Chapter 12

The Stray and the Faker

"It's been a while," Blake Belladonna smirked as she checked Shirou out.

It was refreshing to see him out of the Beacon Academy's uniform as the dark colors highlighted his golden-brown eyes and red hair. The coat draped over his shoulders was a nice touch that wrapped everything up neatly.

Shirou tilted his head, that trademark grin of his slowly forming. "Really? It hasn't been that long since we last spoke," he smoothly took off his shades.

She shot him a dry stare. "Shirou, it's been a month since we last talked."

"Oh? I didn't know we were keeping count," he teased. "Did you miss me so much that you were counting the days?"

Feeling heat creeping up onto her face, Blake did her best to play it off. "As if," she huffed while turning away, "you're not that important to me."

By her own private admission, she had been keeping track. When days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into a month, that was when she realized she had begun to miss their late-night meetings. The solace that he provided with his company proved to be an invaluable escape from her day-to-day worries.

Shirou smiled with his eyes, "Ah – don't be like that. You know you can be honest when you're around me."

"You are so annoying, you know that?" she grinned good-naturedly.

"Missed you too Blake," he mirrored her expression.

"Shirou!" Ruby skipped up in excitement. "How've you been? Whatcha been up to? What happened here?" She fired questions at him rapidly. "And also, how's everyone else been?"

"Haha," he chuckled while offering Ruby a patient smile. "Let's see… I've been pretty busy with the work-study along with my team, but other than that I've been well. As to what happened here? Hmm…" Shirou tossed a glance back. "Most likely a smash-and-grab incident, but we just arrived so we didn't have time to investigate yet. And as for my team? Well, I think they can answer for themselves."

"Heyo girls!" Nora cheerily skipped up. "It's been a hot minute since we've seen y'all! How have y'all been?"

"Nora!" Ruby threw her hands into the air. "And Ren, and Pyrrha! The gang's all here! You guys look so good in that uniform! Man, I wish we've gone and done something cool like you four and be secret agents," she sighed dejectedly. "And here we are, stuck at school having to do boring old school work."

Yang whistled in appreciation as she sauntered on up. "Damn Shirou," she shamelessly checked him out. "What's cookin' good lookin'?"

"I told you I'm not into blondes," he instantly replied.

"Argh-! Come on man! Can you at least like play along, pretend, or something!" she complained. "Do you know how much this hurts my ego?"

"I don't know, you've been needing to be knocked down a peg or two if you asked me," muttered Blake off to the side.

Yang snapped to her partner, feeling betrayed. "Hey!"

She caught Shirou grinning and couldn't help but join in on the fun.

"Hello everyone~!" Pyrrha waved with a charming smile. "It's so good to see you all! I hope everyone's been well back at the academy."

"Yup," nodded Ruby, "like I said. Just boring school work and stuff. Same old, same old, and ugh I'm really starting to miss you guys. The dorms have been so quiet without our sister team across the hall."

"Boring is an understatement," dramatically sighed the older sister. "Go to class, attend lectures, and then back to the dorms. Maybe throw in sparring class, but that gets kind of boring just beating up on the same people over and over again."

"As opposed to us beating you?" Shirou raised an eyebrow.

"I mean hey," shrugged Yang, "it's something different ya know? Like… lemme think what was the most exciting thing we did in the past month or so… Ah, right," she snapped her finger. "We went on a field trip to Forever Fall…"

"Oh, that sounds exciting," commented Pyrrha.

"To learn how to collect honey," Yang finished flatly.


"Didn't Cardin get chased by an Ursa Major cause he and his team accidentally disturbed a nest?" provided Ruby.

"Oh yeah! That was pretty fun watching them get chased before we had to put it down cause… ya know. An Ursa Major is dangerous and all that stuff," said Yang. "But yeah, other than that, pretty boring. What about y'all four? I'm pretty sure you've been doing all sorts of cool stuff with the agents."

"Ahem," coughed Weiss. "They're not agents, they are called inspectors."

"Whatever, same thing."

"Nothing exciting, just learning the ropes and lots of paperwork," replied Ren.

"Ugh, paperwork," said Yang in disgust. "But like, you guys are out here in the field at least. So, it can't be all too bad, right?"

"Yeah, but we still have to write up a report at the end of the day," said Nora.

Blake rubbed her arms a bit when a cold breeze rushed through the streets.

"Cold?" inquired Shirou.

"A little bit, but we'll probably be heading back soon, so it's okay," she replied.

"I'd offer my coat, but since you're about to leave," he trailed off wordlessly.

She offered him a tiny smile just for him, "Thank you for the offer nonetheless."

"This Fall has been a lot colder than usual," commented Pyrrha.

"Really?" Shirou turned to his partner.

Pyrrha replied with a small smile. "Yeah, it's rather a little strange, but…"

Blake zoned out of their conversation as she gazed at the two. Was she just seeing things or did they seem a lot closer than before? Pyrrha especially was acting a little different around Shirou. Her eyes picked up on Pyrrha brushing her shoulders against him and then pulled back a strand of her hair behind her ear.

Amber eyes blinked, then blinked again.

Then it hit Blake full force; Pyrrha Nikos was crushing hard on Shirou.

And for one reason or another, that didn't sit well with Blake. She felt her throat go dry the longer she stared.

"Shirou, you said this was a smash-and-grab, correct?" Weiss' comment jolted Blake out of her funk. The heiress had been staring into the store for the majority of the time. The dust shop looked a bit worse for wear from the outside with how a majority of the shelves were toppled over and chunks of the window were everywhere on the street. "Do you know who vandalized and stole from this dust shop?"

"Most likely Roman Torchwick," responded Ren for his leader. "We've been going to locations that he's hit all week."

"Yeah Weiss," Yang backed him up, "haven't you seen the news? Wait, don't answer that," she put her hand up, "of course you have. You've been ranting and raving about it ever since the guy pulled that stunt off at the SDC's repository."

"Are you absolutely, positively sure that it's Torchwick and no one else?" pressed Weiss who balled her hands into fists.

"We are… fairly certain," cautiously replied Shirou. "We've noted from interviews and reports that he does indeed have accomplices, but other than that, he's running the show."

"Team SNPR!" One of the officers came out of the shop. "Good to see you four again!"

Blake homed in on the person, it was a police sergeant who wore a decently trimmed beard with a notepad and pen in hand. With how he was grinning, he seemed to be familiar with Shirou and his team.

"Sergeant Burns," coolly greeted Shirou with his hand extended out. "Likewise."

The policeman gave his hand a firm shake. "So, who do we have here?" he put his hands on his waist. "Friends?"

Glancing at Team RWBY, Shirou replied, "Yeah."

"Hello everyone!" he gave them a short wave. "Sorry for the interruption, but I'm a little pressed for time to do the usual introductions. Inspector Emiya," Burns turned back to him, "we got this store and then another urgent call from Kensington and Chelsea that we need to get to after this."

"Ugh, that's terrible that so many stores are getting hit like this," sadly commented Yang.

"Wait, another dust retail shop was hit?" Weiss's eyebrows furrowed. "Two stores were hit today?" she asked for clarification.

"Right in one ma'am," nodded the man. "Second one today which makes it the seventh one this week! Ha-!" he shook his head. "And it's not even the weekend yet either! Makes you really wonder, who the hell needs this much dust? He didn't even take the lien from this store too."

"Really?" Shirou pulled out his own notepad and jotted that detail down.

"Yup – in fact, there's also a huge mound of lien on the counter next to the register. The same thing that happened over in Bexley," remarked the older man. "And now it's happened here in Southwark."

"Hmm…" Shirou observed all around him. "I see."

"Hey, you know," Burns started off warily, "does the uh… does the department think this might be related to the… White Fang?" he lowered his voice. "Or something like that?"

Blake didn't need her other ears to pick up on what he said as everyone else around her also heard it. Weiss in particular stared intently at Shirou waiting for his response.

