"You sure… with me?" Neo asked softly, the light in the room was low, but the soft firelight glittered in her eyes, making the mismatched orbs seem all the more alluring to the ice queen laying beside her.
"Of course, I love you more than anyone else, no matter what secrets we have to keep, I know what I want." Weiss assured the mistress of the criminal underworld, her study still around them aside from the crackling from the fireplace, dark aside from that dancing light.
"Then you'll have what you desire." Neo all but purred, settling into the decision easily. The smile that washed over Weiss' features in that moment was a memory Neo intended to hold close to her heart forever, such a rare but beautiful thing.
Thunder cracked loudly and startled the crime boss from her light sleep, a quick glance showed her things were as she'd left them and exhaustion dragged her back under again quickly. Sleep had become rare, stress was high and hope was in short supply.
… It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Neo clung to better events as she slipped back into the darkness of her dreams, the excited chaos and careful plotting, the successes and preparations… no matter how joyus the occasion had meant to be though, as with so much of Neo's personal life, it had fallen to tragedy all too quickly but not at all how she'd expected.
That fateful night was impossible to shake, haunting her like a heavy storm threatening to erode her sanity. The attack was uncalled for, the aggressor had no right to do what he had… and for all her flaws, Weiss had not deserved what came to her, what fate gripped her now. The gunshot, the smell of gunpowder, the sound of shattering glass, the smell of blood… It was all still too fresh in Neo's mind, holding her secret lover in her arms as the assailant fell dead, praying to whatever powers that be cared to listen not to take Weiss from her… not to steal her happiness away again.
"We're here." Despite how quietly Emerald spoke, it still brought Neo out of her light sleep tensed for a fight. She quickly realized her surroundings and relaxed though, turning her attention to the center of her life's calamity before looking back to her second in command.
"We'll split up here, I'll meet you later at the safehouse, you remove any pests before I arrive." Neo said, not sounding as much like an order as the shell of a woman took it. Emerald vanished with little more than a nod. With a steadying breath Neo ventured off, back out to the familiar streets of Vale, even with how much warmer it was here, that did little to stave off the chill of a thunderstorm that's dreary downpour matched the crime queen's mood. She was quickly soaked to the bone, her coat not meant for such a brutal assault of water. She did her absolute best to keep the bundle in her arms dry though, no matter how heavy her heart or dark her thoughts, she was being extra cautious with this endeavor.
That same storm was pouring down outside the Bumblebee household, it was evening, Blake and the kits were watching a Movie. Yang was cooking again, lost in thought when suddenly the back door slid open and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Yang spun, sauce covered wooden spoon in hand, not that she usually used weapons anything of the like. She was somewhat startled yet again by the normally sly and dapper Neo as she walked in. She looked exhausted and she carried a wet bundle close. It took a moment for her brain to click when she heard the crying.
"Oh my god you stole a baby… or two?"
Neo gave her an annoyed look before closing her umbrella then the door.
Yang turned to holler into the living room. "We have a guest for dinner!"
"I didn't steal them." Neo said after a moment, she was pulling the blanket around.
"Okay, so…" Yang started but then her face went pale. "Weiss…"
"She's not dead… but she may not survive, either. She's in a coma."
"She- what? What happened? Is that why you have the babies?"
"She was attacked, bastard stalker who thought he was entitled to her. He's dead… but I wasn't fast enough, the doctors aren't hopeful. I managed to wrangle things around… I fudged a marriage license and forged Weiss' signature. So… as far as the Atlus officials are concerned my name is Carnatia. Also, basically while she's down and out I'd be in charge, but I left her affairs in capable and trustworthy hands for now. I've got our twins and for now I just need some damn help since I have no fucking clue what I'm doing. It's a wonder they survived the trip here."
"Yeah, we can help you out." Yang nodded.
"Starting with being dry." Blake said as she walked in with a couple of dry baby blankets to swaddle the poor children in. The baby boy had little whisps of white hair that held the tiniest tent of pink in a few places, his eyes were colorless. The baby girl had the beginnings of a split hair color like Neo, half brown and half blond-ish white, here eyes heterochromatic, one blue, one brown. The newborns were only a few weeks old, Neo may not have known what she was doing but she'd managed to keep the babies clean and fed.
