The Last Goodbye

by TeeJay

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Author's Note:
Jake, Norm and the Omaticaya say their last goodbye to Grace. Takes place after the "transfer attempt".

Thank you to Raygen who pointed out a mistake in one of my Na'vi sentences, it has been fixed because I think you're right. Irayo. (And if I may add, I'm a tsmuké rather than a tsmukan.) :o)

The characters or situations of this story or the movie aren't mine. They are property of James Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment or other copyright owners. No copyright infringement intended.

With regard to the Na'vi language used in this story, I tried to stay as true as possible to what learnnavi [dot] org offers. I'm no linguist, so should you be fluent in the language, please forgive me if my Na'vi may not be a 100% correct. I am listing the phrases I used (and their translations) at the end.

Rated T (PG-13) for language

—==''''==—

Even the rain on Pandora was different.

Soft raindrops caressed Jake's skin, forming gentle rivulets of water that trickled down his spine. Here, it never fell in dreary curtains of drizzle that would shroud the world in gray walls of mournfulness. The rain on Pandora always came down in distinct drops that would bounce off leaves and dance on the surface of the lakes and lagoons, creating shiny ripples that joined each other to coalesce into a liquid unity.

Jake stared down at Grace's lifeless form in the ground. Her human body lay nestled to her much taller avatar body, like a mother cradling a child, in a hollow beneath the roots of a Pxaltirunyu tree. She looked peaceful, and Jake tried to shake his last memories of seeing her alive from his mind.

She had been in such a lot of pain, and even though she had tried to hide it, he had known. The white-hot pain searing his lower back after being hit by a piece of shrapnel was just a distant memory now, but it was enough to make Grace's physical torment hit home—if only for a moment.

Something tugged at the edge of his perception. Reliving uncomely memories, he hadn't noticed the sagacious voice of Mo'at' had now fallen silent.

Neytiri lightly reached for his hand. "Do you want to speak?"

He lifted his chin, seeing expectant eyes of the People trained on him, but he slowly shook his head and took a step back. This was not the time for great speeches. Everyone conveyed respect at his silent retreat.

Neytiri squeezed his hand and held out her other, carrying a tenderly pulsing atokirina'. Together, they approached the open grave and knelt before it. Released from Neytiri's hand, the seed floated down to settle on the shoulder of Grace's human body. Eywa had accepted her into her realm—something that no Na'vi had ever seen before with an outsider.

Gracefully lowering her head, Neytiri spoke a silent prayer. When she looked up, her eyes met with Jake's. Without having to say it out loud, she was telling him it was time to say goodbye to a friend—a friend he had come to love, in a way that a son loved his mother.

She briefly touched his shoulder before she got up to give him room for his own farewells. The world of luminescent colors faded around him and he closed his eyes.

"Oel t'ing txoati oeyä. Eywal ngati kame oeyä tsmuké. Ngeyä tirea lirmonu sì tìran hu poé," he whispered. It was strange; he was still struggling with the Na'vi language, but English seemed too clunky to convey to his friend that he offered his forgiveness and that her spirit would now walk with Eywa.

He hardly noticed the tears that rolled down his cheeks, mingling with the drops of rain from invisible clouds high above. The sorrow suddenly gave way to anger. 'Shit, Grace, why did you have to get on that chopper?!' he silently raged inside. Deep down, he knew the answer. She had gotten on that chopper for exactly the same reason he had. And no one could have stopped her.

'Get a grip, Jake. There is much to do.' For a split second he wondered if it had been his own voice or Grace's inside his head.

He drew in a sharp breath that smelled of moss and forest soil and sanguinity.

Too soon, he thought. Grace had left this world too soon. Knowing she was with Eywa now was a small comfort, but not one he found easy to grasp. The mercilessness of the terrestrial cities he'd grown up in and a system that didn't care about welfare or dignity tended to suspend one's belief in anything even remotely divine.

"Kìyevame, Grace," he said quietly before he slowly straightened up and walked away, the lichen beneath his feet emanating a fluorescent green incandescence wherever he stepped.

Norm's eyes briefly met his, sharing a moment of silent grief. Jake put his hand on his shoulder as he passed, a simple, comforting gesture. None of them would be alone tonight.

