Iron on the Outside, Father Within @bluerowley
On My Way

The flood waters were coming down hard. Tarzan tried to cling to Kala, but he was thrown off by the harsh impact of the rushing falls. He struggled in the water for a minute before managing to surface and gasp for air.

"Mom!" he called out, swiveling his head around. A wave splashed in his face and he choked on water, spluttering and spitting.

"Tarzan!" Kala's voice cried to him.

Tarzan saw his mother being dragged away by the water. She was struggling to swim over to him, but the water was stronger and pushed her further and further away. "Tarzan!" she cried again, reaching for him.

"Mom." Tarzan tried to kick in her direction. "I'm coming."

The two inched closer to each other, the water crashing into trees and rocks around them, lightning flashing from above. Tarzan flinched at a loud rumble of thunder, but he did not give up trying to reach his mother. He reached for her, and Kala reached for him.

Lightning struck a tree above them. A branch fell and struck Kala. Her eyes closed and she sank into the water.

"Mom!" Tarzan screamed. "No!"

Kala's head disappeared, and her outstretched hand just grazed Tarzan's fingertips before sinking into the water as well.

"Mom!" Tarzan cried, sitting up in the nest. He panted as he realized it was a nightmare before sniffling and hugging his knees, crying softly.

Kerchak startled awake at Tarzan's cry. He jumped to his feet and glared around the surrounding forest, snorting aggressively at whatever may have frightened Tarzan. There was nothing hiding in the darkness of the night. The moon gave enough light for Kerchak to at least see the few feet in front of him, and there were no pawprints or tracks of any kind. Kerchak frowned before looking down at Tarzan, realizing the boy was crying. Kerchak sighed and sat down near the child.

"What is the matter, Tarzan?" he asked. "Did you . . . have a bad dream?"

"It's all my fault," Tarzan mumbled into his knees.

"I cannot understand you when you do that," Kerchak scolded gently. He tilted Tarzan's head back. Tarzan rubbed at his face and sniffed up at him.

"Yeah, I had a bad dream. I'm sorry I got us in this mess. It's all my fault we're not with the family."

Kerchak frowned, not following Tarzan's logic at all.

"How is this your fault?"

"If I could just keep up with the rest of the family, then the flood wouldn't have washed Mom and I away. And you wouldn't have had to save me. I almost got Mom killed and it's all my fault." Tarzan cried more into his hands.

Kerchak huffed, scratching behind his ear as he tried to think about how to respond to this. Honesty was always the best way to go, wasn't it? Perhaps he should explain slowly so the child didn't become more distraught as it was. Kerchak cleared his throat but when that didn't get Tarzan's attention, he snorted angrily to demand the boy look at him. Any other gorilla would have taken the hint, but Tarzan acted as if he didn't hear him.

Kerchak huffed again. But this time, he slowly reached out and placed a hand on top of the boy's head, applying pressure until Tarzan looked up at him.

"This was not your fault, Tarzan. This could have happened to any of the gorillas who may have been in the back. Yes, it had been you and Kala in the rear, but if I remember correctly, Terkina and her mother were in the back as well, and they were hit by the flood waters. As was another gorilla and her infant. Even if you . . . could keep up with the rest of the family, that flood would have hit someone."

"Really?" Tarzan dragged a hand over his eyes.

"You do not control the rain and rivers as far as I know. So, there was no way you caused that flood to hit you and Kala directly. Unless . . ." Kerchak trailed off, giving Tarzan a sidelong look.

"Unless what?" Tarzan's eyes widened as he waited for Kerchak to speak.

"Unless you told the river to come flood the pathway we were taking." Kerchak knew that Tarzan had not and that telling the river to do something wouldn't work anyway. However, it was enough for Tarzan to gasp and shake his head furiously.

"No-no, I would never do that! I swear, I didn't tell the river to do it. I would have told it not to! I promise."

"Hmm," Kerchak narrowed his eyes at Tarzan.

"You've got to believe me." Tarzan shuffled closer to Kerchak, brushing his knuckles against Kerchak's. For the first time, the large silverback did not pull away. "I didn't want that to happen. I would never hurt Mom or anyone."

"Calm down, I believe you," Kerchak offered a small smile. "The river never listens to anyone anyway. And you've got to believe me when I tell you that this was not your fault. It was a very unfortunate accident. And . . ."

Tarzan glanced up at Kerchak expectantly.

"We are almost home," Kerchak said with a genuine smile. He was very happy to be close to their colony again. And so was Tarzan, who leaped forward, a surprised Kerchak catching the boy in his arms. Tarzan hugged what he could reach of Kerchak, smiling.

"Thank you," the boy whispered.

Kerchak was frozen. This surprising display of affection left him speechless for a long minute. Finally, the great ape snapped out of it, and patted the boy's back. "You are welcome. Now, let us fall back to sleep. We have a couple long days ahead of us."

