Epilogue: In The Vault of Heaven
Rook learned that Gwen and Kevin had delayed Milleous from eliminating the world's leaders just long enough for he and Ben to disable Dr. Psychobos' mind control. It turned out that Magister Gordon was actually former Magister Gorvan, a Tetramand who worked with the Incurseans to take over Earth. Lord Emperor Milleous's plan to annihilate the world leaders before waging war on Earth failed, and Princess General Attea agreed to pull out the remaining Incursean forces under the condition that she be allowed free and her father imprisoned away by the Plumbers. Dr. Psychobos' body was never found. The released prisoners that Plumber base had held still roamed free, but they haven't made a move yet so far.
But right now, Rook's mind was not on those things. Right now, there was something else that weighed on his mind.
Rook straightened his navy blazer and pulled up the collar of his black turtleneck sweater for, hopefully, the last time. He was nervous. Kevin had assured him that his dressing was presentable, and that all Rook had to do was sit and listen to a few speeches. Basically—follow what everyone else was doing.
And Kevin was right. The affair went smoothly. A man Rook knew to be Ben's father, Carl Tennyson had given a few words, as well as Gwen's father, Frank Tennyson. Their messages were short and meaningful, but the emotion behind their words spoke volumes.
Rook found that everyone there wore dark, conservative colors. Even Ben—Rook was so used to seeing Ben wear lively green colors—had now worn an inky colored dress shirt with similarly colored slacks. To Rook, Ben looked strange—he was quiet, solemn, and sat still in his seat. It wasn't the Ben he was used to seeing.
There were still a couple other speeches from Max's siblings. They were touching—loving recollections of past memories and beautiful descriptions of Max Tennyson's life. When it was over, the attendees walked up to Max's brother and sister, giving them their condolences as well as hugs. Rook gave them his condolences as well, receiving a firm, grateful handshake from Max's older brother and a big hug from his older sister. Rook couldn't get a glimpse of Ben during that time, there was such a crowd. But the sheer number of people who attended the memorial service was an attestation to the number of lives Max had touched in his time.
Attendees eventually started to file out. Rook waited near the exit of the funeral home. He hadn't had a chance to speak to Ben since... since that day.
The room was already nearly empty. He still hadn't seen Ben. Ben's parents were already outside, waiting by a car. Rook took a peek inside, and saw Ben, Gwen and Kevin sitting at the front row, conversing with each other in low voices. Then they stood up, and Gwen gave Ben a hug. Ben returned the hug, but his expression—unlike his cousin, or his parents, or even Max's siblings—did not have a single tear. Rook realized that Ben had been the only one who hadn't shed a single tear since Max's passing.
Kevin gave the boy a pat on the shoulder, and said something. Ben nodded, and the way he answered looked like he was confident, strong... or, at least, he was trying to be. Rook saw Kevin frown slightly, but it was for only a passing moment. The couple bid him goodbye and walked away, approaching Rook as they exited the funeral home.
"You waitin' for Ben?" Kevin asked as he eyed the Revonnahgander.
Rook merely nodded, but said nothing. He wondered if he was offending some kind of Earth culture by waiting. But Kevin nodded.
"Go to him. He needs it."
Gwen wiped a tissue over her eyes. "Stay with him, okay? He said he wanted to walk home."
Rook nodded again, this time replying, "I will."
"Thank you," Gwen smiled weakly at him. "You're a sweetheart, Rook."
The two bid him farewell, and Rook saw them speak briefly to the Tennysons waiting by the car. Then he saw them leave, each couple driving away in the cars they came with. Rook pulled up the collar of his turtleneck sweater. It wasn't ill-fitting—in fact, it was one that Rook owned. But he still felt the need to readjust it. Rook turned and walked into the building.
