It hits Jaune all at once that he actually doesn’t know Oscar at all.
Their whole group is sitting in the Arc-Cotta living room, eating dinner while trying to devise a plan to steal an airship from the Argus hangar (and what has his life become, that that’s not even the craziest thing that one of them has said today), and all he can think about is the fact that his face is stuffed with cauliflower casserole, that Oscar is apparently an amazing cook, and he never even noticed.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise at all, he thinks, frowning - they lived together for months back in Mistral, and Oscar has always been the only one of their group that Ren allowed to be in the kitchen by himself. That’s a little miracle in and on itself, considering Ren’s breaking record of forcibly throwing people away from the counter that dates back to their Beacon days, and Jaune’s pretty sure that Oscar doesn’t really get the enormity of this privilege.
But there’s also the fact that he’s seen firsthand just how skilled Oscar is at maneuvering himself around kitchen utensils and vegetables, and the way he always somehow knows the trick to cook each of them in the best way - skills that he undoubtedly owned after spending his life on a farm. So how exactly did Jaune miss all of it?
“Alright, so, we settled on that.” Ruby says, interrupting his train of thought, and of course Jaune totally failed to hear what they settled on. “But how exactly are we getting Maria on the ship with Weiss?”
There’s a beat of silence after that.
Ruby’s gaze is slowly but surely turning to him for an answer that he doesn’t have, and his brain is still desperately scrambling to fill in the gaps of the conversation when Oscar says, somewhat sheepishly, “Maybe we could find a bigger suitcase?”
After today’s devastating news, Jaune could so easily fall back into his usual, comforting, self-deprecating self. He’s an expert at it. And, as if his earlier embarrassment wasn’t enough confirmation, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find hope amidst the chaos. But he didn’t make a promise to Ren and Nora a mere few hours prior just to turn around and betray their trust this way. And he can’t ignore the facts - he doesn’t know Oscar because he never bothered to get to know him.
So he forcibly pushes the thoughts away, and decides to put his money where his mouth is.
“I think I saw a few huge ones in the attic,” he agrees, grinning, and Oscar returns his smile without a hint of hesitation.
And the thing is, it’s still not the craziest thing one of them has said today. Jaune beams as Maria wholeheartedly agrees as a sure way to drive Cordovin mad while Terra takes her measurements, and he takes his first mental note.
Oscar is apparently a little crazy like the rest of them, too.
Admittedly, he wants to make it up to him.
By the time they reach Atlas, after going through what felt like one of the longest days of his life, he has made it his mission to leave his past mistakes behind and focus on bettering himself moving forward. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that he has to act like nothing ever happened, especially since the latest mess was his fault in the first place. He wants to make sure that Oscar knows he can rely on them. And that Jaune’s willing to let himself rely on him, too.
So when Penny leads their group to the Atlas dorms and they watch as team RWBY confidently strides towards one of the two rooms in front of them, Jaune doesn’t waste a single second in saying “You can stay with us, Oscar,” before Nora can even open her mouth to precede him.
Which, in all honestly, makes him a little proud.
That does seem to wake Nora up, though. “Yes!” she shouts, not even waiting for Oscar’s response as she latches onto him and drags him into the room with her. “I call dibs on the top bunk!”
Jaune startles. “Wait, wh-... there are bunk beds? I call dibs on the other one!”
“Nuh-huh, Oscar was in here before you, so he gets the choice!”
“Come on, it doesn’t work like that!“
“Uh, I don’t really care either way...”
There’s a huge ruckus as Nora suddenly launches herself on her bed and starts trashing around in it. Jaune and Oscar yelp.
“Nora, please stop ruining the bed. We just got here.”
“You know this is the only way to test quality, Ren! These mattresses kinda suck, by the way. We’re gonna need more bouncing!”
Jaune sighs. “You’re going to hurt yourself- oh look, there’s pajamas here!”
“Are they custom made?”
RWBY’s door slams open and interrupts them in their tracks, and they see Weiss standing through their doorway, hair half-undone already and deadly glare in her eyes.
“Guys, this has been a long day,” she says, clearly trying her best not to shout. “If you plan on keep making this noise, I swear I am going to end all of you before morning.”
Then she slams the door shut again, leaving them standing in silence.
They all glance at each other and he knows the sleep deprivation is starting to kick in when they start quietly giggling to themselves, trying their best to contain their laughter as if that was the funniest thing that’s happened in days. Somehow, it feels like old times.
He finds himself sitting beside him in Pietro’s workshop the next day.
The others are all chatting away about the modifications that they want to implement to their weapons, and using terminology far too advanced for Jaune to understand even after having spent two semesters studying weapon forgery at Beacon. But now that Oscar’s here and equally inexperienced, he admits he actually doesn’t feel as left out.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am so glad I’m not the only one not understanding anything anymore,” he tells him.
