Listen to Photograph by Ed Sheeran while reading - I highly recommend it, for maximum angst.
I smile and, as I look into her eyes, the pain in my heart diminishes a little when I see them again.
She’s smiling as we stand in front of a coffee shop somewhere in Vale.
I can remember it still…
“Yang!” I laugh as she places her croissant right above her mouth like a mustache and mimes strutting about like Weiss’ father.
She smirks and raises an eyebrow. “Who’s Yang? I am Gustav Schnee.”
I don’t say anything. Instead, I slip my scroll out of my pocket and snap a picture while she’s striking the most ridiculous pose with the croissant mustache still in place.
“Kitty!” She yells indignantly, narrowing her lilac eyes at me. I laugh again as she tries futilely to grab my scroll.
“You can’t do those ridiculous poses without expecting me to take a picture!” I chastise, trying to keep the phone out of the taller woman’s reach. She flails for it, a big smile on her face.
Passersby stare at us curiously, but I couldn’t care less.
Finally, Yang gives up and pouts in a really adorable way, taking a bite of her croissant.
“Fine. Be that way.”An even bigger smile blooms on my face as I step close to her, wrapping my arms around her waist and burying my face in her chest. She’s warm; a welcome difference to the freezing winter air.
A chuckle rumbles from the woman I cling to, and then I feel her take the scroll out of my hands. I start to protest, but then she flips the camera and, grinning like a lunatic, captures the moment in perfect HD quality.
Time freezes for me as I lean back into the couch and sigh, glancing over at my mug of untouched tea.
I flip the page of the book in my lap, another picture staring me in the face. Another snapshot of my life with Yang, this one from another time.
Our last day at Beacon Academy.
She always seemed so confident. But today, standing in front of the double glass doors of the Academy where’d she’d spent the past four years, she seemed… nervous. Anxious.
And yet, excited.
A manic gleam in her eyes seemed to tell the world to do its best-- she would still come out on top.
I trace her face in the photo. So strong… So confident.
The picture had even managed to catch that exact look in her eyes. The take-on-the-world one. The one that, over the years, I would come to know was her defence mechanism. In the face of danger, most people would become weaker. Yang got stronger.
Ruby fidgets nervously, fingers clenching and unclenching around her scythe while Weiss snaps at her to stand still. Yang is just as filled with restless energy as she bounces from foot to foot, glancing impatiently at Jaune as he drops the scroll again.
“Jaune! Just hurry up and take the picture already!” Weiss hisses, glaring at the young blond as he fumbles with the scroll again.
“Sorry, sorry! It’s just… Your scroll is so much fancier than what I’m used to…”
Weiss sighs impatiently, “Hold the yellow button for three seconds. And then tap on the camera icon while swiping left with your other hand.”
Yang’s lips twitch with a suppressed smile, and I struggle as well to keep a straight face.
Finally, Jaune finds the camera function and directs the scroll at my team and I. “Say cheese!”
It’s getting harder for me to turn the page- to keep going through the photos, the memories, of my time with Yang.
We’re in bed, her arm around me as I stare sleepily at the camera.
Ah. This one…
I feel the body next to me shift slightly, and I try to snuggle closer to it. To the warm, comfortable heat. Yang chuckles and wraps a strong arm around me, pulling me closer to her.
She sits up, and my head follows, landing in her lap. I groan.
Another low chuckle, and then I feel her reach for something across from me.
I am falling back under the dark blanket of sleep when I feel Yang poke me in the ribs.
I lazily pull the blanket over my head.
She pulls it away. “Kiiiittyy caaaat!”
“Go away, Yang…” I mumble sleepily, glaring up at her.
She smirks. “Say cheese!”
Frozen. Frozen in time.
That is what those moments depicted here are.
Moments that have been captured, frozen. Kept for later viewing.
For me. Now.
I see a small splotch on the page and move my finger over to it.
Another splotch stains the paper.
I bring my hand up to my face.
The book in my hand starts shaking and I squeeze my eyes shut.
I thought I could do it.
