Disclaimer: I don't own 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'.
Notes: Yeah… No one really responded to my question last chapter. So I'm going to leave the rating as it is, unless someone complains about it.
There are meant to be five members in the Rough Rhinos, but the scene flowed so much better with just three. And the armoured bomb expert (Yeh-Lu) is now an armoured firebender (because Flowerperson wrote the chapter thinking he was a firebender but then found out after the scene was written).
Sorry for the lateness. Felt kinda bummed out after the finale and then immersed myself in other fandoms. (and exams and work experience - let's just not go into that) But I want to finish! X[ 5,196 words! Longest chapter Flowerperson has written ever! So there's probably many, many mistakes. And also sorry if you've forgotten what happened. Dao = bad spirit that has imitated Zuko's appearance. Katara = fancies Zuko and Dao. Zuko = fancies Katara, has left Uncle to make his way on his own, all broody and teenage-angst-style and he foolishly fainted like a girly girl last chapter.
8-10 chapters left roughly.
Part XXX: Treat
She tensed, recognising the voice, remembering her nickname. Slowly, carefully, she lifted her head from her hands and surveyed the person – thing – standing in front of her, starting from their feet. He wore black, form-fitting clothes (still highlighting every toned muscle), just like when she had first met him, although now his face was exposed. She'd only glimpsed it once for a brief moment before entering the portal, but now could focus on it completely.
He – or it – was the spitting image of Zuko, from the glint of his amber eyes to his angular jaw, with one significant exception: the absence of the exiled prince's infamous scar.
He grinned, exposing a mouth of perfectly aligned, white teeth. Does Zuko ever smile like this?
"Trick or treat?"
Katara frowned, taking a step back. "Trick, obviously, if it's you." He didn't respond the way she wanted to; instead his lips pulled into an amused smirk and he walked closer. She continued to back-pedal slowly, keeping her eyes locked with his. Her knuckles continued to pulse though she now found the sensation less painful. "What do you want?"
He moved languidly, at ease. His smug expression suggested that it was him that pulled her into this huge swamp. She had no idea why – the last time she'd had the misfortune of seeing him, she'd given him a mean right hook and they'd both travelled through the portal. The thought had plagued her mind of where he had gone, and that it couldn't possibly be good, but Aang's need of an earthbending teacher had overridden any contemplation of what had happened to the not-guide.
"Can't I thank the beautiful waterbender that brought me here? I just want to show some… appreciation." He licked his bottom lip and Katara felt her knees wobble as he took advantage of her temporary paralysis and invaded her personal space. This situation felt just like Jet all over again. Stop it, Katara. You are a strong master waterbender.
Strong master waterbender was right. This wasn't the Spirit World, and now she held the advantage. "Get out of my face, whoever you are," she hissed, "Unless you want me to give you your own personal scar, waterbending style." She'd freeze his face so cold that it burned.
He laughed hard, throwing his head back and resting a hand over his trembling abdomen. "You're so cute!" he cooed as he tapped her on the nose. She glared at the offending finger with crossed eyes, which made him erupt into more hysterics and doubled over. She jumped back and took on a waterbending form, ready to take the overconfident jerk down.
"Oh, yeah," he remarked as he recovered, wiping a tear from his eye. "I never did tell you who I was." He then dipped into a graceful bow, his upper body parallel to the floor. He tilted his face to catch her wary gaze. "Dao of the Four – oops, I should say 'Three' – Spirit Siblings. And it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Master Katara of the Southern Water Tribe."
Before Katara should question him on how he knew these things, he supplied her with a pre-emptive answer.
"I've done my research on you, Master Katara. And I've decided that it would be beneficial for me if I had you on my side. More of leverage than anything else, but your waterbending skills and experience of this world will come in handy too."
She bristled. "What do you mean leverage? And what makes you think I'm going to join you? I don't know what makes all you guys think this but you can't just kidnap me all the time. I'm a master waterbender now, and I'm not playing damsel in distress anymore!" With that firm statement, she drew murky water from the swamp and created a huge tide, intending to wipe that arrogant smile from his face and knock him off his feet.
A man wearing nothing but leaves (when she looked back at this image, she would cringe) stepped forward and deflected the blast. Another man stepped forward and pushed more water towards her. She spun with the water, gaining momentum, before shooting it straight back to the odd waterbenders. More revealed themselves and engaged her into a battle.
So busy with defending and slowly and meticulously taking them all out, she barely caught what the spirit had to say.
"Well," he said as he fished for something in his pockets – an action she caught from the corner of her eye. "You did say 'trick', so I suppose I can show you a fancy trick I've discovered." He took out a scrap of deep red silk and wrapped it around his right wrist tightly.
She had finished with the remaining waterbenders now, and turned to face him. The snarky comment that would be followed by an impressive display of waterbending-awesomeness was cut short as her eyes found themselves glued to the red cloth on his wrist. Her arms instantly dropped as if she had lost the ability to move them.
