"I can't believe it, though," Ruby muttered, as if she hadn't said it aloud a dozen times already. Her grip on Weiss's sleeve was loose, but she tugged it a little to edge her on. Weiss, pink from her neck to her ears, scowled at the walls.
"It's not my fault that my caregivers had much higher literary standards than yours." That comeback had taken a good fifteen minutes to come up with, but it had sadly fallen short. Ruby didn't seem to notice.
"Well," Ruby said, a bit excitedly, "Yang brought a bunch of them over. Y'know, when I transferred here. We can totally fix this," she sounded as if she was talking about a broken faucet, or some mild inconvenience that needed to be done away with.
"Just because I didn't read certain books as a child doesn't mean that—"
"Weiss, you didn't even get a Disney reference. The German kids weren't getting your name wrong."
"Aren't those movies?" Weiss asked.
"And you don't think that's a problem?" Ruby turned to her, agape.
"No, I don't." There was a moment of silence.
"Disney marathon. Okay. That's gotta happen."
"I do not consent," Weiss growled. Ruby hummed noncommittally. Weiss seethed.
When they returned to the dorm, Ruby did in fact find the books she'd been looking for, but only after upending all of Yang's possessions. She promised to clean up afterwards (many times, with increasing nervousness) but it just served to aggravate Weiss even more.
"Here we go; Snow White," Ruby, with an enormous crumbling book in hand, sat down on Weiss's bed. She patted the spot next to her and after a moment Weiss sat down and smoothed her skirt. Ruby thought she looked like a huffing bird preening itself.
"Funny," Weiss said.
"We could do Red Riding Hood if you want," Ruby grinned.
"Narcissist." Weiss rolled her eyes.
Ruby chuckled to herself. She moved closer to Weiss and laid the book out between their laps, and began reading; she looked down at the words only half the time, like she had memorized them. She probably had.
"Once upon a time," she started, then looked back down, "There was a beautiful girl named Snow White. She was given that name because of her pale white skin and pureness of heart, like snow."
Weiss shifted uncomfortably. She smoothed the side of her skirt.
"There was a wicked queen—Snow White's stepmother, in fact—who thought herself the most beautiful woman in all the world, and she was in possession of a magic mirror. Every day, she would ask it, 'Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?'"
"Wait—" Weiss whispered, but Ruby didn't seem to hear her.
"And every day it told her, 'you're the fairest of them all, my queen.' And she was content."
Weiss turned the page. Her fingers shook.
"But one day, not long after Snow White had grown up into a beautiful young maiden, the mirror gave a different answer: "Snow White is the fairest of them all,' it said, and the Queen flew into a rage. She ordered a huntsman to kill Snow White, and so that she could be sure she was dead she told him to bring her Snow White's head," Ruby returned to her jovial self for a moment, "in a box. So she could eat it."
Opposite her Weiss breathed out, and a small smile quirked across her mouth.
"Disgusting," she said, "and you were how old when you read this?"
"You'll like the Disney version," Ruby laughed, playfully pressing her shoulder into Weiss's before continuing. Weiss didn't mind the closeness as much as she should have.
"But when the huntsman went to kill her, Snow White began sobbing and begging for her life; He couldn't bring himself to kill her, so he let her escape, sure that she would be eaten by wild beasts of the forest. He brought the queen the liver and lungs of a pig instead, which the queen accepted and ate."
"Wasn't," Weiss turned the page again, "—wasn't she angry that he didn't bring her the head?"
"Probably," Ruby answered. Quite matter-of-factly.
"Are they all this violent…nonsense? If they are, I can't say I feel cheated." Weiss felt something, something she couldn't place. Something visceral.
"It's not nonsense," Ruby looked her right in the eyes, "It means something. That's the point."
She was about to argue for the superiority of other books with violent symbolism, but Ruby's watery stare silenced her.
If it meant anything, it meant something to Ruby. Maybe to herself. She wasn't sure.
"Snow White ran through the woods all through the night, certain that she was going to meet her end. Lost and afraid, she collapsed in a clearing, bewailing her cruel fate."
Something. It meant something.
"Ruby," Weiss said her name, as if grasping for understanding. Under the book she felt warm fingers slip between her own.
"After days of roaming the woods, Snow White finally came across a cottage, and little did she know that it belonged to seven dwarves—"
"What?" Weiss interjected.
"Dwarves. In the movie they all have cutesy names and stuff, but anyway—
Snow White went into the house to find seven tiny meals laid out, and after she ate them, she cleaned the house to make up for it. When the dwarves returned, they were so delighted that they invited her to stay with them."
"Nonsense," Weiss muttered. Ruby's thumb rubbed her palm.
"Meanwhile, the queen asked the mirror again if she was the fairest one of all. The mirror, in turn, said: 'Snow White, who lives in the cottage of the seven dwarves, is the fairest of all."
"That was quick."
"Well, it is like an all-knowing magic…thing. Am I bothering you?"
Weiss wasn't sure what she was referring to specifically; the proximity, the hand-holding, the story. She shook her head.
"Okay. The queen was so furious that the huntsman deceived her that she had him executed. Afterwards, she went to the cottage disguised as an old peddler, carrying a basket of apples. One of them was poisoned."
This, at least, sounded familiar.
"When the queen offered the poison apple to Snow White, it was the reddest, roundest, most enticing apple she had ever seen. When she took a bite, though, she fell to the floor in an eternal sleep."
Ruby's head was just centimeters from resting on Weiss's shoulder. She was staring into space, stumbling over the words but not looking back at the book anymore. As Weiss listened, she felt a strange, trance-like content even as she willed Ruby closer.
"The dwarves, they were sad that Snow White was dead. Well, they thought she was dead. They were so sad they made her a glass coffin so they could still see her face, and set it in sunny glen filled with flowers."
She was quiet for a moment. Her brow furrowed.
"Is that," Weiss asked quietly, "the end?"
"No," Ruby said, "There's a prince." Her head finally made contact with Weiss's shoulder. All of a sudden her sense of peace was replaced by an erratic humming in her chest, and the warmth of Ruby's hand and side contrasted deeply with her own coldness.
"So there's a prince, then." She coughed.
"The prince found Snow White sleeping in her coffin, and fell in love with her at first sight."
"He got the dwarves to lift the top of the coffin off so he could see her. Or he did it himself. Yeah, I think he did it himself, actually. And…"
Ruby turned to Weiss, looking like she was caught somewhere between the story and her.
"He kissed her. It broke the spell, and brought her back."
What a concept, Weiss thought to herself, and she would never be sure if she kissed Ruby first or if Ruby had kissed her. It felt, for that instant, like the most natural thing in the world, like breathing, like something had just clicked into place in such a way that it was barely noticeable.
Prince. What a concept.
She only breathed again after Ruby wasn't looking at her. They didn't look at each other, but Weiss saw Ruby blushing out of the corner of her eye. Her own face was bright red.
"So, um, they lived happily ever after, and everything." Ruby shut the book.