Chapter 85: Cool Down, Heat Up

The walk from Beacon's airfield to the school itself seemed to take an eternity. Winter struggled to keep her composure as she trudged up the stonework, following Blake as the Faunus marched forward at a brisk pace, her head tilted at a slight angle so her eyes could flick quickly between the path ahead and Beacon's highest tower. Every few seconds, one of the symbols of her Mate's Mark would glow faintly, and Blake grew a little less tense each time.

Winter felt a spike of… something, that she immediately stamped down before she could put a name to it. That Blake had such a connection to her sister should be a relieving, if extremely odd, blessing. Knowing her sister had someone, three someones, in fact, that would always be in her corner at all times took an immense weight off her shoulders.

(Even if her little sister gaining such closeness was a reminder of the lack of such a thing in her own life, and made known an emptiness that Winter hadn't realized… had never acknowledged… was there.

No, stop it. It was illogical to feel such jealousy.

...oh.

Drat.

She'd named it.)

With a mental shake of her head, Winter shoved the thoughts away. It wasn't her sister she should be feeling negative about.

No, the true target deserving her ire was an ocean away.

...at least, she hoped he was still an ocean away.

Winter was pulled from her thoughts when Blake's head suddenly shot up, her cat-ears standing high. Before she could question the Faunus, Blake quickly relaxed, turning to smile at her.

"Weiss just fell asleep. Ruby and Yang are carrying her to the elevator."

Winter exhaled deeply, releasing the quickly gained tension. "After tonight, I'm not surprised. Are they headed to your dorm?"

Winter ignored the pang in her chest. She'd been hoping to see Weiss with her own eyes, just to be sure she was okay.

Surprisingly, Blake shook her head, looking a bit perplexed. "No… they just passed our floor. I think… they're heading for the entrance."

Winter mirrored her confusion. With no further words, the two quickened their pace.

As they entered the courtyard, they took note of the lights flickering from the various dorms. Despite the late hour, the racket Ruby's summon had raised had yet to die down, several students even still looking out their open windows, searching for the noise that had awoken them.

Just perfect, Winter thought in annoyance as more than one onlooker took notice of her and Blake passing below. More fuel for schoolyard gossip.

Her irritation was wiped away once they stepped into Beacon's entryway, and she caught sight of who was waiting for them. Ruby looked dead on her feet in her disheveled PJs, the most tired smile on her face as she rubbed her arms for warmth. Yang only looked slightly better, her cocky smile offset by the tenseness in her shoulders. And in Yang's arms, cuddled against the blonde's chest, was Weiss, Ruby's cloak wrapped around her like a makeshift blanket.

Winter jogged for the last few steps, Blake right with her. Her eyes darted between Yang and Weiss's sleeping form. "Is she…?" Winter asked hesitantly as Blake placed a hand softly against Weiss's cheek, then wrapped Ruby in a rib-breaking hug, the two murmuring soft words to each other.

Yang shifted the grip on her bridal carry, her smile turning reassuring. "She's okay. Just exhausted. The bigwigs-" Her eyes darted up towards the elevators down the hall. "-decided to have a brainstorming session right then and there, and Weiss started to pass out just a few minutes in. We figured we'd call it a night. They can tell us later if they figure something out."

Winter nodded in agreement, running a hand over her sister's forehead. Was it her imagination, or did Weiss feel warm? "We will. Are you taking her back to the infirmary?"

"No, we're headed back to our dorm." At Winter's surprised look, Yang shrugged. "Ozpin said it was okay. She was going to be released tomorrow anyway. And…" She shifted her weight from foot to foot, looking down at Weiss with a worried look. "We don't really want to leave her alone right now."

Winter pursed her lips, feeling both a weight come off her shoulders and a rock drop in her gut. "That's… completely understandable. Just… have her call me when she wakes up?"

Yang looked surprised by the question. "Well… yeah. Of course."

