and we're done ! here's the loosest interpretation of a prompt you've ever seen, with a pinch of fluff as an apology.

also, this one's more summer & qrow heavy than anything, but y'know. the other two are fleetingly there so it counts in my book.

cw: alcohol abuse/alcoholism

the times summer found a reason to stay and the day where those reasons were not enough.

It does not happen during the winter.

Summer glances fleetingly from one eye to the other in the mirror. There is a glisten to them that is not from the fluorescent lights, fading quickly after she blinks it away. They are something of a fairy tale, something far-fetched and obscure, the magic to them believable only because she reaped the benefits of them. Once upon a time, like the twins with their wings, she considered them a blessing.

Once upon a time, she considered them something of a gateway to a happy ending.

In a way, they still are, though the thought is more terrifying that it has the right to be. She has always known, but it was never as obvious as it is now. Her gaze shifts over her shoulder towards the bathroom door she left ajar, and in the void of the bedroom, there is nothing but silence. There is peace for the first time in what felt like hours. There is Taiyang nodding off where he lays back against the headboard, Ruby cradled against his chest, finally asleep after endless fussing.

There is Qrow right behind her, Yang propped on his hip, fast asleep with her head tucked against the crook of his neck.

"What're you planning?"

Qrow's voice is hushed, gentle in the silence of the night, but even with her back turned towards him, she recognizes the tension. Through the mirror, she sees the way he sets his jaw, the calculating stillness in him, the eyes that narrow just so. Even now that they are apart, she sees Raven in him, with a gaze sharper than Harbinger and a mask that she still struggles to decipher.

"Nothing much," Summer hums.

He does not look convinced in the slightest.

It does not happen during spring, either.

But Summer has known since the first time she saw Ruby's eyes.

They are identical. They are not gray but not white, wide and bright, not mechanical but not something wholly natural, either. They are more than she is prepared to handle just yet, more than she knows how to express when Taiyang asks why she is crying, more than she is willing to voice when she sees the knowing melancholy on Ozpin's face when he sees for himself.

The whisper-light winter is just about ready to break. The snow is no longer soft and powdery, shifting gradually into something slick and hard and ready to melt as the days rapidly give way into a heady spring. It is on one of those early, hazel-tinted mornings that Summer speaks to Ozpin for the final time.

She does not say that it is the final time, but something tells her by the end of that visit that he knows.

And if he does, he also knows that it is not his place to stop her.

She is awake to watch the sunrise, and she is awake much later when it begins to set once more. Triumphs of the day echo out over the horizon before it falls into another brief slumber, and nearby, Qrow is there again. His words are not slurred, and his shirt is not stained, and the flask is nowhere in sight as he plays peek-a-boo with Ruby.

It would be Taiyang, but he needs a break. It would be him, but he is upstairs trying to forget. It would be him, but a raven on a tree branch just outside their home made him remember, and only silence helps him now.

Only time mends that kind of wound. Only patience heals that kind of ache. Though Summer wonders if it will ever truly heal when there is a hole that refuses to fill in all of them. In Taiyang, who loves them all unconditionally and wishes he knew what to say. In Qrow, who still periodically disappears to presumably find his other half.

In her, when she lays awake at night and wonders if Raven will know when the time comes.

They used to talk about it often. Happily ever afters and springtime promises, long lives spent in quietude and late autumn mornings together when they found the time. Looking back at it, Summer realizes that it was mostly her and Taiyang rambling, with the occasional scoff and fond eye roll from Raven.

She glances back to Qrow. He is not smiling, but it is close, the slight crook on his lips, hitching just a bit higher at Ruby's bubbly laughter. In a way, she is reminded of Raven. On the first night she held Yang, smiling just the barest amount, smiling that not-smile of hers with an uncharacteristic glisten in her eye. Something in Summer aches in the same way a bandaged wound aches - something pulsing, pounding, wrenching beneath her skin, and already, she knows she cannot leave yet.

She knows delaying the inevitable never helped anything, either, but if it means that Taiyang will have a chance to heal and Qrow will have a chance to stop running, she will take it.

"Hey, you."

He looks up. Already, he knows that something is off, just as he did all those months ago. "What?"

"No matter what," Summer carefully says, "I want you to stick around. Maybe not for long, or not often, but still - you're family to us. To them."

Qrow does not answer. Not that she expects him to - family was always a convoluted concept to the twins, and furthermore, she cannot tie a jess around his ankle to keep him from running. Restraints are not what will call him home; it is choice that will bring him back, and all she can do is hope. Hope like she does for Ruby to stay out of this mess. Hope like Taiyang does for Raven to change her mind.

Qrow turns his attention back towards Ruby, who is grasping idly at one of his fingers. He moves to curl his hands around her own. He cradles them as if he is holding glass made out of starlight or a feather weaved from stardust, and that is how Summer knows he will not run any further than he has to.

Finally, he murmurs, "Maybe."

It does not happen during the summer.

It could not have happened even if Summer tried.

Qrow is gone for most of the day, searching endlessly even if they all know it will never result in anything, but he arrives once the sun has already set. Nameless parents, friends, neighbors, all of them chatting, none of them caring for the streamers that crunch under their feet or the copious amount of balloons strung up against the walls.

They are not what Summer focuses on. What draws her eyes like moths to the flame are her friends. Her partners. Her family.

To Taiyang, who has Yang on his hip and dances in mindless circles while he sings her happy birthday. To Qrow, who is endlessly amused by the stars in Ruby's eyes once he finally lights the candles. To the raven she finds outside later that night, plucking idly at stray streamers before it disappears once more.

Maybe this is the happy ending she and Taiyang kept talking about. Maybe this is the happily ever after that they have always yearned for. Maybe this is what she kept reassuring the twins that they would one day see for themselves, this security, this levity, this peace.

But it takes one glance at Taiyang's weapons held ready at his bedside, one look at the flask in Qrow's pocket, one fleeting moment to consider the thing that Raven keeps running from, and she knows that this is not the finish line.

But there is a finish line. There is a potential end, if she can manage it.

If her eyes are the answer that she hoped they would be.

It happens suddenly as autumn sets.

It happens as suddenly as the storm that day - loud, tumultuous, crashing against the walls and the rooftop and the windows until Summer is sure they will break. Her rucksack is pitifully light, her weapons hidden by her cloak, her scroll alight with the details to the mission she is supposed to embark on when the sun rises.

"You'll take care of them."

Qrow laughs. If it were any other night, she would be angry that he came to them smelling like whiskey. But tonight, all she can do is offer him a towel and hope that he will take it.

"How do you know that?" he rasps out. His eyes are hazy, but at the very least, not unbearably so. His hands are quaking, his shoulders are stiff, but both are as faint as the alcohol in his breath. "How do you know I won't hurt them?"

Like everyone else, he might say, but it hangs in the air, stinging like static left to jumble and fester. Summer does not remember the last time she saw him without a flask. She does not remember the last time she saw him without Harbinger at his side, either.

It is unsheathed, a lethal allure to it like Omen once had, propped up haphazardly against the wall and dripping with rainwater. It is no secret what he had to do on the way back to them. It is no secret that he is barely holding himself together, partially because Summer is there, mostly because Yang is nearby hiding beneath a blanket and Taiyang is just in the other room soothing Ruby.

It is no secret why he is not as drunk as he wishes to be, even when he trembles, even when he fights to keep from running. Where he went, Summer is not entirely sure, but at the same time, it is no secret who it is left out there that makes him this fragile. Something about that makes her feel fragile, as well, ringing like glass about to shatter at the prospect of someone so dear being so close by.

Always lingering, always hiding, always out of reach. Always Raven .

"They love you," Summer quietly tells him, "and you love them."

Qrow looks over to where light spills out from the kitchen, to where Taiyang's voice carries through over the low growl of thunder overhead. He is no doubt finding comfort in the idea that she will only be gone for a couple of weeks at the latest. She knows he will stay, knows he loves the girls as much as he loves them, knows in her heart that he will do what he can.

That is just who he is - he is one to keep his promises, and he has made that promise a long time ago. But everyone needs a reminder, and he is already close to breaking, and so is she as she says, "Tai loves you. I love you."

He blinks. Even through the alcohol, the clouds in his head and the gleam in his eyes, he registers that something is off. He is dreadfully observant, that much she knows, and it is dreadfully characteristic of him to rasp, "What - what's that supposed to mean? Why are you talking like that?"

"I just feel like I don't say it enough," Summer answers.

It is the truth, even if the mission details are ones she will ignore. It is the truth, even if the sentiment comes out often from her and Taiyang both, even if Qrow has never once returned it verbally. She would say it a thousand times over if she could, a lifetime of words that he will only ever return in his own way, but she does not have that time.

She only has a bargaining chip and the hope that it will pave the way to the happy ending her family deserves.

Qrow shakes his head. He sways just a little at the action, but he straightens, steps closer, drips frustration like he does rainwater as he demands, "What're you planning, Summer?"

She smiles, partially because she knows she will never get a chance to again, but mostly because she means it. Just as any other time, she reaches up to flick him on the nose, and he jerks back, blinking incredulously at her.

"Don't worry so much," she hums.

Qrow wavers for a few more atmosphere-heavy moments before he finally accepts it.

A part of her is relieved that he did.

It hurts in the same way that a still-bleeding wound does, dim and constant and growing as distant as she does.

But as she thinks about happy endings and family and dreaded nights to come, as she prays and pleads as desperately as the hummingbird-flutter of her heart, another part of her is terrified that he did.