Metal chains rustled as the object hanging from them suffered some abuse. The chains themselves had seen better days, but that paled in comparison to the damage the punching bag was taking.
Sweat fell to the ground, proof of the time spent improving her body and staying fit. She paid it no mind even as it threatened to get into her eyes.
"That's good. You're done for today."
Yang let her arms hang loose as she steadied her breathing. Her coach released the bag he was holding and smiled as he passed her a bottle of water. "Good to see you keep up with your conditioning, Yang."
"Of course. I can't let myself get all flabby, can I?" She took some long gulps, finishing the bottle before throwing it at a nearby trash can. She was proud to see it go in without bouncing off the gym wall this time. "By the way, I talked to my parents and their rule is still the same: No amateur circuit until I graduate."
"Shame. Oh well, not like I don't see their point." Her coach, a rather short man with equally short, black hair, rolled his shoulders in a shrug as he passed her a towel. "Still, I know you'll knock em out when you get to the ring."
"Thanks, Mac. I'll see you soon." One change of clothes later and Yang was on the way home, silently hyping herself up for her career. How could she not? She was going to be able to fight people and get paid for it, as long as she did well. Sadly, until she graduated she would have to make do with delusions of grandeur. "With her third TKO in a row, Yang Xiao Long has firmly cemented herself as the number one female boxer in the world!"
"And the crowd goes wild! AAAAAH Yang, you're so awesome!"
Okay, maybe she wasn't so silent about it.
Shutting Bumblebee's engine off, she hopped from the bike and happily strolled into her house, where Ruby and Summer sat watching T.V. in the living room. "Hello, my favorite people. Did I miss anything?"
"Not especially, but you did get a package delivered today. Were you expecting anything?"
"Not really." Summer grabbed a nearby envelope and passed it to her. It was slim, but as Yang took it she could feel the object inside of it slide from one side to the other. "Thanks, though. I'm gonna go shower and get ready for my date."
Ruby lazily waved her away with one hand. "Have fun. I don't wanna be an aunt yet, by the way."
"And it's too early for me to be a mom, so we agree." Yang tousled her sister's hair as she passed, launching herself up the steps solely because she could. Tossing her belongings on the bed, she walked over to her calendar and marked a circle on the day's date to show that she had done her exercise. Next to the calendar was a specially marked map, which she took a moment to review despite the fact that she had it all but memorized.
On this map was the location of every venue used for the amateur boxing circuit. There were a small amount in Atlas and Vacuo, and several more in Vale, but by far the largest amount was in Mistral, across the continent of Anima. They reveled in fighting as a culture, and it was there she'd likely make the most money for each fight. Until she could hit the road, she just needed to stay in prime condition without overexerting herself.
Yang grinned as she thought about the future. In a perfect world she might've been able to get Jaune out on the road with her, but what with him wanting a stable job for the family, she would gladly settle for him being the arms she returned to after every victory or defeat. He would gently soothe her wounds, maybe sing her a song as he fixed her (probably) trashed head of hair, and the following day when she felt better she would happily return every loving gesture twofold.
And she would start this future by having a good date tonight! Spinning around, she grabbed a new set of clothes to put on after her shower, but as she was about to leave the room her eyes fell on the envelope that was addressed to her. There was no listed sender or return address, which was always suspicious, but the package's almost non-existent weight helped to ease any worry of it being something dangerous. Slowly, she broke the seal and held the package up so the object within would fall into her free hand.
The scrap of fabric that landed in Yang's hand shouldn't have made her eyes fly wide. It shouldn't have made her heart stutter. It shouldn't have made her mouth go dry, or her stomach fall to her feet, or her world go red. But it did.
"Jaune, are you sure you want to go out in slacks?"
He nodded as he straightened out his button-down shirt, the same blue one he'd worn several weekends ago. The reminder of that night and what it meant between him and Weiss was ever-present, but he couldn't afford to be scared of a set of clothes. "Yang said, quote, 'wear whatever' when I asked her, so I figured being overdressed is better than being underdressed. Plus, I'll be bringing a T-shirt and jeans along anyways."
Olive let out a quiet "ah" when he lifted the plastic grocery bag with said items inside. "Fair enough. She likes leaving you in suspense, doesn't she?"