Oscar shakes his head and laughs. “I should be telling you that. My, uh, mechanical knowledge only extends to tractors and motors, I’m afraid.”
“Hey, that’s still better than mine.” Bonding over incompetence, Jaune thinks. This is nice.
They spend a few moments getting distracted by Ruby waving her arms around erratically, rambling about Crescent Rose and her increasingly crazier ideas to Penny and Pietro. Blake, Weiss and Ren are all observing the broken pieces of Gambol Shroud, and from the other side of the room Nora and Yang are arguing about - bombs? He actually doesn’t want to know.
The silence between him and Oscar is - not exactly uncomfortable, but there’s still an unmistakable awkwardness in the air that makes Jaune wince internally. But the boy beside him looks relaxed enough, so not all hope is lost yet.
His gaze lowers, and he notices Long Memory is still laying untouched on Oscar’s belt. He hesitates just a moment before asking. “Don’t you want to make some modifications?”
Oscar blinks a few times before realizing what he means. “Oh,” he exclaims. He takes the weapon in his hands and looks at it thoughtfully. “I hadn’t even considered it, to be honest.”
A beat passes.
“Well,” Jaune starts, careful. “It’s yours. You can do what you want with it.”
Oscar is quiet for a few seconds after that. Then he sighs, exhaling slowly. “I think I’ll leave it like this. I wouldn’t even know where to start, honestly. And besides I, uh...” he shifts. “I’m kind of getting used to it. I really can’t imagine myself using anything else.” He smiles nervously, avoiding his gaze.
Jaune’s heart drops a little at the acknowledgment that Oscar seems to be afraid of his reaction. He forces himself to huff a small laugh, trying to lighten the mood. “Yeah... Hand-me-downs, am I right?”
Oscar tilts his head at him, confused.
Jaune gestures to Crocea Mors laying in front of them on the table. “I know a thing or two about that.” Then he suddenly and stupidly realizes that he never actually told him he didn’t build it himself. “It, ah... it was my great-great-grandfather’s.”
“Ah,” Oscar says. His eyes shift a few times between the two weapons, mulling over Jaune’s words. Then the tiniest of smiles finally finds his way on his face. “Yeah. I guess hand-me-downs are a hassle to handle.”
He looks at him for a moment, eyebrows crooked in an expression that Jaune can’t quite read. But he’s still smiling as he puts the cane away, and Jaune can feel himself relaxing.
Oscar turns back to look at his sword and shield. “And what about you? You don’t want to modify it?”
“I, uh...” Jaune sighs. “I‘m not sure,” he admits. “I tried to add some extra blades before, but it, uh, kinda seems redundant now? I don’t know. Maybe I should just stick to the classics and leave it at that.”
Oscar considers this for a long moment.
“Maybe you’re going about this the wrong way?”
He blinks. “Hm?”
“Maybe blades didn’t work because you’re, uh, not an attack kind of person.” He mulls it over, looking at the shield. “What about focusing on defense?”
Jaune looks at him. “I was actually considering expanding the... shield, somehow. But I don’t know how that would be even possible. It’s not like I want it to be bigger than it already is.”
“An extra shield...” Oscar murmurs, tapping his chin. Then he lightens up. “Like Cordovin’s?”
“I guess that would be-...” and then Jaune understands. “Of course!” He smiles, perking up. “Hard light dust! This is Atlas, I’m sure there are some pre-existing designs or blueprints that could be applied to battle shields...”
“And I’m sure Dr. Polendina can help us find them,” Oscar agrees. “And help us with the design, too.”
“Oh, this is brilliant,” Jaune muses. Man, this kid is so smart. “And uh, maybe we can find something that can give me some ideas about ranged attacks? I suck at those so much...”
Oscar stands up. “Only one way to find out,” he says.
They spend the next few hours looking through weapon designs and dust catalogues, bouncing ideas off each other and only asking for Pietro’s help when they get stuck trying to read the most complicated blueprints in his study. The ones that are a little more legible they try their best to decipher themselves, just for the fun of it - and they end up bent over from laughing, breathlessly trying to form coherent sentences and drawing amused glances from across the room.
By the end of the day Jaune’s arms are filled with concrete new ideas for his weapon and his cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
They end up switching bunk beds pretty quickly.
He falls out of his top bunk for three days straight - apparently, he moves a lot in his sleep, - and after waking up to Nora laughing at him and Oscar’s startled face every day, he decides to concede defeat. It turns out that Oscar’s pretty used to the height, anyway.
“My old bedroom in the barn was pretty high,” he explains to him one morning over breakfast. “I had to climb a ladder every time just to get to it.”
“That sounds... complicated?”
Oscar sighs, almost comically. “Yeah, it was.”
