ashmusing: (one small step)
Ash ([personal profile] ashmusing) wrote2010-11-03 06:59 pm
Entry tags:

FIC: Fortunate Son (Avatar)

TITLE: Fortunate Son
FANDOM: Avatar
RATING: PG? M?
WORDS: 3161
CHARACTERS: Jake Sully, Tom Sully, cast
WARNING: Violence, self-esteem issues, brief mention of suicidal thoughts.
EXTRACT: You're good at running. Better then Tommy. Way better than Tommy. You can live with that.
A/N: I've always struggled a bit with Jake's character, but I realized a couple months ago that a lot of his reactions could make sense if he has ADHD (I came to this idea as I have ADD myself). I sat down to type a short little ficlet, and then when I looked up it was several hours later, and I had over 3000 words. So, I thought I might share.
Title comes from the Creedence Clearwater song of the same name.


Fortunate Son


Tommy is the smart one. Objectively, this makes no damn sense: you're identical twins, so you should have the same brain. And, you do. Only, Tommy has always been able to makes his work. Always manages to put his head down, do the work, get the grades, get the respect.

After a while, you give up trying to figure out how he manages it.



Your parents don't believe in medication. You wonder, sometimes, how a journalist and a member of the diplomatic corps (you are vague on your mother's profession only because she is vague about it with you) know more about psychiatry than actual doctors, but apparently they do. What you get from the sessions is that your brain is wrong, but, well, you could have told the docs that. So, nothing changes, and your grades suck, again, and you sit through another lecture full of disappointed eyes and if you just tried harder, Jake (you don't point out that Tommy works three times harder than any of his classmates: it seems disloyal and, besides, he can hack it) and c'mon, Jake, we know how smart you are, we just hate seeing you wasting your potential and we're only doing this because we love you, and you try not to twist your fingers or jiggle your feet or even move until the lecture is done and you are released.

Then you grab your filter-mask, walk slowly to the front door, shut it behind you, and then you just run.



You're good at running. Better then Tommy. Way better than Tommy.

You can live with that.



Somehow, you get into college. You – honest to god - have no idea how, and you spend the first week thinking this is all some kind of a practical joke.



You flunk engineering in the first semester.

This doesn't surprise you.



What does surprise you is that the Marine Corps welcomes you with open arms. You pass the requirements, call your brother ('Jake, what the fuck? I. Fine, sure, I'll tell the folks for you, but what the fuck?'), pack your bag, get on the train to Parris Island, and then you are put through the thirteen weeks of pure hell known as bootcamp.

You hate it.

You hate it, and after those thirteen weeks, there is nowhere else you'd rather be.



(Your mother goes, ' Yes, Tommy told us, what the hell were you thinking?'

Your father goes, 'You. A Marine,' and that's all he has to say.

Your brother – when he can be assed dragging himself away from his thesis on Pandoran biology – just goes, 'it's good to see you happy'.

You figure one of three for approval is better than nothing.)



The brass send you over to Recon – turns out all that being constantly distracted translates pretty damn well into a good situational awareness, and combat just works for you.

It's interesting.

You don't twitch, you don't fidget, you don't feel like you are going to explode if you don't move because shit is happening and you have to focus and you can.



You get the nickname 'Ozzie' for two reasons. The first is that there is a Moira Sullivan in your squad, and she's already got the nickname 'Sully'. The second is that thanks to being a diplomatic brat with an Australian father, you've spent a large amount of time in Canberra, and still haven't managed to shake off the damn accent. Not completely.

(Tommy's managed to, of course; for once, you don't really care)



The other advantage of being in Recon is that no one expects you to kill anyone.

But accidents happen.



Everything goes wrong in Venezuela. To start with, your unit isn't even supposed to be here. And then your unit isn't meant to be here so long, but twelve months turns to fifteen, turns to eighteen. By the seventeenth month you are counting down the days. You aren't supposed to because it's really bad freaking luck, everyone knows that: everyone does it anyway.

You've got six days left when suddenly you are flying backwards in the air and you can't

breathe


one explosion to send you flying another inside your goddamn chest only they are happening at once and you can't breathe you can't breathe and you're sprawled out on the fucking street and you can't feel anything except redwhitemoltenfire and you can't feel your legs oh god

I'm going to die, I'm going to die, I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm fucking dead


and you can't breathe

you can hear screaming over the mic and you'd be screaming back but you can't get enough air to do more than gasp and you're in so much pain you can't move only there is a

flicker


out of the corner of your eye


and the bastards have shot you, killed you but you're not dead yet and you can pull the trigger

bang


bang.


(you hear a figure cry out and go thump, see a flash of red hair)

Then you die.



You open your eyes.

Sky's still the same. Buildings still the same. You aren't dead and if you could draw in enough air, you'd laugh, but your problems are still the same. You've still been shot, and your mind is on repeat, laughing and going I've been shot, oh my god, I've been shot, I've actually been shot, christ I'm fucked up I've been shot.

“OZ!”

