spotto: (Sims - Awesome :D)
[personal profile] spotto
I told people who were reading this I was going to post this like two weeks ago. It was ready to be posted two or so weeks ago. I had read through it and edited out as many contradictions and inconsistencies as I could. I just...sorta forgot? WHOOPS. Well, I managed to scrap a portion of chapter twenty-six today and then rewrote that part, and then continued with chapter twenty-seven, so I guess releasing CHAPTER TWELVE is fine for now. At the time this chapter (in particular the second half) was my favourite part of the story. Is that still true? idk. We'll see.

So here you be.

12

Duke's Caffeinehouse was packed, people jammed to the brim inside the building, liable to trample over one another had there not been employees to herd the crowd and keep them coming and going. Yang sat, pleased, chair bouncing back and forth as she was minding her business at a table outside the cafe when she took a sip of whatever concoction she had asked the baristas to surprise her with. With the sun beaming down so harshly, many were clamouring for the relief of the cold drinks the cafe had offered. It certainly didn't help the scene that they were offering a free mini doughnut with each purchase. Nor did it help that it was just pass noon, people on breaks spilling out of the high-rise buildings to take a sip of caffeinated relief. Yang didn't mind the crowds, having ordered via the drive-thru by the use of one motorcycle called Bumblebee, and stopping at the table, waiting for the others to arrive.

"Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang!"

That was quick. She repositioned herself, sitting up straight and keeping the chair's peg legs stamped on the ground. She wouldn't want to fall over after all, especially with her younger sister leaping into her with full force, having, it seemed from her quick breaths, run all the way here. Her arms were wrapped around her tightly, and only after some struggling did Ruby raise her head with eyes of, somehow, happiness mixed with fury.

"Yang! Where have you been? How come you don't come home? I tried calling but I think you changed your number! Also where's dad? You never told me properly and I wanna call him too! Seriously what have you been doin-"

"Shhhh," Yang placed a finger by her lips, "Calm down there sis. We can answer this around a good ol' cup of coffee! That's what this all is for, as soon as Blake arrives of course."

Ruby looked around, "Wait, she isn't here yet?"

"Nope, and she's never been late before."

The younger sibling jumped off her sister's chair, just now noticing the massive lineup that prevented her from ordering her own drink anytime soon. She would've preferred a quieter environment for their outing, but this was one of the only days where both Blake and Yang's schedules corresponded. That it was the same day everyone else and their dog was at the same place as well was just an unfortunate coincidence. She took up her own seat and decided to go without a beverage. It wasn't all that necessary. She wasn't tired to the brink of relying on a chemical to keep her awake or anything like that. Thirst was also not a problem, but maybe she'd order after the people dispersed.

Yang raised an eyebrow, "Hm? Ruby, aren't you gonna get something?"

"In all of that? Not a chance," Ruby said.

Yang took another sip of her hot drink, almost like she was mocking her younger sister, "There's a drive-thru right there."

"But I don't have a car. And you know I just started on driving lessons!"

Yang stood up, throwing an arm around Ruby's shoulders and pushing her along towards the drive-thru window, "Don't be silly Ruby. Let me show you. All you gotta do is be persuasive."

A few car horns went off that Yang easily ignored, but Ruby was eyeing the drivers with a forlorn regretful face, hoping they would understand that she had no choice in the matter. The younger of the two was normally a very polite and respectful person, so this was territory she was not used to.

"Hello there! My sister wants-well, you haven't told me what you even want yet!"

"You want a coffee or something?" The barista stretched out her neck to see the vehicles piling up behind them, "Better hurry it up."

Ruby blinked back in surprise, "Wait, you don't care that we're not a car?"

"Well I saw her pull up with a bike earlier so close enough," the girl continued, "now hurry up and order because my shift is ending in five seconds."

"I guess I'll take the strawberry-"

An audible ding went off, "Oh, well that's the end of my shift. Please wait until someone comes by to take your order. Ta-ta!" She disappeared from the window.

"Uhhh...."

Yang grinned, "This place just like how you remember it?"

A few minutes passed before another employee took to the window. Somehow the two of them managed to endure the numerous honks and horns until Ruby finally got her beverage. She did not take sips with any sense of accomplishment however, finding their plan to use the drive-thru intrusive. The drivers though ordered and drove off, so she didn't need to suffer through death glares from numerous people when they returned to the table. Fifteen minutes passed before Yang pulled out her phone, her patience having run out as she began tapping on the screen.

"You know, now that you have that out," Ruby rested her chin on her palm, "Why don't I have your number?"

"I'll write it down just after I chew Blake out," She took some time finding the perfect words to input into her text, "She's gonna be chewed out so hard she'd be less recognizable than a wad of gum."

"Well uh, that's a phrase," Ruby waited a few seconds after Yang tapped the phone once in a rougher manner than usual, indicating she probably pressed send with some force of purpose.

The thought then occurred to her, "What if she ran into an emergency?"

"What emergency? Like she was called in to take a shift for work and couldn't possibly say no despite taking the last six shifts in a row?"

Ruby shrugged, "I don't know. I heard she hasn't been taking as many shifts lately."

"So she has even less of an excuse to ditch!" Yang rested her face on her palm, her elbow keeping the weight of her head up, "Ya do have a point though. Blake's just not someone who does this."

The phone vibrated; Yang's eyes widened like she was a child seeing the carnival for the very first time, "Aha! Let's see where's she gone now!"

Obviously she would read the text out loud, for Ruby to understand and of course, the audience, "Blake is not available right now. Do try another time when she is actually home, which is never."

"Wait, who sent that? That doesn't sound like something Blake would type."

"And why wouldn't she have her phone?" Yang furiously typed in a response, "That you Sun?"

