Neytiri walked ahead of Jay and Rhea and thought over what they had said to each other. Had they actually come upon the agreement of getting together or had they dropped it? She sighed. Talking to Jay could be so difficult. You could have an entire conversation with him and get away from it without knowing what you had talked about.
Sarabi and Sarafina purred at her sides. “Hey girls, what do you think?” she bent down and whispered, trying to keep her voice low so Jay wouldn’t hear her. They appeared to nod earnestly and Neytiri grinned. “You think I should be with Jay?” Neytiri stood up straight again and smiled.
Suddenly the snow on the trees and leaves on the ground looked beautiful and Neytiri couldn’t help but notice every little detail in the way the grass bent and the leaves shifted with the wind. The smell of blossoming flowers came to her and she smiled.
She looked back to see Rhea staggering behind Jay with the werewolf kid. Jay was walking ahead of her with Mufasa at his side.
“Hurry up, Rhea!” Neytiri called back and turned back ahead. If they kept at this pace for a few more hours, they would be atLakanaLake.
“Hey, Neytiri,” Jay quickened his pace to walk beside her. “I think we need to stop for a little while. Rhea and the werewolf are exhausted and they need to rest for a bit.”
“Well, she should have thought about that before she ran off with her boyfriend,” Neytiri muttered. But she stopped and slid her backpack off her back. “Get the sandwiches out of your pack and hurry up. You have ten minutes.” Rhea finally came up with Alek and sighed.
“Lunch?” Rhea asked, gray eyes alight.
Alek walked up behind her, eyes looking hungry. “Could I have one, too?” he asked hopefully.
“Of course, kid,” Jay said sweetly, handing him a sandwich. Alek ravenously devoured the sandwich in a few bites and Jay handed him a second. Neytiri turned away from them and walked farther into the woods with Sarabi, Sarafina, and Mufasa. She looked around, scanning the forest for signs of Budgekaki or demon tracks.
“Find anything?” Jay asked, walking up behind her. “I think those two might need a little more than ten minutes. They are dead tired and need some time to rest.”
Neytiri sighed. “Fifteen.” She jumped up into a tree and looked down from her perch. Mufasa went back over to Rhea and Alek. Sarabi and Sarafina bounded into the forest to hunt. Jay walked back over to Rhea and Alek.
“You guys have fifteen minutes. Rest up, take a nap, whatever. Be ready to get going when Neytiri comes out of that tree,” Jay pointed back at the tree where Neytiri was perched.
Neytiri grinned and then looked up at the sky. She had to admit, the brisk pace had been beginning to tire her out as well. And if she was getting tired, Rhea and Alek were definitely exhausted.
She leaned back against a crook in the tree and closed her eyes and sighed. After a few minutes she opened her eyes and jumped out of the tree.
“Time to head out, troops,” she said as she began walking. Sarabi and Sarafina came running out of the woods and joined her. She heard Rhea and Alek groan behind her and Jay encourage them. Soon there was silence and only the sound of footsteps could be heard. Neytiri smiled. That was how they needed to travel. Silence allowed you to concentrate on your environment and admire nature.
Hours passed in this way and Neytiri didn’t realize Rhea and Alek were tiring again until they finally reached the edge ofLakanaLake.
“Yes!” Jay cried happily, jumping up and down.
Rhea and Alek dropped to their knees at the shore of the lake. “Finally!” Rhea cried out.
Neytiri grinned. “And that was the easy part,” she muttered. “Rhea, Alek, rest up because you’ve got another long day of walking ahead of you tomorrow. We need to reach theKatakanMountainsby this time tomorrow.”
Rhea sighed and slumped onto her back. Alek grinned and morphed into a wolf. He ran off into the forest.
“Follow,” Neytiri commanded Mufasa. The large golden lion went dashing after the golden werewolf boy.
“He just went to look around. He’ll be back within the hour,” Rhea told her.
“Well, if we lose him, his death will be on my hands since you obviously aren’t responsible enough. So I’d rather not lose him.” Neytiri took their tent out of her backpack.
Rhea sat up and looked at Neytiri with furious gray eyes. “Are you saying I’m not responsible?”
“Not at all. What would make you think I would even imply something like that?” Neytiri laid the tent on the ground and it grew to its full size. She stepped inside and grinned at Rhea. “Anyways, I’ll be in here if you need me.” She winked and closed the flap. She flopped down on one of the beds and sighed. Three beds, four people. That wasn’t going to work very well.
She got up again and stepped out of the tent. Jay had made a fire with wood he had found.
“That looks nice and warm,” she commented. Jay nodded his thanks.