The funeral home wasn't very large, nor was it small. Its floor was made of grey marble and the walls were just as drab. But its lack of colors accentuated the flowers placed all around the room, especially the ones concentrated at the altar. The altar was at the far end, right in the middle and held a smiling photo of Max Tennyson. Among the dozens of chairs in the room, the one closest to the altar sat one lone boy. He leaned against the back of the chair, his legs hanging limply from his seat—not even a single jitter—and his arms folded neatly on his lap. His emerald gaze rested solely on the printed image of his grandfather.
Rook walked to the front and took a seat next to Ben. Ben jumped slightly, as he hadn't heard Rook approaching. He gave Rook a smile.
"Hey Rook," Ben greeted him.
"Good morning, Ben," Rook returned the smile.
"Feels weird seeing you without your armor suit thing."
"I suppose," Rook laughed a bit. "It... feels weird not wearing it."
Ben gave a half-hearted laugh before receding to his somber mood. Rook wasn't sure how to take the conversation from here, so he decided to let the silence sink in. At the very least, Rook wanted to stay by Ben's side.
Ben's eyes remained fixed on the photo.
"That photo does him no justice," he said.
Rook looked at the photo. It was Max Tennyson, likely a few years younger, in a formal suit attire. He was smiling at the camera, and it certainly looked like it was professionally shot. The background was a strange splash of blue and violet, indicating that it had been taken during a photo shoot session.
Ben chuckled. "He had more wrinkles than that."
Rook chuckled as well, but inwardly he wasn't sure if Ben was being honest with himself. Back then—Back on Lefconia, Ben hadn't shed a single tear for Max Tennyson. And now—he still hadn't shed a tear.
They sat in silence for the next few minutes. Rook wasn't comfortable in the least, and Ben—Ben was just lost in his thoughts. His eyes looked distant, and his face looked tired. Then he stood up.
"I'm going home. See ya, Rook."
Rook quickly turned his head to see Ben already walking through the doors. Rook quickly left his seat behind and ran out after Ben. Ben turned around in surprise when he saw Rook running up to him with an alarmed look.
"Dude, what's up with you?" Ben asked him.
Rook straightened his back, and firmly told him, "Allow me to accompany you home."
Ben looked away. "No, it's fine. I can walk back myself."
"It does not feel right to have you walk home on your own."
"Well, it should be. I'll be fine."
Ben turned around, already walking away rather quickly. Rook took hold of his hand. Ben tugged his wrist, trying to yank it out of the furred grip.
"I insist," Rook said.
"I'm fine, Rook," Ben tried to yank his wrist again, keeping his head facing the other way.
"I do not think you are."
Ben stiffened. Rook waited for his response. Then Ben finally turned his head to Rook, his expression showing his irritation.
"Okay, whatever. You can walk me back."
Rook loosened his grip and Ben immediately jerked his hand away. The boy was already walking at a rather fast pace, prompting Rook to catch up and follow Ben home. Ben might have insisted he was fine, but soon, Rook was glad he followed.
"Ben, that is not the way to your house," Rook quickly called the boy, who was making a completely wrong turn.
Ben immediately stopped, his eyes wide.
"Oh," he quickly turned back around to the correct street.
And the same thing happened several times after that. Rook was really glad he insisted on walking Ben home.
They came upon a street, with a pedestrian bridge that crossed over a small river. There were very few people out and about—understandably so, as everyone else was still shaken up about the whole Incursean attempt to invade their planet. Ben stopped in the middle of the bridge. He looked at the horizon that touched the end of the river.
"Sorry, Rook," Ben told him solemnly. "I wasn't really going to go home."
Rook looked at him in confusion, but then he quickly put the pieces together. He grabbed the boy's arm, his grip was one that decided life or death.
"Ben, no!" Rook shouted. "This is not the way!"
It was Ben's turn to look confused.
"What?" then Ben also managed to put the pieces together. "Wait, you thought I was gonna—? No! I wouldn't do that!"
Rook felt the flush of embarrassment creep up his face, but he quickly pushed it back down. "Then what are you...?"