His eyes searched for Neytiri, she was waiting for him near the gnarled roots of Vitraya Ramunong, its willowy, white-purple leaves bathing her in a soft glow. Her beauty was only diminished by the loss and tragedy of recent events.

They sat in silence for a long time, Jake leaning his back against her chest.

"Neytiri?" he asked in a low voice.

"Yes, My Jake?"

"Tell me about Sylwanin."

Her soulful, yellow eyes filled with long gone sorrow and buried memories. "You know about her from Grace?"

He nodded. "She told me how she was shot."

Neytiri's voice was reserved. "Then you know the story."

His voice dropped almost down to a whisper. "I wanna know more about her, about your sister. What was she like?"

For a few, long moments, she was quiet, and Jake was starting to regret having brought her up, but then Neytiri interrupted the silence. "She had a strong spirit, a strong heart—like you. All Omaticaya knew she was going to be Tsahik. She bonded with ikran very young, always the first to run, the first to fight."

A melancholy smile crept into Neytiri's features, her older sister had been such a bundle of energy, daring and venturous. Neytiri had always been the careful one, evaluating every situation before acting upon it. She didn't know how to put it into words of a language that was alien to her.

"When the Sky People first came, she went out there with the hunters, to see what they were like. She was so curious. Always..." Neytiri struggled to find the right word, "stalking the Dreamwalkers, watching them."

Her eyes darkened with contempt and her ears flattened against her head at the recollection of unpleasant times. "When they began to destroy the land, she was angry. She wanted to be a warrior, but sempu would not allow it. That made her more angry."

Darkened with unleashed contempt that she had not felt in a long time, her eyes focused on the rocks in the distance. "She always respected Grace. Grace was teaching us, she wanted to understand us. But Sylwanin, she did not understand that the Sky People were mighty, did not understand they had machines for killing that were more powerful than tsko or tukru. She thought she could fight the Tawtute."

She paused for a moment, then added in a whisper. "She was wrong."

Anger suddenly welled up in the pit of Jake's stomach, anger towards his own people, the idiotic, xenophobic ideas of humanity, their arrogance and untrammeled hunger for power. And anger towards himself. Not too long ago, he himself had been ready to betray the Omaticaya. He should be in the pillory along with Quaritch, Selfridge and everyone who had a part in their megalomaniac undertaking.

He felt Neytiri's hand on his shoulder. "Jake, it is not your fault."

"The hell it isn't!" he snapped so forcefully that it made Neytiri flinch. "Maybe not Sylwanin's death, but you don't know what I've done." His jaw muscles clenched. "Do you not understand that I betrayed you? I told them everything, everything I know—about Hometree and how they could best attack it. About the Tree of Souls, about the Clan." In a resigned whisper, he added, "Everything."

She touched his arm, "Jake," but he jerked it away.

"No! Don't you see?" He spoke through clenched teeth. "It is my fault that Hometree lies in ruins, that hundreds of Na'vi died, that you have no home anymore."

Neytiri stood up and planted herself in front of Jake, looking down, straight at him. "Jakesully, I think you do not understand. Can you not see that the Sky People would have destroyed Kelutrel without you? Ngal ke skola'a Kelutrelti."

He bowed his head. Maybe there was truth in her words; he hadn't been the one to give the orders or pull the trigger, but none of that held any consolation.

He got up and looked at her for a brief moment before he turned away. His eyes were lifeless, dispirited. "I have to go," he said flatly.

"'I'awn, rutxe," she pleaded. "Stay, please."

The words rebounded without effect, there was nothing she could do but watch him walk away. The glowing footsteps on the ground marked his trail long after he had gone.

She found his seemingly lifeless avatar body lying on the ground near their makeshift sleeping quarters half an hour later.

—==''''==—

Opening his eyes inside the link chamber, he lay there, motionless, until the stale air made a wave of claustrophobia wash over him. Where did he have left to go? Out there, he was facing a People he had double-crossed in a vain, egoistic attempt to regain functionality of a pair of legs that weren't gonna do him any good anyway. In here, there was a reality that he had never wanted to be a part of in the first place, with a Grace-shaped hole that marred what was left of the dented and rusting autobody of his soul.

He knew he'd have wake up some time.