Tarzan crawled off the ape and curled up against the silverback, who settled back down. The two fell asleep quickly, Tarzan warm and comfortable against Kerchak.

The next morning came fast, and surroundings were starting to look more familiar. Tarzan leaped ahead excitedly as he recognized a patch of trees and an oddly shaped rock.

"I remember this," Tarzan smiled. "Terk and I played Zugor here. We're getting close, Kerchak!"

"Tarzan," Kerchak scolded as Tarzan ran ahead even more. "Stay with me. The rivers are still high, so the colony should be atop that mountain." Kerchak jerked his head in the direction of the mountains. Tarzan remembered the location they had traveled to last time the rains came hard, and he began climbing a tree so he could get a better look.

"Get down here!" Kerchak snapped. "We don't have time for games."

"I'm not playing a game," Tarzan said. He reached the top of the tree and peered at the mountains. He could see the tree grove between two mountains, rising up the side of a third. Tarzan smiled and called down to Kerchak. "I can see it, Kerchak! I can see where the trees are!"

"Good. We are close. Now get down."

Tarzan slid down the tree and landed at Kerchak's feet. "We're almost home and I can see Mom again. She'll be so surprised and happy at the same time. Come one, we're on our way! We're so close!" Tarzan ran ahead excitedly.

"Slow down!" Kerhak warned. He sighed and glanced at the mountains. "We're on our way, Kala. We're coming."

Tell everybody I'm on my way

New friends and new places to see

With blue skies ahead

Yes, I'm on my way

And there's nowhere else

That I'd rather be!

Tell everybody I'm on my way

And I'm loving every step I take

With the sun beating down

Yes, I'm on my way

And I can't keep this smile off my face

Kerchak managed to catch up to Tarzan, who had finally listened to the great ape and waited for him. Tarzan walked at Kerchak's heels, walking very much like the ape as he had done the past few days. Kerchak, still annoyed at all the energy radiating off the young child, rolled his eyes, but allowed it. Tarzan rolled his own eyes, glancing up at the ape. Kerchak glared down at Tarzan's smiling face. Tarzan tried to glare back but he couldn't stop from laughing. Kerchak's glare softened and he couldn't help but shake his head fondly.

Cause there's nothing like seeing each other again

No matter what the distance between

And the stories that we tell will make you smile

Oh, it really lifts my heart

The two had stopped for dinner as the sun slowly lowered in the sky. Kerchak had collected a pile of fruit from the trees while Tarzan had worked on pulling roots and gathering beans. The two had found a system that worked to collect food quickly and efficiently. As they ate, Tarzan rambled off about how Kala would often make funny faces out of the fruit and pretend to have conversations with them.

Tarzan demonstrated by using his teeth to make eyes and a mouth on a mango and a papaya before making them have a hysterical conversation about the great beats that wanted to eat them before Tarzan savagely bit an eye off of one of them. The boy laughed.

Kerchak had seen Kala play these games before with Tarzan when the child had had a rough day. He couldn't help the small smile that appeared on his face as he watched Tarzan talk about Kala and her games.

So, tell 'em all I'm on my way

New friends and new places to see

And to sleep under the stars

Who could ask for more?

With the moon keeping watch over me

As the night fell upon them, Kerchak made a nest for the two of them and settled in for the night, the wind picking up slightly. Tarzan shivered in his corner, but Kerchak pulled the child against him. Tarzan smiled up at the large ape, warming up quickly in the fur. A shooting star flew past the moon in the sky, and Tarzan pointed up at it, telling Kerchak that he needed to make a wish. Kerchak commented that he had and asked Tarzan if he had done the same. Tarzan replied that he couldn't tell Kerchak or it wouldn't come true. Kerchak said the same, though his wish was simply to arrive home safely—both of them.

Not the snow, not the rain, can change my mind

The sun will come out, wait and see

And the feeling of the wind in your face can lift your heart

Whoa, there's nowhere I'd rather be

Cause I'm on my way now

Well and truly

I'm on my way now

The next day brought more rain, and Kerchak was really wishing for the rainy season to be over. He didn't want to stop just because his fur was getting wet, so he walked through the rain. Tarzan somehow ended up walking under him in an attempt to escape the weather. As long as Tarzan was close, Kerchak did not mind.

When the rain had finally stopped sprinkling and the sun was drying them off, Kerchak shook himself to dry off a bit quicker. Tarzan did the same, though his hair sprayed Kerchak's face with water. Kerchak snorted and glared down at Tarzan.

"Opps," Tarzan said, apologetically lowering himself. Kerchak's eyes narrowed.

In the next instant, Tarzan was screaming gleefully as he was thrown up high in the air, falling back down into Kerchak's waiting arms, still laughing from the thrill of it.

"All dry, now?" Kerchak asked, keeping a serious face.