I can’t. I’m not strong. Not strong like Yang is…
But… I know that no matter how painful this feels, no matter how many sorrowful tears fall from my exhausted person, that it is also exactly what I need. The small feeling that a part of her is still with me. Is still watching over me. The small jolt of happiness and that fleeting moment of ease in my heart when I see her laughing, smiling face.
Orange streaks the sky, mixing with pink and red in a myriad of beautiful colors. Only half of the sun can be seen as it slowly sinks below the horizon. The wispy clouds float lazily above a crystal sea which reflects the lights of the sky.
But nothing is more beautiful than the woman sitting before me, legs dangling precariously off the edge of the cliff, a big, goofy smile on her face.
Lilac eyes turn towards me and I feel my heart flutter a little, my hands clutching the stem of my wineglass a little bit harder as I bite my lip.
She cocks her head, the smile dissipating by a small fraction.
“Would you like some more wine?”
I shake my head, setting the glass down. I am afraid that it will fall from my grip and roll over the edge to shatter on the rocks below.
Yang looks a little confused as I shift closer to her.
No. Not confused.
I slowly reach a hand towards her face, cupping her cheek in my palm. She leans into it a little bit, a small smile on her lips.
I mirror the smile as I shift even closer, tilting my face up to meet hers…
The sunset was captured perfectly, although the edge of one of Yang’s fingers was visible on the corner of the photograph.
A weak smile lifts the corner of my lips, and I let out a strangled noise somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
Oh, how she’d complained about that small imperfection on the otherwise perfect photograph.
I clench my eyes shut, fingers tightening their death grip on the photo album.
So many memories. So many moments, captured and frozen in time.
I turn the page.
Me, laughing without a care in the world on Weiss’ birthday.
The two of us out with the team in Vacuo.
Another date -- this time at an arcade, Yang holding a giant stuffed Grimm plush.
Yang and I standing in front of Beacon.
A selfie of us somewhere in Mistral.
A shot of Yang animatedly telling a story at a campfire.
My vision blurred. More splotches on the paper.
I start turning the pages faster and faster, until there is only one left.
My sight clears to see it, and I nearly drop the book.
Yang standing in this exact living room, in her armor.
Exactly one year ago today.
The last time I’d seen her.
A muffled thump as the book slips out of my grasp that I barely register.
I grab the pillow sitting next to me and bury my face into it, inhaling the scent.
Somehow, it still smells of her. A blend of spice and sweat with a hint of cologne.
My body shakes as I let loose the tears I’ve been trying so hard to hold back.
I miss her.
I miss her.
There isn’t anything in the world I wouldn’t give to see her face in person one last time. To touch her, to hear her voice, to feel her lips on mine.
One last time.
I lift my face away from the pillow, the white fabric covering on it damp with my tears. I raise my eyes to the table across from me, gaze landing on the two golden gauntlets lying on it.
A memory rose to my mind -- I can see it vividly, hear and feel every detail with perfect clarity.
A mental photograph.
“Relax, Blakey. It’s only for a day.” Yang reassured me for what was probably the sixtieth time that morning as she reached for one of her gauntlets.
“But… I’ll miss you…” I mumbled, cheeks reddening. I automatically looked around the house to check that we were alone and then turned my gaze to the floor.
Her stern expression softened and she walked over to me, her boots making loud thumping noises on the hardwood floor. They seemed to echo throughout the otherwise empty house.
I felt a warm hand cup my face and I nuzzled into it, closing my eyes. Yang tilted my face upwards.
“Open your eyes, Blake.”
Slowly, I cracked open my eyelids to see Yang staring into my eyes with a burning intensity. Her lilac orbs seemed endless, and I felt like I could get lost in their depths forever.
“It’s just a routine hunting assignment with Ruby.” She repeated, the corners of her lips pulling up momentarily before she leaned in to kiss me. Brief and sweet. Loving and caring.
Yang pulled away, a hand reaching towards the gauntlets resting on the table.
“Just… Wait for me to come home.”
Those were the words that I would remember for a long time to come. Those six words, her last ones to me.
The only promise she’d ever broken.
“Wait for me to come home.”