"Were you guys fucking in the closet again?" Coco groused when Weiss and Ruby finally met her down by the front door twenty minutes late. She was impatiently tapping her foot with her arms crossed, but it was the annoyed look on her face that made Ruby jump behind Weiss and cower. "Seriously, what took you two so long?"
"It couldn't be helped," Weiss shrugged nonchalantly, plucking Ruby's fingers off of her coat. "You know how hard it is to come out of the closet."
Coco snorted at the joke, her anger easily brushed aside like dust. "Fine. Let's just get going. Am I driving or are you?" she asked tiredly but quickly redacted her question when Weiss gave her a withering look. "Right, I'm driving. Got it."
"I'm glad we could come to an accord."
"Bugger off, Ice Queen," Coco barked.
Weiss quirked an eyebrow at her, smirking. "I still sign your paycheques, Coco." That made Coco freeze, her lips sealing shut. "And that, Ruby, is how you deal with insubordination."
"Huh, okay?" Ruby nodded slowly, not knowing how threatening to dock Weiss' pay would affect her leadership skills.
They followed a thoroughly defeated Coco out of the manor where the nicest sedan Ruby had ever seen waited patiently for them. Weiss' "pretty blue" car was actually a gorgeous midnight blue sports car with a metallic finish that sparkled under the early morning sun.
"Whoa," Ruby said as she bounded down the steps, two at a time, to get a closer look.
She circled around it once and peered in through one of the tinted windows, though she was careful not to touch it to avoid incurring Coco's wrath. She could practically feel the older woman's eyes burrowing into her back like a drill when she leaned in a little too close.
"Impressed?" Ruby nodded her head. "You haven't seen anything yet," Weiss said as she opened the back door and held it for Ruby. "Watch your head."
Heeding Weiss' tongue-in-cheek warning, Ruby made sure to duck extra low as she got in.
"One of these days you're going to have to get an actual chauffeur or get your license," Coco said as she slid into the driver's seat. "Yang and I aren't always going to be available, y'know?"
Weiss followed in after her but got into the front passenger seat instead of in the back with Ruby. "Do you really want me to run you over again?"
"Who said I'd dumb enough to try teaching you again?"
"You hit her with a car?" Ruby asked, leaning forward to catch Weiss' attention.
"Accidentally," Weiss answered with a smile that said she wasn't too sorry she did. "She was trying to teach me how to parallel park, but for some inexplicable reason she decided to do it outside of the car."
Ruby looked at Coco and snickered. "Smart."
"She was supposed to back up, not shoot forward!" Coco huffed indignantly. She put the key into the ignition and started up the car. It roared to life then began to rumble and purr as it sat in idle, waiting for its driver to direct it. "Buckle up, Creampuffs."
"Do it, Ruby," Weiss said, buckling her seatbelt. "She drives like a maniac."
The drive to Weiss' parents' estate was faster than Ruby anticipated. She expected it to take over an hour or more, picturing a cross-country trip like in the movies, but it only took six uninterrupted songs on the radio to reach it on a decidedly deserted road; however, it did take another song and a half to get through the driveway and actually reach the house. Could it really be called a house though?
"Wow," Ruby openly gawked, her neck cranked as far back as it could go. "Is this a castle?"
"A small one, yes," Weiss said.
"How big is it?"
"Big enough to fit several Schnee egos under one roof," Coco answered snidely as she guided the car to the front steps where a smartly dressed attendant waited for them. She lowered her sunglasses and narrowed her eyes him. "He looks new."
Weiss glanced at the attendant and nodded her head. "Eager bright eyes and a smile, definitely new," she concurred. "Keep your guard up."
The attendant walked up to the driver's side window and waited for Coco to roll it down before speaking. "Welcome home, Ms. Adel." He peered in and, in a voice that sounded much too eager, added, "Ms. Schnee."
"Mrs. Schnee," Weiss corrected him sharply, her eyes narrowed in warning.
The young man immediately jumped a step back and straightened his posture. "My apologies, Mrs. Schnee!" He exclaimed with a look of horror on his face. "I meant no disrespect."
"Winter doesn't come home often," Coco said to alleviate some of his distress. Although, while she looked and sounded friendly, Coco had pushed her sunglasses back in place to hide her distrusting look. "Save yourself some stress and remember that if she doesn't greet you first, always assume it's Her Royal Majesty, Mrs. Weiss R. Schnee."
Weiss gasped and playfully slapped Coco's shoulder. "You ingrate!"
"Take note of the physical abuse to her most trusted knight in hella high fashion," Coco quipped with a grin, her eyebrow arching higher as Weiss struck her again. "Were you even trying that time, Blue? That felt more like a tickle than a punch."
"Any harder and I might just shatter your ego," Weiss snapped back with a smirk.
Watching the lighthearted banter, the attendant risked a step closer to the car. "S-Shall I take the keys?" he offered, standing even straighter when Weiss shot him a warning glare.
"Sorry… your name?" Coco asked in a faux friendly tone.
"Ilyes," he answered, visibly breathing a sigh of relief when it was Coco who asked him and not Weiss.
Coco tilted her head back and tapped the wheel three times, pretending to consider his offer. "Yeah, no can do, Ilyes. Nobody gets in Sweetie Belle's driver's seat but me," she said, flashing in him a brief smile. "And don't worry, I know the way to the parking garage."
Listening quietly in the back, Ruby snickered to herself. "Sweetie Belle?"
Weiss looked over her shoulder with a curious look on her face. "Why are you laughing? You named it."
"What?" Ruby blanched.
"Come along, Ruby," Weiss said as she shook her head and got out of the car, leaving Coco to do her job. Ruby quickly followed her out and up the stairs, taking her hand as they climbed them. "Be careful of who you speak to," Weiss whispered without looking at her.
"Like Ilyes?" Ruby tilted her head back to gesture at the young man desperately pleading for Coco to reconsider her decision.
"Especially him." Weiss spared Ilyes a side-glance and caught Coco's eye in the process. "We don't recognize him."
Ruby frowned, not liking the way Weiss and Coco instantly judged the young man. "But he looks nice," she said in his defence.
"And so does Coco," Weiss muttered as she reached for the door. She pulled it open with a muted grunt of effort and ushered Ruby in before letting the door close behind them. She reclaimed Ruby's hand and led her through the foyer where a small army of maids and butlers greeted them in unison. "Stay close."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Ruby grinned, giving Weiss' hand a little squeeze. "I think I can really get used to this."
"To me or the luxury?" Weiss asked teasingly.
Ruby gave her a playful smile and shrugged, leaving Weiss' question unanswered. Though, Ruby secretly hoped Weiss understood, but to make sure did, Ruby squeezed her hand again.
A maid walked up to them and curtsied. "May I take your coats?" she asked, not meeting Weiss' eyes.
They handed their coats to her without any fuss. Ruby gave the young woman her thanks while Weiss stood there stoically, paying extra attention to who she was and where her hands were placed. Ruby figured she might as well do the same in case Weiss needed her recollection but quickly lost interest when Weiss pulled on her hand.
Their candid little talk in the closet had calmed many of Ruby's fears and taught her a lot about this fascinating new world. At first, it was all so overwhelming—she was married to Weiss Schnee for crying out loud! That was a twist Ruby would have never expected, not even in a million years but here she was, married with children. But as Ruby spent more time in this new world, she slowly began to realize the only times she ever truly felt at home was when she was beside Weiss. She was safe; she was familiar. And speaking of familiar, Ruby was shocked by how well she knew this house.
"I've been here before," Ruby alerted Weiss quietly. She picked up her pace and overtook Weiss by a step but made sure to keep their hands linked together. "Hey, I remember these stairs!" She quickly ran up them, dragging Weiss comically behind her, shocking the help that still lingered. "And this hallway, and…"
They abruptly stopped in front of a tall set of white double doors with embossed gilded edges. Ruby let go of Weiss' hand and walked up to touch the final barrier between her and something she's been… a strange feeling Ruby couldn't quite describe filled the pit of her stomach. The sensation hit her hard, like a heavy stone thrown into an old bucket, clanking around in her insides until it settled at the bottom.
Ruby squinted her eyes and saw a glimpse of something just beyond her reach like an island in the distance, blurred by the blinding light in horizon. Red, white, black… and just Ruby as thought she finally had it within her grasp, it was gone, slipping through her fingers like smoke.
