If you wanted to cure a fear of heights, you looked down from someplace on high. If you wanted to quit resenting the World you lived in, you journey to its capital, and try to find a reason to like it.
Rook was never a candidate for Radiant Garden's Favorite Native Son award, if there ever was such a thing. He still tended to call it "Hollow Bastion", and not out of habit. He knew well enough he wasn't the only one to lose family here, but didn't mean he should enjoy this place any more than the others who had found their way back. To him, despite the reconstruction efforts, this World would probably never shake the feeling of being an empty shell.
Even after meeting off-worlders like Kairi, or Ikari, or Jason, or seeing other places, somehow he still had no intention of leaving. Defensiveness over the territory he claimed? Maybe...
Perhaps he just knew too well that he never said "die". Rook never gave up on anything, this World was probably just another piece of that rule.
And so he stood, here in the middle of the borough, trying to get a feel of the town. Almost 10 years ago, he lived not far from this spot, though he knew the Reconstruction Committee had already dug in and changed it all. Not that he blamed them. Unless they lacked a Heart, he didn't blame anyone. They seemed like good enough people.
He ran a hand over his scarred arms and took a deep breath. It felt safer here, which was odd. The RGRUC kept a clean ship as far as Heartless and Nobodies were concerned. That meant that outside the town was anyone's game, and by fighting off the droves that roamed beyond the walls, Rook figured that made him some sort of a productive member of society.
He remembered, once, meeting members of the Committee. He saved the life of the Nobody Jason that day, despite the Committee's best efforts. Though they were on the same side, they found themselves at odds. Coming here today, Rook counted his lucky stars. No one could possibly remember a random encounter with an average redheaded kid like him, right...?
When it came to concerning fears, Leon wasn't one to talk. He feared more things than people would suspect, from an outward glance; so many looked up to him, and ever now, he was fighting to uphold a reputation that could just as easily crumble down. Almost had due to some interesting turn of events that Leon was never going to think about again. A surprising amount was spearheaded by influence alone. But when it came to fears? No... he'd never admit to having them... but... Leon was phobic of space. No, not space in general. Space as in wide open outer-space; open stars with nothing to defend you or grab onto. Afraid of spiders. Afraid of losing people. Of what people thought of him...
He had a great many fears sometimes. And still... he supposed he pushed through one way or another
No there was no such award as that. There weren't any. Society on the world had yet to prove to be able to handle too much in the ways of that. The upcoming winter ball was probably the most important event about to come up since... well... a long time. While image was one th, mechanics behind it another, it was all about getting the work done. Pulling the sleigh, getting the job done even while you were knee-deep in the muck of it. It wouldn't shake the emptiness that this world represented, true. That couldn't be resolved, as Leon had come to see it. Sephiroth was sort of right in that aspect. It was a fractured place. Broken, bent, misshapen... and here he was, trying to clean up the mess that those before the people here now had left. Cleaning up the aftermath in Ansem's wake.
Leon wouldn't quit on it, though. He'd made a promise. This would be the chance to change all of that. If there wasn't a way to shake the emptiness, then he'd find a way to fill it. Find a way to turn something old and broken and borrowed and turn it into something newer, something more well-worn with care. Even if it took doing it himself-- Leon was determined enough to do so. Come hell or Lunar Cry, by Hyne as his witness, he was never, ever losing another Home. This wasn't Balamb. Nor would it ever be. That much was for certain.
But a lot had cropped up. He was... sort of tired. And woozy. Probably another damned cold; Leon was getting sick of all this. Travelers brought in contaminates from Hyne knew where, and having such little an an immunity system from his sheltered existence back in Balamb, it knocked the brunette flat out much of the time. Colds could become worse. Always did. At least it seemed to be passing now. Didn't mean that there wasn't paperwork or construction or even just patrols that needed to be done... Lately, though?
Lately, the man's mind had been straying to Tifa. To Tifa and her sacrifices. And... Cloud.
Some "best friend" he was, secretly just giving up on him, like everyone else. What else was he supposed to do though? Cloud made his own trouble, but sometimes... you ended up making trouble and losing friends you never wanted to. Cloud was... important. Hard to say why, exactly. Perhaps because they were so alike in nature... Regardless, it was starting to give him a headache.