Shirou for his part eyed the policeman. "No, we have no evidence connecting the two."

"Oh, really? Phew," he sighed and wiped the sweat off his forehead. "Thank goodness for that. There's been talk amongst the boys back at the station thinkin' there might be. But if the C.I.D. doesn't have evidence then that's good enough for me."

The faunus in hiding relaxed her shoulders and breathed out a tiny sigh of relief.

"Shirou," Pyrrha tapped his shoulder. "We should get going with the investigation. We'll need to finish up here and then drive across town to Kensington and Chelsea to meet up with Sergeant Sorola."

"Right," he nodded. "Sorry everyone, but duty calls and we need to get back to work. No rest for the weary, right?" Shirou looked at Blake in particular.

"Hehe, you said dooty," joked Yang.

Shirou for his part merely blinked. "That wasn't supposed to be a pun."

"I don't know man, it felt pretty… punny to me." Her blonde teammate plastered on a million-watt grin. "Eh? Eh?"

The leader of Team SNPR refused to say anything. He blinked again before doing an about face and quickly made himself scarce by being the first to head into the shop with his team right on his heels giggling.

"Ah come on!" yelled out Yang to the retreating back of Shirou. "I got you there, gimme that at least! Shirou!? Shirou~! Gah, what a sore loser!" she threw her hands up in exasperation. "The one time I get him and he just leaves like that!"

Blake turned and covered her mouth to muffle her laughter.

"Thank you!" clapped Yang who turned to her. "At least my partner appreciates me!"

"Uh, Yang?" Ruby poked at her sister. "Uh, I think Blake is laughing at you and not uh… with you."

"Say whaaat?" The blonde snapped her head to where she stood. Blake immediately shot a glare at her team leader for throwing her under the bus. "B-Blake? Say it ain't so?" Yang jutted out her lower lip.

The black haired faunus instantly schooled her features. "I was laughing with you, not at you. I would never," she lied through her teeth. "After all, I'm your partner!"

"Ugh – you need to learn how to lie better girl," her partner rolled her eyes. "When we got free time, let a pro teach you how to lie next time alright?" She sauntered up saucily and wrapped her arms around Blake's shoulders. "Cause lemme tell ya, ain't nobody can bullshit better than me."

At that, Blake couldn't help but roll her eyes considering the secret she had been harboring from everyone since she arrived. The fact that only one person knew was a testament as to how well she kept things under wraps.

"I don't believe Shirou," lowly murmured Weiss who bit down on her thumb nail. "It has to be the White Fang… it just has to be! Those… those animals have to be involved somehow," she accused with vitriol.

Blake's mouth worked faster than her brain. "What's your problem?" she asked stiffly.

Her white-haired teammate looked up with an eyebrow raised. "Excuse me, Blake?"

"You heard me," she raised her own eyebrow, "what's your problem?" Her patience burned up faster than a matchstick. "You heard it from Shirou that the White Fang aren't a part of this. And also, why call them animals?" Amber eyes shot an incensed glare. "They're people," she stressed, "not animals."

Weiss looked at her as if she grew a second head. "People?" she said back slowly. "Oh Blake," she huffed out in bemusement, "you can't possibly call them people when they've done such horrible, terrible things to their communities. They're more like," she paused to find the right word, "the criminally insane."

"They are not criminally insane," Blake pushed the words out through her teeth. "If- if anything, they're just a bunch of misguided faunus fighting for their rights!"

"Misguided." Weiss crossed her arms while blandly repeating the word. "Misguided, really? Do you even hear yourself? Blake," she marched up to her, "the White Fang is a terrorist organization comprised of psychopathic murderers and extremists who pretend they're a peaceful activist organization."

The black-haired girl felt her vision begin to tunnel in on the girl in front of her. Every word that came out of Weiss' mouth stoked the fire within her. When she glanced off to the side and saw a worried Ruby and Yang, she remembered her promise. "Ok! Maybe some of them are really misguided!" she conceded in exasperation before changing the topic. "But just because a dust shop was robbed doesn't mean it was done by them!"

"And how do you know that huh?" Weiss jabbed her pointer. "And don't say, 'Because Shirou told us.' Since everyone here knows that he can't just divulge sensitive information like that to us."

"Wait, wait, hold up, hold up, time out you two!" Ruby interjected with her hands. "Weiss, Blake, I think we all need to just… chillax alright? Because, I mean like, you know, Blake wouldn't be necessarily wrong by saying that Weiss. Like yeah, he probably can't say much, but it's not like he would ever lie to us, right?" she paused before continuing. "Plus, like remember when I told you about my encounter with Torchwick? He had goons dressed up in suits with red ties. And what do the White Fang wear?"

Weiss appeared as if she swallowed something sour.

"Come on Weiss, work with me here," prodded Ruby.

"They wear… white masks," she replied through gritted teeth.

"See?" patiently smiled Ruby. "You got a first-hand account from me! So, if anything, ya know, that kinda supports what Shirou said that the White Fang aren't connected to all of these robberies."

Blake released a breath off to the side and silently thanked Ruby for intervening. Talking to Weiss about the White Fang or anything related to them was just going to end up in disaster. If it had continued on any further, she didn't know if she would be able to control herself. Hopefully Ruby could get through to her partner and-

"That doesn't change the fact that the White Fang are a bunch of scum!" stated a wrathful Weiss. "Those Faunus," she spat out, "only know how to lie, cheat, and steal!"

Blake balled her hands into fists as her temper shot up immediately. The hair on the back of her head stood on end as she struggled to rein in her fury. The promise to Shirou was becoming a lot harder to keep every time Weiss opened her mouth.

"Wait Weiss, that's not necessarily true," Yang intervened as she walked between herself and Weiss. "There's other cases where-"

"HEY-! SOMEONE, STOP THAT FAUNUS!" A person yelled out at the top of his lungs from the docks.

Blake ran alongside her team back to the railings overlooking the dock.

"Look, over there!" pointed out Weiss to a large ship.

Amber eyes focused on a blond-haired person sprinting across the ship at breakneck speed. Trailing behind him were two ship hands trying their best to catch up. Both of them were red in the face while the person they were chasing appeared as if he was having the time of his life. When he nimbly hopped up onto the ship's taffrail, she spotted his tail.

"Thanks for the ride boys haha!" he tossed a cheeky wave before leaping an inhuman distance.

If there were any doubts before whether he was a huntsman then they were answered as he landed on the dock with poise.

"Argh-! You no good, lousy stowaway!" roared the helmsman.

"Hey, hey!" he yelled back indignantly while pulling out a banana from his back pocket. "I'll have you know that I'm an amazing stowaway!" With the assistance of his tail, he swung casually from a lamppost. "If I was a lousy stowaway, I would've been caught!"

Blake palmed her face.

She just had an argument with Weiss relating to faunus and this had to happen.

"Daaaaamn," elongated Yang followed by a wolf whistle. "Look at the abs on that body," her partner's elbow nudged into her arm. "You could grate a whole block of cheese on them bad boys." Yang was full on ogling him shamelessly. "Now that's a dude who totally embodies the phrase, 'Sun's Out, Guns Out' to a T and damn does he got guns alright."

She rolled her eyes at how blatant Yang could be, although her teammate did have a point. The guy did have a nice set of abs on him.

"What?" Ruby squinted her eyes. "I don't see any guns on him at all Yang."

"Nah Rubes, I'm talkin' 'bout these guns!" The older sister made a point by flexing her arms.

"Ugh, Yang," her leader rolled her eyes, "I hate you so much right now."

"Ah come on! Check'em out! I gotta say, I'm mighty impressed with myself since I've been working on my biceps and triceps lately." For added effect, she gave them a kiss and turned to Blake. "Hey, you're kinda drooling a little bit."

Blake blinked and hurriedly tried to wipe her lips only to find her hand dry.

Yang flashed an insufferable smirk. "Gotcha."

"I hate you so much right now," Blake replied in the driest tone possible.

