Brushing the caked dirt out from his bangs from his latest clinch to the floor, Jaune Arc whipped up his hair back and brought himself to a stand. As his hand bounced from ground to knee, his opponent spoke.
“You’re still too narrow with your feet.” He turned swiftly before being met with the cocky smirk of Pyrrha Nikos, the two being on one of their private sparring lessons atop the dormitory roof. Jaune lashed his arms out and in, ready for another bout, before making the bumbling straight charge that has practically become his trademark.
Pyrrha didn’t even have to move. Grasping Jaune’s incoming fist, Pyrrha blasted her palm against his elbow, shocking the rest of his arm into flaccidity. With his noodled limb she lashed him forward, plunging her kneecap directly into his stomach. As the air squirmed out of Jaune’s windpipe, Pyrrha squished her hand into his face, lobbing him backwards into the harsh, familiar arms of the ground. Jaune grunted as his face grated against the stone, slumping lazily onto his back once he came to a stop.
“You know, if I had my sword I’d be doing a lot better.” He whined as he sat up and brushed his thumb over the new skid mark occupying his cheek. Pyrrha, hands already at the hips, cocked up a sarcastic eyebrow.
“You want me to get your shield as well?” Jaune’s eyes curled up to his bangs as Pyrrha pursed her lips in her small victory of zingers. As her friend attempted to blow his hair out of his vision, the red-headed girl strolled over and laid her hand out for him.
“Oh, you’re so hilarious.” Jaune spat out as he reached out to Pyrrha, only to have her yank her fingers back in playful caution.
“You’re not gonna try and flip me when I help you up like last time, are you? I still think I almost dislocated your shoulder that time.” Jaune groaned at the jeer before quickly grasping Pyrrha’s and pulling himself to his feet.
“I think I learned my lesson from last time.” Patting the bits of dust that clung to the rear of his pants, Jaune gave a quiet sigh of disappointment, immediately sparking Pyrrha’s concern. “I really hope I don’t lose my sword and shield when I’m out there. I’m making practically zero progress with these.” Jaune dangled his fists before the red head, letting them hang lose like shoes on a wire. Pyrrha gave a small chuckle, before caressing one of the limp mitts in her own.
“Well we can’t glue the sword to your hand, now can we? Our fists and heels are the maces and flails we’re born with. It’s more about the mind and perception than the sternness of the hands.” Using her other hand, Pyrrha dotted Jaune’s forehead with her finger. “Once you learn to perceive and react fast enough to others, the hands will mold along by themselves.” Jaune’s head leant to the side, housing his familiar goofy grin.
“Heh, you know…that kinda rhymed.” Pyrrha rolled her eyes in a playful manner.
“Really? All this advice I’m giving you and THAT’S what sticks?” Jaune gave a shrug, only now realizing the stupidity of his joke. Pyrrha smirked, giving him a hard shove on the shoulder before returning to her unarmed fighting stance. “Let’s try this again.”
Collapsing on top of one of the nearby benches, Jaune let out a harsh exhausted groan that didn’t even sound human. Pyrrha herself took a seat against the stone bannister, panting with the aftermath of physical exertion she didn’t expect. Whisking her hair out of her face, she turned to Jaune.
“You mind telling me…where’d that last round…come from?” She asked, her sentence chopped up by wheezes. Jaune had some sort of sudden breakthrough in the last bout they had, suddenly able to actually grab and halt her attacks rather than just block and deflect them. The boy’s unnaturally-strong grip left Pyrrha’s wrists sore, shown by her rubbing the sides of them. However, regardless of Jaune’s iron clutches his endurance levels left much to be desired. The boy was dough, sweaty, exhausted, now-indolent dough splayed on the bench.
“ I…I dunno. I guess I just…found a groove and…went with it.” The dough replied. Jaune then attempted to curl up and sit straight, but his fatigue whisked him back down like a full bag of sand. Pyrrha stretched her shoulder and neck before finally getting back up to her feet, helping her gelatinous friend off of the planked seating. The lateness of the day and booming of their muscles both heeded them to head back to their room, and so they went.
“You know, we made a lot of progress today, Jaune.” Pyrrha and Jaune had just turned the first corner in a row of three on their way to their dorms. Jaune hadn’t noticed but she had been massaging her wrists the whole way, but Pyrrha didn’t let on, choosing to mask the discomfort with conversation.
