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Petals that Dance in the Wind

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Qrow looked up at the bright morning sun. The fortress of the Mabino was laid out below him, he hated this place. Not because it was old fashioned or out of the way. Nor because it was an official settlement. No he hated it because it kept him from his wife. She who was several days late on her due date. He could feel flickers of her misery over the bond, the distance muted it but he could grasp it and when he listened he could feel her. Qrow reached back and set his hand on Harbinger, the blade had been spilling human blood more then Grimm as of late. Xaio Roi had been using him to clean house. Ozpin was forced to allow it, the fact that it helped Mistral and his reputation.

A scuff from behind him had Qrow whipping around to find the king of bandits upon Anima behind him. Xaio Roi’s hawkish feature and curly black had become a familiar sight. The lavish finery of his suit was colour in red and blue. “Qrow.” The king nodded.

“Roi.” Qrow turned away looking back out into the settlement. Smoke curling into the air from chimines, the smell of fresh bread catching on the wind.

“You know, I was quite put out when you came without your wife.” Xaio Roi said as he walked with an exaggerated cock of his hip.

“Yeah but she has school and was too pregnant to leave the city.” Qrow forced his fingers to release Harbinger’s grip.

“She is due now yes?” Xaio Roi watched Qrow carefully with grey stormy eyes.

“Now.”

“Then go, I will not keep you from your wife when the birth of your child is around the corner.” Xaio Roi said. “Tell Ozpin that I still wish to meet him, when the school takes it’s break I expect him to come visit. Bring your wife and child as well.”

“I will relay your message.” Qrow said and stepped back before transforming into his crow shape and taking to the air.

The flight always took a couple days. They were torturous days, feeling Ruby more and more feeling her pain. He passed over farms with manpower several times over what would be considered normal. Thanks to Ozpin’s Huntsmen’s teams providing safe transport out to the farmsteads, Dust trade was slightly restored, but the council was wisely stockpiling it for winter. Thus farm hands were still in high demand.

Qrow flew over the main roads scanning for Grimm but the teams had gone a good job and he found none. He was flying up the city towards Lydia’s house, their house. When he felt it, a lash of pain across the bound, sharper, stabbing worse then all the others. His wings faltered as he managed the bond as best as he was able and the pain. He added as much speed to his flight as he dared, wings flapping furiously. It didn’t make much to guess that Ruby’s waters had finally broken.


 

 Ozpin was helping Glynda with her combat class. They were doing another mass spar, annoying reporters were on the edges of the training yard. Their presence had been getting worse as the months pressed on. Oz wasn’t sure what more they expected to get out of him or the others, none of them were talking now but they still persisted like a murder of vultures. Ruby wasn’t able to run the same as before from them, her pregnancy was starting to tap her Aura, more and more as her due date drew closer. Now she was past it and even when she tried to use her Aura for something as simple as protecting herself it never lasted more than a few seconds. They had been worried at first, at least till Lydia had produced a journal from her mother reporting the same thing.

So they had chalked it up to being a quirk of her soul. Still when she couldn’t hold an Aura anymore Ruby started to stay at home. Doctor Rutile had moved no small amount of medical equipment to a room that Lydia had set aside for when Ruby ultimately went into labour. Ren had been taking additional medical training just in cause Rutile was busy. A dong sounded, signalling the end to classes and as Ozpin brushed down his trousers a reporter came up to him.

She was a tall curly blonde woman. In a horrible green pin suit, her skirt was on the short side and she had an awful skin handbag. Even her glasses were a distasteful red. She hand her Scroll out held nonchalantly between a few fingers. “Headmaster can I have a word. You’ve been managing Haven for the last five months but have refused to give any statement.”

“I have nothing to say to you. I’ve been busy restoring this city to some semblance of functional. My private life is just that, private.” Ozpin turned on his heel and started to walk away.

Undeterred the blonde followed behind him, her heels clicking on the floor. “How is your charming wife? She’s been absent from school for the better part of a week now. Tell me, did you force that child on her? To stay away from the school? What about Qrow? My digging has found that he’s been your lover for a long time. Was she just your surrogate?”

Ozpin turned a half step back to her, he could see the students milling around, some of them pointedly turned away while a few watched with interest. “Ruby has made every choice on her own. It was she who invited me and the child is not mine genetically. It was an accident and she chose to keep it.”

“Why would she do that? She’s so young with all of her life ahead of her. It’s even getting in the way of her schooling.”

Oz hated the sickly sweetness of her voice, the insincerity of it was like grating chalk on a board. “Less then you would think, after all two of her partners have been teachers as is her father. The child has not hindered her progress and she is at a higher level than many of her peers.”

“Ohhhh, that’s sweet.” The woman put a long red fingernail on her lip. “Big bad Huntsman like you sticking up for her… Is that why you picked her out at Beacon? Because she was special, a cut above her peers?” And there it was, the snake hidden in the grass, Gods he hated reporters. He should have just noped out of there the minute her mouth opened.

“Hardly.” Ozpin turned away and started to walk away when the pain hit him. That stabbing agony in his guts, only it wasn’t from him. Everyone saw him go very pale. “Ren, home now!” He didn’t waste time and ran his Aura making him vanish into a blurr and jumped clear out of the school.

 


 

    Ruby was in Lydia’s garden harvesting her raspberries when the pain stabbed her. “Owww.” She dropped her basket and grabbed at her lower stomach. She felt the wet slash hit her panties. “Lydia!” She screamed, she fell to her knees. The pain was unlike anything else she’d ever experienced.

    The older woman came racing from the house, while she appeared to be a woman in her sixties. She moved like a woman of thirty. “Ruby.” She came to a stop and pulled Ruby up to her feet. The upright position sent another wave of pain through her, almost forcing her back on her knees if not for Lydia’s firm hold. “Come on, you need to get inside.”

    “Ow ow ow.” Ruby took a few deep breaths as, Lydia helped her stand and walk into the house. They made slow progress to a room on the second level of the house. The stairs were a challenge but they managed and Ruby staggered into the room Lydia had set up. It had a fireplace though it was dark now but more importantly there was a table covered with medical supplies. Before the fireplace several large absorbent pads covered in a sheet so Ruby had a place to walk if she felt up to it. Lastly a small double bed, with easily cleaned bedding.

    Lydia helped Ruby out of her pull over dress and get her panties off. “Come on lay down.”

    “Gods why does this hurt so much already!” Ruby got into the bed and Lydia helped propped her up with several pillows.

    “It’s your body telling you what is going on.” Lydia reached out and pressed gently on Ruby’s belly trying to find the baby’s head. It was facing down and Lydia let out a sigh of relief. “She seems to be facing the right way. I’ll call Rutile.” Lydia rushed from the room.

    Not thirty seconds later Ruby heard the front door crash open and pounding footsteps on the stairs. The door was thrown open to allow Ozpin to race over to her. “I felt it through the bond, are you alright!?”

    “I’m fine, it’s normal.” Ruby leaned up as Ozpin came over and kissed her softly.

    Ren had went straight for the medical table and grabbed a stethoscope, put the buds in his ears before pressing the cold head of it to Ruby’s belly.

    “Hey cold!” Ruby squawked.

    “Shh.” Ren said moving it around and listening. “Everything seems right. Have you felt any contractions yet?”

    “No my water just broke.” Ruby said. “It hurts less, then it did a couple moments ago.”

    “Okay, hopefully Rutile will be here soon.” Ren pulled the stethoscope off and put it away.

    As he spoke another set of steps came up the stairs and Qrow burst in. “Are you ok-” Qrow’s breath caught as he took in Ruby’s very pregnant form. It had been a several weeks and she looked so beautiful. The pain had departed enough that the colour had returned to her cheeks. “You look beautiful.”

    Ruby blushed at his dumbfounded expression. “Yeah well I don’t feel it, how’d you get here so fast?”

    “I had a feeling you’d be soon and Roi let me go early.” He crossed the space and Ozpin moved to let Qrow embrace her. “Beyond that I felt your pain through the bond.”

    “Oh sorry, I’ve been trying to shield it.”  Ruby winced as a contraction occurred. “Gosh whatever happened to the early labour stage?”

    “Maybe it was too mild for you to notice?” Ozpin offered, his left arm was aching as per usual. It had gone from feeling nothing to a deep near constant ache a few months ago. “Lie would you help me take my brace off?”

    “Sure, letting it breath would be a good idea too.” Lie said.

    Ozpin heard the front door open as the others arrived and joined Ren by the medical table. The younger man helped unbuckle and remove the protective layers. He removed his vest and shirt as well, it would be easiest to not get the cream everywhere. Oz shivered when the withered limb was exposed to the air. It wasn’t the black husk of months before, instead the ‘skin’ had evened out and had taken on a very angry red and white appearance. Skin had started to grow around his shoulder but no further. Lie grabbed a white cream and started to apply it in a thick layer. Back when the arm had finally stopped bleeding when Jaune applied his Semblance. Doctor Rutile had prescribed a cream to help protect the new flesh and sooth the ever present inflammation and flaking. It still had to be covered most of the time but over time it was getting aesthetically better.

    “Feeling anything?” Lie asked as he massaged the cream into the skin.

    “A little.” Ozpin pursed his lips and tried probably for the ten thousandth time to move his fingers. Unlike all the other times he got the tiniest twitch, the skin all but creaked in protest. “They moved!” Oz grinned as Ruby tried to see from the bed.

    Lie pulled away and sure enough saw the twitch that made Ozpin so happy. He gently took the fingers in his hands. “Try again, I’ll help.”

    “Okay, three two one.” Ozpin tried to curl his fist and Lie moved the fingers in time. Pain lashed up his arm like wildfire as if something was grating on his bones and nerves. Oz snapped his free hand up to bite down on it to mask the scream of pain. Lie gently moved the fingers back to rest. “At least you can feel it. You’ll have to tell Rutile after Ruby’s done her labour, she’ll probably want to start you on some sort of physiotherapy.”

    The tall man let go of his hand and took several steadying breaths. “Maybe, I think it still needs more time.”

    Qrow had left for a minute to change into clean clothes. Choosing slacks though going shirtless, the room was kept cool but the heat from outside was infectious. He got back to Ruby just in time to hold her hand through another contraction. Ruby took big slow breaths. “Help me walk a bit? I don’t want to be sitting for who knows how long.” 

    “Of course.” Qrow helped Ruby out of bed and to the padded ground before the fireplace.

    Watching Ruby’s steps get more steady made Ozpin hoped that maybe this wouldn’t be too hard on her. They had been informed that the first baby was often the hardest. That they might be here for a day or more. Ozpin got up and moved over to her, Ruby gave him a weak smile but paused to let him embrace her in that one armed hug she’d grown accustomed to.

    Lydia finally returned with a tray of tea and sandwiches. “Doctor Rutile will be here in half an hour. I brought snacks, as we will likely be here for the long haul.”

    Ruby only had a few sips of tea and nibbled a sandwich before another contraction hit. She got up and walked, finding it helped reduce the cramps. Her back was in agony, Ruby gritted her teeth and reached back trying to sooth the pain. Beads of sweat dotted her head and ran down the back of her neck. Ruby began whimpering as she paced back and forth trying to ignore the pain as another contraction started. The next half hour passed much the same way, Ruby nibbled as she was able and Qrow or Ozpin followed her around the room in case she needed help. They all had their eyes on the clock over the mantle for counting the minutes between contractions. 

    When the door opened again they all let out a relieved sigh, Rutile had arrived with a swirl of white doctor’s coat and studied Ruby’s sweaty form. “How is it going? How far apart are your contractions?”

    “Seven minutes or so, the earliest ones were fifteen minutes apart. It’s only been half an hour.” Ozpin said, it was his turn to hold Ruby as she walked around.

    “Walking helps.” Ruby said holding her belly as she waddled back and forth.

    “Please sit on the bed so I can have a look.” Rutile walked into the attached bathroom to wash her hands.

    Ozpin helped Ruby back over to the bed, she settled leaning back on her hands and parting her legs to a comfortable level. Rutile returned and carefully checked how dilated Ruby was. “You’re only at five centimeters of dilation. You were probably starting to dilate before your water broke. You’ll have to wait for at least another centimeter before the more active labour will start and then another four before you can push.”

    “Ugh. Think it will be a while?” Ruby eased herself back further onto the bed. She wanted a break from all the walking.

    “Probably, first labours are often slow.” Rutile turned the quilt over tucking her in. “Just try to rest while you can. You’ll need all your energy as things progress.”

    “Okay.” Ruby moved onto her side and tried to get comfortable.

 


 

    Weiss, Blake and Yang raced to Lydia’s house from school. Word had spread like wildfire that Ozpin had taken Ren and raced from the school. It didn’t take much to guess that Ruby had gone into labour. It had been the talk of all the classes as everyone knew that Ren was learning to be a medic. As they took off their shoes and raced up the stairs a wail of pain had them put on a burst of speed.

    They found Ruby dressed in a short white cotton gown, kneeling on her bed. Qrow was behind her holding her up. “Deep breaths Ruby.”

    “When this is over I’m going to kill you!” Ruby screamed through another contraction.

    “Yes dear.” Qrow pet her head getting her bangs out of her face. Sweat was soaking her body. Rutile was watching Ruby as she neared dilation.

    The contractions were almost on top of one another now and as Ruby came away for a small respite the Doctor reminded her to pant. Ren had moved to the bottom of the bed and was on hand with heated water and towels at the ready. “Okay, you can push with the next contraction Ruby.” Rutile said moving a bit closer to touch her make sure she was ready.

    Ozpin came over with a wet cool cloth and cleaned the sweat from Ruby’s face, attempting to ease some of the discomfort on his wife’s face. “You’re doing great, deep breaths, just think, she’s so close Ruby, keep going.”

    “Hurts!” Ruby panted as another contraction hit she screamed and barred down pushing hard. It passed and she fell back against Qrow panting. “I’m tired.”

    Ozpin sat down beside them and reached through the bond. They were all a bit tired from helping her for the last six hours. Still it wasn’t lasting as long as they fear so that was a plus. He tired to lend his strength through the bond. He carried it through Aura and he did notice when Ruby breathed a little easier and she seemed a bit more awake. He took her free hand and gave it a squeeze. “You’re doing great, just a bit longer.”

    Qrow felt what Oz did and attempted to do the same, give her some of his strength and energy but further he tried to dull the pain. Ruby smiled up at him and then screamed through another contraction.

    Ren hovered with thick dark blue towels. Weiss, Blake and Yang were forced to sit on the edge of the bed and watch Ruby’s pain. Ruby was far too busy to greet any of them, her face an odd mix of furious red and almost sickly pale. Rutile saw the baby’s head start to crown and grinned. “You’re almost there, she’s crowning.”

    “Ahhh!” Ruby pushed again and panted as the contraction passed. She felt Rutile’s fingers on her. She tried to catch her breath but the next contraction came quickly and she felt Qrow and Ozpin support her as she pushed with all her might. She felt something slip from her, a smile bloomed over her face. “Is she?”

    “Not yet.” Rutile said. Ren brought his towel in close under Rutile’s hands.

    Qrow was getting tired, he was shouldering her pain and giving her energy. He could feel Ozpin helping through the bonds as well, but the hours of this had worn them all down. Ruby pushed but couldn’t muster the energy to scream when the baby’s shoulders came free and Ren caught the little red and wrinkly life in the towel.

    Rutile quickly cleaned her mouth and head of mucus. The little girl kicked out with all her little chubby limbs and opened her eyes. Rutile smiled at the alert silver that bounced around looking up at her and Lie then back at her. Lie offered his second towel and Rutile cleaned her again revealing a head of black hair that was exactly the same colour as Ozpin’s was but it had a feathered curl that could only have come from Qrow. No what made her smile fall away in shock was the lock of light blue at her right temple.

    The doctor pulled the dirty towel away and presented the little girl. Ruby beamed and took her but at the sight of the blue lock Ozpin’s heart plummeted. It was the exact same colour as the girl the Wald had shown to him. She had been real. Ozpin shifted as Ruby took her daughter and held her on her chest. “She needs a name.” Ozpin said.

    Qrow reached up and held his daughter by her side. She looked up at him with silver eyes that he swore focused on him. She reached out a cuddly hand and went. “Da!” His heart melted and he moved his finger so she could grab it. He was surprised by how strong she was as she pulled it to her toothless mouth and gummed on it. “Da da!”

    The little silver eyes looked up at Ruby. “Ma!”

    Oz’s breath was stuck in his chest. “Lydia~ I think you were right about her being very intelligent.”

    Lydia came over and out her hand on the baby’s head. She closed her eyes and reached out with her soul. She was met with a vibrant purple soul that leapt to her touch. Rather than the usual confused awe, it was very clear in images that were too focused to come from a baby’s eyes that she knew who everyone was and was very eager to say hi. Lydia withdrew her hand. “Well she has definitely been making full use of the bonds. While I imagine she will get frustrated at her lack of motor functions but she knows all of us.” 

    “I’m sorry, bonds?” Rutile asked.

    “Oc!” Chirped the baby waving a hand at Rutile.

    “Oh my Gods.” Rutile said her eyes wide as she covered her mouth.

    Ozpin reached up and pet her head. His thoughts swirled around, searching for a name. When those silver eyes landed on him again and she squealed in delight he saw it. “How about Euclase? It’s a blue and silver gemstone, a very beautiful one at that.” He added as if just speaking to the babe.

    “Euclase, I like it. Are you Euclase my little girl?” Ruby coed at her baby.

    “Ma!” Euclase reached both hands up to Ruby.

    “Ow!” Ruby tensed and remembered. “Oh right placenta.”

    “Just focus on your baby, this will be quick and less painful.” Rutile still wanted an explanation on whatever these ‘bonds’ were.

    Euclase wiggled and Ruby adjusted her hold of her baby to offer her a nipple. Euclase kneaded her breast but couldn’t seem to get a hold of the swollen nipple. Ozpin found it very cute so he reached over and pulled Ruby’s breast up slightly. Presenting the nipple to his daughter.

    “Oh that is so weird!” Ruby giggled as Euclase sucked enthusiastically at her breast. White milk seeped just a little from between her lips.

    “Oz.” Qrow said staring.

    “Yeah?”

    “Why is that so hot?”

    Ozpin now noticed exactly what Qrow meant, it was very hot as well as sparking a mix of warm fuzzy feelings in his heart. “I don’t know.”

    Lydia giggled watching the two. “It’s called biology boys.”

    Rutile deliver the placenta but didn’t cut the umbilical cord until the placenta was delivered and checked over. “Well this was a wonderfully smooth birth. How are you feeling?”

    “Good, I do want a bath but while I ache and I’m tired nothing really hurts anymore.” Ruby said looking over to the doctor.

    “Well you look very good and the placenta is whole so you shouldn’t have to worry about infections. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take it back to the hospital. Your blood type, O positive could help a lot of babies.”

    “By all means take it.” Ruby said.

    “Thank you.” Rutile took it over to the table along with the remains of the umbilical cord and put it in a refrigerated box. “I’ll come for the rest of the equipment later, it’s a relief that it went so well. Call me if you need me, I’ll be at the hospital but I’ll have a nurse keep an eye on my Scroll.”

“Thank you Doctor.” Ozpin said nodding to her as she left. “You should come by for dinner at some point.”

Rutile stopped by the door and smiled. “Careful Oz, I might take that as an opportunity to give you more vaccines.”

Oz rolled his eyes. “I’ll deal.”

As the doctor left with a simple goodbye. Weiss and Yang zipped over to Ruby, Euclase had filled her tiny tummy and was looking up at her three parents. “Ohh she’s so cute!” Weiss and Yang cooed while Blake stayed back a little not wanting to crowd Ruby too much. Weiss reached up and offered her hand to Euclase. “Hi I’m your godmother.”

“Weiii!” Euclase chorted and grabbed Weiss’s index finger. “Weii!”

“I guess she’s heard your name a lot Weiss.” Ruby said smiling at Euclase’s obvious joy at seeing Weiss.

    “You’re so lucky Weiss.” Yang had called into the bed to be on Ruby’s free side. “Hiya I’m auntie Yang.”

    Euclase tried to look at Yang but her muscles clearly didn’t move like she wanted them too. Ruby felt the impending tears over the bond. “Hey hey, it’s okay.” Ruby moved Euclase to face Yang cradled in her arm. The happy feeling was near overwhelming as Euclase reached out for the golden locks of her sister’s hair. “Ya!”

    Yang pet her tummy. “Ya-n-g, Yang.”

    “Ya!”

    “She probably can’t make compete words yet Yang. We have a theory she’d had access to our minds for a while now but that can’t make up for a lack of physical development.” Ozpin said.

    At the sound of his voice Euclase looked up and Ozpin felt a new prod through the bonds. Though it wasn’t truly new as he had been feeling it grow stronger for months. Then she burst into little shouts. “Pa! Pa!”

    “She’s got you down.” Qrow said with a smirk.

    Ozpin saw a crowd of people, he recognize many reporters a few students and teachers. He looked down and saw his left arm exposed and limp.

    Ozpin blinked and saw that Euclase had gone quiet and was staring at him. The vision had been very clear the last time he had a vision like that he had mistaken for a nightmare. “Ohh hells…” Oz remembered the dream he had about the creation of the Botchling. “Was that you?”

    “Pa pa!”

    “Ozpin what are you thinking?” Qrow asked, he didn’t like the shock on Oz’s face.

    “Qrow take her for a minute.” Ozpin said as he moved to brace an arm on Ruby’s shoulder.

    “Okay.” Qrow carefully took Eculase.

    “Oz what?” Ruby moved at his promoting so he could see her tattoo. The golden lantern seemed to sway under her skin as it hung from the tree painted into her back.

    “Qrow bring her over here.”

    “Oz~?” Ruby said worried.

    Ozpin picked up the blue lock of Eculase’s hair and held it against the blue of the Relic of Knowledge lantern. It was exactly the same colour. “Ohhh f-.”

    “No swearing!” Ruby said glaring at him over her shoulder.

    “Foxtrot.” Ozpin finished the word.

    “Explain now.” Ruby said as Qrow gave Eculase back to her and she laid back onto the pillows.

    “Remember back when Qrow and I investigated the murder of a whole family?” Ozpin asked.

    “Yeah.”

    “That morning I guess, I had a dream about a woman giving birth and the child being abandoned in the forest. Basically how that Botchling had been created. I don’t think that was something my mind provided. And I met Euclase in the Wald, through another vision she was probably around thirteen and begging for a name. Only the Botchling stole her from me before I gave her one. I think the dream was her, she was warning me about the Botchling.” Ozpin bit his lip. “And I think she could do that because some of the Relic’s power is a part of her. Her Aura is purple right? Qrow and Ruby are red and I’m green and whatever the Relic is, would be blue. So purple. Beckett mentioned a forth soul in the mix for Eculase.”

    “So what whatever the Relic is, it has a soul and you’ve what? Made Ruby’s it’s host? Enough so that it influenced our daughters soul?” Qrow near growled.

    “Don’t look at me like that! How could I have known?” Ozpin growled back.

    “You’re the one who put it there! Surely you had to know something!”

“I don’t have all the answers Qrow!” Oz shouted and Eculase burst into tears between her fathers.

    They both instantly reached for her petting and cooing. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”

    After a few moments of soothing and soft apologies their baby gurgled happy and settled down. Lydia chuckled covering her mouth with a couple fingers. “My she’s already got you two wrapped around her finger.”

    Ruby took several deep breaths. “Let’s just let it go, I’m not worried about it. She’s done nothing but warn us and we knew she was going to special since I’m a vessel soul. So what if she’s a little bit more special than we thought.”

    “Mama!” Eculase snuggled into her chest and promptly fell asleep.

    Weiss pulled out her Scroll and took a picture of the three. Ruby looked up startled for a moment. “Someone’s got to start a collection.”

    There was crashing up the steps and Taiyang raced into the room. “Did I miss it!?”

    “Shhh!” Yang shhhed him.

    Taiyang quieted himself instantly and grinned at the little bundle in Ruby’s arms. Blue eyes teared up at the sight of his youngest holding his granddaughter. He walked over and Ozpin got out of the way. “Can I hold her?”

    “Of course dad.” Ruby smiled sweetly as Taiyang sat beside her, very carefully she passed her daughter to her fathers safe embrace. “You missed her attempt to name people.”

    Tai pet her little chest with a finger. “I’m sure there will be other chances.”

    Blake moved over to peer at the little sleeping face. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of the baby, the very smart baby.

    “Qrow, Oz can you help me to the bathroom? I want a bath and to move to our room. This is all well and nice but I just spent hours sweating in this bed not too mention embryonic fluid.” Ruby shifted and Ozpin offered his good hand to help her stand. Qrow got off by the other side and zipped off to start the bath.

    Ozpin and Ruby walked slowly through the room and by the time they got the bath. Qrow had it at a good temperature with epsom salts already dissolved in. Ruby took off her nightgown and Qrow helped her step into the tub. Ruby sighed in relief as the hot water covered her up to her shoulders. “That feels so good.”

    Qrow smiled and leaned against a wall. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

    “You weren’t the one pushing her out.” Ruby giggled.

    “I was more worried about my Semblance.”

    Ozpin shook his head. “I told you it wouldn’t hurt her. I’m going to head back out, as much as I trust Tai I want to…”

    “Go on, I’ll be fine.” Ruby said and dropped down rubbing the water through her hair.

    Ozpin walked back out to see his father in law surrounded by Yang, Weiss and Blake all peering down at Eculase. Weiss was petting her head the little curl of black and blue hair. He reached out and Weiss backed up letting him stroke over his daughter’s head. “Can I have her please?”

    “Yeah sorry.” Taiyang stood up and helped Ozpin settle Eculase into Oz’s good side. They all headed downstairs and sure enough Lydia was handing out tea and cookies to Glynda, Peter, Oobleck as well as Jaune and Nora. Ozpin stood in the doorway all eyes snapped to him. “May I introduce Eculase Branwen.”

    Nora zoomed over. “Aww she’s so cute!” She reached up and pet Eculase’s head very very gently.

    Glynda came over and even her stern features softened. “How was the birth?”

    “Good, Ruby’s fine she’s having a bath right now. Qrow stayed back with her.” Ozpin said and moved to sit on one of the couches.

    Glynda sat beside him and reached up to touch the featherly hair. “She’s beautiful, you all must be very proud.”

    “We are.” Ozpin said smiling down at the sleeping face.

    Peter walked over and smiled. “I look forward to seeing her at classes. Perhaps she will like my stories.”

    Yang, Weiss and Ren joined them from upstairs. “Ruby will be down in a little bit. She’s just cleaning up.” Yang bounced over to Oz and leaned on the back of the couch. “She’s so cute!”

    Oobleck thought Yang looked very cute, cooing at the baby. Her long blonde locks tumbled over Ozpin’s bad shoulder. Peter backed off to sit on the free couch. Glynda asked. “Can I hold her?”

    “Of course.” Ozpin didn’t want to let Glynda take her, he didn’t want anyone to hold her but there was no reason to say no.

    The combat professor carefully took the child from Ozpin. She let the baby rest her head on her breast. Eculase opened her eyes just a fraction unfocused and wide before they closed again her mouth opening just a little making a kiss motion before she fell asleep again. Glynda reached up and touch her soft chest. “She’s so soft.”

    “She’s been in the world for less than an hour.” Ozpin said and heard a creek.

    Ruby was dressed in a new green gown, it came mid way down her calves but the cut was very low to make it easy to free her breasts should Eculase need them. Qrow had a hand on her hip and he guided her over to the middle of the couch. She sat down beside Ozpin and opened her arms to Glynda. “Can I have her please? I haven’t gotten to hold her much yet.”

    “Of course.” Glynda handed the baby over.

    Ruby held her against her breast and Eculase woke again. “Ma.” She said blinking her bright eyes. Her eyes moved from Ruby’s face up to Ozpins. “Pa!” She pulled her hands free of the blanket. “Pa!”

    Ozpin dipped his head to lean on Ruby’s and gave Eculase his hand to grab. She pulled on his thumb and pinky and he set his hand down on her chest. She patted at the back of his hand and went. “Pa, pa, pa!” Oz smiled watching her, play with his hand.

    “She can tell people apart already?” Glynda asked surprised.

    Eculase looked over to Glynda she blinked a few times. “Ba?”

    “Gl-yn-da.” Ruby sounded out the name of her.

    “Da!”

    Ozpin chuckled. “Well, it seems she knows people who’ve been around since everything started.”

    “I’m amazed, I’ve never even heard of a baby being able to tell people apart so young. How can she even see the difference in people?” Taiyang asked, then frowned. “Could it be the bonds you three have?”

    “I think so.” Ozpin said.

    “What are you talking about?” Glynda asked.

    Qrow walked over and looked down at his daughter. She saw him and reached up. “Da!” Qrow reached down and cupped her head.

    “Ruby, Qrow and myself all share a telepathic bond. We can send just about anything through it. Ruby is what we call a vessel soul, like a grounding point. She formed a bond first to Qrow and then myself. However as her pregnancy progressed either she or Eculase formed a bond back to us. I’m pretty sure that is why she knows, Ruby, Qrow, Ren, Weiss, Yang and Lydia. We have been around her through the later points of her pregnancy the most.”

    Lydia spoke up. “I believe that the child of a vessel soul, has access to the minds of its parents. Which may have created a higher stage of mental development. I wouldn’t be surprised if she access Ruby, Qrow and Ozpin to help her look around. Make up for the lack of development in her own body. My mothers journal mentioned I did much the same thing when I was born.”

    Oobleck zipped over. “That is incredible!”

    Eculase look over and wiggled she reached for him with a squeak of. “Ba!” He gave her a hand and she grabbed his thumb. “Ba!”

    “I guess she doesn’t know you enough to try your name.” Ruby said and Eculase wiggled and pulled at her dress. Qrow pulled the side of Ruby’s collar away and lifted her breast up so Eculase could suckled again. “Hungry girl.”

    “Well her stomach is quite small right now.” Lydia said. “Still you three should head up to your room and rest. It’s been a long day for you all.”

    “That’s a good idea Lydia. I am tired but I didn’t want to sleep without her.” Ruby got up slowly with Qrow and Ozpin’s help. “Thank you all for coming.”

    The three headed upstairs, a table had been added to Ozpin’s room it was already full of baby supplies. Ruby walked over to it and set Eculase down on a thick absorbent pad. Like she had read she wrapped Eculase up in a cloth diaper. Buttoning it up at the sides. “There, you’re all set for a couple hours.”

    Qrow and Ozpin stripped and Oz walked over to her. “She’s beautiful, you did great.”

    Ruby giggled, took off her own gown and picked Eculase back up. “Only because everyone helped.”

    They all snuggled into bed together, Ruby in the middle with Eculase on her chest. Qrow stayed up watching as Ruby and Ozpin fell asleep almost instantly with Eculase. Just watching them made him smile, his Semblance hadn’t harmed anyone. His daughter was safe and she was perfect. Even Ozpin hadn’t re-wrapped his arm before bed, it lay exposed over the quilts. Today had been a good day.

Chapter Text

    Ruby sat in class taking notes, Peter was actually staying on topic today. Mostly because Euclase was in his arms occasionally pulling at his mustache as he told his stories. To say people had been surprised when a couple days after Ozpin fled the school he returned with Ruby and a black haired baby in her arms was an understatement. Even more so when all the teachers took the appearance in stride and were even seen doting on the child and carrying it around. Peter and Bartholomew particularly, for her part Euclase was perfectly well behaved. She had both of them trained so well that all she had to do was whimper and the professor’s returned her to Ruby for a change of diaper or a feeding. Ruby for her part had gotten used to having a breast exposed to her peers, with only her cloak fastened for some semblance of modesty and to ward off gawkers.

    At that moment Peter was petting Euclase’s back as the bell marking the end of the school day rang. He looked ready to pout as Ruby packed up and walked down the stairs with her hands out for the child. “Thanks for taking her Professor.”

    Peter handed Euclase back to her mother. “Always a pleasure Mrs. Branwen… Are you ready for the conference?”

    Ruby settled Euclase in a baby basket the baby looking up at her. “No, but we knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time.”

“Ruby? It’s time.” The sound of Ozpin’s voice made her look towards the door for a second. The silver eyed woman sighed. “Oz just spoke to me, it’s time. Are you coming?”

“Yes, I wouldn’t dare leave you or your precious daughter unattended while those hyenas prowl around the school!” Peter raised a hand against his chest standing straight. “It would be completely ungentlemanly.”

Ruby giggled. “Thank you Professor. Would you take her basket then?” She offered the baby basket with her free hand.

“Of course!”

Together they headed out to join Ozpin at the school’s courtyard.

 


 

Ozpin stood at the podium set up in front of the school gates, the sheer amount of mics attached to the damn thing was obnoxious. The weight of them seemed to threaten to cave in the wooden stand and he couldn’t stop the grimace as he took note of the circling vultures, their babble made him want to pierce his eardrums with a fork. 

He could theoretically leave, like right now. In fact every muscle in his body was bunched up and tense, begging him to turn tail and run so he wouldn’t have to deal with these bloodsuckers. Then a firm hand landed on his shoulder and Oz gave another sigh. 

“It won’t be so bad Ozpin, just answer their questions and then we can go home.” The gravelly voice blew into his ear. “Just think of all the things I’ll let you do to me, what Ruby will let you do to her, when we get home.”

“Qrow…” Oz turned, leaning towards his husband. “If I had my way I’d do you right now, the public be damned.” His good hand went to the front of Qrow’s trousers, just a barely there touch but it had the desired effect distracting him from the crowd. His little bird flushed slightly and his grin grew. “But I’ll settle for knowing how wanted I am, how willing you are to wait for me, like a good pet .”

Before either could say anything else someone cleared their throat behind them. “Really Ozpin, of all the times and places, you choose ‘here’ to start flirting.” Glynda huffed as the two parted. 

“Ah but Glynda, surely my timing is never anything but perfection as it was all intended. After all the vultures deserve a show with their dinner.” He waved behind her to where the crowd of reporters stood, some jotting furiously on notepads while others snapped pictures of the three of them. All had some semblance of red dotting their cheeks. 

Oz felt a familiar warmth wash over him and turned back to the school where his wife and daughter were being escorted by Peter himself. Oz nearly laughed when he saw the carry basket holding their little girl in the portly teachers hand. 

Meeting them halfway Oz dipped and kissed Ruby. “Hello love~ have a nice day?”

“It would be a lot better if we didn’t have to deal with the incoming swarm.” If there was anyone who dreaded dealing with the press more than Oz it was Ruby. She and Qrow were all for not giving them a second of their time but Oz didn’t have that luxury. After a particularly heinous report done on him by the wonderful Skeeter the Counsel were in an uproar. The paper hadn’t even cooled off the racks before he was being bombarded with calls and messages, orders to ‘deal with this shit or your ass will be dropped in prison’ for several days until he caved. 

Normally he would have told them where to stuff it or flipped them the bird but without answers the press were starting to find other ways to get their information. Most of their leads and stories were wrong in everything from context, direction and simply painted him with the worst possible light. It didn’t bother him per say but he could tell it did the others. 

Hence why he had allowed Glynda to set up this conference, he had stated he would not do another after this and would give a full explanation. To what he deemed was safe to tell and nothing else. Suffice to say the front of the school had more people crowding it then he believed there were students in the school.

Ruby walked to one of many chairs, as most of the teacher's body was present as well and sat down. Euclase reached up from her basket and Ruby picked her up and sat her on her lap. Qrow walked over and sat down beside her, he bent down and kissed his daughter's forehead. The little silver eyed warrior burbled happily at him and pulled at his crooked cross. Ozpin found that the swarm of reporters was forgotten for the moment as he watched his wife and husband play with their child. Glynda broke the trance by clearing her voice. “You’re up.”

Ozpin sighed and turned his attention back to the reporters, returning to the podium. He took a deep breath and plastered a smile on. “Well despite my best efforts to avoid this, I’ve been informed by the powers that be that you all have questions.”

A nervous laughter broke out as the cameras rolled.

Ozpin moved to stand at military ease, he saw a few of the reporters shiver and smiled a little less friendly. “So I will start with a statement. Almost two years ago Beacon fell. I met the instigator of that event within Beacon and did battle. She escaped and I was forced to flee the school however in that process I ran into a Atlessian Knight and upon defeating it. Well it blew up and I was.” Ozpin had to pause and take a breath as his back and gut throbbed in remembered pain. “Injured rather gravely as a result. From that point on it’s rather a blurr, I ran from Vale and to a town. I do not recall which one, there a doctor took care of me. I again do not know how long I was there. I was sedated for the vast majority of the time. After I was healed I made the journey to Vacuo, to resupply and find transport to Mistral.”

A flurry of hands went up accompanied by loud voices trying to grab his attention but Oz refused to answer any questions, simply waiting for the masses to quieten before he continued. “That is a summary of what happened at Beacon. Upon arriving at Mistral I was in no rush to return to Haven as Leonardo Lionheart was still among us. Instead I took the opportunity to explore a life with my now husband and wife away from the public eye.” He gave them all a pointed glare. “I only stepped up to be Headmaster of Haven when it became clear just how much work there was to do in order to mend this kingdom. We will now have some time for questions.” Ozpin took another deep breath, now came the hard part.

It was like they had been waiting for the signal and Oz very nearly hightailed it out of there when Every. Single. Hand went up. The call of his name had never sounded more beastly in all his life and he was loathed that this was going to take some time. Without really looking he pointed at a man stood up front, his blue suit jacket poorly fitting over his much larger frame. “Ozpin, is it true you have been conducting in sexual relations with your students?”

“I have married two of them, I think that should answer your question.”

Some mumbled, some sounded outraged but Oz was done with it and pointed to the next person, a young man who looked like he should still be school, holding up an old fashioned camera. “O-ozpin Sir, you said you took over for Headmaster after seeing there was much ‘work’ to be done, what did you mean b-by that?”

“Where would you like me to begin? That’s a rhetorical question for those who missed it. For a start, were you aware when I took over Dust intake of the city it was a twentieth of what it was two years ago. Or that with the lack of Dust the farmsteads had decreased shipments to the city? That over ninety percent of the Huntsmen of this Kingdom have died in the last two years. I’ve been working to restore this Kingdom as best as I am able, to bring the Grimm levels down.” A quiet hush fell over the crowd, Oz wasn’t sure if it was from shock, fear or the realisation that things had been so bad and yet no one had seen it. Oz looked over to his family, Qrow was holding their daughter and Ruby gave him a reassuring smile. “Next question.”

One woman, a familiar blonde that Oz almost groaned at seeing pushed her way to the front and began shouting at him. “OZPIN!! Tell us, how does the bandit tribes, in particular the Mabino tribe fit into these plans you’ve got to restore Mistral?”

“The Mabino have for the past year or so, intercepted the majority of shipments from Argus. I am sure I don’t need to outline how this has been a problem. Over the past five months my husband Qrow Branwen has been both my and the council’s ambassador to the Mabino. Two weeks ago we came to an agreement with the Mabino that their chief settlement will be recognized as an official town and be added to the maps. In return they have agreed to share their extensive knowledge of Dust, machinery and for open trade between Mistral, Argus and their settlement. I believe it has been named Mabin. Needless to say their knowledge has been invaluable in the Dust mines.” 

  Before Oz could point to the next person Skeeter shouted again. “So now being a bandit is legal? They lie, steal and kill but ‘you’ve’ opened trade between them and us. What next, will they begin taking over the city, the continent?! Why not just go to war with them!”

“We’d lose.” Ozpin said flatly. “Not all bandits have agreed to this… arrangement. Needless to say we are still working on them. However as you say ‘being a bandit’ hasn’t been made legal. You are more then welcome to review the… news about how bandit camps within the city have been dealt with.”

Skeeter seethed under Oz’s guarded gaze but she bit her lip and backed down, for now. Oz relaxed slightly and pointed to the next reporter. “I was wondering, you speak of the violence that happened last year like you know everything that happened. This isn’t the first time nor is it the second time you’ve been connected to an act of violence while in Mistral. Can you tell us more about what happened during the confrontation that occurred in lower Mistral last year?”

Everyone could see Qrow, Ruby and Ozpin flinch. Oz swallowed thickly his adam’s apple bobbing. “That… is an intensely personal matter… Umm, the cause of that was a battle between myself and another Huntsman who… provoked me in the extreme. I am still annoyed that I didn’t kill him.”

“Excuse me if I’m mistaken but that answer doesn’t suffice with the reports. I recall the White Fang were briefly involved and the ‘battle’ as you say resulted with many casualties, injury and property damage climbing over tens of thousands Lein.”  

“Your point?”

“What sort of ‘personal matter’ could possibly be so great to condone this kind of rage and damage?” 

Ozpin clenched his fists behind his back. “Again, that is very private. I will however say that the person that I was trying to kill. Very nearly murdered my wife. At the time of that event, I did not know if she would live or my unborn daughter.”

“Was the offender ever caught?”

“No.” Oz bit the word out. His voice so chilled and filled with rage that it sent a shiver through several of the reporters. Much to his delight he saw a few of them back off, some even left all together. Hoping there would be no more questions along that line of inquiry Oz pointed towards a brunette woman who had her hand up. 

“How is your wife now and you daughter?”

Ozpin gestured to Ruby and Euclase behind him sitting together. “Clearly they are much better. Next question.”

“Over here!” An older man called out. He had the typical attire of someone Oz liked to refer to as a sleaze ball. Rumpled coat over an equally wrinkled shirt with questionable stains, casual slacks and trainers. His black hair had more grease then a chip pan fryer and Oz thanked the distance between them as he was certain the guy probably stank as bad as he looked. The gleam in the man’s eyes told Oz he wasn’t going to like his question. “I have multiple reports from both current and former students and teachers. You’ve quite the sexual deviant aren’t you? Tell me, is there something special about the students you choose to fuck or do you just get off on that dynamic?”

Ozpin felt a smile pull at his lips. “Isn’t there a joke about never ask a Valean about their sex life or they just might tell you? What is it you want to hear? Hmm? That there is role play? Favours? I hate to break it to you, but such things have never been allowed. Any relations that I have do not come about because of any institution. We of Vale are very open about discussing attraction and negotiations so even casual encounters are to everyone's mutual benefit. I dare say you are more perverted than I am for suggesting such things.”

Giggles and smirks spread over the remaining faces as the sleaze grunted and turned away. Skeeter the lady of dreadful green spoke up again. “Ozpin, I looked into the security cameras of Beacon at the time of the Fall and I found you fleeing the CCT tower when no one was around. The picture isn’t very good but you were going at a good pace.”

And shit. Ozpin felt his shoulders pull back and the lumpy skin rubbed his shirt as she continued. “There is no evidence that you were hurt like you say, from where I am standing it looks like you abandoned Vale in it’s time of need.”

Oz didn’t say a word for a long minute, the panic started to rise in his stomach. There was one very easy way to get around this. His time with Harkness rose up in his memory, but a ship of people and the whole world were two very different things. He couldn’t steady his hand as he reached up and unbuckled the cape hiding his withered arm. He caught the fabric as he set it on the podium.

Qrow clued in to what Ozpin intended and got up moving to stop Oz with a hand on his shoulder. “Hey you don’t have too-.”

“It is the simplest way to get this over with.” Ozpin hissed out, everyone could see the lines of muscle in his throat contract. He attempted to shrug out of his coat and Qrow not wanting to prolong this. Helped. Bit by bit the layers came off. The loss of his vest made his stomach clench and his hand shook for all to see as he pulled the buttons of his shirt undone. With Qrow at his side he stepped out from behind the podium, then turned his back to the audience and raised his good hand to remove his shirt. However as it neared his collar he found it wouldn’t move, as much as he willed it. It only hovered and shook. He dropped it to press into the tattoo on his gut that didn’t fade with the Dust. How often he had dreamed of fire, the explosion and feeling of burning alive and being impaled. He was aware of time passing but didn’t see Qrow’s concerned face even if the reporters could.

“Oz~.” Qrow could see it creeping into those copper eyes. “You don’t have to, come on lets get you dressed again.”

Ozpin shook his head and stopped Qrow with his good hand. “Just give me a minute.” He closed his eyes and reached through the bonds. Ruby’s love filled him, that she didn’t care, that she loved him damaged bits and all. Qrow’s endless adoration, his need to protect him first and foremost at that moment. Ozpin didn’t open his eyes as he reached up and pushed the shirt from his shoulders. The sound of the fabric hitting the ground was deafening in his ears. He visibly winced and had to work to keep his shoulders from raising.

One minute stretched into two, no one moved, no one took pictures. The funny thing about burn scars, is that after a point they didn’t fade. That the skin would never go back to normal, that raised ridges only really smoothed out, those places where the flesh burned down to bone never looked the same again. Fresher scars that Ozpin had forgotten about in the heat of battle lay red and angry. The cuts from the Revenant still red, like veins of lava not get cooled by air and water. Scars from shrapnel were still clear and stood out against the fire damage. Ozpin turned slowly on the spot. Letting them see the damage of yet more shrapnel, his hand drifted to the tattoo covering the large cut into his abs.

Ozpin did not open his eyes as he spoke. “Have you ever burned alive? Or even just on a candle? Can you comprehend the agony? Alone, in the dark. Bathed in fire, impaled by steel? Glass lodged in your insides? Alone with no one to even hear you scream? Can you imagine crawling through fire and glass and metal.” Tears gathered in his eyes, the memory overtaking him. “To a wall, can you imagine the pain of making yourself move, stand with fire burning under your skin? With dozens of pieces foreign to you, grating~ and cutting~ you open from within with every step? I can’t even remember how long the hall was. I can remember pulling a piece of metal out from my guts.” Ozpin’s fingers bit into the tattoo till the skin grew red. “And driving in a heat stick, so I didn’t bleed out. Can you feel what it would have been like to stab your own heart with a needle. So you don’t pass out and die from shock?” A single tear rolled down from each eye. “I burned and I ran. From Beacon, from my friends and allies. I burned and I live with that day, that hour those minutes for every day of my life.” Ozpin opened his eyes and looked from one shocked face to another and another, meeting the eyes of each. “None of you can understand what I have given up for you. What I have endured for you. You don’t understand how much easier it would have been to stop. To give up. I burned and I came back for you.” He reached up and grabbed his withered arm by the forearm, it didn’t take much for him to bleed. “This was for you. So you all could leave this city and not fear for your lives. I could have just ran away, hid. Stopped. I could have just stopped at Beacon and I wouldn’t be standing before you today. I still burn in my dreams, I still wake up screaming.”

Oz grabbed his shirt and spun on his heel, the blur of green was the only thing to mark his passing as he raced into the school. The smell of burning flesh consumed him, so ingrained into his memory that he’d never escape it. Slammed into the nearest washroom and threw his head down into a toilet and wretched. Throwing up his lunch and heaving till nothing but foaming bile was left. The tears poured he couldn’t even think to stop them. The explosion looped in his mind, the fire, the smell. He sniffed trying to keep his nose from running but it was no use. He grabbed at his ashen hair, pressing down feeling the scars underneath. He lurched away from the toilet and he could feel that metal inside him he scratched at the tattooed skin, till it broke and bleed. “AHH!” He screamed for a pain of old, stuck in memory.

“Oz! Please stop!”

Ozpin couldn’t feel the hands on him, he was on the floor on that green floor. Crawling, burning, the screech of metal and glass against floor as he crawled. His whole body shook as he screamed, burning, burning, burning. Under his skin. “Make it stop, make it stop!” He couldn’t see Ruby beside him, couldn’t feel her touching him. All he felt was fire. His tears blurred his vision past the point of seeing more than blobs. 

There were more voices but the words didn’t make sense. He came to that pillar, reached up and drove his fingers into it. The scream was ripped from his throat as he pulled himself up, he had to let the shrapnel go, he could feel it pull at his insides as he crawled up the pillar to his feet.

A new scent teased his nose, something featherly touched his cheek. Foreign feelings started to cut through the pain, to peel it away. There was something pressed again his chest, someone grabbed his good hand and made him hold the small thing. So small and soft, the smell filtered into his nose, pushing the scent of roasting flesh away. It was a nice scent, roses, rain and just a hint of pine. He blinked a few times something was holding his hand in place. He tilted his head as the tears slowed, his cheek rubbed against a silken feathery fuzz. It too soft to never belong in such a memory. Oz drew back slightly and could see the black and blue hair of his daughter. Could see Ruby holding them both tight, start to feel her arms around them.

He ached to hold his daughter to hold her little head, to cradle her tight without help. He barely felt the pain as his arm moved, how cracked flesh split open and bled. The pain of nerves and bone grating against wood. His left hand rose and cupped Euclase’s head, he could feel the soft hair. His legs drew up and he curled himself around his daughter. Oz’s mouth opened his silent sobs as he held her tightly but gently to him. He could feel her hands on his chest, on touching a cut scar on his collarbone the other pressed to a puncture hole from Nito.

Ruby was forced to sit beside him helpless as she tried to sooth him through the bonds. Forced to watch him rock back and forth, holding their child like she was the most precious fragile jewel that had ever graced the planet. Minutes ticked by, five, ten, fifteen. Qrow felt just as helpless. A couple reporters had followed them but were wisely silent, holding their hats to their chests.

Time trickled on and Euclase started to mumble against Oz’s worn flesh. “Pa…. Pa…. Pa.” Ozpin’s fingers curled just a little tighter around her before they remembered their strength and relaxed.

A new presence entered the room, one older than all the rest. Ruby moved away as Lydia in her pristine cobalt and white dress sat on the bathroom floor. She reached out and pet through Ozpin’s hair. Her touch was so familiar and the tension drained out of Oz’s shoulders. She could see as he did, see the dark medical room. How his hands were red with blood and feel the pain. “Shhhh, it’s over. It’s long past. Shhh. Listen to my voice my little becan valen. You are safe.”

Ruby blinked the tears from her eyes, all of her trying to get through with Qrow though the bonds. It didn’t work, it had helped but with just a few words from Lydia. Ozpin looked up and saw her. Saw every wrinkle, the long lashes and dark storm eyes. His lips mouthed a word that he hadn’t dared speak. Lydia smiled. “Yes I’m here.” She traced down to his sharp cheek. “I am here, you are safe.” She moved kneeling and drawing his head to rest against her breasts. Ozpin cried. He let it go. All pain, all the fear, just for this one small moment. He was safe.

Oz didn’t know how long it had been when the tears dried and the fatigue set in. He drew away and ignored how his left arm still bled slowly, persistently. Dripping down his elbow. Lydia supported him as he stood, he refused to move his hands away from Euclase. “I want to go home.” He croaked.

Glynda was the one to step forward and wrap a pale brown blanket over his shoulders. “I’ll get you a cab and clear the way.” She left reluctantly riding crop out and reporters scattering like bugs fleeing out from under her boots.

Now Ozpin could feel the support Ruby and Qrow gave him. He smiled exhausted at them and sent a little flutter of love back to them, unable to summon up more energy. Oz’s steps shook slightly as he walked from the bathroom. Ruby and Qrow forming up tight on his sides. Peter and Bartholmew standing only two steps ahead of him. Taiyang and Lydia behind him.

Students peeked out from behind doors, reporters hid with their cameras. No one said a word, not when they walked by the press conference area with many people still waiting within. By the time they reached the steps at the base of Haven’s walkway a black car awaited them. Even it’s windows were tinted so no one would be able to see inside. Peter and Bartholomew stood guard as one by one they climbed in. Taiyang stayed behind as their wasn’t room and with a few soft words from Lydia they went home.


 

Mistral Times

G.L

 

Six months ago Ozpin and two teams of students saved Haven from a terrorist attack by the White Fang. The attack was repelled but Leonardo Lionheart lost his life. Ozpin: former headmaster of Beacon: took the vacant position and has been working to restore both the Academy and the Kingdom. The improvements to Mistral have been slow but steady, produce has been brought into the city at a higher rate. Unemployment is at an all time low.

However, it seems that the journey to Haven has been a long one for our new headmaster. Since his return, rumors have been running amok, everything from abandoning his post at Beacon to sexual relations with students. Yesterday Ozpin agreed to a press conference, while the conference itself was short. Ozpin gave a statement and provided proof as to what happened to him at Beacon. The truth is considerably less exciting then the rumor mill would have you believe. He was gravely injured and it took the year he was missing to return to us, to heal and come to Mistral.

He briefly went into the inclusion of the new town of Mabin and outlined the basics of the treaty between the bandit ruler and the council. It was also mentioned that the seasoned Huntsman Qrow Branwen was being the ambassador to the former bandit groups. Lastly Ozpin briefly went into the reason for the destruction of a sector of lower Mistral several months ago. According to him, his reaction was in response to his opponent almost murdering his wife. In that context the violent reaction does make sense.

A few of my fellow reporters inquired after another press conference but at this time no statement has been given.

 

Daily Climb

R.S

 

Well my rabid readers, at long last the much wished for press conference finally happened. While Ozpin gave a statement covering the last two years of his life it was in the questioning period where things got interesting. The evasion of any questions regarding his sexual conduct, despite the fact he has married not one but two students of Beacon. Qrow Branwen is a graduate of Beacon and Ruby Branwen. Yes you read that right readers. Branwen, Ozpin and Ruby took Qrow Branwen’s last name which he only has because he is the son of the former leaders of the Branwen tribe. Currently his twin sister Raven leads the Branwen tribe. So I ask you, my readers. Why would Ozpin and Mrs Ruby would take the Branwen name? A name with such clear negative background?

Now my readers my insider sources report that. The harem of the Branwen’s actually extends to include none other then Weiss Schnee, the heiress on the run from her father. She has often been seen in their company and seen openly flirting or being touched by all three. Furthermore by a few select pictures it also seems the Huntsman and Huntress in training Nora Valkyrie and Lie Ren have had relations with the Branwens. Which begs the question just what goes on behind closed doors for these foreign Valeans? So far it doesn’t seem like any of our own people are connected to the sexual games of these people.

My dear readers I traveled to Beacon several months ago hunting down the story of Ozpin’s disappearance. I for one did find security footage of Ozpin fleeing Beacon but couldn’t find any of this Atlissian Knight that he says bested him in combat. However when I tried to call him out on this lie, he bared his back to us all. As you can see in the image the burn scars are grotesque. He departed swiftly from the conference after that and none of my coworkers who tracked him down have shared what happened after he left. The better part of an hour later he was seen leaving with his husband and wife as well as the sex club owner Lydia Ivanova. Worry not my readers I will find the truth of what happened!

 

Lydia threw down her Scroll in disgust. It had been less than a day it was only the saving grace that it was Sunday and no one needed to go to the school that Ozpin hadn’t already seen the plethora of pictures. The rampant speculation, for this R.S wasn’t the only person dissecting Ozpin’s words or more what he didn’t say. However the majority of people it appeared to be sympathizing with Ozpin. He had gone from being distrusted to pitied overnight. Showing his scars like that had been the best thing he could have done, it was a truth painted on his skin. Some did question the Atlas Knight story but no one questioned his pain. That he had burned alive. Furthermore it had shown the wounds from the Revenant. Wounds sustained so they were safe to leave the city for one of the major festivals of the year. So while questions were still being asked, public opinion had been swayed.

Lydia rubbed her hands over her face, Glynda had been the one to call her when Ozpin crashed. When it became clear that Ruby and Qrow couldn’t reach him. She was so glad that Glynda had. Oz had gone near comatose since, staying in his room with Ruby, Qrow and Euclase. Especially Euclase, he only let her go so Ruby could feed her. He changed her and talked to her. Lydia often heard him singing to her through their bond. The voice wasn’t one tainted by injury. That was what he wanted to give his little baby girl.

Ruby knocked lightly on the door frame before entering the living room. “How are you holding up?” She sat down lightly on the sofa beside the older woman.

Lydia gave her a weak smile, Ruby hadn’t gained much weight beyond what was healthy while pregnant and while she wasn’t currently allowed to pick up anything heavier than Euclase. There were other forms of exercise and she was working hard to regain her conditioning. “It seems anyone with two braincells to rub together either pities or no longer cares about Oz. The great mystery of his return is solved to them and it was boring. It’s only those out to spin stories that are still trying to find something that will stick. To what end I do not know but I doubt they will give up quickly.”

“Too much to hope for, I think.” Ruby said and sighed. “He’s still being quiet, at least verbally. He sings a lot through the bonds, mostly just to Euclase but Qrow and I hear it too. It seems like she helps. Even when she pats on his scars, it doesn’t seem like he minds.”

“She loves him, in her own way and I think he feels it through the bond. Unconsciously seeks that love and thus he sings for her. He will be fine, it was a great strain and pain for him to expose himself like that to so many. The worse hasn’t even started for him, because now everyone knows and they will be different as a result. Come let’s make some hot chocolate, it’s cool enough today to drink it and it will help.”

They headed into the kitchen and worked together making Oz’s favourite hot chocolate. They only made enough for one as it was still very warm and Oz would be the only one to put up with the extra heat of the steaming beverage. “Thanks Lydia.” When they were done Ruby took the steaming cup back up the stairs. Qrow and Ozpin were laying facing each other with a sheet over their hips. Between them was a sleeping Euclase, she was on her side snuggled up to Oz’s chest. His good arm was under his head while his left was bandaged up again. Still she could see the occasional twitch in his fingers. After he relaxed the arm, it had refused to move again.

Ruby walked over and set the hot chocolate aside on the side table. “Hey Oz, I brought you your favourite.”

Oz looked up from Euclase and smiled briefly. “Thank you.” He turned his attention back to their baby. “She’s so beautiful.” He dipped his head and nuzzled hers with his nose.

“She likes your singing.” The Silver Eyed Warrior climbed into the bed and laid down putting her back to Qrow. He spooned around her with a purr as he gave her shoulder a kiss. “I like your singing too, it’s soothing to hear.”

“Sorry that I’ve been off, I just needed to retreat a bit. Focus on something not from the outside.” Ozpin carefully sat up, then with even more care turned Euclase onto her other side. He had a sip of the hot chocolate and purred. “Thank you, this was just what I needed.”

“You’re welcome.” Ruby closed her eyes partly as Qrow pet up and down her thigh. She opened them just enough to look at Euclase. The last two weeks had been exhausting for all of them, taking shifts on who would check on her in the night. Or get up when she started to cry for something. They were just happy the bonds let them figure out whatever was wrong very quickly. Ruby found that her breasts were often sore and even as she thought about it she felt her dress grow damp and sighed. “Sorry Qrow, my tits are leaking again.”

“You can stay there.” Ozpin reached over to their baby table and picked up a light mug. “Here.”

“Thank you.” Ruby pulled her dress off and gently grabbed a breast. With a little massage later she milked herself into the cup. “Why was I cursed to produce enough for two?”

“Cause you were meant to have twins?” Qrow asked, he didn’t get it but he loved this. Either feeding Euclase or milking herself, there was just something about lactating breasts that made him want to put another couple babies in her.

Ruby mock glared at him. “No thank you, pushing out one was bad enough.”

“Hey it might yet happen.” Ozpin said after savoring his drink. “You’re stuck with us now.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ruby milked till the pressure was eased off of that breast. Then moved to the other. “Still I could do without this particular experience.” She looked up to find the two watching her. “What?”

“Just something about that is really sexy.” Qrow said, he wanted to suck on them. He wondered what her milk tasted like.

“Now you two look like you want to eat me.” Ruby stopped for a moment.

Ozpin set his cup aside then reached down and scooped Euclase up. She mumbled but stayed asleep, he carried her over to her hand made crib and tucked her in. He then returned and slid onto the bed. “You know, I read that you should test what your milk tastes like so that if Euclase ever stops drinking it you can tell if something is off.” Oz took the mug from her and set it aside.

“Ooo, I like that idea!” Qrow sat up and pet down over Ruby’s shoulder. “We should test it for future reference.”

“You silly boys.” Ruby flopped down onto her back and Qrow leaned over and kissed her deeply. While Ozpin joined them, he kissed down from her collar over to her swollen heavy left breast. He licked pressing the flat of his tongue to the nipple and Ruby moaned loudly. They were more sensitive than usual and even a little teasing felt very good. He gently took the engorged nipple in his mouth and sucked.

It was odd for Ruby, when Euclase breast fed all she got was a warm and fuzzy feeling all maternal. When Ozpin did it, it made her heart flutter and her sex leak as the sudden pleasure sent her body into overdrive. Oz only sucked a few times, just enough to get a small amount of milk to let linger on his tongue. He purred as he drew away, swallowing slowly. “Strawberry tint, very rich. I really shouldn’t be surprised.”

Qrow drew out of a very wet kiss. “I wanna try~.” Ozpin chuckled but got out of the way as Qrow kissed down her body to suck much more vigorously on her unmolested tit. Ruby inhaled sharply as her toes curled, she whimpered as she contained the cry of pleasure. However Qrow behaved and stopped when he had a little mouthful as well. He purred with a silly smile as he swallowed. “Wow, you’re right Oz, best milk ever.”

Ruby giggled at the two. “Now don’t go getting any ideas! It’s not for you. That said, Oz if you could be a dear and add the mugs milk to the jar I started this morning downstairs and let Rutile know I have another for the maternity ward? If Euclase can’t drink it all it might as well go to a baby that needs it.”

Qrow pouted and Ozpin chuckled at him. “Of course love.” Ruby leaned up to meet him part way for a kiss. Then Oz put on a dress shirt, grabbed the mug and headed down the stairs. Lydia was still in the kitchen making what looked like would be spaghetti for dinner. He walked over to the fridge and pulled out the single liter bottle of milk that they had set aside when it turned out Ruby would be spending a lot of time milking herself. He poured the mugs worth of milk into it, the glass bottle was about full.

“Going to take it to the hospital?” Lydia asked, putting chopped carrots into the pan.

“Yeah best take it while it’s freshest.” Ozpin walked over and kissed Lydia’s cheek. “Thank you… for yesterday. I haven’t… done that in a while.”

“Just don’t make a habit out of it.” Lydia said and waved him off. “Now get going, someone will be very happy to see that milk.”

Ozpin nodded and headed out, he didn’t bother to cover his left arm. For once he tried not to care about the bandages. He put the milk in a sactual with a mild cooling pack in it and made the quick walk to the hospital. He did his best to ignore the stares as he walked through the white walls to the maternity ward. He scanned the nurses for a familiar face but it seemed Rutile wasn’t there today. He wandered through the halls gravitating towards the sound of a baby crying. A woman was holding a maybe seven day old baby against her breast in a sitting area. Only she was trying to feed it from a bottle but the child wasn’t having any of it.

Oz walked over and asked the brunette. “What is wrong?”

“She just won’t take the formula! The nurse said they didn’t have anything else and none of the others are willing to help me.” She was a very small woman who looked too thin to have given birth so recently.

“Oh you must be the one Rutile mentioned.” Ozpin opened his sactual and pulled out the bottle of milk. “My wife has been sending milk to the hospital for the last week. Here. Do you have a cloth?”

The woman looked up at him, her eyes widening as she recognised him. However her baby kept crying so she pulled out a clean scrap of cheese cloth. “The nurse said I could try feeding her with this.”

Ozpin sat down beside her and unscrewed the bottle, he folded the cloth and dipped it into the milk. He gave it a couple seconds to absorb the milk, then pulled it out. The woman set the bottle of formula aside and Ozpin reached over and gently pressed the wet corner over the baby’s lips. Pressing down just enough some of the liquid seeped out. The infant stopped crying and latched onto it, a couple sucks later the milk was all gone and it started to cry again. Ozpin quickly wet the cloth again and returned it.

“Here can you take her? I can go throw out the formula and clean the bottle.” The woman was just so happy her daughter was eating.

“I-I only have one good arm. If you point me to a sink I can clean the bottle.” He saw the flaw with that right away, you needed a least one hand to soak the cloth as it was he had the bottle pinched between his thighs.

“Hmm, here I have an idea. Slouch a bit and can you move the arm at all?”

“If someone else does it.” Ozpin did, moving the bottle and cloth out of the way. 

“Okay.” The woman got up and set her baby on his side against Oz’s bad side. Then very gently moved the wrapped up arm to cradle her little girl. She was so small that even just Oz’s wrist was more than adequate to keep her upright and safe. She them moved the bottle so Oz could pinch it again. He pulled out the soaked cloth and gave it back to the child. It sucked very happy. “Perfect. I will be right back.” She grabbed her bottle and zoomed off.

Ozpin watched the little brown haired girl, taking the cloth when it was dry and soaking it in milk again. “You’re mother is very trusting. I wish there were more like her.”

Oz had to soak the cloth eight more times before she came rushing back. Only with her was Doctor Rutile. “Hey Doc!” Oz flicked his chin in greeting.

Rutile smiled and laughed softly. “Still playing bed I see.”

Ozpin puffed his chest up a little. “What I can I say? Babies like me.” He pulled the soaked cloth out of the bottle and gave it to the infant.

Her mother took the bottle and very carefully poured the priceless milk into it. There was even enough left to fill the bottle at least three times more. She put the glass lid on, it was filled with another cheese cloth to slow the rate of pour. She sat down beside Ozpin and Rutile helped transfer the baby over. She happily sucked the new milk down. Oz got up and flattened down his rumpled shirt. “Well Ruby will be happy to know her milk is appreciated.”

“Oh yes, my milk never came and she’s so fussy. When the milk started coming from outside of the hospital a week ago it was a heaven sent gift.” The relief to have her daughter drinking so easily was palpable in her voice.

“Hmm. Well Ruby milks herself at minimum three times a day. The joke right now is she should have had twins. If you run out by… say seven in the morning? Euclase will have had her first feeding by then and Ruby always has plenty of extra. What’s your name?”

“Jessica and my daughter is Alia.” She looked up at him with warm brown eyes.

“Hey Ruby, I found the mother getting your milk. She can’t produce, I can invite her over for say seven thirty tomorrow? It would save you having to milk yourself into a cup.”

“Sure, it is much easier to just have Euclase breast feed.”

Ozpin looked back to her. “Ruby wouldn’t mind if you came over at say seven thirty tomorrow. We are just down the road and up into the mountain a bit. Skyline drive seven-oh-twenty-three big old fashioned house.”

“Thank you, I’ll be there.” Jessica grinned.

“Come on Ozpin, I would like a look at your arm.” Rutile gestured for him to go down the hall. When they were out of ear shot, she said. “That was very kind of you.”

“Ruby hates milking herself, so she gets to have another mouth to feed so she doesn’t have to milk as much. That woman gets to have a healthy baby, doesn’t surprise me that she likes the milk. It’s strawberry tinted.”

Rutile’s smiled widened. “Tested it did you?”

“Qrow too, I think we both have a thing for her breasts.” Oz half purred just thinking about them.

Rutile did laugh as they left the hospital. Oz noticed and looked around. “I thought you wanted to look at my arm?”

“I can tell it’s bleeding. So I don’t need to look at it to know you’ve overdone it. Go home Oz, I’m happy you came by. However you have a newborn to see too.” She reached up and patted him on a bicep. 

“You’re right, see you later Rutile.” Ozpin headed home his thoughts filled with his daughter and lovers.

Chapter Text

Adam lurked in the shadow of an alley. The months were passing agonizingly slowly, Cinder and Neo tried to spend most of their time attempting to find work with bandits but instead ended up having to try and stay one step ahead of Qrow. As he cut his way through the bandit safe holds in the city, their options grew less and less. It had gotten so bad that in the last month Neo had been forced to get a job as a waitress. Needless to say she was not happy with that. She might be mute but that midget had one scary resting bitch face. 

Cinder wasn’t any better, she was too well recognised now with her name and picture plastered all over the city. He hated coming back to the apartment, the little witch was always scowling and took every opportunity to chew him out. Adam had been the one to watch Ruby. Mostly because he didn’t trust Cinder not to try something before it was safe. He could already imagine the glee that would fill Cinder when she got to kill the little Euclase.

What Adam didn’t know was he wasn’t the only one watching or being watched as the case was. Hawk lounged on the roof above Adam, these youngeresters were just awful at staking. She played with a piece of taffy, rolling it around in her mouth. She and Falcon had been entertaining themselves tailing the three Salem pawns. This also let them see plenty of their son and granddaughter which was a nice bonus, if from a distance.

Hawk stared up at the sky. It was warm for the time of year and was cloudless. She was so proud of her little Qrow, he was coming into his own as a father and warrior. Seeing him bathe his hands in blood for Xaio Roi and Ozpin had been very entertaining. Watching him start to get a high off of it, ohh even more so. She idly played with a long black lock around her finger. Yes, Qrow was growing up nicely. Raven had taken the tribe into hiding, probably preparing for Salem’s retaliation.

She pulled out her Scroll and checked the time. “Right then.” Silently she got up and walked away from Adam, he wouldn’t bother her family today. Not when Ozpin and Qrow were around. They would take too much glee in ripping him limb from limb or skipping rope with his entrails and Adam knew that. Really Hawk couldn’t believe that the faunus had been the one to part Yang from her arm. Hawk dropped down into the alley and started to walk to Griffith Park.

When she arrived at the closed in park Falcon was already there. His lean figure was clothed in black as per usual, though he had left the scarf he favoured at home. On his hip lay a new sword, Blood Drinker, a gift from an acquaintance they had hun ted down in Mistral. She joined her husband under a thick tree. “How goes the wait?”

“Ended.” Beckett stepped into view. “Hawk.” He dipped his head and tapped his long claws on the back of his book. The tall man offered his hand to Falcon.

Falcon took it and didn’t even twitch as Beckett’s claws cut his wrist shallowly. Beckett released him and opened his book brushing the blood off onto the pages. “Hmm.” Beckett walked away a few steps for staying in the shadows.

“Well?”

“The potential is there, you will just have to wait and see.” Beckett closed the book and placed it in his book bag.

“That is not very helpful.” Falcon’s eyes narrowed.

“Magic can only be encouraged not controlled. You will simply have to wait to see how it develops.” Beckett said.

“Fine. Thank you for your time.”

 


 

Nora swung her legs back and forth as she sat up in a tree. Lie was sitting under the said with a book, occasionally having to dodge his girlfriend’s energetic movements. Yang bounced down the steps from Haven’s main walkway. Weiss walked behind her with a little bounce in her more sedate pace. “Hi everyone! Ready to go?”

Yang turned with her hands behind her back her long mane now swinging back and forth below her butt. “Blake said she was coming.” The blonde bounced up into the tree beside Nora. “Kiss?”

Nora grabbed Yang by the roots of her hair and they got stares from the deep wet kisses. Lie stared up with a grin on his lips. “Don’t forget about Jaune. He asked to come too.”

The ginger let Yang go and they bounced down from the tree. As they did Jaune came jogging up to them. “Sorry I’m late, got slowed down in the rush.”

“It’s okay we are still waiting for Blake.” Lie said.

While the group chatted, waiting for their Faunus Blake came around the corner with Sun at her side and two other Faunus Yang didn’t recognise. Blakes eyes widened at the waiting group, wetting her lips. “Ermm.”

Weiss tottered over her gaze natural. “Blake, we made plans to go to the shopping district remember? To buy Eclase some new clothes. Are you coming?”

“Oh!” Blake made a little gesture, an apology on her face. “I’m sorry, I must have forgotten. You see I promised Sun I would meet some of the faunus in the area, I can’t really back out now. Any chance we can do that on another day?”

The sudden awkward tension rose and Weiss glanced over her shoulder at Yang, her friend’s shoulders slumped ever so slightly. With a polite smile she shook her head. “It’s alright, You enjoy yourselves, we shall go together another time.”

Sun seemingly not picking up on the conflicted feelings gave the group a big grin and snatched up the feline’s hand in his. “Thanks Weiss! You guys have a great time. Oh! And give Ruby my best!” 

Without further ado Blake was carted off with the other Faunus, her head tilted back once to see Yang looking through her Scroll, frowned but left with her more enthusiastic friend. 

Yang kept her eyes glued to the screen as she listened to the group leave, “Seems Blake isn’t coming.” She let out a long slow breath. Shaking her head she thrust the Scroll away and plastered a large grin on her face. “Right then, let’s make Ruby’s day and do all her shopping for her!” Yang fist pumped. 

If anyone wanted to comment on what just happened they smothered under their own smiles and jeers, letting out a collected “Hurra!” as they all headed out down into the city.

The summer evening air was humid and a little damp from the rain the day before but it seemed to have little effect on the teams as they headed towards their first destination. Their first stop was for baby clothes. They didn’t go to a general store but rather then go to a specialized store they went to a brazar. One that Nora had scouted out after school one day. It had a little corner dedicated to babies, all home made items. Euclase was growing faster than Ruby found time to buy clothes. By the time they were being washed Euclase was outgrowing them and Ozpin and Qrow were equally busy. So onesies were first on the list, followed by more diapers as it was near impossible to have too many of those.

Once there it was Jaune who surprisingly took over the direction for the shop. He may be the youngest of seven sisters but that just meant that he had lots of nieces and nephews and therefore was well versed in what to buy. Everyone pitched in and helped carry the bags. After diapers came the hunt for bibs.

“How about this one?” Weiss held up a plain blue bib.

“Kinda boring.” Yang said quirking her lips and walking over. “This one has got a forest pattern. I bet Oz would like that for her.” She lifted up a bib and showed it to Weiss.

“You’re right that one is better.” Weiss picked it up and paid for her.

They shopped for another half hour then headed to Lydia’s. Ruby was in the backyard with Qrow and Ozpin, they were all sitting in the grass with Euclase sitting in Qrow’s lap. Ozpin was weaving a crown out of grass… with shards of grass floating through the air. Euclase was clapping and giggling at the floating pieces. They had never seen Oz use magic so casually before, but then maybe making Euclase happy twisted his arm.

As they settled around them, Oz wove the pieces together into a crown and levitated it onto Euclase’s head. She clapped her hands looking straight up at Oz. “Pa, Pa, Pa!”

Ozpin grinned and offered her his hand, she grabbed it and pulled it to her mouth so she could gum on his thumb. “So cute.”

Yang pulled open her paper shopping bag and pulled out an emerald and blue onesies. “She’ll be super cute in this!”

“Aww that’s so cute! Thank you Yang!” Ruby took it from her and offered it to Euclase. “It’s blue and green, do you like it?”

Euclase stared at it for a moment, then looked up to Qrow. Then she closed her eyes.

Qrow felt his bond to her, widen it was weird to not be controlling it himself. “Borrowing my eyes?” He asked, and the bond gave him warmth.

Euclase looked back at the onesie and babbled happily. Qrow chuckled and pet her head. “Seems she likes blue and green.”

Ruby giggled. “Thanks everyone for doing the shopping. I really hate going out. The vultures are still circling.”

“I like shopping plus it’s less stressful on you guys. You have enough to worry about with Summer break coming up. Are you still going through with the plan to visit the Mabino?” Weiss asked brushing her skirt down, she was sitting beside Ruby watching Euclase pat Oz’s hand. She may be just a little bias but her God-daughter was the cutest baby in all of Remnant. 

“Yes, we’ve already put it off long enough. Xiao Roi  has been very understanding with us so far but to ignore him now would be rude. We can’t afford to be rude, especially with how new and fragile this truce is. It will just be a visit for pleasure so we shouldn’t have to worry too much.” Ruby laid down in the grass. “I’m kinda looking forward to getting out of this city for a while.”

A hand carded through her hair, Ruby looked up at her sister and saw the faint sheen of sadness. Then it occurred to her how they seemed to be one down. “Where’s Blake?”

Yang’s face tightened but she only shrugged. “Went with Sun, she sends her best by the way.”

Before Ruby could question her sister further a wail of outrage snapped her attention away. Nora had managed to steal Euclase from Oz and was now holding her away from her puke covered dress. While everyone burst into laughter Nora gave the infant a look of betrayal. 

Ruby chuckled loudly before standing and taking her daughter from the still shocked redhead. “Let that be a lesson that Euclase doesn’t like being taken from her Papa. Alright sweetheart, let's get you cleaned up.” Ruby started off towards the house, the baby in her arms squealing in excitement and for the time being the picture of her sister’s sad expression forgotten.  

 


 

Lilac eyes peered out the darkened window without really seeing anything. The humid day had given way to a welcomed thunderstorm, rain poured like a thick curtain over the school grounds below and other then the occasion flash of lightning the night was a blackened dark. 

The sound of the rain hitting the glass pane was muted and Yang didn’t dare open the window for worry of waking her friends. Well maybe not all of them, she thought as she glanced over at the conjoined beds, one spot near where she had been lying empty of her dark haired friend. Blake hadn’t returned tonight, she sent a message that she was staying over with those that she was out with earlier. There was no need to trek back to the dorm in this storm. It was understandable, it was sensible, heck it was even something that would be encouraged. So why did Yang feel like her world was crumbling all around her?

Golden tresses obscured her form as she sat on the window sill, her knees pulled up, arms circling them tightly and her head resting over them. She had tried to sleep but even with the warm soft cuddling of their group Yang wasn’t able to find enough peace to settle. When had everything changed? Why had it? This time two years ago she was dancing through life with such strength and fire that it burned a trail behind her. Sometimes literally. 

Then the Fall happened.

Everything had changed from them and while Yang saw how the rest of her friends has taken it in stride, overcoming countless odd and blockades, she on the other hand had simply not. Her dad always said she was the who burned too brightly, she was rash at times always running towards the next adventure, the newest challenge that sometimes she drifted too far away. Yang had never been one for the mundane or even stability but now… those were things she craved more then anything. 

It felt wrong, all her life, all her decisions and ambitions, none of it mattered anymore. Even when she had finally found Raven, all those questions and emotions, none of them had meant anything to her mother. She hadn’t even gotten the answers she sought after so many years. Blake was drifting away, sometimes Yang felt like she was becoming little more then wisps of air. Impossible to grasp. Even Ruby, her cherished sister had changed. She was married! And a mother! 

What had become of the time when Yang had been her big sister, always there to help and offer advice. She had helped raise the younger girl and had been a constant figure in her life. But now she had Ozpin and Qrow. Ruby didn’t need her big sister anymore. 

Hot tears blurred Yang’s vision as she fought to keep them at bay. There was more to the world then even her open minded, adventure seeking heart had thought possible and it was frightening. She was scared of all these changes, she was scared of losing herself to this new and frightening world. But more than anything she was afraid that she was being left behind. Yang glared at the metal arm attached to her body. She was a liability, a rash fighter and her temper still burned hotter than the sun and quicker then the lightning brandishing outside. 

Another flash of white illuminated the room, catching on dulled bloody red eyes. Without conscience thought Yang slid away from the window. Her feet finding home in her well loved boots before she slowly and silently opened the dorm door. Within minutes she was outside, seconds in the rain had her soaked to the bone as she had forgotten her coat and with only her tank and shorts she made her way around the school.

Bart was grading papers in his apartment, a cup of hot chocolate beside him. Normally he would be having coffee but it was nearly two in the morning and he wanted to sleep at some point. Ozpin was right about a number of things and one of them was that having a warm drink when its raining was a superb way to relax. 

He was just bringing the hot cup to his mouth again when the faintest and quietest of knocks sounded at his door. His curtains were shut against the rain and his dim light wouldn’t be producing from beneath the door so whoever was there wouldn’t have known he was awake. Socked feet padded over to the door and the doctor threw it wide open, ready to give a tongue lashing for disturbing people in the middle of the night when he fell silent. 

Yang stood there, soaked beyond belief, her beautiful hair plastered to her head in tangled wind blown locks. Her flesh hand cupping her other shoulder tightly while the mechanical arm hung limp at her side. Her whole posture was slumped and when she lifted her head just enough those lavender coloured eyes flickered with red, confusion and sorrow weeping from them. 

 Bart stood there in stillness, unsure what had happened to cause Yang to be in such distress. His whole being ached to pulled her into his arms and offer her solace but he wasn’t sure what to do. 

 “I-.” Yang stuttered out, the cold and rain finally sinking in as her body gave great quivering shakes. “I’m s-o-sorry, 's-late. I just … I-I just n-needed someone to h-hold me. Please.” Her voice was barely a whisper and despite the pounding rain outside it was all he could hear. Without a hint of hesitation Bart opened his arms wide. Yang didn’t think, she just let out a sob and launched herself into the flat, into those warm and inviting arms and wailed. 

Bart simply held her, uncaring that his clothes were growing wet, that his work was left abandoned on the table and that his drink was left untouched. All that mattered now was the woman in his arms crying, her tears raining harder than the storm clouds outside could compare.  

 


 

Qrow walked up the steps to the temple of Afrien that Iroh stayed at. He liked it as a quiet spot in the city, not so fine as to draw massive hoards of people but well taken care of. It was homely. The red eyed huntsman walked in the guards nodding to him with little smiles as he went. The heavy scent of lavender incense filled his nose and he exhaled all the stress he had been carrying around.

Iroh pulled at his long grey beard as he walked into the hall and stopped upon seeing Qrow. “Come again I see. How do you fair this day Muninn?”

Qrow dipped his head respectfully to his elder. “It’s been very busy, I was hoping to talk to you.”

“Oh course! I just saw one of the page boys carry more wood into the sauna. Care to join me?” Iroh patted his stomach, as if he was planning on eating something too. “I also have a fresh batch of jasmine flowers finally ready to be made into a heart warming tea.”

Qrow laughed. “You and your tea. Sure I could do with an hour or two in a sauna.”

They walked deeper into the warm temple and came to a stone room. With large fires set deep into the stone, at this late hour priests and priestesses were also bathing in the room. Sweating out the days grime. Qrow and Iroh undressed tying short towels around their hips before stepping into the hot room.

They walked over to a stone bench and Iroh set about making tea on the low set fire. “Making tea is so relaxing, the time spent just focused on a singular task, one that provides such serene peace, it truly is lovely. So what is on your mind then Muninn?” Iroh sat beside Qrow as his water warmed.

Qrow smiled slightly at Iroh’s use of his soul name. No one else used it so casually but it never made his magic rise up in response. If anything Qrow had a handle on it and could summon or dismiss it at will. “Actually I have a question for you first… do you know a man named Beckett?”

“Oh yes, he’s like you. His name is Gangrel, he also has several centuries of development on you.” Iroh took his now boiling water off the fire. “Your father is in the city as well and has gone to Gangrel in hopes of waking his own magic.”

“Falcon is here?!” Qrow’s brows shot up. He had thought that Raven had killed him.

“And you’re mother.” Iroh added his tea petals to the water. “Still what is it about Gangrel that interests you?”

“I was just wondering about him. His magic is so much more developed than mine. Yet he doesn’t really seem… I don’t know. Human anymore.” Qrow shrugged, sweat and water was dripping down his back but it was a nice feeling in the sauna.

“And you wonder if you will end up much in the same way. Hmm.” Iroh moved to sit beside Qrow. “Beckett is much older than you, that said I am surprised your claws haven’t become a permanent fixture. I think it would surprise you to know how many faunus are actually magic users. Most soul names reflect some sort of animal and those animal aspects come through.” Iroh stroked his beard. “Hmm, magic has also been growing stronger in the last two or so years. Even Beckett has been growing in strength. Yes, I doubt it will be much longer before your body takes on an aspect of your soul.”

“I...see.” Qrow frowned into the fire.

They sat for a couple minutes in silence before Iroh poured the tea into plain ceramic cups. He handed Qrow one and they had several sips in silence. Eventually Qrow said. “I guess I’ll keep that in mind. Ozpin, Ruby and I are going to visit the Mabino over the summer break. I’m still not sure it’s a good idea.”

“If you do not learn to trust then you will never grow as a person.” Iroh sipped his tea. “You will not be alone and Xiao Roi has no interest in hurting you. You are much too valuable as is your husband and wife.”

“How do you know that?” Qrow asked.

Iroh smiled and drank his tea rather then respond. “I do not think we will meet again Muninn.” He sipped again. “Enjoy your tea.”

Qrow wasn’t sure what any of that meant and did enjoy the tea. He closed his eyes and let the sweet flesh flavours dance over his tongue and when he opened his eyes he was alone. The red eyed man spun around but didn’t see Iroh anywhere. He did however feel the imprint of words on the plain cup. He turned it over in his hand and read the new scripture. Property of the Dragon of the West.

Chapter Text

The rumble of engines stirred Ruby out of her nap. That first month had finally passed and Ruby was allowed to both leave Mistral and pick up things heavier than Euclase. So at long last she returned to her Huntress gear and picked up Crescent Rose. The familiar weight of her beloved weapon gave her both a sense of safety but also apprehension. She had been thinking about redesigning it at long last but if they were doing to Atlas in a few months better to wait till she had access to the legendly forges of the Academy. She gave a fleeting thought to Flower, the one handed sword she had been gifted back in Beacon when she first began training with Oz from Qrow. Ruby had wanted to bring it with her but had left it behind as she felt she wasn’t profictent enough with it yet. Now she wished she had brought it along, if only so she could practice and train with another form of weapon.

A cool breeze lifted her hair from where it sat free over her shoulders. It was nice this time going north, it was actually nice and fast. The bullhead that Ozpin had arranged for them was making this trip delightfully short. Euclase was sleeping on Qrow’s chest, as he held her with one arm and an overhead bar with the other. Ruby sighed at the frown set onto his features. His new cape was broader at the shoulders much better for keeping the rain off but it did little to offset the faint look of concern in his eyes.

Ozpin on the other hand wasn’t in old gear. Instead he was wearing a long green trench coat but he had his green cowled shirt and vest on underneath. He had gone back to his armour from Beacon but the new coat buttoned up tight at the collar made him feel more closed off. Like he was retreating.

The bullhead banked and Ruby felt them start to decelerate and moved to stand beside Qrow. Trapping Euclase between them. “Ma ma.” Euclase woke and reached out grabbing a handful of Ruby’s long hair. It had grown well down past her breasts. She loved it and with summer on the way out cutting now would be stupid anyway. Nothing worse than a chilly breeze going down her collar.

The ship came to a stop and Ruby took Euclase from Qrow and he pulled the bay door open. The bullhead powered down as the three stepped off the ship. As they walked away from the landing zone Xaio Roi himself approached them. A rapier on his hip, today he was in a doublet of dark blue accented in gold. His black curly hair was pulled back into a rouge knot. He extended his arms wide in greeting. “Greetings friends! At long last, you have come to visit your new ally.” 

    Ozpin raised his good arm to rest over his chest and bowed. “I apologize for the wait. Many factors have prevented us from leaving Mistral.”

    “Ah yes, I understand. Introduce me?” Xaio stepped towards them to speak at a comfortable distance.

    Qrow gestured to Ozpin. “This is my husband Ozpin Branwen. You know Ruby and the new addition is our daughter Euclase.”

“Oh Euclase, what a lovely name it suits her.” Xaio admired the blue in her hair.

Euclase looked away from her moms chest and looked at the stranger. “Ba!” She reached out.

Xaio offered her a manicured finger. “What lovely eyes. My wife Mithral just gave birth a couple weeks ago and Topaz’s son seems to be only a few months older than this one.”

Euclase grabbed it and pulled it into her mouth and gummed on it. Ruby blushed. “Sorry she likes to chew on fingers.”

“It is quite alright. Every child seems to go through the phase.” Xaio withdrew his finger. “Please come, I’ve had a private dinner arranged. My wives are eager to meet you all in a less formal arrangement. The servants will collect your bags.”

“Thank you.” Ozpin dipped his head and they followed Xaio into his castle. The warm halls were welcoming as the three followed the King bandit into the royal wing. Ruby noticed it was much nicer then the area she and Qrow had been taken to last time. Though she guessed that was to be expected.

A huge oaken door was opened for them and sure enough a large room was ready for them. The lights were candle sconces on the walls less than a meter apart each. With three candles on each. On the table were three candelabra of three candles, Ruby could smell the heavy beeswax as it glowed brightly and there were three in all. It was a very bright room considering it had no windows. Huge tapestries with the family house sign of Rio kept the room warm. The sign itself was two crossed rapiers over a mountain of dark blue.

As Ozpin took in the room a side door opened and five women walked in. The oldest was a woman with braided red-orange hair that went down to the middle of her thighs. Her complexion was pale as snow with emerald eyes. She was the tallest, even taller than Xaio who was only a few inches shorter than Ozpin. She was on the thinner side and without hesitation she walked straight up to Qrow and looked him in the eye. “You have killed all my sons.”

The red eyed man pursed his lips, then closed his eyes. A moment later he opened them, black with just the ring of red was clear to everyone in the room when he opened them. Meeting her eyes, he placed a hand on his chest and bowed to her. “We have long been on opposing sides. I apologize for any lives of those you treasure that I have taken.”

Phox smiled very slightly a barely noticeable shift in her thin lips. “I accept your apology son of the Branwen tribe. May we progress through life as allies.” She returned his bow, though not to his extent. They both straightened and Qrow let his magic fade. As it did she spoke again. “You are politer than your mother said you were. You have not forgotten all of our ways it seems.”

“Well my mother has never looked at me favorably. I have always been her bad luck charm.” Qrow shrugged and forced a smile.

“That was cruel of her. But you were named well.” Phox said and turned to the other four women. 

“Thank you. May I introduce my husband Ozpin Branwen and Ruby Branwen.” Qrow motioned to each in turn. “And my daughter Euclase.” 

“A pleasure to meet you all. In descending order, Mithril is the second wife.” Phox gestured to the first woman.

Mithril was much shorter with straight black hair who was slightly overweight. She wore green and silver dress, like Ruby however her breasts were full with that ripe appearance that suggested they were full of milk. She curtised to the three and bowed her head. “Many greetings family of Branwen.” The richness of her skin suggested that she was only in her early mid twenties.

Ozpin and Qrow returned the bow. Qrow was the one to speak though. “And to you second wife.”

Mithril smiled and stepped away with a swish of blue gown and the woman behind her pulled out a seat for her. She sat with obvious relief.

“This is Topaz the third wife.” Phox waved the next woman over.

She was again a couple years younger then Mithril but still older than Ruby. She was tall as well but not as much as Phox with soft curly blonde hair. She was built rather like Yang but had many of the same features of Ruby. Breasts that suggested milk, just enough fat on her muscular body to suggest a recent pregnancy and eyes a soft shade of brown. Topaz bowed the same as her sister wife. “Many greetings family of Branwen.”

“And to you third wife.” Qrow dipped his head. “You can talk if you want you two.”

Ruby smiled looking up to her. “It is nice to meet you Topaz.”

“And you. Your child is beautiful, mine is only four months old, maybe we could introduce them.” Topaz said and bowed her head once more. Neither of the ones behind her pulled out her chair though instead she pulled out theirs before taking her place beside Mithril.

“Onyx the fourth wife.”

Onyx suited her name, her midnight black hair was straight and to her hips. She was the most slender of the five and her dark chocolate skin gave her an exotic look. She was also a Faunus, assented by her large golden eyes that were too round to be human, possibly a bird of some sort. As Ruby looked closer it appeared that Onyx too was pregnant, her belly showing the tiniest of mounds.  “Many greetings family of Branwen.” Her words were clipped and short, much like Phox’s.

“And to you Onyx.” Ozpin said speaking in the same manner.

Onyx bowed her head and took her seat.

“Lastly Opal.”

Opal was Ruby’s age but unlike Ruby was heavily pregnant and wearing an ivory dress with a green sash tied under her breasts. Her hair was nearly the same shade as the dress while her eyes stunning brilliant blue. The excited female rushed to Ruby, making grabby hands for Euclase. “She’s so precious! Can I hold her?”

“Opal!” Phox snapped sharply.

Opal’s cheeks flushed and she dipped her head, she curtsied. “I apologize. Many greetings family of Branwen.”

“Think nothing of it.” Qrow said then Opal took her seat.

“My apologies Missus Branwen. She's very hormonal at the moment and doesn’t always grasp the term ‘personal space’.” Phox said and motioned to the table. “Please have a seat, let us talk before the meal.”

Qrow nodded. “Far end of the table at the head Ozpin.  I'll be next to him and you beside me.”

Ruby and Ozpin took their places, removing their cloaks or coats. While Phox and Xaio took their seats. In the end it was the four wives on one side of the table. Phox with a free space beside her then Ruby and Qrow with Ozpin and Xaio at opposite heads of the table.

Two butlers entered the room and Xaio spoke up to one of them. “Get a baby seat for Euclase please.”

The one closest to Xaio nodded his head, he was a deer faunus with a short rack of horns. He vanished out the nearest door. Xaio looked to Ruby as she settled Euclase on her lap, the child had been very quiet this whole time. “Your girl is very quiet, yet her eyes are especially bright.”

“You should talk Ozpin, keep on topic.”

Ozpin smiled and spoke with an old air of nobility. “She understands us to a level outside what would be considered normal. She knows when to speak and when to be silent.”

“Something about this Vessel Soul business? I have not forgotten your little demonstration Ruby.” Xaio flicked his fingers and the second butler departed from the room.

“Yes. She is bonded to us and while words aren’t always understood the meaning of them is and she does understand through us.” Ozpin said.

“Amazing. It is to bad none of my wives has such a gift. Quiet children would be a blessing.” Xaio said glancing down at one of his rings. It was a heavy gold thing with inset diamonds and rubies.

“Have many do you?” Ozpin asked.

“Eleven. Currently. Used to be fifteen but well, that has already been touched upon today and I see no reason to revisit it.”

Ozpin wasn’t sure where to take the conversation. He could practically feel the glares pointed at Qrow, spoken words of forgiveness and true forgiveness were two very different things. “Well, what is passed is passed. I look forward to the future to be forged.”

“Well said.” Xaio’s smile was a bit more genuine.

Both butlers returned one with a high chair for Euclase and helped put the baby into it. The other set down wine glasses and poured the exact same amount into each. Ruby spoke up as he reached her side of the table. “None for me please.”

“Maintaining the taste of your milk?” Phox asked sipping her red wine.

“Yes and I do not drink alcohol.” Ruby shivered. “I also don’t have good experiences with it.”

“None for me as well please.” Qrow said stopping the butler. “Could we have something non-alcoholic please?”

“Yes yes of course.” Xaio waved his hand again.

Oz picked up the wine elegantly and had a small sip. The red wine was very full in body, he guessed that it was at least fifty years old or more. It wasn’t something he really enjoyed but two of them turning down such an expensive drink was two too many. After five months dry the alcohol despite it not being to his taste was very nice. “This is very good. May I guess it is at least fifty years old?”

“You have good taste, fifty one years. From my own private winery, my father enjoyed his wine.” Xaio held his cup up to the light enjoying the refraction.

The butler returned with a new green bottle. He poured too the same middle level as the others. Qrow sipped it and was pleasantly surprised to find the taste of pears on a lovely light bubbly. “Pear bubbly, you’ll like it.”

Ruby picked up her glass and had a small sip. It was a very nice light flavour with just that right balance of sweet fruity flavour.

Opal took a deep breath, before speaking. “Miss Branwen, how do you find Mistral? I was born among the tribes and have never been to the city.”

“It is a nice place, though I never wander into the lower levels. I miss Vale and Patch, they will always be home.” Ruby put her glass down centering it on the coaster.

“I lament the loss of your home. I hope that either Vale is restored or you find a new home. I hear that you will be leaving Anima soon, to head north? To Atlas?” Opal asked, trying to manage a thick accent.

“Yes, once Euclase is old enough to eat solid food.” At her words, Euclase looked up to her mom and her bottom lip started to wobble. Ruby felt the distress and tried to sooth her child over the bond. She reached out and pet over the soft fluffy hair till Euclase calmed down. “Not yet baby, not yet.”

“Oh I do not envy you that.” Opal’s hands went to her heavy stomach. “This is my first and I could not imagine being parted from her.”

