The night of Beacon’s dance finally arrived. The hall was decorated, the DJ was pumping out the jams, and people were making their way in, sometimes in teams, sometimes in couples, and sometimes completely stag. That was the way Ruby went after managing to trip her away across campus in her new high heels. Upon entering, Yang, who was working as the hostess, couldn’t stop from exclaiming, “You look beautiful!”
Ruby’s legs shook. “Can we have a serious talk about how Weiss fights in these?”
Yang laughed as Ruby tried to catch her balance.
Ruby wasn’t the only one not enjoying the change of wardrobe. As Sun made his way across campus, he kept scratching at his abs, itchy from wearing his shirt closed. He also complained about another wardrobe change. “Stupid, dumb neck trap!” he said, pulling on his tie which had been incorrectly placed around his neck instead of his collar. But someone else had a different opinion.
“I knew you’d look better in a tie.”
Sun turned. Standing behind him was Blake in a lavender dress and teal bow. She looked up demurely and Sun felt his heart skip a beat.
Blake walked up to him and grabbed his arm.
“So… does this mean we’re going together?”
“Technically. But my first dance is spoken for.”
Sun’s question was answered when upon arriving Yang fulfilled her promise and danced with Blake. It was short, but the dance meant a lot to both girls. It marked a new depth and dimension in their friendship. Blake knew that she would be able to trust Yang more deeply, and Yang knew that she could rely more on Blake.
Once finished, Yang graciously surrendered Blake to Sun. She then joined Weiss and Ruby on the sidelines where they could hear Blake laughing and having a good time. “I told you she would come,” said Yang.
“Mission accomplished,” added Weiss.
Ruby looked at them both. “So, what do we do now?”
“Just have fun!” replied Yang as she and Weiss walked off.
“Does that mean I can change out of these stupid things and into my hood now?” But she received no answer. “Stupid, lady stilts.”
“Not enjoying yourself?” asked Ozpin, walking up.
“Uh, no. Everything’s fine. I’m just not much of a fancy… pantsy… dancey girl.”
“Well, you can’t spend your entire life out on the battlefield. Even if you may want to.”
Ruby crossed her arms. “Yeah, that lesson’s been floating around a lot lately.”
“If you think about it, fighting and dancing aren’t so different. Two partners interlocked. Although, one wrong move on the ballroom merely leads to a swollen foot.”
“Or a twisted ankle.”
“It’s not every day that friends are able to come together like this. Time has a way of testing our bonds. But it’s nights like these that can help keep them stronger than ever. Nights like these are ones we’ll never forget.”
Just then, Ruby heard the hall doors open and saw Mercury and Emerald saunter in.
“You guys are just in time,” said Yang.
Mercury replied, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
As the evening wore on with more and more students arriving and even most of the professors, Ruby decided to camp somewhere out of the way. It turned out to be a legitimate strategy as it kept her from moving which kept her from tripping over her shoes.
Someone slid up to her. “I see you’re hiding out by the punch bowl, too,” said Jaune.
“To the socially awkward,” toasted Jaune.
Ruby snickered and clinked her glass against Jaune’s. “Sorry things didn’t work out with Weiss.”
“Meh. It’s… fine! Neptune’s pretty cool. I get why she went with him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, come on, not many people can pull off blue hair.”
“No, I mean, Weiss came to the dance alone.”
Jaune choked on his punch. “What?!” he sputtered.
“Yeah. She said she had too much to focus on to worry about boys.”
Jaune looked around, not believing Ruby. He saw Weiss by herself trying desperately to fix a white rose that would not stand up straight like the others in a vase. It fell over and Weiss tensed.
Both Jaune and Weiss heard laughing. They looked and saw Neptune with Blake and Sun, making them laugh. Jaune looked back at Weiss, the pain and longing plain on her face.
Jaune suddenly became very angry. He didn’t know why, but Neptune had turned down a girl that he would’ve gladly gone to the dance with. What could have possibly been his reason? Jaune didn’t know, but he was going to find out. And if necessary, he was going to fix Neptune’s wagon.
“Hold my punch,” he said to Ruby as he walked off.
Ruby did so. But after seeing Jaune leave, her mind returned to the sweet, hospitable boredom that it had been engrossed with before he showed up. So engrossed was Ruby that she didn’t notice when she took a sip from Jaune’s glass.