Rook would have no such luck, however. Thumb and forefinger pressing at the scar where it crossed the bridge of his nose for a moment, halting in his footsteps, Leon tilted his head slightly, frowning a bit. Yeah, he sort of recognized him, though the attack was a long way out from memory. Mostly just a blur of motion and sound in Leon's mind around the brightened blare of the tension pounding in his head. Tension headaches were the worst. Putting that hand on a hip, curling gloved finger slightly, Leon let the other drop. The borough was where he often came to think, one of his favorite spots. ot many others came here.
Kid looked a bit forlorn and lost, mostly. "Hey. You need directions?" Leon deadpanned, simple as that. It was none of his business to wonder why the kid seemed so out of place.
Rook snapped out of his self-imposed trance, and looked back and forth for a moment, before managing to home in on the voice. And as soon as the face registered, he flashed a surprised look, as if he had just been caught somewhere he ought not be.
"...No. Nope, I'm alright. Just taking a walk, clearing my head, a bit. No directions necessary, I know this place like the back of my hand."
He spoke quick, though he tried to calm himself. He did know this place. Once. Neither of them has specified a time and date said directions would have been useful, did they?
But Rook knew the Leon's face. And he knew that once upon a short time ago, he had successfully aided a Nobody in escaping death at Leon and the Committee's hands, as cruel as it unintentionally sounded. And Rook had no idea if aiding and abedding an enemy of the Garden carried its own punishment. He wasn't here for trouble, and he was almost certain that no one in the history of the Worlds had helped a Nobody out of a jam...
Rook breathed easy for a moment. It seemed Leon had forgotten about their last encounter. He sighed a sigh of relief, and smiled inwardly. He wasn't usually within city limits, but he didn't want to be branded a fugitive, either.
He stood still for a moment, analyzing Leon, before turning tail and giving a small nod of his head. "Thanks for the offer. But I probably shouldn't even be here. I don't think I'm technically a citizen."
Another adventurer? Oi, sometimes those got bothersome. But there was an air about this kid...
Often, Leon found himself relying a lot on gut instinct. This place, Garden, Hollow Bastion, whatever-- it was still a place for those who needed it. Just like Traverse had been. A hand found it's way to his hip, the other shoulder shrugging, and a small gesture-- the usual hand coming up, not per say, for any reason, other than body language spoke volumes. Any fighter knew that. Or at least could read it. And this kid-- he looked... kind of thin. Maybe a little gaunt. Might just be the lighting.
But the way Rook gas just... spoken. It almost didn't feel right.
"If that's your reasoning, then half the town wouldn't be." A shake of the head and his arm was falling back to his side. "If you've run out of supplies, it's possible to get a restock thanks to all the help that happens around here."
Rook shook his head, "No... I mean I don't live here in the town. I'm about 4 miles out, west of here." He shrugged, looking hesitant, "I've been out there for years now. Since the invasion."
Rook was skinny-framed. He wasn't starving for food like some homeless beggar, but he certainly didn't come by food everytime he wanted it. More and more, with the population increase, he had to reluctantly come to town to barter, trade, and acquire new supplies and food stores.
"Like I said," he turned to leave, giving a light wave, "I'm just out taking a walk..."
Leon's brow furrowed a little more, though his feet were moving before his mind could catch up, falling in stride with Rook. Someone so young out there... "Are there others out there or are you the only one? It's not safe out there."
((Sorry for the delay, internet was hinky out here for a few days.))
"Well, one. Sometimes. She travels around a lot more than I do. And there was another. But that was a while ago..." He looked up to the sky, trying to count back the time, "Probably... about four or five years ago or so...
He strode along for another moment, not even really paying attention that Leon had followed along. "...Oh, and yeah, you're right, it's pretty bad out there. But I make do pretty well by myself. You figure it all out after a while."
Part of Leon couldn't help but inwardly cringe at that. Many of the survivors were shaken up-- or at least the few that had managed to be recovered. Sean was one of them, the poor guy. Had this nervous jitter-shake that would probably never go away.
"Why haven't you moved back into town?" the man questioned, always one to fish for more information about any given situation. After ll, there was safety and protection within the more inhabited sections of the city.
A silence passed between them for a long moment. "Would you believe.. I'm scared to?" He swallowed nervously, treading lightly as not to insinuate or insult anything Leon had helped recreate here, "I don't remember anything about the last time I lived inside the town's limits. But I remember... that feeling of everything falling down around you. And waking up thinking you're somewhere, but in reality it's all been gone for a while and you can't quite get to term--..."
