It is not in human nature to forget pain.
But perhaps, in time, we can learn to understand the blessing this is.
For without pain, what would we know to be thankful for?
It was the little things, Jaune decided, that hurt the most. It was times like this one, where his solitude reminded him of the one who could no longer be at his side, that hurt the most.
He was sat atop a rock on the edge of the forest, looking up at the stars scattered across the sky. It was incredible, in a way. After being in Vale for so long, Jaune had forgotten how stunning the stars were. The way they lit up the sky and made it almost brighter than when the sun was out, a swathe of light that would shine down forever and ever, past his life, past the lives of his friends, onto the end of the world eventually. It was as beautiful as it was haunting.
He couldn't help but look next to him, to the spot where his partner should be. HIs fists clenched involuntarily, and Jaune squeezed his eyes shut to try and blot the thoughts out before they overcame him. Those wolves that descended and tore his mind to shreds every night he allowed himself to think about them.
"Hey Jaune," Jaune turned his head, saw Ruby, and sighed.
"Hey Ruby," He turned back to the stars. There was a rustling as Ruby sat beside him. There was a moment there of perfect silence, only the wind softly flowing through the leaves of the trees making any sound. It was peaceful.
It was painful.
"You're thinking about her, aren't you?" Jaune turned to Ruby, who was gazing at the stars, just as he had been. "I see you thinking about her a lot. When you think no one's looking and your smile goes away."
"Yeah… I am. Trying not to, but I am."
"People say that time cures everything, that it fades and eventually doesn't hurt anymore."
"Doesn't feel like it." He said with a dark chuckle.
"And it won't. The pain doesn't go away. Maybe you'll think about it less… But it still hurts. Somewhere deep down, you can always feel it."
"... How do you live like this? How do you be happy knowing what you know?"
"I don't think you can be happy without feeling it."
"Can you tell me about you mother?" She smiled.
"She was incredible. I was small when it happened, so I don't remember much. I remember her cookies though. She always made chocolate chip cookies for us on weekends. Funny how it's the little things, isn't it?"
"Yeah…" He unclasped his sheath from his belt, and laid it across his lap. "Did you know she was scared of seaweed? The greatest fighter in our year… Terrified of seaweed."
"Nora put some in her sandwich once. She was so freaked out, she wouldn't let go of my arm until I threw the sandwich out and then the garbage bag with it in it." He smiled, then he grimaced, pushing the memory away.
"Don't." He frowned and looked at her.
"Don't push them away. The memories. They're all you have left. If you push them away, she'll be gone forever."
"I don't want to remember her. I want her here. With us."
"I know… But you can't have that. That's the one thing you can never, ever have, and the one thing you should never, ever wish for."
"How can you say that?"
"Because you'll just tarnish who she was. You can't resent the dead, Jaune. You can't make who they are nothing but pain to you…"
"What else is there?" He could feel himself choking on the catch in his throat now.
"Everything she ever gave you. Every word. Every smile. Every tear and every fight and every single moment you were together. Training. Studying. Talking… All of that's still there, in your memory. I'm sad she's gone too, but I'm also thankful." His fists clenched.
"I'm thankful for the time she gave us. I'm glad I have those memories. I'm glad that whenever I smell fresh cookies or wear my cloak I think of mom. I know that I won't ever get to have those cookies again or see her wearing that cloak; I still want to remember her. Because she made me happy."
"How… How do you not get sad?"
"... Close your eyes.
"Do you remember the dance? When you wore the dress? Do you remember the way that her face lit up and she smiled because you were making a fool of yourself, just for her?"
"Keep thinking about it. You'll be sad, but that's the price you pay for keeping her alive, in your memories. The same way you carry on her legacy through your armor and your blade, you care it on in your soul. Never forget her, never let the pain drive her away. Hold her close Jaune, and don't let go."
He didn't smile.
He didn't grimace.
He was happy, he was sad.
"I get sad. I am sad. A little bit of me is all the time. But it makes me thankful." He opened his eyes. She turned back towards the campfire where Nora and Ren were sitting. "You haven't lost everything Jaune. Maybe someday you can look to the stars for company, but for now, come have some turkey, okay?"