PART 1 - Proximity
It’s almost the second year at
Beacon. Yang arrives early to scope out the city and hopefully find a little
getaway apartment she can use when she’s tired of the dorm. She doesn’t get
much luck that day and decides to cap off the night with a bit of dancing just
so it feels like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
She finds Jaune sitting alone
in a booth. Last year, he and Qrow got real close and now he’s got the tiniest
drinking problem. Jaune tells her that there’s a numbness that he revels in.
Turns out, he’s a quiet drunk.
She doesn’t dance. She sits
with him and talks. She mostly hears the sound of her own voice but every nod,
hum, and laugh off him validates her fears, makes her feel heard. Somehow she
enjoys this side of him. He’s listening, attentive, eyes never drifting away
from her. She decides, then, that maybe they should hang out more.
He already has an apartment in
the city. It’s where he’s been living over the Summer. He reconciled with his
parents after running away and now he’s got a place of his own for it.
She takes his guest room and
promises to help with the plumbing and electrical work. She’s good with her
hands. The innuendo either misses him entirely or he ignores it.
One day she pulls out from
under the kitchen sink looking grimy and covered in stray meats the sink grinder failed
to shred. Jaune hands her a towel and a drink while wearing an apron. How she
ends up looking like the man of the house and he the wife doesn’t escape her.
She cracks the joke and he blushes. She realizes what she’s just said and
They laugh it off.
When it’s late they watch a
movie in the living room. He’s the one that snuggles in. “You’re warm,” he
admits plainly, as if it was supposed to be obvious and that she’s the one being weird about not
She plays with his hair while
he’s pressed to her side and she wonders – for just a moment – if his ex, Pyrrha,
did this too. She buries wherever that train of thought was leading.
After she’s done messing with
his hair, she twists her arm the wrong way and it hurts just a bit. He hears
her quiet hissing and takes her hand quickly. His semblance stops the bolt of
pain but she doesn’t tell him to stop even when all she feels is warmth and
that signature tingle he gives off that makes her feel powerful. She hums
appreciatively and tells him how obviously nice it feels and that he’s being weird for not knowing it.
There’s a moment when they’re
done laughing at themselves – right when they’ve calmed down and the movie is
making it only the tiniest bit less quiet – that everything just feels pleasant. It’s warm when it should be
chilly. Familiar when it should feel new.
They sleep on the couch.
She wakes up to coffee and the
smell of tuna and eggs.
It’s the weekend and she finds
herself cozying up to her new lifestyle so much that dorm life is starting to
sound like a coming nightmare by comparison. Her guest room is larger than her entire dorm. It has a
private shower she can take whenever she wants and without contest. And though
bunk beds were fun for their freshman
year, she realizes rather quickly that a queen-size suits her better.
She asks Jaune if she can
stay. He looks at her wide-eyed – not by surprise but by something he suddenly
remembers – and he leaves the room without answering. For a moment, she’s
scared. He comes back with a letter. It’s the rent. The month is almost up and
he was supposed to tell her days back how much she is supposed to pay.
“Don’t look so surprised,” he
says with a bit of cheek. “It’s already settled, isn’t it?”
She slugs him in the arm
before hugging him.
That night they celebrate at
the same club they met at. This time they’re dancing and Yang finds that Jaune
has more confidence on the dance floor than he does just about anywhere else.
At some point he takes her hand and dips her so low that her hair touches the
ground. She’s having so much fun that she doesn’t even notice.
Jaune’s still a lightweight
and Yang only pretends to drink – frequent bathroom visits tend to mask your
tolerance – so he’s barely functional when she drags him into his bedroom. He
isn’t drunk, just teetering off the edge to it in the worst way. After an hour
of sitting with him as he groans and burps, Yang leaves to take a shower.
She comes back to find him
freshly bathed and in bed. His wet hair moistens his pillow. She towel-dries
his head – his complaints resembling Ruby’s when she used to do it to her. She
tells him about it.
He tells her that it sounds
like she grew up like a mom, and that it’s no wonder she’s grasping at her own
youth like it’ll fall away come the morning. Driving just shy of the speed
limit, dancing in clubs till curfews are an afterthought, nursing drinks like her
liver is iron.
She gets an idea and asks him
about his sisters. He mouths out stories that seem endless. There’s a catalog
of happy memories she almost envies.
Suddenly, in the middle of one
story, he admits that he’s glad he isn’t alone. (Seven sisters and two excitable
parents makes a life with any less seem unbearable).
She admits that it was silly
of her to think that she would have preferred to be alone. (Experiencing her
youth is so much nicer when you have someone to share it with. She was never
much of a lone wolf anyhow).
She’s glad she found him
sulking in that booth.
He tells her why he was there
in the first place.
She stays with him for so long
that she forgets to leave and falls asleep beside him.
A week passes and some of their
friends are in the city too. The school is open and some of them are already
packing into their dorms in advance. Jaune and Yang don’t quite join them yet.
They’re preparing the apartment for a party.
Sun and Pyrrha are dating. It
almost comes out of nowhere for everyone but not Jaune. He’s the one who pushed
Sun to try, which surprises Yang. That is the woman he used to love and the
idea that he’s already over his first girlfriend seems unlike him.
She realizes then, at the
party amidst the cheers of a beer pong match, that she knows precious little
about Jaune’s nuances. If this happened to Blake or Ruby, she’d know if they
were silently suffering inside or not. She knows their cues – a twitch in the
eye, a smile that’s too wide, a change in their pitch – their restless little
gestures that tell her a dozen things that need not be said.
She doesn’t know Jaune well
enough to tell the difference. Infuriatingly, he seems the same as he’s always
been. He smiles at her and offers her a drink, and not once do his eyes linger
over Sun and Pyrrha laughing by the window.