Winter's lips pulled to a thin line, the closest thing to a smile she could muster. "Then… I trust you to take care of her. I'll head up to see what the general and headmaster have come up with." Blake and Ruby looked up from their conversation, and something about the look on their faces, concerned and startled, made her gut twist. "You all have a good night." Winter turned to walk away.

"Winter."

Surprised by Blake's voice, the older Schnee turned back. "Yes- oh!"

Winter looked down, stunned, as Blake wrapped her arms around the woman's waist, pulling her into a gentle hug.

"Thank you."

"For… what?" Winter asked hesitantly.

Blake pulled back slightly and lifted her eyes, amber meeting sapphire."Taking me with you to chase after Weiss. You didn't have to do that."

Winter just stared for a moment as, to her horror, she had no explanation at the ready. "Well… you are her- one, of her significant others." She desperately hoped none of them noticed her warming cheeks. "To leave you behind would have been… irresponsible."

It was a decent enough answer, one Winter would repeat if asked later. Much better than admitting that, throughout the entire endeavor to get her sister back, she never once questioned that Blake, an underequipped unauthorized student, was at her side the entire way until this exact moment.

Blake just gave her a warm smile as she pulled away. "Still… thank you."

Winter cleared her throat, nodding back. "Yes, well… you are welcome." Her eyes darted to Ruby and Yang, both of whom sported similar looks to Blake. An unfamiliar ball of warmth flooded her chest, and Winter shivered slightly as she pushed past it. "If that's all?"

Ruby went to speak, before stifling back a yawn, the effort of which left her shoulders slumping. Rubbing her tired eyes, she said, "Right. We should probably get Weiss to bed."

Yang snorted, smirking at her little sister. "Yeah, before we have to carry you back too, Rubes."

Ruby gave Yang a heatless glare, before turning to walk away. "Night, Winter," she said, not even attempting to hide her next yawn.

"Good night, all of you," Winter replied with a polite nod.

Blake gave her one last smile as she followed Ruby. Yang shifted her grip on Weiss as she started moving, only to pause for a moment. She looked back at Winter, and the grin on her face instantly put the elder Schnee on edge. "See you tomorrow…"

"The same to-"

"Big Sis."

Winter's voice caught in her throat.

The look on her face must have been humorous, given Yang's widening smirk. The blonde just gave her a wink, then set off after her sister and partner, Weiss tucked protectively against her chest.

By the time Winter's mind came back to her, the four had already vanished inside an elevator, leaving her alone with her very loud thoughts as she tried to figure out what that was about. Almost mechanically, she started down the opposite way, towards the elevators that lead to Ozpin's office. Along the way, she tried to figure out why Yang would call her such a thing.

And why her doing so brought back that unfamiliar warm feeling that lightened her chest.


The quick ride up the elevator was all it took for Team RWBY's collective energy to nosedive. Once they were reunited and alone, Ruby practically fell into Blake's side, letting out a pitiful moan as the Faunus held her up.

Yang huffed a tired laugh at her sister's antics. "Ruby?"

Ruby let out a light groan of acknowledgment.

"Next time you want to do some late-night training? Save it till morning."

Ruby let out a heavy breath as Blake giggled tiredly. "It meant we were there to save Weiss so… I'm not sorry."

"That was a lucky coincidence, but… you're not wrong." She smiled at the speedster. "Still, if nothing else, tell one of us if you're going to do something like this again."

Ruby peered up at her through her hair, raising an eyebrow. "If I'm going to summon a Nevermore to fly halfway across the kingdom?"

"Yep," Yang replied, deadpan.

"...okay," Ruby agreed simply, leaning her head against Blake's shoulder.

Blake could only shake her head in amusement, absently lifting a hand to pet Ruby's hair.

At their floor, they all shuffled out of the elevator and down the hall towards their dorm. To their surprise, someone was waiting for them.

Ruby blinked a few times to make sure she was seeing things right. "Neo?"

