Every time I finish White Sheep, there's a little part of me that goes; "ahhh, two whole days before my next deadline. What shall I do with my time?"

Then I remember it's Not this time, Fate and I instantly panic and cement my ass to my seat once more. Time to write!


Beta: College Fool

Cover Art: A Stuck at Home Tome

Chapter 31 – Routine


"Good morning, Mr Arc."

Jaune rolled his eyes at the enigmatic greeting, a staple of the headmaster, who sat behind his desk, back to the elevator he'd entered through. There were cameras, of course, if Ozpin didn't just sense his presence through whatever unusual means the man had.

"I'm here to have something removed," Jaune said. "Unless you think Qrow would appreciate a wailing alarm while he's trying to sneak through Mountain Glenn."

The headmaster chuckled and turned his seat around. The man's face was as calm as ever, though his eyes appeared amused. "It might make for good entertainment," he said, "but I suppose it's for the best I release you from your anklet. I should thank you, Mr Arc, for not seeing fit to test it."

It would have been a waste of time anyway, Jaune thought as he approached the desk. He sat down on the seat opposite the older man, then, just because he could, swung his foot up and onto the desk. It clanked down, marking the polished wood a little.

"Thank you," Ozpin managed to sound graceful still, like he'd expected no less. He reached across and waved his scroll over the metal ring. It beeped once and disengaged with a click, falling off his ankle and onto the desk. Jaune removed his foot and rubbed the skin a little. It felt different, somehow, even if the device hadn't ever been noticeable. "I must say, Mr Arc, I found it a little interesting how neither you nor your team seemed particularly surprised at the announcement of your mission details."

"Well, we're all pretty robust. Nothing catches us off-guard."

"I believe I heard Miss Xiao-Long say something along the lines of `called it`."

Jaune leaned across the desk and whispered, "I think she's psychic… that or a time traveller."

"Indeed?" Ozpin sounded amused. "We should be wary of her, then. Such a gift could be quite difficult to handle. I take it, then, that a certain bird had nothing to do with this? One that is perhaps a little lost in his cups?"

"I'm sure I have no idea what you mean," Jaune smirked.

"I'm sure you don't," Ozpin returned with an obvious roll of his eyes. "I suppose we shall have to let it go. Qrow is, as always, a law unto himself."

"I like him."

"Somehow, that neither surprises me, nor fills me with confidence. I believe Miss Goodwitch would shiver should she imaging you and he combined."

"Okay, I don't like him that much."

The headmaster leaned back in his seat and took a long sip of coffee. Where anyone else might have expected him to be offended at the casual discourse, not to mention the use of his given name instead of his title, Jaune knew better. Ozpin wouldn't care about crap like that; not when it wasn't important. Even if he did, he'd never give it away, however. The old man kept his cards close to his chest.

"I must admit, Mr Arc, part of me did not expect to see you remain at Beacon for so long. Have you come to reconsider my words?"

"Nope."

"Not even a little? I believe you've done quite well for yourself as a huntsman so far."

"Nope."

"Your reluctance is almost legendary, Mr Arc, even in the face of the bonds you've built here."

"You know why."

"I suppose I do." Ozpin sighed and took a sip from his mug. "You have made strong friendships here, however. In that, at least, I can take some comfort."

Jaune sighed and slumped back into his seat. "Look, Ozpin, I don't really have the energy for all the word games and things. You want me here and I'm here. You don't need to throw my friends in my face; trust me, they're the only reason I'm still here."

Far from being offended, the older man laughed. "I apologise for that, Mr Arc. Sometimes I forget myself and get carried away."

"I'll stay in Beacon," Jaune said. "I'll stay here until it's over, they graduate or whatever comes. It's just… if you're looking for the next person to be your poster-boy, then it's not going to be me."

"I'll keep that in mind," Ozpin chuckled. "Truth be, If I made you the icon for all aspiring huntsman, then I imagine we would suffer a fall in huntress applicants as concerned fathers send them elsewhere."

"I have needs, Ozpin." Jaune smirked. "Sick, twisted needs…"

"And I don't need to know them," Ozpin sighed. "Very well, then, I suppose I shall comfort myself with your continued presence here, even if I do worry. Sadly, not everyone is cut out for the life we lead." Ozpin sighed and placed his mug down. He pushed his hands together, addressing Jaune over the top. "Roman Torchwick might be considered one such example. Though he graduated from Beacon, circumstances caused him to… reconsider his life choices." Ozpin watched Jaune as he shrugged. "You don't seem overly surprised at the knowledge."

"Oh, I didn't know where he trained," Jaune said honestly, "but I mean, it was pretty obvious… the guy hits like a truck, has aura, and has eluded trained huntsman and huntresses for years. If he wasn't huntsman-trained, I think it would be a bit embarrassing."

"Quite," Ozpin smiled. "In a way, Torchwick was a little like yourself. He was skilled, cunning, and rather selfish."

"I resent the comparison, sir." Jaune said. His eyes were deadly serious. "I would never wear mascara."

Ozpin stared at him.

"It's the blonde hair, it just doesn't work well."

"I'll trust in your fashion sense for that, Mr Arc. Rest assured I do not believe you would go the way of Roman."

"How can you be so sure?" Jaune asked with a challenging look. "You said it yourself; I'm a pretty selfish guy."

"Because I do not believe Miss Schnee, Miss Xiao-Long or Miss Belladonna would let you."

Huh… a point to Ozpin, he guessed. "I'm still not going to be a huntsman. Not your huntsman and not Vale's. I'm here for them and nothing else."

"Hm… then in that case, I'll ask no more." Ozpin leaned back and refilled his mug from a thermos flask. "I wish you luck on your mission, Mr Arc."

Luck? Jaune nodded and stood, moving away with an almost amused expression. He'd long ago ceased to believe in something as silly as luck.

/-/

The rest of his team were already busy by the time he arrived back at their room. Weiss had already paid for his equipment, which was great because it meant it was already stored and packed, but bad because he now needed to find a way to force some lien down her throat. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the thought, but he also didn't want to take her money for granted.

Not when he knew she was going to be cut off in a few weeks.

Either way, it let him lounge on his bed and watch as the other girls neatly folded and stored supplies away. Blake and Weiss, at least, Yang was… well, Yang.

"Did you find out what Team Rubine has?" he asked.

"Eh?" Yang looked up from her backpack, face red and eyes even more so. He'd called her out a second before she lost it and blasted the whole thing into a wall. "Oh, their mission? Yeah, it's shadowing some sheriff in a village Ren and Nora used to know. It sounded pretty cool."

"A sheriff?" Blake raised an eyebrow. "What kind of place has a sheriff?"

