Young Velvet Scarlatina hated coming to school.
Awful, dreaded school. The place where she was ridiculed, picked on, seen as an outlier from the rest of her peers. All because of those annoying limbs attached to her head. The soft bunny ears had always been the bane of her existence, a testament to her 'diverse features'. Just a filthy Faunus. That's what they called her.
Discriminated. Alienated. Unloved. Hated. Judged. Cast out. Thrown away. Unworthy. Unnecessary. Disposable. So many reasons. She named a reason for each tear that she shed. There seemed to be a lot of reasons.
Sobbing, she buried her face in her arms, crying into her knees. The only thing she had to be thankful for this day was that the rest of the children were at the tables inside for lunch. The worsening weather driving them into the safety of the school. The pressure building within her heart felt heavier with every passing minute when she realized that the teachers did not bother looking for their missing student. The only child not in attendance.
Ominous rain clouds loomed over the playground, covering the usually cheerful area in a blanket of shadow. The sandbox was deserted, not a soul in sight. Save for her. A lone girl sitting by herself on the edge of the playground amenity.
Sniffing, she lifted her head, eyes downcast and glassy. Dark, chocolate brown pools becoming muddy and glazed in her sorrow. She poked the sand she sat upon with an indifferent finger, a small sand hill making itself at home by her foot. The grains fell away from her touch, as though making a hasty retreat from her presence, disgusted. Treating her like the foul children that bullied her day to day.
Another tear made it's way down her cheek, a burning sensation searing her pale skin as it traveled. The frigid wind halted the path of the salty drop of water, suspending it for a few brief moments. She watched with hazy eyes as the wind dropped, the droplet falling from her chin with it. It landed with a silent splash on the sand below her, creating a darkened spot on the miniature stones.
What was the point of all this? Coming to school everyday. Never catching a break. Ridiculed for being proud of what she was and not hiding like others. She could not help but wonder if there was any honest to good reason why she should continue.
A cheerful voice cut through her melancholic thoughts. "Well hey there bunny. What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?"
Stifling a gasp, Velvet whipped her head to the side. Facing her, with a cocky grin on his face, was a young blond boy. His youthful face led her to assume he was the same age as she was, maybe a tad older. His wild, spiky hair, open white button up with no shirt underneath and rolled up blue khakis gave him a roguish appearance. Cunning, slanted green eyes shone down on her, warm and welcoming.
Velvet sniffed and rubbed at her face, trying to erase the evidence of her weakness. She could not stop her voice from shaking. "Ex-c-cuse me?"
"I mean, what are you doing out here by yourself?"
"I w-was just… sitting."
"Ooooh. Sitting! Pardon me then." The boy's grin grew wider. "Mind if I sit with you?"
Velvet looked down to her hands, playing with her fingers. "It's not like I can stop you."
"True. Don't mind me then." The boy sat next to her. A leg stuck out and the other bent up, his hands splayed out behind him to hold himself up. A comfortable distance of shifting sand set between them.
"W-what are you doing exactly?"
He shrugged. "Keeping a girl company. That a crime?"
"No." She meekly admitted. Thinking, she furrowed her brow, voice regaining strength. "I don't believe I've seen you. Do you go to school here?"
"Me? School?" The boy threw his head back, laughing without care. "Yeah right! I was just passing through when I saw a cutie sitting out here by all by her lonesome. Thought I could maybe cheer ya up." He winked to her.
"I… see." Velvet looked down to the sand, not believing the mystery boy for a second.
The boy said nothing more as he sat beside her, content to stare at the bunny girl. His evergreen orbs drilled intently into her, shining with a hidden message that said, 'I know why you're out here'. He could not possibly know though. How could he? His stare made her uncomfortable, her own eyes uneasily darting between him, the sand at her feet, and the dark rain clouds above them.
Velvet broke the silence. "You should go inside you know. It might rain."
"I could say the same to you."
She tried to reason with him. He might be arrogant, but that was no reason for her to wish ill upon him. "But… you should go inside before you get drenched. I'm sure the teachers would not mind you taking shelter. With only those clothes, you could catch a cold!"
"I might." He relented, shrugging. "But who cares? I know I don't."
"Wha…" Velvet sputtered, appalled at the boy's lack of self-concern. "You should! If you don't take care of yourself, then who will?"
He lowered his head, his eyes looking up to her with a meaningful look.
She got it. "Oh, ha ha. Very funny. But even if I do care for myself, what's the point? Nobody will ever about me…" Wrapping her arms around her knees once again, she rested her chin on them, making herself comfortable.
The boy spoke up, his tone soft. "Have you ever thought that maybe someone does care?"
"Like who? You?" Velvet bitterly let out.
"Yeah. Exactly like me."
Head shooting up in surprise, she narrowed her brown eyes in suspicion, scrutinizing the candid stranger lounging beside her. "What... what do you mean?"