Sighing in frustration, Ruby dropped her hand and touched her aching head instead. Everything slowed to a crawl, and she felt like she was slowly sinking through cold molasses with nothing to hold on to but thin air.
The world might've been slower than a floating glacier, but her thoughts were racing. One, two, four, twenty, one-hundred—she couldn't breathe.
Ruby gasped for air, taking in as much as she could, but her lungs still felt empty.
The world was suddenly spinning wildly off of its axis, teetering to-and-fro, tossing Ruby around like a ragdoll inside of it.
Ruby gasped again; she was drowning.
"Is everything okay?" Weiss asked, her worried voice shattering the darkness that threatened to swallow Ruby whole.
Strong arms wrapped around Ruby's waist, coiling around her until she was nestled securely against a warm body. A beat passed and Ruby's agitated ocean of thoughts stilled.
One-hundred, twenty, four, two… one.
Weiss was the only thought that stayed after everything else faded away like sea foam on the beach. Ruby took a breath and filled her lungs and stomach to the brim, not caring about how ridiculous she might've looked to Weiss. Alright, maybe she cared a little. Or a lot. Her feelings were pointing in all directions, it was difficult to get a proper read on them.
Exhaling everything slowly through her mouth, Ruby leaned into Weiss' embrace and gave her speeding heart a moment to rest. She focused on the warmth radiating off of Weiss and used it to bind her back to reality. Little by little, with the help of Weiss' steady breathing and her comforting scent, Ruby began wading through her issues until she reached for the only concrete thing she knew.
"Weiss," she whispered, carefully taking her wife's left hand into hers. She rethreaded their fingers and took another moment to properly gather her thoughts.
"What's on your mind?"
"For once? Nothing," Ruby smiled blissfully, playing with Weiss' fingers, still amazed by how real they felt.
"Could have fooled me," Weiss chuckled as she nuzzled Ruby's cheek with her nose. It was cold to the touch, and it sent shivers running up Ruby's spine, but she never wanted it to stop. There was something familiar about the simple gesture and it made Ruby's heart skip a beat. "There's always something going on in that head of yours."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ruby asked with a pout, but she easily broke into a smile when she felt soft lips press against her temple.
"You're going to be okay," Weiss whispered, placing another kiss. "It may just be me here beside you physically, but you have so many other people behind you, supporting you—loving you. Ruby Rose, you are never alone."
"Being alone isn't what I'm scared of," Ruby replied, her brows furrowing together as she tried to recall that hazy image.
Red, white, black...
"Then what's holding you back?"
Unsure of how to answer, Ruby instead looked to Weiss with pleading eyes, silently asking for permission to enter the room.
"Go ahead," Weiss said with a nod. "Just be quiet though, she's not a morning person."
"Just like you then," Ruby replied softly as she twisted the knob and pushed the door open.
The nursery was exactly what she expected it to look like. Large, colourful, and filled with enough toys to stock a small store. There was even a giraffe plush as tall as the ceiling tucked away in the far East corner next to a "little" foam padded play area mimicking a savanna. Other toys were littered on the mat to replicate the arid plains such as a blue ball pit for water and a beige slide for rocks. There was even a little swing set shaped like a tree surrounded by a pride of large stuffed lions.
Ruby snorted at the gross extravagance. "Really?"
"What?" Weiss said, sounding mildly offended. "I had no control over this."
"And the birds?" Ruby asked, pointing to the mural of six pastel budgies facing the excessive play area.
"Oh, that was all you," Weiss answered with a grin. "You used to watch My Little Budgie with Blanc and Winter nonstop."
Ruby was about to denounce Weiss' claim when she recalled a moment with Weiss on a balcony looking over a bustling city. It was night time and all the lights below were like twinkling stars, but Weiss was the brightest star of all.
How could one woman be so beautiful?
When Weiss finally noticed she was being watched, she turned her head and smiled, beckoning Ruby to come closer. They embraced and kissed, their bodies molding together intimately. Ruby vividly remembered running her hand through Weiss' hair and the way she quietly moaned into the kiss. If Weiss was breathtakingly beautiful, then what did that mean for her kisses? Ruby wasn't sure then, and she still isn't sure now, but what she did know was that she never wanted it to end. She stole Ruby's breath away so easily with her effortless beauty, it could've been the kiss of death for all she cared.
Pushing deeper into the kiss, Ruby begged for the memory to stop right there so she could stay connected to Weiss, but memories were almost as cruel as time itself since both were fleeting in nature.
When they pulled apart, Weiss looked away, visibly flustered and out of breath. She looks so sweet and innocent blushing the way she did. Ruby wanted to go back in for another kiss but stopped when she noticed Weiss sigh; she looked like she had something heavy weighing on her mind. It took some effort and a lot of messy, wet kisses, but Weiss eventually cracked and answered, baring her soul to Ruby in a way she never expected. Her words were jumbled like static on the radio, like her brain was protecting her from a secret she wasn't ready to hear, but one thing did stand out—a name.
"Winter…" Ruby scrunched her brows together in deep thought. She knew that name, but why was it so special? She repeated the name to herself hoping to jog her memory, but a soft kiss made it all fade away again.
"Don't hurt yourself thinking about it. Winter is my twin," Weiss said contritely as she pulled away and moved around Ruby to get to the curtains.
"You two were fairly close before you lost your memories," Weiss said, interrupting her before she could get her question out.
"No." Ruby shook her head, denying Weiss' suggestion, still trying to untangle the memory. "There's more to it than that…"
"A secret affair?" Weiss teased with a lilting laugh.
Rolling her eyes, Ruby picked a stuffed lion up from the cubby shelf closest to her and gave it a little squeeze around the belly. It let out a deceptively realistic roar, startling Ruby. Once she got the toy securely back in her hands, Ruby's eyes nervously darted towards the crib and then to Weiss, worried the sudden noise would anger both the baby and her mother, but everything stayed still and quiet.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Ruby stroked the lion's rich red mane and dared herself to be the one to break the silence. "She's the one you said Coco was dating, right?" she asked, still nervously petting the lion. It was incredibly soft and well-made, much better than anything Ruby had growing up. A small smile graced Ruby's lips, her daughter was lucky.
"For the most part," Weiss answered with her back turned to Ruby. "Their relationship isn't as cut and dried as ours. Honestly, I don't know what's going on between them, and I don't want to."
"Why?" Ruby gave the toy another squeeze, though she avoided the noise maker this time around.
"Because we're identical, and I really don't want to imagine myself being intimate with anyone but you."
"Oh," Ruby blushed shyly, she hadn't thought of that possibility. She put the toy back and walked up to Weiss to hold her instead. The older woman wasn't as fuzzy or as plush as the toy, but she was a lot nicer to squeeze.
"Wha—hey!" Weiss hissed when Ruby gave her midsection a quick tight hug. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Nothing," Ruby innocently smiled. "Just curious."
Ruby shrugged, letting Weiss go. She gave the room another look-see now that it had more light, but her opinions didn't change. It was a nice room with plenty of thought and money put into it, but it felt cold, not in the temperature sense though; the nursery was adequately heated.
"Something wrong?" Weiss asked when she noticed Ruby had fallen quiet.
"Isn't this room a little… big?"
"What do you mean?"
Rubbing her arm self-consciously, Ruby glanced at the crib and took a tentative step back, giving it a wide berth in case she did anything to prematurely wake the baby.
"I always thought nurseries were supposed to, y'know, be small and kept under careful watch."
Weiss blinked at Ruby like she'd said something strange. Blushing, Ruby slinked back a little more, trying to make herself seem as small as possible.
"She's a Schnee, we don't do anything half way. And this is about as small as the rooms here get. Any smaller and she'd be in a repurposed bathroom, or a closet, but even those are fairly large." Weiss finished with the curtains and made her way towards the crib, flashing Ruby a brief smile as she passed her. She reached in and cooed at the baby softly, rousing her from her sleep as gently as she could. "I also gave Mother notice about our arrival yesterday. That's why no one's here but us."
"Oh… so your parents don't watch over her personally?" Ruby wrung her hands together, trying to decide whether she should stay put or move closer. She decided to stay put.
"They do, but sometimes they need a little help."
Ruby quirked an eyebrow.
"Is everyone allowed in here?"
A beat passed.