He’s an extremely early riser, which they all pretty much knew already. Oscar is always up and running by 6:30 a.m. every day with no exceptions - Jaune doesn’t remember a single time in which he wasn’t already sitting down with a cup of coffee in hand by the time they all got downstairs in their house in Mistral. But he also always assumed that it was in part due to his anxious nature or... Ozpin’s influence, somehow.
Living in the same room as him does make him realize that that’s inherently an Oscar trait, which in turn makes him feel a little bad for making Oz-related assumptions, like many things do recently.
But he settles in nicely with their routine. Nora, bundle of endless energy and noise, always wakes up after him and ends up stirring Jaune and Ren awake - and while Jaune likes to think that he’s gotten better at dealing with mornings now when compared to how he was at Beacon, all of them know that Ren is physically incapable of muttering a single word before taking his cup of coffee or tea. So Oscar always makes sure to bring him a cup first thing in the morning whenever they have time to eat breakfast together.
There’s also things that he never knew, but doesn’t take long to find out. For example, it turns out that Oscar is... actually kind of messy? His bed is almost perpetually undone - when he does make an attempt at smoothing the covers, they’re always kind of thrown around and wrinkled - and he’ll leave books and clothes just scattered around the desk and floor. It’s amusing, really, that Nora has finally found another person that shares at least half of her own messiness, but it is starting to drive Ren crazy. Especially since Oscar is such a clean and gentle soul in every other aspect of life.
He also realizes that Oscar isn’t really that anxious, not really. He’s actually really good at dealing with people, and speaking his mind when necessary.
Maybe it’s because he’s feeling more comfortable around them lately, or maybe it’s something else entirely - but Jaune thinks he’s feeling lighter, somehow. More like himself. By the way Nora and Ren are acting around him, they seem to be noticing as well. It makes him happy in a very bittersweet way.
And on his part, Jaune starts feeling more like himself too.
He feels himself smiling more, and being more honest with his feelings, strengths and weaknesses and all. Cracking more jokes and saying what’s on his mind, instead of bottling things up inside like he’s gotten so used to doing.
It’s not always perfect, but he’s making a conscious effort. And the day Pietro hands them their new equipment, a few weeks after their arrival, he finds himself walking with Blake to and fro an Atlesian hairdresser near the Academy.
“It was about time for a new beginning,” she says, once they’re both done.
He thinks he understands. The Atlas air feels cold and sharp against his skin, but it doesn’t hurt that much anymore. It feels rejuvenating. Like the windows are finally open again.
“Do you think the others will freak out?” he asks her, and they laugh all the way back to ease some of their unspoken worries.
When they reach Atlas Academy, Oscar is just parting ways from a conversation with General Ironwood in the main hallway, and he’s the first one that spots them.
His eyes grow wide before he fully turns towards them and settles on a big smile. “You guys look good,” he says, genuinely.
The warmth in his voice is real and palpable, and it makes Jaune and Blake stand a little straighter as they walk together to meet the others.
It’s weird, Jaune thinks, as he watches Oscar and Blake chat together about visiting the Academy’s library, that all three of them seem so different when compared to just a few days prior, and yet it’s like they’ve never been more like themselves. But it feels right, somehow. It feels like freedom.
He brings him cake after their first mission is over.
He made sure to leave one slice aside to bring to him as soon as their surprise Graduation party in Amity Arena came to a close - except, to everyone’s amusement, it turns out that multiple people had that exact same idea. So in the end, Oscar ends up with five pieces of cake on his plate by the time they all reach Atlas Academy.
(In Jaune’s personal defense, Nora brought two on her own.)
So they decide to cut some of them up, and get some additional drinks and snacks... and even though they are all still pretty sore and tired from their first day of real work, the party lasts a little longer than originally planned.
When it’s time to wrap things up for the night, the room is kind of a mess. Half of them have already left the room with trash bags in hand by the time Oscar starts cleaning up the remaining plates from where they are all sitting and chatting on the floor.
“You need a hand with those?” Jaune asks, hands already at the ready.
Oscar swiftly puts everything in his arms and stands up before he can make a move. “It’s fine, thanks. I’ll just bring these to Ren and Weiss outside.”
He quickly stands up as well. “Really, I can carry them instead. You stay.”
Oscar shifts. “No, really, I got it,” he says.
“Are you sure?”
Oscar looks at him weirdly, and his smile turns a little forced. “Jaune, it’s okay. I got it.” He turns to the others and bids them goodnight. “I‘ll see you guys tomorrow.”
They all wave at him as he exits the room, and Jaune can’t help but wince painfully at himself as he flops right down on his spot on the floor, half covering his face with one hand.
When he lifts his eyes up again, to his mortification, Ruby and Yang are staring at him really hard. Blake at least has half the decency to avert her gaze, even if her ears are still betraying her interest.
“Uh,” Ruby comments. “What was that?”