"Gahaha-! Ya gotta give it to me there! I got you good!" Yang barked out a laugh as she elbowed Blake.

She took a page out of Shirou's book and clamped her mouth shut before turning away. The best way to beat Yang at her own game was by simply not participating.

"Hey, look," spoke up Weiss who was focused on what was happening down in the docks. "The officer from earlier and his partner are down there."

Indeed, it was Sergeant Burns and presumably his partner marching up to the blond-haired faunus.

"Sir!" The police officer placed his hands on his hips. "I am going to have to ask you to get down from the lamppost."

The faunus looked down at the policemen, then to his banana peel, and then back to them.

Blake widened her eyes, no he wouldn't!


"Grrrhhh-!" growled Burns.

"Hehe-hahaha-!" The unnamed stowaway did a casual flip over the two and flashed a cheeky grin. "See ya later dorks!"

He got into a sprinter's stance, flexed his legs, and blasted off at a blistering pace. Far faster than any normal human or faunus could possibly keep up without the assistance of aura.

"Stop right there, criminal scum!" bellowed out Burns as he began his sprint after tossing away the peel into the water. "Nobody breaks the law on my watch! We'll be confiscating any stolen goods you've got!"

"Pfft-! Haha-!" The blond threw his head back in laughter. "You're gonna have to catch me first!"

In the scramble, he bounded up the stairs from the docks to the streets in one easy leap. The two cops hustled up the stairs hot on his heels with their equipment jingling loudly. The blond faunus simply kept running towards their direction. As he passed them, Blake leaned back into the railing to avoid him.

Time seemed to come to a crawl as the moment he neared her, he turned his head and winked before rushing by.

For her part, Blake simply raised an eyebrow, but he was long gone by the time she turned in his direction.

"Well Weiss, you wanted to see the competition," commented Yang. She put her hand over her brow watching the trio run further down the street. "Aaaand there it goes."

"Q-Quick!" stammered out Weiss. "We need to observe him!"

The white-haired girl was the first to set off with Ruby closely following.

Meanwhile Yang snickered, shooting a glance to herself. "Yeah, I'll be observing alright if you catch my drift, Blake."

"Yang, you're such a perv, you know that?" Blake rolled her eyes.

"Says the perv that reads smut out in public."

"It's not smut! It's romance," she stressed.

"Suuuure, whatever helps you sleep at night Blakey."

"Ugh, let's… let's just catch up with them."

"No!" loudly cried out Weiss. "He's getting away!"

Blake and her partner rounded the corner to see their teammate pounding on the floor with her fist in frustration. While it was an odd sight to see the normally composed heiress uncharacteristically whining on the ground. It wasn't as odd as seeing a complete stranger next to Weiss staring at her unblinking with a smile that showed way too much teeth.

"Uh… Weiss?" Yang jabbed her finger at the other girl.

"Baaahh-!" She pushed herself up and away, backtracking frantically.

"Salutations~!" saluted the girl on the ground.

"Um, uh, h-hello?" Ruby stepped up.

"Are you uh… okay?" Yang tilted her head to the side.

"I am wonderful!" responded the girl in a cheery tone. "Thank you for asking!"

Blake for her part could only stare on in utter befuddlement. She shot her team a glance only to see similar expressions. And for some reason, that girl was still on the ground staring up at them.

"Do you uh, wanna like get up off the ground?" curiously asked Yang.

"Yes!" she simply nodded and in one smooth motion, she pushed herself up. It was done so suddenly that it caused everyone to take a step back. "My name is Penny," she immediately introduced herself with wide eyes. "It is a pleasure to meet you all!"

"Hi Penny, I'm Ruby!"

"I'm Weiss."


"Uh – are you sure you didn't hit your head or something?" bluntly asked Yang.

Blake smacked her partner in the arm.

"Oh um, I'm Yang." She softly hissed and rubbed at the spot. "Ouch, that really hurt Blake!"

"Don't be a baby."

Penny simply stared at the interaction before perking up. "It is a pleasure to meet you all!"

"You… you already said that." Weiss' eyebrows furrowed.

"Oh, right, so I did!" smiled Penny.

Blake turned to her partner who in turn looked at her younger sister who then made a face at Weiss. The white-haired girl got the message. Since she was the one that ran into the girl, it was her job to get them out of it. "Well," she breathed out evenly, "apologies for running into you, but we have somewhere to be."

As one, everyone gave a wave and began to walk away.

"Take care friend," Ruby waved goodbye.

The moment they rounded the corner and were further down the street. Yang scratched the back of her head. "I won't lie, she was kinda weird," she winced.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Blake.

"I mean like, you know, I couldn't help but notice she didn't blink once throughout that entire time," explained Yang. "And uh, well, it's also that I was kind of gettin' those weird vibes from her."

"Maybe she's a social recluse," shrugged the black-haired girl. "I don't know, everyone's got their circumstances," she further reasoned. "Plus, maybe she doesn't get out much."

Blake avoided judging the girl too much even if she did act in a manner that gave them the creeps. People were far too often quick to assume things that often led to misunderstandings, a lesson she learned from how normal people treated faunuses.

"Whatever," blew off Weiss, "enough about that weird girl. Let's move on to more important things."

Blake rolled her eyes and pushed down a scathing reply. "Like what?"

"Like finding that criminal faunus and see where he ran off to."

Her face contorted, a frown visibly on display as Weiss was leading ahead.

"Why-" Blake's words died as an orange-haired girl zoomed past all of them before stopping in front of Ruby.

"What did you call me?" Penny stared intently at their leader.

Blake blinked at the girl. Her eyebrows shot up at how this seemingly plain yet odd girl they just met was able to get by them unnoticed. Her ears, both faunus and human, hadn't even heard a single step. She conceded privately to herself, Yang was right, that girl was weird with a capital W.

"Oh, um, shit," cursed Yang underneath her breath before frantically waving her hands. "I'm so, so sorry! I didn't think you heard me saying that. I'm sorry for talking behind your back!"

"No, not you." Penny brushed her aside and kept staring at Ruby. "You."

"U-Um, personal space, please?" squeaked the team leader. "And um, uh, I-? I don't even know what I said, but I'm sorry!"

"You called me friend!" Penny's head dipped closer causing Ruby to lean back even more. "Am I really your friend?"

Ruby's eyes glanced towards herself and the other two. Blake simply shrugged her shoulders, unable to provide any assistance to her plight. Weiss emphatically mouthed, 'No,' with a piercing gaze. And lastly Yang looked crossed while giving a sheepish look saying that her sister was on her own on this one.

"Y-Yeah?" slowly answered Ruby. "Sure, why not?" she shrugged.

"Ugh," Weiss smacked her forehead, "this is ridiculous."

Penny's face froze before she cracked a smile and threw her hands up into the air. "Sen-sational! I can't believe I was able to make a friend on my first day here in Vale! Father was oh so worried that I wouldn't be able to make any friends, but here I was able to prove him wrong!" She punched the air excitedly. "Ruby, my new friend! I can't wait to try and do all sorts of friend things with you! Like," she paused to think, "paint our nails! Or… gossip about cute boys! And… and try on clothes at the shopping mall!"

"I, uh," Ruby tried her best to not visibly cringe. "I um, sorry? I'm not really into those things?"

"Oh," blinked Penny, her face fell before it immediately perked up. "Then how about huntsmen and huntress stuff! We can talk about the latest and greatest inventions from Atlas such as the portable particle accelerator cannon! Or, or the recent update to the High-Caliber Sniper System and-"

Ruby's face instantly lit up. "I would be so down to-"

"Wait, wait, hold it," Weiss rudely pushed Ruby away. "You're a huntress?"

"Yes ma'am!"

"Are you here to participate in the Vytal Festival?"

"Yes ma'am!" saluted Penny. "I am here to participate in the Fortieth Annual Vytal Festival Tournament representing Atlas Academy!"

"You're… from Atlas?" Weiss scrutinized the girl from top to bottom. "Forgive me, but you don't exactly… look the part as someone from Atlas."