"Yeah, I'm dry." Tarzan said, in between laughs.

Smirking, Kerchak tossed Tarzan up in the air once more, earning more screams and laughs. He caught the child again, commenting, "I think that's much better."

Kerchak chuckled himself as he set Tarzan down and walked ahead, Tarzan chasing after him. The great ape did not even care that he had just laughed with Tarzan. The boy wasn't so bad after all. After everything they had been through together, Kerchak was just happy they were almost home. The two slowed down as they approached dark, gloomy mountains.

A bird screeched loudly, and Tarzan gasped and hid behind Kerchak, who glanced back at Tarzan before putting on his neutral, brave face.

"The fastest way to the colony is by going through this mountain pass. No point in going all the way around when this will take us right to the bottom of the mountains we need to get to. Then, a day's trip through the trees and we will be back with the family."

"If you say so." Tarzan said, trying to keep the tremble out of his voice.

"Stay close to me," Kerchak demanded before walking forward, climbing up the steep and rugged path. Kerchak had to grip the ground firmly as he climbed and carefully avoided loose rocks and edges. He was halfway up the first part when he heard a disgruntled noise behind him. He glanced back.

Tarzan was doing his best to keep up, but the steeper parts were challenging for him to get up on the first try, and he had slipped back down. He tried again, using his hands and feet, and scrambled up after Kerchak. He succeeded, then he jumped up to be on the same level as Kerchak, but he had landed on loose rocks that crumbled under him, sending him tumbling back down.

Kerchak sighed and looked ahead. It was a difficult path, and he knew Tarzan was used to more foliage than what was offered here. At this rate, it would take another week just to get through these mountains alone. Kerchak turned back and walked over to Tarzan.

"Sorry," Tarzan said. "I'll do better. I can keep up."

"Clearly, you cannot."

Tarzan's head fell and Kerchak continued. "But many young apes would find this pass difficult without assistance. I should have realized that before."

"I don't want to hold you back, though. I'll just have to catch up."

"You won't hold me back. You'll be right with me."

"How?"

Kerchak smiled.

Tell everybody I'm on my way

And I just can't wait to be there

With blue skies ahead

Yes, I'm on my way

And nothing but good times to share

Tarzan squealed as Kerchak lifted the small child to his back before making his way back up the mountain pass. Tarzan nearly fell off as they instantly began moving, but having practiced his grip on Kala for years, he managed to cling on. He looked around, surprised at how high off the ground he seemed to be, a smile slowly growing on his face.

"This is amazing!" Tarzan laughed.

Kerchak smiled back at the boy, glad Tarzan had finally mastered the gorilla hold that he didn't seem to understand as an infant. Kerchak moved much quicker up the pass, Tarzan's slight weight not slowing him down at all.

"Thank you, Kerchak," Tarzan said.

"You are welcome," the great ape answered honestly. "Now rest. I am not carrying you the rest of the way home, you know."

Tarzan smiled and did as he was told, enjoying the view and wind as they traveled onward.

So, tell everybody I'm on my way

And I just can't wait to be home

With the sun beating down

Yes, I'm on my way

And nothing but good times to show

I'm on my way

Yes, I'm on my way

Watching from a high ledge, another large gorilla turned and ran down the mountain side and through a cave. He made it to the opening where his brother was trying to push a young hog off a cliff to see it fly.

"Uto!" the gorilla shouted. "I have news for Ma. Where is she?"

"Why do you get to tell Ma news, Kago?" Uto let the hog go and squealed as it ran away. "What if I want to tell Ma?"

"I'm the one who saw the news, so I'll tell her."

"Boys!" the mother in question shouted as she approached them. Mama Gunda sat in front of her sons. "You know fighting each other makes mama very angry! Now, what is this I hear about news?"

"I saw another gorilla, Ma," Kago said, stepping forward and puffing out chest. A silverback with a little gorilla on his back."

"Oh my," Mama Gunda smiled. "If the silverback has a child, he must have a family that we can take over. We will be leaving this terrible place sooner than later after all. The rain seems to be slowing down so we can get moving again."

"You want us to challenge the silverback, Ma?" Uto asked.

"Oh no, dearies, save your energy. We'll just bring the gorilla to us. Why fight when we can make a deal instead? We take the child, and the father will give over anything to keep it safe. It's how parents are, you know."

"Got it!" Kago pounded the ground excitedly. "We get the child and the silverback will come right to us!"

Mama Gunda smiled as her boys began roaring excitedly and smashing rocks. Her plan would not fail.

Could not resist throwing in a Phil Collins song! I could just see the whole scene play out and Phil Collins was perfect, and the song had the right words. Hope you liked it! I know I'm borrowing parts from Tarzan 2 and changing them up a bit. I'll be honest, I was not a big fan of Tarzan 2, but it did give me some characters to use in this fanfic!

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