OOC: Jam with Tuck. =D
The fire flickered, now little more than a pile of glowing embers. The other two Toa had long since retired for the night, but Cael remained awake, gazing into the flames with all the intensity of a Toa of Fire.
She was thinking -mostly about Joske, and the situation he'd found himself in.
Angelus' comments had bothered the healer, too. She was a believer in the Toa Code -not to the extenet that Agni was, but a believer nonetheless. Without a moral standard to strive for, Toa were no better than mercenaries or vigilantes. It was the Code alone that gave them something to stand on; it reminded them that their purpose wasn't to win every battle and kill every criminal, but instead to give hope to the Matoran. To protect them, and inspire them.
Having been a Toa for a long time, Cael had thought about these things before, and was able to fit them into her worldview after a little thought. But Joske- he had looked so frustrated and confused when he had slipped away. No doubt, he wanted to find a quiet place to think and be alone, where he could sift through his thoughts in peace.
Despite this knowledge, Cael found herself standing to her feet and silently walking away from the camp, following Jokse's trail into the underbrush. The moon and stars shone brightly, lighting up the landscape in shades of silver, allowing the healer to navigate without stumbling or losing her way.
She walked for a long while, following along a creek that joined a larger river that fed Naho Bay. Her steps made little noise on the dirt and soft plants; her presence hardly disturbed the night.
Where had Joske gone? For all Cael knew, he could have left the river and traipsed off into the jungle. But the healer had a feeling that she would find him here. The Toa of Fire wasn't stupid; he would probably have done his best to provide himself with a way back.
Then, a few yards away, Cael saw what looked like a figure sitting on a stone, looking out over the river.
The Toa of Water cautiously walked up to the silhouette of the Toa sitting on a rock. The moon and stars cast enough light so that the healer could vaguely make out Joske's face; with a surge of relief, she realized it was him.
“Joske,” she said tentatively. “Are you alright?”
I almost jumped at her voice, so lost in thought and my own depression. Still though, once I recognized her features, I relaxed, forcing a grim smile.
"Oh, hey, um... yeah?"
Yes, that was the best I could say at the moment; one of my most spectacular comments to date. I knew that was a lie, and she did too.
Cael stepped closer to the Toa of Fire, and quietly sat down on the rock next to him. She remained silent for a long moment, simply gazing up at the stars.
The creek trickled by, filling the night with the soft rush of babbling water.
“Still trying to understand what Angelus said?” she asked at last.
"Something to that effect." I mumbled, trying to appreciate the fact that somehow she had managed to find me out here. "Trying to reconcile what he said and my own view of the Toa Code... not going so well."
Still, I found it hard to be completely down in her presence, so I turned to face her. "Say, you wouldn't happen to be stalking me now, would you?" I spoke, poking her lightly in the side as I attempted some humour. It was the best I could muster at the moment.
The healer swatted his hand away with a laugh, her eyes shining in the moonlight. “So what if I am? Every time I've let you wander off on your own, you've gotten into trouble.”
"Not every time!" I countered, my voice a little indignant. Then I took a moment to think. I looked at her meekly.
"Actually... yes. I have. Every time. Unless we count that time at Laka Pala."
“You mean the time I followed you?”she replied sweetly.
The two laughed, but even Cael's presence couldn't elevate Joske's mood indefinitely. The somber atmosphere gradually fell back down over the two Toa, reminding the healer of why she had sought Joske out, and why he had left in the first place.
“So... the Toa Code? I guess... you didn't like what he said about the jungle, either.”
"Glad to hear I'm not the only one."
I paused for a moment, collecting my thoughts. "What makes his viewpoint so difficult is the truth and validity in it, and that's why I'm struggling. Very few Toa retain the original meaning and concept of the Code, and the few that do usually interpret and bend it to fit their lifestyle, which he said. Not only that, but the jungle analogy... I just don't know. There is much wisdom in it, but I just can't fathom, let alone swallow the idea of discarding morality, honour, and everything else that makes us different from the rest of the universe just to survive. It shouldn't be that way. It just... shouldn't."
The Toa of Water listened, then sat in silence, organizing her thoughts. What Joske said was true; his thoughts mirrored many of hers. Most Toa didn't follow the Code, some for more valid reasons than others. Most used the excuse that Angelus gave: the world was a darker, more dangerous place, and the Code was outdated. It could be adapted to the situation, but following it to the letter wouldn't get you anywhere.
But Agni's point of view also made sense. Without the Code, Toa were just like any other beings in the world. The Code was what set the heroes apart, the ones who were willing to take the hard route if it meant proving they were better than their enemies. Killing without need, and stalking in the shadows were not behaviours fit for Toa; Toa were meant to stand tall and strong, holding honour and dignity above everything else.
