"OSCAR! BREAKFAST IS READY!"
Oscar looked up, blinking. He sat on the floor, warm sunlight streaming through the window. He looked down at the worn pages in his hands and sighed. He had lost himself in a book again, hadn't he?
"Coming!" The dark haired boy called back. He closed the book he was reading and shoved it back onto his father's bookshelf. Scrambling to his feet, he ran out of Ozpin's office, jumping down the stairs.
"Hey, we paid good money for those stairs." He could hear Qrow joke from the kitchen. "Don't break 'em."
"Sorry," Oscar said sheepishly, "I'm just excited!" Slowing down as he approached the kitchen, he peeked in and gave Qrow a smile. His dad was leaning against the counter, waiting for him with a plate of pancakes which Oscar took with a cheerful 'thanks!' as he passed on his way to the table. Neither of his dads were the best cooks, but on special occasions one or the other would try their best to make a special meal.
Oscar sat down just as Ozpin walked in, his glasses removed in favor of rubbing his eyes. He nearly ran into the counter when Qrow caught him, pressing a mug of coffee into his hands and a kiss onto his lips.
"Good morning to you too." The Headmaster said amusedly after Qrow had pulled away. "Isn't it a little early for this though?"
"Hey, maybe I wanted a kiss that didn't taste like coffee for once." He counteres, lips quirking up in a smile.
"Oh please, you love it." Ozpin shot back, but there was no force behind it. Before Qrow could retort, Ozpin turned and smiled gently. "Good morning to you too, Oscar." Oscar just waved in reply, mouth full of fluffy goodness. Man we're these good, better than Oscar expected his dad to know how to make.
His dads moved to the table to sit on either side of him. "Ready for the big day, kiddo?" Qrow asked.
Oscar smiled back at him. "Yeah!"
"You don't have to be." He heard his father say. He turned to see Ozpin staring at him intensely. "It's not too late to change your mind."
Oscar felt his stomach churn. Must've eaten too fast. "But-"
Qrow cut him off. "Oz, don't scare the kid." He said mildly. He picked up the newspaper and flipped through it. Oscar could see a photo of Beacon on the front page. "He knows what he's doing."
Ozpin's eyes never left Oscar's face. "I don't believe he does."
He should've been offended by that but the tone of his father's voice, the grave look in his eyes...
From the corner of his view, Oscar saw Qrow tense. "You're scaring him."
Ozpin ignored him. "Oscar, you know this isn't right-"
Qrow slammed his his hands down on the table, hard enough to make Oscar flinch. "That's enough, Ozpin. Stop it!"
Surprise registered on Ozpin's face for a moment, before a mask of indifference settled over it. "Of course. I apologize." He said, suddenly back to using his calm, collected headmaster voice. "It's a special day after all, isn't it Oscar?"
"Yeah it's-" Oscar furrowed his brow. He heard a chair screech back against the floor, could hear the sounds of a scuffle, but paid it no mind. "Today is... its..." Why was today so important? What was he supposed to be doing?
His eyes landed on the paper again. The photo of Beacon... the school was ruins. 'FALL OF BEACON, HEADMASTER MISSING' read the headline. A icy wind blew past, sending a shudder through his entire body. It rustled the pages of the paper, flipping through quickly. Pictures and words flashed by his eyes. Beacon. Fall. Cinder. Grimm. Mistral. Haven. Qrow. Ruby. RWBY. Salem. Salem. SalemSalemSALEM-
"This isn't real." Oscar said numbly. Qrow whipped around from where he had Ozpin pinned to the wall. His eyes weren't their normal pale red, they were a bright, burning shade. Oscar couldn't bring himself to care. "You're not my dad. You never were."
The Qrow imposter snarled and lunged for him, skin blackening and claws extending, red marks spreading across his body. Oscar watched as the creature dissolved into ash just before it reached him, its claws inches away from his throat. The rest of the home followed suit, leaving Oscar in empty darkness.
'You could have had everything you desired' a female voice whispered, soft and pitying. 'A home. A family. And yet,' the voice hissed, 'you throw it away. Perhaps you don't deserve the happy ending you want so dearly'
Oscar felt a supportive hand on his shoulder and felt heat flood his chest. His head snapped up as he fixed Salem with a vicious glare. "What I want," he hissed, voice mixing with Ozpin's "is for you to go to hell." He felt a weight in his hand and reacted instinctively, swinging his cane at the Witch who tried to deceive him. Salem's form dissolved not into ash, but like mist, fading away. His anger dissipated with her, and Oscar fell to his knees, shaking. Ozpin's hand remained on his shoulder, and as embarrassing as that whole fantasy was, Oscar was thankful for the man's presence.
"It was so real." He whispered. "It was so... tempting." Even to his own ears his voice sounded weak, tired.
"Salem is a master manipulator." Ozpin stated. If they didn't share a mind Oscar would think he seemed unfazed. "She has ways of finding out exactly what you want, and loves to tease you with it." The former Headmaster kneeled down, leveling his eyes with Oscar's. "Are you alright?"
Oscar laughed weakly. "No," he said. "But the end of the world isn't going to wait for me to get over my family issues, now is it?" He's never known his parents. They'd died when he was too young to remember and his aunt refused to talk about them. As kind as she was, and as much as he loved her, she just wasn't the same.
Ozpin gave a small chuckle. "You know you could be Qrow's, with how much he's rubbed off on you."
Oscar jerked. He knew Ozpin was joking, the comment hit too close to home for his thoughts. The boy quickly got to his feet, only to be hit by a wave of dizziness. Something told him he was waking up.
"I mean, I will be alright." He said hurriedly, laughing weakly. "Eventually. After we defeat Salem." He paused. "What happens after we beat her, actually?"
Ozpin didn't say anything for a moment. In the silence Oscar could distantly hear the others, Ruby and Qrow calling out for him to wake up. "I suppose that would be up to you. However," Ozpin mused. "I wouldn't mind a quiet, domestic life. I never had much time for things like family and realationships as headmaster. Even my time with Qrow could never be anything more than casual meetings." He smiled ruefully at Oscar. "Salem used the same fantasy against both of us, I believe."
Before Oscar could respond, his head began spinning and his eyes grew heavy. He could hear someone calling his name as his eyes slipped closed, and he wasn't sure whether it was Ozpin or Qrow...
"Oscar! OSCAR!!!" Ruby shook him vigorously until Qrow grabbed her shoulder.
"Easy there kid, Salem's monsters already did a number on him, you don't need to help." He looked over at the boy's unconscious form. He looked to simply be sleeping, but gods only knew what Salem was capable of. He forgot how young Oscar was, what with him having the wisdom of an old man to share his headspace with, but sleeping he looked small, vulnerable, and it gave Qrow a sinking feeling he'd rather not explore until he'd had a stiff drink or several.
"But what if he-" Ruby was cut of by a choked gasp. They both turned to see Oscar sitting up, looking around blearily.
"What..." he mumbled. His eyes focused on Qrow and he squinted. "Is this for real this time?"
Qrow wasn't sure what he meant by that, but Ruby didn't seem to care, lunging forward and giving the farm boy a big squeeze.
"You're alive!" She cheered. "Thank goodness! Uncle Qrow and I were so worried! Are you okay? Is Professor Ozpin okay? What happened?"
Something dark flashed in his eyes for a moment at that last question, Qrow noted. But Oscar quickly returned Ruby's hug and said, "I'm fine. Just got knocked out." He tried to detangle himself from Ruby's grip, failing miserably. "Come on, we have to keep going."
"Right, right." She said, pulling away and getting up. "I'll run ahead and let the others know. They'll be glad you're alright." Qrow was about to say something about safety in numbers, but his niece was already gone in a burst of red petals.
He smiled and shook his head. She'd be fine. Team JNR wasn't that far ahead of them, and they had probably cleared out their share of Grimm along the way. Qrow turned to Oscar and held out a hand. The boy was looking at the spot where Ruby had been, a contemplative look on his face, but he snapped out of it at Qrow's movement. "Thought you wanted to get moving, not sit here and daydream." He teased.
Oscar laughed and got up, without Qrow's help. The older man shrugged and walked over to where his scythe was embedded in the earth. Ash particles still clung to it from the Beowulf he'd sheathed it in. Slinging it on his back he glanced back at Oscar. The boy was taking out Ozpin's cane. It extended to its full size with a jerk, causing him to flinch. Qrow couldn't help but smile. He'd come a long way from the poor farmhand Qrow met in the bar, but once again he was reminded that Oscar was only a kid. No huntsman training, no weapons skills except for what Ozpin could share with him through their...connection. Oscar walked over, swinging the cane lightly, but froze in his tracks when Qrow ruffled his hair.
"Just glad you're alright, kiddo." He said with a smirk. "You too, Oz."
The boy just stared, open-mouthed. Qrow was worried he'd done something wrong when the kid surged forward and hugged him, skinny arms wrapping around his waist.
"This uh," Qrow stuttered, unsure what to do. "This from Oz or you?"
Oscar pulled away, grinning. "It's from both of us." He said, hazel eyes shining.
Qrow wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he ruffled the kid's hair again and pushed him towards the path.