"No," Weiss said coldly. "That doorknob was a biometric scanner. Only authorized personnel can get in. And in the case of a hostage situation, or someone slipping in without permission, there are several hidden cameras nearby connected to Penny's mainframe."
Ruby stopped and stared at Weiss in horror. "Does this mean she saw us… cuddling?"
"Why did you whisper that?"
"Because there's a baby in the room?"
Weiss rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Astute observation, Ruby, but she will eventually learn we did more than just 'cuddle' to bring her into this world."
"Oh. Right," Ruby blushed deeply, squirming on the spot. It was still really strange and, quite frankly, awkward to think she was an adult who did adult things with Weiss.
Putting Ruby's awkwardness behind her, Weiss turned her attention back to the crib and carefully lifted Vermillion out. She cradled her close to her chest, slowly rocking her body to a song she hummed. Vermillion stretched and yawned, her eyes opening for a brief moment before slipping closed. She nuzzled deeper into her mother's warmth, falling asleep again. Frowning, Weiss gave Ruby a look that said "she gets this from you." Ruby didn't have the heart to refute it. After all, it was the truth.
Weiss poked Vermillion's belly then let her fingers loose, tickling Vermillion until she let out a happy squeal. Not wanting the attention to stop, Vermillion reached for her mother's face. Weiss chuckled and leaned in closer, giving Vermillion's grabby little fingers whatever they wanted.
"Good morning, my little lion," Weiss said as she nuzzled her nose into the fine tufts of red hair crowning her daughter's head. She placed a number of kisses and blew little raspberries all across Vermillion's face until the baby was a giggling mess. "Oh how I've missed you. Yes, I have. Oh yes, I have."
Ruby watched in awe, trying to reconnect her image of a cold, calculating Weiss to the doting mother before her.
"Did you miss me?" Vermillion let out a happy shriek in response and tugged on the discoloured lock of hair framing Weiss' face. "Ow, yup, you missed me. Now let go, darling. Darling, let go—Ruby, a little help please?"
"Oh! Yeah, on my way!" Ruby rushed in and carefully pried Vermillion's hand away from Weiss hair only to have her finger replace it. "H-Hey there…" Ruby didn't know what to say or how to react when Vermillion turned her pretty blue eyes towards her. "Um…"
"Do you want to hold her?"
Ruby numbly nodded her head.
"Okay. I'm going to transfer her over to you now," Weiss said as she guided Ruby's arm into the proper position. "Make sure you support her head and keep her level. If you you're having any trouble holding her, let me know immediately. We don't want her dropped on her head like your sister, now do we?"
Ruby wanted to laugh at the joke, but Yang did get dropped on her head and Weiss might've known that.
Once Vermillion was in her arms, Ruby couldn't help but smile. Her daughter was small for a baby her age, and she really didn't weigh much at all, but she was happy and healthy and that was all Ruby could hope for.
Vermillion watched Ruby quietly, wary of the red giant holding her, but a spark of recognition ignited in her eyes when Ruby nervously grinned at her. She immediately let out a happy shriek and broke into a smile, pulling Ruby's finger into her mouth.
"I remember you," Ruby cooed, surprising both her and Weiss. Her eyes shot wide open as that same spark in Vermillion's eyes flared up in hers. "Holy savanna in summer, I remember you."
"What do remember?" Weiss urgently asked, stepping closer towards Ruby.
Ruby smiled at her hopeful wife and said, "I remember bugging you for another baby… and hugging you when you finally said yes. I also remember feeling really anxious while I waited for you to pee on a stick."
"Ugh, that wasn't even necessary!" Weiss crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, sighing heavily to hide her embarrassment. "We already knew I was pregnant."
"But you did it anyway."
"To satisfy your curiosity," Weiss groused, "disgusting as it was."
Ruby grinned at her partner's bashfulness and nudged her with a shoulder, "You do a lot of things for me."
"I would do anything for you," Weiss murmured with a heavy blush. "But what else do you remember?"
"I remember talking to your stomach and… and…" It was Ruby's turn to blush and that was all Weiss needed to know. "I, um, I've been waiting a long time for this…"
"I suppose you have." A thoughtful look crossed Weiss' face for a brief moment before she cleared her throat and stroked Vermillion's hair, careful not to meet Ruby's flustered gaze. "I wasn't too keen on having another baby so soon, it was always on the table though. You wanted a big family and I didn't mind giving that to you, but Blanc was my major concern. She was barely old enough to speak, and we didn't have enough time for her let alone another baby. But, as you can probably already see, I don't know how to say no to you."
"Was I like this with Blanc?"
"No…" Weiss answered sadly, her hand resting on Vermillion's chest. "I should probably feed her now. Would you mind stepping out and waiting?"
"Huh?" Ruby blinked. "I can't watch?"
"I-I…" Weiss' mouth hung open. "I don't how comfortable I am with that…"
"Oh," Ruby deflated, her eyes dropping to the floor in defeat. "I understand."
"I'm sorry, maybe next time after we've gotten a little more familiar with each other?"
"No, no… i-it's okay, Weiss," Ruby said, passing Vermillion back to Weiss. It broke her heart to be separated from her daughter, but Weiss' comfort was more important and at the forefront of her mind. "Really, it's okay. Can I… can I at least wait out by the door?"
"I don't see why not."
Ruby gave Weiss a final smile before leaving her to feed Vermillion in peace but waiting outside didn't sit right with her.
When she closed the door behind her, Ruby slid down until she was comfortably seated on the floor. At first she kept herself occupied by picking the lint off her sweater, but that got boring fast so she searched for the cameras instead.
"I don't know if you can hear me, Penny, but I could really use a friend right now," she whispered with tears pricking her eyes. "Weiss feels so far away even though she's so close… I've done a lot of terrible things to her… to everyone. I've probably done something horrible to you too."
Ruby tried to rub her eyes dry, but the tears refused to stop.
"How could I have messed up this badly?" she asked. "All I wanted was to be a huntress… how did my dream become this?"
Looking up, Ruby noticed a strange black dot on the otherwise white ceiling and squinted her eyes. She couldn't exactly make it out, but she suspected she'd found one of the cameras. Curious, Ruby looked around the hallway for more black dots and found four others.
"Ruby?" Weiss suddenly called from inside.
"Y-Yeah?" Ruby shouted back, her eyes focused on another possible camera.
"I've changed my mind… please come back."
Ruby shot up and faced the door, her hand already on the knob. She wiped her eyes one last time to do away with any lingering tears before asking, "Are you sure?"
"Yes, just hurry up before I lose my nerve!"
Stepping back into the room, Ruby found Weiss sitting on a chair near the crib. Ruby politely averted her eyes as she neared her wife, remembering how uncomfortable Weiss sounded, and sat down on the floor next to her.
"I'm sorry I told you to leave," Weiss said, shifting Vermillion into a more comfortable position. Ruby shook her head and told her it was okay, but Weiss wasn't having any of it. "You didn't do anything wrong when you asked. You're not in trouble."
"I know…" Ruby dejectedly mumbled, "but I shouldn't have assumed you'd be fine with me watching. Kinda creepy now that I think about it. I mean, asking to watch you feed your baby—"
"It's not that, Ruby. You've watched me nurse our children before," Weiss cut in to quickly explain. "I just… I'm trying to adjust to this new you again. When you lost your memories, I kept our relationship a secret to avoid overwhelming you. Everyone agreed it was for the best, though Blanc was disappointed she lost you completely… she was so patient, and I—"
"Weiss?" Ruby gently placed a hand on Weiss' knee and moved to sit in front of her so they could talk face to face. When Weiss looked at her warily, Ruby flashed her what she hoped was comforting smile and said, "You don't have to explain."
Weiss bit her lip, "Okay."
Nodding her head, Ruby nervously patted Weiss' knee, her eyes shifting down. "Can I ask what made you change your mind?" she asked in a rare moment of bravery.
"Penny," Weiss answered simply, gesturing to the scroll she had on her lap. "She told me to stop being a jerk and let you back in."
"Oh," Ruby blinked, silently thanking her digital guardian.
"I'm sorry I told you to leave…" Weiss continued with her head hung low. "You're my wife, I shouldn't feel embarrassed."
"Weiss," Ruby whispered solemnly, her eyes misty from the heavy guilt residing in her heart, "I'm sorry, but I'm not the girl you married. I'm not even the girl who woke up without her memories. I'm… I'm just me. I'm the girl that sneezed and blew us up—the same girl who convinced you to ride a Nevermore with her the day after."