“You’re having a girl?” Ruby asked.

Opal nodded. “Yes, I’m due next month.”

“Good luck with the birth, mine was oddly easy.” Ruby said then had another sip of her drink.

Opal smiled and dipped her head as she saw Phox purse her lips. Phox turned her attention to Qrow. “We’ve heard many stories about you. I’ve heard yet more reports, however you are not like the reports.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” The red eyed man said. “I know what is written about me.”

The tall woman narrowed her eyes slightly. “And much is written. Still it will be nice to get to know you three while you are here. How long will you be staying?”

Ozpin spoke up. “Only a week, because of the upset to the students education with the fall of Beacon. We’ve reduced summer break by a month and we want to have some family time before classes pick up again.”

“Understandable. A week is plenty of time.” Xaio said. “I have had a meal prepared or do you have something that you’d prefer.”

“Whatever you have planned will be fine.” Ozpin motioned to his left arm. “If a note could be made my left arm doesn’t function.”

That got Xaio’s attention. “Do you need implants? I have some of the best available.”

“No, thank you. It is healing, it is just a long process. The arm is intact, it just needs more time.” Oz hated talking about it but it sure beat making a fool of himself unable to cut something.

“It is an injury sustained from the Revenant. Wasn’t it?” Xaio asked having another drink of wine.

“Yes. It burned me.” Oz had a longer drink of wine trying to push it from his mind.

“I’m amazed it heals at all then. Your Aura must be quite impressive.” Xaio said setting his wine down and gestured with a flick of fingers for the butlers to bring the first course.

“Something like that.” Ozpin said setting his own wine down. Just because he could drink everyone save maybe Qrow under the table didn’t mean that he should indulge, as tempting as it was.

“Perhaps you could entertain us with a spar? I’ve heard a great deal about you, to see you fight in person would be a privilege.” Xaio said.

“I would not get your hopes up. As I said I can not use my left arm so my fighting abilities are not what they once were. However I would not be adverse to sparing privately.”

“Good enough. Perhaps Qrow will help as well. One on one is never as interesting as multiplies. We have our own group of Huntsmen in training, my hope is the next time the Vytal festival is held I will have combatants for it.”

“That will be interesting to see.” Ozpin said.

Phox turned her attention to Qrow again. “Have you heard from your parents? Our reports say that they gave the tribe to Raven and have gone out on their own into retirement.”

Qrow couldn’t mask his surprise. “No I did not know that. I assumed Raven killed them.”

“You don’t give Hawk and Falcon enough credit. They have held the Branwen tribe by their own might, I assume they wanted to do something new after all these years.” Phox sipped her wine and glanced at Euclase. Despite her neutral expression and although she didn’t show it, she hated Qrow like a fiery storm. Qrow Branwen, murderer of her sons. She was thirty nine  now and did not expect another child, not for lack of trying. Yet here sat Qrow and Ozpin, both of whom looked half their age and had a lovely young wife. Many children would be in their future. She forced her gaze away from the innocent child.

“Perhaps.” The red eyed man said watching the bubbles float up in his drink. Qrow couldn’t help but find it odd that Hawk and Falcon hadn’t shown themselves. He found it unlikely that they didn’t want to meet Euclase but then he had never agreed with their way. Understood them yes but didn’t agree with them. 

The butlers returned with two additional servants. A thick clam soup was served with light loaves of bread, baked a beautiful shade of gold. Ruby had to remember not to bite her lip as she looked at the collection of silverware. Already set up on the table as well as a small plate and knife to the upper left of were her meal dish would go. The soup itself was served on another plate and Ruby had no idea what she was supposed to do.

“The small plate to your left is for the bread. For the soup you want the first spoon after the third knife. Qrow can serve you the bread.” Ruby smiled at Ozpin’s voice in her head. Having him explain it eased her mind. Still Ruby watched Phox serve herself and have a sip of her soup before she moved to start on her own. The soup spoon was wider at the head then normal and Ruby knew she was supposed to sip it from the side. Meanwhile Qrow prepared her bread for her, Oz thankfully could serve himself with one hand.

Ruby was mindful not to lick her lips. The soup was creamy with little piece of perfectly cooked clam. Everyone ate for a minute before Phox spoke up directing her words at Ruby. “I trust the soup is to your liking?”

“Yes, thank you. It’s very good.” Ruby had a small bite of garlic bread courtesy of Qrow.

“And you Ozpin? You strike me as a man of refined tastes.” Phox turned her attention to Ozpin who was eating much more slowly then he would normally.

“I have not had clam in a couple years. Your chef does it justice.” Ozpin said looking up from his soup, his left arm was twinging painfully. It was killing his appetite. Silently he set his spoon down on the serving plate. Taking his bad arm by the wrist he moved it to rest in his lap, turning it so his wrist was on it’s side and the rest of the arm fell into a natural position. He could feel the over tight skin crack and start to bleed. Thankfully he had wrapped it in bandages that morning in preparation for something like this happening.

“Do you need something for your arm?” Xaio asked, he could see the pain in the movement.

“No thank you. It is just stiff.” Oz said, a half lie. He forced himself to have some bread and soup.

“Hmmm.” Xaio did not believe him. The bandit had been researching into Ozpin for the better part of a year now and he had found some very interesting things. Painted portraits hundred of years old of a man with the same face as the one who sat across the table from him. Further whispers about such a man being the Keeper. The one who held the magic of Remnant, of the Gods in his left hand. What was even more interesting were the stories of the man who came before. The earliest one to find went by the name of Iselmyr. A Valeite warrior from over six hundred years ago. Iselmyr had traveled the land with a large group of warriors. What made him interesting was after his death, not even a year later. A new man joined the party, one wearing Ozpin’s face. The journals of the rest of the party members said how it was as if the wheel had reversed and gave Iselmyr back to them a generation early. The consistency of the stories made Xaio wonder. As did the pictures or paintings of Ozpin through the centuries. “Does the name Iselmyr, mean anything to you Ozpin?”

Ozpin felt like had been punched in the gut. There was no surge of memories but he did feel Garrett twist and knew that Iselmyr was someone what Garrett had taken from him. “It does not. Why?”

“I was just curious, he was a famous Valite highland warrior. You remind me a bit of  him.” Xaio sipped his wine watching Ozpin closely.

Oz swallowed thickly. “Study Vale history do you?”

“Extensively.” Xaio purred the word.

Ozpin had a sip of wine to help his suddenly parched throat. “I do not know of him. The name is new to me.”

The king set his wine down and leaned back into his seat. A lie. He mused. “That is a shame, you are welcome to my library if you wish to study him. I think it would be beneficial to you.”

“I do enjoy libraries, if we have time I would like to take you up on that.” Oz forced himself to eat. The pain in his arm was distracting him from the dread boiling in his stomach. With the thought of a new person within him that he had forgotten was also the worry of how Xaio had found the name.

    Qrow and Ruby could both feel it. Qrow licked his lips and tried to find something to talk about, to direct the conversation away from Ozpin. “How has trade been Xaio? It’s been a less then popular decision in Mistral.”

    “It has been surprisingly steady.” Xaio returned his attention to his soup.

    Ruby was trying to keep her shoulders from raising with how nervous she was. Butterflies turning over in her belly. Euclase was being very quiet and even appeared to be nodding off. She worried her lip, could she trust Euclase around these people? She had proven able to reach out to them if something was wrong… Ruby set her spoon down. “Excuse me, but is there someplace I can put Euclase down for a nap? She looks like she is about to nod off.”

    “Of course, we have had a room prepared for you.” Phox said and gestured to Onyx. “Onyx if you would please take Ruby to their room.”

    “Of course my Queen.” Onyx had finished her soup and bread. She rose with elegant ease.

    Ruby did the same though with considerably less confidence in her actions. Blush tinted her cheeks as she collected Euclase from her high chair, the baby immediately snuggling deeper into her chest as the gentle heartbeat lulled her to sleep. Ruby followed the chocolate skinned woman from the room. Onyx didn’t seem inclined to speak as they walked down the long hall and didn’t acknowledge any of the servants they passed. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before they came to a heavy door.

    Onyx opened it and led Ruby in to an extremely fine room. Ruby had never seen it’s equal. From the heavy rugs on the floor to the tapestries on the walls. It had two hearths one on each long wall. A sitting area as well as a massive four poster bed with curtains. As well as a small space clearly set up for Euclase only a few steps away. Complete with table, and crib for her. There were also several wardrobes for clothes and a connecting bathroom.

    Ruby took Euclase to the table and undressed the girl. By the time her mother set Euclase down in the crib she was drifting off. Ruby turned to attention to Onyx as the woman put her Scroll away. “I’ve summoned one of the wet nurses to look after her while we dine, she will be here momentarily.”

    “Thank you. She is pretty good about sleeping but having someone around will ease my mind.” Ruby lingered by her baby. She didn’t really want to go back to the stiff dinner. Yet she didn’t feel it would be fair to leave her husbands alone with the king and queen.

    Sure enough less than a minute later a portly woman with large breasts and bright brown hair came into the room. She wore full commoners gowns with an apron. She curtsied to Onyx. “My lady.”

    “Marigold. This is Ruby Branwen, Qrow Branwen’s wife and the baby is Euclase. She is…”

    “A month old.” Ruby said. “She will probably sleep for at least an hour, if someone could come and get me when she wakes? She’ll probably be hungry and I like to breastfeed her.”

    Marigold huffed putting her hands on her wide hips. “I will have you know lady Branwen I am a professional wet nurse. We also have plenty of fine bodied women equipped to feed your daughter whilst you enjoy a break.”

A sudden silence filled the room as Ruby fought to keep her jaw from dropping. Did she just insinuate that Ruby couldn’t care for her child?! “It’s not that, I just produce more milk then I know what to do with and I’d rather feed her then have to milk myself.”

“That is enough!” Onyx snapped, her dark eyes resting on the wet nurse. “Marigold, you will do well to remember that Missus Branwen is a guest here and should she choose to feed her child herself that is to be respected. Every woman understands that breastfeeding is part of the bonding experience between mother and child. I expect Ruby to be called for when her daughter wakes. Promptly. Am I understood?”

The wet nurse seemed to shrink back from Onyx and offered a tiny bow. “Yes Ma’am.”

Ruby was a little in awe of the older woman. She couldn’t imagine dressing someone down like that. She pulled herself away from Euclase, as much as Marigold looked like a kindly lady. The suggestion that Ruby wouldn’t be a good mother irked her. “We should get back before we are missed.” The silver eyed warrior forced herself to follow Onyx out of the room. She closed the door behind her, everything in her body screamed to go back to Euclase.

As Ruby’s hand lingered on the door Onyx turned to her, her expression a little softer and said. “She’ll be fine. Marigold is just proud. She was Phox’s first wet nurse and is the head wet nurse for all of us. You’d be amazed how much she has taught me and the others.”

“Have you had any children yet?” Ruby asked pulling her hand away from the door.

“Just the one. I was so terrified but Marigold help me. Mithril has let Marigold feed two of her children now. She’s a bit silly and thinks that breastfeeding will make her breasts smaller.” Onyx hid her lips with a few fingers as she giggled. “Something about not wanting her breasts to be reduced to teets.”

Ruby giggled. “I gained two cup sizes!” She shivered. “I don’t even want to think about how much it is going to hurt when my milk starts to go dry.”

They walked together this time as Onyx said. “Mirthil whined for two months straight.”

Ruby reached for the door as they came to the dining room but Onyx stopped her. “Oh don’t! I have to.”

“Why?” Ruby asked looking up at the tall woman confused.

“Because you’re a Branwen till Raven formally disowns Qrow. You’re kinda a princess. I guess would be the easiest way to describe it. Furthermore you’re Qrow’s first wife and I am my Kings fourth wife. You outrank me. The only one of us you don’t outrank is Phox herself.”

“But that doesn’t make sense, Isn’t Phox a Queen? And why would I be considered a princess? We don’t even belong to the tribe.”

Onyx shrugged and rolled her eyes, it was the most casual gesture Ruby had seen her make and it made her look younger. “It’s silly really but when Raven took over her tribe she became the ‘leader’ and Qrow is her twin so it makes him important. It’s just the way things are here, blood is everything. Best get used to it.”

“Did you?” Ruby asked quietly and the hand the other woman had rose to open the heavy door faltered. She glanced back at the redhead and for the briefest of moments, gone so fast Ruby wasn’t sure it had ever been. There was a look in Onyx’s dark eyes, one so sad and broken she was in awe that it alone didn’t call the Grimm in that instant. 

Then it was no more and the taller woman gently pushed the door open and gestured for Ruby to reenter the stressed dining room. 

 


 

Later in the evening, after finishing dinner Ruby found herself sat on a chaise holding a squirming baby. Euclase seemed to be fussing a lot and had wiggled enough to dislodge the blanket wrapped around her and freeing her hand. With a loud giggle she started waving it happily. 

Oz and Qrow had been called to join Xaoi in one of the many parlors and Ruby had taken the opportunity to be excused and rest in their room. Unfortunately it seemed Euclase was wanting her daddies as she craned her neck around the unfamiliar room and letting out tiny inquisitive coos. 

Ruby was just debating taking her daughter to find her husbands when a knock sounded at the door. Ruby looked over and called out, the door creaking open to reveal several women entering the room. She recognized the three. “Hello, can I help you with something?”

The blonde woman thrust her hand out to Ruby and gave her a beaming smile. “Hello, sorry if we disturbed you. We just wanted to ask if you’d like some company. My name is Topaz.”

Smiling back Ruby took her hand “Yes I remember. I’m Ruby, of course you already knew that and this is Euclase.” She turned her daughter to them. 

When the baby waved her outstretched arm to the woman, Topaz gave her tiny hand gently shake. “She is absolutely adorable and looks so much like her mama.”

Hearing the words seemed to set off the energetic baby as she babbled “MA MA MA!” loudly between giggles. The three other women all cooed, their hearts melting at the sight. 

  The redhead laughed, giving Euclase a kiss. “Yeah, well there’s plenty of her dad in there too. So was there anything in particular you wanted? It’s just you all seem…”

“A little different?” Topaz grinned then seated herself by Ruby on the chaise while the other two sat on nearby chairs. “We were playing the duty of wife at dinner.”

“But its soooo stuffy!” The youngest one Ruby called her name being Opal groaned. She hand one hand running through her long white hair while the other rested on her very pregnant belly. “Phox insists that whilst in company or public we must act accordingly to our positions.”

The mocking tone sent Topaz into giggles while Onyx just let a tiny grin slip over her lips. “Didn’t stop you from nearly bowling over the poor girl when you saw Euclase.” Onyx teased.  

Opal gave a mock gasp of outrage. “How very dare you! I’ll have you know I was on my best behavior tonight and besides between the hormones and that cutsey itty bitty face I simply couldn’t resist.”

“If that was her good behavior I’d hate to see her on a bad day.” Ruby whispered to herself but being as close to Topaz as she was the other woman leaned over and whispered back.

“Trust me its no better then full on snuggling genocide.” 

That caused both women to burst into laughter. Euclase, not quite understanding why everyone was laughing decided to join in and her happy squealing only made Ruby’s heart feel lighter. 

Another knock came from the door and after calling out an older woman with a trolley entered the room. The other women calmed quickly and thanked the maid who bowed and left. Opal swiftly went for the pot and poured a flora scented drink into four dainty white and blue cups. “This is orange blossom tea, it was a gift sent from my sister in Mistral and since I fell pregnant it's like the only thing I’ll drink now.”

Ruby was passed one cup and as she sat Euclase between topaz and herself she lifted it to her face. It smelt lovely and seeing the others drink the tea Ruby was quick to follow. It tasted as ripened oranges and some sort of flower she couldn’t identify but was delicious anyway. To Ruby’s surprise and delight, there was also a plate of chocolate chip cookies as well as a small bowl of fresh berries. 

“There was another reason why we decided to come see you Ruby. Is it alright if I call you that?” Topaz asked, her cup sat in her lap.

Taking one of the napkins from the trolley Ruby wiped her lips of stray crumbs, wishing she could just lick her lips instead. “Sure, I mean I’m still getting use to the whole ‘Branwen name’ so Ruby is fine.”

“Great. Well one of the things I- ‘WE’ wanted to discuss was if you would like any advice.” At Ruby’s confused look the older woman chuckled. “One of the best things about the positions we’re all in is that we get a lot of very good advice.”

“Yeah. All the sister wives and wet nurses, we sort of all band together to look after our hoard of children.” Opal gleefully clapped.

Onyx was a bit more neutral. “It actually a very good system and because we have all had children, if one of us needs help or doesn’t know what to do we pool what knowledge we have and make sure each of us are well cared for.”

“Not to say Roi wouldn’t summon a doctor in an instant the moment one of us so much as coughs but there's just something comforting to know that we each have one another to look to. Despite how many there are of us there is no competition.” 

Ruby thought about those words for a while and it seemed to be true. These women shared a bond, a platonic kind of bond and they did seem to care about each others well being. Ruby didn’t want to be ungrateful to Lydia or anyone else but she didn’t really know anyone close by who had children. It wasn’t something that was brought up too often and Ruby didn’t want to overstep any boundaries by asking painful questions. 

She knew she could always turn to her dad. He and Yang had all but raised her but there were just some things she didn’t think he would be able to help her with. Qrow was still a little awkward with some aspects of raising a baby compared to Oz who seemed like a natural. It certainly wouldn’t do any harm to listen to the experience of others. Anything to ensure her baby grows happy and healthy was welcome in her book and replacing the cup on the trolley she let a still wiggling Euclase back into her lap and sat back and ready to listen.  

 


 

Qrow and Ozpin walked side by side. Before them Xaio Roi strode with his hands tucked into the small of his back. After the meal right on time, Ruby had been summoned to tend to Euclase. So they had split up, Qrow and Ozpin leaving with Xaio while Phox had duties to attend to. The rest of the wives had decided what they wanted to do on their own and left. Unlike usual Qrow was lingering on Ozpin’s left side, trying to discreetly shield it from any unwary passerby. He could feel the pain from it over the bond, slight but enough to make Oz tense.

    Xaio tossed two heavy doors open and they revealed a library. It was a densely packed room with bookshelves reaching the domed ceiling. A chandelier with two dozen candles lit the majority of the round room. “Here we are.”

Ozpin strode away from Xaio as they walked into the room. He reached out with his good hand and brushed over the spines of the books. They were old, the vast majority were so old that Ozpin only had vague memories of the more popular titles. At random he pulled one off the shelf and opened it carefully to the middle balancing it in his palm. The scent of old book, musty and dusty with that old scent of well worn leather and paper. Oz smiled closing his eyes without thought. He missed this, old books. “I think I will enjoy spending time here. Old books, I didn’t realize how much I missed them till now.”

“This is a gift. All the kings have been adding to this room. New books go into the side rooms, this room however is my pride and joy. Many of these volumes are first editions, many more are centuries old. I imagine it gives the Academies a run for their money.” Xaio walked over to a worn leather reading chair, removed his sword and relaxed into the chair.

“It does.” Ozpin closed the book and returned it to its place resuming his walk. His hand remained, gliding lightly over the spines, feeling all the textures and nicks. The smell set his mind at ease. Tension drained out of his body, he wished he had more time here. To crack open each book and read with the reverence the written word deserved.

Qrow walked over to the desk in the room. Upon it were journals, he picked one up and the name that stood out on the pages was Iselmyr. He had felt Ozpin’s unease at the mention of the name. Was this one of Ozpin’s past lives? The ones unaffected by the changing of the curse? He sat down and started to read. This journal was written by one of Iselmyr’s friends and he had to admit that this Iselmyr did sound a great deal like Ozpin. Only he spoke with a thick old Vale accent and was considerably ruder.

Xaio picked up his own book as Ozpin continued to wander. His hand slowed as he felt a leather bound book, but what caught his attention was the indentations on the side. He turned his head inquisitively to the side and opened his eyes. Under his fingertips were glyphs, not Schnee glyphs. No these were Keeper glyphs. Ozpin frowned, he wasn’t sure where the knowledge came from but there shouldn’t be any written glyphs in the world. They had been wiped out when the Sentients chose one true Keeper.

Ozpin pulled the book from the shelf and flipped it open. The pages were blank. He flipped from one side of the book to the other. All blank. That seemed right. Still this was odd, why did Xaio have a blank book? “Xaio? Why do you have this?” Oz held it up, showing the blank pages.

The king looked up from his book. “My father found that one, he said it was a Keeper book. One of the few left. I’ve never figured out how to get any words to show on it.”

Pain stabbed at the side of Oz’s head, had the brand from O’Dimm not faded from sight as was promised. He would have blamed it but no, this was from within. Garrett was pressing in on his mind. Despite his bondage, courtesy of Lydia he had been silent these past months. Ozpin walked over to the table and set the book down open this time. He reached up and rubbed his temples, trying to get the pain to abate. He closed his eyes and the memory that came to him was not an old one, but one of Beckett and his book. Pursing his lips he reached back and cut his thumb on the edge of his sword then pressed it to the page.

At first the pages remained the same. As if the glyphs themselves were musing over the idea of appearing. Then slowly they did. The glyphs were not squiggles nor did they appear like written words of english. No they appear as large as two centimeters squared or less, while the shapes were diverse the clean lines always seemed to occupy the space perfectly equally to the ones around it. As if they knew better than to crowd each other.

Ozpin reached out and touched one with his index finger it was a diamond shape with the lines of each side extending beyond the upper and lower point of the diamond with a dot in the middle and two much smaller lines horizontal on the sides of the diamond. The black ink glowed under his touch. Yet he didn’t understand anything, no new knowledge came to him. Yet he felt a drain on his Aura. Oz removed his finger and closed the book. Something inside him said that returning glyphs to it’s pages had been unwise.

“Find something?” Xaio asked, he found Oz’s expression curious.

“No nothing.” The tall silver haired man picked up the book and returned it to its place. Ozpin tried not to think about how warm the leather was as he left the tomb behind.

Chapter Text

    Ruby was joined by Topaz and Mithril after breakfast the following morning. Something about a playdate for their children. Qrow and Oz were having some after breakfast fun and as much as she wanted to join Euclase was a little fussy from being kept in a lot. So when the invitation arrived she happily accepted but now as she followed the two women down the hall, she wasn’t too sure what to expect. Ruby had Euclase sat on her hip and wondered if the royal children were treated different here. According to Yang, Hawk had said that children were one of the few things bandits treasured as they would be the next line of fighters, warriors and craftsmen to the tribe. It made sense, not everyone was immortal like Oz so children eventually had to carry their tribes torch.  

Xiao-Roi also seemed to follow that sentiment, having five wives currently and twice as many children with more on the way. So it only took her surprise a little when the trio were stopped by two heavily armed guards in front of a pair of double doors. 

One guard was male while the other was a woman. Both worn fairly casual armour with the tribes family crest over the breastplate and both were armed. The man held his hands out for Topaz’s son. “Sorry M’lady, you know the drill.”

With a sigh the blonde allowed her son to rest against the guards chest while his female companion stepped forward and to Ruby’s shock frisk searched her! It was very thorough and intrusive as well, not an inch of her body was left untouched. When it was determined to be done Mithril took her place and the guard again searched her whole body. 

Seeing Ruby’s expression Topaz’s features softened. “My apologies Ruby, This is just standard. Xaio’s method of protecting his children and those of his close allies. Even we his wives must undergo regular searches for poisons, blades and bombs. The safety of our children is paramount. You understand?”

By now the male guard had returned the infant to her and was now holding his hands out for Euclase. Ruby stiffened, drawing her child closer to her. Euclase seemed to sense her mother’s apprehension and grabbed a lock of red hair, tugging it sharply with a sniffle. Snapping out of it the Silver eyes hesitantly held out her baby for the guard to take. Once out of her arms the other guard approached and began to search her body. 

It was terribly uncomfortable, Ruby’s displeasure and anxiety over being touched by a random stranger rose. She tried to remain still while nimble and fast hands ran over her breasts, her inner thighs and bottom. When her hands got to her panties Ruby froze, fingers checking her vaginal canal.

“Ruby? What happened? I can feel your distress, where are you?”

Oz. Her husband, her love. Thinking of him made the intrusive search bearable. Inhaling sharply, the scent of pine trees and chocolate soothed her nerves. “ I’m alright. Just a frisk search. It’s okay.”

There was a pause, during which Ruby’s search had finished and Euclase was returned to her. “Very well. Please call for me should you need me.”

“Always .” Breathing a sigh of relief the two guards offered a bow of apology before opening the door. 

Like most of this new city, the nursery was in surprisingly pristine condition. The main room split off into three different rooms, through one Ruby could see several couches, a TV and some children that must have been at least ten or older. The far door was shut but someone had placed a few Z’s and clouds over the front suggesting a nap room of some sort. The final doorway was where Mithril and Topaz led Ruby. 

The room was decorated in soft pastel colours and was everything one would expect of a nursery. Except for the figure stood by the far wall watching over the occupants. Another guard. This was was also male and he had a scar running down one cheek. He was leaning against the wall but straightened when he saw his King’s wives enter. 

The rest of the room was littered with toys suitable for all ages and a couple of erected play pens. There were three other children there, twin boys that appeared to be five or six and an older girl closer to ten. The twins rushed to them, almost barreling Mithril over with their energy. “Hello Mother!” 

“Hello my children, I see Ember is taking great care of you.” The second wife smiled though Ember the young girl didn’t return it, simply going back to reading the book she had in her hands. 

Euclase choose that moment to decide she needed to be at the center of attention and cooed loudly. “GAH!” Stumpy little hands waved towards the boys whose eyes widened.

Chuckling the dark haired woman turned to Ruby. “Ruby these are my sons, Flare and Blaze and the sullen ‘CHILD’ sat in the corner is my daughter Ember.”

At her name and the emphasis on her status the young girl jumped up and stomped out. “You suck mom!” 

Mithril only chuckled as she heard the door to the sitting room slam shut. “Shes eleven and thinks the world will end if she is asked to do anything.” 

“She’ll come around. You just need to show her you love her, Mitty.” Topaz teased. 

Ruby tilted her head. “Mitty?”

The older woman sighed. “Pay her no mind Ruby. Her nicknames are bad but not as bad as Opals.”

Topaz let out a loud bark of laughter as she placed her four month old in one of the pens, where he immediately grabbed one of the wooden toys and shoved it in his mouth. “I remember she once called me Taz! Hahaha the moment Onyx told her what that meant and she realized how she was calling me a raging rodent that spat when it spoke was hilarious!” 

“Opal was mortified.” Mithril laughed. “But not as much as Phox. I swear that woman is as uptight as a nun in a brothel.” 

They settled into a comfortable conversation, Ruby finally putting Eulcase down on one of the play mats Topaz recommended. It was mostly green, the fuzzy material soft and had a bar running from one end to the other with a multitude of noisy toys attached to it. Euclase immediately reached for the silver moon, it crinkled in her tight grasp and her baby giggled.

While the other two women chatted Ruby took that time to really look at the room. All of the toys were well maintained and colourful but taking a second more studious look she noticed how they all offered some form of stimulation for the child using it. Whether it be colours, pictures or numbers, everything had a second objective besides play and it suddenly dawned on her how little of these things Euclase actually had. 

Sure she had the odd stuffed Ursa that Nora and Ren had gifted her and a ring of rubber keys. Maybe one or two rattles but that was it. Most of what they bought was clothes and blankets and diapers since they were what they went through the most. What toys Euclase ‘did’ have she didn’t play with much. 

Her daughter seemed to prefer spending time with her parents, listening to Oz’s singing, playing with Yang and the group. Even walking around with Qrow as they cuddled, she seemed content and happy, always cooing and babbling like any other baby. 

A wash of something cold and unpleasant ran down her back. What if she wasn’t providing her baby with the right stimulants? Would it stunt her growth? Her capabilities? 

Ruby suddenly found it more difficult to breathe as the thought of whether she was being a good mother filled her head. Scenarios played out behind her eyes of Euclase, her unhappy face, tears rolling down her cheeks as she struggled over and over to understand and grow. Would she be taken from her if Ruby was a bad mother?

Ruby’s vision blurred with the sheen of tears. Faintly she could hear both Oz and Qrow calling her name but she couldn’t find the breath in her to answer. She hiccuped once then again and the next one turned into a sob and then another. 

She was a bad mother! Why did she think she could do this! What did she know about mothering, about raising a baby? Euclase would be better off with someone else, anyone else but her-

“Ruby?” 

Shooting up the redhead realized she had attracted the attention of both Topaz and Mithril. They stood a little a little behind her with questioning looks on their face. Ruby wiped at her eyes, already feeling them swell a little. They would be red and puffy later she just knew it. 

“I’m sorry, guess I just got a little emotional.” Ruby looked back at the play mat, Euclase was no longer playing with the little crescent moon, instead she was staring up at her mother with big silver eyes. “It’s just she looked so happy and it made me realize that we don’t have any of these kinds of toys. Not that we can’t afford them.” She amended quickly. “I just didn’t think of them. I know they are good for stimulation and helping with growth, so why haven’t I got her any of them yet. D-does that make me a bad m-mother?” Her voice broke at the end into another sob and her knees gave out dropping her to the floor. 

Unsure whether Ruby would accept or even like a hug the other two women simply knelt beside her, their voices soft. “ Of course you’re a good mother Ruby. You’re just having a little case of doubt. Every mother goes through this, thinking you should be doing more, better and always be right but it doesn’t always work like that.”

Topaz nodded. “She’s right. It's a learning experience, just like everything else in this world. Also not every baby is the same, some might require special care while others grow without a care in the world. We learn what our child needs as they grow and we work with that as we have more.”

“B-but what if I’m d-doing the wrong things?” Ruby was mortified. Not only was she having these doubts but she was blubbering about it in front of people who were essentially strangers. Just how low would she sink? 

A hand, somewhat clumsy but warm tapped at her knee and Ruby’s eyes shot open. There was Euclase, still lay on her back but had somehow managed to wiggle off the mat and close enough to touch her. Those big silver eyes, so identical to her own peered back at her. She gave Ruby a few more pats on the knee and then giggled, her smile wide enough that her eyes scrunched with happiness. 

Ruby’s hand shook as she reached for her, lifting the infant up and into her arms. Euclase’s squeals only got louder and possibly even happier. All the while that bond that connected their souls hummed with a bright warm light that Euclase poured her love for Ruby through. Ruby could almost hear her daughters voice, sweet and high like a bell call out to her, laughing and happy.

Suddenly all the tension and pain was washed away and she sighed. That’s right, her daughter was happy. Lydia had once told her that all that mattered was that a child is fed clean and happy. It was during one of her more hormonal days, when she was gaining more weight and her belly was rounding. She’d been scared and unsure about what to do when the baby arrived and Lydia, bless her had sat them down with a cup of milk tea and cookies. She told Ruby how she wished one of the blessings granted to her had been a child but it was not meant to be. That was until she met Ozpin.

“You can read every book in the world, travel and converse with every mother and receive every word of advice there is to be had but in the end there are only a few things that truly matter. That your child is well fed, that they are clean and the most important one, that they are happy. Everything else will just fall into place.”

With that Ruby was reminded of one more small detail, her bond to her daughter. Euclase didn’t need toys to stimulate her mind and body, she had walking, talking examples around her every single day, all the time. She learned through Ruby, Oz and Qrow and to a lesser extent Lydia as well. 

Her daughter had everything she needed and Ruby finally felt her heart settle again as she breathed in the smell of her daughter. Baby powder; vanilla, cookies and apple. 

Yup, everything was going to be alright. 

 


   

Qrow was used to the fortress of the Mabino by now and he hated it. He disliked being here, going back and forth these last months from Mistral and back again only cemented that. Currently he was returning to the room he shared with Ozpin and Ruby. Thankfully they hadn’t been called for breakfast but instead had been informed they had been invited to join Xaio for lunch. As he turned the corner to the royal wing Phox was just stepping out from her suite, presumably. They both halted almost jerking with the sudden loss of movement as their eyes met.

    Silence followed and the red eyed man swallowed thickly, then bowed his head. He heard the swish of her long dress and then the flash of steel, caused him straighten up and back away on reflex. Phox held a thin combat knife to his throat. “You murdered my children.”

    “I did as I was ordered. You know how it is. Kill or be killed, if I hadn’t they would have killed me.” Qrow met her eyes, those green eyes like emerald. “I can’t say that makes it any better, but I don’t enjoy killing. Your sons were people to me. I remember all of them. Every life I’ve taken, they all stay with me.”

    Phox stared into his eyes, then the knife was pulled away from his skin. It slipped into a discrete scabbard on her forearm, the sleeve of her dress hiding it completely. “You and I will never be allies Branwen. However… I think I can forgive you. I do know how it can be for you Huntsmen in the field, I am glad you remember them, their faces should be burned into your mind as they are in mine. I miss them, every day.” She looked away and sighed. “I was just about to collect the three of you for lunch, lets go.”

    Qrow followed her back to Ozpin and Ruby. They were having a quiet break after the play date between the children. Oz had removed his layers and Euclase was sleeping on his bare chest. He held her with his good arm while the burned one was exposed to the air, resting on the arm of the chair. Qrow saw the disgust in Phox as she viewed the arm, the tightness around her face twisting with disdain. Ozpin himself was dozing with Euclase and didn’t stir as the door opened. Ruby looked up from her book and smiled at Qrow.

    “Lunch time?” Ruby asked as she got up.

    “Yup.” Qrow walked over and gently took Euclase from Oz. He stirred mostly asleep reaching out for his daughter. He blinked a few times focusing on Qrow. “Oh sorry.” Oz reached up and rubbed the inner corners of his eyes. “Must have dozed off.”

    “You needed it.” Qrow carried Euclase off to dress her for going outside.

    Ruby walked over to him and looked burned the arm over. “I think you should bind it again.” She gently touched it and helped him raise it.

    Oz pursed his lips as he worked to straighten the limb, his fingertips twitching. That horrible feeling of something grating against his bones and the pain made him bite his tongue. “Probably a good idea.”

    Ruby set the limb down and went to grab the ever present medical kit. Ozpin stood up and stretch his good side. As he turned Phox saw his back, she couldn’t think of anything more hideous. Yet it seemed that Ruby and Qrow barely noticed, or just simply didn’t care. Ruby returned and helped Ozpin wrap up the limb again. It took two sections of bandages. One from his shoulder to his wrist and other for his hand.

    Ozpin dressed in a forest green dress shirt and they were ready to go. By now Phox was by the door again ready to lead them out of the keep and into the inner courtyard. Ozpin as usual was courteous, giving the Queen a faint bow in greeting while Ruby offered a smile still holding the gurgling baby.   

Qrow trailed behind them, hands in pockets but straightened when they approached the area set up for lunch. Xaio Roi was already there, lounging on one of the padded seats, the picture of relaxation and luxury but Qrow could see the bandit behind the King. He spotted two knives mostly hidden beneath a pair of dress slacks in royal purple. The faintest bulge under his shirt suggested a gun of some sort and there in plain sight, struck into the ground a large curved blade. 

 Qrow was under no illusion, he doubted those were the only weapons the man had, he counted on there being several, better hidden ones. Plus the courtyard was dotted with guards, all people of Xaio’s choosing, each no doubt competent with their chosen weaponry and all ready to attack on command. 

In a way he respected the work Xaio has done. The man’s family had almost single handily built an entire city. Though most if not all of its establishments were built on with the currency of stolen goods and bloodied coin, it remained as strong and prosperous, possibly more so then many cities around the globe. The Huntsman’s many visits had also shown that the city of Mabin was happy and growing. It’s people were rough around the edges but discrimination and social standing appeared none existent. It was much like Vacuo in that respect. If you could survive here then you were welcomed company. 

That's not to say he condoned the action, Qrow’s stance on bandits remained the same as it had all his life. They were thieves, killers and outlaws, praying on the weak to add to their coffers. Many might see the lush green gardens and well built castle as something to be envied but all Qrow saw was the blood it took to build, staining each and every brick, hand and flower. 

Xaio stood from his spot, dusting his clothes. “Ah I’m glad you accepted my invitation to lunch. Come sit, I’ve had the chefs prepare a more Valite spread.” 

 Ozpin’s mouth watered at the scent of a golden brown round bread and the sweet smell of roasted venison. A thick creaming pasta dish with so much cheese seeing the noodle was almost impossible. A stew filled with root vegetables around a huge piece of beef, one that Oz could tell was so tender it would just melt in the mouth. “Oooo, I think I’m in love~.”

Ruby couldn’t help it she sniffed the air. “Is… is that halibut stew?”

Xaio gestured to the heavily laden table. “Yes, as well as squired shrimp, beef, venison. A baked cheese with seven different types of cheese as well as wedges of brie. The best ale you will ever have. The bread is even still steaming.”

Oz swallowed the drool building in his mouth. Ruby was already ahead of him and was sitting down around the large round table and settling Euclase into a high chair that had been brought out ahead of their arrival. Once settled she sat the care bag that was always stocked with baby essentials on the ground behind it. Even Qrow was tempted by the spread and quickly settle on his daughter’s free side. Ruby licked her lips as she started to fill a plate and bowl. Ozpin took up on her side and said as he did the same. “You spoil us.” He paused as he scooped up a large spoonful of the cheese dish, it oozed in long strands from the spoon. He inhaled the scent of crispy cheese deeply. “Oh wow.”

Xaio and Phox smiled at the honest reactions. When in doubt, pull out the comfort food. “It is nice to see you all so relaxed, I wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap after last night's meal. I’m glad my idea has been so well received.” They both smiled at the shift in edict as plates were piled high.

Ruby bit into the stew meat so perfectly cooked, it dripped down her chin a little and she blushed cleaning it with a napkin. “Soo good.”

Phox picked up a large urn behind on a side table and poured a thick white liquid into a wooden tankard. They had them made for other Valite guests. “Try this Qrow.”

Qrow took it had a little sip… then a longer one as his eyes went wide. “Is this…?!” He had an even longer drink not carrying the slightest about his growing milk mustache. It was very thick and smooth. “Oz you gotta try this!”

Ozpin paused and took the tankard had a sip. The sudden widening of his eyes made the King and Queen grin. Hints of cream, mixed in with goat milk and cow. He could almost taste the pounded curds mixed throughout. He lowered it and went. “Ohh, how did you two get this?”

“You are not our first Valite guests. We had a couple who brought the recipe over after the fall.” Phox said pouring two more tankards, giving another to Qrow and one to Ruby.

Ruby had a sip and her eyes popped out. “Vale milk!? I didn’t think I’d ever get to have it again!” She quickly dipped her finger into it and offered it to Euclase brushing her finger over her lips. Euclase quickly sucked on it then her eyes were glued to the tankard in Ruby’s hands. Ruby giggled. “I think we have a winner.”

“Don’t let her have too much.” Phox cautioned as she and her husband sat down and helped herself.

Ozpin had a big bite of the cheese dish. “Ohh so good, parmesan, brie, cheddar.” He was sure there was others. “I haven’t had anything like this since I lost my flat.” He moaned as he chewed.

Silence rained save the happy sounds coming from the three as comfort foods were enjoyed. Ruby ate till she was stuffed, the occasional wind was brisk so the hot stews could be enjoyed without getting too hot. Ozpin and Qrow did the most damage, the cheese dish was destroyed, the stew decimated. They were now steadily working their way through the kebabs. Ruby had a big piece of chewy and crisp bread that was smothered in a triple cream brie. Euclase whined in her seat, clearly she could understand that the food was very good. Ruby giggled and opened a few buttons of her red blouse then picked up Euclase. 

The little girl pulled her shirt open more and latched onto a nipple. Ruby giggled as Euclase sucked very hard. “Well someone is hungry.” She held the baby’s head.

“Well smelling all this I don’t blame her.” Qrow leaned back in the comfy chair, he was tempted to undo his belt and undo the top button of his trousers.

Ozpin was still eating cheese and bread like Ruby. “This was magnificent. Mistral just doesn’t have the same things and as much as I like Mistral fair. It’s all so light sometimes I just miss the heavy creams and meats of Vale.” He ripped a bite out of the bread.

“I do agree that Vale’s foods have a certain something to them that Mistral and Vacou lack.” Xaio took a small bite off a piece of venison.

“Fat and substance to get you through the cold?” Qrow said lounging back. He felt so good and stuffed. “It’s like Beacon was during Midwinter.”

“Only we don’t have to share with a whole school.” Ozpin purred his response, finishing his bread and picking up a thin wedge cheddar.

Ruby giggled watching her husbands, melt into purring puddles of goo. Xaio really did understand them enough to know the way to become their friends was to feed them. Euclase was happily filling herself up, her belly had been getting steadily bigger after all.

“Hmm, so do you three have any plans?” Xaio asked.

“No, not really. Just enjoying some time away from the city.” Ruby said.

“Then once your meal has settled how about a friendly sparring match? Not me of course, that would be very unwise but the Mountain would love some fresh meat to practice against.” Xaio sipped his ale.

Both Ozpin and Qrow sagged a little. “Maybe when we’ve digested. Though to be honest we’ve both been helping the combat professors out. It would be nice to just relax for a bit. Maybe it’s just the food talking.” Ozpin said.

“I don’t know, I think I could stand to burn off some of these calories.” Qrow said though he too wanted to food coma.

Ruby smiled at Qrow. “Burning calories is the last thing you need to worry about.”

“Oh no you don’t. Beckett said I’ve gained weight, I don’t need to gain more.” Qrow stood up and away from the table and stretched the breeze ruffling his hair.

“You’re still scrawny Qrow.” Ozpin said and glanced up at Qrow’s hair. “And you need a haircut.”

Qrow pushed his feathery hair back out of his face. “I do not! I just cut it last week?”

“Yourself?” Ozpin raised a brow.

“Yeah, I always do.”

Oz rolled his eyes. “Right we are fixing that. I can’t have you look scruffy out of neglect.”

“So looking scruffy for other reasons is fine?” Qrow asked his eyes twinkling.

Ozpin’s smirk told him all he needed to know. Blush tinted Qrow’s cheeks and he moved over to hug Ruby and help her support Euclase. The infant let Ruby’s breast go and put her cheek against it and fell asleep. Qrow reached down and pet the little bow of her lips. His smile small but warm. Maybe, just maybe this was turning out to be a good idea.

 


 

Meanwhile in the library, a boy was dusting the books. When his hand skimmed the book Ozpin had touched the day before a morbid curiosity inspired him to pick it up. He pulled the leather bound book from the shelf and walked over to the table and opened it. The glyphs were black upon the page and as he touched the strange writing they glowed gold. The boy didn’t have an active Aura, he didn’t feel his body start to ache. Didn’t feel the labour of his heart. He didn’t feel it when his skin sagged, he didn’t feel it when he died.

 


 

A scream startled Ozpin, Qrow, Ruby, Phox and Xaio as they headed back into the castle. All of them raced after the sound and came upon a young woman hyperventilating in the hall. Xaio went to her. “What is wrong? Speak woman!”

She just quivered and pointed into the library. They looked and saw a body. It was of an ancient man, his body was desiccated and even his clothes were turning to dust. Ozpin held his good hand out to stop Ruby as he moved forward. He walked cautiously towards the table. The book was still open but the glyphs had returned to black. Carefully he took the book out from under knobby fingers and closed it. However unlike before a leather latch had been added and as Ozpin closed it the SNAP resonated through the room. Ozpin had a feeling it would be difficult to open the book again as the clasp had a hole for a key but looking around revealed no key.

Xaio had followed Ozpin and was glaring at the book. Really what he found interesting was the barely visible gold glow in the shape of a key on the back of Oz’s left hand though it seemed the man in question didn’t notice the new addition to his limb. “I think you should take that book. Clearly it’s not for the likes of my people.”

“I think that would be wise.” Ozpin said and picked it up, he tucked it under his left arm. 

Chapter Text

    For once Ruby was willingly letting the wet nurses look after Euclase. It was just breaking dawn and after Euclase had her early morning feeding she had given her to one of the wet nurses to take to the nursery for the day. Then she returned to her husbands. Since having Euclase they rarely had a moment to spare. Early on she had needed almost constant feeding, even as she grew and slept more Euclase was never far from Ruby. First she stopped by the bathroom to make use of a few things in case her lovers wanted to have her together. After which she returned to them.

    The Silver Eyed Warrior spilled back into the massive bed and snuggled up to Qrow’s back. He turned to her and pulled her into the middle of the bed. She leaned up and kissed Oz as he moved to her, his good hand resting on her hip. The kisses were slow and deep, grew wet as Oz added tongue to the kiss. Ruby moaned softly into the kisses, private time like this had been almost non-existent. The sensation of his lips against hers, full and moist was always nice. He tasted of lemon water, just a little tart but it sure beat morning breath. Not that any of them had that problem.

    Ozpin shifted a little and kissed down her neck as she tilted her torso back. “Do you have something you want today?” He rumbled against her hot skin.

    “We haven’t played with rope or anything in ages~. I know you brought it.” Ruby purred as Qrow pet up and down her stomach teasing a finger over her breasts. Qrow purred as he traced over a breast. “I like how you think.”

    The raven haired man got out of bed and walked over to Oz’s duffle bag. Sure enough squirreled into one corner was several lengths of hemp rope. Treated and washed, perfectly folded and tied to keep it in good condition. Qrow was thinking about how they were going to do this, Ozpin would want to do the tying but he only had one arm. It would be pretty much impossible. He worried his bottom lip and walked over undoing one of the knots and running the hemp through his hands. “How do you want to do this Oz and what do you want to do Oz?”

    Ozpin drew away from Ruby’s lovely kisses. He knew what Qrow was thinking, one hand would make this tricky. “Hmm.” He pushed the blankets away revealing his and Ruby’s nude bodies to Qrow. “You’ll have to do the tying.” It irked him but he was sure he could make a game out of this. Made it sting a little less.

    “Nothing too intensive, I haven’t stretched.” Ruby rolled onto her back and did stretch her hands above her head. She rolled the tension through her body, her chest rising and falling flowing into the muscles of her stomach. Then down into her legs as she stretched her hips doing little rotations as the tension carried down through them and out her toes.

    Qrow swallowed thickly admiring the expanse of lily white skin, the little dusting of red hair at her venus mound. He stepped up to the bed still running the rope through his hands.

    “How about just a chest bind Qrow? The star one, it won’t put too much strain on her breasts.” Ozpin moved drawing himself up to sit kneeling beside Ruby. He reached out and lay his hand to rest on her chest as he moved to hold one of her breasts. It was encompassed by his hand but it also filled it. Oz hmmed appreciatively, she had some of the most lovely breasts he was acquainted with.

    Qrow was busy thinking about how pretty a chest bind would look. “Sit up Ruby.” He almost stumbled over the words but if he was doing this he didn’t want to seem nervous. Took some of the fun out of it.

    Ruby giggled and sat up drawing her legs up under her. She reached out and touched Oz’s chest, tracing a finger over his clavicle while looking up into his eyes. Qrow contained the moan that wanted to escape him. They looked so beautiful together. For all the scars that marked Oz, burns, cuts and scrapes scars that covered his body. Under them though he was just as gorgeous has he had always been. Long limbs and fingers made for playing a piano. Qrow knew just how well they could play upon him. The messy silver hair had grown it to just about what it had been like at Beacon. Qrow appreciated that, it made him feel more like he did at Beacon in spite of everything else. Ruby was his perfect opposite, small and curvy where hardship had stolen the meat from Oz’s bones. Her skin was as flawless as always. Qrow adored the contrast between them.

    The tall man set the rope down on the bed then walked around the room. Gathering a pair of candles and putting them on either side of the bed. The golden light they gave off warmed his lovers skin. With Ruby it cast the long line of her spine into shadow, accented the curve of her love handles. Her hair tumbling down her back to conceal the vibrant tattoo of the Relic of Knowledge on her back. The gold and green of the trees leaves caught the light, the blue lantern gave off the illusion of moving, swaying as though the wind brushed over her back.

    Qrow moved back into the bed and sat kneeling behind Ruby, he reached out and brushed the long red locks out of the over one shoulder. Then dipped his head to kiss her shoulder chastely. “You’re hair is going to get in the way.”

    Ozpin shifted moving his arm so it was parallel to Ruby’s chest then reached up and gathered the long locks around his hand. They pooled within it and spilled out. Oz looked back over his left shoulder and pursed his lips. Moving his arm from his shoulder he set his left hand back behind him so he could lean on it. Carefully he tested his weight on it and was pleased when it was fine. He couldn’t feel anything but at least it could be used a little.

    Ruby blushed as Oz let his eyes wander over her skin. Qrow folded the rope in half and brought it up to press the flat edge just under the curve of her breast. He looped the unfolded edges of the rope through the loop and pulled the first band of hemp rope tight. The woman between them sucked in an excited breath. Qrow wrapped the loose end in the opposite direction and over her breasts trapping them snuggle between them. Ruby felt a pressure on her nipples as the rope pressed down to the top of her breasts.

    Oz watched licking his lips as Qrow brought the rope from behind her and down looping it around the lower band then up over her opposite shoulder. He looped it again at the back, then threaded it through under Ruby’s arm on the right side crossing it over to her left shoulder. Once more he looped it through the bottom band on her back then up the opposite shoulder. This created a star shape in the middle of Ruby’s chest.

    The silver eyed woman gasped as Qrow gave the rope a decisive tug the whole bind snugged tight. She placed a hand on the middle of her chest as she focused on breathing for a moment. The slightly rough rope sent her skin tingling as her chest flushed a lovely red. While Ruby was enveloped in the new sensation Qrow tied off the bind at the center of her back with an overhand knot. Then he traced down the curves of her sides as he kissed her shoulder. “That alright?”

    Ruby whimpered, her hand drifted up to the collar around her neck. She caressed the rose of it with a finger, she closed off her bond to Euclase as she let just how good it felt pass on to Qrow through the rose. She felt him suck in a harsh breath as the sensations warmed his own chest. Ozpin leaned forward and took a long hard suck on one of her nipples. The sudden feeling had Ruby shooting upward her hands going to his hair as she moaned out a storm her head falling back as she closed her eyes.

    Qrow followed her trying to think of the best way to do this with Oz’s arm in mind. Sex had been on a bit of a downtred between them as Ruby’s pregnancy advanced and they hadn’t gone all out in ages. Usually it was just them taking turns or doing it each other while Ruby watched. Basically things that made it easy for Ozpin to forget he lacked movement in an arm. Now with Euclase safely away they finally had the time to figure out how do have fun together again. Yet he was worried about Oz getting frustrated with his disability. Qrow watched Ruby wirth as Oz sucked on one of her breasts, he could even see the white milk seep from Oz’s lips. His erection throbbed at the sight.

    Qrow stroked down her sides, sliding his hands down to her sex. Gently he spread her moist lips as Ruby shivered as the cool air touched her. Her sex already dripped and Qrow grinned against her shoulder. The traced his rough fingers over her vulva delighting in teasing her. She was just as tight as ever, the human body was very adaptable even after giving birth and it had been long enough to return to her normal. He gently dipped a finger inside she shivered again but this time he could feel the tension ripple through her. He looked over mildly surprised as Oz released her breast, he licked his lips. That cocky smirk made Qrow smile wider.

    “That was quick.” Oz purred as he leaned up and kissed Ruby’s neck.

    “They’re sensitive!” Ruby said then moaned softly pushing back against Qrow as his fingers delved deeper into her. Qrow gently spread her as his thumbs traced over each side of her clit. “I’m thinking she rides you Oz and I bugger her.”

    “Hmm, good thoughts.” Oz reached down with his good hand and traced through her folds with Qrow.

    Ruby shivered and moaned as they played with her. “I like that idea too. I miss playing with both of you.” She grinned and leaned over to kiss Oz’s cheek. “I’ve had an idea too. I want to carry your soul while Qrow plays with us. Turn about being far game and all.”

    “Maybe another time, having a fully functional body would be nice.” Ozpin said moving his hand to span one of Ruby’s hips. “Now come here you. I want to hold you while Qrow preps you. You already cleaned up?”

    “Of course.” Ruby said rolling her eyes, only for Qrow to tweak the nipple of her untouched breast. She helped as Qrow and Oz moved her up against the taller man. Ruby grabbed Oz’s shoulder and slowly lowered herself down. The redhead bit her lip as the broad head of his cock spread her femine lips. Ozpin kissed her neck, the collar allowed him to kiss the skin without obstruction. “You look so good like that.” He murmured against her skin, his hand came up to hold her by her lower back. “I missed seeing you like this.”

    Ruby felt her body flush anew, he hadn’t been like this in a while. Even just few a couple words he oozed sex appeal, made his voice smooth and rich. “Oz~.” She rocked slightly it felt so good, she hadn’t really be able to top like this for months. As she lowered his hand roamed up and threaded into her long locks.

    “I can tell you’ve missed it too.” Ozpin gently pulled her hair back. His lips tracing over the muscle, he licked a short line along the edge of her collar.

Ruby moaned softly, her eyes partly closed on the ceiling. Had he both arms working she knew he would have pulled her down right then. Made her take him. Qrow’s hands were on her hips, he pushed her down and she cried out. “Oh~!” Ruby rocked her hips on reflex and pursed her lips with a moan.

Ozpin stroked downwards drawing his hand from her hair before trailing it back up her back to hold her head in his hand. “Easy now, we have to wait for Qrow.” He skirted his lips along the rope against her skin. The softness of his lips a stark contrast to the rope. Sent heat flaring through her body.

Qrow contained a moan of his own. Ruby looked so small against Oz, the muscular arm containing her. Their hips pressed tight together, Oz shifted his legs spreading them so Qrow could move more easily between them. He’d never get tired of seeing the way Oz’s length disappeared into Ruby’s heat. Qrow however could see the tremor go through Oz’s bad arm, it almost buckled but somehow Oz prevented it. The raven haired man paused just long enough to reach into the bedside table and retrieve a push top bottle of lube before pressing close to Ruby. Discretely he reached around Ruby and placed his hand on the small of Oz’s back. 

Ozpin met Qrow’s gaze and gave a barely visible nod. Qrow felt Oz ease some of his weight into Qrow’s arm. Ruby was completely oblivious to this little shift. Qrow kissed her shoulder opposite to Oz’s affections, it felt good to be pressed up close to her like this. He could feel Oz was already shielding his bond to Euclase and Qrow followed suit. Gently he slipped his free hand down and traced small circles over Ruby’s anus. “You sure? It’s been a while.”

“Yes. I’ve been looking forward to this.” Ruby gently drew Oz’s head away from her body and leaned in snuggle her face against his neck. “I can relax and I want you both.”

“Okay.” Qrow could feel she was being totally honest, her body relaxed and he felt that little sensitive area of skin pucker up. He withdrew and lubed up three of his fingers before returning just one to her anus. Again they waited, Ozpin and Ruby sharing slow deep kisses. The candle light casting dancing shadows on their skin. Eventually Qrow slid one finger in and Ruby knew to clench down till her muscles were exhausted. Only after that did Qrow add another and slowly work her to a ready state.

The red eyed man covered his member liberally in lube before replacing his fingers with its head. Ruby sucked in a sharp breath and Qrow felt out gently through his bond to her. The vessel soul hummed and relaxed, giving him the information he desired. When she was ready Qrow eased his way inward. It was a very tight fit, his free hand went to the middle of the breast harness and he pulled her up slightly shifting closer with Oz resting his legs over Qrow’s thighs.

Their wife was in heaven between them. It had been so long, to feel them so close made her soul sing. She didn’t feel Ozpin and Qrow make little adjusts to accommodate for Oz’s useless arm. It was Qrow who rolled his hips, the full feeling intensified then he withdrew and Oz did the same they moved together. Qrow with longer actions while Ozpin was limited by the position and his arm. Ozpin had to let Ruby’s head go and brace his weight with his good arm. Still it made him feel more secure and in response he bucked hard and Qrow lifted Ruby higher by the harness.

Ruby closed her eyes as she moaned up a storm, with every impact of their hips. She felt so full, the pleasure intense with even small movements, it made her feel high on the feeling of having them both. She cast open the bonds as she came and felt them both follow but Ozpin already moved to capture a nipple between his teeth. The harness compressed her chest keeping it a red flush as her lovers ushered her body quickly into ecstasy again.

Oz could feel his left arm aching, he half wondered if it was bleeding. He didn’t want to ruin this though, didn’t want to show weakness. Still he could feel his arm start to give out. He let her nipple go and bit down hard on her neck. Qrow felt his intent and mirrored the action. Ruby’s eyes widened as their hips stilled against her but she could feel that Oz didn’t follow her and Qrow into climax. 

Qrow’s hand almost slipped as Oz’s laid back. He saw the red oozing from the arm instantly. “Shit Oz why didn’t you say anything!?” He started to move away then remembered and slowed down. Ruby bit her lip and quivered as he withdrew but noticed Oz was still hard. Qrow moved out of the way as Oz stretched his legs.

Ruby helped Oz move his arm to lay it against his chest. “Do you want to stop?” She moved so she was seated more easily upon him, clenched her inner walls to treasure his near silent moan.

“No, just couldn’t stay upright anymore.” Ozpin reached up to her hip and pulled her forward. “Don’t stop I just…” 

Ruby humored him, with his arm oozing blood and rolled her hips how she knew he liked. Her hands moved to the middle of his chest so her arms framed her breasts. Oz moaned at the view, her breasts pushed up the roll of muscle through her torso. Gods it made him want to pin her down and fuck like they weren’t going to see tomorrow. He hated his stupid arm, it was stealing that from him. He watched as Ruby bit her lip moaning softly. That was not what he wanted, he loved it when she screamed, when she couldn’t think but for the pleasure.

Ozpin growled and grabbed her by her shoulder and flipped them quickly catching his weight on his good arm. Ruby’s jaw dropped with surprise but then he thrust hard into her. Harder than he usually dared. “Fu!” The petite woman gasped under him, she could feel him fill her press against that spot that made her mind blank yet edged on pain with the intensity of the sensation. The bed dipped upper her, framing her small form nestled into the sheets.

“That.” Oz hissed. “I miss seeing that.” It was easy for him to ignore the pain, even revel in it. Thrust after punishing thrust, slow and deliberate. His useless arm held to his chest through sheer stubbornness, to keep it out of the way. “I miss making you scream without help.”

The red head’s chest fluttered as she panted each thrust driving the air from her lungs. “Oz! I-Ah!” Ruby’s whole body trembled as he ground his pelvis against hers. She thrashed her head back and forth her long locks messy as they framed her in a red halo. Then his pace picked up and she let herself wail. Her eyes tried to meet his but the feeling of him spearing into her core. Made keeping her eyes open almost impossible. He hadn’t been like this for such a long time. She could feel the sweat collecting on her skin and moved her legs up to give him more range. She could feel his sweat gather and the scars, on the groves of muscle.

Qrow forced himself to stand on the sidelines. Oz’s arm wasn’t acting up now that he wasn’t using it, or at least not as much. He could see that Oz needed this, needed to feel like he wasn’t the fragile one of them now. He could see the bruises start to bloom and knew that Ruby wouldn’t mind. So instead he sat on the side of the bed, a bowl of water and cloths already set aside to clean up Oz’s arm.

“Oz, Oz, plea-!” Ruby’s breath caught as her toes curled, her back arched as she came. Ozpin slammed himself into her one last time before following. Releasing deep in side of her with long pulsing throbs of his cock. It was intense and he let his head rest against the bedding beside hers. He could feel her soft satin walls clench around him with that flutter he loved so much. Oz knew she could feel him finish too and listened for a long moment as she caught her breath.

“I’m sorry. I just hate not being able to be myself because of this blasted arm. Maybe I should have it taken off and replaced when we get to Atlas.” Ozpin grumbled and pulled out of her lay down beside her on his back again.

Qrow came over with a wet cloth. “No way, not after all this time are you giving up like that.”

Their wife curled up onto her side facing Oz, she enjoyed the feeling of their seed leaking out from her. “It will be fine Oz, it’s already come so far. Besides you’d hate all the doctor’s visits to get an arm designed and grafted.”

Ozpin shivered at the thought. “Right forgot about that bit.”

Qrow wrapped up Ozpin’s arm. “Come on lets just rest together a while. Euclase will be getting hungry soon so we should take the time we have before then for ourselves. Not dwell on things that will mend in time.”

“When did you get to be the wise one.” Oz chuckled and sat up. 

Qrow passed him and Ruby both a clean cloth to clean themselves with. “Too much time spent with you.”

    That earned him a very thorough kiss.

 

***

 

Ruby rolled onto her side, stretching limbs as she nestled between her two husbands. The hands around her waist began lazily stroking her belly and side. “How are you feeling Love?” Qrow’s breathed into her ear causing a shiver to run down her spine. Without a word she turned in his arms, peppering slow open mouth kisses to that stubbed chin she loved so dearly. 

Oz who had been resting against her breasts stirred and huffed out a whine at the loss of his squishy pillows. “Mmmn, c’m back.” His good arm snaked under her waist pulling her closer, head resting in the crook of Ruby’s neck. The soft breathing tickled her skin pulling a giggle from the redhead as she squirmed from under his hold. 

Qrow loved days like today. The happy sounds from Ruby, Oz’s relaxed form. It made everything seem to glow like a perfect golden bubble, free and safe from the shadows of the world. How he wished they could just stay there for eternity. Qrow toyed with one of the rings on his finger, he seemed to be doing that a lot lately but it was okay. He eyed his hand, the way it curled over Ruby’s smaller one as though protecting it. 

Then blood.

Qrow breathed in sharply. What had that been? It seemed neither Ruby nor Oz noticed the sharp intake, still cuddling together. Qrow swore that for one moment then his hand had flashed red, he knew what it looked like when blood coated his hand, how the red had dripped from his fingertips. The sticky coppery substance congealed like a syrup, the smell making him gag.

“Qrow?” Oz’s voice snapped his attention, The red eyed man hadn’t even realised that he was shivering, his hand clutching Ruby’s tightly, so tightly that she was biting her lip with a twinge of pain in her eyes. Immediately he released her jumping from the bed with a cold sweat. 

“I’m sorry!” 

“Stop! Qrow, wait.” Small warm arms wrapped around his form and Qrow shuddered again. A wash of reassurance spread through his mind, Qrow recognising the touch of his wife and husband and the fainter one coming from his daughter. Their souls soothing his and the shaking that had taken root eased. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.” He peeked down at his hands. No blood … of course there was no blood and breathed in deeply. Perhaps he was just tired. Qrow sagged against Ruby’s smaller form, smirking when she grunted under his weight. “I’m alright.” He whispered and that seemed to set the others at ease. 

 Oz approached them. “What set that off?” 

“Not too sure, I just saw blood on my hands, I swear I could feel the warmth of it.” Qrow shook his head of the vision holding Ruby a little tighter. 

Then like a silent scream, something like a piercing knife to the chest hit all three of them. Oz grabbed his arm while Qrow spun and Ruby clutched at her chest. 

“Mama …”

“Papa … “

“Dada … “

“.......... help!” 

 

****

 

Roi Xiao hated meetings, he hated them with a passion. It was one of the rare few things he despised about being King but necessary to running a Kingdom less he risk the wrath of Mistral and Atlas bearing down on his people. He had worked too hard, his family worked too hard raising up and maintaining this fragile hold on Mabin and he intended to ensure it prospered. If that meant he had to spend several hours listening to advisors and lords spew out their problems then that's what he would do. 

He was just passing through one of the hallways when he saw the rose petals flash passed him. Years of sitting on a throne hadn’t dulled his instincts and he raced after the floating petals. “What happened!”

Like a gale the gust of rose petals blew in every direction before pulling back to reveal a harried looking Ozpin, Qrow and Ruby. The redhead was visibly trembling while the other two grasped their weapons like they were ready to attack. Xiao’s own hand slowly reached for the nearest weapon concealed on his person.

“Something’s happened to Euclase. She sent a distressed cry to us.” Oz explained. “She is at the nursery with the wet nurses.”

Had it been anyone else Xiao might have laughed their concern away but after seeing the way Ruby and Qrow could communicate and from his own research into souls he knew that this wasn’t some sort of separation anxiety. A moment later his sword was in his hand and a small black device with a series of buttons in the other. If something was happening he needed his guards on alert. 

Rub was inching away from the group, every inch of her body and soul demanding she go to her daughter when the overhead lights started flashing red. “ ALERT ALERT.  RED ALERT!” 

The King rushed past them, throwing over his shoulder. “Lets go!” 

To save her Aura Ruby ran alongside the others her heart in her throat. Euclase’s calling for them hadn’t died down and even now she could feel the scared little soul cry with a frightened whimper that set her blood both boiling in rage and freezing in fear. 

The hallways were oddly silent and as they came to the main doors to the nursery Ruby noticed that the two guards that were normally stationed outside were nowhere to be seen. 

“This isn’t right.” The King said under his breath and crept towards the doors. From inside there was a loud cry and what sounded like flesh hitting flesh, then another whimper. That was all Xaio needed to hear as he reared back and kicked the door open. 

 Multiple cries echoed around the room as two men and a woman spun around with weapons outs towards them. The guards or at least one of them lay on the ground, scar face from the other day was face down with a pool of blood spreading around him. The ragged breathing was a relief but that was quickly drowned when Ruby saw her daughter in the arms of one of the intruders. 

Euclase wailed loudly despite the hand attempting to silence her. The woman holding her crushed the baby against her chest to smother the cries as she pointed a short sword towards them. The shock of blue hair was matted with blood and that sight was enough to enrage the Silver Eyes.  

Nobody registered the move but in a blink of the eye Ruby was launching across the room, eyes burning as she collided with every bit of strength in her trained body into the bandit. Rose petals bled in a fiery storm as the tornado separated them from everyone else and before Ruby registered it her fist was crunching the bones of the bandits face. 

She didn’t feel her opponent’s blade cut into her hip, her Aura already working around it as her free hand grabbed for her child. The force of her attack sent the bandit flying through her self made twister and Ruby pushed her Semblance into a faster speed, making it into a shield of sorts while she stood in the eye of it holding Euclase to her. 

Oz and Qrow had never seen such a rage before come from their wife, their words wouldn’t reach past the force of her gail. Rose petals sharpened like tiny knives keeping everyone and everything out. When the female bandit was flung from the red storm she was covered in cuts and bleeding, her nose broken and blood dripping down her face while she lay in a heap on the floor. 

“OPAL!” Xaio’s voice broke Oz and Qrow’s shocked gaze as the younger of the Kings wives was held by her pearly white hair by more bandits that had come in from one of the conjoined rooms. This man had a different attire from the others, it was the same as what castle guards wore and he was holding a pistol to her head. Opal’s face was scrunched up in fear as she tried to reign in the tears that spilled over her eyes. The young woman was in obvious pain and when they looked at the floor it was wet with urine and broken waters. 

“Well well well. My ‘King’.” The man gave a mock bow. “We weren’t expecting you so soon.”

“Briar. What in the name of Herion are you doing!? This is my domain!” Xaio couldn’t keep his eyes off his pregnant wife who was squirming as a contraction went through her. Whatever had happened before they arrived had broken her waters and set her into labour. 

Qrow recognised the name and did a double take, eyes widening. This was the current leader of the Lyri Tribe. Briar Moss. His sun kissed skin spoke of his southern upbringing, with thick black hair to his shoulders and beady green eyes. His arm, now bare of the castle uniform had a maze of vines running up covered in thorns and a green rose in the shape of a skull at the top. 

The last time he had seen this man was when he was a scrawny teen, carrying a sword much too big for his frame but that didn’t stop him from helping to butcher a farmer and his family while the tribe burned his home to the ground.  

Qrow had still been in his tribe back then and the Branwens had ignored the family’s cries for help before they were brought to a blood end. 

“Well that's da thing ain’t it Roi, tis ‘was’ ye domain and ‘less ye want ye pretty baby mama’s guts all over this nice floorin’ you’re gonna lay down that sword for me, right now.”

Lights were still flashing red and it was clear that Xaio wanted to bide for time but Briar was slowly stepping back towards the room he had come out of. “Oh an if you’re waitin’ fer ya men yeh gonna be waitin a while.”

The red twister remained strong and Qrow knew that Ruby was probably on a one track mind to protect Euclase. He tried again to reach her mind but all he was hearing was her soothing the baby in her arms so she would be of little help. The other two bandits had joined their leader and were ready to fight. His gazed strayed over to the King, catching his eye. 

Oz saw the look on Qrow’s face and took a step back bringing himself closer to the rose storm. He knew that look and it wouldn’t end well for the Lyri leader. 

The black door in Qrow’s mind came into view as Qrow locked onto Briar. The many chains and locks keeping it bolted shut shun in the blackness of his being. Occasionally like a wind blowing through the gaps his Semblance got free but it was always in little wisps and breezes. Now he fitted a key through the locks and dropped the heavy chains. 

Briar was still talking, holding Opal at gunpoint. “So as you can see.” Step back. “I have the upper hand.” Another step. 

A crackle went through the space, unnoticed by anyone but when Briar took his final step back his face turned to horror. The floor, wet from the amniotic fluid was slippery and all it took for the Lyri leader to slip, his body flying backwards as his gun went up. A shot rang out but its target ended up being the chandelier above him.

Oz saw the moment the pregnant woman was released and slowed down time, racing across the room to scoop up the fragile lady in his good arm. He gave no thought to the heavy chandelier that broke free from the ceiling and came crashing down on Briar Moss’s head, crushing it in a wet mess of brains and bone.

Qrow smirked and slowly locked his Semblance back down. That had felt good. He walked over to the sharp twister of rose pelts and sung out over the bonds. The twister slowed, condensed and Ruby returned to her usual form holding Euclase tight to her chest. Qrow stepped out to her and cradle the two close. 

“Where do you want her?” Ozpin asked still holding Opal up.

Xaio raced to his wife’s side ignoring the body on the floor. “I’ll take her, see to your wife.” Xaio scooped up Opal and shouted to the guards that had finally reached the nursery, they raced into the doorway out of breath and each sporting some sort of injury. From the feral grins on their faces it appeared Briar’s plan to take out his people had failed. “Out of the way! Bring any of these scum you find to the great hall!” They fled to carry out his orders.

Ozpin moved to his husband and wife, brought them both to his good side and held them tight. His gaze however moved to Qrow, he had never seen or heard of Qrow actively using his Semblance to kill someone before. It frankly worried him. Qrow looked fine, content even, the remorse for killing that Qrow had possessed for years was entirely absent. He seemed to just be focused on Ruby and Euclase. Maybe it hadn't sunk in yet or … Oz had a sneaking feeling that wasn’t the case. “Lets leave, I have no interest in being near a body.”

Ruby took a deep steadying breath, Euclase was still whimpering against her chest, eyes red and wet from crying. “Good idea. Let's go see what is going to happen in the great hall.”

  Together they left the body and walked down to the great hall. By the time they got there the last of the men Briar had brought with him had been gathered up. A total of six men were on their knees with their hands shackled behind their heads. Xaio was pacing above them on the landing gun in hand. He took a deep breath. “Briar Moss is dead, you are all guilty for committed treason, failing to uphold the only law we have as bandits. The arrangement between the Mabino tribe and Lyri will now be absolved. I am in no mood to explain the consequences for this so…” He leveled his gun at the first ones head. “I Xaio Rio, sentence you all to death.”

Ruby flinched as six shots were fired and six bodies were burned away with fire Dust. Euclase whimpered again at the sound and Ruby turned her into her chest away from the sight, cooing softly to her daughter. The faint smell of blood, Dust and death lingered in the hall and even after all that had been said and done the only thing Ruby would acknowledge was that lives had been taken this day. That her bright and happy world was incapable of shedding that murky evil that clung to life. Tears welled up in her eyes as she turned them on the King, an edge to her voice. “Was that really necessary?”

    “That is how the world works here.” Ozpin said as he watched the body’s smolder.

    Xaio Rio walked over to them. There was blood peppered against his cheek and chin and somehow the red stain seemed too natural, almost normal, like this was just their way of life. “My apologies Mrs. Branwen. My intent was to have that over with before you arrive. I have to go and see to Opal and my newborn son, if you wish to return to Mistral I will have a ship arranged for you.”

    What was it her mother once said? Pretty words, pretty castles and pretty dresses, do not make for a pretty or good life. Especially not when bought on blood and pain. “Please.” Ruby nodded as she nuzzled Euclase. “I feel that would be best. Please give my best to Opal and I hope she and her child are safe. 

    “As you wish.” Xaio turned on his heel and raced off to see Opal.

    “We should go get packed.” Ozpin said, he had wanted to speak with Xaio more but he could feel that Ruby wanted her family and quiet. Time to process all of this. Qrow nodded but he was watching the bodies burn and Ozpin couldn’t feel a hint of disgust from the red eyed man.

Chapter Text

    Ruby spun on the spot admiring her butt in the mirror. The ruby red lace framed her moonlight coloured globes of muscle. It had been long enough now that she had regained all of her conditioning as a Huntress. Maybe even a little extra, Qrow and Ozpin were very keen on getting her back into shape. Though it was still mostly Qrow training with her, Ozpin seemed… nervous whenever sparing came up right now. Ruby held her breasts up and smirked at them. She gave Yang a run for her money now and she loved the shape. “Right enough with that.” Ruby walked over to the bed and picked up a leather dress. It was so short that there only centimeters of material over her privates. The sides of the dress were almost transparent. She pulled it down on over her head the straps of the dress crossed over her chest and the cut of the dress pushed her breasts up. The end result was an X just above Ruby’s cleavage with to addition bands going over her shoulders.

    Ruby turned to put her back towards the mirror again and zipped up the dress. It made her feel so mature, she was sexy and not afraid to own it. Lydia had gifted her dancing boots. They were stacked to make her taller but the heel was nice and wide so she didn’t have to worry about toppling over. The silver eyed woman returned to the bed and put the leather boots one. They gave her a good seven centimeters in height and Ruby couldn’t wait to show her husbands them.

    With an extra sway in her hips Ruby zipped down the stairs to find Ozpin and Qrow already wearing their long coats. “Finally finished?” Qrow asked raising a brow at her very short dress.

    “Picking the correct panties took serious thought! But more I wanted a shower.” Ruby strutted over and reached out running her hands over Qrow’s leather long coat.

    “I don’t mind the wait that dress does lovely things to your breasts.” Qrow said looking down at them and then to her eyes.

    “And butt.” Ozpin remarked staring at it with an approving smirk.

    Ruby giggled thriving in the attention. Tonight it was Taiyang’s turn to look after Euclase and Lydia had mentioned that they should go to the club again now that Ruby was up to it. Have some fun and relieve some stress. Which sounded like a fantastic idea, if only to clear their minds a bit with what happened at Madin.

    “As much as I’d hate to cover that butt up.” Ozpin heaved his gaze away from the lovely slight and grabbed Ruby’s own auburn trench coat. They all had one for when they went to places with a dress code. Together they headed out, Weiss, Yang and Bart would meet them there. Blake and Sun weren’t interested in the scene yet and Nora and Lie had decided to have a quiet night in.

    The sun had already set as they made their way to the club. The bouncer let them in with a nod as he recognised them all by a single look now. Ruby soaked up the atmosphere as soon as they stepped through the door. It was more like her first visit, the stage on the far side of the room. This time there was an anchor hanging down from the ceiling as a rigger and model were demonstrating a full suspension rig. Ruby felt her body flush as she took in the beautiful pair. The model was male lion faunus and the rigger was a female dark skinned woman. Ruby though the red hemp rope added to the contrast of the pair.

    Ozpin took her coat from her and handed it to the clerk before removing his own. He wore black leather pants and boots. With only his half cape to hide his bad arm under this time in crimson red. Qrow on the other hand was wearing a corset like top only clearly it was crafted for male use. It framed the curve of his lower ribs to upper abs and was laced up down the front. Below it as a system of thick straps that further accented his muscles while ending to keep a codpiece in place. Over his chest was a shirt of tight leather again linked down to the corset system. There were jewel studs going down the arms that ended at his wrists and the collar of the shirt was cut low to reveal the simple black engraved collar Qrow wore around his neck. Lastly he wore thigh high black leather boots complete with stacked heels that were an inch in height. Ozpin drooled over the red accents on the outfit at length. It had been a gift from Lydia.

    Ruby’s jaw dropped as she looked Qrow up and down. “Oh my Gods! Why haven’t I seen that before!?”

    Qrow spun on his heel showing off putting a finger on his bottom lip as he posed. “I wanted to keep it for a surprise.”

    Ozpin stepped up to him and hooked his finger through the wide steel ring hanging off the black collar. “You look ravishing.” He purred, now noticing that Qrow was wearing black eyeliner just on his top lid it made the red of his eyes pop. Qrow had also shaved for this event so his coe smile seemed all the more enticing. “I had a feeling you’d like it.”

    The beat of the music cut through them and Ozpin recognized DJ Pandemonium’s work. Very guttural yet smooth. Weiss threaded through the crowd as she spotted Qrow. “Oh my, you look fantastic… are you wearing eyeliner?”

    Qrow blushed a bit. “Yeah. You look pretty good yourself.”

    Weiss was wearing a full body corset only one without boning instead held it’s shade by conforming to her curves. It was a light blue, not unlike the collars she had worn at Beacon with red accents of lace over the edge of her breasts. The skirt of it was none-existent at the front, instead it left a clear window to her panties that were collared the same way. The skirt was connected to the corset and flared out in layers of light shining cloth. Garters clipped down into ice blue stocks and she wore white lace up boots. Weiss grabbed the skirt between a thumb and forefinger, she lifted it as she did a little twirl. “I adore it. My sister would kill me if she ever saw it though.”

    “Well I’m glad she’s not here.” Qrow purred as Ozpin released his grip on the hook. He walked over to Weiss and drew the petite woman up into a kiss.

    Ozpin watched the pair with a smirk, they looked good together. “Come on, lets get some drinks and watch the show.”

    “I see a table lets go get it before someone else does.” Ruby grabbed Weiss’s hand as she withdrew from Qrow and they raced off to weave between the sensational sea of bodies.

    Qrow and Ozpin watched them go. Ozpin asked. “Are you going to have anything?”

    “Na, I’ll just get a water to share with Ruby.” They walked over to the bar and ordered drinks. Ozpin paid as he was the only one with pockets for Lien. As they waited, the show continued the model was strung up. The bind was more of a freeing one so the model could pose for the audience, back bent as his arms were spread wide in the freedom of the bind. Qrow and Ozpin clapped with everyone else after a few minutes of further play was demonstrated. They pair bowed and head off stage and were placed by a four belly dancers in leather and other fetish wear.

    Their drinks arrived and they returned to the girls. Qrow handed Weiss a warm glass of Brivari as he sat down between the two girls. Ozpin sat and nursed his crystal glass of vodka. “Where are Yang and Bart?”

    “Oh those two made a beeline for the dungeons.” Weiss said gathering the drop of Brivari from her tongue. She had another sip. “Hmm do you want to try it Ruby?”

    Ruby shook her head. “No thanks, I still can’t stand the smell of alcohol.”

    “You’ll have to work on that eventually Ruby.” Ozpin said sipping his own drink. “It’s a rather hard to avoid.”

    The redhead sighed. Well he wasn’t wrong there, maybe drinking it would be easier then smelling it second hand. “Okay I’ll have a little sip.” She took the warm glass and took a sip of the blue Brivari. It was very rich and creamy, so sweet she could barely taste the alcohol much less smell it. “Mmm, that’s quite yummy.”

    Weiss took it back. “It’s actually pretty strong so if you want to share it, I’d be fine with that.”

    “Sure, it doesn’t make me think of him so it might be a good stepping stone.” Ruby turned her attention to the dancers as they shimmed their asses in time with the deep beat. As the performance ended people moved from the tables to dance and touch on the dance floor. Qrow got up and pulled Oz to his feet by his good arm. “Come on Oz, we haven’t danced in ages.”

    Ozpin laughed as Qrow guided him to the dance floor. Oz pulled Qrow to him spinning him under his arm then pulling him to press his back the bigger man’s front. Oz dipped his head down to speak into Qrow’s ear. “Someone is sure eager to get me alone.”

    The raven haired man purred as he rotated his hips to tease Oz’s crotch. “It’s been a while, stress is at an all time low. The girls will play with each other so we don’t have to worry about them.” Qrow trailed his hands over his torso before reaching up and weaving them into Oz’s thick ashen locks. He leaned up and kissed Oz.

    It was long, slow and erotic. Oz dipped his tongue into Qrow’s mouth with a happy hum as they massaged each other. The dance remained slow, just swaying and grooving on the spot. Ozpin’s hand roamed stroking up and down the exposed flesh of Qrow’s torso. Oz occasionally looked up and did see people staring at them. He figured they were probably recognized given that they weren’t going incognito. He saw other more lewd looks directed more at Qrow, not that he could blame them Qrow did look gorgeous.

    Ruby and Weiss shared the Brivari till it was all gone and they were pleasantly buzzed. They giggled together watching Qrow and Ozpin dance. It got steadily more complicated and erotic. Space was of course an issue, it didn’t take long for people to cramp in and dance with the music. The sea of bodies all touching and kissing. Yet just a little space was always saved for Oz, he was the biggest person on the dance floor. Qrow for his part was flaunting his stuff. It was really arousing to watch as he shamelessly grind against Oz. Steal kisses and touches, their little square tango that developed out of it. Ozpin always smiled and it was clear Qrow was only looking at him.

    Weiss looked over to Ruby and nibbled on her bottom lip. She leaned over and kissed the other woman’s cheek. “Do you want to go dance? Or maybe head up to the lounge?”

    The silver eyed huntress looked over then back at Ozpin and Qrow. “Maybe dance? I wouldn’t want to move on them without telling them ahead of time.”

    “Thanks a good point.” Weiss stood up from her chair and grabbed Ruby’s hands they walked together to the dance floor but stayed on the other edges. The heiress guided Ruby to put a hand on her shoulders while she put a hand on Ruby’s waist. They danced together with Weiss leading. Ruby giggling the whole while. “This is fun!”

    Weiss spun Ruby under her arm and they stepped up close together so they could hold each other tightly. “Yeah, it’s too bad we haven’t had time to come more often.” The icen eyed woman reached up and brushed a crimson tipped bang out of Ruby’s face. Ruby leaned up and they kissed bodies pressed tight together. Weiss hand’s roaming to slip under the edge of Ruby’s dress to grab her butt and massage it gently.

    Ruby loved it when Weiss asserted herself like this. She could feel the flush start in her chest how that heat curled inside of her and sex started to grow slick. The kiss deepened as Ruby pet over Weiss’s neck. So distracted they were with each other they didn’t even notice when they were approached till a hand was petting down Ruby’s shoulder.

    The crimsonette broke the kiss and looked over to find a tall man, broad man with blonde hair. “Do you have room for another ladies?”

    He was very pretty but Weiss saw Ruby look start for Ozpin and Qrow. “No thank you. We just wanted to dance to the music.”

    “Alright ladies.” He started to move away just as Ozpin and Qrow slipped through the throngs of people. They both looked flushed and aroused. Ozpin looked the new man up and down. “Steve.”

“Ozpin, sorry didn’t know these two were yours.” Steve didn’t back down as Ozpin approached instead he smiled at Qrow, pearly white teeth. “Hey yah handsome.”

Qrow rolled his eyes then reached up and played with his collar. “Collared.”

Ruby saw the scowl almost fall onto Steve’s features. She touched her own collar drawing it into the visual spectrum. “Me too.” 

“Doesn’t mean we can’t play now. Isn’t that right Oz? Or are you still pulling that territorial bullshit, kinda hard I imagine with one arm.” Steve crossed his arms over his chest as he puffed it out.

Ozpin feigned a bored look. “You’re not worth the effort. My girls said no and you couldn’t entertain Qrow even if you tried. You’re welcome to look all you like but they aren’t interested in your form of play. Come on, let’s go find a room.”

Ruby and Weiss smiled as they walked past the jealous dom and headed up to the VIP lounges. Rather then pick one with a table, Ozpin picked one that was a collection of benches. Qrow smirked at the choice and pulled Oz to one and pushed him down to straddle him and steal his lips in a kiss. Ruby and Weiss rather liked that idea, only it was Weiss doing the straddling as she pushed Ruby down onto another of the benches and pushed her dress up to palm her wet core through her panties. Ruby turned the favor reaching up to weave a hand into Weiss’s hair as she slipped her other down to push Weiss’s fancy panties out of the way and stroke her sex.

The rest of the night passed in much the same way. Partners were traded, kisses, dancing, drink and sex were in abundance.

 


 

Several days later everyone was gathered at the bathhouse. Lie was just handing in his notice and they decided some time to meet together as a unit like they had been when they were living together was a nice idea. So the two teams plus Ozpin and Qrow were lounging in the public area of the baths. Ozpin glanced around every so often while being careful to keep as much of his back hidden as possible as well as his withered arm.

Nora stretched out in the water with a happy sigh. She like everyone else only had a towel wrapped around her waist. “This is nice. Hey Weiss does Atlas have public baths?”

“Not really. Some noble families have them and Atlas Academy has public showers and baths just for the Huntsmen. Mostly it’s just pools which are different and mostly for show.” Weiss had her hair done up in a bun on the top of her head.

“That sucks.” Yang groused as she yawned and slid a bit deeper into the water so it covered her breasts. Like Weiss she had her hair up.

Ruby was cuddled up to Ozpin’s bad side shielding it from sight. “Well we don’t have to go there yet.” She covered her face as Euclase who was being held by Qrow started to splash in the water.

“This one is going to be a swimmer.” Qrow kicked away from the wall and turned onto his back setting Euclase on his chest. She babbled happily as the water came up over her hands. Qrow kept a hand on her butt to keep her secure.

Ruby smiled watching her husband and baby play. Yang swam over and pet over Euclases hair. “Ruby and I used to go swimming in the sea on Patch’s west side. Maybe she gets it from her mom.”

“Really? First I’ve heard of it.” Qrow said surprised.

“We liked to go skinny dipping when Dad wasn’t around.” Ruby explained. “Then we’d work together to get the salt out of our hair.”

“It’s that kinda dangerous?” Jaune asked.

“Yeah a bit but we never saw any Grimm.” Yang said as Qrow let her take Euclase. Carefully Yang turned Euclase onto her back holding her but letting the baby kick and splash around safely. Qrow knelt to do the same his hands hovering under Yang’s or just under Euclase’s head. “I taught Ruby to swim doing this.”

“This is way easier than doing it in the ocean.” Ruby said with a stretch as she snuggled Oz.

Euclase chortled as she took deep breaths, her little butt she somehow managed to lift to keep herself afloat. Yang and Qrow grinned at her and her auntie said. “Daww who’s a smart baby!”

Ozpin smiled in spite of how nervous this made him. At least Euclase was enjoying herself and everyone else was relaxed.

Chapter Text

    To My Dear Beloved Weiss

 

    I hardly know what to say, that is with holding onto your letter for several months before writing this. It sounds like so much has happened after you left. I’ve hardly had time to write and I have picked up and put this down more times then I can count. Though I can’t say I’m surprised Ozpin has invited you to join him or that you took him up on it. I am happy you were not left alone. I miss you greatly and while I have been teaching Winter as my second in command it is not the same as having you around. Atlas and Mantle grow steadily worse. I do have a plan for how to fight the true enemy but I dare not put that to page. Please tell Ozpin to come to Atlas, I need his help. All of your help. As soon as possible.

    Sorry to open this letter in such a way but I felt the need to get that off my chest as quickly as possible. Now to set that aside, I am very sad I have not gotten to meet this Lydia. Anyone who can put Ozpin in a submissive position and keep him there is worth knowing. It does ease my mind to know that he has someone like that to look up too. He told me that he changed the nature of his curse and as time passes my concern over the effect that has had on him has only grown. I’ve done some digging on my end and I have found a few lifetimes I believe were his. None of them are very pleasant lives. However they have made me realize that for all Ozpin tries to avoid it he does seem to have an unconscious talent for war and ruling. I fear that is something I do need right now. 

    As I wrote that it occurs to me that I might sound like I miss him more than I miss you. I am not sure what to make of that thought, though I suppose I miss you both for very different reasons. I miss you for you. I miss Ozpin well for himself, for his skills and general presence. To have him by my side to face what is coming would relax me. With that in mind your request for us to become a fivesome is very appealing. If Ozpin, Ruby and Qrow are interested I would definitely have an interest in exploring that. Even beyond what I feel given what you said about how rough it has been I believe that we all have something to offer each other. I am also very concerned about Ozpin’s arm, he is a prideful man and it does get him into trouble. We shall simply have to wait and see on that front.

    Another note on Ruby though, pregnant?! Though by the time you get this letter I would guess she has given birth. I am going to assume Qrow is the father, good Gods I am trying not to imagine that but those two must be fantastic together. My imagination has provided many a dream about you and her together. They are among the few things that have kept me ticking while you’ve been gone. Still I hope I get to meet the baby, though I would not recommend bringing it with you if possible. The roads are dangerous and I fear that it would be difficult to keep a baby safe in the long term in Atlas right now.

    I should elaborate on that but again I can not put the reason to page. Still there is an election coming up shortly and I do not doubt that there will be attempts to remove me. Honestly I would go happily but to leave Atlas's state in another's hand sends a surge of worry within me. I heard about what happened at Mistral and I have been wondering if I could do more good at Ozpin’s side. My surgery all those months ago aside it is why I have been teaching Winter to replace me. Should I lose either or both of my seats on the council I know the army will have a good head on it’s shoulders. Before you think it I know I can keep Winter where she is if I take the fall for anything that happens. It would also free me from command. 

Did you know when I finished Beacon I wanted nothing more than to return to Atlas and make it a better kingdom. Yet I can’t help but feel I have failed. One man can not change a whole kingdom and I have come to the point my dear Weiss where my thoughts tend to my own happiness. To you, to the future. If Salem can even be destroyed, Ozpin will have had to attempt it in the past. So why is she still here? Questions like this plague my thoughts constantly. I miss you my dear. Everything is falling apart and part of me wants nothing more than to take your hand. To open myself to your team and your friends to who I really am and to run with you. Let Atlas sort itself out, it is a monster of its own creation and I doubt I will be able to restrain it for much longer. I am so tired.

    Sorry for getting so morbid. There is just so much in my mind that I haven’t been able to voice. Not even to Winter. I am just tired all the time, I can’t keep this up for much longer. I feel frayed or like a candle burned at both ends. There is not much of me left to give. I would give all that I have to you though. Gods Weiss, please come back to Atlas. Bring them all with you, I need help.

 

    With Love

 

    James 



    Weiss cleared the tears from her eyes. Her stomach was twisted in painful knots, she could feel how hard James was trying to stay positive in the letter. She could also feel how desperate he was. They were out of time. She cleaned her face and raced through the halls of Haven. Her orange tipped hair streaming out behind her. She crashed into Ozpin’s office to find him in the middle of a staff meeting. The tears came back as she croaked out. “We have to go Oz.”

    Ozpin rose fluidly from his seat and walked over to her, gently he stroked her back and pulled her to his bad side before gently taking the letter from her clenched fingers.

    Taiyang, Glynda, Peter, Peach and the rest of the staff watched in silence as Ozpin’s eyes flicked back and forth across the page. As Weiss hugged him tight gathering up his green jacket at the back. Ozpin finished the letter and took a long deep breath. He folded it back up with deft fingers and tucked it into Weiss’s belt. “Taiyang, Glynda. It seems I have to leave Haven to you. James has requested aid, urgent aid.”

    Taiyang frowned, he didn’t like the sound of that one bit. “Is Euclase old enough to be left here?”

    “Yes, she started eating off of Ruby’s plate a month ago now. We’ve just been putting this off.” Ozpin’s eyes fell to Weiss as he hugged her with his good arm. Guilt made him feel ill, they could have returned to Atlas weeks ago but they were all greedy for time with Euclase. “Euclase will be in your and Lydia’s care. Weiss please go tell everyone to pack, we should leave before it gets any later. We’ve been putting this off long enough.”

    Weiss nodded into his vest before pulling herself away and setting off running to find her friends. Ozpin heaved a huge sigh. He did not want to go to Atlas, he never liked the city. He turned to Taiyang. “We should leave on the next train if possible, while I suppose we could take an airship there is no reason to waste the Dust when the train will get us to Argus within a couple days.”

    Taiyang ran a hand through his hair. “Just what was in that letter Oz?”

    “It was written to Weiss but James is running out of… time. He needs assistance and has asked for myself, Qrow and our two teams to come to Atlas… I can not deny him Tai, I’ve known this to be coming and no man can do what he is forever. I feel bad that I have been so selfish for as long as I have.” Ozpin looked away from Taiyang and turned back towards the door. “We should have done this sooner. I have to go back and call Qrow in. I’ll text you when we are heading out for the station. Goodbye everyone.”

    Unlike the last time Ozpin parted ways with his colleagues. Hugs were given from those who were comfortable with it, or handshakes for those who were not. No one tried to talk him out of it, he sounded so tired and he hadn’t even left yet. He pulled out his Scroll and told everyone to meet at Lydia’s house. Thankfully Lydia would already be there as it was her turn to look after Euclase while they were all at the school. Qrow quickly confirmed that he’d meet Ozpin there.

His steps were hurried and restless as Ozpin got to and rode the great elevator down. A brisk wind cut through his coat, dragging at his useless arm. It was now the start of fall and the weather was set to get worse as the next few weeks progressed. The urgency in James’ letter left a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach, yes the more Ozpin thought about this the more he was determined that they leave as soon as possible. They had left leaving this for far too long.

When he came to Lydia’s front yard, Qrow was just flying in and he snapped to human form beside Ozpin and quickly stepped up to embrace him. Ozpin dipped his head to nuzzle Qrow’s neck as a heaving sigh escaped him. “What happened Oz? I got the pin from Weiss over the group chat as well.”

“James wrote to Weiss and has all but begged for help.” Ozpin tightened the hug. “I feel guilty. We can’t know how long that letter took to arrive. We always said once Euclase was old enough we’d leave but haven’t. Now James is so desperate that even when he is trying to be positive he asks again and again for help. We should have gone when Euclase started on solid food.”

Qrow snuggled into his taller lover. “He won’t blame us. Maybe you are right but she’s also our little girl. No one can blame us for wanting as much time with her as possible. Come on, lets get packed.”

Ozpin nodded and let Qrow go as they walked into the house Lydia stepped out of the living room holding Euclase on her hip. The little chubby baby reached out and declared. “PAPA! DADA!” Both men's hearts melted as they went to their little girl. Qrow took her from Lydia and cuddled her right away burying his nose in her black blue hair and inhaling deeply of her scent. Trying to memorize it.

Lydia reached out and touched Oz’s bad arm. “Time to go isn’t it?”

Ozpin reached up and Lydia hugged him tight. “Yes, time to go.” Oz felt tears leak from his eyes. “I don’t want to leave you again.”

“It will be alright, I’ll be here when you get back. James has always been dear to you and he needs you more than I do right now.” Lydia leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Go on now, get packed up.

Qrow had been cooing and nuzzling Euclase but as Lydia drew away from Ozpin he gave his little girl back to her. “Thank you for looking after her.”

“We are all family Qrow. I for one am happy to do it.” Lydia kissed Qrow’s cheek as well. “Hurry up now, there is a train in an hour. I heard Oz’s thoughts as he was coming down and looked it up for you.”