The pink-and-brown-haired girl looked up from her scroll as she leaned next to their dorm room. She flashed them a grin and gave a mock salute as they approached.

"What are you doing here?" Yang asked, a hint of suspicion in her voice. She eyed their dorm room, wondering if everything was going to be where they left it with their supposedly formerly thieving 'cousin' standing outside of it.

Neo rolled her eyes at the unsaid insinuation. She started to type something out on her scroll, only to tilt her head to the side at a commotion sounding around the corner.

"... I believe it should be right around-" Penny blinked in surprise as she, Ilia, and Ciel came around and entered the hall, seeing the five of them standing there. "Oh! There you are, Neo! We lost you."

Neo turned back to the RWBY's, waving towards her team with a triumphant smirk.

Ilia crossed her arms in annoyance. "'Lost' nothing. She- you," she corrected herself, turning her gaze directly to Neo. "-vanished as soon as we left the elevator. Why?"

Neo shrugged cheekily, typing on her scroll.

Penny blinked, text flashing across her inner eye. "She says 'To show that you're not the only one who can disappear on this team.'" Penny paused, her eyes flashing again. "'Also, because it was funny.'"

At the back of the group, Ciel's eyes darted between each of her teammates, looking like she wanted very much to say something, but was holding herself back.

Ruby squinted between Neo and Penny. "Is she… texting directly into your head, Penny?"

Penny stared at Ruby for a long moment. "That's… technically accurate. We decided this is the best way for her to communicate with us until we can, in her words, 'learn to read Neopolitan'."

"...huh," Ruby said after a moment's consideration. "Neat. So… why are you all here? I thought the meeting would still be going on."

"It probably still is." Ilia crossed her arms shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "Right after you left, the conversation about Mt. Glenn ended and Ozpin wanted to talk about some 'classified military intelligence'. He sent us out because he needed to discuss it with our 'guardians' before we could get sworn in."

Yang let out a groan. "Great. More secrets to be a pain in our ass."

Ilia stifled a snort. "Probably. So, he told us to come down here and find our dorm."

Blake's ears perked up in surprise. "Dorm? You mean… a first-year dorm? You're Beacon students now?"

Penny smiled widely. "Yes indeed! We are Beacon Academy's newest students! Team… name-to-be-decided." She rubbed the back of her head awkwardly, hunching her shoulders. "Nothing's registered yet. I assume we were going to decide that after our impromptu exam, but…"

"This turned into a year's worth of a night?" Yang supplied, smirking wryly as she lifted Weiss a little higher in her arms.

Neo grinned widely, shooting finger-guns at her while Penny's brow rose. "A… succinct summation, yes."

Ilia let out a sigh. "Now if we can just find our room, so we can end it."

At that, Neo drew their attention with a wave. With both hands, she pointed off to the left to the door right next to Team JNPR's.

"...oh." Ilia nodded to Neo. "Thanks."

Neo gave her a grin, then walked between the two teams towards the door. She stopped in front of Ruby on her way, looking her right in the eyes. When Ruby looked back in confusion, Neo pointed first to herself, then to Ruby. She put her hands together, joining them at the thumbs and making a flapping motion, then raised both hands in a mock fighting pose.

It took Ruby a second to understand. "You… want a rematch against me and Speedymore?"

Neo gave a sharp nod, her grin so wide it looked almost painful.

Ruby lit up, her eyes twinkling with newfound energy. "Sure! Let me know when you're free. I'd love to practice with Speedymore against someone."

Neo let out a silent chuckle. On a whim, she reached up and ruffled Ruby's hair. She darted away when Ruby went to swat her hand off, quickly disappearing inside the new team's dorm.

Ilia rolled her eyes. "I guess that's our cue. You guys try to get some sleep."

"We don't plan to do much else tonight," Yang said as the girl walked past. "Or much of tomorrow, I hope."