"Frontier towns and villages," he answered. "There's not always enough people for proper law enforcement. Some places almost have their own laws and depending on how desperate the situation is, those can be pretty harsh."

"Was it the same where you lived?"

"Ansel is a decent-sized settlement. We had our own police department and court, so no, I didn't grow up in some B-rate Spruce Willis movie."

Blake rolled her eyes but accepted his words, going back to her packing. Yang's news was good, however, since that was the same mission he always got assigned to on Team JNPR. He wondered if that would mean the team would be there to save their asses?

It all depended on whether she delayed her team like he usually did, or not. Either way, it wouldn't matter too much. Team CFVY were probably still around with Port and he'd also laid the foundations for Winter to make an appearance. That ought to be enough to save them once the breach happened. If not, well, that was why he had all those explosives.

Nothing cleared a swarming horde of weak Grimm quite like it.

"I can't believe this is actually out first, real mission," Yang said. The blonde cracked her arms behind her head, grinning widely. "I mean, it feels like we've been together for ages, but we haven't even camped out once."

"We did do Forever Fall," Blake pointed out.

"Bah, that was more of a field trip. This'll be the first time we actually have to make a camp, cook and eat around a fire. It's going to be awesome."

"It's going to be cold and exhausting. We'll be surrounded by Grimm and in hostile territory."

"Blake, can you stop being a party-pooper for like, two seconds?" Yang sighed but quickly spotted more prey. She sidled up to him and nudged an elbow into his ribs. "I wonder what deep and dark secrets will be exposed around the campfire. Do you have any, daddy?"

Secrets they didn't know? Sure, plenty… ones they might find out?

His eyes darkened as he smirked. "Maybe," he teased.

"Ooh, care to share?"

"I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. I'm sure you'll find out soon enough."

"Tease!" Yang complained. She skipped back over to her pack, pushed down one final time, then pulled the strings over the top. It was a mockery of how to actually pack a bag, and the strings looked like they might snap at any moment. "Done!" she proclaimed.

Weiss took one look at it and sighed. "I can't even bring myself to say anything. If that explodes, it's your job to clean it up. Why couldn't you pack your bags like Jaune?"

"You mean buying them fresh so they come pre-packed? Should I also buy new clothes so I don't have to wash or iron mine?" Yang blinked at the white-haired girl. "Oh my god, you actually do that…"

"I do not! While my family may be… fortunate, I am not so wasteful. I meant his other backpack," Weiss pointed to the smaller one he'd strapped atop his own. "That doesn't look like it's going to explode anytime soon."

Jaune's lips quirked up at the unfortunate choice of words. Oh, it would explode alright… if he so much as pulled a single pin from the various explosives he and Ruby had helped themselves to. Still, where was the harm in a little fun? "Listen to your mother, Yang," he rebuked. "She's just worried you'll become a messy slob with no redeeming qualities."

"A little late for that…"

"Blake!" Yang theatrically swooned, one hand held to her heart. "Woe is me, to be betrayed by my own partner. What did the headmaster want with you, anyway?"

"He caught on to us knowing about the mission in advance," Jaune half-lied. "We're not in trouble, don't worry."

"Meh, if we were, we could have just blamed it on uncle Qrow."

"Either way, he just talked about the mission, about us and basically wished us good luck." He shrugged when the three girls looked at him in confusion. "He's a pretty old guy; maybe he's going senile."

"Don't talk that way about the headmaster." Weiss slapped his arm and glowered at him. "We're all ready to go? Mr Branwen wants us to meet him at the pads within the hour."

"You realise he won't respond to `Mr Branwen`, right?" Yang asked.

Weiss ignored the comment and marched over to the door, holding it open for each of them to walk through like Remnant's most indulgent mother. "I know it's early," she said, "but we can drop off our bags there and I'm sure Yang's sister is going to want to say goodbye to everyone."

"Heh, true," Yang smiled. "Uncle Qrow's not one for rules, either, so if we get there early, we'll probably just head off early. It's not like we have anything else to do. I'll drop Rubes a message to meet us there." Yang pulled her scroll out of her pocket, which was Jaune's cue to slap his forehead.

"I forgot my scroll," he sighed and stopped. "You girls run on ahead, I'll catch up in a second."

"You forgot-?" Weiss sighed. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Because you know me too well," he smirked. "I'll catch up in a second."

"Wait!" Weiss grabbed his sleeve and rolled her eyes, digging into her own skirt. "You'll need a scroll to even get back in, you idiot. Here, use mine."

Oh right, yeah, he'd forgotten about that. He nodded and took it, ducking back with a quick wave as he jogged back to the dorm. Once they were out of sight, he slowed to a walk and put Weiss' scroll away.

He pulled out his own and opened the door, grinning like a loon.

"Oh Zweiii…?"

/-/

"Thanks for that, Weiss," Jaune handed his partner's scroll back over to her, adjusting his backpack behind him. The addition of Zwei was a fairly minor increase, given all the metal and such he had in there already.

"No problem," Weiss said and nodded over to where Yang was being hugged to death by Ruby. "Everyone's just saying their goodbyes. From what I understand, their mission isn't until tomorrow."

Jaune didn't get a chance to respond. Instead, he was knocked back a few steps as Ruby crashed into his chest, arms wrapped around his midriff. "Oof," he grunted and staggered back. "Nice to see you too, Ruby."

"Remember your promise," she whispered into him. "Look after Yang for me, okay?"

A warm feeling suffused him as he smiled and patted her head. "I haven't forgotten. She'll be fine. We all will. You be careful on yours too." He added the latter even though he didn't think they would actually go on their mission. It would have felt rude not to.

"Hey," Yang complained loudly. "How come he gets a better hug than I did?" Ruby giggled and disentangled herself from him, rushing back over to her sister.

"Those two…" Weiss sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if they'll ever change. I dread to imagine what people will think when their village gets rescued from the Grimm, and then subjected to this kind of display."

The thought was a nice one… if that future could ever happen.

"What's this," a loud voice called, "a bunch of snot-nosed brats eager to go on their first mission?"

"Uncle Qrow!" Ruby detached from Weiss and tackled the man in an instant. He laughed and lifted his arm up so she hovered at head height, which proved to be a mistake when Ruby tightened her grip and glared at him. "Why didn't you want my team for this?"

"Eh?"

"You're taking Yang and her team. What about mine?"

"What about yours, brat?"

"It's only fair if you take us on a mission too," Ruby said, with the kind of irrefutable logic he'd have expected from someone like Amber. "You owe us a mission."

Qrow's eyes narrowed and he started to wave and waggle his arm about in a desperate attempt to force his youngest niece off. It didn't go very well, on account of Ruby being Ruby, and thus more stubborn than a rock.