"That's rude." The words slipped out of Blake before she could hold herself back.

Weiss glared at her for a brief moment before rolling them. "Anyways," she moved on, "if you're here for the tournament. Does this mean you know who that blond-haired future criminal scum faunus is?"

"Um… who?" stared in confusion Penny.

"The monkey faunus!" replied an exasperated Weiss. "The one who caused a whole ruckus at the docks because of his illegal method of transportation! The one who then stole a banana from the ship and then threw it at the police and then evaded arrest!"

Every word and every breath that came out of Weiss stoked a fire within Blake. The way she talked made her clench her fists tightly. Only by repeating her promise did Blake keep quiet, but she was getting tired of holding herself back. If Weiss kept it up, she was about to find out really quick why she shouldn't run her mouth so loudly.

"Hey Weiss," spoke up Yang. "Don't you think you're being kind of harsh, like-"

"No," interrupted Weiss, scoffing at the notion. "I am perfectly describing what he is and how he was acting. A no-good cretin that lies, steals, and cheats like all the rest of his kind." She shook her head. "Typical faunus."

Something inside Blake snapped at that moment.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" thundered Blake.

"Huh?" Weiss turned to her as she furiously marched up.

"Why are you just… just stereotyping and discriminating him? What the hell do you even mean by, 'Like the rest of his kind,' huh?" All Blake saw was red at that moment. Her vision swirling and tunneling in on the heiress. "No-good cretin? How are you just going to label someone when you haven't even talked with them once? You don't even know their circumstances to judge them so harshly like that!"

"Oh, oh! I am sooo sorry Blake," Weiss cooed with false sweetness. "Should I stop referring garbage on the ground as," she gasped, "as garbage on the ground? Or, or the trash can," she pointed at one off to the side, "as the trash can, huh Blake? He broke the law and evaded arrest. What else am I supposed to call him hmm Blake?"

"You can call him a criminal, fine, whatever! But you don't have to say it's because he's a faunus Weiss! Those two things are separate things! You keep acting as if he's a criminal just because you saw his tail! Do you," Blake sucked in a deep breath, "do you even hear yourself sometimes?"

"Oh please," Weiss rolled her head. "Spare me that trite Blake! It's not my fault that he broke the law. According to statistics researched by the SDC, faunus do in fact commit more crimes on average than a normal human being! That's a fact!"

"That whole statistical report was biased and false! There are plenty of people that aren't faunus who commit crimes. Remember the whole Vanille scandal in Vale a couple years back huh?" reminded Blake. "James Vanille was a leading member in the Council of Vale and he was caught by the C.I.D. for corruption, racketeering, and smuggling! And he was human!"

"U-Um… girls?" Ruby squeaked smally. "H-how about we… we all just you know step back and-"

"Shut it Ruby, this doesn't concern you." Weiss crossed her arms in front of her chest. "True, James Vanille was human, but the majority of those who were arrested that operated under his network were faunus. Some even had ties to the White Fang! Somehow, someway, it always loops back to those psychos!"

Blake wanted to pull her hair out. Trying to converse with Weiss was like pulling teeth as she made it a point to always have the last word or be the one on top. In her world and from her upbringing, it wasn't possible for her to be wrong. "My point is that crimes aren't just always because of faunus! Faunus aren't the only ones capable of committing crimes! That's what I'm trying to get at. So, would you please just lay off with the assumptions and accusations already?"

"Assumptions? Accusations? Of what? That that faunus stowaway from the ship will probably end up committing more crimes now that he's out and about in the city?" further implored Weiss. "You know," she chuckled sardonically, "I can imagine it now, a little more time, some more crimes, and next thing you know. He'll probably join up with a local White Fang chapter to harass more honest working people!"

"Argh-!" Blake groaned out in frustration. "You ignorant little, trumped-up yuppie bitch!"

She turned heel and walked away.

All three girls, besides Penny, gasped out in shock.

Weiss for a moment appeared crestfallen as if she had just been stabbed in the back before she quickly schooled her features. A fiery anger creased her brows as she quickly marched up. "How dare you! I am your teammate!"

"No, you want to know what you are?" Blake crossed her arms. "You're a judgmental, sheltered, bigoted girl; that's what you are Weiss."

"Bigoted?" repeated her teammate. "Sheltered? Judgmental? What? You don't know me, Blake. You don't get to call me those things."

"See! Glad we can agree on that!" sarcastically clapped Blake. "You don't like it when someone calls you something that you aren't or don't like. See how that works? Anyways, whatever, I'm done here, done being in Vale, and done with this conversation. I'm going back to Beacon."

"We are not done here at all and we are not done with this conversation!" Weiss roared back.

Blake Belladonna stared at the heiress across from her.

Weiss was right, they were far from finished with the conversation as they had argued all the way back to their dorm. From the streets of Vale to their room in Beacon Academy they verbally fought. All the while, Ruby and Yang helplessly watched on from the sides as the argument continued to devolve further and further with no end in sight.

"Blake, I just don't understand what's causing such a big problem!" lamented Weiss.

She rubbed her forehead before replying. "It's because the first thing you did was assume that that faunus from the boat was somehow going to be living a life of crime!" explained Blake. "And that he was going to join up with a terrorist organization solely because he was a faunus! That makes you a bigot!"

"Oh," Weiss leaned forward, "so you do admit that the White Fang is a terrorist organization!"

"Argh-!" Blake's hands grabbed at her hair. "You know that's not what I meant! Quit twisting my words! I admit that they've gone to extreme lengths to make people hear their problems, but-"

"I just don't understand why you're so staunchly defending the White fang!" interjected Weiss. "They hate humanity! They hate us! People like you, me, Ruby, and Yang!" She angrily pointed at everyone in the room. "The Faunus in the White Fang are just… they're just pure evil!"

"There's no such thing as pure evil!" exploded Blake out of her seat. "You're painting things in completely black or white! That one side is completely innocent and the other is wrong! But that's not the case whatsoever!"

"It is the case!" Weiss shot up from her bed as well to match Blake. "You want to know why I know? Because I'm a victim Blake! My family is a victim! Do you," she inhaled to calm herself down, "do you know what's like to know that your friends and family are being targeted by terrorists? By people who think that if you die everything will suddenly become better?"

Blake bit her lip, unable to return a proper response. While she wanted to vehemently deny that statement, she knew deep down that there were those within the White Fang who truly believed that ending the Schnee family would truly make the world a better place for all faunus.

"Ever since I was a little child, I have lost friends and family to the White Fang. Whether it be directly or indirectly, they were a great source of my pain and misery," elaborated Weiss with a whisper. "We used to host winter parties with close friends of the family at the end of the year," she began softly looking out the window. "A private affair, unlike the big ones you see all the time on the news and whatnot."

The white-haired heiress shook her head in reminiscence of the memory.

"We would catch up, ask how everyone had been, and be ourselves without all the corporate suits, journalists, and news people hounding us. I remember playing with my cousins, we would go out, and make these little snowmen out in our yard." Weiss gave a rare smile and opened an insight to her life from before. "We would… we'd pretend to be huntsmen and huntresses. Making snowmen to save and snow grimm to fight. My cousins and I would play our parts until we were called in. It was one of the most fun I had, something that I always looked forward to at the end of the year. The few and rare times I didn't have to be perfect."

And then, her smile fell, a pained expression slowly crept up.

"But then one year, my cousins didn't come that year nor did my aunt and uncle." Weiss turned away from the window and stared directly at Blake. "They were killed by a bomb that was planted in their car by the White Fang." The piercing gaze pinned Blake where she stood. "I was told that they had been on their way to visit us. My cousins… they were eleven years old at the time."

Blake balled her hands into fists, unable to move, unable to respond.