"It sure feels like it. Alright, I'm headed out." He bounced down the steps to the ground floor of their home, Olive not far behind as he peeked into the living room. In it he spied Sapphire and Weiss, the latter of whom was talking to somebody on the phone. Noticing him, Sapphire vacated her spot on the sofa and approached him. "Weiss having any luck, Saph?"
"A bit, though not all great. The little townhouse she wanted to rent was perfect until she found out that it uses a floor furnace instead of central heating and air." Sapphire shrugged with a "what can you do?" expression. "What's really bugging her is not knowing how to drive yet. Looks like having her butler Klein around all the time hasn't been good for her."
Meaning she would have to take public transportation to the school, probably a bus, or bum a ride off of somebody. The former heiress was apartment hunting, and there were a lot of things to consider once she'd decided that she wanted to live alone until it came time to go to college. Since they still weren't on great terms, Jaune had opted to leave her to her own devices. Weiss was smart enough to figure something out that would work for her. "Wish her luck for me. I'm off for my date."
"Be safe, bro." Happily receiving his little sisters' hugs, he waved goodbye to them and walked out the door. It was Saturday afternoon, and December had come to be. Throwing his jacket and casual clothes into the backseat, Jaune started his truck and set out towards Yang's house. Having this day of the week of had become a rarity, but with Olive joining him at the restaurant starting next week, it truly looked like he wouldn't have to work as many days moving forward.
Yang inviting him on a date had been- well, not a true surprise given her flirtatious attitude leading up to it, but he still felt a bit stunned even now. It was like putting your name in a hat with hundreds of other people: Sure, you think "wouldn't that be nice?", but you don't expect it to actually happen. Now here he was about to go on a date with somebody he honestly never expected to.
Long, powder-white hair-
Jaune furiously shook the image out of his head. This wasn't about her; this was about him and Yang, and their feelings. Speaking of said feelings, he still wasn't one hundred percent sure how he saw Yang. But that's what dates are for, right? To see what the chemistry between two people is like.
Pulling his truck over to the curb, he got out of his ride, took a deep breath, and marched straight up to the front door.
Knock knock knock.
"Just a moment!" It was Summer that called past the door, so he waited patiently until he heard the telltale sound of the deadbolt coming loose. When the door finally opened, Summer beamed as she took him in. "Why hello there! Here to whisk away my daughter, I presume?"
"I am," he answered with a chuckle. "Is she ready?"
"She'll be a moment, something came up that delayed her getting ready for a bit. Would you like to come inside to wait?"
"Please." She led the way inside, directing Jaune to sit on the sofa. "You wouldn't happen have any idea what she has planned for today, would you?"
"I'm afraid not, although I'll bet that she won't be dressed quite as formally as you." Summer visibly held back a smile as he rolled his eyes. Of course he was overdressed in the end. "I'll just go get her, so you sit tight and bare with my husband's 'date my daughter rules.'"
As if on command, a blond man came from the kitchen and approached Jaune. With a trimmed level of stubble and wide shoulders, he looked every bit the part of Yang's father. "You make it sound like I'm gonna hurt him, Summer."
"Only if he deserves it." The man grinned when Jaune flinched a bit, but held his hand out for a shake while Summer disappeared up the stairs. "I'm Taiyang, Yang's old man. Nice to finally meet you, Jaune."
"Likewise, sir," Jaune answered as he returned the firm grip. "If it helps at all, I have five younger sisters to look out for, so I probably have your speech and rules memorized already."
"Whoo, you might, but I'll go through them anyways." Taiyang sat down on the recliner, but kept his eyes firmly on Jaune as he spoke. "I know my daughter likes to stay out late, but if she isn't home by the time I wake up tomorrow you won't be seeing her again; you will treat her with respect; and, last but not least, I don't want to hear about the precinct calling my wife in on her night off for something the two of you've done. Understood?"
"Good." With that off of his chest, Taiyang seemed to deflate and relax. "Five little sisters, wow. Are they a handful?"
"Like you couldn't imagine, but I love them just the same." Jaune laughed as he fell back into the sofa cushion. "I can't wait until I can give some guy the same third degree you did. That's gonna be fun."
"You're planning on making them sweat, huh? I think we'll get along just fine." A pause. "On the count of three, name your favorite college team. One, two, three-"
"Emerald City College." They answered at the same time. Jaune started the next round. "Favorite food. One, two, three-"
Several minutes later, the two of them were laughing their heads off as Tai relayed one of his favorite stories. "A- haha- and so Qrow comes back around the corner, face com-plete-ly covered in cigarette ashes from god-knows-where, and yells out 'the next prick that wants to swing at me, come on! I'm one for two today and I need to break the tie!'"
