Chapter Five


1:15 PM

Weiss was eating lunch in her dorm room when Yang finally made an appearance. Breakfast may have been slightly lonely, but for some reason the only other representative of either Team RWBY or Team JNPR who had made it to lunch was Jaune. When he had brought up the subject of the dance, Weiss decided it was high time to leave, bringing only a napkin and her bowl of ramen noodles with her. The closest dish that it resembled in Atlas had been spaghetti, which Weiss had enjoyed as a kid, so she figured ramen would be okay. It turns out it was much better.

So Weiss, surprised, looked up, ramen noodles hanging from her mouth, as Yang Xiao Long barged into the room.

"Mphyang!" Weiss exclaimed, her mouth full. She swallowed and wiped her face down with the napkin she'd brought.

Yang had her scroll to her ear, and with her free hand she raised a finger to silence Weiss.

"Uh-huh," Yang said to whoever was on the other side, then she paused. "Really? Just the necklace? Are you sure?"

Weiss heard some static crackling. Yang brought the scroll away from her ear, wincing.

"Ohh-okay," she said apologetically. "And it was definitely her? The same woman from earlier?" Yang sounded desperate. She braced herself against the closed door.

More crackling. It grew louder and more solid.

"Sorry, you're breaking up - what was that? Coco? Are you still there?"

The crackling stopped. Weiss saw the red light indicating the other end had gone dead.

"Damn it," Yang swore, and tossed the scroll at her bed angrily. She put her hand to her head. Weiss studied her; she'd never seen her so vexed before.

Then Yang looked around, regaining her bearings, and noticed Weiss again. Her face started to lighten. "Where's Blakey?"

"Bl - 'Blakey'?" Weiss repeated disbelievingly. "That's a ridiculous pet name."

"Well she is a kitty-cat. Of course she gets a cutesy pet name."

Weiss winced. Blake would have been on her toes about that remark.

"Nevermind Blake," Weiss said; "where have you been? We've all been worried about you!"

"You have?" Yang asked, surprised. She pushed herself off the door she'd been leaning on and advanced slowly toward her.

"Well, I can't speak for the others, but -"

"Awwe, how cute," Yang cooed. "The charming princess is worried about me!"

"I'm not actually a princess," Weiss objected. Though she couldn't deny, "charming" was an apt description.

Yang swerved from her advance and plopped herself on the bottom bunk, yawning. Weiss couldn't gauge her mood - she'd just had what seemed to be a serious and intense conversation over the CCT when she walked in, but now she seemed to be pushing it down.

"Has Ruby talked to you?" Weiss asked, turning back to her homework.

"Ruby?" Yang repeated, sleepily. She curled up on the bed.

"Yes, Ruby Rose. Your sister. Apparently." She added the last part quietly. The two kept saying they were siblings but they hardly looked anything alike.

"Ruby Rose..." Yang trailed off. Weiss glanced at her. She was falling asleep.

Weiss sighed. Perhaps they looked different because they were adopted. Her father would not be happy to know her team comprised faunus filth and trash put up for adoption, and that her own partner was an insult to nature.

She frowned, putting her hand to her head. It was harsh of her even to think that her father would say that. Though he probably would. She'd heard him use all of those descriptions before, and much, much worse.

Weiss stood up and grabbed one of the spare comforters in the corner of the room. She knew it wasn't all that cold, and Yang's semblance could keep her warm, but it pained her to see her friend lying on the bed without anything over her.

As she draped the comforter over her, Yang curled up tightly, breathing out her sister's name once more.


Ruby Rose wrapped her blanket around her sister as she snuggled closer to her. It was dark; the ceiling light had fizzled away yesterday and their dad hadn't had time to visit the Dust shop. They still had the standing lamp behind the couch and the light of the black-and-white screen in front of them.