"Do you think they deserved to die? Huh Blake?" Weiss stepped closer, her voice raising with each step. "They weren't even part of the family business! They didn't have anything to do with Dust! But because they shared the family name, they had a target painted on their back! So yeah! That's why I hate the White Fang so much! That's why I distrust faunus in general! Maybe if they actually tried diplomacy without bloodshed then-"

"BECAUSE WE TRIED!" bellowed out Blake.

Weiss shakily retreated a step. "W-What?"

"We. Tried," grounded out Blake once more. "We tried for years. We tried for decades. And where did that get us? Nowhere."

"B-Blake… what do you…?" whispered Weiss.

She reached up with a finger, hooking into the bow atop her head, and pulled.

"Because… because I am a faunus," Blake bit her lip. The cat was out of the bag as her other ears were on full display. "Do you think I want to resort to violence? Do you think I wanted to be born into this life? Where I'm forced to hide who I am? Where I don't know whether I'll be discriminated against just because I have some extra features? Do you know what it's like to know that everyone will treat you like trash because you're different?"

Yang and Ruby shared the same expression with their mouths wide open. Too shocked to say or do anything as the events unfolded far faster and worse than they could ever possibly imagine. Ruby for her part could only look back and forth between the two. Yang was unable to even stand, her legs giving out as she sat back in her chair.

Weiss' features grew in shock the longer she stared at her. Everything was coming out and untangling themselves out in the open. Secrets, hidden pains, and memories were being spilled all because of an innocuous decision to visit the city.

"B-Blake?" Weiss shakily asked the teammate in front of her.

"I-…" Blake swallowed with difficulty, suddenly feeling drained. "I… didn't want it to come down to this," she cried.

The tears were starting to flow from the corners of her eyes. The full weight of their confession and reveal hitting her all at once.

And so, Blake Belladonna did the one thing she was familiar with.

She ran.

The bullhead flight back into Vale City was somber.

Beacon Academy grew smaller and smaller as the aircraft carried Blake back into the heart of the city. Throughout the ride, she stared out the small window reflecting on her woefully short time at the huntsmen academy. It had not even been a full semester before things went south.

And yet, here she was.

Blake Belladonna once again on the run.

"Seems like that's the only thing I'm good at," she said ruefully to herself. "Run away from mom and dad, run away from the White Fang and him, and now I'm running away from Beacon."

She palmed her face and let out a dejected sigh.

The vehicle rumbled louder as it made its descent at the international airport. She quickly disembarked and hopped on a bus that took her around the city. It would be hours before she got off. Round and round it went on its route. From the airport, to the heart of the city, and all the way to the docks before going back to the start to repeat the cycle.

When Blake finally decided that she had enough of freeloading a ride, she got off on one of its stops in the middle of downtown.

A cold fall breeze gushed through the street causing her to shiver and rub her arms. "I really should've at least taken a jacket or something," griped Blake before coming to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk. "And my wallet… and scroll, oh my gosh I'm an idiot." Her hand smacked her forehead so loud that some pedestrians nearby glanced before minding their business. "Ugh…"

Her day was going from bad to worse by the hour.

Blake dragged her feet as she meandered through the relatively empty streets. The normally congested sidewalks were bereft of people. It was also an odd sight to see the typically packed streets of cars all gone.

Her stomach groaned in protest.

"Guh – we really did argue for the entire day," she rubbed her abdomen. Blake casted her gaze upwards to the night sky. The autumnal equinox made the days shorter than she liked. "No money, no scroll. I really did make a mess of things, didn't I?"

A part of her was already regretting the notion about seriously burning bridges with her team, or more specifically with Weiss. It was one thing to have the urge because of circumstances, but it was entirely another to go through with it. Beacon was supposed to be her first steps into a legitimate life after all the things she did under the White Fang.

Becoming a huntress was her ticket to a life of reform and now she felt like it was slipping away.

Blake would never forget that feeling of camaraderie when the headmaster first announced her teammates and the name of her team. "From this day forward…" The name gave her a new image, a new identity to build herself up. "You will work together as Team RWBY," she softly shook her head. "So much for working together…"

"At least…" she breathed in slowly. "It was nice while it lasted." Her feet picked up the pace as she continued to meander to no particular destination.

As she wandered further, so too did her mind.

There weren't a lot of things Blake would terribly miss from Beacon. Homework was a real chore; early morning classes were becoming a real pain too. Also being free from Weiss' daily rants was a huge net positive as well. If anything, the last point was liberating and probably the biggest upside to all of this.

Although... there were some things that she would miss.

The banter provided by Yang and Nora were enjoyable and never failed to amuse her. Ruby going on her sugar-rush rants about firearms, bladed weaponry, and frame convertors were endearing even if Weiss found it annoying. Plus, it helped her with making some improvements to Gambol Shroud.

And what else?

Her private reading time would sorely be missed for sure. It had been sometime since she was able to find a spot to read and relax. Her bed was comfortable, but oddly enough didn't compare to when-

Blake froze, coming to a halt.

"Shirou…" she whispered his name.

There was only one person that she felt like she made a personable and close connection with during her time at the academy. Someone who she felt understood her more than anyone else without having to say much of anything. For one reason or another, they clicked.

Out of everyone in their circle of friends, he had been the only one to pick up or read her mood well enough to discern how she felt.

Her head peered up as she closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

She would definitely miss their late-night meetings. Simply enjoying each other's presence, sharing a hot can of tea while reading their own respective books. Talking into the wee-hours about whatever crossed their minds at the time. He respected her privacy and she respected his. That sense of normalcy he offered would be sorely missed.

If it were at all possible, she would have liked to be able to talk to Shirou one last time.

Just to sort things out, talk about things, and maybe even-

"Blake?" A familiar masculine voice called out. "Is that you?"

"Shirou?" Blake gasped in astonishment.

There he was down at the other end of the street. He was still sharply dressed in his uniform; coat, suit, tie, and all. He had a warm smile on his face that made her heart jump a bit. It was his usual look when he greeted her.

Another cold gust washed through the streets causing her to shiver. Her hands rubbed at her exposed shoulders as she once again inwardly bemoaned about her lack of foresight and warm clothing.

He quickly closed the distance to her.

When Shirou got to her, he had already shed off his coat and draped it over her shoulders smoothly.

"I did offer my coat to you earlier in the day, didn't I?" he grinned. "Funny how it still applies now."

Feeling an instant sense of warmness, unrelated to the cold, Blake stammered. "T-Thanks."

"So," he started, "would you care to accompany me for a bite and a drink? I was just heading on over before I caught you by the corner of my eye."

Blake's stomach chose that moment to answer for her. "I- uh, um…"

"My treat," he winked in his usual fashion, sensing her uneasiness.

"If you don't mind me imposing."

"You aren't," he chuckled lightly, "after all, I am the one offering."

"So, uh, what's this place called?" she asked curiously. "And how far away is it?"

"North By Northwest, or North By for short," answered Shirou. "My team and I tend to frequent this place for our lunch breaks. We're pretty much regulars at this point with how often we tend to go. And it's not far, just across, and down the street over there," he pointed out.

"Ah – alright, lead the way then."

"Right, right," he nodded.

As she followed alongside closely. Blake couldn't help but tightly wrap herself in his coat. His scent was all over it when she inhaled. She hid a small smile and blush at the comfort and familiarity it brought her. So far, her night was starting to look better than the day did. Although, a small part of her dreaded the coming conversation that would take place.

At the very least, Shirou was understanding and a good listener.

That eased some of her worries, hopefully things would turn out for the better.

"Table for two, please." Shirou asked the lady at the counter.

Blake exhaled into her hands, smiling a little as she was glad to be out of the cold. When she looked up, the lady gave her a look before switching over to Shirou. For a brief moment, she was prepared to hear another excuse about how the establishment was unable to serve her kind, but remembered she had tied her bow back on.

Observing more closely, Blake realized that it wasn't the usual kind of disdain she was familiar with, but something completely different.

There was a knowing expression that danced in the middle-aged lady's eyes. She carried a small smirk before nodding and replying, "Right this way."

The two followed the waitress to a private booth that came with a good view of the street. "Is this fine?"

