Chapter 90: Wakeup Call
"...you girls are making a habit out of shattering expectations."
Yang scratched the back of her head, smiling sheepishly. "It's a gift?"
Beside her on the couch, Blake buried her head in her hands with a mortified groan. Yang gently patted her back, sympathizing with her Disbelief, Concern, Embarrassment as she tracked Ghira pacing about he and Kali's guest suite-turned-living quarters. While the Faunus leaders had been happy to talk to them about their concerns, she doubted this is what they were expecting.
"Yang, you're sure you, Ruby, and Weiss have been having the exact same dream?" Kali asked, the glint in her eye showing that she was already dreading the answer.
"Yeah. Just about every night. I… I just thought it was a recurring dream until Ruby and Weiss said they had it too." Yang let out a beleaguered sigh, suddenly feeling very tired. "I take it that sharing animal dreams between Mates isn't normal, like everything else in our freaking lives?"
Her ending mutter was more exasperated than she intended, but she couldn't bring herself to regret it. What she wouldn't give for just one semi-quiet day.
…just how messed up are things getting that I'm craving boredom? Yang thought morosely, her shoulders slumping.
Kali's ears tilted back in sympathy, her lips pursed in thought. "It's not the dream itself that is necessarily abnormal." Seeing the surprise on Yang's face, she elaborated. "When you merge your aura to become mates, you open yourself to your partners on the deepest level."
Yang nodded slowly. "That's what lets us feel each other's emotions and share our instincts, right?"
"Indeed. And in the waking world, that's about the extent of the gifts granted to us. However, when we sleep, our minds relax to the point that we can sink deeper into the Link, beyond sharing emotions and into thought. Our minds show us this as a merged dream, one where we're stripped away of our… human-side, for lack of a better term, and are left with just our animal instincts."
"So…" Yang droned slowly, hopefully. "Dreams like this are normal?"
Kali hesitated, casting a worried look toward Ghira. The Chief released a tired sigh, moving to stand behind her chair as he spoke. "Having such a dream in-and-of-itself is not the issue. It's the sheer frequency that you're having them that worries us."
Yang could feel a tremble building in Blake's body as she rubbed the Faunus's back, trying to push Calm and Support towards her to counteract the Fear and Shame. "Mind explaining it to the human in the room?" she asked with a weak half-grin.
Ghira returned it with one of his own, appreciating the attempt at levity. "There are usually two reasons Mates would have such dreams. One is just by having them naturally, through chance due to contentment and being in sync with one's partner. But those are typically rather rare."
Yang grimaced. "How rare are we talking?"
Ghira huffed heavily, sinking into the couch next to his wife. "In Kali and I's nineteen years as Mate's, I can't recall having such a dream more than twice a year, if that."
Yang gulped. "So… not that. And I'm getting the feeling I'm not going to like the other reason we're sharing headspace at night."
"And you shouldn't." Ghira and Kali shared a look, like they were steeling themselves. "Yang, the only time Mates would share dreams with such frequency as yours is when one of them is at death's door."
Yang's stomach dropped, and Blake's head shot up, her cat ears splaying back. "...what?" she asked faintly.
Kali was quick to reach across the distance, taking Blake's hands in her own. She tried to smile reassuringly even as she spoke mournfully. "It's a defense mechanism, from the fear of dying on one end, and that of losing one's Mate on the other. It's a bond formed out of desperation as both sides seek support and comfort from the other."
Blake swallowed thickly, her voice humming with a pained suppressed purr. "So… Weiss's injury triggered it?"
Ghira's brow pinched. "I would think so…but you're still having them after her recovery. And from the sound of it, you've been having them for weeks." He looked down in contemplation, taking a steadying breath. "I must ask… Yang, Blake; you're not hiding some kind of illness from the others, are you?"
"What!? No, no!" Yang just about jumped out of her seat as she Felt Shock shoot through Blake and start to spiral into Terror and Panic. She wrapped her girlfriend in a tight hug. "Blakey, I wouldn't keep something like that from you. Ruby neither." She couldn't help but snort a laugh. "Besides, if either of us had a disease like that, we wouldn't have gone to Beacon in the first place. Dad would have wrapped us up in bubble wrap and never let us out of the house."
Blake sunk into the hug, huffing out a small breath of a laugh. Yang smiled as she felt the tension in Blake's shoulders uncoil.
Across from them, Kali leaned back into the couch, holding a hand to her chest. "Well, that's a relief, I suppose. But it still leaves us with more questions than answers."