"Yeah, that's me," Ruby said with a smile. "Y'know, I read a book once where this guy went to bed angry at his girlfriend only to wake up in a completely different time and place. His life was looking good though. He had a nice apartment, a great job, and lots of money, but he was alone. His girlfriend had moved on and married her best friend. She was living a good life too, but when she saw her ex, she remembered the way he was before they started fighting and worrying about money…"
"How does it end?"
Ruby smiled. "He tried to let her go and accept that this was his reality, but he felt empty. She was the love of his life… he went to bed and woke up back in his own world remembering everything."
"So a happy ending?"
"Yeah…" Ruby rested her head against Weiss' knee, "a happy ending."
"This isn't like a book though, Ruby. This is your life, and these are the choices you've made."
"I know… but I can't shake the feeling that this is all still a dream that I'll wake up from. No offense, but you're kind of a nightmare sometimes."
"Tch, I will be the first to admit that I was a bit… difficult... when we met," Weiss hesitantly said, "and I've taken responsibility for it. Personally, I'd like to think I'm a different woman now."
"Like your sort-of-but-not-really relationship with Coco before we got together?" Ruby asked, looking up to gauge Weiss' reaction.
"She told you?" Weiss winced.
"Yeah, she told me a little bit. I'm not mad, though, I'm kind of happy actually," Ruby confessed. "It feels like a puzzle piece was put back into place, and I'm beginning to see the big picture. But who's Neptune? Is he important?"
Weiss gulped, her eyes widening slightly. Ruby cocked her head to the left, her eyebrow arching up curiously.
"He was my ex-boyfriend, though I don't know if I should really call him that," Weiss explained, nervously tugging on her shirt when Ruby's eyes refused to leave hers. Weiss gulped again. "What did Coco tell you exactly?"
"She told me you guys used to 'hook up' but never went all the way," Ruby answered, glossing over the main bulk of her conversation with Coco.
"So she can tell the truth. I didn't think it was possible," Weiss sardonically chuckled. "There's no point in keeping it a secret then I suppose."
"I'd appreciate the honesty."
Weiss smiled at Ruby but shifted her gaze to Vermillion. "Coco and I were fairly physical when we were younger, but we could never get over that little line between platonic and romantic," she said with reluctance.
"She said she really liked you, like, like-like."
Weiss quirked an eyebrow. "Okay?"
"Uh… yeah," Ruby blushed, mentally kicking herself for using such childish metaphors.
"Look, Ruby, if I never considered Coco my girlfriend, a woman I've nearly had… relations with, then Neptune was far, far, far below even that. He was a good friend, and I think he might have really loved me at some point, but I was essentially using him to hide who I really was."
"Because I was falling in love with you and it terrified me."
Vermillion chose that time to interrupt her parents, telling them she was full with an sniffle and whine. She pulled away from Weiss and squirmed, her face contorting into an uncomfortable scowl. Ruby politely averted her eyes again and waited for Weiss fix her shirt before turning back to offer her help.
"I think I remember how to burp her," Ruby said with outstretched arms. Weiss gave Ruby a worried look but handed the baby and the towel she had on her shoulder over without question. "Let's see… I hold her like this and…"
Weiss was too late.
Vermillion burped without a fuss but with it came something else. Ruby did her best to keep her face from showing any disgust, but the smell and the spine-tingling heat slowly crawling down her back eventually got to her. She held Vermillion at arm's length and glowered at the happily giggling baby in lion print jammies.
"Well," she grumbled, bringing Vermillion closer, "that explains the towel."
"I suppose you forgot that crucial tidbit," Weiss chuckled, her nose crinkling. "I think you have a couple spare shirts in our old bedroom. Can you wait here, or would you like to follow?"
"I'll follow," Ruby said, adjusting Vermillion so she was facing the vomit-free shoulder. "Do we leave her, or can I take her with us?"
"Take her," Weiss said.
Weiss' old bedroom was a few doors down saving Ruby from having to put up with her soiled shirt for too long. It was exactly how Ruby remembered it to be though, sparsely decorated with white curtains and a big bed. A really big bed.
"We had a lot of good times in here, didn't we?" Ruby said with a teasing grin. Weiss glared at her with a slight blush but didn't refute it. "Yeah, I remember this room."
"The other you remembered it too," Weiss said, leading Ruby to their old walk-in closet. "This was our first official home together."
Ruby handed Vermillion over to Weiss and went in, closing the door behind her for some privacy. Ruby shucked off her shirt and used it to quickly dry off her shoulder. Once she was satisfied, she tossed it to the side, not caring where it landed. She'd pick it up later, but for now she was just happy to be free from the warm wetness sinking into her skin.
"Shirt, shirt, shirt," Ruby quietly chanted as she looked around the vacant closet. There were a few dresses in garment bags hanging in what would have been Weiss' half, but Ruby's half was completely barren. "Shirt, shirt, shirt…"
Poking into a large dresser near the back, Ruby found some neatly folded clothes but all of them belonged to Weiss. Ruby tried one on just in case, but it was so tight around the chest area Ruby couldn't breathe without hearing the stitches complain.
"Damn it," Ruby swore as she tried and failed to refold the horribly stretched out shirt. She ended up leaving her pathetic attempt on top of the dresser, she'd apologize for it later.
The second drawer from the top gave her a little hope since she saw a few splashes of colour that weren't varying shades of white and blue. The clothes Ruby found were still a little small, but she was running out of options since the third and final drawer was locked. Ruby had a vague idea of what was hidden inside since she found a similarly locked drawer in her bedroom at RWBY Manor.
"C'mon, ugly green sweater, fit!"
The sweater didn't fit much to Ruby's relief and chagrin. She tossed it onto the first shirt, not bothering to even fold it, and moved onto the next. Ruby had her head halfway through the neck hole when she heard a familiar voice singing in the other room.
"Weiss?" Ruby said to herself, head turning slightly towards the door.
She threw the third shirt off and grabbed the button up waiting for her at the bottom of the pile. She quickly undid the first three buttons and slipped it on. It was an extremely snug fit and Ruby honestly felt like she was going to burst out of it if she so much as breathed, but she couldn't miss the opportunity to hear Weiss sing.
Stepping out of the closet, Ruby found Weiss in front of the window with Vermillion. She was so engrossed in her song she didn't notice Ruby behind her until the end.
"You have a beautiful voice," Ruby said softly to avoid startling Vermillion.
"Thank you," Weiss replied with a smile but snorted out a laugh when she saw Ruby's state of dress. "You're practically bursting out of that poor shirt."
Ruby shrugged. "This was the only thing that really even came close to fitting… I think I outgrew everything we have here."
"I'm sorry, I didn't think about that. It's been a few years, " Weiss quickly apologized. "Can you wait here with Vermillion? I think Coco might have something you can borrow in her room."
"Do I have to?" Ruby pouted, not liking the fact Coco had a room in Weiss' childhood home.
"I can see those buttons straining to stay together," Weiss said. "Can you even breathe in that?"
"Then suck up your pride like you should some air and let me get you something from Coco's closet."
"But I don't like her," Ruby grumbled.
"She doesn't like you either," Weiss shot back, surprising Ruby with her bluntness. "Look, you already know everything that went on between me and Coco. What else can I say to make it so you stop getting so defensive around her?"
"Nothing." Ruby stubbornly crossed her arms, but that was a mistake. A button flew off, nearly hitting Weiss in the face. "Sorry!"
Weiss narrowed her eyes at Ruby but softened her gaze soon after. "Ruby, I love you," she said quietly. "I have given everything, what more do you want from me?"
"No, Weiss, I—"
"Can you at least tell me what she did to get you so upset?"
"She hasn't done anything," Ruby said, clenching her fists, "but something about Coco just doesn't sit right with me. I swear she's evil."
"Of course she's evil," Weiss huffed in exasperation. "She's a corporate lawyer—my corporate lawyer."
"I thought she was your bodyguard?"
"I pay her an exorbitant amount of money. She is whatever I want her to be," Weiss answered sternly. "Ruby, I can't keep having this argument with you. Coco is going to be in our lives whether you like it or not. We owe her so much my entire fortune is nothing but a drop in comparison."
"What do you mean?" Ruby asked, sensing a deeper meaning within Weiss' words.
