I've had this idea rolling around in my mind ever since I saw Avatar when it first came out. I finally managed to crank it out when I sat still long enough though. I hope I didn't lose the majesty of the movie, since for me I was greatly moved by it.
As a soldier, Jake had seen battle. As he told Quaritch he had served in Venezuela. The war had raged for almost two years before the time his unit had been sent in, and as Quaritch had said, that had been rough by any standards. Even with the knowledge that it was that war that had stolen his legs from him, it was a candle compared to the inferno that the war for Pandora had flamed into. In the back of his mind, Jake still couldn't quite grasp that he had been the spark that had set everything a blaze. Not only that, but he had taken the ensuing storm and directed it at his own people.
It was a surreal feeling to know that they had won. In spite of the losses they had suffered; Eytukan, Tsu'Tey, Grace, Trudy, so many others that their names blurred. The only consolation he could feel for their loss was that they won, but even that did little to cover the bitter taste their death's left in his mouth. A keen sense of regret rode heavy on his shoulders when he saw his new family struggle to put back what had been decimated by fire and human greed.
Thoughts reeling, and once more in the body of his Avatar, Jake stood on the roof of the main building of the human's compound. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath, ears twitching as the sounds of the forest beyond the perimeter washed over him. After spending only three months with the Omaticaya Clan, he didn't know how he had ever been happy surrounded by white walls and dead stone. No wonder the humans had killed their own planet when they had gone out of their way to surround themselves with dead things.
Even the clothes that his human body wore left him feeling confined when compared to the attire of his Avatar. It had taken him a while to learn, but he had come to understand that amongst the Na'vi, there was no hiding what you were. They were all about seeing the true face of things, and clothes merely hindered that way of life. Jake had surprised him self by how quickly he had grown accustomed to being exposed; body and soul.
Lifting his hand high over his head, Jake raised his face to the sky and let loose a high pitched cry. The vocal chords of his Avatar carried the cry until it twisted and echoed as it was carried by the wind. He ended it with a quick trill of his tongue just as Neytiri had taught him.
He didn't have to wait long, and he'd barely lowered his arm when a shadow fell over him. It blocked the sun from view before circling around, and bringing with it a draft that tugged at his hair and sent his queue dancing over his shoulder. Jake held his ground as Toruk flapped its wings and eventually settled its massive bulk on the roof. The creature's lethal talons scratched into the sturdy surface leaving jagged score marks.
Even after flying the great predator into battle, a thrill of fear tempered with respect traveled the length of his spine and set his skin to tingling. Toruk was a fierce creature, and even knowing that he commanded the beast did little to dim its sheer magnificence. Toruk was a creature that was meant to hunt and reign supreme over the skies of Pandora. It was a symbol of power and ruthless hunger, a creature that granted mercy only in its swift kills.
Such a creature did not belong in the days of peace that dawned on the horizon for the Na'vi.
Only once the Toruk had mantled its wings and lowered its head did Jake step forward. He approached slowly, his hand reaching out to caress the tough hide. It had been a shock to him when he'd first felt the Toruk's hide against his own skin. The hide had been hard, tough in order to defend against the talons of its own kind. The surprise had been how soft it was. Across the face and along the blue crests that adorned its head the skin was rough, stretched taut over the carbon fiber bone structure that Jake's own Avatar possessed. He wasn't sure what to think about such a fierce creature having such supple skin.
He scratched Toruk's face, his slender fingers rubbing against the ridge just beneath the fierce eye that watched him with an intensity that no human or Na'vi could mimic. It was superiority, un-tempered by arrogance. It was only the tsahaylu, the bond they shared, that kept the Toruk from turning on Jake and his fellow Na'vi.
Jake supposed that at one point the knowledge that he commanded the obedience of something as powerful and terrifying as Toruk would have unnerved him. The crippled marine that stepped off the transport shuttle that day three months ago would never have stood a chance. But Jake was no longer a marine, nor was he a man. He may only be hitching a ride in his Avatar body, but he was a Na'vi now. Soon he would take that last step with Eywa's blessing, but before that he had something else to do.
Toruk rumbled and pushed its massive head closer to Jake, though gently enough to keep from knocking him over. Jake smiled broadly and held the eye contact between them. There was an intimacy there that moved him, gripped him and squeezed for what he was going to do. But he pushed those thoughts aside. Not yet.
