Author's note: I figured it was high time I wrote an Animorphs fanfic, because it was one of the first series I fell in love with. Even if it's considered a kids' series, I'll always be a huge fan of it. My first fandon. Ying! And of course, it's a RachelxTobias thing, because they just pwn no matter how many years go by. In other words, do not dare mention the ending of the series to me, because I'll have to hurt you.
My name, incase you don't know by now, Is Tobias. And yes, I'm a hawk. A red-tailed hawk, to be exact. One that takes pride in his eyes and usefulness as a one-bird Air Force. No, you didn't read that wrong. This bird does battle, and not just for his dinner...although that gets pretty rough sometimes too.
I bet you're considering calling Animal Control about now, right? Or anyone who might be able to help... like a doctor or something. You're wondering what the heck a bird named Tobias has to fight, and wondering why a bird's name is Tobias to begin with.
But calling a doctor, or Animal Control, or the police might not help you. Actually, it might do you a lot more harm than good. And no, that's not a threat, it's a promise. You don't realize what a dangerous situation you've gotten yourself into, associating yourself with the likes of me. A nothlet.
No matter how many times I tell this story, it's going to be weird... So I'll give you the abridged version, okay? My mom and dad, a guy who went by the name of Allen, fell in love a long time ago. But he wasn't really human, and my mom forgot all about him (literally) when he had to go back to his own people. More than a decade later, we met again after I spent my childhood being shipped across the country between an uncle here and an aunt who couldn't care less about me even if she tried. And basically, my life pretty much sucked.
So once upon a time, the bird-boy was a human boy with a not-so-great life and a severe friend shortage. Not great, but it was normal. I was normal. Following along with me so far? Good. It gets weirder.
See, one night at the mall I ran into my friend Jake and his friend Marco. Marco's the funny man, I guess. Smart, but wastes way too much brain power on jokes. Short version is we ran into Jake's cousin Rachel and her best friend Cassie not long after, and we all agreed to walk home together after he and Rachel bickered a little. See, Rachel's the independent type and Jake made the mistake of suggesting she needed protection walking through the construction site and...
Fast forward: We decided to cut through the construction site despite the trouble we'd get into if we got caught. I remember what happened next really well. I don't think any of us will forget it no matter how long we live.
I was the one who saw it- the UFO thing, streaking through the sky like a star knocked from the heavens. It landed not far away from us, and the pilot was injured. It was the first time I met my father alive, and the last... and I didn't even realize it. Anyways, so he gave us the power to change into animals- an Andalite technology- before Visser Three's own ship landed and killed him. He told us to run, and gave us a job to do.
He left the fate of the human world as we know it in the hands of 5 teenage kids who were literally wetting themselves as they watched him die. Doesn't that make you feel confident?
See, Visser Three wasn't the first, nor the only Yeerk to land on earth. It began a few decades ago, and millions have been enslaved since then. The trouble with fighting them is you can't tell who might be a Controller. They're really slug-things, but they squeeze through the ear canal and take over all the brain's functions till you're locked in a corner of your own mind without an inkling of privacy.
Jake, our leader, has been a Controller. For a whole 3 days, we had to lock him up. His brother is one too, Rachel's cousin Tom. My old principal, Chapman. He's another. We know of a lot of Controllers in our city alone, and there are more all the time. So you see what I mean? That policeman would know exactly what I was– one of the "rogue Andalites" making his life so damned difficult– and capture me, then kill you so there wouldn't be any evidence. That doctor? Might take advantage of those closed doors and slide one of his pals into your ear while you writhe and scream, helpless.
I bet it sounds like we're losing, right? It looks that way, some days. But we do what we can, and our odds have improved a fraction since we found the Chee, this race of androids that lives in secret on Earth for centuries, Ax, an Andalite adolescent who is actually my Uncle. Funny how these things work out, ya know? With their help, we've won ourselves a few big victories. We've lost, without a doubt. We've made some bad decisions that came back to bite our asses, but we're still alive. We're still fighting. And that, one day, will make all the difference. It has to.
It was during one of our first battles when it happened... I mean, no one died. None of us, anyways. I guess we should just be happy for that, but I got trapped while they got away. I managed to sneak back out eventually, but not in time. See, there's a two hour limit to be in morph. Go over, and you're stuck. That's what happened to me. Rachel insists I'm still human, and a long time later and with the help of the Elimist, I guess I am. But I still have the shape of a hawk. The Elimist, this weird puppet master who, to be honest, really pisses me off most of the time, gave me back my ability to morph and allowed me to acquire my human self. Rachel's always saying I should drop out of the battle, be human for good...