“Nothing!” he says, way too loud. He crosses his arms and looks away, heat rushing to his face. “It was nothing. Why would that be anything?”
A heavy silence follows his words. He knows, even without looking, that the three of them are all engaging in a silent conversation at his expense.
“Jaune...” Yang starts, squaring him up from her spot on her bed. She glances at her teammates for a second before asking, “Is this... about what happened before? In Argus?”
Jaune’s mind goes blank. “Wh-... you-... how do you-...”
“You’ve been following Oscar around like a lost puppy ever since we set foot in Atlas,” she says as explanation. Her smile is pitiful, and Jaune’s shoulders sag in shame. “It’s been weeks.”
“... Is it that obvious?” he asks.
Ruby perks up reassuring him with a kind “No!”, but all it does is ending up getting mixed up with Yang’s firm “Yes” and Blake’s merciless “It’s kind of obvious.”
He groans lamely and buries his face in his hands.
“Jaune, it’s not so bad,” Ruby tries again, resting a hand on his shoulder. She shoots her teammates a warning look before continuing. “Oscar knows you didn’t mean what you said. He’s doesn’t resent you for it!”
“I know he doesn’t. Because he’s the nicest guy in the world.” Jaune laments. “But I just-... I want to let him know I don’t think of him that way. That I really think he’s part of the team.”
“We know you’re trying to make it up to him,” Blake says. “But you don’t need to treat him like glass to do it. It needs to be genuine.”
He sits up straighter at that, furrowing his brows. “So what, you think I’m just... making fun of him, or something?” he says, offended.
“Of course we don’t.” Yang intercepts him before Blake can respond. She shifts her position so she’s sitting more upright, and looks him in the eyes. “We all know you would never do that. Just...” she considers her words. “... let him breathe? I’m sure that he-... no, he definitely has his own stuff going on right now. And he’s going to come around, eventually. But you need to be patient.”
“I’m not trying to hang around him because I feel guilty.” His grip on his arms tightens a bit. “Well, not just because of it, anyway. I do it because I actually think he’s cool.”
Ruby smiles and perks up. “Then how about you join us?”
Jaune lifts his eyes as she fully turns towards him. “I’m trying to introduce him to the wonderful world of video games,” she says, waving her fingers excitedly. “Penny, too, since they’re both way out of the loop. They’re starting to make some progress, buuut I was thinking that adding another expert to our lineup might be useful. And finding more ways to spend time together might help you too! I’m sure he would be happy to have you there.”
That might be a good start, Jaune thinks. But before he can even agree to the proposal, Yang interrupts her sister with a grin.
“You say that as if they didn’t beat your highscore just a few days ago,” she teases.
Ruby flushes and throws a pillow at her. “No they did not,“, she shouts, “I hadn’t played in a long time, I was just rusty-...”
And just like that, the two of them start arguing about video games amongst themselves before Jaune can even utter a word.
His whole body deflates as he acquiesces to watching them discuss by themselves for a while, amused though still a bit lost in his thoughts, and a sigh leaves his mouth.
It’s not long before Blake quietly moves to scoot beside him.
“You’re doing fine, you know,” she tells him.
“Am I really?”
“You are.” She sounds confident enough for both of them, he thinks. She glances away, resting a hand on her chest. “I know what it’s like, to wish you could undo the things you regret... all the hurt you’ve done to those you care about.” Jaune spares a glance at Yang, as well. “But it’s going to be okay. Even though it doesn’t feel that way right now. You both just need a little more time.”
“I really hope so,” he says. “... I just wish I was better at this.”
“You’re doing your best. You care, and that’s more than enough already. I’m sure Oscar knows it too.”
She smiles at him, and Jaune returns the gesture, grateful.
It’s at that moment that the door opens again. Weiss enters the room stifling a yawn, hands already at work unbuttoning her jacket.
“What’s all this ruckus about?" she asks. "I swear I could hear you two shouting from down the hallway-...” Then she spots him on the floor. He quickly tries for an innocent smile and wave, sensing danger. “Jaune’s still here?” she shrieks, predictably. “Do you have any idea what time it is? Get out of here-...!”
Weiss ends up kicking him out while the other three watch on, powerless to stop her but giggling at their antics all the same.
When she finally manages to push him into his room and loudly shuts the door behind him, Oscar, Ren and Nora are all half into their pajamas already. They only spare him a glance before they begin laughing at him, too. He fakes a pout.
Truly, he cannot trust anyone in this group.
Ruby’s idea, as per usual, is successful in more ways than one.
Watching Oscar and Penny struggle to comprehend the intricacies of video games is hilarious, as is watching Penny inevitably getting the hang of the controls faster than any of them ever could and absolutely decimating the competition because of it.
