Jet didn't particularly like scouting jobs, but it was the only 'mission' he could figure out quick enough to persuade Sokka into staying. He told the anxious warrior that he had been spying on other scattered camps much like the one they had ambushed; he claimed to have heard rumors of Fire Nation sending in an assassin to poison their water supplies. Sokka didn't quite believe him at first, but luckily SmellerBee joined the conversation moments later and indulged them in a fabulous tale of the last assassin to cross Jet's path. The fight had been ultimately short, and it ended with a hilarious view of the man hanging upside from a tree limb with most of his armor and clothing missing.
In the end, Sokka agreed to stay one more night. But even with his victory bordering the horizon, Jet didn't get his usual two hours of sleep. He was almost entirely convinced that Sokka, who had also felt the destruction and evil of the Fire Nation, would see it his way with a little convincing. Jet could not comprehend such a thing as forgiveness, for forgiveness came with peace, and his early years had too often been shattered by blood and misery to know such a feeling. He lived in a constant memory of death and cruelty, building up the image of Fire Nation demons that rode through cities like hell's angels, raining fire from the heavens and slaying the righteous with one flick of a flame-coated wrist. The dead he no longer mentioned by name. His parents, though flashing through his gaze as a never-ending reminder, lay nameless in his mind. Mayia was never spoken of, ever. Even SmellerBee was forcing himself to forget the true sister he had known. Jet could hear him, sometimes, in the house beside him; and instead of remembering her traits and flaws and personality, in the silent night he whispered the cause of her death, the roaring beasts of Fire Nation.
All this pain, and anguish, and despair, Sokka would see soon enough. His mother had been killed by the blood-thirsty devils, and all he had to do was seek revenge. Revenge would end the war; revenge would end the suffering. This Jet had convinced himself, blind to the fact that he was still tortured and confused after taking out more vengeance than he could remember.
Jet crouched on the limb and let his dark eyes wash over the main road. It was lighted by patches of morning sun, still fresh and peeking between the branches. He raised his hands to his mouth and gave a low, bird-like call. Sokka, crouched on the tree above him and drew his blade, eager to prove himself.
SmellerBee and Pipsqueak replied, through low whistles, that they had seen nothing. Jet had forgotten his lie about the assassin, replacing his motive with something far worse and terrible. He hoped that a lone soldier would walk by, maybe a run away from the ambushed camp. He could kill him with the turned hook of his blade and leave him, cold and motionless, in a Fire Nation settlement nearby - as a warning. His thoughts of slitting throats, however, were paused when he heard a hollow thud behind him. He looked back and saw Sokka's knife thrust into the bark of the tree.
"What're you doing?"
"Shh. It amplifies vibrations."
Jet grinned despite himself. So this warrior does know something.
Sokka pressed his ear to the hilt and listened for a brief moment as Jet awaited his next move.
"Nothing yet...wait...yes! Someone's approaching."
Jet chewed his twig and noted to borrow SmellerBee's dagger and try that sometime.
"...I think there's just one."
"Good work Sokka," Jet almost laughed hearing those words come out of his mouth and tensed. "Ready your weapon."
Sokka pulled his blade from the tree and crouched into fighting stance just as the man walked into view. Jet was done paying attention to Sokka; he had served his purpose, and now it was time to work. Though no trained soldier walked down the road, he was Fire Nation nonetheless. The man was pale and old, perhaps slightly crippled even, and bearing nothing but a small bag containing what Jet fancied as necessities. He seemed perfectly harmless - but he was Fire Nation, and Jet had to set and example.
"Wait! False alarm - he's just an old man -"
Jet continued to calmly ignore him as he unsheathed his blades with a shrill ring and leapt from the tree. He landed heavily on the ground in front of the traveler, his dark eyes smoldering as though he had somehow been offended. Jet did, in fact, feel very disrespected. This man had to have been warned by the soldiers that the woods were not safe - and yet he had journeyed here anyways? The Fire Nation was an arrogant, bloodthirsty fool, and they needed to be put in their place. And Jet was ready to do that.
"What are you doing in our woods, you leech?" he spat. Shadows creased across his eyes in a fearsome way as he glared furiously at the old man. Pipsqueak dropped down silently behind the suddenly terrified traveler, who had taken a step backwards in the wake of this dark and brooding boy. The scene, in fact, was quite similar to that fateful day so many years ago, when a black-haired, dark-eyed boy, who bled shadows and pulsed with power, had appeared in a circle of rogue children with a single proposition.