Weiss furrowed her brows together in deep thought, letting Ruby's question hang in the air. For a moment, Ruby was worried Weiss wouldn't answer, but the older woman sighed and said, "After I lost Garnette, Coco was the only one who stayed with me. I was essentially alone in Atlas, and the only friend I had was drowning in guilt and losing to her demons."
"But she told me not to come back."
"Because you left me!" Weiss spat out harshly, her mood immediately souring after hearing Ruby's pitiful excuse. "I almost died and you couldn't even bring yourself to stand by my side. You ran away, Ruby! You ran away when I needed you the most..."
The crack in Weiss' voice as she uttered that final sentence stabbed Ruby in the heart. She remembered. Honestly, as ironic as it was to say, how could she forget? She knew exactly what she did to Weiss and it haunted her.
"You ignored me for months, and the only reason you ever came home was so you could fuck me!" Weiss screamed in frustration. She took a step back and shook her head derisively. "You didn't even have the decency to stay in bed with me after you finished. You'd just leave to go spend the rest of the night in your stupid workshop."
Ruby flinched in fright, her eyes growing wide. She remembered doing this. She remembered.
"You didn't care about the pain I was in, or the shit I had to go through every day," Weiss bitterly hissed, her anger rising. "I had to bury our daughter while you were off playing hero with your friends! Our daughter, Ruby!"
"But do you know who was with me during all of this?" Weiss asked, getting right up in Ruby's face.
"Coco?" Ruby answered hoarsely. She looked down in shame, too afraid to meet Weiss' furious gaze.
"That's right," Weiss confirmed as she breezed past Ruby to sit on the bed. She shifted her attention from Ruby to Vermillion, who was beginning to look incredibly upset, and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell. I'm not angry at you, no, never. I'm sorry, please don't cry. Please, please, don't cry..." But Weiss' soft words were too late. Vermillion broke into tears. "Damn it."
Ruby was frozen in place, helpless and afraid. She wanted to go to Weiss' side and help her soothe Vermillion, but she was terrified. Weiss had shown her a side of herself that Ruby didn't know how to handle. The double-sided meaning behind her thoughts weren't lost to her, and she realized just how awful she'd been as a person—forget being Weiss' wife, she'd barely been her friend.
"Go to her," a quiet voice whispered.
Ruby balled her hands into fists and looked forward with her head held high. She marched up to Weiss, knelt down before her, and embraced her. Weiss froze from the sudden contact but eventually relented and sunk into Ruby's arms in a fit of tears.
"I am so tired, Ruby," Weiss cried while Vermillion continued to kick and scream.
"I know, baby," Ruby said comfortingly, stroking Weiss' hair the way she stroked Ruby's. "I know, and I am so sorry I wasn't there for you."
The anger and hurt Weiss had buried deep within herself was clawing at the surface, begging to be released, after years of neglect and carelessness. Ruby wasn't fully prepared to handle Weiss in such a broken state, but her silent promise to do better—to be better—was giving her the strength she needed to hold onto Weiss tight.
"I don't know what was going on in my head when I decided to do those things. Maybe I was scared, or maybe I thought Coco was better for you than me, I really can't say," Ruby continued solemnly, "but what I do know is that I never stopped thinking about you."
Ruby didn't recall much after leaving Weiss that day, but the feelings that clung to her thoughts were heavy and she knew it had to be because of Weiss. Her heart may have wavered, but she didn't stray. Weiss had her heart, body, and soul, and she'd give them to her again without a second thought.
"I wish there was something I could say to make things better, but the only thing my stupid teenage brain is telling me to do is to kiss you and pray that helps," Ruby said with a mirthless laugh, her eyes drifting down to Vermillion. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry I keep talking badly about Coco. I didn't think about how much it would hurt you."
"Then kiss me," Weiss demanded, her voice shaken but sure.
Ruby smiled and innocently pressed her lips against Weiss'. They stayed like that for a moment, neither one of them interested in deepening the kiss.
"I will be better, Weiss," Ruby whispered, her words gently brushing against Weiss' lips. "I promise you, I will."
"I trust you," Weiss hesitantly whispered back, resting her forehead against Ruby's. "But please, I'm begging you, don't break my heart again… I don't think I can handle it anymore."
Ruby wasn't sure how to respond so she answered with the truth even though she feared the backlash it would cause.
"I can't promise you that," Ruby said, brushing the hair out of Weiss' eyes. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, I don't really even know how I feel about you yet, but what I do know is that I will never intentionally try to hurt you. And if I do, I'll apologize and work towards fixing it."
Weiss closed her eyes, letting the words sink in. When she reopened them, she smiled and nodded her head. "Thank you."
They stayed like that for a moment, staring into each other's eyes, enjoying the silence—Weiss snapped her attention to Vermillion, suddenly remembering the child in her arms.
"Oh thank god she stopped," Weiss said in relief when she saw Vermillion gnawing on her pyjamas paws without a care in the world.
"I guess she was upset with the noise," Ruby chuckled, ruffling her daughter's hair. The baby kicked a foot out, narrowly missing Ruby's nose with her heel. "Whoa!"
"Be careful you dolt!"
Ruby continued to laugh and mess with Vermillion, but her mind drifted to an apology she'd been putting off. Ruby sucked in a breath and exhaled through her nose, steeling herself to act on her promise.
"Weiss, I'm sorry about asking if you wanted to, y'know, last night," she carefully began. "I'm not sure about all the details since no one's really told me anything, but it sounded like you had a really rough day yesterday."
"You don't need to apologize, Ruby. You're weren't wrong and neither was your response to my mood," Weiss with a faint blush dusting her cheeks. "Making love was something we did to help me de-stress. And due to the nature of my job, and my life in general… well, you can fill in the blanks."
"Well that explains why I had so much trouble sleeping in that other room," Ruby lightheartedly laughed.
A smile graced Weiss' lips. "I suppose there's that, but there's also the fact we've shared a bed for seven years. You had the same issue when you lost your memories."
Another lull fell in the conversation, and for a moment it seemed like they were done talking, but Ruby had one last burning question to ask before she was satisfied.
"Hey, Weiss?" Ruby said, busying her hands with some of Weiss' hair. "Was I really that different without my memories?"
"Yes and no…" Weiss answered, her brows coming together in thought. "You were always a little too mature for your age, and I take partial blame for that, but when you lost your memories it was like you lost your innocence."
Ruby sat down on the floor with her legs crossed, gently urging Weiss to continue.
"You were straight with people…"
"But not with you," Ruby grinned slyly, giving Weiss a brief peek at the fading bruise on her neck.
Weiss narrowed her eyes at Ruby, her lips pursed together in a thin line. "You were a selfish brat," she said, quickly amending her previous statement. "You didn't mince words when you wanted something. And, yes, that includes whatever nasty thing you were thinking of just now. It's a surprise I held off for as long as I did because you were incessant with your advances."
"Don't," Weiss said, shifting Vermillion into a more comfortable position. The baby had been poking and prodding her for attention so Weiss offered her hand to keep Vermillion happy. "I was happy you were showing so much interest in me."
"Well, good! Because you're kind of, wow, y'know?" Ruby said ineloquently, gesturing to Weiss in all of her glory. "You could make taking your socks off look sexy."
Weiss narrowed her eyes at Ruby and covered Vermillion's ears to shield her from what she was about to say. "That better not be another item to add to your long, long list of fetishes."
"My what?" Ruby barked. "And why are you covering her ears?!"
"Because she is young and impressionable," Weiss answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
"I'm young and impressionable!" Ruby shrieked in response, pressing her hands flat against her sensitive virgin ears. "She's a baby! She doesn't know what you're saying, but I do!"
"Oh please, Ruby! You are not innocent," Weiss laughed dismissively. "I felt your eyes on me long before we started dating." Ruby pouted making Weiss laugh even harder. "And don't even get me started about the night we finally got together. The only chaste thing about our relationship was the chaste of your cherry chapstick."
"Then what about you, Ice Queen?" Ruby asked, crossing her arms petulantly. She pointedly ignored Weiss' terrible pun in hopes she would reacted the same way Yang did. But Weiss wasn't Yang and she didn't care if her joke fell flat. Instead, Weiss smirked and got off the bed, breezing past Ruby so she could stretch her legs. "Well?" Ruby insisted, chasing after her.
