"as life is for the living"
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Characters: Jake S., Neytiri
Summary: This world was a world that breathed. Here he was far away from a broken pair of legs and a future filled with dead worlds and dead dreams . . . Here he learned to truly live once more.
Notes:A hundred things to work on, and this fandom has a deathgrip on my muse. Ah well, being subjected to crazy whims can sometimes be a good thing. I hope you all agree with this one, lol.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"as life is for the living"
This world is a world that breathes, and as he breathed it in, he found a part of himself springing to life once more.
This new body – this Avatar - is strange to him at first. He's taller than he's ever been, with elongated limbs and a real, honest to goodness tail – as if he were some sort of blue man group and mountain lion hybrid.
. . . and he had legs once more.
This knowledge was quick to replace the humor in his mind with something soft and subtle – something overwhelmed and almost awed. He took a deep breath in, and reached out, feeling his toes flex and the muscles in his long legs ripple. There was movement here . . . feeling, even . . . life, all again defined.
When he got to his feet, he wobbled like a newborn giraffe. But the point was that he was standing. Wobbling still implied a movement, a reaction to his own commands, alive within his own body once more instead of a mere spirit inside a husk of a form.
It was beautiful.
He was running soon after, oblivious to the calls that told him to stop and the wide eyed stares of the others outside the compound . . . Running. He was moving on his own will. The wind was whipping in his face – how long had it been since he had gone this fast? The grass was brushing against his knees – how long had it been since he had felt any sort of sensation against his skin? There was ground under his feet, soft and squishing against his toes – had he ever really felt the Earth alive and fertile under him? Ever?
The air was fresh here; he breathed it in greedily. His body was alive here; he clung to it covetously.
When he awakened in his human form once more, his breathing was still fast. His hands still trembled while his blood still raced with remembered adrenaline . . . When he moved his legs over the side of the machine to slip into his wheelchair once more, he felt a phantom memory of movement – the sensation taking his mind from the curious nothingness that was the only thing he could feel from the lower half of his body.
When he blinked, there was something warm against his vision. He took a breath against it, deep and shuddering, before raising a hand and resolutely wiping it away.
This world was not a world that he was going to take for granted.
This world is a world that hummed. There was a song that she sung all around them. This is something that he understands during his time spent with her.
Neytiri was something exotic and beautiful, a spit-fire with reverence in her hands that touched the damp soil and annoyance in her eyes when he floundered through her world with all the grace of the baby she had first compared him to.
It was easy to feel something different spring to life around her. A liking, an admiration even. She was passionate about her world, reverent about her people, and she threw herself wholeheartedly into any task that she was given.
Even if that task was him.
"No, no, no, Jakesully," she clicked her tongue in annoyance. "You are speaking as if you have manileech on your tongue." Her eyes flashed at his inability to master even the basics of her language as she pointed again to the brightly colored birds in the canopy high above them. "Kash'iti," she repeated, her voice smooth and eloquent around the alien syllables.
"Kash'eti," he tried.
Neytiri shook her head. "Iti," she repeated, drawing the syllables out as if she were speaking to a small child. "Iti," this time she punctuated the word with a slap to his shoulder.
"Kash'iti," he tried again, amused by her impatience.
She nodded once, sharply. "Much better, Jakesully."
He smiled lightly, looking up as the birds called in sharp clicks and trills. They were shaded in prisms of swirling flames and patterns of bright blues, standing out against the rich green and indigo of the wide leaves of the Karshiri trees around them. The boughs were wide and covered with moss, allowing a full grown Na'vi to sit comfortably cross-legged without having to worry for balance, or fear for height – something which had bothered him in his other body, and not in this one. This one knew what to do, how to react, how to behave; when he may not necessarily had on his own . . .
With every passing day he felt less and less human. His times spent at Hell's Gate was merely the dream, and this real. Under his palms, the tree had a pulse. It was something that he had marveled at at first. His mind had staggered at imagining everything living and breathing around him. Now it was merely calming, another fact of a symbiont life that he embraced. This world was leaving its mark on him in more ways than one. There were times when he imagined he could still feel Pandora's pulse even when he was not apart of his Avatar. Part of him liked to imagine that it was a sensation that would follow him no matter where he went.