Ruby had never met Sun, but when Yang often regarded him as at least an aquaintance if not friend, all it did was encourage her curiosity. He sounded like a rather playful and fun-loving kind of man, which was actually someone Ruby hadn't expected Blake to associate with, thinking she'd prefer hanging out with other grumpy, quiet, reserved folks like herself, probably going to book club meetings whenever free time existed which was probably never. The thought then occurred to her that she was shocked Blake had other friends at all, considering her devotion to work and work only. She didn't seem all too chummy with her co-workers at the prison, so she wondered what Blake was like outside of a professional workplace. Having spent a lot of time with her these past few weeks the answer was not much. Yet, there were aspects of Blake she knew very little of, so such things while surprising should not have been unexpected. There was this air of familiarity whenever she'd hear this Sun's name though, as if he wasn't a stranger at all to Ruby.

What was unexpected was that whoever was responding sounded nothing like how Sun was often described. Another friend perhaps, who for whatever reason had her phone?

On cue, the mobile shook again, "Oh please. As if. These messages would otherwise be riddled with grammatical errors and shorthand writing. His online messaging is frankly atrocious."

"Y'know, that kind of language sounds...familiar," Yang murmured.

Ruby on the other hand was far less calm than Yang, "Is this some sort of sick joke!?"

"So if you're not Sun, who the hell are you?" Yang continued to vocalize her next message.

Instead of an instant response, the phone stopped vibrating at all, as if whatever they had said was a mistake and they never should have said a word. They didn't have much time to muse on it when Blake suddenly appeared from around the corner, dashing towards them like the physical presence of global warming was inches behind her, threatening to envelop her completely in its horrific blaze of death. When she reached the table she took a few moments to catch her breath.

"Blakey! You've come! Forty minutes late, but you're here!" Yang raised her arms before giving Blake a quick hug.

Blake shook her head, "I'm so sorry. I should've called to let you know I was going to be late."

"How? You don't even have your phone with you," Ruby stated, tilting her head to the side.

"Oh..." It was as if something clicked, "Oh! Yes. Of course. I left it at home. That's why I couldn't call."

Yang narrowed an eye, "Really? Well then where were you before you got here?"

"And who was that that did respond to our messages with your phone?" Ruby included.

Blake was a bit put off with their interrogating natures, especially as a person who generally disliked answering questions or giving away any piece of information of her ultra personal life, considering how shady it was, but since she did arrive late it was natural she owed an explanation of some sort. She was hesitant to be anything more than vague.

"I...have a second job off to the side, not full-time or anything but rather some uh, off and on work, like being on-call. I just had to meet with them earlier to discuss the details."

"Wow, that is such a boring answer. Work, so like you," Yang commented.

"A second job!?" Ruby almost slapped her cheeks in disbelief, "but you already over-commit to your first one!"

Blake would not disagree with Ruby, "True, but I live at a big place and I'm on the border in terms of keeping up the expenses."

She would be fortunate that both Yang and Ruby did not delve deeper into this 'second' job of hers, though they still had one question unanswered which troubled Blake a tad. No one should have picked up her primary cell left on her table at home. The only person who could have done so and responded would have been...

"Wait, you mentioned something about someone using my phone!?" Blake did not mean for her tone to be so heightened, as if she were panicking, but the one possibility that was there was lingering on the tip of her tongue.

"Er yeah? You sound like someone had stolen it or something," Yang added.

Blake took a deep breath before continuing, "No, no. I just, people shouldn't be touching my property without my permission. Can I see the messages?"

Yang let Blake take her own cell without question, who scrolled through the older messages and recognized the words immediately, "Uh, can I make a call to my phone with yours, if it's okay with you?"

"Go for it tiger," Yang grinned, "until they look as recognizable as a wad of gum!"

Blake's ears, still hidden under her casual cap, flicked backwards as she raised a brow, wondering what on earth Yang's seemingly non-sequitur could have possibly meant. When she noticed the eyes Ruby was shooting at her older sister she figured she didn't need to dig deeper into such a non-issue. She dialled into the phone and waited, but had to call almost three or four times before she heard something aside from her own automated voice from the voicemail. Blake decided to take several steps away from the sisters to keep her call private, even covering her mouth and the phone with her other hand.

"Yo, who keeps callin'?" It was a male voice.

"Sun? You're home?"

"Yeah just chilling with the guys," He said, "Is it okay if I shut off your phone? It's been ringing all day and while you have a sweet ringtone even I'm getting tired of hearing it."

Blake squinted an eye, "You could easily put it on silent."

"Yeah I'll probably do it now. I like the song's beats so I just kept it on to keep hearing it. Didn't expect to hear it like twenty times though," He explained, "Since you called, s'there anythin' you want?"

"There is. Can you put on Weiss?"

"Kay."

A few moments passed and Blake could hear shuffling and moving in the background, including some muffled arguing of some sort before finally she heard the voice she needed to chastise, "Hello?"

"Weiss? What are you-"

"Oh it's you. Please come home immediately."

Blake sighed, "I'm out at the moment, why?"

"These ruffians you call your friends are blasting their infernal music and television at full volume! These cardboard panels you call walls do nothing to to suppress this madness! And because I am technically dead, I can do nothing to stop them! I'd rather you arrest me and throw me back in prison than to suffer through this! Return home immediately!"

"Too bad. I have no desire nor obligation to help you in anyway. Consider it a makeshift continuation of your sentence." Blake spoke with no enthusiasm whatsoever.

"Then why are you calling me?"

Blake frowned, "Why are you messaging other people with my phone?"

"Oh yes, that's another problem. Why did you leave that at home? It wouldn't stop ringing!"

"Accident," Blake explained, "What isn't an accident is why you are messaging other people with my phone!"

"I simply went to shut it off when I happened to read the message. Why are you late for your meeting? It is not like you to be tardy! I swear! How can an absolute mess like you function normally each and every day? You don't even drink coffee!"

Blake found herself clawing at her face, "You're right I'm an absolute mess. That's why I was late to my outing. Look, just don't message other people again. You have a very distinct form of texting. No one else would ever type words fully on a phone."

"Excuse me if I want to keep the integrity of the English language."

