Cover Art: Natzo
"Here we are, Jaune. Home sweet home." That was what Violet said. And maybe to her it was true. This was her home… but it wasn't his. At least, it didn't feel like it.
"It's… a cafe." He deadpanned. It wasn't like he exactly knew what else it was he was supposed to say. His elder sister had pushed him here from the airport terminal like it was second nature, nimbly navigating the crowds of people in Vale City with unconscious effort. This was all despite the fact that she had to push him along the whole way in his wheelchair.
Not that it should have been a surprise. His sister was always a natural genius, no matter what the task. So it went without saying that she would be able to push him along without difficulty, regardless of the heavy pedestrian traffic.
Now she had stopped him in front of a short two-story building in the middle of the commercial district. As you would expect by his earlier statement, the bottom floor was covered in windows, giving him an easy view to the interior. It was a quaint little shop, only a couple tables for sitting and a long bar with a kitchen in the back.
All around them were buildings of similar nature. It was a pretty popular location for the youths in Vale City and Jaune had come here with his team and RWBY numerous times in the past. Yet he had never heard of this cafe before, let alone knew it was owned by his own sister.
"That's right." Violet nodded matter-of-factly, her purple ponytail bobbing with the motion. "I know it's not much, but it's ours." He thought for a second that by "ours" she was referring to him and her. He'd almost forgotten that Violet's old partner from her Beacon days lived with her too. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say from here on out, she lived with "them."
Lily appeared from the back room as if on cue. She looked exactly like what Jaune remembered. Messy, dirty blonde hair that obscured both eyes. Floppy, golden retriever dog ears on either side of her head. She was short and had a freckled face split by a near constant smile that always looked sarcastic in nature.
She pushed the door open for Violet to navigate the wheelchair inside and as Jaune passed her, she greeted him in that perpetually chipper voice of hers. "Don't look so glum to see me, little brother." The way she called him caused him to raise an eyebrow and he tried to adjust himself in his seat to show Violet his curiosity.
"Don't pay her any mind." Violet refused to meet his eyes and while it was kind of hard to tell in the unlit cafe, he thought her face might have had a tint of red to it now.
"Why is it so dark in here?" Instead of pushing the thought, he instead turned to look at the ceiling. There were certainly overhead lights, but for some reason not a single one of them was on. How were they supposed to get any business like this?
"Ah, that'd be because we're closed for the day." Lily skipped around the front of him, hopping up onto the bar to sit on it and ignoring the dirty look his older sister gave her for such an unsanitary action. "Violet is the one with all the talent for cooking and brewing coffee. I'm the one who gives the service… with a smile!" She pointed both index fingers at the upward curves of her lips.
Jaune gave a grunt to show he acknowledged what she said, but the lack of any other kind of reaction seemed to slightly disappoint Lily. He wasn't sure why he knew that as it had been years since he'd last seen her. Apparently she'd spent more time at their home than he remembered if such subtle changes in her mannerisms were obvious to him even to this day.
He glanced around the cafe once again. Like he thought from the outside, it was small. Considering that he'd never heard of it before now, that probably meant they didn't receive much traffic either. If he had to guess, he would say they received a pretty steady stream of familiar faces but pretty rarely got newcomers.
So this was what Violet had quit her career for? He couldn't say he understood, but right now that wasn't very important. If he was going to live here, he wasn't going to just be some decoration. If Violet prepared the food and Lily served it, what was there for him to do? "Do you need someone to run the register?" He couldn't think of much else, considering his condition.
"Hmm, that would be helpful." Violet didn't outright reject his proposal like he expected her too. Maybe she knew he wasn't going to simply accept not doing anything? Either way, he was both thankful and perhaps a little disappointed there wouldn't be a fight over it. It wasn't that he wanted to fight with his sister, but something inside him was looking for something to lash out at all the same.
He pushed the feeling down, trying to tell himself that this was going to be his life from now on. No epic battles against the Grimm. No conspiracy theories involving the White Fang. Just stuck inside this little cafe, sitting behind the register and waiting for people to finish their food or coffee. Unable to move his legs.
"Shall we show him the main suite?" Lily hopped down from the counter, walking around to the back and opening a door to reveal a circular staircase.