Jaune just clutched his stomach as he rolled from side to side, breath coming in wheezes as he tried to gain regain control of his lungs. The sounds of their laughter completely covered the arrival of Yang, who had to clear her throat several times just to get their attention. "Are you two having fun?"
Realizing his date was ready now, Jaune took a moment to gather himself before turning to face her. "Heya, Yang, are-"
His words stopped as he took in her appearance. Yang was wearing a leather jacket with a yellow tank top, a dark pair of jeans, and a pair of thigh-high boots. She'd brushed her hair perfectly to bring out every wave to full effect, and if he wasn't imagining things her lips looked a bit pinker than normal. As he began to gape a little, she did nothing to stop her smirk. "Well, I guess we can safely say you like the look. A compliment never hurts, though."
His jaw somehow began functioning again. "Yang, you look phenomenal. And- and a whole bunch of other words I don't feel safe saying in front of your dad. No offense, Tai."
"None taken, Jaune. But aren't we friends now? You don't have to hide anything from me." Taiyang stood up and set his hands on Yang's shoulders as if he were confiding a secret. "Yang, I only want the best for you and your relationship with him. This kid is great."
Summer, who had chosen not to announce herself, looked back and forth between all of the blondes. "It feels awfully huggy in here. At least you boys are getting along."
"Getting along? Sum, he has great taste in everything. Music, movies- Hey, Jaune, Wildhogs-"
"Ride hard!" Jaune finished with a shout.
They fistbumped for no real reason, leading Summer to whisper to her daughter, "Yang, did you know that you were gonna be dating your father?"
"No, no I didn't. At least Jaune's a better singer than dad, so I have that going for me. I could do so much worse."
Summer tilted her head to the side as she considered that. "True. Alright boys, break it up. It's time for them to go."
"Right, right," answered Tai almost dismissively. "You two have fun tonight."
The teens walked out of the house, Jaune still grinning like a madman as they reached the truck. "Yang, your family is awesome."
"I'm glad you're having fun," she laughed. "I didn't expect you to come looking so dressed up."
"Right, I feel kinda silly now. I can switch clothes if-"
Yang waved his response away enthusiastically. "No, no, this is perfect for what we're doing. This will help me win our race!"
Jaune blinked. "Race?"
"Yep." He wasn't sure he liked how excited she was. "Before dinner, you and I are going rock climbing!"
"You expect me to rock climb in slacks?! Ooooh, this is gonna suck."
Thankfully for him, Yang directed him to an inside rock wall instead of telling him to actually climb a mountain, though the employee working the front desk at "The Boulder's Challenge!" gave him a confused look when he confirmed that he was climbing as-is. A few minutes later, another employee was setting up their harnesses while Yang, jacket removed so as to have only her tank top and sports bra on, explained their supposed race to him. "This wall's wide enough that we can race up it three times and each time still have different courses. Best two out of three. Sound good?"
"I guess, but if these pants rip I'm gonna be mad." He stuck his tongue out playfully so she understood that he was playing. "Just bragging rights?"
"Hmm." She pursed her pink lips a little. "How about… a 'do-anything' ticket?"
"The loser obeys the winner, huh? Makes me feel like a kid again." Once the employee tugged his harness to confirm that it was on properly, Jaune nodded with a grin. "Alright, you're on!"
Round one, Jaune focused on keeping a steady pace as he progressed upwards. The slacks prevented him from going for some of the higher and wider gaps, but Yang's course seemed to have a slight imbalance of left handholds to right, as she had trouble about halfway up. He ultimately beat her by a matter of seconds, slapping the top of the cliff as Yang hoisted herself on to the last foothold.
Round two, the available grab points were a little clustered together, making it difficult to use his height to it's full advantage. He was still several points down by the time Yang proclaimed her victory. Thus it came down to round three, and for two-thirds of the way they were neck and neck. Jaune made the most of his height while Yang propelled herself up with her superior strength. The sound of a door opening behind them seemed to get Yang's attention, and she paused just a moment to call out, "Hey, Olive!"