Qrow smiled with a little nod and he and Ozpin went to their room. Qrow fetched the backpacks and duffel bags out from under the bed. Oz’s gaze lingered on his guitar but no, bringing it was unnecessary. It had helped him more than he cared to admit through some rough times but at worse he could always get another at Atlas. A smile pulled at his lips, he wondered if James was still playing any instruments, he recalled how talented the man was with his fingers… on the piano of course. Oz shook his head and started packing with Qrow, they quickly dealt with their own clothes then packed Ruby’s bag.

 


 

By the time the teams arrived everyone had their packs and Ruby threw herself at her daughter. Euclase started to whimper, she could feel the sorrow permeating the group and not being able to pinpoint the reason why upset her. “Shh, it will be okay. You just have to stay with Grandma Lydia, she’ll keep you safe.” The tears started to flow as Qrow, Ozpin, Yang and Taiyang all gathered together to hug them. Ozpin and Qrow kept their tears at bay but the others cried, better to let it out privately then at the train station.

Blake and Sun were sharing a hug and kiss of their own. While Ren and Nora cuddled off to the side on their own with Jaune. Eventually everyone withdrew from the huddle and Ruby gave Euclase to Lydia her eyes red and wet. “Now y-you be good.” Ruby kissed Euclase’s forehead. “We’ll be back for you as soon as we can.”

Qrow hugged Ruby gently helping her pull away from her baby. “We don’t have a lot of time love.”

“I know.” Ruby hid her face in Qrow’s shirt. “I just don’t want to be separated from her, she's my baby she should be with me.”

“I know love, but it's too dangerous to take her with us. The Grimm would zero in on us faster then Nora on freshly made pancakes.” That forced a choked chuckle from her as Ruby wiped at her wet cheeks.

“I’ll take good care of her Ruby and take lots of pictures and videos.” Lydia said softly trying to sooth Ruby and Euclase. Her child was staring at her with those big silver eyes, she looked very teary herself and Ruby knew it was going to be difficult for her to be away from her mom, she just hoped it wouldn’t be forever. The Huntress leaned down and pressed a kiss to Euclase’s crown whispering a prayer. If any of the Gods were listening, to protect her daughter.  

Qrow and Ozpin gently pulled Ruby away from Euclase, Lydia and the house. Taiyang gave her one last hug and kiss with Yang before the party started down the city to the base where the train station was. The mood was very somber and quiet, no one felt like talking as Qrow and Ozpin headed off to buy tickets for everyone. Ruby sat huddled in between Weiss and Yang as they cuddled her tight.

Clearly the worry and sorrow on their faces was clear to the passersby as two men approached the partly. One was a tall, broad man with a pale complexion. He wore a purple jacket with silver buttons over a black shirt, and light grey pants. With long, wavy brown hair and yellow eyes. His voice was boisterous as he said. “Why the long faces? No one's gotta be worried with us around.”

The other Huntsmen was a tall, muscular man with a goatee beard. His brown hair is tied to a bun, with a small fringe hanging over his right eye. Dudley wore a beige shirt with a blue and yellow sleeveless, unbuttoned tailcoat over it. He also had on a pair of black fingerless gloves with leather paddings on them and grey pants.

“Aaaand you are?” Nora said, clearly annoyed by the interruption.

“Why Dee and Dudley of course. The Argus Limited's very own Huntsmen. We'll be keeping everyone safe as we pass through Grimm territory.” Dee said brandishing his mace over his shoulder.

Dudley stepped forward and said. “But for a generous tip, we can make sure your passenger car gets extra special attention should things get dangerous.” He winked at Ruby as Ruby, Weiss, Yang and Nora gave him unamused looked.

Nora crossed her arms and Weiss rolled her eyes. A voice sounded behind them and they turned with smiles. “Yeah, I got a tip for ya.”

“Huh?” Dee and Dudley looked away from the girls to see Ozpin and Qrow walking over. Qrow had his hands in his pockets as he frowned at the two. “Buzz off. Looks like Mistral's really scraping the bottom of the barrel these days.”

“Hey! You're talking to a--” Dee started.

Qrow held out his huntsman license showing the pair. “A professional Huntsman, right. Well, it seems one of you heroes left the staff entrance to the caboose wide open.” Qrow gestured to the carriage door that was indeed open.

Ozpin crossed his good arm over his chest. “Two professional Huntsmen and it really is in your best interest to stop flirting with my wife.”

Dee and Dudly’s jaws dropped as they recognised the two huntsmen. Qrow smirked and crossed his arms. “It'd be a shame to lose your job before it even started.”

Dudley and Dee looked back at the train. As Dudly sputtered. “I... I didn't do it!” Dee tapped him on the shoulder with a scoff. “Come on, dummy.”

Ozpin watched the two walk away and sighed. “I do hope those two weren’t Beacon graduates.” Oz reached into a pocket and pulled out several tickets. “Ready to go?”

Yang bounced up. “Yup, though I’m sad to leave my bike with dad.” She took four of the tickets and handed them out to Ruby, Weiss and Blake.

Qrow handed out the rest of the tickets. “It’d be more of a hindrance than a help at Atlas Yang.”

“Yeah I get it.” Yang pouted.

Ruby sniffed as she looked at her blue ticket with watery eyes. She didn’t want to go, her baby was here. Weiss hugged Ruby tight. “It will be okay, I know it hurts. But we are Huntresses and we have been called to that duty.”

Blake flinched away upon hearing that and hugged herself with an arm. She had become a Huntress to fight for her people. Now she was leaving her people, her parents and Sun. Blake didn’t often think about the duty that came with being a Huntresses, it was just a means to an end for her. That end was fulfilled for her, Weiss was now calling out to a greater one and she couldn’t ignore its call. Yang reached over and hugged her with a little smile.

“Come on, we don’t want to end up in a third class coach.” Ozpin said and flicked his good hand in a ‘forward’ motion for everyone.

With that bags were grabbed and they boarded the train. The trip itself was two days long so Ozpin had bought them two cabins with four bunks a pop. Team Rwby stepped into the small space, the two bunk beds took up most of the space and there was one shelf for luggage. Qrow followed up and put his small backpack beside Ruby’s. “I’ll have to bunk with Rubs, Oz is gonna take the spare bed in the other cabin given that he’s bigger and all.”

    “Aren’t Ren and Nora doubling up?” Blake asked.

    “Not in single beds apparently. Something about Nora being all elbows and feet in her sleep.” Qrow shrugged.

    Yang laughed. “Oh heck yeah, poor Ren.” Her stomach grumbled. “Anyone else want some grub? We were in such a hurry to get moving we totally missed lunch.”

    “I could eat.” Blake said and walked towards the door way with Yang.

    Ruby sat on one of the lower beds. She didn’t want to eat, she could barely think about it as the train carried them farther and farther away from her baby. Qrow walked over and sat down beside her. “Come on Ruby, you need to eat too. I know it hurts, you’re not the only one feeling it.” He drew her in and held her as Ruby tried to quell the tears. “We’ll catch up when we are ready.”

    Yang gave him a sad nod and stepped out of the way just in time for Ozpin to enter the coach. He closed the sliding door behind him as Yang and Blake met up with the others. Weiss had picked one of the free beds and was lying on her side. Oz watched her for a moment but his heart ached for Euclase, Lydia, for their family to be happy. He walked over and sat on Ruby’s free side. Oz was at a loss for what to say, instead he simply sung out through the bonds. Like he liked to for his daughter. The bond to her was already weaker, distance did limit them after all. Still he hoped she could hear him.

    The silver eyed warrior sniffed as his smoothing inner voice washed over her. It did help, it reminded her yet more of Euclase but of the time they spent alone in their room. Just the four of them. She drew her face away from Qrow and smiled a tiny smile. “Thanks Oz.”

    “Anytime.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “We should eat as well.”

    “Yeah. Let’s go.” Ruby got up with her partners and they head down a few couches to the restaurant. It was packed as clearly they hadn’t been the only ones to miss a meal in favour of catching a train. Yang and the others already had a side table with a couple more seats ready and waiting. Only it wasn’t the nice decor or the rich warm smells caught Ruby’s attention but the sight of the baby crying a few tables down. He was in a little two piece jumper and his mother was covering her breasts up and trying to burp him. While the brown haired father was frantically trying to mash some potatoes into a paste that a baby could handle. What stopped Ruby in her tracks was when her breasts started to leak in response to the crying. Blush flooded her cheeks. “Nonononononono, not now!”

“Ruby? What’s the matter.” Ozpin stopped sharply as Ruby covered her chest. She was back in her usual hunting gear so her corset covered up her problem.

“Oz, err I have a little problem.” Ruby pointed at her breasts. “I’m leaking.”

Ozpin pursed his lips as he tried not to laugh. “I’ll let the innuendo of that go this time around.” He looked over the couch and spotted the crying infant that had started this all. “You could go ask, seems like it’s still hungry to me.”

“But that's so rude! It was different when I was giving to the hospital, it was in a bottle already and I don't exactly have any of them on hand right now.” Ruby blushed even brighter thinking she didn’t have her favourite blouse for this either.

“Just go ask, the mother looks a little stressed. Sometimes a little reassurance is all it takes. I’ll even come with you. Qrow could you get us something please?” Ozpin asked his husband.

“Sure.” Qrow headed off to the small restaurant section, where you ordered.

Ozpin set a hand on the small of Ruby’s back and they walked over to the fretting couple. “Excuse me, my wife here just had to leave her own child back at Mistral for it’s safety and the crying of your child uhmm. Has caused a reaction, if you would permit it she would appreciate being allowed to feed your baby.”

The mother, a pretty brunette with tired brown eyes gave them a wan smile. “Oh my, is that okay? I mean yes yes please. I don’t produce a lot of milk you see and with him getting bigger its becoming harder to keep him fed.” She scooted over on the bench as Ruby took the seat next to her. Ruby quickly pulled the strings of her corset undone and set it down beside her. Ruby’s hands trembling slightly as she held them out for the little boy who was wailing loudly. 

The moment the infant was placed into her arms Ruby felt a mix of relief and grief. Holding another woman’s baby didn’t make her happy, his smaller body was too light for her accustomed hold. When she went to release her breasts Ruby noted how several of the other passengers were rudely watching and tucked her cape around her shoulders before opening her shirt. Oz noticed the move and turned his head to the staring eyes hard and chest puffed out. The warning was clear. You no ogle my woman! Ruby almost giggled when it sent some of them scampering away while the rest quickly turned back to their food.

The sharp tugging at her nipple made her wince slightly as the baby chowed down on her milk and now that the wailing had stopped Ruby took another look at the infant. He was sweet looking, very squishy and his eyes were open the slightly bit. He couldn’t have been more then two months old. There was a relieved sigh next to her as the mother and her husband cuddled some. Both looked very weary and sleepy. “Sooooo what brings you to Argus? Or heading there at least.”

Ozpin was the one to speak up. “We are part of a group of Huntsmen that have been called to Atlas. Argus is just one stop along the way.”

“Oh I see, that explains why you left your own child at Mistral. It’s gotten so safe there, we have family in Argus and are going for my sisters birthday.” The woman said.

Meanwhile Qrow finished placing their order and was eyeing up the martini options. It had been so long since he had a drink. It was nice being dry, it helped with the nightmares and his general mood. It even helped keep his Semblance under wraps. At the same time though a drink sounded so good. He knew it wouldn’t do him any good and yet he still stared at the menu, long enough for the bartender to call out to him. “Hey buddy, you want a drink or not?!”

What was he doing? He’d promised himself to stop drinking, it didn’t matter if it was one or one hundred it was still alcohol and he wanted nothing to do with it. Shaking his head he offered the man an apologetic smile. “No, thank you.” Then wandered off to find the others. 

Weiss was sat on her designated bunk, James’ letter still held in her hands. Only now it was slightly crumpled and torn a little on one side. Her grip tightened almost painfully. She was going back to Atlas. She didn’t want to! She’d spent so long trying to get away from the floating city that the thought of going back made everything she’d done since then feel empty and worthless. 

Weiss set the letter back in her bag and started brushing through her long hair. Only the tips of her hair remained a burnt orange, her hair had grown so long that it looked almost like it use to. The fact that she was returning to the place she hated most, where people would only need to see her face to know who she was, who she was related to was difficult. 

For a brief time she wondered how Klein was doing. Was he still employed by her family or had he left? What about Winter? Since Weiss found out about her sister was working with James she wondered how her older sister was doing. Did she worry about her? Was she well? When her thoughts turned to her father and brother Weiss brushed them aside. They didn’t deserve her time or energy to even think about. 

Finally her thoughts returned to James and she itched to take the letter again, read over his words one more time. She truly missed him the most. Would he be busier now? Where would they stay, would she have to stay in a dorm at Atlas with her team? Or would she be permitted to stay with Ozpin, Ruby and Qrow… James. Her stomach flipped back and forth. She wanted nothing more then to race to his arms and embrace him as her lover. Part of her feared what would happen if they were found out though. Military aspect aside James and Winter would be a much better match. More acceptable anyway. Weiss knew she was just a spare, though what her father was doing to do if something happened to Whitly she wasn’t sure. Weiss had left before he could officially throw her out, she was still technically a Schnee heiress. Maybe that would help, give her just a little more room to maneuver. At worst if anyone found out she could swing it as a potential alliance of Schnee and the Atlas military.

Weiss put her head into her hands. She hated thinking like this, she just wanted to be free to love whoever she did. Not be a political tool for her father. Still that left her with the problem of not wanting to damage James’s reputation if they were found out. “GRrrrr.”

“Circling thoughts Ice Princess?”

Weiss looked up to find Qrow leaning on the door frame. “What do you think bird brain?”

Qrow got off the doorframe and walked over plopping himself down beside her. “That you’re worried about going back to Atlas. That what will happen if you and James get found out. How do handle all of it.”

“Insightful bird brain.” Weiss groused.

“Gett’in to know you is all to it.” Qrow offered his hand.

Weiss took it and Qrow squeezed just the right amount. “Come on Weiss, it’ll be fine. You’ve got all of us and I don’t even think your daddy dearest could dare cross Oz.”

“It’s not him I’m really worried about. Worse he can disown me, he probably would have if I hadn’t ran away before he had the chance. It’s everyone else. I love James, I want to be with him as officially as we can manage. But it’s gonna be Atlas my status as a Schnee heiress is the only way I could get away with… well being with James. An alliance, that people will think only has a cold marriage bed.”

“Well more the fools they are. I know Ozpin has been missing James and I do too. Ruby still has kinky dreams that bed of yours will be very hot.” Qrow smirked.

That finally got Weiss to giggle and she offered him the letter. “Here, James mentions it in his letter.”

Qrow took it from her and read it over, the desperation in James’s narrative worried him but it also made him smile to know that James was thinking about all of them. “Well, now I am looking forward to Atlas.” With that Weiss burst out laughing and left with Qrow for lunch.

 


 

Jaune turned another page of the ancient magazine he found on the coffee table while Ren stretched out on the couch opposite him his eyes closed, resting. Or he would have had it not been for the ginger head sprinting passed him every few minutes. There weren't too many people in the lounge but there were some and the occasional squeak or annoyed shout was definitely aimed at Nora as she ran from one length of the train to the other. 

Ren calmly sat up, rubbing his tired eyes and on her next sprint passed he snagged the collar of her blouse. Nora fell backwards with a thud and shook her head before peering up at her boyfriend’s magenta eyes. “Hey Ren!”

The lad sighed. “Nora you need to stop that, it’s dangerous.” 

“But I'm SO BORED! There's literally nothing to do on this train.” The redhead heaved up from the floor and dusted herself off.

Jaune had put the magazine back down no longer interested in it. “But running around like you are is going to get someone hurt.”

Nora huffed for a moment but otherwise seemed to pay no attention and quickly set off again. This time reaching the door and swinging it open only to knock into another body attempting to enter. Nora winced slightly as the taller body sat on the floor before she was picking them up and dusting the person off. “Oh sorry about that!”

The women as it turned out was elderly, her white hair braided down her front. She wore a blue dress with white accents, brown gloves, boots and a necklace made with blue and brown beads with a skull in the centre. Over her head was a low blue hood with a long panel of cloth that covered her eyes it ended mid way over her nose and was edged in silver lace. She was just an almost half a foot taller than Nora. Her staff which had fallen when Nora bumped into it also had a blue skull as the handle. It was an interesting outfit for an old lady. 

Nora handed back the walking aid apologising again. The elder chuckled lightly. “That's alright deary, I can appreciate the energized way you young folk are.” 

By this time Ren had come up behind Nora and bowed slightly to the woman. “We are very sorry about that Ma'am, I hope you have a pleasant rest of the trip. Come along Nora.” He said taking her hand and pulling a sullen Nora away.

“BUT REN. I'M SO BORED!”

Sighing Ren turned them around and grinned down at his girlfriend. “Then I guess in the best interest of the other passengers, I should take on the responsibility of entertaining you.” He chuckled and pulled Nora into his chest, purring into her ear. “Maybe use up some of that pent up energy. Enough that you can't even walk for the rest of the day.”

Nora’s face flushed a bright red while little pink hearts seemed to appear in her teal coloured eyes. Ren had only a moment of warning before he was lifted into her strong arms and held on to dear life as she put on a burst of speed heading back towards their cabin. 

Jaune slid pass the older woman before offering a small smile. “I better go see if he needs some help with that.”

Maria laughed at the retreating voices, ah youth. Maybe this trip wouldn’t be so bad after all.  

 


 

Unfortunately anyone who shared those sentiments wished they could swallow them back the following day. It had started off well, Ruby woke to Qrow petting her side and back and Oz was sat on their bunk a hand trailing up and down her supple legs. Ruby took a moment to glance around the room and noticed that the rest of her team had vacated the room. Still this lovely scene was not to be as the train lurched as a Grimm roar racked the air. “Aww crap.” Ozpin pouted. 

Ruby burst into laughter in spite of the situation. “Well I know what you were watching on your Scroll last night.”

Qrow lurched to his feet as Ozpin pulled out his Scroll and called the group chat. “Team RWBY up top, Ren, Nora, Jaune get everyone moving to the front of the train. We knew this could happen.”

“Roger that Oz!”

Ozpin got up and pulled Ruby with him. “Come on then, let's see what we are dealing with.” They got dressed and all grabbed their weapons and raced up onto the top of the train the wind hallowing around them Dudley and Dee were already up there. Though Dee wasn’t there for long, still Ozpin doubted a fall from this height could kill a competent Huntsmen. The weather on the other hand…  he hadn’t grabbed his coat and the cold sliced through his shirt, arm covering and bandages and it ached.

Weiss, Yang and Blake all appeared up on the train top as the Sphinx and Manticores descended on the train. Ozpin reached for his sword then changed his mind and pulled out his rifle a click to the switch and it unfolded to it’s massive length. “Push them to the back and keep them there. Don’t let that idiot active the turrets. Blake hang back here, you’ll have to cut the coaches apart when the civilians are evacuated.”

“Right.” All the girls nodded. Weiss, Yang, Ruby and Qrow charged down the train as Dee ran back towards Oz pulling out his Scrolls as he went. Ozpin stopped Dee with his rifle. “Only bring up the shielding, we will draw them to the back and sever the coaches at this point. We already have people below evacuating the passengers to the front of the train… It is likely that your friend is alive. Act accordingly.”

Dee shivered as Ozpin unleashed all the authority that he had cultivated through the long years as a king, leader and headmaster. Dee did as he was told, the shielding went up and the turrets stayed down. He flanked Oz’s bad side as the two started to shoot down the Manticores.

As they did a woman of middling to tall height climbed up onto the top of the train. Her blue dark blue dress and cape billowed around her. She pulled out two kamas and raced down the train then threw one of the blades letting it sail through the air connecting into the sphinx’s neck. She clicked the button on the other and the gravity Dust drew her like a bolt straight to it and she slashed into it’s neck.

Qrow’s eyes widened as the woman yanked her first kama out of the sphinx as she raced down the Grimm’s back driving both weapons into it’s left wing. He came back to his senses just in time to turn into a crow to avoid the blast of fire coming his way. He flew up and transformed above the sphinx and transformed Harbinger into it’s scythe form. Qrow slammed it down into the joint of the sphinx’s right wing. The Grimm screamed in pain and fell down with a crash into the train. Despite the jolt Qrow only had eyes for the woman beside him. Still when she started firing into the black muscles, Qrow followed suit.

Ruby blasted forth with her scythe and cleaved into the sphinx’s neck it rounded on her and blasted a fireball at her. Ruby rose-petal-burst out of the way around to the other side of it’s head to re-materialize and whipped Crescent Rose into its spread jaw. It screamed as Ruby cleaved it’s mouth open as it hung by the one remaining side of it’s jaw. Yang, Blake and Weiss were drawing the manticores. 

Ozpin watched as he fired at the manticores as the three scythe wielders took down the largest Grimm together. He already had a theory about the new woman. Together Qrow and Maria pulled their weapons free of the sphinx and the wings of the monster came with it. Jaune’s voice came in over the Scrolls. “We’re good Oz! Ren is going to shield the train now!”

“Acknowledged. BLAKE CUT US FREE NOW!” Ozpin yelled down the train. “You stay with the train.” Ozpin said to Dee as he raced down towards the sphinx shooting Grimm skulls to bits as he went.

Blake ducked as Oz killed a manticore that was about to bite her head off and raced to the end of the coach and jumped down quickly severing it from the rest of the train. It quickly slowed down and the rest of the train pulled away.

The sphinx rolled backwards forcing Maria and Qrow off of it. They both jumped up into the air and tumbled down into the train. The sphinx raised up and blasted fire down into the tracks. The train rocked as it derailed, Weiss whipped out her gravity glyphs anchoring everyone as they crashed down into the snow. The sphinx and remaining manticores charged down after then into the forest.

Maria threw one of her kama stabbing into the sphinx’s neck. Again she used her gravity Dust to fly to the monster. Qrow and Ruby followed suit with their own powers. Together they knocked the sphinx away from the train so it didn’t crush on the rest of the team. Forced away from the train they drove their weapons into it’s side and braced themselves as it crashed through several trees. Splinters bounced off their Aura’s as the Grimm ploughed into the snow.

Together they ripped their weapons free, as the sphinx righted itself black blood falling into the snow. “You two time it and go for the head, I will distract it.” Maria raced to the side flanking the Grimm and opening fire. Ruby and Qrow ran the opposite direction. Sure enough the dying Grimm went after Maria, crashing through the snow. The two scythe wielders raced it and Ruby from below and Qrow from above trapped it’s neck between their blades and severed it together.

The team change charging through the forest and the few remaining manticores fled. Ozpin went straight to Ruby and Qrow, quickly checking them both over. “You’re both alright? Aura still good?”

“Yeah it was a short fight and it didn’t get good hits on us. You can thank our new friend for that.” Qrow nodded at the new elderly huntress.

Ozpin looked over to her as Maria put her kamas back on her hips. “Thank you.”

The elder woman nodded. “It’s all part of the job. I’m am Maria Calavera.”

Qrow’s jaw hit the ground. “You’re the Grimm Reaper! I thought I recognized you, I made my weapon after yours. I wanted to be just like you!”

Ozpin smirked and rolled his eyes at his husband. “Qrow~. Your fanboy is showing.”

The red eyed man blushed and kicked the snow. “But, uh, umm. Yeah…”

Maria covered her lips as she laughed. “I don’t mind, it’s terribly cute.” A full grown Huntsman geeking out over her was not something she saw every day after all. 

Ruby’s eyes were as big as saucers as she giggled on the spot, bouncing back and forth only just being a little better then Qrow for showing her geekiness. Weiss, Yang and Blake just looked at the two and wondered why they were so bouncy. “Sorry. Who are you?” Weiss asked.

“I was a famous Huntress a few decades ago.” Maria said brushing her clothes down. “Clearly those two like to read.”

“What do you mean ‘was’. You went missing and we all wondered what happened to you. Lots of us thought you were just layin' low. Eventually, we just came to accept that you were probably dead. But the stories about you. They-.” Qrow bit his lip and looked into the snow. “Nevermind.”

“We need to get a move on. It'll be dark before we know it, and I don’t fancy freezing to death!” Maria turned on her heel and started to walk towards the train wreck.

“Don’t you think we should stay with the train?” Yang asked. “Someone will come looking for it.”

The group formed up tight Qrow put himself a few steps ahead of Maria carving a path through the snow for her. Ozpin saw what he was doing and tried to conceal his smile. Though he couldn’t tease Qrow about it too much as he was doing the same thing for the rest of the smaller girls. Mainly Ruby and Weiss.

“Normally that would be a good plan but none of those cars had any food on them and I doubt any of you have any rations on you.” Maria said as she pulled her cloak closed.

“So what? We just wander around till we find a road?” Blake asked not liking that idea one bit.

“There are usually roads close to train tracks. Either used to help build the train or connect it to surrounding settlements.” Ozpin said and pulled out his Scroll sadly without signal he couldn’t pull up a map. “Damn.”

“We still must be the better part of a day away from Argus. By train.” Qrow said. “I could scout ahead as a crow.”

“Good idea Qrow.” Ozpin said. “Just don’t stray too far.”

Qrow jumped up and transformed taking to the wing and flying up through the tree line. Maria looked up in surprise. “Wow, never thought I’d see another shape shifter.”

“You know of another?” Ozpin asked as Maria moved to walk closer to the path Ozpin was making through the knee high snow. Thankfully everyone was wearing boots and pants even if they weren’t dressed for a hike through the snow.

“Yeah there is one in Mistral, Beckett I believe and he turns into a great big white wolf. Nasty man. Unhealthy obsession with blood.” Maria looked over at Ruby. “You have very lovely eyes. Can you use them at all?”

“You know about the Silver Eyed Warriors?!” Ruby asked unable to keep from bouncing in spite of the snow.

“I am an old woman after all, we tend to learn about such things.” Maria said with a slight smile.

“Oh, well yeah a little. Only when my emotions are really high though. I’ve done it four times. Once at Beacon, then once when… err well it was not a scary moment but was about uh other emotional highs. Then twice when the pre Wylde Hunt Grimm hunt went wrong and when people were dying all around me.” Ruby’s pulled her cloak tight and shivered. She already wished Qrow would come back.

“Hmm interesting.”

They came upon the train wreck. Boxes were scattered every which way, some with Dust shells for the trains guns or other repair parts but nothing useful to the group. The wind kicked up and Ozpin looked up at the bright sky. “We should wait here for Qrow. This breeze is nasty and I’d rather not be in it when we don’t have to be. Qrow will likely have some idea of a direction to take.” Ozpin walked up to one of the toppled coaches with his Aura he drove his fingers into the double doors and shoved it down bending the metal but opening the coach.

“What happened to your left arm?” Maria asked as the others climbed in and huddled together.

Oz stiffened, an impressive feat even the cold. “Nothing I want talk about. After you.” He gestured for her to enter the coach.

Maria rolled her eyes though none of them could see it under the panel of cloth that hid her eyes. She ducked under the still closed side of the door and stepped into the coach. It wasn’t much warmer than the outside but at least the wind couldn’t get them.

Ozpin followed suit being careful to put his left side out of the wind and cast out over the bonds. “Qrow, can you hear me? We are at the crash site.”

“You’re like a whisper. I found a farm about a days walk away, not sure how those without feathers are gonna make it without freezing to death. Give me a few more minutes, I think I’ve got a barring for Argus but are still too far away to be sure. I’ll probably drop out of contact.”

“Alright, I’ll let the others know. Don’t be long, none of us have our coats.”

“I won’t, I can always scout again from the farm later.”

“Qrow says he has found a farm about a days walk away and has asked us to hang tight while he looks for a way to Argus.” Ozpin said as he reached over and pulled his bad arm into his lap.

Ruby moved over to cuddle up to his side. She was worried about his arm, he still didn’t feel it very well so if he got frost bite he’d be the last one to know. “I heard it too, I hate all the stress of testing just how far we can be from each other lately.”

“I can’t hear Euclase at all anymore.” Ozpin said leaning over and kissing the crown of his wife’s head.

“Me neither, I hate it.” Ruby drew her legs up and curled into them.

“Euclase?” Maria asked.

“Our daughter. We left her in Mistral to keep her safe, seems like that really was a good idea.” Ozpin grumbled, he missed her regardless of how leaving her behind turned out to be wise.

“Yeah, my breasts hurt again but I am not pulling them out when it’s this cold.” Ruby shivered.

“You know if you want your milk to dry you have to stop using it.” Maria said having already guessed the two were a couple.

I don’t want it to stop. Ruby thought as tears threatened her eyes. She blinked rapidly, trying to keep them at bay. “I know that.” She said with choked words.

Ozpin wanted to scoop her into his lap but she was on the wrong side to allow that. “It will be okay Ruby. It had to happen sometime.”

“I miss her. I just want to hold her and feed her. To tell her how much I love her. I don’t want my milk to dry up, it’s for her. When she is done with it that’s different, she wasn’t yet totally. Right now Lydia is probably feeding her with the milk we froze. It’s for her! I still want to have it for her! What if my dad brings her to Atlas and I can’t give her any!”

“Love the chances of her not being totally weaned by then are very slight.”

“That’s not the point!”

“I know. I know it hurts too… There will be other children you know. You’ll get to feel that bond again, this isn’t the end of it. It’s just one part of our lives and one part of Euclase’s. She’ll be fine, we all will be.”

Ruby moved and hugged Oz’s side tight, nuzzling his bad shoulder. Weiss smiled sadly at her, she guessed that Ruby and Oz continued that conversation privately. She couldn’t guess however how bad the separation anxiety was for Ruby. There was no parallel for a mother who loved her child with all her soul to then have to leave it behind. Weiss moved over and cuddled up to Ruby. She didn’t know what to say but silent support was better than none at all.

Blake hadn’t really adjusted to Ozpin and Ruby. Much less Weiss being involved with them as well. Yang looked only sad about how her sister was feeling. The wind blew fiercely sending a chill even into their little hiding place. She moved over and hugged Yang’s metal arm partly the bit where it attached to the skin. “You need to be careful about frostbite Yang.”

“I know that Blake, you don’t need to tell me that.” Yang almost scowled at her friend.

“Sorry.” Blake said her eyes flicking down.

“Blakes’ right Yang.” Weiss said. “You should even think about taking it off. It would help slow down how quickly the cold travels into the rest of you.”

“Fine, fine.” Yang detached her arm and set it down beside her.

Qrow landed with a soft thump into the snow. “It’s only getting worse out here. If we hustle there is a farmstead we can try for about a days walk north of here.”

“Well it sure beats sitting here in the cold!” Maria got up and lead the way out of the coach.

Not everyone agreed with her as the wind kicked up again as they started walking. Qrow took the lead again forging a way for Maria and the rest. Ruby took Oz’s left hand in spite of the cold and hoped she could ward off the frost bite. Yang almost asked Ozpin for his half cloak shield on his arm so she could wrap it around the stump of her arm but decided he probably needed it more.

No one felt like talking as they soldiered on through the white woods. The sky quickly darkened with heavy colds that looked ready to dump several more feet of snow on them. The sound of an occasional crow cawing almost made Ruby jump. It didn’t take long for Ruby’s fingers to be frozen which only heightened her worry for Ozpin’s arm. Everyone was quickly shivering and as the first few snowflakes started to fall with the temperature taking another dip with them. “Oz can you do anything about this?” Qrow asked.

“Changing the weather is a stupid thing to do Qrow. It can mess with the whole planet’s weather.” Ozpin snapped through chattering teeth.

“Something small, yeesh.” Qrow rolled his pale eyes.

Ozpin turned it over in his cold addled brain. Was it worth burning through more soul energy? He looked back over his shoulder, to his friends and wife. Yes, freezing to death wasn’t an option. He raised his right hand and formed a golden orb. With a flick of his fingers that orb extended to encompass the small tightly packed party. The temperature raised to above freezing and the wind could no longer touch them. “I can’t keep this up indefinitely but it will take the edge off long enough for everyone to at least feel a bit better.”

“Thank you sir.” Blake said as she rubbed her bare arms.

Oz only maintained the shield for ten minutes at a time. Letting it fall for about half an hour each time, bringing it up only when the weather got particularly vicious. He really didn’t want to think about how much energy this was burning through. Every drop of soul essence was precious and this felt almost wasteful to him.

By the time they reached the rundown farmstead the sun was setting and even Oz’s orb wasn’t working as well. The long eerie creeks of the metal fence gate gave them direction in the rising gale. Qrow shoved it open with his hip and held it as everyone hurried through. The snow was falling so fast that they couldn’t see more than a meter beyond Oz’s protective orb. “There is a house just down the road here.” Qrow said and coughed on the cold air.

Sure enough, they soon came upon a porch. Qrow leaned against the door pressing his ear to it but he couldn’t hear anything. When he tried the door it was locked. “Seems empty. Everyone have whatever’s left of your Aura up just in case.” He grabbed the door knob using his cape to protect his hand but he stilled hissed at the frozen metal. Qrow turned it sharply snapping the lock and shoving it open.

Everyone was quick to tumble in and Qrow slammed the door shut behind him. Ruby let Oz’s hand go and pushed a nearby chair in front of the door to wedge it closed.

“It’s freezing in here.” Yang was holding her stump.

Blake was holding Yang's metal arm as she peered into the left room, it was a library with a fireplace. “There is a fireplace here, maybe we can get it going?”

“Please. I’ll go look for some blankets.” Weiss said hugging her shoulder as she started up the main stairs.

“Yang go with her.” Qrow said flicking his head after Weiss.

Maria, Ozpin, Qrow and Ruby followed Blake into the study. The house was only a bit warmer than outside but Ruby paused by a picture of a large family hanging on one wall. Something about this place was giving Ruby the creeps.

“What do you think?” Blake asked as Qrow knelt before the fireplace. He found it very odd that there was wood still in it, burned down to almost nothing but it was still there. Ozpin quickly found a wood box beside the fireplace and started handing fresh logs to Qrow.

“Something doesn’t feel right.” Ruby said as she read the name of the family underneath the picture engraved into the frame. Brunswick. Ruby quirked her lips. Maybe some relation to Torchwick? Ugh why I am I even wasting time thinking about him.

A high scream startled all of them and Ruby cried out. “WEISS!”

Everyone raced from the room and up the stairs to find Weiss on the floor being held by Yang as she stared at two corpses desiccated on the master bed.

Ozpin wrinkled his nose but the bodies were so old that there was no smell. He strode into the room and looked them over more closely. They looked like they had just gone to bed, relaxed even. He reached out and carefully pulled the sheet back… sheet not duvet. “Must have happened during the summer.” He mused allowed, his eyes scanned or any detail any sign of what could have killed them. “I don’t see anything Qrow, how about you?” He looked up and saw that Qrow’s eyes were already black with that unsettling red ring. “Nothing Oz. It’s just like they went to sleep and never woke up.”

Ozpin sighed and rubbed the dry battered skin of his face. “Okay. Weiss Yang go back downstairs. Ruby you can help me find something warm and not on bodies. Qrow please get that fire going.”

As they set out Qrow stopped by Ozpin. “Oz, I know it’s late but we shouldn’t stay here. Not when we don’t know what happened.”

“Qrow we are all asleep on our feet and hungry. If we ran into Grimm right now we’d be sitting ducks. Please just get that fire going, it will help.” Ozpin dipped down so he and Qrow could brush their cheeks against each other.

“As you wish.” Qrow headed down the stairs.

“Come on Ruby, there must be a linen closet we can raid.”

 


 

By the time Ozpin and Ruby walked down with arms full of bedding and duvets. Qrow was heating up several cans of tomato soup by the fire. He looked up as his lovers came in. “Yang found us some grub, it’s not much but it sure beats going to sleep hungry.”

Ruby set her arm loads down and grabbed a quilt that she put over Weiss’s shoulders the heiress was staring into the fire. Still quivering on occasion.

“We aren’t staying right?” Yang asked sitting herself down beside Blake.

“We don’t have much of a choice. We almost froze just getting this far.” Ozpin flicked out one of the sheets out and started tucking it over one of the sofas. 

“Might as well get comfortable.” Maria walked over to one of the bookshelves that had a numeral for I on it. She walked over to a leather seat in the corner of the room and opened the book.

“Maybe tomorrow the storm will let up and we can see if there are any supplies we can use.” Blake said.

“Here’s to hoping.” Qrow lifted one of the cans of soup out of the fire and handed it to Weiss with a spoon.

Weiss took it with quivering hands and started having tiny sips.

“Oz sit your butt down, we should look at your arm.” Qrow said as Ozpin moved to cover the couch with one of the smaller duvets.

The tall man frowned but did as he was told. Ruby quickly came over to help Qrow get through the layers protecting the arm. As the bandages came loose it revealed that sure enough much of Oz’s arm had turned a light purple, his fingertips a much darker shade. “Well shit.” Ozpin hissed and shifted his side more towards the fire. “As it warms up though I can heal this. Well as much as it ever heals.”

“You too Yang, you’re almost as bad off with that metal anchor point.” Qrow said.

Yang was already pulling her top off, sure enough her arm was almost as purple as Oz’s was. “Crap, how did I not feel that?”

Qrow put her by the fire as well and set his hands on her arm. “After a point, it’s impossible to feel anything anymore.”

Yang hissed at the sudden heat from his hands. As Qrow extend his Aura over her arm the pain faded way to just discomfort. He couldn’t keep it up for long as he was tired, hungry and had been using his own Aura to shield some of the cold on the walk there. Still by the time he was done it was just down to a rosy red. “Thanks uncle.”

“Anytime firecracker.” Qrow ruffled her hair and returned to watching his soups.

Yang smiled at that but quickly frowned at her still red arm. Qrow started to hand out soups to everyone and Ruby helped Oz with his as much as that irked him. Many silent curses about having a non-functioning arm were cussed in his head. After-which Ruby and Weiss set about making beds. Which were really just piles of bedding. Yang took one couch while Maria took the other. Blake was closest to the fire while Ozpin, Ruby, Weiss and Qrow took the biggest duvet and all cuddled together in the middle of the room.

 

Chapter Text

    Lydia set down her book with a sigh. It had only been a few days and already she missed the noise of her family. It was strange, the silence in her home after months of having Oz, Ruby and Qrow live with her. Not to mention sweet beautiful Euclase. The six month old was adept at keeping her occupied and at the same time offered a sweet peacefulness. No doubt some remnant of her soul that was linked with her own granting the child access to her mind and emotions. Lydia didn’t mind it, in fact she believed that in this way Euclase would grow to be even stronger of mind and sharper with wit then even Ozpin. 

The sun was setting over the horizon when a flicker of something dark hit the corner of her mind. She felt it again a few moments later and rose from the chair. Was there Grimm nearby? Surely not. Still it was enough to have her cautiously walking up the stairs and into the nursery. She was just walking Euclase to her crib when the baby started to wail. That same dark feeling washed over her as she scanned the area outside her home, eyes widening when she caught the tail end of thoughts filled with malice and hate. 

She raced for her room, set Euclase in her travel cradle and threw the windows open. Fear made her heart pound as she grabbed the crib and dragged it over to one of the windows. The old woman scanned for a weapon but came up blank. She raced to the door and closed it behind her, she took the stairs two at a time and raced into the living room. The fire poker was the best she had. She grabbed it with both hands and closed her eyes and sent to Euclase up in her room. “Please baby, be quiet the longer it takes them to find you the better.”

    The front door was kicked open and the imposing figure of Cinder Fall progressed into the house the moonlight casting her features into shadow. Lydia cast her net of telepathy wider. Time, they needed more time if she didn’t slow Cinder down… Tears threatened her eyes. She’d never forgive herself if something would happen to her precious granddaughter. Cinder summoned a sword as she sneaked into the house. Lydia stepped out from behind the eve of the door and brought her poker down on Cinder’s head.

    The Fall Maiden spun around as it connected and she slashed out cleaved into Lydia’s Aura. The poker snapped as she hit Cinder with it and Lydia raced back up the stairs running as fast as she could. She could feel Cinder hot on her heels. The elder woman tried to squeeze Cinder’s mind with her Semblance but the insanity of it made it slippery and hard to grasp. There was so much anger and power that it simply repelled her intentions, the slimey feel of pure darkness was so much stronger. She mentally called out to Euclase. “Please be silent, I’m so so sorry.”

    Lydia dashed into a side room and picked up a vase. She knew this was useless but anything to buy more time. She ran back out and threw it straight at Cinder’s face. Cinder only laughed as her bandaged arm simply brushed it away, the tail end of the wrap undoing enough that Lydia could see the bone underneath. “Is that really the best you can do?”

    Lydia was already running away again. Help was closer now she opened the door to her room and left it open behind her this time. Lydia tried to calm her breathing down as she made sure to stay between the view of the door and the crib. Cinder shoved the door open and grinned. “Done running now?”

    Lydia took a few more steps back drawing Cinder deeper into the room. “You’re a sad sick person.”

    Cinder’s smile fell away, she launched forward and drove her sword into Lydia’s chest. “This coming from the person who can’t even fight.” Blood flowed freely from the wound even as her body glowed, her breath laboring but it was too late. 

    Lydia’s knees buckled as she fell off the blade and onto the ground. She felt the cold sweep into her, the darkness clouded her vision. She smiled as she died, Well Skogr seems I finally get to see you again. Maybe with the next turn of the wheel.

    Cinder smiled her innocent smiled and summoned a dagger into her hand the orange glowed as she approached the silent cradle.

 


 

Ruby startled awake her heart pounding. The room was pitch black but she was warm snuggled between Weiss and Qrow. She blinked a few times and wondered what had woken her up. With a yawn Ruby pushed herself up and rubbed her eyes. Slowly she extracted herself from the pile of bedding and walked over to the window and pushed the curtains open. The blizzard allowed only a dull grey light through but she could tell it was morning. “Hey guys wake up.” As she turned the first thing she noticed was that no one moved.

“Guys?” Ruby asked again and walked back and shook Oz by his shoulder. “Hey Oz walk up!”

Not even a grumble. Panic started to well up in her. “Guys!” A moan pierced the air but it didn’t come from anything human. Ruby looked up and screamed in terror. Ozpin jerked awake with a start and spun around, following Ruby’s gaze.

The Grimm was hanging from the ceiling. Unlike most Grimm it had very little white bone only half a skull it was humanoid like but shrunken inward and flattened out. A long dark tongue slithered out from its throat. It’s long arms had only three bony fingers ending in white claws and it’s back legs were devoid of feet but had curved blades that were dug into the ceiling added by a short ponytail.

Ozpin yelled and this time everyone woke. “APATHY!”

Maria was the one to launch upward, weapons in hand while everyone else was slower to move. Another Apathy slunk out of the shadows, unlike the one on the ceiling these groaned as they walked on their stilt legs with arms so long had their hands not curved up awkwardly at the wrist and dragged them over the floor. They had strange rib changes of white bone that covered their vitals and more human skulls but not as squished as the one above.

Qrow lurched to awareness his body already overtaken with his own magic as he grabbed Weiss and shoved her towards the front door, then did the same to Yang. Maria grabbed Blake, it seemed the faunus was the slowest to fight the Apathy’s effects.

Weiss screamed as she passed the eve of the door only to find another Apathy was already standing at it, staring down at her with its beady red eyes. The stairs were also already covered in Apathy, the way to the kitchen had the shambling Grimm in it already as well. Only the way to the bar was clear. So Weiss ran through it and down for the cellar, her thinking brain said it was a bad idea but the terror couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.

Ozpin reached for his sword and the Apathy howled. Everyone’s legs suddenly gave out and they crumpled to the floor. Oz fought to keep his eyes open as he gripped his sword and dragged it across the floor to clip it back onto his belt. “Qrow…” Copper eyes fell upon his husband. That red he loved so much was dull. “Muninn. Run.”

Qrow blinked a few times as the order set in. He was tempted to reach for Harbinger but it had been Ozpin going for his weapon that made the Apathy scream. He shoved himself to his feet staggering over to Oz and helping him up. “Can’t you work magic or some shit?”

“Can barely think.” Ozpin blinked once slowly at Qrow. “But that’s fine.”

“Oh hell.” Qrow said and looked out over them. Maria and Ruby had managed to get up and were pulling Weiss and Yang up. Qrow staggered over to Blake and pulled her to her feet. “Run, we’ve got to run.”

Everyone did and the Apathy let them. They stumbled down the stairs into the cellar a pair of metal doors were set into the ground and the room was empty of Grimm and they raced through the doors and stumbled into the drain off room. The wall of it was broken down and revealed a way into well’s water tunnels. Qrow brought up the rear and yanked the cellar doors shut behind him. “Weiss fire Dust!”

“But why?” Weiss whined as she slumped against a wall.

“Oh give it here girl!” Maria raced over to her and pulled the fire Dust cartridge out of her sword and tossed it at Qrow.

Qrow sliced the cap off with his claws and spat into his palm before pouring the dust into making it just damp enough to stick and then smeared it over the hinges of the cellar doors. He struck the lid against each hinge hard enough to make a spark the metal melted just enough to become stuck. “That won’t hold them for long we got to go!” He bounded down the steps.

“But where!?” Ruby was holding Yang and Blake up over her shoulders.

“Anywhere but here!” Qrow yelled and grabbed Ozpin pulling him along while Maria did the same for Weiss.

They were just through the hole in the wall when Qrow looked over his shoulder. The Apathy slipped straight out of the darkness. He recognized them as the ones from above but somehow they had gone completely around the door. “Oh hell.” The water splashed over his boots as they ran, turned a corner and Ruby screamed as the Apathy filled the tunnel. Their necks creaked horribly as they focused on the group.

“This way!” Maria shouted and guided them through a side tunnel pulling out her Scroll to use as flashlight as she went.

“Why are we running?” Ozpin asked leaning heavily on Qrow. “It’s fine.”

“Of course they’d hit you hard.” Qrow grumbled and pulled out Harbinger.

The scream of the Apathy brought them to their knees but Qrow managed to hold Harbinger just steady enough to fire once at the Grimm. The horrible sound was cut short and everyone found a second wind. The Apathy headed them off at another turn and Ruby found a side passage that Qrow had just enough thought to notice was strangely round and quickly they were running up hill out of the water. The Apathy grew fewer and farther apart and the fog started to lift from everyone's eyes.

“Where are we?” Blake asked now standing on her own as she pulled her Scroll out to turn the light on.

“I really don’t want to know.” Qrow said checking Ozpin over tapping him on a cheek till he came around more.

“Well going back is not an option.” Yang said clicking her weapons into ready position.

“Agreed.” Ozpin tried to look into the darkness. “I’m sorry I didn’t think I’d crash like that.”

“Be thankful Ruby woke at all or we’d all be dead.” Maria said then looked back the way we came. “We are being herded.”

They fell into silence and sure enough along with the wet drip of water came the moaning groans of the Apathy following them. Ozpin summoned a light into his hand and set it to float above the room before breaking off into a run. The tunnel was tall enough for Apathy but still cramped and twisting. No one but Qrow was able to keep any idea of a sense of direction. As they ran a breeze started to flow over their faces, hot and wet.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Qrow said and reached for Harbinger again as the cavern opened up into a large bleak black space. It was huge, like a hollowed out mountain and the air was damp with humidity and death. The scent of it caused Blake to gag, others scrunched up with disgust. Whatever was here, whatever ‘lived’ here was dangerous, possibly more dangerous then anything had existed in all of Anima. 

The sound of the Apathy’s scream seemed louder in this cavern, more pronounced and stronger and it had them all crumbling to their knees. Ozpin’s head hit the ground and he stared out as a Grimm that he had never seen before wirthed into view, its form only lit by his little floating light. He could feel that the ground under him was wet and soft. The Grimm seemed almost like a plant as a boneless mushy head rose from the depths. It’s mouth hung open splitting into three oozing sections barely held together by strands of black flesh. Tentacles rose from the pit and wove and slithered over to the group. Oz could see bits of human bone mixed in with the Grimm flesh as it curled around Ruby’s ankle. With a sickening wet squelch.

Ruby was barely aware as she was picked up off the ground and dragged towards the huge Grimm. Apathy of the short and crawling variety came to her, their claws ripped her clothes apart till the Relic of Knowledge was visible on her back. More tentacles rose from the pit these ones hooked with dozens of tiny serrated white barbs. Ruby was dangled by her ankle as they bards were raised up and driven into her back. She screamed her eyes flying open wide as her back was carved open, skin flayed from muscle and bone. It fell into waiting tendrils that stuffed into a beak like inner mouth hidden by the saggy flesh of the first.

Qrow could barely move as hundreds of Apathy closed in on them. He saw one take a bite out of Yang’s shoulder, Weiss’s arm, Blakes side… They gathered around Ozpin reaching for him with slow deliberate actions. He panted as he tried to keep his lungs moving. A crawler Apathy turned to him, as if it could feel him thinking. It’s tongue side out from it’s jawless mouth. “Ruby, you’re eyes.” He desperately tried to break through to her as her blood coursed out of her body.

The new Grimm tossed Ruby like a rag doll towards the room, she tumbled to land on her back more pain filled screams ripping out as her bloodied back hit the ground. Qrow dug his claws into the mushy living ground and pulled himself towards her. The Apathy targeting him, sped up as he stretched out to grasp Ruby’s hand just as it sank it’s claws into his thigh. “Ruby, please.” His voice cracked, where was his Aura? Why couldn’t he reach it? He needed to make her feel, the very thing the Apathy took away.

Qrow sagged into the ground as the Apathy started to eat him. He could feel the pain… he knew pain well. The Huntsman slowly turned to see the rest of their group bleeding out and dying. He focused on that image and sent it straight through to Ruby with his bond. “We’re dying.”

Ruby felt clawed hands puncture her leg, slowly dragging her back into the mouth of the Grimm. Ozpin’s globe of light sputtered and dimmed. The shadows around them only grew in length as its light barely blinked before it was snuffed out. A scream echoed through her mind just before the darkness took her sight and her eyes blazing silver. The sudden light flooded the cavern dispersing every shadow in pure silver white. The Grimm closest to them froze while the new one shrieked loudly. Its tentacles withered and burned before it dove away back into its nest of human bodies, desperate to escape the burning light of her eyes.

Ozpin blinked coming back to himself and summoned magic tossing his arms up as he rose casting a wave of fire that would put Cinder to shame. That incinerated the frozen Grimm and all but Ruby who was going into shock summoned their Aura’s and healed themselves enough to move. Their bodies, still bloody and wrecked scrambled to stand. The only light now came from the fire Oz produced. Qrow grabbed Ruby and drew Harbinger he opened fire on all the remaining Grimm and shouted to Oz. “We must be up in the mountains. Make us a way out!”

Ozpin opened his mouth to argue but thought the better of it. “Can you at least give me a direction to try?!”

Qrow pointed to the northeast with his sword before jumping up as the new Grimm reared back again from it’s grave of flesh. It let out a deafening scream of retribution even as its fleshy body smoked in places from Ruby’s attack. Ozpin summoned his magic again trying not to think of the souls he was destroying and opened fire in a clean concussive beam of power. The sound of rock being blasted outwards temporary deafened everyone but the sunlight that came down through the several meter wide hole filled everyone with vigor. Everyone ran for the hole the weakened crawling Apathy and their master riding on their heels. Ozpin summoned Crescent Rose into his hand as they went.

They burst out into a sheer rock face to find the storm cleared and that they could see Argus in the distance. Ozpin summoned a ball of red light into the air and fired up high up into the sky where it exploded into a bright flare with a loud blast that it would be heard clear all the way to the city. Without wasting a second they scrambled down the rock face stones kicking around them in sheets of shale.

Qrow was forced to throw the bleeding Ruby over his shoulder in a fireman’s carrying having to use his other hand to steady his descent. Ozpin was the one to look back, only to find that they were not being followed. “We’re good!”

Everyone slowed down and Ozpin raced over to Ruby. Her back was a horrible mess of exposed muscle, he quickly applied his Aura and was relieved when the muscle mend and skin started to regrow. The team sat down and tried to catch their breath as Ozpin worked.

“What was that?” Weiss asked reloading her fire Dust into her sword. The rocks were killer on her butt but she was just so tired.

“I don’t know.” Ozpin said, he couldn’t remember a Grimm like that one. He had a feeling it was a great deal bigger than it seemed.

“I haven’t heard of anything like it either. The only thing that comes to mind is the dragon Grimm what was under one of the mountains at Beacon.” Maria put her kama together and leaned on the staff. She was getting too old for that kind of terror.

“No way, it’s not anything like that.” Ozpin shook it’s head. “Was I the only one that felt… I don’t know. Like it could think?”

“What are you suggesting?” Maria asked, she didn’t like that line of thought at all. “Do you think it was controlling the Apathy?”

“Definitely. Apathy shouldn’t be able to move that fast. Even those climbing ones were different from the usual pack. The only thing I can think of that could be an attributing factor was that… thing. ” Ozpin had to pause and rest, Apathy were rough even on Aura and having to heal his own wounds so he could run had put a strain on it as well. Ruby’s back was slightly restored no longer bleeding profusely but far from healed and she remained unconscious.

“Help is coming!” Blake pointed towards Argus and sure enough two Atlas Manta were flying towards them.

Yang walked over to Ruby tripping slightly on the shale rocks. She pushed her sisters hair back to find Ruby still passed out. One of the Manta’s spun without landing and opened the bay door. Two Atlas soldiers with their heavy head gears masking their faces. “You sent the flare?”

“Yes, this mountain is over run with Apathy. We had a run and need medical assistance.” Ozpin said as the soldier got out of the way. “Right get on.”

Ozpin went first carefully taking Ruby from Qrow as he got on the ship. The rest of them followed and Maria closed the door behind them. The second Manta shined it’s lights into the hole Ozpin had created. Only it seemed like the darkness swallowed up the light and hide anything that was within the mountain. No one really wanted to think too hard on that. 

The flight to Argus was thankfully short and they were taken straight to the airfield. Qrow held Ruby as they dismounted the ship only to be approached by a very short woman. She had silver hair brown eyes and didn’t even come up to Oz’s middle. The woman stopped as she laid eyes on Maria. “Witch.”

“She-devil.” Maria snapped right back at her.

“Ladies.” Ozpin interrupted while shaking his head and rubbing his temples. This was already go so well.

Cordovin glared up at Ozpin. “What are you doing here?”

“James asked for us, but that aside. Ruby needs medical attention and should be checked for poison. We’ve never seen the Grimm that attacked her before.” Ozpin said gesturing to the unconscious Ruby. “We are already wasting time.” Oz took a deep breath. “Please help her.”

“Why should I?” Cordovin sneered. “You’re just a bunch of Beacon filth, if it wasn’t for you the world wouldn’t hate Atlas.”

“Remember the light at Beacon that froze the dragon Grimm?” Qrow said, he just wanted to get Ruby the help.

“Yes.”

Qrow pointed at Ruby with a spare finger. “That was her, she’s a Silver Eyed Warrior like from the stories.”

“Magic doesn-.”

Ozpin held up his good hand and created a blue fire, then made it turn into ice then stone. “Get my wife into your medical facilities please.” To burn a little soul essence was worth getting Ruby help.

Cordovin’s jaw snapped shut. “Fine bring her. You may come Miss Schnee but the rest of you will be escorted off the base. When she awakes I will have someone seek you out.” She gestured to one of her bodyguards to take Ruby. Qrow forced himself to let his wife go, they all needed to eat and sleep to regain their Aura. Getting eaten alive had done a number on all of them.

“Thank you.” Ozpin said and all but Weiss were escorted off the military base.

Cordovin walked with the guard carrying Ruby and Weiss as they headed into the Atlas blue interior of the base. Weiss hugged herself and looked up at Ruby, her back was still raw and cut up. The tattoo was gone, dread pooled and twisted in her stomach. Did that mean the Grimm had the relic?

They were riding up in an elevator before Cordovin spoke. “Would you like a room here Miss Schnee?”

“No thank you. I’ll stay with Ruby till she wakes up.” Weiss shook her head and looked away.

“That is hardly prop-.”

“She is my best friend, I will stay with her.” Weiss cut in turning her voice hard and cold.

Cordovin pursed her lips but then the elevator opened and the guard led the way into a medical wing and a doctor was sitting at a computer seemed quite bored. “Doctor Ekle I have a Huntress for you.”

The male doctor shot out of his chair and only looked at Ruby for a few seconds before the extent of her injuries sank into his brain. “Quickly examination table!”

The soldier didn’t question it and put Ruby down on a thin padded table with her face down into an open space for her nose and mouth. “Nurses!” The doctor bellowed and sure enough from a pair of side rooms several nurses appeared and seeing the woman quickly got to work.

“Leave them be Miss Schnee.” Cordovin gestured away to a side room. “You may sit here while you wait. Please excuse me I have duties to attend to.”

“Thank you.” Weiss headed into the waiting room and sat down on a bench but as soon as Cordovin was out of sight she stretched out over it and put one of the cushions under her head. She was just so tired.

 


 

Yang pulled out her Scroll as they walked towards the city proper on the bridge. “Oh! I got a message from Jaune! His sister lives just a thirty minute walk from here.” Yang quickly copied the address and put into a map. 

“Well that sure helps.” Blake said out front with Yang.

Ozpin and Qrow hung back looking back at the military base. Both were unsettled at leaving Ruby unattended but knew Weiss wouldn’t leave her alone. “We should have just asked to be taken to Atlas.” Ozpin said.

“She wouldn’t have let us in. I know her type.” Qrow said glaring at the base.

“You’re probably right. People from Beacon aren’t viewed highly anymore since the Vytal. Pyrrha did rip that poor robot girl apart on live global television.” Maria spoke like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“But Pyrrha was from here.” Ozpin countered.

“She still stood for Beacon, you should not expect a warm welcome from anyone here or in Atlas Ozpin.”

The tilt of Maria’s head gave Oz the feeling she could see him. He huffed and stretched his good arm out back behind his head. “Like that is anything new.”

Qrow stuffed his hands into his pockets and hunched over in his crowish walk. Leaving Ruby behind really didn’t sit well with him but the base would have better medical care then the city itself. The sea breeze ruffled his hair as snow started to fall on the already compact ground. “Let’s just find where the others are and get our stuff.”

That mission led them up into city and off to a side street. They came up to a nice house of greystone in a design that appeared to be a mix of lower Mistral column work with Atlas frugality. The flower bed was a nice touch. Yang walked up the steps and knocked on the door.

It was flung open moments later and an orange haired blurr shot through and collided with Yang. “YOU’RE SAFE!” Nora squealed hugging Yang for all her worth. The blonde gave as good as she got. “Yeah we found our way.”

Jaune stepped out of the way and let those not having their lungs crushed into the house. Ozpin was relieved to be inside, the warmth was lovely and he was already tired of being cold and they weren’t even at Solitas yet. Ren zipped into the foyer and smiled seeing them all come in but then it faded when he didn’t see their missing members. “Where’s Ruby and Weiss?”

“Ruby was hurt on the way here. Cordovin agreed to take her into the bases medical wing. Weiss stayed with her.” Ozpin said as he took his boots off.

Qrow was pulling off his sodden layers as well. “I’m keeping an ear out for her, if she wakes I’ll hear it.”

“What happened?” Jaune asked as the two girls came in with Maria.

As Ozpin tried to think of how to explain when a young woman with wavy, dirty blond hair and blue eyes entered. She wore an orange top with a beige vest, light brown trousers with orange stitches on each side. “You must be the rest of the group Jaune was talking about!” Her eyes lingered on Ozpin and her smile faltered. 

“Hi I’m Yang and this is Blake.” Yang gestured to her faunus friend.

“I am Maria.” She bent slightly from her waist with a hand on her chest.

“Ozpin and Qrow Branwen.” Jaune introduced the two large men.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Saphron Cotta-Arc smiled just a bit too much for it to real. “Please come in and make yourself comfortable you must be hungry.”

“Thank you.” Ozpin dipped his head and they all followed her into the living room. The newcomers quickly settled onto the couches exhausted by the long day. Oz fit himself into a corner and Qrow sat next to him and rested his head on Oz’s good shoulder. Fatigue pulled at his eyes and he let them droop. Finally he could relax they were safe.

“Ohh he’s so cute!” Yang zoomed over to Adrian who sat on the floor playing with a cube toy. She quickly flopped down onto her stomach to play with the baby. Like Qrow she was feeling the strain of the last two days but wanted to play with the cuteness before she crashed.

Maria sat on the free spot on the couch beside Qrow while Blake sat beside Yang on the floor. Saphron smiled at Yang but again hid any feelings when she noticed Qrow was half way to passed out on her couch. Jaune sat down on the second couch with Ren and Nora sitting beside him on the floor leaning on it. As the head of the house sat down the front door opened and a young woman with a light brown complexion as well as brown hair and eyes walked in. She wore a dark navy collar shirt with a light-blue cardigan, dark-gray jeans and red sneakers. As well as red glasses and a wedding ring. In her hands was a big brown shopping bag pull of food. “Why, hello there! Wow you weren’t kidding Jaune. Uh can I get some help here.”

“Oh right sorry!” Jaune leapt up raced over and took the bag from her. “Uh we lost Ruby and Weiss so we are missing them but this is everyone else.”

“Lost?” Saphron asked.

“Ruby got hurt and Weiss is staying with her at the military base.” Jaune explained.

Terra was looking at Ozpin and Qrow with pursed lips. Ozpin caught it and looked to her eyes. “Is there a problem?”

“We all saw what happened at Beacon. It was your fault after all, our Pyrrha tore that poor girl apart while representing your school. Beacon was hosting everything that has gone wrong and it is your fault.” Terra clenched her fists.

Ozpin sighed deeply and looked away. “I understand your thoughts. Nor can I fight you nor do I wish to or to change your mind. Things went horribly wrong at Beacon. The more I think about it the more I wonder what could have been done differently but I don’t think there is anything I could have done to change things. To this day I don’t know what Cinder wants or why. Or how she did what she did but someday I am sure we will find out and Pyrrha’s name will be cleared.” Ozpin heaved himself up. “Jaune do you have a place for Qrow and I to sleep? It’s been a long few days and the Apathy did not help with the fatigue.”

“APATHY?!” Ren, Nora and Jaune all shouted at once.

“No need to shout.” Maria cut in. “I’ll explain it. However Ozpin is right. We are all tried so I am with Ozpin and Qrow and in need of a nap.”

Yang let herself flop onto the floor. “Me too.”

“I made up the spare rooms when I got here. I’ll show you around.” Jaune set the groceries down in the kitchen. “Come on.”

“Thank you.” Blake said as she got up with Yang.

Jaune led the newcomers upstairs, while the house was rather thin in width there were two additions floors. The Arcs and JNR were on the second floor while Yang and Blake had a twin room to share. Ozpin and Qrow were shown to the last room which had a large king size bed that already had their bags on it. “Thank you Jaune.” Ozpin closed the door behind him and rubbed the corners of his eyes. “I can’t hear Ruby.”

“Me neither, she must be really out of it or drugged up.” Qrow started to pull of his clothes. “Come on Oz, we should at least try to sleep. You saw how she was, she probably won’t wake up for hours. I’m exhausted and I know you aren’t any better.”

“You’re right. It’s just strange to not be able to feel her. I’m worried about the Relic, I’m not sure what has happened to it.” Ozpin walked over and started to pull his trousers off and set them on a chest at the end of the bed.

“I’m sure we’ll find out one way or another.” Qrow tossed his grey tailed shirt down beside Ozpin’s cloths and got up helping Oz get his shirt off. His fingers lingered over Oz’s arm, it was red and weeping and the frostbite had cracked the skin open in several places. “Just when I think this is on the mend something always happens to screw it up again. Sit while I get your cream.”

The tall man didn’t argue as Qrow yanked his backpack open and pulled a large white pot of cream out. He unscrewed the top and set it down on the bedside table. Then scooped a large amount onto his fingers before standing before Oz and slowly smoothing the white cream on Oz’s shoulder working his way down. Ozpin hissed at the cold cream but the numbing effect was more than welcomed. “Sorry should have said something before hand, I figured my Aura had patched it up already.”

“You really should know better than that by now. I just thought the blood was old.” Qrow was very careful to not press too hard as he applied the cream. He reached over and snagged the pot and put it in Oz’s lap.

“Me too. I hope I didn’t get any on the couch.” Oz said.

Qrow dipped his fingers into the pot and started to work on Oz’s forearm. “You should get this looked at when we get to Atlas. Best doctors on the planet and all that jazz.”

“No way. I got used to Rutile but a bunch of strangers doesn’t interest me at all.” Ozpin pinched the pot between his legs and pulled out a large handful of bandage wraps.

“I’ll mention it to James if you make me. Between the two of us we can pin you down.” Qrow threatened with a smirk.

Oz pursed his lips but didn’t put up a further fight as Qrow worked down to his fingers then started to bandage the arm up again. “Should have showered first.”

“Not like we got sweaty. Come on Oz don’t worry about it.” Qrow helped Oz up who was distracted by the pain in his arm. They cleared the bags off the bed and cuddle together up under it. Despite missing Ruby they both crashed as soon as their heads hit the pillows.

Chapter Text

    Weiss woke up to find herself alone and sat up her back feeling as if she had slept on the plain ground. She pulled out her Scroll and found that Jaune had texted an address to her with a message of. :For when you’re ready.: The Schnee put her Scroll away and got up with a stretch and walked back out into the main room. Now Ruby was thankfully in a proper bed now, armed with an IV but still out cold. She was completely undressed without even so much as a gown. Not that it mattered as her chest was covered in bandages as well.

    The last time Weiss had seen Ruby like this came back with force. When Tyrian had almost killed her. She walked over and sat down beside her friend. “It’s always you isn’t it?” She picked up Ruby’s hand and held it tight. “It’s not luck but you’re so strong that you’re always a target.” Weiss brought Ruby’s hand up and kissed her knuckles. “I’ll do better to try and keep you safe, I’m sorry.”

    “Excuse me.”

    Weiss looked up to see the doctor had returned. “How is she?”

    “Will make a full recovery. Her Aura was healing herself before we even got to her. We’ve got her on a diluted Refuge essence mix just to help her Aura along. It’s one of the most remarkable Aura’s I’ve ever seen. I can think of Researchers in Atlas that would love to have a chance to study her.”

    The Schnee glared at the bald man. “No. Anything you found you keep to yourself, she’s not a lab rat to be poked and prodded.”

    The tanned skinned man pursed his lips. “Be reasonable Miss Schnee, she could be the next great leap in understanding Aura!”

    Weiss stood up. “No! You will leave her be. We are personal friends of General Ironwood and you can bet we’ll be informing him if you violate doctor patient confidentiality.”

    “Miss Schnee-.”

    “Is there a problem?” Cordovin strode into the room with her hands behind her back.

    “Yes. This doctor has threatened to violate patient confidentiality. I was just informing him if he dares try it I will be informing General Ironwood when I see him next. I promise you he will be VERY displeased.” Weiss glared at the doctor.

    “You know our esteemed General?” Cordovin’s brows few upward.

    “Closely. He met with my father often and came to many more of our parties. He even summoned us from Mistral.” Weiss said using all of her skills she learned under her father.

    “Do you have any proof of this? A letter perhaps? I find it unlikely that James would summon a bunch of students that haven’t even completed a single proper year of training to assist him.” Cordovin’s tone was smug.

    Weiss reached for her pocket and paused. There was plenty in that letter James wouldn’t want anyone else to see. She set her hand on the pocket and said. “You aren’t authorized for some of the information within it. James would be very cross with me if I showed you it in its entirety.” She paused and lifted her nose slightly. “If you have some books or other placeholders that I can use to conceal the rest of the letter I’ll show it to you.”

    “That can be arranged, there is a desk through here.” Cordovin gestured through to the doctor’s office the man followed them in and Weiss did see that there were books and other nick nacks that would work to hide parts of the letter. She walked over to the plain metal desk and pulled out the letter, she read it over again and decided that the first paragraph would be safe to share. Cordovin wouldn’t likely even guess what James meant about her joining Ozpin. Weiss grabbed a book, eraser and her Scroll to cover up ‘Dear Beloved’ and ‘With love’. “There you may look now.”

    The short woman walked over and read the one paragraph she was permitted. Weiss gave her a moment and then said. “See, General Ironwood has directly asked us to come to Atlas. All of us.”

“That letter is simply PROOF that the General is overworked and stressed. What was he thinking sending this kind of information through unsafe channels to someone as unqualified as yourself.”

Weiss bristled. "How, What?"

    “You are only a Huntress in ‘training’ and had you really supported our people you would have chosen to study in Atlas academy like your sister. To turn your back on Atlas not once but twice, well only so much can be forgiven.” Cordovin reached to uncover the rest of the letter.

    Weiss snatched it out from under the coverings folding it up and hiding it away by her breasts. She grabbed her Scroll too before Cordovin got any ideas. “This isn’t about me, this is about General Ironwoods wishes. He has directly asked us to come, we are here because of that. You should let us through!”

    “Why would I let the man who destroyed the good image of Atlas. A known murderer and a bunch of Beacon students into my Kingdom!? The General is certainly not thinking clearly to hold a man such as Ozpin in any positive regard.” The brown eyed woman tucked her hands behind her back.

    “What would you, a cast off S.O put in the middle of nowhere know about Ironwood! Or his wishes!” Weiss clenched her fists, part of her was tempted to show the rest of the letter just to prove she was close to James’s heart and had a better idea of what he wanted then some crusty old lady.

    “Excuse me!? Obviously this man has blinded you 'Miss' Schnee. Your words and actions since the fall of Beacon are clear to me now. You intend to use this outpost to get back into Atlas with these ruffians in tow and wish to overthrow General Ironwood. I see now!” Cordovin raised herself to all of her diminished height.

“What?! are you crazy?” Weiss was amazed by the strange jump of logic.

“Well then, I shall inform you that we here have no intention of aiding you. You shall remove yourself from this facility at once and I will have it known to each member of security here that You Weiss Schnee, are a traitor to Atlas.” Cordovin puffed her chest up.

“You’re insane and ignorant.” Weiss said. “And when I do get in contact with James because that will happen. I’ll be sure to give a full report about your incompetence and you can kiss your career goodbye.” She strode out of the room and went to Ruby. She looked at the IV drip she also noticed it wasn’t just fluids. Weiss pursed her lips and turned the machine off and removed the IV.

It took a few minutes, in which time Weiss stood guard while Ruby woke slowly but with a startle as her Aura picked up with her consciousness. “Why was I asleep?” Her voice was strained and rough but she shuffled onto her side and sat up. 

“I think the doctor here drugged you. Come one let’s go we aren’t welcome here.” Weiss helped Ruby over to the side of the bed.

“Uh Weiss clothes… where is my hood?” Ruby looked around but didn’t see it as the doctor and Cordovin came in. “Where is my hood?”

“You’re clothes were damaged beyond repair.” The doctor said and was surprised that Ruby burned through the sedatives so fast.

Ruby grabbed the sheet and wrapped herself up with it. “Ozpin, Qrow, I’m awake, my clothes are gone and it’s probably really cold outside.”

“ON OUR WAY!”

The vessel soul rubbed a temple as they both shouted into her head the relief and glee was still echoing around her noggin. “Let’s go, I can deal with being cold.”

“Excuse me but you’re in no shape to-.” The bald doctor started forward.

Ruby rolled her shoulders, she could feel Ozpin and Qrow send a high rush of Aura to her, it felt a little different then the bonds and she knew they were using the Aura objects. She could feel the skin under her bandages crawling. So she tossed aside the sheet and grabbed the edges of the bandages and ripped them off.

Jaws dropped as Ruby’s skin healed flawlessly right before their eyes. As Ruby stretched her arms high above her head hands linked together. Gold light started to shine around her wrists and ankles forming bracer like gold cuffs. A circle of gold on her on her right hip with three arrows like points pointing down her hip. Across her back a swirl of golden chains linking up to a faint gold collar that glowed under her Aura collar. The glow faded and the gold remained a soft colour almost translucent but just there enough to be visible when looked for.

Ruby looked down at her wrists the cuffs were almost ten centimeters long with the illusion of a layer of metal at each end and an additional line on the outside of her wrist. The Silver Eyed Warrior raised an ankle to see the cuffs were longer but with four openings showing off her skin beneath. “Huh, that’s interesting.” Ruby grabbed her sheet again and wrapped herself up. “Come on then, my Aura is charged I can shield myself with it. Till we meet the others.”

Weiss and Ruby flipped their long hair and strutted out of the medical wing leaving the stunned Doctor and Special Ops behind. They too managed to exit the base and were part way down the bridge before they burst into laughter.

“Did you see her face while you healed?!” Weiss’s laugh was high and musical.

“Yes I don’t even know her and that as funny!” Ruby leaned on her friend as they held their guts as they hallowered with laughter. Cordovin was probably watching them from her control room but they didn’t care. Tears of laughter flowed from their eyes and they laughed till they couldn’t breath. The pair panted for breath for a long minute and Ruby shivered. “Okay let’s get going. Pavement is not nice on toes.”

“Right, gosh I can’t even be mad she called me a traitor to Atlas that was just too funny. It’s gonna be so satisfying when James hears about this.” Weiss said as they continued their walk.

“She did that?!” Ruby’s brow flew up and she almost dropped her sheet in sheer shock.

“Yup. I showed her the bit of James’s letter where he asks us all to come and she refused to let us in saying it was just proof that James is stressed.” Weiss said with a roll of her eyes. “I mean of course he’s stressed that is at least one reason he’s asking for help!”

“I really hope all of Atlas command isn’t this stupid.” Ruby rolled her eyes and then smiled at the green and red streaks heading their way. “That didn’t take them long.”

The women shared a giggle as Ozpin and Qrow slowed down so they didn’t collide with their lovers sliding on the ice. Qrow held out a mostly empty backpack while Ozpin had a spare pair of boots in his free hand. “We could feel that you were cold.”

“Thank you.” Ruby sat on the edge of the bridge’s rail and pulled a pair of panties out of the bag. Ozpin and Qrow flanked her as she got dressed effectively blocking her from outsider eyes. When she was done she was wearing thick black trousers and a heavy red knit sweater. Thankfully she had boots though they weren’t as high grade as her last ones. “We are going to need to go shopping for proper winter wear soon.” Ruby folded up the sheet and stuffed it into the bag.

“Agreed. I don’t have proper snow boots, none of us do.” Qrow said and took the bag from her.

“It’s always cold on Solitas, the better the clothes the less Aura we’ll have to use to stay warm.” Weiss said and looped her arm through Oz’s good one.

Ruby did the same with Qrow and they headed back to the city proper. “I lost my cloak. Apparently it got shredded.” She fought the tears away, her precious cloak gone forever.

“I’ll get you a new one.” Qrow said warmly, he knew how much it meant to her. The loss of his first cape had hit him hard too, he frankly didn’t feel normal until Oz replaced it for his birthday. “You’re birthday is next month after all.”

“Thank you.” Ruby held her chest, no bra or corset and her breasts felt like they wanted to leak. “My chest hurts again. I guess that is what I get for passing out.”

“Well I don’t think Adrian is being breastfed anymore.” Ozpin said, he didn’t want to say it but it would be better for her to stop using the milk so her body started to stop making it.

Ruby unfortunately heard the thought and the tears threatened her eyes. “You might as well just say what you mean Oz.”

“I do not need to. We are here for you and you can take what you need to do at your own pace.” Ozpin shook his head and spoke in a calm tone.

The redhead couldn’t be angry with him when he was being so reasonable. “I’m hungry.”

    Qrow and Weiss did most of the chatting on the way back. Ruby was too depressed to really want to talk. They arrived at the Arc household and steaming hot chocolate was waiting, courtesy of Ren. “Thank you Lie.” Ozpin said taking one and offering it to Ruby.

    Ruby just had time to smile have a small sip before Yang came barreling down the stairs. “You’re okay!” Yang stopped herself from crashing into her sister and carefully hugged her. “Are you really okay?”

    “Yeah, once I woke up. I let Oz and Qrow know and they flooded me with Aura so I’m as right as rain.” Ruby smiled and had another little sip. It wasn’t quite right but she guessed it wasn’t possible to get the same chocolate from Vale or even Mistral way out here. Argus probably didn’t have the same access to produce as even Madin did. “Though Oz I need to show you something. My tattoo changed.”

    “So it did reappear, the Relic is still with you.” Ozpin said the relief made his shoulders sag. When Lie offered him a hot chocolate he took it and had a long sip. Like Ruby he noticed it wasn’t quite right, it was probably made with cheaper chocolate then he liked but right now he was just happy for the comfort of it.

    “Yes, in gold shackles around my wrists and ankles with a golden ring on my right hip.” Ruby tapped the spot.

    “And a collar around your neck with a chain across your back.” Weiss added as she worked on her own hot drink.

    Something in the back of Oz’s mind twisted and turned and he almost remembered something. Jinn . Stories came to mind but the meaning of the shattered memories escaped him before he could grasp them. Ozpin pursed his lips and had another drink. Jinn. He was sure it was important but for now he wouldn’t speak about it. Not till he was sure, not till he had a reason to kick the hornet's nest. “I’ll have to look at it later. For now I am not worried about it, if anything it’s a relief to know that the Grimm didn’t take it from you. Maybe it can’t be taken from you.”

    Ruby walked over and perched on the counter. “Well given that we are pretty sure it affected Euclase I think it’s a safe guess to say it’s tied to my soul. So no matter how it appears on my skin it will be safe. At least till something kills me.”

    “Don’t talk like that. Nothing is going to ever kill you.” Qrow stepped up to her and kissed her neck. The Aura collar allowing his lips to touch her skin unimpeded. Ruby purred and leaned into the touch as his hands came up and held her hips as she set her hands on his shoulders. “Give me another four or five years then I’ll learn that trick you to use to stay as you are. I was just being sarcastic and you know that.”

“Too much time with me.” Qrow said and kissed her neck again.

Saphron and Terra walked into the kitchen to the sight of the two embraced. Saphron flushed and Terra glared. “Aren’t you like two decades her senior?”

“We are Hunters. Life expectancy is short so we pick who we wish.” Qrow pull away from Ruby’s neck but she moved with him to rest her head on his chest. The thump of his heart was soothing to her, part of her was still running on fear of the Apathy. “So kindly keep your opinion to yourself. My wife and husband are very happy with the current agreement and you don’t see us remarking on your own choice of partner and life.” Qrow narrowed his pale red eyes at her.

Saphron’s jaw was on the floor and Terra had the decency to snap hers shut. “I beg your pardon Huntsman. I spoke out of turn.”

Qrow picked Ruby up off the counter and she wrapped her legs around his waist un-inclined to let him go. They headed out into the living room and the rest having heard Yang had filled the room. Qrow sat down with Ruby how moved her legs so she could sit astride in his lap. Ozpin sat beside them in the other corner and Weiss however didn’t sit down. “Um Ozpin, I may have messed up a bit… With Cordovin.”

That got Ozpin’s attention he wasn’t even used to the idea of Weiss making mistakes. “Oh?”

“Yes umm.” Weiss took a step towards him with her hands up before bringing them down to rest before at her waist clasped together. “I attempted to get Cordovin to let us through to Atlas by showing her the first paragraph of James’s letter. Only she decide that it only meant that James was stressed out and not thinking clearly. To sum up, she called me a traitor to Atlas I may have called her some unflattering things and now there is no way she will let us into Atlas.”

Oz’s raised a brow at her and took a sip of his drink. “Well not what I was expecting from you but I don’t know Cordovin well enough to have any idea of how to handle her.”

“I think she should be retired and in a home somewhere where she can’t hurt anyone with her stupidity.” Maria said with her arms crossed over her chest. “I tried to bring cashews to Atlas once and now I’m on a list for extra searches. Rational is not a word for her.”

“Well there you have it Weiss. I doubt getting on her bad side could have been avoided.” Ozpin said calmly. “Still I am sure we’ll find a way into Atlas. The Mabino I am sure have ships even if it’s just smuggling one of us over to get word to James. Or Qrow you could just hitch a ride on one of Cordovin’s ships in your more subtle shape.”

“That would be doable.” Qrow said, he tapped Ruby on her hip. “I should scout out the landing station then.”

Ruby got off his lap and pouted. “Okay, keep in touch.”

“Of course, I’ll let you know when I find a ship to hitchhike on.” Qrow kissed her and then Oz before going out the back door and shape shifting into his crow form. He took the air and flew back to the military base. It was nearing dinner time so last flights out to Atlas were being run. Qrow wasted no time gliding down to one that was just about getting ready to take off. He landed down and behind a stabilizer and dug his talons in with a little Aura to help. “Heading out Ruby.”

“Okay stay safe.”

The manta took off and Qrow hunkered down as the cold got several times worse. As the flight over was pretty short he had time to think. Just how was he even going to find James? He’d be in Atlas sure but Qrow hadn’t been to the floating city in at least four years. Who knew what had changed? They rose up above the cloud line and the shining city took Qrow’s breath away. Well so did the cold, he let go of the manta and let himself fall for a couple meters before opening his wings and taking flight. The pillars of Atlas were grey but lit with blue light. It’s tower smooth and fluid with a vibe of newness that the tower of Beacon had lacked. Qrow beat his wings and soared over the city. 




 

Blake yawned flopping down onto the floor with Adrian who was asleep. “I’m so tired.” Yang sat down beside her. “Me too. I don’t get it. I slept like a log for my nap. Didn’t even want to get up at all.”

“Maybe everyone just needs an early night.” Terra yawned and picked up Adrian.

“Without dinner?” Nora was sagged over a couch.

“Do you want to make it?” Blake asked put her head down. “I might just sleep right here.”

“Sounds good.” Yang flopped onto her side and fell asleep in seconds.

Ozpin distantly thought something wasn’t right but Ruby was already sleep with her hand in his lap. The sun was setting and even though they hadn’t bothered to eat, sleeping again sounded like a fine idea.

Maria was the only one standing as everyone drifted off. She pursed her lips and turned on her heel stalking out of the house.

 


 

By the time Qrow made it to Atlas having flown down to hide in a corner of the massive entrance to the school. It was dark out and could smell rain though it would probably fall as hail on the air. He brushed himself down and couldn’t help but feel out of place in his tailed shirt and dress pants. Boots aside he didn’t have much of anything for cold weather gear. He walked past the pillars of the school and up to the great blue doors. The avian man pushed one open as little as possible and slipped into the yet more blue halls. Everything was designed with arches and pillars.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and walked in his crowish hunch. Qrow figured James’s office would probably be a good start. He saw Special Ops judging by the uniforms as he made it to one of the numerous elevators he punched the button for James’s floor. The huge vista of Atlas on display through a wall of windows behind him. The view was wasted on him as he stayed hunched over watching the lights show which floor he was on. It finally came to a stop and he walked down a short hall and a few stairs to come to a stop on the schools crest. The staff of creation. Qrow wondered what Ozpin was thinking to do with it. The red eyed man wouldn’t put it pass Oz to put the Relic in Ruby again. If anything the last couple days had proved it was a good spot. Yes it put her in danger but just packing it around would be almost as bad.

Qrow stopped and looked down each of the three halls in turn wondering which one James was most likely owned. His office was the one ahead of him while the one on his left led to a meeting room. The last hall lead to living quarters that James didn’t like to use preferring the privacy of his own flat.

He quirked his lips and headed down the first hall. It was late but James was likely still working, came to another set of doors very alike the design on the main doors. Qrow knocked twice and his chest got tight as he heard it.

“Come in.”

James sounded tired, his voice lacked the sternness that he had used at Beacon. Qrow opened the door and slipped through it. James was at his desk looking at holograms. Qrow saw the other man’s eyebrows shoot up. “Qrow.” He stood up sharply.

“Hey James. Been a while.” Qrow smiled, putting his hand back in his pocket. Seeing James so stunned was something he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. “Uhh, we finally got your letter. Everyone else is waiting at Argus but your S.O won’t let us through the border.” He savored James expression as the bigger man walked across the room and pulled Qrow into a hug. Qrow rolled his eyes and hugged back just as tight. “Yeah I missed you too.”

James felt some of the ever present tension ease out of his shoulders. Qrow’s familiar rasp in his ear evoked memories of better times. As he drew back he noticed something. “You’ve put on weight.”

Qrow pulled at his hair. “Why does everyone keep saying that?!”

General Ironwood laughed for the first time in over a year, since Weiss left him. “It’s not a bad thing, you’ve always been a bean pole so it looks good on you. You’ve filled out a little in muscle, still wiry but you don’t look or feel like a stiff wind will blow you over.”

“Now you are just trying to sooth my fragile ego.” Qrow put a hand on his chest as if James had wounded him and pretended to fall back a bit.

James stepped with him and caught him by the small of his back. The metal touch was familiar and sent shivers up Qrow’s spine that had nothing to do with the cold. James snatched Qrow’s free hand in his hand kissed the inside of his wrist. “Come now, you’re ego is anything but fragile.”

“Wow it really has been a while for you. Been practicing White Knight?” Qrow couldn’t help but press his pelvis to James’. “Don’t get too excited we are missing three dance partners as much as I’d be totally fine with having some one on one time with you.”

“Hmm it is late are you sure you want to go back to Argus now? As much as I would love to see everyone again it would look a bit odd.” James let Qrow’s wrist go and settled the hand on the smaller man’s hip.

“People will just wonder who was so important that you saw fit to come and get them yourself.” Qrow set his hands on James’s shoulders. Gosh the man was broader than Ozpin and he knew from past experience in more ways than one. Seeing James’s expression Qrow sighed. “Fine let me see if they are awake.” Qrow focused for a moment and sent a flutter of Aura through his ring. “Hey guys are you awake?” It was different then using the bond it would cross the distance but wasn’t as easy and he couldn’t feel anything back from them. After a minute of silence he shrugged. “I guess they are already asleep. Kinda odd though it’s only seven but then it was kinda rough getting here.”

James looked Qrow up and down, while it had been a long time there were some things you never forgot about those you care about. “You are worried.”

“Is it that obvious?” Qrow pulled away and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Only because I know you.” James ran a hand over his now full beard. “Fine, it’s late but I’ll take over one of the airships. It might be nothing but you nervous, that’s not an intuition I’m willing to ignore.”

“Thanks James.”




 

Argus slept sound and deep as the sun fell from the sky. It was the sleep of the dead, the one that was infinite. Houses were dark as lights had been turned off but as the night progressed no one woke. The city was soundless.

Apathy lifted sewer grates and Beowolves, manticores, Ursa even the Mula. Grimm of all shapes and sizes flooded the city in a silent wave. The ground split open like stretched stitches till they burst stone and dirt replacing blood and puss. The black tentacles of the new Grimm stretched up into the sky long and dark wet gleaming shards of malice stretched for kilometers.

Maria stood high upon a clock tower. A frown set into her features as she raced back to the teams. She’d rather avoid the Grimm rather then kill them, the last thing she wanted was to draw attention to herself. She locked the door behind her and started at the top of the house. “Ozpin, Ruby wake up!” She walked across the room and shook them both. “UP!”

“Why?” Ruby yawned, her eyes still shut as she mumbled. She was just so tired.

“The city is being overrun with Grimm and I think the Apathy are below us. Ruby I need you in the sewers. As a Silver Eyed Warrior you have the best chance of resisting the Apathy.” Maria pulled at Ruby but the Huntress remained flat out, her body heavy and tired. “Focus, feel. Think about your daughter, the pain of letting her go, the need you feel to protect her. Wear that feeling like Aura, it will help protect you from the Apathy.”

 That was an easy request Euclase was never far from her mind. It took moments for the elder’s words to sink into Ruby’s sleepy mind but it was enough for her to begin stirring. Pain, such an easy thing to remember, to focus in on. As Ruby shot out of bed and got dressed the effects of the Apathy did wane. She tossed open her bond to Ozpin and shunted the feeling through as she grabbed Crescent Rose.

Ozpin woke with a snap as Ruby’s emotions gave him that same protection. “Maria?! What is going on?”

“Apathy below the city and Grimm swarming in. Get dressed and ready. I’m going to wake the others. Cling to thoughts of high emotion, pain and love- whichever is easiest for you to hold onto.” Maria raised from the room.

Ozpin rushed out of bed and went to his backpack. He grabbed the black armour from Naga and put it and Ruby didn’t stop him. Ruby grabbed his sword. “Maria wants me in the sewers.”

“Then take my sword, it will be of more use down there. I’ll use Crescent Rose.” Ozpin yanked a pair of trousers and a vest.

“Right.” Ruby gave him a quick hug and they swapped weapons. Oz’s sword was heavier then the familiar weight of her scythe but she had been building up more muscle and her training with swords from Beacon aided in her grip.

They raced downstairs to find the teams up and mostly dressed weapons in hand. Some of them were still sleepy looking, trying to wipe the fake slumber from their eyes and minds. Maria was in the centre of it all. “Jaune, Nora and Ren you’re on the east side. Yang, Blake and Weiss I need you on the west side.” She turned and saw the newcomers. “Ozpin you’ve got the port as you’re the most mobile and Ruby you know where to go.”

“Right. Let’s move out.” 

The two teams of three were first out of house but Ruby and Ozpin paused outside of the house. “Good luck.” Oz reached out and brushed a long lock of hair back from Ruby’s face. “No unnecessary risks.”

“Same to you.” Ruby reached up and kissed his palm. “Now we have to get going. You need to stop anything coming in from the sea and I have to find the Apathy to get everyone to wake up.” 

Ozpin nodded and let her go and forced himself to turn his back to her and run. Ruby scanned the street and found a manhole. She yanked it up using Ozpin’s sword in dagger form to pry it up. Ruby pulled a light stick from her belt and cracked it then clipped it onto her belt. She dropped down into the sewers. It was cramped and the smell was old and moldy. It was a wonder anything could fit down here.

She walked through the little passage and it open into large drainage pipes. Sure enough there they were, crammed like perverted sardines. The Apathy turned their heads with that horrible clicks as their jaws opened with a hiss. Ruby clicked Oz’s sword to it’s full length and held tight to the need to keep Euclase safe. “Yeah come and get me. I am the Relic.”

They started to scream but Ruby blasted forth with her Semblance. Ozpin’s blade sliced straight through the mouth of one and out the back of it’s head. “Oz need your Semblance, it will help keep the scream from draining me.”

She felt the bonds shift and a low stream of Aura pour over her. “All yours love. Give me yours as well.” Ruby did, trickling Aura through the collar around her neck. She furrowed her bow as she called on Oz’s Semblance channeling it as she cut and cleaved. It was exhausting, Oz’s Semblance was so much more draining then her own.

She let it drop as the last Apathy in the tunnel turned to dust. She panted, the air was foul as the Apathy scream filled the echoing corridors. Ruby slammed her hands over her ears as her legs gave out. She landed on her knees and let out a scream of her own. Clinging to the image of Euclase how she felt when she protected her baby against Briar. The howl of the Apathy passed and Ruby got to her feet. She forced herself to run, sprinting down the corridors till she ran into another pack. Again she used Ozpin’s Semblance to cut through them before they had a chance to howl.

The ground shook and drops of water fell down on her like a smelly rain. “Oh yuck.” Ruby shook her head. Under her feet the concrete warped and ruptured upward tossing Ruby onto her butt. A hard wet sound that squelched on top of everything else was pounded into her head. A huge black tentacle scraped past her, bits of human bone scratched against the concrete as it passed. The Silver Eyed Warrior stared at it rushed past her filling the space with the huge muscle like structure. “How the heck are we supposed to beat that?”

 


 

Ozpin jumped from rooftop to rooftop. Shooting Grimm out of the sky as he went, he could only stare as another huge black mass exploded outward. Three tendials burst up into the sky. They didn’t pause though they ripped away from each other cleaving the city into three quadrants. Buildings were smashed apart, large sections of concrete and debris fell into the huge Grimm made trenches, people too, though their cries were silent in their sleep. Whatever Ruby was doing she was making good time with because some of the screams that had started to fill the air quieted. Yup she was making good time.

Cordovin had mobilized all of her forces, most of what she was doing was air power. Mantas shooting down flying Grimm. The sea churned and eel like Grimm started slithering towards the city. The hard light shield went up and Oz knew worse was coming. No doubt the S.O had seen more on her scanners. The military base split open and a mech that Ozpin thought was ridiculous rose out of it.

“Talk about over compensating.” Ozpin growled as he made one last jump to the beach. The eel Grimm were already slithering up onto the beach as manticores descending on him. Oz staggered as up in the city an explosion rocked it, fire and smoke plumed up into the sky. Copper eyes swept up just in time for him to Rose-Petal burst to avoid the Mula cleaving him into pieces. Emerald green petals flew through the air as Oz pulled himself back, raising his armoured arm. The Mula’s clawed fingers glanced off it and he grabbed it by the head and crashed it like a nut. Ozpin put his back to the screaming city and faced the ocean. He would hold the coast.

 


 

Blake could barely make heads or tails of the Grimm. Where they all came from or so fast she didn’t know. The tentacles of the greater unknown Grimm that oozed black like slime onto the ground in its wake. From those goo puddles new Grimm emerged, some were faster than spiders that shot needles at them and others were great lumbering giants that lacked any animal comparison. Weiss zoomed past her on her white glyphs slicing and dicing as she went while the explosion of Yang’s bullets being punched into Grimm was actually comforting.

The ground screamed as one of the tentacles came down straight onto the city. Blake screamed and ran to the left as it came down, decimating buildings and shattering huge pieces of debris that she was forced to dodge through. The tentacle was extremely thick Blake and separated her from the rest of her team. 

“Finally.”

The familiar male voice made her spin around and bring both hands to her sword. Adam Taurus stood behind her, his dark red sword catching the flames as houses caught fire and burned around them. His mask was discarded the SDC brand over his left eye as red and angry as she remembered. “Adam! Why are you here?”

“Come now Blake, you aren’t that stupid.” Adam strode forward, his high collared blazer catching the wind along with his long black trench coat. The red thorn sigils along the edges. Heavy black combat boots crunched wood and stone under them. Wilt glimmered in the fire light.

Smoke started to dot the sky above them, flakes of ash raining from the city’s destruction. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Blake backed away, the Grimm were all around them, almost seemed like they were waiting or getting drawn in to the fight by Weiss and Yang.

“Because you’ve become a symbol for the faunus.” Adam blasted off Wilt aimed for her head.

Blake used her Semblance and vanished out of the way only for Blush to fire a round straight into her stomach. She flew back and smashed into the remains of a wall. Adam turned and walked towards her again but this time he didn’t smile, didn’t grin. He was perfectly calm. “You always were a slow learner, always trying the same tricks over and over again. Isn’t there a word for trying the same thing and hoping for a different result.”

“Shut up!” Blake scrambled to her feet opening fire and racing out to his left.

Adam neatly blocked each bullet lining them up on the ground as he went. When he had seven all lined up he caught them on his blade and sent them back at Blake who didn’t even see them coming.

Blake dodged a few but was hit by others. She stumbled on a piece of rubble and Adam shot forward and slashed out Blake frantically blocked. The cat faunus was terrified, she hadn’t seen him so calm since she left him on that train. She was in the way of his mission, to create a faunus dominated world. Something had changed him at Haven and now she was seeing it.

Adam smiled very slightly as he sliced again and again into Blake’s Aura. Blush working in tandem with Wilt. All those long hours training with Neo and Cinder seemed to be paying off. He fired a shot straight into her ankle and it made her stumble. He punched her in the nose and Blake fell on her ass. He quickly fired three times. Once to each side of her and above her head.

Blake didn’t dare shadow clone as she whipped her gun up and started to fire. Wilt lashed out and Blake was parted from her hand. She screamed as blood started to pour from her hand, her Aura crackled and died with what little hope remained. The cuts and bullet holes that riddled her body began a slow ooze of blood that mixed with the filth of the ground. Blake tasted something coppery in her mouth and attempted to cough when the smoke invaded her lungs. Yang!