It was quiet in the shack. Trudy was lying on her bunk, staring at the ceiling. Norm was sitting at one of the lab benches, his back turned toward the stereomicroscope behind him. Neither looked at Jake when he wheeled into the room.

He sat there for a few minutes, staring at nothing, joining Norm and Trudy in their shocked, silent contemplation until he couldn't take it anymore.

"Are we gonna give each other the silent treatment all night?"

Norm looked up, met his eyes. "What do you want us to say, Jake? Grace fucking died tonight. What else is there to say?"

"Yeah, well, I don't think she'd want us to sit around in catatonic rigor."

Trudy propped herself up on her elbows. "Then what do you think she'd want us to do, huh? Since when did you become our fearless leader?"

"Who died and made me king?" he muttered sadly, the irony not lost on him.

But this wasn't about him now, was it? "Look. Grace knew what she was getting herself into. She knew the risks, she knew what the RDA and SecFor were capable of. And she went out there anyway. She died for the Na'vi as much as she died for our cause. Hell, the Na'vi were her cause."

Norm's eyes bore into Jake with barely contained disdain. "None of this would have happened if you hadn't fucking sold them out."

Norm carefully eyed Jake, preparing for an explosive, angry retort. Instead, Jake bowed his head and lowered his voice.

"I know," he said simply. Hadn't he just tried to make that same stand with Neytiri? "Look, I screwed up. And I wish to God that I could take it back. But I can't."

A long moment of silence followed, broken only by the creaking of metal grinding against metal in the shack's connection duct as a gust of wind pushed against its side.

It was Trudy who spoke first. "So what now?"

"Now we pull ourselves together and give them a fight they've never seen before. We go out there and make Grace proud, make Eywa proud." He looked at Trudy, then at Norm. "Are you with me on this?"

Trudy's answer was quick. "Hell yeah."

Norm hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah, I'm with you."

—==''''==—

Neytiri woke when something stirred close to her. She had settled for the night next to Jake's motionless avatar body. She wanted to be there when he returned.

"Jake," she said softly, remnants of sleep still clinging to her brain.

"Neytiri." He looked at her intently. Their last moments from the night before tugged at his mind. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"There is no need to be sorry, My Jake. I am glad you are back."

He lightly touched her cheek in a gesture of affection. "So am I."

Pandora's wildlife around them glowed in incandescent hues of green and purple. The horizon in the distance was still dark, there was no indication yet of the coming dawn. However, 06:00 was going to arrive, and they had to be ready.

"I need to speak to the People. Quaritch is going to attack the Tree of Souls. This morning, very soon."

There was fright in Neytiri's eyes. She had already lost so much.

He reached out and touched her arm. "No, don't be afraid. We have a real chance to defeat them, their instruments won't work here. Norm and Trudy are going to help us, but we need to prepare."

Her amber colored irises contracted as her eyes widened slightly. Who was this strange Dreamwalker who had tumbled into her life and taken a hold of her, this enigmatic warrior she had such an unfathomable trust in?

"Are you sure, Jake?"

He hesitated only a split second, hoping Neytiri wouldn't notice. "Yes, I'm sure."

She reluctantly nodded and sat up. "Come, we will wake the brothers and sisters."

Getting up, he suddenly realized something was off. At the side of his head, clean-shaven skin greeted his palm. The hair at the top was carefully braided. He reached for the longer hair at the back and brought it over his shoulder into his line of sight, taking in the delicate feathers woven into the neatly plaited dozens of thin braids.

He looked at Neytiri, curious. "Did you do this?"

She smiled a wistful smile. "It is the Na'vi way. You are Toruk Makto now. You must look like a tsamsiyu."

For a minute, he imagined the strange picture of Neytiri hovering over his exanimate body to groom his hair. It freaked him out a little to think she was touching his limp form when he wasn't in control of it, but maybe that was just as well. He didn't think he would have had the patience to let her braid his hair for hours on end.

Letting his fingers glide over the uneven, multicolored feathers, he grinned back at her. "I like it."

—==''''==—

It had been a good speech, a strong speech. The Na'vi had listened to him, and for those who didn't understand English, Tsu'Tey had translated. Jake knew they were as ready as they'd ever be to face their enemy. Whether they would stand a fighting chance, he wished he knew.