Ben let his arm slip from Rook's grip. When Rook saw Ben walk to the railing of the bridge, Rook made sure he was ready for anything. Ben leaned and rested his elbows on the railing.
He sighed. "I just want to be alone for bit."
No. Being alone was the last thing Ben needed. Rook said nothing, but he showed no signs of leaving. Rook stood in silence, merely looking at the back of Ben's head as the boy stood just as silently. Ben's elbows moved closer to each other as he moved his hands over his arms.
"Sometimes..." Ben began. "Sometimes I wonder if... if it's my fault."
Ben didn't continue, he didn't elaborate. He didn't have to. Rook realized what he meant. He remembered their terrible fight back in Lefconia. His spiteful words that pierced Ben's heart. Rook felt a tug at his chest. But, instead of wallowing in his own self-pity, he needed to be strong for Ben. He needed to set things straight.
"No, Ben. It is not your fault. It had never been. I—" He stopped when he heard Ben chuckle humorlessly.
"I know. There was no way I could have known things would turn out like this. I know you didn't mean it. I just..." Ben's fingers dug into his arms. "... I really miss grandpa."
His gaze fell, resting on the water that lapped below them. Rook placed a warm hand on his shoulder. Ben jumped slightly at the touch, almost turning his head to Rook, but he stopped and quickly looked away. He moved a hand over his eye.
It was then Rook realized it wasn't guilt that was eating away at the boy. It was something else—Something bottled up.
"It is alright, Ben," Rook told him gently. "It is alright to cry."
Rook felt the shoulder under his hand tense.
He choked. His shoulders began to quiver. His breaths hitched.
Rook knew Ben. The boy wouldn't seek anyone's help. Ben thought he had to be strong. That he had to be tough.
Rook pulled him close, resting Ben's head against his chest.
"It is alright."
And the dam shattered.
Ben's hands gripped on desperately to his sweater, burying his face into his chest. Rook held the boy tightly against himself. He moved a hand over his brown hair, whispering comforting words, but the boy simply cried. All of the anxiety, agony, and anguish he had kept to himself—All of it was spilling over, breaking through as sobs and tears. Ben's grip tightened. His sobs grew.
Rook stroked his hair, and the sobs began to calm. His shoulders started to relax. His sobs soon calmed into small whimpers, until finally the two of them only stood in a silent embrace.
Ben was strong. Rook knew that very well. Ben was Earth's greatest hero—a superhero.
Yet even superheroes need a moment of humanity. A moment of tenderness. A moment of warmth. And there was no one better than Rook to give Ben that one, precious moment.
Since ancient times, humankind had always found a reason to celebrate. They hold feasts and performances to celebrate victory, wealth, or birth. Celebrations are often extravagant and elaborate, but most importantly, they hold significance—a special meaning behind all the merrymaking.
Two weeks had passed since Max Tennyson's memorial service. On this day, the town of Bellwood celebrated freedom—The freedom of life, be it human or alien.
There were many stalls with flashy and tacky decorations, each one designed to catch the attention of potential customers. The colorful neon lights illuminated the festival grounds in the moonless night. Children ran from end to end, families trying out the various treats sold at the stalls, and couples walked hand in hand around the festival. There were so many different people at the festival, but there was one thing they all had in common—They were all enjoying the company of those around them.
Ben smiled as he watched a couple of children running past him, laughing and giggling as their parents tried to catch up with them. From the corner of his eye, he saw Rook walking next to him, shuffling the scarf around his furry neck.
"Chill out, Rook, you look fine," Ben said for what felt like the hundredth time.
"It is not that..." Rook tugged at the scarf. "I cannot get myself comfortable with this."
"Well, it was either this or your armor, and there's no way we're letting you waltz around the festival in your armor," Ben stopped in his tracks and turned to face Rook. "C'mere."
"But I do not know how to waltz—Urk!"