"On second thought," Weiss sighed, "at least those two won't be as bad as him. Is there no other huntsman who could take us along?"

"Weiss." The firm voice cut through their conversation, in time to reveal Winter Schnee stalking towards them, her expression grim.

Weiss straightened up immediately.

"Is this where the two of you re-enact Ruby and Yang?" he teased.

"Don't be foolish," she hissed back, and then turned to her sister. "Winter! So good to see you, but… I thought you were to return to Atlas?"

"That was the original plan, Weiss, but I reconsidered. The General has been trying to force some leave on me for a while now, so I called in a week's worth before the Vytal Festival begins. I shall be staying here now until it does."

"That's wonderful!" Weiss cheered. Her face went white a second later and she coughed, quickly composing herself. "I mean, that is a pleasant surprise, sister. I am glad you'll get to see- I mean, I hope you enjoy watching the tournament."

Winter's face softened the tiniest amount. "I look forward to watching you compete, Weiss. I'm sure you'll make me proud."

Judging from the expression on Weiss' face, those simple words meant the world to her.

"I wanted to see you off on your mission too," Winter continued. "But before you go, might I have a word with your partner?"

"Jaune?" Weiss looked towards him nervously.

"I assure you it's nothing bad, Weiss. I simply wish to have a quick discussion with him. It won't take a moment."

It was perhaps a sign of how nervous Weiss was that she even thought about arguing with her sister. She looked at him, concern clear in her eyes, then back to the older woman. It looked like she couldn't make the choice at all, so he did it for her.

"It'll be fine." He clapped a hand to Weiss' arm, before he turned to the older Schnee. "Lead on."

Winter nodded and pulled him aside, only a little distance away and still within line of sight of the others, which seemed to relieve Weiss somewhat. Honestly, she acted like he was being dragged off to his execution. With Winter, that might not be too far off, but she wasn't going to maim him. Not physically, anyway.

He eyes her warily.

"I'm not here to cause problems, Jaune Arc." Winter said. "I simply wished to speak with you candidly before the mission."

"Is it to ask me to look after Weiss? I'd have done that anyway."

"My sister can look after herself when it comes to the Grimm. She was trained by the best, but more importantly, she is a determined and focused young woman."

"She is," he agreed.

"It is simply… this task you are to complete. I am concerned that the foes you might face will be a little more than Grimm."

"Qrow made us aware of Torchwick and the White Fang."

"I'm glad. One shouldn't go into a situation without all the intelligence at hand. Naturally, my sister is a target for the White Fang, just for the colour of her hair and the name she bears. I would like to ask you to pay particular attention to ensuring her safety."

"No."

"Excuse me?"

Winter looked furious, but Jaune only shook his head, expression firm and resolute. "I won't pay particular attention to anyone," he said. "I'm going to look after all of them, Weiss included. If something were to happen to Blake or Yang, and Weiss found out you asked me to look after just her, then she'd never forgive you. She would never forgive me."

Winter's eyes met his, and the two maintained their staring contest for a few moments. "I see," Winter said eventually. "I suppose I must defer to you in this. I would still ask you to look after her, however."

"You don't even have to ask. I'd die before allowing any of them to be harmed."

"You should not bandy such casual words around. It's easy to say that you would give your life, but far more difficult in… practice." Winter trailed off, seeing something in his eyes. Maybe it was the certainty there, or perhaps she recognised the look of someone committed to their path. Whatever the case, her eyes narrowed. "Try not to let that happen," she said softly, "Weiss would not forgive you if you died, either."

Heh, she would… well, it wasn't like he intended to let that happen, either. "She's a demanding partner." he said. "I'll do my best."

"My sister means a lot to you." It wasn't a question but rather a statement. He shrugged in return, the answer just as obvious. "You promised me you wouldn't hurt her, yet you rejected her."

"I didn't reject her," he answered immediately. It wasn't about Weiss and he would have rejected anyone at the moment. "You asked me not to hurt your sister. Leading her on… would have."

Winter looked at him for a long moment.

"I will be honest, Jaune Arc. I… I find myself relieved that you turned her down. I don't think you would be a good fit for my sister. I don't want to see her in a relationship with you."

Bitter amusement made him smile, especially with how she carefully delivered the words, like she feared he might be offended or get angry. What was there to be upset about when the truth was so obvious? Weiss deserved so much more than what he was this life around. That wasn't cruel, nor was it depressing or cynical. It was simply a fact. He'd look ridiculous as the boyfriend of the Schnee heiress, even assuming there was a future beyond the festival.

"It's fine," he said. "I'm not offended. Honestly, I didn't even realise how she felt until after you did, but even if I had, I wouldn't have expected you to approve."

"I don't recall saying I did not approve of you," Winter said, catching him by surprise. "I believe you are a skilled and intelligent young man. You clearly think the world of Weiss - as you should."

He had to laugh at the frank way she said that.

"You also have a strong protective instinct for your team, which only bodes well for your character. I believe you could make a wonderful partner for her. I respect you, Jaune Arc." Winter's smile fell. "I simply do not believe you respect yourself."

Huh?

"You are self-destructive. You speak so easily of giving your life for others, and I, for one, believe you capable of it. If my sister were to bind herself to you, then I fear I would have to comfort her over your death." Winter sighed and shook her head. "Until you change, I cannot in good conscience approve of you and Weiss as anything other than partners and friends. I only allow that because it is too late to change anything."

Frustration billowed up inside him and he bit back on his automatic response. It was fine. He didn't need her approval and it wasn't like he wanted to date Weiss anyway. Nothing she said was wrong, even if she didn't know the full story. He wasn't self-destructive… he couldn't be destroyed, at least not in the way she meant. He was simply being pragmatic; working with what he had to try and save his friends.

"It won't be a problem," he promised. "I'm not going to drop dead on this, and I'm not going to let them get hurt, either."

"I believe you." Winter flicked her head back and looked over him towards her sister. A small smile blossomed and she nodded to the younger girl. "I shall leave you now. Good luck on your mission and please be careful, if not for your own sake, then for my sister's. She would be devastated were you to die."

"I already promised I wouldn't hurt her," he said. "Nothing has changed."

Winter nodded and stepped back. She held a hand up as a farewell to Weiss. She was gone soon after, marching away with a military gait.

"Oh hey," Qrow called. "Did the Ice Queen come to talk with me?"

"Nope, she came for Jaune." Yang called back with a shit-eating grin. "Talk about burned. You gonna need some salve for that, old man?"

"Uncle Qrow wouldn't be burned like that," Ruby protested.

"You tell her, my darling niece."

"He's used to playing second fiddle to a blonde."