Violet nodded. "That would be good. Help me with the chair." She pushed him up to the stairs before bending down in front of him. Jaune rested his hands over her shoulders and she looped her arms through his knees. Not that he could even feel it. With a small grunt of effort, she lifted him off the chair and began to piggy-back him up the steps. Lily folded the chair behind him and followed after.
He was mildly surprised by how little the action bothered him. Ever since the last time he met with Pyrrha, he rarely allowed anyone else to touch his chair. Forget about actually separating him from it. Maybe this meant he was finally starting to accept the situation? Leaving Beacon might have had something to do with that. If nothing else, it was truly a wake-up call that his old life was permanently behind him.
"We can have the place renovated." Violet's voice was just next to his ear while she continued to carry him. "Right now it's not the most handicap accessible but I'll start looking into contractors and we can get started as soon as I get in contact with the right people. Just bear with this kind of stuff until then, okay?"
Jaune grunted. Something he noticed he'd been doing a lot recently. "If you're going to bother doing that for me, might as well do it with whatever money I get from the settlement and disability."
"That's not necessary." Violet was quick to reject the idea. "I have some money saved up. The money you get is for you to use. So at least use it for yourself."
"This is for myself." He shot back, flicker of heat to his voice. Violet wasn't renovating the place for her. She was only doing it because she had to take care of him now. "The only other thing I would want with it would be to fix my legs, but that's pretty much not going to happen. Not like I would get what I wanted even if I could walk again." No matter what, he was still banned from Huntsmen Academies and even if he wasn't the money he got would never be enough to afford the right surgery.
"...If that's what you want." Again, Violet relented easier than he would have expected from her in the past. He couldn't tell if that was because she was being conscious of his condition or just trying to avoid arguments. Either way, it fueled the fire building in his stomach. Damned if she did, damned if she didn't. He recognized how unfair he was being to her, but couldn't bring himself to stop it either.
"Might as well let him." Lily chirped up from behind them. "Not like we're not going to pay him for the hours he works. So he'll be making cash that way too." He almost wanted to argue that too, but by some miracle managed to restrain himself. Of course they were going to pay him if he worked for them. There was probably some law that said they had to. There were a lot of laws he didn't know about.
They reached the top of the stairs and entered into what looked like was a living room. As with the cafe down below, this room seemed pretty small. There was only a couch, a couple lamps, a bookshelf, and a small tv and even with just that it occupied almost the whole room. Connected to the living room was another small kitchen, looking only just barely big enough for him to maneuver his chair in. On the opposite side of the living room from the kitchen was an open door that looked like it led into the bathroom. Then in the back wall were two closed doors.
Violet walked towards the left one, continuing to carry him. When she opened it up, he was shocked to find all his stuff from his home back in Domremy had already been moved here. Ever since the moment his legs had first been broken, his family had been preparing for this inevitability. It made him realize just how naive he had been all along, thinking that he ever had a chance when everyone else knew he was doomed to failure the moment that fist met his back.
"What about you?" He asked. There had only been the two bedrooms and he didn't see anything for Violet inside this one. It was all full of his stuff, including his old game systems and television.
"Violet and I sleep together." Lily said so quickly, he imagined she was only trying to put it out there in front of whatever excuse it was Violet was going to attempt to give.
"Not for much longer…" Violet threatened while turning to glare at her partner, both at Beacon and apparently in life going by the dog faunus' constant implications. Jaune could practically feel the heat of his big sister's blush radiating off her face. Even so, it didn't sound like a threat his sister would actually follow-through on. More like one of the empty ones she usually gave to their other sisters when they took one of their jokes too far. It was almost strange, thinking of his sister acting close enough to someone that she treated them like she did someone else in their family. Just went to show they all grew up eventually.
The sound of the chimes below turned all their attention to the stairs. Despite the fact that they were clearly closed, someone had wandered in anyways. "I'll get it, I'll get it." Lily volunteered almost immediately after the sigh that left her partner's lips. She hopped for the stairs, dirty blonde hair bouncing with every step.
"Hey, Lily!" Violet called too late, the faunus girl taking the wheelchair down the stairs with her. "Sorry about that, let's go get her." Violet said with another sigh, already moving to follow after her.