"Is that a 'yes Blake I will not do the things that will ruin us both and get us in trouble with the law' or not?"

She could hear the audible grumble, "Fine."

"Good. Sun and his friends are good people. Don't mind their rowdiness," Blake explained, "Anyway I must be going."

"Wait, Ruby's there right? Is she alright?"

With such a question Blake instinctively turned and saw Ruby grappling with her sister who had apparently taken a sip of her drink. She could hear them arguing and Yang saying something about Ruby being too slow at slurping up her beverage, "She's fine."

"That's good to hear, especially since her father is missing, which I seem to not have been told such crucial information until recently."

Blake rolled her eyes, "You were too busy being stabbed twenty-seven times."

"That happened in a moment!"

"Excuse me, I mean recovering from being stabbed twenty-seven times. I doubt you even remember anything when you were drugged up those past few weeks," Blake reminded. Boy, was that an adventure.

"Hmph. Whatever, I will let you be then." There was a click and Blake didn't have the time to say goodbye, but formalities were pointless when it was Weiss. Unless she demanded it of you, it was unnecessary to include them.

When she returned to the table Yang and Ruby were sitting by as if nothing had ever happened, if Blake ignored the small coffee stains on both their shirts of course, "Did you tell 'em off like I thought you would, Blake?"

"Yes, sorry about all this again. You must have other things to do after."

"Nah, unlike you we're not busy twenty-five hours a day," Yang winked.

Ruby suddenly slammed her arms on the table, which brought the brief stares from several crowds close-by, "No more small-talk! I need answers, answers now!"

"Aw, but Blake doesn't even have her coffee yet!" Yang pointed at the sad empty space on the table in front of the faunus.

"It's alright, I'm not that thirsty," Blake waved at Ruby, "Please continue."

Ruby shot her finger to the heavens, "One! Where is dad!?" She eyed Yang especially, "Two! Where have you been Yang!?" Her left eye twitched as she delivered an attempted death glare at her older sister, "Three! Why are we meeting for coffee and not for lunch? I'm hungry."

"Well at least your priorities are in order," Blake mused.

Yang sighed, "Dad's been hitting a lot of towns. I dunno when he'd be back or where he even is right now. You know him, always on the move!"

"But I'd like at least a way to contact him!"

"Well you can always email him, but y'know his work sometimes. Reception is sketchy," Yang said.

Blake was wondering how long Yang could keep up this charade, and now that their father had been missing for months the outlook didn't seem as good as it was before. A bright and genius child like Ruby shouldn't become an orphan this young, with as rocky a life as she already had. It was like she was being set up for one of the most stereotypical tragic hero stories ever. She was honestly sick of those novels herself. But, as this was real life and not fiction, it wasn't as if Ruby was going to throw around explosions which would foil the plans of super-villains and bring her to the spotlight as the hero the city needed, but didn't deserve. First off, heroes weren't usually friends with a bunch of convicts, or even an ex-convict herself. Blake blinked for a moment when she realized her brain was starting to go off on a tangent, into several webs of ideas and links instead of tackling her problem head-on.

Ruby slumped back onto the table, "Really? But, dad loves us right? He'd leave us a way to talk to him. It wasn't because of that visit right? I didn't make him so mad he ran away or anything, did he?"

"Don't be silly Ruby!" Yang laughed and patted her younger sister on the back, "Remember when he went off on a trip for a week just to work and didn't even give us a word? I'm sure it's something like that."

"I don't like it when he does that though," Ruby mumbled, "Why's everyone in this family have to be so distant and secretive? It's getting tiresome!"

Once again, her eyes were directly at Yang.

"Well in that case, what have you been up to lately Rubes? I don't really ask about your activities," Yang turned the pressure back to Ruby.

"Uh, well! You know, the usual! Stuff! You don't ask because I'm not doing anything different!"

"Well, that's vague of you."

"You're more than vague!"

Yang grinned, "Well, why do you think we're both being vague?"

"I don't-uhm..." Ruby took a moment to process, but in the end she was flabbergasted. She thought about her own case, applying it to Yang, loading, loading, loading, ding!

Blake found the conclusion before her, "For the love of-I do not want to see either of you back in my workplace."

"No one mentioned anything about that Blake!" Yang let out a hearty laugh, "Don't go assuming."

"Oh no, I can read you two like a book," She shook her head disapprovingly, "But I suppose if I don't know a thing about it, technically it isn't happening."

"Wow Blake, that logic is rather surprising coming from you," Ruby said.

"What?"

Ruby crossed her arms, closing her eyes, "It's just, it shouldn't be coming from someone who technically works for the law enforcement and all."

"On the contrary it's more like we should know it better than most. It's not all black and white where if a crime occurs they are caught and go to jail. I'm well aware there are a lot of things happening that isn't caught and still going on, and we can only do justice to what we can catch," Blake knew this all too well, a lingering thought clinging to the back of her head.

Once again a phone buzzed. Yang went through her screen, "Aw, looks like I have to leave early."

"What? We've barely started!"

"So you do have something to do after."

Yang slipped a piece of paper with a short scribble of info over to her sister, "Nah something just came up out of nowhere. Rubes, this here is in case you ever need me and Blake? You better be taking care of yourself or Big Sister Yang is going to lock you in a room until you do."

"That's literally my job," Blake commented.

"Well you've been doing it and who knows what else too much!" Yang stood up, sliding her chair into the table, "Remember Ruby, don't do anything stupid."

Ruby called out as Yang headed off to her bike, "The same to you!"

When Ruby returned to her seat, she noticed Blake had somehow obtained a beverage despite the overly large crowds. She assumed she had ordered beforehand which might have explained part of her tardiness. Regardless the two attended to their drinks in relative silence, the chatty bouncy invitee having already left. This was odd in itself as Ruby and Blake got along fairly well, but Blake was rarely the one to initiate conversation unless it had something to do with some sort of serious issue as opposed to friendly banter. Ruby finished off her cold drink, the pink foam disappearing slowly at the bottom of her plastic cup, and exhaled audibly before she sat back into her chair. These plastic chairs were far more comfortable than they looked, perhaps another reason the cafe was so popular despite its questionable service.