Ghira contemplated for a moment, then looked to his daughter. "Blake, you've been awfully quiet. And I can Feel you growing more Distressed. What's wrong, Kitten?"
Blake sighed and pulled away from Yang, keeping their arms linked. "It's… something about the dream. The animals we appear as."
"Yeah, I was wondering about that." Drawing curious looks, Yang went on. "Not that I'm complaining! There's worse things I could be than a freaking lion! But why that? And why a wolf and a fox for Ruby and Weiss?"
Ghira shook his head faintly. "That I can't answer. Frankly, being human, it amazes me that you three can manifest such a dream at all."
Yang's shoulders slumped, smiling ruefully with a sigh. "Yeah, that's Team RWBY. Trailblazing, for better or worse."
Kali stifled a slight giggle. "Perhaps - if you'll forgive the romanticism of an old woman - when a Faunus has such a dream, the form they take within it reflects the type of Faunus they are. Perhaps the animals you appear as are what your soul had the potential to be had you been born Faunus?"
Ghira gave his wife an amused side-eye. "That seems a bit of a stretch, dear."
Kali just shrugged with a smile. "Perhaps. But I would argue that there are many mystical aspects of the world that we've yet to fully understand."
Yang stretched her arms up, folding them behind her head as she leaned back against the couch. "Makes about as much sense as anything. Not sure what a lion and fox say about me and Weiss, but a wolf fits Ruby to a tee. I love her to pieces, but I'll be the first to admit she reminds me of an overexcited feral puppy most of the time."
A small snort escaped Blake, Yang taking pride in the flicker of Humor warming through her girlfriend. "I won't argue that," Blake said. But her Humor faded quickly, her brow pinching in worry. "But that's not what I was getting at. Yang…" Her Mate turned to her in concern. "The animals we become… someone's mentioned them before. Remember?"
Yang flinched back at Blake's Terror, Ghira and Kali blinking in surprise. "I don't…" Yang wracked her brain… and paled as she remembered. "Taurus."
Ghira and Kali jolted, Kali's ears shooting high. "W-What?" Kali spluttered.
Ghira, on the other hand, sucked in a harsh breath, his eyes shrinking to pinpricks. "Before the fight…"
"He taunted us," Yang finished her face darkening.
"By referring to us by those animals," Blake confirmed. She swallowed nervously. "And… in the same breath… he referred to himself as a bull."
Yang stiffened, more memories flooding back. "Blake… I remember…" she scowled as she struggled for details. "In some of the dreams… do you remember… fighting something?"
Ghira and Kali stiffened. Blake met her worried-filled gaze with her own, and their eyes widened. "A… a Grimm-like bull?"
Yang nodded, her brows pinching. "I didn't really think much of it. I've had nightmares about Grimm before, heck, who hasn't? But when I try to remember… its face… the mask was wrong for a Grimm. I think it was more like-"
"A White Fang mask," Blake finished, Her breath growing shaky. "That… that was real?"
"Fighting!?" Kali practically flew off the couch, aghast as she looked between the two. "No! No, the dreams are an escape from conflict! They're not… it… Ghira?!" She looked back at her husband in distress.
Ghira leaned forward, elbows propped on his knees and pressing his linked hands to his lips in thought. "I don't know, dear. But the fact that the thing you both remember resembles a bull, combined with Adam's words… the implications..."
Yang and Blake just looked back grimly, Yang pulling the Faunus into a deeper hug to try and keep Blake from spiraling
Kali put her head in her hands, sitting back down heavily. "You've really never heard about any of this, Blake? The dreams, why we have them…" Her ears wilted as Blake looked more and more embarrassed with every word. "Anything?"
Blake took a shuddering breath. "No, Mom. I've never heard about any of this. I just thought I was having weird dreams." She grimaced at Yang. "And nightmares."
Kali took a few deep breaths, visibly trying to calm herself. A feral yowl escaped her when she failed, her hands curving into claws in her lap, her irises narrowing to slits. "These are basic things you should have been taught along with the Talk." Yang and Blake jumped at the rasp that entered her voice, like each word took effort not to be screamed. The hand Ghira put on her shoulder did little to calm her. "I knew you were too young to be on your own, I knew you didn't know enough to leave the country, but Adam said-" she snarled again. "He said he'd handle it. The monster said to my face that… and I didn't even… when I get my hands on him…"
"I'll help," Yang cut in, and slitted amber met blazing crimson. Seeing her fury reflected in someone else strangely helped Kali to calm down, though her shoulders remained tense and her eyes remained narrowed.
"Mom," Blake asked hesitantly, worry clear. "Are you okay?"