She felt Yang absentmindedly run her fingers through her long hair as they watched the movie in front of them, causing Ruby to shift contentedly. The film was an old one. Since the CCT had taken off, tons of ancient low-budget movie-theatre productions started being rebroadcast. They were cheesy action flicks for the most part. There was also a slot for romance movies, but none of the residents of the Rose-Xiao Long household had any interest in that sappy stuff.

"Captain, the Grimm have broken into - oh, ouch! I am slain!"

This was some quality material. Blood splattered across the guardswoman's face as plastic Beowolf paws appeared from off-screen.

Stretching out, she nestled deeper into her older sister, careful not to crush her. Although Ruby was only nine years old, she had seen many photographs of the Grimm in her school, so she could tell the ones on-screen weren't real. She was envious of her sister, though; Yang had just turned twelve, which meant she'd soon be taken on her first hunt by Uncle Qrow.

"Oh, Lilac, I will never forget you! Take this, you monsters. And this! Aaaah."

The names confirmed that it didn't pre-date the war at least, but it could still easily have been sixty years old.

"Alright maggots, listen up. Do you want to live forever? No? Then, into the breach once more!"

Ruby couldn't help but be impressed at the Captain of the Guard's bravery as he lifted his sword high into the air, leading the charge. She breathed out blissfully, a cloud forming in front of her mouth. She wondered if she'd ever be a hero of that calibre some day.

Since it was deep in wintertime now, the house was chilly. She could feel her sister starting to shiver. Ruby peeled her eyes away from the screen and lifted herself up so she could look at her. She hadn't noticed it during the intense fight scene, but her sister had started to cry.

"What's wrong?" she asked, sweetly.

Yang looked at her and sniffled. "I miss her."

Seeing her beloved older sister distraught, Ruby almost felt the urge to cry, too. Even though she only knew their mom from photographs and faded memories, when her sister missed her, she felt it along side her. She laid her head on her older sister's side, trying to comfort her. Yang wrapped her arms around her in response.

"Dad will be home soon," Ruby said.

"Yeah. He'll bring Dust. We'll get the furnace on in no time."

On screen, the Captain of the Guard ran his sword through an Ursa, then pulled a lever causing the sword to extend itself into a glaive, skewering a Boarbatusk behind the bear.

"Sir! The Lady of Vale has demanded your audience."

With incredible strength, the Captain of the Guard lifted the Grimm shish kebab over his head and smashed it into a Creep that had been stalking behind him.

"The Lady will just have to wait. I have a taste for vengeance. Vengeance!"

The image of the Captain winked out as the screen turned to white noise.

"Mmph. Do you want to?" Ruby asked. Most likely the receptor behind the set needed adjusting.

Yang ruffled her hair. Her hands felt colder now. "Maybe that's enough for tonight. You won't sleep."

"Okay," Ruby said, as Yang reached over her for the remote control. She pressed a button and the screen went dark.

"Dad will be here soon. Let's get some sleep," Yang decided.

"Okay. Goodnight, sis. I love you."

Yang reached for the lamp string behind them and pulled it.

"Goodnight. I love you, too, Ruby Rose."


1:30 PM

Ren had felt the aura of a troubled but simple soul next to him for some half-an-hour. It hadn't said anything to him, just sat there, soaking in the sun and perhaps whatever comfort his own aura offered.

Eventually, Ruby shifted, just barely perceptibly. Ren opened his eyes and looked over at her. She was staring off into the Emerald Forest, her arms wrapped around her knees, her eyes a simmering mixture of nostalgia and anxiety. He'd once observed the same expression on another pair of eyes he cared about, beautiful burnt copper irises he hadn't seen in a year.

"What troubles you?" Ren asked.

Ruby looked at him, apprehensive.

"It's easier," Ren said, "if you assume the position I showed you."

She offered a weak smile and rearranged herself, crossing her legs and resting the backs of her hands on them.

"But altogether it doesn't really matter," he admitted.

Ruby looked at him questioningly.

"Sit however you like; your soul is still yours to explore, no matter the configuration of the body."