"Please sir, I'm just a traveler -"
Jet ignored him the same way he ignored Sokka. With his pride and anger rising, he viciously slashed the walking staff away from the man's hand and sent it flying uselessly into the brush. He pointed his hooked sword threateningly at the man, who turned to flee and ran headlong into the motionless Pipsqueak, who towered above him like an ominous Titan. The man fell hard to the earth and looked up, terrified, at the stooped, massive form of his second enemy. He turned and tried to run, but Pipsqueak pinned him to the earth with one firm foot. He groveled in the dirt as Jet stepped forth to tower above him, his face dancing with shadows.
"Do like destroying towns? Do you like destroying families? Do you?" he snarled. He was suddenly completely prepared to beat and kill this defenseless man, his anger consuming him, the bloody, headless corpse of his mother dancing in and out of focus like a twisted ballerina.
"Oh - please! Let me go! Have mercy!' begged the man hoarsely, covering his head defensively with one free hand. Jet became enraged at the word. Mercy? Did he dare speak that word to him, after his demonic Nation tore apart peace and ravaged the world in war for no reason?
"Does the Fire Nation let people go? Does the Fire Nation have mercy?"
The demon rose in him and Jet nearly roared in the depth of his fury. Revolting, blood-soaked bodies and crimson hellfires were scattered hauntingly in his gaze, the screams of the innocent echoing madly in his ears. He wanted to rip out the man's throat, let the warm liquid in the great vein fall upon his palms and through his fingers, soaking the earth as the old liar cried out for help, and begged, and pleaded, half-choking on his own vomit and blood. He wanted to grind him into the dust, tear him to pieces, leave him broken and lifeless for the vultures...Jet raised his foot to aim a vicious strike straight into the man's face - and felt an unpredicted tug at his ankle.
Jet did not lose his balance. Even in the depths of his wrath he always checked himself, always subdued his greatest passions. Sokka's club left his foot unwillingly as Jet kicked it ruthlessly away.
"Jet, he's just an old man -!"
"He's Fire Nation! Search him!" roared Jet, throwing his fearsome, shadowed gaze directly into Sokka's sincere one. Sokka faltered for a minute but regained his courage just as Pipsqueak and SmellerBee began to follow Jet's orders.
"But he's not hurting anyone!" Sokka pleaded, still shocked at the rash and violent action of the shadowed leader. Jet's dark eyes bore fiercely into Sokka's, his teeth practically bared, his gaze smoldering, enraged, forcing him to understand. His words were brutal, his tone demanding instant understanding, instant obedience.
"Have you forgotten that the Fire Nation killed your mother? Remember why you fight!"
"We got his stuff, Jet!"
Jet's gaze was dark, and savage, and absolutely terrifying. He let his eyes leave Sokka's for only a moment to see SmellerBee holding up the man's bag, and Sokka took the opportunity to fight back against the dictatorship he now knew embodied Jet's authority.
"This doesn't feel right!"
Jet knew it, right there and then - but he hoped, for the first time in his life, that he was mistaken.
Sokka would have to understand, eventually...one way or another.
"It's what has to be done. Now let's get outta here," he growled, shoving Sokka out of his way. He was extremely angry that he had not killed the man, and that Sokka had dared to interfere in affairs he had no idea about. SmellerBee and Pipsqueak quickly followed him as he took off angrily down the path, but Sokka stayed behind for half a moment, looking guiltily at the man.
Jet was cunning - he was a fast thinker, smooth talker, and excellent at observation. He knew instantly that Sokka would tell his sister and the Avatar what had happened, because Sokka already disliked him greatly and was most likely to complain to his friends. Half a second after getting out of Sokka's earshot, he turned swiftly to SmellerBee.
"Let me borrow your dagger, SmellerBee."
Jet slipped the Fire Nation dagger with the secret poison into a concealed compartment on his left pantleg. Then he threw a harsh, unfriendly request over his shoulder.
"Come on, Sokka!"
Aang swung down a rope and spun from the handle, landing gently on the platform where Sokka sat, utterly infuriated, his back slumped against the tree trunk. Aang, oblivious to his friend's sour mood (he was definitely used to it by now) ran up to him in a feverish excitement, opening the bag over his shoulder.
"Sokka! Look what the Duke gave me!"
The young Avatar pulled out a miniature pellet from the bag and glared slyly at Momo, who was watching him with ears raised. The pellet fell at the poor Lemur's feet and gave a loud snap and a painful flash; Momo screeched like a cat, leapt on the bag, and immediately began throwing pellets at Aang's feet in revenge. Aang stumbled away, yelling for Momo to quit it, just as Katara came down the ladder. She approached Sokka, also failing to sense his angry mood, and smiled delightfully.
"Hey Sokka...is Jet back?" she hesitated before saying this last part and struggled not to blush.
"Yeah, he's back - but we're leaving," snarled Sokka over his shoulder, too furious to explain. Aang popped up from massaging his stinging feet with a crestfallen look.
"What - ?"
