Chapter 4

*last chapter. Many thanks to those who favored this little story. You're encouragement has lit a fire that won't go out soon. The end of this ditty is just a waning of the flame.*

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaahhhhhh..." At this point, team RNJR had run out of breath to scream with, all taking a large gasp and actually looking at their new guest for a minute. Qrow stared back at them, bemused.

"...What were you twerps expecting? The Grimm reaper?"

"UNCLE QROOOOOOOW!" And suddenly a red clothed parasite latched onto his shoulder, making his situation inside the pipe even more cramped.

"Ithoughtyouwentofftodosuperimportantstuff! Where have you been?" Ruby stared up at her master and guardian, with wide curious eyes. Idly shaking off the girl, Qrow resettled and pulled out his flask from a back pocket.

"Well, don't wanna inflate all of your self-esteems, but right now, you kids fall under the term 'Super Important Stuff'. I was just following up on some things before. When I heard that you all decided to venture off to Haven from Tai- Thanks, by the way, for that. He's pissed, and I got to play the outlet for his parental rage-" Everyone, especially Ruby looked downward in shame at that.

"BUT, I figured this you kids know enough to get something done. Plus it beats sitting at home, waiting for the end of the world or something." With that, Qrow took a hearty pull from his flask, smacking his lips as he reeled himself back from the drink long enough to finish his palaver.

"Besides, you guys have got more reason than any others to want to see this through. Ain't right to be sidelined for something like this." His eyes roamed each teenager, staying particularly long on the scruffy-looking kid.

"SO, thought I'd try and catch up with you all, see how things went. Make sure you were on the right track and all."

Ren raised his hand hesitantly.

"Wait, how long exactly have you been following us?"

"Aaah, say, right around the time ya left Patch, at the harbor?" Qrow nodded to himself, feeling that was the right answer.

"Wow...How did we not notice you? Like, at all?" Nora asked, feeling a bit unnerved by Ruby's weird uncle.

"Pffffff, kid. Look at me. I've been doing this longer than you've all drawn breath. You think I don't know my way around a little cloak and dagger shi-stuff?" Qrow caught himself.

Ruby stared skeptically at her relative, knowing he was leaving out something. But she decided it wasn't pertinent, and simply said, "So, now that you've caught up, what do we do? We were planning on walking our way to the academy. But we still got plenty of miles to go."

A couple of quiet moans seeped from the group. Qrow rolled his eyes.

'Kids. They want to live their lives, make their own way, but they can't walk just a couple miles to do it. Well, maybe more like a hundred or so. But still.'

"Well, I'm not here to change your plans. Just sort of checking in. Once you get to Haven I should have something for you. But for now, just keep doing what you're doing. If I'm right, you brats should get there within another two weeks or so, as the crow flies." He explained, affectionately mussing Ruby's hair and taking another pull from the flask. Ruby recovered from her teasing and thought over what he said.

"Just checking in..So, you'll be leaving again?"

"Sort of. I'll be keeping an eye on you, don't worry. Just don't wanna cramp your team's style is all.

'That, and if you really need me, they'll never see me coming.'

"Okay...Well, can you at least stay for a while longer? Until the rain stops?"

"Sorry kiddo, no can do. I got business to tend to, can't spend anymore time than I have to. Once we're all back together at Haven, maybe. Until then, just keep walkin', you'll be alright." With that, he reluctantly stashed away his flask and readied himself to return to the raging storm outside. As he prepared to pull away the newly refitted camping tent again, Qrow thought for a moment, then decided it would not hurt to leave some advice.

"Hey..." All eyes were on him.

"When you're out there, anything that ain't Grimm is a friend. Got it?"

They all nodded, Ruby so much so her head looked like it would fall off, trying to keep herself from missing him already.

"Good...And remember, don't stop too long. Clues don't last for ever, just keep moving forward. I'll be right beside ya. Good luck, you lil-"And then the storm overtook his voice, the howling wind and pouring rain seeping into their refuge for a moment. And then he was gone again.

Team RNJR sat a bit longer, thinking on the dusty old man's words of wisdom.

"Hey Ruby?"

"Yeah Ren?"

"Your uncle is a bit creepy."

"That's just part of his charm! He's really cool once you get to know him! And he makes really good coffee too!"

And so they bickered, waiting away the rest of the day for an opening in the sky. Eventually, they would settle in to sleep within that broken drainage ditch, so long ago built and abandoned. Creepy as he may have been to them, the team fell asleep to the old crow's parting words; allowing them to find restfulness for the journey. As they lay, sleep slowly creeping in, each could almost imagine those words being spoken again.

'Just keep moving forward.'