right? Alone time."
May nodded. She believed she could talk a little more. "Let's just say I haven't been... myself... for a long time. It's only been a few years since I really started living as... me. Some memories are hard to shake off, you know."
As Freya listened, her facial features gradually switched from paying full attention, to deliberation, then finally one of understanding. She might or might not have cracked the code that was May's past, but the blue-haired woman's summary of her personal struggles reminded Freya of her own. How her character was only significant for the first half of her game and how she spent the next half just tagging along because the game wanted her to. How much of it was her doing things for herself?
"Anyway, I better be going. The bath's all yours if you take it. I doubt anyone's coming by before daylight," Freya said as she push herself off the wall she didn't know she was leaning on. Her drink now finished, she figured she had overstayed her welcome and turned to leave. "Maybe several days later the tables will have turned and you'll find me in your current position at this hour," she joked. She did not tell May that Burmecia had enough rain to last a lifetime, literally. A bathhouse is hardly exciting for someone from her habitat, though she wouldn't make any promises too soon.
"Hey, um, I'm sorry about... well... taking your place," May said while the longest-living resident in this weird limbo was still within earshot. The living arrangement was out of her hands but she felt she had to say something.
Freya looked back and shrugged, "Think nothing of it. By the way, do you wield a spear?"
May paused for a moment as she thought about the crossbow-staff she left in her room. "I wouldn't call it that but technically it can function as a pole-arm. Why?"
"Fang and I were wondering what the three of us have in common. It might have something to do with why we were hand-picked to stay in the suites. Would you like to join us in a sparring match someday?"
Duelling was of second nature to hunters and huntresses of Remnants. It also dawned on May very early on that everyone living here in this person's head carried a weapon. They were all going to stay here until who-knows-when (perhaps until the playable characters get summoned into their games or when RWBY Volume 9 starts) so they might as well learn how to get along.
"Sure!" She gave a thumbs-up along with her signature wink.
Freya gently nodded. Her lighter sprints as she left the hallway made no efforts to hide her glee, knowing that she had made a new friend. May walked towards the booth and requested for entry to the private bath, mentally promising herself that one day she would join the others in the open.