Neytiri was watching him oddly. "You are falling into dreams again," she said, her heavy voice lined with humor. "But yet the sun shines, it is not yet time for such things."
He shook his head. "Sorry, I was thinking."
Her smiled widened. "A dangerous pastime, Jakesully?" She raised a hand to tap a knuckle against his head. A hollow echo resounded.
His long ears flicked as he rubbed the offended site. "Not usually, no."
The darker markings above her eyes rose in much the same way a human would cock an eyebrow. He scowled at it. "Ha ha," he drawled as he got to his feet, his long tail immediately flicking out for balance this high in the air. "Very funny."
She shook her head, sending the beads and feathers in her long braids clinking. "You are strange," she said, for the umpteenth time.
He leaned forward to give her a hand up, half expecting her to push him away. "You know you love it," he quipped.
She snorted, that same brow raising again. "Maybe you over-think your own value," she returned, and yet she placed her hand in his, and allowed him to help her up. He could feel her pulse at her wrist, a violent thing that beat wildly in time with the pulse of the tree underneath him, in time with the notes that the forest played around him. Sometimes, it was a song that he imagined he could see, and not only hear.
"Maybe," he smiled, dropping her hand. She shook her head, and then they were off again.
When he clenched his hand, his skin tingled from where it had touched hers.
This world was a world that demanded. She gave much in return, but of her gifts there were things to give in return. Eywa took no sides, she merely provided them all they needed for them to do so as they would. She gave in life, and took you in as one of her ancient own in death.
He didn't know how close he was to meeting Eywa when he met the Ikran hordes, but he hoped that he was far away.
Closer to the ground, the world sang a soft, lulling song, Everything meshed together perfectly, provided perfectly. It was easy to understand her song and dance with her rhythm. Here, so far above the ground, where the air was thinner and the clouds stretched out into infinity below, her song was violent and torrid – a sharp cadence of screaming calls and rumbling crescendos from the rock face underneath them.
The Ikran were terrible in their ferocity, and beautiful in their promise.
Feel which one is right for you, Neytiri had said . . . this was not some ship he was piloting, not some useless piece of machinery that would serve his every beck and call. These creatures were equals, friends that bonded to only one their whole lives through – providing for a warrior in a way that no machine of metal and wire ever could.
You merely had to be worthy of the one you chose.
He felt a tremble low in his bones as he walked through the masses of nests. Looking, feeling, seeking . . . When his eyes locked onto a furiously screaming beast, he knew. There was something ancient about this animal's eyes – this one was old, older than those around him. Still, there was something challenging about his gaze that he found a promise in. A tension that he felt an empathy with.
And when he dove into the sky for the first time, being tossed this way and that, hanging on by the tips of his fingers and the edges of his more human tenacity, he thought that he could hear this world's song louder than ever before. He could seefarther than ever before. And when his Irkan's cries filled the air, echoing with the other initiates above, he let his voice rise to meet theirs. At his side, Neytiri flew, and he could see the pride and affection on her face as well.
His hands trembled as he patted the leathery skin of his mount, feeling the creature strain in appreciation. Around them the clouds parted, and the great nothingness of the skies called to him. As the air rushed by, he could hear Eywa sing.
And it was beautiful, this living.
This world was a world filled with wonder; promises in jungle shadow, and ancient secrets in the fluttering white seeds on the breeze.
This was a world that held his interest in a pair of golden eyes and a small smile that trembled whenever he was near. This was a smile which he had never seen brighter than when the people claimed him as one of their own. Through the link of hands he could feel the emotions of the populace – their pride, their affection, their intense love for their world. All of this enveloped him, cocooning him in feelings of peace and belonging.
Next to him, when Neytiri took his hand in his he could feel her pride and affection, and shivers of intense emotions that spoke of more. So much more . . .
And later, when he took her as his, he felt a little part of her constantly ebbing and flowing in the back of his mind. This bond is one far deeper than any human marriage can ever hope to be, he knows – she is apart of him now, as much as he was apart of her.