Cael softly cleared her throat. “Joske, I'm a healer. I've always believed that it's better to save lives than to take them. I would do anything to protect my people; it's my duty as a Toa.
“And, if someone were to threaten my people, I would stand against them. I would fight with everything I have, because it's not about me. It's about them, the Matoran.”
The Toa of Water looked up to the constellations, her eyes filled with starlight.
“I believe the Code isn't a set of rules that can be bent or broken. It's a standard that Mata Nui set for us so that we would remember why we were given our powers.”
The healer raised her hand, and a stream of water swirled up from the creek, twisting and rippling in midair, before splashing back down.
“We were given our powers to protect the Matoran, to be their heroes and guardians, and we were given the Code so that we wouldn't sink to the level of the ones we fought. It's not about us, though; it's about how the Matoran see us.”
Cael turned turned her gaze back to Joske. “You can follow the Code to the letter, but it won't get you anywhere if your people don't see you as a hero. The Matoran need to be able to trust us, above everything else. That's why we were blessed with our abilities: to give hope, and keep faith alive.”
And this is why you fell in love with her, didn't you?
I stared at her for a long moment, processing what she had said. In the end it would be my choice, I always knew that; what I lacked was firm guidance from someone I was willing to place all of my trust into. Not to say that I didn't trust my companions, but there is a point in which a conscious decision must be made as to if you are willing to cross that line from close friend to complete confidant . Cael was right; as tempting as it may be, the Toa Code was not malleable, a flexible interpretive standard to be taken as one wills. It was there as the golden standard, a line in the sand, a way to measure and gauge one's moral compass against an often conflicted world.
Defying it would not make you automatically evil, but doing would start that slide, the slow, perilous decent of compromise. The Code was there to protect us as much as we were there to protect the Matoran, representing the stark contrast of Black and White in an otherwise grey world, reminding us that there was an Ultimate Standard regardless of what we believed or thought... an absolute Right and Wrong.
At least that question was settled. Now it became how much of it I was willing to follow... and how far.
I focused back on her face, seeing the stars reflect off her eyes. I smiled sheepishly. "Look, I don't know how this is all going to end. Tomorrow we are going to go to Ga-Koro, find the last Crystal, and then I'll be off to find the Wanderer's Company and the Keeping Place... before fighting Heuani. I still have many questions left unanswered, and I don't know if I'll find answers for them all in time, let alone feel confident in my abilities. There are so many things I am unsure of right now, but I do have one immovable constant: you."
I tilted my head. "Cael, I love you. I love you so much. So much so that when this is all over I want to spend the rest of my life with you." I took her hand, gazing at the blue fingers in the dark light. "There are so many things I would want to say, even more I would love to do, with you, right now... right here. Just the two of us, alone."
I hesitated here, so many emotions running through my head.
The Toa of Water gazed back into Joske's eyes; it felt like her every heartbeat was so loud that it shook the air. Her thoughts spun around her head, dizzying in their speed and numbers.
Joske loved her? He had come up to that phrase several times over their journey, but this was the first time he had said it. The first time he had looked at her and revealed just how much he cared. Cael was stunned, not because of his confession, but more due to her own reaction. Her normally scientific mind was drowning in emotions she could scarcely identify. She felt relieved, and happy, and, for some strange reason, so light she half thought she might drift off the ground, and float up to the clouds.
These feelings were crazy; they were overkill, and served no purpose other than to make her feel giddy. But Cael brushed these thoughts aside, choosing instead to savour the moment, instead of analyze it.
"But I'm not going to ask for that," I continued. "I don't think we're ready yet. Not until Heuani, Makuta, and everything that goes with it is done and over with. I want you to know that I have a great friend, and an ever greater companion; I could not ask the Great Spirit for a more perfect person. I would do anything for you, Cael, anything within my limited power, and I want you to know that. And to know that I love you. So before we start on this this last leg of our journey, I want to ask one thing of you-"
I looked deep into her golden eyes. "Will you at least stay here with me tonight, and just gaze at the stars? I don't want to go back right away, back to the pressures and choices and destiny... just us, enjoying each other's company. The calm before the storm, I guess. And maybe a kiss that I don't have to steal?"
Cael leaned in to Joske, her eyes never leaving his for a moment. She had never anticipated something so much, but felt so nervous at the same time. And yet, somehow, it felt right. Something she'd been waiting on for a long time.
She opened her mouth to reply, but found herself, for once in her life, with nothing at all to say. Joske had said it all.
Instead, she kissed him under the stars.