She smiled, but remained still all the same. She'd come to see him on four occasions before this, and it had become clear to him from what she'd said that her body was a great source of pain for her.

They remained still for some time. Then Ruby finally spoke.

"Have you ever encountered someone with two souls?" she asked.

Ren thought about this. Silver eyes looked at him the way copper ones never would.

"I think that's quite common," he decided.

"Really? Somebody with two auras?" Ruby asked.

"Not two auras."

"There's a difference?" Ruby asked.

Ren nodded.

"What's the distinction?"

Ren shrugged. "I'm not sure it's my place to say."

Ruby sat in contemplation. A breeze rustled through the trees.

"I think I have two souls," she said.

Ren closed his eyes and slowed his breath, feeling the earth under his palms. Theirs were the strongest presences, but he could feel the life around them in the blades of grass, the little insects, even the hill itself. A billion tiny voices contributing to the susurrus in the wind. And Ruby, too; but hers was strong and loud and resounding and brilliant with just a hint of hesitation. Even her aura felt familiar, not just her eyes.

"I think so, too," Ren agreed.

"You think I do, or you do?" Ruby asked, confused.

"Both," Ren decided.

Suddenly, the loud and brilliant voice was much closer, right in his ear. Now he could hear: there was noise in the signal, dissonance in the simple soul.

"I only sense one," she said.

"I haven't taught you how to detect auras yet."

"I can feel yours."

Another breeze came; the trees in the forest rustled; the susurrus entered a sforzando and then the wind quickly died out.

"If someone can have two souls," Ren said carefully, "I don't think it would be easy to tell."

"Then how can you tell?"

"Apparently I am the sun and the moon." But his voice couldn't capture the elegance and beauty of the voice that had said those words to him.

"No, I meant about me."

The wind was still. The fugue of the grass and the insects faded away to nothing until the only motion in the air that was left was her breathing. Irregular, no consistent tempo; strong and natural; it was exactly the same.

"There's a lot going on in your head. So there must be two souls."

"You can read minds?" she said, louder. Her breathing was the same but the voice was different.

"No," he almost laughed, but the stillness and serenity of their surroundings had to be preserved. "I don't need to read minds to be able to tell that."

But in many ways, she was easy to read; not like sheet music, but like a melody that was simple to understand and quick to pick up. Ren felt his fingers twitching, eager to feel the strings.

"Teach me how to sense auras," Ruby said, softly, atonally. It wasn't a demand, not even a request.

"Sure."

The breeze came back, and so did the chattering of all the voices.

"Well?" Ruby asked.

"Can you feel my aura yet?"

"I told you that I could."

"You already know I'm here. Can you feel any other auras?"

"There's no one else here."

There were only two of them, and a myriad of small dots of light.

"If you could sense auras perhaps you would think differently."

"Is someone stalking us? Is someone watching?"

Somebody might find out. That was the only explanation he'd gotten.

"Ren? Hello? I don't see anybody else here."

"Perhaps this is too much for now."

"No! I want to learn."

Losing focus just for a moment, the staccato pinpricks of aura quickly blurred into a dull background. Ren decided sensing the softer, smaller auras would take a lot of work for her. They should start simple.

"Can you feel your own aura?"

"I think so..."

"Describe yourself."

"What?"

"Describe yourself," Ren insisted.

"Describe my aura? That's hard, I don't know what words there are to describe auras. It's like, how do you describe a taste? Or a colour? It's just something you kind of feel."

"Describe yourself," Ren repeated. "Don't worry too much about your aura for now. Tell me who you are."

"Okay... well," Ruby paused, thinking. "I'm Ruby Rose."

Ren smiled. "That's your name."

"Yes it is," she acknowledged playfully.

"What else?"

"Um, I go to Beacon. I use a sniper rifle scythe. Is this really necessary?" She seemed a little bothered.

"What do you look like?"

She brushed her hair out of her eyes. "Why does that matter?"

"Do you want to sense auras or not?"

"Yes, but," she grunted, annoyed, "why is this important?"

