Writer's Note: All of the characters are of the age of majority in this work, for obvious reasons.
To those who don't know, I have taken several months off to work on other projects and to retool this story, with this version being called the Redux. See the note after this chapter for more information. An uncut and uncensored version of this story can be found at my account with the same name on AO3.
RWBY is the sole property of Roosterteeth and Monty Oum.
Prologue - Redux
Blake ducked as Ruby flew across the battlefield, her scythe mowing through one beowolf after another with inhuman speed. Moving in the faster girl's wake, the Faunus woman whipped her shroud around her, slicing through anything foolish enough to get within reach. One last Grimm roared with impotent rage and charged, never realizing he stood no chance against two fully trained huntresses. Blake whipped the pistol of her weapon up, finger already pulling the trigger.
She needn't have bothered. Crescent Rose slammed into the wolf from the side, coming out of nowhere to pin the mewling canine to the ground.
Blake tried to catch her breath as she scanned the carnage around them. They had just cleaned this area yesterday, wiped out the pack that settled here. While it was a long, time-consuming task, they had been fairly successful – with most of the forest wiped clear of Grimm, it shouldn't be too long until the reclamation crew moved in. Hopefully, they'd have the outpost up within a month. All Team RWBY needed to do was clear one last stretch of woods, and yet somehow the beowolves just kept coming, oblivious to the fate that awaited them.
"You okay?" Ruby panted, biceps straining as she yanked the massive scythe out of the dirt.
"Took a hit to my shoulder. I'll be fine." Blake snapped her shroud back into its sheath, her wound giving off a quick burst of pain. "Think that was the last of them?"
"Probably. That should be the last group of stragglers. What happened to Yang?"
"Ran off," Blake grimaced, "I believe her words were 'Which one of you fuckers touched my hair?'"
Ruby sighed, running a hand through her now-unkempt bob and wincing as she pulled a twig from the mess. Three weeks on the frontier definitely hadn't done their hygiene any favors. The younger woman's face was smeared with dirt and sweat, and Blake had a sneaking suspicion that some of the red in Ruby's dark hair wasn't just her highlights.
"Why isn't Weiss with you?"
Ruby drooped a little more, using a piece of her ragged cloak to wipe wolf blood off her beloved scythe.
"It's ... complicated," she muttered.
Blake sighed and went back to scanning the treeline. Weiss was always the least appreciative of their long missions – the heiress called staying in anything less than a four-star hotel 'roughing it.' A few nights in the woods or a long trek across Vacuo wasn't a problem, but after three weeks of watching the white-haired girl try to maintain her normal standard of cleanliness – and listening to her gripe the entire time – Blake was about ready to strangle her teammate.
"Let me guess, you had problems communicating and she stormed off saying she'd 'handle this by herself?'"
Ruby slumped a little more. "Not exactly."
Her voice pitched up at the end, and Blake moved this most recent problem from the 'Weiss' column to the 'Weiss and Ruby' section of the list.
Normally, the two girls managed to keep to their 'airhead and the long-suffering heiress' routine, with Ruby's still-boundless energy somewhat restrained by Weiss' snarking. All in all, the two worked wonderfully together, which was one of the reasons they still did, even after all these years.
But recently, the gentle jabs faded as the two partners grew more and more distant. Ruby, for her part, wasn't helping matters. The younger girl's mood grew gloomier by the day, or at least it would until Weiss walked into the room, at which point Ruby would explode with bubbly energy, which completely failed to have the desired effect. Another month of close-quarters with Weiss' sniping and Ruby's sporadic brooding, and Blake wasn't sure if she'd be able to keep from smothering them both in their sleep.
A scream of rage stopped her from pressing her friend for answers, and the two girls whipped their heads around to look off towards the unmistakable cry.
"Yang," they groaned in unison, trudging into the trees before their lovable berserker could burn the whole forest down.