The girl was raised up a moment later, still clutched onto Qrow's arm, but now upside down and staring into his deadpan expression. "I see your sister's managed to corrupt you already. Such a shame… you were almost cute." The man tossed his arm back and dislodged Ruby. "Right, then, you guys. Let's get this show on the road, unless anyone else wants to come out of the woodwork?"

To Jaune's amusement, the huntsman actually paused and looked around, just to see if anyone would.

"Be safe!" Ruby called as they clambered into the Bullhead.

"Look after one another," Pyrrha echoed.

"Break some legs!"

Ren shook his head but raised his own hand in farewell as the Bullhead rattled and began to lift off the ground. Jaune sighed and sat down, nodding to Blake as she took the seat beside him, leaving the other three opposite. Mountain Glenn… it always happened. It would end as easily as it always did, he was sure.

Something heavy settled in his stomach, and for once it wasn't apprehension. "Hey Yang," he called, catching her attention. "You remember asking me if I had any dark secrets I wanted to keep hidden?"

"Yeah?" Yang grinned, "Why? You going to tell us now?"

"Oh no," he grinned, almost bitterly, as his stomach roiled at the sudden motion of the Bullhead. "I'm going to show you. Hrk…"

/-/

Jaune's feet hit the floor easily, his knees bending to lessen the impact. It wasn't a particularly graceful landing, but compared to the others, it wasn't so bad.

"Never again," Yang gasped, on all fours and taking great gulps of breath. "Oh God, my nose hurts so bad!"

"That was… that was…" Weiss stared at the floor, body shaking. What it was, he'd never find out, for she just kept repeating the line over and over. Blake was no better, though she did handle her agony in silence, washing her nose with some water from a flask.

"It's just a little motion sickness, guys. You're so dramatic."

"That," Qrow snapped, "was not `just` motion sickness. That was some kind of chemical weapon. Is that your Semblance?"

Wouldn't that be delicious irony? No, he was fairly sure his Semblance was the whole back in forth resets, but it certainly would be life kicking him in the balls if he had to weaponize his vomit. "So," Jaune said pointedly, looking around, "this is Mountain Glenn, huh? Looks… cheery."

He'd seen it before, of course, but making an effort for the others was usually necessary. It helped to draw their attention to the area surrounding them too.

"It's terrible," Weiss whispered, her pale eyes taking in the ruined buildings. What perhaps made it worse was the everyday signs of life, the road signs – which still warned of little things like children crossing roads. There were vehicles too, with the occasional bicycle, mangled beyond repair, laid at the side of the road. There was no doubt that people hadn't just been here, but that they'd lived here. They had lives, hobbies, jobs, families… not to mention hopes and dreams.

All of it, snuffed out.

"Welcome to Mountain Glenn," Qrow sighed. "The whole place was established by Vale as the next big settlem-"

"We know all about it," Yang interrupted. "We did our research, uncle."

"Huh, that so?" Qrow scratched his cheek and looked a little intrigued. "Most of that stuff was pushed under by the Council. Where did you find out?" The man's eyes narrowed onto Jaune. "Another thing you knew?"

"My mother survived this," he shrugged, "but no, I don't know all that much about it."

"We found out on our own," Yang boasted. "Jaune told us a little but it wasn't too hard to find someone who knew more."

Oobleck, no doubt. That was who informed them in the past repeats, so it made sense they'd go to him this time as well. Qrow seemed to accept the suggestion easily enough as well, and set to informing them of what they'd be doing to try and find the White Fang.

It was during that conversation, that Jaune's bag started to wriggle and shake. I suppose they normally find out about him now, he thought. There didn't seem to be a good reason to try and conceal the thing any longer.

"You brought my dog!?" Yang accused, when he knelt down and opened his bag. Zwei trotted out, rubbed his nose with one paw, took several great gasps of air – then hid behind Yang.

Dramatic little bastard… it was just a little motion sickness.

"Is that what you went back for?" Weiss asked, expression stern. "What on Remnant crossed your mind when you thought bringing a dog to a battlefield would be a good idea?"

"Well, he can help us find the White Fang for one," Jaune said.

"And if he gets hurt?" Yang growled. "Ruby would kill me."

"She wouldn't kill you…"

"She'd cry!"

Okay, yeah, Yang was right – Ruby crying probably was a fate worse than death. He held his hands out to calm her down. "He'll be fine, Yang. Ruby told me before that he has his aura unlocked, so it's not like he's in any more danger than us. Zwei isn't going to fight, either. We just need him to sniff around and help us find the White Fang."

"It's not a bad idea," Qrow hummed. He looked down on his niece when she shot him a horrified look. "He won't be in any danger, Yang, sheesh. You can keep him with you if you want; we'll just find some scrap for him to catch a scent off and see if he can find anything. Zwei's trained to find people too… kind of part of his job."

Zwei had a job? Maybe he'd been something else before becoming a pet for their family. It didn't matter, and so long as no one questioned why he'd brought him along, it was fine. He didn't need Zwei per se. He knew where the White Fang were.

But he wasn't going to tempt fate by not bringing him along. Fate had already shown she could be a bitch.

"We'll split up and search the area," Qrow instructed. "You're to look for any signs of people being here recently, from cloth to a campfire – anything that Zwei might be able to catch a scent from. If you're in trouble, shout out. I don't want anyone too spread out that we can't come together if we're in trouble."

"Got it," Jaune nodded, along with the team.

It wouldn't make a difference, they wouldn't find anyone right now – but that didn't matter, either. It was just a case of waiting until they made camp, from which he could go and make sure they found Roman and the train.

Everything was coming together nicely.

/-/

The Nevermores filled Blake's vision without warning. She yelped and flipped backwards, drawing Gambol Shroud and squeezing off several shots that downed a couple of them. The rest fled, not even interested in fighting. She cursed under her breath and glared at the man who called himself their teacher, fighting to control her racing heart.

It caught her off guard, okay? That was no reason for such hilarity. Even the bravest could be startled by Grimm coming out of nowhere and making a beeline for your face.

"That was great," Yang's uncle wiped a tear from his eye. "Oh man, who says teaching brats is boring with displays like that?"

She grumbled and yet again wondered why the man was following her around. Qrow, and she asked again what kind of name that was, initially went off with Jaune, but appeared an hour or two later, drinking from his hip flask.

He'd proceeded to shadow Blake for the last forty minutes, offering criticism on just about everything she did.

"You could help," she mumbled, too low for him to hear.

"I could," the annoying man laughed, proving that he had better hearing than most, "but then you wouldn't learn anything an' I wouldn't be a good teacher."

"And what am I learning here?"

"Not to wander into a random building in a Grimm-infested town without scouting it out first. Well, that or not to waste ammo on things that can't even fight back."