"They don't look too bad off, you've managed okay." Yang noted, looking over Blake's shoulder before attending the food.
"I mostly just scrambled through what I learned from helping Roman look after your kits." Neo admitted.
"Well that's something at least. You should go get dried off too, I'll grab some clothes you can borrow if you don't have any with you."
"I really need to wash everything, it's been a long trip."
Blake nodded, trying to calm the babies and motioning for Neo to follow, which she did. The experienced mother headed to her and her wife's room and dug through a dresser, carrying the selected clothes to the bathroom where Neo was stripping off wet clothes, her coat carefully set over the sink. Blake left her the clothes and some fresh towels, not looking at the increasingly naked crime boss as she let her know where the detergents were kept and which settings on the washer would probably work best for Neo's nice clothes.
"Thanks, this means a lot." Neo admitted, now more than ever quietly impressed by the fanus woman's motherly skills. She was certain that level of balancing two infants in one arm and carrying things around was nothing short of witchcraft.
"It's no problem, supper should be ready soon so I'll keep up with these two while you get sorted out. Oh, what are their names?"
"Quartz and Prysm." Neo said, indicating who was who.
"Suits them." Blake said and left Neo so she could have some privacy.
Neo continued drying off but slowed down, finally left in peace for the first time in weeks and she found herself just holding her face in the towel, muffling her own tired, scared and frustrated sobs. Letting the soft, fluffy fabric hide all evidence of her tears while her mind spun back over everything that had happened, while the stress rolled and surged, the pain crushing in on her heart, the seeming inevitable loss like an impending snake bite. It was a level of powerlessness that Neo hated being forced to endure for a second time in her life, worse now than before. When her father had tried to kill her and Roman in a drunken rage there was still a level of control she had, it was only her she had to worry about and Roman had her back. Now though, now there were far more threads to weave, more lives hanging in the balance and there was no right or clear path.
"Hope is a pointless construct. What happens happens." Emerald had said, it hadn't made Neo feel any better, even if it seemed to hold some truth.
Steadily she calmed herself down, right now, Quartz and Prysm needed her most, whatever Weiss fate was, Neo had done all she could to stack the odds in the ice queen's favor.
Finally dry and dressed in a t-shirt that was still a bit big on her and drawstring shorts that were also baggy on her, she set to throwing her clothes in the washer, washing her face, drying her coat and heading out to rejoin the family that had so graciously taken her in. Roman and herself were all that was left of the Torchwicks, well, the twins now too but they were destined to be Schnee, not Torchwick. She hoped the two wouldn't be growing up to take over a company without Weiss' guidance, without ever knowing her because she never woke up. Neo's stomach twisted into knots at the thought.
She didn't realize she'd stopped in the hall until Soleil wrapped her legs in a tight hug the way only little kids can and looked up at her with concern beyond his years.
"Are you okay?" He whispered.
"No…" She admitted, reaching down to ruffle his hair as if that would comfort her.
"She's gonna be okay, I'm sure of it." He offered softly.
"She's gonna be mad if she finds out you're doubting her." He pointed out, not that he knew Weiss well, but gathering from what he'd heard…
"Yeah, you're right." She said with a soft chuckle. Picking Soleil up she carried him into the kitchen with the others, plates being set out, filled with spaghetti. It was such a normal feeling scene that Neo felt displaced, almost unsettled. She sat in her appointed chair and accepted food. Despite how odd she felt the food was good and she was quietly appreciative of Yang's cooking skills. She'd cleared most of her plate before she even thought to glance around for her kids, still not used to having her own.
Blake was still holding little Quartz, feeding him with a bottle and rocking gently on the back two legs of the dining chair, Prysm asleep in a hastily set up basket.
"Thank you." Neo said again, watching the contented little baby and trying to mentally take notes. Feeding him had been such a struggle on the trip here, she'd be surprised if it had been anyone other than Blake to calm the poor kid.
"Any time, you know you have a place here." Yang smiled, sounding both her usual self and surprisingly responsible, carring.
