"Here we are," Nora announces. "It's Haven!"
The group slows to a stop, looking around as Nora gestures grandly to the building that looms before them.
"It's…empty," Ren remarks, casting his gaze around with a frown. The courtyard they stand in in peaceful and still—contrasting sharply with the loud and lively grounds of Beacon. Snow blankets the entire landscape, and Ruby studies a frozen fountain the sits silently in the center. It's cut from marble, and ringed with elegant statues.
"I mean, it is pretty cold out," she offers, burrowing deeper into the warm folds of her cloak. Her silver eyes trace the icicles that hang from the fountain's bowl. "They're probably all just inside."
Ren nods his agreement. "They've probably tightened up security as well," he suggests. "Communications are still touch and go. I'd imagine everyone is on their guard."
Ruby nods, looking over her shoulder at Jaune. "You sent them the message, right? They know we're here?"
The boy nods, not looking at her. He stares at the ground, and Ruby bites her lip. "Jaune…" she begins. But she doesn't get the chance to finish, as the courtyard is suddenly very crowded.
"Oi! Little Red!"
A grin splits the Huntress' face, and she spins to watch as a trio of boys make their way through the snow. Two lag behind, but one charges ahead, the buttons his crimson coat giving off a dull sheen.
Ruby squeals as Scarlet captures her in a one-armed hug, pulling the tiny girl into his side with a roguish grin as she fights his hold. Her clear laughter rings throughout the courtyard, prompting a few smiles from the two groups.
Nora greets Sage with a friendly punch to the shoulder that could probably dismember an Ursa. The swordsman just glances down at her, lips twitching with amusement as the redhead beams.
"You owe me an arm-wrestling match!" she reminds him, still grinning hugely. She waggles a finger up at him. "Don't think I've forgotten!"
He gifts her with a small smile. "I haven't forgotten," he answers quietly.
"Welcome to Haven," Neptune says, offering a friendly wave. "Glad to see you guys made it alright."
Nobody asks where Sun is. Nobody needs to.
"We've been worried sick!" Scarlet cuts in, frowning at the Beacon group. "Honestly! No word from you lot for weeks!"
"Sorry," Ruby says, properly contrite. She lowers her gaze, the weight of the events leading up to their Mistral migration suddenly weighing very heavily on her. "We just…got sidetracked."
Pyrrha. Yang. Blake. Weiss. Ozpin.
She tries to gulp down the unexpected rush of sadness, and a shaky gasp escapes her. She lifts a hand to stubbornly scrub her eyes, when she's pulled into a warm hug.
"It's alright." Sage's voice is low and steady as he holds the young girl in his large arms. Ruby hugs him back tightly, squeezing her eyes shut. "You're safe now."
She pulls back, looking up to give him a small, watery smile. He replies with a nod and a quick ruffle of her hair.
Neptune smiles faintly as he watches the exchange, glancing around at the rest of the group. They look weary, he notes, his smile tilting down.
Nora's expression is harmoniously fixed, as if for a camera. Ren's face is still and calm—like he had a cast made and painted to just the expression he wanted in order to hide his true feelings. Even Ruby looks a little worse for wear—her expression delicate with fear, as if it might shatter like white china.
The trident-wielder turns his eye upon Jaune, and he swallows hard.
The swordsman looks destroyed—as miserable as sin. He holds himself as if he has not a single desire left in the world—as if he'd welcome the opportunity to be struck down.
Neptune glances sideways at Sage while Scarlet fusses merrily over the Beacon group.
"I know," the great swordsman murmurs, in a voice low enough only Neptune can hear.
Neptune swallows hard, looking back to the group.
Something had happened, clearly. Something more than a Grimm attack.
Is this why Sun left?
They fall into easy chatter. Ruby and Nora do most of the talking, with Ren filling in to correct a statement periodically. Jaune stays absolutely silent. The Mistral natives in turn offer up what little information they have.
"We'd invite you in," Neptune explains apologetically. "But Haven's got a bunch of new rules. Only students are allowed."
"We expected as much," Ren replies calmly. "We'll find our own lodging, it's no trouble."