Her ears twitched, but that was the only sign of her irritation that she allowed to show. Why, oh why couldn't he be off bothering Yang or Jaune? One probably knew how to put up with him, and the other deserved it for the rancid stench of vomit that still clung to her senses.

"What," Qrow challenged, "no snappy comeback? I was just getting into it."

She ground her teeth together and ignored him. Perhaps if she did, he'd go away – and no, the irony of that old saying wasn't lost on her. With Gambol Shroud gripped in hand, she poked her body further into the building and looked around. Ruined masonry, dilapidated furniture and signs that something had once been burned on the floor. Nothing to indicate recent habitation, however, and no further Grimm to slay, either.

The arrogant huntsman whistled a jaunty tune as he followed her to the next building. He kept his hands crossed behind his head, lips twisted into a wide smile. His eyes bore into the back of her head.

Blake didn't think she'd ever disliked someone so much.

"So, why did you become a huntress?"

"Excuse me?" The question was so random that she couldn't help but shoot him a raised eyebrow.

He shrugged and made no apology, continuing to follow her as she investigated a different building. He waited outside, of course – it would be a shame if he had to actually help – but he just rose his voice to ask again. "Why did you become a huntress?"

"Since when did you care?"

Perhaps it was rude of her, and she felt she might have been politer with just about any other teacher, but Qrow Branwen had gone out of his way to be irritating, and he wasn't even a professor of Beacon. Technically, that meant she didn't need to be nice, and honestly, she'd seen how he ignored just about every polite thing Weiss said. He wouldn't so much as respond to his last name, or sir.

"I don't," he admitted easily.

"Then why ask?"

"Have to; it's part of the job."

Blake sighed and pulled herself out of the ruined building. Dust and soot rained down atop her, causing her to cough and wipe at her eyes. Her hand came away covered in light grey dust, and she could just imagine her hair being the same colour.

"Part of – cough – what job?"

"Teaching. It's a standardised question we're asked to pose to you all, see if you're on the right tracks or if you know what it means to be a huntress."

"Wouldn't explaining that defeat the purpose of asking me?"

"Let's be honest, kitty cat, do I look like a guy who does things by the book?"

"You look like a guy who doesn't even know what a book is," she grumbled. His grin said he'd heard her, but she couldn't bring herself to care too much. "You're not going to let this go until I answer, are you?"

"Nope."

Oh, look… now she knew where Ruby and Yang got the whole `nope` and `yep` thing from. Come to think of it, was it odd that Jaune used those lines so often as well? He speaks so much differently most of the time, but he always seems to say nope instead of no.

Weird.

"I'm waiting…"

Ugh. "Originally, I wanted to become a huntress to make a difference. You're aware of my being a faunus, I assume. Well, I wanted to try and change things… to change the way people think."

"Fool's dream," Qrow snorted. "You could have the answer to life itself, from which we'd all rise to disease-free utopia, but if it required people change their minds on something, you might as well grind it into the dirt. People are idiots. They'd rather bite their own noses off than admit they're wrong."

"I said originally," Blake sighed. She didn't comment on his cynical words, even if they struck a worrying chord within her. "I suppose that was the reason I joined, but it's not really what keeps me going anymore. Now, though? I'm not sure. I don't think I have a good reason, but I want to stay with my team until I find one." Her hand tightened on Gambol Shroud, her fingers going white. "I want to cling on to what happiness I have, even if it's a selfish desire."

"So, you don't know, but you're going to keep fighting because you're scared of being on your own?"

His words stung, more than she'd thought they would. Blake clicked her teeth and looked away. She didn't need his judgment. She didn't care about it.

"Eh, that's not so bad a reason."

"What…?"

"You look surprised, kitty-cat." The man leaned his head back and laughed. "Oh gods, you've got that surprised cat look too, it's great. But eh, not knowing what you want in life isn't a crime. I think not having an answer and being aware of it is a damn sight better than having a bad one. I'd rather you keep looking than run off on some pointless campaign that would end up getting you and your team killed."

Well, perhaps the old man did have a surprise or two up his sleeves. "And my selfish goal?" she asked.

"Nothing wrong with that, either. Everyone's selfish, me included. If you're not doing what you want in life, then I'd question why you're doing it." Qrow scoffed. "Take that leader of yours… there's a perfect example of a messed-up life goal."

Blake bristled almost instantly. "What do you mean?" she demanded. "What's wrong with him?"

"Whoah, showing your claws there?"

He wanted to insult Jaune and then play games with her? Blake turned to face him and crossed her arms. Her eyes narrowed into tiny slits.

"Heh… well, I asked the question to each of your team before getting to you. Yang and mini-ice-queen were funny enough. Flawed, but there's nothing wrong with that. The kid, though? Yeah, perfect example of life gone wrong."

"He is a fine leader and a good friend."

"Oh, I'm sure you'd say so," Qrow said. "An' I bet he is too. Hard not to be with his goal. D'you know what he said, kitty-cat?" The man paused, perhaps for some dramatic purpose, but her fierce glare let him know she didn't have the time for it. "Heh… he said `my goal is to look after my team.`." Qrow shook his head. "Talk about twisted."

"What's wrong with it?" Blake glared at him. "It's a selfless goal and one that puts others before himself. Isn't that something to be admired? If more people were like him th-"

"Then the human race would be dead and gone." Qrow growled. The sudden sound of it made her take a step back in shock. "We achieve things in life because we want them. We excel because we desire. It's what makes us human; what makes us unique. Jaune, crazy bastard that he is, has his goal in life as protecting you and your team. Tell me, what does that say about him?"

"T-That he's a selfless individual."

"Yeah, sure, you could say that… from my point of view, though, it looks more like he's got no purpose for living."

The words caused her heart to skip a beat. No, that wasn't possible…

"What's the point in living if you don't want anything? If you live your life for others, then when are you going to take a moment to live it for yourself?"

"But it's the same goal as mine," she argued, "he wants to protect us – like I do the team."

"You do it for yourself, though. That's the difference. You cling to your team because they make you happy – a selfish goal with an emotional reward at the end of it. The reward keeps you going, makes sure you're motivated and have a reason to push on. He's not the same and he doesn't do it for himself. If he thought you'd be happy elsewhere, he'd watch you walk away with a smile on his face… but then what? What does he have after you've all graduated and gone your separate ways?"

Nothing. He would have nothing. She bit on her lower lip, recalling how he helped Sun with their date, how he approved and suggested she give him a chance. It wasn't quite the same thing, but if Sun and she did hit it off, then it would mean less time she spent with Jaune. He was willing to give that up without a hint of jealousy.

Was it… could it be the same between him and Weiss? Did he turn Weiss down not because he didn't want to date her, but because he felt she would regret it?