Once Neo was done eating Blake brought the now full and happy baby back over for her to hold. She quietly gave Neo advice on how to hold him best, it had been a few years since the Kits had been so small after all and Neo was far less well practiced. Something about Blake's calm tone soothed the crime boss considerably and she fell more comfortably into her role. It wasn't going to be easy but it wouldn't be impossible either with these two helping her. It had been her biggest reason out of everything to coming back, her throne was one thing, but if she was seen as incompetent with her kids they would be taken and she couldn't afford that.
"Any chance I can con you guys into watching them while I'm at… work?"
"Better with us than anywhere else." Yang shrugged, not minding with all the times Neo had helped watch out for the kits, even if from the shadows.
"You guys really are the best." Neo smiled, a bit over emotional with how tired she was.
"You should get some rest." Blake noted.
"You can have my bed!" Sombra said cheerfully, throwing her hands in the air.
"And where are you gonna sleep?" Yang grinned.
"With Lila! I'll keep the bad dreams away."
Lila bit her lip and didn't protest, it was hard to tell if she was upset or relieved, perhaps both.
"Thanks." Neo said warmly to the two girls, drawing smiles from both.
"You know we love you Auntie Neo." Narzisse said happily, cheerful about the surprise slumber party.
Neo reached over to ruffle the girl's hair, the feeling of acceptance was so pure from the kits she couldn't feeling a little better around them.
It was somewhat surprising how quickly the Bumblebee household settled down, She normally snuck in either after this process or left before it happened so this was a surprisingly new experience. Still, she had to appreciate the way Blake read to the kits and tucked them in, it was a serene scene, the girls settled in bed and Blake in a chair by the lamp, Soliel curled up in her lap silently reading along as she read outloud. Neo was an outsider looking in, she wasn't part of this ritual, yet she was included, her sleeping little ones settled nestled in a basket beside Sombra's bed. The crime boss would have been fine with just crashing on the couch… but she didn't want to disappoint the little kit who was so sure she was being helpful. Story read and sleepy kits settled under their covers, Soliel carrying the book out of the room ahead of Blake leaving silence in her wake. The dim light of a nightlight was all that cast the room in a soft, blue light, Neo found herself staring into the basket, half tempted to pull the babies into the bed with her and half terrified she'd somehow kill them in her sleep so she left them be, watching their little faces as she tried to let her weariness pull her into proper sleep now that she was safe.
The scene that greeted her when she closed her eyes was the opposite of the serenity of the kit's room however and she kept finding herself laying awake, watching the children, both hers and not as they all slept peacefully. It was strange adrifft feeling, suspended in this quiet place while filled with turmoil and anxiety of the world spinning so quickly out of her control. When sleep did finally rise from the darkness to claim her, only the pain of her past danced through her dreams, both recent and distant, battles merging together like some sort of personalized hell.
One thing was more clear than the rest….
Cold air, burning her throat and lungs as she ran.
The nearly abandoned area right outside of Weiss' office building.
The tall figure who didn't belong, weapon raised at the unshakable business woman, held still by an unseen force.
The sound of Neo's sword being ripped free of its umbrella sheath, the clash of steel and gunfire.
"No one messes with my Queen." She heard her own voice snarl, her blade going to the man's throat.
The absolute sickening feeling as all her muscles were forced into a freeze as the man's gaze fell to her, his semblance gripping her like a vice.
The rush of cold air as Weiss appeared from nowhere, burying Myrthinaster deep in the man's chest, then as fast as she'd been there she had sprung away, leaving a spray of blood in her wake. A sliver of glorious in a moment of horror.
The dying man, sputtering curses, his semblance losing it's grip but not fast enough as he raised his gun once more and fired.
The shattering of glass followed the echo of the gunshot, Neo was barely freed in time to turn and see Weiss roll to a stop inside the building, the pregnant woman having been flung through the doors with the combined momentum of her glyph and the gunshot.
The glass scattered in a shower of light catching crystals, cascaded over and around the ice queen thousands of bloody diamonds.