“If you say so, Pyrrha.” Jaune was lamenting on his performance, feeling that despite all their sparring and practice, his skill level remained weighted to zero. As he reminisced, Pyrrha continued to babble on about technique, aura usage and other battle jargon that muffled against Jaune’s ears. Rooting up from looking at his lack of combat knowledge, Jaune began to look at himself as a whole.
He was just average, below that even when it came to his track record at Beacon. His move-set composed of swish, slash and stab, his maneuvering judgment and aura gauging skills were deplorable, and his study habits were mostly composed to sleep and cram. Then…he looked at Pyrrha, and all that she had done for him.
Helping him fight off the Grimm in the forest, standing up for him whenever Cardin and his entourage stirred up trouble…offering up her time to help him improve his abilities. He had thought of this before, why she, a star student at the top of her game, would go out of her way to help a mid-class grunt like him.
At first he believed pity to be the reason, but in all the times she and Jaune were together, he never caught such a look in her eye. Plus, nobody sinks this much time and energy into someone’s growth out of sympathy.
Another reason he thought may have been repentance, that maybe she had looked down upon the lesser-skilled, regretted it, and now sought to redeem herself by bettering those she once mocked. This reason was oozing with plausibility, but Jaune could not link it to her. She was always so honest and sincere with all of her words, finding absolutely no hint of reluctance or pique, regardless if it was currently present or now only echoed in her intentions.
The third reason was like a bad joke in that Jaune wouldn’t even consider it possible…that she liked him, like “liked him liked him” as many of the girls around Beacon would giddily put it. Pyrrha and Jaune, together…the idea sounded like a bad romance fan fiction in Jaune’s head, but still…there had been signs.
Ever since the two had met in that locker room, Pyrrha always sought Jaune’s favor out. When Weiss pulled the curtain on his fake-macho act, Pyrrha was there to bring him back up. Then there was the Emerald Forest where not only did she save him from being thrust into the ground like a thumbtack to cork-board, but went out of her way to seek him out as a team member. Those moments of sincerity, coupled with her offer of training all knocked against the boy’s head, screaming “she likes you, she like you” like whiney children.
It seemed so obvious to him at times...but Jaune was never one to make insinuations without hard proof. All of these occurrences could simply be genuine acts of kindness that he was blowing out of proportion. Plus, even if anything were to actually happen, wouldn’t he be putting the team at risk? Did beacon allow couples in teams? Questions mercilessly whiplashed Jaune’s head, causing his temples to pound as he stared off into space. However, the once ambient muffling of his teammate began to amplify, soon joined in by the staccato of her snapping fingers.
“Jaune? Jauneeeeeeee?! You still with us?” After realizing the length of his blackout, Jaune shook his head, followed by his trademark nervous chuckle. Pyrrha rolled her eyes before turning her attention to the door lock, slipping out the room keycard out of her pocket. After sliding it through she began to type in the room code on the holographic number-pad, bending over to do so.
Jaune tried so hard to keep his gaze on the wall, but they just wouldn’t have it. They wormed down across the doorway, the door, Pyrrha’s head…he ripped his head back in desperation, but it just keep reeling him in. Even under the uniform, some-what boring academy clothes Pyrrha’s athletic, curvacious figure beamed through. The school jacket and frilled shirt seemed to enhance her endowment for some reason, maybe because when in armor it was always constricted and stuffed down. Her legs, clad in black leggings we lean and perfect in size, looking strong enough to break stone yet still slender and capable of grace.
Jaune never looked at Pyrrha this way before. It was…weird, almost scary. He began to wonder why he hadn’t seen her in this light before; Pyrrha was an absolute bombshell: a pro-athlete with perfect grades, perfect features, perfect personality…why the hell was his head up in the clouds the whole time he was with her? With all of the praise and pedestal-propping Weiss threw at him when they first met, the ONE thing that stuck out was being a cereal mascot! CEREAL! How does that outdo being the Mistral Tournament champion in terms of interest!? Jaune’s self-scolding only stopped once he heard the unhinging of the door, his eyes and stance shifting right back to pre-mental debate position.