Even when she’s occupied with Winter or the Ace Ops and it’s just the three of them, and the evenings drift off to just hang-out sessions, or when Oscar and Ruby’s conversations shift to talks about their shared interests in fairytale books or comics that are way off his own radar - it’s nice. It’s really nice. Even after a particular evening in which he accidentally dozed off on a couch and woke up to a face full of scribbles and Ruby and Oscar’s giggles above his head.
Hanging around friends and letting himself enjoy the moment without a second thought - it’s a feeling that he hadn’t felt in a long while, and he never even realized he had lost it until he started feeling it again.
He tries his best to recognize that feeling whenever it arises.
When he shares jokes with Nora during missions. When he spends entire conversations complaining about the messiness of their room with Ren in the evenings. When he trains his heart out under the Ace Ops and his team applauds him whenever he masters a new move.
When he rolls his eyes every time team RWBY still calls him “Vomit Boy”, and again as he watches Oscar laugh when they explain to him where exactly the fabled nickname comes from.
It’s a mantra that he consciously keeps repeating in his mind. I am more than my mistakes.
He’s out on a mission with Nora down in Mantle when he allows himself a moment of joyful celebration after slashing the head clean off a stray Sabyr, and he turns to find her looking at him with a fond smile as she’s leaning on Manghild’s handle.
“You’re feeling better,” she says, simply.
He shouldn’t be caught off guard by Nora anymore, after spending years at her side, but she still manages to surprise him sometimes.
He sheathes his sword and smiles back. “Yeah,” he responds. “I guess I do.”
They don’t need any more words after that.
She bounces on him and locks him in a killer noogie hold as they make their way back through the city streets, and she’s still teasing him by the time they reach the Academy while carrying yet another gift casserole in his arms.
Ren and Oscar both raise an eyebrow when he firmly puts it down on the cafeteria table without a word.
“Another premade dinner today?” Oscar asks with a grin.
“Har har,” Jaune responds as he’s sitting down. “Yours was way better anyway.”
Nora’s knowing smile comes back as she looks at the exchange.
He looks at her, somewhat nervously, as Oscar and Ren start cutting up the contents of the casserole before team RWBY’s return. She responds to his silent question with two big thumbs up.
Her approval makes him feel infinitely more hopeful already.
He thinks Nora might have some kind of super power that goes beyond just her Semblance’s reach. The next day, after finishing some intense Aura training exercises with Vine and just as Jaune’s about to leave the training grounds, Oscar pops out from around a corner and lights up at the sight of him.
“Jaune!” he exclaims, coming up to greet him. “There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Would you mind helping me figure out this hand-to-hand move? Ruby is no help at all, and-...”
And Jaune freezes in place, amazed.
Because this should be a small thing, by all means. The most normal of exchanges between two perfectly average friends.
But it’s the normalcy of it all that gets him, and truthfully, he stopped listening to him as soon as the words “There you are” came out of Oscar’s mouth. He should feel a little silly about that, but the warmth in his chest sings like a victory, and he’s too busy spending the next few minutes containing himself from giddily jumping up and down like a maniac.
He ends up not being very helpful with the combat move either, anyway. They only start making progress when Yang oversees their sorry attempts and starts beating them up out of pity, and the two of them occupy all the remaining time before dinner sprawled out on the ground recovering.
(He still counts the day as a success.)
But for all that he’s starting to get to know him, there’s a new special kind of astonishment that comes from learning that some things he thought he knew for sure about Oscar were just misconceptions.
For instance, Oscar should be socially awkward. That was a certainty of life in the same way that Jaune and Ruby’s own social awkwardness was, back at Beacon, when they hadn’t quite had the experience of meeting new people yet. It seemed obvious - the poor guy stumbled over his words so much when introducing himself to Yang and Weiss in Mistral that he basically ended up running out of the room facepalming out of shame.
Jaune can relate, he really does. He’s done worse.
And he’s pretty sure that having Professor Ozpin of all people commentating his every move was an added struggle to the already difficult task of inserting oneself in an established friend group of Huntsmen.
So no one can really blame Jaune for being absolutely flabbergasted at learning that Oscar has apparently been having lunch with Flynt Coal and his team for weeks.
Lunch. With Flynt Coal.
“You’re going-... you’ve been-... lunch? With team FNKI?!” He pointedly ignores Nora giggling behind him and no, his voice definitely didn’t break at that last part.
“Yeah,” Oscar says, nonchalant. Like he’s not shattering the rules of the universe. “You guys are always away, and it’s kind of boring having to sit alone in the cafeteria. Or with, uh, Ironwood. And team FNKI are pretty nice.”
Ren intercepts. “You’ve been having lunch with Ironwood?”
“When did this start?” Jaune asks before he can answer, because honestly, who cares about the General. “When did you ask them?”
“Well, we had just finished training, and I think Flynt invited me back when you had that mission against the Manticores...”