"Doesn't matter." He shrugged. "I kind of want to explore around anyways." There wasn't much to see here, considering how small Violet's home was. He supposed it was to be expected, living in the city and on top of their livelihood. All the same, she could have so much more if she was still making a Huntress' salary.
"There's a park nearby. We can go together." Violet offered. He had actually been implying that he wanted to go alone, but he supposed that probably wasn't possible to begin with. There wasn't much of anything he could do on his own anymore. So he just grunted once again to give his agreement.
They reached the bottom of the stairs and walked back out into the cafe when Violet came to a knee-jerk stop. "Oh." It wasn't until her mild exclamation did he look up to see who it was that entered. To make the same noise his sister just did when he came face to face with Ozpin and General Ironwood.
"You know, Oz-" Ironwood adjusted his tie as he looked over the quaint little building they were in. "When you said you wanted to get a drink, I expected something a little… well, not this." He stated frankly.
"I'm sure young Violet and young Lily may have just the thing you're looking for." Ozpin didn't seem to care that the lights were off in the slightest and took a seat at the counter. "I'll just have my usual cocoa, if you don't mind."
Lily sent a glance to Violet, asking what to do while his sister in turn made a complicated expression. "It's fine." Jaune said, leaning a little closer into her ear so only she could hear. "Just put me in my chair and take care of them." As much as he didn't want to be in the same room as the man who failed him right now, Jaune didn't see much good coming from turning away Atlas' Headmaster and General of their army on top of that.
"I'm sorry." Violet whispered back, placing Jaune in his chair and moving back to the kitchen to begin brewing Ozpin's order.
"Let's see..." Lily walked over to the light switch and flicked it on while Ironwood took a seat. "If I remember right, you've always been a fan of bourbon, isn't that right Mister Big Shot?" She casually addressed the General, without even the slightest modicum of respect. Really, about what he expected from Lily.
Jaune rolled up to behind the cash register, which happen to be right next to the seat Ozpin had taken. Something he doubted was a coincidence, despite this being the wheelchair bound boy's first time here.
"You're well informed." Ironwood took a reluctant seat of his own, seemingly more placated now by the knowledge there was liquor available. "About what I'd expect from such a famous information gatherer such as yourself, Miss Lily."
Jaune tilted his head, glancing several times in rapid succession between Lily and Ironwood. It wasn't terribly surprising that Ironwood had at least heard of Lily, considering she graduated as the partner of one of Beacon's valedictorians. To hear Lily herself was renowned for reasons of her own making was something else entirely.
"I'm kind of hurt by the shocked expression, Jaune." Lily called him out with a short giggle. "I have my uses. You think your perfect sister would have put up with me all this time if I didn't?" She did kind of have a point, knowing Violet like he did.
"I heard that!" Violet called from the back room, earning a short laugh from all three adults. Jaune was still too bewildered to join in.
Lily pulled out a small bottle and glass, pouring some of the strong-smelling liquid for the General. "I didn't know this establishment had a liquor license." Ironwood accepted the glass despite his suspicions and took a whiff of the contents.
"Sure do. Just don't advertise it." Lily leaned over and flashed him one of her biggest grins. "Who knows all the underaged kids we'd get in here trying to sneak an easy shot if they knew. With the amount of Huntsmen and Huntresses we get around the globe looking to destress a little, of course we'd have something for them."
"I see." Ironwood finished the glass in one gulp and placed it back on the table. Lily refilled it a moment later. "Not just good at gathering information, but controlling it too. No wonder so many Huntsmen come here when they need to find something. I'm impressed. The rumors don't even do your talents justice."
"Nah, I'm not really all that great." If Lily had a dog tail instead of ears, he had no doubt it would have been wagging a mile a minute at all the praise. "Really, everything I hear is just because everyone who comes likes to talk so much about their adventures. That's all it is."
"It's still a shame." Ironwood drummed his fingers against the counter, each time making loud thunks as if they were made of metal. "You and Violet had a bright future on the field. To have that injury restrict you to such a lifestyle."
"Wait-" Jaune interrupted. "What?" This was the first he'd heard about this. Lily was injured? Where? When? How? Why hadn't he heard about any of this until now. She looked physically capable and her demeanor was no different than he remembered. It was almost impossible for him to believe she seriously couldn't still fight.