“Home sweet home.” Pyrrha sighed, tossing the keycard onto the nearby table. Her hands interlocked and raked up into the air with muscle cracks stalking the action, themselves followed by a groan of relief. “Hmm, I’m surprised Ren and Nora aren’t back yet. They must be taking that history final really seriously to trap themselves in the library this long.” Jaune remained quiet, exhausted from his bout of internal self-nagging. He trudged across the carpet and leapt onto his bed, burying his head deep into the cushion and cloth. Taking a seat on the side facing away from Jaune, Pyrrha continued to massage her wrists one last time before she put her fingers to work on the school jacket. Jaune had rolled over to his back, watching Pyrrha work off the clasps before she finally peeled the clothing off. She did it slow for some reason, maybe because her exhaustion slugged her movements down to a snail-crawl pace…or maybe she was doing that on purpose. This kickstarted the boy’s habit of over-analysis once more; maybe she has always taken off her jacket this way and Jaune didn’t feel the impact until now? What if everything she had done for, to and with him was a reach out for attention and acknowledgement. The confusion twisted and raved in the back of Jaune’s head, all from his teammate simply stripping off her jacket.
Letting the cover fall onto the sheets, Pyrrha kicked off the ebony heals that were crab-clawing her feet at this point. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as she stroked the bottoms of her heel. She had a habit of bending her toes down in order to crack them, which of course she did, each pop loosening her muscles and giving her back the once-curdled flexibility.
“I call the shower first!” Pyrrha shouted, tossing her shoes into their residential corner across the room. She patted off the plaid skirt before making her way towards the washroom, setting off Jaune’s panic mode. It was at this moment that his courage was at its highest peak, and he knew that if he let Pyrrha walk into that room and close the door, the ensuing simmering of the thought would cause him to back down and leave the matter for time to kill. He had to ask her now, right now! C'mon Arc! GROW a pair and just SAY IT! C'MON!
“Pyrrha…” Jaune shot up from his bed as Pyrrha wrapped her hand around the bathroom’s door knob. Opening it she replied with a casual tenor.
“Yes, Jaune?” Jaune’s throat and voice pounded against each other like a pickaxe mining its way out of the dark. His gut was a knotted mess and his skin was spewing with tense secretion, but Jaune’s lips tore his teeth apart and forced his maw to open.
“Do you…like me?” Silence cloaked the room, tying itself around the two as nether moved an inch. For a good few seconds this quiet remained, until Pyrrha’s head lowered down.
“W-What do you mean?” Jaune was already in the deep, he couldn’t chicken out to shore now. He straightened up in his seat and spoke with a voice twice as stern as the previous.
“What you think it means.” Pyrrha slowly turned her head to the point that Jaune could see the glimmer of her jade-green eye. In that little sliver he could see his past panic mirrored, albeit much more expertly contained than his. Pyrrha’s hand slid off the door as she heaved a deep, surrendering breath.
“Did Yang tell you? Or Blake? Or Nora?” Jaune’s eyes sank in, it was true. It was true and everybody knew it except him.
“They all knew?” He asked, sounding a tad offended. Pyrrha gave a nervous chuckled before turning around, leaning up against the wall that neighbored the door with arms latched her back.
“Yang said it was practically gushing from me…Blake too. Nora just said something along the lines of that we’d look cute together, girl talk or whatever…” Pyrrha looked out towards the window, as if disappointed. Jaune was speechless, letting his eyes drop down towards the carpet as he took it in. So…Pyrrha like him, it was established. He didn’t know if he should be ecstatic, cautious, surprised; he just wondered…
“Why?” The confusion stank his sentence, noted by Pyrrha’s face suddenly souring at the brow.
“What do you mean, why?” Pyrrha sounded roiled, thinking Jaune’s habit of doubting himself and thinking that he was inadequate was beginning to start up. Jaune’s eyes twitched around as he continued, with Pyrrha slowing making her way down towards her own bed that faced him.
“Well…uh, I mean…you’re just…you’re you…and I’m just…me. It’s like, you’ve got all these great accomplishments and stuff…and I’m just…a guy.” Jaune realized how nonsensical he sounded as his words tumbled out like a toppled rack of wine.
“I’m not seeing an argument here, Jaune.” The girl replied, taking a seat before her leader. The blonde-haired boy groaned, stroking the space between his forehead as he tried to formulate a coherent sentence. Finally, he figured it out.
“It’s just…I don’t see the attraction?” Pyrrha thought back to when Yang first confronted her about it, those being her exact words. Leaning back and looking to the ceiling, she gathered up what she remembered saying to her friend that day, preparing to repeat the entire schpeel.
“I’ll tell you why…Jaune, I’ve been in this spotlight for quite a while now, I learned to hold a spear the same year I learned to walk. It’s practically in my blood, and while I enjoy the sports and the tournaments, the life is just…it’s full of horrid people. Every competition is full of angry coaches, pompous sponsors, and egotistical sports stars who think that they own the world because they can bench press whatever number of pounds. It’s exhausting having to worm through perverted patrons and disingenuous contenders after every single event. To be honest, I wonder why everybody else was able to become so conceited and arrogant, while I just…floated around.