"Has vigilantism been going smoothly for you?" Blake asked.

Ruby popped out of her trance, "Oh! Uh, yeah! But I would be a lot more capable if I had Crescent Rose! When are you giving it back?"

She recalled weeks ago when she had revealed her personal cave of trinkets and tools to Blake that at the time showing someone else such hobby on the bordering line of legality was perhaps not the wisest thing to do. However with her sister out of the picture and many others either away or generally not available, she felt it was time to find some sort of support for her passion in life. It took some arguing and debating, though none that felt full of vitriol and more out of concern before Blake was convinced that nothing sort of arresting Ruby again would have stopped her from her mission. Ruby had very little leverage in the debate, especially since the tear gas was accidentally set off and they had to drink multiple cups of water to even be able to speak about the issue at hand. Blake really was a lot more lenient than Ruby had been expecting especially as someone with such a job description, though if one had asked allowing another person the possession of her beloved life's work was not an easy thing for Ruby. It was that or be returned to the world behind bars, which Ruby had knew full well was as undesirable a place as everyone had said. She would not want to do time again.6

"At a time appropriate," Blake responded, "Have you considered perhaps a weapon that is far less flashy? Stealth is after all an immensely important aspect of what you're trying to do."

"Aw, but that wouldn't be me!" Ruby explained, "I could easily design something that's a lot more low-key, but then I would feel more like an undercover agent than a superhero."

The super part of that superhero was arguable, but Blake knew at least in mind Ruby had that down pat. Blake was initially cynical when she heard of Ruby's plans, but she figured someone neutral who wasn't part of some large mass of an organization like the police force would have been beneficial to society. If Ruby could become so much more, maybe, just maybe, Blake's own predicament would no longer exist not only for herself but for the many others that might have been in a similar position. For now such aspirations were far off in the distance, so thinking of the results this early was jumping ahead.

After Blake finished her own drink, she stood up to discard the cup, grabbing Ruby's as well, "It was nice seeing you Ruby. We should do this again sometime."

"Wait! Uh Blake," Ruby began, her fingers twitching for an instant, "I haven't ever said this to you before and I feel like I should. You've been really fair, generous to me this whole time we've met and I just need to thank you. I didn't think we'd even talk to one another again on the outside, and yet here we are as friends, especially after everything that's happened. I just, I can't thank you enough. I owe you so much after all this time."

Blake paused, her ears pressing onto her skull though Ruby could never have seen this unless she had actual superhero powers such as X-Ray vision. Her day-job was a thankless job and her night-job, well, no sane person should ever be thanking her for such a thing, which was probably why her employers were indeed insane. Perhaps she was just momentarily taken aback that there was someone in the world who was genuinely grateful for her presence and it wasn't at all in some sort of complicated, twisted context wherein such feelings would be misplaced and wrong. For once Blake's dimples raised, softly but serenely and she wished she could make more people feel this way than anything else. She knew Weiss was probably grateful as well, but that girl's sense of communication was so backwards Blake was often unsure what Weiss was even feeling.

"It's-It's nothing, Ruby. That's what friends would do," Blake was unsure what else to say, wondering if even the words she even gave were proper. She just wasn't in such a situation often enough to know how to respond to Ruby's words.

Ruby closed her eyes, offering a smile in return, "But that's just it Blake! We weren't friends back then, yet you still were so nice! Where would I be if it weren't for you? Thank you, really."

Blake found herself scratching her cheek, nodding, "Really it's nothing. That's how people should treat one another in general anyway."

"If only."

With their words exchanged and coffee finished, the two parted ways.

-

Ruby could've started a whole roof repair business considering how often she clacked her boots on top of roofs. A particular ridged style that had gaping gaps after each row allowed a family of raccoons to enter an under-maintained attic and take up a nest inside such a conveniently insulated location. She could recall the various gutters that still had flower petals fallen during the Spring season, clogging up any sense of filter they could achieve, and that included the one house with various barrels lining around the building, holding up as much rainwater as possible as opposed to letting the liquid drain into the streets. The clean and proper roofs were few and far between, and if a particular person she knew were still alive to realize this fact she would've gone onto such an egregious rant over the issue until everyone's house was as neat and tidy as her's. Then again, would Weiss even care considering she had servants to do such a job? It was a moot point to think of now, knowing Ruby would never see her again.

Ruby did not let her spirits fall, as it was another night of scouting around the blocks. Not many people knew this, but most of the time that took up Ruby's work was really just watching the areas, a shock that crime wasn't taking up every second of every minute. In the world this was probably true, but in the limited places Ruby could cover in one night, it was not. She had stopped a car thief earlier in the evening true, but still considered the feat a failure considering she did not reach the offender in time to save the window. Even so, Ruby was looking forward to bigger and better things to tackle, hoping such small-time crimes could be handled by the police, and the ultimate mysteries of the world that had soured the streets' reputations would one day end by her hands. Unfortunately, or even fortunately depending on someone's point of view, Ruby's efforts had still been relegated to the corners of the internet, mainstream media having yet to pick up on her night job. She was fine with that for now, knowing her anonymity was key for many others to underestimate who she was. She could be the wandering lost child, away from her hotel next to the convention if people thought of her as such. They'd just be that much more surprised when she drop-kicked them in the spine.

She supposed she should have come up with an alter-ego name by now, but preferred the general populace to think up a nickname themselves. Even if that name is nothing at all, if people were helped and their days made slightly easier than otherwise, that was all Ruby would've wanted. Naming weapons like Crescent Rose or any of her other projects were far easier anyway, and she had no desire to come up with some name. The Crimson Avenger was one she often called herself in her childhood, emulating the heroes of television and especially books. She knew it wasn't all that original, but who needed to be creative in this business? Not Ruby, that's for sure. Her thoughts wandered just as her legs did as she neared a private hangar that was more a storage-house than anything considering the runway that was once adjacent to the building had been converted into construction for a new neighbourhood. She had scanned the few buildings and the cranes that had towered over the planks of wood that kept the unfinished building up, and was about to leave when she heard noises that were far too suspicious to ignore. They sounded like muffled cries, numerous ones, and Ruby turned her attention back to that hangar.