Yang bobbed to the left as the taijitu struck, pounding its scaled hide with her gauntlet. Ember Celica fired, scales shattering as her shot buried itself in the monster's hide. Grabbing onto the passing snake, Yang heaved herself up the titanic serpent, her fists pounding into the creature as she rode its back. She heard the hiss and dropped, firing upwards into its jaw as it lunged for her throat. Hitting a perfect three-point landing, she pulsed her aura as she fired, reams of flame shooting from her fists as she charged the beast.
One blast landed right in its open mouth, sending smoke wheeling up into the sky as it reeled. Not wasting her chance, Yang drove her fist as hard as she could into the ebony snake, sending it flying back into its second head. The snakes tangled and fell back as a blast of ice flew harmlessly by.
"Dammit Yang!" Weiss screamed, her concentration broken by the colliding serpents. "Stop breaking formation!"
"Then stop wasting time and kill this thing!" Yang called back, her legs already pounding through the soft earth as she rushed the distracted snakes.
The pitch-black head managed to pull itself free before she could reach it, hissing angrily and lunging for her. Yang's blast had left the monster's fangs black and charred, still-smoking patches mottling the ivory points. She grinned as her eyes caught the weakness, hips shifting as she cocked her fist back for one last blow. Moving just enough to avoid the blow, the blonde swung, her fist shattering the damaged bones and firing straight down the serpent's throat.
The taijitu jerked for a moment, writhing as the fire-dust round sped down its length. With one last desperate hiss, the black half exploded, bits of snake flinging across the grove and coating Yang with blood and ooze.
Flicking the mess from her gauntlets, Yang wiped the grime from her face just in time to dodge a swipe from the still-moving white serpent. Yang rolled to side, scrambling to get behind the Grimm. She sprang forward, fists already ready to go, and fell flat on her face.
Spitting dirt from her mouth, Yang looked back to find her foot encased in a long stream of ice.
"Watch it!" she shouted, a round from her gauntlets shattering the surprisingly hard crystal.
"Then stay out of my way!"
Weiss twirled to the side, sending steams of power out at the serpent, her magical sigils letting her leap with abandon out of the monster's way. One more crouching lunge, and Weiss flew past the remaining half, cutting a deep gash along its scales. The beast keened as her blade bit into its side, the shriek wailing through the trees and pounding against their ears.
Holding her head, Yang didn't see the snake's tail coming until it was too late. The bleeding stump slammed into her, knocking her back and sending her sprawling in the dirt.
Oblivious to Yang's predicament, Weiss leapt into the air, blurring as her magic drove her blade into the jagged mess where the black head had sat. With a blast of light, Myrtenaster pinned the snake's flesh to the ground, ice spreading to hold the monster.
The white head reared back, looming over Yang as it opened its mouth to swallow her whole. The blonde huntress grinned, her gauntlets blazing as she aimed them up into the creature's maw.
"Don't you dare!" Weiss screamed.
The white head exploded, sending chunks and guts spinning across the area and covering the two girls in blood, bile, and dust-knows-what else. Weiss's combat skirt hung damply to her sides, soaked with liquids Yang never wanted to know the names for. The now-headless center of the beast slammed into the ground, the shockwave knocking Weiss to her knees, adding insult to injury as the horrible mixture fused with the mud. Yang stood panting, sore and tired after the sixth fight in a row that day, barely listening as Weiss struggled to pull herself from the muck.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" the heiress screeched, flinging goop from her arms.
"It was the fastest way," Yang shrugged, wiping as much of the grime from her weapons as she could. She'd need to field-strip them later – the last thing she needed was her gauntlets jamming on snake guts.
"If by 'fastest,' you mean 'disgusting,' then yes, it was."
"Calm down. We'll get you a change of clothes when we get back to camp."
"Do you have any idea how long it will take to get this out?" she waved her hand, the liquid mess flinging from her hand to stain the forest floor.
"No longer than it would take to get taijitu poison out of your system." Yang stood, stretching to relieve the tension that sat in her muscles. Weiss' voice faded to mild drone as Yang tested her muscles, checking for any damage she might have missed. Her shoulder twinged as she moved, hinting at more pain to come once the muscles had time to really get mad at her. The blonde groaned at the prospect of yet another injury, glad of the aura boosters they had stashed away in their medical supplies.
