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"Are you planning to sleep at all tonight?" Jake asked.
His arrival hadn't exactly been quiet—Tsu'tey was in the upper branches of the canopy, and Jake was not a quiet climber—and Tsu'tey bared his teeth. He knew that the expression was perfectly visible even in the low light, and it expressed how he felt more clearly than anything else right now. "Isn't Neytiri waiting for you?"
Jake snorted. "Distraction, very nice." He dropped down beside Tsu'tey showing no evidence that he was planning to take the hint. "You do know that you sitting up waiting for them isn't going to change what the thantor does right? Or what time they're going to get back?"
"Palulukan. Of course." He wasn't an idiot. "Why are you here?"
"Oh, I don't know. It seemed like a good opportunity to irritate you."
Tsu'tey hissed. Jake probably did consider that a good reason to bother him in the middle of the night.
"Also to tell you that you can't do everything. I saw the look on your face when we landed."
Tsu'tey turned his attention pointedly back to the sky.
"One thing you pick up real quick in the Marines," Jake continued after a moment. "You should get your rest when you can. If trouble does come, you'll hear about it soon enough." A shake of his head. "Somehow trouble is never quiet. Except palulukans, I guess."
He was right. Tsu'tey knew that he was right. He hissed again anyway.
"All right, all right, I'm going." Jake held up his hands. "Since you're right, and Neytiri probably is waiting. I'll see you in the morning, when everything will be fine. Or not." He grinned. "Like I said, there is that speech you have to give."
"My cast is off," Tsu'tey pointed out. "Soon we will have a fight, and I will enjoy beating you."
"In your dreams." It seemed that Jake had said all he'd came to say, though, because with another quick smile he turned and started the climb down out of the canopy. He wasn't as quiet about it as a Na'vi would have been, maybe, but much more gracefully than he'd been moving before, and Tsu'tey nodded to himself. Very soon. And brother or not, he had been serious about the fact he'd enjoy it.
Silence finally fell again as Jake reached the wider branches that didn't move with his weight, and Tsu'tey returned his gaze to the sky in truth. He would never admit it out loud, but Jake was right. It felt like he should be out there. When Eytukan had been alive, his place would have been in the air with Denan following the Palulukan out, and it still seemed that at the very least he should have placed himself on the roster to relieve Kel'tsi and Yatan at daybreak. The fact was that it was no longer his place, but he was so accustomed to the one being out that it felt wrong. More so even than the hunts that had occurred without his participation…at least then he had been truly injured and unable to go. Of course, his mother would argue that his leg was still too weak for sustained flight without the cast, but then she was a healer. It was in her nature to fuss about such things.
He shook his head. As much as he knew that Jake was right about his need to sleep as well, that was certainly not going to happen until the others returned to report that the palulukan was safely out of the clan's territory. So for lack of anything else to do he began to consider that speech. It seemed like it should be simple, really. Congratulations and thanks. Nothing he hadn't heard from Eytukan a thousand times. But somehow when it came to him saying the words...even just speaking them to himself they came out as stilted as his first speech to the clan had been. He appreciated Tsa'dran's reassurance that Eytukan had once needed to practice as well, but that was less comfort now, in the middle of the night, than it had been that afternoon in the sun. Especially since he could hardly wake Tsa'dran and ask for more advice.
/Prey…prey…./ Jake shook his head. "Gah! It's the little white ones with the blue spots!"
/Preiss, yes. But they're large and yellow with red stripes./
Jake groaned, and Tsu'tey grinned. "I do not think I will need to fight you. You will poison yourself with your food long before the challenge."
"You're not funny."
"I find it funny." Jake rolled his eyes, and Tsu'tey's grin widened. /Preiss. Repeat./
It was about as close as Jake ever got, and Tsu'tey nodded. /The little white ones with the blue spots are prauiss./
"That's cheating," Jake muttered. /Prayss./
/Prawss./ Jake glanced around and then tilted his head. "Do you think we've sat here quietly long enough to fool the healers?" Jake asked.
"You know, trick them?"
Jake grinned. "Into thinking we're being good. My mind might be crap for plants, but I know there's a clearing not too far from here, and I really need to hit something. Someone. And you're nice and convenient. Come on, we're both healing up pretty good…they've all admitted it, even if they don't like it."
Tsu'tey considered. Clan leader and Toruk Makto or not, they would be in trouble if they got caught. His mother did agree that his leg was regaining strength more quickly than she'd expected, but she'd also been voicing less than subtle concerns about the amount of stress he'd been putting on it flying with Denan in the last few days. In fact the flight he'd just returned from had gotten him the 'suggestion' that he sit and rest until the evening meal. And he'd heard Jake complaining to Norm over the radio that the healers here were fussing at him even more here than they had been back on the base as well. Not that Norm had been sympathetic, and Max's muttered comments in the background had made Tsu'tey laugh and Jake threaten all of them.