Hutch crouches near you, grabs you, drags you out of the street. You can still see the person you shot, still sprawled out across the broken bitumen; small and slight, brown skin, red hair waving in the breeze; your mind is screaming beneath the repeating hysterics, but you are in too much pain to connect the dots. Above her filter-mask, Hutch's eyes are wide. “Shit, Oz, Sully, MAN DOWN!”

Yeah, you're down. You can hear Hutch screaming for a med-evac (she's clasping your hand hard enough to bruise, and you love her for it), and even though you can't get enough goddamn air, you're crying.



You pass out again.

This time, you don't wake up until you're in hospital.



You open your eyes and you look down your body and you can see your legs. You can see them, but other than that, they might as well have been blown off.

You remember how much it hurt getting shot, and wonder at the fact that you've managed to extend your talents of fucking up to dying.

Seems like you can't even do that properly.



You tell this to Tommy when he turns up, and he says, 'Oh, god, Jake'. He looks like shit, and you are perversely flattered that you mean so much. At least, until he tells you that Mom and Dad's plane crashed into the ocean a week ago.

You don't know how to react to this.

So, you don't.



Truth be told, you have no freaking idea how to react to anything. At the VA hospital, they aim for hard-hearted cheer and lack of pity. They say, 'No, Jake, you didn't lose your legs, you gave them.'

The hell you gave your legs.

You'd give your life without a damn thought, but not just your legs. You're useless without your legs, without your arms, without your eyes, without your ability to see straight, move fast, shoot when told to. Tommy's been the smart one, you've been the active one. It was a little messed up, but it worked. It allowed you to find the Marines, it allowed you to give yourself over to the Corps and everything it stood for. Your body allowed you to find that clarity of purpose that your brother always had and you always lacked.

Suddenly, you don't have the Marines any more. You don't have your parents, you don't have your legs, you're not even sure if you still have your brother.

Suddenly, you don't have anything but your mind, and what a joke that is.



(dreaming of running hurts too much, so you dream of flying instead.

you still have to wake up)



Tommy pulls some strings, finds you a job before he heads back to....whatever the hell he's doing. It's an okay job – you're back to using the few bits of engineering that sank into your brain, and it all works as long as you remember double-check and triple-check your numbers to make sure you haven't switched them around.

You get used to the wheelchair. You still work out, as much you can. You can see the rest of your empty life stretched out in front of you and some days, you really wish you could muster the resolve to throw yourself out the window.



'…you’re going where?'

“Pandora.”

'Wha-a-at the hell you doing over there?'

'Studying.'

“That’s not what I meant, Tommy.”

'I…Look, I’ve been searchin’ for something like this my whole life. You found all that meaning and answers in the Marines. I never found it anywhere.'

News to you. 'And, what, some damn moon lightyears from Earth is gonna have your answers?'

'I hope so.'

'That’s a load of bullshit.'

He offers to fly down, spend some time with you. You tell him not to bother.



A month later, two RDA officials drag you out of the gutter to identify your brother. Like you in Venezuela, Tommy had been shot in the chest: it hadn’t been war, just a robbery. Unlike you, the bullet had bounced through his heart. The body doesn't look like Tommy, doesn't look like you. It just looks like a body.

You don't feel anger, don’t feel grief or even a fucked-up satisfaction. You look at your brother's body, and feel nothing at all.

'Jesus, Tommy,' you breathe out.

With a touching concern, the first suit says, 'Your brother represented a significant investment. We’d like to talk to you about taking over his contract.' You glare at him. Now the second suit, just as blandly threatening as the first, speaks.

'As your genome is identical to his, you could step into his shoes.' The suits glance at each other. 'So to speak.'

Later, you think that you might have told the men to go to hell, but you can't remember.



You've got nothing better to do. You could justify taking the RDA up by the money, but in all honesty you aren't thinking about the money. No, not even though it's enough money to fix your spine, get your legs back.

The truth is, you take them up because they offer you a direction. Nothing else.



It really doesn't feel like six years.

It does, however, feel like a new world. The arrows in the truck tires are a big clue there, even the Colonel's safety briefing is reassuringly old-school. Then you hear your name and are met with a gangly young man a few years older than you, who looks you and stares and goes 'wow, you look just like him'.

Great. You've travelled four point three lightyears into space only to end up being compared to Tommy again.



(underneath your bemusement, it feels like it's only been a week, and you haven't even started to grieve him yet)



The Avatar looks just like Tommy. You say this, and Norm improves in your books by going 'No, he looks like you. This is your Avatar now, Jake.'

Yours.

Not Tommy's.



The meeting with Augustine leaves you more stung than you can adequately describe, if you were in the habit of trying to explain how you felt. Which you aren't. Which is probably a good thing, given the most you can come up with is that you really want to kill her.

It's not the comparison with Tommy – you're used to that – it's that she doesn't care. He's dead, it's an inconvenience, and that's it. The only person who is allowed to think that about him is you.

You actually did quite well at lab work in school, but hell if you are telling her that.