There were a group of men, which in itself was not suspicious, but since they wielded weapons from assault rifles to knives while dressed in similarly coloured white suits, it was enough for Ruby to stick around and observe. She couldn't pinpoint where the shouts had come from until she noticed one of them leading a smaller crowd towards the rest. The faunus were young, gagged, and tied. Most of them were girls, though Ruby couldn't be sure from her vantage point. Had this been Ruby's first day as a vigilante, she would not have hesitated to jump in right there and then, but she did not have her precious weapon with her, and tackling several large and armed people to save another crowd of people was a task that might have been too much for her at her state. Ruby was not one to run when others were in trouble however, and while something that seemed like organized crime was a far more dangerous situation than what a mere solo bystander could tackle, she would somehow find a way anyway. Ruby eyed what seemed to be either hostages or at least poor kidnapped souls, noticing that their eyes never stopped darting and their chests never stopped heaving. A sense of rage welled in Ruby's sternum, but she kept calm, continuing to scout the area.

She noticed each alleyway and fire escape, drawing out the most optimal route out should things go south. Were there cars or other forms of transportation nearby that the criminals could escape or take the victims in? Certain streets were narrower or wider than others, which would determine how much flexibility she had if she were to help the captured crowd escape. She also had to factor in how many obstacles there were, such as gate doors or fallen objects like garbage cans or cardboard boxes. She leapt onto a nearby balcony, gripping the edge of the rail, wondering when would be the best moment to intervene. When would be the most optimal time, when would these criminals be most distracted?

That was when she saw gold, like that of stars, but instead of being high up in the night sky they were far too low, far too small, far too dim. Only two buildings away Ruby made out a faint figure near the corner of the roof of a Victorian-style complex. She kept her sights on the situation in the hangar, but neared the figure, wondering who else was here observing such despicable acts. Her footsteps were soft, like feathers dropped onto the concrete each movement she took before she landed onto the Victorian rooftop. Before Ruby could make out much of the shadow watching on as well, she found herself stopping short in front of a pistol barrel. It was then when Ruby noticed the two tufts, ears they appeared, on top of the mysterious figure's head, now understanding why she had been discovered so soon. She had to find a way to sneak up on faunus in particular. The gold that she picked up earlier were the eyes of the faunus, who covered up much of their face with a jet-black scarf.

Those same eyes were rather telling. Instead of focused and annoyed that someone had approached, they were widened, but the faunus said nothing, keeping their arm raised and their gun pointed as they turned her head to face the situation at hand. Ruby knew just because she wasn't being watched it didn't mean she was able to move, the ears on top still making quick movements to pick up any foreign noise that would indicate the faunus was in trouble. Ruby took a deep breath, wondering if she could talk her way out of this mess. There was a nagging feeling in the back of her head, like she was missing something the moment she set her sights on those golden eyes, as if she had seen them before.

"Uh...are you-are you with them?" Ruby asked, voice barely audible. It was possible the faunus was meant as extra security should people show up and witness whatever was happening, though the guns they held felt like overkill if it was meant for unsuspecting bystanders.

The faunus returned a quick glance, eyes now very annoyed by that question as they shook their head before returning their attention to the hangar. Ruby knew there was a possibility they could be lying, but it didn't seem that way. Maybe she wasn't the only one acting as a vigilante and their territories and schedules had overlapped. If this was true it came as a bit of a relief, knowing she wasn't alone attempting to end the madness within the hangar, but again, Ruby wasn't sure. She chose to believe the faunus for now, knowing she had little reason not to, though resumed cautiously.

"Then you must be here to stop them," Ruby continued, "If that's the case, it's the same for me."

Once again the faunus did not respond, but Ruby could tell her words were acknowledged from their shifting ears. Ruby stepped closer to the scaffolding, taking careful steps not to alert the faunus. She knew she was still at gunpoint, the faunus being ultra-prepared with two and possibly more weapons in their arsenal. As Ruby peered over she noticed a white van pulling up next to the hangar, with more men in similar outfits and weapons emerging from the vehicle. Ruby then glanced over at the faunus' weapon of choice, the one pointing at the offenders. The only way they could operate two weapons at a time was if they were both one-handed ones, and so they were. Instead of the sniper rifle she had expected, a much more customized pistol with a scope was positioned at the corner of the roof. Ruby eyed the silencer as well, one of the largest ones she'd seen. The faunus looked to be a seasoned veteran with the gun, which implied a few things and lead to further questions. She could see the faunus' finger tapping on the trigger.

Ruby frowned, "That's not a lethal round is it-"

Before she could finish, the shot went off, recoil momentarily pushing the faunus backwards slightly. As Ruby watched the chaos erupt within the hangar a thought occurred to her that whoever this person was could not possibly have shot her earlier because their second gun did not have a suppressor, though Ruby wasn't sure if risking her life was worth it to see if this person would shoot. After all if they were here to save the captured lives down below they likely had issues in killing someone random like Ruby. Her question was answered immediately when she saw red pooling around the faunus' target, but they weren't lying on the ground dead, their blood originating from the calf. Three black vehicles, luxury cars and a truck pulled up. While two of the criminals were in panic wondering how on earth who seemed to be leader was shot, they were swarmed as several others came and began whisking the prisoners away, guns kicked from their hands, yells and shouts trying to dominate over others. Whatever the faunus had planned seemed to be going smoothly.

BANG!

Until now.

Ruby had taken her eyes off the leader for just a moment, thinking he was down and out from the shot, but in seconds she knew he had returned fire. Her attention was ripped away from the hangar scene when she heard the thud next to her ear. Her first instinct was to duck as another shot breezed by the top of her head, grazing the top of her hood, but her second was to realize that the pool of blood was not the only one she'd be seeing today.