That was insane.

"You're wrong," she snapped. Her blood raged through her, white-hot and furious beyond belief. "You're wrong! He isn't like that!"

"Isn't he? I heard about how he saved you at the docks, girl. What was it again? Oh yeah, steals a Bullhead, nearly kills himself ten times over, then fights against one of the most dangerous men in Vale, all for a teammate that ran off on her own."

No… Blake stepped back and shook her head. That wasn't the same, was it? She knew Jaune had difficulties, that was obvious – there was definitely something wrong with him, but she'd just assumed it was distress or depression. Zwei had helped, which was why she put up with the dog's presence, but she'd thought he was getting better!

"Did the same for his girlfriend, didn't he?" Qrow asked. "Big fire attack headed her way and he just throws himself in front like he's tired of life. Oh, sure, she might have been low on aura, but from what I hear, he just got done with his own spar. Not like he would be brimming with the good stuff, either."

Her hands clenched into fists, enough so that she felt her nails dig into flesh.

"I've seen his type before," Qrow shrugged, "Though never for very long. My old pal, Taiyang wore it once, right when he was the closest I've ever seen a man to offing himself."

She'd had enough. Blake whipped an arm across her body, chest heaving as she fought for air. "Enough!" she cried, loud enough to startle some nearby Nevermore and send them into the sky. "Shut up. He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't leave m- us like that."

He wouldn't.

"Maybe not willingly," Qrow shrugged. "Kinda defeat the purpose of keeping you all happy if he died. But tell me, kid, can you honestly say he wouldn't put himself in front of a bullet for you? There's a difference between someone looking to kill themselves and someone who wouldn't hesitate to, but it's only a semantic one. You still lose them at the end."

Blake didn't answer. There was no need to. She scowled and pushed past the man, making sure to knock him aside as she stormed away. She didn't have time for him. How dare he insult her friend like that? But maybe… just maybe… it would be a good idea to keep an eye on Jaune.

Just in case.

As she stormed away, she didn't even notice the satisfied smirk Qrow shot at her back.

/-/

Weiss knew he'd heard her approach when his head tilted but a fraction in her direction. Jaune was never overt, except when he wanted to frustrate her. Out here in Mountain Glenn, however, he seemed even quieter than usual. He didn't respond when she walked over and sat down beside him. He did smile when he accepted the mug of soup from her, though.

"Thanks," he said, taking a slow sip. "Hm, this isn't bad, actually."

"It's not ration food. The brief was only for a day or two, so we decided to bring some canned food instead. It's a little more palatable."

"You don't need to convince me. This is gourmet compared to the crap they stuff in those ration packets."

How would you know that? She wanted to ask the question, to point out that this was their first mission, and as such he shouldn't really know what they tasted like. Then again, there was no telling what he got up to at his home. He could say he'd tried some from his father and she would have no way to tell if it were the truth or not.

"Why are you hiding all the way over here, anyway?" she asked. Qrow, Yang and Blake were off by the fire, the first two chatting between themselves, and Blake reluctantly being forced to listen. It wasn't too far away - she could still feel the heat from it. Jaune's position, sat on a broken piece of wall, looked lonely and distant, however. Enough so that she felt compelled to keep him company. "Don't you want to sit by the fire and get warm?"

His eyes flicked over to the flames, and then back to her. "I have the soup for that," he said. "Besides, it's easier to keep watch over here."

Again, another line that was oh, so easy to accept, and yet made no sense. Why would Jaune of all people be so focused on keeping watch? They'd as good as killed all the Grimm in the nearby area, and if any had the misfortune to approach, they'd hear them before they got close. Their camp was inside a ruined building, of which only one wall had crumbled. They could all see an enemy approach.

"Is it because of me?" she asked.

"What?"

"Am I making things awkward? Is that why you don't want t-"

"No, no, no," Jaune waved one hand to cut her off. "It's not you," he laughed, "I'm just… I guess you could say I don't like fire very much."

"You're afraid of fire?"

"Not afraid," he pouted, and it was so childish that she couldn't help but laugh. "I just don't like it."

Another thing she'd never known.

"Why do you dislike it?" she asked. She didn't really expect an answer, not from Jaune – as secretive as he could be. That was why she was so surprised when he did.

"I've had a bad run in with fire in the past. I've seen what it can do to a person. I guess I just find it hard to be at ease around naked flames ever since."

"I'm sorry…"

"Whatever for?" Jaune asked, with an expression that was honestly confused. "You haven't done anything. Don't get me wrong; I don't hate fire. I like cooked food and I'd as soon cook it myself than eat something raw. I'm just don't fancy sitting by it when I don't have to."

She supposed he was right. It still felt like she ought to have known; this was the man she professed to have feelings for, and yet she hadn't even known of this weakness. Then again, like he said, it had to be the first time they'd ever been around fire together. There was one outlier, however.

"I made you face fire when you protected me. I'm sorry."

Something light tapped against her nose. It surprised her enough that she reared back and nearly dropped her mug. It took another second to realise it had been Jaune, leaning over and flicking her nose with one finger.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to dwell on that? You didn't make me do anything; I chose to."

She felt blood rush to her cheeks. "Still, it wasn't something I wanted to see happen. If Myrtenaster hadn't-"

She stiffened a little when he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, but he made no move to do anything further.

"You need to stop looking for blame about that." he said. "It's not the first time I dealt with fire to help someone. You might not remember, but the docks were pretty hot when you guys arrived."

"Hot would be an understatement, Jaune. That was an inferno. Didn't it bother you?"

"I didn't even notice it," he grinned. "Something to do with a mascara-wearing clown trying to take my head off."

Weiss laughed at the thought, relaxing just a little. With the others all loudly going on, the fire heating them and Jaune leaning against her, it was almost possible to forget they were in an abandoned city entirely. "Didn't you cause it, though? The fire," she added when he shot her a confused look.

"Roman did."

"Blake told us the truth," Weiss said, feeling a small smirk come on as she caught his irritated eye roll and grumbled words of Blake being a `tattle-tale`. "We told everyone it was Torchwick to get you out of trouble. She said how you crashed a Bullhead into a building. I can't believe you managed to fly one all the way there, then crash. It's a miracle you even made it that far if you didn't know how to pilot it."

"What can I say? I'm a lucky guy."

"Most wouldn't consider crashing a vehicle into a pile of dust containers, on a port, surrounded by terrorists, as being particularly lucky."

"I never said it was good luck."

She snorted and smiled around taking another drink of her soup. "You're an idiot," she said when she was finished.

"You're only just figuring this out?"