What he did know was that if the Colonel managed to get to the Tree of Souls, it would be over. They would have to be stopped before they could reach the Omaticaya's most sacred place. At any cost.

Darkness still enveloped the hollow around Vitraya Ramunong, but the approaching dawn on the horizon was becoming tangible. The Na'vi troops were already on the way to their tactical positions. They'd have maybe another two hours, dawn on Pandora was slower than it was on earth.

Jake looked up at the sky, searching for some kind of sign. Were they fighting a losing battle? His gaze fell upon the Tree of Souls, its ever-glowing tendril-like leaves bathing the surroundings in a soft, white light. He remembered how Grace had whispered to him, "I'm with her, Jake. She's real."

Hesitantly at first, he approached the mighty tree. At its foot, he knelt down and touched a gnarly root with both hands, the moss on it like a spongy cushion beneath his palms. He sighed, feeling slightly foolish. But still...

"I'm probably just talking to a tree right now. But if you're there, I need to give you a heads up." He felt for the queue that hung loosely down his shoulder. Lifting it up to the glowing leaf in front of him, it developed a life of its own and the delicate, light purple tendrils wove themselves around the tree's lifeline.

He looked up into the crown of Vitraya Ramunong, allowing the barriers to fall away and the sensations of Tsahaylu to rush in.

He hadn't thought about his old home for a long time, but he had learned an important lesson here. He was more certain than ever that he did not want to go back to that place. There was no love, no respect in how the human race had treated their planet. And what was their achievement? A joyless world that operated in grayscale and anthill-like anonymity. He couldn't let history repeat itself.

"If Grace is with you, look at her memories. See the world we come from. There's no green there. They killed their mother, and they're gonna do the same here. More Sky People are gonna come. They're gonna come like a rain that never ends. Unless we stop them."

His ears briefly flexed when he heard a soft footfall from behind. He knew without looking that it was Neytiri. He didn't take his gaze off the tree—he wasn't finished. "Look, you chose me for something. I will stand and fight, you know I will." He sighed, lowering his head, whispering. "But I need a little help here."

He let his chin sink to his chest. What was he doing? Was he really this desperate?

Neytiri's hands touched his shoulder in silken solace. As if he couldn't be connected to two beings at the same time, the link to the tree severed, the tendrils of his queue unraveling. He straightened up to face his beloved mate.

"Our Great Mother does not take sides, Jake. She protects only the balance of life." Neytiri softly touched his cheek as she tried to explain the Na'vi rules to him.

He looked up again, atokirina' were floating amongst the glowing tendrils. A sigh escaped his lips as he met her gaze. "It was worth a try."

She could feel his desperation, such a great weight bore down on his shoulders. She reached for his shoulders and drew him to face her. Pulling him closer, he leaned in. Their foreheads touched, and hearing him drawing in a heavy, unsure breath, she wished so much she could do more to help or lift his burden.

They stood that way for a long moment, then he pulled away. Their last moment of intimacy, of quiet contemplation and hope.

Her soft fingertips touched his forehead. "Come, we must paint your face, for battle."

War paint, he mused. It hadn't been used on earth in centuries. Vague stories of the old Indians tugged at the back of his mind, wrinkled faces with blue stripes on their cheeks and feathered headdresses adorning their pates.

A mirthless chuckle escaped his lips.

History was already repeating itself.

—==''''==—

THE END

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Na'vi words used in this story:

atokirina' = seeds of the Sacred Tree
'I'awn, rutxe = Stay, please
Kelutrel
= Hometree
Kìyevame
= Goodbye
Ngal
ke skola'a Kelutrelti. = You did not destroy Hometree.
Oel t'ing txoati oeyä. Eywal ngati kame oeyä tsmuké. Ngeyä tirea lirmonu sì tìran hu poé.
= I offer my forgiveness. Eywa sees you, my sister. Your spirit has been released and walks with her now.
Pxaltirunyu tree
= a species of tree under which the Na'vi bury their dead
sempu
= father (as in Dad)
Tawtute
= Sky Person
Tsahik
= spiritual leader of the Na'vi clan, the name means "she who interprets the will of Eywa"
tsamsiyu
= warrior
tsko
= bow
tukru
= spear
Vitraya Ramunong
= Tree of Souls