"What?" Jaune stopped and turned his head to find his sister, but his timing couldn't have been worse; being halfway between footholds, the only foot he had planted gave way as his weight shifted backwards. He started to fall, only to feel his momentum stop completely as the harness caught his weight. This left him swinging a few inches from the wall. Briefly ignoring his own predicament, he took a moment to look around.
Olive was nowhere to be seen. It quickly dawned on him that he'd been tricked, which was confirmed as Yang repelled down to get eye level with him. "That was dirty and you know it."
"All's fair in love and war, Jaune." She wore a completely unrepentant grin. "I think I'll be holding onto that ticket for a while, if you don't mind."
"It's your call, but can I get a hint of what it'll be?"
"Nope! Come on, let's go eat. I promise that you'll like this place."
Once they had the harnesses off, Jaune slipped into the bathroom to change into his casual clothes, doing his best not to think about how Yang's tank top looked on her once the sweat made it cling closer to her body. With his hormones under control, they left the building and hopped back in his truck. "So what makes you so sure I'll like this mystery restaurant, Yang?"
She held up a single finger. "One word: karaoke."
He just stared at her for a moment, his hand resting on the ignition. "...Karaoke?"
"Karaoke. They have it every Wednesday and Saturday night."
With a twist of his wrist, the engine roared to life. "Where is this place, what is it called and why haven't I known about it?"
The restaurant turned out to be a bar downtown called Junior's, a standalone building with a little patio for the people that wanted to eat and drink outside. The walls and floor were made of hardwood, and many of the signs and posters around the dining area had allusions to rock bands of years long past. Instructed by a sign to pick their own tables, they made their way to a table near the stage in the back. Yang opted to keep her leather jacket on to discourage guys from ogling her, which Jaune mentally agreed with.
Less than a minute after they sat down, a girl with long, black hair and red eyeshadow came to their table with menus. As she passed them out she politely said, with a rather city girl accent, "Hi, my name is Miltia and I'll be your server this evening. Would you like for me to get you two started with some drinks?"
Yang immediately requested a root beer, while Jaune took a moment to glance over the drink selection, which was normal for just about any restaurant. "I'll take some water, please, with no lemon. Can I ask when the karaoke starts? The sign on the way in didn't mention the time.
Miltia glanced at a clock that was on the wall. "The guy who does it should be here in, like, ten minutes. Once he gets set up, you just walk up to him and request what songs you want him to play."
"Awesome, thank you very much." The waitress disappeared with a smile, and so Jaune turned back to his date with a smile. "So, how many songs are we gonna sing?"
Yang seemed amused by his enthusiasm. "'We?' I hate to break it to you, Jaune, but I'm not much of a singer. Although I did string you along with what I wanted to do, so I guess it's only fair it goes both ways. I think I'll sing just one song."
"Aww, just one? How about we do a duet, too?"
She smiled. "Sounds like fun."
They chatted lightly until the waitress returned, with both of them ordering burgers of varying descriptions. The atmosphere between them was good, but after a few minutes Yang seemed to slip into a moody silence. "Yang, is something wrong?"
"Hm?" She popped up when he called her name. "Oh, sorry, just got distracted thinking about something that happened earlier. I'm fine."
Jaune could tell right away that it was the worse version of that word. "I don't want to be pushy, but is there any way I can help? I hate to see you sad."
"I know. You're a good guy like that." She took a moment to think before she answered him. Jaune quietly stayed focused on her, though in the corner of his vision he noted the arrival of an older man with some equipment, likely the karaoke guy. "Jaune, if… if somebody did something terrible to you, do you think you'd be able to forgive them?"
"Something terrible?" -"Crescent, it's me, Crystal."- "I mean, I imagine some things are truly unforgivable, like what happened with my dad, but..."
Yang leaned forward a little. "But?"
"But outside of those big things, I'd imagine it probably depends on if that person is truly sorry for what they did. If they're really willing to go to the effort of apologizing, make amends and all of that, I probably would. Forgive them, I mean."
"Mm. I guess that makes sense." She nodded, mostly to herself. "Sorry, I'm not trying to bring the mood down."
He wanted to comment, but Yang made it a point to put on a smile and talk ahead of him. "Hey, so, that karaoke guy's here. I'm gonna go talk to him, pick our songs out. Any song in particular you want to sing by yourself?"
"Well, I was thinking of singing 'Stand by Me' if he has the track."
"Got it. Be right back!" She stepped away to do as she said. It wasn't hard to tell that something was really eating at her, but until she brought it up again all he could do was try to keep her happy.
