The night sky glittered magnificently, illuminated by millions of stars. The atmosphere was so calming that one could have just stared into the abyss of the midnight air for an eternity. Nights like this at Vale were a somewhat rarity, so it was no surprise to find many people just sitting around and enjoying the peace granted to them by nature. Sitting on a roof and just watching the skies in wonder, for example, was the perfect scenario for at least one young man.
"Jaune? What are you doing up here?" The blonde boy snapped his head to the sudden voice behind him. The last place he'd have expected anyone to find him was here on the roof, and the last person he'd expect to be standing behind him was Ruby Rose. If anyone were to come to him here, it would have been Pyrrha. But with the tournament coming up, she rarely had time to even speak with him anymore. So, he figured coming to their old training spot alone at night would find him so peace of mind, though it never really worked. The world just seemed like it was becoming too difficult to handle too fast for his liking. And with the girl he had an eye on gone away most of the time, the feeling of whether or not Jaune was being left behind was becoming more prominent within himself.
He shook his head slightly, allowing the unwanted thoughts and feelings to subside as he focused on the present, and on the girl in front of him. "Ruby? I, uh… I'm just sitting here." He gestured at himself sitting on the ledge of the building, legs dangling lazily off the side.
The small girl rolled her eyes in a playful manner, stepping up beside him and dropping down to sit to his left. "Thanks, Captain Obvious- I clearly can't see that for myself."
"Well, you should be more specific, Crater Face," Jaune replied, unable to keep the smile off his face.
He chuckled as Ruby bumped her shoulder against his. "Shut up, you can't keep calling me that! That happened on the first day we came to Beacon."
"You never forget the sight of one of your friends exploding." They both laughed at the statement, their voices echoing in the dark stillness around them. After their chuckles died down, Ruby cocked her head at Jaune, a look of curiosity now present on her.
"Seriously though Jaune, what's up? It's like, one in the morning and we have class tomorrow."
Team JNPR's leader felt his smile fade as she studied him. He turned away to look over Beacon, thinking about possibly coming up with some excuse of why he couldn't sleep. But the longer his thought process continued, he realized that he couldn't justify to himself not telling Ruby the truth. Hell, if there was anyone he'd be able to talk to about this, Ruby was most likely the best choice. Ren wouldn't be the best guy to go to on account of his quiet demeanor, Nora was definitely too hyper and wouldn't take it as seriously as Jaune would like. He could not got to Pyrrha about any of this, and he wasn't good enough friends with the rest of team RWBY to even really hold a conversation with. So with a sigh, he slumped forward slightly, his elbows resting on his knees.
"I don't know Ruby… I just don't know what to think."
She squinted, shuffling closer to him and nudging his arm with hers. "Are you feeling like a failure again?"
He groaned slightly, but shook his head. "No- but I don't exactly feel like a victor, either."
"Okay hot stuff, start talking- what's wrong?"
Jaune couldn't help but snicker at that. "Accurate nickname for me." The snicker turned to a sound of displeasure as she flicked his nose. "Ow- what was that for?"
"You're stalling! C'mon, you can talk to me, Jaune. That's what friends do," was her response.
He sighed again, not wanting to her to think that he was keeping anything from her. "I know, I'm sorry. The things is… I mean… Have you ever felt like you were being left behind?"
Any sort of visible happiness on Ruby's face was replaced with confusion and seriousness as he asked the question. "What do you mean by that?"
"Like, have you ever thought that maybe things were just going too fast for you? And that you were being left in the dust by other people you cared about? And maybe you'd think to yourself… Whether or not you're good enough." Jaune had now hung his head slightly, eyes more so looking at his jeans than anything else around him.
"Well, I'm not sure if I can relate to all of that, Jaune," Ruby admitted. He closed his eyes, letting out a long exhale again- he figured that she wouldn't know how he felt. She wasn't finished talking, however. "But I do kind of know about the "going too fast" thing."
"You do?" He looked up at her, meeting her silver gaze which now looked a little troubled.
"Yeah- I felt like that on the first day at Beacon. I was pushed ahead two years, and well… It was overwhelming. Not knowing anybody, not fitting in, and…" She paused before shrugging. "Yeah, I guess not knowing if I'd be good enough, you're right… But what does this have to do with you Jaune?"
Even though he was opening up to her, Jaune was feeling sort of claustrophobic being right next to her. He may have grown up in a house with eight women, but talking about his feelings was something that still made him mildly uncomfortable. He stood, turning away from the ledge and walking a few feet before turning back to Ruby, hands in his pockets. "I think that I'm being left behind, Ruby- like all my friends are excelling and getting better, and even though I'm stronger than I was when we came here… I'm going to be alone."
Ruby quickly stood, moving to stand in front of him. "Don't say that Jaune! You're never alone, you have all of your friends."
The blonde shrugged again, not making eye contact again. "But… I don't really, do I." It was a statement rather than a question. "They're all so amazing in every way- and the better they get, the less they'll want to associate with me."