Lily's smile slipped momentarily, glancing over her shoulder and back into the kitchen. "You mean you didn't tell him?" She called to his sister. There was no answer and the dog faunus let out a sigh. "Shouldn't be surprised, what with that honor code of hers and everything." While she mumbled, she was already lifting her shirt.
"W-W-Whatareyoudoing?" Jaune's sentence ran together as he flailed both arms in front of himself, trying to somehow ward off the bare flesh of Lily's stomach. All the same, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the body of a woman. Almost disappointingly, she stopped just short of her breasts.
By which point he forgot what it was he was even supposed to be embarrassed about. Right below her right breast was a terrible and deep scar. It was so huge, he found himself wondering how she could possibly still be alive. She would have surely had to have lost a whole chunk of her body to get a scar that big.
"Happened just a little more than a year ago." Lily answered. "I'll spare you most of the details, but a Nevermore feather got me when I was out of Aura. Destroyed the whole right side of my lung. I was able to get surgery to get it fixed, but the mechanical parts just can't keep up with the exertion required for Huntress life. I get winded too fast. On the field, I'm just a liability now. In some ways I'm worse than a civilian."
They were the same. Jaune had no idea before now, but they were exactly the same. Lily may have still had the use of her legs, but that didn't matter. Her career was over just as much as his was. "That's why Violet quit-"
"It was my fault." His sister cut him off, walking out from the kitchen and placing a steaming mug in front of the former headmaster. "My Semblance did this." Violet's Semblance allowed her to redirect things. Rather it did it automatically for her when she was in danger Anything that threatened her was bent out of the way and missed.
Which could be dangerous if you were standing next to her when it did so. He'd been hit by numerous baseballs in the past because her Semblance had turned it past her and directly into him. If it were to do that with something more deadly like a Nevermore feather…
"We've been over this. I don't blame you for it." Lily leaned to his sister and blew a breath of wind in her ear. Violet jerked to the side and gave her a look of quick contempt, but she didn't pull her body further away. If anything, she leaned a little closer, hand coming to rest just next to Lily's.
"Still a shame." Ironwood repeated solemnly. "If only our technology was there yet. We lost two good Huntresses that day." Since Violet also retired, despite having not been injured. He didn't know until now that it had been from guilt. "Even more so, we lost another potentially great Huntsmen at the tournament." Jaune's head jerked to see the General looking at him now. "If this had been Atlas, I can tell you without a doubt that had you wished it, we would have fast-tracked you on the latest surgery to try and repair your legs."
"He doesn't gain anything from you telling him that." Violet snapped.
"She's right." Ozpin followed up not even a moment after. "This isn't Atlas. Things work differently here in Vale. No matter how much we all wish things could have been different, we must push forward with the best we have. Just like young Lily and Violet have done."
"How am I supposed to do that?" Jaune asked, looking at them all for answers. "I can't just… I can't just put this behind me like Violet was able to. It was my dream to become a Huntsmen. I only wanted to help others. The only thing it feels like I've done is ended Ozpin's career and giving my sister someone else to take care of now."
"Ozpin ended his own career." Ironwood said with no small bit of sarcastic bite, leaning over to bump the other man with his shoulder. "He's been pushing his luck for a long time. Your exposure was just the straw that broke the camel's back. It's nothing you need to feel guilty about. If it hadn't been you, it would have been something else."
"Always a gentlemen, James." Ozpin chuckled, taking a sip of his cooling cocoa.
"Your sister isn't taking care of us out of some kind of guilt, Jaune." Lily leaned into Violet and to his surprise she didn't pull away from the contact. "She's doing it because she loves us. Your transcripts and my injury wouldn't have changed anything even if they hadn't been hers."
"You'll find your own answer in time, Jaune." Violet was the last to speak, looking at him gently. He realized now with eyes that told him she had once been through something similar. "I didn't know what I was going to do when I quit either. It wasn't until I started cooking for Lily that I remembered how much I used to love doing it for you and our sisters. It became my new dream. Just remember… when one door closes, another one always opens. Sometimes you just gotta look for where that door is."