The screams of the Grimm dimmed in her ears as Adam reached up and grabbed her by her black hair and pulled her up by it. Wilt came up and rested against her neck. “This is nothing personal Blake. If not for you I’d still have the White Fang but what you did to me was a wake up call. Now because of you I can and will be better. I’m the hero to the faunus. I’ll be lionized. I have the strength to unify our people without compromise. Something you will never have. Goodbye Blake, may our souls never cross paths again.”

Adam let her hair go and pulled with Wilt in the same action. Blake Belladonna fell to the ground in two separate pieces with a light thud. The bull faunus pulled a black cloth from his pocket and cleaned the blood off of Wilt. He sheathed the blade and set it on his hip. Adam pulled out his Scroll and took a picture of the corpse, that would be helpful later. He took a deep breath and let it go. That felt good, he felt lighter now. Adam jumped up through the rubble and raced towards the edge of the town. Ideally he’d get a chance to steal a manta otherwise he’d just wait till Cinder and Neo caught up. Which would be a waste of time but he could deal with that. He had all the time in the world now.

 


 

Qrow stood by the forward bridge as James stood in the middle of the command centre and as the airship descend through the clouds. He saw the smoke first, then the fires as they got close then a Grimm the likes of which he’d never seen was flattening the city. “Gods.”

“Fire on the central mass.” James ordered his gunners.

The red eyed man’s heart was pounding, he was already praying that his friends and family were okay. “James can I-.”

“No. Try and get in touch with your teams as we get closer. I’d rather not risk hitting you by accident.” James watched the shots slam into the greater Grimm.

The Grimm screamed as the heavy artillery rained down onto it. The giant Grimm attempted to raise its flailing limbs, possibly aiming for the air ships but James continued his attack, hitting every tendril that moved an inch. More of the outposts ships rallied over to offer support fire. One particular round went straight through the limb, bursting it open from the inside, exploding black ooze that was immediately lit on fire. The massive tendrils whipped back into the earth, the mass of Grimm bellowing one last time before burying back into the ground and moments later it was gone.

“Deploy fighters to assist Cordovin’s forces.” James ordered watching the firefight.

Without the massive Grimm the others started to scatter and scream, retreating rather than continuing the fight. Cordovin in her massive mech was helping with the coast but it was the arrival of James’ airships that changed turned the tide.

 


 

Ruby crawled out of the sewers from a blasted out street. She looked up to see the Atlas airship and unlike the last time she had seen one. Way back at Beacon rather than filling her with fear and wonder, now it just filled her with hope. Qrow had found James. They were here to help. Her clothes were sopping wet and she stank, she was so tired but what remained of the Apathy were retreating. In the few minutes since this started she had killed four packs of a dozen or so each. She was sure there was more but fighting the Apathy was taking it out of her.

As she looked up massive bright lights cast the flaming city into blinding white light rather than the cast of flames. A familiar scream pierced her ears. “BLAKE, BLAKE, BLAAAAKE!!!”

Ruby scrambled up the cleaved open road and ran towards the sound of her sisters voice. Other screams started to pick up, survivors of the attack few and far between. Bricks shattered as she climbed up the rubble of a house. The scene below her stole her breath.

Yang was kneeling beside Blake, a decapitated Blake. Ruby’s knees gave out as tears poured from her eyes. Her cries were ugly and loud as she knelt on the second floor ruins and sobbed. Why? WHY!?

She didn’t even feel it as the silver light burned around her eyes nor when it spread out in a white orb and cleaned out any of the remaining Grimm in the city even reaching some of the retreating Apathy below it. The silver eyes magic flooded through the ashen city with a light brighter then the shattered moon above them. When her magic retreated Ruby collapsed forward onto the ground and wailed covering her face with her hands.

Yang’s tears poured down her face, her hair was burning brighter then the flames that still held the remains of Argus in their grasp. She had already put Blake's head back on her neck. She could hardly bare to look at the horrific sight of Blake's final expression. Her right hand lay a few feet away, just seeing that Yang knew who was responsible for her friend’s death. She felt Weiss come beside her holding Yang as best she could as she was hiccuping she was crying so hard, her body shaking so badly. 

Up above Ruby summoned what strength she had left and picked herself up, almost falling again as she came to her sister’s free side and collapsed beside her holding her tight.

Chapter Text

By morning the remaining fires had been put out but that was just the first scratch on the surface of damages done to Argus. The city was in ruins, buildings collapsed, homes destroyed, lives lost. Lots of lives lost. 

Survivors of the attack literally crawled out from under the rubble of their former homes and businesses, most having no idea of what had occurred during their Apathy controlled sleep. James was the one who ordered for a speech to be broadcast across the city. The official ruling was an earthquake hit one of the surrounding mountains that allowed for a large and old Grimm to escape. Argus was the closest city and was attacked. The General explained the Apathy’s unique ability which caused most of the city to fall into a deep sleep while the Grimm attacked. 

James was quick to establish a second base of operations, calling in support from Mantle and Mistral. While survivors searched their ruined homes for supplies, airships and a train arrived to start transporting the citizens to Mistral. Where they would be housed in Haven until the council could get their fingers out of their butts and help find them new homes.   

Jaune was devastated to discover his sister hadn’t made it. Terra and Adrain stood shocked and covered in dust as his sister in law attempted to sooth the traumatized toddler. Terra had been in too much of a daze to say or do anything other than care for her child so Jaune had stepped up as her brother in law and got their travel plans in order. He intended to make sure she got to his family's homestead in one piece. His family would take care of her and Adrain.  

Yang stood by the train’s open door, her eyes dry but red and puffy. She watched as Blakes body was carefully carried on with the cargo, her heart aching and sad. A large hand dropped onto her shoulder and she turned into her uncle's arms. Qrow held Yang tightly as she let out little shudders and sobs. 

After a few minutes Qrow felt the Yang calm and he just patted her back. “You don’t have to do this you know.”

“No.” Yang whispered, her voice hoarse and strained from crying all night. “Kali and Ghira need to know what happened and h-how.” She squeaked. “I don’t want to leave her on her own, you know?”

“Yeah I do.” Qrow let her hug him again, just holding her to him while she cried. 

“I’ll be back. After I’ve brought her home. I just need to do this.”

“That’s alright firecracker. We all understand. We won't be getting out much for another fortnight anyway, helping the cleanup crew and getting some of our gear upgraded. I realised yesterday that some of it is out of date or not so effective against the Grimm as we’d like it to be. What I’m trying to say is, just take your time. We’ll be waiting for you in Atlas.”

“Thanks Uncle Qrow.” Yang stepped back with a wane smile, though it did wobble for a brief moment. 

“YANG! HURRY UP OR WE’RE LEAVING WITHOUT YOU!” Nora’s voice bellowed from the open window where she was waving frantically at the blonde. Due to the massive amount of people grieving it had been decided that Ren and Jaune should accompany the train back to Mistral and Nora hadn’t wanted to stay behind. The horn for the train sounded again and Yang quickly grabbed her duffle bag. “I best get going, don’t wanna be running after the train after all.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time, kiddo.” Qrow smirked before his expression sobered. “Take care of the train would ya. Lot of people grieving on this thing, the Grimm are still out there.”

With a determined nod Yang jumped onto the step leading into the train car, her metal hand gripping the pole tightly. “I will. You keep out of trouble as well.” 

Wheels began turning as the train finally pulled out. Qrow waved back to his niece with a final shout. “WHEN AM I EVER ‘IN’ TROUBLE!?”

The only sound that followed was of Yang’s boisterous laugh as the train sped out of the station and out of view. Qrow let out a big huff and pushed his bangs out of his eyes. He turned back towards the city to the rumble. Nothing had really survived. What the new Grimm hadn’t destroyed the more familiar ones had. Farmers had brought huge wagons in and they were being pulled into the middle of the streets. Qrow walked behind an empty one that had already taken a load out of the city. It stank and dried blood had caked the bottom.

They had only just started cleaning up so when Qrow found Ozpin sitting on the beach with what looked like an Atlas issue military canteen in his hand it didn’t surprise him. The sound of the ocean lapping against the smooth grey sand was the loudest thing to be heard. The sound of the sand under his feet resonated in Qrow’s bones as he walked over and sat down beside Oz.

Ozpin didn’t look over as Qrow sat beside him. The bits of black armour lay in contrast against the grey sand. His left arm was exposed to the cold air as he had a long drink from the flask. He swallowed thickly then asked. “Qrow when was the last time we lost a settlement like this?”

“Not since I’ve been alive.”

Oz offered Qrow the flask. “It’s just water. As much as I’d love a bottle of Mahakamn right now.”

    Qrow took a long drink of stale water. “Have you looked at the rest of the city yet?”

    “Nope.” The ashen haired man popped the p.

    “Really?”

    “I’ve just stayed on this beach. I can’t recall the last time I’ve killed so many Grimm. Those hard light shields need to be redesigned. Under over, they really weren’t very helpful.” Ozpin took the flask back when Qrow offered it. “I’m tired Qrow. I don’t think it is the Apathy this time.” Oz drank again then set it aside rubbing his thumb over his ring from Ruby and Qrow. “Blake is dead isn’t she? Ruby’s shut the bonds down I can’t even feel where she is. It’s like she screamed across them then just killed it.”

    “Blake is dead. I just saw Yang and Maria off they’re taking her body back to Mistral along with Ren Nora and Jaune. She's taking her to her parents. I think it will be good for Yang to get away, to go back to Tai. He always knew how to talk to her.” Qrow said. “Jaune’s sister died too. He also put his sister-in-law and nephew on the train to get them moving towards Vale. To his family, who knows how many more have died.”

    “They won’t all leave, not forever. Atlas will be Atlas and this place will be cleaned up and then they’ll be back. It’s too useful a location to let it go back to Grimm.” Oz looked down at his arm. “It hurts, I haven’t used it in months and now it hurts. Seems like you were all right, I can’t use it anymore.”

    “You want to know what is going on with you arm.”

    “... Yeah.”

    “Atlas will have doctors.”

    “Yeah.”

    “You’re terrified of the idea.”

    “ … Yeah.”

    “Ozpin.” Qrow grabbed Oz by the shoulder and made him look over. “James will have people you can trust.”

    “And probably still has a leaky security system. Showing magic to Cordovin, I only did that so she’d take Ruby. To put more magic someplace where it could be found…” Ozpin grabbed at his stomach. “Well I remember the last time I was found out, vividly .”

    “James wouldn’t let anything happen to you and neither will I or Ruby.” Qrow shifted closer and wrapped an arm around Oz so his hand was on Oz’s bad side. They leaned on each other holding each other up.

    “I don’t want to go to Atlas Qrow. It’s never sat well.”

    “I know but we go where the job is. Where we are needed Ozpin, it’s the job. This job is what we’ve picked and we do it whether we like it or not.” Qrow tipped his head up.

    Ozpin lowered his so their foreheads rested against each other. “I know. It’s just Atlas, Mantle that whole bloody continent. I hate it, I don’t even know why.”

    “We are going to help James, he’ll listen to us. We’ll have a chance to try and figure it out to help. To make it better. Be it killing Grimm or plugging the holes in James’ security. You’re brilliant Oz, you’ll figure it out.”

    Oz’s groaned. “Those weren't the kind of holes I was looking forward to plugging.” While Qrow burst into laughter Oz dipped his head and they kissed several times long and slow. It reminded them both that they were indeed alive. That they had come out the other side. Their lips hovered mere millimeters apart. “Have I told you, how much I love you recently?” Ozpin asked, their lips brushing again.

    “Not recently, but I would enjoy more kisses like that.” Qrow kissed him deeply his free hand coming up and threading through those thick ashen locks.

    Several minutes later a self assured voice cut through their quiet moment. “Well that is a sight I could have gone without.” Cordovin said with a smirk.

    Qrow rolled his eyes and withdrew from the kiss and looked around Oz to see Cordovin and James walking down the beach side by side. James spoke up even as he remained at military ease.. “I rather enjoyed it Cordovin.”

    Qrow saw the old woman blush. He got up and grabbed Oz’s good hand when he offered it and pulled the bigger man up. James laid eyes on Ozpin’s arm and his jaw dropped, decorum forgotten as he crossed the small amount of space left and grabbed Oz’s by his bad wrist. “Gods, Weiss mentioned it but-.”

    “James it’s fine-.” Ozpin winced and tried to stumble out the words.

    “There is no way this is fine!” James pulled back the edge of Oz’s vest to see the mess that was his shoulder. “Good Gods Oz how have you been living with this?” The felt his glove slip slightly and let Oz’s wrist go to look down at it.

    Oz’s wrist was bleeding again, it had already created a long trail down his fingers and was falling in bright drops into the dark sand. James stared at the red for a moment, the invincible powerful Oz was bleeding from something as simple as a touch. Blue eyes locked on to copper. “Jam-.”

    James reached up and gripped Oz’s good shoulder, the smile that earned him was priceless. Ozpin’s hand came up and returned the grip and bowed his head. James leaned in and like with Qrow they rested their foreheads together. Together they drew a long breath before James pulled back and said. “Thank you for coming Oz. I know you don’t like Solitas and this, your arm. Your family… I am sorry I asked you to come but I do need your help. In all the aspects that it comes with.”

    Qrow looked up the street to see Weiss and Ruby coming their way. It was still Cordovin’s shocked expression at James and Ozpin’s embrace that was priceless.

    Ozpin smiled weakly. “It’s the job.”

    Weiss and Ruby walked up their hands were clasped tightly together. “James.” Weiss pulled away from her friend slightly but caught herself before she outed them to Cordovin.

    James’s smile did a lot of that for her. “Weiss. Qrow mentioned that you had been denied entrance to Atlas.”

    “Yes, apparently I’m a traitor to Atlas.” Weiss lifted her chin.

    “Is that so.” James, wide eyed turned his attention to Cordovin and glared at the S.O.

    Cordovin sputtered under the Generals scrutiny. “She abandoned Atlas twice! She-.” The small woman started.

    “‘I’ was the one that sent her to Mistral.” James said as the colour drained from Cordovin’s face. “And I called her back. She as been working in my best interests and given that you saw fit to deny them when I know I left you an order to allow her to pass should she return.”

    Now that had the group turning to the smaller woman, none of them had known about that little detail.“That order didn’t mention the headmaster that ruined the reputation of Atlas or a faunus!”

    “It said, ‘and any who come with her’. With that in mind Cordovin as it is clear you can not set your personal bias aside you are relieved from duty. I’ve already summoned an S.O to replace you, enjoy retirement Cordovin with dishonours.” James said his voice cutting through the air.

    Cordovin’s mouth open and shut like a fish. After a second she snapped it shut moved to military ease and turned on her heel and walked off.

    “Jeesh harsh James.” Qrow put a hand on his hip.

    “She’s always been too patriotic for her own good. She was mostly just given this post so I didn’t have to listen to her all the time. However she did endanger my plans and again showed that she can not be rational towards members of the other kingdoms. I have no use for someone like that. The world needs unity moving forward not biased judgements.”

    Ozpin smirked. “That was still satisfying to watch.”

    James chuckled and ran a hand through his beard. “Yeah well it was even more satisfying to do.”

    “I like the beard.” Oz reached out and ran a finger along James’s jaw. “Makes you look older though.”

    “I am older, not all of us get to stay the same forever Ozpin.” James reached up and caught Oz’s hand. “I hear you’ve been playing with my girl.”

    “I know my girl wants to play with you.”

    Ruby spoke up. “Something tells me this will work out great.”

    Everyone laughed and Weiss said. “I want to kiss you so much right now but…”

    “Too many eyes, I’m sure we’ll make for that later. I made some changes to my apartment with you all in mind.” James winked.

    Ruby and Weiss swooned. Qrow bit his lip as all sorts of dirty thoughts crossed through his mind. “Well I brought my collar.”

    James facepalmed as red tinted his cheeks. “And there went being able to maintain clean thoughts for the rest of the day.”

    Qrow brushed a hand across Oz’s crotch as he passed, coming up to James and pressed his hands up over the broad chest awaiting him. He stepped close pressing his lean body against James’s. “Weiss might not be able to give you the welcome you deserve but I don’t care about ‘proper’.” Qrow brushed his lips against James’s adam’s apple.

    “You are not making being professional any easier Qrow.” James’s hands twitched as he wanted nothing more than to grab the man by the ass cheeks and kiss him like the world was about to expire. Show Weiss just what he wanted to do to her.

    “You can always blame it on an overly affectionate Valite.” Qrow nipped the strong neck that teased him.

    James moaned and tried to gather his wits. It had been too long and Qrow was pulling out all the stops, his trousers were already very tight and he was rather glad that no one could see. Especially when Qrow did a tell tale wiggle that rubbed in all the right ways. Through sheer force of willpower James cleared his throat. “Clean up first, orgy at my place later.”

    “Awww.” Qrow whined but pulled away, making sure to draw his fingers down to James’s crotch to cup him for a moment. “Nice to know I can still affect you.”

    “You never stopped. Now if you could remove your hands so I can actually get some success from thinking about Port in a speedo that would be great. As it is, it’s not working and I don’t want to imagine a speedo clad Port more than I have already.” James looked to the sky and pleaded with the Gods to let him control the erection that was very interested in how this was going.

    Qrow did as he was asked laughing all the while and everyone joined in. James was the quietest. Just taking in the sound of laughter and mirth, Gods how he missed this. “Well are you going to stay and help clean up or do you wish to move on to Atlas. I’ll be here for a couple of days at least.”

    “We should stay and help, for all we know it was us escaping that caused this.” Weiss looked back behind her at the city.

    “I agree. Though I am not sure much good I’ll be.” Ozpin grumbled and bent down gathering up the black armour. 

    “Yeah you need to rest that arm again.” Qrow helped him. “We should start with the Arc house, see if our bags survived.”

 


 

    It turned out their bags had mostly survived indeed. They were sturdy things to begin with thankfully. Weiss was using her glyphs to move rubble with the rescue workers helping them find survivors while Ruby was in the forest helping Oz and Qrow with gathering enough wood for a mass burn. The bodies were still being gathered and laid out, those who didn’t want to leave were going through them to find missing loved ones.

    Ozpin brought down another tree, Qrow and Ruby behind him slicing it up before it hit the ground. Behind them were civilians gathering up the wood and taking it to morticians to arrange. Thankfully the airships had extra fire Dust on them and it was being very carefully sprinkled over the corpses already layered into the pry. Ruby didn’t want to be around the bodies which was why she was avoiding the city. The smell was already starting to fill the air even away from the rows upon rows of bodies. None of them would be buried. All would be burned, mass graves had a tendency to invite unwanted things. Be it disease or Grimm, graves were dangerous and wasteful. A burning followed by the spreading of the ash was more efficient for restoring nutrients to the land. Even in death, the people of Argus would make it easier on the settlers that followed them.

    Qrow helped drag in the last tree and Ozpin and Ruby cut it. The pyre was already several meters tall, layers of wood, bodies and Dust to help get this over with. One of the morticians staggered away from the pile and lost his breakfast meager as it had been. The raven haired man sighed and walked over to him setting a hand on his shoulder. “Take a break, I can fill in.”

    The man nodded his thanks, shoved a box of fire Dust into Qrow’s hand and staggered off into the forest to try and get away from the smell. Qrow took a moment to really look at the neat line of corpses, there weren’t enough blankets to cover them all and families were dotted through the long lines grieving over their loved ones. Qrow moved to the end of one line of forty, the first ten bodies had already been moved. He picked up the next one, rigor mortis had set in so he was forced to carry it bridal style. It was of a young woman, brown hair and skin, clothes dirty and ripped from what Qrow guessed was from the rubble. He walked up the makeshift ladders onto the pryer and set the body down following a pattern already established. A sprinkle of Dust later and he got off the pryer and repeated the processes.

    Ozpin and Ruby sat down on a stump as Qrow continued to work without even looking green. “How does he do that?” Ruby asked snuggle up against Oz. There was burning behind her eyes, some of it from the old smoke, the rest … well someone had to grieve for the bodies that went unclaimed. 

    “Practice I guess, it doesn’t really phase me either. Qrow though, he wants the job, needs it in a way. He is used to the death, he doesn’t see it the same way you do. He can help with this and it is best to let him.” Oz wrapped his good arm around her.

    Ruby snuggled against him. “Can we move away from the bodies, I don’t want to watch it go up.”

    “Sure. Qrow won’t take it personally.” Ozpin got up with her and they walked away from the bodies. They ended on the remains of Argus’s defensive walls, which were mostly intact.

    The blaze didn’t go up till the sun had set and the sparks flew into the sky. The smell made Oz cover his mouth and hunch inward with his eyes squeezed shut. Bile rose in his throat and he didn’t hear the new person till an arm was around him and he was pulled to a firm chest. Oz only had to risk a breath to know it was James. He dropped his hand as Ruby curled up closer on his bad side. A few minutes later and Qrow flew up to join them, transforming to sit on the stone merlons watching the burning and his lovers. James was a new addition and it didn’t take long for Weiss to appear and join the cuddling group as they gave the souls lost in the attack moments of silence.

Chapter Text

    It was late when the group came to James’s office at Atlas. Weiss saw her sister awaiting beside James’s desk and flew across the room. “Winter!” She clobbered her sister tight. Winter smiled and hugged her back just as tightly. The taller woman tucked her head down and took a deep breath. “It’s so good to see that you’re okay. You left so suddenly.”

    Weiss drew back and blushed. “Well Oz was coming by Mantle by ship so we barely had any warning before I had to go.”

    “I’m just glad you are safe.” Winter brushed back Weiss’s bangs then saw it. “You dyed your hair again?!”
    The younger Schnee covered her mouth to stifle her laugh. “Well father was trying to get people to look for me. So yeah, I became a red head and cultivated a Vale accent.”

    “She really good at it when she screams.” Qrow shoved his hands into his pockets as he walked into the room to lean on a pillar.

    “Qrow~.” Weiss mock glared at him.

    “What? You’ve just got a lovely singing voice. You can really get up there when you’re having a good time.” Qrow smirked.

    Winter was the one to blush as it clicked, her face was thunderous. “Oh you perver-.”

    “Just leave it Winter.” Weiss took Winter’s hand as she moved towards Qrow. “He’s just trying to rile you up.”

    “Gotta give the Ice Princess points Ice Queen. She’s much better at playing the game then you are.”

    Ozpin facepalmed. “It’s been three years Qrow, put a pin in it you are both adults after all.”

    “Where would the fun be in that? I’ve been looking forward to teasing the Ice Queen for ages.” Qrow looked at the five Ace Ops on the other side of the room. “But I’ll save the really fun stuff for private company.”

    “Like what?” Winter growled puffing up her chest.

    “Well she’s so much easier to get hot then you are Winter.” Qrow winked.

    “Oh shut up!” Weiss’s cheeks were blazing, she knew that Qrow was just having fun with Winter but making jokes about how she was in bed was not suitable for present company.

    It clicked in Winters head. “Oh when we are alone Qrow you are in for it!”

    “Kinky.”

    Winter threw her hands up. “Ugh tree humping Valite b-.”

    “Hey given how much your sister likes to-.”

    Weiss flew across the room and covered Qrow’s mouth. “Oh just shut up you bird brain!”

    “As you wish.” The red eyed man pulled his mouth free.

    Weiss didn’t miss the significance of the words, her jaw dropped as her brow flew up. She mouthed a silent ‘oh’ and blushed all the brighter.

    A large woman with dark brown hair, as well as brown hair and eyes in an Atlas uniform laughed putting a hand on her chest. “Wow dinner and a show!”

    “Don’t be crude Elm.” A tall man the same as Ozpin and James spoke from beside his team mate. He had deathly pale skin, light blue eyes. He was thinner then even Qrow and narrow through the shoulders.

    “Who are you?” Ozpin asked and reached up to adjust the half cape over his shoulder hiding his battered arm better. He hated showing weakness to new people.

    James spoke up. “These are my Ace Ops. Clover Ebi, Vine Zeki, Elm Ederne, Harriet Bree and Marrow Amin. I asked them to meet us here as you will be working with them often and you already know Penny Polendina.”

A girl also in an Atlas uniform like Winter beamed a bright and familiar smile that all but lit up the room. She had been so proud of her ability to wait her turn. Her eyes locked on Ruby and she flew across the room. “SALUTATIONS!”

She barrelled across the room her target in sight as Ruby stood there, mouth gaped and shocked into silence. The familiar weight of her dead friend flying into her torso would have knocked them both over before. Ruby was stronger now and her balance better so instead of being flattened, her feet felt planted firmly on the ground while Penny’s smiling face peered down at her. How could this be happening? How was it possible? As though she said the questions out loud the robotic girl cheered. “When Amity Colosseum made it back to Atlas my father put me back together again. OH I have missed you SO MUCH.”

Ruby’s last memories of Penny were of her bright green eyes, faded and flat, her body torn to pieces by Pyrrha’s manipulated attack. Ruby had seen the swords, glowing and green before they too faded when her power had turned off. Her soul … it should have been freed, free to follow the natural order of things. Like Pyrrha’s had, like Blakes and Saphron. 

So why? Why was she here now? Smiling and laughing as though the Vytal never happened. When so many others had lost their lives why was it only her that was allowed to come back?! It wasn’t fair! Ruby had grieved for her friend. She had been the only one to know Penny was a robot but she had grieved for her all the same. The loss of life whether natural or manufactured had been a blow to her heart. 

Now here she was alive, she was able to pick up where she left off while everyone else … was gone.   

With a pain in her chest and tears burning behind her eyes Ruby summoned her strength to push the ginger haired robot off her, shoving her body away while she scrambled back a few steps. There was anger in her voice, there was pain and anger mixed so tightly together her words came out in choked sobs and snarls. “People just don’t get to come back!” Tears started to flow from Ruby’s eyes. “Why did you!?”

Penny back away, clearly hurt and very confused about her best friend’s reaction to her revival. “Ruby?”

Ruby shook her head. “Souls just don’t ‘come back’ to bodies. It’s wrong, its not FAIR!” She rubbed at her eyes this just wasn’t fair at all. 

“Ruby-.” Penny started moving forward again but James set an arm on her shoulders. “Give her time. There were many lives lost since the Vytal, seeing you again is a shock, just give it some time.”

“Yes sir.” Penny stood and returned to her spot though now her smiling face looked downtrodden and her shoulders slumped.

Desperate to change the mood of the room Clover put his hands on his hips “So I suppose we should talk business. For starts, where is the Relic?” 

“Safe.” Ozpin looked over to the brown hair and teal green eyes. He was a newcomer, one he didn’t know beyond what lay on the surface and Oz didn’t like him already. There was something causing hesitation in him and he wasn’t comfortable with sharing too much knowledge with strangers. He glanced over to Ruby, she still had tears misting up her eyes but she had moved over to Qrow and was now partially standing behind him. From the slight tremble in her body he knew she was shaken up over seeing her lost friend. 

“Ozpin I trust them.” James tucked his hands behind his back.

“Well I don’t know them and I don’t trust them.” Oz shifted his attention to James. “You trusted me with the Relic of Choice and I have kept it safe ever since. The Relic of Knowledge is safe in a similar manner. I dearly hope you haven’t said where the Relic of Choice is.”

“I have not.”

“Good. I don’t think telling every random Huntsman you have on payroll about gifts from the literal Gods is a good idea.”

“Just because you have trust issues.” James clenched his fists. “I can vet the members of my team. I do not have to ask you to tell others to have more people aware of what we are all here to protect.”

“I would never judge you for the choices you’ve made, nor am I saying it would be a mistake but I don’t know them. How much do you think I should trust perfect strangers!” Ozpin let his voice raise as fragmented memories of being betrayed rose in his mind.

By now James had his fists clenched tightly by his sides, almost offensively. His words though cut like an icy sword. “At least it’s not my cock doing all the talking!”

The room went silent, it seemed as though no one no much as breathed as the two largest men squared off against one another. James understood some of what Oz say saying, that much was written all over his face. He hadn’t told the Ace Ops of Ozpin’s origins, that would have been a complete breach of trust and privacy. Seeing his old friend’s stance on this he sighed and released the tension in his fists. 

The Ace Ops and Winter were all shocked to see their General seemingly stand down against Ozpin. This was the man who held Atlas and Mantles future in his hands but they all held their tongue. Oz felt his temper and worry cool, they would have much to talk about it but not when so many ears were listening in. With a curl of his lip he smirked. “Are we done having our first fight?”

“I think so”

Oz prowled over to him, arm slinking around the General’s waist, pressing his front against James’ with a little grind. “Wanna have makeup sex?”

“Oh Gods Yes!” 

“OKAY, I think that is our cue to get out of here.” Clover quipped and shuffled his team out of the door as Ruby and Weiss started to giggle. “Penny, Winter are you two coming?”

“Yes, Weiss?” Winter offered her little sister her arm.

“I’m good, I don’t want to miss the show.” Weiss said with a smirk.

Qrow stepped away from the wall and wrapped his arms around Weiss’s hips. “Told you she was more fun Ice Queen.”

“We will be talking about just what you’ve been up to since you’ve been gone.” Winter said, the General was one thing Qrow fucking Branwen was another entirely.

“Only if you want to blush till next week.” Weiss waved bye to her sister as the group left.

Ozpin relaxed as the door shut. “Sorry about that James, I just wanted them gone.”

“I figured it was something like that. Sorry about the crotch shot.” James stroked down Oz’s spine.

Oz purred as he said. “You can always kiss it better later.”

James rolled his eyes. “Weiss first. I haven’t gotten to give a proper hello to her yet.”

“Finally!” Weiss was out of Qrow’s arms and leaping for James. Ozpin stepped away just in time for Weiss to take the space he had just been in and stand up on the tips of her toes as James grabbed her and picked her up so he could kiss her more easily. Weiss wove her fingers into his hair and poured everything she wished she had said so long ago into it.

Ruby snuggled up to Qrow. It was nice to see Weiss so happy, they had lost so much so suddenly but there was still joy to be found.

James gently set Weiss down their lips never parting as his hands wove into her hair. Her lips were so slight against his, her taste was just how he remembered it. For Weiss’s part she was really enjoying the beard and drew her hands down to run her fingers through it. It was softer then Qrow’s scruff but didn’t obstruct her reach for his lips. It was certainly a change and she briefly wondered what else had changed, She felt a little challenge well up inside her to find out but that would have to wait for later. They parted briefly and kissed twice more slow but short. James straightened out and Weiss settled against him. Closing her eyes to take in his scent and the feel of him against her body again. “I missed you.”

“And I you.” James reached up and brushed her bangs back. He took a long steadying breath then turned his attention back to Oz. “Now will you say where the Relic of Knowledge is? I will keep it private.”

Ozpin gestured to his wife. “If you’d be a dear love.”

Ruby pulled off her coat and walked over to James’s desk. She put the coat on the desk then took her shirt off as well. A simple touch to the collar around her neck had it fading from sight to show the gold collar underneath. She drew her long hair over one shoulder now so long it covered her nipples and turned showing her back to James with the long gold chain over it. Ozpin spoke up. “I said the Relic was safe. It’s in the safest place I can think off. We even had a Grimm try to get at it but I think it’s a safe guess to say it’s tied to Ruby’s soul. It can’t be taken from her by anyone other than myself.”

James whistled. “That is a good idea. Putting it in a Silver Eyed Warrior who can use her powers as well.” He couldn’t help but admire the slope of Ruby’s back. Her skin was mostly healed, only the faintest of white lines indicating some level of scarring. It gave her a look of power though and didn’t tarnish her beauty one bit. 

Ruby turned and jumped up to sit on the edge of James’s heavy desk. “Grimm do target me but I can deal with that. It’s sure better than just carrying it around, where it could potentially be stolen.”

“So what is the plan James?” Qrow asked as he walked over and sat beside his wife who chose not to get dressed again. “You mentioned you had one in your letter.”

“Ah yes.” He and Weiss walked to one side of the room together as he pulled out a remote and clicked it. The centre emblem of Atlas in the middle of his office lifted up and displayed a hologram of Amity Colosseum. The image of it reminded everyone in the room of the last they’d seen of the floating area. “When Beacon fell and everyone on Remnant lost contact with one another, I knew our current system was outdated. Amity was built to bring the nations together, and it will serve that purpose once again. By launching the tower high into the atmosphere, our scientists believe we can create a sort of… satellite out of reach of the Grimm and capable of maintaining global communications even if we were to lose another tower.”

Ozpin frowned. “It won’t work James. You know that Dust loses its effect the farther from the planet that it is. Can you imagine the cost in Dust it would take to get out of Grimm reach? I know your ships have some ability to maintain an atmosphere but the requirements for this would just be ridiculous. Defence would be impossible, heck I could take out that thing if I wanted to and if I could with the power I have I am sure Salem could do the same. Heck Cinder could do it. Any maiden.”

“You don’t know what Salem is capable off.” James said.

“I know what Cinder is.” Ozpin set a hand on the table and leaned on it bowing his body. “It won’t work James. You’d be better off saving the Dust for the Grimm.”

“We need a new communications tower Oz. I don’t see you having a better idea.” James walked over and stood beside Ozpin.

“I haven’t exactly had time to think about it.” Oz ran his good hand through his hair. “You’ve called your whole military in. So we find the hole in your security, figure out how it all went so wrong at Beacon then we retake Beacon. Ruby can use her eyes on the Grimm, with your guns to follow up even that has more of a shot then this does… Why is all of your military here?”

“I will need it for the next part of my plan when we have global communications again I want to tell all of Atlas about Salem.”

“That will-.”

“Create panic I know. Panic is inevitable, and panic brings Grimm. But I believe we are ready. Once Atlas has come to grips with the fight ahead, I’ll use Amity Tower to spread the message to all of Remnant. I know everything will fall apart but Atlas will be there to assist with the Grimm and whatever else is needed.” James stepped away from the table and clicked the remote again.

Ozpin walked away from him and started to pace. “It’s insane James, can you even fathom how many lives will be lost? There is so much we don’t know about Salem for all we know she could already be in Mantle. I get you’ve worked at improving Atlas but what about Mantle? When was the last time it’s code was updated? I visited Shade on the way to Mistral all my old passwords still worked.”

James opened his mouth to argue but then shut it. “You are right, Mantle hasn’t been updated in some time.” He pulled out his Scroll and sent Winter a short text. “I will have Winter get on organizing an overhaul of Mantle’s security right away.”

“Oz. Why don’t we just ask the Relic? It is the Relic of Knowledge after all it must know something about Salem.” Qrow said from his spot beside Ruby.

Ozpin looked over to Ruby and remembered what he had first thought when seeing the shape the Relic had chosen to take upon Ruby’s skin. “Jinn.”

Ruby’s gasped as a hand flew to her chest, blue fog flowed from the cuffs around Ruby’s wrists and ankles. The chain on her back pulled out of her skin and became solid gold metal. The Relic’s physical form Jinn formed before them floating up to fill the space behind James’s desk. She was at least ten feet tall as she levitated and appeared to them as a very voluptuous blue woman. She had elongated pointed ears and long, flowing dark blue hair. Her eyes were dark blue in the sclerae and pupils and a lighter blue in the irises. She was nude-like aside from various gold accessories, a chain headdress, big hooped earrings, the right ear also having an extra earring. A choker, bracelets with chains dangling from them along with a single bracelet on her left forearm adorned her body while anklets and a belt of chains around her waist that ends in a big ring with three prongs. Trailing below her waist was a veil, it was wisp-like smoke and resembling the skirt of a dress. Jinn larger body stretched with a sigh. “Wonderful, it’s been so long since I was called upon.”

She looked down with those dark blue eyes to Ozpin. “You know it’s rude to not at least say hello to a woman before you have sex with them… Lots. Old man.”

Ozpin’s jaw worked up and down several times. There was a haunting familiarity teasing at the corners of his memory but for the life of him he couldn’t focus on them. “I don’t remember you.”

Jinn frowned setting a finger on her jaw. “I can answer two more questions this era. Use them well.”

Qrow was the one to speak up next, he and Ruby had gotten off the table and backed away till they could see all of Jinn. “You’re why Euclase has blue hair, why she seems to always be able to tell when something is about to go wrong.”

Jinn smiled and nodded. “The energy the soul of the Relic can change but I am always it. So when Ozpin put me within dear Ruby’s skin I decided to see just what it was like to be alive. I must say I am quite pleased with the results. I tied my soul in with hers, thus gave of it to the creation of your daughter’s soul. She has a small fraction of my power.” Jinn flew over as if she was lounging on a bench. “All the pleasure was well worth giving a piece of myself up like that.” She put a finger under Qrow’s chin. “You are remarkably talented with that tongue.”

Qrow blushed. “Uhhh.”

Jinn smiled and moved away from him. “Your question Ozpin. I know you know what to ask, your gut has never led you astray.”

There was much he could ask for but he worried that something would go amiss if he asked only for something forgotten in his own power. The image of Garrett, tied and bound in his soul shook him. If there was anyone who knew what he had forgotten it was him. He afterall was somewhat responsible for Ozpin’s memory, the manipulative bastard had omitted his plans. Steeling himself Oz let out a long breath, he knew what to ask. “What memories, lives has Garrett hidden from me?”

Jinn smiled.

 


 

An hour later, everyone was shocked into silence. Ozpin worst of all as he had collapsed to sit on the floor. Due to his lack of concentration he hadn’t noticed when Garrett had materialized. Between the shock and distance from Lydia it was now easy to break his chains. The thief wanted to quickly ducked back under Oz’s conscience so as to not be noticed but Qrow Ruby and Weiss were all giving him hard stares, so he just leaned back against the wall with a self assured smirk.

The others all sat confused and silent. The information passed to them now buried itself into each of their brains. James was equally shell-shocked. “Salem-Salem can’t be killed.”

“Oz what have I said about sticking your dick in crazy?” Qrow said, the joke was the only thing he could think of.

“I wasn’t the same person then as I am now! Garrett saw to that.” Ozpin drew up his legs and shoved his head between them. It was all his fault, if he had just never let Salem out of that tower, none of this would have happened. Somehow at sometime, he had loved her and she him. The thought wanted to make him gag how could he have ever loved a creature corrupted by Grimm. Especially when a freaking God told him better. “I just don’t understand how I could have been so stupid.”

Jinn spoke up, this was fun after all. “To be fair you are not that person you haven’t been for a very long time. You humans, I have noticed will do a lot of stupid things, in the name of love. Though I doubt you even think the same way now.” She reached over and started to pet Qrow’s head.

Ruby finally spoke up. “It doesn’t matter if we can’t kill Salem. Oz gave his magic away, so we imprison Salem, take her magic away. A fat lot of good immortally will do her if she doesn’t have her magic, there is a lot of study into Aura here maybe we can use her Aura to get to her magic. We can still change this. Grimm will never be gone, we can’t change a creation of the Gods but we can at least take Salem away. So that they stop evolving so fast.”

“That is a good idea Ruby.” James got up from a wall and started to pace. “We have one more question, we better make it count.”

Ozpin looked over at Garrett and stood up advancing on the soul. “I’d ask how to get rid of you but I already know that. I could ask how to shove you so far into my soul that I’d never have to even have a whisper of a thought from you.”

Garrett smirked and snapped his fingers, he became more solid to everyone else. “Waste of a question. Besides as Berth mentioned I have a job to do, besides I have the knowledge to at least point you in the right direction to make your new CCT tower work.”

“How?” James asked.

“Animancy. Atlas is already dancing on the topic and as you know how this isn’t humanity's first try. Maybe there are resources on Solitas that can be adapted to work in place of Dust.” Garrett offered.

“Animancy is the study of the soul it can...be… holy shit.” Ozpin shot up to his feet and started to pace opposite to James.

“I’m lost.” Weiss said.

“Animancy is the study of the soul, the raw soul that travels the In-Between in as soul essence. Soul essence itself has always been richer on Solitas because the continent is Rymgrands realm. He is a God of Entropy, he literally destroys souls, grinds them down into soul essence. Before the Younger Brother hit the reset button on humanity we used soul essence as a power source instead of Dust.” Ozpin went back and forth, then looked up to Jinn. “Thank you, I have no further questions.”

Jinn pouted and floated down to give Qrow a kiss on the cheek. “I really like that thing you do with the underside of your tongue.” With that she vanished back into Ruby, the gold on the young woman’s body became tattoos again.

“So what? We search Solitas for old animancy technology? It’s been thousands if not more years, what are the odds of anything is even left?” James asked stopping by his desk. “The time it would take, we are moving towards an election I might not even have the power to dedicate resources to such a huge endeavour soon.”

“Atlas Academy is loyal to you… but you are right I don’t find it likely you’ll come out well in the coming election. Ask Winter. She already is a public face and has the loyalty of the Academy and Military. She can even distance herself from you enough to appeal to anyone who doesn’t like you. It will give the people of these cities a military face. I for one don’t know who else is running but putting the military of Atlas into a civilian hands would be a special brand of stupid. Winter will avoid that and she’s not you.”

“Robyn Hill and Jacques are the two major contenders. I’ll talk with Winter and if she’s willing to run I won’t do so myself. Robyn Hill is a Huntress from Atlas. She’s been mostly working out of Mantle but doesn’t have any military training and Jacques is well Jacques. He’ll win seats up in Atlas.” James said as he walked back and forth. “Winter will be perfect then. Atlas Academy like Robyn with military training on the side. If we get a chance to speak to Robyn maybe she could be convinced to run only for the Atlas seat that will make it easier for Winter to secure the military one. I can lift the embargo now which in turn will weaken Jacques’ stance as I know he is campaigning on that being the cornerstone of what he’d do in office.”

“That way we can keep at least one person who has an idea of what is going on in control at Atlas. Brilliant James.” Ozpin said and turned his attention to Garrett. “Will you even help? Or should I get Ruby to lock you down.”

“The Chalice is in Solitas. You will need me to find it, it in turn will help you make the technology required for animancy. You need me.” Garrett crossed his arms over his chest.

Ozpin considered it for a brief moment, he wasn’t wrong but it was the little touches to his mind that Oz was afraid off. “Nah fuck you. Ruby, Qrow do your thing.” He walked straight to them.

Garrett moved to interpret but Lydia had been teaching Ruby. As soon as their hands joined Garrett found himself with a ball gag stuck in his mouth and wrapped up in a straight jacket. He screamed as he was chained and was shoved deep down into the dark corners of Ozpin’s soul. Ruby and Qrow sagged against Oz when it was over. “That was hard.” Ruby gasped.

“Yeah.” Qrow panted against Oz’s chest. “Lydia make it sound so easy.”

Ozpin snuggled his husband and wife. “Trying not to think about it.”

James walked over and Weiss hopped off the desk, he gathered her into his embrace as well as Oz. He was still torn by the realisation that Salem couldn’t be killed. Not that he didn’t have him in them but he was really hoping for better answers. Weiss was soft and compliant in his arms, they fit more like pieces of a puzzle to the other three, altogether becoming a new whole stronger and better than before.

Ruby broke the silence, a teasing glint to her tone. “So Weiss you think we might have contracted anything?” 

“Doubt it, we get checked out every six months.” Weiss said pulling her head away to kiss Ruby’s cheek. She knew they were talking about Salem and had she and Oz had been a couple. 

“But we’re talking ‘crazy’. That wouldn’t show up on scans.”

“True but I think goopy Grimm controlling powers would have reared their head by now if we did.” Weiss pulled away and wiggled her fingers.

“Pfft, you said rear.” Ruby giggled.

“Oh shut up you dolt!” 

James and Ozpin pulled away from the two females chuckling in almost the same tone. Then James remembered something. “Oh I arranged it on the way over from Argus.” He pulled out his Scroll and pulled up Ruby and Weiss’s student records. “I enrolled you both as second year students. I will also have words with all the professors I know you are both a bit old for second year but I will order the professors to push you as far and fast as you guys can take it. Being ignorant in the field is as dangerous as being only combat trained. We need to get you two up to snuff as quickly as possible, as I would like for you all to start working with the Ace Ops. When the rest of your friends get back I’ll do the same with them.”

“Thanks James, I was worried about that.” Ozpin said and rubbed a hand through his hair. “Qrow and I can tutor you both when we aren’t otherwise busy.”

“Sweet I love a challenge!” Ruby punched her open palm, very reminiscent of her sister.

Weiss wasn’t so enthusiastic but James was right, they needed to burn through school as quickly as possible. “Okay, we will need to get more clothes, uniforms and casual wear. Books and supplies, a place to study.”

“You’ll have a room at Atlas, if only to keep up appearances but I would prefer it if we could spend some time together at my place.” James said and kissed Weiss again. 

She purred and slipped her hands up under his coat. “Let’s go home then.”

“Took the words right out of my mouth.” James said and helped her off the table. “Homeward.”

Together they left his office and found that the rest of the group had wisely not waited up. Ruby, Qrow, Ozpin and Weiss’s travel bags had been left in the hall as well. They left the tower and thankfully James had a car on hand and they went to James’s apartment. Weiss however noticed he was in a new building. Closer to Atlas but as they rode up the elevator Weiss noticed they were going to the top.

The elevator opened into a small porch like space. The few steps it took to get the double doors were the only doors available. James stepped forward and pushed them open. “Welcome home everyone.”

Ruby’s jaw dropped as they walked into a large open space. Thick double panelled windows outlined the huge space, a whole floor was one large apartment. “Wow.”

“I have a room set aside for you three on the other side of the flat. There is a conjoined bathroom. On the right of it is the library, music room, training room, kitchen and living room. To the left of your room is another bathroom and my bedroom. The bathrooms are conjoined. There are blinds and curtains for all the outer windows. You’ll get used to the inner hallway and again most of the rooms are conjoined.”

“You didn’t have to do this for us James.” Ozpin toed off his boots and walked through the room and to the window. “I remember you didn’t have a place like this before. Must be lonely such a huge place.”

“Not like I do anything else with my salary.” James shrugged taking his coat and boots off.

Weiss took off her shoes and coat. “Thank you James, I’m sure we’ll make it nice and lively for you.” She walked up to him and hugged him putting her hands up on his shoulders. “I’m sorry I never was brave enough to say “I love you” before.”

“Me too. Gods I missed you.” James said hugging her to him.

“Oh get a room already.” Qrow rolled his eyes. “We’ll figure out how we want to work out moving forward in the morning. Go figure yourselves out first.”

James smirked and he and Weiss raced to his room. His bed was the same as ever and the room was the same spartan furnishing as before. Weiss wasn’t wearing near as many layers as her lover. James had her nude in less then a minute. Weiss on the other hand attacked his belts, first the one across his chest then the other around his waist dropping them to the floor. Ripped the vest open and shoved it to the ground. James helped with his tie and tossed it away. Weiss got his belt undone as he yanked his shirt off. James shovered his trousers and underwear off and then grabbed Weiss by the butt and picked her up.

Weiss locked her legs around his hips. She barely noticed the warm metal of his right side, black and smooth mimicking muscle and skin. Their lips didn’t part as James climbed into the bed and put her down in the middle. The kiss broke with a wet lips as James moaned. “All the things I want to do to you.”

“Well you’ve got me now. I haven’t forgotten what you said about when we do move on from Atlas you might come with. If Winter gets the military…” Weiss drew her hands down over his shoulders, she loved the metal it was beautiful to see how it all worked together.

“I meant what I said, two years Weiss. Two years of not knowing if you loved me or if I’d ever see you again. I don’t want to do that again, never again. I’m more then old enough to see that it’s not worth it.” James kissed her forcefully trying to pour just how much he missed her into it.

Weiss lifted her body and pressed it against his, rubbing her sex against his already ready erection. She parted her lips in the same action letting him deepen the kiss. She broke the kiss to breath. “I missed you too, if you want…”

James pulled away from her and looked her up and down. “What?”

Weiss blushed making her already flushed skin all the brighter. “I just got to thinking when I got your letter. What you said about leaving and making a life together. So… I thought about all the ways we could make that work in the public eye.”

“An engagement? You thought about… marrying me? I know we had months together but that’s not that long in the grand scheme of things.” The idea made his heart pound, excitement warring with reason as his brain flew through the same processes hers had.

“I am twenty one now, I am allowed to think about such things. I didn’t mean to kill the mood-.”

James kissed her and reached down hiking up her other leg over his hip. “Mood is not killed. If anything it’s further enhanced. I am very much in line with your thinking. I’ll even make sure Winter doesn’t castrate me when she finds out.”

Weiss laughed and reached down to stroke over his erection and balls. “I can’t have that I am very fond of these. Speaking of which, I miss them very very much right now, just feel how lonely and wanting my sex is for them.”

“Well it’s rude to keep a lady waiting.” James kissed her again as he traced a finger through her wet femine folds. His moan softened into the kiss when he found her dilated and dripping. He dipped two metal fingers into her, something he would have never dared to with his old prosthetics. Weiss keened into the kiss and grabbed at his back she wasn’t used to this anymore. Qrow and Oz they were both different and frankly she wasn’t often invited to visit them lately. Oz’s arm made sex as much of a careful dance that they didn’t need another complicated piece getting mixed up with. James pressed upward till he felt that important change of texture and massaged it gently.

“James~!” Weiss broke the kiss and gasped as he played on first shallower sweet spot.

“Hmm missed that sound.” James added another finger just to feel her shiver and quake. “I wonder how many you can take now.” He did a little circle with his wrist. That prompted another high keen. “James. Please~.”

The tall man gently rubbed her clit that little sensitive button with his thumb. “Shh, I want to make sure you’re ready. Once I have you I have no intent of going slow. I have missed you so much.”

Weiss forced her eyes open as he gently played with her. His dark blue to her icen, she could see how he adored her. Loved her the distance they had been put through only strengthened his affection and hers. Then he added his pinky and she could scarcely think. The others never made her stretch like this, but then neither of them were as broad as him. James kissed her shoulder and shifted his weight. “You okay?”

“Yes.” Her voice was thready and high as her legs trembled. Weiss closed her eyes as he played with her, she was so wet already the sound was embarrassing. “James please.” Her cheeks were flaming.

“I love it when you get embarrassed.” James withdrew his hand and lined up while stroking himself a few times with his wet hand. It was even warmed by her core. He stroked the broad head of his member through her folds. James moved his head and gently pressed into her, so tight.

Weiss moaned long and loud as he gently pressed into her. She moved her legs up further up his back and dug her nails into his back. “Ahhh. Mmm.” She bit her lip as he pushed deeper, oh how she had missed this. The others were very good lovers but it was different with her hearts match. She pulled his head down and kissed him deeply.

James’s hips met hers and they both moaned. He moved his arms to hold her around her back his hands resting on her shoulders while his elbows took his weight. Weiss relaxed her legs and James moved with her, letting her guide the depth and speed of it. Slow and steady, petite hands found their way into thick black hair. Kisses parted and resumed, the push and pull of muscle bathed in moonlight, reflected off of black metal tendons.

Weiss broke the kiss as she let James picked up the pace. Her eyes closed and out of habit she turned her head and presented her neck. James chuckled and kissed her neck rather then the bite she was so accustomed too. “Oz has got you well trained.” He nipped it. “And I know you enjoy the pain but I dare say Oz has a stronger jaw than I do.”

“Give how much he likes to bite that is not surprising. Ohh~.” Weiss moaned a long drawn out sound. James bit down and just held her still as he drove faster and lengthened his strokes. James kissed her neck and fell into instinct. The build up was slow and sweet, Weiss stroked over her lovers head and shoulders, gasping with every deep thrust. James moved his hands up into her hair and held her head safe in his hands as he let his strength flow into his actions. He knew she could take it.

Weiss climaxed swiftly and clung to him, her walls clenched like a vise around him. James drew it out for her, slamming deep and grinding her clit against his pelvis. She trembled in his arms as he followed her to bliss. They caught their breath together and kissed long and deep again. As James withdrew from the kiss. “I rather like that idea you had. It would at least be something to keep in mind should your father try anything.”

Weiss leaned forward and kissed him briefly again. “I think that is an excellent idea. Shower tomorrow I just want to cuddle you tonight.”

James rolled them over and pulled the duvet over them. “Me too.”

 

***

 

Ozpin found the room that had been made ready for them was big enough for the three of them. Dressers, wardrobes and a bed big enough for five easily given how two of them were on the large side of humanity. They couldn’t hear James and Weiss but it didn’t make much to guess they were having a good time already. They didn’t speak as they unpacked their meger belongs into a dresser each. Ruby was a little depressed by how few things she had left. Sometimes it felt like they were just doing a shop only for everything to get blown up, set on fire or otherwise wreaked. Why did disasters follow in their wake so much. She sighed and Qrow walked over and hugged her. “Hey, I know you’re not okay but you can talk to us about it.”

“There is nothing to talk about, Blake is dead and Yang thinks it was Adam. We can’t do anything about it.”

Qrow pulled Ruby over to the bed Ozpin was already undressed and he helped undress Ruby with Qrow. “Come on just rest with us even if you can’t sleep. We have each other and that is something.”

 

***

 

Come morning Ozpin got up early and let his lovers sleep as Ruby had been very slow to fall asleep, her mind just not shutting off despite the warm cuddles and pets. When he walked into the kitchen thinking about what to try and make for breakfast he was pleasantly surprised to find James waiting for a kettle to boil. “Good morning.” Ozpin said looking James’ new prosthetics up and down. “Those are very sexy.”

James laughed and stretched his left side his arm over his head. “Yeah, I do feel much better with them. I’m glad you bugged me about it.” He was just wearing grey slacks. “I’ll talk to Winter today and see if she’s okay to run for election.”

“Good, and I forgot to ask yesterday. Where is the Winter Maiden?”

“Missing, we had her safe at a safe house we provided for her but she ran just last week. I don’t know what freaked her out but something did and we haven’t been able to track her down again.” The kettle boiled and James took it off the element and pulled out five mugs. “What will Ruby and Qrow want?”

“Ruby’s feeling rough so a black tea with two sugars and milk. Qrow likes lemon herbal tea to wake up too and I will have hot chocolate.” Ozpin said as he walked James made the beverages he and Weiss were having black tea as well. “That’s unfortunate, I was hoping to take my magic back from her but I guess it will have to wait. I would like to leave the Relic where it is for now. Ruby is already a Grimm magnet with just one Relic in her. I am not ready to risk her with two. Later, yes. I am sure we will have to move it at some point. Cinder is still out there but for now it can stay in the vault.”

“You want to put Creation in Ruby as well?” James asked as he poured water.

“Yes. It is the safest place for them and when the time comes I will give Destruction to Qrow. With his Semblance it will suit him. He is never far from Ruby so the protection of her eyes will extend to him as well.” Ozpin took his hot chocolate as it was finished.

“Risky.”

“Less so then leaving them as easily picked up items. Plus it will confuse the other side they will be looking for objects and if we are discrete they will never guess where the Relics have been moved. Qrow is not aging, maybe in another few years I will teach Ruby how to do the same. I am immortal so I might move Choice into my own skin as Jinn confirmed they tie to the soul not the body. So even if this body dies it will still be with my soul in a new body.”

James stirred his tea. “I’ll admit to liking the idea. If we are careful about when we move them it would be almost impossible for Salem to guess just where they have gone.”

Ozpin had a sip of his steaming drink then asked. “So, I know you’re interested in joining what my family has worked out among us. With Weiss. We should talk about that a bit. You did get to dom Qrow a fair bit back in the day and with my arm out of commission I can’t do any of my old jobs as well.”

“Well I’ve never been as protocol orientated as you. I’m fine with you retaining your position of head dom, you are better at any number of things then I am. It would be nice if you surrendered some control sometimes. Like I’d like to do you, I know you disliked even bottoming for Qrow… when was the time you even had anal sex?”

“Not since you left. Again it’s still not really my cup of tea but I worry about my arm a lot when having sex and letting someone else lead would be a bit of a stress relief. So if you give me some extra heads up I am sure I can do that with you. Just you know, we’ll have to play that one carefully. Huh, I guess now that I know about Salem it explains my aversion to trusting another with myself entirely. That bit me in the ass once really badly. I mean I do trust my husband and wife but I’m a giver not a receiver.”

James had a sip of tea. “Yeah I get that, at least we know the root of the problem now. So. You stay as our heh alpha. I imagine I’ll be second followed by Qrow, then Weiss and Ruby. If my guess on Ruby is right.”

“You are, she’s a submissive. I’ve read enough of her thoughts to know she doesn’t even really muse on being a dominant. Plenty of interesting ideas to be explored for submissive fun though.” Oz smirked. “Qrow is much better at switching then he was before, so you should probably have some fun with him on your own at some point. Work yourselves out again. Weiss and Ruby I think will float between the three of us. You know how that goes, you have your lovers and the ones you go back home with.” Oz swirled his drink.

“I’d like to work up to the point where we are equals in that. That we are home to each other, I get what you mean though. Ruby will probably only ever have your and Qrow’s children while Weiss will be mine in that regard… or we’ll get unlucky and Qrow will have a field day.” James said.

Ozpin snorted and laughed. “Yeah, sounds about right. You’ve changed, in a good way.”

“Mellowed with age?” James asked.

“Maybe or just you’re happier to have found someone for you. Did you know I married Qrow and Ruby. I am Ozpin Branwen now.”

James coughed on his tea and stared, his jaw dropped. “Wow you really are serious about them. Ozpin Branwen. It does have a nice ring to it.”

“Yeah, I don’t imagine you’d change your name. You’re too well known but if you do marry Weiss we might have to figure out some tricky middle name stuff just for the fun of it.” Ozpin sipped his hot chocolate.

“If it works out. I think it will I have mellowed with age and I have always liked you and Qrow and I think I could like Ruby very easily. I saw how close Ruby and Weiss were and if Weiss loves her like I think she does I imagine we won’t have any issues forming bonds.”

“Agreed… James. If you do give up office… I’ll teach you to be immortal like Qrow and myself. You have changed and it’s a good change. I would be honoured if you’d stick around longer than just one human lifetime.” Ozpin set his mug down.

James did the same and crossed the couple meters to Oz. He reached out and brushed a thick ashen lock out of Ozpin’s face. “There has got to be more to change your mind then just me changing.”

“I made my… Lydia immortal too. It’s a sacrifice to live forever to outlive everyone around you and it’s greedy and unfair of me to ask it of others. Maybe I’m just not as strong as I once was, more afraid of being lonely.” Ozpin reached up and took James’s hand. “I know you’ve been jealous of Qrow for a long time. That I gave him that knowledge but kept it from you. Part of me was trying to protect you from it though James, immortality is a curse no two ways about that. Everyone dies. Over and over. We’ll outlive our children.”

“If we break your curse we could just let ourselves grow old. You could die in peace, we all could if we want one day. If you really are that tired of the world we’ll find a way to break that curse and when the time comes we’ll all be free to die together.” James stepped closer and cupped Oz’s jaw holding his head gently. “Don’t think of immortality as a curse Oz, not when those who love you willingly take it up so they can be with you.”

“I don’t think I am worth that much. I’m an old, sad, sorry soul.”

“Nonsense. We love you for you, we stay with you because we want too.” James kissed Oz, it was a bit odd to be the same height and the kiss was slow and easy. James dropped his arms to hug Oz to him comfortably.

Ozpin found himself relaxing in a way he just didn’t with Qrow or Ruby. James could take his weight and not even notice and they were equals in height so there was no stooping down to kiss his other partners. It was fundamentally nice and different. Maybe this time he and James could work out. Weiss and Ruby filled the holes in their dynamics and brought them stability and joy. Qrow would always be there for everyone to play with, with a smirk and a wink. Maybe at long last Oz had someone he could relax for and he could do the same for James. They would not be direct equals, but they could now understand each other and met a need that the others could not. Maybe this quintet could work out. It would not be a quick thing to work out and their would probably be a lot of sex and ‘dates’ with just one member to learn each other apart before they worked out how to come together as a whole.

Weiss walked into the kitchen rubbing sleep from her eyes to see the two men still slowly making out. Relearning how they liked to kiss each other. Her knickers were rapidly drenched just watching the two as she stopped almost stumbling in the doorway. She covered her mouth with a hand quietly stifling her gasp. They looked so good together. The same height but with James’ broadness betting out Ozpin’s. Oz was more slender obviously through his torso while James was a solid wall of muscle. Their hair contrasted ash blonde to black. Even the kiss seemed to be a very equal playing field. Switching from one dominating the kiss to the to the other without awkwardness. Weiss quickly pulled out her Scroll made sure the flash was off and took a picture. She’d have to show Ruby and Qrow later, this was one of the hottest things she had seen in her life. She only wished that there was some leather involved rather than sweatpants. Without disturbing them she waltzed into the kitchen and collected her tea before again very quietly sitting on a stool across from them on beside the kitchen’s island to continue watching.

Not long after Qrow and Ruby came in, Ruby wearing one of Qrow’s shirts and Qrow in a pair of Oz’s sweatpants as all his sleep clothing had been destroyed. He wasn’t all that upset about that, he didn’t plan on using it much. Though everyone was going to need slippers. Qrow also took a picture then said. “Good morning, I hate to break up the lovely show but we do need to eat.”

James and Ozpin parted lips and looked over to him, Oz over his shoulder to do so. “Sorry I meant to get started on it just got uh tied up.” Oz worked the colour out of his cheeks.

“I didn’t even get the rope. Your tea should be steeped.” James let Oz go and stepped away opening a cupboard to pull out a glass jar of honey. “I don’t know how you like it.”

Qrow walked over and set about making his tea. “Just the one spoon thanks.”

Ruby walked over and sat beside the night gown dressed Weiss as Qrow walked over with her tea. “Did you have a good night?”

“Oh yes, by the time James was through with me I slept like a baby.” Weiss giggled.

“That’s good.” Ruby had a drink of her tea, it wasn’t steaming hot, just hot enough to be nice to drink.

“Everyone good with an omelette for breakfast? It’s going to be a busy day getting you two ready for classes and judging by Qrow and Ruby’s choice of attire I take it you guys need to do a big shop?” James walked over to his very large fridge. It was mostly empty and would need filling too this place had been bought to house five after all.

“Eggs sounds good.” Qrow said and everyone else agreed.

“Yeah most of my clothes got trashed at Argus. Lydia said she’d send more of my stuff along after us but I don’t know if she has yet.” Ruby said.

“I don’t need anything, if it was summer time I would have just worn a sheet out here.” Qrow said having a long drink of tea.

“No, no sheets for you.” Ozpin said pointing a whisk he had found at Qrow. “That one time in Mistral was bad enough. Not so say I didn’t enjoy it but I wouldn’t put it past you to moon whoever comes to visit early in the day.”

“Spoil sport.” Qrow pouted.

“I’m sensing a story here.” James grabbed a large measuring bowl. “Care to tell it?”

Chapter Text

    Cinder approached the crib where she could see the infant wiggling within the cradle trying to get it’s limbs free of the blanket. This would be such a sweet victory against Ozpin and that bitch who stole her eye. The cry from the defenseless baby only served to widen her grin, her blade burning brightly with malice. Due to her inattention she completely missed the red and black blurr launching through the window. Her knife dropped as she tumbled across the room and out the opposing window with Hawk glaring down at her, her own one good eye piercing Cinder’s. They slammed into the ground outside and Hawk ripped her katana out of its scabbard.

    Cinder summoned a proper sword just in time to block. The force made her tumble head over heels as Hawk pressed the offensive. Cinder flew back as Neo stepped out from the shadows umbrella at the ready. “Go away, I don’t need help.” She clawed at Hawk’s face with her free hand.

    Hawk jumped back and brought both hands to her katana’s hilt. Her face was as emotionless as ice, she knew that without Falcon’s help this would not be a long fight.

    Within the house Falcon made his way to Lydia’s room with a duffle bag packed full of baby supplies already over his back. He had a baby carrier already set up on his chest. He walked quickly over to the crying Euclase and picked her up quickly, fastening her into the carrier then closing his coat over top of her.

    He knew that Neo was outside and carefully made his way out through a side door. This was the plan should Cinder go after their granddaughter. Hawk knew that she could not win not alone and that he could not help as it would leave Euclase too vulnerable when neither of them could kill Cinder. No Hawk would do anything for her family. Even die. As soon as he was out onto the road and out of earshot of Neo he picked up his feet and ran. He’d raise his granddaughter, far away from Cinder and her master Salem. He’d take the unique priceless child far away from anywhere anyone would think to look for her.

    Hawk danced away, her Aura was draining quickly as Cinder started to attack with small bursts of fire magic. Not enough to damage anything around them or give off a lot of noise but enough to make dodging more difficult.

    Their blades clashed again Hawk kept calm as Cinder let the glee of battle fill her. “Cat got your tongue you bandit shit?”

    The Branwen danced back weaving away only to stop very suddenly. She looked down to find a fine pointed stiletto blade sticking out from her chest. Neo had sneaked up on her, the clash of blades in Hawk’s ears to loud to notice her. Cinder scowled as Neo pulled her blade free and Hawk fell to the ground blood blooming through her blouse as she fell. Her heart pouring out blood as she died before she hit the ground.

    Cinder glared at the body then Neo. “I had it handled.”

    Neo pulled out her Scroll and pointed at the time, then another flick had her pulling up the Haven military airships. She tapped the time again. Cinder rolled her eyes. “Yes yes let’s go then just let me kill the brat.”

    Cinder jumped up to the window and peered into the cradle only to find it empty this time. She punched the wall of the house and fell back to the ground. “It was all a distraction, Falcon probably has her. Let’s go already.”

 




    Yang escorted Blake’s body off the train with Nora and Ren. Maria stayed on the train as Jaune gave Yang, Nora and Ren a hug as he stayed on the train to take his sister’s wife to the port that would carry them on to Vale and back to his family. The train set off again within five minutes and the four set off carrying Blake’s body up into the city. The White Fang was located in the middle reaches of the city. Yang had messaged Sun, Ghira and Kali as soon as they had come in range.

    Ghira and Kali were waiting for them at the entrance Yang hadn’t been able to say just why they were coming back. Upon seeing the Atlas freezer coffin in their arms Kali’s legs gave out and she wailed covering her mouth as Ghira caught her tears already following from his eyes. Yang felt the tears well up in her own eyes again as they came to a stop before Kali and Ghira and set the coffin down. “I’m sorry.” Yang cried through the words and Ghira reached over and pulled her into the hug.

    Sun came running down the road only to stumble to a stop upon seeing the tears and the lack of Blake. He walked over and sat down beside the coffin rubbed the ice from the glass showing Blake’s frozen face. He started to cry as well, quieter but still present. “How long as it been?”

    “Three days.” Ren said, he was the most composed of them. “We had to bring her back but she should be cremated soon. General Ironwood said this coffin was only good for four days before it runs out of Dust.”

    Ghira nodded he can gotten control of himself. “I understand, Sun if you would help carry her please.”

    Sun nodded and got up, they picked up the coffin again and the walk to the crematorium was only accompanied by the sound of Kali’s tears. Yang got it together long enough so she could see where she was walking. Nora was in tears as well but she wasn’t as close to Blake so like Ren she could keep it together easier.

    The crematorium was a large empty space with the cremators small spaces set into the floor. The room itself was a dark marble. As they entered a mortician walked over to them with a large writing pad. “Name, age and cause of death?”

Yang spoke up. “Blake Belladonna, twenty one and decapitation.”

Kali cried harder at that and all Ghira could do was hold her.

“Alright, lets get her in one of the cremators.” The tall man shrunk his holopad and opened the coffin with a smile touch to the release switch.

Cold rolled out from the coffin as Blake was revealed. Yang had found her hand and kept it with her. Sun closed his eyes tight but with Yang set to burst into tears again he stepped up when the man opened the closest crematory and helped lift Blake into it. Yang picked up Blakes head and put it in rather then let it be alone in the coffin. Kali’s wails got louder upon seeing her daughter.

“Would anyone like to say anything?” The mortician asked.

Yang and Sun sat down beside the cremator as the glass and steel lid slid into place. “No.” Yang started to cry freely again, Sun reached over and hugged her.

Ren and Nora cuddled together as he shook his head. Ghira tried to think of something but it was all so sudden there was just no time to think of things to say. “No. We only just found out.”

“Alright.” One hit of a button later and superheated Dust started to turn Blake to ash. “I’ll have the ashes saved for you so you can grieve at your own pace.”

Yang made herself watched as Blake was reduced to cinders. Her Scroll rang and Yang forced herself to pick it up after reading the caller ID. “Dad?”

“Oh thank the gods you picked up. Yang we-.” Taiyang’s voice was choked with tears. “Please come to Lydia’s house, she’s dead murdered and Euclase is missing.”

“What?” Yang covered her mouth as tears took over again. This day literally couldn’t get any worse.

“Please just come, I have to stay with the house and the police right now.” Tai said.

“Yes I will, sorry I’m coming right now.” Yang scrambled to her feet, she couldn’t believe it everything had gone so wrong so fast. Ren stepped up and helped her. “We are sorry for your loss.” He said to Ghira and Kali. “We’ll take care of Yang, come on Nora.”

Nora got on Yang’s free side and helped her out of the room. The tears just wouldn’t stop, even Ren was crying though his lips were pursed and he held himself together better then the two women. They rode the elevator up and took several extra minutes to get to Lydia’s house. When they got there the police had holo tape up marking the property as a crime scene and Taiyang was sitting the pouch with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders staring out into Lydia’s garden. They were allowed in as the resemblance between father and daughter was clear. Tai shot up when Yang came into view and raced to her hugging her tight. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He babbled as Yang clung to him. “I wasn’t here.”

Ren took a deep settling breath. Beckett was strangely on scene, standing next to a body. Ren forced himself to walk over and didn’t recognize the body. “What happened?”

Beckett looked up from his book. “Lydia Ivanova was found dead by Mister Xaio Long this morning. This is Hawk Branwen, judging from the damage she got into a confrontation with an unknown assailant. Both cases look to be murder. Euclase is missing as well as Falcon Branwen Hawk’s husband. There is evidence that Lydia attempted to put up a fight and defend Euclase as we believe she was the target.”

“So Cinder did stay in Mistral.” Ren rubbed at his eyes. He didn’t care about Hawk and wondered how Qrow would take learning that his mother was dead but Euclase she didn’t deserve any of this.

“We already have outstanding search orders for her, but I doubt she has stayed in Mistral now that Euclase is missing. It is possible that she just reduce the baby to ash but we can not be sure. I have a theory that Falcon took Euclase and ran. I noticed a distinct lack of baby supplies in the house.” Beckett gestured to Tai and Yang who were still clinging to each other. “Lydia left an extensive will, much of it was written for Ozpin. Tai has it. I take it you will be returning to Atlas quickly do not forget to take it with you.”

“Thank you, can I go see Lydia? Is she still in the house?” Ren asked.

“Yes. You were family to her, I will let the other officers know.” Beckett pulled out his Scroll.

Ren walked to the porch door and let himself in. It didn’t look like anything was disturbed in the kitchen but as Ren walked into the house he saw a bent poker and stepped around a shattered urn. He walked into Lydia’s room and stopped jarringly. She was laying on her side eyes shut and her expression peaceful. The blacked haired man stumbled to lean against the doorframe. The tears flowed silently, Lydia had been the steady rock of their family. His eyes traveled to the cradle that had been dragged over to a window. He walked around the body to it and found it empty, not even ash. Maybe, just maybe she had escaped Cinder. Ren pulled out his Scroll but found that Jaune was already out of range. The empty cradle stabbed him to the heart, he had failed as a Godfather. They left her so she would be safe, they assumed that Cinder had left Mistral but no. Cinder had waited till they let their guard down.

Ren sat almost collapsing on the ground. He cried silently for several minutes before Nora joined him crying more louding but holding him tight. “What now?” She shook as her voice cracked.

“We have to go Atlas, bring the will for Oz. We have to keep moving forward.” Lie rubbed at his eyes and took slow deep breaths till he got himself under control. “Come on, we are wasting time.”

Ren and Nora walked back outside and this time Beckett was standing beside Yang and Taiyang. A thick envelope in his hands. “Good you are back.” He handed Ren the envelope. “This has already been read much of it is for Ozpin, I will personally make the rest of the arrangements till Ozpin returns to claim the property.”

Ren took off his backpack and put it in. “I’ll make sure he gets it. Yang do you want to stay here? We have to get back on a train and back to Atlas as soon as possible.”

Yang nodded to her father’s chest. Nora walked over and hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry we’ve got to go but we were still called to Atlas and we have to go.”

Yang turned her head so she could see Nora. “I’ll catch up later.”

Ren nodded and with Nora they went back to the train station to wait for the next train to Argus.

 Yang and Taiyang sat back down on the bench as Beckett spoke to them. “We can not put off burning the bodies and I doubt Ozpin Branwen can afford the time to return. Miss Ivanova left this all to him and much of her company which her secretary who also happens to be her second will manage her assets till Ozpin returns and decides what to do with them. Your name Mister Xaio Long was included as the holder of the house till again such a time as Ozpin returns and decides what to do with it. As you can imagine Lydia left everything to him and his husband and wife. The ashes of both will be saved, I know that Qrow was not close to his mother but respect is due.”

“Thank you for handling this.” Taiyang pulled himself together again.

Beckett dipped his head. “Qrow is what I would consider a friend. Acting in his stead is the least I can do. The house is yours and it is a nice property if you truly do not wish to maintain it I can find people to do so.”

“I’ll move in. Lydia loved this house, Ozpin, Ruby and Qrow love this place. I couldn’t bare it if something happened to it. My own house is taken care of in Patch, I can stay away as long as needed.” Tai pet Yang’s head trying to comfort her.

“As you wish. We will move the bodies now, do wish to witness the burning?”

“No, thank you. Just bring the ashes back please. They are important to my family.” Tai said.

“As you wish.” Beckett walked away. “Alright everyone clean up, let’s get out of the families hair.”

Yang and Tai stayed together till all the police were gone. Till the bodies were collected and the items damaged by Lydia removed from the premises. “We should go inside.” Tai said.

“Blake’s dead.” Yang whimpered holding her dad’s vest tight.

“Ohh baby girl.” Tai squeezed her tight. “I’m sorry.” He pulled her up and they went inside it was cold and they ended up in the living room. Taiyang got a fire going in the hearth and cuddled with Yang on the couch. This house had given them so much joy and now it was quiet and cold.

 


 

Jaune held Adrian as Terra lay on a bed in their little third class berth on the train. She had been quiet since Saphron had died. He carried Adrian over to his mother and put him down beside her taking one of her hands and moving it to hold him. “I gotta get something to eat. Will you be okay? Do you want anything?”

Terra shook her head and curled up around Adrian. Jaune sighed but put on a brave face as he headed out of the coach to find something to eat. His funds were getting pretty low as he hadn’t had a chance to do any work in the last several months so the last pay cheque he had gotten was for helping clear the Grimm before the Wylde Hunt. Maria was already sitting at the bar of the food coach and Jaune sat on a stool beside and picked up a menu. He quickly ordered a sandwich and water.

“How are you holding up?” Maria asked while tracing the lip of her glass.

“She was my sister, I got along with her best of them. It hurts but Terra needs me to look after her and Adrian.” Jaune put his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. “I’m angry and sad and I feel like a failed that I should have saved her.”

“We can never save them all, thinking that you should have will only make you a worse Huntsman in the long run. I’ve seen you fight so you really don’t have any room to degrade.”

Jaune’s brows dropped. “You’re mean.”

“I am the Grimm Reaper I can judge combat ability well by my age. You’ve got a long way to go.” Maria sipped her drink.

“Then teach me, we’ll have time on the ship. I want to be a good Huntsman and I’ve got the academic side down but I’ve never had a proper long term teacher. Pyrrha was teaching me but we didn’t have a lot of time together.”

Jaune’s food arrived and he slowly but methodically ate it. After a minute Maria said. “I don’t see why not it will make this trip less boring.”

The blonde’s mouth fell open for a moment before he pushed it closed with the end of his fork. He hadn’t honestly expected her to say yes. “Uh wow thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” Maria leaned over and smirked. “I’ll have your ass purple by the end of the day. We only have a couple hours left on this train go keep your sister in law company.”

“Yes boss.” Jaune finished eating and his drink then went back to his sister in law.

Chapter Text

    The quartermaster of Atlas was used to all manner of strange people coming through the massive storeroom doors. Students from all over Solitas came to him after all when they were enrolled. For uniforms typically sometimes Dust for weapons and other things. He was used to equipping less well off students with paper pens and pencils. Anything needed to be successful in the classroom. He was good friends with the good General Ironwood even if they rarely spoke face to face. So to say when James walked in with Ozpin, Qrow, Ruby and Weiss in toe he was shocked. James took them straight to the racks of clothing and started to point out sizes and styles. Qrow hung back as James started picking out a uniform for Oz. 

    “James, come on I only have one arm anything picked out needs to be able to be taken on and off with one hand.” Ozpin made a face at a red tie.

    “Well you’ve managed to do a vest.” James pulled a pair of dark blue trousers of the racks. “This is Atlas after all, the more layers the less likely you’ll freeze that lovely butt of yours off.”

    Oz pouted his shoulders slumping. “You don’t play fair.”

    James grabbed a dark blue dress shirt off a shelf. “Of course not, I know you too well.”

    Ozpin grumbled and started to undo the fastenings his trench coat. “Can’t I have a little bit of green?”

    The General set the clothes down on a table and helped Oz get out of his current layers. “It’s a uniform Oz, it’s not exactly up for debate. If we are going to be a united front you should at least look the part.”

    “But I’m not Atlas, I have no desire to be Atlas and you’re not making me wear a tie. I have a personal vendetta against ties.” Oz reached up and rubbed his throat. “Why anyone would willingly put a noose around their necks as a fashion statement I will never understand.”

    James sighed looking at Ozpin in his black dress trousers and green sweater the cowl of it high up around Oz’s jaw. “Could you suffer through a green dress shirt?”

    “I guess.” Ozpin grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it off over his head and then down his bad arm. It was wrapped up in bandages today yet again with a compression sleeve of back on. “Uh the more layers on this the better.” Oz gestured to his arm. “I don’t feel much of anything so keeping it warm is important.”

    “Good to know.” James helped Oz into the blue shirt but didn’t do it up. “You’re right, blue is not your colour.” He pulled it off and replaced it with a green one. James did up the buttons and then picked up a white vest identical to his own. “You really should let my doctors look at that arm.”

    Ozpin did up the double breasted waistcoat with James’s assistance. “Not much point, it will heal as it heals. There is nothing to be done for the skin that hasn’t been already. “It was burned James, very little anyone can really do about that.”

    James stepped back and looked Oz up and down. “There are always false skin grafts to try. I have some of the newest ones and they are fantastic.” He stepped away and picked out a version of his trench coat that had a high black fur mantle that would help cover Oz’s neck and the blue accents swapped out for black. He helped Ozpin into it and did up the front before layer a heavy weapons belt around Oz’s hips. “There now I can be seen in public with you.”

    Ozpin looked into the mirror and posed twisting one way then the other before his shoulders dropped again. “I look like an emperor penguin.”

    “Nonsense.” James reached up and fixed Oz’s bangs so they weren’t in his face. “Penguin’s don’t have green.”

    Weiss came out of a change room, she was wearing thick white pants tucked into equally white boots. Her blouse was white but with red snowflake patterns around the neckline. The blouse extended down like a tunic to the middle of her thighs reminiscent of a skirt. A white belt around her waist with a pouch for Dust already on the side. She was wearing long gloves that went up past her elbows with her shirt tucked into them. Upon the gloves white snowflake patterns juxtaposed with red vine work not unlike the floral design on Due Process, Ironwoods revolver pair or Oz’s sword handle. She did a little spin showing that the blouse had Qrow’s tails on the back. It all came together for a very flowing light look. “How’s this? I was put in a design while we were driving over.”

    “Lovely. It suits you.” James thought it made her look very light.

    Weiss picked up a tailed long coat she had set on the table as she came out and pulled it on. It had more white and red designs same as her gloves going down the collar. She closed it with another white and silver belt and set her sword on her hip. “I just don’t look good in blue, I know you want us to all look like Atlas Ops but blue washes me out.”

    “Where did Qrow and Ruby get too?” Ozpin asked seeing that the two had vanished.

    “I saw them in the back towards the more old fashioned section. I don’t think you’re getting those two into Atlas colours James. To be fair they’d both look awful in blue.”

    While James and Weiss ganged up on Ozpin to get him properly outfitted for the foreseeable future. Ruby and Qrow had slipped away from the Atlas uniforms and into the back where things that would be considered unfashionable but had at one point had to much Lien spent on them to just throw them away resided. Lots of red and black just like Ruby enjoyed and Qrow found himself wandered rather listlessly. 

    He was wearing his usual grey tailed dress shirt. It left his collar and arms exposed and he was feeling the cold every time he stepped outside. The clothes they had bought at Mistral lacked his character they were to keep him from freezing that was it. Qrow reached out and set a hand on a rack full of old leather dusters. They’d keep the snow off, he picked one out at random.

    The leather was old but still held it shape like it had never been worn before. The collar was lined with grey fur and it came with a weapons belt. The ends tapered down into tails like his current shirt.

    “I like that one.” Ruby said looking over from her own side of the hall. She was looking at long dress blouses and matching vets.

    “I just feel like I should try and cover up. The cold here sucks but I’ve been wearing this stuff or years and it would feel wrong to not try and find something like it.” Qrow stepped to the benches and set the coat down on it.

    “I think we just got lucky to find stuff like this.” Ruby picked a short chemise and blouse. “I’m just glad those half corsets Lydia made for me will work with this stuff.” The chemise was white while the blouse was her typical dark red.

    “We should both layer up. You can always ditch a layer but warming up without them is hard. Less wasted Aura in the field.” Qrow picked a white undershirt off the shelf followed by a new grey and white tailed over-shirt with a higher collar then his current one.

    “You’re right as much as I hate layers.” Ruby picked out a black vest that would splay over her hips. She got to trousers and her hand wavered. They were picking out new hunting gear and she had always worn a combat skirt. However she liked that idea less and less the more she thought about it. To have so little between her and the elements or worse… Tyrian was alive after all.

    Qrow heard her sit down on the bench and paused. “Hey you okay?” He walked over and sat down beside her.

    Ruby sniffed and rubbed her eyes. “I was just thinking about how little projection combat skirts offer. How Ty-.” She bit down on her fist as the tears gathered in her eyes. “I just-.”

    “Don’t wanna be exposed anymore. It makes sense, I’d be lying if your combat skirt fixation hadn’t worried me in the past.” Qrow hugged her to his side. “No shame in changing Rubs. Protecting yourself, even if it’s only really the mental side of you that you’re protecting.”

    Ruby snorted. “Yeah like a pair of trousers would stop Tyrian.”

    “I would be thankful you don’t see the dreams where I rip him to bloody bits.” Qrow kissed her temple. “Pick some trousers, they are better for keeping warm.”

    The silver eyed warrior smiled up at him. “Yeah tights suck.” She got up and picked out a pair of form fitting black trousers. Qrow returned to his side of the hall.

    When they emerged from the depths of the Oz’s jaw connected to the floor. Qrow and Ruby looked like a matched pair. Qrow had kept to his grey, white and black. A white blouse was done up to just let his neck be free while a new light grey tail shirt with shorter tails at the front as well as long ones at the back stuck out from under a dark grey vest that was embroidered with vine work. A thick red scarf decorated with feathers was wrapped around his neck and tucked into the vest giving a smooth poofed look. A long tailed duster was done up tight with a heavy weapon’s belt that Harbinger already hung off of. He even wore gauntlets, supple black leather that merged in with the coat. 

    Ruby beside him had layered up much the same way only she left just a little neck exposed to show her Aura collar around her neck. The vest hid her corset and flowed down to her mid thighs giving the illusion of a skirt. It was belted together with a thin black and red belt around her waist. She had a knee length black and red embroidered coat that added to the skirt look. It’s long sleeves were tucked into black gauntlets just like Qrows. Her trousers were skin tight black and tucked into snow boot version of her combat boots. “There is lots of good stuff back there.”

    “I like it.” Ozpin said and put his good hand on his hip.

    Weiss had flushed bright red as she stammered. “You look like an old fashioned highway man Qrow!”

    “I don’t see the problem with that. It will keep me warm.” Qrow brushed his new heavy coat down. He was already much warmer and enjoying it.

    Ruby giggled and looked into a mirror. “I think I look like Lady Maria. The one from the stories in the clock tower.”

    “You do.” Ozpin said and walked over. “It suits you.”

    James was almost as speechless as Weiss, he hadn’t known that old stuff was still in storage. “You’ll both still need uniforms. For formal events if nothing else.”

    Qrow and Ruby pouted together. The former saying. “No thanks James, I’d rather shoot myself then end up in Atlas colours.”

    “I recall. That doesn’t change the fact of the manner.” James said. “We’ll have formal events and you’ll have to at least present the illusion of being professional. Just pick out a basic uniform and we can doll it up with my extras if the need arises.”

    “Fine~.” Qrow rolled his eyes and headed over to the uniforms laid out. Ruby followed suit. “Don’t you guys have a press conference to get to?”

    “Yes. We should get on with that. When will you meet as at Atlas?” James asked.

    “We are going to hit the forges here. Ruby has had a new design for Crescent Rose for ages. High time we used it.” Qrow said.

    “Okay. Come to my office when you are ready and we’ll go over how Ruby and Weiss will work through their course work.” James turned on his heel and headed out. Weiss and Ozpin gave Ruby and Qrow both hugs before following.

    Sure enough as they came out to the front doors of Atlas the courtyard was already swarming with reporters, students and huntsmen. As well as civilians who were politically inclined who wondered just why a press conference had suddenly been called for. Without hesitation James stepped up to the holo recorder as this would be broadcast live on the news. Weiss fell in beside her sister who looked her up and down with a smile. Ozpin however took up the free spot on James’s right hand side. He moved to stand at military ease but his left arm was forced to hang useless at his side. James had given him a pair of white gloves to further hide the nature of his injury and to keep it warm. James started to speak with clear sharpness. “Good morning everyone, thank you for coming. In light of recently discovered information I will be lifting the embargo. Mantle as well will be undergoing a complete overhaul of it’s security systems. I ask everyone to be patient as the upgrades will take at least a week to implement. Anything going in or out of Mantle and respectively Atlas will be screened by hand. I understand this will slow export and import but we have reason to believe that a threat will come to the Kingdom of Atlas from outside in the near future. Furthermore, the military forces of Atlas will remain in the Kingdom. Over the course of the last few months I have been looking into a way to replace Beacon CCT. The Amity Arena will be modified to create a global satellite. The army’s presence is a requirement to complete this task. So I ask the citizens of our great cities to bare with the high military presence a little longer. That is all.”

    Questions exploded forth but one of the loudest was. “General why the sudden change in policy?”

    James held a hand up for silence which quickly fell. “Several reasons. New information from outside of the kingdom, a better idea of what to expect.” He gestured to Ozpin. “And an old friend that as come to give me his aid.”

    With the attention brought to Ozpin he forced himself to smile. He was surprised when James took a single step to the side giving space for Ozpin to stand directly beside him. Taking the hint for what it was Oz moved and took a deep breath to puff his chest out a little to make him look the part of James’s second even if he didn’t feel it.

    Another question came. “How do you plan on powering Amity as a satellite when Dust doesn’t work in space?”

    Ozpin took the charge on this one. “Amity will not be launched into space, rather it will reside high in the thermosphere, as high as we can get it. Furthermore Dust will not be used as the chief power source. I have knowledge of a replacement for Dust and will be assisting Atlas scientist in the rediscovery of it. The technology will likely take a great deal of time to recreate and will require a great deal of resources from the tundra. We do not have a timeline for when it will be complete.”

    The noise almost made Oz flinch as a replacement for Dust was unheard of before. James spoke up. “Silence please, questions will be answered in an orderly manner or not at all.”

    “Mister O-”

    “Branwen. My full name is Ozpin Branwen.” Ozpin could feel a colour tint his cheeks but Gods was it good to be able to say that.

    Murmurs went through the large group, a few did know of the Branwen tribe. The reporter that had been cut off tried again. “Mister Branwen, just what is this replacement for Dust? Why has it never been used before?”

    “It is a very old method that predates Dust. However it’s cost is far greater than just stone from rock. It is not something I share knowledge of lightly. It is from a world that is dead to us now, to reclaim what we lost will be extremely difficult. I only know if it’s theory it’s practice we shall have to rediscover.”

    “Yes but is it?”

    Oz pursed his lips, saying that they were going to use the ambient soul essence that saturated the world was probably not a good idea. “It is difficult to explain in broad terms and without prior knowledge of the terminology impossible to understand. To oversimplify, we will be harnessing the energy of Aura to fuel machinery. My knowledge of Aura greatly exceeds anything you will ever find elsewhere. Which is why it is only with my arrival that this idea is being made public. My presence is required for it to work.”

“But why?! Why hasn’t this been brought up before?!” The shouts started to fill the courtyard.

Ozpin whispered to James. “I’ve half a mind to show them magic.”

“Go for it. Better to distract them.”

Oz whipped his hand up and reached for his magic, rather then make a fire or something small. With some knowledge restored, particularly knowledge of the In-Between. He grasped the area of the courtyard in his mind and pulled the In-Between into the visible spectrum. All light vanished, only pure darkness saturated the area at first. Then the souls could be seem appearing one by one walking past or through people. Human shapes of purple creating purple walk ways. To those within the sphere the sky had nebula exploding in slow motion. Tracks of star dust so bright that they put the sun to shame. The sky was filled with colours of every imaginable type of stars, and an aurora of things they had no words for. Ozpin however didn’t look at any of that, sitting beside him was Pyrrha. She was much foggier then when he had seen her last, her features less defined. “Hello Pyrrha.”

She looked up at him and smiled. Ozpin lowered his hand and let the In-Between return to it’s natural invisible state. “That is why this has never been brought up before. I am the only one with the soul to access that place. It is what fuels our Aura, makes us who we are. It is through tapping into that place that we can use that energy. I am the only one with that ability.”

James spoke up. “However we have none of the infrastructure required to make use of it. That will be what takes time. Good day everyone.” He turned on his heel and with Oz walked into the school. Winter and Weiss following them.

They made it all the way into James’ office before Oz let himself sag and lean against a wall. “That was probably a bad idea.”

“It will give them something to focus on and an excuse to take as much time as we need. This is all new after all.” Winter said, she was still shaken up by the display of magic and wondered if they found the Winter Maiden if her power would let her do that. See that strange beautiful place.

“There is that. Gosh I hate vulgar uses of magic like that. It burns away the soul, I’m trying not to think about just how much we will be taking from the In-Between to do this.” Ozpin pushed himself up off the wall and walked over to James’s desk to sit on it.

“Just what are we going to try and do?” Winter asked.

Oz counted it off on his fingers. “Try and figured out how to gather and store soul essence and then try and figure out how to use it as a new propulsion system for Amity. Neither of which I know how to do without dying first. Back when this stuff was more commonly used I was a traveling knight not a scientist. I was not lying when I said I only know the theory not practice.”

“Our scientists are going to be eager to meet you.” Winter could already imagine it.

“They will have to wait till I have something to actually give them. Excuse me I need to go for a walk… or fly if that it what it takes to avoid the harpies.” Ozpin said as he walked to the window and saw the still stuffed courtyard.

“Alright Weiss. Come with me and we’ll see if Ruby and Qrow are ready to walk through the classes. Winter you have duties to attend to with Mantle.”

Everyone went their own separate ways and Ozpin found a back exit out of the school. The sun shone down on Atlas making it out to be a very bright city. Oz raised his hand to shield his eyes. Atlas shined but it was cold. “Never could stand this.” As he lowered his hand he noticed a little ice blue butterfly had landed on the back of his hand. Ozpin smiled at it. “Hello Fria, ready to see me?”

The butterfly flew off his hand and out towards the city. With a shrug Ozpin levitated himself, cloaked himself out of sight and followed the butterfly down into the city. It took him down to a small private garden. He landed in the snow and the butterfly flew under a willow tree. Oz brushed the bare branches away and as the butterfly landed at the base of the tree the Winter Maiden let her own invisibility drop. “I felt you coming.” She placed her frail hand on her chest. “You’re magic feels what you are and wants to be with you again.”

Ozpin smiled softly, she was dressed in warm clothes her skin pale as was her hair. She was so old he was a little amazed she even got away from the hospital. “Why did you leave your room?”

“I don’t want to die in that room all alone, it was so cold and bare, felt more like a prison cell then a hospital room. I would rather lay in peace under the night sky, I always did love the stars. I know they have been setting up Winter to replace me but you’re here now so that doesn’t matter. I have a request though. Take me somewhere good to die.” Fria reached out her hand shaking.

Ozpin stepped to her and knelt down. “I only have one good arm.”

The old woman smiled and set her hand on Oz’s bad arm. “I can tell, you don’t want it to get better do you? I know you, I felt you coming like a wolf starved in winter. That is what it felt like, you want to reincarnate.”

“You remember me better than I do.” Ozpin said he could barely feel her touch though the layers but he could feel the magic in it.

“I am winter after all and winter has a long memory. If you want your arm to heal it’s more likely to do so.” Fria smiled and let her hand drop into her lap. “Come please, take me out into the tundra. I don’t have much time left and I don’t want to die in this city.”

Oz sighed and pursed his lips, his left arm screamed in protest as he moved it scooping her up in his good arm and putting his bad one under her legs. He stood with lurch and walked out from under the tree. “James will be cross that I don’t bring you back.” He extended a shield Aura to keep her warm as he took the air.

“Not really, he knows you want your power back. It should be returned to you.” Fria leaned her head on Oz’s shoulders as he veiled them from sight. “Where do you want to go?”

“There is a burrow to the north east of the city. I used to go there to watch the stars.” Fria said with a small smile, it was nice to feel the wind on her face. She hadn’t felt it in so long.

“Alright, let me know when you see it. I don’t know my way around Solitas.” Ozpin flew them out of the city and over the snow-covered tundra. Oz looked down at her as he flew, her eyes were closed and Oz could feel that she didn’t have much time left. Maybe till the end of the day. It was well into the evening by the time he found the spot she was looking for. Rolling burrows with a glade of trees to the east.  He flew down and landed softly. “Is here good?”

“Yes thank you Ozpin.” Fria laid down to stare at the orange sky. “Will it hurt when you take the magic back?”

Ozpin kept the air around them warm and sat down beside her with a leg up resting his good arm on it. “For you. No. I’ll be gentle with it.”

Fria smiled her face wrinkling up. “Thank you. I remember how I froze when it first came to me.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Will you burn my body?”

“Would you like me too?” Ozpin asked.

“No, I know it is the law but I want to watch the stars forever.” Fria sighed wistfully.

“Then I will protect you with a coffin. You’ve done so well keeping winter safe for so long, I think bending a rule is a just reward.”

The sun sank below the horizon, one by one the stars came out. They filled the sky and Fria’s breathing got slower and slower. “Ozpin, I think…” Ozpin who had laid down beside her moved to rest on his good arm looking to her. “You ready?”

“Yes. Can I maybe have a kiss? It’s not every day someone kisses me.” Fria looked over her eyes slowly closing.

“Of course Fria. May you sleep peacefully and turn through the wheel anew.” Ozpin leaned in and very gently and chastely kissed her lips. At the same moment he called the power of the Winter Maiden back into himself. It didn’t come all at once and he didn’t rip it out like had with Raven. No, it came slowly, gently like water trickling over rocks. When the last spark of soul essence returned to him, Fria took her last breath.