Kali met her eyes, taking several deep shaky breaths to try and calm herself. "No, Blake," she finally said, her voice free of its feralness. "No, I am not okay. But it's not just because of you." Blake's building guilt was overshadowed by surprise. "I've been talking with the White Fang from the raid, and so many from your generation just… know nothing about their own people. It's like no adult bothered to teach them about their own laws, traditions, biology… Just… rage and frustration and… hate."
Her anger fully drained, Kali pressed her palms to her eyes, rubbing away the building wetness. "I'm sorry." When she lowered them, she gave a kind, tired smile."I suppose dealing with it all has been getting to me."
"Don't be," Yang said, kind but firm as she crossed her arms. "It's great you're trying to help the kids Adam suckered in. And I wasn't kidding. Give me the word, I'll hold him down while you bring out the claws."
Kali let out a soft snort, meeting Yang's smirk with a stronger grin. "I'll keep that in mind."
Blake rolled her eyes at Yang's chuckle. "Yang, please don't encourage my mother towards violence."
Ghira rose a brow at her. "Who said she needs encouragement?" She grinned as Kali gave him a light slap across the chest and Blake gave a small scoff.
Yang's smirk grew at Feeling Blake's mood lift. She looked across the coffee table at Ghira, catching him smile softly as Kali's ears perked up. The Chief met her gaze, glancing at Blake's ears doing the same. With a slight smirk, he gave Yang a conspiratorial wink.
Yang chuckled under her breath. Her mood dipped slightly as she asked, "Where did he end up, anyway?"
Ghira sighed softly as Blake stiffened, answering when she gave her father a curious, nervous look. "Ironwood is holding Adam on an airship separate from the rest of the White Fang for interrogation. He's restrained at all times under twenty-four hour guard with cameras on him and his cell, and the airship is patrolling ten miles off the continent's coast over open ocean. Even if he somehow managed to break out, he has nowhere to go."
"Any chance they'd let us add a few questions to his next grill session?" Yang's face soured further. "Cuz it sounds like he's found an all-new way to screw with us."
"I doubt they'd have a problem with that. I only worry we'd never get answers from him. Adam's been, unsurprisingly, less than cooperative."
Yang scoffed lightly. "Give me five minutes with him. I'll-"
"Yang," Blake interrupted warningly. Yang turned to her in surprise, seeing sternness warring with worry in her amber eyes.
Yang held her gaze, then let out a full-body huff, relaxing back in her seat. "Sorry. I'm just… frustrated."
Blake smiled knowingly. "I understand. But let's just… try and not cause more trouble trying to get answers?"
Yang rose a brow. "You do remember who you're Mated to, right?"
Blake rolled her eyes, still smiling. "I know, I know. Just… let me hope." She shot her mother a heatless glare when she stifled a giggle. Blake looked between her parents, basking in the Happiness and Safety radiating from them, hoping she wasn't about to bring the mood back down. "So… what do you think we should do about the dreams in the meantime?"
Kali grimaced, sharing a look with Ghira. "I'm not sure there's anything we can do, sweetheart. They're… dreams. I'm concerned about how often you have them and that Adam may be involved, but… I've not a clue what to do about it."
"I'm afraid I'm at a loss as well," Ghira agreed with a frown. "This… Grimm bull you fought in them. Are you still seeing it?"
Blake shook her head. "No. Not for at least a… a week." Her cat ears wilted as she grimaced, realizing another piece to the puzzle.
Ghira mirrored her. "Not since the battle."
"Yeah," Yang cut in. "Dreams have been pretty nice ever since. Just a bunch of… animal goofing off."
Kali smiled warmly. "That's how they're supposed to be."
Ghira nodded with a half-smile of his own. "Let us know if that changes. I'll ask Ozpin and Ironwood about speaking to Adam and try to contact a few of my old friends. They might have a few insights I don't." He then closed his eyes, his face falling. "Actually… I may be able to speak to one very soon."
Blake blinked in surprise as his tone lowered, doubly so when Kali let out a tired groan. "Assuming she'll be willing to speak rather than scream," she muttered, pouring herself a cup of tea from the untouched kettle on the coffee table
Yang's brow rose. "Ouch. More problems on the horizon?"
Ghira opened his eyes, slumping slightly. "Very possibly. It's why I'm glad you wanted to talk today, Blake." He turned to face his daughter, his eyes apologetic. "I wanted to warn you: in a few days, Sienna Khan will be visiting Vale."