When Ruby was within reach, Weiss turned around and stepped into her space with an innocent smile, "You're welcome to find out… after you've done some growing up, Ms. Rose."
"Wha—huh?!" Ruby yelped, flustered from their close proximity.
"Then again, you always were into older women," Weiss chuckled, her breath caressing Ruby's skin. "You said you were what—fifteen?" Ruby numbly nodded her head, unable to recall her actual age off the top of her head. "You have a lot of growing up to do."
"What? Why?" Ruby blinked out of her stupor.
Lifting Vermillion up higher, Weiss flashed Ruby another teasing smile. "Because as a married woman in her mid-twenties, I really shouldn't be entertaining the wanton thoughts of a teenager."
While the teasing had been somewhat fun, Ruby didn't enjoy the direction it was heading. Weiss had purposefully brought it up as a reminder of where they really stood and no amount of kisses or hugs could change that, not unless Ruby did something about it, and she wasn't about to let it go unsaid.
"Weiss," Ruby said, sounding more serious than she intended to.
Weiss curiously looked at her then grunted when Ruby pulled her back into her arms. "What?"
"That's…" Ruby gulped, her mouth suddenly drier than the savanna. She glanced at Weiss' pale, pink lips longingly then flicked her gaze up to stare into her wife's eyes, a grave mistake she wouldn't mind making again and again for all of eternity. The intensity burning within those beautiful sapphires had made Ruby's knees feel so weak the only thing holding her up was Weiss. "That's kinda hot," she whispered before finally claiming Weiss' lips.
This kiss wasn't like any of their other kisses, those were all tame compared to this. Ruby could tell because Weiss' tongue had been prodding her like a beggar begging to come inside from the cold. She was more than happily let her in of course, she wasn't cruel and Weiss was a grateful guest.
Weiss' arm slithered around Ruby's waist, her fingers spreading across Ruby's backside to feel as much as she could. She pulled Ruby forward until she was flush against her with no way to escape.
A moan escaped Ruby's lips, her skin practically on fire. Everything was so uncomfortably hot—her clothes, the air, her blood—Ruby wanted it all to stop. She wanted air, she needed to breathe, but her body wouldn't quit. She was drowning. The heat below her stomach was unbearable.
She wanted Weiss.
Ruby gasped for air and immediately dove back in, her mind going blank.
Weiss was incredible, addictive like a high, and her body felt so good against Ruby's. They fit together perfectly, and Ruby thanked her lucky stars initiation day led her to Weiss, the single brightest star in space.
"Ruby," Weiss whispered, her bottom lip trapped helplessly between Ruby's teeth.
A hand too small to be Weiss' grabbed Ruby's breast, startling her back to her senses. Ruby practically ripped herself away from Weiss like Velcro and stared down at the offending hand.
"Buh," Vermillion huffed out, slapping her hand against Ruby's chest for attention.
"Oh," Ruby blushed in embarrassment. "Sorry."
"I don't think she'll care either way, Ruby," Weiss said, pulling Vermillion's hand back. "I-I should go get you that shirt now before we forget and you walk out of here looking like a mess."
"Does it really have to be something from Coco's closet though?" Ruby asked, stuffing her hands into her pockets. She licked her lips and sighed, she could still taste Weiss on her lips and feel her hand through her hair. She'd wanted to feel that rush again but knew now wasn't the appropriate time. "Can't I borrow something from your parents instead?"
"I suppose," Weiss said, giving Ruby a thoughtful look. "Can you watch over Vermillion while I find you something more appropriate?"
Ruby looked at her daughter and held out her hands. "C'mere!"
Weiss handed Vermillion off to Ruby and left them their own devices. At first Ruby didn't know what to do with her child, but after a moment of thought, she held her out at arm's length and gave her a good, long look.
Vermillion kicked her feet out and laughed, her bright blue eyes practically twinkling. Ruby tilted her to the left, then to the right, trying to see her in a different angle, but all she managed to do was confirm her initial thoughts. From the shape of her eyes, ears, and to her cute button nose, Ruby could see so much of herself in Vermillion that it was irrefutable; Vermillion was hers. Though, the deep red hair adorning her head was a dead giveaway. It matched Ruby's perfectly, leaving no room to question her parentage.
"I'm a mom…" Ruby said to herself, allowing it to sink in. "I'm a mom." She pulled Vermillion to her chest and took a couple steps back until her calf hit the bed. She said down and laid on her back, lifting Vermillion up then back down again. "You're mine, Little Lion," she grinned, blowing a raspberry on Vermillion's cheek. "You're all mine!"
Vermillion squealed in delight and reached for Ruby's face, her pyjama pawed hands grazing the tip of Ruby's nose every time she was brought down.
"Grrrraaaaooooo!" Ruby roared making Vermillion laugh even louder. "Liked that, eh? Then how about—"
"You two are adorable," Weiss cut in, her face lit up with a smile.
Ruby scrambled to sit up, Vermillion tucked securely to her chest. "Hey, Weiss!" she exclaimed with a bashful grin. "When'd you get back?"
"Just now," she answered, tossing Ruby a large blue sweater. Ruby snatched it out of the air and put it down beside her, looking sadly between Weiss and Vermillion. "Don't give me that look," Weiss said holding her hands out to take her daughter. "Change and I'll give her back to you."
Ruby passed Vermillion to Weiss and quickly took off her shirt, not caring if Weiss watched her or not. Any hesitation she felt about showing skin around Weiss was thrown out the window after their talk in the closet. Weiss had shown her a great amount of respect and, if Ruby were to be completely honest, the feeling she felt when Weiss' eyes were on her body excited her.
Ruby struggled to placate her racing heart but lost the will to when she felt a warm gaze on her back. Curious to see if she was right, Ruby turned her head and smiled.
"Should I just leave the shirt off?" she teased.
Weiss shrugged, taking the old shirt away so Ruby could change. "Unless you want to introduce yourself to my parents only wearing that lacy bra you have on then be my guest," Weiss said without missing a beat.
"Oh," Ruby blushed. The lacy bra was the first thing she found in her drawer of underthings.
"Just get changed, Ruby," Weiss continued. "They're serving breakfast downstairs and I'd like to get there before Eis does."
"Eis?" Ruby pulled on the sweater, her nose crinkling from the heavy smell of men's cologne clinging to it.
"My little sister," Weiss quietly answered with a grimace. "I don't like her, and she doesn't like me. She hates you, and she most definitely hates our children."
She helped smooth out Ruby's unruly hair and softly laughed when static made it cling to her hand. Ruby tried to flatten the flyaway hairs, muttering shy apologies. The room suddenly felt colder. Ruby fought off a shiver, but the serious look in Weiss' eyes made her shudder. Weiss was leaning in, and once she was within whispering range, Ruby nervously gulped.
"Be careful with what you say around her," Weiss hissed in warning. "Do not rise to her taunts, physically or verbally. She may not be a huntress, but she's smart and cunning. She can hurt you in ways no Grimm can ever match. And whatever you do, do not ever let her touch Vermillion. Do you understand me, Ruby?" Ruby nodded. "I need to hear you say it."
"I understand, Weiss," Ruby whispered, stepping closer so she could kiss her wife on the cheek. She caught on to Weiss' feint early on and played along to keep the conversation going. "You don't trust her, do you?"
"No, I don't," Weiss responded, kissing Ruby's lips soundly. "And neither should you," she added when they pulled apart. "Coco isn't here for my protection."
Ruby's eyes widened in slow realization. "She's here for me, isn't she?"
"Because Eis has tried getting to you in the past. Coco caught it early, but the damage was already done."
"What did she do?"
Weiss smiled and lovingly caressed Ruby's cheek, this time without any pretense, and said, "She tried to lure you away from me."
"No offense to her," Ruby gulped, melting under Weiss' touch, "but how could she ever hope to get me away from you?"
"I don't know," Weiss said. "She tried when you were at your most vulnerable. I really wouldn't put it past her to try again now that you've regained some of your memories."
"Think she'll try the ol' seduction eyes on me again?" Ruby asked with a playful grin.
"Perhaps," Weiss shrugged, stepping away, "but I don't think I have anything to worry about."
Ruby watched Weiss walk out of the room with a dumbfounded stare, her jaw comically hanging open.
"Are you coming, dear?" Weiss asked from the doorway with a flirty smile on her lips.
Nodding her head, Ruby chased Weiss down and followed her to the dining area where Coco and a handful of maids were busy milling around.