"How about one more flight, buddy? Just you and me."
Toruk's answer was a gust of hot air that was filled with the scent of rotting meat and death. Instead of being unnerved, Jake only laughed and roughly patted the bone that jutted out over the Toruk's eye. Still laughing Jake reached for the thick queue that lay against the beast's neck. It took barely a touch before it arced down to meet him of its own free will.
Heart pounding in anticipation in spite of this being far from his first flight, Jake eagerly pulled his own queue over his shoulder and with easy familiarity merged the two together. Never failing to be fascinated by the process of watching the pale tendrils twine together, Jake's breath caught in his throat as his mind merged with Toruk's.
Jake would be the first to say he had absolutely no gift with words. Instead he always tried to be honest and forthright. In this moment, Jake wished that he did have a way with words if only so he could describe to him self what it was he was feeling.
One moment he was alone in his mind, the next he was one with Toruk, their minds twining together just like the neural tendrils that made the bond possible. He could feel Toruk's mind pressing down on him, pressing up, and pushing from the inside out. He caught stray thoughts as they flickered and darted past his consciousness, moving too fast and coated with a sense of other that repelled him even as it drew him in. Their minds were one, yet there was still a massive chasm that separated their minds. They could merge, but they would not accidentally become lost within one another.
Until that moment Jake had been standing by Toruk's head, his hand pressed against its face as he allowed the bond to ripple through him. He held the sound of the massive heart beat close, let it thunder in his ears, in his mind. It was during this moment that he felt Toruk's need to fly. It was a burning desire that flashed through him with all the intensity of needing food and water, a necessity that could not be lived without.
It startled him when the urge was followed by the barest brushes across the surface of his thoughts. Jake's eyes snapped open, he didn't remember closing them, and his shocked gaze collided with the eye of Toruk. Their minds bound together, their hearts beating as one; Jake knew that the Toruk wanted to fly with him. Some how it knew what he was planning, and in its own fashion it would mourn the bond mate it would leave behind. And before that inevitable moment when they parted ways it wanted to share the sky one last time.
Jake's heart swelled and before he could be swallowed by the sorrow his body was moving. Minds bound, their bodies moved as one. The dip of a wing, a perfectly aimed jump and Jake gripped the two thick queues as his body molded to Toruk's back. He didn't speak, didn't have to as before he'd even stopped moving he felt the tell tale hunching and stretching as Toruk gathered itself for flight.
Pressed against Toruk's back the way he was, he could feel every pull of muscle as his own, could feel the winged appendages gather strength, the burn of hunger for the open air that swept over him and through him. There was a whoosh of displaced air as Toruk angled its wings in one giant downwards sweep, and then they were airborne.
Jake's first flight on Toruk had been a tangle of fear and desperate hope. He had been driven to the point of irrationality by his need to reach Neytiri, to make her understand what he had done and how he had to help her fix his mistake. That same drive had stayed with him as he flew from clan to clan in order to ask for their aid against his own people. During the battle itself he had slipped into the mindset that had been drilled into him from his first day of training as a marine. All that existed was the mission, and he had been consumed with strategies and tactics to stop Quaritch from destroying an entire way of life.
None of that was here now. There were no half-assed plans or desperate gambles. There was no mission, nor was there Neytiri. It was just them for the first and last time.
With nothing holding him back Jake gathered his mind and dove deep into the consciousness of Toruk. He dove until they were undistinguishable, their two bodies housing one mind.
Together they flew.
With a roar that echoed from one mind and two throats they soared high into the sky, offering their challenge to the heavens and to the wind that slid past them and caressed their wings. As one they soared and dipped, twisting in mid-air only to close their wings and plummet for the distant ground that rushed up to meet them like the open arms of a lover returned.
Before this moment Jake had always been in charge of the guiding. It was his mind that decided where they were going to go, but this time was different. He did not cede control completely, for he would not risk the bond madness that Neytiri had warned him of, but he did allow Toruk more control.
The air screamed its challenge as it rushed by him, ripping tears from his eyes in spite of his goggles. Breaking out of the dive they pulled up sharply and turned the move into a spin that made the ground and sky dance around them. Jake laughed and a thought had them diving once more. He remembered the day he and Neytiri had evaded a Toruk while flying and he flashed pointed teeth in a wild grin.