Blake's eyes blew wide. Then she let out a loud groan, burying her head in her hands. "Oh, no…"
Yang looked between the three, Feeling Blake's mood lower into Dread, Frustration, Annoyance. "Not-so-friendly friend, I'm guessing?"
Ghira nodded, resting his chin in his hand. "She's the current leader of the White Fang."
Yang's head shot up. "But… I thought that was Adam?"
"Adam was only in charge of the Vale branch," Blake muttered, raising her head morosely. To Yang's relief, it seemed annoyance had won out to dominate Blake's mood. "Sienna is the High Leader of the entire group throughout the world. She took over when Dad stepped down."
Yang couldn't help but smirk at Blake's sour tone. "You've met?"
"No." Blake shook her head, a twinge of Sadness leaking into her mood. "Only heard her voice whenever she and Adam butted heads over scroll call and hearing him rant about her afterward." At Yang's curious look, and Feeling Concern from her parents, she explained. "She and he both think that Faunus should gain respect through fear and violence, but Sienna always wanted to keep things subtle. 'To rise up without getting stomped back down.' She thought Adam… that we were being too loud, too ambitious with our actions. He thought she was being too soft." She scoffed to herself scornfully. "Gods, how did I not see it…"
Yang put a comforting hand on Blake's shoulder, earning a weak smile in return. "So, big, bad, possibly evil boss lady is coming to town." She grinned at Ghira's amused snort. "Why?"
"Because between our fight with Adam and Ironwood pledging Faunus' rights active support, the rest of the White Fang is in an uproar." Ghira stood up to pace about the room, glancing out a window towards the Vale skyline. "Sienna called me, demanding - rather loudly - to know why I was stepping in to shut down Vale's White Fang chapter, and why she had to find out about it on the news. Apparently, Adam told no one, at least that Sienna is aware of, about the extent of his plans. She claims to know nothing about his pact with Cinder, or the full militarization his chapter had undergone."
He paused as Kali let out a dismissive snort. She met his reproachful look evenly. "Sienna is many things, but she's not stupid. I refuse to believe this all came as a complete shock to her."
Ghira begrudgingly gave her a nod. "It's entirely possible, but I'm holding judgment until I speak with her. Sienna has grown a more violent side over the years, I'll admit that. But she still cares about her people. She knows the stigma that Faunus would gain had the White Fang participated in a full-scale assault on a Kingdom capital. That's why she's coming here, to try and prevent what has happened from getting worse."
"Worse?" Blake asked incredulously. "What do you mean worse?"
"According to Sienna, and what I've heard myself, since news of Adam's capture, the remaining White Fang are practically tearing each other apart trying to figure out how to proceed. Some agree that Adam should have been taken down, but others think he was doing the right thing. They're even further torn on Ironwood's involvement, given our people's history with Atlas and the SDC." Ghira turned grim eyes on the girls. "Sienna's worried a civil war may break out."
Yang and Blake could only stare back as his words sank in, Dread quickly building between the two. "Well," Yang finally breathed, stunned. "Shit."
"Language, dear," Kali muttered with little heat, not looking even slightly put out.
Ghira merely shook his head at the whole situation. "I'm hopeful that between the two of us that we can find a way to appease the dissenters. Truthfully, I'm rather thankful for her involvement."
"What?" Blake burst out, utterly confused.
Ghira just grinned and shrugged. "We both have the same goal, Faunus equality, but we're on opposite ends on how to achieve it. Any idea I have, she's going to find every fault in it, and vice versa. Hopefully, we can find a reasonable solution between the two of us."
Kali took a deep sigh, giving Ghira an exasperated look. "And I'll be there to actually bite back when your father starts trying to appease Sienna when she gets huffy."
Ghira gave her a mildly-betrayed look. "Kali…"
"Ghira, you always see the best in everyone and want to make them all happy, and she knows that. I refuse to let her walk even a step over you just to appease her feelings." She focused back on Blake. "Which is why I wanted to warn you about her arrival. Sienna had a few choice words about your taste in Mates, and we didn't want you to get blind-sided if your paths cross."
Blake gulped, pulling a face. "Yeah, that… won't end well." She side-eyed Yang, who merely looked back with a challenging brow, radiating Determination and Protectiveness.
"Bring her on."
Blake chose to ignore that, taking a slow breath and facing her mother. "Thanks, Mom."
Kali took a sip of her tea, a smile in her eyes. "You're welcome, sweetheart. And try not to worry too much. We'll keep an eye on Sienna. You focus on what's important."
Just then, a muffled chime went off from Yang's pocket. Surprised, she pulled out her vibrating scroll. She pulled it open, then grinned. "Speaking of which; that was Weiss. She finished her homework backlog. She and Ruby just got to the docks."