"Come on," Jake urged. "Nothing full force, we probably aren't up for that just yet, but it's got to be better than sitting here. I mean, do you really want to keep listening to me get things wrong? Even Ninat and the children get sick of it after a while."
"I think it's funny when you get things wrong."
"Of course you do. Just don't expect me to stop harassing you about your speeches either."
"I am improving." Well, the last one had been better mostly because Tsa'dran was an early riser who'd been willing to help him reword things before the meal, but he was hardly going to admit that.
Jake made a face but didn't dispute his words, and then he nodded in the direction of the clearing. "So? What do you think?"
Tsu'tey considered. They shouldn't. They really shouldn't. They were both adults, after all, and should behave as fit their titles and positions within the clan. After all, they weren't back at the Sky People's place any more. But he already knew that he'd run out of patience with Jake soon no matter how he tried to find amusement in the situation…he was excellent at demonstrating things, but the sort of rote teaching that Jake needed was not among his stronger talents. And his mother had said something about wanting to speak to Mo'at about some of the herbs they'd lost at Hometree that the healers needed to lay in a new store of, or more specifically the ceremony required to bless them, and if his mother and Mo'at started talking, he and Jake should have plenty of time. Besides, it wasn't like they would be doing it in front of anyone else in the clan, which meant that they could hardly be accused of setting a poor example. He bared his teeth, and Jake's grin widened in return.
"Let's get going, then."
Tsu'tey checked the clearing automatically for any large sticks or particularly sharp rocks when they arrived and then mimicked Jake and began to stretch. His leg did feel a little stiff, but nothing he hadn't dealt with before, and this was hardly going to be a fight for his life.
"Ready?" Jake asked, taking a few steps back.
Tsu'tey tilted his head and then drew his knife and tossed it aside. "Just in case I forget."
"Oh, that makes me feel good." Still, Jake pulled his knife free of its sheath and tossed to the side as well. "Now, are you ready?"
/Ready./ Tsu'tey didn't recognize Jake's stance, but then, Jake had learned to fight as a Sky Person so there was no reason that he should. It was similar to the stance he'd taken when Tsu'tey had attacked him before, Tsu'tey recognized, far more upright than any Na'vi would fight. Although his weight was properly on the balls of his feet, and he was faster than he looked. Tsu'tey remembered that from before. Tsu'tey still didn't think that Jake was as fast as he was, though, and that strange stance had to be setting him off balance at least a little. Jake might have learned to fight as a Sky Person, but he was in a Dreamwalker body now.
"Are you attacking or am I?" Jake asked with a grin. "Come on, I kicked your tail last time. You can take the first shot."
Him attacking first was how Jake had sent him sprawling the last time, as Tsu'tey recalled, but that night he'd been fighting more off anger than thought. He would not make that mistake again.
Jake apparently got tired of waiting for him to make the first move and darted in to slap Tsu'tey's arm. On his weaker side, unfortunately, so he couldn't retaliate with the kick he wanted to, but he did make a swipe at Jake's head. And then grunted as he hit the ground when a sweeping kick he hadn't even seen coming took out his stronger leg at the knee.
"Come on, brother, got to be quicker than that," Jake said as he darted out of range of retaliation.
Tsu'tey feinted again, enough to force Jake on the defensive, and then turned it into a real strike that should have sent Jake over backwards. Unfortunately Jake just planted a hand on his chest and threw him up over his shoulder. Right. Jake might not be back to full strength, but his Dreamwalker body had heavier muscle through the upper body than a Na'vi body did.
"Two for me," Jake said with a grin as Tsu'tey landed on his back and struggled for a moment to regain his breath.
Tsu'tey hissed and pulled himself around and upright again. And then pulled himself to his feet and tried to pretend that he and Jake had just been taking a walk and he'd happen to fall. Or something. /Sa'nok./
"Oh, hell," Jake muttered. "The universe hates me."
/Was there something unclear about rest?/ his mother asked. /To either of you? I believe Danah repeated this in the Sky People's tongue when she learned of the extra stress you'd been putting on your shoulder?/
That was directed at Jake who winced. And once again proved that he understood a lot more than he could say. "Yes, ma'am."
/Mo'at wishes to speak to you,/ she said, her attention still on Jake. /Neytiri told her that Toruk plans to leave when the moons change and she would like to hold the ceremony to bless the herbs before then if he will fly over to lend them strength./
"Yes, ma'am," Jake repeated. "I'll go talk to her about that now. Uh…." He shook his head. /I go talk her now./ "See you at dinner."
The last was directed at Tsu'tey, who muttered /Talk to her now/ under his breath automatically, but it wasn't until Jake turned to go that Tsu'tey realized that he was being left alone with his mother. He fought down the urge to hurry after Jake under some pretense or another. It just wasn't fair that Jake got to escape the lecture that he knew was coming. He used retrieving his and Jake's knives to give him a momentary respite, but…well, momentary was a very good word for it.