"It's a scale," she explained imperiously. "Before, you were an imbecile, and then a moron. Now, you have been relegated to the realms of the idiots. Feel proud of your inadequacy."

Jaune grumbled something under his breath and poked a finger into her ribs. She clamped down on a giggle and glared at him just to make sure he didn't try again. "You picked me as your partner, you know. You could have had Ruby."

"Believe me, I remind myself of that fact every day."

Not that she would, of course, even if she could go back. It wouldn't hurt to make him think that, however. Except that, from the way he grinned down at her, she was fairly sure he'd caught her lie. She refused to meet his eyes and sipped at her meal a little more.

"What did my sister talk to you about?" she asked, more for a distraction than because she really wanted to know.

"Oh, just about how I need to look out for you," he said, "Honestly, it's the same as what Ruby did over Yang."

"Are you suggesting my sister is like Ruby?"

She tried to imagine it, and then promptly suffered a mental breakdown. The image of Winter Schnee, refined and regal, rushing across the courtyard to latch onto her in a tackle hug… there was something dangerously unnatural about it.

"Okay, not exactly like her – but they both were worried about their respective sisters and decided to badger me to protect you."

Weiss' shoulders relaxed, a palpable sense of relief washing over her. She would well imagine her sister showing concern for her, but had for a moment feared Winter might have talked about her feelings for him. The last thing she wanted was her sister deciding to champion her corner on something like that.

"I can look after myself, you know."

"I told her that," Jaune said. "I said you were more than strong enough. I guess she was just worried. Why did you ask?" he asked with a small grin. "Were you afraid she might be coming onto me?"

"As if," she scoffed. "Winter has more taste than to fall for someone like you." Left unsaid was how hypocritical that sounded coming from her. "Ruby asked on Yang's behalf too?"

"Yep."

"It feels a shame that no one asked for Blake," Weiss sighed.

"No one asked for me, either."

"Not true, actually." She smirked at his surprised expression. "Back when your parents came to Vale, your mother specifically asked me to look out for your well-being. I agreed to do so."

Jaune shook his head and laughed, saying something under his breath about meddling parents.

"I suppose we should complete the set," she went on, "Jaune… I need you to look after Blake as well, okay?"

"Well, when you put it like that, how can I refuse?" He laughed and bumped his shoulder against hers. "I guess as her parents, we've got to do what we can for our little porn-addicted daughter."

"Who will, if not us?" Weiss agreed. They shared a long look with one another before they descended into muffled laughter.

Talking to him… it felt comfortable. It wasn't something she could easily place, but it felt light and easy, as though she could speak her mind and he would never judge. She smiled and brought one knee up, wrapping her arms around it as she balanced beside him. "This isn't so bad," she whispered.

"Hm?"

"Nothing," she said, unwilling to let him hear her thoughts. She pushed up off the wall and immediately missed his warmth. "I'm going to get some rest. Make sure to wake me up for my watch, okay?"

"You got it, Weiss. Good night."

"Good night, Jaune."

/-/

Jaune waited until his team was asleep, and then waited another hour in silence. The fire continued to crackle and pop nearby, but he fed no logs unto it. The light would only serve to draw Grimm, and his team were snug and warm in their bags.

Zwei slumbered a little to the side of Weiss.

He didn't bother to wake the dog. That might have worked for Ruby, but the circumstances were different enough that he didn't want to risk it. From what he recalled, and the few times he'd mimicked it before, he simply had to let Zwei lead him towards some White Fang, then fall down a hole and be captured by them. Zwei would then lead the others to him. That was all well and good, bug for one small fact…

He wasn't Ruby.

Ruby was a small girl, unassuming and weak when disarmed, while Roman was a narcissistic braggart with a chip on his shoulder. Disarming a little girl and taunting her was one thing, but after the things he'd done?

I tried to kill Roman once, he felt threatened enough to send Neo to spy on my family, and then I trashed Junior's club, killed some of his men and nearly executed Melanie Malachite. Somehow, I doubt Roman is going to be comfortable with treating me like he did Ruby.

He'd be lucky if he got a bullet to the brain while unconscious, but chances were Roman would want to exact his own revenge. Either way, it defeated the point of his trying to save his team if he got himself killed in the bargain. The best bet would be to manufacture a scenario in which his team stumbled upon them himself since he could pass that off as a stroke of good luck. His eyes scanned back to the others. How was he meant to convince them to follow him, and could he afford to wait until the morning?

Realistically, yes. Roman had been pushed into an early attack, but there was no sign he intended it to be that day. In fact, from what he recalled, the original attack had been planned to take place in a day or two, when all the students from Beacon would be gone. He had time to spare, so long as the foppish crook wasn't tipped off.

He knew where Roman was in the city, of course. The subway system was well sig-posted, and although the city itself was in ruins, it wasn't like it was hard to find the way down to it. Mountain Glenn had been designed around it and so, in a sense, every street led to it. Finding Roman wasn't the problem, it was convincing his team to find Roman.

I get the feeling Qrow's going to figure me out if I tip him off any more than I already have. It would be better if Blake or Weiss found Torchwick.

Both were fast asleep, however, and there was no guarantee either would indulge Zwei's late night desire for a potty break. Jaune's eyes strayed over to the wall that bordered between Mountain Glenn and Vale.

Perhaps, there was another option…

He rose as silently as he could, boots crunching gently across gravel as he slipped out of the ruined building. En route, he knelt down and woke up Zwei. "Watch the camp for me," he whispered, knowing the dog would understand. "If any Grimm appear, bark and attack them." Zwei yawned but nodded and staggered to his feet, allowing Jaune to slip away.

None should appear. They hadn't when Ruby left the camp and he was simply re-enacting history at this point. The streets were deserted and they'd been killing Grimm all day.

The ruined city was oppressive enough during the day, but downright miserable at night. The lack of sunlight worked to make shadows stretch, some of which he imagined looked like children and adults, reaching out for help. How many had remained within their homes, desperately hoping for help that would never come?

It was too cruel to imagine. He did, however, if only because there was nothing else to do as he clambered through the remains of what might once have been someone's living room, and then slipped past a crushed car. He kept his eyes up, out of fear of spotting something that might indicate life. The Grimm didn't leave much behind, however… sometimes not even skeletons.

A snuffling noise up ahead alerted him to the danger before he saw it. His pace didn't slow as he slipped under a road sign and into the shadow of a nearby building. Crocea Mors came out almost silently, the blade held behind him so that the light didn't reflect forwards.

A Beowolf… alone, less than forty feet ahead of him; its lupine snout pushed against the ground, sniffing and snorting as it moved across the road.

Irritation flared through him. He clucked his teeth and poked his head out again, waiting for it to move away. A single one wasn't a big threat, but the last thing he needed was the bloody thing roaring and growling at the top of its voice. It might wake his team – or worse – alert the White Fang to his presence.

