Chapter 3: From The Outside Looking In

Any and all criticism, commentary or questions are greatly appreciated.

*minor multi-chapter editing done 2/20/16*

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A lonely crow struggled to stay elevated in the storm, beady eyes scanning the ground for movement. It had come a long way, the storm making travel exceptionally difficult. But it had made it this far, and would be damned if a little rain got in the way. Having lost track of its quarry somewhere close to the coast, it spent days searching from on high for any sign; intuition having led the bird to this area.

Focusing on a small discoloration below along the roadside, the bird swooped low for a better look, wings shifting about with the change in speed.

Theeeeere we go, knew those kids would hunker down for a bit.' The bird now focused completely on the small slip of blue material sticking from what looked like a drainage pipe, ruffling a bit in the downpour and wind, further highlighting it to the attentive crow. Relieved, the bird flared itself to a gentle hop onto the top of the concrete structure. Moving to the edge and peering upside down, it could see faint light passing through the tent, and what sounded like the murmur of people.

'Phew. Yep, kiddos are still accounted for, all holed away for the day. Lucky they got some shelter, I feel so soaked I probably wouldn't be able to lift off again till I dry' Griped the crow. Carefully moving itself just inside the lip of the dank tunnel, it rested carefully onto the tent, making sure not to move too quickly, and end up alerting the humans to its presence just yet.

"I know I put it somewhere in there…"

"Jeez, it must be tinier than I remember to have to fit inside something like that."

"It's not tiny, it's travel-sized! I really hope I didn't forget it...Ah! Here it is!" A quiet clink, and for a moment all was silent within, save for a choked voice. Even from outside the tent, the recuperating crow could see something very shiny inside, seeming to exude a warm, sunny bronze color.

'Woah, pretty-Oh, dammit man, focus.'

"W-Wrong one. I'm sorry."

More sounds of rummaging, although more violent than before.

"...Jaune, where'd you get that?" A young voice full of concern rose, the crow puffing its chest with pride as it heard its prodigy speak up.

"Your uncle. He...Found it back at the top, there um, wasn't...Anything else left."

'Ah. Right. Back at Beacon. Just that little headpiece sitting there in that office. Sorry kid. if I could've done something I would've…'

"Jaune, please. If you need to talk we can-"

"No."

"...Alright." Ruby took a moment to let the tenseness settle before continuing.

"It's okay, you know. We all feel the same way. But we're a team now, and teams talk to each other about stuff, okay?"

"Sure, got it. I found it now. Let's see if it needs tuning…" The boy mumbled off as he set to work on whatever he was working on. After a few minutes of jumbled plinking and strumming, and the occasional tweak, the crow heard a full, uninterrupted strum from what now sounded like a proper guitar.

'Well, this oughta be good. A seat and a show. Nice. Wonder if they got drink service running too.'

"Right. Any requests?"

"PLAY FREEBIRD!"

"Nora…"

"Aw come oooon, Renny! I had to!" Followed by a snicker, attempting to lighten the mood some.

"How about that one that reached top ten on the charts in Vale? What was it called...umm..Made by a guy named...Biff, I think it was? Or was it Macey…"

"You mean, the one that goes...Ah...Dun-nu-nu-nu-nu-NU-nununun?"

'seriously? When has that ever worked...'

"Yeeeaaaah! That's the one! Do you know the lyrics?" An excited voice popped up.

'Huh, well alright then.'

"Hold on, I think I actually downloaded it onto my scroll before. I hope we don't need a signal." Furious typing ensued, followed with a sound of victory.

"Got it! There's also a copy of the music sheet on here too. Heeeeeere ya go."

"Thanks. Ah, jeez. Alright...Yeah...Okay, lemme get into the rhythm." The voice sighed, resigning itself to play a song it immediately realized would dread.

A quick, low rhythmic strum began. Taking a minute to sync up, the group started to sing along like good friends do. Maybe not perfectly, but with good humor and confidence.