Ozpin drew away feeling energized and more whole then he had for a very long time. He slowly sat up and took a moment to settle himself. He would keep his word to her, even at the cost of soul essence it was only right. Oz set a hand on her forehead and from beneath his palm crystal started to flow. Like water it spread out and covered her body in a second skin. Oz raised her up on a table like slab and then thickened the shield of crystal to the shape of a coffin. A little shock of magic and the fluid solidified into a diamond hard substance. Ozpin made sure to remove all the air so that she would not decay. He stood up and set his hand above her chest. Into the diamond he engraved. Here likes Fria of Solitas the Last Winter Maiden. Her service will never be forgotten.

“There, sorry I can’t make it more personal.” Ozpin ran his hand down the diamond. “But at least it’s a tomb fit for you.” He walked a few steps away before taking to the sky. Rather then return to Atlas academy he again hid himself from sight and flew to James’s flat. He landed in a back alley, dropped his invisibility and walked into the building. The flat was filled with reflected light as he walked in and picked out a lounge to rest on. There was a little time before he figured he had to return to the school and didn’t want to go early. He took out his Scroll and watched the city breathe. He hated it here, every since they set foot on the northern continent he felt something was amiss. The tension in Mantle was reaching an all time high and if things didn't change soon then the people were either looking down the mouth of the Grimm or being split into civil war. 

Ozpin liked to think that James was doing everything within his power to avoid these two outcomes but he is only one man and Oz remembered how difficult it was to do this alone. The light of the city was a curd imitation of the stars the clouds hid.

By the Gods Oz wanted nothing more then to grab his spouses, James and Weiss and get them all out of there before whatever was coming took them as well. Fist clenched Oz glared at the useless arm at his side and willed it to move. The twitching pain was all he felt and without Jaune to help his Aura the copper eyed man didn't believe it would ever get better. 

He’d stay for a little while longer. Silence could be a very pleasant thing. Perhaps Fria was right, Oz felt himself giving up on the arm more and more with each day. The pain was too much and there seemed to be no improvement for weeks now. Maybe it would be worth seeing what was going on with it, to let James’s doctors look at it. Sure he did have yet more magic but it was precious and not to be wasted on trivial things. The flying had been an indulgence already.

 


 

Ruby and Qrow worked at the armoury till afternoon playing with a forge. Which was to say Qrow did all the hot work while Ruby did the small stuff and assembly. Now they were done and Ruby was testing out her new Crescent Rose. It was considerably more streamlined than the old version. The head had been slimmed down and equipped with a double edge as well as the function to become completely straight like Harbinger. It was also fully detachable so it could be used just as a sword while the shaft of the weapon could become a rifle. The interior structure of the sword head remained much the same as it had before. The excess inner transformation of the old head was removed to create a flat edge that wouldn’t send enemy blades straight towards her hands when she blocked and the hooks at the back had been removed in favour of a singular longer one that doubled as the hilt of the blade.

Ruby tested it out first in scythe form them brought it in transforming it to rifle while grabbing the blade as it went. The hook collapsed inward and became rounded to avoid injuring herself. She swung it around transferring it one from one hand to the other. “I like it, next time someone comes at me with daggers I won’t be useless.”

Qrow pulled his shirt on and the rest of his layers. “I’m glad, we’ll have to practice as you’ll lose precious seconds in the transformation so that will have to account for. It’s also inconvenient to have the blade so far from your hand when in scythe form. You’ll have to adjust your style so you spend more time in the middle of the shaft and front then at the back like you’ve been doing up till now.”

Ruby pulled the rifle from her hip. “You’re still wishing I went for something more like Harbinger. Sword first scythe second.”

“It is a lot less wasteful in time to move from one shape to another. The only thing that really saves this design is that you can open with the blade and move it to scythe mode if you need it. Given how you are unlikely to ever go after another person with a scythe hopefully you’ll be okay and have those couple seconds to open with either scythe or sword.” Qrow walked over as Ruby scabbard the blade. He drew her into a hug and Ruby snuggled tight to him. 

She felt the faintest of tremors run through him, his concern for her well being and safety would always remain somewhere inside him. “You’re just worried. Too much change in too little time. First leaving Mistral and our baby… now this. I’ve had it for what six years?”

“Yeah, I still remember watching you make it. Mostly to make sure you didn’t cut yourself.” Qrow pet over her head and sagged. “I miss our baby too. Just think if this new CCT tower works we’ll be able to call Lydia and see her.”

Ruby hugged him tight. “Yeah I miss her so much.”

“Me too.” Qrow kissed her head. “Come on James mentioned wanting us to drop by after we are done.”

“Yeah okay, at least my breasts don’t ache all the time anymore.” Hand in hand Ruby and Qrow headed off to find James.

 


 

Weiss and Winter checked on Ruby and Qrow to find that they weren't letting the other smiths help and would likely be a long while yet. So they went back to James's office as Winter had wanted to work with James on drafting Mantle's new security net. An hour later as much as Weiss wanted more time with James, he had work to do and so did Winter but still she still wanted to ask. “Hey Winter, can we have a brunch or something? We haven’t had a chance to catch up.” The younger Schnee hugged herself with an arm.

Winter masked her surprise looking up from her holo pad. “Well we have been at this for a while. Would a break be alright General?”

James nodded, his gaze lingered on Weiss for a moment and gave a small smile. “Go and spend time with your sister Winter. I will be in meetings with the council for most of the day, between reversing the embargo and deciding if Amity will still be moved there is plenty to worry about.” James said as he turned away from them. “Things will only get busier from here on out so best take the time while you have it.”

“Yes sir.” Winter dipped her head.

Weiss stepped up and gave James a quick hug. “We’ll be back after.”

James returned the gesture. “All the more reason to take the time to talk. See you both in a bit.” He let Weiss go and headed into the elevator.

Winter looked Weiss up and down. “Shall we find a quiet cafe? Or somewhere more private?”

“Ummm, wherever. We can leave out anything that we wouldn’t want overheard. It’s just been ages since we had something as simple as a tea together.” Weiss smiled shyly. 

“Well there is a spot just down into the city I like to frequent. Let’s go and you can tell me all about the trouble you’ve been getting into.” Winter said and that got her a smile.

The trip down to a little but very high end tea shop only took twenty minutes. It was a wide open space but enclosed like a greenhouse to keep the occupants warm. They ended up seated beside a small fire with a dark oaken table nursing a strong black tea in dainty ceramic cups. Weiss traced the painting on the side lovely and floral like she’d was used to from Mistral. “So how have things been since I left?”

“Busy, James has been teaching me now to replace him. I think the stress has been getting to him.” Winter said with a sigh, her eyes drooping.

“He did mention to me wanting to step away. There was also talk of you running for the election if you want, he’d step down if you did.” Weiss said.

Winter stared at her for a long second before turning her attention to her tea. “I would be open to that. There is such a thing as burning out and it would be good for Atlas and Mantle to have a shake up in leadership.”

“Yeah, but he should explain it to you.” Weiss sipped her tea. “Oh by the way Ozpin and James didn’t have sex after you left. It was just a ploy to get James alone. Ozpin was very unhappy about having so many people around.”

“Ah, I see. Using the stereotypes of Valites to his advantage. I never thought he’d do that, he seemed so straight forward at Beacon.”

“He can be. He can also be several steps ahead of everyone else. Oz is at his core when he is happiest a very silly person. He’s very aware of what people think of him and he takes it in stride he doesn’t care so long as he feels like he’s trying to do the right thing. Sometimes he messes up but usually he’s on the ball. So in short he’s not afraid to use the stereotypes.”

“That was a tidy way to clear the room of the new people.” Winter sipped her tea. “You sound like you know him very well.”

“I have lived with him for ages now and will continue to do so.”

“You did seem very friendly with Qrow.” 

Weiss blushed. “Yes well, Ozpin and I helped each other when we were both battling depression and loneliness. When they all met up again I took a step back but was eventually invited to join the three of them. Which I did, Ruby was-.” Her throat closed and she blinked back the tears. “Raped, while at Mistral. Partly because I am a female and her friend I ended up helping her reconnect with her body and her sexuality. They invited me to join them on and off ever since. Qrow and I have spent a lot of time together as well. Ruby and Ozpin haven’t had the same time to really click to each other as Qrow and Ruby had so when they went off to have some time to be alone. Qrow often decided to hang out with me instead. Maybe so I didn’t feel left out, but I think he loves me. Not sure what kind of love but I know him well enough to guess that it’s not the love he has for Ruby and Ozpin but one that won’t fade.”

Winter was a little stunned, she knew that poly was a reasonably common practice in Vale but never imagined her sister of all people would get involved. “I can’t say I understand it but it sounds like you were there to help your friend and that they try and take care of you too.”

“They do, it really helps with not being lonely.” Weiss sipped her tea.

“And James?”

“My love. He was Ozpin and Qrow’s lover long before I was. So we all want to work towards meshing together as a group of five. I think it will work and if you take over for him he’ll retire and join us as traveling Huntsmen. I don’t imagine we will stay in Atlas in the long term. Oz hates it here.”

“Well at least say goodbye next time. Still though Qrow? Of all people? Winter said.

“What? He’s nice and a very good lover. Just because you like only girls doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy him.” Weiss smiled around the edge of her tea cup.

“But but it’s Qrow, asshole extraordinaire. Honestly I don't know what anyone of you see in him, he's still a ruffian, shoddy looking, alcoholic bird brain who flirts too much and seems to take delight in the art of irritating anyone he pleases.”

“Yeah but he knows how to eat out a pussy like a man drowning after a drought.” 

Winter barely contained herself, her eyes went comically wide and her face flushed an apple red. “Weiss! That’s disgraceful. Where did you learn such low class language.”

“Qrow is very good with his mouth, what can I say, I learn from the best.” Weiss sincerely enjoyed taunting her sister, it felt … good to laugh and she knew Winter wasn’t really mad, she caught the tiny flicker of a smile her sister stomped on, too fast for anyone who didn’t know her to see. 

Winter took a too long a drink, attempting to calm the heat that had taken over her cheeks, giving her time to compose. She and Weiss fell into a comfortable silence as the bustling cafe grew in volume.

This felt very nice, Weiss didn’t know when the next time she and Winter would be able to do this, especially if her sister stepped up to take Jame’s place in the election and council. Not to mention Oz had said he didn’t wish to remain on Solitas for too long and she understood, really, she did. The city didn’t seem to be in the best of situations right now and after all the controversy in Mistral she also wanted to get away from the prying eyes and pointed fingers.

 It was just as she was thinking about that when a commotion caught her attention. A young man began shouting at something on one of the public screenings. Weiss was about to ignore the offender when he picked up one of the cafe chairs closest to him and threw it against the wall. The screen distorted, the face of James Ironwood froze and so did the people surrounding it. Weiss felt her breath hitch as another member of the public cheered loudly, then another, then a rock was thrown, hitting the projector so the screen went blank. Now that the source of their anger was gone the former heiress believed those people would calm. 

She was wrong.

As if a catalyst has occurred, those who joined in the cheering began throwing random objects across the street. It didn’t seem to matter where they ended up Weiss realized as a loose brick went sailing past her and through the cafe window. The cheers and outrage sent a chill down her spine. Weiss’s hand lowered to the holster of her sword when another larger hand stopped her. Weiss looked up to her sister as Winter shook her head. 

Within moments Weiss understood why as a dozen Knights landed on the street, guns at the ready with orders for the public rioters to stand down. They gave in without a fight Weiss noticed and turned back to Winter who sighed as they were taken away by the soldiers. “It's getting worse everyday.”

“Is it because of the Election?”

“Yes and no, granted the tension between factions isn't helping matters but I for one believe this is something that has been long since coming.” Winter placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder, granting her a small but kind smile. “Come on, I’ll walk you back.”

Weiss took one last lingering look at the scene of the riot, broken glass and debris scattered over the ground as people were taken away. She dreaded to think how much worse things could get and as she left the area at her sister’s side, prayed they would never have to find out. 

 


 

Ruby, Qrow, Weiss and Winter all ended up meeting at the bottom of the elevator in the school just after dark. Together they rode up and Winter glared at Qrow. “I will never understand you Valites or your ability to corrupt those around you.”

“What can I say, we are just fun. With those with an open enough mind they see the good time we offer. Or all that tree humping gives us unparalleled stamina.” Qrow smirked and cocked his hips forward and back. “Not like you’d know anything about that though, you’d prefer to hump dildos.”

“Ohh you filthy-.” Winter’s cheeks burned red.

Ruby and Weiss giggled from there spot behind the two. “Maybe you have a suggestion for a strap on Winter.” Weiss spoke up as she stepped up slipped under Qrow’s arm and pet a finger down his front. “This one just loves a good pegging and I’m curious.”

It was Qrow’s turn to blush. “Na ah, don’t go getting any ideas I don’t sub for just anyone.”

Weiss leaned up on her toes. “Oh I’m sure Oz can bring you down, then let me have some fun. You do love rope after all, that could be a group effort.”

Qrow felt his trousers get tight and could tell that both Winter and Weiss could tell as well. “Well~ maybe that could be arranged.”

Winter’s jaw dropped in time with the elevator’s doors opening. Weiss and Qrow walked out arm in arm and Ruby walked up to Winter taking her hand and pulling her out of the elevator before the doors closed. “Careful Winter, if you leave that mouth open much longer a fly will fly in.”

Winter closed her mouth and the sound of her heels against the floor was the loudest sound for a moment before Ruby said. “I didn’t know you were lesbian. At least I’m guessing that from what Qrow said.”

“Yeah, part of why I got disowned by father. He doesn’t think I’d ever carry on the Schnee line… and he is totally right I have no interest in having children.” Winter said as they walked into James’s office he was sitting at his desk typing away at a holo screen.

“Ah you are back. Did you get any work done Winter?” James got up and picked up two new holo pads.

“Yes, Weiss read getting caught up on her news while I worked. I have a new team of security already installed in Mantle and they have started to prepare an update patch to minimize the time where the systems are down.” Winter reported quickly.

“Good. Here Weiss and Ruby.” He walked over as the two came to him and handed them the holo pads. “These have the years curriculum already loaded onto them. As well as the times for the classes, you will not be required to sit in on them but you are welcome to as time permits. The professors are aware of your situation.”

Ruby booted up the pad and scrolled through a folder of folders. Hunter regulation, law, sparring, Grimm studies, world history, survival, advanced weapon building, mercenary economics and infrastructure repair. “Hey these are what I was taking at Beacon.”

“I pulled your file, it was still up on the CCT network rather than locally housed.” James said and stood at military ease. “You are welcome to skip anything you covered at Haven. There are tests at the end of each section that you can use to prove your knowledge on the content. All open book, no one cares about your ability to regurgitate information just to make sure you know it.”

“Okay, I’ll get on it before bed.” Ruby said and closed up the holo pad.

“I can help right?” Qrow asked.

“Yes, the quick intake of information is the most important thing right now. To catch up to their peers.”

Weiss put hers away as well. “Alright, we can do this.”

They turned as they heard a door open and Ozpin stepped into the room. “Oh good everyone is here.”

Ruby noticed he sounded tired, which wasn’t anything new but this was different. “What is wrong Oz?”

Oz shook his head and stepped in closing the door behind him before he leaned on it. “Nothing just nature taking it’s course. Fria is dead and the power is back where it should be.”

Winter was shocked but she guessed it explained why James was teaching her to replace him. Rather then to be the Winter Maiden, she had just been the back up plan. “Oh my, what about her body?”

“She asked to be entombed and I gave her something that will keep her safe from Grimm.” Oz rubbed the corners of his eyes. “James… I’d like to have someone take a look at my arm.”

“Wow, you really aren’t okay Oz.” Qrow went straight to his husband taking his good hand between his.

“It’s nothing just getting frustrated with it, it’s not getting any better. The cold isn’t helping either.” Oz forced a smile, Qrow’s worry and ability to read him was endearing.

“I have a trustworthy doctor and a private scanning room. I’ll send him a message and see if he’s available for tomorrow.” James pulled out his Scroll and sent off the message. “I need to speak with Winter you should all head home and settle in.”

“Sounds good.” Ruby went over to her husbands and they said their goodbyes before leaving.

James turned his attention to Winter. “So how would you feel about becoming a politician?”

“That it is evil incarnate but I’ll hate it and those who hate the job won’t abuse it.”

James clapped her on the shoulder. “You got it in one.”

Chapter Text

    Yang drifted out of Lydia’s house. Though she supposed it was the Branwen household now, all it was missing was all the Branwens. The snow was piling high in drifts on either side of the roads. She knew she should really get on a train and back to Atlas to her sister. To the job that awaited her there… to a sister that didn’t need her anymore. To a cold place that she didn’t even want to go. She walked up to Haven’s main courtyard and found everything normal, as though the actions of the past week had never happened. 

She knew that she needed to go in, there was so much to do, to organize and she needed to find a way to contact Ozpin to tell him… burning tears stung behind her eyes as she turned away and wandered into a nearby cafe. She was so torn and tired it took until a loud familiar voice snapped her out of her stupor to see Sun there talking to his team.

    Sun’s tail twitched when he saw her and got up from the table. “Be back in a minute guys.” He walked over and gently guided Yang into a side room that was thankfully empty. “Hey, how are you doing?”

    “Lydia is dead too and Euclase is missing. Blake-.” Yang’s eyes started to water, unable to hold back the tears.

    Sun stepped to her and hugged her. His eyes were also bright with fighting back his sorrow but Yang needed comfort right now. “Do you plan on going to Atlas? The rest of your team is there already.”

    Yang hugged him back. “I guess, but Ruby doesn’t really need me and Weiss is happy to see James again I’d just be a third wheel.”

    Sun pulled away and brushed her arms down. “Hey Yang… you know that it was just for Blake that I…”

    Hurt, Yang pulled away from him and hugged herself. “Yeah you were just around for Blake. Sorry, I’ll just go.”

    “I’m sorry Yang and I’m sorry for your loss. You should really get going to Atlas though, you chased your sister all the way from Vale. She must still mean a lot to you and despite how you feel I think your sister still needs you. We all need our family, one way or another. That and we are Huntsmen, loss is part of the job but we still get up every morning and continue.” Sun took a step after her with raised arms but let them drop. “I should get back to my team, we had planned to spar on our day off.” He kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry Yang.” Sun left before he made this anymore awkward.

    Yang collapsed to sit on a desk chair as the tears flowed. So she didn’t even have Sun to fall back on anymore, Blake had been where they connected and now she was gone. A light knock sounded on the door and Bartholmew stepped in. “I saw you come in.” He walked over opening his thermos as he went, he offered it to her. “Moca with rum. It won’t help but you have to replace some of those fluids.”

    Yang took it and had a sip, she could tell that the rum was of the barely there verity. “Still drinking in class?” She cleaned her face and looked up to him. “You’re almost as bad as my uncle.”

    “Hardly, I am never inebriated, it’s just a flavouring.” Bart leaned on the desk beside her. “I heard about Blake and Lydia. The latter was on the news given that it was a murder.” He reached out and stroked up and down her back. “Will you be returning to Atlas?”

    The blonde sniffed. “I don’t know. I know I should but I’m just not sure what the point is. Ruby doesn’t need my help, I don’t know what my place in her life is anymore. She’s all grown up and doesn’t need me anymore.”

    “True, she has grown up and bloomed. She doesn't need you to look after her anymore. But I am sure she’d love to have her sister around, just as her sister. From what I saw you were fitting in well with Jaune, Nora and Ren. Better even then your attempts with Blake. Yang. As Huntsmen we have the family we are born with and we have the family we choose. I think you have been chosen by those three, even if none of you know that. Go to Atlas, you belong with your family.”

    “But what about dad?” Yang looked up at him.

    “Taiyang’s tougher then he looks, he’s got all of us as well. He’ll be fine and he’ll understand that you’ve got to keep moving forward.” Bart leaned over and kissed her temple. “Don’t think you are without prospects, I’m not going anywhere. I like you for you.”

    Yang got up and hugged him. “It all just hurts though.”

    Bart returned the embrace. “It always will but living your life is the only thing that will dull it. Think about those who love you, they wouldn’t want you to wallow in misery. They’d want you to be you. Your brash, loud, firecracker self. Your sister looks to you when she’s down. Think about how hard it is going to be for her when she hears that she lost Euclase, her baby. Think about how hard it is going to be on Oz to lose his mother. Qrow is gonna have his work cut out for them trying to hold them together while he is just as broken. Ruby, Qrow, they still need you just maybe in a new way. Weiss loved Lydia and Euclase, she is gonna be hurting. You’re so strong Yang, the strongest person I have ever had the privilege of knowing. You should go and be their strength and when they find it again you can still be their friend.”

     Yang pulled back and rubbed her face again. “Thanks Bart.” She leaned up and kissed him. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again after Atlas?”

    “If you don’t find me, I’ll look for you.” Bart reached up and brushed a lock of her hair back behind her ear.

    Yang saw something else flicker through his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

    “... Another reason I want you to leave. There was a ship from Vacou last week and we got it quarantined but people in the lower city have been getting sick. Black pustules and the like. The council is worried and trying to track down anyone who is sick but we haven’t figured out how they are getting sick. You should leave, I am a history professor after all and…”

    Understanding dawned on Yang. “Oh Gods, you’ve seen this before.”

    “Yes. If things don’t improve within the next week. The evacuation order will go out and Haven will be emptied. We can’t risk losing any students and they’ve got a better chance against Grimm then they do a plague. Maybe we will contain it, maybe not but you should leave. I’ll make sure Taiyang makes it back to Patch, I know that Glynda and Port will go back to Vale as well. I’ll keep your dad company, won’t let him stew.”

    “Okay, just because it’s you asking.” Yang said even as her heart pounded. “I’ll tell them too, not to let anything from Vacou into Mantle. If I don’t go now who knows when they’ll get the news and by then it could be too late.”

    Bart got up and they went back to Lydia’s house to tell Tai. Bart didn’t have it in his heart to say it might be too late already. He had a feeling about how this plague had returned and that Vale and Vacou were already death traps. That it was possible that it had already made it to Mantle and it was just a matter of time before it showed its face there.

He just prayed he was wrong.

 


 

    Maria kept Jaune on his toes as they walked down the long road that would end at the Arc family homestead. They had been lucky enough to be allowed to ride in the back of a truck to this point and had spent the week on the ship training. Right now Maria lunged at Jaune blades out one clashing across his shield as he dodged the other twisting out of the way only to get clipped in the thigh and fall onto his butt for the fifth time in ten minutes.

    Terra Cotta-Arc laughed softly at her brother in law. Adrian was bundled tight in her arms. “Well that was a whole ten seconds longer then last time.”

    Jaune got up and dusted the snow off of his trousers. “Yeah yeah.”

    Maria put her kamas back on her belt. “That shield… I think when we get to Atlas boy you should trade up for a tower shield and a more complete set of armour. A well trained shield arm is just as useful a weapon as any sword can be. You’ve got the height and are working towards the muscle mass, it would be worth a try at the very least.”

    “Well you know this all way better than me. So I’ll do whatever you recommend but we should put a pause on the training. Dad would flip if he saw me getting my butt kicked.” Jaune said and scabbed his sword into his shield.

    The forest gave way into several large open fields with a huge farm house at the centre. Big enough for all nine Arcs after all. As they came up to the huge log house the front door crashed open and two of his seven sisters came crashing through the show. “JAUNE!!”

    Jaune catch the two Arc projectiles. “Lizzy, Mary.” Jaune picked up the two tall women and hugged them tight. “How have you been?” He set them down.

    “Good, trade is in the dumpster but we make enough of everything to feed ourselves with extra. We even picked up a few extra stable hands when Vale went down.” Lizzy said fixing her big round glasses as she let her brother go.

    Mary the next youngest with darker blonde hair looked Jaune up and down. “Gosh when did you get so big?”

    “Been a busy couple years.” Jaune said with a shrug.

    The Arc matriarch and patriarch walked out into the snow. The head of the Arc household was a man of seventy while his wife was only forty five. She had been his second wife after the first died in childbirth. Jaune couldn’t help but light up at the sight of his mother. Her light blonde hair was so long it end at her waist and straight as an arrow, her eyes a soft blue. “Jaune.” She stepped up and hugged her baby tight. “It’s been ages, how are Ren and Nora?”

    “Good, they went ahead to Atlas. General Ironwood called for us and my other friends. I can’t stay, I need to get back that way too.” Jaune let his mom go. “I just came to make sure Terra got here safe.” He gestured out behind him. To Terra Cotta Arc and her baby boy.

    “Who?” Jason the Arc father said looking her up and down.

    Terra swallowed. “I um, I’m Saphron’s wife and this is your grandson Adrian.”

    Jason looked at her and her baby, the sneer was barely concealed. “Where is my wayward daughter?”

    Jaune saw the tears start to gather in Terra’s eyes. “Gone. Grimm attacked Argus and the city fell. I decided it was my place to escort her here where she would be safe with Saphron’s kid.” Jaune left a little bit bad about invoking Saphron’s name again but his father had never approved of Saphron’s orientation so calling on the baby that Saphron had a part of would pull on his father’s heart strings.

    “Hmm.” Jason Arc looked the dark skinned woman up and down. She was definitely from Mistrals stock as was the baby. “Fine, we’ll look after them Jaune. Are you going to stay the night?” Jason Arc had always found his only son a useless disappointment and expected him to crave family.

    Jaune shook his head and stepped away back towards Maria. “Every hour here is one I am missing out on in Atlas.”

    “Alright.” His mom hugged him again. “Thank you for letting us know and bring our family back to us.”

Terra sent Jaune a frightened look as she held the toddler closer to her, he could feel the anxious energy and sent her a wan smile reminstent of his beloved sister. His sister in law returned it, hers wobbling slightly as she forced back a sob. Jaune knew that at least here she would be safe and given a chance to start over. 

    Jaune only gave his father a sharp nod before turning away going down the path with Maria. She asked. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay?”

    “Yeah, my mom and sisters are fine but my dad never liked that I went to Beacon. He wanted me to stay and help with the farm. If I stay. I’ll have to endure the snide comments. I’ll come back when I have my license, when I can stand up to him as an independent adult. Not dependent on a school for room and board.” Jaune shook his head. “No I don’t want to go there.”

    “That is a good goal, to stand up on your own against those who don’t see you as capable of independence.” Maria tucked her hands behind her back. “You are making me glad I decided to teach you. Come on, without the other two we can make up some time running with Aura. It will be good practice for you.”   

 


 

    Ozpin hung back as James talked with his chosen doctor. They were in James private medical room, it was large with several extra tables. The doctor was tall and fit, though not overly so, with dark skin and a full but trimmed beard. His eyes were a warm brown that met Oz’s and the look made Ozpin’s heart warm even if he couldn’t put a finger on why. James turned to see Oz had arrived. “Ah you’re early.”

    “You were gone before I even got up.” The silver haired man ran a hand through it.

    “Yes well, we were of the mind that you would want to keep this as private as possible.” James gestured to a wide example table, it had a place for Oz’s arm already set up. “I am used to having my insides looked at so my equipment will be more than adequate for you and keep it off the hospital servers.”

    “Alright.” Oz held his bad arm to his side.

    Doctor Freedman moved to Oz every action seemed warm. “Please remove your layers.”

    Ozpin set about pulling off his layers, James moved to his side to help him and set the extra garments on another table. The doctor’s attention was instantly drawn to the burned arm. “Does it still weep?”

    “Yes, whenever I try to use it.”

    “Can you?”

    “When I set my mind to it, my old doctor mentioned that I have nerve and tendon damage. That it’s sheer dumb luck that it wasn’t amputated and hasn’t had necrosis issues.” Oz said with a shiver, the room didn’t feel very warm to him.

    “Hmm, let’s have a look at the insides.” The doctor gestured to the awaiting bed.

    Ozpin walked over and sat on the edge of the bed before swinging his legs up onto it and laying back. It was cold and made him shiver. Doctor Freedman walked over and gentled picked up Oz’s bad arm and set it on the armrest. “Try to relax and not to move.”

    Ozpin looked up the sterile white light as the scanned folded down from the ceiling a small metal half ring. James moved to Oz’s good side. “And don’t forget to breath.”

    “Yeah.” Oz scoffed.

    A blue-white light slowly traveled up and down his arm as the doctor tracked it’s progress on his holo pad. He frowned and made the scanner moved over Oz’s chest. “What on Remnant…”

    “Oh right, um magic. I was nearly killed by a Revenant someone dear to me used her own magic to put me back together again. The wood is alive. It’s holding me together.”

“I can see that!” Freedman’s brows were sky high. “I can see where it was introduced as well. But did you know that you’re entire upper skeleton up till the base of your skull is coated in it now? I can partially see it growing.” Freedman moved the scanner to Oz’s shoulder then down over his ribs. “Like a network, breathing with you.” He moved the scanner again. “It’s replaced things, like the tendons through your arm. I can see where flesh meets wood, it’s incredible and you say you can move it?

“Yes.” Ozpin closed his eyes to help manage the pain and moved his fingers one by one.

“Well I can see why it’s causing you pain. The wood hasn’t completely bonded to the flesh, particularly on the tendons. It’s breaching the gaps but not working completely with the flesh. So when you move it, the flesh pulls on the wood without it moving properly in time.” The scanner moving closer to Oz’s arm. “I think it’s already trying to mend the problem, to merge more completely with the flesh to grow into it? I’ve never seen anything like this, if we would replicate this kind of thing with metal it would revolutionize organ replacement. You do have some fresh damage though, that necrosis you mentioned. It is in the muscle, fresh looking too even now your Aura is killing it off and healing.”

Ozpin pursed his lips. “I… I have a piece of armour that was helping to… animate it once when it had been extremely damaged. It’s possible that could be where the necrosis came from.”

“I get the feeling that I will be learning a great deal from you. Still I don’t frankly dare touch any of what’s going on in here. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen, the exterior weeping is to be expected. Aside from a cream which I’m sure you’ve been given already to help keep the skin soft there is not much we can do here. Maybe it will further improve if you don’t use that armour. I’d like to do scans every week to track just what the wood is doing.”

“So I just leave it?” Oz asked confused, it wasn’t the answer he was expecting.

“I would recommend some more exercises with it. I’d understand that it takes a lot of will and pain to move even the smallest bit but in most cases of physio pain is a big contribution to showing it works. I will promise you that I’ll look into researching some of this and perhaps when you come back in say a week?” He paused to allow time for Oz to sigh and nod. “Maybe then I’ll have some answers for where we go from here.”

“That sounds good. Okay, thanks for agreeing to see him you know, out of the books.”

“Oh that is no problem! It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve practiced under the table, especially for some of Mantles less … fortunate citizens. Though I do hope that if things go well you will allow me to research more on this and about yourself?”

Oz felt a tiny trickle of fear run down his back at the prospect of being studied. “ Not again, oh please no!”

“Oz?” Ruby’s gentle voice whispered between his ears and immediately he felt a wave of calm wash over him. ”Do you need me to come to you?”

 Oz took a deep breath, bathing in his wife’s calm and loving embrace. “No, I’m alright just speaking to the doctor about my arm.”

“Hmm…” Ruby’s hesitation was clear as crystal, the faintest tips of worry for him soothed him the rest of the way.

Really, don’t worry. James is with me, he won’t let anything I don’t want to happen. I’ll see you soon.” Oz tuned back in to the Doctor who was informing James about his new physio training. He felt much calmer now and Ruby’s warmth radiated over him like a hug before fading away. He would never get over how special this bond he shared with her and Qrow was. They were his one in a million, his miracle. 

 James peeked over at his friend, it appeared that Ozpin had calmed down from whatever fear or panic had taken root in him. He thanked Doctor Freedman and pocketed the instructions the man had given him. “Well thank you for your time Doctor and I’ll make it my own personal task to ensure Ozpin follows up on all this.”

“You’re a good man James, I honestly can’t wait for this election to be over.” Doc patted the General’s shoulder, his grin sincere. James returned it with a little tilt. 

“Actually in regards to that, I have decided to step down from the military seat. Winter Schnee will be taking my position as General and my running in that seat of the election.” James saw the way this news shocked the doctor. He intended on dropping a few hints around, to let people get used to the idea of Winter running things. Her father could only run for the city seat of the election so it was a safe bet that Winter would get the military seat. Robyn could run for city and academy but she was only running for the city seat as well. Maybe she knew she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking the academy seat from James.

“That’s! That’s a very interesting development. You’re sure about this aren’t you?”

“Absolutely. Don’t worry, I will be retaining my position over the school so I’ll never be too far and Winter has been an impeccable student. She is ready for this and so am I to be honest.” James said fondly, he felt an arm wind around his waist and leaned into Oz ever so slightly. As Oz snuggled to James’s warm side resting his chin on the broader man’s shoulder.

The Doctor’s grin widened from ear to ear. “Retirement will look good on you James and might I say it's about time you sought some happiness for yourself.” He glanced at the pair with a sweet grin. “Well I best be getting outta here, don’t need some old coot taking up your time.”

James felt his cheeks heat ever so slightly and he cleared his throat. “Thank you for your time and I’ll- We’ll see you next week.”

With that the doctor exited the private room James had for this in his floor of the school. James didn’t realize Oz still had his arm around his waist until his hand began a slow and sensual stroke over his hip. “Well that was fun. What shall we do next?”

“You have something in mind?” The General offered.

Oz chuckled. “Oh I have lots of things in mind but you have to feed me first.” The sound of a belly rumbling nearly had them both in stitches.

Heaving a dramatic sigh James turned and wrapped his arms around Oz, his mouth inches from the other man’s ear. “Well I suppose if I must. Perhaps show off some of my new cooking skills. That is if you think you can take it.”

With a purr Oz buried in closer. “Now that's the best offer I’ve had all day.”

 


 

Qrow was bored. Ozpin was off with James getting his arm looked at. Ruby was sitting in on classes with Weiss so he was left to stay at the flat all alone. It was a nice flat but after so many months of being on the move to be idle was a strange feeling. Qrow pulled out his Scroll and booted it up. He flicked through his applications until one stood out. One he hadn’t looked at in ages. It was one that was exclusive to only hand picked Huntsmen. He tapped it and the green screen of his Scroll went red and a list of names appeared. His Scroll was already set to Atlas as a home timezone so he was shown the Atlas list.

Everlight Crescent: Human trafficker, Vacou graduate. Aura level 7. Suspected location Atlas.

Nightshade Ebony: Prosthetics Salvager, Atlas graduate. Aura level 7. Confirmed location Mantle. Semblance slip steam.

Qrow tapped on Nightshade, good name for a crook. The image was of a human woman with skin so dark it was almost black, her eyes appeared black while her hair was a mix of black and gold. The rest of the picture was too dark to really make out what she was wearing. Clearly it had been updated since her graduation. Her weapon was listed as a rapier with most of her activity recorded in the docking district of Mantle and the surrounding suburbs. “Hmm, sure beats sitting around here.”

He closed his Scroll and got ready for the day. Layering up in his new gear he picked out a toque to keep his ears warm. He did have the sleeper earrings Weiss gave him in an ear so keeping them warm was important. He headed out of the flat locking it behind him and out into a back street before turning into a crow and taking to the air. Qrow did love being able to fly, it made getting around so much easier.

He flew down to Mantle. The muted orange city was almost as bad as the shining of Atlas. Arched grey buttresses made for convenient places to perch on as the towering stone points of angular designs rose up like they were giving the sky the finger. Garbage filled the streets as Qrow viewed it from above. Collections of the homeless gathered around barrel fires in the back alleys. He couldn’t help but think they’d all be dead in a few months, frozen in Solitas winter.

Qrow found an alley and transformed, his new duster coat tails billowing out around him like a pair of black wings. The red eyed man pulled up his new scarf to cover his nose effectively hiding his identity. Well if not for Harbinger on his hip. He strode out of the alley and walked towards the docks. He wasn’t far off if the stench of fish and whale oil that permeated the air was anything to go by. Qrow was grateful that the scarf weakened the horrible smell. Fish he was used to, but there was nothing quite like rancid whale guts and oil. The wide street had trollies rumbling up and down carrying meat to abattoirs higher up in the city.

The tall man scanned the people as he walked. Industrial accidents were common in Mantle so there was no shortage of people with artificial limbs. No wonder a Huntress had decided to make money reselling said limbs on the black market. The question was how were they being targeted? What was the common factor? If he could figure that out it would be a sure fire line to reach the source.

Qrow came to a wide lateral street just about the major docks and warehouses. It was a market stretched out over a street. The first thing he noticed was the pub. Pubs were often as good a place to start as any. He walked over a sign posted above the door said. Drunken Whaler and Qrow found the name very fitting as he pushed the door open and walked inside. 

He found the smell of cigars, fisstech a hallucinogenic drug mixed in with booze, piss and whatever else the whalers indulged in was particularly strong in here. Gods I hate Solitas. Qrow thought as he stepped over the muddy threshold. Most of the people weren’t remarkable. So he only took note of the ones with prosthetics and judged them by how much their prosthetics were worth. If he was doing this kind of barbaric work this would be how he’d case his victims.

He eyed the bar, his mouth suddenly very dry and aching but turned away and found a corner where he could see everyone that came or went. He flopped down into a too small chair and hunched his shoulders portraying a leave me alone vibe. The bar was loud but he could hear a pint being pulled and drummed his fingers against the wood. He forced himself to take a calming breath and focus on listening to the patrons. Qrow didn’t really expect to find his target on the first day and he had a city to relearn.

 


 

Weiss lounged on a couch in the living room. It had been a long day of studying, writing and having people stare at her. She was sure that her picture was all over the CCT network by now. Ruby was dozing on the loveseat when James and Ozpin returned from a long day of helping Winter get Mantle’s new security updated. James spotted his lover as he hung up his outer layers and walked over to her. “Long day?”

“So much to learn, so little time.” Weiss rolled onto her back and smiled up at him. “You could always come down here and cheer me up.”

James smirked and sat on the edge of the sofa, skimming a bare hand up the inside of her thighs. “Decided to ditch the trousers already?” He traced up her smooth skin as the Schnee sighed softly and parted her legs. As he got to the juncture of her thighs he lifted a brow at her. “And your panties?”

“Figured you’d enjoy a nice hot welcome home.” Weiss smiled cheekily.

James smirked and pulled his tie undone with his free hand then the buttons of his shirt as he dipped two fingers into her already wet and dilated sex. “Been thinking on this for long?”

“A little, not hard to get worked up when thinking about you coming home.” Weiss reached down and pulled the hem of her dress up showing him her smooth bare Venus mound and parting her legs a little more with a moan closing her eyes as he added another finger. “Mm, James~.”

James was already opening his trousers. “I’ve half a mind to flip you over and ride you like there is no tomorrow.” He could feel her insides clench around his fingers at the mere suggestion.

“Sounds good.” Weiss was almost gasping as he massaged her sweet spot without remorse before withdrawing his soaked fingers. Weiss moved with him as he stood and she shifted to spread her legs and grab the back of the couch. Her chest fluttered as James pushed his trousers and underwear out of the way and stroked the thick head of his cock through her folds. She quivered her shoulders tensing as she bit her lip in anticipation. There was always so much of him, she didn’t think she’d ever get used to it.

As James pushed his member slowly into her he drew a long moaning soft wail from her lips. It was one of his favourite sounds, the hot dripping satin of her sex hugged him so tight it almost hurt. The high yelp she made when he bottom out with a sharp thrust was priceless. James moved his damp hand to wrap around her waist as he reached up to push her hair away from a shoulder. “You good?” He grazed his teeth over her column of her throat before soothing the sting with a lick. He stroked over the taunt skin of her belly pressing just enough to feel his own hardness within her.

Weiss’s legs quivered as the action heightened the sensation of him pressed against her A and G spots turning her mind to mush.“Yes~.” The word was a wobbly moan. “Please sir.”

James kissed her neck before withdrawing from it and setting both hands on her hips making full use of the range of motion standing allowed. Weiss whimpered and gasped with every impact of their hips. He kept her dress shoved up around her hips so he could admire her butt-cheeks hitting his pelvis.

Meanwhile Ruby had pinned Oz to the love seat and was making out with him. She hadn’t removed her trousers so they were only grinding as the heat of the room grew and sparked desire in spite of missing Euclase. Right now she just wanted to feel the warmth of him around her and Ozpin was not going to deny his wife. 

James felt Weiss’s channel clench around him and thrust just a little bit harder earning a loud squeak just as the door to his apartment was slammed open. 

“Ironwood!” Jacque Schnee’s formidable frame took exactly two steps into the room when he stopped dead at the sight of his daughter held fast and half naked … and getting ploughed by an impressive ironwood. 

“What in the blasted name is going on here! Weiss!” The elder Schnee was a bright red almost purple in the face with anger that had Weiss cowering just the smallest bit. James gently removed himself from her slick channel, releasing the distracted moan that came from his woman and set her to the side of him mostly out of view. His erection still stood proud and wet with her juices as he sighed. “You couldn’t have waited until we were finished.”

Weiss trembled from behind him both mortified and frustrated as hell. She felt Ruby come up next to her and bundled her up in her in a couch throw blanket. Before she could step away James caught her hand. “I’m not finished with you yet.”

She flushed brightly and hungry eyed the cause of her desire, wetting her lips. “I can see that.”

“WE CAN ALL BLOODY WELL SEE THAT WEISS!” Jacque shouted taking further steps towards the General or he would have if Ozpin who had been sitting nearby hadn't intercepted him.

“Hello Jacque.”

“Get out of my way Ozpin, I have words for the General that don’t include you.” Oz didn’t budge an inch even when the Weiss’ father stepped up close and personal. Oz wasn’t intimidated in the slightest and even smirked at the shorter man when he felt James come up behind him, slightly to his right side and still very much showing off his cock. 

The Schnee refused to move back and grimace when he saw James. “I'm not speaking to you until you have some pants on, this is so indecent!” He attempted to look over to where his wayward daughter stood with the redhead but Ironwood and Ozpin blocked them from his view.

“Then you're welcome to leave, considering you just broke into my apartment and are clearly unwanted here.” James said still giving that small smile as he made no move to fix his trousers.

“Oh for GODS sake James grow up.”

“I think he's plenty ' grown up' as it is.” Ruby whispered to Weiss who chuckled loudly.

Jacque only grew more irritable by the second. How dare his daughter defy him. He hadn’t seen her since she went ‘missing’ two years ago and now here she was fucking the General like a common whore! How dare she ruin all of his carefully laid plans. The sudden coziness between Weiss and James didn’t appear new and with an uncomfortable pit in his stomach his thoughts zeroed in on the possible reason why. “So it was ‘you’ who took her.”

“She came to me Jacque, don’t think I don’t know what went on in that icy palace of yours.” James’ voice was as cold as ice and the barest flicker of fear prickled the Schnee. 

“Weiss is barely a child and you took her, messed with her head and reduced her to nothing but a fuck toy! I will have your job for this! How DARE you! AND YOU!” He directed to Weiss who was barely visible behind the two men. “You have dishonored yourself, sullied the Schnee name and your body. You’re a disgrace to our family!”

Weiss would like to think she had grown strong enough that such simple words no longer affected her but deep down there was some hurt to his accusations. Not enough though to give in to them. “Father.” She sneered. “I think it would be best for you to leave now. James and I have unfinished business to attend to.” Silently asking for strength she threw off the blanket and brushed her dress down and stepped up behind James, her hands running up and down his bare torso. 

Her father near boiled with rage, instead adopting a calm face and putting his temper on a back seat. “Oh dear me, perhaps I shall. It would be a shame though when I inform your mother of this.” He almost smirked when Weiss’ hand trembled against James. “You know how poorly she takes such news. Why I think this might actually break her but don’t worry I’ll let her know exactly where you stand with family.” Then he eyed the other occupants in the room, simply giving them a look before strutting out, James’ poor door taking a second round of abuse as it was slammed shut. 

Tension broke as James turned to wrap Weiss in his arms, boner killed, dead and buried. “You know he can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.”

“I know, it’s just complicated.” Weiss snuggled into his chest, breathing his scent seemed to calm her. 

Ruby also came up to cuddle her friend, sensing the mixed feelings Weiss was struggling with. “Well that could have gone better.”

“It also could have gone A LOT worse. It's a good thing Qrow wasn’t here, I don’t think he would have been able to keep his words in check.” James snickered feeling the room slowly relax. 

Oz however tipped his head in thought. “Where is Qrow anyway?”

Qrow as it turned out was just flying back to the flat when he saw Jacques’s storm out the front doors. A truly filthy idea occurred to him. He closed his wings and drove, ready...aim… FIRE!

He swooped out of his dive just in time for the wet white splat to hit Jacque’s in the back of the head. Qrow would forever cherish the enraged yell as he flew away before someone pulled a gun on him. He circled the building before flying down into a back alley and transforming. By the time he walked around to the front Jacque’s was chewing out the doorman for not getting him a cloth to clean up the very fresh bird poop.

“Hey Jacques, you’ve got a little something on the back of your head.” Qrow shoved his hands into his pockets and adored the flaming red cheeks of the Schnee.

“Who the heck are you?”

Qrow showed a little canine as he smirked. “Ohhh just someone you’ll be getting very familiar with. Weiss has talked all about you.”

“Oh really, has she now?” Jacques clenched his fists.

“Oh yeah, lovely singing voice on that one. She can really hit the high notes when I get her hot spot just right~.” Qrow pulled out his hand and offered it to Jacques. “I’m Qrow Branwen of the Branwen tribe.”

Jacques slapped Qrow’s hand aside. “Filthy bandit! What are you even doing in Atlas? You should be down in Mantle where your kind belong!”

“Ehh, ploughing my way through your daughters. I mean they do have the finest asses in Atlas.” Qrow wiggled his fingers as if he was about to grope said butts. “Those girls of your have some mighty high standards, no wonder they can’t find an Atlassian to satisfy them. Well James and I have fun spit roasting them. We’re old pals from when he attended Beacon. So whenever I come around we share the fine things we’ve collected.” Qrow purred widening his smirk. “I mean you could bounce a coin off of Winter’s ass. And Weiss ooh, that girl knows what to do with her tongue.”

Jacques looked just about ready to blow. Qrow sniggered at that train of thought, blow not blow he cocked his hips forward and put his hands behind his head. “I was just on my way up to visit her now. Well I do live with her, there has been mentions of getting some of the nice rope out for some fun and games. I’d hate to miss out. Maybe I’ll even take pictures, a sick asshole like yourself might enjoy that.” Qrow stepped around Jacques and up the steps to the building. He flicked a half assed salute from his temple. “Be seeing you Schnee.”
    “Get back here you disgusting excuse of a Huntsman and stay away from my daughters!” Jacques started up the stairs.

Qrow feeling extreme cheeky, he had enjoyed adding insult to injury but he was sure he could do even better. He pulled off his gloves and called on his magic. Qrow felt a twinge of pain as his claws grew in, Jacque raised his hand to grab him but Qrow lashed out faster snatching his wrist and digging his claws in deep. Blood welled up around them and quickly stained Jacques’s coat cuff. “Now now Jacques, you’re a businessman. You should know better than to lose your temper. Especially when I’m not some little girl you can slap and walk away from.” Qrow tightened his grip he could feel Jacques bones compressing. “After all that is what you have done to her, time and time again. Was it this hand? Maybe I should take it off so it will never hurt her again.” Qrow growled, letting his Aura rippled over his skin like fire as his Semblance rose.

“Guards!!” Jacques howled in pain.

Qrow let his wrist go and shoved Jacques back by the chest with a lazy flick of his wrist. “Weiss said you had a brain, I am starting to doubt that. I mean, what kind of idiot would try to assault a professional huntsman?” The red eyed man flicked his hand and made a show out of admiring the blood on his claws as it dripped down his fingers. “Especially a faunus who could rip your throat open without trying.” He shook his hand. “Yuck, I got Atlas snob on me. Don’t come back Jacques. Bother Weiss again and they will never find the body.” He opened the door and looked back over his shoulder as a guard raced over to Jacques with a medical kit. “Don’t forget the crap in your hair, though you’re just one big pile of shit so what’s a little more?” With that Qrow headed inside feeling far to smug.

The elevator ride was peaceful but as he walked into the room the rest of his family seemed rather solemn. “Hey what happened up here?”

Ozpin sighed as Ruby was snuggling with Wiess and James. “Oh Jacques just paid us a visit and happened to charge in while James was balls deep in riding Weiss. That went about as well as you’d imagine.”

Qrow couldn’t help it he burst out laughing. “Well that makes me feel even better what about what I just did.”

“What did you do?” Weiss asked horror creeping into her voice, she knew Qrow too well after all.

“Ohh, nothing really.” Qrow gestures in a circular manner with his hands.  “Shat on his head in bird form. Implied that I was fucking you and Winter and that James and I spit roasted you… Then he tried to accosted me and I might have threatened to relieve him of one of his hands. Oh and painted myself as a faunus cause I figured that would really get his goat.”

“QROW!!!” Weiss shot up cheeks flaming. “You can’t just do that kind of thing to my father!”

“Oh and I mentioned taking pictures of you next time James and I spit roast you and sending them to him because he’s just that kind of perverted bastard.”

Weiss shattered as her knees gave out. James caught her before she fell. “Oh my…”

“I dearly wish that was recorded with audio.” Ozpin said. “I’m just trying to imagine it right now. It sounds glorious, good work Qrow.”

Qrow bowed. “It was fun yes. Plus I’m enough of a nobody that he won’t find much when he looks me up.” He stood up and looked at his bloody hand again. “Excuse me I gotta clean the snob off of my hand.” Qrow headed off to a bathroom.

Weiss was still shattered, she knew Qrow was a wiseass. However she had never seen just how much of a wiseass he could be. Ruby found Weiss’s broken look funny, she slid over on the couch and patted her back. “There there, at least he didn’t flirt with him I wouldn’t put it past Qrow just to make Jacques uncomfortable.”

Qrow returned. “Yuck, I don’t do bad mustaches.”

Ozpin leaned over the back of the couch. “I propose a game. No rules, whoever makes Jacques the most uncomfortable wins. Extra points if he loses his temper.”

“You’re on.” Qrow and Oz fist bumped as the former crashed on the couch putting his head in Oz’s lap. “I mean without Glynda to shit disturb. What am I supposed to do?”

“But Qrow why?” Weiss asked distraught by what her dad now knew of her sex life.

“Why does anyone do anything?” Qrow sat up with flair raising his hands making them pop with his words. “Sheer absolute BOREDOM! I’ve lacked inspiration for ages~.” He swept a hand out, flicking it. “My work became mundane lacking focus. Aimless.” He pinched his thumb and forefinger drawing a line. “I’ve come to crave a new form of entertainment!” Qrow flopped kicking his feet up on the armrest. “Playing with Jacques will suit nicely.” Qrow checked his nails cleaning a bit of dirt out from under one and flicking it away.

“You’re only going to make it worse!” Weiss said her jaw on the floor.

“Consider it an investment in my ongoing entertainment!” Qrow stretched out over Oz’s lap. His hands were high over his head as he sprawled out presenting his chest for pets.

Ozpin undid the buttons of Qrow’s vest and shirt slipping his hand underneath to toy with one of the nipple piercings. Qrow purred a little quiver running through his body.

“Why do I put up with you?” Weiss pulled at her hair.

Qrow looked over and smirked. “Cause you like how I eat your pussy.”

Weiss raised a finger and opened her mouth to come back with a witty rebuttal. Only that failed miserably as her brain jumped out the back of her skull. “Uhh good point.” She pointed at him and slumped. “Well it’s too late to take anything back now.”

James chuckled. “I am sorely tempted by this game of yours Qrow. I mean he’s already seen me and it would be fun but if I do end up keeping my post as headmaster I shouldn’t completely let loose on him.”

“Hey there is fun to be had in the occasional snide comment!” Qrow bit his lip as Oz stroked down his torso with his entire hand.

“Perhaps, but I think that we all know you are going to win this game just because you don’t have the same public image to maintain. It will get you into trouble one of these days you know.”

Ozpin moved his hand to cup Qrow’s crotch massaging with a teasing roll of his fingers. “Well James if you don’t want Qrow playing with Jacques we’ll just have to take it upon ourselves to entertain him.”

“We both have work to do, I’m worried about what will happen when we aren’t looking.”

Weiss having recovered from the shock of her father's sudden arrival and Qrow utterly inappropriate but funny means of making her father uncomfortable. Was steadily being turned on by the moans and little restrained twitches that Qrow was making as Oz’s played with him. “Well we can’t stop him and having father put on the defensive would be very funny to watch.” She drew her fingers down James exposed front as an evil thought occurred to her. “Hey Ruby~, wanna help me with something?” She got up and turned to James putting her hands on his knees. “Spread them.”

James raised a bow but did as he was told, his erection was already getting very interested in these actions. Ruby got up and squirmed on the spot. After a moment's consideration she pulled off her trousers and underwear. Her bare butt had Qrow and Oz’s attention.

While she did that Weiss had stroked James to hardness. “So Ruby do you want to kiss or lick?”

Ruby thought that James looked composed but with Weiss between his legs stroking his cock with a loose fist. He did seem to have an edge to him that she was used to seeing on Oz when his control was fraying and he just wanted to rut. “Hmm.” She tapped her bottom lip with a finger. “I think kiss.” 

Chapter Text

Oz felt sweat dripping from his forehead as he focused all of his attention on the task at hand, quite literally. His arm had been placed against a padded bench and was stretched out in front of him. The mangled reddened limb weeped slightly and it smelt foul from sweat, blood and rot. Still he had Qrow’s eyes on him, holding him steady as he pushed with all his strength. 

His index finger slowly raised from the bench, the skin pulled but Oz could feel the individual tendons work despite the damage done. He lifted it as far as possible letting the digit stretch before bringing it back down. Qrow grinned at him. “That’s great Oz, now for the most important one, lets get that middle finger up. You’ll be telling those buggers to fuck off in no time. Let’s go!”

Motivated and somewhat amused Oz worked at bringing up the middle finger. It was more difficult than the index but easier than the thumb. His shoulder cried with the need to give up and Qrow could see it cloud his eyes. “Keep going, don’t you dare fucking drop it! Come on.”

Qrow was taking his role as Oz’s spotter with full support and for the most part it was helping. Hearing his voice, the coaching loving touch filled him with determination. He didn’t know if this would have the same effect from anyone else as Qrow was also lingering in Oz’s mind, continuing to offer support and fighting words to keep him going. 

This had all started when James informed Qrow that the Doctor they had seen yesterday was very hopeful that Oz could recover mobility in the limb that had lay rotting at his side for so long. The avian man was filled with so much glee that he had taken the pamphlet of physio from James and read through it several times before asking Oz if he would let him help. Ruby and Weiss had classes and James had headed into work, there was a conference this afternoon where he would be announcing the change in his running and wanted to be there to support Winter. 

Oz hadn’t planned on starting the physio today but Qrow had woken before him and made a wholesome breakfast before convincing him to begin. Oz had to hand it to Qrow, when the man wanted something he planned ahead for it. So that was why he was here now, in James’ training room, it was largely empty given that they all had preferred ways to practice that didn’t involve equipment. Mats covered the floor and there was one support beam that he was currently leaning on for his physio. 

Once Qrow was satisfied that Oz was working all of his fingers, he worked Oz through some hand curls. That was definitely more difficult, requiring his whole hand to roll and clench up but he got through a dozen before Qrow called for a short break, grabbing the bottle of water he had added some lemon to and passed it over. Oz took it gratefully in his good hand and swigged from it with only a slight grimace. He wasn’t a huge fan of lemon but he had to admit it was refreshing.

Qrow was taking his new role seriously, he had gotten up extra early to have every set up and ready for when Oz was awake. He knew that given the choice Oz would probably not go through with the physio, at least not alone so he was sticking to him to ensure at least some of it got done. His hand dipped into his trouser pocket, giving a light squeeze to the gift he had gotten his husband. 

“Right breaks over, let’s do some more clenching.” Qrow bounded up all but dragging Oz out of the chair. 

“Qrow please, can we just give it a break for today. I have a whole bunch of things I should be doing.” Oz wouldn’t say he was ungrateful but the pain in his arm was really distracting him and making it difficult not to become frustrated with the lack of progress. He knew it would take more than a day, he wasn’t daft and he knew it was going to be painful. He just didn’t want it to be. 

Qrow sensing Oz pull away decided to pull out his last trick for the day. “Well I got you something that should help.” At the questioning look he added. “A stress ball.”

“A stress ball? Why would I need that?” 

“Well it's something you can carry round with ya, do some physio in your own time. Plus with all that's happening I thought it would act as a good conductor for all that stress I see building up, right here.” Lovingly he poked at Oz’s forehead, then gave it a kiss uncaring that it was still a little sticky from sweat. 

Sighing but much happier Oz nuzzled his bird. “Thank you Qrow, I don’t deserve you.”

“Nah, its me who doesn’t deserve you but I got you anyway!” Qrow let his hands pet up and down Oz’s hips, gently gripping his love handles with a purr. “You want to start your clenching your stress ball?”

Oz smirked. “Not the kind of ball I want to fondle but okay.”

“Funny you should say that.” Qrow passed him over the stress ball and Oz let out a loud chuckle at its shape. “A boob stress ball?”

His husband only shrugged. “What? I thought you could do with some added motivation.”

Oz put the ball in his other hand, fingers curled around it just enough that it didn’t drop to the ground. It was flesh coloured with a bright pink nipple that rested against his thumb. He gave it an experimental squeeze, his broken hand twinged in pain but he could feel it give just that small bit. “Well I’d rather the real thing in all honesty.”

Qrow joined his merriment smiling widely. “Think about this way, get good with that and you’ll be squeezing the real thing soon enough.”

Oz gave another squeeze, this time a proper one and only smiled with the slight pain. “That is very motivating.” 

 


 

Weiss and Ruby, had chosen to sit in a corner high up in the layers of round metal desks. The class was winter survival, with winter around the corner a brush up lesson was in order. Which was part of why Weiss and Ruby were sitting in on. The professor was a retired Huntsman with a full head of grey hair pulled back into a ponytail. The two women sat just a little turned towards each other, presenting the illusion of being in their own little bubble. So far the teacher had covered compact snow tents, what a good camp location would look like. Where to not put your tent, for example on vegetation. Proper maintenance for snowshoes and much more. Currently he had a hiking backpack unpacked and its contents spread out on his desk and was going over all the equipment within.

A student raised a hand. “Professor is it worth bringing anti-contamination gear when every gram is important? It’s the middle of winter, what are the chances of running into contamination?”

“Our world is an old one and some of the worst evils are not Grimm. It is always better to be prepared rather than caught off guard. So the fifteen grams for the gear is worth it. Now how do you set up a winter kitchen?”

Ruby took notes as the class continued, how many calories to pack. The different types of MRE’s and how to tell if they had been damaged. Ruby did know all of this information already, she had travelled in all the seasons now on foot or horseback.

When the class ended Ruby and Weiss packed up and headed out. They got a small lunch from the cafeteria but when the staring and whispers began the two quickly retreated. They ended up in a window eve sitting and nibbling on their sandwiches. Those whispers didn’t stop, if anything they only got louder. Ruby gave her white pressed jacket a tug, seemingly trying to bury into it so as to not be seen. Weiss on the other hand sat up straighter, bolder and gave her redheaded friend a gentle smile.    

A group of girls about Weiss and Ruby’s age making them third year’s approached their quiet eve and stopped just short of the two women. Two were blonde while the last ones had black and brown respectively. Weiss noticed that all of them wore high line makeup, what little personal expression they were allowed to show as Atlas students. Weiss instantly noticed the body language of the leader. She had raised her nose and placed a hand on her hip.

“Can we help you?” Weiss asked as Ruby shivered and turned away from the newcomers and looked out the window. Her lunch finished so she pushed the tray out of the way and draw her legs up to wrap her arms around them.

“We just wanted to see if the oh so high and mighty Weiss Schnee had finally decided to grace us with her presence at our school. With a Beacon brat it seems.” The blonde was also the tallest girl.

Weiss let her brow drop and stood up. “Alright let’s make this clear. We are being put through an advanced course load and don’t have time to socialize. We need not come into contact. So don’t bother us.”

“Why we were just trying to be friendly. You’re the one to has refused to come to Atlas for three years.” The blonde sneered.

“I’ve been busy. Come on Ruby we have better things to do.” Weiss grabbed Ruby’s hand and pulled her up to her feet and they grabbed their trays.

Ruby let Weiss pull her along, she didn’t know what those girls wanted but was sure that Weiss knew best there. They turned their dishes in and Ruby asked. “So where do you want to go?”

“We could go hang out with James, there is a private room on his floor we can study in peace.”

 


 

Two figures emerged from an embarked airship that had arrived from Argus. They carried with them a heavy news that could possibly break their friends but carried themselves away from the airstrip and into academy of Atlas. Ren’s shoulders were slumped ever so slightly while Nora held his hand tightly, both looked like they hadn’t slept in days, which wasn’t too far from the truth. It had been a rough week and as much as they were looking forward to reuniting with the others it also felt daunting considering what they brought with them. 

The school was a far cry from anything they had seen before, Beacon had been homely and comfortable, Haven was cultural and calm. Atlas was like an icy ground of discipline and silence. Which made a lot of sense considering the high percentage of students went into military jobs upon graduation but still it hardly felt like a school at all.

Still they weren’t there to sight see and now that they were connected to Mantle’s communication tower the signal beacon for their friends was available again. Nora didn’t waste any time messaging Ruby and Weiss as they followed the directions to the headmaster’s office. 

The magenta eyed lad slumped a bit more as they wandered through the school to the main elevator. It was so unlike him and caused Nora to bury closer to him, silently offering her boyfriend support.

They found James, Ozpin, Qrow, Weiss and Ruby in James’s study on his floor rather then his office. Ruby and Weiss flew across the room and clobbered the other pair. “Oh we’ve missed you two so much!” Ruby cheered, hugging Ren and Weiss Nora. Ruby instantly could see that something was wrong when he did not return the embrace and pulled away. “Ren? Did something happen?”

Ren blinked away the tears that threatened to form and took a deep breath. “Hawk and Lydia are dead. Euclase is missing, they didn’t find any ash but I think Cinder waited for us to leave and-...” He bit his lip and hugged Ruby tight again. “I’m sorry.”    

Ruby felt the world crumble beneath her feet, like a hole opened up and swallowed her whole. Lydia… was dead? Euclase was missing? How? Why? “How?” She stuttered out trying for a desperate smile but the downtrodden and pain filled eyes of Ren’s confirmed that this was no joke. Her face slowly fell as tears, big and hot filled her eyes. “Nora?” 

“There was a break-in several people called in about screaming. Hawk’s body was found outside in the garden while Lydia was in the bedroom. S-she… it was quick.” Nora couldn’t bare to see the way they broke. Qrow’s face darkened while Oz simply went pale, one hand over his mouth. 

Weiss who was openly crying threw herself at James while Ruby just stood shell-shocked. None of them had ever seen her like this, not even when Tyrian had taken her. It was like she wasn’t even there. 

Ren stepped out of Ruby’s slack grip but she didn’t make any move and appeared not to hear him. “Ruby, we think, the group think Falcon might’ve gotten to Euclase and escaped, we couldn’t find their bodies or any sign that they … passed. So it’s possible she is safe and alive. Ruby? Can you hear me?” He still wasn’t getting any response from the redheaded huntress and gave her a gentle but insistent shake yet her eyes remained glossed over and empty. “Ruby!” 

James felt heat start to fill the air and looked over to Ozpin he could see the wide eyes and then saw the magic start to make them glow. James hurried everyone to the door, physically picking Ruby up as he felt Oz start to lose it. Ozpin let his legs go out from under him and hugged himself. His magic boiled under his skin usually it didn’t take any effort to keep it under wraps. Now… now Lydia was dead. His… Oz grabbed at his hair as the tears started to flow. He had made Lydia immortal like Qrow but it didn’t matter if she had been killed anyway. The air started to heat around him and the metal under him began to melt. The fire suppression went off only to get melted when the magic lashed out in arcs. He screamed, unable to keep the pain in. 

The glass panned window behind him exploded outward, he didn’t even feel the sudden rush of cold air that rushed into the room. The furniture in the room either combusted or melted with his magic. Body coiled tightly Oz’s tears burned away between his grief and fury. Why Lydia? Why his mother? The one woman who had seen this powerful being, so broken from life and had gathered him in her arms. Shared her home and knowledge with him, cared for him, healed him and then gave him the tools to grow strong again. Now she was gone, the hole in his soul wept and howled like a wolf. Even the door started to melt. Lydia was gone, Euclase was missing or worse. It was their fault, they had left them.

Ozpin didn’t even notice the pain in his arm as he grabbed at the ground, regret burned through him. Regret and anguish that he had never said what he had felt. He had been able to hear it in her voice over and over, seen it in her eyes, felt it in her every touch and yet …  he had been too much of a coward to reciprocate, to say what she wanted to hear. “Mother.” Oz force the word out, his voice crack. “My mother.”

The magic started to calm as pained rage switched to pure pain. He dropped his head and took deep shuddering breaths as the tears streamed unbidden. First, his mother died and now his daughter was missing. His baby girl Ren... Ren had said that Falcon might have saved Euclase. That Hawk had been found dead. From the brief time he had met them and from what stories he had been able to pry from Qrow, the two wouldn’t have parted without a fight. 

There would be no finding Falcon, he had managed to hide a whole tribe for decades. Finding him on his own with just a baby. It would be impossible to find them. Perhaps that proved true for Cinder as well. Ozpin focused on that fact, Falcon would keep their baby safe. Lydia was dead but she would want him to do the right thing, stay in Atlas and do his job. Oz called all the power in took several deep breaths and stood up. Ruby, Ruby need him.

 


 

Outside, James had shut the heavy doors behind them, sighing as he let his head thud lightly against the door. This was a disaster, he couldn’t even imagine the pain Qrow, Oz and Ruby were going through. Speaking of Ruby, once outside he had released her body but she remained unresponsive. James didn’t know what to do.  

The hallway was silent as the faint sounds of glass breaking came from within. Time passed and Qrow kept his eye on his wife. Ruby’s expression was blank, like a plain white mask. He very carefully slipped into her mind, her soul and felt her agony. Hands ached to hold the missing weight her arms had grown used to, memories are babbling and cooing, a sweet and pleasant sound surrounded her mind. Physically Ruby’s arms without thought cradled the nonexistent baby in her arms. Those hands twitched and Qrow saw the moment Ruby came back and the anguish that painted her face. His body was moving before he had even registered the fact that Ruby was running. His arms came around her form a few feet from the window, caging her against him. Then the wailing began.

“LET GO QROW! I NEED TO FIND MY BABY!” Ruby fought against his iron hold, every single one of her instincts screaming at her to go and find Euclase. She didn’t know where she was going or how, all she wanted was to search high and low for her child and nothing would stop her. 

Qrow tightened his grip, almost painfully as he felt Ruby wiggle and fight her way out of his hands, his mind felt the moment when she touched her Semblance. Her scent became stronger and her body attempted to dissolve into petals. He couldn’t let her go like this, so with a silent apology he gathered his own Aura and focused it in on Ruby. He had never attempted this on her before and started draining her Aura through their bond. 

Unfortunately he hadn’t accounted for the sheer magnitude of emotions that came with her Aura. His own pain and fear was like a drop of water compared to her roaring ocean. Her thoughts and feelings destroyed him inside but he held his grip. If he let go now there was the very real possibility that he could lose his wife altogether. 

“LET GO!” Ruby shouted, she felt her Aura weakening and pushed her Semblance. She needed to be free! That’s when two gloved hands took hold on each side of her head. Ruby hadn’t even noticed James return until he stood in her path, his face sincere and sad as he held her face. Her half petaled form was suddenly pushed back together, James using his own Semblance to hold her petal form so she could not disperse. 

Ruby sobbed loudly, her tears red like her petals. “Please let me go! My baby, she needs me.” 

“Shhh.” James held her still, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. While Qrow drained the last of her Aura, forcing her body to go slack between them. “Ruby calm down, I know it hurts but you need to think.”

There was a wet cracking down as Ozpin used magic to remove the doors he had melted. Cold air rushed into the room and they all shivered. Oz look in the red tears on Ruby’s cheeks. His own were staining his face. “Ruby.” Words failed him, he reached for the bond and let her feel what he wanted. That they couldn’t do anything and that their daughter was probably safer then they could make her.

Ruby and by association Qrow collapsed together onto the floor, James backed away as Ozpin knelt beside them and lifted his arms to hug them. His left arm hurt and bleed but he wanted to hold, to protect, to shoulder all the pain. His mother was dead. Even Qrow started to cry as they huddled together, the combination of Oz and Ruby’s emotions too much for him to fight along with his own.

Weiss was huddled with Ren and Nora but moved to James once he was no longer needed to keep Ruby from slipping from between their fingers. James wanted to take them all home. To let them hide and regroup. “Let’s get you all home. You don’t want to be seen in this state, not in public.”

Ozpin pulled his husband and wife to their feet as he stood. “Yes I agree, will you be staying James or do you need to work?”

“I can leave. Winter has taken over just about all of the military tasks now. She has to hold her own press conference announcing her running for the military seat.” James held Weiss but her hip as they all started to walk towards the door. “Ren, Valkyrie, I have a room already set aside for Ruby and Weiss at the school. You are welcome to it.” He pulled out his Scroll and pulled up a map and showed it to them.

Ren took a picture. “We will find it. You guys need the time on your own.”

The group parted ways, Ren and Nora leaving to rest for the rest of the day while the others headed back to James place. Ozpin held his partners together till they got to the flat rather than settle onto the couches he took them straight to their bedroom.

James remembered Oz’s home at Beacon in detail and the room he had furnished for them reflected that. The walls done a nice emerald green, the large room was lined with bookshelves as well as a wardrobe, chest of drawers and a walk in closet as well as a large round mirror cradled in orante ironwood. The mirror was almost a full meter taller than Ozpin and was facing the bed. It was crafted of the same ironwood with green and red bedding. On either side were a pair of shuttered windows.

Ruby pulled away from Oz the minute they were inside and yanked her clothes off dropping them carelessly on the floor. She burrowed under the duvet in the middle of the large bed and refused to move even when Qrow sat on the edge and put a hand on her hip. Oz stood by the door as he closed it behind him. Ruby wasn’t even directly thinking anything, he could feel that through the bonds. Qrow was at a loss, like it hadn’t really sunk in that they had lost their baby. “If Falcon does have her. She’s safe.”

Qrow’s fist clenched the fabric strained between his fingers. “My father .” He spat the word. “Raising my baby doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“Your mother was the one with her screws a bit loose. From what I’ve seen in your memories Falcon has the potential to be a good parent. You know that family has always been important to the Branwens. Euclase is Falcon’s family, he’s our family. Whether you like it or not.” Ozpin walked over and started shedding layers and tossing them on a loveseat facing the left window.

“So what? You’re suggesting we just what? Trust my father?!” Qrow got up and started towards his husband he could barely believe what Oz was suggesting.

“What choice do we really have?” Oz unbuckled his trousers. “Even if you flew out right now, you’d have no idea of where to start looking. You father hid from you for the better part of a decade, he hid a whole freaking tribe! Now he’s only got one baby girl to hide. Fact of the matter is that you won’t find him unless he wants you to find him. If it comes to that he’ll come to us. So if we are running around the planet, what are the odds that he’ll find us easily?” He set the last of his clothes over the back of the loveseat.

Qrow tried not to let himself be distracted by the nudity as much as part of it made him relax. The familiarity of it and the vulnerability of it. “I can’t just stay put! How can you be so calm Lydia-.”

“I just melted James office I am anything but calm.” Ozpin strode over, tall and proud. “Trust me when we meet Cinder again she won’t get away. She will pay” The tall man stopped before Qrow with a clenched fist.

There was a knock on the door and James stepped in. “Sorry but… you should read this Oz. Ren gave it to me.” He held up the envelope. “Sorry I peaked.”

Ozpin walked over and took it from him. He flipped the flap open and the fluid handwriting of Lydia stood out at him. To my Dearest Oz. Oz took a deep breath and pushed the letter back down. “Mind if I use your room? I want to be alone for this.”

“By all means.”

Ozpin walked through the joined bathrooms and sat on James’s bed. The envelope in his hand felt heavy, his heart pounded as his chest ached from the pain. Carefully he pulled the thick parchment free, he could see at a glance that it was all handwritten. The familiar swirl of Lydia’s penship caused tears to start threaten his eyes again. “No, can’t do this. Haven’t even started reading it yet.” He rubbed his eyes. “Right. Okay.”

 

To my Dearest Oz.

 

I know that someday you will have to read this. I’ve thought long and hard about how to make this less painful for you. I know that our bond is one that you cherish, I love you dearly. I know our relationship has long confused you. When I met you, you were a lost battered broken soul. All you knew was loneliness and pain, whether you knew it or not. However that was a long time ago. I have always been honoured to be your teacher. I think you know that I haven’t felt like your lover for a very long time. I know you have felt the same. You don’t come to me for a lover, you came to me for love. Skogr saw it first, that you didn’t need a teacher, a Mistress, those roles were just a way to extend the olive branch. You needed a family. There was a reason whenever we did any lessons it was just you and me. To him you were a son.

You were our son. He tried to be the father, the grounding point you desperately needed. He did his best to let you be the child that you hide so hard, the innocence that still persists, somewhere deep inside you. I know you don’t remember your birth family. The human mind is only so good when it comes to remembering and you’ve been around for so long that there are just some things I don’t think you’ll ever remember. Maybe the memories are stored in your soul and maybe you’ll be able to access them someday. I almost hope that you don’t. What good would there be for you to remember a civilization that is dead? 

I guess what I am trying to say is that one thing I wish for you to do. Is to let the past go. You have a family who loves you. Live Ozpin. Live in the present, hope for the future, fight for it.  I know how you take pain and loss, I know that you will drive them away with my death. I beg you not to do that. You have the heart of a guardian. Let it shine through, don’t be angry, don’t try and avenge me. Take care of your family. Take care of Ruby and Qrow. Of your beautiful little baby, to all the children that will come. For I am sure there will be many. 

Don’t worry about me or my soul. Throw your heart into your family and who knows. Maybe I’ll reincarnate into one of your children and you can raise me this next time around.

 

Oz had to move the paper so he didn’t cry on it. “I’d like that.” He croaked and tried to clear his eyes again.

 

I have left everything to you my becan valen. My little brave one. My home, my businesses and yes Greten knows how to run everything and will do so till you want it. I have even had lengthy talks with the Wald, it knows you are it’s guardian. My barren womb never gave me a child but you are it in all but blood and the magic of my family is aware of that fact. So when you have a chance, go to your new forest. I am sure it will have something new to teach you.

I’m not sure how to end this? How does one say all the things they have left? I want you to be good. To rise above this, you are not a hateful person. It’s one of the things I love most about you, the world has been cruel to you and yet you don’t hate you live. Please don’t lose that. Don’t change because of this, I want you to keep moving forward. I know that you could break, that you have loved me like a mother for a while now. I know it confuses you. Don’t grieve for me with that confusion making it worse. We are family. Live and love. Fight Salem if you need too, fight the Gods themselves if they cross you. You have the capacity to be anything you set your mind to, to crave a path for our world. However don’t feel that you need to. If you really wish for it, then my home is yours to come back too. You’d make an excellent designer, you’re family could retire to a civilian life for as long as you desire. Just choose for yourself, if you need it to the world will attend to itself. It always has and it always will.

Goodbye my lovely son. You brightened my life and made it worth living. I cherished every letter you sent me from Beacon. I loved hearing about how you relearned to love. I wish you every success in life, be good for me. Give Ruby, Qrow and Euclase a kiss for me. Oh and before I forget I wrote down all your favourite recipes in my recipe book. It’s hidden in my bedside table, make something for me will you? Not when you get this obviously but just know all your comfort foods have been written down for you. Feeding you always made me so happy. Seeing you smile, listening to your laugh or singing your songs. Even when I could have sworn I adopted a moody teenager. You brought me such joy. 

 

Goodbye with all my love. My beautiful son. May we meet again either striding the In-Between or when I pass through the wheel. Know that one day I will find you. Death is just one stage of existence and no force in this universe will keep me from you.

 

Lydia Soulstar Ivanova

 

Ozpin had to set the letter side as he curled up and cried. He had wanted to do the very thing she asked him not to do. To get revenge. She was right about him though he thrived on protecting people. They were what was important not vengeance. This wasn’t the end not really, there was still the In-Between and reincarnation. She wasn’t gone, a vessel soul like hers would be reborn without withering away or changing through absorbing another soul. Even in death she was still out there. So was Euclase. They weren’t gone, they were both safe in their own ways.

Oz remembered he still had a Chime of Berath tied into his soul. He wondered if he could ring it and travel the In-Between to look for Lydia. Say a proper goodbye, Pyrrha was still following him so it was possible that Lydia would choose to linger there as well. Ozpin staggered to his feet cleaning his eyes as he went. There was a bare patch of floor and Oz walked over to it before falling to his knees. He conjured a knife and cut his wrist. He made a perfect circle of blood around him before healing his wrist. Oz closed his eyes and reached for the chime.

It was a soft sound, not at all like when Berath summoned him to speak with him. He could feel the first cold and then the warmth. Oz opened his eyes to see the star scape of the In-Between around him. The ground beneath him lit in an ethereal purple. He looked around and saw that he was on a strange flat tundra plain. A pool of water was several steps away as he got up though he found he did not stand on two legs but three. 

He walked over to the pool expecting some difficult walking with a wounded leg yet it was surprisingly easy, as if he had been doing it for a long time. Oz looked down into a black star filled pool and a huge white wolf face looked back at him. His right eye was missing as was his ear. The wolf’s left leg was there but the fur was missing and it looked horribly atrophied. Any kind vet would have taken it off. Ozpin noticed as a wolf he stood at about the same height as he did as a man, maybe a bit taller. Wisps of purple light clung to his white fur. Oz lowered his black nose and booped the water, watching as it rippled out around it. Reflections on the edges drew his attention to where would have been his room had he been in the living world.

He walked over in a slow gait and found the ‘room’. In the middle of it where the bed would be was a small white cat curled into a tiny ball cloaked in purple light. Beside it was a raven the size of a great dane dog also cloaked in purple. It hunkered down as though bracing for a storm. The raven looked at him with eyes of black with a ring of red. Qrow? Ozpin wondered walking over to the pair in their little glade. He looked down at the tiny Ruby. Lydia said she was a new soul, is that why she is so small and why I am so large? Oz lowered his head again and sniffed the little white cat. Roses and rainfall. Defiantly Ruby. He licked over her ears and the little cat mewed and rubbed her ear. It then went to sleep, a deep peaceful sleep.

Oz turned his attention to the raven, he licked over it’s head as well. It ruffled it’s feathers but then relaxed as well to sleep moving a wing over the cat. You two will be okay while I am gone. If this is our bedroom, James and Weiss must be close as well. He turned his attention to where he guessed was the doorway and followed the purple path to another glade. In this one was a small lynx. Bigger than Ruby’s soul but smaller than Qrows. Like Ozpin she had a white pelt but it was smooth and silky. It’s long ears were had silver fur in perfect arcs from the tips. Her spots were a light blue like the colour of Weiss’s eyes.

What curled around the lynx made Oz’s heart pound a little faster. The last soul was big, if it was standing Ozpin had a feeling it would stand at least five feet at the shoulder and it was long to match. It was an amur leopard. It’s long white pelt had black splotches and he lifted his huge head to look at Oz. Dark blue eyes. James, you’re old soul like me. As it moved Ozpin could see half of it’s fur was missing, pale white skin was all there was on it’s right side. Both cloaked in that same purple glow. So the pain of the body reflects on the soul. Ozpin walked over with his uneven gait and groomed James’ huge feline head. The big cat started to purr and curled up tighter around it’s lynx counterpart. Oz moved to the lynx and they were both soon fast asleep.

When he turned away Pyrrha was standing beside him. She hadn’t changed from the last time she saw him, a little fuzzy around the edges. “You know.” She said softly. “It’s not good to wander out of your body. This place is for the dead Oz, you should wait till you die.” Then she frowned. “Then again, I’ve been asking the other souls and they say you lose your mind when you die. There is a reason you’re a ‘big bad wolf’.”

“I need to find Lydia, I need to say goodbye. I want to say goodbye to her as my mother.” Ozpin tired to speak but only whines came from his lupine throat.

“You’re here to find your mom. I know, I read the letter over your shoulder.” Pyrrha said with a small smile. “I know where she is, sorta. I’ve found I can feel and find whoever I want to. Well if they are still here. Give me a ride and I will guide you.”

Oz loped over to her and knelt down pressing himself to the ‘earth.’ Pyrrha climbed up onto his back and sat on his collar. She raised a hand and a white star formed to Oz’s south. “Follow that. Be fast though Oz, this really isn’t good for you. All the visiting you did while on Refuge was bad enough.”

Ozpin tried to run and found so long as he didn’t think about it too much it change naturally. He galloped through tundra and forest. Other souls were indistinguishable purple human shapes. Sometimes it felt like there was grass under his paws, other times nothing and when he looked down it was just empty space with stars or purple path to follow. Time and distance, they didn’t feel normal. It felt like he was running through time and space, like he had been running for days and yet minutes at the same time.

Down the light guided him, till the scenery changed and he recognized Beacon tower. Vale itself the bridges and buildings but the light urged him onward. He raced over the rolling waves of the sea and felt the cold of Death. The Gates of Death were connected to the In-Between through the sea. His left arm ached as he did. The sand under his paws when they reached Patch was black but as soon as he touched it. Patch seemed like the real Patch. It’s forests were familiar and the light guided him to Taiyang’s house.

Pyrrha jumped off his back as they arrived at the front door and opened it for him. They walked into the kitchen and there three souls within. One was a falcon just a little smaller than Qrow. On the counter was a kitten and it was about the size of a normal three month old kitten. However unlike a normal kitten, it had black stripes. It’s ears were longer standing straight up and tufted like Oz’s own one good ear. Lastly just a little bit longer than her body were black raven wings. As dark as Qrow’s hair.

Oz’s one good gold eye widened as he couldn’t stop himself. “EUCLASE!” The howling bark filled the room. The kitten who had been looking at the falcon spun around on all fours, her eyes were shining silver. “PAPA!” She bounced across the counter and collided with Oz’s neck as he curled it around her as best he could. His daughter instantly started to purr and knead his fur as he dropped to the floor. “My baby, my baby we just heard we are so worried about you.” The words tumbled from Oz’s throat in long humming rumbles.

The kitten mewed as she dropped down landing on his huge front paws so he could look at her. “I’m okay, granddad is taking care of me. He saved me from the fire lady. He can’t hear me though and it’s very annoying. He says we can’t go find you, dad and momma because you are magnets for trouble and if we go to you we will find trouble.”

Ozpin found her mewing to be the most adorable sound he had never heard. “Well Falcon is not wrong there. We had a theory you were with him but your mother is beside herself with worry. I wish you could come see her.”

“I was just about to have some lunch but I can have a nap instead. Or you can wait a bit and I can eat and then sleep. Granddad will find that less weird.” Euclase bounced off his paws and flew up onto the counter with a wobbly flight back to where she had been sitting before. She opened her mouth and the falcon gave her a little piece of what just appeared to be purple energy.

A giggle drew Ozpin’s attention and he looked to the doorway he had neglected for the complete tunnel vision for his daughter. His heart melted and he whined at the sight. “Mother.”

Lydia stood there, so perfect, just as he remembered her. She wore her sexy cobalt blue dress, her eyes were done up with her blue smoke. Her hair was now black and cascading down her back in a wave of curls. Not a strand of grey in sight. “Hello my son. I’m sorry we can’t talk directly. Though it seems Euclase can understand you.” She walked over and reached for him.

Ozpin shoved his huge head against her chest. “Mother, mother, mother, read my mind. I want you to hear me say it.”

“I hear you.” Lydia said stroking through his fur as she hugged him. “You have the most amazing soul. I knew you were an old strong soul but not that it looked like this.”

Oz couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Big silver things of soul essence that made Lydia’s soul glow brighter whenever they touched her. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it. You’re my mother, I was just always so confused about it. My rational side said that feelings can change but the rest of me couldn’t say anything and felt it weird.”

“I know, I am a telepath after all. You were feeling it even if you couldn’t say it and that was enough for me.” Lydia pet through his fur snuggling him tight. “My darling brave Oz. Even you had your limits and I respect them.”

“I’m so sorry. I should have been there to protect you. I should have said it and now you are gone.” Oz pressed his head against her chest harder, he could feel her warmth. Hear that heartbeat he knew so well. He tried to commit it to memory.

“I knew this was a possibility when I sent you away. Hawk and Falcon as well as Adam have been lurking outside of our house for months. I had hoped Adam, Cinder and Neo would follow you away but I underestimated Cinder’s maddess. To kill a child takes something that I can’t even comprehend. Thankfully Hawk and Falcon were there too help.” Lydia kissed his head. “Don’t grieve for me my son. I am still here.”

“But will you leave? In your letter-.”

“When I wrote that letter I did not know what death was like. Yes it’s dangerous but I managed to follow Falcon and Euclase this far and Pyrrha has learned how to fight here and she is teaching me. I have been keeping Euclase company. Falcon can’t understand her and she needs someone who can. We’ve managed to form a tethering bond. Me to her, it does help protect me as well and lets her see me in the living world.” Lydia laughed. “I am a ghost. A spirit and I will keep her safe properly this time. Having a tie to the living world lets me do some interesting things.”

“So you’ll stay? As yourself? Won’t turn through the wheel? I don’t have to lose you?” Ozpin pulled his head away so he could look at her better.

“No you don’t. I’ll stay till I’m not needed anymore. Pyrrha here is waiting for you to die so you can consume her. She wants you to use soul energy to fight Cinder, finish what she started as it were.”

Ozpin looked over to Pyrrha who had moved to sit on the counter and was petting Euclase. “Can you ask her to explain it? I don’t understand what happens to me when I die. She said earlier that she’s heard stories about it.”

“Pyrrha dear, Ozpin wants to know what you’ve heard about him after death. What happens to him?” Lydia reached over and stroked Oz’s neck.

“The older souls I’ve talked to say you go mad. That you become the wolf you look like and eat other souls. That it strengthens your soul and gives fuel for your magic when you return to life.” Pyrrha explained. “It’s why you’re stronger with magic with every new body. It’s why when you started using magic again you felt a bigger pool. Not only is there power in your old magic that you gave to the maidens but in what you’ve been collecting for the last five centuries. You eat us.” The warrior put her hands on her chest. “I’m not like Lydia and Euclase I can’t touch the living world. When you go mad, when you soul is taking in energy again I want you to eat me so I can help against Cinder.”

    “So I can’t do that now? Though I don’t want too, I’d get her memories wouldn’t I?”

Lydia relayed Oz’s question and Pyrrha spoke again. “Your soul is too tethered to the living world right now. Too much flesh in the way right now. As for not wanting too, I’ll just put myself in your path when you’re not yourself. You might not even know it when you eat me. Take it as my last wish.”

“I don’t like that idea at all, but I guess I won’t have much say at the manner.” Ozpin nuzzled Lydia again.

It was very strange to see then the falcon to pick up the kitten and walk up further into the house. Ozpin rose but he was too large to move through the house. Euclase crawled up Falcon’s shoulder and mewed. “I won’t be long!”

Oz couldn’t keep from whining as she disappeared upstairs. Lydia wove her fingers into his fur. “Just be patient. When we sleep our souls are free to roam farther from our bodies. I will even come north with you. Pyrrha can escort us back, you really shouldn’t spend to much time in this state.”

“Come outside?”

Pyrrha cocked her head and Lydia smiled. “Sure.”

They walked outside and Lydia took a breath savoring the starry world she now lived in. Oz nudged her gently away from the house with his head and she laughed as the giant wolf coiled himself tight around her in a big fluffy shield of white warmth. “Aww you are so cute my ‘little’ love. Even if you’re always going to be bigger than me it seems.”

Ozpin licked her from her chin to the top of her head. “I don’t think it matters mom.”

Lydia felt her heart melt at his address. “Me neither. Gosh I am glad that I didn’t have to go through the wheel right away.” She hugged his snout.

Pyrrha had followed them outside, she loved this part about being dead. She had learned so much about Oz, not the man who had run a school, nor the one who fought a secret war behind closed doors. Now he was just a man, conflicted, confused but loveable man. A husband and a father. She couldn’t be angry about her death, it hadn’t been his fault, she had made her choice to fight Cinder and that had killed her.

Euclase bounced out of the door half flying as she went. “Papa! Papa! Papa!” She flew with a wobble of her tail and collided with his cheek. She rubbed her tiny cheek against his and purred her heart out. She dropped down onto into Lydia’s awaiting hands. “Let’s go see Mama.”

“Pyrrha you’ll have to be our guide again. I don’t really know my way around the In-Between.” Lydia asked as Euclase crawled up onto her chest and kept purring. The elder woman hugged the baby to her chest.

Ozpin got up but kept hunkered down letting the two human shaped figures climb up his back. Euclase jumped away and landed right in his hackles. She turned on the spot kneading as she went, Oz’s fur was so long she almost got lost in it. Oz couldn’t help the low growl that rumbled up from his throat. “Watch those claws missy.”

“You’re a big bad wolf you can handle it.” Euclase snuggled down. “Besides your my papa, you put up with everything I do.”

Oz rolled his eye he could feel Lydia laughing from her spot on his back. Pyrrha conjured her star light again and Ozpin started to run back the way he came. It was strange to move through the In-Between for it was not linear, how they gained and lost altitude Oz could never really tell. It didn’t feel like he went up or down. It was not the same as flying there was always something under his paws. He did notice the further north they went the bleaker the place felt, for all the stars and lights there were fewer souls and those that were present were newer. 

Oz found his way back to the flat and went straight for his husband and wife. They had been joined by James and Weiss at some point. A big pile of cats plus a raven, it was very odd to look at. Ozpin was sure he could curl around all of them and they’d all be shielded and warm against his belly. Euclase couldn’t hold herself still, as soon as her dad and mom came into view she was off her papa’s back and gliding down to them. “Mama dada! Papa brought me to see you!” She jumped straight into the little white cat of Ruby and started to rub her cheek against her mothers and purr her heart out.

Lydia and Pyrrha got down from the Oz but none of the others moved. Ozpin whined as Euclase tried to wake Ruby up. He tried to feel for the bonds to push what he was seeing through them.

Ruby woke with a start, she could see the In-Between instantly and Ozpin sitting in his wolf soul at the foot of the bed. There was a mewing in her ears, she reached out and could feel soft feathers against her fingers. Qrow woke beside her only for Weiss and James to quickly follow. Lydia was using her gift and letting them see what Ruby did.

“My baby!” Ruby cuddled Euclase tight to her chest. She couldn’t directly see her but her soul was singing at the closeness of her baby. She could feel her, hear the darling mews. Tears welled up in her eyes as she cuddled the kitten. “Oz how?”

Ozpin’s words were heard by all. “Berath put a chime in my soul, I wanted to say goodbye to Lydia. Instead I learned she has chosen to stay in the In-Between to help protect Euclase. She is with Falcon in you fathers house right now. As safe as can be.”

“Lydia is here?” Weiss’s words were choked with tears as she reached for Euclase. She could feel the kitten’s wings.

“I am. I am still dead and I can not come back but I am not gone. I will stay, living in this In-Between is rather nice and I get to look after my granddaughter.” They would hear her musical laugh. “I am a strange version of a spirit or hehehe maybe more like the fairy godmothers of the stories. Euclase tied my soul to hers, so long as that bond is intact I am safe and capable of reaching into the living world. Weiss you look like you need to drink something. You all look awful, someone should make tea.”

Qrow couldn’t help the tears, hearing her speak to them even if he couldn’t see her. “Even in the afterlife trying to take care of us.”

“Always.”

Ozpin tried to focus the bonds to let them see but the connection still had to go through his body and it was difficult to manipulate. Cold was starting to creep into him. Something was wrong, but he wanted to give them more time. “See Ruby, it’s not all lost. It has only changed, our family is still within reach. Our baby is safe and Lydia will still look after her.”

“I wish I could see you.” Ruby rubbed her cheek against Euclase’s she could feel the fur, the purring rumbled through her bones. “My little baby girl.”

Qrow reached out and held them both lowering his face to feel little paws on his chin. He could hear the purring. “Hello little love. I’m so happy to hear you are safe. I could come and get you from my father.”

“Granddad is nice, he says that I will be safer away from you. I miss you but the fire lady is still out there.”

Ruby and Qrow’s hearts pounded hearing clear words from their baby girl. They didn’t care about asking how, for all they knew she was projecting directly into their heads. “I’ll be okay mama and dada. I really miss you.”

The tears flowed freely. Qrow choked out. “You’ve spent too much time with Lydia.”

“And I’m the Relics baby too, I’m super smart and I can see the future in bits and pieces. So stay put mama and dada and papa. Bad things would happen if you came and got me. I’m safe and Grandda is nice. He’s gonna become like you dada and that needs to happen and it will happen faster if he’s looking after me.”

The cold got worse and Ozpin pulled his eye away from his family. “Lydia, Pyrrha. I feel something, something cold.”

Lydia relayed the feeling but Pyrrha had already conjured a spear into her hand. “We have to go, the Scourges can feel Euclase and Ozpin. They both need to get back to their bodies.”

“Ruby, Qrow. Euclase and I can’t stay in the In-Between, something is coming for us. Please let her go. Pyrrha should I stay and take you back?”

Lydia moved onto the bed and touched Qrow and Ruby, they could feel her. Gently she took the little kitten from Ruby. “I’m sorry, but we have to go. Living souls don’t belong outside of their bodies like this.”

“But my baby.” Ruby started to cry again. “Lydia please!”

“You’ll see her again but she’s not safe so far away from her body. I promise Ruby I’ll keep her safe.” Lydia walked over to Pyrrha. “No Oz, you don’t have to come with us. We can travel just as well without you. Come down here please.”

Ozpin lowered his head and Lydia kissed his cheek. “Now get back into your body before the Scourges arrive to grind your soul to dust.”

Oz forced himself to back away, Lydia and Pyrrha picked up their feet and ran quickly vanishing into the ever shifting ether of the In-Between. He walked back to his body and touched his own cheek with his nose. Reality came crashing down around him the chime in his soul rang and rang like thunder in his ears. He’s vocal cords let out a yell as he slapped his hands over his ears as he fell onto the floor trying to block out the sound but it was all around him, in him. He couldn’t get away from it.

“Oz Oz!” James raced over to him and as Oz writhed on the floor. Patterns of ice covered his body in a network of cuts like a perversion of falling snow. “Oz, whatever you are hearing it’s not real.”

The chime started to quiet, then slowly faded away leaving Oz gasping on the floor. His Aura quickly healed his wounds. James was as nude as he was, Oz looked up and found it odd to be seeing with two eyes. “James.” The word was hoarse and broken. “I’m so cold.”

“Come on, lets get that blood off.” James grabbed Oz but his arms and helped him to his feet. They stumbled to one of the showers, it was a walk in one with three heads so high that it was comfortable even for the two tall men. James got the water going letting it get piping hot before shoving Oz who still shivered in. There was a yelp as Oz tried to get away while the hot water pelted his skin. “Oww.”

James ran his hands through Oz’s hair. “You can deal you big baby.” The water was running red under them. Ozpin could see it as he shivered more. “Gosh I never noticed being cold.”