Letting her focus waver, she looked over at Weiss, the girl still managing to rant as she wrung the gunk from her combat skirt. She could still half-hear Weiss' tirade, something about coordinating attack tactics. Don't know what she's complaining about – divide-and-conquer is technically coordinated. Especially since she's the one who's been 'off' the past couple weeks.
Sighing, Yang rose to her full height, cutting Weiss off as soon as the smaller woman stopped for breath.
"Look, let's not bicker about who might have dumped a gallon of snake innards on whom. That's probably the last one. A few hours and you'll be back home, with a nice shower and all the nastiness out of your hair."
Not waiting for an answer, Yang trudged back down the hill, thighs aching as muscles tired from non-stop fighting complained. A quiet humph carried down the slope, and the sound of heeled boots cracking loose twigs soon followed her. Settling on the high road, Yang slowed down, her legs thanking her as Weiss caught up.
"How'd you end up out here anyway?" Yang asked, half-sure she already knew the answer. "I thought you and Ruby were cleaning out the last of the beowolf pack."
Weiss' ears turned red. Eyes locked straight ahead, the white-haired girl just kept walking, jaw clenching and unclenching until she answered.
"We just got separated."
"Uh huh." Yang ignored the obvious lie, letting her pace slag as Weiss tried to put some space between them. Grinding her teeth to hold back an exasperated groan, Yang made a mental note to deal with this ... whatever it was, once they got back to civilization. This friction between the two of them had gone on long enough, and whatever was causing this constant 'not-fighting' needed to stop.
In all fairness, Ruby usually did a fine job as their fearless leader. She just sometimes needed a kick in the ass to get her moving when it came to Weiss.
"Yang!" A cheery voice rang through the trees, a small red form waving wildly as it ran towards them. Speak of the devil...
"Ruby!" Yang called happily, arms wide for the expected hug, only to smile sheepishly when her sister recoiled from the stench. Gasping noises came from behind her as Blake ground to halt several feet away, hands clasped over her more-sensitive nose.
"Is there some new skunk-type Grimm I haven't heard about?" the Faunus mumbled, her voice muffled by the hands covering her face.
"Just a parting gift from a taijitu," Yang grinned as she moved farther from her partner. "Good to see you're okay."
"Are you alright, Weiss?" Ruby moved over to the white-haired girl, eyes watering from the smell as she gave her partner the once-over. Seeing no permanent damage, she beamed, squeezing the heiress' shoulder affectionately.
Weiss stiffened, pulling away from Ruby and knocking more snake bits from the folds of her skirt. "I'm fine. I just need to go clean up this mess."
"Weiss, wait up!" Ruby called, running after the older girl as Weiss marched off into the woods.
Blake and Yang stood there a moment as Weiss vanished down the trail, Ruby in hot pursuit.
"The hell's her problem?" Yang asked, taking a few more steps away from her partner. "She hasn't been this twitchy since our first year at Beacon."
"No idea," Blake muttered, the hand clutching her nose making her voice sound nasal. "She's been in bad mood since we came out here. But, it's not as if we're taking lilac-scented bubble baths behind her back."
"... been holding that one back for a while, huh?"
Blinking stench-tears from her eyes, Blake shot a glance over at Yang. "Sorry. Speaking of baths, you could really use one. Or five."
"You could always join me," Yang said, half-joking and not entirely sure what she'd do if Blake actually said yes. It had been years since the two paired up during their first trial at Beacon. Years since she dragged her sister over to talk to the pretty, bookish girl with the bow in her hair. Years as partners and a team, and every so often, Yang entertained the thought of seeing if their partnership might become ... something else. But after all their time at Beacon and their first few years as full-fledged huntresses, the Faunus girl had yet to show any interest in pretty much anyone.
Missing the invitation, Blake clutched her nose a little tighter, cocking an eyebrow at Yang over the top of her fist. "In the interest of keeping my stomach under control, I'll pass."
"You know, I should make a perfume out of this," the brawler waved her arms, sketching the imagined billboard before them. "Tired of sub-standard guys hitting on you? Try Yang's patented douchebag repellant. The scent for any occasion when you just want to be left alone. Nose plugs not included."