It was Ruby who first started, sweetly and soft, if a bit unsteady. The rest of the group huddled closer to get ready.

"There's a day when our hearts will be broken. When a shadow will cast out the light."

The peppy one broke in next, singing oddly cheerfully for the lyrics she followed along with.

"And our eyes will cry a million tears! Help won't Ah-RIIIIIVE!"

The kids really got into it now. The crow heard theme bounce and hop around in place while tearing through lyrics.

'Reminds me of the time the ol' team got buzzed as hell and went to that crappy karaoke bar. Man we were awful.'

"I MAY FAAAAAAAAAAALLLLL."

Nonetheless, the bird found itself bobbing its head up and down to the song, quietly joining the youngsters. Within this dank hole in the ground, with a storm razing the land just outside, Uncle Qrow, for a bit, felt like a kid again, raging back against the world he'd been exposed to for far too long.

Jaune was honestly impressed with himself that he was able to keep up with the music as they progressed, tears now running freely as he played blind. He had yet to join the others in song, fearing the worst. Thankfully, the others had not noticed, or more likely didn't mention of his quickly declining composure.

"-IT WON'T BE BY YOUR HAAAAND."

Nearing the end of the song however, the others started to stare at him insistently. As if egging him on to at least partially contribute. A few hearty nudges from a scythe-wielding leader and too many elbows to the side from a Valkyrie later. And Jaune prepared for the last lyrics.

"...T-There's a moment that changes a life when...We do something that no one else can."

He was immediately reminded of Pyrrha, standing alone. And smiling, encouraging him.

"And the path that we've taken will lead us…-"

"One...Final stand…"

Again, Jaune's mind conjured images of Pyrrha, defeated and broken. If he focused hard enough, he believed he could almost see her smile sadly as she went; A quick sob.

With that everyone crowded in, Jaune being covered in a warm shell of hugs and pats on the back. But he wasn't done yet. He had to finish.

"There's a moment we make a decision, not to cower and and crash to the ground." He started with a mutter, slowly growing louder, resisting against the weak way out.

"The moment we face those demons, OUR COURAGE FOUND."

All joined in at this point, elevating their voices as hard as they could against the howl of wind and rain just outside.

"WHEN WE STAND WITH FRIENDS, AND WE WOOOOON'T RETREAT. AS WE STAAARE DOWN DEATH-"

Qrow was started to whistle along, figuring he's probably drowned out by their voices anyway.

'Damn, they sure know how to get their blood up.'

"I MAY FAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL, BUT NOT LIKE THIS, IT WON'T BE BY YOUR HAND."

He couldn't be sure, but he could swear everyone was pointing skyward, dramatic and defiant to the forces of the world.

"BRING IT ALL, IT'S NOT ENOUGH TO TAKE ME DOOOOOWN!"

"I MAY faaaaaaaaaaaaaallll…"

They finished, Ruby's voice the last heard. He could hear them huffing, hearts beating from the exhilaration.

"WHEW….Wow, that was intense!" Nora cried out as she sat back against the walls of the pipe, the temperature quite a bit warmer within.

"Yeah...Jaune. You okay?" Ruby peered over to the boy, holding his fingers into his chest, as if they burned, head tilted down and eyes closed in intense thought.

"I….Never been better." And for the first time in a while, Jaune smiled a true smile, a grateful one, the tears still drying in his eyes.

And then the world erupted as the tent covering the entrance was pulled out of place. A great, dark looming figure emerged from the gloomy downpour, soaked and terrifying. As it spoke, it clambered inside with its gangly and wiry limbs, seeming at the moment to be the stuff of Ursa nightmares, the eldritch creature's eyes glowing what appeared to be a dull red with its menacing gaze.

" HOLY HELL, YOU KIDS SURE KNOW HOW TO BLOW OUT SOME EAR DRUMS WITH YOUR TEENAGE ANGST!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH-"

And on that muddy road, shrill cries of terror could just barely be heard for miles over the rain and thunder.