Beginnings

Disclaimer: I do not own Animorphs.

Note: For the prompt 'James/Elena.'

Boredom might have taken longer to set in than it might have under normal circumstances but it had finally come for her. Once Elena had never dreamt that she could ever grow complacent with sight (once she had never dreamed that sight could be restored to her, either, after the crash) but as the days turned to weeks it grew harder and harder to awe her anymore. It wasn't that she was no longer enjoying sight but she had grown used to it.

Others who could always see still were able to marvel at certain sights so she knew that it was possible but she wasn't currently at liberty to leave the valley. Cassie suggested morphing a butterfly but, honestly, morphing still kind of freaked her out and so she didn't think the trade-off would be worth it.

The fact that she was living in a real-life alien colony and resistance camp in the middle of a secret alien invasion (though not by the same aliens) also took awhile to get used to. Still, there wasn't much to do, really, besides get used to things.

And so she was bored.

Naomi had offered to teach her to read and Elena sometimes let her but it made her feel like she was about five or a Hork-Bajir (Naomi was also working with them for their constitution) and so she didn't enjoy those lessons.

It didn't help, either, being the odd one out. Everyone else was a tight-knit community of Hork-Bajir or came with their families. Everyone but Jake, she supposed, but he knew everyone there far better than she did. Even Tobias the hawk had found his long-lost mother! She and Loren had bonded somewhat over the wonders of sight but there was really only so much one could say about the matter.

Some sort of a bird flew over near her and landed on the ground.

Was it a morph?

"Hello?" she asked uncertainly.

The bird replied by beginning to demorph. Elena had quickly learned that not all sights were fit for appreciating and so quickly averted her eyes. When she looked back, she saw one of the newer Animorphs. The leader of the second, auxiliary group. He was pretty cute but she hadn't ever really spoken to him. Could not, in fact, even remember his name.

"Elena," the boy said, nodding to her.

Well that really put her on the spot, didn't it?

"Hi," she said, trying not to look awkward.

He laughed. "You have no idea who I am, do you?"

She flushed. "I wouldn't go that far! I know that you're one of the Animorphs and you're the new leader."

Another laugh. "I wouldn't let Jake hear you call me the new leader. He may not enjoy being in charge all that much but something tells me he'd get territorial about it if his position were threatened."

"I'll keep that in mind," Elena replied.

"James, by the way," James introduced.

"I'm Elena," Elena said, returning the favor.

He looked amused. "I know. I already said that, remember?"

She coughed. "Ah, right. Well then. James, what can I do for you?"

James shrugged. "Oh, nothing really. I came to talk to Jake about something but I don't see him around and it's not urgent. I saw you here by yourself and you looked lonely so I figured why not come over and say hi, make sure she has any idea who I am…"

"I absolutely knew who you were," Elena insisted.

"You didn't know my name," James reminded her.

"You didn't give me a chance to prove that I did," Elena argued.

"I asked if you knew who I was and you identified me by what I was and not my name," he pointed out.

"I was getting around to it," she sniffed.

He laughed again. "If that's your story then."

"It's not a story if it's true," Elena claimed.

The look in his eyes said it all. "Really. Though I do disagree. A story is a story whether it's true or not."

Elena rolled her eyes; this was getting them nowhere. "And while I do thank you for your consideration, I wasn't lonely. I was just bored."

James rubbed his hands together. "Oh, even better! It's much easier to save someone from boredom than from loneliness."

"And just why were you looking to 'save' me at all?" she inquired.

James adopted a cocky stance. "Didn't you know? I'm James, leader of the Auxiliary Animorphs. Saving people is kind of what I do."

Elena couldn't fight a smile. "Oh, very impressive."

"I think so," he agreed. "I'm glad you do, too."

"Me in particular or just because I'm someone who isn't you?" she asked.

"Well you are the one standing right before me so right now your opinion in particular is valuable," he replied.

"You sure know how to flatter a girl," Elena said wryly.

"I respect you far too much to flatter you," James said with mock-seriousness.

"You just met me," she pointed out.

"Hey, I knew your name already and everything!" he exclaimed.

The implication was that she hadn't known his but since he hadn't actually come out and say it she decided to ignore it.

