Heartbeat

By Serena

A/N: I was excited about Avatar ever since I heard about it, and when I saw the trailer, I was so psyched. I saw it only yesterday in 3D, and it was visually the most incredible movie I've seen, and one of the best all around. I love the relationship between Jake and Neytiri - just beautiful. I wanted to expand on that relationship with this oneshot, show more of Neytiri's conflicted emotions, relate more of the connection between them.

Disc: If I owned Avatar, I'd be watching it now.


Humans were such strange creatures.

Really. They rushed around with their strange, loud machines that destroyed my home. They were loud, harsh, and cold. I didn't like their eyes. So small and sightless. They didn't see anything. They weren't really looking. Only one of the humans, Grace, she was called, seemed interested in our world for what it was. But I soon learned that she wanted to study it, observe it. Even she did not truly understand.

Then, I met Jake Sully.

Our encounter was not the best of meetings, I will admit. But I was angry and defensive, and I would not let impostors take our home - not even the ones who looked like us. I would have shot him if it had not been for the seed of the sacred tree. I had wanted to kill him when I saw him foolishly attracting the predators of the night with fire. He didn't know. He didn't understand anything.

But I could not ignore the signs. He had been chosen. And then I was chosen to train him, to teach him of our ways. At first, I was furious - both with him and my mother. But I respected her, so I had to respect her decision.

It was humorous at first - he tried so hard. He looked ridiculous, but he tried. Quickly, I found my dislike turning into grudging respect for his determination and his strength. He had a strong heart, I had told him. I had been right. An even stronger heart than I'd thought. No matter how many times I growled at him, slapped him, or scoffed, he continued.

And day by day, he grew stronger, faster. But it was more than just a general understanding of our ways, our culture. I saw his eyes beginning to open. He was starting to see. He paid more attention to his surroundings, took more care with life than he had before. He became more gentle, more careful. A strong warrior on the outside and in, combined with a heart that wanted to learn.

Against my initial feelings, I found myself feeling more than respect for Jake. I respected my betrothed. But it was more with Jake. Much more.

We'd spent all day bounding through the trees, hunting and observing. I took Jake to see some of the deeper parts of my clan's forest, parts that included some of my favorite cliffs. These cliffs overlooked a smaller waterfall that plunged into a clear blue pool. I had never taken anyone else here before, but for some reason, I felt like sharing it with Jake. I felt like he needed to see it.

"Why won't you just tell me where we're going?" He shot me a look burning with curiosity. "Is this another test?" His eagerness made me smile.

"Quiet," I shushed him. "You will ruin it."

"Ruin what?"

I sighed shortly and lifted a large leaf out of the way. "We are almost there. Quiet." The one thing he needed to learn was patience. But I had to admire his enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

As we came to the pool, the trees cleared. I stepped out and let out a happy sigh as the thundering of the waterfall seeped into my ears, into my flesh and bones. Everything in this spot was so alive, so here. I glanced at Jake and smiled at his awestruck expression. "You must learn the value of patience, Jake," I said teasingly, hitting him upside his head as I brushed past him towards the waterfall.

"Wow," he exclaimed, hurrying to catch up with me. "This place is amazing."

I couldn't help but feel a burst of pride and pleasure at his words. I didn't reply but easily climbed up to the top of the waterfall. When I came to the edge, I sat down and crossed my legs over each other. When Jake sat beside me, I leaned forward and touched my hand to the cool, rushing water. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the way the water seeped in between my fingers.

When I opened my eyes, I glanced at him and saw him staring at me with such an intense expression that my breath caught, and I froze. After a second, I pulled my hand out of the water and swallowed.

Neytiri, breathe. You must focus.

I was focusing. But on him. He was so handsome. I didn't know what he looked like as a human, but for a Na'vi warrior, he was extremely attractive. I had noticed many other women eyeing him for the past few weeks, and every time they did so, a strange burst of feeling had flashed through my chest. My heart beat faster.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

Focus, Neytiri!

I blinked and managed to tear my eyes away back to the rushing water. The heat rose to my face and spread through my whole body. To cool myself, I placed my hand back into the water, but I could still feel his hot gaze on me. I had seen him looking at me similarly before, but never this strong. Letting out a deep breath, I stroked my hand through the water, running it against the current; and suddenly, a wicked idea came to me. I grinned and abruptly cupped my hand and splashed Jake.

Jake let out a startled cry of "Hey!" and held up his hands in defense. He stared down at himself, dripping wet, and then glared up at me.

I couldn't help it - I burst out laughing. It was just so amusing to see this grim, determined warrior looking ridiculous again. Also, it took my mind off my own confused emotions for the moment.

But then his eyes narrowed. "Oh, now you're asking for it," he said dangerously.