"You'll find out why at the end."

"Fine," she said.

"What do you look like?"

"I have... I have black hair, with some red. Grey eyes. Um..." she trailed off, fermata.

"Good, keep going."

"I'm small. Much shorter than my sister. We look pretty silly together, honestly." Ruby brushed her hair away again, this time tucking it behind her ear. "I guess I have a small nose. Well, not that small." She shrugged. "I wear a combat skirt. And a cloak. The cloak's pretty cool actually. My uncle made it; he can make anything. He's like, a master maker of things. I've got to learn more from him." She turned to Ren. "What do you want me to say?"

Ren had forgotten that Ruby could be quite talkative. He'd thought that it would make her uncomfortable to describe herself, but it seemed she found it easy to talk. Maybe she was using words to hide her feelings.

"Don't say anything. Picture yourself."

"Picture myself?"

"Yes. Close your eyes."

"Picture myself doing what?"

"Sitting here, as you are."

"With you?"

"Alone."

"Okay," she said weakly. Then she shut her eyes. Ren looked at her closely. She was fine, at first. Calm and composed and as still as he was when Ren played the violin for him. But then, agitation. Uncertainty. Her eyes flickered.

"Okay, I pictured myself. Now what?"

"Just hold it."

Ren could see Ruby's hands tightening. She shifted, again. "For how long?"

He chose not to answer. Eventually, Ruby opened her eyes and leaned back, tossing her arm over her head for shade.

"You weren't supposed to open your eyes," Ren said.

She shrugged.

"Why did you stop?"

She shrugged again.

Ren turned back to face the Emerald Forest, and closed his eyes. Ruby Rose was a difficult to pry open.

"Ren?" Ruby asked.

"Why did you stop?" he asked.

"I didn't want to."

"You didn't want to stop?"

"I didn't want to picture my body."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't... like it." She said the words as though she were forcing them out; she was disgusted even just to talk about it.

Ren sighed. They were getting somewhere at least.

"I hate this body!" She screamed, suddenly. A bird nestled in a tree at the base of the hill bolted.

He opened his eyes and looked at her gently. She was disgusted, frustrated, her aura flaring.

Suddenly quiet again, she said, "I hate this body. I hate being this small and helpless girl." Her face screwed up.

He waited for a full minute, counting out the guilty seconds before saying anything, just in case she had more to add.

"You want to become stronger?" He prompted. He knew that would miss the mark.

"No," she said. "Yes. I want to... It doesn't matter. It's impossible anyway."

"Maybe it isn't," Ren offered.

"You have n-no idea," she stammered.

"I might."

"No, you wouldn't," she insisted forcefully. "Nobody could possibly know. There's nobody else like me."

"You haven't met everybody in the world."

She snorted dismissively. "It doesn't matter. Even if there were someone else like me, so what? There's nothing I can do. This isn't the problem," she pointed at herself. "It's here," she tapped her head. "I'm screwed up in here."

"Don't say that," Ren said.

"Why not? It's true. I'm a freak."

"No, you're not. I don't think you're a freak."

"You don't know what I am."

"I know you're not a freak."

Ruby glared at him. Then her face became softer.

"What can I do, Ren?"

"Maybe all you need is something simple."

"Like what?"

"Maybe you could dye your hair? Or style it differently?"

"My hair is fine." She smiled, almost.

"A change of clothes, then?" Ren suggested.

She shrugged nonchalantly, and tugged her cloak over her arm.

"Yeah, maybe," she said. "I don't know. I guess my real enemy is myself."

"You can change that, too."

"I can?" She looked at him, some amount of hope entering her.

"Move somewhere different. Take on a new name."

"I can't go somewhere different. My family is here."

"I thought your family was on an island."

"My sister is here."

Ren thought about this.

"You don't have to leave, then. You can change your identity and still stay here."

Ruby thought about this, too.

"People would know me, though," she said.

"And?"

"Wouldn't that defeat the purpose?"

"You'd still know you were different. That's what matters."