“I figure it was an after effect of whatever eloping into the In-Between did to you.” James grabbed a cloth and started to rub Oz down.

“I’m okay James I can do that. Just waiting to thaw out.”

The bathroom door crashed open and Ruby collided with him. Qrow was right behind her but he stayed out of the showers range. “Thank you, thank you thank you.” The tears poured down her face. “You brought my baby to me.”

Ozpin hugged her as best he could. “She’s safe and sound. Lydia will keep her all the safer. They aren’t gone.” He could feel Ruby’s nails digging into his back as she cried. He stroked over her now wet hair as best he could with his left hand. The action hurt but he was already in the shower so what did it really matter?

James took over petting for Oz as he saw the pain the action caused. Slowly the sobbing finally stopped, Lydia was still dead but at least she wasn’t gone. Ozpin finally warmed up. “Come on, enough of this sadness. Lydia doesn’t want us to grieve, I think we should hit the kitchen and make something.”

Ruby pulled away and rubbed the clear water over her face trying to wash away the tear tracks. “I saw some brussel sprouts in the fridge yesterday. Doing something with those sounds fun.”

Fear struck Oz’s heart, oh dear no! Not the evil mini cabbages! Determined he showed no fear. “Whatever makes you happy love.”

The silver eyed warrior gave him a wobbly smile and led the way out of the shower. James turned off the water and helped Oz dry off. “That’s really not necessary James-.” James slung the towel around Oz’s waist and pulled their bodies flush and took his lips in a kiss. It quickly grew deep and wet, their audience deeply enjoying it as well. Oz gripped James’s shoulder with his good hand, he was trying to get used to the taste of James. He couldn’t really put his finger on what the Atlassian tasted like. Hits of whisky were sometimes present other times he tasted almost earthy. It was a conundrum that needed thorough testing to solve.

James withdrew from the kiss and enjoyed the flush to Oz’s skin, he knew he was no better but his beard hid it a bit. Oz leaned against him. “So what was that about?”

The blue eyed man shrugged. “You looked like you needed a kiss, we’ve been so busy lately, proper hanging out and getting to know each other has been on the back burner.”

“Point there. Though we should get some clothes on, I have learned to never cook in the buff it’s just asking for trouble.”

Laughter filled the room as they separated to get dressed in as little as possible. Ruby held herself together, though the pain of knowing Lydia was still dead the knowledge that at least she wasn’t gone was comforting. Her greatest relief was knowing that Euclase was safe, well she wasn’t sure she trusted Falcon but at least Lydia was watching over Euclase. Even Pyrrha was still around, gosh all this talk of the dead not being gone felt strange. However she’d take her hope wherever she could find it. She headed into the kitchen and set about retrieving her beloved brussel sprouts. She figured that it would be nice to bake them with olive oil and salt.

James joined her and set about making steaks they worked in companionable silence while they heard. Qrow and Weiss gang up on Ozpin for cuddles. Everyone was in a better mood now, Lydia’s visit hadn’t erased the loss of her death but at the same time it helped them cope to know that she was alright. After washing and drizzling her brussel sprouts how she liked them she set about washing potatoes.

“Are… are you going to be okay?” James asked, he tried to soften his tone. He wasn’t quite sure how to approach Ruby yet. Ozpin was easy, he was the head of their family unit so they had just adopted a lead by example approach. Ruby was trickier, he didn’t know her beyond that she meshed well with Ozpin, Qrow and Weiss. Weiss had mentioned that she was likely the threesomes submissive which again made her harder to approach. Especially when she was arguably in a more delicate mental state.

The silver eyed warrior put her knife down as she bit her bottom lip hard. “I-I don’t know. Euclase is with her granddad and he was the calm one when I met him last. Lydia has stayed with her so again part of me thinks that she as safe as she could be. Falcon is very good at hiding. The other part just wants her back, she is my baby.” Ruby’s hands went to her stomach. “Sometimes my breasts still ache, I haven’t told Oz and Qrow yet but... I miss being pregnant. I got so used to having another life within me, another soul close to mine. Part of me desperately wants another baby, but I know that is stupid and it’s just the distance. That if I had her in my arms I’d be fine.”

“Separation anxiety, I’ve read that it’s fairly common among mothers who’ve bonded tightly to their child.” James flipped the steaks.

“You’ve looked it up?” Ruby looked up to him surprised.

James shrugged. “I’m forty, the idea of having children has crossed my mind often and one can read just about anything on the CCT network.”

“I forget that you’re forty, Oz and Qrow only look mid twenties and I forget that they are older too. The white in your hair just makes you look professional and I forget it’s not just a style choice like what Oz does.” Ruby forced herself go return to cutting potatoes. 

“I’m flattered.” James searched for a new topic, avoiding the awkward silence was by far preferred. “So… what do you and Weiss to together?”

“Hmm, mostly just fingers and lips. Whenever we’ve wanted something to bounce on either Qrow or Ozpin have been available. I guess you could say it’s more slower paced. Putting on a show as much as trying to bring each other pleasure.” Ruby finished the potatoes and put it on the stove to boil.

“Alright? You haven’t had much to say about what you want here? Oz and I have talked a bit but you and I haven’t had a chance.” James took two of the steaks off the heat and set them off on a plate to rest. He put two more on and pushed them around in browning the outsides before reducing the heat.

“I don’t know what I want. You’ve always been attractive but I have always had my head full of Oz and Qrow. I guess just coexistence is enough right now, the rest will come as it does or doesn’t. Though I have noticed having you around does seem to be helping Oz out. He leans on you in a way he doesn’t let himself do with Qrow and I.”

“I have been trying to get him to do that. We’ve a history with each other, it's easy to be intimate but I can see he’s changed. He’s tired in a way he wasn’t before, so it seems like relaxing and letting me be the grounding point is easier for him then it used to be.” James stepped way from the stove. “Your brussel sprouts smell ready.”

Ruby checked them to find they were indeed ready. James took them out for her and set the tray on a trivet. The petite woman fished a fork out of a drawer, poked one and then blew on it. “I love brussel sprouts.” Ruby pulled out a bowl and started putting the brussel sprouts into it. “I’m going to take these out so we can snack on them while we wait for the steaks.”

Armed and dangerous Ruby headed out to find Qrow and Weiss cuddles together while Oz had just gotten up to put the television on. “I come bearing gifts!

“Oh do you now?” Ozpin narrowed his eyes at the evil mini cabbages coming his way.

Ruby oblivious to his dislike came over and put them on the table, before popping one into her mouth and letting out a happy purr. “Yum.” She licked the salt and oil from her fingertips.

Ozpin picked out the second sofa as far away from the brussel sprouts as was physically possible while staying on a couch. He tried to be subtle about it but luck was not with him.

Unfortunately for him he had not been subtle enough, Ruby looked between him and the sprouts a slow smile that struck fear into his heart growing on her face. She reached over and picked up another brussel sprout. “Something wrong Oz?” She climbed over into his lap.

His gaze was fixed on the sprout and Ruby knew she had him. “No, nothing at all, could you just eat or put that evil mini cabbage back?”

“Evil mini cabbage?” Ruby’s shoulders trembled as she tried to control the laughter bouncing inside her. “My dear Ozpin do you not like these yummy crispy balls of olive oily goodness?” She waved the sprout between them watching Oz’s eyes track the sprout.

“I did not say that.” The ashen haired man squirmed, cursing himself for letting his weakness slip.

Ruby grinned and offered the sprout. “Then you won’t have any issues trying my recipe.”

Oz turned his face away. “Now I wouldn’t go that far.”

She wiggled the brussel sprout. “Come on Oz, just one little bite. I promise these are better than those boiled abominations.”

Oz paused for a moment contemplating, then grabbed her by the waist, put her beside him then vaulted over the sofa with a loud declaration of. “NOPE!”

Ruby laughed and gave chase. “You really don’t like brussel sprouts! Ozpin Headmaster of Beacon, struck low by a vegetable!”

Ozpin put the kitchen island between him and the brussel sprout wielding maniac. “I don’t know what you are talking about.” James turned to watch them staying by the stove to protect the pans from any wayward limbs.

The red hair laughed with the evil of all her kind. “Liar Liar.” She walked around the island and Ozpin moved to keep it between them. “Come on it’s just one little sprout.”

“I’ve had more than enough of them at formal dinners, I am not eating them of my free will.” He glared at the evil vegetable and kept moving with Ruby so she couldn’t sneak up on him.

“But think of all the good vitamins and minerals in it!” Ruby activated her Aura and very carefully readied her Semblance.

“I do not care, I will not eat brussel sprouts without extreme duress.” Ozpin made the mistake of looking at the vegetable and not the woman wielding it.

Ruby activated her Semblance in her Rose-Petal-Burst and clobbered Oz. The poor man went down with an undignified thump while Ruby materialized with an evil laugh. “MWHAHAHA! I have found your weakness!”

“No no!” Ozpin batted the brussel sprout away as Ruby continued to attack him with it.

They were both so involved with their scuffled that they didn’t hear Qrow come in with Weiss till they were standing above them with a smile on his face.

“Qrow help! She’s trying to make me eat evil mini cabbages!” He looked up to his husband with big pleading eyes.

Ruby took this opportunity to pin his arms down under her knees. “Open up.” She ordered.

Oz looked up to Qrow for rescue. Qrow smiled and shook his head. “She made me eat sauerkraut all winter when we were in Patch, you can suffer with one brussel sprout.”

Ozpin pouted but opened his mouth and let Ruby put the sprout in it. He chewed and had to admit it was much nicer than he was used to, still hot and crispy. He still put on a disgusted face, as though the vegetable had dishonored his palate. 

Ruby giggled and sat down on his chest. “Was that so bad?”

“No.” Oz grumbled swallowing, letting the evil little vixen have this victory.

She got up then yelped when he swept to his feet, grabbed her and put her on the counter. Ruby barely had time to gather her wits before Ozpin kissed her. “Oh.” She let out a little squeak as he deepened the kiss and a hand cupped her head.

Slowly he drew away nipping her bottom lip. “There, you made me eat the evil mini cabbage I should at least get a kiss out of it.”

“Could you be bribed to eat more of them with kisses? They are good for you.” Ruby asked resting her arms over his shoulders.

“I’ll consider it.” A kiss for a sprout did seem like an okay idea.

Weiss giggled from her spot snuggling Qrow. “If I had known all it took was to get you to behave was kisses I would have used them when your lungs were healing.”

“What happened?” James asked as he moved the last of the steaks off the heat to rest.

Ozpin flinched and started to shy towards the doorway. “Errr, might have ended up with a case of latent tuberculosis after your soul transfer machine exploded on me uh literally on that last point… I might have almost died when stress triggered the cysts to rupture.”

The towel that had been in James’s hands ripped as he hissed. “What?”

Oz moved towards out into the doorway. “It was nothing really, totally fine now. It wasn’t life threatening or-.”

“Oz you almost drowned in your own blood.” Qrow wasn’t letting Oz get away with this one.

Ozpin was not ready for impact, being pinned to the ground by James was something he hadn’t experienced in many years. The metal hand around his neck made his heart pound. “James-.”

“Not another word you self sacrificing idiot.” James snarled. “You are going to tell me all the ways you’ve screwed yourself over in the last three years.”

“Well we’ll be here for a while it’s been a busy few years.” Oz smirked trying to play it off, he lifted his hips to rub against James’ thigh. “I can think of much better things to be doing.”

“I’m not Clover, you can’t distract me that easily Oz.” James shifted to trap Oz’s stomach with a calve. “Plus I weigh more than you and even you can’t toss me in this position.”

“Look James I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That was obvious. Given that Qrow and Ruby probably don’t chew you out near enough for your stupidity. I want to know what has been going on so I can do it for them.” 

Oz sighed. “Look can’t we just have dinner together? Next time we see the doctor I’ll give a complete history and you can sit in on that. I’d rather not go through it twice, fair enough?”

James hesitated as he didn’t really trust Oz to keep his word where medical stuff was concerned. “Fine. But if you bail I will tie you to a chair until you spill your guts. I have those Aura blocking handcuffs that not even you can get out off.” He moved off Oz and grabbed him by a hand pulling him up with him. “You do look good on your back.”

Oz ignored the hot blush rushing to his cheeks. “Yeah yeah. So dinner?”

    Ten minutes later dinner was ready and they were all sitting in the living room to enjoy the informal setting as the news played. Winter appeared on the holo screen.

    “I am pleased to announce my candidacy for the military set on the council for the upcoming election. Over the last year I have been General Ironwood’s second and with his stepping down from the seat in this election I am honoured to take his place in the running.”

    “Winter looks like she is enjoying this.” Weiss said as she worked on her dinner in little bites.

    “She does have the icen face for it down already.” Qrow said.

    Ruby rolled her eyes of course Qrow would pick that out. The news channel continued to play and there actually was some cheering at Winter’s announcement. Whether it was her running or the fact that James was not she wasn’t sure. “Be nice, you’re going to have to learn to get along with her someday.”

    “Ha, yeah when pigs fly.” Qrow shoved a big piece of steak into his mouth.

    Ozpin toyed with a brussel sprout. “Well she made the announcement. There is no going back now, we’ll have to hope that it goes our way.”

    “It will, there are no other contenders for the military seat. I’m not running, Jacques and Hill can’t run for it. It’s likely people will like that I am only running for the headmaster seat. This giving up of power will likely be seen as just that, people like it when it’s a voluntary action.” James reached over and ran a hand through Oz’s hair. “Worry a little less Oz. We’ll have two seats whatever happens, it will just be a matter of working with Jacques or Hill.”

    “Hopefully it will be Hill, I’d rather not have to see my father on a regular basis.” Weiss stabbed a piece of steak with vengeance. 

Chapter Text

    Ironwoods office was packed as the room was dimmed and the schematics of the mine was brought up on holo. Ozpin chose to lean against a pillar out of the way, they had argued over what to do with Amity for the better part of a day. In the end they had decided to go with James’s plan A, to at least start retrofitting it for high altitude. There was no guarantee that Ozpin would find the aminacy tech and it was a back up plan at worse. Plus on the off chance Salem targeted it having it be away from the cities would be a safer move for everyone.

“The mine we have chosen is a decommissioned Schnee Dust Company. It has been out of use for just over two and a half years after a strange outbreak caused most of the staff to pass away. Jacques,” James almost spat the word. “Had it sealed before a proper investigation could be launched.”

Qrow was standing across from James on the other side of the table. “That stinks like industrial accident he didn’t want to pay family damages for. Can I have the staff list?” The bad luck charm pulled out a brand new Scroll courtesy of James.

Curious as to what Qrow was thinking James summoned the list from the mine file and set it over to Qrow with a flick of his fingers. “The mine is located in zone seven, the trip is approximately two days by truck. It’s longer than I would like but it is fairly new and untapped mine so the Dust quality and quantity makes it worthwhile.” He called up images taken on the site. “A Petra Gigas was spotted fleeing into the mind when I sent infantry to start clearing the way. Your task will be to find and destroy the Petra Gigas and any other Grimm you find. Your transport is already waiting for you at Mantle’s outer gates. Any questions?” James looked the group over and noticed that Qrow’s frown had deepened to trench levels. “Qrow?”

“Have you looked over the staff register?”

“No.”

“Two weeks before closure Jacques brought in three groups of Vale refugees. Probably got them cheap out of desperation on their part. The timing is just too convenient, something about this stinks more than just usual Schnee bullshit. No offense Weiss. Any chance we can get the incident report?”

“Unlikely, Jacques keeps such information on private servers and without a warrant I can’t access them.”

“What are you thinking Qrow?” Ruby asked, this was a face Qrow hadn’t made in ages.

“I’m thinking this is a bad idea.”

Clover the leader of the Ace Ops had teal green eyes and stood about an inch shorter than the older Huntsman. “What you want to call this off on a hunch?”

    “Clover, Qrow is one of the most accomplished Huntsman on the planet. If he has a hunch I am inclined to listen to him.” James returned his attention to Qrow. “Would you rather send a scout team first? The mine is sealed, no one has been inside yet, that is likely the cause of your ‘hunch’.”

    “No, probably not worth the time delay. We’ll have to set up a mid way camp and base camp anyway. I can always fly ahead if I really can’t get over this feeling.” Qrow closed his Scroll and rubbed over his beard.

    “No, this is starting to tick the back of my head too.” Ozpin said, he could practically feel Qrow’s worry bleeding over the bonds and festering. “We should bring exploration packs, this might as well be uncharted territory again. There hasn’t been a mass migration like what the Fall of Beacon caused in…”

    Qrow went even paler than usual. “No way Oz, no one is that stupid anymore.”

    “Desperate people do stupid things.”

    “Yeah but it’s impossible to miss-.”

    “Don’t forget there are carrier Grimm.” Ozpin interjected. “I know of three different types that ran through Vale in the last two centuries. I also know that not near enough burning of everything afterwards was done.”

    “Two weeks though… most of them and you’re dead in a few days.”

    “It only takes one carrier, could have just been one salvaged blanket that no one thought anything about. It would explain the delay.”

    “If that is the case wouldn’t it have shown in Mistral by now? Or a lot sooner.”

    “We could have gotten lucky, most of Vales refugees went for Vacou. I was with them I would know.”

    “Or this is all just conjecture and we are being really paranoid.”

    “Or Vacou could be in dire straits right now, without the CCT we have no way of knowing.”

    For everyone but Ruby, Weiss and James the two were going back and forth at lightning speed. It was the large Elm who asked. “What the heck is going on?”

    “Shh.” Qrow didn’t look away from Oz. “You’ve lived through the last three what did you do?”

    “I died. The last one I hanged myself rather than wait for it to kill me.” Oz grabbed the tie he had been forced to wear that day and pulled it up by the side over his head and stuck his tongue out. “Eck. Gods I hate ties.” Oz pulled it off before it brought back more unpleasant thoughts.

    “You hanged yourself?!” James his jaw dropping, he knew Oz had a lot of different deaths and that just about none of them were peaceful but sucided? That was new.

    “Long drop and a short stop. Not long enough drop though, didn’t break my neck as well as I would have liked. I do recall hearing it break but I think I still strangled for a bit but eh I also blacked out so it really didn’t matter in the end. Sure have had worse deaths.” Oz rubbed his throat.

    James facepalmed. “No wonder I’ve never seen you wear a tie of your own free will. You should have said something.”

    “I’m not outlining five centuries plus of gruesome deaths for you James. What makes you think I want to remember them either?” Ozpin shivered. “Those are just the ones that I remember, never mind what Jinn showed Salem doing to me.”

    “Just what are you all talking about?” Clover was getting annoyed, clearly James hadn’t told them everything about Salem.

    Qrow opened his mouth but Oz raised his hand. “Nothing for now, I’d rather not stir the nest till we are sure. We should kit up though James, paranoia is better than getting bit in the ass. Make no mistake I’d be fine with trading in for a new model but you’re the only one here who stands a chance of surviving if Qrow’s hunch is right.”

    James pulled up a log and sent a quick message. “Order sent, the packs will be there when you arrive. Good luck and no risks, you find even one body you send up a flare and I’ll come running.”

    “Roger that.” Ozpin and Qrow lead the way out. Ruby found enough of her courage to nod at Penny who stayed behind but looked very confused. “Oz, Qrow what were you two talking about there”

    “Plague. There have been three different variants to run through Vale in the last two centuries. Septicemic and Bubonic plague and most recently the Sand Pest. The worse one of the three. They are all extremely sturdy bacteria. I thankfully missed the Sand Pest but the last run of Bubonic is the one I sucided out of rather than waiting for it to kill me. I’ve read about the Sand Pest but it was southern Vale and after the last outbreak of the Bubonic plague when the Sand Pest should up it was met with mass burning and it didn’t manage to escape to the rest of the world. From what I read it has a three day incubation period and you die within two days of showing symptoms.” Ozpin sent to her as they rode the elevator down. “It’s why we burn our dead to this day.”

    Nora saw Ruby go pale and guessed that Oz had told her what they were talking about. “You okay Ruby?”

    Ruby hugged herself and missed her cloak. “I’ll be fine, let’s just get this over with and hope to all the Gods that Oz and Qrow are wrong.”

    Sure enough when they arrived at Mantles gates four trucks were waiting for them. They split up into Ozpin, Qrow, Ruby, Weiss and Clover in one truck. While Vine, Elm, Harriet, Marrow, Nora and Ren went in another.

    Ozpin and crew rode in the back as the trunks rolled out. He had his arms crossed over his chest as well as his stress ball boob in his left as he worked his anxiety over this mission into it. Ruby was cuddled into Qrow’s side, their new gear covered their skin and she was really glad to have clothes that covered them. Weiss reached over and took Ruby’s hand. “You sure you’re okay?”

    Ruby half smiled. “Lydia is dead, Euclase is with Falcon and now this. I don’t think I’ll be ‘okay’ anytime soon but I’ll cope. We can’t give in, no matter how much I want to.”

    “Good point.” Weiss kissed her cheek. “I wish our lives would just quiet down again.”

    “Not likely to happen anytime soon Weiss.” Qrow grumbled, he reached over and pulled the hiking backpack over. It was one of the ones that he had asked for. Exploration kit, they were different because they had more emergency equipment should things hit the fan. He had taken a trimmed down version across Vale when he shadowed team RNJR across the continent.

    Clover watched the group. “So what’s up with you guys. We didn’t get exactly formal introductions, I’ve read up on you but the files are all old.”

    “We.” Ozpin gestured to his husband and wife. “Are all married under the name Branwen. Weiss is a close friend who is a part of our family.”

    Clover couldn’t believe that. “You’re what nineteen? Twenty?” He asked Ruby.

    “Twenty next month, I had a baby this year too but we had to leave her in Mistral. Now her granddad is looking after her.” Ruby said, she didn’t appreciate his shock. It wasn’t that odd to have a baby at nineteen heck it was more normal than any other time in her life. If she wasn’t a huntress she would probably have two by now.

    “Wow, didn’t expect that.” Clover would have never guessed that she was a mother. She was apparently the youngest and she looked so innocent if tired but she had just said there was a death in her family.

    Ruby shrugged. “Been a busy few years.”

    Qrow watched Oz attempted to squeeze the stress ball, he was already getting better at it. Though Qrow wondered if it was worry making Oz bare the pain rather than actual improvement. He zipped the backpack up again after double checking its contents and leaned back in the uncomfortable seat. This was going to be a really long ride. Silence stretched between them before Clover spoke up again. “So correct me if I’m wrong but I didn’t think the General was gay.”

    “He’s not.” Qrow only just didn’t glare through sheer force of willpower. Of course the Atlassian would see sexuality so one dimensionally. “Neither am I or Oz.” 

    “Huh?”

    Ozpin rolled his eyes and pointed at his chest. “Pan,” He pointed to Qrow and then Ruby and Weiss. “Different variations of bi.”

    “You Weiss? Man I knew Winter was lesbian she’s given me enough disgusted looks when I have asked her out to dinner but I didn’t think all the Schnee girls liked girls.”

    “Bi not lesbin. I’ve only had a small handful of girls I like, I do prefer men still. Not that it matters to you.” Weiss was starting to dislike this Ace Op, he was just pure Atlas, it made her skin crawl. Reminding her of her father and brother with every word that came out of his mouth.

    “Wow, cool down I didn’t mean anything by it.” Clover raised his hands. He didn’t want to admit it but he’d never been out of Solitas so the appearance of three Valeites that had travel either half the world or in Oz’s case all of it almost were an oddity to him. “I just was so surprised when you flirted with James and he just took it in stride. I’ve known him for about seven years now. Four through school and then three as the Ace Ops. I’ve never seen him express an interest in sex. There has been a rumor going through the school for years that he’s not even equipped.”

    Ozpin couldn’t hold in the snort. “Wow, James needs to add a biology course to Atlas then.”

    “Huh?”

    “If he wasn’t intact he’d look completely different you need testosterone to look like he does. I’ve read cases about wives cutting off a mans cock and even in Vale and Mistral we have the tech to reattach it and have it work properly. The idea that Atlas doesn’t have that tech is laughable. Thinking he doesn’t have his lovely cock is a special brand of ignorance.” Oz focused on working his stress ball for a minute. “How people miss that I will never understand.”

    “Well next time I’m asked I’ll be sure to mention that. Gosh makes me feel stupid.” Clover toyed with the four leaf clover pin on his chest.

    “I wasn’t going to say it.” Qrow smirked flicking his fingers out.

    “You don’t like me do you?” Clover smiled in an almost sly fashion. “I’ll have to work on that.

    Qrow looked bored. “I read your file. ‘Good Luck’ for a Semblance? I already don’t like you on the principle of the thing, we shouldn’t work together.”

    “I read your file too, your Semblance isn’t listed how did you get away with that?” Clover crossed his arms over his chest.

    “Maybe the interviewer forgot to write it down. My Semblance is ‘Misfortune’, having us together on a team is counter productive.” Qrow smirked. “I can amp mine for any number of interesting effects, if yours is passive like mine you’ll hinder that.”

    “I don’t see how hindering bad luck would be a bad thing.” Clover was starting to feel the dislike already, he could also amp his Semblance but he wondered just what Qrow could do with his that he didn’t want this help.

    “I’ve made lightning strike a Nucklaveen for example. Caused storms, weapons tend to misfire when trained on my loved ones, a ship to have some internal problems that made it easier to escape. All sorts of handy things, it’s my ace in the hole and I’d rather not have some half cocked Ace Ops fucking it up.” Qrow regarded him with a bored expression.

    “Fine, I’ll make sure we’re never on a team together.” Clover was fine with that, he had read up on Qrow and a lot of his file wasn’t making any sense. What he didn’t want Qrow to know was that even larger parts of Qrow’s file, really just about everything post Beacon had been marked ‘classified’ and when he had asked the General about it he had been refused clearance. So all he really knew was that Qrow was a heavy hitter, one of the heaviest and he did jobs that the Ace Ops couldn’t.

    “It probably is for the best, even bad luck can be useful but having you two cancel each other out would leave you both impotent and the battlefield less manageable.” Oz put his stress ball away.

    Qrow snorted. “I think Ruby can attest to the fact I’m not impotent.”

    Ruby faced palmed. “Qrow~, be nice.”

    “For you.” Qrow shifted to lean on Oz’s good shoulder. “I’m gonna get a nap in, not like we have anything else to do.”

 


 

    Ruby and Weiss worked on their course work for most of the trip. They still had more work than they knew what to do with, so they sat together sharing brain power to get through it more quickly. Eventually at around four the sun having already set and the truck lit only by harsh white light Clover asked Oz who had dozed a bit with Qrow or helped the two women. “Care for a game of cards? Solitaire does get a bit old.”

    “Sure, got a crib board by any chance? It’s easier to play with one hand.” Oz forced his bad hand up into his lap as his good one was trapped by Qrow. The smaller man had wrapped his arms around Oz’s arm in his sleep. Ozpin didn’t mind it was primarily cute, he had half a mind to take a picture to show to Tai when they next met.

    “Sure do.” Clover got up and picked up one of the supply crates and put it between them. He pulled out a crib board of metal that was folded in half and opened it. The made a soft clink as it touched the crate and Clover pulled the pegs out. “Black or silver?”

    “Silver and you shuffle.” Oz let Clover set up the board and focused on practicing getting his fingers into a position to hold cards with.

    Clover delt the six cards each and stared at the first bad hand of cards he’d ever gotten in his life. He glanced over at Qrow but he was still out cold, not even the occasional jostling of the truck stirred him. “Busy days? It’s kinda odd he’s crashed so hard.”

    “Very. Eight.” Ozpin turned his cards in his hand so he could place an eight without showing his whole hand.

    “I take it you don’t want to talk about it.” Clover put down a four much to his ire.

    Ozpin followed with a three. “Fifteen for two if you’d be so kind.”

    Clover applied an impeccable poker face as he pegged out Oz’s points. “You guys are so hard to peg down. I’ve heard lots about Vale, you all being very open people yet you and Qrow lock down tighter than a Schnee vault when you don’t want to talk.”

    “There is a difference between being open about sex and sexuality when you know the person already and trusting strangers with personal information.”

    They finished the hand Oz’s point count at twenty while Clover had a measly six. Clover was more satisfied with his secondhand and opened the game with a six. Oz quickly called another fifteen for two with a nine. Clover followed with a king only to get out pegged again when Oz pulled a six and called for thirty one and got another two points. Three more hands played out and Clover was having a run of bad luck. If it didn’t improve, he'd be looking at the first double skunk of his life. “I don’t think I’ve ever had luck this bad before.”

    “That would be why I asked for crib, it is considerably less of a game of luck then most card games are. So tell me something about you Clover, unlike Qrow I have not read up on you. Do you enjoy being the leader of the Ace Ops? At Beacon I encouraged my students to form groups and become more than coworkers but I understand that is not the MO of the Ops.”

    “No, we are hand picked to work together, often pulled off of our old teams.” Clover let Oz start the round and was annoyed that he couldn’t fifteen or pair the card.

    “I can understand the thinking behind that, but I believe that unity is what gives us strength. Our bonds as it were.” After Clover played his card Oz placed his card earning a run and another three points.

    “How does that work out for you?” Clover thought he was maybe three hands away from a double skunking. 

    “Pray you never see Qrow, Ruby and I go all out. Weiss has learned to work very well with us as well. I am willing to bet we work better than your team.” Oz tied up the play with another thirty one. He counted out his cards and was twenty points from the finish line.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever had a game of crib this short before either.” Clover had eight in all. It was really irritating, he wasn’t used to losing, still he kept a polite smile plastered on as though it didn’t bother him so much. 

    “I do adore my bad luck charm.” Oz smirked as Clover shuffled again. He didn’t like this Ace Ops leader anymore then Qrow did. He couldn’t put his finger on it but something in him just said that Clover wasn’t trustworthy. What Clover didn’t know was that Oz was borrowing and amping Qrow’s Semblance, further focusing it on the cards. He was quite sure Clover was doing the same.

    Clover tapped his clover pin before he dealt, amping his Semblance he was sure he could save this game. As he looked at his hand he had another hand of true terribleness. He cut the deck and Oz flipped the card for another jack. That was his forth this game. “Maybe you’ve just stolen my luck.”

    “A one eyed jack in some games is bad luck.” Ozpin concealed a smile, he had a royal run in his hand. He played another jack and claimed another two points at the pair.

    Clover played a queen to which Oz followed with a king claiming another run. Sure enough as he counted his hand first Oz won the game and double skunked Clover. “Well I’ll be damned, I lost… badly.”

    “I have access to Qrow’s Semblance, I wanted to demonstrate that bad luck is just as useful as good luck. Really luck is relative. Qrow’s Semblance does have more destructive tendencies and it is useful… Give me your hand.” Ozpin turned his bad hand and offered it too Clover.

    The shorter man didn’t know where this was going but put his hand in Oz’s. It was gloved, compression sleeved and bandaged but he could still feel the injury. He felt the strangest brush against his Aura, his own lit him up in a teal green while Oz’s emerald green briefly came into view. “I thought so.” Oz withdrew his hand and set it in his lap. “Your Aura is still developing. That is very normal for your age.”

    “You can tell that?” Clover rubbed his hand, the grasp of Oz had been very weak he wondered what was going on under all those layers.

    “I am an expert on Aura. Your Semblance isn’t as strong as Qrow’s, if he’s containing it then we shouldn’t have any problems but should he let it out I’d recommend you make yourself scarce.”

    “He can contain it?” Clover kicked a boot up on the crate.

    “Could you live with yourself if your Semblance harmed everyone and everything around you? Qrow’s current control is a rather new development, the flip side appears to be when he uses it willingly it’s typically to greater effect.” Ozpin said.

    “Why are you telling me this?”

    “I’m warning you.”

    Clover gulped and got the message. He looked over to the two women who were listening but deciding to not get involved with the conversation. The Ace Op gathered up the cards and board while he thought it over and looked for a different conversation. “So what happened to your hand? I could feel it was off when I held it.”

    Ozpin stiffened making Qrow murmur against his shoulder. Oz dipped his head and kissed Qrow’s temple and purred softly, humming out a soothing song over the bonds. When Qrow settled he spoke. “I got into a fight with a Revenant, it burned my left arm extensively. Playing cards has actually been the first activity I’ve managed to do with it.”

    “You fought a Revenant and lived?!” Clover’s jaw hit the steel floor. That was almost unheard of! While Grimm levels weren’t as potent in Mantle, even less so in Altas Clover had never known a Revenant to attack the icy continent. What stories he had heard of them tended to only breed fear and death. If a Revenant was involved in a Grimm attack the chances of a city survival was questionable at best. At worst … well it wouldn’t be the first time an entire city had been leveled. They were some of the most dangerous and deadly Grimm known to Man. 

    “More or less, it was more towards less for a long time.” Oz found the puppy like awe amusing. Not the same sort of cute as when Qrow or Ruby did it though. The truck rocked and jolted Qrow awake, he lurched forward and Oz’s good hand shot out and grabbed his husband before he ended up ass over tea kettle. “Oozing misfortune in your sleep love?”

    “Must have, but not that bad if you caught me.” Qrow sat back down. “Gods I hate this latitude, the days are too damn short.’

    “Agreed.” Ruby yawned and put her Scroll away. “How much longer?”

    Oz looked at his Scroll. “Another three or four hours.”

    “Awww, I’m so bored!” Ruby sagged on the uncomfortable bench.

    “Have a nap.” Qrow stretched his arms.

    “Then I won’t sleep tonight. I’ll be too awake.” Ruby got up and did a few stretches too. It was a perk to riding in the back.

    “Then I’ll frisk you till you fall asleep. I’d do it now if not for the Op.” Qrow jutted a thumb at Clover.

    “I appreciate your restraint.” Clover deadpanned.

    “If you didn’t I might change my mind.” Qrow got up and pulled his wife to him by her waist. Ruby giggled and stood up on her toes to kiss him more easily.

    Clover blushed as the two shamelessly made out, Qrow’s hands roaming down to ruck up Ruby’s tailed shirt and grab her by her butt cheeks. His eyes couldn’t help but wander and he did notice that Ruby had a very nice ass. Her breasts were also squished up against Qrow’s chest given that the truck was heated the top of her shirt was open showing off some very nice curvature. He could barely believe that this beautiful young woman had already had a daughter. She didn’t show it, her body was every inch a career huntress. He wouldn’t mind tapping that ass one bit, but it did beg the question. Why pick a man like Qrow, with so much black in his ledger that just thinking about it made Clover’s skin crawl. He focused on the flush of red on her breasts instead.

    While Ozpin was watching his husband and wife, Weiss was watching Clover. She could see him staring at Ruby, not that she blamed him Ruby was a very nice creature to look at. However while she lacked a bond to the other three, it didn’t take much to see Qrow didn’t like him. Oz was doing a much better job of hiding it but she knew him well enough to see the edge there as well. She wondered just what was the tick, but she trusted them. Weiss was more worried he’d try and flirt with her, they were both Atlas born that was probably enough for him. He had mentioned trying to date Winter already. An almost laughable thought considering her sister’s … tastes.

    Qrow and Ruby pulled away and sat back down. “Careful Qrow, Clover might get a show whether or not we are trying to be polite.”

    “Won’t get any complaints from me.” Qrow purred pulling Ruby to straddle his lap. “It’s moments like this that make me miss your skirts.”

    “I wore tights and panties~.”

    “Yeah those don’t stop me, trousers are evil.” Qrow lifted her up to nibble her neck.

    Ruby laughed but it turned into a moan, she loved the feeling of his teeth on her neck. “Then why are you wearing them?” She said almost haughtily, the teasing glint to her voice enough for Qrow to growl in indecision. “You don’t have to tell me that.”

    Their driver called out from the front. “Taking a piss break, five minutes everyone.”

    “Great timing.” Clover was the first up as the truck slowed down. As he went to open the door Qrow pulled a metal and cloth lined face mask. He offered it to Oz. “Nothing like subzero temperatures to freak out damaged lungs.”

    Oz frowned but Clover opened the back doors and cold air rushed into the cabin. He grabbed it and it locked tight over his nose, and most of his cheeks. It also covered under his jaw creating an airtight seal. With the seal several ports on the flared mask started to glow a light orange. Oz took a deep breath and gave a thumbs up. “It’s good, you got this custom didn’t you?”

    “Yup, knew you’d forget.” He opened up a satchel on his hip and handed custom masks to Weiss and Ruby. “Minus forty and so on is a one way trip to lung damage.”

    Ruby and Weiss put theirs on as they headed out of the trunk. Qrow put his own on but hung back to make sure Oz didn’t slip as he got out. It was pitch black overcast of the starts of a storm blocking out any starlight. Qrow pulled out his Scroll turning it on flashlight and shoving it in his breast pocket. “Any spot you’ve got your minds on girls?”

    “Yeah there is a bush of bracken over there.” Weiss also had her Scroll out as well and shined a light where she and Ruby would go.

    “Sounds good, want us to be human shields?” Ozpin offered.

    “Yes please, this is going to be awful as it is. Did you remember your TP Ruby?” Weiss asked.

    “Yes let’s just get this over with.” Ruby huddled against the cold and set off towards the bracken.

    Ozpin and Qrow worked out where the wind was coming from and stood in the way giving Ruby and Weiss a bit more shelter as they did their business. Ruby and Weiss finished up as quickly as possible then did the same for Qrow and Oz though with much less effectiveness. They weren’t doing this properly but none of them wanted to make small holes in frozen tundra. When they got back to the truck Clover was already inside. “Done finally?”

    Ozpin climbed in then helped Weiss and Ruby up. “There are perks to having your team be your family. You can trade being windbreakers for when you need to take a shit.”

    Qrow pulled the door shut behind him. “Yeah we freeze our asses off a little bit less.”

    “Hmm.” Clover asked. “Why do you guys all have masks?”

    “Ugh it’s freezing out there and I like my lungs as they are.” Qrow said, he raised his hand and pressed on the sides. The Dust deactivated and the seal released.

    “Valeites.” Clover rolled his eyes. “Can’t take a little cold.”

    “We'll see who has chronic asthma at fifty.” Oz said.

 


 

    The trucks arrived at the halfway point at around eight that night. Where they stopped was at a piece of lower land snow-covered tundra with a large crescent of stone walls that would help at as a wind shelter. Ozpin wore his mask again as the two large teams got out of the trucks and stretched their legs. He surveyed the spot. “Not bad James.” He pointed up the cliff side. “Ren, Qrow you can anchor our fly to that. Ruby, Weiss and Nora please work at clearing a space for our yurt. We’ll put it up against the empty side and can work at building it up to an additional wall when we have time to kill.”

    “Right.” Everyone set off. Nora bounced over to the trucks and pulled out a pair of huge shovels tossing one to Ruby and Oz each. “Lets build a snow wall!” She bounced upward and landed in some of the as yet untouched snow and promptly got stuck up to her mid thighs. Ozpin walked over and lifted her up by the scruff of her shirt. “Tame that enthusiasm till you won’t need a rescue.”

    “Sure thing Ozzy.” They walked over to the snow wall and started to clear the ground of the snow.

    Ren and Qrow shook out the fly, a heavy piece of canvas that was around ten meters in length by the same in width but it had a slight curve that would help the snow slide off the fabric. Qrow transformed into his crow shape hovered for a few flaps of his wings and Ren offered the metal ring to him. Qrow grabbed it in his beak and flew up the wall then transformed when he spotted a good hand hold. He pulled a spike from his belt and lined up the canvas. He pounded the stake into the stone then roped the canvas tight to it pulling it as close to the rock face as possible.

    Qrow carefully scaled the sheer cliffside till he found another good spot. “Okay Ren.” He drove his fingers into the stone and leaned out with his free hand. Ren wrapped the edge of the tarp up on the edge of his knife guns and threw it up. Qrow snatched it out of the air and staked the canvas to the wall again. As he did Elm jumped up wall and did the same thing. It had been unofficially decided that the two teams would not share a working space.

    Qrow didn’t spare a look as he jumped off the wall and walked the tarp out to as far as it would go before lifting it up on long poles and pegging it into the tundra. The girls and Oz were still shoveling the snow out of the way. “Come on, let's get a pit set up.”

    Qrow and Ren went to the third truck and pulled out two massive half circles of steel. They walked to the middle of the camp and set it down. One of the others had already cleaned the snow away. The turned the half circles up and slammed down into the frozen ground. Harriet zipped over with the cooking grate and set it on it’s place and it covered half the circle. She helped them for a moment all the supplies to build a fire. “You go and help the others, I’ll get this going.”

    Ren nodded and started packing over the pieces that would become their yurt to the space that was steadily clearing under the fly. Qrow laid down a thick layer of stones on the bottom of the pit, just enough to get the soon to be fire off the frozen ground. Then he built a square pyramid of wood in the center and filled it with wood chips, flannel and other tinder. He pulled his own flint and steel from a pouch and gathered it up with a scrap of wool. It only took a few strikes for the wool to catch and he put it in the little wood house. A few careful breaths later and he declared. “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” The crackling of fire was a very welcome sound even if the flames didn’t get off much heat yet.

    Elm laughed as she set about putting together what would be the base of the Ace Ops yurt. “Huzza! A place to warm our toes.”

    While Qrow kept the fire alive and got it to thrive. Ruby, Weiss, Nora and Ren were all working together to slot together the prefabricated floor of their yurt. It would get them about ten centimeters off the ground and create a trap that would help keep the heat in the yurt. Ozpin was already getting cold and cranky. Between Harriet and Vine the Ace Ops yurk was coming together very quickly and they already had their walls up. “Ladies and Ren move.”

    They looked up and got out of the way. Ozpin reached out his good hand towards the trunk with the rest of the parts and levitated the whole lot over. He had made more houses like this then he cared to think about so assembly came naturally to him. Like pieces of a puzzle it came together. The outer walls were pulled leather that with several additional sheets fastened together. The inner walls were a line of thick wool then another of canvas. Within moments it was done. “Great I’m cold so let’s get the inside done already.”

    Everyone grabbed their personal bags and headed in while Oz levitated the bits for the pallet they would be sharing. While sleeping bags were all well and nice, why heat only one person when you could share body heat? Ren, Nora and Ruby set up the sleeping space while Weiss and Oz lugged in pelts to help keep their feet from freezing and to layer on the palate after the mattress. They also brought in a smaller amount of wood for the fire pit in the middle of the yurt. It was a large round piece of indented stone that would help keep them warm at night. 

    Oz got that fire going with a snap of his fingers. The warm golden glow was a welcome change from the white light of Scroll flashlights. “That’s better.” He pulled off his mask and breathed freely.

    Ruby giggled as she set the mattress down with Weiss, Ren and Nora’s help. It wasn’t a thick thing and could be folded in half. Ruby was pretty sure it was just a few dozen layers of wool sheets packed into a case. They pulled huge bison pelts over it before layering on a fitted sheet. Ren and Nora came over and warmed their hands as Weiss and Ruby finished making the bed. “Do we at least get real food?”

    “Qrow is probably on that now, so we’ll find out. Speaking of which we have some food crates to move into here.” Oz reached for his mask but then left it. “Come on then. The sooner we are done the sooner we can hide in here.”

    By the time the Ace Ops had their yurt set up Qrow yelled. “GRUBS UP!”

    Oz’s team headed out to find Qrow over a huge pot of what seemed to be chili. Qrow looked up and smiled. “James didn’t cheap out on the food department!”

    He and Marrow had set up a table to hold cooking supplies. The wolf faunus handed Qrow a steel bowl and he filled it up. Ozpin walked over and took it grateful Qrow had already stuck a spoon in it. “Thank you, both of you.”

    The Faunus’ tail began a quick and excited wag, practically swaying his whole lower body. “Sure thing Mister Headmaster-Ozpin-Sir.” Marrow saluted.

    Oz lifted a brow. “I’ll be inside.” He headed off back to his teams yurt.

    “Was it something I said?” Marrow asked as he handed Qrow another bowl.

    “Na, he just hates being cold.” Qrow said, omitting that he wasn’t sure how Oz was going to manage without a table to put the bowl on.

    Harriet came over. “You better have not gotten any fur in the food this time mutt.”

    Marrow puffed as his tail stuck up. “That was that one time!”

    Qrow handed her a bowl. “Lay off, I get you guys aren’t friends but we’ve had a long, cold, boring day. No need to start picking fights now.”

    “What are you my dad?” Harriet growled taking it.

    “Ha, not old enough for that sweet heart.” Qrow grinned showing teeth. “And I’m much too good looking.” He added with a cheeky wink.

“Well at least I’m not looking as worn out as an old man. Are you even able to fight in your condition?”

Qrow shrugged when he heard the giggling from just inside their yurt. “Please I can take anything you dish and more. You’re practically a baby fresh out of the Academy. Have you ever fought a Grimm before or is Atlas still all for running simulations and keeping their students sheltered from the real bads of the world.”

Anyone looking hard enough might have seen the sparks of annoyance and gritted teeth on the Atlassian’s face. Snorting she pointed at the gap in their yurt’s doorway where Ruby and Weiss had their heads poked out. “Didn’t stop you from shacking up with a student. What? Couldn’t find a woman you’re own age so you downgraded to naive brats.” 

All at once Qrow’s bright red eyes went cold, his lips curled into a sneer as he stooped to the young woman’s eye level. Harriet barely suppressed the urge to shiver under that icy gaze and swallowed. Qrow felt the beating fists at the door to his Semblance, temper and outrage over this thing’s view of his wife and love, the mother of his child. That was simply unforgivable. 

“I’d be very careful where you step next. Insulting me is one thing, I couldn’t give a flyin’ Grimms ass about that but talk about my wife like that again and you won’t see the light of day for a long long~ time.”

It was a bluff, had to be. No one treated let alone threatened a member of the Ace Ops like that. So despite the voice in her head screaming at her to back down Harriet glanced over at the yurt again. It was easier to look there then at Qrow and smirked. “She’s not even graduated, just a Beacon cast off brat like the rest of them that can’t keep up.”

Qrow’s expression turned to a feral grin. Slowly he pulled his gloves off one by one setting them down on the table then reached out and yanked the bowl from Harriet’s grasp. “It would be a shame to waste the food.”

“Wha-”

Qrow lunged forward grabbing Harriet by the throat with one hand and tossing her out into the tundra. His claws grew blood dripping from the quicks of his fingers and he blasted off the ground the tundra coming into colour as his eyes changed to take in the light like a cat. He saw Harriet tumble and right herself. He Rose-Petal-Burst straight into her face and delivered an uppercut to her jaw. She was sent flying upward and she felt the hand close around her ankle just in time to have the pit drop in her stomach before she was being swung like a rag down with thundering BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. Into the frozen earth, her Aura shielded her and she activated her weapons and Semblance grabbing the ground and kicking out at Qrow’s arm.

If it wasn’t for the Scroll shining out of her pocket she wouldn’t have been able to see him at all. She launched at him with all her speed punching straight for his head. Only it wasn’t there the very instant she moved, her eyes widened as even within her Semblance she didn’t see him. Harriet screamed as Qrow ripped her Aura open like a can to get at her juicy insides. His claws rending ten long cuts over her back.

Clover back at the camp lurched into movement but Ren stopped him with an arm over his chest. “Don’t, Qrow won’t kill her. If you get involved you will only become a target.”

Harriet shot forward again with her Semblance trying to put some distance between them but she didn’t even hear the sound of Harbinger unsheathing to scythe form and was helpless when the blade caught her by her middle and slammed her back into the ground.

Qrow couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up his throat. “Bunny bunny bunny, run run run as fast as you can.”

His tone sent terror racing through Harriet, just who was this sick fucker?! She punched the blade way and spun around trying to see him. Qrow had spread himself into a fine mist of blood red rose petals hovering just above the range of her Scroll light. The terror on her face was very enjoyable, no one talked down to Ruby.

“Fuck!” Harriet sprinted off towards the camp, her foot caught a stone and she fell forward. She felt the claws in her hair and didn’t have time to scream before her face was pounded into the earth. Her Aura held out for the first three blows so hard they made her whole body bounce. Her Aura broke on the fourth and Qrow dialed it down as he pounded her face into the ground. The snow had given way to frozen ground he heard her nose break and slammed her into the ground once more.

Qrow picked her up by her hair as he stood straight and pressed two fingers to her throat. Alive, probably one hell of a headache but her nose would be easy to fix. He grabbed Harbinger and put it back on his hip. Not giving a shit he dragged the unconscious Harriet back to camp. Clover, Elm, Vine and Marrow were all standing by the fire looking ready to spring into action. As Qrow entered the fire light he threw Harriet down at Clover’s feet. “Teach your bunny some manners or next time I will break more than just her nose.” He turned on his heel and helped himself to some food.

Ruby and Weiss had their own dinner already and Weiss let out a happy sigh. She was glad Qrow had taken it upon himself to teach the older woman a lesson. Only so that Weiss didn’t do it herself. “It’s so nice to have a man who’ll defend your honour.”

Ruby sipped her chili. “Oh yes, I could have done it myself but she’s not worth the effort and it’s cold out. Plus it makes Qrow happy to hit something, he has been cooped up all day.” She stepped out of the way as Qrow came into the yurt and leaned up on her toes giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you love, I could have done that but you looked like you had steam to blow off. Feeling better now?”

Qrow turned to share a tender kiss with her. “Much, here’s to hoping they are all fast learners.” Weiss shut the flap behind them.

Vine knelt down and turned her over, he brushed his Aura over her. “No internal damage, he was careful to keep it cosmetic. She’ll be fine, just her pride rather pounded. I’ll clean her up.” He picked her up and put her over his shoulder.

“Thank you Vine.” Clover and the rest of the Ops got a serving of dinner. “Could you please clean this up Marrow? I have a feeling that no one in that yurt is coming out tonight.”

“Sure thing Clover, after just hearing that I’m not about to ask for help. We as a team just fucked up big.” Marrow could still feel his tail tight between his legs. He knew the others wouldn’t admit it but Qrow was scary.

“What do you mean?” Elm asked as she took a big bite of food.

“You’re kidding right? We should have told Harriet to shut up, we’ve read their files but those files are years old. Qrow’s was mostly black you can’t honestly say you didn’t see Harriet getting her ass kicked like it was going out of style coming did you? Plus Ruby’s not just his lover but his wife I can’t think of something stupider than insulting a man’s woman. If she really wasn’t a good combatant the General wouldn’t have let her come along.”

“We aren’t responsible for what comes out of Harriet’s mouth.” Elm didn’t like the idea of having to check her teammates behaviour. She wasn’t sure how it was in Beacon but she had noticed that the other team did look to each other with more kindness than she was used too.

“Marrow is right. We don’t know them we shouldn’t blatantly insult them. I’ll have a word with Harriet when she wakes up to apologize to Qrow and Ruby.” Clover headed inside with Elm.

Marrow quickly finished his meal and cleaned up. He grabbed the gloves Qrow had left behind and knocked lightly on the door to the other yurt. After a moment Ren opened the door. Before the younger man could speak Marrow offered the gloves. “He forgot these, sorry about Harriet.”

Ren took the gloves. “Thank you. Will Harriet be alright?”

“Yes, just cosmetic, Vine is taking care of her now.” Marrow’s tail drooped and he lowered his voice so his team wouldn’t hear. “Tell Qrow thanks for sticking up for me. I wouldn’t of ever dreamed of doing something like that to Harriet. I’d never even be able to hit her, much less humiliate her like that. I'm kinda jealous that you guys stick up for each other, I got pulled off my team. Heh price for being one of the best... goodnight." 

"Goodnight." Ren closed the door as Marrow walked away.

Marrow walked through the space between the two yurts. It was largely protected from the wind by the two flys and the three trucks. The fire was dying and the snow was starting to drift down. Hopefully they wouldn’t be stuck in a storm and forced to wait it out tomorrow. He headed into the Ace Ops yurt. Unlike the other one which was one open space. This one was divided into six one section for each Op and one more for storage. He walked over the small central fire pit, it was burning brightly. Clover, Elm and Harriet had their doors open letting the heat in. Marrow walked over to Harriets, Vine had warmed a bowl of water and washed her face. Marrow could see her nose was already fixed. Vine gently turned her over into her as he removed her vest and shirt. “Come help me with this Marrow. The cuts on her back need cleaning.”

“Right, just don’t tell her it was me.” Marrow stepped into the small space and helped Vine undress the limp Harriet. They only removed her top layers and gently set her down on her front so her head was the side. Vine wrung out his cloth and started to clear away the tracks of blood on her back.

The wolf faunus took a second to really look at the scratches. They looked like claw marks or talons or some weird mix between the two. “I didn’t know Qrow was a faunus, that wasn’t in his file.”

“No it was not.”

Marrow looked up to see Clover leaning on the eve of the doorway. “Makes me wonder what else isn’t in his file.”

“Clover you are in my light.” Vine groused.

Clover moved leaning a post holding up the walls. “You get my point through right Vine? Qrow’s Semblance is misfortune but it was a lot more to him than just that. He shouldn’t have been able to do that to Harriet so damn easily. We’re the Ace Ops and she just got her ass handed to her. He laughed at her.”

“She’s not going to forget that in a hurry.” Marrow curled up wrapping his tail around his feet. “If he is a faunus it would explain how he was able to see her, maybe some sort of cat faunus?”

“He turned into a crow earlier, I thought that was his Semblance.” Elm had shoved her door open and was sprawled out on the floor.

“Nope, they didn’t make any mention of that.” Clover said.

“Could it be more magic? Like the maidens and the vault?” Vine asked as he applied his Aura to heal Harriet’s back.

“Maybe something Ozpin said has been bugging me. He said he was five centuries of gruesome deaths he doesn’t want to talk about. The General didn’t seem surprised by that, he hasn’t told us much of anything about Ozpin but I am wondering if there is a lot more to him then we know about.” Clover warmed his feet by the fire.

“Why wouldn’t the General tell us though?” Marrow asked. “Plus what does this have to do with Qrow?”

“Perhaps it is not the General’s story to tell.” Vine offered.

“Qrow is married to Ozpin and Ruby. Maybe Ozpin gave him something like magic.” Clover said.

“MARRIED?!” Elm and Marrow’s jaws dropped. They couldn’t believe Ruby was married at all. “Surely you are joking?” Elm said.

“Nope. They made that damn clear on the ride out. Qrow even gave Ruby a baby already that they left behind in Mistral. Those three are a set.” Clover made a three sign with his fingers.

“Damn I thought she was cute.” Marrow pouted as blush crept up into his cheeks. “Kinda sexy though, she looks like she does while already having pushed a baby out.”

Elm threw a shoe at him. “Don’t be crude Marrow.”

Marrow caught it and tossed it back. “Don’t be mad because I am right.”

Vine had finished with Harriet and tucked her into bed. He got up and stepped out going to his own room. “We should get some rest.”

Marrow got up too. “Yeah there is a storm blowing in, hopefully we won’t be stuck here tomorrow.”

 


 

Ren closed the door and walked over to Qrow. “You forgot your gloves outside.”

Qrow had been sitting beside Oz warming up with his food. He looked up and took them from Ren. “Thanks Lie, I got a bit caught up in the moment.”  He stuffed them into a pocket and noticed that his claws were still out. Qrow pursed his lips and tried to call them back in. They stubbornly refused. His heart started to pound he remembered that Iroh had said that it was possible that he’d take on a physical trait of his magic soon. Why his claws though? Why not the much more useful like the sight and enhancements to his other senses.

“You okay Qrow?’ Lie asked.

Red eyes looked up to violet. “Yeah, thanks again.”

Lie walked over and sat beside Nora who was being good and not eating his food. Ozpin had his bowl in his bad hand in his lap while he ate with the other. “Are you alright Qrow? You look far away.”

The ebony haired man sighed and showed his claws to Oz. “They keep bleeding when they come in and it’s getting harder and harder to retract them”

Ozpin set his spoon down and pulled his glove off with his teeth before dropping it into his lap. He gently took Qrow’s hand and drew his thumb over the smooth black claws. They felt stronger if only a little thicker than normal nails. He gently felt around Qrow’s fingers with pursed lips. “Are you trying to will them away or retract them?”

“Make them go back to normal.”

“Try retracting them, here look at this.” Oz pinched one of Qrows fingers just behind the nail and rotated it. The claw extended further briefly before retracting to a normal length, still sharp and rounded to fit his finger. “You’ve got a strange mix of claw and talon, looks like a nice sharp talon but acts like a cat.”

“Yeah but I want my nails back. Are my eyes back to normal?” Qrow took his hand back and massaged each finger till the claw retracted.

“Yeah, it’s a bit odd you can’t just get them to go away as normal but you’ve been shaping your magic for such a long time now I have no idea what’s going on with it.” Oz picked up one of Qrow’s gloves and looked over the tips. “It would be pretty easy to change the leather for something thicker so you can hide them.

“Yeah being mistaken for a faunus in Atlas would suck.”

“Well I think they are cool!” Nora declared. “No one will see those coming in a fight, you’ll be able to get all up in their faces and cut them up without Harbinger.”

“They do give you an advantage. I think Blake would be jealous if she was here.” Weiss said looking down at her empty bowl.

Silence reigned as they remembered their fallen comrade. After a moment Ruby asked. “Did she at least get to her family before she was burned?”

“Yeah, Sun was there too they got to say goodbye.” Ren said and then rubbed his eyes. “We should get some sleep, for all we know the Ops likes to be up at the crack of dawn.”

“Given how late the sun rises here I think we’ll be fine.” Ruby got up and washed her bowl and spoon in the little pot of water simmering beside the fire.

Everyone got moving, changing into sleep wear thick and heavy to keep warm with wool socks. Qrow helped Ozpin get changed and checked his arm over. There was some bleeding around his fingers where the skin had cracked open but the cream but soothed and made him shiver. They all gathered on the pallet, smallest in the middle while the largest were on the outside. From right to left it was Ozpin, Ruby, Weiss, Nora, Ren and Qrow. Ozpin was arranged so that if he slept on his back his left arm would be towards the girls so they could take turns making sure it stayed warm at night as they shifted around. 

 

Chapter Text

    The howling wind was what disturbed Ruby’s slumber the next morning. It beat against the sides of their shelter furiously and she rolled over, hands reaching blindly for her Scroll that lay somewhere above her head. Ruby blinked at the time reading ten to eight and groaned turning it off. Weiss stirred beside her. “What time is it?” She grumbled rubbing her eyes. It was too dark to tell the time by the sun at all.

    “Time to get up if we want to be at the mine at a reasonable hour.” Ruby poked Oz in the shoulder. “Oz wake up we gotta get going.” She started to crawl out of the top of the pallet letting cold air invade the bed.

    That did get Ozpin moving. “Ruby~, come back, it’s cold.”

    Ruby staggered to her feet and walked over to the firepit. She knelt and added some tinder to the embers getting flames to rise up quickly as she added a few smaller pieces of wood. “Come on guys we don’t want to waste firewood.” She walked over to her backpack and started to change back into her hunting gear.

    Qrow got going as the fire started to crackle. He was up and rummaging through his pack quickly to fight off the frigid cold. “She’s right, don’t want to be breaking into that mine when it’s dark out.”

    One by one the team got up and dressed, Ozpin being the most annoyed at being forced from his cocoon of warmth. By the time they got out the Ace Ops were getting ready to leave as well. Two Atlas military soldiers would be staying at the camp to maintain it while the Huntsmen went ahead to the mines. They intended on returning to this point to break again before returning to Altas. 

    They piled into the trucks much in the same arrangement as before and headed off. It was still completely dark out and they ate ration bars rather than hot food. Clover stewed as he ate, quickly noticing Qrow was wearing gloves again. Qrow caught him staring and turned so his back was towards the Ace Op. He pulled off his gloves he looked at his pink nails, while they had slept his claws had finally vanished again. He really wasn't sure what to make of that. Qrow turned back and saw Clovers eyes flick to his fingers a frown quickly grew on his lips. “Do you paint them or some strange faunus thing?”

“I'm not a faunus.”

“Harriet's back disagrees with you.” Clover crossed his arms. “But that's beside the point I'm more wondering why that wasn't in your file. It's illegal to not register as a faunus.”

Qrow held up his hand. “Not a faunus.”

Clover glared. “I’ll be sure to report it when we get back.”

“You do that and make a fool out of yourself.”

“Enough you two! If you can’t be polite to each other just don’t talk to each other.” Ruby stood up and snapped at the two. She got that they were two very different cultures clashing right now and it wasn't going to go well but they had to work together. “We can split up once we breach the mine.”

“Sure thing girly.” Clover looked out the front of the truck.

Ruby and Weiss went back to working on their school work. They stopped once for another very cold break and arrived at the mine site somewhere around three in the afternoon. The sun was just starting to set again and they had about an hour of daylight left. They all piled out of the trucks to a small base, yurts already set up as the forward personal had hunkered down to relax when they weren’t Grimm to shoot. 

Qrow looked up at the mine entrance, it was big enough for a pair of the trucks but that was about it. The entrance had been caved in with stone and ice. The raven haired man took a deep breath through his mask, he didn’t like this one bit but he had nothing to show for his unease. “Hey Oz, how are we doing this?”

“Hmm.” Ozpin walked over to the stone wall and set a hand on it, he used a drop of magic to cast beyond the wall. “There isn’t any Dust, it should be safe for Nora and Elm to smash it open, they should just take it slow better to make sure it falls towards us not inward just in case.”

The rest of the teams had approached as Ozpin spoke. “Sweet I get to smash something!” Nora pulled her weapon off her hip.

Ozpin pointed at a smaller cluster of stone at the bottom of the pile. “Here Nora see if you can’t pitch it upward and loosen the rest.”

“Right!” Nora lined up her hit. She was wearing a mask like the rest and she made sure to step out of the way as she hit the stone.

Everyone could hear rocks loosen on the other side, Elm joined Nora and they took turns working at the spot while everyone else got out of the way. Nora and Elm could see it as the wall of stones started to come apart and quickly backed away as the rock came down in a small pile at their feet creating an opening that was just large enough for pairs of two to walk in. Elm wrinkled her nose. “Air smells old.”

All the people from Beacon were wearing masks so they couldn’t smell anything through the filters. “That would make sense.” Ozpin walked up the pile of stones and into the cave pulling his Scroll out and turning it to flashlight. “It has been sealed for years, Grimm aside and I doubt they’d have used this entrance.” Oz took point and climbed through dropping down into the entrance hall. “We’ve got bodies.” As he strode in the rest followed the bodies were frozen through rather then rotten so their physical condition was preserved. He drew his sword and extended to push a body over. Most of them were on their fronts or sides. He pushed one over to reveal several very obvious bullet holes and blood stains. “They were shot down, kept in here probably when the entrance was blown.”

Qrow walked over but kept his distance from the corpse. “Can’t tell much without touching it.”

“Don’t, not worth the risk when we don’t know what happened here.” Ozpin said.

Ruby had wandered into the dark expanse. She counted a dozen bodies just in this open space. She was very glad for her mask, though none of the Ops were acting like the bodies had much of a smell. “I wonder if they have ID on them?”

“That is a good thought Ruby.” Ozpin knelt by the corpse he had pushed over and put his sword away. Rather then touch the body directly Oz used a drop of magic which he used to push the coat of the corpse open. It crackled and broke the blood and frost having damaged the fabric. He quested through the garb and sure enough levitated a wallet free. Another flick of his fingers it opened to reveal a Vale citizenship card, the line of his mouth hardened. “This one is from Vale, I’m willing to bet the others are as well.”

“We should stick to the plan and split up. Your team goes west while mine goes east and we flush out the Grimm to the main cavern.” Clover said, he wasn’t about to poke through bodies.

“Agreed, just don’t touch anything. Something tells me James would be upset if any of you got hurt.” Ozpin lead the way through the western tunnel as they came to a fork in the path. His team walked in silence for several minutes, there weren’t any more bodies and it was still cold the walls pure ice. Eventually Nora spoke up. “So… we didn’t really chat all that much with Vine, Elm, Harriet and Marrow but I take it you don’t like Clover.”

“He is very Atlas. Beyond that there is something about him I just don’t trust.” Ozpin said.

“He reminds me of Cardin, like a grown up version of Cardin that can hide what he is thinking.” Ren offered.

Weiss pursed her lips as they walked thinking it over. “I agree, we could be completely wrong about him but there is something off about him. He was staring at you Ruby.”

Ruby’s hugged herself. “Do you think he knows about my eyes? So far we’ve managed to dodge any inquires about them but wasn’t the General in Mistral asking about them? I used them at Argus too, the only reason no one has been getting on my case about them here is because James is the General.”

“Don’t forget about that doctor who wanted to hold you in Argus. You should really be more careful Ruby, James may be at the top but I wouldn’t put it past those under him starting to push the issue if they find out just what you can do. Or worse the general public finding out, you’d be seen as a weapon and there are a lot of scientists studying Aura that would give up a limb for an hour to poke at you.” Weiss said as they turned to walk down a corridor.

“Please don’t remind me, I’ll work at keeping my emotions in check.” Ruby picked up her steps to wrap an arm around Qrow’s. Just that small amount of contact with him calmed her down.

Qrow drew it down so he could hold her hand. “Relax, we’ll keep you safe.”

Ozpin pursed his lips as they came to a heavy door. “What worries me is where are all the Geists ground troops? If it is as old as we think there should be more Grimm in here.”

“Maybe they Ace Ops ran into them.” Ren said.

“They should have called in if that was the case. Regardless of our differences.” Ozpin glanced around and frowned. “Nora this is on you again.”

Nora pulled out her hammer and set to work on the doors. Within the first few strikes Oz’s Scroll sounded out with Clover’s voice. “That racket you guys?”

“Yes, another door and no key card. Have you seen any Grimm?” Ozpin spoke without looking down to his Scroll.

“A few Centinels, seems like the forward teams did a good job.” Clover said.

“Interesting.”

The left door smashed open and Nora threw her shoulder into it, trying to push it open. Qrow let Ruby’s hand go and helped Nora, together they heaved at the ice making the door both easier and harder to leverage open. Weiss, Ruby, Ren and Ozpin slipped through the small gap and Oz held the door open from the opposite side as Qrow and Nora zipped through. When he let it go it slid back shut with a bang.

This hall was stone and ice beyond it were three bodies all piled together. Two wearing labour’s outfits while the last had a uniform. Qrow walked over and pulled the man in the suit out from under the others, a quick rifling through his pockets produced a key card and a Scroll. “Perfect. Maybe the Scroll will have something on it. Jacques may have refused to give up the mines history but James can arrange for a way to break into this without any issues.”

“Good thinking, given all the bodies whatever happened here was sudden.” Ozpin looked down the dark tunnel. “To bad the power is offline otherwise that key card is useless.”

“Yeah, I can’t get the last time we were crawling through pitch black tunnels out of my head. Gods I miss my cloak.” Ruby hugged herself. “How much farther do you think the main cavern is?”

“This particular mine is rather underdeveloped, so it shouldn’t be much farther.” Ozpin said as the coms went off again. “This is Alpha we’ve engaged the target in the main chamber.”

“Crap.” Ozpin and crew took flight racing down the hall as fast as they dared. A light rain of stone and dust hit their heads as the mine shook very faintly. They came into the main cavern to see the Ace Ops battling the Geist Grimm that had infused itself with large chunks of stone filled to the brim with Dust. Clover had just jumped up into the air casting his fishing line to wrap around the Grimm’s head.

“THAT IDIOT! NORA, QROW BREAK THE MAIN BODY. RUBY, REN, WEISS UNDERNEATH, I’M GOING TO HOLD EVERYTHING IN MY SEMBLANCE BE READY.” Ozpin raced to the edge of the ledge. Nora and Qrow fired off of it together, Nora with her hammer out and smashing into the core of the Grimm while Qrow charged up a fist with Aura.

Clover pulled the Geist Grimm free of the Dust and ice. Harriet jumped into the air punching the Geist heads apart. As they did the body of the Grimm started to splinter and fall apart, it came crashing down Dust and all. Ruby and Ren were already underneath. Ozpin cast his arms forward and enveloped the scene in his power Nora, Qrow, Ruby, Ren and Weiss. To him the scene slowed down. Clover and Harriet hung in the air, while Weiss cast her biggest gravity glyph slowing down large boulders of Dust that fell from the pieced together Grimm. Ruby used her Semblance to zip around hurryingly grabbing the Dust crystals while Ren helped her. Qrow grabbed Nora and Rose-Petal-Burst through the Grimm bits. They landed and set about catching the huge purple crystals. 

Sweat dripped down Weiss’s head, her Aura was evaporating under her demands. Ozpin’s Semblance working on them all was giving them the precious seconds to prevent them all from getting blown up. Still they were running out of time and Weiss was almost out of Aura. “I’m almost out! Ruby, Qrow!”

Ruby and Qrow grasped hands and spun out in her Semblance creating a thin storm of petals buffeting the remaining pieces into the air. Ren and Nora grabbed a large piece between them before setting it on the ground. Weiss helped but without Aura she could only catch the small ones. 

Ozpin saw Ren grab the last piece and let go of the scene and crashed down onto his side. He didn’t think he’d ever held that many people at one time. The heat in the cave from the Dust energy bled through his gloves, his left arm screamed at being fallen on.

To the Ace Ops the second team just appeared out of nowhere, even Harriet hadn’t been able to see them come. The purple Gravity Dust that had still been in the core Grimm body was neatly stacked at the sides of the room and a thick swirl of rose petals condensed before snapping back into two people. Ruby and Qrow were entangled together sitting on their butts panting as they held each other.

“What the heck?!” Clover asked as he and Harriet landed. “How did you guys do that?!”

Qrow got up and dusted himself down. He strode right over to that stupid smug Ace Ops and clocked Clover in the jaw so fast the tall man spun. “You colossal idiot!” Qrow roared. “What! You couldn’t call in when you found it and waited?! You nearly got us all killed! The core was still full of Dust and you have no way of catching it or breaking apart and still catching all the pieces! If even a single one had hit the ground it would have resulted in a catalyst that WOULD have brought this whole place down. You endangered the whole mission and all our lives!”

Clover held his jaw he could feel the fracture in it, he healed it with Aura. “Marrow and Elm-.”

“Are scattered around the cavern! You failed to call when you found it and should have held back till we got here!” Qrow was beyond pissed, this little shit had almost gotten them all killed.

“We were doing just fine catching the pieces on our own, we would have managed-.”

“Bullshit!” Qrow seethed and pointed at their pieces. The majority of the Dust had been embedded in the main body, the bits they had grabbed had only been from the limbs. “You were probably counting on the ice casing to save your ass which given up much of the Dust was exposed is an assine move!”

Clover for once didn’t have any response. He looked over to the Vale team, Weiss was sitting beside Ruby chest heaving as she tried to regain her breath. Nora and Ren looked like they had burned through all of their Aura as well. Ozpin wasn’t even there. “Where’s Ozpin?”

Qrow spun around and looked at the ledge. “Oz?!”

Ozpin forced himself to roll over and sit up propping himself up with his good arm. “I’m good, just tapped out. Never done that many people before.” He swung his legs over the ledge and dropped down with a wobble he stumbled and slumped onto a crate. “Yeah, I’m tapped out. Let’s never do that again.” He reached up and pulled his mask off, this room was more than warm enough.

“Just what did you do?” Harriet asked as the rest of the Ace Ops gathered together. 

“..My Semblance...oww.” Oz grabbed his bad arm he could feel the bandages starting to soak through. “My Semblance is a form of Time Manipulation. To those within its influence it seems like the outside world is at a standstill or moving very slowly as was the case here. I’m not quite sure how it works in all honesty, I just know that those I do not influence with it don’t have time pass for them.”

“So while you were all having your hang time.” Nora said putting a hand on her hip. “We cleaned up your mess so we didn’t all get blown up. You’re welcome.”

“Thank you.” Elm said crossing her arms over her wide chest. “Mission complete, let’s call the General in, Amity is already on it’s way.”

“Sure, you do that.” Qrow glared at Clover. “I will be writing a report on this. I doubt you’ll get what you deserve for this fuck up but you can bet your ass James will know about it.” The garnet eyed man turned on his heel and walked towards Oz, who was barely holding himself up. He knew that Oz was reliant on his Aura and the pain in his arm was leaching over the bond even that Qrow could feel it making his own thoughts fuzzy, so he didn’t want to guess what Oz’s own mind was like.

“And what do I deserve for this?” Clover asked raising his chin proudly.

Qrow recognized it as something Weiss did when she was pissed. “Court martial. If you weren’t an Ace Ops you’d be out on your ass so fast there would be skid marks. For endangering your teammates by neglect if nothing else and I am sure Oz and I could think of a few other things.” Qrow strode away and as he got closer he could see the sweat and pain on Oz’s face. “Your arm?”

“Aura is tapped, it does make managing everything else more difficult.” Ozpin moved with Qrow putting his good arm over his shoulder. “We are still missing bodies, there has to be a hold up of people somewhere in here.”

Ruby got up with Weiss the two leaning on each other. She was trying to gather up enough Aura to help Oz. She and Qrow had shared the burden of the maelstrom so as she put a hand on her collar and trickled Aura over it, with the bonds assistance she could guide the available Aura too just Oz. Qrow could feel Ruby draw from him as well and in the next moment Ozpin was standing taller, his pale cheeks a little pinked and his breathing not as laboured. Weiss could feel the warmth of Aura on Ruby’s skin and wished that she could share in some of it. “Oz is right we should keep looking around.” She pulled her Scroll from her pocket and shined the light around the dim chamber. “There is a side passage over there.”

“Let’s go.” Ruby said and headed off with Weiss.

The Ace Ops made for the exit while Ozpin picked a piece of Grimm to sit on. He looked up at Qrow. “Stay with the girls, if they run into something bad they won’t know what to do with it.”

“Okay Oz, just be careful with that arm.” Qrow kissed his cheek and jogged after Ruby and Weiss.

Nora collapsed her hammer and walked over, opening a side pouch on Oz’s trench coat. “That was pretty cool Oz, I didn’t know you could do that with your Semblance.”

Ren helped Ozpin take his coat off. “We should check your arm.”

For once Oz didn’t protest. “Missed you too Ren. I wasn’t sure I could, Ruby and Qrow I’ve managed before, the bonds make sharing it with them easier but all of you was a first. It’s a miracle I didn’t eat ice right after.”

Ren pulled Oz’s shirt off and then undid the buckles holding the compression sleeve in place. Nora frowned with her boyfriend when splotches of blood already soaked through. “Well at least it’s warm in here.” Nora said as Ren rolled down the sleeve and Nora got the scissors out. She carefully cut down from Oz’s shoulder to his finger tips. The bandages were peeled away, it was very clear where he had fallen on it. The weeping was centred on his shoulder following a clear line down to his elbow. “You need to be more careful Oz.”

Ren had already pulled out a piece of linen to absorb the oozing blood. “That was needlessly risky.”

“I wouldn’t say needlessly, I’d rather lose some blood then have you all get blown to bits. I’ll be back but you’ll turn through the wheel. I’d rather not wait another twenty plus years to find you all again.” He reached up and held the absorbent pad that Nora placed on his shoulder.

“Point taken.” Ren started to rewrap the arm.

Vine and Marrow walked back into the room just as the lights came on. “Huh I guess your teammates found the generator.” Marrow caught sight of Oz’s arm and gagged swiftly covering his nose.

Ozpin chuckled. “Yes, welcome to my life.”

Vine walked over and held the cloth so Ozpin did not have too peering at the bloody limb. “How long has it been like this?”

“Better part of a year, this is actually an improvement over where it was.” The copper eyed man flashed a smile.

Vine extend his own yellow Aura and applied it to the arm. He was moderately surprised when it only seemed to slow the bleeding. “The internal damage must be profound.”

“That’s one way to put it.” Ozpin held the end of the bandage to his wrist as Ren tied it back up.

“You shouldn’t put the compression sleeve back on, it’s already got too much blood in it.” Ren picked up the sleeve and wrapped it up wet side in.

Marrow looked back as Nora helped Oz back into his shirt noticing the extensive scarring on Oz’s chest. “What hap-.”

“Oz! We found the Valeans. There is a bunk room by the generator and there all there and they are all dead. Some of them have big black sores.” Ruby’s voice came over the coms panicked.

Ozpin shot up to his feet and snapped into his Scroll. “Do Not Touch Anything. I’ll be right here.”

“Oz!” Nora huffed as he ran off. “I swear, keeping him out of trouble is harder than getting Yang out of bed in the morning!”

Marrow and Vine exchanged a glance, both wondered who Yang was and followed the Valeans charging down the hallway. It quickly got warmer and smaller. The walls started closing in tighter until they found Ruby, Qrow and Weiss sitting on the stone across from an open door. Ozpin went straight for the door, the sight made him cover his mouth and take a steadying breath. Within the room were around twenty eight bodies. Probably the remains of the Valeans that hadn’t made a run for the entrance or had already been too far gone to try. A quick glance confirmed his suspicions. 

Plague. 

Ozpin closed the door and summoned a brief flame over his hand to burn away any germs that might have been lingering on it. “Who opened the door?”

Weiss raised her gloved hands. The fire Ozpin wreathed them in singed her gloves but didn’t burn her hands. Oz turned his attention to the two Ace Ops. “Tell Clover that there are twenty eight plague victims in this room. No one is even to open the door without proper protection. The bodies we found by the entrance are likely infected as well.”

“I’ll get some Dust to burn them as well.” Elm said as they walked out.

By the time they got to entrance Amity had arrived, James had just arrived by Manta. The small ship came down to land, the side door was thrown open and James stepped off followed by four troops. They started unloading more supplies for the troops currently stationed there. Clover got up off his box and moved towards the General.

James held a hand for silence as Clover opened his mouth. “What have you found Ozpin?”

“What we were worried about. I didn’t check the earlier bodies out of caution and the pre existing damage but we found a bunk house with almost thirty bodies showing clear signs of plague and another two in the west halls.” Ozpin pulled out his mask and sealed it back into place.

“Damn it Jacques, I’ll have his hide for this.” James clenched his fists as he ground his teeth.

Qrow walked over and pulled the ID and Scroll he had taken from a body. “I pinched these off of a worker, they might be helpful.”

“Thank you Qrow.” James took both and looked between Clover and Qrow. “I get the feeling that hoping you two would get along was a bit much on my part.”

“No of cour-”

“Damn straight, Atlasian cockhead.” Qrow crossed his arms and hissed.

Ozpin couldn’t help it, he laughed and ended up holding his bad arm still. “Aww, Gods it’s like how you two were at the start James.”

Qrow went completely deadpan. “You couldn’t pay me to do this Atlas prick!” He pointed at Clover with this thumb. “I’d sooner try catching a bullet from Due Process with my teeth!”

“The feeling is mutual, you’ve probably got a petri dish worth of diseases old man.” Clover glared right back at him.

“I am not OLD! I’m im-.” Qrow snapped his teeth shut with a clack baring them.

“Might as well just tell him Qrow, it’s not like you’ve got any grey in your hair.” James was starting to find this assuming.

“I’m immortal you little shit, I stopped aging when I was your age. You may have read my file but let’s make one thing very clear.” Qrow invaded Clover’s space almost poking him in the chin with a finger. “You don’t know jack shit about me. I’ll outlive you by centuries.” The garnet eyed man turned on his heel and stormed away muttering. “Little shit, stupid good luck Semblance, fucking knob jocky prick, why the fuck did he get it when I got saddled…”

Ozpin and James couldn’t hear anymore and Qrow walked off following the smell of hot food. “Well, I just learned something about Qrow.” Ozpin mused.

“You and me both.” James said.

“He actually can get jealous. Vengeful, I knew about and protective but jealous. I don’t think I’ve seen Qrow jealous since I started playing with Ruby.” Ozpin said putting his hand on his hip.

“Hmm I’m sensing a story there.” James said looking the groups over. Ruby and Weiss had followed Qrow with Nora and Ren. 

Oz followed his gaze. “Eh you’ve heard bits of it already, at least I don’t have to worry about feeding the masses.” He sniffed the air smelling a beef stew from within the yurt even through the filters.

“Can I give my report please?” Clover didn’t feel like watching the two older men remiss about old conquests.

“Yes please.” James turned his attention to the Ace op.

 


 

Qrow ate with furious determination. Ruby was snuggled up to his side with Weiss beside her, they both had a bowl of stew but unlike Qrow they weren’t immune to the image of death. So they forced themselves to eat, it was so cold out they couldn’t afford to not have extra calories to burn. Nora and Ren were having an easier time of it given they hadn’t seen the room full of bodies. They could hear the occasional shout from outside of the yurt, clearly Ozpin was filling James on his side of Clover’s actions in the mine. Ten minutes later, James and Ozpin walked into the yurt and sat down by the fire to thaw out.

“Where are the Ops?” Nora asked.

“Doing the rounds. Clover has been given a week of suspension for his errors in the mine. While it would be nice to slap something harsher on him I need all hands on deck.” James pulled out his Scroll and brought up a new file. “Qrow what do you make of this.”

Qrow took the file from him. It was the autopsy report for a man named Forest but no last name was listened. He flicked up the autopsy report. One wound, stabbed with a fine point lean with very little flare. Poison corrosive. Qrow wrinkled his nose at the sight of Forest’s chest melted open. His right hand gripped his side he remembered that purple poison. “Seems the fucker is here.”

Ruby looked over and all the colour drained from her face. She shot to her feet and started to pace in the busy yurt, her heart was pounding as fear rose up. The silver eyed warrior hugged herself and really hoped it was someone- anyone else. James got up and went to her stopping her pacing. “Ruby, what is it?” He could see the tears gathering in her eyes, she opened her mouth but only managed a suppressed hiccuping cough.

“Tyrian Callows. A scorpion faunus that murdered most of Mistral’s Huntsmen along with Hazel Rainart. He also kidnapped and…” Ozpin clenched his fists and couldn’t hide the storm of fury on his face.

James saw it and Ruby’s tears and put two and two together. “Oh Gods, Ruby.” He gently reached out and she moved at the little promoting and hid her face against his chest.

“He almost killed Qrow too, they got into a fight on the way to Mistral and he opened up Qrow’s side and dosed him with the poison.” Ren said as Nora snuggled up to his side.

Qrow flinched as Oz stood up. “You failed to mention that.”

The red eyed man stood up and turned the Scroll off. “I was fine, there was no point in mentioning it. But unless there is some other murder happy poisonous faunus in the world that would benefit from making your life difficult James. It must be him. I haven’t heard hide nor hair of him since Oz thrashed him. I guess he was licking his wounds.”

“Forest was a very outspoken individual against my office. So this Tyrian is trying to frame me. Lovely.” James stroked Ruby’s back. “Do you wish to stay at the school and out of the field Ruby?”

Ruby couldn’t bare the thought of being stolen again. She might have a new sword, she might be better trained and a stronger person but he was her rapist. He was in Mantle or Atlas for all they knew and the idea of working in either city became terrifying in seconds. The petite woman nodded into James’s chest.

James reached up and pet her hair. “Alright, you all have work to do in Atlas anyway. Qrow, you can do what you do best. Find him. Ozpin you have your own tasks to get to. The Ace Ops can handle escorting the shipments for a while then we’ll rotate you all in.”

Ruby pulled away and attempted to clean her face. “Sounds good, I just really want to go back to the flat now. He’s just-I… I just wanna hide for a bit.”

Qrow got up and hugged her tightly and she clung to him just as tight. “He won’t get you, never again.”

Ozpin walked over and hugged her so she was surrounded by them, he could feel Ruby’s fear even as she tried to hide it across the bonds. “Let’s not stay in this frozen place any longer. There is home to look forward to.”

Chapter Text

    Ruby loved the dark, usually. It was the best for stargazing a frequent activity of hers, less so in Mistral it was too rainy most of the time. She did remember hiding in Qrow’s room at Patch and looking out the window to admire the stars. Atlas was wonderful for it, the smog of Mantle never reached the floating city and James’s flat had such lovely enormous windows. There was a little distortion through the glass but the city on a clear night was still lovely. The silver eyed warrior crept to the window wall of the living room. She set her fingertips against the glass, it was warm to her touch and she could see the city of Atlas below them and the academy above. Was Tyrian out there? Or was he down in Mantle? It would be easier for a faunus to hide in Mantle.

She tucked her hands into the sleeves of her housecoat. The sun hadn’t risen as of yet, it seemed that even eight in the morning the sun couldn't rise over the horizon as not a speck of it lightened the sky. Where was he? Where was the crazy scary monster? The purple eyes that haunted her, snuck into her dreams and turned them into nightmare fuel. Everywhere she looked they appeared, in the shadows and the corners, the darkness she had once felt so at home in was now so so frightening. She knew he had been obsessed with her and Qrow, if he knew they were here he’d make their life hell just because he could. Ruby pressed her hands to her flat belly, she wanted her baby so much. To know she was okay, to hold her and protect her. Tears started to gather in her eyes and she covered her mouth with a hand. Gods where was he? What if he already knew where they were? What if he could see her right now, cowering in front of too large windows! Her mind clouded with fear, danger screaming at her. Get away! Run, hide!

Hands on her shoulders startled her making the young woman jump with a screech! She spun, hands up ready to fight only to find James standing there, dressed only in a housecoat looking down at her with a kind smile. All her fear and adrenaline rushed out in one fell swoop and Ruby tipped into him and took shelter in his embrace. His hands, one flesh and one metal looped around her waist holding her comfortably. “Shouldn’t you be with Ozpin and Qrow?”

“They are having a shower together. I don’t feel up to it, I know that Oz is leaving again and Qrow is going down into the Mantle but…” Ruby hid her face against his chest. “He’s out there and they are leaving me. What if he knows I live here? What if he knows they are going out on their own missions. What if Qrow doesn’t find him?”

“What exactly did he do to you? I mean I can guess from your reaction but Ozpin and Qrow haven’t actually said.” James asked he could feel the shiver that ran through her.

“He...stole me. I just wanted to go for a walk and he…” She took a big shuddering breath. “He raped me for a week, I don’t remember the time well he drank Qrow’s favourite whisky as he-Gods I can’t do this again.” Ruby grabbed his coat and cried into it.

“I understand, I don’t need anything more. Qrow and Oz are heading out today, would you like to come to work with me? I work almost exclusively out of the academy it would be better than being alone here.” James raised his hand and brushed back one of Ruby’s bangs back behind her ear.

Ruby couldn’t help but notice how huge his hand was. Oz’s fingers were longer but James’s were broader and he didn’t have the same calluses as either of her husbands. She sniffed and reached up taking the bare hand in hers. Her’s was tiny in comparison, pale, almost white like the moon against his tanned skin. Gun calluses were very different than what she was used to but she could tell he hadn’t fought in a while, his hands weren’t soft but she could sense pen over weapon. More then that they felt relaxed in her grip, not limp but safe and soothing. She traced over his palm caressing the lines was a welcome distraction from her thoughts.

James found her analyzing of his hand interesting. Her touch was light and unsure, not at all like how Weiss touched him. “Would you like to see the rest? Qrow mentioned once you’re a bit of a metal head so you might enjoy it.” He wondered if a further distraction would help, he felt a bit guilty about sending her back to such painful memories.

Ruby looked up to him her eyes and nose still a bit red. “I’d like that.”

James reached up and pulled his house coat down his shoulders the belt kept it from falling to the ground. Ruby’s eyes went wide, she took a half step back to take it in. The metal wrapped around his side broken into muscle groups with a black hexagonal mesh underneath that Ruby could see move as he breathed. She reached out and touched between the plates, the mesh retracted and James chuckled. “Sorry ticklish, having sensation is still a new thing after all these years.”

Ruby traced up his side, the metal moving like skin and muscle. It was probably one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen, even better then the new Crescent Rose hot off the forge. She traced back over the black metal to the joining of skin. The meeting points were now smooth with an edge of white scaring, the metal was spread evenly down his middle, following the lines of his pectoral downward till it was hidden under the rest of the housecoat. “This has got to be one of the prettiest, coolest things I’ve ever seen. My baby excluded of course nothing can be prettier than her.”

James laughed softly again as her fingers wandered up his side again petting over the metal. James lifted his right hand and offered it to her. Ruby took it and traced along the smooth interlocking plates, the mimicking of knuckles and tendons. It was warm to the touch, not quite skin temperature but close enough to fake it. “I didn’t expect it to be warm.”

“Requirement for preventing frostbite in the field. The damage it would do to the living parts of me if it was cold would do more harm than good. I’d be forever stuck in the city. With my old ones only the core was heated but now it’s more in tune with my circulatory system so even my own body heat can be used to help maintain the temperature.” James turned his metal wrist showing Ruby the back and letting her touch the sculpted metal, it was a very close copy of his left side. Near perfect work. She traced one round insert no doubt a grounding point of interior pieces.

She traced up his arm, what a difference, it looked like the smooth metal was actually a mesh upon touch, sculpted like muscle to no doubt give more space for interior functions. The pieces that made up his core from what Ruby guessed appeared to be fastened down with black circular disks a little less then two of her fingertips in width. She traced over one. “What’s this?” Then tapped another one in the middle of his living pectoral. There was another chain of three more on his living side only a finger width in diameter. She also noticed twined strips of black metal that were usually hidden by the high collar of his shirts.

“Regulators as well as injection points. This whole system does require additional power if I am to use any of the more… discrete functions. It’s not just my one side, if it was none of this would work. My internal organs, spine all of it has augmentations to work with the prosthetics. When I got these new ones I went all in, it was almost a requirement. These augmentations are cutting edge, it’s impossible to power them without changing your whole body. Even what I eat doesn’t just fed the living side but there are… system I guess would be the simplest way to put it that can convert organic matter to energy for augmentations. I have dermal implants throughout my body that can negate physical damage without Aura. Would you like to see something cool?”

“Sure!” Ruby grinned, looking up to his face.

He spread his arm and cleanly vanished from sight. Ruby could see the change start from the middle of his chest then flow out from it in only a couple seconds. It was almost like looking at a perfect glass reflecting everything around it so perfectly that it made James invisible as he stood before her. All to soon it was over and James returned to the visible spectrum with that same effect. “What’s that?”

“The Glass-Shield Cloaking system allows the user to turn invisible for short periods of time. It achieves this by generating a carefully tuned, spherical, electromagnetic field that can control the refraction of light in the user's immediate vicinity. In essence, this field steers light around the user and returns it to its original path with a perturbation rate of less than three percent.” James said as if he was pitching it to his medical team. “One of my own ideas, if it ever becomes more mainstream I thought Qrow would like it. He did give me the idea with his ability to sulk about.”

“What else can you do?” Ruby asked awe in her eyes.

“You’ll have to wait and see, I’ve got to keep some surprises for you. Don’t go getting any ideas though, I am one of a kind partly due to a genetic quirk that my scientists haven’t quite figured out yet.”

“What’s that?”

“Well currently with the test subjects most have developed something we call Darrow Deficiency Syndrome, it’s when their bodies reject the augmentations which causes a build up of glial tissue around the neuroprosthetic junction, the interface between augmentation and flesh. We have been calling it nerve scarring and it blocks the electrical signals between the implanted biochip and the biological nervous system, resulting in rejection. It can cause things as simple as dizziness, seizures and death. As well as loss of control over the augmentation of course. We aren’t totally sure why but currently the idea is that it I might have some genetic aspect that is preventing it or severely reducing any DDS. After my surgery I did have to use small amounts of neuropozyne while I was actively healing as a preventative measure but I’ve never actively had DDS.” James shrugged. “I’m basically the human guinea pig for all augmentations. The end goal for augmentations will be the replacement of the current prosthetics systems. To get the entirety of the human body to work with prosthetics rather then the faulty system we currently have.”

Ruby adored the passion in James’s voice, it wouldn’t surprise her at all if he was one of the scientists actively working on this. “That’s really amazing, you’ll have to teach me more about it I do so love learning about science and given that weapons haven’t be changing much something new would be so cool.”

“Sure.” James moved away, pulling his house coat back over his shoulders and sat down on the couch. “It will be nice to have a new mind on it.”

It was at that point that Weiss walked in with a yawn and stretched. “Morning Ruby, Oz and Qrow having fun without you?”

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling up to it.” Ruby walked over and curled up in a corner of the couch. “James was just telling me about his new prosthetics.”

“They are very cool, would you help me with breakfast you two. I’m hungry and it’s going to be a busy day.”

Ruby nodded, feeling more like herself again and when she peered back at the windows her eyes met the dawn of the new day. Somewhere between her fears and talk with James the sun had welcomed them with a bright orange glow that chased away the shadows lingering in her mind. 

 


 

Ruby sat curled up behind James’s wide desk while he worked. Her back to one of the metal braces, she had her own Scroll of work on the ground beside her. It was just so hard to focus to even think about school when Tyrian was out there. She was wearing the Atlas academy grey uniform further washing out her already pale skin to an almost sickly color. Her long hair tumbling down her front like a scarf against the cold chills that threatened her.

James turned in his chair and looked at her, so compact that he could pick her up with one arm. He watched her for a moment her homework forgotten and searched for something to say. Ozpin was gone and Qrow out in the cities. Weiss, Ren and Nora were in classes, she could have gone as well but her cheeks had gone ashen when Ren asked if she was coming with them. The school was like a floating glass building and she just hadn’t felt safe, so exposed to them as it were. So she had instead followed James when he went up to his office, a little pale flower following the general had gathered some odd looks. James didn’t care though, keeping Ruby safe was more important. She was precious to Ozpin and Qrow, but she was also a Silver Eyed Warrior capable of using her power. Keeping her safe was a top priority. Happy was ideal but that particular idea was much more difficult at the current time. “So, you know that thinking about it won’t make it any better.”

“I know but I can’t get it out of my head. Can’t focus on anything else.” Ruby rested a cheek on her knees as they were drawn up.

“I understand but letting him linger in your thoughts only gives him more power.” James said.

“I know that too.” Ruby sighed. “But I can’t think of a way to stop thinking about him. He’s out there, he’s in the same city as me and he so insane I bet he can do whatever he sets out too. If he knows I’m here…” Ruby pressed a hand to her belly. “He almost killed me last time, almost killed my baby.” Tears threatened her eyes again.

James walked over and sat down beside her. “I won’t let him near you, I understand that Ozpin and Qrow are your husbands and they’ve done their best to take care of you… and that I’ve asked them to work for me even if that takes them away from you. You aren’t alone though, you can stick close to me for as long as you want. I understand that your friends don’t have the ability to defend you and that is why you don’t wish to be with them now.”

“That’s part of it, Qrow is one of the best and Tyrian still almost killed him. My friends even with all their different skills, I’m not convinced we’d stand a chance. He toyed with us last time. His Semblance drains your Aura away the longer you fight him the worse it gets…” Ruby shivered. “I don’t even want to see him again, if he does see me again.” She clenched up get whole body, her eyes shut tight.

“I know, it took a while to become both and Headmaster and General. I started at the bottom like everyone else and I did my fair share of investigative work. Nothing anywhere near Qrow’s level but I know a stalker when I read about one.”

Ruby shuffled over and rested her head on his arm. “That’s nice to hear, I know with your Semblance you could just grab him out of the air but he’s sneaky, what if he gets the drop on you?”

“If you only ever think about the what if’s you’ll make yourself sick.” James said and offered his hand.

Ruby took it and shifted to let him hold her. “Easier said than done.”

There was a knock on the door and the two got up together. Ruby squeezed his hand briefly before stepping away and assuming military ease. “Come.” James called out and moved to stand before his desk.

“I’m sorry to bother you General but-.” Winter started before the doors were tossed over and something bright and yellow flew into the room with a cry. “RUBY!”