'Just relax and let your mind go blank,' Augustine tells you the next day. 'Shouldn't be hard for you.'

Truth be told, you find it goddamn impossible.

Hell if you're telling her that, either.



Everything goes white.



You open your eyes.

White walls, white ceiling, doctors wearing exo-masks so you aren't in that VA hospital like you first thought. Thank fuck.

You can wriggle your toes.

You sit up and screw the momentary balance issues, because you can wriggle your toes.

You need to stand. You need to stand because you can and you need to run because you can and the docs are telling you to sit down, slow down, they need to run some more tests.

You think that if you have any more damn tests run on you, you're going to go postal. But it's all cool, you got this. If there is one thing you know, it's how to use your body.

You've got this.

You can run again (and you are running, and running, and oh god, you never ran this fast before) and bury your toes in the dirt and look up at the sky and suddenly, for the first time since the bullet hit you, you can breathe.

You can breathe.



You decide that Trudy Chacon is good people on the basis that she doesn't blink at your wheelchair, doesn't make a comment, just continues making her rounds and not asking if you can be on door-gun, but just telling you.

She says, 'I'm gonna need you,' and you can't even remember the last time you were treated like you were good at something.



You like the Colonel, too. He's the kind of leader you respect, tough as hell and gets his hands dirty. He asks you if you can give him intel, and you think about Augustine and her contempt, you think about Max Patel's telling you to use big words. You think about the other docs and their condescending look, you're wriggling your toes, but mostly you think about Augustine and the way her words have been twisting in your skull.

So you smirk and go, 'Hell yeah, sir'.



You've never been in a forest before.

That's one way to think of your first day out in Pandora. You know what to do. You are trained Recon Marine, but you can walk. You can run and you can walk and you can feel your legs and none of this is real. It can't be real, because everything's working and if you survived being shot in the chest, you can survive anything, and wow. Actual trees.

You know what to do, you've just gotten...distracted.



You pay for it, but honestly?

Being chased by that...thing is the most alive you've felt in years.



Wandering around the jungle sucks, and you've got the feeling that you've messed up, again. But, at least you are getting better at listening to the sounds here.

It's something. And you can cope with this. You can totally cope with this.



When night falls, the sounds change, and this time you know you are deeply fucked.

And you are, and you know it, but you are fully prepared to go down fighting until she appears out of goddamn nowhere to save your ass. She's fast and graceful and her violence is poetry in motion.

You've never seen anyone so damn beautiful.

Even when she hits you across the head and snarls that it's all your fault, she's the most beautiful girl you've ever seen. Besides, you're used to things being your fault, used to being considered an idiot, and you're in a rainforest, after being chased by aliens, and you've been saved by a blue girl with a tail who thinks you have no fear.

You, quite honestly, have no idea what's going on any more.



This confusion continues when you are dragged back to base, only now there is a slightly panicky feeling to your bemused euphoria. The Na'vi stare at you, and hiss, and poke, and their hatred and fear is very real in a way that the creatures you ran from and fought with just weren't.

And you can't concentrate. There is too much going on in your head, too many things to process and you're out of practise and you don't know what's going on and you don't have a weapon, you don't have back-up, and the first thing that comes into your head is to offer the chief your hand, so you do so.

Bad move.

When her (she still hasn't told you her name) mother turns up, things calm down. Her mom is scary, but you're used to scary. You can concentrate again.

You can handle this.



You mean the 'my cup is empty' comment.



You take great pleasure in telling the docs the next day that all that happened yesterday isn't something that they can teach. It's outside their books and models and theories, so hah to them. You notice how quiet Norm has fallen, but for the moment, you don't care.

Your smug mood lasts until Chacon clips you over the head. The docs stare, and Augustine goes, 'Trudy!', but the pilot is focused on you.

'Don't,' she says, 'waste my time like that again.'

'Huh?'

'When you have a job, do it, Sully. Don't wonder off and poke at shit, because then I gotta spend the rest of my day tryin' to find you. I don't care if you waste the scientists' time. I care if you waste mine. Okay?'

'Okay,' you say, because you were waiting for someone to yell at you, and Chacon's a Marine, and you did mess up, even if it all turned out good.

'C'mon, Colonel wants to talk to you,' she says, and as the two of you leave the cafeteria, you can feel Augustine's eyes following you.



You get a bad feeling during the briefing of Quaritch and Selfridge.

You figure that's okay. You often get bad feelings about orders. That's why they are called orders.



Her name is Neytiri and, sure, she has an attitude of 'learn fast or die', but it's nothing you can't handle. Bootcamp was hell; this is fun. She clips you over the head a bit more than she laughs, but when she laughs, she has this kind of vibrant delight that you deliberately try and provoke.

She thinks you are an idiot, but for once, it's because you actually don't know things, rather than because there is something fundamentally flawed about your brain.

You like the difference.

And although you really shouldn't, because everytime you think this, you end up messing it up, you start to think that things are all going to turn out okay.

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