"Hmm." Ruby crossed her arms.

"If you want me to call you something else, just say so."

He'd been told something about roses, once.


They sat there for a very long time, until the sun had loosened the leash on the shadows of the trees of the Emerald Forest and they'd crawled part-way up the hill.

It took Ruby a while to digest what Ren was saying. It was so different from how Weiss had reacted. This was the first time anyone had ever told her that these feeling were okay. That she could embrace them, not ignore them. Deep down, they still troubled her greatly, but never before had she felt like there might actually be hope.

"I'll think about it," she finally said. She wasn't sure he'd even remember what his prompt had been.

He looked lost in thought, his violet eyes swirling. Or maybe that was just her imagination.

"In that case, friend," he said, standing up; "let's stare at some trees together."

"Trees?" she repeated.

He gave her a long hard look. "Yes, and maybe you could tell me about what happened to that cherry tree."

"You don't know?" she asked. Then gulped.

"I'm stumped."

"Uh -" Then she paused. Was that a pun? In his brilliant, violet eyes, there was just a hint of mischief.

For a second his shoulders began to shake. And then he was laughing.

"It wasn't that funny," Ruby chided. But she was smiling, too. Yang would have taken this as a personal challenge.

Ren reached down to offer her a hand. She declined, standing up on her own.

"So, trees?" Ruby asked.

"Yes," he agreed. "Let's go look at trees."


8:00 PM

After dinner, the two of them returned to the dorm.

"Alright, that's it for today," she smiled at him. She pulled out her scroll and unlocked the door.

He bowed his head, his eyes smiling for him.

Weiss opened the door. "Oh, Ruby!" Then she ushered her in.

"Hi Weiss," Ruby said. Then her eyes flicked back to Ren. "Ren, thank you."

"Any time."

Ruby stood there in the doorway, gazing at Ren.

Weiss glanced back and forth between them.

"Um," she said. Ruby snapped her eyes away from Ren's and looked at her partner.

"So," Weiss said, standing there awkwardly. "I did all the questions, Ruby. And I did them all perfectly," she boasted.

"Yay, Weiss!" Ruby exclaimed.

There was another awkward pause. Ren was still standing outside the door.

"Are you two..." Weiss started, then trailed off. "Are you two going to the dance together, or..?"

Ren and Ruby blushed. (Ren only blushed a little.)

"N-no way," Ruby said quickly, flustered. She had told Weiss earlier, she hadn't "like" liked anybody yet. Had her partner already forgotten?

"Ah. Ren, you're going with Nora, then?" Weiss inquired.

"Oh, no," he said, sounding almost apologetic. "She and I aren't together."

Ruby thought she heard a loud thump coming from the JNPR room.

"Then, are you -"

The JNPR door burst open, revealing an excited Nora Valkyrie. More excited than usual, that is.

"Ren! Did I hear you got a date?" she grinned.

"No," Ren said, innocently. "You did not hear that."

"You're still banished," she reiterated.

"That's unfortunate," he said. But now his tone of voice was almost patronizing compared to earlier in the day.

Weiss crossed her arms. "I'm surprised you don't have a date. You're the talk of the town."

"Am I?" Ren said, as if he didn't know how many lingering glances he got.

"Oh," Nora laughed. "He's not interested."

Weiss smirked. "Really? Nobody's ever caught your fancy?" She looked at Ruby dead in the eye.

"Weiss," Ruby whispered sternly.

"Well, there was -" Ren started to admit. Then Nora cut him off, putting her hand over his mouth.

"Hoah boy Rennie, I think it's time to move away from that one!"

The four of them looked at each other awkwardly for a few seconds.

"Right," Weiss said. "Well, it's nice to see you, Nora Valkyrie, Ren Lie."

"Schnee Weiss," Nora responded sweetly.

"Indeed," Weiss coughed. "Ruby, are you coming in, or..?"

Ruby nodded. Somehow, this particular gathering of four people was rather uncomfortable. She stepped inside.