Simple question, Rook. It's all he asked. Simple answer. He took a loose breath,"Guess I'm not done running away from it yet."
Rook didn't know his own last name, but he certainly knew he felt safer in his small hut of a home by the ravine than he would have tucked in a corner of town. At least there, he didn't expect to wake up to a new attack every day. He could be safe. Quiet and forgotten.
But being forgotten was the last thing he wanted...
Silence wasn't always a bad thing. Granted, people tended to think Leon missed things, missed important things when it came to people. Rather, they tended to be open books to him now a days, a skill that had taken him too long to figure out. Body language tended to speak louder than words. Sure, the only thing the brunet seemed to be was calm, collected, but observing Rook with an almost critical stare. "I'd believe it," he finally answered, tone bland, but there was an evident undercurrent of something deeper, darker.
After all, how could he not. Leon was afraid of a lot of things, too.
Maybe not on the outside. Maybe not even under that. But underneath, past the ice and snow and the hard shell, things he'd never admit to himself, a lot of things bothered, scared him, even.
Phobias were funny like that.
Strides slowing, obviously a motion that was meant to convey that they stop for a moment, a frown creasing his brow some, the scar between them furrowing slightly with the motion.
"But there's nothing wrong with a retreat to safer places. Things have changed here."
Nothing was going to happen to Garden. Nothing. Not Sephiroth, not the Organization, not the Dark XII, not the Heartless, not the Nobodies. Nothing. Not so long as Leon could life his gunblade.
"But there's nothing wrong with a retreat to safer places. Things have changed here."
Rook noticed the other male slowing in pace, and halted his own, turning his body enough to face him, "I know. I can see that. People live here. And they don't seem to be afraid. People when I lived here weren't afraid, either, and they had no idea. The people now? They know. They expect it, understand the risks, the odds. And they still don't seem afraid."
He leaned against one of the higher rails that overlooked lower portion fo town, resting his elbows on it, and giving a bit of a glance at the town below, then looked back to Leon, "And that's thanks to you. And your Committee, too. But even when they weren't here on Hollow Bastion, they were still living somewhere. With people."
He tilted his head a bit, and gave Leon a studying gaze, "You know conflict. It's written all over your face... If you spent 10 years fighting, and were still paranoid of every shadow the sun created... would you really feel you ould move into society just like that?"
For a long moment, Leon considered the boy's words. Or, rather, the other man's. Just because he was young in years, or so Leon could gaher by looks, it wasn't always true. Looks could be decieving. Rook was certainly old for his age, he'd give the other that.
And although he shared the studying glance Rook gave him, the gunblader certainly found himself slightly surprised.
Yes, this young man... he was more grown up than he needed to be. And it produced a resounding pang of regret in Leon's chest. But he shook his head, tracing the other's path of sight to the town outside, standing tall and straight. proud. Like a lion. Like the protector he was supposed to be.
...sometimes he wondered. And his brows came down slightly. "No..." he murmured, and then lifted his voice slightly, "It's not that it's thanks to me, or any one person. Being unafraid isn't what makes people strong. It's their hearts."
Conflict? It wasn't just conflict. It was war. All out war. Sorcoresses, Heartless, Nobodies, and all the threats that were there that no one knew of... Sometimes, one needed to know when they were in over their heads. And although he was damn sure nothing was going to happen... What about the rest of the worlds out there?
Leon's gaze wasn't soft, but it wasn't cold, either. "I can't say I can force you to a more safe place." On foot in front of the other-- Leon strode confidently, proudly, within range of Rook, and gripped his shoulder for a breif moment before moving on. "But sometimes courage is just moving on, even when you're afraid to. If you need anything, tell the shop owners it's on my tab."
Rook's face blanked of emotion for a long moment. He seriously contemplated asking Leon to repeat what he had just said, fully under the belief he didn't hear him correctly. And for that moment, he replayed what he thought he heard in his mind.
He began to shake his head, but stopped, thinned his eyes trying to focus some form of thought into reality, then shook his head again, "Leon, I-... I appreciate that. But even with as little as it takes to keep me going out there, I couldn't do that. I've neither earned it, or have the capacity to pay it back..."
His life was very small, and self-contained. Simple, even with its hardships. Rook worked for what he could get and never stole despite not having the munny to pay for anything. But even still, he couldn't accept the kind offer. And what made it worse, was that there was nothing Rook could do to show his appreciation for it.