Hello! Asch here. This story is kinda a test bed for a few of my favorite headcanons! So let me know if anything seems too out of wack. This is unbeta'd and written mostly between 2-4am on work nights. I'm so sorry ;-;. I hope you enjoy!
Watching someone dear to you choke on their own air. Hacking up some ungodly substance until their body just decided it didn't want to fight anymore. She could smell the wound, but no words came to mind on how to describe how foul it was. Only gross images from the various horror movies that overreached so far for shock value Yang used to watch with her popped up. Not helpful to rational thought.
And it really, really hurt.
Listening to Uncle Qrow force out a single heavy gasp before falling limp, body tilting to the side until his head landed on the dirty red fabric of her skirt. In that moment, thoughts didn't seem to connect. It was like every wire ended up crossed until blind panic took over. Her own chest seized up and she pulled his head further on to her lap, cradling her uncle close, struggling to even react.
Jaune was the first one to reach the two of you. She could hear him speaking, but found herself unable to listen. His words were nothing but a soft hum during a horrific train crash. More voices joined in. Various terms like "Respiratory paralysis" and "Necrosis" caught the young girl's attention for a moment before her attention drifted back to the head in occupying her lap.
"Ruby.", The voice was calm, level.
The unnatural warmth from Uncle Qrow's head sank through her skirt. Followed by some feverish sweat dampening the surface of the well-worn material.
"Ruby!", A louder voice, one that broke right through the little world she had constructed around herself. The one where her family was completely safe and unharmed. Followed by a hand on her shoulder, a gentle shake to take the rest back to reality.
"We should bring him to a hospital.", Ren spoke up, gently moving the still prone Qrow into his lap and checking him over. He'd taken up the position of "medic" in Team RNJR, despite having not near enough real medical training. Just the soft hand and level head required for such a task. Though, even he had little faith that Ruby's family would survive that journey.
Nora fidgeted, obviously nervous and worried. Despite that fact that this is just some random guy who she guessed was Ruby's dad or uncle or SOMEONE close to her, she couldn't just watch him die. Crazy nonsense about maidens and silver-eyed warriors aside. This guy did save their lives, placing himself in this state over them. A debt like that should be repaid. No matter what.
Ruby wasn't sure if her face just looked that pathetic as everyone silently agreed to do everything they possible could. Uncle Qrow couldn't… He wouldn't…
Jaune helped his teammate up, watching as her gaze drifted to her Uncle and lingered there. The blond shook her shoulder to get her attention back on him. Gesturing to her sleeping bag, Ruby wordless went and pulled it up. Two perfectly sized sticks laid innocently a few feet away as if they weren't about to be used to make someone's stretcher. Or possible deathbed…
Ruby and himself quickly tied the impromptu stretcher together and placed it down so Ren could move Qrow onto it. The ease of which concerned Ren greatly. For as out of it and limp the man was, he should feel heavier, not light as he did.
Nora walked beside Qrow as Ruby and Jaune lifted up the stretcher, keeping a keen eye on his breathing as Ren instructed her on what warning signs to look for. Ren himself drew his guns and took the lead.
It was going to be a long journey to Mistral…
Night fell all too quickly.
Trees rustled as a soft gust of wind pushed through their branches. Despite the grim atmosphere around the party of five, Anima remained beautiful and peaceful around them.
It felt as if no distance was travelled in their 10 hours of walking. Yet, the others were all unwrapping their respective sleeping bags, Ruby opting to stay on the floor by her Uncle, despite being offered any of her teammates, and watched Jaune set a small fire up. They've walked further and longer before, but hauling Qrow tired Jaune quickly. Nora had even traded places with him for a good three hours. Ruby herself seemed to have an endless pit of energy. Impatience to see her Uncle get help was clear in her face and both the blond boy and Ren notices the frustration in her features as they begun settling down.
Not that they could blame her. If it was one of their beloveds, nothing would move quick enough to get them better either.