It paused in the middle and looked around, then started to move further down the road. The same road he wanted to use.

I can never get a break, Jaune sighed. He crouched low and slipped out from the building's edge, making his way towards the creature as carefully as he could. Grimm could be unpredictable at the best of times, which meant haste was a little better than care.

It caught the sound of him at the last second, turning and glaring at him with red eyes – but that was far too late.

His hand gripped its snout and bit down, forcing its jaw shut as he rammed Crocea Mors into its left breast. The blade ripped through flesh and organs, erupting from its back in a shower of crimson. Jaune released it and latched onto its snout with his other hand too.

It batted weakly at him, but quickly expired. As it fell to the ground, he caught the hilt of his weapon and let gravity pull the beast off it. The body hit the floor with a quiet thump, a cloud of dust and its slowly dissolving form the only evidence of his passing.

The hole Ruby falls down is somewhere around here, he mused, looking left and right. He wouldn't make the same mistake, of course, but from what he recalled, the entire road was sheared in two – and there was a cliff edge that looked down into the tunnels below. So long as he could get a good view, he could see if there was any errant White Fang he could snatch.

He didn't have to lead his team to them if he could pretend one had wandered close to their camp and been knocked out while they slept. He could even claim the victim had given up the location before they woke up.

The chasm ahead revealed itself slowly, mostly as a few juvenile Nevermore fluttered out from within it. A clear enough sign of movement itself, it gave him the warning he needed to crouch low and make his way cautiously to the edge.

Several figures in grey and white milled about far below, some lugging great wooden boxes into a half-ruined building while others stood guard.

It always amazed him how blasé the White Fang were about it. No attempts at staying hidden and no discipline in masking their tracks. He knew they didn't expect anyone to know about it, but it felt too amateur, even for Roman. It must have been a rushed job. That or Cinder just didn't care whether it worked or not.

Attacking up front was out of the question, even if he probably could pull it off. His backpack was on the street behind him, filled with enough hardware to make it work. It would be loud, however, and in the time it took to get back to his team, there was no telling if Roman wouldn't start the train and seal them off.

They'd probably live… picked up by a Bullhead; but it would cause untold losses in Vale. They needed to disarm the bombs on the train. Even without the stolen Paladins, it was the explosives that would cause the most devastation. If the hole was too big, then Glynda wouldn't be able to close it on her own – which would mean a swarm of Grimm pouting into the city for hours.

All things considered, Ruby and her team were lucky to pull the whole thing off perfectly the first time. Or skilled, in any case… you made your own luck.

He'd need to make his here as well. If he took a grunt while they were separated from the others, then Roman would probably write it off as a useless civilian-turned-terrorist getting gobbled up by a Beowolf. Regrettable, sure, but not worth causing any fuss over. Luring one away wasn't going to work… there was no way these faunus stuck in Grimm-infested territory were going to wander off to investigate a noise… not on their own, anyway.

They were undisciplined, not suicidal...

The best bet would be to wait for one to wander off, or for one of the scouts to return. I can pick them off away from here and reduce the chance of any alarm being sounded.

A stone cracked beneath a foot behind him.

Instincts flared. He struck like a coiled snake, spinning and lunging towards the figure with both hands. One clamped over its mouth, and he pressed his forearm across their throat as he choked them against a nearby wall.

Fingers struggled with his hand as wide amber eyes stared back at him.

Damn it. He cursed and let go, allowing Blake to fall to her knees, where she quietly coughed and massaged her throat. "What the hell were you doing?" he snapped. "I could have killed you if I went for my sword first!"

"W-What am I doing?" She took great gulps of air, baleful eyes locked onto his. "I could ask the same of you. I saw you get up and leave the camp. What are you doing out here!?"

"I needed to take a leak."

"And you felt it necessary to trek across a ruined town for that? Is killing a Beowolf part of the process too?"

"I have very specific needs."

"Apparently so…" Blake glared at him, clearly uninterested in his lies. He made a move to stop her, but she pushed past him and approached the edge. He knew full well what she saw. "The White Fang!?" Blake ducked low and pressed her stomach to the road's edge, peering over. "How did you find them?"

"I saw one," he lied, grasping for any excuse. He doubted she would have believed it normally, but nothing distracted Blake like her former comrades. "Followed them back here… I was worried they might have alerted the camp about us but it looks like we're in the clear."

"You should have woken us up."

"And start a battle in the middle of the night? Most of our team doesn't have night vision, Blake. All of them do."

Blake scowled up at him but didn't argue. She pushed herself a little further, drawing forth her scroll and using it to zoom in on those down below. "It looks like they're gathering things," she said. "Do you have any idea what?"

"Considering what they've been stealing for the last few months?"

"Dust," she finished for him. "I don't understand what they would gain from bringing it here, though. Is Mountain Glenn to be a stronghold for them?"

"Maybe," he shrugged. It wasn't like he could really argue. "We should get back to the others anyway. We can lead them here in the morning."

"You're right," Blake sighed but made to stand. "We'll have the best chance of stopping them as a full tea-" The ground beneath Blake cracked ominously. She looked down at it, eyes wide, but she was still on her stomach with one hand pushed below her.

He was moving before he could think. He covered the distance in a second, and his hand latched onto the back of her collar a moment later. He heaved the girl up and back, sending her sprawling further down the pavement, but the addition of his weight on the damaged overhang proved to be the final straw.

The ground beneath his feet gave way. Weightlessness gripped him as he tried to reach out, and his fingers scrabbled at the edge, even as he saw Blake – eyes wide – try to scrabble over to catch him.

She didn't make it. The yawning chasm below him opened up and gravity took him in its inexorable hold. With a startled gasp he slipped down.

He didn't feel the impact, however, for a chunk of debris slammed into the back of his head.

The last thing he heard was startled shouts from down below.


Oh dear, Jaune. What will go wrong does go wrong, or maybe it's just that Fate demands someone fall through the concrete. Who knows?

Naturally, some of the early events of the MG visit were skipped here, mostly because while I could show them, it would drag out sections which are essentially the same as canon. For instance, in the show they land and fight some Grimm, but nothing would have really been different about that here, and so I didn't want to write it out and waste time. This chapter could have been two or three for all the content it covered, but I instead went with a few skips to make the story flow a little better.

Hopefully it didn't appear too rushed, but that might be an impossible task since that was my obvious intent. I guess it's easier in a book because no content is "overused", but in fanfiction you clearly do have some parts which would be just straight lifts from the show. It's those I tried to skip where I could in an attempt to move us closer to when stuff will happen.


Next Chapter: 25th march

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur