This is just a bit of fun I had. Gets a little lime at the end, but only very briefly. I might go ahead and expand it into full-blown lemon at some point, if anyone ever expresses interest.
"I do not want to go, Jake."
Jake ignored her, grinning as he slipped through the ghost-lit foliage. It was dusk, with just a faint hint of sunlight still below the horizon, but the stars were in the sky already. The dreamlike nights of Pandora.
Neytiri had kept up a steady stream of complaints, entreaties and dire warnings since they'd left their small camp some two hours ago. But she'd resolutely stayed on his heels the entire time.
"I can go back to our camp," she said yet again. "I will hunt. You can visit, and then come back to me and we will eat. Then we will both be happy."
"I don't get why this is a problem to you," Jake said, turning to look over his shoulder. "C'mon. The first time we met I stayed with the Omaticaya for three months. You can give my people one night."
Neytiri slowly began to duck her head, rolling her golden eyes up to maintain a steady glare. To Jake she looked like a cat preparing to lunge, and he quickly turned back forward to hide his smile. The Na'vi were highly empathic people, and as Jake had learned that the surest way to annoy was to be oblivious to the situation.
"And, I have met your Norman already!" Neytiri continued.
"Just call him Norm," Jake said, brushing aside a curtain of glowing leaves like palm fronds.
"Norm," Neytiri repeated sullenly.
"And you've never even see Max – he's picked up where Grace left off, studying the trees and stuff, trying to figure out how they work."
"It is Eywa."
"Yeah, I know, and I know who she is and what she does, and so do Max and Norm. But they want to find out how, too."
"You were friends with Max and – Norm, before becoming Omaticaya," Neytiri said.
"Saw a lot more of Norm than Max, but yeah."
"They will not like me," she Na'vi princess said. "Because I took you away from them."
Ah, there it is.
Neytiri, for all her poise and solemn-eyed spirituality, had a chink in her armor where her mate was concerned. Anything that touched on Jake or was special to him was just as important to her. Norm, Max, and the couple dozen other Avatar drivers and scientists all liked Jake, and it was immensely important to Neytiri that they not look on her as a thief, an interloper into their human bastion on Pandora.
Jake understood, though he knew better than to give voice to any of her weaknesses while she was distressed.
"They'll all like you," was all he said.
The two Na'vi easily cleared the fence meant to keep the wild creatures at bay. The compound was dark, except for the glass-walled command center on the top floor. Being back here again gave Jake pause, and he slowed his gait to give himself time to consider his emotions. He searched for some twinge, some guilt. The first time he'd come back after becoming a Na'vi, he had been almost undone, like someone had piloted an AMP suite from the hangar and blown a hole in his emotional defenses.
There was nothing of that now, though. Neytiri, strongly attuned to her mate's moods even for a Na'vi, grasped his hand, a gesture she knew Jake liked, and had come to like herself.
"All good," he said, letting her bring his face around with her hand. She pressed her face to his for a moment, nose-to-nose, closing her eyes, which was a gesture Jake knew she liked.
"Good," she finally said. "Then let us get this over with." Na'vi did not roll their eyes as humans did, but Jake heard the same meaning in her voice. He grinned and pulled her along towards the compound. He hadn't seen Norm or Max or any human at all since shortly after the final battle, half a year ago.
They had reached the party just as it was getting into full swing. No one had missed the sounds of the two Na'vi coming up the stairs – so quiet in the forest, they were nearly as loud as human when inside, which was still impressive, considering their proportions. There were maybe two dozen present, scientists and drivers both. Music – human music was pumping through the room's speakers.
"Jake! Max, hey, it's Jake!"
Norm bounded up from his seat, the one Selfridge had so often occupied. He leaped up and slung one arm around Jake's neck, then dropped back to the floor. Max was coming up as well, a wide grin on his face and a cup in his hand.
"Hey guys," Jake said, smiling widely. "Good to see you again!"
"Long time Jake," Max said, leaning in to briefly shake his hand.
"Neytiri," Norm said, turning to the Na'vi woman as she came around from behind Jake. He said something in rapid Na'vi, bowing a little at the waist.
Neytiri smiled, surprised. "He speaks Na'vi better than you do," she chided Jake. She repeated the greeting and motion to Norm, and then reached out towards Max with one hand, as she'd seen him do to Jake.
"Yeah, well, I wasn't ever the best student," Jake said. He winked at Max and jerked his head at Neytiri, and the man finally grasped her larger hand, pumping it once.