The faunus picked themselves off the ground, clutching their right shoulder. They had dropped their weapons. Ruby did not hesitate to dash towards them, grabbing the faunus when they went off-balance.

"That was a live round. There are live rounds being exchanged-there are lives being exchanged!" Ruby spoke quickly, her words almost jumbled in her throat, "Are you-are you okay?"

"Run," the faunus managed to say, falling to her knees. Ruby could see the pain, the faunus' eyes squeezing shut.

Ruby shook her head, "Not unless you're running with me."

"The police will come soon. I will only be a burden. Please, go." Those same golden eyes opened, pleading ones revealed instead, but Ruby was determined to save at least one person from the pandemonium and the one closest in proximity was the most logical target to do so.

Yet as she stared at those eyes and registered the voice, every little aspect felt oddly familiar. Ruby paid it no mind, finding her attention was best served aiding the injured faunus. She let her lean onto her torso, keeping her upright with her body weight. The blood was plugged by the faunus' other arm, though it seemed the pressure was not enough to keep more from seeping through. Ruby noticed the faunus' head turning back, seeing the steel suitcase and two pistols left behind. With sirens growing louder in the distance, Ruby allowed the sniper to rest upon a metal railing before she dashed over to fetch the items. The faunus slowly descended the stairs, looking back at Ruby every few seconds as she put all the more strength into keeping her bullet wound from spilling more blood. Ruby returned to her quickly, helping her down the stairs faster despite the objects she carried. She put one in a spare holster that was meant for a project down the line and the suitcase was situated on a sheath-like object attached to her back, meant for Crescent Rose. Only the normal, non-scoped pistol remained in her hand.

Once they reached ground floor they were both in the middle of a damp alleyway, but Ruby wondered how much further the two of them could go. She could hear the breathing of the injured faunus quickening and knew that while no blood was left behind on the steps the dampening spot on the faunus' sleeve only worsened. A hand from a weakening body was not enough to keep the faunus from bleeding out, so Ruby stopped before they exited the dead-end street, reaching for the ends of her own cloak with a movement that the wounded sniper recognized immediately.

"Don't!"

Ruby peered up, barely managing to stop from ripping a piece off her hood, "But I need to bind your shoulder."

"No," the faunus continued, "That cloak is precious to you, isn't it?"

"Wait how do you-" Ruby's eyes widened, the voice, the eyes, everything clicked.

Her eyes now adopted a faraway glance, as if filled with melancholy as she continued, "Use my scarf."

Ruby stood, reaching up to unravel the fabric that had until this point concealed the faunus' identity, but she didn't need to take this off to realize who it was. She should have realized it earlier, when she first heard her voice, or even when she first saw those eyes. They were piercing and focused, eyes that she had become used to after seeing them for over nine months, but Ruby never found reason to suspect it was her at first. Her passion for justice, for righteousness was so great that for her to be here of all places only threw Ruby's mind for a loop. There was also the whole assumption that she had been human all this time, Ruby never recalling those ears atop her head.

Though now that she thought about it, there was never a time her head was bare.

She pulled it off.

Blake slumped, resting onto the alley wall as Ruby loosened up the scarf. She winced as she let her wound go, the blood pouring out like a fountain before Ruby quickly fastened the scarf tightly around the shoulder, as tight can be to clot up the area. Blake picked herself off the ground, but Ruby gave her every support she could, their steps seemingly nomadic before Ruby raised her head at a particular direction.

"The hospital's only a few blocks away," She said as she read the street name.

Blake shook her head, "No, my car is down the street. There's another place."

"Another place? Like a clinic? 'cause I don't think they can treat a bullet wound Blake."

"If you were hurt stopping crime, would your first instinct be to head to a public hospital?" Blake reasoned, attempting to pick up the pace despite her difficulties to even walk.

Ruby mused, "Good point."

When they reached the car, Blake had made a beeline for the driver's side, but Ruby stopped her in her tracks, "Wait wait! You're hurt! You can't drive!"

"It's not that far off from here; I can steer with one hand."

"Not with losing that much blood you can't!" Ruby argued, "I'll take the wheel instead! Just tell me the directions."

Blake raised an eyebrow, knowing Ruby had only turned sixteen months ago, "Do you even know how to drive?"

"My instructor said I was a natural, even though I've only taken two lessons so far."

A wave of dizziness hit Blake like a truck, and she suddenly lost all desire to refute. She decided thanks to her lightheaded state that perhaps allowing an inexperienced driver was a slight more safer than an injured one. Blake rounded the hood of the car, entering the passenger's seat instead. Ruby even went as far as fastening her seat-belt for her, knowing it may have been difficult with one arm that was still clutching onto the wounded shoulder. After tossing the luggage and weapons in the back, the younger of the two took her designated seat on the left, checking and adjusting both the mirrors and seat to adhere to her height, and slapping on her own seat-belt. Blake felt Ruby had the hang of it considering she managed the first steps down pat, but regrets instantly clouded her mind when the car roared out of its parking space. They were lucky it was the dead of night and few cars were around to take the brunt of Ruby's adventurous steering.

"Sorry! I didn't know your car had this much juice!" Ruby slowed as the neared the intersection, "Okay, which way to go?"

Blake examined the roads, "We should keep going forward. You're on the wrong lane to turn left."

Despite her words, Ruby turned left anyway.

"Ruby!"

"It's okay! There aren't any cars! Besides we're practically an ambulance so we should always have the right of way."

Blake did not need her pulse to race faster considering the diminished amount of blood left in her body, "It doesn't matter. There are still streetlights, poles, fire hydrants for you to slam into. You've barely started learning to dr-RUBY!"

The so-called superhero veered right violently, barely able to avoid the aforementioned fire hydrant. They were straddling the sidewalk for a moment before Ruby returned to the roads, "It's okay! It's alright! We're still in one piece!"