"We've gotten super good at camping," Nora tells them proudly. "Like, super good."
Scarlet laughs. "Why would you do that? You can stay at our places."
Neptune nods. "Yeah! Or Pyrrha's! The Nikos family has a wicked cool house." He smiles wistfully at the memories, suddenly glancing around. "Where is Miss Cereal Mascot, anyway? Watching our backs?" He searches the wintry landscape for a defiant flash of crimson hair.
His words draw trouble. Nora's face pales as she swings her gaze to Ren, who is cutting a look of alarm at Ruby. The cloaked Huntress just lifts her hands helplessly, her expression so vulnerable and weak that Neptune's stomach rolls.
To his surprise, it's Jaune who speaks up.
"Pyrrha…" Jaune trails off, swallowing hard. He looks like he wants to choke on the name. "Pyrrha didn't make it."
The boys of Team SSSN stare back at him, expressions suddenly wary.
"You mean to Mistral," Scarlet says, searching Jaune's face with narrowed eyes. "She didn't make it to Mistral."
And uncomfortable uneasiness unfurls itself in the courtyard, and panic seizes Neptune by the throat as Jaune makes no move to correct the redhead. He just stares helplessly at the ground.
"Neptune…" Ruby begins carefully, biting her lip.
"No!" Neptune shouts. Ruby actually finches at the bite to his voice. "Where is Pyrrha? What did you—?"
"Stop." Sage shoots a stern look at his teammate. "Let them explain, Neptune."
Neptune flings that larger boy a cold glance, but he knows him well enough. He hadn't imagined the subtle shake in Sage's typically strong and steady voice.
Nora worries her lip, drawing her coat tighter around herself. "I don't know if this is the right place…" she begins anxiously.
"We have a right to know," Neptune reminds them, his eyes on Jaune. The other boy still won't raise his head. "Pyrrha's our friend too! Now where is she?"
His mind spirals out into mass panic as the Beacon students look uselessly to each other.
Not Pyrrha, he thinks wildly. Please, god not Pyrrha. It can't be. I can't lose Sun and Pyrrha in the same month please, please, please not Pyrrha not her she's the Invincible Girl she has a destiny—
"She was killed," Jaune's words sound foreign—the way voices ring oddly after a long stretch of silence. "The night Beacon fell, she…" he trails off, smashing his lips together as his shoulders shake with silent sobs.
He doesn't need to finish. They all know Pyrrha well enough.
"She tried to save everyone," Sage murmurs. "Alone."
Scarlet stares sightlessly at the snowy ground, eyes wide with shock. "She…she was invincible," he whispers hoarsely. "She—she couldn't have…"
"I watched it happen," Ruby confesses quietly. "I—I saw the end of her fight, she…she tried to hard. She—" a broken sob severs her speech, and she coughs out another cry, closing her eyes as tears pour down her cheeks—quick-dried by the winter wind.
Nora covers her face with her hands to try and muffle a loud bawl that escapes her while Ren stares straight ahead, tears flowing freely down his frozen face.
"Who?" Sage asks after a moment. His voice is softer than it's ever been, and wavers like a thread of smoke. "Who was it?"
"We don't know her name," Ren reports stiffly, eyes still fixed on some invisible point in front of him. "But we'll find her."
"How could she be better than Pyrrha?" Scarlet voice is frail. "Nobody's better than Pyrrha."
Vision blurred by tears, Neptune reaches blindly for his weapon. Sage cuts him a sharp look and grabs his shoulder.
"Stop, Neptune," the large boy intones, tone darkening when Neptune shrugs off his staying hand and rips his weapon off his back. In one smooth movement, the gun transforms into a long pike that throws off a watery blue light as he swings it around and slashes downward. The spear cleaves one of the arms of the statues that ring the fountain, and it falls into the snow with a dull thud.
Ruby's eyes go wide, but Sages shakes his head. "Leave him," he murmurs, watching with worry in his eyes as Neptune continues to demolish the elegant fountain. Marble shatters as he continues to hit the fixture with everything he's got until he finally strikes the water line and it goes spraying everywhere.