Ben pulled at the scarf, forcing Rook to bend down towards him. He effortlessly untangled the mess of a scarf, and then swiftly placed it back around his neck, and moved its end around in a loop. In no time at all, the knitted scarf hugged Rook's neck comfortably.
"There," Ben said proudly. He looked up and saw how close he was to the Revonnahgander's face. His face felt hot for a moment, and he looked away. Then his eyes fell on something bulging near Rook's sides, a subtle rectangular shape under his shirt.
Ben raised a brow. "Rook, did you bring your blaster to the festival?"
Rook quickly straightened his back. He looked like he contemplated lying, but then he slumped, knowing he had been caught.
"Aw, dude... I told you we were gonna relax here. No work stuff and all."
"Yes, but..." Rook thought for a moment, but he quickly gave in. "I apologize. I will keep the weapon in the car."
"No, no. It's fine," Ben smiled at him. "It wouldn't be you otherwise."
Rook looked unsure at first, but when Ben laughed, he took it as an okay to keep the weapon. The two continued walking through the festival, eyeing the various food and games the stalls offered. Ben glanced at Rook.
"Y'know," Ben started. "I'm... really glad you stayed."
Rook turned to him. "What do you mean?"
"When Kevin offered you a ride back to Revonnah, I... well, I thought you should have gone, y'know, since... so much has happened. Stay with your family for a while, take a break, y'know?" Ben's hand moved to the back of his neck. "But... I'm glad you stayed anyway."
"Revonnah is doing well," Rook smiled at him. "Thank you for your concern."
Ben blushed and looked away. "Yeah, well... Wouldn't want you to miss the festival."
Rook merely chuckled. Then he asked, "Where are Gwen and Kevin? They seem to be late."
Ben checked his phone.
"That's a good question," Ben muttered, going through the contacts list on his phone. He settled on one and pressed the call button. He held the phone to his ear and waited. Then the phone clicked. "Hey, Gwen? Where—Oh… Yeah? Uh huh. Oh. Okay. What if—No? Uh... Okay. Okay, sure. See you later."
Ben returned the phone to his pocket with a frown.
"Is something the matter?" Rook asked.
"Gwen said they'll be a little late," Ben replied. Then he shrugged. "Let's just find a good spot before they're all taken."
Rook nodded, following Ben's lead. While they made their way through, Ben recalled the first time he and Rook attended a festival. He smiled to himself at the memory of Rook enthusiastically throwing balls at a target, each time successfully dunking Ben into an oversized basin of water.
Ben thought that it was a waste to have come here and not get something. He turned to Rook.
"You want anything?"
But Ben had spoken to thin air. Rook disappeared. Ben looked around, trying to find the tall, blue furry alien among the crowd. It couldn't be that difficult to spot Rook. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Rook, grinning widely with an ice cream cone in each hand.
"Ice cream?" Rook offered one to Ben. Both of the cones held lavender-colored ice cream.
"Thanks," Ben replied as he accepted the cone with a reserved smile. The heat in his cheeks was a direct contrast to that in his fingers.
When they continued walking, Ben licked his ice cream. Blueberry. It wasn't quite as blue as the one on Rad's ship, but it tasted the same. Sweet and fruity.
They arrived at a large, wide open grassy field. It sloped, as it was near a hill. People were starting to gather, and some even brought mats to sit on. Ben realized they forgot a mat—or, rather, he was hoping Gwen would bring one. But he decided they'd just sit on the grass. The two climbed up the hill, and soon realized they were almost at the peak of the hill. Everyone else gathered further down below.
"Here?" Ben suggested, finishing up the last bit of his ice cream cone.
Rook nodded. Suddenly, he pulled out a small, but thick square of folded cloth.
"You brought a mat," Ben said with a pleasantly surprised smile.
Rook gave him a confused look. "Kevin had informed me that it is customary to bring one to such an event."
Ben grinned. "Sure, why not."
