braided bonding

/Winter had cherished those nights with Weiss. They were her only freedoms, the only decision she was allowed to make on her own. It was a weak rebellion but a rebellion all the same./

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Winter remembered when they were younger, before she left for the military, that she and Weiss used to stay up late at nights braiding each other’s hair. Her braids were always perfect, straight, not a hair out of place. Weiss’ were loose, messy, uneven in places.

Those sleepless, happy nights seemed a lifetime ago. They only occurred when their Father was out of the home and the servants were too exhausted to chide them for raiding the kitchen for all the foods they were typically restricted from.

Winter had cherished those nights with Weiss. They were her only freedoms, the only decision she was allowed to make on her own. It was a weak rebellion but a rebellion all the same.

So Winter packed her satchel full of various hair accessories and supplies. Her own lodgings were within walking distance of the school, so she walked directly up to her sister’s room.

It was Ruby that opened the door, in her pajamas. She squeaked in alarm upon seeing the older Schnee daughter, and bowed deeply and clumsily.

“Is Weiss here?” Winter asked, suddenly feeling quite childish with her bag of hair supplies.

“Yes! Please do come in, uh, welcome to our.…humble abode.” Ruby stammered, flinging the door open and making a show of sweeping her arms to their shared room.

Weiss was in one of those precariously unstable beds that Winter still did not approve of.

She sat up immediately upon seeing her sister, her eager happiness clear on her face. Winter always envied how open Weiss’ expressions were. Her emotions were always so obvious.

“Hello.” Winter greeted.

“What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you until the morning.” Weiss asked.

“I, well, I remembered how we used to do each other’s hair when we were younger and I thought it would be a nice way to catch up. And become familiar with your team.” She looked up to see her dark haired teammate and Qrow’s neices.

The blonde, Yang she thought it was, looked immediately suspicious and exchanged a wary glance at the dark haired girl. Blake, she recalled from the description her sister wrote, had an open book on her lap, and tucked her finger as she closed it to save her page.

“Really?” Weiss asked, standing up and striding eagerly to her sister.

Winter nodded and Weiss turned hopefully to her teammates. Ruby was the first to settle on the floor beside her, and immediately began digging through the wide expanse of ribbons, bows and pins Winter had stuffed into her bag.

Yang and Blake joined them, Yang already calling dibs on a vibrantly purple ribbon.

Winter had gone around and braided each of their hair, listening intently to them talking. They were a tight knit group. Winter was content that her sister had aquired such good friends.

With Ruby’s hair in her hands, she listened intently to her babble. She was in uninhibited, which Winter noted, and spoke freely. She was still a child, unburdened by the hardships of the outside world.

Winter felt herself envying her sister and her team. She had never been given the chance to bond with girls her age. Military Academy had been terribly strict and she was primarily surrounded by starched, frigid older men.

She looked up from Ruby’s braids when Weiss scooted closer to her, legs tucked beneath her.

Weiss gave her a small, tentative smile and Winter returned it.

Ruby’s hair ended up in twin braided pigtails, red ribbons on each end. She was absolutely enthralled by the short twin tails that poked from either side of her head.

Yang was wary of hands on her hair, but with much cajoling from both Weiss and Ruby, she gave in and allowed Winter to take a brush to it.

“You have beautiful hair.” Winter said, running her fingers through it to test the length.

“She knows.” The girls chorused.

Winter twisted a clump of blonde through her fingers and braided it neatly down Yang’s back, incorporating the purple ribbon into the braid as she went.

“You have a semblance similar to your Uncle’s, yes?” Winter asked. It was strange, attempting to build a conversation. She had never found it necessary to instigate conversation. Whenever she spoke to a person it was direct, to the point, no time for mindless chit chat.

“Yeah, I do. He taught me how to use it too.” Yang responded.

“I see. That must make you a very formidable opponent.” Winter said, patting Yang’s braid as a sign she had completed it.

Yang reached to touch the braid and she pulled it over her shoulder, grinning.