A sharp twist and a brief flare of wings came before they folded and once again they arrowed down. Only this time they did not give way before the mass of trees that rolled beneath them. In a burst of leaves and snapping branches they barreled through the canopy and were forced to twist and dive in order to maneuver the trees that loomed up around them. Jake laughed in delight as they wove and darted amongst thick tree trunks and tangling vines, all obstacles that they overcame in shattered wood and brushes of sunlight over yellow, blue hide.
Then they were flying up up up, smashing into a barrier of green that could not hold back the light. Green swirled across never ending blue as they were welcomed by the playful push of the wind. It wove around them and underneath the broad expanse of their wings as it carried them aloft. A whispered command had them climbing higher, every deep down stroke pushing them closer to the open sky and further from the jealous earth. The wind followed them, buffeted them in delight as it welcomed them to its domain, whispering of secret places across foreign seas and strange forests.
Gradually Jake pulled away from Toruk, not separating, just pulling back enough that he did not feel that it was his wings holding them aloft. It was hard, for there was a comfort in the hard lines that formed the Toruk's consciousness. There were no blurry half-truths and questions. There were only prey and enemy, mate and offspring. And there was the sky, forever a home and a companion that whistled and hummed in the wind across his wings.
Once they reached a height he was comfortable with they leveled out, and if he looked down he could just make out the base far below. From where they soared, the human base was an undead blight surrounded by living green. Hopefully now that they had shown the humans that they would not be shoved aside in the pursuit of their precious minerals, things would be different now.
A tug had Toruk gradually turn until it began to descend in a slow spiral. Jake did not want it to end, wanted to stay in the sky forever and remain in the clear cut world of Toruk's mind. The beast's predatory nature possessed a simplicity that would forever be denied to Jake, a state of being that was beyond Na'vi and Humankind. There were times he wondered if self-awareness was overrated and the price too high, but such thoughts did not accomplish anything and so he pushed them aside.
When Toruk eventually fanned its wings in order to land, Jake was at peace with his decision and prepared to carry it out. He kept his posture as Toruk landed on the roof once more. Jake could feel the building rattle beneath them as it grudgingly accepted the abuse. Moving carefully so he would not disconnect the bond, Jake slid from Toruk's back and landed gracefully on his feet. Still connected he moved to stand beside the creature's head. Staring into Toruk's eye, and their minds still linked, he spoke.
"My thanks to you for sharing your wings and your strength. It is time for you to return to the wild and to Ewya." Before Jake would have felt silly as he struggled to find the right words, but now he felt only a deep calm and a lingering sadness. Then he pushed his with his mind, willing Toruk to understand what it was he was asking.
It was the next moment that Jake would forever remember, and would hopefully one day pass onto Ewya so that all those who came after him would act as witness. As the tsahaylu faded and he gently tugged his queue free, Toruk stepped back, shuffling away as if in confusion. Then it lowered its head, the blue crest scraping the roof as it attempted an awkward bow. In spite of the difficulty, there was an odd grace in the gesture and Jake nodded even as he stepped back a few more steps, giving Toruk room for its flight.
Toruk stared at him, and Jake would not fool him self into thinking that he saw alien regret shining out of those fierce eyes, but there was a moment between them where they acknowledged the bond that had been forged. Then Toruk roared, its head lifted high to the sky, and in a rush of wings and shrieking wind it was aloft. Jake stumbled briefly in the draft but he righted him self in order to watch Toruk gradually grow smaller as it returned to the sky.
Jake would return to riding his Ikran, and one day he would encounter another Toruk. It might even be the one he had formed tsahaylu with, but it wouldn't matter. It would try to kill him, and he would do his best to evade it. But he would never forget the Toruk that had carried him through battle. Only Ewya would know if the Toruk would carry the memory of Jake with it as well.
Jake faced the forest, and the broken fences that had once protected the humans from a world that held no place for them. Now the humans had been rounded up and sent back to their dead planet, where they would reap the consequences of their actions, past and present. Without them the Na'vi would rebuild and return to a life of peace; a life that he would join.
In the end it didn't matter. The memory would be enough.
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