"About time you two got here," Coco groused, alerting everyone to Ruby and Weiss' presence. She was standing next to an older woman who Ruby could only assume was her mother-in-law.
"Vermillion was being fussy," Weiss effortlessly lied, taking the seat in front of her mother. Coco wordlessly gave Weiss a knowing look and left it at that. "Good morning, Mother."
"Good morning, Weiss," the woman responded. "Good morning, my little lion!" Vermillion let out a happy squeal and waved her arms forward, trying to reach her grandmother. "And good morning to you too, Ruby."
Ruby blushed under the attention and slinked into the chair beside Weiss. "M-Morning," she said nervously. A cool hand rested on hers beneath the table. "Um…" Ruby looked towards Weiss for help, but she was busy entertaining their daughter.
"Adeline," Coco called the woman, subtly coming to Ruby's rescue. She placed a warm plate of food down in front of Adeline and followed it with a steaming cup of coffee. "Made special for you."
"Thank you, Nicole," the woman said, touching Coco's arm fondly before taking a sip of her coffee and sighing in content. "Perfect as usual."
"Only the best for you, Maman."
A maid hurriedly brought Weiss a plate of food, but she held a hand out, rejecting it flatly. The maid held back an obvious frown and carried the plate back to the kitchen, no doubt to silently fume. Ruby looked at her curiously, wondering why.
"I can get my own plate," Weiss said when she felt Ruby's eyes on her.
Blushing, Ruby sunk back into her chair and sighed.
"In other words, Her Majesty is feeling picky today," Coco chimed in, sliding an empty plate unceremoniously in front of Weiss. "I helped with the chowder and pastries."
"Your croissants are the best I've ever had," Weiss chuckled when Coco placed one in front of her. "You spoil me."
"You pay me," Coco replied, smiling as she gave one to Ruby as well. When Ruby poked it, Coco rolled her eyes and said, "It isn't poisoned, Red."
"It's not that!" Ruby huffed, wiping her finger on a table cloth. "It's just, uh… thanks."
Coco quirked an eyebrow at her and smirked. "No problem."
"… for this morning too."
"Don't mention it," Coco shrugged. "I mean it. Seriously. Don't."
"Nicole, leave the poor girl alone," Adeline chuckled, her hand beckoning for Coco to sit down. "And don't give me that look."
"But, Manan," Coco whined, "you know I hate that name!"
"Hush, it's perfect for you! Now sit down and have breakfast with me," Adeline said, leaving no room for argument.
Coco begrudgingly sat down next to Weiss and began loading her own plate. She handed Weiss a bowl and offered one to Ruby, gesturing to the larger serving bowl.
"This is nice," Adeline said. "It's been so long since we've all had breakfast together."
"It has, hasn't it?" Weiss said, smiling at Ruby who poked at her chowder.
Adeline caught the look and nodded. "Which reminds me, I was informed you recently regained some of your memories, Ruby."
"You don't remember me do you?"
"No, I don't. I'm sorry," Ruby answered demurely. "But you're my mother-in-law, right?" Adeline gracefully nodded. "Cool."
"You are so articulate," Coco teased, waving her spoon at Ruby.
"Nicole," Adeline said in warning, her eyes taking on the same stare Weiss had whenever she was gearing up for a lecture. Coco immediately deflated and sunk back into her seat like a defeated child sent to time-out. Satisfied, Adeline turned her attention back to Ruby. "Are you adjusting well?"
Looking at Weiss, Ruby shyly nodded her head. "Yes, I am," she answered as politely as she could. "I'm a little sad my memories of Beacon are all gone, but I'm hopeful they'll come back. I mean, I remember this house and Vermillion so maybe I'll remember Beacon too."
Adeline smiled. "I hope you remember them soon. Your years at Beacon were some of the most important to Weiss."
"Were they?" Ruby asked Weiss, nudging her with an elbow.
Weiss nudged Ruby back. "Second only to the birth of our children."
"What about our wedding?"
"We didn't have one."
"Huh?" Ruby blinked. That was a surprise. She honestly expected Weiss to want the largest, most expensive wedding ever. She was a little disappointed now.
"You two eloped like a couple of star-crossed lovers," Adeline answered on Weiss' behalf, laughing ever so softly when Weiss glared at her. "Or maybe we should call it what it really was: a shotgun wedding."
"Can we please not bring this up? Ruby might've forgotten, but I haven't!" Weiss grumbled, her breakfast entirely forgotten.
"Was it really that bad?" Ruby asked, gently patting Weiss' knee to calm her down.
"It was," Weiss muttered.
The clipped response put a swift end to the conversation and everyone went back to their meals. It was awkwardly quiet. The maids that helped Coco set the table retreated back to the kitchen once everyone was served, so the only noises in the dining room were Vermillion's gurgling and the clinking of utensils against porcelain.
Ruby wondered if she should say something to break the silence but a deep muffled voice from behind the main doors saved her from doing so. Ruby wasn't the only one to notice either. Everyone looked up and stared at the doors, waiting for the master of the house to make his grand entrance.
The door swung open and recognition flashed in Ruby's eyes. She rose up from the table, her heart beating a mile a minute, and stared at the man who did so much for her. She remembered sitting beside him over a blueprint, sharing ideas in hushed tones, and laughing when they brought up the same idea. She remembered coming to him for advice on how to make Weiss happy and running date plans past him for approval.
She needed to thank him.
"Like I said, Eis, this isn't a wise decision—"
"Wolfram!" Ruby shouted, surprising everyone.
"Oh, hello, Ruby," he greeted her, stepping aside so a young woman could enter before him. "Now, Eis, I—"
"But nothing, Father," Eis hissed, marching past him.
Ruby knew right away that this was the sister Weiss warned her about and rightfully so. She could practically feel the burning hate radiating off of her like smoke from a fire. It was suffocating and so unlike Weiss and her gentle, calming aura.
Eis crossed her arms and glared at Ruby, her left eyebrow arching up. She looked a lot like Weiss when she did this, but that was where the similarities stopped.
Ruby's smile dropped and her stomach twisted into a knot. She didn't know this woman, but something about her made Ruby extremely uncomfortable. Ignoring everything Weiss said about her sister, it was clear Eis was Weiss' direct opposite in every possible way. She'd tell Weiss this later in private, but her first impression of Eis Schnee was not good. She honestly looked like someone took Weiss, stretched her out like dough, then proceeded to dunk her in a vat of black ink.
Eis Schnee had jet black hair tied up in a tight bun, with no hairs out of place, and even bangs that reached down to her baleful grey eyes. She was tall with a curvy body, large breasts, and a pretty face. She was dressed in a form fitting black pantsuit that made her pale skin stand out and high heeled shoes so sharp she could stab someone with them if she tried hard enough.
"And so the demon enters," Weiss muttered under her breath, earning her a quiet snort from Coco.
"I…" Ruby reached a hand out towards her father-in-law but stopped when Eis glared at her. She sat back down and scooted her chair closer to Weiss out of fear.
Sensing her distress, Weiss cupped the back of Ruby's neck and gently pulled her towards her until their foreheads touched. She closed her eyes and whispered some calming words while she stroked Ruby's hair. "You're okay, darling. I'm here."
"Disgusting," Eis spat, but Weiss and Ruby paid her no mind and continued focusing on each other. Rolling her eyes, Eis quickly added, "I haven't even had breakfast yet and I'm already losing it."
"Can it, ink blot," Coco sneered.
"And the leech is here too, fantastic. This day just keeps getting better and better," Eis said as she took the seat furthest from everyone. She looked around the room and snarled. "Where are the maids?"
"You were late," Adeline answered with a tight frown, not liking her youngest daughter's tone.
Shaking her head, Coco sighed and got up, taking an empty plate with her. She quickly loaded it with some food and offered it to Wolfram, giving him a quick kiss on the temple before stepping back respectfully.
"Bonjour, Papa," she said warmly.
"Bonjour, Nicole. And merci," he responded, gesturing to the food.
"I'll get you some coffee, be right back."
Eis glared at Coco and tapped her finger impatiently on the table. "While you're up, Nicole, why don't you get me a plate and some coffee too. Make yourself useful for once."
"Gladly," Coco said with a sweet smile. "It'll give me the chance to finally poison you."
"What?! How dare you!" Eis bristled. "Mother, Father, are you seriously going to let this street rat offend me like this?!"