"For how long!?"

Their bodies were thrown forward when Ruby smashed her foot into the brakes, stopping short of colliding with another vehicle, "Uh, which way do we go now Blake?"

"Until you slow down, nowhere."

"Well I'm stopped."

"We are in the middle of the intersection Ruby, please at least move the car somewhere safer."

"But do we keep going or turn on this intersection?"

Blake shook her head, "We're already too late to turn right."

"Oh, right! Okay!" The vehicle screeched forwards before Ruby somehow applied the handbrakes for what would otherwise be a pretty impressive drifting u-turn had it been at all necessary or legal.

Blake widened her eyes, "Ruby there is a yellow line there, you can't cross it!"

"Oh, a little late for that," Ruby remarked as she turned left this time, the car now pointing the opposite direction.

"Ruby you drove through a stop sign."

"There weren't any cars!"

"On a school zone!"

"Children don't go to school at three am!"

The two of them felt themselves bouncing up and down as Ruby soared through the streets over the speed bumps. Blake cringed, trying to keep her shoulder in place as long as possible but the unorthodox and unpredictable movements of the car was making such a task all the more difficult. Blake gritted her teeth, her directions becoming more hesitant and uneasy as she dreaded each movement Ruby took the car.

"Ruby, it isn't necessary to go so fast. I'm not dying."

Ruby grinned, "But Yang said that was what made driving fun!"

"Yang is often wrong! She is wrong right now! She rides a motorcycle! It's much different! Are you sure what that driving instructor told you was correct!?"

Ruby shrugged, "Well he said I was a natural for a girl. What do you think he meant by that? He meant I was good, right?"

Blake twitched. Ruby's overconfidence was fuelled by sarcasm and stereotypes. That man knew not the destruction he potentially put upon the two at this very moment, but in all the world full of what never seemed to exist called mercy, some was finally given to her as Ruby slowed the vehicle to a stop, "Is this it?"

Jade Dragon. Blake had no idea how much of a relief it was for her to see these words.

"Oh hey, this place is next to Valkyrie's Pancake Factory! I love that place!" Ruby pointed out as she exited the car.

Blake closed the door behind her with her leg, wobbling slightly from the brief moment she had to balance on her single foot. Ruby was quick enough to keep her from toppling over as she was helped towards the entrance of the Jade Dragon. Compared to the modern architecture that was the Pancake Factory, the Jade Dragon was a much smaller, shorter, older building in comparison. It resembled one of those store and house fusions, with a home on the top floor and the business on the bottom. Ruby attempted to pull the door out but it was as expected at such a late hour, locked.

"Knock four times, pause, then once," Blake instructed.

Ruby did as she was told and after a few minutes they both heard a click as the chain link fence on the inside slid open and the door was pushed open. A man dressed in dark green with a slender build and deep black raven hair that was neatly gathered in a low ponytail swung the door open for them, his eyes recognizing Blake's distress and allowing the two inside despite his unfamiliarity with Ruby. His irises were pink, matching a streak of the same going down the right side of his bangs. He didn't speak as he gestured them towards a few chairs at the back of the business. Ruby could make out that whatever the place sold it was quite a variety, items that seemed at the same time obscure or had little relation to one another were sitting on shelves amongst the small shop. Almost each and every one of them looked used as well. What would someone do with a rusty pipe? Of course the moment she thought this she realized it might have been useful metal material for her own projects, but then what were the various doorknobs at the corner meant for? Would people shop for doorknobs in a place like this as opposed to a hardware store?

The door to another room at the bottom of a flight of stairs was thrown open to reveal what looked like the result of a tomato explosion. A human, as far as Ruby could tell, though she couldn't be completely sure, stepped out wearing what used to be latex gloves and a mask. They were probably light blue or green in colour beforehand, but now they adorned a very deep shade of red. About the only colour left unchanged were the eyes, which were bright and green as can be. Despite half of their face being covered, Ruby could tell underneath from the slight stretch of the mask material that there was a smile.

"Did the pizzaman come!?" A surprisingly young and feminine voice called out.

Ren shook his head, "No, no. You have another patient."

"Wow, that's the fourth one already! What's happening out there, a whole all-out war?" She removed her mask and gloves, discarding them in the nearby trash before washing her hands at a sink conveniently by the door she came out of. Ruby could see indeed that underneath the coat of red there was some semblance of a skin tone.

Once she climbed the stairs, she glanced at Ruby, a toothy grin reappearing between her cheeks, "Ooh, cute hood!"

"Uh, thanks?" Ruby shifted her weight slightly, still making sure she was as steady as a pillar in case Blake needed her.

She almost skipped on the spot, "I'm Nora by the way! Nora Valkyrie. Yes, that Valkyrie. And you are?"

"Oh! I'm Ru-er, Crim--cah..." Ruby was tongue twisted, brain stopping her just in time from revealing her identity. Unfortunately that same organ had no backup plan.

"Crescent Rose," Blake said, "A pseudonym."

Ruby furled her brow, "Crescent Rose? But that’s my weapon’s na-er, yeah! I'm that! My hood's red, and my weapon’s curved, so--uh, yeah!"

"Very fitting!" Nora commented, "And Blake! Long time no see! Ooooh, you've seen better days though." She blinked as she brought her hands towards the wound, seeing that Blake while not quite as rosy as her, was still spilling a little too much, especially since the blood was entirely Blake's.

"Calibre?" She asked.

Blake wobbled in response, "I want to say 9mm."

"9mm? I'd like to see that! A 9mm would never reach as far as it did with that kind of velocity in such a steep slope," Ruby suddenly piped up, "Accounting for the wind and how many stories up we were, it had to be at the very least a 10mm. And even then a bullet that size could not have managed the damage it did, though considering it didn't go straight through it probably was around that level, hmmm. Maybe it was a modded 9mm?"

She tapped on her chin but didn't realize that the three others stood silent, six eyes cast upon her as she riddled in her thoughts.