“So, I think I’m going to sleep out under the stars tonight,” Neytiri said, sitting down in front of the fire.
“Why’s that?” Jay asked, eye brows raised.
“Why not? We used to sleep under the stars all the time when we were younger, remember?”
Jay smiled in reminiscence. “How could anyone forget? Those were the good old days…” Jay looked up at the night sky and sighed. “If only we could go back to them. They were so much simpler.” Neytiri couldn’t tell if he was talking about the Darkness or their relationship issues. He turned back to her and smiled. “But if you’re going to be out here, then I definitely want to sleep under the stars as well.”
“Would you guys mind if I were to join you?” Rhea asked, coming up to sit beside the fire on Jay’s other side.
“Of course not! Why don’t we all sleep under the stars tonight?” Jay suggested. “Alek can join us if he wants to.”
Just then, the young werewolf came barreling into the clearing in human form. “Giant lion….following me….!” He collapsed in front of Rhea and Mufasa came bounding out of the forest, snarling angrily. Jay hopped up and pulled his lion away from the boy.
“Neytiri said follow, not attack!” Jay cried, dragging him away.
Neytiri laughed. She turned to Alek. “You okay, kid? Sorry about that. Mufasa’s a friend.” She smiled sweetly and he looked up at her, tears staining his face.
“Cats are not friends,” he said simply.
“Says who?” Neytiri asked. “Because in case you hadn’t noticed, we have three cats around with us.” As if on queue, Sarafina and Sarabi came up on the either side of Neytiri. She scratched their heads and they purred. “And all three of them are simply sweethearts.”
“Here, kid,” Jay said, handing Alek a sandwich.
“Is food the answer to everything for you, Robin?” Neytiri asked with a grin. She had adopted ‘Robin’ as a nickname for Jay ever since she had seen a mortal Batman comic with the sidekick’s face in it.
“Food can solve every problem, Tiri,” Jay replied with a grin.
“Oh, truly?” Neytiri challenged.
“Uh huh. Try me,” Jay opposed.
“Can food stop a raging hekmatai?”
Jay nodded. “If you have enough of it, you can either pelt the hekmatai with food bullets, or you can drown it in food.”
“Food bullets?” Rhea and Neytiri said skeptically in unison. They looked at each other and laughed.
“Okay, what ifGriffinis getting ready to punish you for not fighting well enough?” Neytiri inquired.
Jay grinned. “Easy! Get a fist full of food and throw it at her face.”
“Jay, I get the feeling if you did something like that, she might murder you,” Rhea commented.
“Of course. That’s why after you throw it at her face, you get a ton lot more and get ready to bury her in it,” Jay supplied.
Neytiri shook her head laughing. “Is this what you have planned for my mother?”
Jay and Rhea joined her in laughing. Alek sat there silently and as the three older teens realized this, they looked at him.
“How do you make him smile?” Neytiri asked Rhea.
Rhea shrugged. “He doesn’t do it often.”
“Well, then we’re definitely going to have to try, won’t we?” Jay asked, grinning. He looked at Alek without blinking for an entire minute and Alek appeared to be unnerved by him by the end of the minute. Jay closed his eyes and shook his head.
“Going for an entire minute is a lot harder than it looks,” he commented. He opened his eyes and smiled at Alek. “Anyways, kid, we are so going to get you to laugh, you hear me?”
“Good luck,” Alek said in a flat voice.
Jay looked around, trying to garner ideas and support from Rhea and Neytiri.
“Don’t look at me, Rob,” Neytiri replied to his look. “I want no part in this.”
Jay sighed and looked to Rhea.
“No sir, not when the task is as impossible as getting Alek to laugh.”
Jay looked back at Alek. “Is it really that hard?” He leaned toward the kid. “COME ON AND LAUGH.”
Alek looked taken aback by the sudden outburst and scooted away from Jay.
Jay lay on his back and looked up at the stars. “Well, I give up.”
Neytiri looked at Alek and mouthed, “Don’t count on it.”
Alek gave a small smile.
Rhea sighed and lay back. They were sitting around the fire and had plenty of space to spread their arms and legs when they laid back.
Neytiri looked at Alek. “We were planning on sleeping under the stars tonight. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, though. That tent is still set up and ready to be used.”
Alek shook his head. “Alexia and I used to sleep under the stars all the time before we were let in toNightMareSchool. I love looking at the stars.”
“Do you find them at all funny?” Jay questioned.
Alek didn’t respond.
“Should I take that as a no?” Jay was still looking up at the stars and didn’t see the smug look on Alek’s face as he lay back.
Neytiri grinned and lay back as well. “Now, this is the way to fall asleep. Lying under the stars.” She sighed with satisfaction as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.