James frowned suddenly. "I never see you around, you know."

Elena shrugged. "Well, I'm always here. Quite literally always unlike when most people say it."

She didn't know how long she'd been out walking the day she'd escaped that school she'd been at (it was very risky to turn into one of the most wanted people in California, of course, but she couldn't just leave while blind and known to everyone there) but once she'd demorphed eventually Tobias had spotted her and given her directions back to the valley.

"I know," James looked like he was on the verge of saying something else but wasn't quite sure how to phrase it.

"Yes?" she prompted him.

"It's just…you are always here," he said finally, awkwardly.

"I did just say that," she said, frowning herself.

"You could be…elsewhere," he suggested, clearly not wanting to just come out and say it.

"Like where?" she asked, surprised. "I'm here because the others say it isn't safe. By now the Yeerks probably know who I am and what I know and, most importantly, how I got out of there in one piece. I really can't afford to just go and I don't have anywhere to go besides."

"No…" he said slowly. "That wasn't quite what I meant."

Impatience began to rise up within her. "Then please just tell me. I dislike guessing games."

"I guess I'm trying to ask you why you don't fight with us," he said bluntly.

She blinked. "Well that was to the point."

His ears colored and his voice, when he spoke, was defensive. "You did ask for it."

"You sound like a cartoon character," she blurted out, trying to find a way to explain herself without coming off as a terrible person.

He looked lost. "What?"

She shook her head. "I…It was just…Never mind. No, I don't fight."

"Why not?" he demanded.

"I don't have a battle morph," she told him.

He was unimpressed. "None of us had battle morphs when we started this and if we could manage to smuggle more than a dozen people who could barely move into the Gardens and acquire some highly dangerous animals than you could manage."

"I heard Jake say that they can't take those kinds of risks again," Elena replied.

"They still take the risk of one or two people," James countered. "And you're fine now anyway so there wouldn't be any complications. And even if the Gardens were gone, you'd still have the Hork-Bajir to acquire."

"Cassie won't let anyone acquire someone sentient without express permission no matter how dire the situation is and how little time they have for it," Elena said, trying another tactic. She had never actually seen this in action but Marco had been complaining about this tendency of hers – possibly exaggerated, this was Marco, after all – just the other night.

"Do you really believe that they would deny you?" James asked skeptically. "They've lost more than we have in this war and I think they hate the Yeerks more than we do."

Looking at Rachel, sometimes, Elena wasn't sure.

"I wouldn't know where to start," she offered somewhat lamely.

"I know that it's been three long years so the originals probably couldn't give you much help but me and the others are pretty new and this, too, and we manage alright. We even manage to sneak into and out of a hospital all the time. We really don't have the best security, do we?" he asked thoughtfully.

"The 'best security' led to the morphing cube being taken," Elena pointed out.

"Who was complaining?" James asked rhetorically.

"The others, as you said, have all been fighting together for three years. They all learned together and grew into the struggle together," Elena said, making another attempt. "I may not know much about it but I get the feeling that things were less...large scale back then."

They had to have been because the things going on now were actually attracting some attention and she didn't know how a bunch of clueless thirteen-year-old kids could have dealt with the current situation. She didn't know how they had dealt with the Yeerks in any capacity but they must have found a way.

"And then there's all of you," she continued, feeling put on the spot and not appreciating it.

"We're just as new at this as you are," he insisted. "We were only made aware of the situation a few days before you were and our very first mission was the night that you met the originals."

"But…it's not the same," she protested. "You said that if you were going to do this you would get to choose all of your own people and you did. You're not working with strangers but with some of your closest friends! And you all know each other very well anyway."

James clearly didn't get it. "What's your point?"

"I'm the odd one out, here," she explained. "I'm the stranger. The original Animorphs seem to have known each other – except for Aximili, I guess – from before but even so it's been three years. I know you all know each other."

"You don't have to know people to fight alongside them!" James cried out.

"Maybe not but it helps," she replied. "You know these people and if your life is in their hands then you trust them with it. You know how they think and what they're going to do and there's just…a rhythm, you know? What would adding one more person to the mix do to that? I asked them why they always stick to the same morphs and they said that even switching those up throws things off. Imagine another person altogether."