"Bye," Ren said, through Nora's fingers. Then Weiss shut the door on Team NR.

There was an eery silence that penetrated the duskiness of the dorm room. The sun had just set and once again a dark purple hue bathed the campus, filtering in through the window. Weiss' desk lamp was the only real source of light.

"Uh..." Ruby started. Weiss raised her eyebrows, amused. "So do you want me to look at the questions you did?"

"Sure. but..." Weiss glanced pointedly at her sister, who was lying on Blake's bed.

Now? Ruby mouthed at Weiss.

Weiss raised her hands innocently. "Do you want me to leave, so you can..?"

"She's sleeping," Ruby whispered.

Weiss shrugged. "Okay, fine."

Ruby walked quietly over to Weiss' desk and took a flipped through the work as Weiss hovered over her. Weiss cold hands gripped the back of the chair rigidly. In the back of her mind, Ruby worried what might happen if she said anything critical. Fortunately all of Weiss' work looked reasonable, even if she didn't have the answer sheet on hand to compare. She looked up at her partner behind her and nodded in approval.

"Good job!" she said. "But now I have to do my assignment."

Ruby pulled out her History text from the drawer, adjusted the desk lamp, and assumed her usual homework position on the floor. Some books thudded next to her.

"Here," Weiss said. "I found these in the library."

Ruby glanced over them. A Brief History of the Faunus Uprisings in Mistral; Tooth and Claw: The Violent Nature of the Faunus; An Impartial Account of the War Against Faunus Savages. She doubted how impartial the lattermost book really was; it had the Schnee Dust Company logo branded on it.

"Weiss!" Ruby exclaimed, grinning. "Awwe, thanks, that's so sweet of you!"

Weiss had her arms crossed and was looking indifferently away from her, which was why she didn't have time to react when Ruby pounced on her and pulled her into a hug.

"N-no problem," Weiss said. She squirmed out of Ruby's grasp, her normally sheet-white skin now a noticeably redder hue. "You are my partner after all; it wouldn't look good for me if you failed your classes," she explained.

"Uh-huh," Ruby said knowingly. "Well thank you very much."

Weiss pursed her lips. "Well? Go write your essay."

Ruby stepped back innocently and then tossed herself on the floor by the books, lying on her stomach in the spotlight of the desk lamp. She cracked her knuckles and flipped open the one that claimed to be impartial.


10:00 PM

Ruby had already written a page and a half on the subject by the time she felt Yang's eyes on her. She glanced away from the illustration in the book depicting a grizzly faunus ripping apart several young human children and met her sister's lavender eyes.

For some reason, Ruby expected Yang to be cold and angry at her, since Ruby had dodged her offer to talk that morning. But instead, Yang was gazing at her affectionately, in the same way she always had since Ruby was a toddler.

Ruby blinked questioningly at her.

Yang smiled and brought her arm out to rest her head on her hand. She was still lying in Blake's bed. Blake hadn't shown up yet, which was the only reason she was getting away with this.

"You just," Yang paused, clicking her tongue against her teeth, "you look so much like her," she explained.

Ruby smiled weakly and returned to her book. The illustration was very similar to a famous painting of an Ursa Major attacking a group of Huntsmen and Huntresses.

"Don't say that," Ruby said, softly.

"Why not?" Yang asked. "It's true. You do look like her." She smiled brightly.

"Don't say that," Ruby repeated.

Weiss got off her bed and sat down next to Ruby, placing her hand on her arm.

"Would you like me to leave now?" Weiss whispered.

Ruby shook her head firmly. She needed her partner with her now.

"I'm not her," Ruby said to her sister. "I'm not Summer."

Yang sighed. "I know that."

"Do you?" she couldn't help but feel the accusing tone in her voice. But it had been a long time since they'd talked about this, and this had been on Ruby's mind often.

Yang opened her mouth but was quickly interrupted.