Katara seemed just as, if not more, unhappy.
"But I made him this hat..."
She looked sadly at the red mass of string and twigs and leaves in her hand, sighing as her gaze fell upon the lonesome, half-wilted yellow flower that crowned it. Sensing his sister's and the Avatar's likeness for Jet, Sokka grew even more angry and spat out the first thing that came to his mind, clenching his arms tightly in crossed position to resist leaping up and screaming at them both.
"You're boyfriend Jet's a thug," he managed, barely able to restrain the fury in his voice. Katara looked both stunned, and - in some strange way - happy.
"What?...No he's not!" she declared firmly. Sokka didn't move.
"He's messed up, Katara," he said, letting his rage fade slightly in an attempt for her to understand. But the sudden sound of Aang's voice made him momentarily forget his anger.
"He's not messed up - he's just got a different way of life. A really fun way of life!" he exclaimed, gesturing to a boy flying past them on a rope-handle. Sokka, once again, felt his blood begin to boil.
"He beat and robbed a harmless old man!" he stated viciously. Katara crossed her arms defiantly and glared headlong at her obstinate brother.
"I wanna hear Jet's side of the story."
"Sokka, you told them what happened but you didn't mention that the guy was Fire Nation?" said Jet lowly, determined to keep the rage from his voice. The shadows were once again falling across his eyes, but in a more handsome, roguish way that made him seem wise and brave. Jet knew something like this was going to happen, but he at least thought Sokka would leave the Fire Nationpart in. This might be harder that I thought.
"No, he conveniently left that part out," said Katara firmly, turning to glare at Sokka, who was still slumped sourly against the nearest wall. Jet very nearly smiled at these words, because he at least knew that she wasn't too fond of her brother, and the Avatar would follow her lead. Two out of three was better than nothing, and there was still great hope for Sokka, if he would just shut up and listen to orders.
"Fine, but - even if he was Fire Nation, he was a harmless civilian -"
"He was an assassin, Sokka."
The blade thudded into the wood, gleaming, leering at the three travelers in a twisted, unnatural way. Jet nearly grinned as Sokka stared in shock, but stopped himself as the Avatar's eyes rode up the length of the blade. He grabbed the notch at the end of the hilt delicately and unscrewed the vial.
"See? There's a compartment for poison in the knife...he was sent to eliminate me," Jet whispered. Jet would always fancy himself a great threat to the Fire Nation, and this moment was no exception. But his ability to stretch his reputation was now used to his advantage, as Katara fell back into a relieved smile. And then jet put the icing on the cake.
"...You helped save my life, Sokka."
That was it. The warrior boy had to accept it. He had saved his leader's life, had been given this chance - a golden opportunity, Jet thought - to fight by his side, to take revenge against the devils that had destroyed their lives, to free the world from the rule of demons and disgusting, blood-thirsty men. He would join him. Jet resolved upon this right then and there. Sokka would join him.
He had to.
"I knew there was an explanation -" Katara started, by Sokka cut her short.
"I didn't see any knife," he snapped. Jet ground his teeth and lowered his head more to veil his fury, still speaking clearly, and evenly, and calmly. Jet was smooth, and no upstart peasant was going to break him after all these years.
"That's because he was concealing it," he said.
Accept it. Stop fighting against me. You should be fighting the Fire Nation.
"See, Sokka? I'm sure you just didn't notice the knife..."
Agree with her. She's your sister. She knows. She fights. She doesn't ask questions.
"There was no knife! I'm going back to the hut and packing my things."
Sokka stormed from the room, but Jet did not mark it. He knew when things were no longer of use to him. He would displace the troublesome boy later. He had two more to convince to his side. He chanced one short glance at Sokka's disappearing back before turning to Aang and Katara, who listened to him with an unrivaled attentiveness
"Tell me you guys aren't leaving yet...I really need your help."
The sympathy card was perfect. Katara's gaze softened. Aang, the Avatar, always one to help in any cause, jumped at his request.
"What do we do?"
Jet was quick. Jet was absolute. Jet was cunning, and definite, and confident. If he had not been, he would have given in to his insanity long ago. It was perfect. The dam, the blasting jelly, the pair of benders at his disposal. The Fire Nation would regret the day they slaughtered Jet's family, regret the day they crossed that frightened boy's path. They would regret it, and they would pay.
"The Fire Nation is planning on burning down our forest. If you both use water bending to fill the reservoir, we can fight the fires..." his gaze faltered and fell. "But if you leave now...they'll destroy the whole valley."
He knew it from the expression on their faces, the determination in their eyes. He had seen that look often enough before. Jet grinned as they left, lost in his own sick fantasy. This time, the Fire Nation would pay. In trenches, in rivers, in oceans of blood, they would pay.