But the thing is, I still haven't worked out whether or not being trapped as a hawk was a blessing or a curse.
During the day, I'd definitely have to say it's a blessing. I mean, human eyes are weak compared to a red-tailed hawk's. Let me tell you! I mean, they're predators. We're predators. We need those eyes to see every tiny nook and cranny and the creatures within them that we can eat. So reading the fine print on a contract a hundred feet in the air is like nothing. After all, the contract isn't trying to hide from your eyes.
And riding the thermals is absolutely amazing. I mean, you just ride the bubbles up and gliiiiide the way down. Absolutely work-free method. It's a La-Z-Boy owner's best friend! And those bubbles of warm air carry you miles and miles. I seriously think that's my favorite part of being a hawk right there: being able to fly away, and be free.
But then there are the nights. The nights are cold and quiet, and I'm not king of my meadow like I am while the sun's still shining. You never know what predators are going to wanna come after a defenseless sleeping hawk. There are cats and bigger birds and other things... And I'm rather glad I found my safe, old tree.
But the worst of it is the loneliness and the solitude. I don't like the time the night gives me to think about the life Fate, or whatever it is, has given me. I've never had it easy, and I've begun to think I never will. In school, I was bullied and always the outcast. And for the first time in my life, I have real friends... and I'm a bird! It's enough to drive me insane sometimes, to make me want to lose myself in the pure instinct of the hawk. It's times like that I used to go to Jake's attic, but it's gotten a bit dangerous there with Tom lurking about on the hunt for "Andalite guerillas". Besides, he's not the only one I can turn to anymore.
Now, I have Rachel.
We have this system where she leaves her window open at night so I can fly in without waking her sisters or mother up. I watched as, one by one, the lights went off. Finally, Rachel's did too, and I made my entrance.
Rachel, it's me
I could see her sitting cross-legged on her bed with only the night shirt she slept in covering her. I saw her smile, and thanked her when she held out her arm for me to perch on. To be honest, I just wasn't up for another attempt to land on the bed. Birds just don't do that.
"No problem," she murmured quietly. I knew what she was thinking- her sisters were in the room next door, and she was afraid they'd come in like all nosy little sisters do at the sound of their sister talking to herself.
How was school?
"Fine, I guess. Anything knew?"
There's a new family of mice in my meadow.
Of course, that's not the kind of thing Rachel needs to know about, but she had sounded a bit monotonous talking about school, and as I hoped my random input made her smile. Even if it was just a twitch of the corner of her mouth upwards, I still claimed victory.
"Nice to know," she said, getting up carefully so as not to dislodge me from my perch and crossing the room to her door. She pressed her ear to the door and then turned the lock. "Only Mom's home," she told me. "Sarah and Jordan went to a friend's."
I saw their lights on, I pointed out argumentatively, and she nodded.
"Mom likes to check to make sure they cleaned and everything. Plus I was looking for my sweater earlier." Rachel shrugged, and I couldn't think of anything else to say to that. She didn't seem to mind, either, because she sat down on the bed again and we simmered in complete silence for a little while.
Hey, I began, getting ready to tell her I'd leave if she was tired. But she cut me off, making me lose my train of thought for a moment. In fact, it almost crashed into another track altogether.
"Why don't you turn human for a little bit," she suggested quietly. But her volume couldn't disguise the eagerness, the hopefulness I heard. It made me uneasy, wondering if she had something planned that might be... not exactly desirable for me at the moment. I didn't wanna pull out of the fight just yet. I didn't like the idea of being useless, of sitting home.. Being shipped back and forth across the country again while Rachel risked her life and possibly—
I don't like that thought. So let's just skip it. Anyways, it was like she read my mind. My face isn't capable of showing emotions (Even in human morph, I'm so accustomed to not having to show emotions that sometimes my friends have to remind me to make some sort of reaction.), but Rachel had always been pretty good at guessing what I was thinking.
"I just thought it'd be more comfortable," she said a little defensively, looking stung. I immediately felt bad for being so suspicious. "Honest. Look, you can see the clock right from here," she said, raising a long, sun-tanned arm to point at the red, blinking letters of the digital clock residing on her dresser.
"I'll give you half hour notice," she affirmed with a nod. "Mom's a heavy sleeper, she won't come in here."
I didn't doubt her. Personally, if I ever DO return to being human full-time, and I ever have a teenage girl, I flat-out refuse to go in her room. I don't care if I have permission. Rooms are battle grounds, and if you step into one, you are in direct line of fire from the room's inhabitants, and they have every right to resume fire because you are the trespasser.