Kali grinned expectantly. "You four have a date night planned?"
Blake's cheeks tinted while Yang let out a laugh. "Unfortunately not! They're meeting up with Winter to get to the bottom of Ruby's not-so-little feathered miracle. We were going to join them when we were done here."
Ghira chuckled. "I wouldn't mind hearing about that myself. I saw the pictures. Quite a sight."
"I know right?" Yang started beaming. "And if she figures out how to repeat it, then me and Blake could do it too. I mean, maybe not with the Nevermore, but… summon our own Grimm? How is that not awesome?"
Kali giggled at her enthusiasm. "Well, don't let us keep you." She set down her teacup and rose to her feet. "Ghira and I will try to find what we can about your dream issue. You two go enjoy your day. Let us worry about something for once."
Yang stood up. "If you don't mind. Blake?"
To her surprise, even though Blake rose with her, she had a pensive look on her face. "Actually, Yang… do you think you could go on ahead? I want to ask my parents something." She glanced at Ghira and Kali, who looked back curiously. "Privately."
Yang frowned briefly, but she didn't Feel anything negative coming off Blake. Only Nervousness and…
A smirk slowly formed on Yang's face. "Does this have anything to do with your super-secret dance surprise?"
Blake's cheeks reddened, a small smile of her own forming. "Maybe…"
Yang chuckled. "Well, no need for me to spoil myself then." She turned to Kali and Ghira. "Good to talk with you two."
Kali wrapped her in a quick hug, which Yang was glad she'd finally started expecting ahead of time. "Always, Yang. We're always here."
"Always," Ghira confirmed, giving Yang a farewell handshake.
Yang grinned at them, then gave Blake a quick peck on the cheek. "Text me when you're ready to meet up, okay? I gotta run."
Blake smiled warmly back. "Of course I- wait." Her eyes widened, her cat ears shooting high. "Wait, Yang, don't-!"
She just caught Yang's flash of a smirk, before the air briefly crackled with heat and a yellow streak blurred out of the room and out the door.
"-why do I even try?" Blake huffed, lowering her outstretched arm.
"Because love outweighs annoyance, kitten," Kali giggled, reaching up to bat at some of the yellow rose petals dancing in the air.
Ghira shook his head fondly, watching the petals dance and fade in amazement. "What else did you need to talk about that warrants secrecy, dear?" he asked.
Blake's ears tilted back a bit, her nerves making a visible appearance. "Nothing major. Just… well, you mentioned our culture earlier, Mom?"
Kali blinked in bemusement, a hint of worry on her face. "Yes. What of it?"
Blake squirmed a bit under her parent's eyes but soldiered on. "When I was little… I remember having to go to parties and functions with you. And… Well, Mom, I remember the dresses you wore as the Chief's wife."
Kali's ears shot straight up, her eyes going wide. Next to her, Ghira visibly perked up.
Blake's eyes found the floor, her cheeks fully red. "I know I was just a kid, but… when I asked when I could wear such a pretty dress, you always laughed and said… 'when I found a Mate of my own to show one off to'. So…"
Blake slowly looked up with a shy smile, bolstered when she saw her mother's eyes sparkle.
"...how hard would it be to make one of those dresses?"
Kali's breath caught in her throat, and she leaped forward, wrapping her daughter in a bone-crushing hug. "Oh, Blake!" She pulled back before Blake could even register the lack of air, holding onto Blake's forearms with an ironclad grip. "Not at all, sweetheart, not at all!" She pulled Blake back into a hug, squeezing out what little air Blake had regained. "Oh, my kitten's all grown up!"
Blake's eyes darted about in shock as her mother latched on with no sign of letting go, panicking slightly when she felt tears fall on her shoulder. She looked bewilderingly up at her father for help.
Ghira just smiled back with a chuckle. "Blake, I'm not sure you realize what you just started."
Despite herself, Blake couldn't help but smile, hugging her mother back.
Given the sheer Joy and Pride they were both radiating, Blake didn't much care.
A/n: So this feels like mostly a lore dump chapter, but it's one that I get to fill with Belladonna shenanigans with Yang along for the ride, so I don't much care. It made me smile to write, so… yeah.
Also, Sienna! Because I just can't help myself, apparently! On the plus side, I now fully know what I'm going to do with the Vytal Festival Arc, which this most definitely is shaping up to be, so I at least have a definitive path to follow now. Whether that translates to faster updates, I got no friggin' clue.
Hope you like it and I'll see ya at the next one!