Blake chuckled softly, the sound slipping out from behind her hands. Yang grinned. It wasn't often that she got to hear Blake's little chime of a laugh – her puns were usually only greeted with groans and pained expressions – but she always made the best of it.
"It's just a shame it'd never work on me," Yang purred haughtily, flicking a few stray locks of hair back over her shoulder. "Even this odor can't keep my admirers away."
Her partner snorted through her hands, eyes watering as the smell managed to get to her more sensitive Faunus nose. "You're hot, Yang. But no one is that hot."
"Aww, you think I'm hot?"
"You literally set fire to things. The word comes to mind right after 'stubborn' and 'possessing a truly terrible sense of humor.'"
"You love the puns," Yang grinned, miming a playful punch in Blake's direction.
"I tolerate the puns. What I'd love is for you to have a bath before you come back to camp."
"Weiss, wait up!"
"Stop following me!"
"Like saying that has ever actually worked," Ruby growled, lugging her scythe behind them as they walked.
A sound that was half-sigh, half pant came from the trees ahead. Pushing through the bushes, Ruby found herself face-to-face with the heiress, her brows raised in weary submission.
"What do you want, Ruby?" Weiss asked, her voice pitching up as she finished, arms flopping uselessly at her sides.
"Why'd you run off?" There. Nice and direct. Dealing with the problem head on, like a good leader. I've totally got this.
"Because I am tired. I'm sore. To top it all off, I'm covered in snake innards. Now will you please just let me be?" Weiss turned on her heel, and started back down the path.
Okay. That's a start. At least she's talking to me...
"Weiss, you can't just run off and leave your team in combat, especially not me. I'm your partner. Whatever the problem is, I can hel-"
"You're my problem!" Weiss screamed, ice blue eyes alight with anger. "I can't think while you're around. You're a distraction, and I can barely fight with you bouncing around in the corner of my eye!"
Ruby froze, her chest tightening as Weiss' barbs found their mark. The two girls just stood there for a moment, staring at each other over the pained silence that grew between them.
Closing her eyes, Weiss raised her marginally cleaner hand and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. "I-I'm sorry. That ... I'm tired. Please, Ruby. I just ... I need some time alone." Breaking away, Weiss turned to leave.
"Weiss, if you want to leave the team ... it's okay."
The heiress' back stiffened, her legs freezing in place as she stopped.
"I mean, most hunter teams don't stay together this long. Plus, for me and Yang, we were raised to this. It's in our blood, and ... and being a huntress is a career for us, but ..." Ruby paused, her throat clenching. Refusing to let her voice crack, she pushed through. "But there's a whole company, with your name on it, waiting for you. If you don't want to be here anymore, if you're not happy, I ... we'll understand."
With that, Ruby turned and trudged back through the woods, knuckles white as she clenched her weapon to her side.
Once Ruby was beyond hearing, Weiss sagged, and let her weight fall against the nearest tree, not caring about the damage the sap might do to her already-ruined clothes. Putting her head in her hands, she closed her eyes, and tried not to think about the dark-haired girl storming off towards camp.
"Dammit, Ruby. Why do you have to be so dense?"
Writer's Note: Well, after a long break, I'm back, with a new, updated version incorporating elements from Volume 3. I'll be updating all of the chapters with edits, a few additions, and the occasional fix before doing new chapters. Things to be changed include a bit of Winter's portrayal and the Ruby/Weiss relationship, which I've never been fully happy with. Updated chapters will be labelled with the 'Redux' in the title.
Please, if at all possible, leave a review if you can. That's how I find out what people thought of the story, the updates, and it lets me know what you like and would like to see. Even if it's only a couple words, it always makes my day, and constructive criticism is always appreciated.
You can also find me at redsuitwriter on tumblr, where I'm happy to answer pretty much any questions about me, this story, or any of my other projects (including some of my other stories and my work as one of the writers for the Summer Rose Court RWBY fan-game – although there's not as much I can talk about for that one.) So please, drop by and send me an ask – I'd love to talk to anyone.