"Enough, Eis!" Wolfram bellowed. He turned to Coco with an apology ready on his tongue, but she stopped him.
"It's okay, Papa," she said maturely, but before she left the room, Coco looked over her shoulder and shot Eis a nasty glare. "I've heard worse."
"Oh, Nicole," Adeline said with a sigh before turning her fury towards Eis. "You had no right to speak to her like that."
"Your charity case's feelings aren't any of my concern."
Weiss scoffed at her sister. "It is when she can easily buy out your company."
"What?! How dare—"
"I said enough!" Wolfram shouted above everyone. "Degrade each other all you want, but do not do it in front of my granddaughter!"
All eyes were suddenly on Vermillion who looked about ready to cry from all the shouting.
"I'm sorry for their behaviour, Little Lion," Wolfram said in a gentle voice, but Vermillion's face continued to twist.
"Oh dear," Adeline said, bracing herself.
Frantic to stop the impending shower of tears, Weiss quickly switched from stroking Ruby's hair to Vermillion's. It was beginning to work and Vermillion was smiling again, but Eis decided this was a good time to stand up and get her own plate of food. The screeching noise she made when she pushed her chair back was enough to break Vermillion's focus on Weiss.
Eis smirked victoriously when a piercing wail shattered the silence.
"Shh, it's okay, baby," Weiss cooed, bouncing Vermillion on her knee. "It's okay."
Ruby shot Eis a dirty glare. "What was that for?!"
"Oh? Sorry, it was an accident," Eis said, feigning innocence.
"Yeah right," Ruby muttered, turning away so she could help her wife.
They spent the next couple of minutes fawning over the baby to make her stop, but the tears kept coming with no end in sight. Ruby pulled out the big guns and made several funny faces and noises, but the only one who laughed was Weiss, much to her embarrassment.
"Oh my god. Make. It. Stop!" Eis shouted angrily. "Control your crotch goblin, Weiss!"
"She wouldn't be crying if it weren't for you, Eis!" Weiss shot back furiously.
"Don't blame this on me! Why did you even bring that thing down here?" Eis asked.
"Enough, Eis!" Wolfram shouted. "Antagonizing your sister isn't going to do any of us any good."
"Neither is bringing a child into the dining room—which reminds me, why is Ruby here? I heard what happened to her."
"Eis, I'm warning you…" Weiss hissed.
A devilish smirk spread across Eis' face, her eyes lighting up in excitement. "Shouldn't she be getting ready for the school bus? Where's your lunchbox, Ruby? Did your Mommy forget to pack it for you?"
"And that's enough of that, ink blot!" Coco bellowed as she re-entered the room. She quickly served Wolfram his coffee and snatched a banana off the table on her way back to her seat. She peeled the fruit and cut a small section of it off with her fork and offered it to Vermillion. "Hey, Leo, you want the squishy?" Vermillion stopped screaming and eyed the pale yellow fruit. "You remember the squishy, don't you?"
"Please let this work…" Weiss prayed as she laid a table cloth across Vermillion's lap.
Watching Coco wave the banana in her face, Vermillion pulled the squishy free and popped it into her mouth so it wouldn't go anywhere. She still cried a few tears, but they stopped soon enough.
Weiss and Ruby let out a sigh as did Wolfram and Adeline. The only one who didn't seem pleased with the silence was Eis, but her focus was set on Ruby.
"Thanks, Coco," Ruby said, gratefully smiling at her… friend. She took Vermillion from Weiss so she could take a break and enjoy her meal. "I mean it, thank you."
Coco shrugged. "It's no problem. Blanc was the same way when she was a baby."
"Oh… um," Ruby looked at her hands and clenched them. "Can you tell me a little bit more about her later on?"
"Sure?" Coco said, surprised by Ruby's change of heart.
Breakfast continued on with no further distractions, that is until Weiss asked what Wolfram and Eis were discussing when they came in. Wolfram's mood immediately soured, drawing both Coco and Weiss' concern.
"Tell them, Eis," he sternly demanded. "Tell them about your brilliant plan."
Eis looked up from her minuscule meal and side-eyed her sister and the "charity case" she hated. She turned her nose up at them and huffed, "If I must."
"Now I'm worried," Coco muttered, crossing her arms.
"I've been given the honour of hosting the annual Schnee Family Ball," Eis said proudly.
Weiss barked out a laugh and asked, "You're joking, right?"
"No, I'm not."
Taking a deep, calming breath, Weiss glanced at Coco before looking her sister dead in the eye. "So you plan on bringing everyone together while a psycho is trying to murder us?"
Eis rolled her eyes. "Not everyone," she said. "Just you."
"What was that?!" Coco shouted, shooting up from her chair. "Say that again!"
"Did you not hear me the first time?" Eis asked, rising from her own chair to stare Coco down. "Because if you didn't, then maybe you should consider pulling your head out of Weiss' ass!"
"I will send you through the wall if you don't show your sister some respect!" Coco growled threateningly.
"Coco, that's enough," Weiss said, touching Coco's arm. "Don't rise to her taunts, you're better than this."
"But, Blue, she—"
"Weiss is right, Coco," Ruby chimed in, staring Coco down hard. "Stooping down to her level isn't going to do us any good."
"Did they teach you that at preschool, Ruby?" Eis laughed.
"If you keep disrespecting my wife, I may just introduce you to the wall Coco suggested myself," Weiss said calmly.
"I'd like to see you try!" Eis cackled, egging her sister on.
Ruby wordlessly took Weiss' hand into hers and shivered. She ignored the cold sinking its teeth into her skin and asked Wolfram, "What's the Schnee Family Ball?"
"It's exactly what it sounds like," Wolfram answered, his expression tight. "The person who hosts it rotates every year. We've been lucky to avoid it for the most part, but I guess we aren't so lucky this time around."
"The fact we're even hosting one this year is absurd!" Weiss growled. "How many of us have died this year alone? This ball is literally the perfect opportunity to wipe all of us out!"
"Put your hunter people to actual use then," Eis suggested rather brazenly, her eyes drifting to Coco. "Make them earn their paycheques. Oh, well, most of them at least. I don't think the Faunus ones are welcome."
"You're fucking dead, Eis!" Coco screamed as she shot up from her chair. Eis looked legitimately scared, but Weiss had physically stepped in, saving her sister. "Get out of the way, Weiss!"
"Nicole!" Weiss shouted, giving Coco's shoulder a hard shove to make her back down. "Je dois vous parler en privé." When Coco didn't budge, Weiss shoved her again and pointed to the door angrily. "Now, Nicole."
"You can't protect her forever, Weiss," Coco spat.
"I'm not protecting her," Weiss said, standing taller. "I'm protecting you. Now, outside. I won't tell you again."
They stood at a standstill, neither party willing to look away. Vermillion playfully reached for her mother's long white hair and tugged on it, hoping for some attention, but Weiss ignored her.
"Nicole…" Weiss pleaded, her hand twitching to reach for the little one yanking on her hair. "Please."
Running a hand through her hair in frustration, Coco conceded and stomped past her boss. She shot Eis one last glare and made a lunge at her and cackled when the younger woman jumped in her seat. Satisfied with the fear she struck into Eis' cold, manipulative heart, Coco flung the door open and slammed it shut behind her.
Weiss let out a tired sigh as she turned around, knelt down, and pulled her hair free from Vermillion's hand. "I'll be right back, okay?" Vermillion responded by yanking on Weiss' discoloured lock of hair. "Ruby, remember what I said to you earlier."
"Got it, Weiss," Ruby said with a grin, but she noticed something in Weiss' eyes that told her there was more to be said in private. Exhaling to calm her nerves, Ruby leaned forward.
Weiss leaned the rest of the way and gave Ruby a quick kiss, but instead of pulling away when they parted, Weiss leaned in closer to whisper in her ear. "If my parents leave, follow them and go straight to the nursery. Don't let Eis stop you."
Ruby giggled and playfully pushed Weiss away as if she'd just whispered something naughty to her. "I love you too, Weiss," she laughed, keeping the charade going. Surprised by how easily Ruby played her part, Weiss nodded her head and followed Coco out. "Sooo…" Ruby said, awkwardly looking to Adeline and Wolfram, "is breakfast always this interesting?"
Wolfram barked out a laugh then sighed in dismay. "Yes."