“He invited you?”
Nora is just full on laughing at this point. “Oh, Jaune, of course he did!”
Oscar gives them a funny look. “You can come too if you want, you know.”
Jaune pales. “What, me? Wh- I mean- how would I even start with that, it would just be awkward-“
“I can message him right now. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” He’s grinning now, much to Jaune’s chagrin. “Why is this even a big deal?”
“It’s just-... it’s-...” Jaune actually can’t believe his teammates. This is Flynt Coal they’re talking about. What the hell. “He’s like, the coolest guy in the world!”
“Wrong!” Nora bounces and throws her arm around Oscar, who miraculously doesn’t fall. “This is the coolest guy in the world! Try again!”
Ren only shakes his head in amusement as they start to make their way out of their rooms, and Jaune has to concede.
He sighs dramatically. “Alright, fine. I guess you’re right about that.”
“Oh my gods, guys, stop,” Oscar laments, hiding his face in his hands. Nora just laughs harder.
Jaune has to admit that teasing Oscar with compliments has to be one of his new favorite activities in the world. And he thinks it really isn’t so weird that he’s the one that gets to hang out with the cool kids, all things considered.
Then he stops dead in his tracks.
“Wait, you have Flynt’s number?!”
It ends up surprising him, how easy it is to be Oscar’s friend.
They share tales of their respective days over dinner, huddle together discussing strategies during joint training, engage in long conversations about the upcoming elections and discuss classified information that Ironwood shared with Oscar and that would definitely get them into trouble, and it’s like they’ve been doing it their whole life.
It’s easy in a way that makes Jaune regret all the time that he wasted, not realizing they were on the same wavelength all along.
And it’s not a new feeling for him, not by a long shot. But he thinks that maybe it makes sense, that they met each other now. Because they were both too different people before, in too wildly different ways, and they were meant to find each other when they were both ready for it.
They still never talk about Oz.
No one in their group really does, these months. It’s a taboo that’s reserved for Oscar’s meetings with Ironwood alone, and that no one else really wants to tackle on their own just yet. Especially since Oscar’s mood seem to plummet every time one of said meetings is over.
He never says anything about it, of course. But they all know that Ironwood is pushing him both physically and mentally at every chance he gets. Oscar spends all of his time alone in the Academy in his office, or on the training grounds, or - on rarer occasions - reading history books or novels that get left abandoned on their desk after a few days and whose authors Oscar will never utter a word about. (Considering that him and Blake are more than happy to spend hours at a time in the library more often than not, Jaune thinks he’s got a pretty good idea why.)
It’s one of those days when Jaune catches him leaving the training grounds after a particularly intense one-on-one training with Ironwood.
The subsequent talk between the two of them lasted for about half an hour - one of their longest so far. Jaune doesn’t know what they discussed, but he doesn’t miss the way in which Oscar’s shoulders go from sagging to tensing up in a matter of seconds before joining the others on the benches, and from the looks on Ruby and Nora’s faces, he thinks the others don't miss it either.
Oscar gives them all a wave as he exits the room, and Jaune waits for the others to resume their own training with the Ace Ops before heading out after him.
He finds him on a balcony a bit tucked away from the training grounds, looking over the city of Atlas.
Jaune approaches him after a quick detour in the break room, carefully balancing two coffee cups in his hands.
“Hey,” he greets. He shows him the cups. “You want some coffee? I accidentally pressed the wrong buttons on the machine and got two instead of one, so, well... uh...”
Jaune immediately wants to kick himself, because. Well. It’s impossible to get two coffees from the coffee machine. And they both know it. That’s a disaster of an excuse even by his own standards.
Oscar, bless his soul, only rolls his eyes at him in a very subtle way and drops it, smiling all the same.
“Thank you,” he tells him, and takes a sip. Jaune knows he likes it because he made sure he got his favorite type from the machine, which only makes him look more suspicious.
“Seems to me like you’re spending a fortune in coffee cups lately.”
Jaune thinks about Marrow and groans. “Yeeup. Honestly, it’s not even good coffee.”
“In their defense, not that they need it… but Atlesians aren’t exactly that good at farming coffee beans.”
They both chuckle for a bit, before settling themselves on the balcony railing and falling into a comfortable silence, watching the city in front of them. The sun is almost setting over the floating horizon, and lights are already starting to dance across the buildings and the city’s suspended railways.
“This place might be a mess, but at least the view is pretty,” Jaune comments.
“It’s kinda quiet here though,” he tries, shifting his gaze to look at him.
“I like quiet.”
The silence stretches on for a moment longer. “You, uh, don’t mind me being here, do you?”
“No!” Oscar quickly turns to him and waves his hand rapidly. “No, of course not. It’s just-... I just wanted to get away from the training grounds for a while.”
“Oh. Alright.” Jaune considers him. “... You okay?”