"Yeah, perfect," answered Shirou.

As Blake sat down, the waitress laid the menu out for each of them respectively. "Call me when you're ready."

She idly parsed through the menu and saw most of the items looked appetizing. Her stomach growled out aggressively and Shirou shot her a bemused grin. "What? I haven't eaten since breakfast."

"Nothing." He still held onto his grin. "Feel free to order whatever you want. Their sandwiches are pretty good," offered Shirou. "Their Mistralian dishes are also up there too."

"I could go for a nice tuna melt," she looked through quickly and found what she wanted. Blake couldn't help but lick her lips when she read the item description. Toasted sourdough bread, yellowfin tuna salad, tomato, avocado, bacon, and pepper jack cheese.

"Care to share a hot tea?" he asked.

"What kind?"

"I was thinking… chamomile with a dollop of honey?" he suggested.

"Mmm, yeah, that sounds good."

"Ma'am?" Shirou waved her over. "We're ready to order."

Blake voraciously tore into her meal with gusto.

"Ugh, this is so good," she moaned in satisfaction. "It's been forever since I had a tuna melt as good as this one."

The sourdough bread was buttered and toasted to perfection. The tuna salad had just the right amount of mayonnaise mixed in. The tomato, avocado, and beacon were the proverbial cherry on top as they rounded out the rest of the melt. A part of her was a little saddened when she finished off the last bite and began nursing her hot tea.

A majority of the meal was eaten with relatively comfortable silence. Every once and a while he gave out small comments about the food, but mostly enjoyed sipping on the tea and nibbling on his own sandwich.

She peered down at the steaming liquid in her cup, shortly contemplating the looming conversation before deciding it was best to tear off the band-aid.

Blake softly sighed, catching his attention. "You're probably wondering what I'm doing in the middle of Vale City at night, right?"

"Because you missed me, right?" teased Shirou.

She rolled her eyes in response, but softly chuckled. In his own way, he was trying to lighten up the mood and ease into the subject. "I had a big fight with Weiss. It got… really, really bad." Blake winced out of habit, preparing herself to be admonished as usual from past experience. "I- I know I said I'd try to avoid arguing with Weiss, but this time I just…"

"Blake," he called out. "It's okay." When she peered at him, he had a patient expression on his face. "It is what it is." Shirou shrugged his shoulders. "If you and her had a fight then it was probably for a reason. I know you're not that kind of person that needlessly provokes a conflict. Knowing Weiss?" he smirked. "She must've said something that riled you up."

The black-haired girl's gaze lingered on the boy in front of her.

It was a nouvelle experience.

"I…" Blake started before her voice faltered momentarily. "Y-Yeah, she did," she inhaled and exhaled, "she said a lot of things and then I felt compelled to reply and then it just… just…"

"Just all fell apart from there?" Shirou answered for her.

"Yeah," she nodded.

"Blake, what did Weiss say to cause all of this?" he asked.

She peered down at her drink in contemplation before taking a drink and starting.

"After we left, there was a commotion at the docks so we went to go check it out. Apparently a faunus had been a stowaway and was on the run from the crew. Police got involved and things escalated from there," said Blake. "Weiss," she shook her head before continuing, "wanted to give chase for some stupid reason. So, we did, we chased, but he got away."

Shirou poured her a fresh cup and Blake smiled in thanks.

"Weiss wasn't happy about him getting away and all that. Throughout that entire time, she kept… she kept saying horrible things about the faunus."

"Like what?"

"How," her eyes narrowed down at the table, "how he was just a no-good cretin that lies, steals, and cheats like all the rest. As if they were just normal things that faunus did which is just stupid and ignorant and bigoted to say!" seethed Blake. "So, I tried defending him saying she just doesn't know his situation or his circumstances and to stop judging him so harshly. But… well, I guess you know how Weiss is by now."

"She can't be wrong, she has to have the last word," he summarized with a grin.

"Heh, yeah," she grinned back before it promptly fell. "I guess she took me defending him as a provocation towards her. I said some stuff, she said stuff back," Blake gestured with her hand glossing over a few things, "and next thing I know we're arguing from the streets of Vale all the way back to our dorms."

"Did Yang or Ruby try to intervene or anything like that?" questioned Shirou.

Blake thought back to her partner and team leader. "They both tried, but I think Weiss and I were both far too gone by the time we got back. Ruby…" she sighed heavily, "she's a good kid, but I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into nor did she really know how to diffuse the situation. And Yang?" she pursed her lips. "She… she tried, but you know," her shoulders shrugged, "I guess she was kind of shocked at how quickly things were devolving."

"I wouldn't blame them too harshly," he said softly. "Something like this can't necessarily be prepared for or really handled well even when it happens. Sometimes… sometimes when both sides are just so heavily entrenched. You just can't but help to watch on from the sidelines, frozen in place like… like a-"

"A deer caught in a car's headlights?" Blake answered for him.


"I'm not, but still," she shook her head. "Anyways, it was just one thing after another once we were in our dorms. Eventually, we…" Blake paused momentarily, "we got onto the subject about the White Fang and…" She felt herself come to a slow as her senses heightened. "And I… it was just her talking about her family and…" Both sets of her ears became so sensitive she could hear her heart pounding. "Saying things like why couldn't we just have been more peaceful and…"

The tuna melt sandwich suddenly felt something awful in her stomach.

Churning and twisting, Blake felt like she wanted to throw up.

Why was this so hard to say now all of a sudden? She blurted it out so easily to her team, but now sitting down in a restaurant with Shirou it was the hardest thing ever. It almost felt as if her body was trying to do its best to not make her as forthcoming. As if that was protecting her from spilling out a horrible truth.

And then Blake thought, maybe she hadn't been so prepared or ready after all. Perhaps, she wasn't ready to tell someone who she cared a lot that she was a runaway activist who got caught up in doing horrible things in the name of justice.

Her eyes widened as she stared at the table.

Now, she realized what Shirou meant all those nights ago. He had once said that justice was subjective, but she had never really understood what he meant until now. However, now that she knew some of Weiss' history, she understood why Shirou answered that way.

Justice was subjective in the eye of the beholder, that one person's justice was another's injustice.

"Blake," he called out, disrupting her from her own thoughts, placing a hand over her own. "It's okay."

Shirou gave her a heartfelt and patient smile. Something she had never seen in all her time with him at Beacon until now. He always grinned or smirked, but rarely did Shirou ever smile, especially not one as genuine as this.

Blake inhaled deeply through her nose and then out her mouth.

She offered a heartfelt smile of her own, amber eyes staring straight at his golden-brown ones.

"I was… once a member of the White Fang."

"The White Fang didn't start off as a violent organization," softly began Blake. "It was originally a peaceful organization that collected activists and supporters who sought to end legalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement, and racial segregation in the four kingdoms through peaceful means. We wanted to have an equal voice and vote, and to be treated like any other normal human being."

She remembered fondly of her early years working with her parents when they kicked off the Modern Faunus Civil Rights Movement.

"Contrary to popular belief and what Weiss may think. We did try to resolve things peacefully through civil and judicial means. When we didn't like how businesses treated faunus workers, we would boycott them. If we found out that an elected official was promoting anti-faunus bills, we would try to lobby pro-faunus groups to oppose it," she explained. "And for a time, it did work. The White Fang was quickly becoming a vocal member of the international community who had weight. But…" her voice fell. "Over the years, things started to fall apart slowly."

Thinking back on it, she didn't know where or how things changed so rapidly for things to fall apart. Her parents never were clear as to what was the catalyst that forever changed the group's belief in militancy. However, she always held a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with her former significant other's meteoric rise within the organization.

"There were those that wanted changed now instead of later. They wanted to see change within their lifetime, not when they were long gone. I…" her voice hesitated. "I was… I was one of them. Things were changing, but well… I guess anyone could see the writing on the wall that things were beginning to stall out. Bit by bit, public interest was waning fast, and due to something stupid called jerrymandering, we were slowly losing our representation in communities."