Rook laid and spread the mat carefully on the grass. Ben then dropped and plopped his hind on the mat. He leaned back, propping himself with his arms behind him. Rook joined him on the mat as well, sitting crossed legged. They watched the dark, cloudless sky in silence.
Ben brought his knees to his chest and rested his arms on them.
"Hey, Rook," he began softly, keeping his head facing forward.
Rook turned to him. "Yes?"
"I... wanted to say thanks."
"You have already said so," Rook replied, puzzled.
"No, I mean... thanks for... everything. From moment we crashed at that planet and that whole Brant business to... to grandpa passing away, you've just... been right there. Right there for me, whether I realized it or not," Ben's eyes were anywhere but on Rook. He felt self-conscious. His face was far too warm. "So I... I was... thinking."
Rook's eyes immediately lit up with curiosity. "About what?"
"That... That time..." Ben paused, his face at this point was a furious scarlet. "In the... ventilation duct, when we were stuck. What you said—No, what you were about to say... I, um..."
It was Rook's turn to turn absolutely crimson. He looked away out of embarrassment. But the longer Ben remained silent, the more self-doubt Rook started to feel.
"I..." Rook slowly spoke. "I am sorry. I understand if you—"
"No, Rook, you don't get it," Ben quickly interrupted him as his head snapped to Rook. His face fell for a while, and then he turned away again. "Just... Do you still... feel that way?"
"Yes. I do," Rook answered confidently. Then, slowly, he asked, "... Do you?"
Ben didn't answer at first. He brought his knees closer to his chest, wrapped his arms around his legs as he rested his chin on a knee. Then, he sighed.
"I'm just... scared," Ben spoke softly, feeling the warmth from his cheeks slipping away. He paused for a moment as he removed his arms from his legs, propping them on the mat as he leaned slightly. He tried to smile. "You remember how stupid my last breakup story was."
Then Ben felt something warm and soft on his hand. He saw a larger, blue furred hand on his own. He looked up to see Rook had turned to face him completely, and the expression on his face was unsmiling.
"Ben, I am your partner," Rook began, his tone serious, yet gentle. "I have seen you at your best, and your worst. I know what defines you, and what does not. I know what you can do, and what you cannot—And I know that you will do everything in your power to do the latter."
The hotness was returning to his face. He felt his heart pumping faster.
"You didn't let me finish," Ben said, turning to Rook. "I'm a terrible guy, but... You stuck by me, Rook. Through thick and thin, through everything. So... I trust you, and... I want to give you my response."
Ben's eyes flicked away for a moment, but he was determined. He wanted to say it. He wanted to. He didn't hear anything else—not even the sounds of a crowd shouting out a countdown. All he could hear was his own beating heart. In his mind, there was only Rook. He braved himself to look at Rook squarely in the eyes.
He blinked, feeling something hot building up in his eyes.
"I love you, Rook."
Rook stared at him, wide-eyed, but Ben was unfaltering in his own gaze.
Then Rook smiled. It was the biggest, happiest smile Ben had ever seen on Rook's face. Rook picked up Ben's hand, cradling it in his own hands. Rook stammered for a bit, as he tripped over one syllable after another. At the end, he pulled Ben into a deep, passionate embrace.
"I love you, I—I love you so much," Rook almost cried, pressing Ben tightly against his arms. He pulled himself away, gazing lovingly into emerald eyes. "I have waited so long to hear those words."
"And to think we could be having this conversation in a ventilation duct," Ben joked, smiling through teary eyes.
Rook laughed, stroking the human's cheek. "I love you, Ben."
Ben smiled. He felt himself relax in Rook's arms. He stared back into the amber eyes—they were passionate, tender, warm. Then he wasn't sure what he was thinking anymore. He leaned himself closer, his face inching towards the Revonnahgander. Rook leaned in as well.
Ben closed his eyes. And their lips met.
