Finally saw Avatar, and this popped into my head afterward. Some plans made between Jake and Tsu'tey after the final battle (because while I like Jake, I still don't think that simply being Neytiri's mate is the best qualification for a leader). AU in that Tsu'tey is still alive, obviously.
His head hurt. Very badly. His chest as well, one of his legs was badly damaged and would probably have permanent impairment, and his arm…. Tsu'tey couldn't lift his head far enough to look down, but he already knew that the healers had been forced to take his left entirely. There hadn't been enough left of it for even Eywa's grace to save. And the loss of an arm, even in one who prided himself on his skills with a bow, was a small price to pay in comparison with so many in his clan.
He felt a tug in his chest that had nothing to do with the injuries he'd taken at that. The Omaticaya clan was his clan, no longer. Or, rather, he was still a member, but he was no longer the leader. He'd felt the first stirrings of that pain when he'd seen Jakesully and Neytiri growing closer, and then, when he'd learned that Jakesully had mated Neytiri…. He shook his head slightly and then wished that he hadn't as the throbbing pain increased. At the time, rage had overridden his pain, and he'd felt nothing but vindication when he'd learned of Jakesully's betrayal. And then when the Dreamwalker had returned to them as Toruk Makto, he'd been too worried for his clan, for the weight of his new position, to consider the ramifications. But now…Toruk Makto, Jakesully, was the Olo'eyktan. The transition was a bit unorthodox, perhaps, since Tsu'tey had been named Olo'eyktan after Eytukan had passed, but as Neytiri's chosen mate it was Jakesully's right.
A small part of Tsu'tey still railed against it, as much as he tried to force the feeling down. He respected Jakesully. Toruk Makto. He had been proud to fly and fight alongside him. But Jakesully hadn't been born among them. He hadn't trained from childhood for the responsibility of Olo'eyktan. He didn't know, didn't truly understand what that responsibility entailed. And maybe he wasn't a Dreamwalker, anymore—Tsu'tey been too injured to attend the ceremony in which Jakesully was brought fully into his Na'vi body from his broken Sky Person one, but it had been described to him by his healers—but he was still…different.
Tsu'tey shook his head again, ignoring the increase in pain. Jakesully was Na'vi, now. He was Neytiri's mate. He was the Olo'eyktan. Tsu'tey would learn—
"Tsu'tey? Hey, are you awake?"
He tilted his head back to find a familiar looking face, the subject of his most recent thoughts, leaning in through the back of the tent. "Jakesully?"
"Oh, whew." Jakesully slipped in the rest of the way, pulling the flap carefully closed behind him. "Your healers keep chasing me—and everyone else—away, but you have no idea how much I need to talk to you."
"I See you, Jakesully," Tsu'tey said, as manners reasserted themselves.
"I See you, Tsu'tey," Jakesully returned, and then his eyes flicked up and down Tsu'tey's form and he shook his head. "Man, you look rough. How are you feeling? All anyone will say is that you're injured and you need rest. It's—" he turned slightly. "I guess maybe I should have listened to those healers; I can come back later, if that would be better."
Tsu'tey made a dismissive gesture with his uninjured hand. "I am recovering. Why do you need to speak to me?" He frowned as the muscles in his neck spasmed at the awkward positioning. "Could you please move—?"
"Oh. Sorry." Jakesully moved to sit closer to his head, where Tsu'tey could more easily see him. "Look, it's this ceremony…thing…they keep trying to do. To make me the clan leader."
"Olo'eyktan," Tsu'tey said, the ache in his chest suddenly worse. "Would you…would you prefer that I was there?" That was traditionally the way that it was done, after all—assuming of course that the previous leader survived to bestow the title, and although Tsu'tey no longer had a bow to pass on—but despite knowing that that was how it must be, he wasn't sure that he could bear to be there. And not just because of his physical injuries.
"What? No!" Jakesully's face twisted into an expression of exasperation. "I want you to tell them to stop it."
Tsu'tey frowned. "I don't understand."
"You're the Olo'eyktan. I'm not. I don't want to be. I'm really not sure why they want me to be."
"You don't want to mate with Neytiri?" He had thought that that was well-settled.