It was the first of many things that kicked off a chain of events that eventually turned the White Fang from peaceful to violent.

"When we started to lose progress, people in the organization started to question if what we were doing was making any of our lives better. And when people started second-guessing and questioning things, in-fighting started happening. It was just… just one bad thing after another." Blake's face fell, remembering those turbulent days.

The pained expressions that were etched on her parents' face at having to mediate conflict within the group could still be seen clearly in Blake's mind. Of how much grief and anguish it caused when she sided against them.

Blake shook her head and pressed on.

"The founders stepped down after a huge discussion at a meeting. The new leaders would herald a change that promised equal rights now and not later. No compromises, no concessions. The White Fang was willing to promote violence if the kingdoms failed to acquiesce to the organization's demands. And you know what? It worked," she shook her head. "Kingdoms, people, and businesses actually started to treat us better."

She paused for a moment to take a sip of her cooled tea.

"But… they didn't treat us better because they saw us as equals; they treated us better out of fear of retribution. I felt so ashamed that what we were doing was no better than how they treated us. And so, I left," sadly smiled Blake. "I got… I got tired of using my abilities in the name of their justice. After a bad," she winced as that was putting it mildly, "discussion about some things. I cut ties with them after a train heist and bargained a deal with the headmaster of Beacon Academy."

Shirou tilted his head, he had listened to her story all patiently. Soaking in the information dump from Blake bit by bit with rapt attention. "Wait," he finally spoke, "you were part of that whole train incident a while back?"

"Y-Yeah," Blake for her part cringed. "W-Wait, out of all the things I just revealed. That's the thing that got you? Not the whole, hey I was pretty much one of the core members of the White Fang. Did a bunch of really questionable things? Committed a bunch of crimes? Really?"

The red headed boy huffed in amusement with a grin. "Well, it's just that a couple days ago Ren had mentioned something about a train carrying a bunch of cargo that had gone missing. So, it's just ironic that I'm talking to one of the masterminds behind that heist."

She rolled her eyes, but for some odd reason found it amusing as well. She gave him credit; he was taking things in stride and better than she thought he would. He offered her his patience and understanding, and Blake couldn't thank him more for that.

It was a breath of fresh air for her.

Someone who didn't have a predisposed opinion or judgement of her.

"I guess, yeah, it is ironic that you're here with one of the perpetrators." Blake mirrored his grin.

Shirou shook his head. "Well, before we continue any further, I'll be back in a moment," he excused himself.

Blake leaned back in her seat and blew out a heavy sigh.

The back of her head hit her seat as she relaxed her eyes. A wave of exhaustion and relief hit her all at once now that she was alone to herself. It felt cathartic to finally let it all out.

While there were still loads of other issues that danced in the back of her mind. Being able to put the nail into one of them lightened the weight off her shoulders.

"Excuse me?" The lady's voice broke Blake from her thoughts. "Miss?"

Blake sat up, slightly startled, to see their waitress with a small smile. She hadn't focused too much on the woman, but now that she had the time, she glossed over her appearance. Middle-aged, greying out orange hair that covered her left eye, and was of moderate height.

"Oh, um, sorry?" she preemptively apologized. "We've probably overstayed our welcome." Blake had the decency to offer a sheepish expression as they had probably lost track of time. "Uh, we- I mean, I'll take the bill and-"

The lady chuckled and shook her head. "Oh no, far from it," she held her smile. "I just wanted to bring the two of you some refreshments and a little treat on the house."

Blake peered down and indeed the waitress was holding a fresh pot of tea and a slice of apple pie.

"No need to worry about little ol' me or my husband in the back," winked the lady. "It looked like the two of you were having a wonderful conversation so take as much time as the both of you need."

The black-haired girl quickly picked up on the implication. "O-Oh, um, the both of us-"

"Honey, it's okay," the lady smiled patiently. "When you're in here, you are free to be yourselves, you hear me?" Her dark-green eyes were piercing. "You only get one chance to be young and in love, and that is precious. You'll be looking back on these years from now, thinking about where you were, and what you were doing at this age. Late night trysts because your schedules don't match, both of you having mismatched lives, and work-life balance being thrown out the window," she listed off.

Blake could feel her cheeks flushing a bright pink as the waitress' implications hit her.

This lady assumed that she was in a relationship with Shirou and a not so small part of her didn't want to correct her.

"Ah," fondly sighed the older woman. "The love life between a Vale Inspector and Huntress was a rough one, but I can still remember all of our little late-night escapades as we tried to catch up after a long day at work. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder," she intoned.

"U-Um, I mean, we aren't uh-" stammered Blake, heavily embarrassed.

"Haha," the lady chuckled, shaking her head. "I know, you want privacy, and here this old lady is intruding on it. Sorry," she apologized, "I couldn't help myself since whenever I glanced at the two of you. It just… it just reminded me of myself and my husband when we were young. So!" She laid the freshly steeped tea and apple pie onto the table. "I wanted to encourage you and your partner to have heart and some faith that things will work out between the two of you."

The blood that was rushing into Blake's head caused her vision to swim as her mind went into overdrive.

It wasn't unreasonable to see as to why the lady thought she and Shirou were a couple. After all, she wore his inspector's coat, had been rather close when they walked in, and were having an intense conversation together late at night. Although, it wasn't because they were in a relationship, but because they were friends…


Blake saw him as a friend and nothing more… right?

She stared on, eyes slowly widening as the idea took root in the back of her mind. Could she and Shirou work as a couple? Was such a thing possible?

A set of footsteps tapped against the floor. Down a little further, Shirou was finally done with his business and coolly walked back. Blake scrutinized him a little differently than before. She went over all the times she chatted with him, secretly hung out at night, and was teased by Yang whenever she got caught staring.

In that instance, she realized with the help of the lady that yeah, the possibility was real.

"Ah," the lady tossed a glance back to where Shirou was. "That's my cue to leave. Enjoy the tea and apple pie, it's on the house," she winked. "Oh, and don't worry about closing time. Take as long as the two of you need."

The lady promptly left and allowed Blake to ruminate on a new perspective.

"Oh?" Shirou tilted his head to the side. "Did you order some dessert?"

He sat down in his seat, oblivious to the conversation that she just had with the lady. His hand fished out his scroll to check the time. "It's getting kind of late. We should probably finish up here quick so we're not too much of a bother."

"Yeah," softly agreed Blake. "But I didn't order this," she gestured to the items on the table. "The lady said it was on the house."

"Oh? What for?"

Blake grinned and then shrugged her shoulders. "Don't know, didn't really give a reason, but it would be a shame to leave it to waste, wouldn't it? Care to share, Shirou?"

"Ha," he huffed in amusement, mirroring her own grin. "Then by all means, you can take the first bite."

She picked up her fork and cut off a bite-sized piece. The apple pie tasted sweeter than any other apple pie Blake had ever had in her life. She was going to enjoy the gifted treat to its fullest with someone she liked and there wasn't going to be anything else that would spoil the moment for her.

It was almost midnight by the time they finished talking and eating.

The night had grown even colder and Blake wrapped the coat a little tighter around herself when a gust of wind blew by.

"So," began Shirou, "where are you going to be staying for now?"

"I don't know," she shrugged, "but it wouldn't be the first time I've roughed it out. I'll probably just go and find a rooftop or maybe some really cheap and sketchy motel to stay at for the time being. Give me some time and space away from my team to really think about things, you know?"

Shirou contemplated something in his head as he glanced at the ground before looking back up to her. "How about you stay with me and my team?" he offered. "We still have about a week or so before our work-study is up. That's a decent amount of time at least before we have to go back."

"Does the department even allow guests?"

"I don't know, but what they don't know won't hurt them," he smirked.

"Wouldn't you get in trouble if they like… found out if I was, you know, a former White Fang member and all that?" said Blake.