Yang decidedly didn't bring the topic back up, but after a few more minutes of talking she seemed to cheer up enough to enjoy their evening together. The food arrived, and Jaune powered through his as he eagerly awaited for them to start the karaoke. He wasn't a moment off, either, for no sooner had he finished and sipped at some of his water did the older man get on the microphone and call out, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! First of all, thank you for spending time with us here at Junior's. At this time we'd like to get karaoke night started, so would 'Jaune' please come to the stage?"
"That's you, tiger." Yang gave him a little wink as he stood up. "Go knock their socks off."
"Will do!" He refrained from running up as the other patrons gave him some polite applause. When he reached the stage, he gave the mic a light blow to determine how far he should hold it from his face, giving a nod to the MC as his cue to start the sound of a cello being plucked set the slow tempo, and although the words to the song popped up on the monitor in front of them, he didn't need them to know what words to sing.
When the night has come, And the land is dark/
And the moon is the only light we'll see
A whistle that he was pretty sure belonged to Yang rang throughout the room, encouraging him to further pour his heart into mic.
No I won't be afraid
No I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, Stand by me
As Jaune reached the chorus, several people around the room began to clap in time as an emphasis to the cello. They were loving what they were hearing, and he was loving giving it to them.
So darlin', darlin'
Stand by me
Oh, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
"Ladies and gentlemen, please give him a round of applause!" Once the song was done the crowd had begun clapping even before they were prompted to, and were quite enthusiastic compared to when he first walked to the stage. He gave a small bow as thanks, beginning to put the mic back before the MC stopped him. "Would 'Yang' please come to the stage and join this young man for a duet?"
On command, his fellow blonde walked up to the stage and stood beside him. He smiled, covering the microphone with his hand so he could whisper to her. "Did you like what you heard, Yang?"
"Oh yeah, but that just makes you a hard act to follow." He set the mic on the stand so they could both sing to it, but Yang continued whispering to him. "By the way, I forgot to tell you what song we're singing, didn't I? It's Just Give me a Reason by Pink."
"Really? Odd song to pick, I think."
She flushed a little. "Yeah, I kinda panicked once I realized I didn't know that many songs we could sing together. I hope that's okay."
"It's cool with me. You ready?" Yang nodded, so he gave another look to the MC who nodded back and clicked on his program. Unlike himself, Yang chose to focus on the lyrics the monitor showed as the piano began to play. She took a deep breath and sang-
Right from the stArt
You were a tHief
You stole my heart
And I your wiLing victim
I lEt you see the parts of me
That weren't all that pretty
And with every touch you fixed them
It was immediately clear that she wasn't that comfortable with singing. She was having issues centering her pitch and occasionally put the emphasis on the wrong syllable, and in the crowd Jaune could see a few people grimacing.
Now you've been talking in your sleep, oh, oh
Things you nevEr say to me, oh, oh
Tell me that you've had enough
Of our love, our love
Just give me a reasoN
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can leARn to love again
It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
We're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love AGain
Some awkward coughs began sounding out. Jaune refrained from glaring out of professionalism, but he wanted nothing more than to thunk them for being unsupportive as he started his section of the music.
I'm sorry I don't understand
Where all of this is coming from
I thought that we were fine
(Oh, we had everything)
Your head is running wild again
My dear we still have everything
And it's all in your mind
(Yeah, but this is happening)
You've been havin' real bad dreams, oh, oh
You used to lie so close to me, oh, oh
There's nothing more than empty sheets
Between our love, our love
Oh, our love, our love
Just give me a reason
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
I never stopped
You're still written in the scars on my heart
You're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
"Jaune and Yang, folks!" Yang never managed to find her stride, and the applause was noticeably more forced this time, but both of them still gave a bow regardless and returned to their seats.
The moment they sat down, Yang put both of her hands on her face and sighed. "That was- ugh. I'm sorry I made you carry me through the rest of that, Jaune."
"It's alright, Yang," he said in an attempt to comfort her. "You were just nervous. Everybody has those times."
"Ha. You're nice, Jaune, but it's not like I'm much better at my best. At least I'm done-" Some color drained from her face. "Oh god I just remembered I still have my single to do whenever my turn comes back."