"What?" Jakesully shook his head. "No, why does everyone I bring this up with keep asking me that? Neytiri and I are already mated, and we're quite happy. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Neytiri will be Tsahik someday." Someday soon, probably; Mo'at had taken the death of her mate hard.
"Yeah, I got that."
"The mate of the Tsahik is the Olo'eyktan." Tsu'tey sighed in exasperation at the expression that crossed Jakesully's face. "Don't you know anything?" He knew the Sky People didn't understand much, but this sort of nonsense was ridiculous from one who was now one of them. Who was the leader of the Omaticaya.
"I just don't get why it has to be that way." Jakesully shook his head. "I mean, what kind of system is that? What if the mate of the Tsahik is totally unqualified? And what about Mo'at—her mate is gone, but no one is suggesting that she step down. Which is a good thing, don't get me wrong." Another shake of his head, and then he stood up, pacing around the small tent for a minute before swiveling to stare at Tsu'tey. "I'm not explaining this very well. We have a saying back where I'm from. Used to hear it all the time from my mom growing up. Goes something like, 'Asking who ought to be the leader is like asking who ought to be the tenor in the quartet. Obviously, it's the man who can sing tenor.' Well, I might be Neytiri's mate, but I can't sing tenor. Not here, not for this."
"I don't understand what you're talking about. What does song have to do with anything, and what is tenor?" The ache in Tsu'tey's head was becoming steadily worse as this conversation progressed.
Jakesully shook his head again and then dropped back down to sit beside him. "You trained for it, right? To be the Olo'eyktan?"
"For how long?"
"Many years. Since childhood." In truth, he had still been learning when the responsibility had become his. "There is much to leading a clan."
"Right. And the people trust you. They respect you. There are already stories going around about how you jumped the Valkyrie, and when they found you alive in the forest…." He grinned slightly. "As annoying as it is being continually chased off by the healers, if they weren't keeping you secluded, you'd have a crowd of people five deep in here constantly and you'd never get any rest at all."
Tsu'tey felt a flash of pride at that that he didn't bother to try and suppress.
"But it's more than just the fighting you did that makes them respect you as a clan leader. Me…." He shook his head slightly. "That fighting, being Toruk Makto, is all most of them know. And…well, in a lot of ways, there's not a lot else to know." He looked away. "Here you call me a warrior. I call me a soldier. A marine. Either way, don't get me wrong, I'm a good fighter. A good commander. I've seen—and been in—firefights worse than anything that happened here. That's what my training was for: to fight, to hold the line, to do my duty." He shook his head. "Semper Fi, as warped as that sounds knowing what RDA tried to do. But leading a clan—leading anyone—in peacetime…." He shook his head. "I'm not even sure where to start."
Tsu'tey couldn't help but be glad that at least Jakesully recognized the scope of what he was faced with. "Neytiri will help," he pointed out. "And Mo'at." And perhaps he would too, once he had come to terms with the new order of things.
Jakesully frowned. "Mo'at has pretty been busy with other things, but I have been talking to Neytiri." He shrugged slightly. "Well, at least once we'd resolved the whole 'Yes, I'm your mate and I absolutely want to stay that way, I just don't want to be Olo'eyktan' thing. But there's just too much I don't know. I can't do this."
"You're afraid," Tsu'tey said, not bothering to hide the feeling of contempt rising in his chest. It should have been an honor for the former Dreamwalker, but—
"Damn right I afraid," Jakesully snapped, "and I've got more sense than to be stupid and get people hurt pretending I'm not. Me getting hurt, fine. Hell, that's what prompted me to jump onto Toruk's back in the first place—you people were going to get killed, and it was the only way I could think of to make you listen. If I got killed trying, so be it. But them…." He ran a hand over his face. "Tsu'tey, I can't even hold a conversation with half the clan without a translator. When I try, I usually end up insulting someone. I'll grant that it's been awhile since I've stepped on anyone's tail, at least, but…." He shook his head. "I've got Neytiri, Norm, and a couple of the others drilling me whenever we get a free minute—not that there are many of those with all the clean-up work to do—but even so, when I hear someone talk about seasons, festivals, plantings, two-thirds of it goes right over my head. Neytiri taught me to think like a Na'vi, but I've been with you what, a few months? There are things, and there may always be things, that I just don't know about. These people have already lost their home…will you trust their lives in this new place with a leader who has that kind of handicap? I mean, just flailing around hoping he gets it right? Will you be able to stand by and watch that happen?"