Could he really find that new door? Even if he did find it, could he walk to it on his own? His legs didn't work anymore. They wouldn't carry him to it.
He barely got a moment to think on it when the door swung open again, the bell overtop letting out a loud ring. Three more Huntsmen strolled in, thinking the cafe was open with the lights on. And it looked like more were coming.
The cafe that had once seemed empty and lifeless was quickly beginning to fill and Jaune found that for the next few hours he didn't have time to think on his worries. He was far too busy manning the register and listening to the exploits of others, if only wishing they could be his.
"You sure this is alright?" Amber asked, looking at Pyrrha's old javelin.
At Ren's insistence, Nora had made some modifications to it by taking the dust crystals and Amber's old staff and installing them into Milo. The weapon could no longer transform with the modifications, but it was much closer to something she would be comfortable using in combat now.
"It's better this way." Ren said sagely, sitting across from her in Beacon's cafeteria. It was almost completely empty now. Without their leader here at Beacon any longer, Amber no longer had to hide in Ozpin's- in Glynda's office. When walking around Beacon, everyone just assumed she was the Mistral Regional Champion.
They had no idea she was half the Fall Maiden.
"That's right." Nora piped up in quick agreement, as she always seemed to do with her childhood friend. "You'll only get us killed if you try to fight without a weapon you don't even know how to use."
Ouch. That was blunt, even if true.
"Nora." Ren chastised in a voice that was quickly becoming routine to Amber's ears. He fixed her with those serious magenta eyes and only when she seemed to repent for her thoughtlessness did he once again turn his attention back to the Fall Maiden in his teammate's body. "We can always change it back once you're out of Pyrrha's body. For now, it's more convenient for you to have a weapon you're comfortable with and if my hunch is right, putting it in Milo is only going to be even more beneficial."
"Your hunch?" Amber asked, tilting her curious and causing Pyrrha's long red hair to spill over her shoulder.
"I think you might be able to use Pyrrha's Semblance." Ren gestured to the metal weapon. Polarity, if Amber could truly tap into that power… "The enemy will have made a big miscalculation by taking only half your power. Pyrrha's Semblance will level the playing field, maybe even give us the advantage."
Amber could feel a grin slowly spread across her face. "When do we start training?" She asked, picking up the weapon and holding it at the ready.
Ren and Nora shared a quick glance, the girl then giving an absolutely terrifying smile that made Amber regret asking.
"You did well today, Jaune." He could barely hear his sister's voice, head drifting in and out of consciousness as she carried him up the stairs and to his room.
He had no idea simply manning the register could be so exhausting. It was nearly to the point he regret volunteering for the job. The thought of that paycheck almost made it worth it and the soft feeling of his sister's back on his chest and her words of praise made it even better.
For the first time since he'd lost the use of his legs… he felt a small sense of satisfaction.
Something he never once felt while dreaming of recovery at Beacon.
Was it possible? Had he only been hurting so badly because he refused to give up a dream that was no longer possible? If that was the case, wouldn't it be better if he truly let it go once and for all? Like everyone around him was telling him to do.
Everyone except one person.
As Violet lay him in bed, tucking the sheets over him and making sure he was comfortable, he could only think about Ruby. Lily had been injured and Violet quit her career as a result. What if... Ruby one day did the same because of him? He had started going out with her because he believed he was going to get better. He had known he was going to get better. Something she still thought.
Going out with her had almost felt like he was validating that future. Even when everything else was telling him it was wrong, that relationship told him it wasn't. What if it had been the two of them that had been wrong this whole time? If that was the case, what was he supposed to do about their relationship from here on out? He couldn't let her quit for him. As he drifted off to sleep, he couldn't help but remember the words her uncle had told him. And in the brief moment before his mind slipped into dreams-
He thought perhaps there was a chance he had been right.
AN: Still slowly chugging along with this story.
So this chapter introduced Lily. She's another OC that originated in my story, Spectrum, who I then brought over to this one. Her relationship to Violet is a little different in this story, more just to fit in with some of the themes I've got going on. She'll probably pop up again, but I don't think in the same capacity she did this chapter.
I also wanted to get some of Ironwood's perspective on this, since he's a guy whose legs are literally all metal.