Blake shared a quick hug with Ilia, Penny giving one to Ruby, the speedster murmuring another thank you for following along with the whole 'Rescue Weiss' thing.

Penny gave her a confused look. "My friend was in trouble. There was nothing else to do."

That earned her an extra hard hug. "If you guys need anything, don't be afraid to come across the hall and ask," Blake said as she watched the group leave.

"Oh!" Ciel suddenly shot to attention, startling both groups due to how quiet she'd been the whole time. Her eyes went to Blake with an almost hopeful look. "In that case, um… do you have a copy of the dorm rules?"

Blake looked back in surprise. "Dorm rules?"

Ciel nodded sharply, visibly buzzing with nerves the longer she spoke. "Yes, the, uh… I guess since so much happened tonight the staff forgot to tell us, um… what's expected of us? The protocol to follow? Curfews, etiquette, the standards they expect us to keep our dorm to. That… sort of thing?" She trailed off as the RWBY's grew more and more confused as she spoke.

"Um…" Ruby finally said after an awkward silence. "We don't really have any rules like that."

Ciel blinked slowly. "No… rules?" she repeated faintly.

"I mean," Yang jumped in. "Closest thing to curfew we got is to not get caught wandering the halls after ten, and not to go into another dorm without permission. Aside from that, I don't think they really care what we do with our dorms."

"They… don't?" Ciel's voice squeaked, her expression slack.

"I guess?" Yang shrugged. "Never really thought about it, honestly."

"They didn't say anything about me hanging my bed from the ceiling!" Ruby supplied helpfully.

Ciel just stared, and even Ilia's head shot up at that. "Excuse me!?"

"We wanted to make bunk beds!" Ruby explained, mirroring Yang's shrug.

Ilia stared at Ruby incredulously, then shook her thoughts away. She came up behind Ciel, whose mouth was opening and closing slowly as she tried and failed to form words, and put her hands on both her shoulders. "Well, I don't think we'll be doing anything that extreme just yet. C'mon, Ciel, let's go get settled for the night."

"...no rules…" Ciel murmured faintly, her eyes staring blankly ahead as Ilia led her to the dorm room.

"Nope. Apparently not. Oh, boy…" Ilia looked skyward as if wondering exactly what deity she'd ticked off to deserve this situation. Penny just looked between the two of them with a look of confusion and slight humor on her face, before following them into the dorm with one last wave towards the RWBYs.

Yang heaved a heavy sigh as the four disappeared. "Just what we needed in this school. More crazy."

"I don't think we're in much of a position to complain, Yang," Blake admitted as she led them into the room. "Do you two want to get cleaned up before bed?"

Ruby let out a groan as she rubbed a sore spot in her neck, moving towards the dresser for a new set of Pjs. "We should. Weiss probably needs a bath after all that."

Blake hummed. "Yeah, I'd hate to wake her up, but-"

"I wouldn't mind a bath."

Ruby and Blake whirled around in shock at the soft voice. From Yang's arms, Weiss lifted her head, blinking blearily back at them.

Blake's face softened. "Weiss… when did you wake up?"

It was Yang who answered in the form of a snort. "At least since we started talking with Penny and them." When Weiss looked up at her in surprise, Yang just grinned. "You were squirming a bit."

"Why didn't you say anything, Weiss?" Ruby asked.

Weiss took a deep breath as Yang sat her down at the edge of their oversized bed, helping her sit up. "I didn't have much to say. And… I was comfortable."

Yang chuckled at her pinking cheeks. "I'll take that as a compliment. Well, you're still supposed to take it easy, so how about this: I'll shower while you take a bath with Ruby."

Weiss's head quickly rose, looking a lot more awake suddenly. "W-wha-"

"Good idea, Yang," Ruby agreed, already moving towards the bathroom. "I'll get the water running."

Blake shook her head, rolling her eyes with a grin. "I'll get you guys some clothes."

Weiss's mouth worked silently as she looked after Ruby. She turned to Yang, her face quickly reddening.