The freezing hold released as the man fell dead, but the frigidity of Neo's blood stayed cold as she ran, freezing once more for only a beat then dropping to her knees to pull Weiss into her arms, her hair quickly going from pink tinged white to crimson as the wound on her head bleeding heavily. Neo felt sick, enraged, horrified, terrified and powerless all at once. Feeling as if she was watching the one person she loved more than anyone die in her arms, fading away with any chance at happiness, she was still breathing… that had to mean…
Soft sobbing cut into the nightmare and all at once it was shattered like the glass of the door. Neo was on her feet with her weapon in hand before she was even fully awake, but as her mind wrapped around what her eyes were seeing and her ears were hearing she started to relax, following the sound that had broken her free from her own nightmare.
Lila was curled in a tight ball facing away from her sister, sobbing softly, cheeks streaked in tears, the girl shivered as if clung to by an inescapable chill.
Without an ounce of hesitation Neo scooped the girl up and carried her out of the room, hugging her tightly and not setting her down until they reached the kitchen. It was there Neo wiped the girl's tears away and looked into her eyes. She started to ask what was wrong but the look in the child's eyes… the haunting look of someone who had seen something beyond what they could handle, something so horrifying it could never be cast away. A look that did not belong in the eyes of any of the kits… Neo frowned, meeting that gaze, not doubting she shared something similar, not bothering to hide the pain and fear in her own eyes.
Slowly Lila started to calm down, recognizing the kinship of the damned in her aunt.
"Do… do you burn too?" Lila asked quietly.
"Burn?" Neo asked softly.
"In your dreams…"
"Sometimes… Sometimes I bleed, sometimes I drown…" Neo flinched at that last one, it was a bit insensitive in hindsight, even if it was true.
"I only burn… the smoke makes it hard to breathe… everything is too hot. It hurts." She sniffled.
Neo hugged her. "It's only a nightmare. It isn't real, it's fear trying to tear you apart."
"It feels real!" She protested, sobbing again, face buried against Neo's shirt.
"I know. I know… but you aren't dead yet. Neither am I. The reaper may wave it's intentions and plots in our faces but it's up to us to spit in its face in kind, kick it in the groin and go live our lives the way we want. Fear can be a tool to survive or a consuming force. It's up to you how you handle it. Will you let it bury you or will you pick it up like a sword and turn it on your enemies? If it hurts more than anything else you can laugh in the face of those who try to hurt you and taunt them that their best isn't enough."
"Really?" Lila asked softly, taking a deep breath.
"Really. Your life is yours to live, stand up and claim each day, each is rightfully yours to live, the nightmares show you what might happen, what could happen. But nothing is set in stone, you can turn the tide, fear is an instinct to tell you when to fight and when to flee. You just have to learn how to understand it."
Lila nodded, falling silent as she muled that over in her head. Gently Neo kissed the girl on the top of her head before releasing her and turning to the freezer. She dug around until she found some ice cream and set to fixing the girl a bowl. Then, with a grin she fixed a second, passing the first to Lilla then holding the other toward the doorway.
Soleil trotted in, book under one arm and wings casually folded against his back. He accepted the treat with a smile, glad Neo had found a way to quell Lila's fear, at least for now.
Neo wasn't sure what the future held as she hopped up to sit on the counter and dug into the carton with a spoon of her own, but in that moment, it didn't matter. All that mattered were these kits and her little snowballs. She loved Weiss like she'd loved no other and she found herself impressed with how well she'd fought that last battle… even if it was her last she'd never given in to fear or crumbled under pressure. So neither would the lady of the underworld.
Dishes settled in the sink, empty carton in the trash, Soleil returned to his room to read some more and Neo carried Lila back to her room. She got settled back in the bed, holding the little kit protectively, as if she could chase away the nightmares with a stern look. It at least seemed to be enough as Lila finally got some sleep. Comforted that she could chase away someone else's demons Neo finally found enough peace to rest as well.
AN: I rewrote this chapter no less than three times, it was a real struggle.
Editing is pretty minimal, please forgive, it's 4:30 in the morning and I just want to post this already, it's months... years overdue.
At this point I just hope I'm including all the details properly. If anything seems unclear feel free to ask and I'll clarify if it should have been clear already cause I'm a disorganized mess and I apologize.
reviews are always highly appreciated, it lest me know there's still interest in this fic.