Though, Jaune still held more than his fair share of reservations about the strange man who lay dying before him. Not that he wished death upon him. If anything, he wanted to get more answers to this ever-growing list of questions. Why Pyrrha? Why did she have to die? What was all this nonsense about Maidens and relics, anyways?! Nothing seemed to make sense, and he wanted answers now.
Ruby plucked absent-mindedly on the fraying fibers of her outfit, able to focus solely on Uncle Qrow's health. Hyper-aware to every stitch in his breathing or the small coughs that tried to force their way out. The way his bandage begun dripping purple into the grey of his shirt. How painfully pale his face was, but a feverish blush begun to take over.
Why did everyone have to get hurt? Why did people have to die?
Canned rations were left out for everyone to pick their favorites to eat cold or pop it over the fire for a second in that one cast-iron pan that was used for just about everything. Cooking, ironing out the tough wrinkles in hers and Nora's combat skirts, or even an impromptu weapon on the odd (yet shockingly common) occasion. One has not lived until they've watch Nora beat a Beowolf to death in pajamas with a frying pan.
Ren found some odd plants and bark in the nearby area that he claimed could help with the wound (Her uncle had been poisoned by a crazy scorpion man who wanted to kidnap her, that was a fact that was still a little hard to grasp), that he boiled into a paste in that same cast-iron pan. It smelt like tree sap and the can of Spam that Nora just inhaled. Ruby wasn't a medical professional, but overall didn't have much faith in this "salve" that he'd concocted.
Watching him undo the bandaging was hard. Nora seemed to be pretending this wasn't happening, opting to find interest in a bug marching across the soil. Jaune gasped and looked away. The cut was still a sickly purple, but the color begun to stretch into the various veins in the area, showing how advanced Tyrian's poison had travelled. The skin around the cut was raised, irritated and puffy. Infection set in quickly it seemed, not that Uncle Qrow's immune system would be working up to snuff to keep it away.
He winced when Ren applied it, Ruby winced along with him. But she couldn't deny that some of the redness eased from the far edges of the wound.
"How'd you do that?", She asked, watching in wonder as Uncle Qrow's face relaxed just the slightest bit.
"Old family remedy.", the green-clad boy responded, a fond smile on his face. He wasn't sure that the salve would work, but watching the puffy skin cool made pride in his own abilities swell. Ripping off a clean piece of fabric from one of their spare blankets, he re-wrapped the wound.
After everyone ate, discarded cans safely buried under the moist dirt to avoid attracting scavengers, Ruby laid down on the chilly floor. Her head resting on a small corner of her sleeping bag and she listened to her Uncle's breathing, hair fanning out onto the soft cushion.
She recalled when Uncle Qrow would stay over at Dad's. Yang and her would always climb onto the couch with him, opting to stay close to the family they got to see so rarely rather than their own rooms. He'd never yell or kick them off during the night, if anything he laid perfectly still for his nieces. Obviously awake, but unwilling to go anywhere. Eventually, Dad would take pity on him and wake everyone up for breakfast. Even with the constant awkward tension Dad and Qrow had with one another, it was still some of the happiest memories she had.
Vaguely, Ruby wondered if Qrow actually had a house of his own house. Her Uncle was constantly placed on long, difficult missions yet every time he was free to do as he pleased he would stay at the house and take care of them. He would take Yang and herself to the movies, or let you play with his hair, or even withstand the havoc of letting the two of you bake. That never failed to be a complete disaster, but the trio of you never weren't wearing a smile during any of it. Then the young girl's thoughts shifted to the tension between Dad and Uncle Qrow.
Yang said it probably had something to do with the fact that her mom was Qrow's sister then make some silly comment about "defiling". As if talking about her mom didn't bother her. Personally, Ruby didn't think that was quite the case. There would be nights she'd crawl out of her room, teary-eyed from some nightmare or something and find Uncle Qrow in the living room, staring intently at a piece of photo paper in his hands before noticing her. He'd console the little girl to the best of his abilities, though he was always a bit awkward about it. Thinking back, it was endearing how hard he tried, but vexing on how he held himself back. Like he wanted to help more but couldn't, or better more, acted as if he wasn't allowed to.