The depth of emotion he felt from her humbled him, and when he fell asleep later that night, it was to the pounding of her heart under his hand, echoing with the hum of the moon underneath him, lulling him, soothing him . . .
Becoming apart of him.
This world was a world that wept with her own. This was a world that lived and cried with her people, a world that shuddered as her roots were cut from her and her people displaced all around. As her skies rained ash and fire and her grounds died, a part of her beat faltered. Her people stumbled, reeling from their losses, and she stumbled with them, wailing like a mother in want of her child.
He had felt her pain – it had overwhelmed him when he was trying to be strong for those around him, making it impossible to walk, to breath, to think . . . There was so much dying, her song was shaking, jarring with discordant notes over and over and over . . .
Even when he had sat, fuming and paralyzed in that plastic cell, he had felt the world beneath him cry at the loss of her own. He had not been with his Avatar then, but even his human bones had reeled at the loss, at the destruction. His horror had been reflected on the faces of those around him, the heartbreak . . .
Even across the distance, in this other body, he could feel Neytiri's distress, her anger . . . The part of her that was in his mind was quiet due to her more direct anger at him, but the shadows of it even where enough to make him feel physical pain.
When he had awakened on Pandora's surface once more, her anger and sorrow were almost stiffing for his first few breaths. He had stumbled as he sludged through the ash, choking on the fumes from the smoke and his own constricted throat.
When his Ikran had butted the back of his shoulder in an unspoken comfort – mourning the same as well – he had felt the beast's pain as well.
He had felt a fierce rage fill him when he observed the smoking remains of Hometree. The great beacon, the great extension of this world to the skies was dying . . . dead, killed by a race that he was ashamed to call his own. Humans, doing nothing but taking and taking and taking . . .
Did they ever take the time to stop and truly listen.
Did they really ever see?
Their own Earth was dead, killed by greedy fingers and uncaring hands. This world would not fall as well . . .
He would not let it.
When he jumped on his Ikran's back, and took to the skies with hope and a plan, he vowed to never let this world become another Earth in the making. This world had taught him how to live again, and he would not let her die in return.
This world was a world that protected her own.
He knew she could, knew that she had the power to turn to tides of war in favor of her own . . . She faced destruction if she did not. And so he pleaded to her, begging her to look into Grace's memories. "We've killed out own mother, please, see what threatens your own now . . ."
"Eywa doesn't take sides," Neytiri had told him, her tone tired and older than he had ever heard it. But there was an affection there – a pride. She was proud of him, he knew, whatever the battle's outcome. He had united the people once again, and even if they died in defense of their own, they would deny united and proud, not hunted and butchered on their own soil, on their own revered ground . . .
And so when Eywa sent her legions to the skies the next day, and commanded her troops on the ground – legions of banshees swarming and hundreds of normally indifferent creatures overwhelming all that threatened their home, he felt apart of something beautiful and whole once more.
Around him the whole world breathed, screamed, fought, died . . .
And lived . . .
And live, she would continue to do.
And this world was a world that welcomed him as one of her own.
He could feel his human body die. It was a fleeting thing – this death, a feeling that was akin to that of being gently lulled on waves. His consciousness slipped, his sight blurred and his heartbeat echoed in his ears until that was all he could hear. Around him, the chanting of the people faded, and he was left alone within himself.
Not completely alone, perhaps . . .
There was light, graceful and welcoming. There was the sensation of hands on his skin, checking his pulse, feeling for his breath. At the side of his head he could feel Neytiri's hand cup his face, her voice was the first thing he heard. "Jake?" she was whispering, a prayer in her voice as she searched for him against the bond in his mind. Her hands trembled, just slightly. He wanted to reassure her, but waking up was as if waking up from years of sleep, his body was relaxed and comfortable, but it was so anxious to live again . . .
Breathe, he commanded.
Shuddering, soft and renewing, he took his first breath inside his new body. His lungs quivered, filled with air. On an exhale he opened her eyes to see her staring back, smiling a smile that blocked out even the sun behind them.
"I see you," she whispered, and a new part of him – a full, and complete part of him – started to live once again.