Tsu'tey didn't say anything, and after a minute Jakesully rocked back on his heels, sighing.
"As far as I can tell, the smartest thing I can do right now is sit back and be a figurehead. And even if that was my style—which it's not—it isn't the kind of leader anyone here needs."
"Nor, even if you were willing to do so, is Neytiri truly trained for that kind of leadership either," Tsu'tey said after a moment. As the future Tsahik she was learning to be the spiritual leader, certainly, but the physical world was very a different realm.
Jakesully shook his head again and then nudged his uninjured arm lightly. "They need a leader that knows them. That has trained for this. Tell them to stop it, Tsu'tey. Tell them you're the Olo'eyktan, not me, and I'll back you all the way." He snorted. "I've been trying to tell them myself, but…well, so far no luck. And if you want to make me something else—a battle commander, your official talking-to-Sky-People person, whatever—I'm okay with that. Hell, putting someone in charge of talking to Sky People is a smart idea, because humans are damn stubborn and I guarantee you they'll be back someday. And no matter what you choose to do, I'll be here with the Omaticaya, no question. But don't let them make me the clan leader."
Tsu'tey sighed. "Jakesully, what you're suggesting goes against every tradition." Which was probably why no one was listening to him, not that he'd know that.
"Yeah, well, I'd guess making a science-experiment Sky Person Olo'eyktan is pretty damn non-traditional too. So why don't we just make a new tradition that actually makes some sense for this situation? Let the people who are most qualified—at the moment you, Mo'at, and Neytiri—do their jobs, and the rest of us will fill in the blanks wherever you need us."
Tsu'tey looked at him curiously, trying to ignore the faint stirrings of hope that had risen at what Jakesully was suggesting. "What will that mean for you?"
"Right now?" He shrugged. "I think we've got all the survivors pretty much rounded up at this point, but I'm probably the only one left on the planet who really knows how to handle all that weaponry still scattered around. Definitely the only one who's ever used most of it. I'd be way more useful spending my time sorting through that and doing disarmament than sitting in on councils trying not to look like a complete idiot the way I'm doing now. And later...well, I suspect I can find something to keep me occupied."
Tsu'tey smiled slightly. "How are the clan councils going?"
Jakesully snorted. "You know I said I was trying not to look like a complete idiot? Well, I never said I was succeeding. Mostly I've just been keeping my mouth shut except to agree with whatever Mo'at and Neytiri say, but whatever my reputation, I don't think I'm really being of any use to anyone. Injured or not, you'd be a much better representative."
"You truly believe that this is possible? That you can just change the tradition?" You would willingly do this? He could not ask the last question out loud, but there was no uncertainty in Jakesully's expression when he replied.
"I believe that if the Olo'eyktan of the Omaticaya clan and Toruk Makto say 'no' often enough and loud enough, everyone else will eventually get the point. And I don't know about Mo'at, but Neytiri will definitely back us." He cocked his head. "So does that mean you're in?"
"I will try," Tsu'tey said after a moment. "We will try. Although you will certainly have to take your place as a battle commander. You bested me once in a fight, and you are still Toruk Makto." And the fact remained that he could no longer handle a bow, making him far less useful in combat than he had been. Still, somehow that fact didn't bite as deeply as it had earlier.
Jakesully grinned. "I can live with that. And if you want, I can show you a couple of those hand-to-hand moves...some of them work just fine, even with injuries. One of my sergeants in basic had his arm busted up so his elbow didn't bend anymore, and he could still kick the rest of our tails when he felt like it." There were footsteps outside the tent, and he turned. "I'd better get out of here before the healers catch me. I'll keep stalling the whole ceremony thing; you hurry up and get well enough so we can tell them to forget about it entirely."
"I will do this." He paused. "Thank you, brother."
Jakesully's grin shifted into a smile. "You too. We'll make this work."