Thinking so hard wasn't like her though, and the path of her thoughts just left her feeling spent and confused. Curling a bit further into the sleeping bag that held her prone Uncle, Ruby drifted off into a restless sleep.
Overnight, Qrow's condition seemed to worsen. Ren woke a solid thirty minutes before the other, like usual. He found the man now fitful, tossing and turning. Mumbling names softly, you vaguely recognize names like "Summer" and "Tai", he'd have to ask Ruby about who these people were later. Just out of sheer curiosity.
He approached slowly, being mindful of said young red-head curled into her Uncle's side wearing a frown as the erratic movements stirred her from sleep.
The fever that begun developing last night had advanced rapidly. Sweat had begun to soak through the older man's clothing and the near non-existent breathing from last night had morphed into short, shallow breathes. Not good signs.
For Ruby's sake, Ren prayed there was a village close by, because he was really beginning to doubt that Qrow would make it.
Though, hours later, seeing that name etched out on a sign post, he found himself a bit more uncaring to Ruby's Uncle. Then, the decision to spilt up was brought to the table by Nora. A massive part of him hoped Jaune would fight harder not to split up, that Ruby would understand and risk the trip through the mountains, but they didn't.
And so, Team RNJR divided into two teams. None of them knowing what would come to pass.
Kuroyuri appeared empty as they stumbled though the collapsed entrance. It was like a dark cloud hanged around that area alone, blocking warmth and light from entering. Though, after living though the Fall of Beacon and exploring the wilderness both Jaune and Ruby could tell what it felt like. Being watched, as if the shadows themselves had eyes.
The village felt haunted, a foreboding chill swept down the kid's spines. Maybe they should have attempted the mountain pass? The tension in the air was enough to make Jaune regret his decision to take this path. Though Ruby, ever the brave soul, began shouting into the emptiness.
"I-I know someone is there!", She attempted to keep her voice level, despite the obvious fear that whomever was there was not a friendly. "Please, my Uncle is sick and hurt. He really needs help!"
Suddenly, a bird caw begun erupting from a nearby tree. A spooky occurrence even if the blond boy just hadn't met a man who could turn into a bird at will. He had to bring a hand up to his ears in an attempt to block out the noise, the other holding tightly onto Qrow's stretcher.
Just as suddenly as the cries started, they ended. There was no other warning as a blade was suddenly brought down inches in front of Ruby. The two of them lowered Qrow carefully, standing around him protectively as they drew their weapons and faced their assailant. A frightening Grimm-like mask covered their face, but they seem to stare at the young girl with a question in that same gaze. A quick scoff and the word "seriously" was the only prelude before she began a relentless attack. Delivering blow after blow with her strange katana-like weapon as Ruby clumsily drew Crescent Rose to defend with.
Though, one thing unnerved Jaune. Well, other than that this is the second time they had been attacked and it'd barely even been 2 days. No, it was the fact that she was only attacking Ruby. Qrow and himself lay completely untouched, sans being watched by unseen eyes. He tossed one look to the older man on the ground before attempting to go help Ruby.
"No, watch Uncle Qrow!", She yelled, using her sniper to vault herself onto a nearby roof. To her words, the unseen gaze of their attacker grew more curious.
Reluctantly, Jaune moved back their injured charge.
Ruby had to stay on the defensive the entire time, managing to shoot a few missed shots and fruitless swings of her scythe. Every one of her attempts were met with a swifter movement, but yet she remained undamaged. Luckily, Ruby thought, it wasn't like the total one-sided battle with Tyrian. The Rose child felt as if she had a change against this mysterious assailant if given an opening. Distracted with thinking on how to gain the advantage, her weapon was thrown out of her hands, landing onto the floor with a heavy "clank".