I looked at her with the sharp gaze of a hawk. I knew it was hard for her. It was hard for me too. I knew that Rachel spent most of the time during a mission making sure I wasn't in harms way, and the rest of the time keeping it that way. I knew she worried. I knew she cared. What I didn't know was why that was so damned difficult for me to accept? Was it so unusual?
Okay, bad question.
Alright. But put me down on the floor. I don't want to break your arm, or something.
I meant it as a joke, but it wasn't really a laughing matter. Morphing is different every time, entirely unpredictable. Well, Cassie has a knack for controlling her morphs and making it not so disgusting. The rest of us? It doesn't matter how much we practice, we're total amateurs in the art.
She complied quickly, getting up slowly and walking over to a clear patch of floor big enough for someone to stretch out leisurely on before kneeling down and lowering her arm. I hopped and flopped off, awkwardly settling on the ground. I didn't know how to control the morph to make it less grotesque, but she spared me the awkwardness by turning to inspect her bulletin board on her wall. There were little Post-It notes stuck all over it, with reminders and quotes. A lot of them had to do with bettering yourself as a person, strength, courage, and friendship. Two were about love– about how love could be found in the strangest places, and could stretch across oceans and continents. I remember those, because my eyes always seem to focus on those while I'm waiting for her to open the window.
It makes me wonder if she should be wasting her time with such a hopeless case like me. But she did it anyway, no matter if I argued or protested or flat-out refused to let her. That was Rachel.
I'll spare you the details of the morph. It's really not a pretty picture to paint, like I said before. But when Rachel turned around, I was no longer a 2-foot-maybe-high red-tailed hawk with kickass laser vision and some serious talons. I was just a kid. A teenage boy, with pale-ish skin and awkward limbs and squinty blue eyes because frankly, humans are blind, and really messy blond hair that I've never been able to control in my entire life. And I was standing in Rachel's bedroom wearing a muscle shirt (with no muscles. Oh, the irony.) And bike shorts. The typical morphing outfit that was both hideous and the only thing we could manage. Anything baggier had a tendency to be shredded... or just not appear, which put us in a serious dilemma.
She smiled at me.
See, as a bird, my stomach doesn't hit the floor when she does that. My already faster-than-human heartbeat speeds up, and my thoughts sort of bottom out, but my stomach doesn't drop. It's like nausea...except I want it to happen again. That feeling is the very reason I'm so afraid of becoming human, incase I actually convince myself not to turn back all because of her smile.
"Let's watch some T.V.," she suggested, reaching out for my hand. I let her take it, my hand lying limp in her palm, and allowed her to lead my back to her bed. I stood there, looking uneasy. It may have been a long time since I lived with him, but my uncle's loud reminders of what NOT to do still rang in my ears. I was pretty sure getting on a girl's bed with her was on that list.
"Just sit down," she ordered. She sounded impatient, although she laughed as though she were amused. Maybe it was a mix of both. I hesitated only another second before complying. She rolled her eyes (How does someone look so pretty even when they're mocking you?) And scooted closer to me. She rested her head on my shoulder, blond hair spilling onto my chest. I blinked, resisting the sudden urge to swallow (a gulp would follow, for sure), but she paid me no mind. One hand was still entwined with mine. The other was flipping through channels on the television set till the screen settled on an old rerun of Gilligan's Island.
"How long do you think the producers could drag out that show," I asked wonderingly. Rachel chuckled, an action I could feel as her body shifted against me.
"Quieter, Tob," she reminded me. I wasn't good at controlling my voice anymore. I always spoke too loud, not used to the muted hearing of a human being compared to a hawk. I felt my cheeks grow hot. "And I dunno. Did the show ever officially end?"
"No idea," I said. I didn't even know what order the episodes went.
"Ah. Well. There's our answer."
She tilted her head back so she could grin at me, and I tried smile back. It felt unnatural. Another smile. I couldn't help but think I didn't deserve those...this...any of this. At the end of it all, I was a bird now and she was a human. This defied the laws of nature...and beyond! But still, I couldn't bring myself to tear myself away as her eyes closed... even though I knew what would come next. My brain seemed to shut down- another thing I rarely experienced as a hawk- and although my instinct told me to panic, to back away (birds don't like close proximity) I couldn't help but think how much prettier she looked when her defenses were down...how cute she looked vulnerable, trusting me...
I've never really known a trust like this, I realized as I closed my own eyes and let her kiss me. I did more than that. My free hand held on to her shoulder, the one holding her hand squeezed harder. And she seemed pleased by that. Pleased that I didn't just sit there, or jerk my head back, or run... Pleased that I responded.
And for the first time in my life, it felt really good to be...human.