Ruby barely caught her sister as she barrelled into the younger girl, stumbling back a second. “Yang! You’re back, I thought you’d stay longer with dad.”

“I really thought about it, but Bart made a convincing point about moving on and forward. So I decided to get a move on, I saw Argus on my way over here, Gods I’ve seen a town fall before but nothing like that.” Yang stepped away and took in Ruby’s pale cheeks. “Ruby what’s wrong? You look pale.”

Ruby wet ler lips, her voice weak. “T-Tyrian is in Mantle, we just f-found out.”

Yang went almost as pale as her sister. “Oh Gods, that bastard! Is uncle-?”

“Hunting yes.” Ruby forced a smile. “Hopefully things will go better this time around.”

“Well, where is everyone else?” Yang asked looked over to Winter and James. The older sister wanted nothing more then to throw her arms around Ruby and protect her from the looming threat. She kept a tight lid over her fiery temper, no one was getting their hands on her little sister again, not if she had anything to do about it!

“In classes, here I have prepared a new Scroll for you.” James walked around to his desk and pulled out a Scroll from a drawer. “This has all the second year material you can skip anything you covered at Mistral, the idea is to get through as much content as quickly as possible ideally so you can be brought in as a third year come next September. If you all hit third year content sooner you’ll be moved up in accordance. The idea is to catch up to your age group as quickly as possible.”

“Sweet, Beacon was too easy at times.” Yang took the Scroll and booted it up, her hand still grasping her sister’s. “Do I get to sit on classes?’

“Yes, Weiss, Ren and Nora are there now. Winter if you have a moment I’d appreciate if you could show Miss Xaio Long around.” James gestured towards the exist.

“Of course sir.” Winter dipped her head to him.

“You aren’t coming Ruby?” Yang asked as her own sister shied away from her.

“No, I’ll be staying with James till Ozpin and Qrow are back.” Ruby hugged herself with an arm. “... He’s the strongest Huntsmen around with Oz and Qrow busy and if Tyrian is out there I don’t want to risk being out in public.”

“Ruby, I can protect you.” Yang took a step towards her.

Ruby held her hands for her to stop. “With all due respect Yang, if you got into a fight with him he’d kill you. I’ll be staying around at least one of our top hunters till Tyrian is caught or dead.”

“But this is an academy Ruby, what are the odds that-.”

“I don’t care what the odds are Yang. This is Tyrian, and I’m sorry but you can’t make me feel safe like the others can. Not you, not Nora or Ren or Weiss. We aren’t even in his league Yang, you’ve never seen him so you can’t understand what he’s like. Please Yang just go and explore, I’m going to stay here.” Ruby inched back towards the desk.

Yang moved towards her hands outstretched before she stopped herself. A deep breath calmed herself down, she knew that Ruby was different now. That she looked to others for protection, she had to learn to take this in stride even when it stung her heart a little. “Right, sorry. I just… yeah I’ll just go catch up with the rest.” Yang gave Ruby a gentle hug, it was times like this she was jealous of Weiss who knew her sister better than she did. “See you later.”

Ruby nodded and went quiet as Winter escorted Yang from the room and covered her mouth swallowing a cry. James saw the stress and drew her into a hug stroking up and down her back. “It wasn’t my place to say anything but are you two okay?”

“Yang has always had this thing for protecting me or dropping me like dead weight. I still can’t tell which she’ll do. She ditched me on the first day of school at Beacon for example.” Ruby said hugging herself tightly. “She did come to me at Haven but I’m still not really sure why. Part of me thinks it was just for Blake, I don’t know the more I grew up the less we connect anymore.”

“That’s a very natural thing between siblings. Believe it or not I have four and none of us speak to each other anymore, it’s just a part of growing up.” James leaned against his desk observing her. “Do you want her here? You are a grown woman now, a wife and mother, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want too. That includes whatever Yang would have you do. Your safety is more important than her feelings.”

“I know all that and I appreciate she came she’s part of my team and family but that was just so her to want me to run around with her. When I don’t want to run around with her. Even after I woke up after I was rescued from him. It was Yang at first with Weiss but in the end it was Weiss who stayed with me. Helped me when I was afraid of my own shadow. Yang hasn’t never been there like for me, not like Weiss has. Weiss had been my friend and part of my life more actively then Yang has been for years. Then here she comes crashing in wanting to act like nothing has ever gone so very wrong.” Ruby grabbed her belly, flat and empty it unnerved her more than anything else. “I can’t forget what he did to me, even if she can.”

The headmaster was silent for a minute. “Give her a little slack, she’s not been in your shoes and doesn’t know what it’s like to go through something like that. Hasn’t seen it from the perspective of the one trying to find you after seeing the trail of bodies lay in the path.”

“I know that but I just don’t know how to reach her anymore. She’s not been the same person since Beacon. She’s moody and grumpy, she was trying to court Blake and that was kinda relief so that I didn’t have to figure out how to entertain her. Now that is gone and she’s just trying to pick up where we left off. I don’t know what to do.”

“Take it one day at a time. I understand if you can’t talk to her with ease anymore as I said it’s just a part of growing up but you are Huntresses in training it’s not like you don’t have anything in common anymore.” James said flipping his hand out.

“That’s a good point… thank you James I do feel a bit better now.” Ruby smiled and walked over to sit on the edge of his desk. “I used to do this for Oz when he was having a bad day. Something about my legs having healing properties for the local males and bis.” She kicked them out and pointed her toes.

Her skin tight tights did communicate that idea. The grey leggings of the uniform weren’t very sexy but he could admire the lines all the same. “Well I do think those do have some fortifying properties.” James walked over and sat back down in his chair. “Right then we have work to get to.”

 


 

The Drunken Whaler was as dreadfully scented as last time Qrow had lurked in a corner. This time he had a wide leather brim hat down low over his ears. A stinky tankard of beer sat before him on the table untouched. Still today appeared to be his lucky day as the infamous Nightshade appeared. There was no mistaking her, not between the ebony hair, skin and eyes. Qrow let a smile spread over his lips as his red scarf hid them. He pulled his gloves off and rubbed his nails, he could almost feel the insides of his fingertips changing.

Nightshade flashed Lien and the barkeeper pulled her down a bottle from the top self. Qrow watched as his mark drank and smiled, he also noticed a particular Ace Op walk into the bar and frowned. That wouldn’t do at all. The red eyed man stretched his Semblance throughout the bar. Glasses broke from a waitress who stumbled, men lost their balance and crashed into each other. Clover got clocked in the nose with an elbow and a bar fight broke out. Nightshade only laughed and stumbled out the back door. Qrow followed leaving the chaos in his wake.

Nightshade stumbled towards home. Today had been a good day, got paid for her work after dropping off the newest prosthetics she’d acquired. Too bad it was never enough to move into a nicer flat but she wasn’t going to risk life and limb fighting Grimm. The gunk of Mantle’s streets splashed into her boots, Gods she hated this part of town. The whale abattoir was only a block from her flat… a block uphill. There were times she really doubted the owner was disposing of the waste properly. That just as much of what she waded through was likely whale feces as well as humans.

Still tonight everything seemed worse though, she was stepping in more shit, stumbling into the piss soaked walls. She set a hand on her rapier as the darkness pressed in on her. “It’s just good the Ops hardly ever come down here. Maybe now that the embargo is over I’ll be able to sneak out of here.”

Qrow flew down and transformed. He’d left Harbinger at home for this and called on his magic, black claws grew in painfully while thin tendrils of blood seeped down them. His normally red eyes changed too, expanding with thick pools of onyx that took pleasure in stealing every scrap of light. The pale red shape changed to feline as he smiled not a foot from the woman whose hands bathed in blood. “Who the fuck are you?” Nightshade whipped around drawing her blade.

“You are on the Red List.” Qrow dropped his voice several octaves injecting more gravel into his voice.

Even the dark Nightshade when pale. “Oh FUCK NO!” She turned on her heel and started to run, amped with her Semblance. Qrow gave chase his heart beating in glee, ohh the chase. He hadn’t felt this since Ruby gave birth. It was such a rich high. He leapt up onto a fire escape and jumped from one to the other pouring speed forward. His Aura allowed him to keep up even with her Semblance. They were coming quickly upon the abattoir, well Qrow couldn’t think of a more fun place to play. He rebound off a wall, elbow collided with Nightshade back and sent her flying through a thin brick wall. 

Nightshade tumbled and gasped, it felt like a train had hit her. Her vision blurred as she looked up, the hitter stood above her. She could see his red eyes catch the light, they were the only thing that caught the light on his figure. “Fuck off, I can’t be worth that much!” She scrambled back and looked around. Vats of waste meat intestines, bits of bone. The gutted whale was hanging open, split from jaw to tail fin. Hooks hug around the room some for smaller chunks of meat others for larger. The smell alone was vomit inducing. She looked back just in time to feel claws skin into her neck as she was lifted clear off the floor.

“I might spare you yet. I am looking for a Faunus new to Mantle, he is a scorpion Faunus. Might be missing a large portion of his tail might not be. Long brown hair, pale skin with scars across his chest. Gold eyes that turn purple when he fights. Tyrian Callows.”

“I don’t know who the fuck you’re talking about!” Nightshade kicked him in the chest but his chest only moved slightly. That alone made her eyes widen. “Who the-.”

Qrow sank his claws into her chest and ripped down rending her Aura strike after strike. She screamed and kicked but he didn’t let up, only tossing her up and for a moment her heart soared thinking maybe she had struck a good hit… only for her to slam into a collection of chains. Her foot snagged from the metal prison and she was ripped downward, only for her chest to be impaled by something sharp and coppery smelling. The hook was smashed through her back catching on her ribs. She screamed an ear piercing sound. Agony rippled through her as the steel hook pierced her insides, barely missing vital points. Blood flowed from the wound soaking her clothes with the vile scent of rot.

The Hunter walked over and found the switches that controlled the hooks and lowered just her chain down so she was hanging just a few inches from the ground. Then walked back over, he grabbed her by the back of a thigh and as he walked. Her screams, not so long ago they would have sickened him. Now, now this was getting even for all her victims, they would have screamed as she tore their prosthetics out. “Tyrian Callows, crazy laugh, obsessive.”

Nightshade gave an ugly cry. She wanted to be sick but her body was in so much pain it was all she could do to not struggle on the hook and dig further on it. “I don’t fucking know! I’ve never heard o-ah!!!”

Qrow grabbed her legs and pulled downwards. “You all trade with each other, drink with each other. You’ll have heard something.” She screamed with sobs. “I don’t know, I don’t know!!”

“You know you aren’t increasing your chances of survival here.” Qrow said, though that was a flat lie, she was never going to survive this encounter.

“How the fuck I’m I supposed to remember anything with a hook in my shoulder?! Oh fuck it HURTS!”

Qrow turned away and flicked the switch and she crashed to the ground with more screams. “If you don’t know him then I’ve got no reason to drag this out any further.” He walked back to her as she tried to pull the hook out of her shoulder. He grabbed her by her skull. Their eyes locked for a moment. “Think of this as a justice for all those lives you’ve harmed.” He smashed her skull into blood stained concrete, her brains splattering out from under his fingers. Qrow shook the grey matter off his hand and turned her over. He yanked the hook out with a squelched and set it down. Qrow turned her face upward hiding the mess a bit and took a picture of her face and submitted it to the Red List with a tap.

As he walked out a buzz of his Scroll notified him that her bounty had been paid out to his Scroll. As soon as he sent the picture the local police force would have been notified with her coordinates taken off his Scroll. He’d need to find a place to clean up before he went home, he had been careful about that while working for Roi. To never let his spouses see the mess he made. He turned a scuff behind him and turned to find an Ace Ops trying and failing to be low key. 

Clover stared into those black red eyes. His hand strayed to his weapon but suspended as he was using it was a risk. “That was messed up… Qrow.” He clenched his fists.

“I’m the Red Lists best hitter. You didn’t honestly think it was a clean job did you? Oh wait, a blue balled newbie like you doesn’t even have access to the list do you?” Qrow smirked as Clover’s expression said it all. “Ha, an Ace Ops who isn’t even allowed to be a Hitter, that is rich. I’m not waiting around for the clean up crew. You don’t belong down here kid get lost.”

Qrow jumped clean up onto the roof top of a warehouse he only walked a few steps before he heard Clover land behind him. “It might not be a clean job but you didn’t have to drag it out like that. Who even is Tyrian?!” Clover reached for Qrow’s shoulder trying to grab him.

The taller man sidestepped neatly from the attempt. “A monster who I will string up by his own intestines when I catch him. You’re off duty get lost.”

“So what if I’m off duty? You’re a fucking unregistered faunus, just how much of your file is BS?” Clover followed Qrow he wasn’t about to let him out of his sight.

Qrow rolled his eyes and jumped up into the air and transformed taking flight for Atlas. Let the flightless rabbit try and follow him now. He was a crow after all and crows ate rabbits for breakfast.

Qrow ended up finding some snow to wash the worst of the mess off before heading home. He washed his boots in the mudroom and thankfully didn’t have any other mess from Mantle stuck to him. He walked to the bathroom he shared with lovers and turned the tap on with his elbow. 

The water quickly got hot as Qrow scrubbed the remainder of sticky blood off. It was hard to spot on his black nails but it was still fresh enough to be easy to get off. Qrow had lost track of how often he had done this, clean up before Ozpin and Ruby got home. They knew he had killed bandits in mass at Mistral they didn’t know that he was enjoying getting up close and personal with them. A Vacou friend of his would say when he killed people in the name of peace and justice. “Everytime I yank a jawbone from a skull and ram it into an eyesocket, I know I’m building a better future.” Perhaps Jack wasn’t the best role model but it did help Qrow forget that what he was doing was perhaps unnecessary. That deaths needn’t be violent and bloody, that he didn’t need to scare them to the point where he could see the whites of their eyes as they shit themselves. No, that was just for fun.

Qrow turned off the water and dried his hands before looking into the mirror. He looked the same as ever, keen eyes, black hair, not a wrinkle in sight. Killing didn’t haunt him anymore, no it had become exciting, like a hit of endorphins that he didn’t get from booze anymore. Gods he missed whisky, or just alcohol in general. He wondered if James had something to drink squirreled somewhere around here.

After drying his hands he walked into the living room. The tv was tempting but he was feeling down, off his endorphin rush and that always sucked watching or reading never helped. He missed having the power to feel good whenever he wanted. His throat felt so dry. Qrow sat down on the couch and drifted off into a nap.

Not long after he was awoken to the snap of James’s fingers right in front of his nose. “Wake up.” The General snapped.

Qrow sat up groggy and looked around only for James to grab him by the front of his shirt and drag him into his bedroom. James locked the door behind him and shoved Qrow towards the bed. “Care to explain this?” He yanked out his Scroll and showed Qrow the very same picture that Qrow had sent to the Red List.

“Uh no? What’s the problem?” Qrow look a step back, James was pissed about something.

“What is the problem?! You tortured her! It’s all in the post-mortem, there is no way anything you did was necessary! You used to just break their necks what the hell happened?”

Qrow shrugged. “She was being uncooperative, I was interrogating her about Tyrian. Had she given me something useful maybe I would have just broken her neck. You got any liquor in here?” That was a lie, looking at them, feeling the bones give out had become an addiction all it’s own.

James was speechless. Who was this man? This was not the one who came back to Ozpin on the verge of breaking apart after murdering a slaver in a fit of rage. This was not the one who became deaf to the world after senseless killing, he didn’t even looked like he regretted the mess he made one bit. “You hung her on a meat hook. If you wanted to interrogated her you could have just incapacitated her and brought her in. You played with her, it’s obvious by her wounds.”

“Are you gonna get to a point here soon Jimmy?” Qrow snarked.

There it was ‘Jimmy’, seemed he had struck a nerve somewhere. James drew himself up to his full height and it made Qrow feel small. He advanced. “I want to know who the fuck are you and what happened to the Qrow I knew. He didn’t toy with his marks, he got the job done as quickly and cleanly as possible. He would be down, feeling remorse right now. I’d see it in his eyes and I don’t see it in yours.”

“It’s been a while Jimmy maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.” Qrow didn’t back down, it had been a long time and he wasn’t about to let James control this without a fight.

“You gave up drinking, that I’ve noticed. Did you just trade it for bloodlust? Do your spouses know? The monster they’ve made?”

Qrow pointed at James chin with a finger. “You won’t be telling them jack shit. I’m fine, better than I’ve been in years.”

James grabbed Qrow’s wrist and yanked it down and behind him pulling Qrow’s body against his. “I don’t believe that for a second. What you did to her was sick and I not letting you out of this room till you tell me what's going on.”

“Ha you can’t intimated me James. You’re not Oz, you aren’t my Dom or Master, let me the hell go.”

James grabbed Qrow by his chin. “Is that a challenge? You’re no better than a junkie. Can’t have anymore fun hunting since you butchered your target so now you want under my skin because it’s just another high.”

Qrow’s eyes narrowed, it did sound like a damn good idea. There was a level of fun that could be had with James that Oz was never really into. They could get under each others skin, they could hate each other and vent all sorts of frustration. He licked his lips. “You may be some posh General of this stinking city but you haven’t got the guts to get down and dirty. You like it up there on your ivory throne too much.”

The General saw the bait and took it, Qrow always loosened up after a thorough fuck. It’d be easier to gauge his mental state. “Not what I remember. I remember a frail little bandit bitch who would scream like a girl when I pinned him down.” He let Qrow’s jaw go and pulled the buttons of his shirt underdone. “Safe word?”

“Red, keep it simple stupid for you jar head. Tapping if I can’t talk.” Qrow batted James’s hands away, he wasn’t about to make this easy. Still his other hand was trapped.

“Fine.” James hit Qrow in his shoulder just as he released his hand. The impact sent him spinning and James snared him by his neck. “Have I ever told you’d make a fine GROPOS?” He hissed into Qrow’s ear and bit the shell catching the sleeper piercings between his teeth.

“Oh fuck you!” Qrow stopped down on James’s foot but it happened to be the metal one. Pain jarred up his leg but what could he really say? He was out of practice when it came to this game with James. James had ripped his belt open and was already through his trousers. The red eyed man tried to sink his claws in James arm but again met metal.

James shoved Qrow’s bottom layers to the floor and growled. “You really are out of practice if you can’t even remember which side is which.” He shoved Qrow away.

Qrow stumbled but kicked the clothes off and out of the way. The excitement of this was already making his skin burn, this was better than hunting. His nipples were already erect and the metal within them rubbed in distracting ways against his shirt. He needed to take control. Qrow shifted his shoulders back and trailed his hands down his chest pulling the garments off and letting them fall to the floor. “It’s been years, after all this time I doubt you can even get it up.” A lie, but it did nicely for getting a rise out of James.

James was envious. It was about three in the afternoon so the room was cast in dusk lights and Qrow. Qrow looked like a God of temptation. The light caught in his piercings, he looked so damn young and untouchable not a scar on his hide. Lets see if we can’t change that. James’ resisted licking his lips as his hands gripped either side of his hips. The black hair of his groin trimmed and decorative. He took pride in his appearance for all the scruff on his jaw would contradict. It was an act, one that James looked forward to snapping. However Qrow wasn’t the only one who was pretty now. James shred his clothes like a second skin, watched as Qrow’s erection stood tall just looking at the new and improved James Ironwood.

“Am I supposed to be impressed?” Qrow put his hands on his hips, trying to downplay the uncontrollable reaction to James’s new metal. He wasn’t prepared for the sheer speed of James as he crossed the space and wove a hand into Qrow’s hair all in the blink of an eye.

“You should be and you will be by the time I’m through with you.” James attacked Qrow with a kiss.

Lips, tongue, teeth. Hot and wet, Qrow had to admit the beard was a real turn on. James grabbed him by the base of his cock, almost painfully tight but Gods it was good. This, this was what Oz just couldn’t do anymore. Couldn’t make him feel truly helpless anymore. James bit the smaller man’s lip and it bled. Pain oh yes pain was good, Qrow could feel his body start to soar. He yanked his head away and dug his claws into James’s shoulders. “More.” He growled.

James controlled his surprise at the sharp stabbing of the claws and yanked Qrow by the hair over to the bed. Qrow hissed and swiped out but James hooked a foot behind Qrow’s knees and pulled them out from under him. “You’ve gotten sharp. I’ll have to do something about that.” Qrow again attacked the hand in his hair but this one was metal and didn’t give a flying fuck about the sharp claws. James reached into the bedside drawer and pulled out a pair of handcuffs, while these ones were lined with leather they had the ability to block Aura. They had been an investment when Qrow started to get really good at Aura. Having it took some of the fun out of this. As the smaller man tried to turn to his to see what James had grabbed James snapped the cuffs into place. They still fit like a charm.

Qrow’s already dilated eyes went wide as he felt his access to Aura cut off. James ripped him up by his hair and tossed him onto the bed. Qrow scrambled to twist around and see the huge man but was caught by his now cuffed hands as James loomed over him yanking them up to the headboard and were clipped into another restraint. “For someone who wanted to fight so badly you’re doing a terrible job of it.” James said calmly.

Qrow kicked, aiming for his head but the General just moved the inch required out of the way and removed a condom and lube from the bedside drawer. “Now be a good little crow and let me prep you.”

“FUCK YOU!”

James only sighed dramatically and put the condom on before getting back onto the bed. When Qrow kicked again he caught the offending foot by the ankle and pushed it upwards towards Qrow’s head till Qrow was forced to pant and focus on relaxing his legs muscles. “My my still as flexible as ever.” He traced two gloved fingers over Qrow’s anus and treasured the shiver the red eyed man couldn’t contain.

Qrow was trying to work out how to get out of the cuffs. They were nice ones but he had worn them before, he looked at his claws as an idea struck him. They were of the more old fashioned design and required a proper key. His thoughts were sidetracked when James applied cold lube to his anus. “Fuck!” He hissed and started to pant, Oz had done this only that very morning and yet it hadn’t been the same at all, nowhere near as exciting. His claws scraped against the metal as two fingers breached him.

“Hmm, seems Oz really did have fun with you this morning.” James purred in a taunting manner sinking his fingers in and searching for that spot. It had been a while and he wanted to get those girly whines out of him.

Qrow’s brain blanked as James found it he looked up and saw the shit disturbing grin. “Oh-FUC-!” Qrow lashed out with his free leg, all thoughts of the cuffs forgotten. James and mercy weren’t two words to be associated together. It wasn’t gentle taps or round strokes, nope! As soon as he had fingers on it, James wasted no time rubbing back and forth as fast as he’d play with a clit. Qrow screamed into the bedding, a little drip of drool escaping the corner of his mouth. His cock throbbed red and hot as he came shooting up into the middle of the bed. Qrow couldn’t form a thought as James didn’t stop, it hurt and felt good all the sensations being blended together.

James applied some more lube to his cock as Qrow writhed kicking and fighting the bedding. He brought his cock into aliment and withdrew his fingers before shoving his cock in.

Qrow went still with a howling cry his back arching in spite of his still trapped leg. He could feel his body spasm and hug the intrusion. Had he thoughts to spare he would have to thank Oz for the morning warm up. James grabbed Qrow’s free leg by the thigh and lifted as he drew up kneeling. He left Qrow’s ankle go to grab that thigh too and pulled it against his chest. The Atlasian was amused by the debauched state of his lover, he’d barely started. “Already drooling Qrow tisk tisk, whatever happened to your fight?”

The red eyed man thumped him hard on the back but James snapped his hips forward so the attack lost all weight as Qrow clenched up through his shoulders and threw his head back with clenched teeth. James set a quick deep impactful pace, the sound of their hips meeting was one that James had just about forgotten.

Qrow was panting trying to hold onto his shattered wits. Gods it felt so good, James was keeping his legs immobilized and oh gods the force he was letting out. He’d have bruises and there was no way he was healing them. However the sensation wasn’t as utterly mind destroying as having his prostate played with so he got his claws back into the cuffs. He wedged them in between the links that chained him to the bed frame and with each writhe and strain forced the metal to part.

James for his part was enjoying himself, it was taking more concentration then he’d care to admit to hold the pleasure back. Watching Qrow though, that was the real fun. He knew he hadn’t gotten Qrow to Switch, it would take more then just a straight fuck to do that but by the Gods it had been a long time since he had a man. To be fair none could ever quite compare with the sexual glory that was Qrow when he wanted to show it. The flush of his chest, the engorged nipples ohh how he wanted to bite those. The shorter and narrower cock that was by no means not impressive in it’s own right was already leaking thick white drops onto Qrow’s stomach.

James heard the snap just in time for his gaze to shot up. Qrow lunged forward yanking his legs towards him and then rolling back getting his hands behind his head to stand on them for a second before slamming his feet into James chest. He flew off the bed and landed on his back with a crash while Qrow got his legs under him and made for the door. He had just grabbed the handle when James grabbed his hips and yanked him back driving his cock back into Qrow in the same action.

Qrow’s legs almost buckled as the sudden euphoria shot up his spine. He reached up and sank his claws into James’s hair only to be met with Aura. “Cheater!” He snapped only for James to grab him by the throat and constricted tight. Qrow’s eyes fluttered shut as his air was reduced, his cock throbbed and leaked. James had never stopped moving slamming their hips together, each thrust only serving to make him feel good.

“You’re the one who got sharp.” James moved his hand from Qrow’s hip to his cock and tightened painfully around the base. “Don’t you dare cum, I’m not through with you.” He relaxed the hand around Qrow’s throat judging how he was doing but the strain of his chest.

The red eyed man could only moan and yelp with each thrust, his member ached with the need to finish. Then that hand closed around his throat again, he went and grabbed the metal wrist as he started to gasp and shiver his legs threatening to give out.

James enjoyed those sounds, he could never quite picture Oz sounding like this. He could feel the pressure in Qrow’s cock, his pulse racing through it. He shortened his strokes fast and furious. A choked scream filled the room as Qrow came in spite of the hand constraining him. His legs gave out and James brought him down to the floor without parting from him, grabbed him by the back of the neck and had his fun. He didn’t dare ever use all of his strength with Weiss but Qrow could take it. Qrow’s claws scored the floor as he panted out whines unable to scream or even think. There was only James’s thick long length spreading him open in the whole universe. He felt used… and oh how he loved it.

The Atlasian could feel that the end was coming as much as he didn’t want it too. The condom helped hold it back, dulled the sensations. Gods it was a good thing he had decided against going bareback. He grabbed a narrow love handle and slammed Qrow back into him with every thrust forward. He couldn’t stop the groan as he stiffened and came. The smaller man quivered anew as he felt it. Qrow drew his hands down and bit the side of his finger. Stupid condom. James moved to loom over him taking his cock in a sure grip and jerking Qrow off till he came again swiftly.

The shocks of ecstasy tremored up and down Qrow’s spine. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a fuck like that. “Damn James, we’ve got to do that more often.”

“Not all of us are immortal Qrow.” James moved his hand so he could lean on his arms, Qrow still pinned under him.

Qrow turned and looked up with a sly grin. “Didn’t want to go bareback? That’s always more fun.”

“Given that you didn’t have an enema before hand and I do have a woman that likes to jump me at the drop of a hat I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Had you been a little less going for my throat with those claws of yours I would have used an in condom just to be even safer.”

Qrow pouted. “Yeah I can get that, but I didn’t feel like it.”

“I noticed, now since I have you here pinned like a bug and spread like a virgin on a banquet table. Why the hell did you do that to that poor woman?”

“I am not talking about what I did while impaled on your cock.”

“Not like you can go anywhere, I’m not above fucking you into unconsciousness and asking Ruby to pull it from your mind while you sleep.”

The raven haired man didn’t believe it. “You just said you were getting old.”

Feather light touches stroked over his body, rotated the piercings in his nipples while pushing his foreskin back and lathing over the head of his cock like a tongue. Sweeping touches up his spine made him moan and push back on James, just to feel the huge man’s member press harder on his prostate. “Fuck~.” Qrow whined the word muted.

“I may be getting old, but I’ve more than enough Aura to bring you off with my Semblance while I wait for my cock to get back in the game. As well as more than enough of a recharge on my Aura to repeat the processes.”

Qrow barely processed the words as it felt like a wet tongue was dipping into to slit at the top of his cock while finger like sensation pressed up behind his balls as James rocked his hips. His jaw dropped as his cock started to weep again. James bent down and bite his shoulder with pressure that would have made Oz proud. “I can do this all day. I’m not afraid to bring Ruby into this either and something tells me you don’t want her to know you tortured a woman for shits and giggles.”

“It’s not-ohh,” Qrow’s toes curled. “Like that and you know it. She’s deserved to feel some of the pain she caused others.”

“You are not judge jury and executor Qrow. You don’t get to decide what she deserves, your job is only to kill them, nothing more. You used to do that well. As much as it tore you up. Now it doesn’t do that anymore does it, that is what worries me.”

“Daww you’re worri-.” Qrow’s words were broken off with a moan, James was a holy bastard with his Semblance.

James pulled free of Qrow’s body and let the smaller man slump against the ground. With his Semblance he removed the condom and trashed it. “I worry about what happened to the good man I knew.”

Qrow was off in la la land as James’s stroked every inch of him with that damned Semblance. “He was made to kill entire families of bandits. For Oz, for Roi. What can I say I just got good at it. Yeah you’re right, it’s a high but I haven’t been drinking so I supposed I’m not that surprised.” He bit his lip as his almost came again only for the sensations to let up. His words were slow and slurring. “You’re right. I’m just an addict.”

James brought Qrow off with a few expert touches of his Semblance. Qrow curled into his side his body too exhausted to keep up anymore. While the General sighed deeply sitting down on his heels. “And you traded liquor for blood. Oh Qrow, what are we going to do with you.”

James stood up feeling his years then picked Qrow up bridal style and set him down on the bed before heading into the bathroom to clean himself. Then he cleaned up Qrow with a warm cloth and tucked him in. He sat on the edge of the bed watching the slim man sleep. Qrow was Oz’s territory. Maybe he’d know what to do, James sure didn’t.

 


 

Ruby, Weiss and Yang were moderately surprised when upon seeing Qrow sleeping in the living room he told them to go to the library and stay there till he said otherwise. Ruby sat beside Weiss on a leather sofa with her homework out as Yang was in an armchair doing the same thing. Weiss worried her lip looking between the two siblings. “So how do you like Atlas Yang? Did you go through Mantle on the way up?”

“No, the new commander in charge of rebuilding Argus sent me straight up to the school when I arrived. It seems nice enough, if a rather lot of blue.” Yang was scrolling through clothing sites, she needed something new to wear and while she could just go to the quartermaster she doubted that there would be anything to her tastes.

“It is part of the kingdom colours.” Weiss said with a shrug. “Not saying I like it but in the summer it actually does help reflect light around.”

Ruby was reading a book off of the shelves, it was on biology and prosthetics. When from through the bonds flew excitement and lust, quickly followed by rampant arousal. Ruby pressed a finger to her temple. Of course Qrow would forget to shield, it sure felt like he had other things on his mind.

“You okay Ruby?” Weiss asked.

“Qrow and James are just doing the horizontal tango and Qrow is forgetting to shield his side of the bond.” Ruby closed her book as her own skin started to flush. There was no way she’d be able to focus on anything now.

“So you’re getting randy.” Weiss hid her smile behind a book.

“Pretty much, he’s already too far gone to think about it and while I can shut it down altogether I really hate doing that. Once today was enough for not being able to feel them.” Ruby set the book down and looked over to her sister. “Sorry Yang, but given how things are going I don’t think I’ll be decent for company much longer.”

“It’s okay, I wouldn’t ever want anyone in my head like that. Besides, you’ve got a head start on the homework.” Yang held up her Scroll.

Ruby nodded to her and hightailed it to her room. She just got the door closed behind her before the pleasure made her fall to the floor and hug herself as her core clenched and leaked. She wondered just what the heck James was doing to Qrow. They only had the joined bathrooms between them so everything Qrow felt was coming through strong over the bond. Feeling the encompassing sensation of James playing with Qrow’s prostate made her moan and roll into her side. She had to pant as her fingers fumbled with her clothes but she orgasmed before managing to get her trousers off. Ruby lay stunned for a moment before shoving her clothes finally off and staggering to her feet. “Just what are you doing James?” She wondered aloud.

The Silver Eyed Warrior got up and stumbled into bed tossing the duvet back and falling into the silk sheets. They were so smooth on her skin, her hard nipples brushed against them making her moan. Her skin felt hypersensitive as whatever was going on didn’t even slow. Pain in her hair only sent her higher, she rolled onto her front and knelt her fingers seeking out her sopping sex. She hadn’t felt like this since they left Mistral.

Weiss slipped into the room and was very turned on by the sight of Ruby pleasuring herself, already a sheen of sweat beading her face. The soft moans and whimpers as she attempted to chase the sensation bleeding from the next room got Weiss in the mood to play. She undressed quietly and set the clothes over a chair quickly retrieving the strap on she’d been gifted by Lydia before leaving for Argus. It wasn’t overly large, measuring around five inches. She put it on and tightened the belt around her hips before crawling onto the bed and laid down on her side. The additional weight left a strange sensation crawling in her lower belly but it filled her with excitement. Ruby had her eyes closed as she panted into the sheet. She loved the red in Ruby’s cheeks, Weiss reached out and brushed back Ruby’s hair.

Ruby’s eyes snapped open and she took in her nude companion. She caught sight of the strap on and whimpered. “Please~.”

Weiss got up and pushed Ruby to lay down on her front. “Does that feel good? The sheets on your skin? I love them.” She guided Ruby’s legs apart, the bustier woman wasn’t used to having someone so small behind her.

“Yes.” Something happened to Qrow and Ruby gasped thrusting her hips back on impulse. Weiss grabbed her by her butt-cheeks then guided the dildo into her. It was a fancy one, ice blue with a smooth spiral ridge design. She let Ruby push back at her own place. “That good?”

“Mmhmm.” Ruby grabbed the pillow and rubbed her breasts against the sheets. So smooth, so nice.

Weiss moved with Ruby leaning down so she could slip her hands under Ruby and grabbed her breasts. She massaged them as Ruby rutted back on her, they slowly worked out what felt good for the silver eyed woman. Weiss quickly took over movement as whatever was happening to Qrow ramped up and Ruby came again. Then she whimpered and tried pressing back against Weiss rubbing their bodies together. Weiss could only listen to how Ruby breathed to gauge how close she was and put a hand on her clit rubbing it furiously.

Ruby blacked out for a moment as climax shattered her, her eyes rolling back before she could feel that Qrow and James were done. She was so sore, her muscles strained no longer used to this sort of vigorous exercise. Weiss drew out and undid the leather buckles then tossed the toy aside. She laid down beside Ruby and they cuddled up against each other. Ruby tucked her face to Weiss’s breasts. “Do you need anything?”

“No I’m okay, I really enjoy just watching you lose it.” Weiss pet through the crimson locks, not as long as hers but getting to be a good petting length.

“Gosh I’m tired now.” Ruby closed her eyes calming down to Weiss’s touch. “I wonder what the heck James did, my ass feels like it’s been reamed into oblivion. Qrow really enjoyed that.”

Weiss giggled. “James does have a really nice… well you know.”

“Yeah Qrow’s ass is informing me of that. Playing with him with you was one thing but what just went down in the other room was completely different.” Ruby could feel that Qrow was sleeping, it was a relief to say the very least.

“Well I know that Oz and James haven’t had sex yet. Plenty of flirting but haven’t actually done it yet and you spent the day with him. Do you like him?”

“Yeah, he makes me feel safe and is very sexy. I just haven’t felt like it lately, too much going on. To much stress, my sex drive has been at an all time low.” Ruby sighed. “And yet at the same time sometimes I wake up and want nothing more then to jump on them and get pregnant again. I miss it, I miss my baby I miss having one around. My insides just twist and turn and I want things I know I can’t have and I miss her so much.”

Weiss didn’t envy her, Ruby really was mom material, she thrived with a baby at her breast. She thrived when pregnant, glowed and smiled. Weiss had noticed that almost as soon as she lost Euclase Ruby had started to mention wanting another child. Not to replace Euclase but that she just liked having children. “I know it hurts but you’ve got time and people who love you. There will be more children just wait a bit longer, just until it’s safe to have them.”

“I know and I know I’m not being rational. It’s just been hard to be interested in other people when I care barely summon up the will to be with my husbands. If Qrow hadn’t left the bond open I wouldn’t have been into this now.” Ruby reached out and traced over the curve of Weiss’s side.

“Well, there is nothing wrong with just not feeling it and you have been really stressed out. It’s completely understandable. But don’t forget sex can actually really help with stress so even if you’re not feeling it. It wouldn’t hurt to try and get into it just for the health benefits. It might just make you feel better in the long run.”

“That’s a good point. I’ll try and get more involved again, if James wants to have sex I won’t turn him down. The newness of it might even help out.” Ruby sighed. “We should go be good hostesses, I feel kinda bad for my sister. We both ran off and James didn’t even let her say hi to Qrow when we arrived.”

“Yeah poor Yang.” Weiss and Ruby got up and dressed again. They walked hand in hand back to the library in just housecoats. Ruby was a little wobbly but managed to get a hold of it by the time they got there. 

Yang looked up from her homework. “That was quick.”

“Trust me you don’t want to know, whatever James did has left your uncle fried.” Ruby sat delicately back down on a sofa.

“Yeah~ don’t need details there.” Yang said shaking her head. “Atlas fashion sucks.”

Weiss giggled. “Well I won’t argue with you there.”

James entered the room properly dressed in trousers and a short sleeved short. “Yang, I apologize for earlier. Qrow did something earlier today and I felt the need to confront him about it.”

Yang wrinkled her nose. “Yeah I can tell you smell like sex.”

James blushed and rubbed a hand over his beard. “That was unintentional but Qrow is easiest to err well crack open and get chatty if he’s drooling into the floor.”

“I did not need to know that!” Yang stood up shoving her new Scroll away and covered her ears. “I’m just gonna go, I’ll say hi to him another time.”

Ruby raised a hand but stopped as Yang made her way towards the door. “Sorry Yang.”

Yang turned and smiled at her sister. “It’s fine Rubes, you’ve got your own life now. I need to work on doing the same thing.”

“Thank you for understanding Miss Xaio Long.” James tipped his head to Yang.

On the elevator ride down Yang looked through a map for a bar. A drink was sounding really nice right about now, after all she didn’t really want to know the details of her uncles sex life. She wasn’t shy about it by any means but they had been maintaining a mutual respect when it came to sexual topics around each other. Without Ruby or Blake Yang found herself with a strange freedom. She could go for a drink and no one would be any wiser.

Atlas’s streets were freezing as she wandered around before finding a Huntsman bar. It was a bit on the smaller side but cozy and packed with people. Music blared from a couple of speakers at the two furthest corners of the bar, at least it was tasteful. The easy beat settled deep in her chest relaxing the blonde. This was a good idea. Yang passed by some of the booths, the scent of leather and booze comforting, there were a few familiar faces but Yang couldn’t remember where she might have seen them before, maybe the news or something. Chatter was low and most retained some laughter as Yang headed for the U shaped wood bar on the other side of the room, she picked one of the free stools and bounced up onto it. The bartender looked over and raised a brow.

“Long Island Ice Tea please.” Yang pulled out her ID and Lien.

The bartender studied the ID then took the Lien. Within a couple minutes she had a tall glass of sweet drink. Within half an hour she had two and was getting pretty sloshed. Her mechanical hand tapped to the beat of the music as Yang debated a dance or two on the colourful floor. It was a she drained the second glass and ordered her third that the shadow of a man sat down beside her and ordered a drink of his own.

Yang looked up to find a fit lean Huntsman in civilian clothes. They were brown and green with leather trousers. His eyes were a teal green with short brown hair. He looked over at her no doubt seeing the flush of red in her cheeks. “Hey there sweetheart, you look like you could use some company.”

Yang eyed him like he was a piece of her favorite candy barely noticing when a glass slid over the bar to her. He did look really good. Plus it had been ages, she and Bart hadn’t really shacked up since the Wylde Hunt. “Same to you, handsome man like yourself, it seems like a crime for you to be all by yourself. You got a name?” Her eyes wandered over his covered arms, a hungry smirk stretching over her lips.

“Clover.” Clover pulled off his leather jacket. He saw Yang bite her bottom lip as she admired his arms.

Hot damn, those are some nice guns. “I’m Yang.” Yang nursed her drink, the buzz was making her brain foggy. It was easy to forget the pain for a bit, the grief she had been carrying for so long. Maybe he could shove it even farther from her mind.

“Well Yang, I’ve got the night off. Do you want another drink or maybe some other fun, perhaps something that we’d need some mental ability for.” Clover grinned.

“Do you have condoms on you?” Yang asked.

“I do.” Clover grinned.

“Well then aren’t you lucky I’m in the mood and you’re very pretty.” Yang finished her drink. “You have a place?”

“There are rooms upstairs for this.” Clover got up and helped her off the stool. He could tell she was drunk but she could stand easily so he figured she was sober enough to consent. 

“Don’t have to go outside again, sounds good to me.” Yang said.

Clover paid for a room and guided her through the compact bar and up the steps. Yang giggled, she couldn’t remember the last time she had done this. Clover punched in a key code and shoved the door open. Yang closed it behind her them reach for him grabbing him by his shoulders and kissing him.

The Atlasian liked how she tasted, liked how with her cropped top he could run his hands over her exposed midriff. It wasn’t a very Atlas thing to wear but he didn’t want to think about that. It had been an awful day and getting laid would be a good way to end it. He grabbed her belt and pulled it open and pushed her trousers and underwear down. Yang toed off her boots and kicked the whole lot away. The kisses got wetter as Clover backed her to a wall. Yang went for his belt getting it open as well as his trousers and pulling out his cock already hard. “Hurry up and get something on this.” Yang growled into the kisses.

“Yes ma’am.” Clover liked her, he was itching to get her big tits free but having her up against the wall first sounded nice too. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a condom, he had brought them out today they were natural variety rather then latex, less likely to kill the mood with an allergic reaction that way. Clover opened the packet with practiced ease and rolled it down. “Better lovely?”

Yang purred reaching up and weaving her fingers through his hair. “Much.” She kissed his jaw as he picked her up by her ass.

Clover kneaded the muscle globs, she really was gorgeous. Yang snapped her legs around his hips as he drew the mushroom head of his cock through her wet folds. Fast and easy, Clover mused and pushed inward. Yang moaned and thumped her head against the wall. Her big breasts heaving as he slowed down, Clover was surprised at how tight she was. For how easy she had been to get up here.

Yang gasped as he snapped his hips tight to her, trapping her clit against his pelvic bone. He wasn’t the biggest she had within her but it was nice in a manageable way. He rubbed her in all the right ways and he wasn’t even moving. “Come on! Fuck first savor it on round two.”

Clover laughed and did as he was told, sharp thrusts making his belt jingle. Screw romance, or being kind. He fucked her, banging her against the wall. Wet and lewd, Yang’s fingernail scoring his back. She came first and he chased his own finish and groaned as he followed. Yang held onto him as he walked her over with ease to the bed and set her down, pulling out and tossing the condom away.

Yang’s eyes fluttered as she drifted on the aftermath glow of sex and alcohol. She moved back putting her head on a pillow slowly, the room smelled cleaned. The bedding felt clean but her bra was bugging her. She propped herself up on an elbow and got her top off. She tossed her jacket, shirt and bra away and flopped back down. Yeah that was more like it.

Clover admired her breasts, big and lovely. Yang, there had to be more to it than that, she seemed out of it so he pulled her Scroll from her jacket pocket. It wasn’t password locked so he figured it had to be new. Her ID read Yang Xaio Long, Huntress In Training Second Year. He flipped through to her medical information and was pleasantly surprised to find her last full panel test had only been a month ago. Well he didn’t have anything and had a feeling she wouldn’t notice. Clover put the Scroll back and crawled into the bed. “How are you feeling?”

The blonde purred as he stroked up her side and cupped a breast it spilled out of his hand. “I’m good~.” She slurred a bit and spread her legs. “What other tricks do you have handsome.” She reached up and stroked over his jaw.

“Oh lots, are you good for anal sex?” Clover asked, it was bit underhanded of him but if she said yes he could assume her medical information was up to date.

“Oh yeah, I’m clean as a whistle.” Yang purred as Clover dipped down and took a nipple into his mouth and sucked hard. She moaned and bucked her hips.

“Good to know.” Clover pulled away from her breasts and flipped her over. 

Yang giggled and got her legs under her and arched her back sticking her butt out for him. “Come on, I like it from behind.”

Clover was really getting to like her. He stroked his cock, hard, throbbing and already ready to go. Bare this time he pushed it into her and she groaned as he filled her up. “I like your hair.” He gathered it up and into one hand so he could kiss her shoulder. Rather than wait for a response. He started to rut and she sung out loud and proud. Damn it was so much better without a condom, he could feel how wet she was. Feel that unparalleled feeling of female satin wrapped tight around him. His hand tightened in her hair.

“Don’t you dare pull my hair!” Yang warned him and threw off his stroke thrusting back on him.

“Right right sorry. Some girls just like it.” Clover moved his hand to the base of her neck and used it as a grounding point to control her as he thrust deeper and harder.

“Fuck! Harder!” Yang tried to move but having him hold her still was hot all on it’s own. Clover for once was happy to take the order and rammed into her and felt her come in no time at all. He moaned as he came shooting into her, his jaw slack. Now that was a feeling he missed. Yang’s arms gave out as she slumped down into the bedding. Clover pulled out admiring the wet strings that joined them and coated his cock. Yeah that was a sight he could get used to. He tipped Yang onto her side and turned away so she couldn’t see his cock. As he looked over he found Yang’s eyes closed and was careful to mimic the actions of tossing a condom as he grabbed a tissue from the bedside table and cleaned himself up before tossing it to and laying down beside her.

Yang was in bliss and ready to sleep. All the thoughts of her family far from her mind, if they weren’t she might have noticed she just pulled a move worthy of her uncle. She looked over to Clover. “Nap the booze off with me?”

“If it gets me another round when you’re sober.” Clover reached out and pet over her refined stomach.

“Heck yeah.” Yang leaned up and kissed him. “I think I like you.”

Chapter Text

The door to James’ apartment opened and closed with a quiet click as Ozpin stumbled in after a long and dull frustrating day. He wasn’t a scientist at least not where it would have been useful and with so much time since he had actively researched there was a lot regarding new technology and old that appeared out of touch for him. So when he came home feeling a strain on the mind and eyes he barely yanked his boots off before following the scent of freshly brewed tea. The sight of James, seemingly waiting for him with a grim look on his face did not bode well and Oz knew his day wasn’t about to get any better. Without a word James gestured further into the flat the library and the doors were shut and locked behind them. Oz sat down heavy on the sofa and sighed. “What happened James?”

    “Qrow happened. Here.” James pulled out his Scroll and showed Ozpin the picture Qrow had submitted. “Qrow did that earlier today, strung her up on a hook, the blade went deep enough to cause some severe damage, a deliberate move to cause as much pain as possible without piercing any organs. Then when I confronted him on the matter he told me it was what she deserved, it took a bit but he admitted he’s…”

    Ozpin regarded the imagine passively, he couldn’t afford his feelings for Qrow to get mixed up in this display, though there was an ounce of pity in his gaze. “An addict with a new fix, I’ve had my suspicions.”

    “Why haven’t you done anything then?” James took his Scroll back and pocketed. “I can’t really believe it, if I hadn’t read the report and knew Qrow was involved I would have never believed it was him.”

    “I said suspicions, not that I was sure. I had to ask him to clean up the bandit mess that was Mistral. The place was infested and it was damaging the city in a way it wouldn’t recover from without direct attention. Especially since almost all the Huntsmen employed had been killed. Qrow was taking the brunt of mess and I did notice when he stopped being… hurt by it. Then when we were visiting with Roi, Qrow killed a man directly with his Semblance yet didn’t seem to feel anything. I’ve never in all the years I’ve known him to do that. He has always felt every life taken as a sin and grieved accordingly for them. Qrow was never one to become deaf to death.”

“I simply thought he was getting better, not allowing every life taken to burden him, cripple him. Part of me was relieved and had hoped that he had started to find a way to manage it on his own but then he stopped drinking as well. Though that was for another reason. I should have known that it wouldn’t be so easy.” Ozpin pursed his lips. “I really should have known. I had… have an issue with Refuge. I’ve spent a few lives as an alcoholic as well, you can’t just stop.”

    “Never figured you for an addict.” James crossed his arms over his chest. “I fall out of touch for a few years and you all go to hell.”

    Ozpin glared at him. “Shit happens.”

    “Yeah right, something tells me I’ll be pulling more of your dirty laundry out into the light soon too.”

    “You saw Garrett, he was responsible for a lot of what happened. I won't dump all the blame on him but the drug abuse… that was his stepping stone in controlling me but with help, I was able to get off of it.” Oz ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “Qrow, we were talking about Qrow.”

    “Yeah any ideas?” James sat down in the high backed leather chair.

    “... Let him drink again.” Even saying it out loud had Oz cringing, he really didn’t want to go this route but he could tell from James expression that he wanted potential solutions now.  “He went cold turkey rather suddenly, letting him drink even if it's just supervised and not allowing him to get hammered might work. If he has something else to do and look forward to maybe he won’t jump to hunting just for something to kill time with.”

    “You’re suggesting we let an alcoholic drink?” James rubbed the corners of his eyes.

    “We can’t pay attention to him all the time. I’d rather prefer that he’s here, safe and sound having a rum toddy then out down in Mantle smashing someone’s skull in. Sure he’s never met a bottle that he didn’t like but he has proven he can control it. He can stop. I guess that’s the difference, we’ll have to keep an eye on him but I have faith that he’d be okay.” Ozpin got up and started to pace. “Ruby has problems with alcohol as well, she will need further exposure and to manage it just to function in society eventually.”

    “She mentioned that Tyrian drank while he had her. I take it that left a lasting impact on her.” James said.

    Oz nodded, his face stony as he remembered the frail shaking woman, beaten and raped to an inch of sanity. Trauma never went away completely, it only lessened when worked at and Oz was starting to realize that he hadn’t helped either of his spouses with their afflictions, at least not properly. “Yeah. Qrow is the worst one for trying to help her work through it but it can’t always be about her. Ruby will understand that as well and I will tell her why.” Oz paused. “Where is he now?”

    “Shower, I had to uhh. Well you know how to get under his guard, I’m sure he was feeling a bit sweaty.” James blushed slightly.

    Ozpin smirked. “I bet you enjoyed that.”

    “It has been a while yes.”

    “Fine, help me make dinner then. I had a long boring day and making something would help.”

    The pair went to the kitchen and set about making a cheesy stew. Weiss and Ruby quickly followed their noses when they woke from their impromptu nap and helped with grating cheese for the topping. James did the things that required two hands while Oz stirred noodles. He glanced over at the two women and took a breath. Better to rip the band-aid off quickly then let it fester. “I need to tell you something, James and I have been talking and it seems Qrow… found a different fix to replace his drinking problem. One that is arguably worse then his drinking. The effect its having is dangerous, so with that in mind I think reintroducing alcohol in moderation and under some level of supervision is a… better route to try.” Ozpin said leaning on the counter turning to watch Ruby and Weiss who had been behind him working at the kitchen island.

Ruby shivered and put down the cheese she had been working at before she dropped it. “But-”

Oz stopped her with a shake of his head. “You need to get over it Ruby. I hate to be blunt and I don’t want to upset you, believe me I don’t but you can’t go through life avoiding the things that scare you. You’ll only cripple yourself. You can’t be having a panic attack every time we go to a social function. Roi was kind enough to overlook things considering your condition at the time and with the breastfeeding but make no mistake outside of those conditions asking for something else is rude. The next person might take more offense then he did.” Ozpin kept his tone even and flat, he wasn’t angry with her but hiding from a problem was not how to mend the problem. “I’m sure we could find a formal therapist if you desire.”

The red head backpedaled, turning away from her husband and picking her grater back up, it was easier to talk about this if her attention was split a little, give her something to focus on. “No, no thank you. I’ve already been a bit better. I did have a sip of Brivari last time we were at the Crimson. I-I can’t just ignore it and you are right about having to g-get over it. If Qrow is doing something you think is worse and would rather he drink again. Well to be frank you know what to do better then I do. Qrow isn’t going to change just because we want him too. I guess going cold turkey didn’t help him if it just moved the addiction to something more dangerous. I don’t want him to get hurt.” Ruby put it down again threaded her fingers together squeezing tight, she could be rational about this, like an adult and not a scared little girl. Still, it didn’t stop the tremor building between her hands, nor the slightly raised thumping of her heart beat. 

“Exactly, I have faith he can be responsible with it. It of itself isn’t a bad thing, we’ll just have to keep an eye on him.” Ozpin set the spoon he had been stirring with on the counter and walked over to Ruby and kissed her cheek, good arm coming around her middle in comfort. “Thank you for taking this so well, but trust me not doing anything about it will be much worse. I won’t make you look at what he did.”

“I trust you. If you think this is the better thing to do then we’ll do it.” Ruby kissed him chastly upon the lips. She forced a smile. “Can’t hide from the world forever, am I right.”

Ozpin drew her in closer and she snuggled against his chest. “We’ll get him, heck you might even get him. Or we’ll get lucky and all be available when we find him.”

“That would be nice.” Ruby took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Sorry, I’ve just been so stressed out lately. I miss our baby, everything has just been moving so fast I don’t feel like I can just take it all it.”

Oz pet down her spine. “We understand, with how everything has been going we really did have to hit the ground running. Didn’t have much of a chance to settle first, unlike at Mistral where we had months to do what we wanted.”

“Did you have any luck finding what you were looking for?” Ruby looked up at him as she asked.

“No.” Oz shook his head. “Solitas is a big place and I have never liked it. So finding stuff that is thousands of years old in a place I never went back when this stuff was being studied… I don’t know, the suggestion that we were looking into this was a good way to buy time but I’m not convinced I’ll find anything.” He pursed his lips and was careful to shield his thoughts from Ruby, at least not without asking Garrett for help. The Chalice is here too, I can feel it at least but he cannot be trusted.

“Well, you’ve only looked once and we’ve got time. Cinder is probably on our heels but she was trying to get the Spring Maiden powers and you’ve got those and the Relic is hidden in me. So it is a safe guess that she would try for the Winter Maiden powers which you also have. Without those she can’t get to the Relic of Creation so worse comes to worse you run and draw her away from Atlas. We can at least manipulate her a bit.”

“That is a good point.” James said and drained the pasta. “With the Winter Maiden gone the protection of the Relic is definitely in our court.”

“She won’t want to get into a fight with me either. She’s a thief, hungry for power and needy for it. Though I’ll be surprised if she attempts to use her Grimm power to steal my magic only to realise I can probably reverse it. I’m confident that if she tried my magic would come from her instead, it is mine and does seem to know that. All streams flow into the ocean sort of thing.”

“One can hope. My worry is about Salem, she’s been quiet for far too long.” James said as Oz went back to him and they mixed together the dish and added the cheese the two women had grated to the top. Then put it in the oven to bake.

“She is immortal and does have time, it’s entirely possible she’s shaping new Grimm. If she knows I’ve taken the magic from two Maidens, which it’s possible that she doesn’t then she won’t realize that my magic is growing again. It doesn’t seem like Cinder returned to her and she is the only one that knows I took it from Raven. Cinder strikes me as the type to stew and not listen to anyone. Salem does know I am alive though, she held for centuries because I was around.” Ozpin washed his hand.

“Hmm, so we have to keep an eye out for Cinder and our eyes on her continent.” James said as they all walked out into the living room.

James sat down and Weiss snuggled into his side. “So basically we are in some measure of control for now. Cinder can’t get the Winter Maiden powers nor three out of four Relics and Salem is probably biding her time. So the best thing we can do is try and straighten out Atlas and be ready when she comes.” The icen eyed woman traced over a metal knuckle of her partner.

“We do have time it seems. If Cinder thinks she can one v one me, she will be in for a nasty surprise. I remember the last time we tangoed and she is arrogant in the extreme. I don’t think she even knows I can just explode her heart.” Oz snapped his fingers. “Salem was always very bad at being creative and magic is at its greatest when the user is creative. Cinder thinks of it as just another tool to fight with, her fight with Raven was embarrassing in just how uncreative it was.”

“So, we breathe a bit.” Ruby said and felt some of the weight off of her shoulders. “And our next milestone is the election. Getting who we want where we want them.”

“Yes, I for one do not wish to work with Robyn but she is popular in Mantle and not working with her could come back and bite us. She will at least be somewhat more open to listening then some of the others running. We have a full council election so any number of things could happen. However, the city seat is the only one really up for grabs.” James explained.

“Huh? How does that work?” Ruby had to admit she hadn’t been giving it much thought, to much other more personal stuff going on.

“This election is split into three, one election for each seat. Military, Academy and City.” James lifted a finger for each as he explained. “As you know that for all Kingdoms, those running have to have the educational and career background to apply for the corresponding seat. It’s how I’ve held two seats for all this time, I have both Huntsman and military background. I had to beat the last Headmaster in a fight before I could apply to be the Headmaster. So for example if Robyn wanted to run for Academy she’d have to formally challenge me and the match would be broadcasted for Mantle and Atlas to watch. I went military first, got that seat and then went for Headmaster. Now for this election. Winter or Robyn would have to challenge me, given that no formal challenge has been given I find it safe to assume Robyn won’t try it. Which is wise of her because not only can she not beat me but it doesn’t allow her the control she needs to achieve her goals. So she’s stuck with only being able to run for city, it’s also the only position a civilian can run for.”

“Which is why my father is gunning for it. Though I half expected him to withdraw when you announced that you were ending the embargo. He must be up to something else.” Weiss frowned looking down as she thought about her father. His behaviour and actions as of late had her concerned but since she had no basis for her worries she kept it locked down for now.

“So you step down from the military running. For the good press basically, then set Winter up as your replacement. Doing that makes you staying on as Headmaster easier for the public to swallow and gives Winter a leg up as your apprentice so she has the career and background to apply and hold that application as her education gets reviewed. Robyn and Jacques don’t have the background for either of the other seats. Robyn could in theory challenge you for the Headmaster seat but probably knows she’d get her ass pounded and that would damage her public image so she’s picking her battles?” Ruby worked through the logic, politics was never something she liked to study.

“Basically.” Ozpin said and ran a hand over his face. “It’s set up like this because the average person just doesn’t have the time in their life to master all these fields.”

“You have.”

Everyone looked over to see Qrow leaning in the doorway, his wet hair dripped as he listened in. “Speaking purely for educational reasons.” Qrow got up and walked over to sit slowly down on the corner of the sofa Ruby and Ozpin were on. “If Oz showed everyone just who he is, that he was the guy who won the Great War. He could apply for all the seats and make a proper Kingdom again with a monarchy and people would probably celebrate. Given how they got their asses kicked in the Great War having the guy that kicked them come and help sort them out would have it’s own charm.”

“Which we won’t be doing.” Ozpin mock glared at Qrow. “Setting a precedent for it would give other people the idea and then it would probably be in less then a couple decades were other ambitious Academy students decide they want to bring the monarchies back and then it’s just a spat away from another war.”

“Which is why we don’t have monarchies anymore, it’s too easy for things to devolve into a pissing contest because someone’s feelings got hurt.” Qrow said flicking his fingers out.

“Okay I get it.” Ruby looked over to Qrow who was sitting like he was sore. There was a look of guilt on Oz whereas James appeared irritated if the way his crossed arms tightened was any indication. Tension grew so Ruby did the only thing she could think of and took a deep breath before turning to the red eyed man. “So what the heck did you do today that freaked Oz and James out so much they think you should drink again.”

Qrow froze, he hadn’t thought the two would have moved so fast. “Uhh, I don’t think it would be a good idea to talk about it. It won’t happen again.”

“So we’re back to you hiding your job from me again. I thought we were past that.” Ruby’s eyes narrowed. She felt Oz’s hand pet her wrist as though trying to tell her to back down but damn it, if she was to grow up and be okay with all this she needed to understand why.

The raven-haired man got up and walked to the liquor cabinet and leaned on it with both hands. It was rich ebony smooth and polished till shined. “You know what my job is and I just did a bad job of it. You know I have issues and going cold turkey didn’t help when I was given something else to do that… wound up being fun.” A drink was so tempting, now that he knew they wouldn’t stop him. His mouth both watered for a sip and felt dry as a bone at the same time.

Ruby put two and two together. She got up sharply with clenched hands. “And you hid it, we are mentally tied together! You could have just showed me, you wouldn’t even have to say anything!”

“Ruby,” Qrow turned towards her. “I-.”

“What did you do?!” Ruby shouted.

Qrow swallowed knowing this wouldn’t end well but if it was a choice between willingly show her or let Oz and James tell her … Qrow opened the bond and showed her exactly what he had done.

The colour drained out of her face and she took a step away from him both physically and mentally. She could practically smell the decaying rot and coppery blood that pooled around the broken dead body. A hand went to cover her mouth as she gagged on the image. “How, how c-could you?”

“Ruby, please don’t-” Qrow moved towards her a step.

“You found pleasure in this? In ripping apart a defenseless person. I know the people you hunt aren’t good. They are vile and evil but to enjoy ‘that’, you’re no better than Tyrian! You sick piece of shit!” Ruby felt the tears gather in her eyes. “You’re supposed to be better than this! Not, not torture someone because you think you’re in the right! She was already going to die, but you did it anyway. Not for information but because you could. BECAUSE YOU THINK IT’S FUN!”

“Ruby.” Qrow crossed the space and reached for her.

She swatted his hands away, taking a step back. The others remained stoic, none of them moving to help or hinder the argument taking place. If anything they looked as though they’d rather be anywhere else. Ruby’s anger over her husband’s actions grew but underneath that fury was a sad desperation, one in which she pleaded with Qrow to tell her it was all a lie. That he hadn’t done what he’d just shown her. How could he?! “Don’t touch me! You could have told us at any time, that you weren’t doing well. We could have helped you, done something. Gotten you off that job! ANYTHING!”

“I-.”

“Are nothing but an addict! You’ve always been and I thought that maybe you were better now. That you had it controlled but you don’t! And we-we enabled you!” That was what hurt the most. That they had all been too blind with their own problems and needs to see that Qrow was struggling in his own way. By not acting or intervening what they had done was nothing less then enabled him to continue. Unable to get a grip on her emotions Ruby backed away moving towards the door. “Don’t touch me, don’t come near me.”

Ruby couldn’t allow herself to be touched right then, her heart hurting for her lover. “Maybe the Red list is a mistake, I know why it exists but it doesn’t change the fact that you, a huntsman go out there and kill. I’ve never wanted to see you with this kind of blood yet I understand why it sometimes has to be. But this!” Ruby held her hands over her head, the image of that woman’s death burned into her memory. “This is not the act of a Huntsman.”

“Ruby…”

“No! You know next to my mother, you were the one who set me on the path to being a Huntress. I’m not a child anyway, the world isn’t all black and white or good and evil but to me … being a Huntress, it’s not about destroying the Grimm, it’s not about killing or taking the biggest bounty. It’s about protecting the people! The weak and the innocent from the predators that threaten Remnant.” Ruby removed her hands, staring up at Qrow with an almost cold look, if it weren’t for the tears swimming in her eyes. “But I see no huntsman in this picture. No fighter of the darkness and Grimm. Protector of mankind and life. All I see . . . Is a killer."

“Ruby please, I fucked up I know that. As you said we are bonded together. I messed up, I… I knew what I was doing. I just- hell I don’t even know. It hurt less to do the job when I couldn’t drink, when I.” Qrow sighed. “When I made it fun. When I enjoyed it and it was so easy to start thinking in a way that made it fun. Made it right. Look I’m sorry, I messed up. It won’t happen again.”

Ruby shook her head. “I don’t believe you. You’ve always been like this, I just thought I gave you a reason to be better than this. I’m just sorry I’ve failed you in that.”

“You haven't! I don’t drink myself into oblivion any more. I’m sure that if I do start drinking again I could control it. I won’t ever come back to you drunk, I can do my job and do it right. Maybe it won’t ever tear me up like it did before, but I don’t see the problem with that. I hate being haunted by my work, I won’t cause unnecessary injury anymore. I swear to you. On our child if you need it. You are a part of me, I can’t bare you turning away. I know I screwed up. Please, please Ruby. Don’t push me away.”

There was one nice thing about having a bond to him, she could feel that he meant it. It was impossible for him to hide his true feelings from her, impossible to lie to her or himself. He did regret it, he was afraid to lose her. “I’m only trusting you because I am in your soul, I can feel that you mean it. We-we will fix this.” Ruby didn’t move she was still angry but she couldn’t deny that she wanted better for Qrow, to forgive him for tarnishing his view on death. She vowed to herself that she would be better too, for all their sakes.

Qrow sagged with relief and when he took her hands she let him. “I’m sorry I disappointed you.” He knelt before her and kissed her hands, slowly one after another. “I can’t just stop this job, someone has to do it. But I will do it right, I won’t hide it from you. You can come with me if you want or just see what I do with through my eyes through the bond. I won’t hide, whatever you need to feel safe and to trust me again.”

Ruby tightened her grip finally returning the action. “Alright, I’ll hold you to that.”

Qrow stood up and Ruby let him kiss her, it was not deep or long but respectful, another way to apologize to her. “Thank you.” They walked over and sat down beside Oz with Ruby between them.

The tension still hadn’t dissipated but since no one seemed to be in the mood to talk or act right now Weiss turned the tv on, in hopes for a distraction. That confrontation had frightened her, that Qrow had not just been killing but enjoying it. She couldn’t help but feel a little bit at fault for it, she had been spending a lot of time with him and had never noticed. After several minutes of silence Weiss was just about ready to explode from the still present tension when the doorbell rang and James stood up and answered it. He turned and held up a letter. “From Jacques.” He opened it and glared at the letter. “We’ve been invited to a Masquerade on the Day of the Dead.”

Weiss’s jaw fell. “No, no way. Father is furious at me there is no way something horrible won’t happen.”

“That’s my birthday too. Do we have to go?” Ruby asked as James handed her the letter. The day of the dead was only a couple weeks away. She had been looking forward to hiding out in this flat with all her family but that dream seemed to be growing more distant with every second.

“We should, it is a masquerade but I doubt our absence wouldn’t go unnoticed.” James pursed his lips. “It could be a good time to gauge what is going through the heads of Atlas nobility before the election.” 

“It could be fun Ruby, we’d get to dance and eat the food.” Weiss said.

“And find ways to irritate Jacques! I want to go just for that.” Qrow leaned back on the sofa, grateful to just have something not him related to talk about.

“Too true, we are either going to have to learn Atlas dances or we could just flaunt our stuff as the Valean’s we are.” Ozpin had to admit a ball sounded like a lot of fun right now. He was also hoping the change in discussion might help alleviate the conflict between Ruby and Qrow. 

“I get to teach you to dance Ruby!” Weiss clapped her hands together, pulling the red head up from her seat and dragging her towards the bedroom.

“NO LADY STILTS!”

 


 

Yang woke up with a groan and put her metal hand to her head. She had forgotten to drink water before sleeping and was paying the price for it now. She sat up and looked over to her companion. Clover was dozing with an arm over his eyes, the sheet had fallen short over his torso, giving the blonde an unobstructed view of his chest. And what a chest it was, Yang resisted the urge to pick up where they left off last night. Slowly holding her head she walked over to the bathroom and was very happy to find a cup by the sink. Several cups of water later and a pee she was set about cleaning up. A shower washed the sweat off her body and the sticky fluids of sex from her butt. When she headed out Clover was sitting up with his legs over the side of the bed and stretching. She glanced over at the clock and it read six pm. “Do you want the shower?”

“I washed up while you dozed I’m good.” Clover got up and turned to her. Gosh she had amazing tits, they were just begging to be squeezed. “Can I take you out to dinner?”

“Maybe another time, I’ve got friends to catch up with.” She walked over and pulled her pants on. Then pulled out her Scroll. “But I’d be game to trade numbers. I’m going to school at the academy but I’m sure I’ll have free time.”

“Sounds good.” Clover walked over to his coat and they traded numbers. “So see you soon?”

Yang put on her bra and pulled her shirt on. “Oh I’m planning on it and hey perhaps next time I won’t blow you off.”

“If there’s a next time I'm really hoping you do.”

“Oh I think we’re gonna get along just great.” Yang waved as she headed out now dressed and a bit sore. She was suddenly jealous of Ruby, who got to fuck whenever she wanted to. At least she had a contact in Atlas right now to booty call if she wanted. She pulled her coat closed and headed up to Atlas Academy. She got a few odd looks from students marching passed but found the room she was sharing with Ren, Nora and when he arrived Jaune. She punched the code in and the door slip open with a hydraulic hiss. Nora looked up from her Scroll as Yang walked in. “You’re back! How’s Ruby? I was surprised that she didn’t come to classes today.”

“Eh yeah, turns out there might be more to that. Since they know that creepy Faunus is somewhere in the city Ruby’s feeling a bit more than afraid to be out in public after what happened last time. I can understand that. I didn’t get to see Qrow yet, apparently he pissed James off and it ended up with sex so he wasn’t in any state for company.” Yang jumped up to her bunk, her and Nora had taken the top ones. “Then I just went out for a drink and found someone to shack up with.”

“Yang~.” Nora poked her head out and looked over. “You know that’s not a good idea, you could have just asked Ren or I. We would have been more then pleased to play.”

“Yeah but I hadn’t planned on it and I just really wanted a drink. He just looked really good and someone new was nice.”

“Weren’t you and Bart trying to be a thing?”

Yang hummed as she picked up a brush from the bag at the end of the bed. “Eh, we were busy. He said he’d be there for me should everything else hit the fan but we aren’t in a relationship per say. At least not right now.” She added with a mumble and brushed her hair trying to get the knots out. “It was just some fun, I got his number but I have no idea if I’ll call him again. It was good but I was drunk so not the best time to judge a persons refuckablity.”

“Are you still on birth control at least? You would have finished around the time we got the train back.” Nora asked.

“Uhh, no. Figured I’d save some Lien.” Yang blushed a bit. “Didn’t think I’d be having any sex for a long while after Sun turned me down.”

“YANG!” Nora bounced out of her bunk then up into Yangs. “Come on you can’t be that stupid! You should know better then to get drunk and have sex with someone when not on your own birth control! Heck you should know better then to drunk and fuck period!”

Yang pushed Nora away. “I’m fine, I’ll go back on after my next period I promise I just… didn’t see the point.”

Nora scowled at her. “You should know better. Your uncle’s Semblance is freaking bad luck. Taking unnecessary risks like you did is stupid.”

“Yeah yeah. Let’s go get dinner and then you can take me to wherever you got your new gear.”

 


 

Ozpin knocked as he walked into the private library. James was sat reading alone, Ruby and Weiss were keeping close to Qrow who had stayed away from the liquor. “About the masquerade… normally I’d reach out to...” Oz took a deep breath and held himself together. “Lydia, my mother for her designs but she’s gone now. So I was wondering even if you don’t wish to do it alone. If we could design some costumes. I can help finance someone to make them but I was hoping we could design them.” Oz pulled a sketch book out from under his arm, a pencil already in the spine.

James set his book aside with a smile. “I’ve actually been practicing since I got my fine motor skills upgraded. So yes, let’s have some fun you and I. I already have a couple contacts we can take designs too.”

Ozpin didn’t contain his smile as he walked over and sat beside James and offered him the book. “Aren’t we a pair, your right side my left.”

“Between the two of us you get one whole person.” James took the book and pulled Oz over by the front of his shirt for a kiss.

Oz purred into it and withdrew. “Who do you want to start with?”

“Qrow. He’s always fun to work with.” James opened the book and pulled the piece out and started to draw Qrow, with a fresh image of the man nude in his mind it was easy. He even picked the pose Qrow had used to show off how lovely he was. “He makes a good crow but it’s a masquerade and that’s a bit obvious.”

“Well depends how much we want to mess with all the nobles. If we don’t do animal themes we could either play up that it’s Atlas and work with that to be anonymous or go with Vale designs and announce who we are and that we are here to play.” Oz leaned back into the soft sofa thinking back on all the parties they had gone too.

“Well the level of anonymity can vary we don’t know if this is a masquerade where everyone’s masks are more on the silly side. Or if this is full blown costume party. So going for tasteful beauty would be the safest bet. Atlas fashion has also been rather dull these last few years, so if we want to show our stuff going with the styles of the other Kingdoms could be fun as well.” James started to sketch into the base he had drawn. “I’m thinking a lace up as the first corset for Qrow, something to really show off the lines of his torso and to mold to his abs. Perhaps a loin cloth, almost floor length in black with red and silver trim. With two separate side panels underneath, just enough to show off a bit of love handle while they clip into the back. As long as the first to give a discrete but tempting look.”

Oz looked over and pointed to the drawing hips. “If you shorten the corset he can wear a couple thick belts, more skin but mostly hidden. Maybe a tailed over-shirt? Underneath? Something he can leave the buttons undone for you know he’ll like that.”

James drew it in and then added gloves to tuck the shirt into. “Heels, probably broad ones but up to to his mid calves just and inch or two. No one will guess it was him if he’s too tall. Mask…”  He tapped the pencil end against the empty page. “Elven? With a veil built in to hide his hair so he doesn’t have to wear a wig.”

“Sounds good, could make it mid way down his back to make everything flow together.”

“Red black and silver.” James drafted a simple mask that would inhere to Qrow’s facial structure. “Silk and satin, with a base layer of linen. Flowing and light will be key for Qrow. You can I can have heavier clothes it will help hide our distinct err attributes.”

“Well we are all of the lighter skin tones, so we could all design to match and mesh with each other. Ruby would be a silver base with red as a second and blacks last. Weiss would be red, silver black. The red and silver would have to be more equal to not wash her out with too much red. I have noticed a bit of colour in contrast to her usual whites works well.” Ozpin tapped Qrow’s undershirt. “We make that red and do white and silver embroidery and carry that theme through the entire outfit.”

“Sounds good.” James made a few notes and drew in a familiar floral design. “Weiss and I should be discreet, even if we still end up matching… Actually. You and Ruby should be more discreet as well. We can put the focus on Qrow, with everyone staring at him we’ll be able to move more freely even with the matching colours. AND! We should shift the amount of colours around to make it less obvious… till we dance.”

“I like how you think.”




 

It was later in the following week when Jaune and Maria finally arrived at Atlas. Jaune looked up at the huge tower with his jaw on the floor as an icy breeze blew through him. “Brrr.” Jaune hugged himself. “So cold.”

“Come on then. I messaged the General when we arrived.” Maria started up the steps.

“You just messag- right of course. You’re the Grimm Reaper after all.” Jaune threw his hands up.

As they walked in Jaune tried to take in the sights. Everything was just built so high, so different then Beacon and Haven. Before they got far James appeared with Qrow and Ruby in tow. “Maria! You arrived safely, I hope your trip was uneventful.”

Maria offered her hand and James bowed from his waist and took her hand kissing the back. “Very much so James, Jaune has proved to be an excellent trial by fire student. Not unlike someone else I know.” She smiled wrinkles drawing at her lips.

James released her hand and stood straight again. “Well I am glad you were not bored on your way here.”

“Speaking of which, this one needs to hit the forges rather hard. I’ve been teaching him a new style and needs proper armour to work with it.” Maria gestured at Jaune.

Ruby slipped out from behind James and clobbered Jaune around the neck in a tight hug. “Wow, hi missed you too.” Jaune hugged Ruby back and felt her quiver. “Something happen?”

“Tyrian is somewhere… close.” Qrow crossed his arms over his chest. He would not be jealous, no he would not be. She was his wife and was just happy Jaune got back to them safe.

“Ohh, yeah I’m okay Ruby. Totally boring trip, I might actually be able to hold a fight with you now.” Jaune patted her back.

Ruby backed off and took a deep breath and then smiled. “I’m just glad your safe and I look forward to seeing your new skills.”

James pulled another new Scroll. “This has all your course work, skip what you know it’s all open book and there are tests at the end of each section. You can ask for help if you need it. Catching up with your peers is the most important thing.”

Jaune took it and opened the files, the amount of work was daunting but he was determined to not fall behind. “Okay thank you. So since you’ve already registered me can I use the forge?”

“Yes, make whatever changes you wish. Keep the cold in mind.” James actually liked Jaune’s wish to use the facilities as quickly as possible.

“Cool, Maria?”

“Yes I will help you, let’s go.” Maria pulled Jaune along by his hoodie and they headed off to the forge.

Ruby giggled as Jaune was dragged down the hall. “He’s different. I think these last couple weeks with Maria have done him good.” She worried her lip. “I’m gonna go hang out with them for a bit. Maria is strong too. Maybe we’ll catch up with everyone else and do something fun after! Hey Jaune wait up!” The silver eyed warrior charged down the hall after Jaune.

Qrow walked over and rested an arm on James’s shoulder leaning on him. “Well she actually headed off on her own.”

James looked over to Qrow. “All the more to pay attention to you.”

Qrow flinched and got off of James. “Yeah yeah, I haven’t gone hunting in a week now. What about Tyrian?”

“Clover is off his suspension, I have brought him up to date. Excluding the more personal details.” James took a deep breath and then smiled. “So do you like your masquerade garb?”

Qrow ginned. “Oh heck yeah, I can’t wait to screw with everyone!”

 


 

“JAUNE!!!” Nora flew through the hall crashing into the unarmoured Jaune. 

“OOOOFF!” They pair crashed to the floor as Jaune tried to breathe through Nora’s stranglehold of a hug.

Ruby was sitting on an anvil that was at least ten times her weight if not more. She giggled as Nora started kissing all over Jaune’s face and hugging him like he would vanish if she let go. Ren walked over and sat beside Ruby on the anvil. “You poofed, how are you doing?”

“Better, Qrow’s been around a lot more lately even if Oz is who knows where out on Solitas.” Ruby snuggled up to Ren. “Now Jaune is back too, everyone’s back together and I am trying to worry a bit less.”

Yang who had been lurking pounced on Jaune as he came up for air and picked him and Nora up and squeezed them tight. She set everyone down and Jaune gasped for air. “So what are you making blondie?”

Jaune slumped and mock glared at her. “You’re blonde too!”

“That's where you're wrong vomit boy, I’m ‘golden.’” Yang ran her hand through the glowy locks with a smile.

Maria who had been supervising the smiths with the designs she and Jaune had made spoke up. “Making him a proper vanguard. With Oz out of commission you are in dire need of one. Not to say he has ever really filled that role but he is multipurpose and now without him your team has been suffering from a lack of a proper front guard.”

“Cool oh! Do you guys want to see my Crescent Rose?” Ruby jumped off the anvil and pulled her new beauty off her hip.

“Sure!” Yang was glad that Ruby had reached for something they all understood and adored.

Ruby activated Crescent Rose to it’s full length and swung it around to slam down cutting into the ground. “OOOOHHH!” Nora bounced all around it. “It must be so much lighter now! Is that a new spear function? Oh oh oh did you change the rifle?”

“I did! Watch this.” Ruby clicked a switched and the shafted folded in as the blade straightened. She grabbed it by the head and spun the new red and silver claymore around. “No more getting caught with a weapon that’s easy to hook and lose!”

Shivers went up and down Yang’s spine. How Ruby was standing was just like how Adam and stood with his weapons. Wilt and Blush, the style was fast and terrifying, would Ruby be learning something similar? 

“Much better Miss Branwen. I was going to bring up the flaws with your old weapon if you hadn’t already addressed them before we arrived.” Maria liked the new weapon as well.

Ruby transformed the weapon again rejoining the pieces and switching it to spear form. She shifted stances and held it ready, the straight edge gleaming. “It’s not perfect and it still has weak points but I really wanted a sword. Giving up a sniper function for just a straight up rifle was a small sacrifice. It’s way more maneuverable now and with the barrel on the side of the blade I can still fire when it’s in scythe form.”

“We should spar when my new stuff is ready to go.” Jaune said he thought Ruby looked more herself with Crescent Rose in her hand then she had since she gave birth. The kick ass Huntress.

“Speaking of which.” The head smith a huge man of fifty walked over with two others. “No paint yet but you better get it fitted.”

Jaune’s eyes went wide at the plain silver armour. He was hyped, finally he got to make what he wanted without financial restraint. “Thank you.” He took the biggest of the heavy bundles and walked to the change rooms with the two others following him.

The brown eyed smith looked Ruby up and down. “You look like you could do with some armour too missy.”

Ruby paused swing Crescent Rose up so the end was planted into the ground. “I hadn’t really thought about it. I’m more the don’t get hit type.” Today she had been wearing the new huntress gear she picked out when they arrived to Atlas. The black and red vest belted around her middle but she was sans her cloak and it left her arms with only white blouse tucked into gloves. “I usually have a coat that covers my arms.”

“Maybe bracers to layer onto your gloves, with such a large weapon you can never underestimate the use of armour on your forearms. Or greaves on your calves. I do have some segmented new armours that wouldn’t hamper flexibility and would protect your middle a bit better.”

Ruby remembered Tyrian’s stinger slicing into Qrow’s middle, when it pierced her belly. Her hand pet the area where old scar tissue remained. “Sure, whatever you suggest.” She offered him her hand. “I’m Ruby Branwen.”

“Nice to meet you Miss.” The smith shook her hand. “I’m Vulcan Lemnos. I haven’t had a scythe wielder come in here in years so I’m very curious as to what my ideas will turn out as.”

“Well my husband uses a heavy scythe claymore combo so if you want a style different from my own to design for there is him too.” Ruby liked the old man, he had a slow soothing manner of speaking.

“Any injuries on his part of late?”

“His side, got cut open by a scorpion faunus who had a corrosive poison. He’s fine now but it was a close thing.” Ruby touched her side. “Right here.”

“Hmm, I have been developing new armours for Huntsman. Bring him in some time and I’ll see what I can do.” Vulcan looked her up and down again.

“WOW!” Nora’s shout had everyone looking over to the change rooms.

Jaune blushed and rubbed a hand through his shoulder length hair. “I guess that’s a good sign?”

“I’ll say!”

The cuirass was fitted tight to his chest in two simple layers to conform to his ribcage. The torso was split into three pieces a grey middle panel framed by silver and then leather filling out the sides. Over his hips were twin layered around pieces that each had a leaf like extension down his thigh to his knees. On his right side was a panel of chainmail and leather that extended down to almost his ankle. The boots and greaves were interconnected pieces of heavy steel that end mid way up his thigh just up past the thigh guards. The middle of the hip region had another much shorter extension of chainmail and decorative white cloth. On his right side was a full heavy pauldron of two layers one simple that shielded his neck and shoulder. The bracers were simple and effective on both sides and his left shoulder had just a leather shoulder pad.

“I don’t think that needs painting. You look good Jaune.” Yang put her hands on her hips. “No longer the weak kneed vomit boy.”

“Do you always have to bring that up?” Jaune scowled at her.

“Just needs one thing.” Nora reached over and pulled the tie out of Ren’s hair despite his protests. She bounced over to Jaune and pulled his hair up and high to the back of his head in a wolf knot. “Perfect.”

“Nora~.” Jaune blushed. “I thought you forgot about that.”

“Never!” Nora grinned and backed off and Jaune reached back and pulled off his new shield. It was twice the size of his old one and made in two pieces. The edges were all sharp with the uppermost one swooped down to a straight edge, then tucked in a half circle before sweeping out again. The second part of the shield had two straight sword edges as well as another addition edge merged into the middle straight blades.

“Wow.” Ruby grinned as Jaune brought the shield out in front of him then split it in two down the middle. Jaune grinned as the shield locked down magnetically down on his bracers and spun around so the sharp sides were up.

“Maria has been teaching me to fight more directly with my shield and well this puts the sword part straight into the shield.” Jaune stepped away and struck out twice the shield sides were up at his shoulders. While the blades reached down mid calf about equal to the shield side.

Ruby really liked the new toys, she was practically vibrating in place with the need to pit their weapons against one another. “We should spar.”

“Is that always your first response to new weapons? Lets play with them?” Jaune asked, he would never understand that.

“Please~.” Ruby begged unleashing her big silver puppy eyes.

“Ohh fine.”

“WOOOT!” Ruby jumped up and started to bounce down the room towards the training room.

“I think I will come and watch.” Vuclan said.

Yang grinned watching her sister bounce, Crescent Rose still in spear form over her shoulder. That was the Ruby she knew, eager to practice and to geek out over new weapons. The training room was a huge empty space and covered in green and white squares. Ruby spun around looking at the huge space, she hadn’t been in the room yet but she liked it. It was different from the classroom style sparring pits of Vale and a far cry from the outdoor training fields back in Haven. Jaune looked around and wondered just what the room was capable off. Their friends sat down beside the doorway to stay out of the way.

Ruby spun, sweeping Crescent Rose around and moved into a low ready stance. “Till yield or Aura break?”

“Only if you don’t cheat and use Oz and Qrow’s Aura to bolster yours.” Jaune said and moved into a ready stance, low like hers one shield up with his elbow up and back ready to jab forth the other low and tight to his chest to deflect the stab he knew was to come.

“Ha, fine.” Ruby took a deep steadying breath. “Ready?”

“Go.”

Ruby blasted forward and Jaune struck the spear aside and stabbed out with his raised shield. The Huntress bent out of the way the shaft of her spear pressing into her back. She let it go with one away from Jaune and as it fell stepped sharply down on the end. The blade snapped up and sliced along Jaune’s cheek his Aura protecting him. Jaune lunged forward with the shield rammed into Ruby as she jumped and spun over her spear. She pivoted and dropped sweeping her weapon out and whacking him in the back of his legs.

Only Jaune’s new armour protected him, he spun and almost clocked her in the head. Ruby petal burst away and returned to the physical form. She pulled the head off her scythe it already in claymore form as the shaft collapsed into rifle from. She rained down bullets on Jaune but he slammed his shield back into its complete form and hunkered under it while her bullets bounced off.

Ruby landed and charged at him, putting her gun on her hip. She brought both hands to her claymore and cleaved against Jaune’s shield. He bashed forward the force staggering her back as he dropped the shield and punched for her face. The redhead blocked with her sword’s flat end and danced towards his free side. Jaune quickly separated the shields again and attacked.

The silver eyed warrior was surprised, Maria had clearly been working hard on him. Ruby upped her pace, blade clashed with swords. Jaune kicked her in the gut and stabbed out over and over, forcing Ruby to back away blocking as she dragged her rifle out and mixed it into her shots. Jaune’s new shield was extremely hard to penetrate. “Holy heck Jaune.”

They traded blows again and Ruby slipped her rifle through his guard and shoved it up against his throat. “But you need to spend more time with Oz.”

Jaune panted with the exertion but grinned. “Says the one who just about has her guts all over the floor.” He looked down at her belly.

Ruby looked down and sure enough one of his shield blade tips were pressed up against her stomach. She had blocked the other with her claymore but Jaune through the magnetism to his gauntlets had spun the shield to seventy degree angle. “Wow.”

“To be fair you’re using a new weapon too. I’m sure you could have beaten me if you had kept to spear and scythe.” Jaune backed away and they lowered their weapons.

“Maybe but I had to practice too, this is actually my first spar with my new Crescent Rose.” Ruby rejoined the scythe head to the rest and collapsing it putting it away on her hip.

Jaune rejoined the shield and set it on his back. “I’m still just trying not to be giddy over coming out in a tie with you.” They walked back to their friends Nora bouncing. “That was so cool Jaune!”

“Me next! Me next!” Yang punched her fist her hair blazing. Jaune felt the dread sink in as he noticed Nora also looked ready to jump in but he looked to Maria who only smiled then grinned himself. After all, he wasn’t going to the weakest link in the team anymore, not the strategist because he had no other worthwhile role but an actual fighter. Little did he know he’d be the training partner for everyone that day and only half of the time did he get his butt whipped. 

It was a good day indeed.

Chapter Text

    The Schnee manor was possibly the biggest building Ruby had ever been in, sans Beacon and Atlas. Ruby’s gut clenched as their limo drove up the loop before the manor. The columns of the house made Ruby frown they were like the bars on a cell window. She reached up and touched her silver mask with a gloved hand. It was custom made to fit to her it was shaped to be elven high lines smooth and flowing with see through black lenses over the eye sockets to hide her own silver. Only the top edge of her lips were visible with a smooth slope back into the rest of the mask so she could eat. The masks were the one thing they all had in common. Ozpin and James both wore black masks the same design of her own. Weiss like herself wore a silver mask. While Qrow wore a silver and black one with a green floral crown around it’s temples. The crown was part of the crest of Vale.

    Ruby and Weiss’s dresses were of the same basic design with alternate colour schemes. Silver and red corset bases with straight loin cloth panels that covered most of their hips. With side panels that overlapped to create a v over the middle panel. The corset presented and framed their breasts without shoulder straps, instead smooth ribbons of silk laced up together at the back and into the corset to keep them from slipping. One thing all the costumes and masks had in common was a shoulder length veil hiding their hair from view.

    The car came to a stop and James was the first out opening the doors. They opened from the middle giving a clear view to the middle of the limo. There were already reporters, photographers as well as what appeared to be a good portion of the Atlas elite present. Ozpin followed James’s lead from the other side of the limo and offered his hand to Ruby. Both women got up together in an elegant display of grace they had Weiss drilled into Ruby for the week prior.

    James and Ozpin wore suits of the matching style. Both had shaved their jaws clean and painted the twinned vines of black and green along their jaws. Not quite as obviously a Valean design as what Qrow, Ruby and Weiss were wearing but the flow of long lines to tapering edges was still present. Both wore long coats with thick mantles of wolf fur over their shoulders. The coats and fur were black, the former edged in silver, red and white floral designs. They were currently buttoned up tight and around their waists was an Atlas style sash of dark red. As Ruby and Weiss settled the two men extend their hands again this time with style and grace. Qrow swept out of the limo in a billow of black and red dress. The planned movement showed off all the perfected lines of his garb and body. He had even shaved for this event so not even that could give himself away.

    Cameras flashed no doubt the owners already jumping at the idea of gossip about the Valean garment. The open top that showed off Qrow’s chest showcased a new ornate cross of a Yggdrasil tree. Ozpin had painted a background of silver, green and red vines accenting the new amulet. Qrow swept forward making even his heels silent as he preened under the attention. James offered him his arm and Qrow took it, the mask showing his grin. Weiss took his other and they walked up to the doors with Ozpin and Ruby behind them.

    A butler with his nose so high up in the air it was a miracle he could see anything at all opened the door. “Invitation?” His voice was as snobby as his manner.

    James produced the invitation from his pocket. “For five.”

    The butler bent from the waist clearly not wanting to lower his nose. “Everything seems to be in order, enjoy your evening.”

    Qrow took everything in with a smile. James and Ozpin had been perfect with their costumes the designs were extravagant to hide the identity. Still a hush fell over the nobles as they took in Qrow. The hints of skin under the heavy black belts slung around his hips, the flowing skirts, the heels that gave him another inch of height but it was the green. The Vale green the whole outfit screamed Vale. If it had not been for his presented chest the less worldly of the nobles would have mistaken him for a woman. Skirts upon men were a very Vale fashion.

    Qrow turned his head to James making sure to show off his mask. “This looks charming, shall we dance or circulate?” He smoothed his voice hiding all of his usual rasp.

    “Why don’t you and our sweet soprano find the ballroom. I know it is what you look forward to most.” James dipped his head and made a show of kissing Qrow upon his pearl painted lips. “Do have fun.” He stepped back and Weiss and Qrow joined arms as she lead him towards the ballroom.

    “Do you wish to go with them or circulate with our blue forest and I?" Ozpin asked Ruby who was watching Qrow and Weiss as they paused for her. “Sure, dancing sounds like fun.” Oz offered her to Qrow and she glided to his free arm.

    James and Ozpin watched the three strode off to the ballroom. Their skirts a sea of red, black and silver all flowing together casting light about the room. “Gorgeous.” Ozpin purred and licked his lips a bit.

    “Save it, it’s going to be a long night.” James adjusted his cuff-links.

    “Where there is a will there is a fuck to be had.” Oz smirked looking into the reflective blue lenses of James’s mask.

    “Oh I agree.” James lowered his voice and leaned in. “I still want to bend you over and I have a great will focused on that idea.”

    “Well we shall have to see how the night goes. So are you leading or am I?” Ozpin asked as they walked out of the doorway. “This is your crowd after all.”

    “If it makes you happy I shall, maybe I can even find some brussel sprouts for you later. A night socializing with nobles just wouldn’t be complete without tormenting you with the evil mini cabbages.”

    “You are never going to let me live that down are you?”

    James guestured out to a solar where nobles were gathering for drinks. “Of course not, after all these years I’ve discovered your weakness.”

    Ozpin set off with James beside him, they weren’t quite touching as they had to present the idea of being respectable Atlas elites for at least a little while. When they walked into the room Jacque was easy to spot one because he didn’t change his voice at all. Two because he kept the white on white of his usual suit and was only wearing a lion mask. Oz couldn’t help the scoff. “As if he could be a lion.”

    “Too true, I wonder if Winter is here.” James looked the guests over, Winter would have probably picked something to hide her figure.

    “We made Weiss come so I hope she is.” Ozpin said and a waiter came over.

    “Wine gentlemen? It’s a fine red from the year 1782 brought all the way from Vale Oakland vineyards.”

    “Thank you.” James helped himself to one of the small glasses and offered it to Oz who took it with his right. The left was custom but they were trying to hide his injury. James helped himself to one and had a small sip. James knew his wines well enough to tell that the waiter was telling the truth. “It’s good.”

    Ozpin had a very small sip testing the drink over his tongue. It was Oakland 1782 and not tampered with, he glanced around his copper eyes flicked around behind the gold lenses. They were being watched, analyzed. James waved the waiter off and lifted his hand slightly and Ozpin strode forward James keeping close on his left. James brough them straight to Jacques who regarded them both with a critical eye.

    “Well aren’t you two interesting.” Jacques purred having a sip of his own wine. “Not every day we see two individuals of such unique stature.”

    Laughs went up around the room. Sure enough they were to two largest men in the room. A thin woman in a tube dressed spoke out. “All the ones of fine stock are big Lion, too bad so many of them decide to become homeless Huntsmen.”

    Another tittering of laughter and Oz sipped his wine again. Displaying no emotion as the laughter went on around them. Jacques spoke up. “Tell us Huntsmen how do you find our party?”

    “As they ever are.” James said scanning the crowd, he wasn’t sure what Oz was thinking about this wasn’t going well.

    “Oh so you’ve been to one of my parties before. You must be a very distinguished Huntsman, though I’m not sure the same could be said for your silent companion.” Jacques stepped up to Oz and tried to see through the lenses. “I don’t know if we have met.”

    “Iya kohtnehtohtneth yahkemohtyoodt.” Ozpin smiled and tilted his head like a curious wolf. “Iya hekemayemvehk nehtohttayemiyageth tayemoht sehtayem tayemoht yahkemohtyoodt.”

    Silence reigned for a moment no one had spoken in anything other than common in decades. The old tongues were all but unheard of. To hear one at all was considered a privilege. Not say Oz didn’t abuse it when he was in pain, like that time he made Ren’s ears bleed. He couldn’t contain the smile at the memory. 

    “Well that’s a surprise. What did he say?” Jacques addressed James.

    “Nothing you want translated. Needless to say you haven’t impressed him.” James hid a smile by sipping his wine.