Blake muttered something that was almost incomprehensible, "That can't be right..."

"What was that Blake?"

"No, it's nothing," She assured.

Nora slapped on a new pair of gloves, "If you can hold on for just a few minutes I need to finish up with my current patient. Still got a few more pieces of shrapnel embedded in his thigh."

Before she re-entered the room she stopped just short of the doorway, "Oh I almost forgot! Can you fetch me the machete just under the counter, Ren?"

With the oversized tool in her hands, Nora vanished back into the makeshift operating room, giving off a quick 'thanks' before closing the door. Ruby's curiosity was piqued. For what reason would a doctor require a machete? Even if it was for amputation purposes, surely they'd use a much faster, sophisticated tool than a weapon meant for hacking away? Her questions came out as readily as the blood that drenched Blake's shoulder.

"What is she going to use that for?" Ruby asked.

Ren seemed hesitant to respond, but did so anyway, "Nora likes to challenge herself."

"Er, what?"

"She finds scalpels boring."

Before Ruby could say another word, a chorus of screams reverberating from beyond that same murky brown door answered all the questions Ruby was willing to ask. The longer she heard that cry of distress the colder the chill that ran down Ruby's spine was. Blake did not seem to flinch at the noise, leading Ruby to assume she might somehow be used to this, but her assumptions were quickly unfounded.

"Ren? Did Nora run out of painkillers?" Blake spoke softly, timorous. Ruby could see her \ears flattening against her skull the moment Ren nodded.

"We've had some patients with sticky fingers regarding those kinds of drugs, so we've decided to go without, at least until we restock our supplies."

It was just before the crack of dawn, the beginning of another flawless summer morning about to rise pass the horizon, and here Ruby was, standing in a sketchy small little rundown building next to her favourite restaurant, in front of a door barely hanging onto its hinges. She stood there, for some reason fighting the instinct to bust through the decaying doors the louder and longer the shrill bellows continued. Her decision to stand pat was the correct one when a man hobbled out the doorways, eyes puffy with tears but despite his disposition he was thanking Nora, shaking her hands over and over again. He promised something about payment in a few weeks and exited the shop as fast as his legs would allow, never bothering with a glance towards Ruby or Blake. The door jingled when he exited, just as Nora threw off her present pair of gloves for another set. She reached into her box, only to pick it up and and peer inside to realize there were none left.

Nora brought up a finger, "Just give me a minute to fetch some supplies from the back! You can go in first in the meantime."

Blake entered warily, with Ruby examining the room from behind, not yet inside herself. It was a small windowless stone room, not unlike the cells forced upon segregated inmates. A gurney stood in the middle with a steel cart next to it, various medical supplies laying about. The aforementioned machete along with an oversized chrome hammer taller than Ruby herself and a miniature orange chainsaw weren't traditional tools of the surgeon trade however, but she mentally included them as one with the pile of medical supplies anyway. Despite the supposed success of whatever the previous patient was put through, Ruby still felt an ounce of anxiety course through her veins, and she wasn't even the one injured.

"Will you be okay?"

Blake gave the slightest of nods, "I'll be alright. Thank you for bringing me here."

"Well er, I still feel like a hospital might be more humane," Ruby said, scratching the back of her head.

"No, I've been here many times. It might not look professional but Nora gets the job done," Blake explained, "You should go home now. It's almost dawn and you look tired."

Ruby shook her head, "Nah it's fine. I'm used to going out until really late now! Also I don't want to leave until I'm sure you're okay."

"That's not necessary Ruby."

"But I want to!" She cupped her hands into fists, "Besides I have a lot of questions too. Are you secretly a vigilante just like me? That's the only explanation why'd you be at the roof at that time of night, overlooking such bad guys! I thought my back was pressed to the wall trying to find a way to save those poor people!"

Blake closed her eyes, "It's a lot more complicated than that."

"Because if you are, that explains everything! You must be like my mentor! Giving me tips and warnings about to how to do this and that because you know so much about the streets! A mild-mannered correctional officer by day, but a brooding hesitant heroine by night, filling up the needs of her dayjob when the police sit idly by! Wow! Imagine that!"

"Ruby."

The scenario was just so perfect in Ruby's head, "And wow your marksmanship! That pistol you had shoots real far and accurately for what it is. That's gotta be a combination of skill and craftsmanship! I'd love to take it apart to see how it works because if that gun isn't modified I'd eat my cape right here and now!"

"Ruby, please."

"Oh! And it's too bad we ruined that super cool scarf of yours, 'cause it really gives you that edgy look that exemplifies your heroism and bravery! I know you gave me a lousy name for my alter-ego, but what could yours be? Oooh! How about the Black Panther, prowling through the night, or or the Obsidian Claw, swiping bad guys off the map! Or-"

Blake visibly cringed when Ruby spoke the second of her cheesy overdone name suggestions, "Ruby, I am no vigilante."

"With you and me together we can be partners in stopping crime, cracking rooftops by ni-huh!?"

"Am I interrupting anything?" Nora asked, voice filled with cheer.

Blake waved her weakened hand, "No, it's nothing. Let's get this over with."

"Wait, but Blake!" Ruby now knew no reason why Blake was at that rooftop earlier in the night, why that whole incident happened. There was no other possible explanation!

"Please go home now, you've done enough," Blake pleaded once again.

"But-!"

Nora shuffled Ruby back out the door, "Wait outside okay? I'll be done with Blake as quick as a thistle, so you can continue whatever little dispute you're having afterwards. Ren, can you bring me a screwdriver?"

Blake turned away from Ruby as Nora closed the door, taking with her yet another unorthodox tool. She was determined not to leave and to sit through whatever terrible noises that may come through the door, having all of the questions and none of the answers. Blake did risk her life saving those captured victims, so what could she be holding back? What could she be hiding? The confusion combined with the numerous possible scenarios swirled in her head as she took a seat, patient, waiting, ears as dreading as they could be while the world outside continued.

-
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