She clings to his side to
offer comfort she doesn’t know he even needs.
Nora plops into the seat
across from them and stares. Her mouth opens and everyone watching already knows
what she’s about to ask before she asks it.
“You two dating?”
Yang’s heart stops for a
moment. She’d grown so comfortable that she’d forgotten propriety around him.
That her living with him and snuggling up to his side in public sends signals
that are more than a little friendly.
But Jaune laughs and says that
Yang’s just tired. He maintains that there’s nothing between them.
When all eyes fall on her,
she’s staring up at him with a redness to her cheeks and a quiet want in her eyes. Jaune sputters in
embarrassment at what he sees. Then Yang, too, laughs and everyone isn’t
surprised that she’s teasing him.
Ruby later pulls her aside and
tells her not to play with his heart.
She tells her she wasn’t.
He’s as reliable as the guy
who cooks her meals – as in frequently and without fail – and she likes to
think she’s been much the same. But she’s just starting to enjoy being friends
with him and she isn’t sure she’s ready yet for that to change. Can’t she just
like how they are and worry about where it all leads until it happens? (If it
When Ruby hugs her and walks
off, Yang sits in her room alone.
She thinks about what she
thinks love is. A knot in her stomach, a tingle dancing over her nerves, a
magnetic need to be around him. She doesn’t have any of that… Right?
When their friends leave for
the night, she decides that talking to him about it right now is better than letting it all simmer inside of her till it
drives her mad.
He tells her that it was a
good thing that she did. She might have tricked herself into thinking she was in love with him.
He tells her that comfort like
that is easy. It doesn’t take much – apparently – to be someone most people
like. Despite his flaws, Jaune knows how to not
be a nuisance (thank you, Weiss, he
mutters under his breath and Yang laughs in a way that tells him she’s not so
anxious anymore). He knows how to be reliable; cooking and cleaning are
universal goods. He knows he doesn’t always have any advice, so he sits quietly
and listens instead – which is what most people are looking for anyway. And
sex, once you listen to a partner enough, can feel good regardless of how
attractive you find each other.
Jaune knows how to be a person
you like having around and finding a romantic partner in that is so easy that
it’s almost cheating.
She doesn’t secretly have
feelings for him and if he fell for her at any time in the year-and-a-half
they’ve known each other, he’s fairly certain she would have noticed by now.
And even if they tried, it
might end in disaster.
He tells her that he hasn’t
seen every part of her (she physically resists the opportunity to tease him).
That he can’t catch her little quirks. That he doesn’t know how to handle her
at her worst cause he hasn’t even seen her like that yet. That he doesn’t know
if there are little somethings she’d wish he did for her, or if there were
things she wished he didn’t. That if she were brave enough to tell him things
he needed to hear about himself, or comfortable enough to hear him tell her in
It’s then that Yang realizes
why Jaune and Pyrrha broke up.
She almost asks but he knows
what the wideness in her eyes means. He isn’t bitter about it. He learned a
lot, clearly, and it’s a little sad – yes, just
a little – that they started too soon and started before they were ready. But
they’re okay and they’re back to being how they used to be. He still has
Pyrrha, just not in that way anymore. Nothing was ever truly lost in his eyes.
Just as nothing was lost
between herself and him by talking about her having feelings for him.
So they should forget the
feelings that never were and go watch something till they’re tired enough to
call it a night. Ylda Braveheart is
coming on in an hour and he’s already got a popcorn stockpile ready.
She grabs his wrist before he
The night was about to end so
anticlimactically that she decides to kiss him. She realizes half a second too
late that she probably shouldn’t have done that and that she wasn’t sure she
could blame it on the alcohol, but he’s kissing back and pulling her in by the
waist. He’s sucking at her tongue like he’s proving a point. And after she
moans just once, he pulls away.
Her breath is haggard and he
looks cuter than he did a minute ago. Her lips ache, an almost magnetic need to
pull him back in jolts her fingers into clutching at his shirt. Her heart
pulses, pushing breaths into her stomach that’s still flush against his own.
And… shit, she realizes that she’s
just ticked all her own boxes.
“See what I mean by how easy
it is to trick yourself?”
The serious look he’s giving
her – concerned, not stern – makes her feel a little guilty. She almost doesn’t
notice that he’s already at the kitchenette at one corner of their living room.
He gives her space but she
decides rather quickly that she isn’t the kind of girl that gets hung up on
She helps him with the bowls
and as the microwave pops the kernels, they spend the few minutes making ‘pop’
noises to try to sync with the popcorn. Cheering when they sync, laughing at
each other when they don’t. They forget what just happened and sit down to
watch Ylda Braveheart slay a dragon and wrestle her bodyguard.
It’s almost so terribly
awkward when they get up at the same time and don’t know if hugging is appropriate
or even necessary. They try anyway and decide that they shouldn’t say good night that way again.
Yang falls asleep a little
more at peace with herself.
Jaune comes out of his room
because they forgot to put the bowls away. When he’s done cleaning he’s staring
at her door and his fingers twitch.
He knows it isn’t love, but
the tingle in his lips is still there and he hadn’t felt warmth like that in a
while. He’d be lying if he didn’t say that it felt nice. She was undeniably a
His hand falls on his cheek.
There’s a burning warmth there too in the shape of someone’s lips and he wishes
so deeply that it would go away.
He pulls out the flask in his
pocket and takes a swig. It’s watered down so he can gulp without his cheeks
burning or losing his footing.
His eyes don’t drift to Yang’s
door. He wants them to. Wants to consider her an alternative to the drink. But
he can’t do that to a friend. Not to anyone.
So a measured buzz and a deep
sleep it is. He doesn’t have any good advice, least of all for himself.