Jaune flinched despite himself. "If you don't want to sing, Yang, you really don't have to-"
"No, Jaune, I-I'm fine to do it. Really. At least I'm more familiar with the song since my mom plays it all the time. It's Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler. You heard of it?"
"A couple times, my mom likes it, too." He moved uncomfortably in his seat. "Are you sure, Yang? We can have him cancel it."
"I'm sure." Yang looked determined, if nothing else. "I can do this. I can. It's just like a fight."
Once the singer that came up after them was done, the MC called out, "Would Yang please return to the stage for your solo?"
Her walk was stiff as she made her way back to the microphone. The normally confident Yang was now anything but, and Jaune felt himself growing very concerned over what was happening. When she made it up, she gave the mic a tap as a sound test, but it was too hard and nearly threatened to squeal out of the speakers. With the music not yet playing, she grabbed the mic with one hand, began staring down at it-
And continued to for several moments, not giving the MC his cue. It was a classic case of stage fright, from her heavy breathing to her rigid posture. Jaune began to stand up, not sure if it would embarrass her if he pulled her off of the stage, but Yang chose that moment to use her left hand to gesture towards the MC with a rolling motion. Play the song.
The first several bars of pure synthesized beat played, Yang tapping her foot to mark the time. Then came the moment to sing for all she was worth.
WhEre have all the good men gONe
And where are ALl the gods?
Where's the streetwise HerCules to fight the rising odds?
Unfortunately, Yang's nerves seemed to have ruined her ability to sing. Her pitch was varying wildly, and Jaune couldn't deny to himself that it was difficult to listen to.
Isn't there a white knight upon a fieRy steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need
I need a hEeEro-
"Get off the stage!"
Yang stopped cold as a man one table over from Jaune stood up and yelled. The background music continued to play, uncaring of the fact that it's singer had ceased. A second man at that table began gesturing for the first to sit, but the brown-haired heckler seemed to pay him no attention. "Me and my friend didn't come here to listen to no amateur butcher decent music! Give that mic to somebody else!"
"Hey!" Jaune's chair threatened to fall over from the force he used as he stood up. "She doesn't need you giving her a hard time! You came here on karaoke night, what the hell did you expect?!"
The MC rose from his chair as he spoke into his personal microphone. "Gentlemen, please calm down-"
"What I expected, you blonde bastard, was to be able to come here and enjoy some drinks with my pal on our one night off!" The stranger swayed a bit where he stood. Apparently he was already well on the way to being drunk. "You weren't half bad, how about you get up there and be the song bird?"
His "friends" pleas turned urgent. "Nick, buddy, chill out man. Just sit!"
Jaune gestured to the nicer of the pair without taking his eyes off of the heckler. "See? Your friend agrees with me. And I don't need to sing for some idiot that thinks it's okay to make someone feel bad like this."
Later that night Jaune would be grateful that alcohol slows people down, because that was the moment that Nick decided to grab the wooden chair he'd been sitting on and throw it at him. He sidestepped the delayed attack, causing the legs of the chair to crack as its weight connected with the table beside him. Jaune closed in on his opponent and threw a punch, but it went wide as Nick fell backwards in his attempt to dodge it. Nick shoved himself off of the table to counter, but before he could act a firm hand yanked him by the shoulder and forced him to turn around.
One punch to the face, thrown by an extremely pissed off Yang, and the not-so-saintly Nick was knocked off of his feet as he collapsed on the ground. Jaune fully expected him to stand up and continue the feud, but several empty seconds passed and it became clear that he was out cold. Nick's friend, still unnamed, dropped to his knees to check him and only breathed a sigh of relief when Nick was noted as breathing.
Somebody tapped Jaune on the shoulder, prompting him to turn around and flinch when a rather bulky man with "Junior" on his name tag glared down at him. "All four of you, out."
A moment later, Nick was being carried to his car by the unnamed friend while Jaune and Yang watched them leave. The night air was chilly as the duo walked to Jaune's truck, but once they were in. Jaune finally turned and addressed his date. "Yang, I'm sorry that guy started all of that. Are you okay?"
He thought Yang would be tense or upset, but contrary to his expectations she seemed to have relaxed once the two strangers left. She wasn't smiling, exactly, but the anger seemed to have fled. "Yeah, I'm good. Knuckles sting a little bit and my pride is wounded, but I could be a lot worse."