The trident-wielder catches a face full of it, and it seems to shake him from his sudden rage. Sage seizes the back of his coat and hauls him away from the spray while Scarlet hurries to yank off his bandana to wipe the water away.
"She's gone, Neptune," Sage tells him lowly, gingerly extracting the guandao from his teammate's suddenly stiff fingers. "There's nothing we can do about it. She made her choice."
The Beacon team looks on as Neptune slowly accepts Scarlet's bandana to mop the icy liquid off her face.
"It can't be," he mumbles through his lips. "She…she had a destiny."
Jaune, who had been watching the scene with dead eyes, suddenly looks up.
"Destiny?" he asks, suddenly recalling all the conversations he and Pyrrha once had on the subject.
"She believed her destiny was in Vale," Neptune explains, his voice brittle and broken. "That's why she left."
"Pyrrha…Pyrrha was the light of Sanctum," Scarlet explains dully. "The light of Mistral, really."
"She was a natural guardian," Sage adds, suddenly sounding exhausted as he slides Neptune's weapon back into its strap. "She was born to protect others."
Ruby flinches at the word guardian, but no one notices.
"She told me she thought it was her destiny to protect the world," Jaune says, looking up at the Haven team. "But…but she didn't know if she could do it."
Silences settles over the courtyard, save for the gurgling of the fountain. Team SSSN stands close together—like Sage and Scarlet are both waiting for the moment when Neptune would go off again.
They don't have to wait long.
"Well now she can't protect anyone!" he rages, pulling himself roughly away from his teammates. "So what does it even matter?" He drops to his knees, the snow crunching beneath him as he pounds a fist into the ground and just sobs.
Ruby gasps quietly and Nora claps her hands to her mouth while Ren and Jaune look on sadly.
Sage looks down at his teammate darkly. "Don't belittle her sacrifice, Neptune," the large boy warns. "Pyrrha would never have given her life for a cause she didn't believe in. She died doing what she always intended to do—protect others."
"Neptune…" Ruby whispers. "Please. She wouldn't want us to be like this."
Scarlet moves to crouch beside the boy and coax him up, but Jaune strides forward before he can.
"Come on, Neptune," the blond urges him quietly. "We've gotta finish what she started. We have to be the ones to protect people now."
For a terrible moment, silence lingers, and Jaune wonders if Neptune is ignoring him when the tanned boy lifts a hand. Nodding with a grim sort of satisfaction, Jaune takes it and pulls the trident-wielder to his feet.
"We need to move," Ren speaks up. "We've been out here for too long."
Scarlet nods. "My house is closest," he explains. "We can head there."
"We've got to tell her parents," Neptune whispers, running a hand through his turquoise hair. "Oh god, Mrs. Nikos…" he trails off, eyes wide with fear and guilt.
"Let us come," Nora requests softly. The boys look up to see the Beacon group watching them anxiously. "Please," she adds quietly. "I—I know you were close but…but we're her team." Her voice quivers as unshed tears shine her eyes like jade crystals. "We loved her too."
Sage nods. "Of course," he says graciously. "They'd be delighted to meet you all."
His words ring with such genuine honesty, the Beacon group can't help but believe him.
Far away, in the back alleys of Vacuo, Blake holds Sun as he sobs against her.
"I'm sorry, Sun," she apologies again. Guilt eats at her stomach. "I forgot…I forgot you knew her. I would have told you sooner, I swear."
SSSN's leader looks up at her with a fierce kind pain blazing in his eyes.
"First Adam," he tells her, his voice rough with emotion. "And then Cinder."
Blake simply nods, and Sun lowers his head as more tears track down his face.
Oh my. Have some feelings?
I don't really know. I was kind of planning on letting the Pyrrha thing go, but then I saw a comic by nerdgasrnz and felt compelled.
It's not the best, but it's there. I don't often write grief, I'm far better at writing anger, and I definitely have room for improvement. But the idea just wouldn't leave me alone. I feel like I took a lot of creative liberties with this, but I hope it's still somewhat enjoyable.
Blake and Sun are off hunting Adam I believe this with my entire soul you can pry my groundless AUs from my cold dead fingers