He gave her a toothy smile, his attitude radiating confidence. "I know what it's like. To be hated for being different." From behind him, a wiggling yellow limb made itself known, waving to Velvet. She held a hand to her mouth in surprise. A monkey's tail. He was a Faunus. Just like her. "I'd say I know exactly what you're going through."
"I… I'm sorry, I didn't-"
The boy held up a hand, stopping her. "Don't apologize. You did nothing wrong. There's never been anything wrong with being a Faunus ya know."
Velvet nodded, unable to speak. Her throat began to close up on her as she attempted to stem the tears that sprang to her eyes.
"W-whoa! Don't cry! I didn't mean to make you cry!"
She shook her head. Her voice broken as she spoke, "I-it's not you. It's just…" She shuddered. Her voice loud. "Today has been a horrible day. Every day has! The name calling, the threats, the bullying… I don't want to be an outcast! I want people to like me for who I am and for all of us to be friends! I used to think it was only the Grimm who were soulless, but how is it that humans hold such darkness inside themselves and still have a soul? What did the Faunus truly ever do to them to earn such cruelty? To be treated like wild animals?"
"I…" He faltered, struggling to put his thoughts into words. "I don't think all humans are like that. Just some. You gotta keep your head up and hope for the best." His voice lowered as he stopped himself. That was not what he intended to say. But how else could he get across his thoughts and feelings to her? The answer came when he shifted his gaze down, spotting something by the rabbit girl's shoes.
The boy got up, crouching naught but a few inches from her. He pointed down at the sand. "Do you see that spot? That little dark spot right there?"
Sniffing, she followed the path of his finger. He was pointing toward the dark, wet spot that Velvet's tear had left earlier. "Yes... What about it?"
"That's you right now." He pointed to her, a serious look upon his face. "That dark spot is you."
"You're in a dark spot. In your life, you're standing in the dark, shadows all around. Because all you see right now is the bad stuff right? People bully you. You're made fun of. And it makes you sad, doesn't it? You hurt inside and it doesn't seem like it's going to get any better. But…" He held up his index finger, uncurling the rest of his digits to sweep his arm out widely, indicating the rest of the sandbox. "What if I told you there is more than that? More than the pain and despair? Tell me, what do you see outside of the dark spot? All around on the outside of it?"
He laughed. "Not exactly." Looking up, he said, "Wait. Wait just a second, this will be perfect."
She followed his gaze, eyes scrunched in curiosity. A dark cloud blocking out the sun moved, allowing warm rays to grace the playground. The sun welcoming the sight of the world with its heated gaze, like a loving mother looking upon her child. Velvet shielded her face, wincing from the bright light.
"Okay, now look at the sand again. What do you see?"
Blinking the spots from her eyes, she lowered her arms. The sun was reflecting off the grains like miniature crystals, the tan stones glowing. "I see… brightness?"
He jumped up, pointing at her excitedly. "Exactly! Brightness!" Settling back into a crouch, he talked, his words coming out in a jumbled rush. "Outside the dark spot, where you are right now, is light! Brightness as far as the eye can see. But all you have to do is just take a look around. Not everything is as it seems. Not all humans have that darkness, that cruelty, within them. Sure, some do, but Faunus are the same! We're all the same. Like little grains of sand in the sandbox of life, if you wanna get all philosophical." He stared at the glowing sand, his shadow stretching across the warming rocks. He held a wistful look in his eyes. "There is always light within the dark. No matter what happens, the darkness is just a speck in what truly matters in life."
He smiled warmly. "You just have to emerge from the shadows and reach for the light. You'll be surprised at the beauty you can find under the sun."
For the first time that day, Velvet smiled. A wondrous sight to the blond boy. "So she does smile!"
Velvet giggled, the sound similar to tinkling bells. She turned her attention toward the sky, lifting a hand upward, reaching. She felt as though she could touch the golden beams, the warmth of the rays tickling her hand pleasantly and the shine of the sun filtering through the spaces between her fingers. "So if I just reach toward the sun, I'll find that light?"
His grin turned from warm to cocky, with startling speed. "So you're gonna reach for me huh?"
"I… I'm what?"
"Reaching for the sun? It's like reaching for me?"
Velvet furrowed her brow, not understanding. "I don't get it."
He smacked his forehead with a palm. "Oh shoot! Did I forget to tell you my name?" Standing up, he offered his hand down to her. "Where are my manners? My name's Sun. It's a pleasure to meet you, bunny."
She giggled, taking his rough, bigger hand with her own, delicate fingers. "It's Velvet, actually. Not bunny."
"Velvet… A beautiful name for a beautiful girl. I like it." He waggled his eyebrows.
She slapped his arm with her other hand, the two Faunus laughing. "Oh stop it, you!"