    Jacque bowed from his waist slightly. “I apologize for the comments of my associates. You are clearly not a Huntsmen if you know the old tongues.”

Oz turned to look away from Jacque dismissing him to the woman who had laid the insult forth. Then slowly back to Jacques he privileged the man with a smile. He dipped his head.

James spoke up. “Your apology is accepted. Come now, let this pass we are not here to squabble over words that were not thought through.”

“Too true. Let's change the subject shall we, what do you think of my daughter running for the military seat?” Jacques laughed with everyone else. “I still don’t believe that Ironwood will give up the seat. This is all a ploy. My daughter has always been strong willed, but her years apart from my guiding influence have clearly left her plyable.”

James controlled his temper. “She is your daughter, stubbornness and defiance is a Schnee trait. If she is anything like you, she will not be controlled.”

“True agin Jacques, James has barely been present in her announcements. She’s already been running the military, her ongoing review proves that.”

Murmurs of agreement filled the room and Ozpin finished his wine. A waiter came over and Oz returned the glass to the tray but didn’t take another. “Would you like something else sir?”

Ozpin shook his head very slightly. He scanned the food and saw some very nice things. Much of it sea food but turned his attention to James. “You can go and explore if you wish.” James said, Oz was very good at saying a lot without saying anything at all.

Oz dipped his head to James and strode from the room. Mission one accomplished, make James look fancy. He strode out into the main room and found Whitley staring up at him. He was trying to be discreet but given the difference in size it was made it difficult for the youngest Schnee to be subtle. He met Whitley's eyes and the young Schnee almost jumped at being caught out.

“I heard you speaking, I’ve never heard anyone speak fluid old Valean before. Or any of the other tongues. Solitas even has it’s own native language but no one knows it anymore either. I’ve read about it but do you…”

“Aliit ori'shya tal'din.” Ozpin said then headed off towards the ballroom leaving a shocked and joyful Whitley behind.

 


 

Qrow couldn’t help but grin, as they walked into the ballroom. The blue and icen white reflected off of the crystal chandelier casting light to every corner of the monolith sized room. Waltz’s were being danced, already a smooth flow of Atlas elite, skirts embroidered with lace and jewels. He saw people on the fringes with wine and food and despite the lack of change to the mood of the room Qrow knew he and Weiss were being studied. No doubt for his garb, dresses on men were a very Vale. For Weiss? Probably her natural Atlasian beauty. “Ready?”

Weiss let out a big breath. “Yes, just keep that Semblance under wraps.”

“Of course.”

Together they stepped into the swirling dances, merging flawlessly with the others. Qrow led, a hand on the small of Weiss’s back while taking her hand. Weiss kept her free one Qrow’s shoulder. She looked up at him and said. “I did not know you danced so well.”

“Oz likes to party.” Qrow was scanning the room, taking in faces and manners.

Ruby had stayed out of it when Qrow and Weiss headed out to dance. She held her hands together as she circulated the room. As was the plan everyone was watching the dancers, many more eyes on Qrow. She heard whispers of scandal, the skin he was showing was indecent, others guessing that he had to be from Vale and wondering how he got an invite.

A hand touched her shoulder and she spun around to be faced by a tall, thin man. His suit was golden and grey, his mask hid his features just like hers and she couldn’t see his eyes. He had black hair with grey around his temples. Ruby pulled away. “Excuse me.”

“May I have this dance my lovely little rose.”

Ruby’s stomach dropped. That voice, she knew that voice. It must have shown on her lips. Watts smiled at her terror. “Come, it would be rude to refuse me a dance and you don’t want to make a scene.”

Ruby swallowed and let the tall man lead her onto the dance floor. His hand on the small of her back, her bare skin, sending a shiver through her. Thankfully she knew this dance and he led with extreme skill. She chose to look at his neck rather than try and find his eyes. She didn’t know what he was playing at but was determined to keep calm. It occurred to her to call for Oz or for Qrow but she knew the moment Watts lost her attention he’d know contact had been made and escape.

“How is dear Ozpin’s shoulder? I noticed he was still using his right in the other room. Speaking in Valean was a rather nice touch, having such a well read companion did make the General look good.” Watts spun her around with everyone else her dress flaring out. “Qrow looks to be enjoying himself. I would have never taken him for one to enjoy being the centre of attention but I’m pleasantly surprised.”

“What would you know about Oz’s shoulder.” Ruby forced herself to move back to him.

“I know that it took a rifle chambered in .50 colt to slow him down. My fifteen rifle to be exact, the one he shrugged off like it was rain pelting at his skin.” Watt’s pulled her in flush against him.

“It was you.” Ruby hissed under her breath.

“Watching his shoulder blow apart through the sights of my rifle was a satisfying feeling. Even if it took far too much work. Then I hear he got that very same shoulder flambeed by a Revenant.” Watt’s dipped down and spoke more softly. “Tell me about it, it must be magnificent in it’s ruin. It must frustrate him in such spectacular fashions. Can he still fuck you the same way? Or has his pride been hurt as well.” He stroked down her spine as they danced. “Hazel mentioned it was you, tell me do you suck his cock the same way as you did mine?”

“Here I thought Atlasian’s were supposed to be polite.” Ruby forced herself not to react to the wandering touches. “For the record it was technically Qrow sucking your cock not me. You should thank him for his oral talents.” The Silver Eyed Warrior felt him stiffen and smiled. “Oh right Atlas looks down on the gays, I forgot.”

Watt’s sneered but filed that information away for later, he hated that she had found a way to unsettle him. “I heard what my colleague Tyrian did with you~. Nasty business when it comes to him but you know he was quite open with the storytelling. That's how I came to realise that it was 'you' Hazel and I had a fun time with back in Mistral. Come on tell me, who was the better lay? The scorpion or the giant? . . . Or perhaps I'll find the opportunity to fuck you myself and blow the other two out of the water. That is before I hand you over to my colleagues. I know they missed your tight little cunt too.”

Ruby clenched his coat. I will not let him best me! She looked up to him and smiled. “Neither, they were both dreadfully dull.”

Watt’s laughed softly. “Oh they failed to please you, that is rich I shall have to let them know. Maybe they could do better next time.”

The redhead looked away trying to gauge how much dance was left. “There won’t be a next time. I got what I wanted from you once and will never need to do so again. As for Tyrian, I am very well protected now. He will never get the drop on me again.”

Watt’s reached up and brushed her Aura choker. “Ah yes, he had mentioned that you carried a rose on you that appeared to allow you to call your lovers for help. This is it, isn’t it? They changed the shape into something harder to take from you.” He pinched it but couldn’t get a grip on it. “How interesting.”

“Kindly put your hands were they belong.” Ruby hissed.

Watt’s put his hand on her waist as they spun with all the others. “As you wish little Valean whore.”

Ruby smiled up at him. “I never imagined one of your clear sophistication would be reduced to call me names.”

“I am only speaking the truth. I saw how James brought Qrow and Weiss in and word is he’s bedding the Schnee heiress. Qrow is well known for his sexual talents after all what else are Huntsmen good for? They aren’t worth marrying, just bedding. Which makes me think that it’s only a matter of time before you spread those pretty legs for James. You clearly don’t have compunctions about giving up sex and he does fit the profile for your type.”

“Tall, dark and strong enough to turn you and Tyrian inside out? Fancy that, I do have a type.”

Watt’s laughed softly. “Oh really? Ozpin is weak, everyone knows that. It can be seen in how he carries himself, Qrow needs others just to stay sane and James? His paranoia will be his destruction."

Gods when will this dance end? Ruby forced herself to focus as Watt stroked over her hip. “You can think whatever you like, we will win this.”

“Perhaps.” Watt’s tightened his grip on her hip. “Perhaps not. The rewards will be worth while you are among them. Salem wants you alive after all, so we are free to have fun. Hazel has wondered at length just who the father of your child is.”

“Qrow.”

“Ah, his Semblance got you I take it.”

“No, his mother.” They spun away only a hand holding them together.

“Hmm, makes that child all the more worthwhile. Another silver eyed warrior from what I’ve read.” Watt’s brought them back together returning his hand to the small of her back.

Ruby only smiled.

Watts hid any emotion, he was surprised she was holding up so well. He expected at least an anxiety attack when he mentioned Tyrian but no, she was proving herself to be stronger then in Mistral, holding herself together with remarkable calm. The dance was drawing to a close and he had failed to learn just what her mental state was. Hazel had mentioned she was likely the core of whatever strange new power Ozpin and Qrow possessed, the ‘weak link’ as it was. Getting her would weaken her whole team. Not to mention it was Salem’s orders still that she be captured. If he thought he could get away with it now he would drug the redhead and drag her out of there. Alas the dance came to a conclusion and Watts led her off the dancefloor. Rather then let her go he tightened his grip and pulled her out into a side hall.

“Ozpin, Watts is here. He forced me to dance with him and is now pulling me out of the ballroom.”

“I’m on my way, let me see through your eyes.”

Ruby tossed the bond to him wide open so he could work out where she was through her own vision. “Unhand me, people will notice.”

Watts whipped her around and shoved her into a column blocking her in with his body. “But who would really care? This is a masquerade after all, most will simply assume you are a loose Valean like the one you came with and you’re going to be paid for your services.”

“I am not doing anything for you. You do not scare me!” Ruby let her voice raise. “Good keep him talking, these stupid idiots have all the perception of gnats!”

Ruby felt herself smile at Oz’s frustration as he tried to weave through the crowds. So she wasn’t paying attention when Watt’s grabbed her by her neck and lifted her up against the column while his other hand slipped up her skirt finding her panties with ease. “Oz hurry up!”

“Just head butt him or something!”

“He’s a mile away!”

“You’re a Huntress, act like it! EXCUSE ME!” Ruby could tell the last words weren’t directed at her and that she was just getting the bleed over of him trying to tell someone to move. Fingers found the flesh under her panties and Ruby saw red. OH HELL NO! She kicked straight up causing Watt’s to release her and stumble back to avoid getting hit. She felt Qrow infuse her with Aura.

Watt’s eyes flew to the red glow that had appeared very slightly around her collar. He stood up straight and stroked his chin. “How interesting. Calling for help? It did not glow before… just what are you?”

Ruby refused to rise to the bait she instead moved into a ready stance. Watt’s laughed at her. “I am not getting into fisticuffs with a mere woman. This has been very educational my dear rose.” He bowed to her just as Ozpin burst into the hall. “Ah the old king arrives, how’s the shoulder?”

“Fine!”

As Ozpin stocked towards him Watt’s pulled a little silver sphere out of his pocket and flicked it at them. The next second a white flash filled the room and Ozpin and Ruby covered their eyes on reflex. By the time they could see again Watt’s was long gone.

“That bastard.” Ozpin hissed and moved to his wife drawing her tight to him. Ruby leaned up on her toes and kissed him. Oz cherished in the feel of her lips against his, he could feel that she was shaken but she was not hurting. He withdrew from the kiss and stroked over her neck. “You did wonderfully.”

“Did I really? I am sure he figured out something about us.” Ruby set a hand on the tiny green and red rose at the hollow of her neck.

“Doesn’t matter, you’re safe and well. That is what matters.” Oz kissed her again and Ruby purred into it, pressing herself into him taking solace in his strength.

“I just hope nothing I said or did comes back to bite us.”

“Would you like a dance? I had planned on it when I left James to his own devices.”

“Please, having you hold me would help settle my nerves.”

Ozpin bowed to her and she took his good arm as they walked back into the ballroom. Weiss and Qrow had managed to make it to an o’dorv table not far from the door. Ruby could tell Weiss was relieved as soon as she set her eyes on them. “Oh thank goodness you’re okay. Qrow told me what was up but all we could do was try and help Oz through the crowd.”

Ruby stepped over and the two girls embraced. “I’m fine, it will take more than some snooty handsy Atlasian to get under my skin.”

A new round of people drew their attention to the main doors. Jacques was at the center of it all, Willow Schnee was on his arm, wearing an elegant white dress with a wolf skin over her shoulders. Her mask was a light lace thing that did nothing for hiding her identity. Weiss stuck her tongue out. “Oh boy, mother has decided to show her face.”

Ozpin spotted James on Jacque’s other side, clearly Jacques hadn’t figured out it was James. He scanned the rest of them, where was Winter? The new group of nobles all gathered in the middle of the dance floor as the musicians struck up another tune. James extended his hand to the two women. Weiss let Ruby go and walked straight to him, while Ozpin drew Ruby with him. They took a place about a meter away from James and Weiss. It was a square dance so the four could be in contact with each other.

The opening concluded and the dance began. They joined hands at the wrist and walked together in a steady circle once before releasing and going the other way. They came to a stop with a swirl and dress and coat and Ruby stepped up to James and curtsied to him while he bowed to her. She held her arms at the same level as her breasts and walked a circle around him. When she came back before him, James extended his hand and she took it. He took them out behind the little circle of Ozpin and Weiss who stepped into the middle and went through the same steps.

“Are you alright Ruby? Your skin is flushed.” James said softly so the other groups wouldn’t hear him.

“Yes, just had an unsettling dance before hand. I’ll tell you about it when we can have a private conversation.” They came to a stop facing their original partners.

They stepped up and Ozpin kept down a grimace as he raised both arms for Ruby to seize by the upper forearm as they walked once in a tight circle. Before releasing to stand side by side facing the north wall. Weiss moved so she was positioned on Oz’s free side. All four took hands in a straight line that matched up with all the other groups. All the dancers stepped forward twice and knelt slightly before the middle of the groups broke apart again and took two steps back and exchanged partners again.

Ruby and James raised a hand before them and stepped smoothly to each other side hands flat touching each other. They stepped back to centre then did the same step on the opposite side. Then broke away from each other and returned to their partners. Weiss and Oz began the same steps.

“How is your arm?” Weiss asked softly.

“Manageable.” Ozpin grunted.

Qrow watched from the sidelines with a flute of champagne that he was having slowly. It was very nice to drink again just in small amounts savoring the taste with every sip. The four moving together was lovely. He doubted he was the only one to notice that now they were all moving together, their costumes were clearly designed to work with each other. Ozpin was managing to present the illusion of two working arms surprisingly well. Hopefully that would throw anyone trying to guess people off his scent.

Watts was here, did that mean Hazel was as well or Tyrian? Probably not they were both too recognizable. Qrow finished his glass and set it aside. He called on his magic and studied everyone as he walked making sure to keep every step elegant to draw eyes to him. His claws had yet to recede so his gloves had special inserts at the tips to hide them. “See anyone interesting Oz?”

“No, I’m trying to find Winter but her costume must be good.”

Qrow came to a stop at another food table and helped himself to a cracker of caviar. As he ate it relishing in every bite. The dance came to an end and everyone bowed. Jacques and Willow walked up to the little stage were the musicians were. Willow spoke up into a microphone. “The family of Schnee would like to thank you all for coming on this Day of the Dead celebration. Please enjoy all of the luxuries our humble home as to offer.”

A tittering of laughter went up as the two head Schnee’s stepped off the platform and the musicians started to play a soft drawl to allow for conversation. Willow admired the collection of people but when her eyes landed on Qrow her smile widened like a Cheshire cat. “Oh my~!” She dropped her husband’s hand and walked over to Qrow with a loud click of heels. “You must the Valean my girls were gossiping about in the solar.” She reached out and touched his chest the lacing of his corset. “This is fine work.”

Qrow smirked seeing Jacques’s glare. He stepped forward taking her hand gently and bowed pressing a kiss to her knuckles. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance my lady.”

Willow giggled touching her jaw with a few fingers. “See Jacques this foreigner knows how to properly address a lady.”

“Yes, I can’t help but wonder how he got in here.” Jacques said in his usual strained tone.

“You invited me. It’s not my fault if you have such a long list you miss a few undesirables.” Qrow spoke as he stood up straight.

“Well I certainly find you desirable, tell me how is Vale?” Willow giggled again, all the hints of skin. It was impossible to keep a clean mind.

“I doubt I need to answer that. Come M’Lady would you like a drink or perhaps a dance?” Qrow opened his free hand towards the dance floor.

“Hmm, I would love to but I must find my daughter there has been such interesting talk about her lately and I must get the truth from the source.” Willow removed her hand from Qrow’s relaxed grip. “But yes when it is time to dance again I think you shall be my first.”

“It would be my honour. Excuse me I must find my family.” Qrow dipped his head and walked over to his lovers.

“That went well.” James commented as the shapeshifter joined them.

“Yeah did you see Jacques’s face?” Qrow restrained a laugh.

“Oh yes, well done Qrow.” Oz said softly making sure his voice didn’t carry. He smiled looking around as the gossip started to pick up. “Lets see if we learn anything.”

Thus so the real game began, a game of listening. Ruby partly wanted to cover her ears from all the noise, she didn’t even ‘want’ to be here! Still she had promised to do better and this was too important to pass up. Ruby took a turn of the room, her steps slowly paced to be able to hear those who spoke softly but not soft enough.

“Looks like Willow managed to pull herself away from the bottle.”

“Jacques looked like he was about to vomit when she approached that Valean.”

“I heard a rumour that their youngest daughter spreads her legs for the General.”

“Oh surely not, he wouldn’t dare touch such a young highborn lady.”

“The Ironwoods were a distinguished family, it’s just a shame their youngest son went into the military. To besmirch his family name like that. He should know better then to court a woman half his age."

"Come now, there is probably no courting involved. He probably just flips her skirt and has his fun.”

Ruby returned to Oz's side as these words came from a group of five nobles not even a meter from them. James clenched his fist, Weiss was as stiff as a board beside him, her bottom lip wobbled but she kept herself under control. Willow came over with Jacques’s now a drink in her hand. “What of it gentlemen? So what if he’s older than her, at least she had the sense to fuck someone with a cock and balls unlike her sister.”

Jacques dropped his wife’s hand and excused himself. He had done enough to Weiss as it was, he would watch her ruin from a fair. His gaze turned to the group beside his wife, to the Valean’s little group to the man standing so straight it was like a rod had been rammed up his arse. As well as the short woman beside him, he tilted his head analyzing her stature. He stepped up behind her and set his hands on her shoulders. “How are you enjoying my party dear daughter of mine?”

The tension rose as he was overheard and eyes turned their way. Jacques continued. “Given that the one flaunting his home is Qrow, that leaves the one with I assume Ruby on his arm to be Ozpin and the one on your left is our general James.”

“Ohh?” Willow started to smile her eyes locking on her daughter. “Oh Weiss! So you are here! Tell me is this true, I thought you knew better than to mix with the Huntsmen or worse military. Still at least it’s a man, oh wait! Doesn’t our dear general not come equipped for the task?”

Laughter echoed through the room all ears and eyes on them now. Weiss stepped up away from her father shrugging his hands off her shoulders. She stepped up into James’s chest and set her hands behind his neck. A lovers embrace, carefully she took the Valean accent Ozpin had taught her that year ago. “I don’t ken what you all mean, this is my husband. We came with the refugees, we bought into a lumber company and were eventually invited here when our business was successful.”

She leaned up and James dipped his head down to kiss her. It was a thrill to do so in public. His hands came up and held her waist, the Vale part of him that Oz would be proud of wanted to show them all that she was his chosen. James withdrew from the kiss and could see her eyes reflected through the lenses. Weiss gave her lips a tiny lick and turned her head to look at her father. “I assure you, that ma husband is very well equipped.”

Another tittering of laughter. Qrow moved up to Weiss and stroked down over the curve of her back. “You were right about one thing Master Schnee, we are all from Vale. My family as I said.” Qrow kissed Weiss’s neck.

Weiss purred understanding what he was doing. She leaned back and reached out and arm stroking over his chest as he took her lips in another kiss.

Willow pouted, it was a very boring show. She grabbed a wine from a passing waiter and had a huge gulp. “Well I think it’s all a bit too convenient.” She strode forward and snatched Weiss’s mask.

Qrow’s fingertips brushed her wrist but he didn’t dare grab her for fear of hurting her. Weiss’s silver mask was in her mother's grasp, she hid her face against James’s chest. Willow turned the mask backwards and forwards it was of an extremely fine craft. “What? Can’t face me daughter mine, or does your shame finally get the better of you?” Willow’s brows dropped. “Your father couldn’t wait to tell me now he found you bent over a couch and ploughed like a whore. Apparently James was quite proud of his conquest.” Willow tisked. “After all that time I spent looking for a good suitor for you.”

Laughter filled the room, everyone knew that Willow had been looking for a match for her daughter. “After all my dyke of an eldest won’t carry on the Schnee bloodline. What use is there in daughter that won’t bare children.”

Weiss clenched her fists in James’s coat. She couldn’t hold it in she spun around grabbing her mask from her mother. “BECAUSE THAT IS ALL YOU CARE ABOUT! IT’S ALL YOU’VE EVER CARED ABOUT, EVEN AS YOU DRINK YOURSELF STUPID!” She returned the mask to her face. “You’re such a disgrace that you put the future of the family on us.”

Willow recoiled, Weiss had never exploded like that at her before. However she could see in the way he touched her that the men beside her cared about her, that they were her lovers. The limp arm on one of the tallest suggested that was indeed Ozpin. She had another drink, smiling around the lip of her glass. “Says the one in bed with your elders.”

“My betters.” Weiss sneered at her mother.

“Ha! So you admit it.” Willow purred. “Couldn’t resist a Huntsman could you?”

“And I will be a Huntress, we are matched. You seem so keen to forget that, mother that I will be a Huntress. Not a drunk like you, who gave our company and family to an honourless man while you waste away. If that is what being a ‘noble’ means to you. I don’t want any part of it.”

“Well that can be-”

“ENOUGH!” Winter strode forward pulling her mask off. “Really mother? Having your fun as publicly as possible. And you?” She snapped at her father. “Don’t have the balls to pin everything on Whitley. We live in a world of monsters, having one heir is not in your best interest. I won’t let you disinherit her like you did me. You need her, whether you like it or not.”

“She is right after all, we do need Weiss. Given that you might as well be barren.” Willow sneered.

“Better barren then a broad mare for you. Come on Weiss, let’s get some air away from these stuffy spineless bastards.” Winter put her banshee mask back on and offered her sister her arm.

“Thank you Winter.” Weiss moved to her sister and took her arm.

“Anytime.” Winter lead the way out of the room. Weiss’s family formed up around her without so much as a word. James stopped at the doorway and turned back to the group. “It seems you left out some of the story Jacques. Tell them how you blushed when I refused to cooperate when you stormed into my flat. Just how you couldn’t keep your eyes off of my… endowment or you must of heard her moans before you stormed in but you did it anyway. Maybe you just don’t like the idea that I can please whatever woman I wish with great skill.” James reached for the wooden doors and closed them as he left with a bang. 

Ozpin had waited as the others had were walking away. “That was well done.”

“Well I saw a chance to end that rumour once and for all.”

Ozpin leaned forward off the pillar he had been leaning on and slowed his words to a very Valean drawl. “You know, the only thing that will really put that rumour to bed is when she starts to round out.”

James chuckled and reached out offering his arm to Ozpin. Oz took it and leaned his head on James’s shoulder as they walked slowly after the others. James said. “Well if they understand we are altogether they might say you or Qrow are the father.”

“True, that might well happen but I think we can be careful if she ever goes off her birth control to make sure you’re the only one knocking her up.” Oz grinned cheekily.

The Atlasian chuckled. “If she ever does. I think from how she’s talked about Ruby and Euclase she is very happy to simply be the godmother.”

“There is also that. Ruby managed it well but well we have that bond of souls and can give each other energy. Labour, giving birth. That’s an ordeal all it’s own. It wouldn’t surprise me if Weiss doesn’t want to go through that, at least not for a while.”

James smiled and went silent then took a deep breath and said. “What Weiss said about me being her husband. It’s actually something she approached me with, should we have problems with the Atlas nobles.”

Oz lifted his chin off of James’s shoulder. “Well you are technically a commoner. It would be good in a way for the Schnee image among the common people for her to marry you. It in turn goes to help your station, even if those prudes don’t like it. Such marriages are still common in most corners of our world. That might also help your image among those in Mantle.”

“I was thinking it would finally free her from her family. As my wife Jacques’s loses what little claim he has left now that she is an adult.” James mused.

“Careful how loud you say that, in places like this even the walls have ears. But yes there is that too. However you should wait till she graduates, if only to make things easier for her. If possible, might not be if Jacques gets it into his head that he can still force her into something. ‘Salvage the family reputation’ or some such bullshit.”

“Hmm.” They caught up to the rest of the group as Winter opened the door into a large room. Complete with sitting area and bed. “This is for guests, we can stay here for as long as we like.”

“Klien!” Weiss flew away from her sister to clobber the short butler in a hug. “I was so worried when I didn’t see you by the entrance.”

“We had to hire more staff for the event, I asked for more quiet work, these old bones can’t keep up forever.” Klien returned the hug then looked her up and down. “You’ve done a good job looking after her Sir.”

James dipped his head. “Wasn’t all me but thank you all the same.”

“Well I will go make some tea, I am sure everyone could do with a non alcoholic beverage.” Klien headed off as Winter said. “Thank you Klien.”

Everyone settled into the large space, lovers grouped together on the sofas while Winter picked out a winged chair. Ruby pulled off her mask and rubbed over her face. “Well that was terrifying.”

“Yeah, gosh why did I shout at her.” Weiss pulled off her mask and covered her face with her hands. “I feel like such a fool, I ruined our whole plan. Probably made our next moves ten times harder”

James reached out and rubbed her back. “It’s fine really, they don’t respect us and I doubt they had any worthwhile information for us. We can leave if you wish.”

“No! To leave now would be admitting defeat.” Weiss sat up straight and took a few calming breaths. “We just regroup and have fun, Rymrgand take the rest of them.”

Ozpin felt a shiver go down his spine. That was something he had been trying to forget at length. That Solitas was the realm of Rymrgand the god of entropy and cold among other things. All said things Ozpin was rather against and he often wonder if it was the god himself that made him dislike this place. “Sounds like a plan Weiss, this is a party after all.”

Winter smiled at her sister's determination. “I’m sorry I didn’t step in sooner. I hoped to go this whole party incognito.”

“It’s for the best Winter, you should keep your contact with us to a minimum.” James said. “We are trying to set you up as independent of us after all. I can’t be seen as pulling your strings.”

“Right.” Winter got up and walked over giving her sister a hug. “We’ll have to work out some private time together when I haven’t just been seen walking off with you.”

Weiss returned the hug. “Just wait till the election is over, then we’ll all be able to breathe a little bit easier.”

The door banged open and in walked Willow Schnee a new glass in hand. “So this is where my daughters got to, you left in such a rush Winter.” She had a big drink and said in a sly tone. “I half expected to walk in on a orgy here.”

“That can be arranged.” Ozpin said flatly reaching over to stroke a finger down Qrow’s neck. Qrow purred and leaned back, stretching his arms over the back of the sofa. “Behave Oz.”

“Where is the fun in that?” Oz slid closer to stroke his fingertips down Qrow’s chest. He loved the feel of paint on skin the heat that betrayed just how into this Qrow was.

Willow laughed then had another drink with a purr. “My you Valean’s do know how to put on a show.”

“Why are you here mother? Shouldn’t you be out making a spectacle of yourself?” Winter clenched her fists standing just in front of Weiss in a protective manner.

“My God’s Winter, just where did I go wrong with you?” Willow had another drink. “We should all have a drink oh wait Weiss are you old enough to drink yet I don’t remember.”

Weiss clenched her fists in her dress. “I’m twenty one mother, I’ll be twenty two on the fifteenth of November.”

“Right right, and your other friend I can’t remember her name, you must have mentioned her at some point.” Willow drank again and pulled a small brass bell from her pocket and rang it.

“I’m twenty tonight ma’am.” Ruby said from her spot on Qrow’s free side. “But I don’t like to drink.”

“My my! Happy birthday! Twenty, such an accomplishment! Especially for one for you… disposition.” Willow finished her wine just as three servants came in. Two had glasses of wine and the last set a layered tray of sandwiches on the table. “Thank you.” The servants bowed and departed. Willow helped herself to another glass of wine at everyone else’s stillness she scoffed. “Come now don’t make me drink alone, this is a party after all.”

Weiss touched her sisters hip gently so Winter knew to move for her as she got up and helped herself to a glass of wine. She grabbed another and gave it to James. “Yes, it is a party not one of your melancholy days drinking in the garden.”

She sat back down beside James who set his arm around her and his hand on her waist. Willow took in the gesture. “So it really is true, you took her from here.”

James met Willow’s eyes. “All I did was open the door, she did the rest.”

Willow sneered and drank again. “So you decided to rob her of her birthright.”

“One that I have never wanted, father had dragged the Schnee name through the mud. Maybe you don’t see it, the drink clouding your vision such as it were but people hate us mother. No, not us, they hate you and father. I will become a Huntress and I will undo the damage you have done. I will take after my grandfather and set right your wrongs.” Weiss forced herself to have a sip. She bit her lip to keep from grimacing she never could stand bitter red wine.

“I’ve carved a life out defying you, if you’re here thinking I’ll do what you want now, you are sorely mistaken.” Winter growled at her mother.

“Is that what you think you are doing?” Willow Schnee sat in an armchair and drank again. “With this delusion that you will become General of Atlas. Though I guess it doesn’t surprise me, you really should have been born a boy. You are such a lost cause, at least your sister has the presence of mind to fuck someone with a dick and balls, what’s another woman going to give you cept a poor excuse of an orgasm. Dildos and toys don’t beat a cock between your legs hunny.”

Winter huffed. “Like you’d know how to have good sex you spend all your time drunk. You have no idea about anything I do so don’t pretend you do.”

“Ha, just makes it easier when your father comes to call.” Willow had another drink. “And I know plenty, you get into the papers often enough now. Never in the company of any men, well aside from the General. Now that was the highest running rumor for such a long time. We were all just waiting for an accident to happen.”

Winter clasped her hands behind her back so she could wring them without Willow seeing. “I don’t sleep with my superiors.”

“No you leave that to your sister it seems. Could be worse I suppose, she could have picked some Mistral or heaven forbid Vale or Vacou. A faunus stag maybe to jump into bed with.” Willow drank again. “At least you’re one of our own kind James.”

James narrowed his eyes though she couldn’t tell given he hadn’t removed his mask. “Less so than you’d think.”

“Ah yes, you have been seen being affectionate with the other two men here. A bisexual General of Atlas for shame James, you will lose at least one seat for that alone this coming election.”

“Given that it is popular in Mantle and I am sure there are more people something other than straight in that ballroom right now that you don’t know about. I rather doubt it.” James had a small sip of the wine. “But again what would you know of pleasure. Something tells me you haven’t been sober in years for sex.”

Willow smiled as he fell into her trap. “So it’s just for pleasure, won’t that be a juicy tidbit for my friends.”

“That is not-.” James cut himself off seeing what she was trying to get out of him.

Ozpin stood up and retrieved a sandwich for Ruby and a glass of wine for Qrow. “Did you know that James spent his last two years at Beacon Miss Schnee?”

“Of course, ran with his tail between his legs after his accident.” She giggled resting her elbow on the arm of the chair as she admired the ruby liquid within her glass.

“I was one of his professors at the time. He may be born Atlas, but I find it safe to say he chose Vale. Especially in the more fun areas.” Oz sat back down with a glass of wine himself. It was a very sharp wine and not to his taste.

James looked over as Ozpin relaxed and swirled his wine glass. Thank you Oz. “He is right, I’ve just been playing the game and with this election I will be free of it. Then your friends can gossip like the harpies you are and it won’t mean anything to anyone but you. How would you like your opinions to become irrelevant? Perhaps in a few years I’ll marry your daughter and then you’ll have to figure out how to reverse the mess you made. What if Whitley never has children and Winter won’t. You’ll have to come begging to us to take over the family name.”

The look of shock on Willow’s face was priceless so James pushed the advantage. “What did you think this was? Some petty fling? I hate to break it to you but I’m too old and too busy to waste time on something like that. Weiss and I have been discussing an engagement since her return to Atlas. So you will have to let some common forester boy into the ranks of your family whether you like it or not. You’re just lucky that I am a Huntsmen so when the venom you spit draws Grimm I’ll be equipped to protect your sorry hide.”

“Well I-.” Willow got up abruptly and almost sloshed her wine. “Excuse me I have to go speak with my husband.” She rushed from the room her dress billowing out around her.

Klien walked in as she swept out with a tray of tea and cookies. “My, that went well. I was ready to assist but it seems I wasn’t needed.” He walked in and set the tea down and as he moved to take the wine anyway everyone returned their glasses to it. He chuckled. “Not fans of red?”

“No not really.” Ozpin said and was surprised when Ruby set about serving tea.

Winter helped Klien taking the second tray of wine. “Excuse me but I really should get back out there.”

“Thanks Winter.” Weiss hugged her sister before her and Klein left.

Ruby passed around cups of tea and cookies. After that she needed something she was used to doing, to keep her hands busy. The verbal war had been terrifying and she hadn’t had a clue what to do. Pouring the tea was the first thing that came to mind. She sat back down and took a sip, it was a very strong black tea and she found she liked it. Everyone was breathing a bit easier after a few sips. Ruby finally found her voice again. “I didn’t know you were a forester.”

James tilted his head towards her with a smile. “Really Ruby? Ironwood, it’s just the same as Elmwood and Oakwood. We are named after the trees we tend. My family owns almost half of the western Solitas tree line which ends up equating to several hundred acres of forest. Most of that forest is Ironwoods. Before Dust was discovered we were a very powerful family. Ironwood while harder to get burning will burn for much longer and hotter than anything other then charcoal.” He looked into his cup and traced his thumb over the elegant curve of the handle. “Needless to say the name Ironwood doesn’t command the same respect as it once did. We were replaced by the Schnees.”

“You mentioned once that you don’t talk to them anymore.” Ruby asked softly regretting it instantly when she saw James’s fist clench. “Your family.”

“It’s a bit of a long story.”

“Then tell it, I for one am not ready to go back to the party and you’ve never told me about your family.” Weiss reached out and set a hand on his leg.

“James-.”

“It’s fine Oz, it was bound to come up someday.” James had a drink of tea and began. “I am the youngest of my four silbings. Largely because my birth killed my mother. As I mentioned we own much of the land very far from Mantle and my family have never liked the cities. So when it came time for my birth my parents as they had done with my siblings remained at home. Only well, it didn’t go well and…” He took a deep breath. “Let’s just say that was the start of the rift in my family. Fortunately, my eldest brother’s wife had also given birth not even a week before so I was given to her. My father and siblings never forgave me for killing my mother. Grimm took my father when I was ten and my uncle took me in. He was a Huntsman that patrolled our forests keeping the Grimm down. As you can imagine that was the start of a very long education.”

“How could your family do that to you?” Ruby asked, she couldn’t imagine blaming a baby for something they had no control over.

“They loved my mother, it’s understandable.” James took a bite out of a shortbread cookie. “I am long since past being hurt by it. I have to thank them for it really, because I was never really family to them my uncle took me on. He is a very introverted man, I am privileged that he took me and set me on the path that would define my life.” He turned the cup to look at his own reflection. “I don’t speak to my siblings, I know they don’t approve of what I’ve done. That they think I was supposed to replace my uncle, he is getting old now and has largely retired to his own cabin. I still visit him on occasion when I have time. Though it’s been several months now.”

“Maybe you should visit him soon. With Winter taking over I am sure Atlas could spare you for a day to make the trip out.” Ozpin said. “Enjoy what family will have you while you have them.”

“Maybe, it would be nice to get out there. It’s relaxing if that makes any sense at all.”

“Maybe you just aren’t a city boy, no matter how hard you’ve tried to be.” Ozpin sipped his tea. He had heard the story before as had Qrow, but he always sympathized with James here. Oz did believe that James was not where he belonged only where his ambition and desire to make the world a better place had led him. He could see James very happy as a forester, even if he spent most of his time hunting Grimm.

James smiled on reflex, such an Ozpin thing to say. “Maybe and maybe soon I won’t have to be. Gosh you’re making me feel old.”

Ozpin chuckled softly. “Well you are in a way, with age grants perspective at least in those who have walked the world. You’ve had stress beyond the normal, forced to see more things in an… unnatural development. You’ve been forced to age beyond your years.”

“Well, I guess we’ll see what happens in the next year.” James looked over to Weiss she was being quiet. “I’m sorry I brought up marriage to your mother. She might force our hand now.”

“I know, but worse comes to worse we can have a two year engagement or something.” Weiss took his free hand between hers. “It’s not like it came out of nowhere, we have already talked about it.”

Qrow finished his tea and set the cup down. “We should get back, if we stay away too long they’ll think we are having sex or something equally stupid.”

James finished his tea as well. “You’re right, we should get going.”

Ruby pouted and put her mask back on then finished her tea. Bit by bit the food was finished and masks returned to faces. When they arrived the dancing was back in full swing. Ruby shivered at all the people, so many people all spinning and moving together. “You guys go dance, I’m going to find a quiet corner.”

Qrow looked her up and down. “Alright, Oz come dance with me?”

“Always.” Ozpin took his hand and with James and Weiss went to dance floor and joined in. Ruby picked her away around the edge of the huge room. Like swarms of butterflies they flew together in great waves of silk and jewels. So beautiful to hide the self centred people beneath it.

Ruby felt a hand tap on her shoulder and spun around for the second time that night. The man behind her was about the same height and build as Qrow. He wore a large hood covering his head to the middle of his temples. His mask was black and full faced like her own. Upon it was a design of wilting petals. His suit was much the same as Ozpin’s with three thick black belts around his middle bringing his coat in tight. Rather then have any fur on the collar it was a high straight angular thing that hide his jaw. It was embroidered in blood red petals and vines woven together. He offered her his hand. “May I have this dance?”

The silver eyed warrior was surprised by how soft his voice was. She couldn’t put her finger on it but something about him set her at ease. After a moment's hesitation, she took his hand. “You may.” His hand held hers gently as he guided her out into the dancefloor. They joined the spinning wheel of dancers added their red and black to the mural of colours. Ruby was relieved when he put his hands exactly where they were supposed to go, they never strayed, he never held her too tightly. He was quiet and Ruby found herself relaxing more and more into his touch. “Do you like the party?”

“No, not really my thing. I only came to meet people, I am new to Atlas and Mantle respectively.”

“And have you?”

“Yes many. So many of them are so arrogant, it’s sickening.” Her partner said and couldn’t keep the frown off his face. Arrogance, he knew that emotion all too well. “Still I am trying not to judge them too harshly, I am well acquainted with arrogance as I struggle with it.”

“Acknowledging a flaw makes it all the more easy to address.” Ruby said as she looked up into his black and red mask.

“So I have been learning… you came with Qrow Branwen. I have a question if you are alright with it.” He spun her in time with everyone else.

“Sure shoot.”

“There is a rumour that he is a faunus, either a crow or cat one.”

“Ah that.” Ruby pursed her lips and they danced without a word for a minute. “Do you believe in magic?”

“Yes.”

The petite woman looked up to him in surprise. “Well, hmm. It’s possible for a person to awaken and develop magic in themselves. Qrow has been developing a magic for a long time now. More recently it’s develop into claws that appear to be permanent. He was not born a faunus but I guess in a way he is becoming one.”

“How interesting.” Adam spun her around and they danced for a few more minutes before Ruby asked. “Why do you care if he’s a faunus?”

Her partner kept his voice quiet. “I am one as well. I guess you could say I am looking for friends in Atlas. I’ve never really understood humans and I have… difficulty approaching them. My hope was that he was a faunus and could teach me now to live with humans without losing my temper.”

Ruby wondered just who he was and how he got into the ball, he had to be someone important to get an invitation. “Well I am human and you are doing just fine. I think I like you even.” That made her partner smile, it was a kind thing she liked it.

“Well you are the first person I have dared to dance with. I figured if one of your partners was faunus you’d be alright with dancing with one.”

She giggled softly. “I would dance with you all the same. One of my best friends was a faunus, she’s gone now but I’d never wish harm on someone for something so trivial.”

“Trivial?”

“Yes, why judge a person for a physical aspect? It’s like people calling me fiery or mean because I’m a redhead. The very idea is silly but petty people will do it all the same. As their betters we just have to make it our mission to be open then them, to lash out against them would make us as petty as they are.”

“That is certainly a different way to look at it.”

“Faunus or human, it’s all the same to me. It’s the person that is important not what they are packaged in.”

“Hmm. I feel privileged to meet such a wise and kind human. You are giving me a great deal to think about.” The dance came to a conclusion. “May I have another my lady?”

Ruby giggled. “I am not a lady but yes you may.”

The next dance was a simple waltz and the floor thinned a bit as many partners went for refreshments. The music was just right for a comfortable dance, not so slow to force intimacy or to fast to break partners apart. After a moment the tall man asked. “How do you like Atlas?”

“I don’t really, my home is Vale and I miss it. Still I have my family and that helps.” Ruby bit her lip to help keep the tears at bay. “Still I couldn’t bring my daughter with me and I miss her so much. Her grandmother was murdered shortly after we left her.” Her words became choked as she tightened her grip on his coat.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” He had chosen to go on ahead when his partners stayed behind in Mistral. Well they weren’t really partners anymore. One of them was crazy, he couldn’t help but be a bit relieved that she had failed in her goal. This little human woman was tugging at his heart strings. This was a human that wasn’t bad, that knew he was a faunus but still was dancing with him. Not one word of insult.

“Sorry to lose composure like that, she’s just my baby and I love her grandma so much just thinking about it hurts.” Ruby took a deep breath trying to stop the tears as her vision started to blur.

He barely knew what to do, if she was a faunus he would have stroked her back. Really seeing no other course of action he did just that. Just a small stroke with his thumb and was very surprised when she started to relax again. Eventually Ruby pulled herself together and asked. “What about you? How do you like Atlas, where are you from?”

“I was born in Mantle, my parents were indentured servants to the Schnee Dust Company. I was born into that same servitude. Eventually I escaped and made a name for myself traveling the world. I only recently returned… I wish to set right the ills done to my people.”

“I can understand that. My friend Weiss also hates her family's company and wants to set it right. She can’t change it from within until her father and mother have passed but she’s trying to do her best as a Huntress in training and eventually Huntress. She hates what has been done to the faunus in Mantle and Atlas. She just doesn’t have the power to change it on her own yet, the best she can do is work from the outside in.”

Her partner could barely comprehend that Weiss Schnee would be all for faunus rights. That a Schnee could like and respect faunus but he could feel her heart beat through his hand. She wasn’t lying. His mind jumped to killing Jacques and Willow so their heirs could take over more quickly. He shook his head, no it was that kind of thinking that had ruined his old life. He had to be smart he had to learn better then his instincts. He wanted to be lionized and a murderer no matter who they murdered could never be a hero. “I would very much like to meet her, I imagine I could learn a great deal from her.”

“I could introduce you after this dance if you like.” Ruby offered, she could feel how stiff he had become but his touch remained kind.

“Thank you, I think it would help me to learn a great deal.”

“I’m happy to help anyone learn.”

The dance concluded and he escorted her off the dancefloor and Ruby pointed out Weiss and Qrow who were having a drink. James and Ozpin were still having fun embarrassing Atlas nobles by dancing together. The two smiled as Ruby brought her new friend to them. “I this is umm. A new friend I made.” She lowered her voice. “He’s a faunus who is looking for new friends and to understand humans better.”

Qrow pulled off a glove and offered his hand to the newcomer. Black claws sheathed but showing. “Nice to meet you, as I’m sure you’ve guessed I’m Qrow Branwen. The lovely lady here is Weiss.”

The new man clasped Qrow’s arm at the forearm much to the other man’s surprise and joy. They shook once in a Valean greeting. “Nice to meet you Mister Branwen.” He let Qrow go and bowed from the waist to Weiss.

Weiss curtsied and said. “It’s nice to meet you sir, having someone with a different perspective than the usual sycophants my father likes to surround himself with is very refreshing.”

“You don’t enjoy these parties then?”

“Never, not even when I was a kid. Once I understood just what kind of person my father was I lost all respect for this kind of life and how it is maintained. Still I can’t change much, only do my best to treat everyone fairly, I am trying to become a Huntress so I can show everyone that being a Schnee doesn’t define me and that I don’t believe in what my father does.”

The newcomer felt like he had been hit over the back of the head with a warhammer and yes he did indeed know what that felt like. “Pardon me for being stunned.”

Weiss smiled, she liked this man, he was polite but it didn’t feel like he was trying to flatter himself or anyone else. “It’s fine, I don’t mind. I’m used to people thinking of me only as a Schnee who can’t think for herself.”

Just the same way I’m used to, only being seen as a faunus and not a person. He cleared his throat. “I can understand feeling like that, I am used to a similar form of discrimination.”

“Aren’t we all?” Qrow picked up a glass of orange juice. “Especially here, where being from Vale might as well be a curse.”

“Forgive my ignorance but how so?”

“Tree humpers, whores, I really could go on all day. Even futureless and homeless Huntsmen. Welcome to Atlas elite, where protecting others over your own interests might as well be a crime.” Qrow sneered. “Really no different or worse than being a faunus in this Kingdom.”

“Being both must be difficult.”

“Eh, call me a late bloomer but so far I can keep it rather under-wraps. So it’s Huntsman whore instead.” Qrow pulled his glove back on.

“Your partner told me how it came about. That you aren’t but have… become.” He licked his lips. “Have you been down into Mantle much?”

Qrow nodded. “Yes, it’s a disgusting place. I uh removed someone who was praying on people with prosthetics a couple weeks ago. I do have plans to return and work at picking out the people who hurt those just trying to get by, soon.”

 The faunus pursed his lips. “May I join you? I am not a Huntsmen officially but I am very competent in a fight… Perhaps I should explain as I did to your friend here. I am trying to understand humans better, I’ve only ever lived the life of a faunus. I am coming to understand that perhaps I have only seen the worst of humanity as a result.”

Qrow chuckled. “Kid, human faunus. At the end of the day people are just people. You’ll find faunus monsters and you’ll find human monsters. Race doesn’t define how a person will turn out. Nurture over nature friend. Even then you get ones like Weiss here who can even go against how they were brought up and become their own people in spite of nurture.”

“So you don’t believe one group is right or better then another?”

“Heck no, I think there is no limit to shitty people and that people will be shitty if they can get away with it. Take these S.O.Bs, I bet you if they lost all their money and influence they’d be nicer just to survive. Or they’d become all the more vengeful and petty as they’d feel the life they should have had was taken from them.”

“If that is the case, how would you improve things here?” 

The red eyed man rubbed a hand over his smooth jaw. “Well, pick the right people to lead. Take James over there. He may look Atlas right now, but he spent the latter part of his education in Vale. So unlike the stiffs here, he doesn’t believe in human supremacy or that being anything other then straight is unnatural. So he’s always let faunus into the academy, same with gays and lesbians. Anyone is welcome at Atlas academy. So the next generation of Huntsmen and Huntresses are being brought up to that ideal and they’ll share it with their kids. It’s a slow process but if you pick someone good to put at the head of things it will trickle down. So how’d I improve things? I’d keep this going, and in a generation or two this room could be filled with humans and faunus. From all walks of life and sexuality. It’s part of why Vale was the way it was. We had a King who believed in equality for all, so we ended up ahead of the curve as a result.”

“So you think it’s as simple as good people teaching other people how to be good and time?” 

“Well, shit will happen and there will be set backs. But I think it’s a solid idea. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself and all that jazz. Kindness can beget kindness. People won’t ever really get along, there will always be bad apples but if they really are bad. People like me come along and protect those who can’t do it themselves.”

The faunus was stunned into silence. Years of ideology rebelled against the idea, that it was the humans that were evil and that they’d never learn. Yet here were three examples just standing beside him that proved that idea wrong. Humans could learn, they could kind to faunus. How many more would they teach in their life times, how many of Vales own had been like this? Scattered to the winds taking these ideas with them to the other kingdoms. He instantly reflected on his own actions, how he had killed for fun or because he wanted humans dead. If he had killed humans like these ones then their message would die with them and it would only make everything worse in the long run. How much had he ruined things, hurt people who may have never done anything wrong just because they were human? He had killed his own people because they had gotten in his way. Where had it all gone so wrong?

Ruby offered him a glass of champagne. “Hey are you okay?” She set a petite lily pale hand on his arm.

Kindness, even now a human was showing him kindness. If he had been kind, could some of the bloodshed of his past been avoided? He took the drink with an utterance of. “Thank you.” He killed Blake, the traitor to the White Fang movement, his own apprentice for betraying him. Her death had cleared his mind, he had planned to use the image to rally another splinter cell of White Fang faunus around him. Was that really the best way to go about it? He wanted to rally the faunus to be free of the mines. To take back their lives. What would a revolt really do? Get more faunus gunned down in the streets, get him killed at the hands of someone like Qrow. Who was older but faster, stronger and more skilled. Adam didn’t have any illusions Qrow could beat him in a fight, it wouldn’t be easy for him but he could do it. Qrow had said that kindness can beget kindness. He knew something else to be true though. Violence will beget violence. He had a long drink. “I’m sorry, I am just a bit stunned. I have never thought in such a way.”

“Shame for you then. I don’t want to know what kind of life you’ve had. Frankly don’t care either, the past is just that, past. The fact that you’re putting forth the effort to learn now is enough for me.” Qrow finished his glass of juice. “People can change, it’s only those who don’t want to change that aren’t worth teaching.”

“You are right there, thank you for talking about this with me. You’ve given me a great deal to think about.” Adam turned his attention to Weiss and bowed to her again. “And thank you, for being an example that a person can choose their own path rather than take the one set out before them.”

“I am happy to have inspired you.” Weiss inclined her head to him.

Adam jumped when a hand clapped him on the shoulder and he was half pulled into a hug. He looked up to find who he was sure was Ozpin beside him. “Making a new friend lovers?”

Ruby giggled. “Are you buzzed? I still remember the last time you were really drunk.”

“Hmm, me too. You pulled me out of All Howl’s Night dance for a shag behind a tent. Good night.” Ozpin purred. “Too bad we missed this years one, but then again I’m not sure it’s even celebrated in Atlas.”

“It’s not, sorry.” Weiss said.

“And to answer your question my love, yes I am a bit drunk. I am a bit out of practice and one of the waiters was giving out vodka.” Ozpin turned his attention to Adam. “I like this one, where’d you find him?”

“He approached me for a dance, he’s not like most of those here and is trying to learn about us. Maybe even to be a better person himself.” Ruby said with a smile, the faunus looked like he was caught between flight and fight. “Do be nice though you’re scaring him.”

“Right right sorry.” Ozpin let him go and stepped away from him looking at him up and down. “He is pretty though.”

“I am a faunus.” Adam said already primed for the backpedaling that was normal to him.

“So? If you got horns under that hood I can think of fun things to do while grabbing them.”

Oz’s complete dismissal and innuendo left Adam blindsided. He couldn’t even really remember the last time someone had flirted with him. Oz continued. “If you don’t mind me asking, are they sensitive?”

“A bit yes, like if someone were to touch your nails.” Adam found himself answering without thinking.

“Hmm interesting. I’ve never had many faunus lovers, just haven’t come my way. I imagine there is a great deal to learn but that all the more that is the same.” Ozpin tilted his head like a wolf.

“That is a good approach to take, I have not had many lovers period so I am afraid I would be a poor teacher.”

“Tch, shucks.” Ozpin snapped his fingers.

Qrow laughed. “You can play with my claws all you like Oz.”

“I will be taking you up on that. With so much of my magic back where it belongs I might even take up shapeshifting again. Gosh, it’s been centuries.” Ozpin walked over to the table and picked up a juice. “Gotta replace those fluids before I get properly tossed on all the drinks around here.”

“Yes, as much fun as you are drunk, now is not a good time.” Ruby said with a giggle. “We don’t need you accosting our new friend because you think he’s pretty.”

Ozpin flicked a hand up and down. “He’s built like Qrow, you can’t blame me. I bet that coat is hiding a beautiful ass. You think he’s pretty too, I can feel it through your head.”

Adam looked down and saw the flush on Ruby’s chest. “Oz~.” She whined. “I am trying to be polite here and you are making it difficult!” 

Adam decided to put her out of her embarrassed misery. “It’s fine, your chest is giving you away.”

“Gah!” Ruby covered her breasts and hoped that the blushing would stop. Her cheeks were burning as it was.

“Not what I meant.” Adam hauled his eyes away. He most definitely didn’t find her pretty, most certainly not! His gaze flicked back, oh hell he was a hot blooded man after all. She was pretty and had one of the finest racks he had ever seen. He worried his lip and then said mostly because he figured none of them would take offence. “You are very lovely though, your lovers are blessed to have you.”

Ruby blushed all the harder, she was used to Qrow, Ozpin and Weiss flirting with her but a complete stranger was new. “Thank you.” She bit her lip and said. “Oz is right though, you are very handsome.”

“You haven’t seen my face though.” Adam said, suddenly very conscious of the brand over his eye.

“Not all that makes for a handsome being revolves around the physical. You seem to be a nice person though, even if you have some big scar I don’t think anyone here would care.”

Ozpin snorted through his second glass of juice. “Heck yeah, you should see my sorry hide or my arm. We’re old hats at accepting scars here, the only annoying thing is when they get in the way of the sex.”

Adam blushed under his mask, if he found a way to spend time with these five he had feeling he’d have to get used to all the sex stuff. “Well that isn’t a problem I have.”

Oz giggled and purred stepping back towards Adam. “Then we won’t have any problems lovely.”

James grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt. “Drink your juice and shut up till you’ve worked it down to at least a buzz.”

Ozpin grabbed James by the lapels, he was drunk enough that it made it easier to ignore the pain in his arm. “Daww’ where is the fun in that Jimmy, I’ll have you know I am self medicating right now.” He wiggled the fingers of his left hand. “See look at those little sausages move.”

The faunus couldn’t help it. He laughed, he doubled over and laughed so hard he had to hold his guts and Qrow took pity on him and held him up with an arm around his waist. Ozpin, headmaster of Beacon. Immortal fucker and source of the Maiden powers. Was drunk, a mess of flirting and silliness that Adam wasn’t sure he had a match for in all this life. Tears gathered in his eyes. “You guys, ha you guys are amazing.” He carefully lifted his mask just enough to put his fingers underneath to clear his eyes. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed like this. Hahaha Aaa. That felt good.” Adam found himself smiling, it was such a strange thing for him to do.

“See he appreciates me.” Ozpin leaned up and tried to kiss James even as his equal in height tried to avoid it slightly. James put a finger on Oz’s lips. “Drink juice first, just think, if you’re too drunk to hold your tongue you’re too drunk to have sex. I will personally get out the Aura cuffs and tie you to a chair so you’re forced to watch while I have fun with your husband and wife while you are left frustrated.”

Ozpin spun on his heel and went back to the juice bowl. He finished his glass and poured another and started to drink that too. Adam was left chuckling again as Weiss explained. “The promise of sex is about the only thing that will get Oz to behave.”

“So I see. I could get used to this.” Adam said and fought the frown away. They’d probably try to kill him if they knew who he was.

“Here,” Ruby pulled out Oz’s Scroll from his pocket. “What is your number?”

“Sixty-four seventy-one eighty-two.” Adam said and a second later his pocket buzzed. He pulled out his Scroll and the message read. :Let’s all be friends: His smile grew. “Thank you Ruby.”

“Well, we have six now and while we had planned for a five are you familiar with Valean spin dance?” James asked.

“Uhh, a little. I’ve been to a couple All Howl’s Nights.” Adam wasn’t sure what he was getting into but he had a feeling it would be fun.

“Great, do you know the solar spin?” James asked.

“Uh yes, that’s the one with six groups of six around a circular bonfire right?” Adam spun a finger as he tried to remember the steps.

“Perfect I even already bribed the musicians. They’ll give us Bonnie At Morn.”

“Wonderful, nice and slow to show off with. Too bad something tells me these people wouldn’t enjoy the quicker dances.” Ozpin said having sufficiently sobered up. “The floor is clearing do we want to go out now? Then make our retreat for the night?”

“Sounds good.” Weiss said. “We’ve stayed long enough that a retreat would be acceptable. Are you okay with another dance?”

Adam nodded. “I know the steps. How are we pairing up?”

“Hmm, would you be alright with being in the centre ring with Ozpin and I? Qrow can be on the outer and will probably get flirty with you if that is alright with you.” James tapped his chin in thought.

“Yes, I’m fine with that.” Adam looked over to Qrow who only smiled as he finished his drink. 

“Right then let’s go.” James lead the way into the dance floor. Enough time had passed that many of the dancers were tired and taking a break. As the Valeans took to the center of the room those who remained trickled off.

Adam’s heart was hammering in his chest. He had never done anything like this before, to be at the centre of so much attention to dance with people he only knew in name. What in all the Gods names was he thinking? One wrong move and he could find himself impaled on more then one stiff pike tonight. Yet Adam took his place in the circle of who should be his enemies, trying his damnedest not to flee from the party of humans or worse kill them. He put his back to Ozpin and James so they formed a triangle. Across from him stood Ruby, clearly it had been decided to give him the one he had already danced with before to set him at ease when he wasn’t looking.

The music began soft strings. Adam took a breath turned on one heel and stepped out bending over following his leg as he raised his hand above his head offering it to Ruby. In return she did the same step their hands hovering a centimeter apart. As the music swelled as they bent up from their backs there chests coming within centimeters apart. Ruby stepped away from him with a spin her dress flaring out. Adam followed stepping carefully with long fluid motions as she spread her arms coming to a stop he set his hands on her waist and they moved together. His left leg extended back hers following so close they touched. He threaded his fingers through her hand as they hopped together spinning onto that back foot as Ruby brought her leg up to be almost parallel with her body.

Adam released her hand and stepped away turning her with another spin to face him. Ruby jumped hooking her leg over his shoulder. Adam had to admire her flexibility as he grabbed her by her waist holding her steady as she brought her other leg to his shoulders as well. Holding her tight he spun once with a long step back towards the other two pairs. As he came to a stop Ruby released her hold on his shoulders and dropped down landing on her hands and cartwheeling back to reach out behind her. Qrow and Weiss squeezed her wrists as they stepped apart drawing their arms to the limit, they all stepped in a circle lining up with a new partner.

Ruby stepped forward and up to James, she set a hand just above his skin and walked around him with a long fluid step making sure to flick her hips with each movement. She came back to James’s front and drew the back of her fingers up his chest. He seized her hands and kissed each in turn. Then released one to set of his on her hip. They spun in waltz steps mingling with the other dancers. Closer and closer, till the inner partners Ruby and her counterparts all leaned back on their mans arm and touched each other’s chests, a single finger down from collar to hip. In tune they all let out a soft sigh. Their partners brought them back up and they kissed each cheek before another mournful sigh and stepping away from them as they stepped back.

Qrow and the girls turned inward, a hand reached inward that they grasped at the wrist again. This time they shimmied as they walked in another circle, the actions sending their skits flying in a wave of silver, red, black and white. He came to a stop before Adam and smiled. His partner returned it but Qrow could see it lacked confidence. The steps this time were the same as the last. Qrow strode up to him and trailed his hand over Adam’s chest. He could feel the muscle underneath. As he came to stop before Adam he could feel the muscles under the back of his fingers jump at his touch. “Relax.” Qrow whispered as he stepped close.

Adam took his hands as was the dance and kissed the back of each. This was a little embarrassing to do this with another man but he was managing. In time with James and Ozpin he released one hand and set it on Qrow’s hip. He could feel the leather belts against his palm and feel his skin under his thumb that hint of bare love handle was very warm. Qrow’s hand was on his shoulder as they danced, Adam almost put some distance between them but Qrow kept close their bodies brushing and rubbing against each other. Adam blushed as the erection that Weiss had inspired only grew more firm through the waltz. As was the dance, Adam guided Qrow away from the other four and then back again. Like before Qrow lifted a leg against Adam’s thigh forcing the faunus to hold him up and press their crotches together as Qrow stroked the two women. Qrow’s soft sigh in Adam’s ears did bad things to his heart and trousers. He brought Qrow back up and was just a little sad when the cold ceramic of his mask prevented him from feeling Qrow’s lips.

The inner group spun again and Ruby returned to him this time she stepped up to him as he did the circle. Touching her with just one finger, taking in her curves with his eyes. Part of him found it hard to believe she already had a child but there was no sign of it on her body. He did see the edge of what appeared to be a golden chain tattoo peek out from under the straps of her dress. He came around to her front and they joined hands stepping together so her arm was drawn over his chest as they stepped forward then back and the opposite arm. Adam released one of her hands and spun him under his arm then into his free one. Catching her in the crook of his arm and holding her by her pelvis his hand splayed over her womb. They stepped forward together as Ruby reached up and set a hand on the back of his head careful not to disturb his hood.

The silver eyed warrior could feel the erection as they spun and danced body to body. It was technically traditional to do this dance nude. However, it was just as good clothed even if the effect was more on the visual spectacle rather than inspiring lust. She did not blame him for it for the blush of embarrassment had long since turned to the flush of arousal on her chest. They finally broke apart and end the dance the same way it had begun. A low bow to her partner coupled with an elegant show of leg.

Respectful clapping filled the room, though some of it was more genuine. For Vale dances often required more physical fitness than Atlas ones and skill to achieve. Some could respect them just for that. Willow was chief among the ones praising the dance. For once she did not have a drink in hand but more than that she held a glint of envy in her eyes, jealous of her daughter. She for one could not dance like that, she wondered when Weiss even had a chance to learn it. They deserved a reward for putting on such a fine dance. Willow caught her daughter looking at her and beckoned her over.

Weiss saw it with a sigh and nodded towards her after drawing James’s attention the six walked over to the Schnee matriarch. “What a wonderful spectacle. I’ve not seen a dance so entertaining since Beacon fell. I must insist you stay the night.”

“Excuse me Miss Schnee but we had planned on retiring after that dance.” James said.

“Then retire you may, you do have my daughter on your arm. Still I assume you want to stay together and you can’t possibly use Weiss’ old room, it’s much too small for bedroom for any activities that you might get up to. Weiss darling why don't you take them flute room.” Willow chuckled with a small smile.

Ruby tilted her head as she asked. “Flute room?”

“Mother just loves~ to name rooms after her favourite things. The champagne flute for example.” Weiss said with a roll of her eyes.

A guff of laughter came from Qrow. “Wonder who’s got the Pint room? Oww.” He grumbled as Ozpin elbowed him in the side.

“Thank you mother, we’ll be happy to use it.”

Weiss lead the way out of the ballroom before Adam spoke up. “Uh, thank you for the nice night but I’ll leave you be I’m sure you don’t want me around for the night and I’ve had enough for tonight and my bed is calling my name.”

“What is your name?” Ruby asked looking up to him as he let her go.

He almost froze but a name came quickly to him. “Adamantine, you can call me Adam for short.”

Ruby scrunched up her face. “No that won’t do. We know an Adam and he almost murdered my sister. What about a middle name?”

“Leon.” Adam said, it was the first thing that came to mind.

“Leon it is then. Okay goodnight. Be sure to give us a text or call at soon.” Ruby leaned up and kissed the corner of his mouth. “Don’t forget about us.”

Adam blushed. “That’s not likely to happen, but it might be a little while I want to process everything that was said tonight.”

“Okay. Night.” Ruby walked over and joined Ozpin and Qrow.

“Goodnight everyone.” Adam bowed sharply to them. “Thank you for the conversations.” He turned on his heel and walked towards the exit before he made it awkward.

He had a bike waiting for him in the household parking lot. It was a big black combat model, he kicked it into life and road out into the city. The events of the night made his gut twist up. Sweet Ruby and her kind smile, Weiss who should have been the embodiment of everything he hated. Turned out to be kinder than Blake, with ambitions all her own. He could understand ambition. That ambition though, even that undermined his beliefs. Her ambition was to make Atlas and Mantle better for the faunus, to make it right . For everyone. Even Qrow had it on his mind, even felt that things were already improving. Just going the slow and steady route, lead by example.”

The cold sliced through his coat as he traveled down the through the city towards the edges. He turned down one side street and then another. He came to a hotel and parked in the lot. No one looked at him twice as he rode the elevator up and punched in the code to the hotel room he had rented. For the whole ride the words of those people that had treated him kindly like it was the most natural thing in the world. Who took him being a faunus in stride and even flirted with him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so… well like a person, not a monster. The door hissed open and he walked in and closed it behind him. Sleeping on the bed was the noble he had tracked and stolen the invitation of.

Adam reached up and unlocked the cuffs around the man's wrists. He woke with a groan and shot up away from Adam. “Get away from me you freak!”

“As you wish.” Adam took the invitation from his pocket and tossed it onto the bed. “You can still go if you want, I imagine they’ll go on till dawn.”

“Why did you do this?!” The man sat up and grabbed the invitation.

Adam turned his back on the human before his temper was tested. “Don’t mention me, or I will find you and no one will find the body.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a platinum Lein card. “It’s full and I’m sure it’s just pocket change to you. But consider it incentive to leave anything about me out of your gossip forever.”

“Agreed.” The man said.

Adam tossed the card into the bed and walked out. Fortunately he didn’t meet any resistance as he left, kicked his bike back into motion and rode out. Why had they been so kind to him? Were they right? Was having an open mind and being kind the way to improve the world? No, that couldn’t be right. Wars had to be fought over something like rights. He drove down the highway to an apartment block. Yet… Vale had been the one to win the Great War. The nation that these three or even all five of them were from.

He pulled into the parking space for his flat. He stormed up the steps then into yet another elevator. He knew that Cinder and Neo were in the city in a different building, even if he wasn’t sure which. He hadn’t reached out to them, just got a message from Cinder asking where he was. That had been yesterday, but he already had this plan. He closed the door to his small cheap flat shut behind sharply and walked into the bathroom. It was plain and clean, he pulled off his hood, then the mask.

SDC stared back at him.

They had ruined his family, his life. Weiss’s kind smile filled his head, Ruby’s kind words. Even Ozpin had straight up flirted with him. These, these were the faces of his enemies and yet… they made him feel more… “Gaaa!” He punched the wall but thankfully didn’t break anything then grabbed his hair with both hands. “Why do I feel like this?!”

He stripped out of the many layers, and stepped into the shower the hot water poured down his back. Adam grabbed his horns just to feel them. Oz had wondered what sensation he had in them. They felt like touching the rest of him basically, no special sensations. They were just another part of him, that had been taken in stride. They weren’t faunus, they were human and they liked him all the same. They didn’t even know who he was and they liked him. Didn’t want anything from him, just were happy to talk to him.

Even Blake when they met had wanted something from him. He had everything he wanted when he had been head of the White Fang. Yet he fucked it all up. He had everything and he only hurt his own people, killed his own people over what? Power? Control? A stupid girl that has always been a self centred bitch. A stupid girl who had tried to control him when they first met. Then when the going started to get rough abandoned him to his own path. Where had he gone wrong? When had he become blinded by hate? When had that hate moved from being focused on just the SDC to all humans?

Would he have murdered innocent souls like Ruby? Mothers who just loved their children. People not humans, people who just wanted to live their lives. Did he have the wrong of it? Could whole cultures just be changed with time and good people leading them? He wanted to be a hero. To be a good person, to be a hero to his people. Maybe leading by example was the right path. Adam washed his body down, then got out. His mind turned back and forth, what he had been doing for years, against what he had been told that night.

“Uggh.” Adam dried off and crashed head first into the double bed. Why did it all become so complicated in one night. He screwed up at Mistral he knew that, he lost everything and now he was in a place where no one knew his face. He had a chance to be a new person. Were Valean views something he should try and learn to accept? He knew Atlas, Mantle and Menagerie views. Vale, he had never put real time into learning about Vale. A party on occasion sure, learning the dances for said parties but the beliefs of the people. No. He had never put the time in.

He rolled over and stared up at the blank ceiling. “Maybe, I should talk to them again. I have Oz’s number, I just have to figure out a way to keep my identity secret.” He reached up and pulled a lock of red hair down. “I could dye this I guess. I don’t think anyone has ever seen me without my mask so I could just go without. They did say they don’t care about scars.”

Adam rolled onto his side and looked out the window. Cinder would still be waiting for an answer. She’d probably kill him if he didn’t respond when they next met. On the other hand, they might never meet again but if he started spending time with the Valeans it was more likely than not that they would meet again and that Cinder would see him as a traitor. So his options. Do nothing and stew on these thoughts till they consumed him. Go back to his original plan, make a new White Fang that might end up just as stupid and blind as the first. Go to Cinder and have to work with her crazy ass till she stabbed him in the back. Or… talk to them again. See if there was a way he could become their friend. See what they could teach him, maybe no. Earning forgiveness for his mess that was out of the question. No person in the world could be that understanding. Besides he didn’t want forgiveness, he just wanted to be better for his people.

Chapter Text

Weiss lead the way through the huge halls, Ruby looked up at the pictures on the walls and stopped before one of Nicholas Schnee. He looked like James in the shape of his face but he had a full pointed beard and white hair. He wore armor of silver and had a red cape. She tilted her head and smiled, she could see why red suited Weiss. Weiss opened a door and stepped in with a sigh. “Here we are.”

Ozpin whistled as he walked into the room. “I didn’t know they made beds this big anymore.” He spun on a heel and flopped into the red and silver wool duvet. Oz oozed into it. “I like this bed.”

Weiss walked over to the fire already going in the hearth. “It’s probably at least a century old, back when families slept together to help keep warm. It’s moher saying we’re old fashioned.”

Ruby was the last one in and she closed and locked the door behind her. Free from prying eyes she removed the gloves and mask with a huff, one hand carding through her slightly stiff hair. The room was huge a fifteen by fifteen meter squared room with an attached bathroom. There was a huge rug under the bed that filled most of the space then another before the fire with three couches around it with edges that acted as tables as on the corners. A side table against the wall had a tray of liquors and glasses on it. The bed was a four poster with two side tables. Aside from the fire the room was lit by a huge windows looking down on the courtyard as she discovered as she walked over and looked out. There were other people in the courtyard, some dancing or eating or having their pictures taken. Ruby frowned and pulled the huge red curtains closed. “There are people down there.”

“Of course there are.” Weiss sighed and pulled her mask off and set it on the couch followed by her veil. “Because mother would hope we’d forget the window in the flurry to get in each others pants.” She started pulling at the lacing of her dress rapidly. “Why else would she invite us to stay.”

James walked over and stroked her shoulders. “Calm yourself, there is no point in being upset with her. It is just giving her power over you.” He rubbed the tense muscles of her back. “We’ll just stay the night and go home tomorrow and think no more of her.” He reached down and helped her with her corset. “So let it go, we have a huge bed to christen- the Valean way and fun to have tonight.”

Weiss took a deep breath and let him undress her, he took the straps off her shoulders and held them as he drew the dress down kneeling as he went, his fingers skimming over her skin. She closed her icen eyes and tried to let the stress go. She was with people she loved, she was safe, here her Sir was undressing her. As the dress pooled on the floor he kissed her thigh and she stepped out of it.

James gathered up the dress and set it over the back of a couch. Her snow white panties were the finest pair she had. Satin embroidered and cut to frame her behind. Little designs of red petals mixed in. He reached out to her and she met him in the middle. “I know you have something in mind, but I’ve an idea too.”

“Oh?”

Weiss smiled and drew him away over to Ruby who still stood by the window. Ruby went still as Weiss took her hand placed it in James’s. “I know you two haven’t gotten together yet, I have been waiting for you both to figure each other out. But we have a big room here, we have some peace and quiet. And Ruby.” Weiss moved to her and reached up and stroked her cheeks with her thumbs before leaning in and kissing the shorter girl.

The men watched as the kiss deepened as eyes glided shut. Qrow walked silently over to Oz and snuggled up to his side and began undoing the buttons of his coat. Weiss withdrew from the kiss. “I think it would do you a lot of good to step outside your comfort zone. I know you’ve been hurting and that it’s been hard for a number of reasons but we are altogether here. You have your safety net should you need it.”

Ruby was relaxed by the gentle sweet kiss, Weiss knew her mind even more than Ozpin and Qrow on this. She had helped her after Tyrian and understood the pain and terror that he brought back with just his name. She trusted Weiss to know what was good for her. So she looked up to James who had been quiet. “What do you think?”

James took a deep breath as he thought it over. “That you are a beautiful young woman who has been through a lot. I don’t wish to give you the impression that anything is expected of you. That said Weiss knows you much better than I and I trust her judgement.” He reached out and touched her chin. “And that I would be privileged to know you better and that I will treasure your trust.”

Ruby smiled and said. “Okay, I think you’re right Weiss. Go play with Oz and Qrow, I know you’ve had a thing or two in mind with them for a while now.”

Weiss giggled and bounced over to the other two, Ruby was totally right there. Oz saw her grin and asked. “Oh have you now?”

“Yes!” She came to a bouncy stop. “I’d like to have you both, like what you do with Ruby when she screams the house down. I had an enema before we came and everything.” Feeling silly she spun around and pulled her panties down. “Tada!”

Oz and Qrow’s eyes narrowed in on the little blue butt plug nestled between her cheeks. Weiss looked over her shoulder at them with a grin. “It’s only a small one because I didn’t want it to distract me tonight but something is better than nothing.”

“Ohh! You’ve been wearing this all night? Well you’ve certainly got our attention and consent.” Qrow moved away and spun her around as he knelt and take a nipple into his mouth. While his hands came up and cradled her butt. Ozpin circled the pair trying to decide where to start. “If you don’t protest I think Qrow should be the one buggering you. You don’t have as much practice as Ruby does.” He pulled off his mask and veil tossing them onto a couch before starting to remove his clothing.

“No complaints here.” Weiss gasped as Qrow started to kneed her butt in round circles pulling her butt cheeks apart and making her hyper aware of the plug.

While they set about having their fun, Ruby and James watched for a moment before he asked. “Would you like to start by the bed. You are very petite and I am err not.” The silver eyed warrior blushed and walked over to the huge four poster bed and traced the wood carvings of a pillar. “Probably a good idea not to do anything too adventurous, Weiss has mentioned that you’re umm.” She bit her lip before saying sticking it out a little through the word. “Broader, then even Oz.”

James followed her letting his steps be heavy and brushed a hand through her hair. “She talks about me?”

“Some, she has missed you for a long time after all. Sometimes when I needed cheering up we’d compare notes and some of your… style and attributes would come into the conversation.” She sucked in a breath as he brushed her hair out of the way and stroked a finger down her spine till he reached the lacing of her dress.

“So you know a little about me. Shame I don’t know anything about what you like. I’ve made a guess in the past that you are a submissive but that is as far as I’ve gone.”

Tug tug, pull. Lacing through holes as the corset loosened around her torso. “I like to serve, to be controlled. A service sub as well as a rope bunny. Doming doesn’t interest me at all, I like to provide pleasure for others.”

“Hmm, do you remember when we joked about you being able to handle the three of us at the Vytal festival?” James drew the straps off her shoulders savoring all the pale skin. She had more muscle then Weiss through her shoulders. No doubt a response to using a scythe rather then the much lighter rapier. Her skin was creamy rather than Weiss who was more alabaster. Though given her crimson hair he had feeling she’d burn where Weiss would tan. “Does that appeal to you? It was partly said in jest so I am not sure.”

Ruby shivered in pleasure as he pulled the dress down. “Yes, it always has. Not sure if it’s physically possible but that falls under used for pleasure to me. I’ve a bit of a kink where large amounts of ejaculate are involved.”

“Hmm, the human body is very capable of adapting given enough time. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t do it.” He was pleasantly surprised to spy another butt plug between her cheeks this was was green. Always staking your territory eh Oz? Just can’t help yourself. James kissed one of the lily white cheeks. “I see you came prepared.” He stepped away and set the dress aside, her turned her to him with a touch.

Her panties were red and green but without any real back to them just a few decorative strings. Ruby blushed and covered her ample chest. “Well Weiss got it into her head after I taught her the solar spin. That we should come prepared for fun as it was going to be a stressful night. She figured that everyone would be into relieving some stress after it was over.”

“It was a good thought.” James said watching Ruby’s body language closely as he thought over her kinks. “Would you like to undress me?”

Ruby smiled. “Yes please Sir.”

James raised his arm in a welcoming gesture. Her little embarrassed smile as she stepped up to him undoing the sash around his waist and setting it aside on the bench before working at the buttons. She bit her lip as she worked, trying to make her touches as efficient as possible to unwrap her treat as quickly as possible. He helped her pull his coat off and removed his mask and veil for her setting both aside.

Ruby leaned up on her toes stepping close to him as she undid the buttons of his dress shirt. The room was nice and warm so she was comfortable in just her panties. James reached up and gently stroked her arms and shoulders with the back of his gloved fingers. He could see the little shivers that ran through her at the light touches. Ruby finished with the buttons and reached up pushing the shirt off his shoulders, he helped shrugging it off and tossing it aside.

She bit her lip as thick black belt hide her prize from her. She half wondered if it was symbolic. Feeling brave and then thankful for the rug she knelt rubbing her palm in small motions over the packet of his trousers. She could already feel that he was aroused, that dance had done it to her as well. Her thin panties were already soaked. She looked up at James but his expression was very hard to read, he was focused on her but anything more was concealed. Mustering her courage she undid the belt the click of the buckle making her insides clench. She undid the button and pulled his fly open, trying to be sensual about it but found her hands shook with excitement.

James stopped her there and removed his pants and trousers himself. Finally tossing his gloves on the pile of clothing. He watched as Ruby swallowed thickly and took his half mast erection in hand. “What do you want to do?”

Even half erect Ruby knew she would not be fitting that in her mouth. She had wanted to get a good idea of what she was tackling before letting it near her sex or ass. “Can I just touch and explore for a bit?”

“Of course, we aren’t in any rush. Do you want me to show you?”

“Maybe both?” Ruby reached up and pet up the side of his leg like she knew Oz liked. She had already noticed some similarities in their groins so she wondered if any of their pleasures were the same. Both he had Oz had the more full ball sack that hung lower between their legs in the warmth of the room. She happened to know it would feel very good against her clit if he had her on her front. She reached up and cupped it gently drawing her fingers over it pressing just hard enough to feel the large testicles within.

James squashed a grunt, he hadn’t expected her to go straight for his balls. He kept everything down there trimmed smooth because Weiss preferred it and he wasn’t into styling like Qrow and Oz were. Ruby seemed to be enjoying it as well as she dipped her head to one side and gave his sack a little experimental lick. She hummed pushing up gently between his balls to separate them slightly. The skin was just a tiny bit tighter then Oz’s normally was. She parted her lips and to suck very gently on a testicle while rubbing light circles on the other. James found himself stroking his erection without even thinking about it as he watched her.

Ruby had decided he smelled and tasted very clean. The smooth skin was appealing and he just tasted like skin. All good things. She looked up at him to see his lips had parted over slightly and he was now completely erect. The petite woman drew slowly off him before rising up and moving his hand away so she could touch him. It required both hands and did intimidate her. While equal in length to Oz, so she knew it would hurt if they weren’t careful about positions or it would utterly melt her brain as it usually went do both. However he was noticeably broader, and unlike Oz didn’t narrow after the head. Instead being broad and bulbous, which would not give her insides any reprieve. Still it wasn’t Hazel, there was that at least she could do this and as Weiss said. He’d take care of her.

While James didn’t have access to her thoughts, she was so involved with them that she couldn't control her expressions. A quick flash of something dark and fearful passed over her features and James laid a hand poised over her head. “Hey.” He stopped her with the muted word and pulled her up by her wrists to stand before you. “Are you okay?”

“Yes fine, why would you think otherwise?” Ruby looked away, as he let her wrists go. She returned them to his cock lightly touching it just under the head.

“You have this thing you do when something on your mind, you’re doing it right now. Look at me.”

Ruby found herself looking up on reflex at the order, she blushed when she noticed it had been her instant response to a command. “What?”

“You’re worried about something, thinking about it. I don’t want to do this if you’re not happy.” James reached up with his metal hand and held her shoulder stroking it with his thumb.

Ruby felt Oz and Qrow’s pleasure start to ramp up and looked over. The three of them were before the fireplace with Weiss between them as the kissed and touched her body. She closed down the bonds, she didn’t want them distracting her right now. “It’s nothing, just a passed bad experience.”

James frowned and took her hand. They walked over to the side of the bed, he tossed the duvet out of the way and he said. “Sit please.”

Ruby did putting her hands in her lap, arousal in her body warred with her thoughts and nervousness. James knelt before her, just as aroused but ignoring it for her. “Please tell me Ruby, you of all people should know that the best way to do this is to put the entirety of ourselves into the moment. And you can’t do that if your mind is elsewhere. So please tell me about it.”

“Are you familiar with Hazel Rainart?”

“I have read his file.”

The petite woman bit her lip. “I… had sex with him once and it’s a long story I don’t want to get into too much but. Well I’m sure you can imagine he was very umm, well you can guess and it hurt. A lot. I just couldn’t help but think about it.”

“I see.” James took her hands in his and rubbed circles on the backs. “You know we can stop at any point, if you’re the slightest bit uncomfortable.”

Ruby giggled. “You know I had a baby, no man will ever come close to that.”

James rolled his eyes and smiled with her. “I know, I wish I could have seen that. Qrow, Ozpin and I used to make kink lists and one thing we all had in common was that we really liked pregnant women.” He let go of her hands and tapped the inside of a knee with a finger. “And I’ve imagined it at length. Lay back for me will you please.” He reached up and she lifted her hips as he pulled her panties off.

Ruby took a deep breath as she laid down into the soft sheets, she closed her eyes and spread her legs at his prompting. Watt’s words about her spreading her legs for James came to mind but really what did she care about what Watt’s said. This was anything but some crude one off over his office desk because he asked for it. James’s hands left a bit odd on her one just a bit cooler and smoother than the other as he pulled her butt to the edge of the bed. Her breathing picked up she knew what this meant.

The Atlasian was sure to warn her of his intent, trailing his fingers up her thighs, pressing a kiss to the side of one. Relishing the smooth skin on his lips. He drew two of his living fingers through her nether lips, the rose of her body was hidden from him presently. No doubt the thoughts of Hazel made her body wish to withdraw and hide. He should see her breathing pick up as he teased her clit with the lightest of brushes. Her wet sex was easy to slide his fingers through, he caressed over her vulva in a little circle that left Ruby breathless.

The silver eyed warrior started to properly relax into it as he touched her. She knew he was trying to put her at ease and she let the moans run free. Releasing the tension in her body through them. Ruby remembered what he said about having her mind on the moment. So she pictured the energy he was stoking her sex. Pictured it flowing up through her chakra, it was a little difficult for her. She hadn’t done this is such a long time, she tried to remember the steps. To breath in and out in controlled breaths through her mouth, to flex her pelvic floor and carry the energy up through her.

As James brought his tongue into his actions holding her legs apart simply against his hands without restraining her. Ruby cried out louder, his tongue delved into her licking in a smooth stroke. Soft and slick not at all like fingers or a hard cock. She lost control of her breathing as James kissed and licked her till her body bloomed for him. He curled his tongue and rubbed over her clit with the even smoother underside as he slipped a single finger into her. Ruby clenched down on it instantly but tried to carry the energy up through her. Rather then let it get twisted up inside of her.

James worked her slowly and noticed when she kept clenching in time with big breaths. How her legs started to quiver and her fingers grasped at the sheets. As she tossed her head back and cried out. He moved up her body kissing along the curves of her muscles as he added another finger. When he reached her breast he felt her clench tight again and heard that higher cry as the clench turned into a fluttering of her walls. “Are you trying to practice tantra?”

Ruby didn’t answer him right away, instead trying to focus on the energy letting to travel down to her fingertips. Not even James adding another finger as she relaxed broke her from her moment of ecstasy. “Mmm, yeah trying. What you said about having your mind on the moment made me remember it. Do you know it?”

James lifted a brow at her. “Oz was my teacher too, I know it. I just haven’t thought about it for a long time either.”  He turned his hand and stroked over the spongy tissue of her g spot.

Ruby bit her lip but the, “Mmaa.” still escaped her, she could hear how her sex was sopping around his fingers. James moved half onto the bed and kissed her cheek, she tilted her head as he kissed down to her neck drawing his teeth over it. The tall man listened as her breathing picked up. “You know you’re taking three of my fingers now, you’re wet and ready.” He purred into her ear. “Do you want to try it?” He drew his fingers together and slowly introduced his pinky.

The silver eyed woman had long since lost track of time. She knew it had to have been a while for him to be able to do that. She looked over towards the fire and could only see Weiss with her head back as Ozpin kissed her neck on one side and Qrow the other. She was moaning softly, her eyes shut, mouth parted as she bounced a little with the impact of her lovers hips against her own. Ruby leaned to him kissed James cheek, he moved and kissed her. Long and slow, a light trace of tongue over her bottom lip. She reached up and threaded her fingers through his hair, it was strange as it was shorter than her husbands.

“Should I take that as a yes?” James murmured his lips brushing against hers as he spoke.

“Yes.” Ruby moaned softly as James withdrew his hand.

The blue eyed man coated his member with her juices then rubbed the reminder off on the sheets. With only the firelight filling the room, her body was cast in shadows and warm orange. Still he could see how flushed she was that creamy skin tinted rose red. Her crimson hair spread out like a halo around her head. “You are beautiful… Do you have a position you’d prefer?”

Ruby shook her head and sat up on wobbly arms. “I’d rather you picked.”

“Hmm.” James sat down beside her and tapped his lap. “Straddle me, I know you don’t much care for riding but I think it would be a good place to start.”

As much as the position wasn’t her favourite the order was nice. She wasn’t sure if he had done that on purpose but she hoped so. Legs still quivering she sat up and crawled over, James leaned back onto his arms as she knelt as high as she could above him. Easier said then done when his erection was all too eager to bump her behind. James shifted so he could kiss her breasts as he wrapped an arm around her holding her secure by the small of her back, his large hand easily holding it. “Breathe deep for me now.”

Ruby did and she felt him do the same, his breath warm against her chest. It still didn’t stop her from stiffening as his broad head found her folds. He spread them with two fingers. “Breathe.” He kissed her neck and let her take a few deep breaths before drawing her down.

The impassioned wail drew the attention of her husbands and Weiss. They could see she wasn’t being harmed though, Weiss snuggled against Oz hugging his shoulders as they watched Ruby and James. Qrow looked over but was enjoying himself too much to stop altogether, so he reduced it to a rocking action that would keep the three of them stimulated.

The silver eyed warrior felt like her insides couldn’t take anymore. Even if in the back of her mind she knew they totally could. She distantly heard James groan as he slowly entered her body. She couldn’t stop her body from tightening up, resisting. Her lover bit her shoulder moaning but he stopped drawing her down leaving her to quiver as she was penetrated by him. “No, please don’t stop.” Ruby tried to lower herself but fighting the instinct to flee, made her legs freeze up. Her nails scored his back as she clawed at it the sensations warring inside of her.

“I need a minute, you’re very tight.” James kissed her neck again. “You know the breathing technique, do it with me.”

The other three returned to their own pleasure, it wasn’t hard to see what James was trying to do. Best leave him to do it in peace. 

Ruby tried she dipped her head to rest her temple against James as they shared long breathes. She focused on the flow of air in and out of her body with him. Slowly other sensations dawned on her, the feel of gripping the warm smooth metal. She could hear Weiss’s soft moans, that made her body remember that Qrow and Ozpin were only steps away. That she had chosen this and most of all she was safe. This wasn’t Hazel, he wouldn’t hurt her with his sheer mass and lack of care. With that thought, with each breath the tension drained out of her muscles and she lowered herself down. James’s arms became comforting as he supported her weight but let her pick the pace.

Silver eyes opened to meet bright blue, as she settled in his lap. Her expression softened and she drew her hands up to hold his head. She traced two fingers through the grey at his temples. Ruby felt her soul do that now every familiar twist. Her eyes widened NO! He is Weiss’s and I already have two! She tried to quash the tether reaching out, no this would not do!

“Ruby what’s wrong.” James reached to her chin as she turned her gaze away and grabbed at her chest with an arm. No, no no no no. I already have two very genetically diverse partners I don’t need a third. 

“Nothing just give me a minute.” Ruby closed her eyes and tried to feel her soul. To put it away in a box, to prevent it from reaching out. She did not know what the hell it was doing but she wasn’t about to let it complicate things.

“That look was not nothing.” James turned her by her chin to look him in the eye again.

Ruby sighed and hugged him again burying her face to his neck. “I’m a vessel soul remember, tied to Qrow and Ozpin. Only it seems I don’t have a limit on the bonds themselves.”

“Excuse me.”

“I felt it this time don’t worry, my soul just decided you were worthy mate material. Or at least wants to do it’s preliminary checks. I could feel it and stop it, we’re good it just surprised me.”

Held tight in the soaking silk of her core, James decided to take her word for it. He held her firmly and started to lift her in time with his hips. Ruby reached up and wove her fingers back into her hair and kissed him soundly. Moaning as they moved together, the pleasure was quick to build and Ruby couldn’t focus on a kiss. The silver eyed warrior broke the embrace and moaned long and loud to the ceiling as they ground together. James pressed open mouthed kiss after kiss to her chest. She just felt so good.

The Atlasian bought her down and stood up and turned. Ruby latched on tight with all her limbs as he moved into the bed and set her down. James thought she looked like a Valkyrie with her red hair tumbling in long waves over the pillow. He treasured her gasp as the change of positions made him strike deeper, he could feel her walls tightened like a vise around him. He leaned on his forearms as she clung to him for all her worth. “So good.” He moaned softly following the most basic of instincts and moving faster. Making her breasts bounce as her stiff perky nipples brushed against his chest.

Ruby couldn’t keep from crying moans of pleasure. “James James!” Her whole body arched like a bow as she came. Her hands clenched in his hair. She felt him move brace his legs better. “Your Aura.” He uttered into her ear as he moved a hand grabbing her hair by the base of her skull.

“Can’t!” She couldn’t think, just feel. That thick length between her legs, his balls against her butt with every deep drive into her. She heard him groan and slide his legs back, Ruby was reduced to trying to keep air in her lungs. As each impact set electricity up her spine, she grasped and clawed at his back feeling the sculpted muscles move. She could also tell he holding back, it was a tension she was very familiar with in her partners. She was always so small under them and they feared hurting her. Still Ruby could do nothing about it as the pleasure stole her voice, only hold on with all her strength. When he pulled her hair just right it sent her crashing into ecstasy again but this she felt him follow and quivered anew. Ruby didn’t open her eyes as James nuzzled her neck and kissed it again, a little nip to her neck. 

When she felt a hand that was familiar but not James’s stroke over her head she looked over to find Ozpin laying on his side beside them. “You need to be a bit more careful love.”

“What for?” James asked and leaned his weight on one arm, he was very un-inclined to move from the heaven that was her body.

“Something tells me James that you don’t want a mental tie to her too.” Oz drew a circle on her temple. “I felt you shut them down, but imagine my surprise when I felt something new form.”

“I felt it and tried my best to squash it.” Ruby snuggled into James pressing a kiss to his chest. “He’s warm and comfy.”

“Uh huh, but given how not picky your soul has been you will have to work out a way to keep those tethers to yourself.” Oz pet her head.

“Hey! I’m plenty picky!” Ruby wrapped her arms around James’s neck.

“Uhh huh, so far every male that has gotten to sleep with you that you weren’t related to and has been kind to you.” Oz smirked as James grabbed her and rolled them over so she could lay on his chest.

"To be fair, that's not a large number. The being kind bit." Ruby wiggled a little bit and lifted herself up till he slipped free her and then she collapsed with an exhausted moan. “And I was bonding to you long before we had sex. We were touching Aura long before then and that is what did it.”

James put an arm behind his head and pet her back. “So I keep my Aura to myself.” He thought she looked very cute dozing on his chest. “Though I’m flattered you mind me proper mate material.” Ruby hide her face and groaned. He patted her back. “There there, you can’t control it very much it seems and no harm has been done.”

“I just wish I knew why it picked people. Like what if something like that happened with Hazel?!” Ruby shivered at the thought.

“It must be more than just a genetics things. Maybe other factors are included as well and we just haven’t worked it out yet.” Ozpin leaned over and kissed her shoulder. “Now come here you.”

“Awww.” Ruby whined as he picked her up by her middle and pulled her off of James. Ozpin put her down in the middle of the bed and Ruby couldn’t help but purr and snuggle down. Weiss giggled from her spot leaning on one of the bedposts. Qrow was standing with her holding her up by a hip. “Well Weiss, I think it would be handy to have a hotline to James’s skull.”

Weiss crawled up onto the bed and tapped Oz in the chest till he got out of the way and snuggled up next to Ruby. “I don’t mind if you bond him Ruby, just means you can carry any offspring I might want to have.”

“No~!” Ruby swatted away her hand when Weiss patted her belly between her hips. “I still have to have a litter of kittens for Oz and Qrow.”

Ozpin chuckled and got off the bed with a stretch. “James’s soul form is a snow leopard so he’ll give you kittens too.”

“Really?” James shifted on his side as he looked over at Oz.

“Yeah, you’re a snow leopard and Weiss is a lynx. Qrow is of course a crow and Ruby,” He reached around Weiss’s shoulder to pet Ruby’s. “Is a little white house cat. It seems like living souls look like animals in the In-Between.”

“So everyone gets to be cool but me!” Ruby pouted and purred as Weiss pet her belly.

“Cause you’re not a happy house cat at all.” Weiss giggled.

“Lydia did also say once that you are very likely a very young soul. That could be a factor as well. Qrow is a crow but it’s a crow the size of a Great Dane dog. We know that he is a strong soul, so perhaps size comes with age.”

“Hmm,” Weiss turned and kissed Oz’s chest. “So when are you going to let James bugger you?”

Ozpin jumped and almost squashed Qrow who shoved him off and Ozpin fell off the bed with a THUMP! “Owww~.” Was whined from the floor. Weiss crawled over Qrow much to his amusement as everyone on the bed stared at her rump. “Come on it can’t have been that surprising. You must have heard Ruby and I getting ready and thought about it yourself.”

Ozpin looked away and hummed. It was Qrow who spoke up. “I made him prep for it, I am too cause yeah you two weren’t the only ones hoping for a buggering and I thought having everyone around might help Oz with it.”

Oz signed. “I suppose we could give it a try. The last bout made my arm rather cranky so attempting to relax might be good for it.” He got up and held his arm to his chest. What he wasn’t telling them was he was sure it was oozing under the bandages and compression sleeve that he had left on. “But I want at least one drink in my system, to help manage how this hurts if nothing else.”

“You didn’t mention your arm was bothering you.” James got up as well but stayed by the bed as Ozpin walked over to the liquor table and poured himself a glass of vodka. “It’s nothing bad just aching, and yes I know mixing sex and alcohol is stupid but I am not going to even get buzzed by this and yes I have recovered from my drinking at the ballroom. I just want to numb my arm a bit. Make it easier to ignore till you can make me forget everything.” He sipped the drink, it didn’t taste like much beyond alcohol but he really did just want the numbing effect.

“Hmm, only because there are plenty of us should anything happen.” James was getting worried about that arm, Oz had used it more tonight than he thought was likely since it was hurt. He walked over to his clothes and pulled the sash out. “Would you be alright with it being bound to your chest?”

“Sure, why not.” Ozpin walked over holding his arm by the wrist again. He stood patiently while James bound his arm tight to his chest. Apprehension twisted in his guts, he didn’t like to do this sort of thing. It just wasn’t a big interest of his, he knew it could feel really good, all the science behind it. Giving up control was just hard for