"Well…that is true," he conceded. "But what about us? We just started and have no battle rhythm to get in the way of. Maybe we don't really know each other but that's not always a luxury soldiers have."

She looked away. "I'm no soldier."

"You have the power to morph," he argued.

"I hear that on the Andalite homeworld they give the power to morph to people so they can dance with it or something," Elena told him.

"We're not on the Andalite homeworld," he said simply.

"I didn't ask for this," Elena said, switching her still averted gaze to the ground.

"You think any of us did?" James demanded. "You think Aximili asked to be the only survivor on what was supposed to be a mission so safe his brother let him come? You think that the originals asked to have what's-his-name crash right in front of them and be told they were the only hope? You think that my friends and I asked for Jake to walk up to us and tell us that the Yeerks thought we were worthless so we'd be great new cannon fodder?" He almost looked angry and was definitely bitter.

"You're really selling it."

"My point is that no one asked for this except the Yeerks," James said after taking a moment to calm himself down. "And according to Cassie not even all of them do but I'll reserve judgment on that. And yet what are we supposed to do? Just let the planet fall because we don't want to be the ones stopping it?"

Elena's eyes flashed. "No of course not and that's not what I'm doing!"

He looked at her coolly. "Oh no?"

"I'm not the only one who could be doing something but isn't!" she said heatedly. "What about all the parents? You would think that Marco's mother would just be itching to get her hands on some Yeerks! Sara might be too young but what about Rachel's other sister? She's a year older than Rachel was when she got involved. And Rachel's mother and Cassie's parents and even Loren! Why am I expected to do something and not them? And don't give me any crap about us not having the morphing cube because they decided to go out and find some other children before they looked to their own families."

"Can you blame them for not wanting to have to put their families in any more danger than they already are just by fighting themselves?" James asked quietly.

"When you judge me and not them then I think I can," she retorted.

He sighed. "It's not like I approve of the blatant favoritism even if, with my family situation, I don't really get it but they do enough."

"And I don't."

"You haven't done anything," James reiterated.

"I…I don't know," she said, feeling her resolve crumbling. "No one ever asked me, you know? They just pointed me to a bed."

"I'm asking you," he said firmly.

"I don't think I could kill anyone," she nearly whispered. "Maybe that makes me terrible, I don't know, but I really don't think I could. If it were my only choice…maybe I still couldn't."

"You never know until you're actually there," James told her. "For what it's worth, I didn't think that I could either. But then I did. The act of killing is not all that hard, especially once you've got the weight of lion behind you. It's just a mental block you have to get over."

She swallowed hard. "It seems like that mental block is there for a reason."

"And we have a damn good one to get past it," he replied.

"Does it really matter?" she asked uncertainly. "I'm just one person. How will me fighting or not fighting change anything?"

"You know, Elena, if everyone thought like that then no one would ever fight," James said.

She bit back a sharp retort. "I know that but it's not everyone. It's just me. Everyone else has already made their decision so, fair or not, it is just about one person."

"Maybe if we still had the cube and could potentially make the whole damn city into Animorphs it wouldn't matter," James said carefully. "But the fact of the matter is that we don't so now the Yeerks can make every Yeerk and host on the planet morph-capable but we're still stuck with the original six and my seventeen. And you. You think twenty-four isn't that much better than twenty-three? Ask the originals how much easier things became when they found Aximili, how much easier after Tobias regained his ability to morph."

His words were making sense and really starting to reach her but she really didn't think she could do it. But if what he said was true then he had felt that way, too. Maybe everybody felt that way and they still did it.

She didn't want to die and getting involved with that sounded like a death sentence. Maybe just finding out the truth and being given the power to morph was a death sentence. Or maybe it was worse.

She didn't know.

James was staring at her expectantly.

"I'll think about it," she said finally.

The look in James' eyes said that it saw right through her and he was expecting her to join him by the time the week was up. The arrogance of that boy!

But he probably wasn't wrong. She wished that she could be angry at him for dragging her into this even more fully than the others had. She found quite unexpectedly that she couldn't.

"That's all I ask," he said, smiling. It almost took her breath away.

Now that wasn't fair. They needed to follow up this conversation when he was in morph. An ugly morph.

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