"Maybe?" he shrugged. "But that's implying I care about that in the first place. Right now, I'm trying to help someone I care about that's in a rough spot."

Blake fidgeted with her collar; the woman's words still fresh in her mind. "Well… if you insist…"

"I don't mind," he smiled, "plus I'm sure my team would be happy to have you around!"

"Alright then." She hooked her arm around his. "Lead the way?"

Shirou raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment and led her back to his place.

"What? It's cold," she said.

"Says the girl wearing my coat," he snarked.

"I'm a cat faunus?"

"Of course," he rolled his eyes as if it explained everything.

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?"

He didn't say anything back.


All she received back was a teasing grin before he began walking which pulled her along.

"Shirou, you jerk!"

The trip back to where Shirou stayed had been rather anticlimactic.

When they walked in together, the two were spared a quick glance before being nodded off to head on their way. The night personnel that were posted simply tipped their hat when Shirou flashed his credentials at them.

"Well, that was sorta easy," she remarked in the elevator.

"What?" he grinned at her. "You thought we were going to have to give them some sort of explanation as to why I'm bringing you to the residential area?"

"I mean, seeing as how it's the C.I.D. and all," her voice trailed off.

"You won't be getting far without one of these." He showed her his badge and identification card. "Can't open any doors or operate any of the elevators without them."

"Ah, right, yeah," she yawned, "makes sense."

The elevator dinged as they arrived at their floor and quickly made the short walk over to the door. He fished out his scroll this time and tapped it against the door handle. The sound of it unlocking brought on a new wave of exhaustion for Blake. The thought of a comfy bed after a long day made her drowsier by the second.

"After you," he gestured.

"Thanks," she murmured tiredly.

A quick glance at the floor saw everyone else's shoes. She quickly kicked them off and used her foot to haphazardly tidy them with the rest.

"A quick tour." He locked the entrance behind her and shuffled past when he placed his shoes next to hers. "Over there is the kitchen, right next to that is the living room, down the hallway is where all the rooms and bathroom are. First one is a bedroom, then the bathroom, and then the other bedroom."

"R-" she yawned once again. "Right…"

"You can take my bed for the night, it's the room furthest down the hall. Just be careful not to wake up the other person sleeping alright?" quietly cautioned Shirou.

"Right, right," she nodded. "Wait, where are you going to be sleeping?"

"Oh, me? I'll take the couch, don't worry," he grinned. "It wouldn't sit well with me if you had to take the couch."

"Are you… sure? I don't mind the couch, honestly. You're already doing so much for me so…"

"Like I said, don't worry," he maintained his grin. "Plus, I still have some paperwork that I need to work on before I head off for the night."

"I- well, alright, if that's fine with you." By now, Blake was too tired to argue with him and just went with the flow.

"If you need anything else, just ask. You'll know where to find me. Also, you can wear some of my spare shirts to sleep in if you'd like."

"Right, gotcha…" She turned to the bedroom before stopping and turning back. "Hey Shirou?"


"Thank you."

Blake wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace. She felt him tense up momentarily before he relaxed and returned the hug. She smiled in his chest, relishing in the intimacy and all the warm, bubbly feelings. After she had her fill, she gently pulled away with a dopey expression fueled by her half-asleep brain.

"Goodnight, Shirou."

"Goodnight, Blake."

She opened the door to her new bedroom. It was almost pitch black and hard to see what the room really looked like. Her faunus eyes adjusted quickly allowing her to spot the empty bed. There was another person in the bed next to hers, but with the covers over them Blake couldn't tell who it was.

The tired girl simply shrugged her shoulders, not really caring too much, and set about getting out of her current clothes and into Shirou's spares.

Once she was done, Blake peeled back the covers and slid into the cold bed. A small smile wormed its way to her face once again as she closed her eyes.

"That hug… was really nice."

I stood in the dark hallway for a few extra minutes even after Blake closed the door to the bedroom.

My eyes stared at the door far longer than I liked.

When I finally peeled my gaze away. I trekked back to the living room and skipped by the table that had all my paperwork laid out. I wasn't quite in the mood to try and finish the reports for Hae-in.

I plopped down onto the couch and sat there in silence.

Tonight, had been a night of nights.

Encountering Blake in the middle of downtown Vale City was the furthest thing I expected, let alone the bombshell of news and development Blake confessed to. So much had transpired that my mind still had yet to process everything thoroughly. Blake and Weiss' relationship souring in the blink of an eye wasn't too surprising. After all, my relationship with Julian evaporated the moment we stood across from each other that snowy night.

Nevertheless, the following revelations were eye-opening.

Throughout it all, I tried maintaining a measure of composure and calm.

Her coming out as a former White Fang member blindsided me. With how she spoke, it also sounded like she was a fairly high-ranking member herself before she left. Delving into its history from Blake's point of view reminded me of something old man Kiritsugu would always say when he studied similar organizations that cried for justice.

"Ideals are peaceful, history is violent," I said to myself.

Those words rang true even in this world.

After that and excusing myself for a moment to the restroom. Something changed in Blake for certain especially with the way her eyes appeared different. Softer, gentler, the look of someone who was beginning to show interest in a romantic way.

Someone would have to be blind and dense to not pick up the signals Blake was shooting out.

"Ha," I huffed cynically. "Then again, wasn't I that way with Sakura? Always too late to see the signs." My hands tiredly covered my face as I leaned back into the plush cushions of the couch. I stayed there in that position, allowing it to all soak in and realizing the position that I was now in.

It seemed, no matter what, I couldn't help but dig a deeper hole for myself.

"God damn it."

I cursed my luck.

Somewhere, out there in the Throne of Heroes. I had a suspicion that a certain person dressed in black and red was smirking at sensing my misery.

Damn did I want to punch him in the face.

Author's Notes:

Originally, I had planned to push this chapter out sometime after Thanksgiving or near the end of November. However, the more I developed the chapter and wrote out things out in my notebook. I started to feel it didn't really strike a chord with me. The first iteration was more or less closely following along the story and when I went back to read what I had wrote. I ended up not liking it and started from scratch again, but this time with more feeling.

I'm not sure how this interpretation of events will be received, but I hope that you were able to enjoy my spin on things. There were a few notable things that I expanded on a lot more such as Weiss v. Blake.

I would like to remind readers that Weiss is still early on in her character. She's still very young, brash, and stubborn as a bull in her worldview. Although, in this case, I tried to give her a good reason as to why she's like this. I always felt that the original dialogue from the series failed to give any sympathy to her plight about the White Fang.

Thusly, I ended up redoing and rewriting a bulk of this chapter towards the end of November and beginning of December.

Also, totally not because I ended up binge watching the hell out of Arcane. God damn, I can't believe Riot x Fortiche Productions were able to deliver such a compelling, character driven, and beautifully animated series. If you haven't watched it yet, I implore you to do so if you are able to. Arcane's nine episodes deliver one of the most gripping stories I have watched in a long time. I am greatly looking forward to Arcane Season 2.

Moving on from that.

I finally got to one of the big plot points in the story that I originally had mapped out years ago. The chapter's section with Shirou and Blake in the café at night was something I had envisioned a lot. It was a marked turning point or development in the story that would begin really snowballing other things from there.

At first, this was going to be a shared point of view story where Shirou's first-person view would swap with Blake's third-person. However, as the chapter grew, the more I realized it was just a headache to read. So – I settled with this being Blake's chapter.

With that said, I'll end the A/N here.

As always, I am grateful to your continued readership and patience. I hope everyone is able to enjoy your holidays or end of year celebrations as we end off 2021. Please be safe and enjoy your time with friends and family! I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read my story and I hope I was able to entertain you for that short time.

If you are able to, please leave a review or comment on your thoughts about the chapter! I always try my best to improve however I can. I do my best to read through every single review and if I have the ability, respond to them when I can in a timely manner.

Remember to check my profile on updates about the progress on the next chapter!

Thank you for reading this update! Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Word count before A/N: 12,780

Proofread/Edited by: Stiama