Oscar smiles somewhat nervously. “Yeah, don’t worry. Not that the others are annoying me or anything, it’s just-... uhm.” He sighs. “This... reminds me of home.”
Jaune pauses for a moment, taken aback. “Really?” He furrows his brows. “I always thought that the Anima fields were... kind of different from Atlas.”
Oscar laughs. “Oh, yeah, they are. I... didn’t think there could be so little greenery in a single place.” He shakes his head. “Everything feels so artificial. It’s kind of freaky.”
“We can agree on that,” Jaune smiles. “Then what did you mean?”
“The quiet,” he says, exhaling a sigh. “It’s peaceful here. Like it was back home.”
“... Wasn’t it hard? Working on a farm full time?”
Oscar’s smile turns wistful. “It was pretty hectic. That much hasn’t changed. Just... hours upon hours of work, you know.” Jaune nods. “It was just mud, and dirt, and chores. But there were these moments...”
He keeps his gaze on the city line, unwavering. “After all the work was done for the day... or in the mornings, before they day even started. I would sit down and look at the fields, and it was as if the whole world was just... standing still. And it was peaceful. Just like now. It was just you and your thoughts.”
He lowers his head.
“Your own thoughts.”
Jaune freezes in place. A chill runs down his spine that has nothing to do with the Atlesian cold, and a beat passes between them.
“I thought it was lonely, back then. And it kind of was. But I still miss it, sometimes.”
Oscar isn’t meeting his eyes. And Jaune is pretty sure it’s not because he feels embarrassed about missing his old home.
“It’s... normal, I think,” he starts. “Missing the boring stuff. I remember when I left for Beacon. I was homesick for months, even though I wanted nothing more than to leave for the longest time.” Oscar glances at him and Jaune laughs, shaking his head. “Don’t tell the others, but I kind of miss Saphron, too.”
“She was super nice,” Oscar agrees. He smiles, though it’s still a bit far away. “I wish I could thank her and Terra again for everything they’ve done for us.”
Another silence stretches between them. Jaune feels his whole body tense, despite himself.
“I’m-... I’m sure they already know.”
Neither of them speaks for a few seconds. The air is heavy with unspoken words, and after a while, Jaune sets his shoulders and forces himself to break it.
“Oscar, I-...” He gulps down the lump in his throat. “About Argus-...”
“No, listen, I...” He shakes his head. “I’m so sorry about... what I did to you. I didn’t-...”
Oscar turns to fully face him. “You’ve already apologized,” he says, voice firm. “You don’t need to say anything.”
“No, I do.” Jaune turns to him too, clenching his fists. Now that he’s started talking, he can’t allow himself to let this chance slip away.
“I said so many things to you. Horrible things.” He avoids his gaze, looking at the ground. “And you didn’t deserve any of it.”
He has so many thoughts circling around in his head, but somehow, even after spending countless nights thinking about this conversation, he still doesn’t know where to start.
You can’t go wrong if it’s the truth, says the voice in his mind.
He takes a deep breath.
“I was wrong.” Jaune declares, lifting his eyes up again. “I was... too caught up in my own issues, and you paid the price for it. I was just so frustrated at myself for being powerless. After Beacon... everything felt hopeless. Like there was no purpose in anything except making up for past mistakes. And when we found out about Salem, it all just... It all came crashing down.”
“You all had every right to be upset.”
He looks him in the eyes. “You have a right to be upset too,” he says. Oscar blinks. “Especially you. Because you’re not Ozpin, and you didn’t ask to be here, and you certainly didn’t ask to be treated this way.” He throws his hand in the air. “I mean, if it were anyone else, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be handling it with half the patience that you have. I would have thrown in a fit by now!”
Oscar shifts, embarrassed. “I think you’re giving me too much credit,” he says.
“No, you’re giving yourself too little,” he tells him, pointing firmly. “You are strong, and smart, and trustworthy. And you have every right to yell at me, or Ozpin, or Ironwood, or anyone else!”
Jaune interrupts him. “What happened with Jinn was not your fault. In fact, from what the others have told me, we were only able to find out the truth because of you. You had no say in Ozpin’s decisions, you weren’t there and you were just as in the dark as the rest of us.
So I am telling you, as your friend, that I was an asshole for treating you like that just because I was mad at Ozpin and needed someone else to blame! And you need to accept it because you deserve to be treated nicely, because you’re cool.”
Then Jaune huffs, point made, and shuts his mouth shut.
“I...” Oscar pointedly avoids his gaze, absolutely mortified by the compliments. “... I don’t want to yell at anyone,” he settles on.
“Yeah, well, if you change your mind,” Jaune crosses his arms, shrugging. “Just say the word. And I’ll help you break into Ironwood’s office.”
“I don’t need to break into his office. I’m pretty sure I just need to knock.”
