"And then what happened?"
"Well. You know the rest. Tai tried to be there for his kids, but he had to keep working at Signal. Yang had to grow up fast. Two years later she found the cottage where Tai and Raven had lived. She told you that story, didn't she?"
"That was probably the last straw for Tai and me. He didn't want his daughters to become Huntresses. I wanted to give them what they needed to protect themselves, especially if he was just going to leave them like that. Gotta give him credit, though: he was as supportive as could be when they both finally enrolled in Signal. Once Yang was there there was no chance Ruby wouldn't follow. The rest is history."
"And what about you?"
"Yeah. What happened to you after…"
"After Summer died. Yeah. Well, Tai and I don't talk much anymore. I stopped teaching not too long after, too. Came out of 'retirement' for a year when Ruby was there, but…"
"And you've still been on missions for Professor Ozpin."
"…Yeah. Once you've seen what I've seen, you don't walk away."
"Tomorrow you're gonna have to make a choice."
"I'm not gonna tell you to stay in Vale, though. As someone who's had to make a lot of choices in the past…sometimes you can change your mind, later."
"…Yeah. I know. …Can I ask you something?"
"Do you…love him?"
A wry smile. "He's all I have left."
"Then don't you think you should tell him?"
"Glass houses, kid."
"…I know. But I hope they already know too."
"…Thank you. For helping me tonight."
"Like I said, I look after my girls. And their friends."
"You don't owe me anything for this, by the way. We can pretend this whole conversation never happened, if that's what you want."
"Yeah. Okay." She smiled too.
"I'm gonna go get some fresh air."
Qrow stepped outside, feeling the melancholy swirl around in his mind. He sighed. Telling the story was cathartic in a way, even dumping it on the poor ex-White-Fang kid with no connection to Team STRQ, but it wasn't a happy story. It didn't end with a moral or a purpose or a burden lifted. It just…continued.
"You left out a part."
The voice came from behind him. "Wasn't my secret to tell," he answered before turning around.
Raven stood there, wearing her usual red and black, and with that Branwen Grimm mask still covering her face. "'He's all I have left'?" she repeated. Her tone was disdainful, but Qrow thought he caught a bit of sadness underneath. Or maybe it was his imagination.
"Nice of you to drop by," he said dryly, deciding to ignore her gibe.
She lowered her head slightly. "Tai knows, doesn't he?"
A quiet, harsh laugh escaped Qrow's mouth. He understood exactly what she meant. "I never told him. I wasn't sure how he'd take it. But yeah. I think he knows we still talk."
Raven stared for a moment, impassive through the mask, then nodded. "Okay," she said softly, before straightening up. Her tone shifted. "Beacon has fallen."
"It's all right. I gotcha, kiddo. I gotcha."
Qrow's face hardened, and he looked away.
"You still have a choice, brother. Sometimes you can change your mind, later."
"You came to see me, but not your own daughter?" he shot back. "The one who was hurt in the attack?"
He heard the flutter of wings, then silence.
Qrow Branwen was alone once more.
Final Author's Note: As noted in the summary, the seed of this story came from seeing all the Flown North (Summer / Qrow) and dad!Qrow stories on both FF-net and AO3. At the time, I couldn't help but thinking how much less interesting that was as a story. Two romantic pairings in a team of four? Sure, whatever. But, half-sisters where the two parents not in common were on a team together? How does that even happen? How is everybody okay with this?
"He wouldn't tell me everything, but I learned that the two of them had been on a team together with Summer and Qrow, and that she'd left me with him right after I was born. No one had seen her since." (from "Burning the Candle" in Volume 2)
That was the seed of this story, and that's my grudge against dad!Qrow. It's just a less interesting setup, a story we've seen before.
That said, I quickly discovered one of the reasons why people like Flown North so much: it turns out Summer and Qrow have great chemistry, even when they're just platonic friends. I'm not sure I can say the Summer / Qrow scenes were the most fun to write, because nearly all of this was fun to write, but they certainly had the most interesting dialogue. Or to put it another way, they had the most to say.
(I was sorry I couldn't get the "Short Stack" / "Stilts" nicknames in here, but it felt a little too intimate when no one else was using nicknames.)
Even so, I wrote this before starting Volume 6, with the idea coming before I'd even started Volume 4. At this point we know very little of what Summer is like as an adult, rather than Yang and Ruby's impression of her as a mom; pretty much just the one line Raven says to Ruby in Volume 5. My characterization is half-Ruby, half-mom-of-the-group, which is definitely at least partially based on Shadowpool95's incorrect-strq-quotes Tumblr even though it's pro-Flown-North. (Again, she has her own STRQ story on AO3 called Invicta.)
What's funny about this story is that it mostly isn't about Qrow at all. I didn't realize that when I was writing it, but I think that came both from wanting to figure out how to get from Tai/Raven to Tai/Summer, plus the fact that we've seen the most of Qrow in canon out of all of STRQ. That doesn't mean there's not plenty to explore about Qrow, but, well, as mentioned in the summary, this was more about being "next to" the relationships between the rest of Team STRQ, and about how he connected with each of them. (The chapter titles in my Scrivener project have character names in them, e.g. "Vale: Part II (Raven)".)
The framing device of having Qrow tell Blake the story was something I decided on pretty early on. I didn't know if it was going to lead to an actual moral for Blake or not, and it mostly didn't, but by the time I finished I liked the idea too much to give it up. (Also, there's no way Qrow didn't look into Blake's background when he heard Team RWBY was formed, with or without Ozpin's cooperation.)
Shoutout to jin0uga for their repeated review comments. It really does encourage an author to write more!
No next project in mind at this time, but I'll probably be back in the future. Knowing me, though, there's a good chance I'll jump to another fandom for the next one, so don't hold your breath. My previous "full-length" story (for Revolutionary Girl Utena) was also more than 15,000 words, and I really thought this one would be shorter…but it turns out that Team STRQ has some pretty good chemistry after all. I hope we see more of Tai and possibly Summer in canon.
Thank you for reading.