Jaune moved through the thick crowd of students like an assassin. He gently pushed people away and kept his eyes solely on his target, but then a crimson angel crossed his view. It was Pyrrha, and for a second, Jaune couldn’t believe what he was feeling. He had never seen Pyrrha look so beautiful before. She was wearing a backless, crimson gown. His heart beat quickly.
Jaune noticed something else: Pyrrha was alone and she looked sad. Her expression clashed with her ravishing appearance, and it didn’t seem right to Jaune to see her be so sad as if a fundamental rule of the universe was being broken. Jaune regarded Neptune one more time before deciding to follow Pyrrha up and out onto the balcony. For a second, Jaune thought that maybe she was meeting someone up there, but there was no one around.
“Hey, Pyrrha,” he said unsteadily. What was wrong with him? Why was he so nervous?
“Hello, Jaune,” said Pyrrha in a tone he didn’t recognize.
“You okay?” he asked, crossing to her. “I haven’t seen you tonight.”
“Arrived late I’m afraid.”
“Well… you look really… You look real lovely.”
“Thank you,” she said with a slight blush.
“Your date isn’t going to beat me up for saying that, is he?”
“I think you’re safe for tonight.”
“So, where is the guy?” said Jaune, trying to sound casual.
Pyrrha paused. “There is no guy.”
“Nobody asked me.”
“But… you’re Pyrrha Nikos. How could nobody—”
Pyrrha turned away. “I’ve been blessed with incredible talents and opportunities. I’m constantly surrounded by love and praise, but when you’re placed on a pedestal like that for so long, you become isolated from the people who put you there in the first place.
“Everyone assumes I’m too good for them. That I’m simply on a level that they can’t attain. It’s become impossible to form any sort of meaningful relationship with people.
“That’s what I like about you, Jaune. When we first met, you didn’t even know my name. You treated me just like anyone else. And thanks to you, I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime. I guess what I’m trying to say is… you’re the kind of guy I wish I was here with. Someone who just saw me for me.”
Pyrrha gave Jaune one last doleful look before leaving. She had hoped that after hearing Jaune wouldn’t be attending the dance with Weiss that he might ask her. But that hadn’t happened. She went anyway because she thought she still might be able to have a good time. But so far, seeing Jaune and admitting everything that was bothering her, her night hadn’t been very enjoyable at all.
Jaune turned. “Pyrrha! Wait!” But she was gone and instead Neptune was in her place.
“Hey, Jaune, right?”
Jaune sighed. “Yeah.”
“This party’s pretty lame, huh? I mean, ballroom dancing. Psh! Still, cute girls though, huh?”
Jaune snapped, his former ire rekindled. “Is that all you think about?!”
“Do you even care about the girls you’re hitting on? Or how they feel about you?”
“Whoa. Where’s this coming from?”
“How could you just turn her down like that?!”
Neptune scratched the back of his head. “I, uh… it, uh… it just didn’t work out. You know?”
“What?! You think you’re too cool?! Too many options?! Weiss Schnee asked you to the dance; what in the world could possibly keep you from go—”
“I can’t dance!” said Neptune, looking away.
Jaune paused, bewildered. “Beg your pardon.”
“I can’t dance, man!” he wailed.
“But…” This didn’t make sense to Jaune. “But, you’re so cool.”
“Thank you. I try really, really hard.”
Jaune paused. The logic of the situation was pretty illogical. “You’d rather break a girl’s heart and go to a dance alone than admit to everyone that you can’t move in rhythm to music?”
“That about sums it up, yeah.”
“Well. I certainly feel a lot better about myself.”
“Please don’t tell anybody. Look, if you want Weiss, she’s all yours.”
Jaune sighed uncomfortably. He knew what he had to do, and he’d do it for Weiss. But for some reason, it wasn’t as difficult as he imagined. “Do you like her?”
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know her too well yet, but she seems pretty cool.”
“Then, just go talk to her. No pickup lines, no suave moves; just be yourself. I’ve heard that’s the way to go.”
“Hey! You don’t have to look cool all the time. In all honesty, if you could be a little less cool, I’d really appreciate it.”
Now, Neptune paused. Jaune was making a lot of sense. And he supposed he could dial his coolness down a little. “Yeah. Okay.”
“Go talk to her,” said Jaune. “I guarantee it will make her night.”
“Thanks. You’re a really cool guy, Jaune.”
“Alright. Don’t lie to my face.”
After Neptune left, Jaune sighed again. “Alright. Only one thing left to do.”
Inside, Yang was on the second floor of the hall, overlooking the dance as it progressed. She felt very relaxed and content in the moment. She was soon joined by Ruby. “Y’know,” Yang began, “I think we really needed this.”
Ruby looked down at the dance floor. She saw Nora and Ren dancing, Blake and Sun dancing, and even Penny managed to show up. She was being protected by the two Atlesian guards from the other day, but that didn’t prevent her from busting a move solo between them.
“Yeah,” said Ruby, at last. “And you did a great job planning it, too.”
“Aw! Thanks!” said Yang, crushing Ruby in a one armed hug. “It wasn’t all me though. Weiss did a lot, too.”
Ruby had forgotten about Weiss. She stopped struggling long enough to look for her. Ruby saw her sitting along the far wall where all the single girls sat, perched on the edges of their seats, desperate for anyone to ask them to dance when suddenly, Neptune approached. He seemed nervous at first, but Weiss offered the seat next to her and he took it.
Yang sighed. “Tomorrow it’s back to work.”
“Well,” said Ruby with a shrug, “I’m sure we can handle whatever gets thrown at us.”
Then there was a rising chorus of laughter. It turned into outrageous guffaws shortly after.
Ruby looked down. “Except for that.”
Another person who had taken note of the strange change in the dance atmosphere was Pyrrha. For some reason, as the laughter got louder, it got closer to her from behind. She turned and couldn’t believe her eyes. “Jaune…?” she said with a slight smile.
Jaune was standing there wearing a prom dress. It didn’t flatter him, and what musculature he had clashed with the dress’ inherent beauty. It amazed Pyrrha that he had found one that fit him. It was even more amazing that he got it on such short notice. The only thing missing was a good set of heels; Jaune had opted for his regular sneakers instead probably because he couldn’t find a set of heels to match his eyes.
Jaune shrugged. “A promise is a promise.”
Pyrrha couldn’t stop herself. Her lilting laughter joined the chorus. “Jaune! You didn’t have to!”
“Hey. An Arc never goes back on his word. Now, do you wanna stand there and laugh at me, or do you wanna dance?” He offered her his hand.
Pyrrha took it. “I would love to dance.”
Jaune grabbed Pyrrha and pulled her in. She let out an excited squeal, and when Jaune took the lead and swept her away, Pyrrha felt herself swoon.
Somewhere in the background, Nora said, “Ren! This! Is! Happening!”
“Wait. What is happening?”
Nora didn’t explain as she grabbed his hand and led him after Jaune and Pyrrha who had joined the latest dance craze called the Monty. It was a type of line dance composed of sharp kicks, body rolls, and fancy arm flourishes. Everyone in the school was sufficiently impressed with JNPR’s skill—it was almost like they had practiced earlier. Eventually, Jaune spun Pyrrha away from the line to dance with her by himself.
“I had no idea you could dance,” said Pyrrha. Although she did suspect something when Jaune’s footwork improved by leaps and bounds when his cuts hadn’t.
“Yeah, well, these things tend to happen when you grow up with seven sisters,” he explained before dipping her.
Not too far away enjoying the spectacle that Jaune had made of himself was Weiss and Neptune. They kept one eye on each other and the other on Jaune. They were both too embarrassed to admit that they’d rather watch him dance in his dress than talk. But Weiss had a question burning in her mind. “So, what made you change your mind?”
“You said you were embarrassed before. What made you come talk to me?”
“You’re looking at him,” said Neptune as Jaune pranced around Pyrrha. “You’ve got some good friends looking out for ya.”
Weiss had never considered Jaune a friend. Just that one-guy-who-would-not-stop-with-the-advances-all-due-to-a-silly-misunderstanding. But maybe he had her best interests in mind after all. Seeing her happy was more important to him than having her for himself. No. Not only that, Weiss admitted. He was also making Pyrrha happy; happier than she had been in a while. Her crush on Jaune didn’t get past Weiss. So perhaps Jaune was looking out for everyone and didn’t actually care about the perks of her last name. She may have misjudged him.
On the second floor of the hall also enjoying the show was Emerald and Mercury. Emerald said to the air, “It seems like all the dancers have partners.”
“How long do I have?” came Cinder’s voice, technologically modified.
“We should probably be home by midnight just to be safe,” replied Mercury.
“I’ll keep my eye on the clock.”
At about the same time, Ruby had decided that it was mission accomplished on all fronts. There was no need for her to be there any longer. She bid the hall a bow and turned to leave, unnoticed by Mercury and Emerald. But as she exited, she saw someone running along the dorm building roofs dressed in all black. That didn’t seem right to Ruby as everyone should have been at the dance. Her eyes narrowed and she decided to follow the figure.
Ruby trailed the mysterious stranger all the way to Beacon’s CCT. The trail seemed to have gone cold there, but then Ruby noticed the Atlesian guard, knocked unconscious and lying in the bushes.
Ruby knew then that something was definitely wrong. She pulled out her scroll and entered in her locker’s code. Within seconds, the locker crashed into the ground near her, revealing her scythe. Ruby grabbed it and proceeded inside. There she found four more Atlesian guards all knocked unconscious and one of them was bleeding.
Ruby looked around the atrium trying to discern where the assailant had gone. Unfortunately, there was no sign of him. The only place he could have gone was up.
Ruby called the elevator down where she found two more guards. One of them was still conscious. “Who did this?!”
“I don’t know,” the guard groaned. “But she’s upstairs. In the Communications room.”
Ruby boarded the elevator and prepared herself for battle.
Meanwhile, up in the communications room, Cinder was fast at work at one of the terminals. She inserted her scroll and downloaded the files that had been specially prepared for Beacon’s mainframe. Despite the quick and dirty hack, Cinder’s infiltration didn’t raise any alarms which was fortunate for her as Emerald re-opened communications. “A party guest is leaving.”
Cinder sighed. “Which one?”
“I guess the general’s had enough fun for one night,” quipped Mercury. “Should we intercept?”
A queen Chess piece appeared on the monitor in front of Cinder before it spread to all of the others in the room. “No. We’re done here.” Cinder went to leave when she heard the elevator arrive. She quickly ducked behind the desk.
Ruby stepped out slowly, looking around. “Hello? Is anyone there? Hello?” Suddenly, she stumbled. She looked down at her shoes and cursed them.
A smile spread on Cinder’s face. What a coincidence. Cinder very vividly remembered how Ruby and Glynda had deterred Torchwick several months ago and she remembered the fight they put up. But with Ruby alone, and in shoes she obviously had no idea how to move in, this was going to be sweet—a chance to settle the score.
Cinder stepped out from behind the desk.
“Excuse me,” said Ruby. “It’s not a masquerade party. So why don’t you take off the mask?”
Cinder paused for a second. That was the first thing out of Ruby’s mouth? No challenge? No how dare you? No mention of all the wounded guards? What a strange girl.
“Well?!” said Ruby.
Cinder grabbed one of the Dust canisters on her and spread the Dust out in front of her. Glass shards formed in mid-air, and Cinder launched them.
Ruby spun her scythe, deflecting them. She then open-fired, but just as Cinder did when they first fought, she blocked each individual shot, her clothes glowing every time she did. Ruby flourished her scythe and leapt at Cinder.
Cinder jumped back, dodging the attack. She summoned two glass swords made from Dust, connected their ends to make a bow, and fired three newly minted Dust arrows.
Ruby jumped back to avoid the explosion and tripped over her heels again. She suddenly had the feeling that she might be in over her head.
Cinder had the same feeling, but found it a pleasure. That was until the elevator dinged again with a new arrival.
Ruby looked back and recognized the grizzled visage of General Ironwood. Ruby smiled, knowing the odds had been tipped in her favor. But when she went to face the mystery attacker, she was gone.
Cinder got down to Beacon’s main hall as fast as she could. She was still breathing a little hard as she transformed her spy clothes into a magnificent black dress. She came in through the back entrance and disappeared into the crowd of students just in time as a couple of guards barged in and lost sight of her.
On the dance floor, Mercury and Emerald were managing their way through a waltz. “So, what do you think?” asked Mercury.
“I think Cinder had better hurry. I’m a little worried.”
“I meant, what do you think of my dancing?”
“Why would I care about your dancing?”
“C’mon. Don’t deny that you’re enjoying yourself.”
“Whatever. You want me.”
Suddenly, Emerald felt a tap on her shoulder. Cinder, as innocent as a virgin, said, “Excuse me. May I cut in?”
“Of course,” said Emerald, missing the context.
Cinder gave her a slight critical look, but didn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around Mercury.
He smiled; this was truly his lucky night. “And how’s your night been?”
“Hmm, a little more… exciting than expected.”
“Should we be worried?”
“Hardly,” said Cinder with a half laugh. “They’ll be scratching their heads long after we finished what we came here for.”
“So then, what now?”
“Enjoy the rest of the night. After all, it is a party.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Mercury, smiling.
******************Keep writing, my friends.
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