“You are missing the point.”
Oscar huffs out a small laugh, and he finally glances at him with the hint of a smile. “I’ll... keep that in mind.”
Yet another beat of silence passes.
Jaune shifts on his feet, suddenly starting to feel embarrassed by his outburst. He’s pretty sure he even knocked his coffee cup over the edge of the balcony during all that.
“Just, uh... I’m really sorry, ok? I promise I won’t bring this up ever again after today. I just needed to say it. For real this time.”
He takes a breath, and puts his hand on Oscar’s shoulder, forcing him to lock their eyes together. “You’re Oscar Pine, and you’re my friend, and I trust you with all my heart.”
He only has one second to look at Oscar’s suddenly glassy eyes before they’re both moving in to hug each other.
His armor is in the way, and the height difference makes it a bit awkward, but their hold is firm all the same, and neither of them moves away.
“Thank you,” Oscar says into his shoulder. And he sounds so relieved.
Jaune feels his own eyes start to prickle as he holds him closer.
He feels the last bit of heaviness in his chest start to loosen up, and for the first time in what feels like forever, he can breathe easily again.
“This is such a mess.”
He’s polishing Crocea Mors with just a little more force than necessary, while the boy besides him hums in agreement. “That man is a snake. Who knows how Ironwood will react...”
They’re the only two in their room at the moment.
Oscar has just come back from team RWBY's room after discussing tonight’s plan with the girls, and Jaune feels as much dread in the air as anyone else’s regarding Jacque Schnee’s upcoming dinner party.
“I tried to talk to him yesterday. About opening up. I advised him not to make any harsh choices.” Oscar pinches his nose, sitting down on the floor against his bed. “I just hope he cared enough about my opinion to listen.”
Jaune exhales. “I hope so too.” He puts the sword away and starts working on his shield. “You said he took you to the vault. How was it?”
“It was...” Oscar thinks it over. “... weird.”
“It was beautiful. Real fancy looking. Like the one that Yang described in Haven.” He sighs in annoyance. “And apparently I built it all myself.”
“Ah. I see.” Jaune smirks. “You must have a real knack for architecture. And you never even told me!”
Oscar elbows his leg and shakes his head, amused. Jaune snickers, before his memories inevitably take him back to Beacon, where the vault in front of him looked anything but grand. But that’s a discussion that can wait another day.
“Well, whatever happens, we’ll deal with it,” he says. “Like we always do.”
Oscar returns his smile. “Yeah.”
“Will we have to dress up for the occasion?”
“Weiss has specifically told me no,” Oscar answers. “We’re going there as extra security, officially speaking.” Then he grins. “Ruby and I think that the real reason is that she doesn’t want to give her father the satisfaction.”
Jaune barks a laugh. “Serves him right.”
“Right. Though, I think Nora was kind of looking forward to a real Atlas party experience...”
He shrugs. “Eh, that’s okay. The last time we all dressed up, the CCT got hacked. I’m sure we’re all more comfortable in our gear right now.”
“You mean before the Vytal Festival?”
“Yup.” Jaune pauses for a second before adding, “I actually wore a dress, that time.”
Oscar’s grin only grows in size. “Really?”
“And I rocked it, too,” he says with mock pride. Actually, make that real pride. He really did rock that dress. “I made a promise to Pyrrha. It was a miracle I even found one laying around in the limited time I had. But it all worked out in the end.”
“I take it it was a fun night,” Oscar comments. “All things considered.”
“You should’ve seen Ren dance.” Jaune can feel his smile widening at the memories. “As soon as Nora managed to drag him onto the dance floor, they both didn’t sit down for hours. And Ruby tripped on her heels like, five times.” They both pause to start laughing at that.
“Honestly, she’s right about hating them. I wore my sneakers for a reason, you know. I don’t know how Pyrrha managed to fight as well as she did in those things.” He sighs fondly, reminiscing. “But she was amazing like that.”
They’re silent for a moment after that.
Jaune finishes polishing his shield and puts it away at his side, resting near his sword. When he turns back the other way, Oscar’s expression is a little softer.
“She sounds like such a good person,” he says, quiet. “I wish I could have met her.”
Jaune’s hand moves on its own to rest against his sash, like it usually does when he finds himself thinking about Pyrrha.
He thinks about her kindness, and her unwavering conviction and strength. “She was more than good,” he says. “Pyrrha was... everything a Huntsman should aspire to be. Strong, and capable, and wise.”
He misses her so much that he never even considered the possibility that he could find pieces of her in other parts of his life, too. But, for the first time since the Fall, he can say that he does. He thinks she would be happy to know that.
“She would have loved you,” he tells him.
“You think so?”
“I know it.” Jaune grins at him, amused. Like there isn’t a single hint of doubt in his words. “You’re pretty easy to like, you know.”