I grinned and leapt to my feet as he grabbed for me. Letting out a delighted shriek, I bounded away and jumped off the edge of the waterfall. I had thought that I evaded him, but when I felt a tug on my tail, I knew otherwise. Together, we fell down towards the pool, letting out wild calls, and plunged into the cool water below. When I hit the water, I swam out from under the waterfall and surfaced in the center of the pool. I looked around for Jake, but I didn't see him. After a moment, I frowned.

"Jake?"

Still nothing.

"Jake!" Now I was beginning to worry. Had something happened to him when we had hit the water?

But a second later, he burst up from the water, panting heavily. I opened my mouth to speak, but he suddenly grinned and held up something in his hand. It took me a moment to realize what it was.

"My tail! You skxawng!" I yelled, and hit him again.

But he only laughed, head falling back up towards the sky. His teeth gleamed brightly in the fading sunlight, and the water dripped off his hair and his face. I found myself watching him again... and hating myself for it.

My tail flicked in his hand restlessly, and Jake, still grinning, teased: "You want it back?" and held the end of my tail to me.

I rolled my eyes and yanked my tail out of his hand, muttering insults under my breath.

"Oh, come on, Neytiri," he laughed. "You deserved it, you know it."

"I do not know it," I argued fervently. I was treading water now, and I didn't want to be in one spot. I needed to move, to move with the water. Get my mind off... other things. I splashed him again and said: "Try to keep up." And I ducked under the water and swam away from him, reveling in the way the water moved with and against my body. I opened my eyes and saw the water-creatures swimming alongside me. I grinned and flowed along with the current. I didn't have to turn around to know Jake was right behind me.

We swam a while longer, just moving along with the way the water flowed. It was so refreshing against my skin. I felt so alive here. And, despite my initial doubts, I was glad I had brought Jake along to experience this. I had first told myself that he needed this to more fully understand our culture... but I was quickly discovering that I had been lying to myself. I simply wanted him to see this... to see my secret place. Only him.

I closed my eyes and shook my head under the water. Now even this was not working. I surfaced and climbed up onto land, shaking my hair out. I turned to see Jake climbing up after me. He shook his hair out as well and let out a long breath, his eyes closed. He grinned and started to speak.

"That was--"

He halted as he opened his eyes. And suddenly, his gaze turned from satisfied... to the exact opposite.

"Incredible," he finished softly.

I had the distinct feeling he wasn't talking about the swim anymore.

Nodding dumbly, I simply stood there, uncertain of what to do now. My tail flickered hesitantly. When he started towards me, my heart tightly clenched.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

I could hear my heartbeat now. The sound grew louder in my ears until I was certain that Jake could hear it now. He drew closer slowly, as if afraid he would scare me off by approaching too hastily. I didn't move or pull away, however. My feet were rooted to the ground as if I were a tree and had just planted myself there.

He was so close now. Not even a footstep away.

He leaned forward. I sucked in a silent breath and felt myself being drawn in as well. The connection was so familiar... so closely wound. I couldn't pull away, although my more reasonable judgment told me I had to.

His breath was hot, sending shivers up my spine.

What are you doing, Neytiri? He is one of them! He is one of the enemies! His people want to destroy you!

My heart was racing. Instinctively, I licked my lips, merely inches from his.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

His glittering eyes darkened. He bent down and gently brushed my lips with his.

Oh... I had been missing this my whole life...

My lips parted, rubbed against his, and his lips caught my bottom one in between his. I couldn't even think anymore -- only feel. My hands reached up and touched his upper arms; and his hands rested at my waist. But as he slanted his mouth to further deepen the kiss, a shrill screech cut through our fevered haze, causing us to pull apart.

Our ikrans descended only feet away from us and eyed us with suspicious looks. I know they had seen us. I felt my cheeks heat up and avoided looking at Jake, but he suddenly chuckled and turned to me.

"C'mon," he said warmly, holding out his hand. "Let's go."

I gazed down at his hand, then looked out to where our ikrans were impatiently waiting for us, their jaws snapping, and their wings beating. The sun shone in hues of golden, crimson, and orange, and when I looked at Jake, the left side of his face was outlined by the light. He was beautiful.

Neytiri...

But I couldn't ignore this anymore. Initial warnings aside... whenever I was with him... everything just felt so right.

I reached out, and in one, swift move, took his hand and held it tightly. His fingers wrapped around mine, sending tendrils of comforting warmth up my arm and into my whole body, curling around my heart. I closed my eyes and felt our heartbeats beating together as one.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

Opening my eyes, I saw him smiling at me. He felt it too.

My lips curled upward. "Time to fly."


THE END


AVATAR words:

Ikran -- Banshee

Skxawng (pronounced something like 'skoung') -- Moron


OK, since I've only seen the movie once, I haven't totally gotten a feel for Neytiri's character. But I thought it would be interesting to write a oneshot from her point of view, through her eyes, seeing her conflicted emotions. This would be shortly before they officially get together. A prelude to that scene.

Let me know what you think! :) And Merry Christmas!

- Serena