He almost felt bad about the concerned emotion that Ruby was displaying, as it looked to be almost sad. "Jaune, where is all of this coming from? I thought that you were past this."
Again, Jaune wanted to avoid the truth, but there was something about Ruby that made him feel secure, like he could confide anything in her. So he paused, looking at his shoes, and then looked back at her. "... It's Pyrrha."
"What happened with her?"
"Haven't you seen her lately? She's gotten even better at being a huntress, and now with the tournament coming up, she's going to get even better. I'm happy for her, but… She's so out of my universe. I couldn't even get close to her. And now, she's training with other people and I barely see her, and…" He trailed off, turning away from his friend to look at the moon. He didn't want his voice to break in front of her, but he could feel it shaking as he continued.
"I had such a thing for her, Ruby. I thought that maybe she felt the same way… And maybe she did at one point, back when I was too stupid to notice. But now she's gone… She left me behind. And since she's the only one I ever really talked to or trained with… The world just seems like it's too much…." He hadn't been looking at Ruby, so he wasn't sure how she was reacting to his emotions, but he didn't care- he wanted to speak his mind now that he started. As hard as he tried to fight it, Jaune felt a lone tear slide down his cheek as he finished his feelings.
Almost immediately, he was spun around by his shoulders. Instead of seeing Ruby's innocent face, Jaune was introduced to her arms wrapping around his waist and the feeling of her head lightly hitting his chest. He staggered slightly, unprepared for the sudden affection, but she held him in place. The sensation of being in her hug was one that Jaune never really figured that he would care for, but in that moment, he didn't really want to be anywhere else. Slowly, he moved his own arms around her back, holding her small form tightly against his. He coughed softly, trying to hide the sniffing that would most definitely have been in it's place. The heat that he was absorbing from her was soothing and made him never want to let go. As he hugged her, she angled her head so she could meet his gaze, and she began to speak the words that Jaune was sure would make him break.
"Do not ever think you're alone Jaune. Maybe you're not super close with a lot of people, but that doesn't mean they don't care about you. You are not less than any of us- you are amazing in every possible way. That's not something that you can ever forget. It might not seem like anyone cares about you at times, but they do- they do care about you Jaune." She squeezed him, a pleading shine in her eyes, as if to beg him to believe her. "I care about you."
Those were the words that made him choke, made him bury his face in her shoulder and hold her as the tears began to leak from his eyes uncontrollably. She didn't judge him at all- she just stood there in his arms and embrace. He could feel her slightly shaking, and he mentally kicked himself for scaring her. But he did feel better this way- in the arms of the only person who'd really stopped to be with him when everyone else sped ahead. She started to pull back at one point, but he held her there.
"Would you… Would you hold me? Just for a little longer-please?"
"Of course, Jaune." The response was exactly what he needed then and there.
It must have been a good five or six minutes before he pulled back, though not fully from her arms, his face hot and wet from all of the emotions that just poured out. He half expected her to look annoyed or fed up with him at this point, but Ruby appeared just as visibly shaken as he did, though there was a small grin on her lips when she realized that he wasn't crying. "Ruby… Thank you- I care about you too and… Just… Thanks."
She giggled lightly, giving him a relieved look. "Aw, Jaune- that's what friends are for!"
He pulled back fully, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah- yeah, I guess it is."
They stood in a silence that spoke more volumes than words ever could. A few moments later, Ruby spoke up, rocking on her heels. "So… We should probably get to sleep- class and everything, you know."
"Yeah, you're right, we should," Jaune agreed in his typical awkward way. "But I think I'll hang here for a bit longer. You can go off though- I'll be fine."
"You sure you won't jump off the roof if I leave?"
"Oh, hardy-har Miss Rose," he scoffed, grinning as she stuck out her tongue playfully. "I think I'll keep the suicide attempts minimal, if it's all the same to you."
Ruby laughed before walking to the door to the roof. "See to it that you do," she joked, pulling the door open. Instead of stepping through it, she turned, looking at him with a happy, yet serious face.
"Hey Jaune? I'm glad you're my friend- you mean a lot to me." Before he could answer, she was gone, and he was now alone on the roof.
Sighing, Jaune looked at the moon. His spirits were lifted and his abilities were reassured to him, but his heart was still somewhat heavy. He knew why, as he pinpointed the second it happened, but he couldn't understand why it did. Ruby had made him feel better about everything more than he thought possible on that night. But there was something she said that stuck with him, and though it wasn't negative, it wasn't really positive either. Jaune sat back down on the ledge, closing his eyes as he focused on the peace of the night, and now that which was in his soul. But Ruby's words still stuck with him.
For reasons unknown to him, he felt a slight disappointment when she called him "friend." As if it wasn't enough, or something.
Oh well… Guess I'm just emotionally drained, he thought to himself, his eyes watching the sparkling stars.
They now lit up the world around him, invoking a multitude of happy feelings as he slowly smiled. It really is a nice night...