“I moved away from that life to come here, to Beacon, hoping that nobody would know me or at least have very limited knowledge. But, of course out of nowhere comes Weiss Schnee, practically groveling to me at every which way. But then you came along, you and your whole goofy faux-confidence act cobbled together to impress Weiss. Then you turned to me and tried to sell the same deal, only for her to come back and spill everything out. You know, when you said you never heard of the Sanctum Academy or the Mistral Regionals I wanted to just hug you.” Pyrrha was near-squeeing at this point, so she took a moment to calm down and resumed her story.
“I knew you’d be a great friend but I didn’t expect it to morph into…something else. You treated me just like every other person, there was no pedestal already cleaned and prepared for you to put me on. I guess along the way, something clicked; I love helping you, being around you, more so than anybody else here at Beacon. I would say it’s weird but it feels too right.” Jaune’s face was redder than the carpet their feet rested on, having built up from the second Pyrrha began. He had no idea how to react, stuck with zero words and zero thoughts besides shock.
“Sooo…uh, what do we do now?” Pyrrha’s mouth pursed as her eyes lightly clenched, becoming focused, near-predatory. Jaune leant back cautiously, not expecting this kind of reaction. After a few moments of staring, Pyrrha shot up from her seat on the bed, still glaring intensely at her leader. She then made her way towards him with a stern, slow deliberation. Then, echoing that night they first sparred at the rooftop, she grabbed his shoulders and shoved him back. Only this time she didn’t follow up with a criticism of his fighting stance. No, this time, she climbed on top of him.
Jaune was freaking out on the inside, he had no idea was to do or if that he should do anything at all. This was a new Pyrrha Nikos, some sort of repressed, powerful side kept contained until this very moment. She was forceful and overpowering, her stare being enough to keep Jaune quiet and unmoving. They remained there for a moment, before Pyrrha drew herself near and shut her eyes, landing a deep, long-awaited kiss on Jaune’s lips. The only thing the boy could do was look into space, before his own eyes slipped closed, surrendering.
Her lips were flavored with the taste of plum, but that was the very last thing on Jaune’s mind, especially since Pyrrha was pushing her body against him. Despite her athletic ability and superior build, she was so…warm. Jaune could feel her aura emanate like the shimmering glow of a lantern in the night, enveloping them both in an invisible blanket. Pyrrha ruled the kiss, moving her hand up and practically grasping onto Jaune’s cheek, letting everything she had held in those past few months paint the path for her tongue.
This went on for a good four minutes before Pyrrha was forced to let go, taking a deep breath. Jaune was in a complete daze, watching as Pyrrha looked up towards the wall, then back down to him. A soft smile ran across her face, before breaking for her to speak.
“Been wanting to do that since the Forever Falls…” They both let out a pair of goofy chuckles while Pyrrha moved over to Jaune’s side, wrapping her arm around his chest. She slowly nestled and nuzzled into him, taking care to keep her head-crest from stabbing into his collarbone. Jaune still had questions, a ton of them flooding his mind’s contemplative door, but at this moment he deafened their knocks. He was in a moment of pure bliss, with an amazing girl embraced in his arm, a wave of golden confidence and newly-unearthed happiness waded in around him.
Though glad to have it now, he wished he had seen it sooner. He knew he would forever kick himself for being so oblivious.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Nora and Ren hurried across the halls of the dorm; how could they lose track of time so badly that they were fumbling around to put their books back at ten at night? Not caring if their noise would wake up their fellow dorm-mates, the two rushed at the door and dug around their pockets for the key. Ren whipped out out of one of his sleeves and slide it in as Nora punched in the code, having learned it by heart at this point. Once the pad beeped for them to go, they ripped the door open, shuffled inside, and clubbed it closed.
“We…are so lucky…Goodwitch didn’t catch us…I told you to keep track of the time.” Ren scolded, leaning up against the door. He and Nora slid down to the floor, exhausted.
“I’m sorry, Ren. It’s just I found this book on explosive modification and how I could apparently manipulate dust to form little hearts when the smoke fad-” Her rambling soon quieted as he watched Ren look out into the far side of the room. Following his eyes, Nora soon found herself staring at Pyrrha and Jaune, still in each others arms, gazing back at them with the same sort of blank look.