"Nice to finally meet you," he said. "Any friend of Jake's, all that."
"Hey, come here you guys, look at this." Norm said, suddenly, making for what had once been Selfridge's office, though the label on the door had been scraped off. The interior had been gutted as well, save for a rough wooden palette stacked high with boxes. "We found this stuff while we were doing inventory of our supplies." He reached into a box and came up with a bottle that he tossed at Jake.
Jake caught it and examined it briefly. "Whoa!" he exclaimed.
Norm grinned. "Bastard had expensive taste," he said. "His name was all over the shrink wrap. His private stash, I guess. Looks like he wanted enough to last him his entire stay. We're doing our best to put a dent in it tonight though."
"What is this?" Neytiri asked when Jake handed the bottle to her.
"Whiskey," Jake said. He'd been a big whiskey drinker when he was younger. "Expensive whiskey."
"Whiskey," Neytiri repeated flatly, turning the bottle around and upside down, holding it up and peering through the dark blue glass.
"You wanna try some?" Max asked, coming in behind them. "Don't worry, it's palatable for a Na'vi. Grace made sure to test that theory early." He smiled "Actually, she said it tasted better to her Avatar. Na'vi taste buds work a little differently than a human's."
"Yeah?" Jake asked, curious. He'd tasted the Na'vi equivalent of alcohol – the strong stuff was a brutal concoction, with more attention paid to the affect than the taste. What was the harm? He hadn't seen his friends in a long time.
Following Norm back to the other room, Jake laughed when the scientist grabbed a bowl instead of a cup. "Our cups aren't much more than a mouthful for a Na'vi," he apologized. "I brought these up just in case. Na'vi drink out of bowls sometimes anyway."
Neytiri looked over Jake's shoulder curiously as Norm emptied about half the bottle into the bowl. Her nose twitched as she scented the air. She watched as Jake took a careful sip.
"Whoa," he said, ears going up. "Wow."
"It's good isn't it?" Norm asked.
"Tastes like whiskey, but definitely different. It's like I can taste more of it than before."
"Na'vi have their taste buds configured differently," Max said. "Different emphasis on the tastes."
"I would like to taste it," Neytiri said suddenly, and the others looked at her in surprise. She looked back blandly, eyes luminous in the artificial light.
Jake passed the bowl to her wordlessly. Limited though his time among the Na'vi had been, he had never seen a woman drink at all, and even the men only drank within the constraint of ceremony or celebration. His lips twitched as Neytiri very solemnly sniffed the bowl, before taking a cautious sip.
"How do you like it?" Norm finally asked after she brought the bowl back down.
Neytiri took a slow breath in, then looked sidelong at Jake. "If you had told me there would be drink like this, we could have traveled faster."
The three men laughed as Neytiri took another, larger drink. When she set the bowl down, it was empty, and she grinned ferally at Jake, a look with sharp teeth and hunter's eyes that he had come to associate only with battle and sex. With Neytiri, sometimes the two weren't entirely unrelated. A little tingle of alarm sounded in his head when she licked her fangs, glancing back at Selfridge's office.
"Neytiri! Wait up!"
"Run faster, Jake!" Neytiri called over her shoulder, laughing and leaping and putting on a dazzling burst of speed.
Jake growled to himself, pounding along behind her. She definitely had home field advantage. And after drinking four – four – bottles of whiskey in three hours, she was still like a moving shadow in the ghostlight of the forest. A very exuberant, loudly laughing, maniacally energetic shadow. He lowered his head and put on some speed of his own. Damned if he was going to lose a race to a drunken Na'vi.
"What the - " he managed, before something crashed into him from behind. Neytiri had somehow circled around behind him and ambushed him, dragging them both to the ground. She thumped down on Jake's back, leaning down to rest her chin on his head.
"I am a better runner than you," she said. She stood only enough to let Jake turn onto his back, then dropped onto his stomach, and smiled down at him.
It was that kind of smile again, the one he associated with battle, sex, or (now) whiskey.
For God's sake, he thought. It's a Na'vi drunken hookup. It was nice to know that it wasn't a solely human fallibility. He made a mental note to hide well the bottles that Norm had given him as a gift.
Then her arms tigthened around him, and his thoughts were dominated by the warm perfumed musk of his mate, the sinuous smoothness of her body, and the faint smell of expensive whiskey on her breath.