"Can I see your hand?" She lifted up her left hand as he turned on the interior light. There was a small level of skin peeling on her knuckles, but it was otherwise fine to his eyes. "You might be fine with just a bit of ointment to soothe it."
"Yep, got some at home." Yang suddenly let out a chuckle. "Speaking of home, I'm pretty sure getting into a fight counts as one of the things my parents didn't want me to do tonight."
Jaune's frown lightened up a bit as Yang lifted the mood. "Fight? Yang, you took him out in one hit. It was like one of those shows you watch where the goons always drop to the ground dead after a flick to their nose."
"I know, right?" She grinned as she took her hand back and adopted a boxing stance, albeit still sitting. "I'm not even on the circuit yet and my training's paying off. I got this boxing gig in the bag."
He smiled at her enthusiasm.
Then he began laughing. Truly laughing, and an infectious one by the way Yang joined him. It was so silly of them, but despite the sudden conflict they still felt at peace with the world. They were both fine, actually fine, and they were happy.
Managing to bring himself under control a minute later, he asked, "So, anywhere else you want to go, or should we not risk starting another fight tonight?"
"Nah, let's call this date where it is. End this on a high note."
"Yes, ma'am." Still smiling, he started the truck and made the drive to Yang's house, both of them gushing a little over how silly Nick looked when he got smacked.
When they made it to her abode, he shut the truck off and began walking her to the door. "Well, Miss Xiao Long, I must say that tonight has been quite an adventure."
"I agree wholeheartedly, Mister Arc." They shared another grin at their banter, but then came the moment where they actually reached her door. Jaune wasn't sure how to end this moment, so that left them in a briefly awkward atmosphere that Yang saw fit to take control of. "So, Jaune, this is the normally the part where the girl would want a kiss goodnight."
He raised an eyebrow. "I'm sensing a but."
"Well," she started slowly. "I was talking to Blake and she made a good point about something. I started showing you my feelings only after you started hurting from everything else that's gone on, and it- kinda feels like I picked you up on the rebound. Am I right?"
"No-" He started to say, but he caught himself when he really began thinking about the events of the past month or so. "Okay, maybe, but I still had a blast tonight. Really."
She nodded. "Mm. So, I'll tell you what Jaune: We can take this whole friendship-slash-relationship thing as fast or as slow as you feel comfortable with. But you should know my honest feelings, and that is that I like you. I want to be with you, and see where dating can take us."
She paused a moment to glance at the nearby window. "I don't think anybody's peeking, so feel free to take your time deciding."
Jaune took a deep breath in as he seriously considered all of their circumstances. The more experienced people in his life had warned him (at different times) that rushing into things, especially after a heartbreak, tended to land most couples in hot water. He didn't want to be part of that statistic.
So, after a few moments of deliberation, he slowly leaned down and, tilting his head a little bit, gently kissed her on the cheek. It was slow, and he slightly regretted having to pull away. "Let's go on another date soon, Yang."
Yang reached a hand up and stroked his cheek. "That would be nice."
Taking that as his dismissal, Jaune turned away and walked a few steps back towards his truck, the gravel of the makeshift walkway crunching under his feet.
"She's been fighting for your sake this entire time."
He stopped as the recent memory stirred.
"No, scratch that, we are hanging out today, because Yang Xiao Long does not simply let a friend sit around depressed and not move to fix it."
"Yang." Before he even realized it, Jaune had spun around and marched every step back to her. She had been mid-process of unlocking the front door, but stopped when he called out to her and raised a trimmed eyebrow in a silent question. Once he stood beside her, looking down at this wonderful girl before him, he gently placed both of his hands on her cheeks and caressed them, hoping to convey his intent through that.
It worked, as Yang's expression shifted from one of surprise to one of affection and warmth as she met his gaze. "Now that's more like it."
And at that moment, they connected.
One thing Jaune never expected was for his first kiss to be so warm. At that moment he wasn't even sure what he had expected, but as he drew Yang's lips into his own it felt like he was connecting his heart to the Sun. She pressed her body against his as she put her arms around his head to bring him further down. They were only using their lips, no tongues involved at all, but it seemed like the intensity had already broken the scale.
In hindsight it was a simple kiss, but it was far from chaste. In that moment Yang marked him as her own, and he accepted the label happily. He wanted more from her, and she from him, but he broke the kiss to keep things from escalating too far. They would have time, they both knew. As far as they were concerned, they had all the time in the world to get even closer.
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