Winter looked expectantly to Blake, who was clearly skittish. She refused to part with her bow and Winter did not push the matter. She instead plaited a simple over the shoulder braid. Blake was a quiet girl, but she listened intently to her team members, smiling and adding in commentary at the right moments.

Weiss finally settled in front of her sister, practically vibrating in excitement. Winter rested a hand on her sister’s shoulder.

It was nice to talk without any worries of backlash or reprimands. She suddenly felt a surge of giddiness. She could say whatever she pleased and there would be no consequences.

“Can you put it up, Winter?” Weiss requested, holding up a hair tie for her sister to see.

“Of course.” Winter allowed, gathering up the pale loose curls and twisting them into a neat bun at the top of her head.

She pulled back Weiss’ bangs and braided them primly. A blue bow settled in front of the bun.

“This was fun.” Yang admitted, holding her knees to her chest.

Blake was toying with the end of her braid, golden eyes crossed just slightly as she picked at dead ends.

“Let’s do yours!” Ruby suggested, picking up a pale blue ribbon and waving it enthusiastically in front of Winter.

They convinced Winter to take down her hair and let them try their hand at braiding. She undid the ornate bun she styled her hair in each day, and the loose white curls fell down her back.

She had often thought of cutting her hair. The length was bothersome, it stifled her and got in the way in battle. Wearing it up was the next best option beside cutting it short.

“I haven’t seen your hair down in a long time.” Weiss said. “Not since you lived with Dad.”

“It’s not practical to wear it down. The military only allows specific styles, anyway.” She explained, brushing a lock over her shoulder.

“How do you want it then?” Yang asked, already sectioning off a layer to begin braiding.

“Surprise me.”

It turned out Yang was a skilled braider. She claimed that her and Ruby’s Mother taught her how. Blake was unexperienced, but a quick learner. Ruby was absolutely unskilled and Weiss had not improved by any means.

The girls were arguing over what to do with her hair and Winter sat with her hair spilling over her shoulders, loose and falling in soft curls.

It was…enjoyable to feel this childish again. The feel of hair tickling her elbows reminded her of her youth, when she would race around their home, chasing Weiss with toy swords, laughing.

That had been years ago. She doubted Weiss even remembered the silly game of Huntresses that they used to play. Weiss with a single spongy toy sword and Winter with two.

Winter shook away the guilt curling in her stomach. She mourned for the childhood she had lost, but especially for the one Weiss had lost as well.

She was torn from her reverie when the heavy rapping of a fist on the door echoed through the room. Yang stood up to answer, braid swishing behind her back. She let out a joyful shout and called that her Uncle Qrow was there. He followed her in and Winter sat up straighter.

“No friggin’ way.” Qrow snorted when he saw her. His eyes were red around the edges and she heavily suspected he had been drinking that evening.

“Hello, Qrow.” She greeted, dryly.

“Felt like a girls night, Ice Queen?” He asked, nudging a stray ribbon with the toe of his shoe.

“Winter was visiting Weiss and stayed to braid our hair!” Ruby explained, pointing proudly to her little pigtails.

Qrow tilted his head slightly and grinned.

“Who knew you had a soft side.” He goaded.

Winter rolled her eyes and stood. She suddenly felt ridiculous, with her hair undone and unkempt, dressed in casual clothing. Her hand reached for her weapon and she remembered she had left it behind. Her only protection were the small twin blades tucked into her boots.

She brushed her hair aside, over her shoulder, not quite catching the softening in Qrow’s eyes, how his expression shifted just slightly.

“I believe that is my cue to leave.” She announced. She turned to Weiss. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Weiss nodded, smiling.

“Winter! It was…fun having you here. We should do this again.” Weiss said, shyly, smiling.

Winter’s chest clenched just slightly and she smiled, a true smile, and nodded. “I agree.”

She turned again, smile still on her lips, and swept past Qrow.

He looked odd, confused almost. He didn’t meet her eyes when she passed, but he watched her go, hair sweeping down her back.

He cleared his throat, coughing loudly into his fist.

“Shit.”