She stood still for a moment, shell-shocked at the sudden loss of her weapon, she couldn't react in time to dodge the next strike. What she expected to feel was the sudden pain of her aura being sliced through (it hadn't completely healed from the fight with Tyrian), not being met with the sound of metal on metal. The unmistakable shing of two weapons sliding against one another.
The woman's blade had been deflected by Uncle Qrow's sword-scythe that she'd tied to her back earlier that day.
At first, Jaune was set to carry it. Soon it became too much of a burden, the bulky weight further tiring him. Then Nora, who felt similar symptoms. But, when it came time for Ruby to carry it, there was no weight at all. Similar to how she wielded the massive Crescent Rose as if it was made out of feathers, her aura took to the weapon, carrying the weight for her. It was so light, she forgot it was even there.
Pulling the foreign weapon from its makeshift sheath, Ruby quickly activated it and clicked the "transformation" trigger to bring the weapon into scythe form. She wasn't feeling quite so adventurous to attempt using a longsword, and opted for more familiar territory.
The handle was thicker than her weapon, and she struggled to keep grip as she begun swinging as it was clearly made for hands bigger than her own. It wasn't her fault she hasn't finished growing yet! The red-head kept looking for any more features that were similar to her own weapon yet found next to none. Maybe this wouldn't be as simple as she thought.
Jaune watched with fascination as Ruby begun to fight using her Uncle's weapon. Though, not very graceful, she seemed to be holding her own. Or this woman was holding back. Which was a very frightening thought.
Ultimately, all battles had to have a loser. Just as Ruby begun gaining some confidence in her wielding of Qrow's scythe, her focus broke. Said man broke into a sudden coughing fit, calling her attention as she looked over in his direction. Seeing this opening, their masked attacker sheathed her weapon, striding over to Ruby and simply pushing her off the roof that they'd been battling on. The young girl let out a choked cry as she stumbled and fell. Now laying still on the cracked stone pavement.
Jaune ran over to her, assessing the damage with immeasurable degrees of panic. Her aura had been broken again, shimmering red and cracking like electricity on her outfit. He glared at the woman, curling protectively around his teammate. She strode over to them, shoving him harshly out of the way as inspected Ruby's aura.
Suddenly as the fight began, this ruffian character stopped her assault. Lifting her hand, she twitched her fingers. The boy only felt a gust of wind before darkness took over.
He woke up slowly, feeling achy and miserable and every bit his age. Not that he was ready to admit just how old he was getting. His head felt as if someone had shoved sandpaper in it and scrubbed the inside of his skull. The throb of his injury from Salem's pawn however felt subdued, but then he took notice of the fuzzy feeling caused by painkillers. Did the kids actually get him to a hospital? He'd been pretty sure that that was going to be the pathetic end of Qrow Branwen.
The kids? Where were they anyways? Even if they did make it to a hospital he'd be sure Ruby would be sitting right there waiting for him to wake up. Convinced if she left, he'd vanish. The older man wasn't sure when she'd developed that philosophy but it reminded him to much of Summer for his liking.
After all, he'd just-
"Hello Brother.", A oh-so familiar voice spoke from the far side of the room. Of which, Qrow had finally noticed it looked like it could cave in any moment. Not a hospital then. And if the voice behind him was anything to go off of, things were about to get even more complicated.
"Raven.", Was the only answer he chose to dignify her with.
"I'll admit, I wasn't expecting this turn of events— ", He cut her off. That was a lie, she was probably watching every second.
"What, helping your brother not die? I'll admit, I'm a little surprised too.", The fact that his wit and shitty personality still functioned hit home that this wasn't some pre-death dream (nightmare) he was in. Rather, here he lies, alive.
"Not that I expected two children to stroll in with you comatose either, though this is not the event I was going to mention.", She was talking like she knew something. Something that Qrow truly hoped she didn't know. "So."
A gust of wind made the curtains in the window sway. The younger Branwen twin didn't dare take a single breath. His body tense, like he was prepared to vault out of the room at any given moment.
"How long did you plan to keep your Rose a secret from us?"
Is this something you guys would like me to keep rolling with?
Thank you for reading,