"Just how much do I look like her, huh?" Ruby tugged her hair, which she knew looked so much like Summer's, red fringes and all. "My hair? My eyes? My breasts?"

"Ruby -" Weiss started, but she waved her hands dismissively.

"Obviously I look like her, Yang! She's not your mom." Ruby was surprised by how much anger was pent up in her.

"That's not fair," Yang said quickly and quietly.

"What's not fair? That Summer is dead? That she abandoned me before I learned to read?"

"Don't speak about her like that," Yang snapped. "She's your mom."

"I don't have a mom!" Ruby cried.

Yang physically flinched when she said this. Her eyes darted back and forth between her and some dark corner of the room.

"What happened?" Yang asked sadly. "You used to adore her. When was the last time you went to visit her?"

Ruby shook her head. "I don't know. A year ago? Last winter? Why does it even matter? She's dead."

"We don't know that," Yang protested.

"She was eaten alive by those monsters," Ruby spat.

"Mom -"

"Your mother is dead." Ruby felt the darkness within her where the Huntress had given out.

"Summer might -"

"Raven!" Ruby corrected. "That's your mom. Summer is dead and so is she."

Weiss reached out to put her hand on Ruby's, but Ruby drew her hand away. She couldn't deal with physical contact right now.

"The real tragedy," Ruby said, "is that it's been ten years and you still haven't moved on."

"Raven's not dead," Yang said.

Ruby shook her head. "You promised. You promised you'd stopped looking."

"That's not... No, I promised I wouldn't let the search consume me."

"And?" Ruby asked. "You still see her, don't you." Ruby stood up and tossed off her cloak, letting it crumple and deflate into the floor.

"I -" Yang closed her eyes for a couple seconds, and then opened them again. Ruby could see there were tears starting to well up in them. "Yes," she admitted.

Ruby's anger burned itself out. She realized just how tired she was. She hadn't slept at all last night. So she sat down next to her sister on the bed.

"Do you need help," she asked, her voice almost completely devoid of emotion now.

Yang shook her head. "I'm okay this time, I promise."

Ruby looked at her uncertainly. She wanted to believe her.

"But," Yang started, and bit her lip. "I have a lead."

"A lead." Ruby repeated the word slowly. She wasn't even disappointed, because she hadn't really ever believed her sister had moved on. She was vaguely aware of Weiss sitting on the ground where she'd left her, her legs folded beside her.

"Yes," Yang said. "Please believe me, I'm not making it up."

Ruby just breathed in and out slowly, indifferent.

"Team CFVY - you know, the second years, right?" Yang asked.

Ruby nodded dimly.

"They're on a mission - they were supposed to come back today, but, they found her. They found Raven."

Yang was confused and overly hopeful, as usual.

"It's really her. Velvet took a picture."

Some other woman who looked like her.

"And she stole Coco's... Ruby?" Yang waved her hands in front of Ruby's face. Ruby barely even saw them.

"I was going to tell you someting," Ruby said. "But... I don't think I will anymore."

Yang's eyes widened. "Ruby, please, just listen to me, you know I'm not, I'm not crazy. Just last week they -"

Ruby leaned in and hugged her sister. It was dark. She was reminded of something, a memory that hadn't surfaced in a long time. Of them watching movies on the CCT as children. She was lying earlier when she said she didn't have a mother. There was somebody who filled that role.

Yang pushed her away. "I don't think - I'm sorry. Ruby, please, I'm sorry."

Ruby just gazed sadly away from her and didn't say anything. They remained quiet for a time, until Yang stood up and walked to the door.

"Don't go," Weiss said. "Not again. We were worried when you didn't come back last night."

Yang sighed. "Ruby, is it okay if I stay?"

Ruby nodded. "Yes."

"Okay. I'll... I guess I'll brush my teeth or something."

Yang opened the door to the bathroom. The light in there was on and Ruby had to squint.

"Goodnight, sis," Yang said.

"Goodnight, sis," Ruby replied. "I..."

But somehow she couldn't say the words that once came easily.