The crowd cheered in the distance as the sounds of explosions came from the skies. The light that fell on them changed after each cheer as different, colorful lights exploded in the sky. The fireworks started to explode more and more frequent, earning louder and louder cheers from the crowd. Then it stopped, and the crowd's cheers started to fade away.
Ben felt the pressure on his lips pulling away. They stared at each other, each with a smile on their faces. Then their attention was brought to the sky when they heard an especially loud explosion. The cheers returned, exceptionally loud this time, with roars and hooting. The firework was an outburst of a multitude of colors, with dozens of them released all at once into the sky. Then there was one huge flare—one giant explosion of sapphire and virescent. It soon faded away, leaving nothing more than a dark, if not smoky, sky. Then another round of fireworks flew to the sky, starting another round of beautiful, dazzling lights.
They sat in each other's embrace as they watched the rest of the fireworks display. They occasionally whispered to each other, but they were both more than content to simply be in each other's company—in each other's embrace. The fireworks continued to light up the heavens, vivid colors flaring on the midnight sky. It was a beautiful sight.
Ben recalled the events of the past few months. From the moment the Incurseans attacked, to their landing in Lefconia, to their meeting with Dr. Psychobos, and... grandpa. How he wished that he could share the festival with grandpa. To watch his grandpa cook up weird dishes again. To just see grandpa's smile again.
But it was alright. Ben knew he'd be alright.
"Hey, Ben," Rook whispered to him. He pulled his arms tighter around the boy. "I love you."
"You're so sappy," Ben chuckled light-heartedly, moving his hands on the blue-furred arms. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the other's chest. "I love you too."
To Ben, the love he shared with Rook made everything just alright.
I feel sad posting this chapter, but... this is the end of Trust. I've said this like, over a gazillion times and I'll keep on saying it: Thank you. Thank you for following Trust to its very end. I had fun, and I hope you enjoyed the ride as well.
Not necessary to read, just notes for clarification and silly ramblings:
- Lefconians and Avel Brant - They're not actually vampires as Ben seems to think they are; Some of them-Brant, for example-just like the taste of human blood. Most enjoy human meat. Some of the humans who had mysteriously disappeared were actually kidnapped and shipped to Lefconia, hence the introduction of humans into the Lefconian palate. I had more things to write about Lefconians and the factions, but then I realized it'd detract from the main story. Also, I just realized the similarity between Lefconians and Whampires (based on an episode description on Ben 10 Planet).
- Lefconian hypneurolysis - Lefconians transfer their influence by touch, and looking into their victim's eyes confer them variable degrees of control, depending on skill and amount of influence planted, but it wouldn't work on another being capable of mind control. If Brant had more time to plant his chemical influence things, he could have had Ben completely under control, much like how Dr. Psychobos could have Rook under control with the help of Amber Ogia, but the two types of mind control clash, as both fight for dominance at the same time. Rook didn't get sufficient amounts of Brant's influence when they fought, but it was enough to disrupt Psychobos' mind control. That and Rook's willpower and all that lovey-dovey stuff.
- Max Tennyson - I feel bad he had to die. I really do. So I hope I softened the blow of his death with this chapter. I think Ben has a pretty swell grandpa and I'm glad he openly expresses his fondness for his grandpa in the show.
- Gordon Tennyson - Apparently Max has an older brother named Gordon, but rest assured he or his visage had nothing to do with the whole Incursean thing.
- Fireworks - I went to Singapore to watch fireworks on New Year's; You could say this experience inspired this chapter, which in turn inspired this whole story. When the fireworks struck the sky, the volume of the cheers was nuts. I wasn't sure if I had gone deaf. It was loud and it was full of zeal. But it's nice to see a whole lot of people agree on one thing: Fireworks are awesome.
- Ben & Rook - I love to read and write Gwen and Kevin making sneaky plans to get those two dorks to get together already.
It's been a great experience for me and I had a whale of time. Thanks for sticking around.