Yang couldn't help but laugh. "Just a bath, Weiss. Get your head out of the gutter." The weak glare she received just widened her smile. Letting out a sigh, Yang started untangling Ruby's cloak from around Weiss's form. "Seriously, though, I think after tonight, we're all too tired to even consider having that kind of fun. Right?"

Weiss let out a breath, trying to will the heat from her face. "Y-yes. I… sorry, I'm-"

"Hey." Yang surprised her with a firm but careful hug. "Don't apologize. I know you're trying." She pulled back, keeping her hands on her shoulders. "Now, let's get you out of that crappy hospital gown."

Weiss swallowed thickly, nodding mutely. She held still as Yang undid the strings along the gown's back and pulled it away. She set it down on the floor, then gave Weiss a searching look, her eyes darting down Weiss's form in a silent question. Biting her bottom lip nervously, Weiss tried to reach behind her back to unclasp her bra-

-only to inhale sharply as her chest and arms throbbed painfully.

Yang was quick to grab her arms and hold her steady, sympathy in her eyes. "Is it…?"

Weiss was confused why she trailed off until she saw Yang's eyes dart back down to her chest, lingering on a spot right between her breasts.

Dread pooled in Weiss's stomach. Throughout all the surgery and recovery, she'd yet to actually look at herself. She dipped her head down slowly.

A jagged strip of angry pink flesh stood out against her pale skin, one inch wide and three inches long, slightly offset to the right and angled towards her heart.

She'd heard from the doctors how miraculous it was. A little more to the right and Adam's blade would have completely pierced her lung. A little higher, it could have severed the lung off entirely. And if it had gone to the left? Her heart.

As it was, the broken blade had deflected off the edge of her sternum, sliced through a rib, and nicked her right lung. Considering how tightly packed the organs were in her chest, the fact that's all the damage she'd received was very lucky.

Adam's poisonous Semblance notwithstanding.

Still, Weiss felt her heart sink at the sight of the scar. Because it was a scar, one that was doubtful to fade, just like the one under her eye. And as large as it was, if she were to wear anything even remotely low cut…

A hand landed on her thigh. She looked up in surprise to find Blake's amber eyes staring at her in concern. The Faunus had knelt beside Yang at some point, the blonde's hands still holding her steady as she waited for an answer.

Blake's brow furrowed, gazing into Weiss's eyes. Her eyes then trailed down Weiss's body, lingering on places that threatened to make Weiss combust. Her eyes then started trailing back up, stopping on the scar. Without a word, she leaned in over Yang's arm and pressed her lips against the damaged skin. Then she lifted her head and gave Weiss a long, slow kiss, the whole process rendering Weiss speechless.

Finally pulling away, Blake stared deeply into Weiss's eyes. "You are beautiful," she said firmly, her sure tone backed by the Truth and Confidence radiating from her. "Understand?"

With little working thought process left, Weiss could only nod slowly, face aflame. "Uh-huh."

Blake smiled warmly back. "Good." She stood up and went back to the dresser. "I'll get your clothes and the bed ready. You two should get cleaned up."

Yang looked after her with an impressed grin. She met Weiss's eyes. "So… chest hurting?"

Weiss cleared her throat awkwardly. "It, um… it's not just my chest. My arms are… very sore."

Yang gave her a look, likely Feeling Weiss's desire for a subject change. She cracked a faint smile as she reached behind the heiress. "Well, you did use a lot of muscles in a way they've never been used before. Remind me later to teach you how to brawl properly."

Weiss forced out a weak scoff (and ignored the way her heart leaped as Yang pulled off her bra). "Sounds like fun."

"I think so," Yang replied with a grin. Her hands then slid down Weiss's waist, resting just over her hips. She gave Weiss a patient look, and Weiss felt immense pride that she only turned one shade of red deeper when she lifted her hips off the bed and let Yang slip the last of her underclothes off.

Before she could be overwhelmed by the need to cover herself, Yang moved to pick her up bridal style. "Ruby, that bath ready?" she called out even as she stepped into the bathroom.

"Ready!"

Weiss's heart firmly lodged in her throat at the sight before her. Ruby was already laid back the length of the bathtub, an excessive amount of bubbles hiding everything but her head and shoulders, her clothes in a haphazard pile next to the bath. Ruby smiled as they approached, scooting up a bit, lifting a bubble-covered arm out to reveal a washcloth in her hand.

Yang said nothing, just keeping up that insufferable smirk as she lowered Weiss into the tub, laying her so her head fell right into the crook of Ruby's neck.

Weiss took a full thirty seconds to register her situation, watching as Yang shamelessly shed her clothes as she entered the shower in full view of her. As the blonde disappeared behind the shower curtain, Weiss came to an obvious conclusion.

"You two are trying to kill me."

Ruby burst out laughing as she started scrubbing the cloth along Weiss's shoulders. "We're just having a little fun, Weiss. Do you want us to knock it off?"

"...I didn't say that."

From the shower, she could hear Yang cackle.

So Weiss resigned herself to having half her blood count residing in her face. She closed her eyes and leaned back, just allowing herself to enjoy the warm water and Ruby's pampering.

She nearly slid underwater when she heard the bathroom door open and close, and bare feet pad against the tile floor. She let out a groan when the shower curtain rustled and Yang let out a surprised giggle. "Blake!" she called out, more exasperated than anything else.

"... I wanted a shower too," came the meek reply.

Weiss threw her head back against Ruby's chest, shaking with constrained laughter. "Am I really the only member of this team with an ounce of shame?"

"I think it's more like you somehow funneled all of ours into yourself," Ruby giggled as she ran her hands through Weiss's hair.

"Don't worry, Weiss," Yang called back. "We'll keep it… well, under NC-17, at least!"

"Oh, how I marvel at your restraint," Weiss griped, completely heatless as she slipped down to her nose, Ruby giggling behind her.

Miraculously, the group bath passed without anything explicit happening (or at least, if it did, Blake and Yang kept quiet about it). The only issue that arose was after they all finally left the warmth of the bath and dressed, and started to settle into bed.

"Yang, you're going to kill your back if you sleep like that."

"I've had worse," Yang replied defensively, leaning back against the headboard, a mountain of pillows between her and the wood. "Besides, you said your chest hurts less when you're sitting up."

"I… there's no arguing with you on this, is there?"

"Nope."

Regardless, there was one undeniable fact: throughout the entire embarrassing, heartwarming endeavor, Weiss never felt anything less than happy. And as she settled into bed at the end of it all, Blake on her left, Ruby on her right, and Yang holding her from behind like a protective cushion, she never once thought about what was happening outside of their self-made sanctuary. She felt loved. She felt safe.

For the moment, nothing else mattered.


A/n: Well, this one's super late and my brain feels like it's melting, so I hope you all enjoyed this chapter of 60% RWBY fluffiness, 35% flustered Weiss, and like, what, maybe 5% plot stuff? A bit saucier than I usually write, but frankly, I'm past giving a crap about my own shame, and writing all of that put a smile on my face. I had a whole bunch of plot stuff I was going to dump at the end of this one, but after moving and shifting it around about twenty times since I wrote it, I've just got to admit it'll fit better next chapter. At least I hope it does.

I'm sorry if I seem a little tense, but the last few months completely blew, not least of which due to me taking a good long look at this story, realizing I wasn't happy with how I had things paced, and decide to completely overhaul and restructure this entire arc, pushing my original plans off for the next arc.

Yes, there is an arc after this one. Hell, there's an arc after that one. I'm getting this story out of my head even if it takes me another ten years.

God, I hope it doesn't take me another ten years. I've got other crap to do.

I promise I'll be a happier being in the next chapter.

See you at the next one, whenever the hell that is!