He began to speak, and her gazed switched to his moving lips. He edged closer and gripped her chin in a feather-light grip that she could have broken easily if she so much as twitched. However, any command from her brain to her muscles was ignored as she leaned into his hand and her eyes fluttered closed.
"If you're a good girl, maybe I'll give you a treat, too."
Aang glanced back to the girl sitting on Appa's saddle as they approached the swamp. She had her arms crossed across her chest in a defensive manner and seemed to be lost in thought. Although, it was sort of hard to tell with her unseeing eyes. She had made it clear to him more than once to treat her the same as everyone else; she considered her blindness as an advantage as she would not be fooled by any feint an opponent made, and the vibrations in the earth allowed her to see just fine, thank you.
The meeting with the parents had… not gone to plan. He'd been honest – almost too honest – and her parents had found the concept of their precious daughter being an outstanding earthbender absurd. Apparently, her tutor was still working on the basics with her. Finding out that he was the Avatar did not help at all; instead, they shrieked in high-pitched voices that they didn't want their little lily to be a target of the Fire Nation.
Their friend had been dragged into their swamp? They didn't want their baby to go anywhere near that dirty place. Those germs!
They rode a flying bison? How dangerous! Weren't those aggressive creatures?
To conclude, they had decided that there absolutely no way that their precious Toph would be going anywhere, and that stricter limits had to be put in place. She would have to stay on the Bei Fong grounds under constant guard. No more earthbending lessons, which would be replaced by increased lessons in etiquette to undo the damage that she had obviously undertaken by coming across these ruffians.
That had been the final straw. She had stormed out of the room under the pretence of saying her farewells to Aang and Sokka but instead quickly packed a bag, changed into her Blind Bandit clothes and climbed her way onto Appa's saddle.
Aang had suggested that she say goodbye to her parents, and Toph told him quite snappily to shut up and hurry up if he wanted to save his friend. Sokka had shaken his head to stop the Air Nomad from continuing to attempt to persuade her.
"Here," the eldest of the three said as he pointed towards a clearing. "Land Appa there. Katara fell somewhere around here; I recognise that patch."
The first thing Zuko thought as he awoke was that his head really, really, really hurt. He felt around his temple and came across linen bandages, wrapped around the circumference of his head. What had happened? The last thing he remembered, he was trudging down a dirt-road, starving and thirsty with no town in sight.
He certainly hadn't been captured by Azula, who would never show the mercy to administer first-aid to her own brother. It couldn't have been Uncle; these bandages were tied neat at the perfect tightness, whereas the retired general was always a little bit sloppy.
Zuko took in his surroundings: a small room with paper-screens separating this room from another, a single futon, a small candle upon a dresser, a single window with the shutters closed and a tapestry of a golden-leaved tree on the wall right of the window.
Beside the futon was a bowl of water and a clean cloth. Clearing his parched throat, Zuko eagerly lifted the bowl to his lips and drank greedily, not caring if the water was warm.
There was a gasp behind him. He spun quickly and accidentally leaned on the hand holding the bowl; it smashed in his grip and cut into his skin.
The girl that had entered – with short, brown hair, brown eyes and wearing a peach-coloured robe – let out another gasp and rushed to his side, snatching his hand and carefully extracting the shards. He blinked at her slowly; was she the one that helped him? Her hands were smooth and moved confidently like the medics Zuko had encountered back in the palace.
"Let's go clean that up," she said in a soft voice and gently guided him out of the room via the paper screens and to the outside of the small cabin where there was a small water-pump.
After Zuko's hand had been washed, dried and bandaged, Zuko finally found words, and his manners. "Thank you," he bowed slightly; too deep a bow and his head would have throbbed painfully. "I'm sorry about the bowl."
"Don't worry about it," she smiled and put her hands to his head, moving it to and fro as she asked him if it still hurt, and where, and explained that when she had found him, he had hit his head on a rock when he passed out. She diagnosed that he might have a worse headache because he was malnourished and invited him back into the house to eat supper.
"I'm sorry that it's only rice and a few vegetables," she said as she passed him a bowl. He muttered his gratitude before tucking in, finishing the food in a speed that would rival his uncle's. He had had three bowls by the time he was satisfied and smiled sheepishly when she giggled at the amount of rice he had spilt down himself in his haste.
"So…" he said, an awkward attempt to break the silence. "Thanks again for helping me."
She shrugged her shoulders, "I couldn't call myself a doctor if I didn't help those in need. What were you doing wandering alone around here anyway? Don't you know there's Fire Nation troops all around here?" She frowned. "They'll take anyone as a prisoner of war now." Zuko shifted uncomfortably. "Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't introduce myself. I'm Song, and you are…?"
"Lee," Zuko answered, slipping into one of his uncle's old lies instantly. The thought of his uncle made him hang his head. He missed him. "I was with someone but we… split up."
"Oh," her eyes shone with sympathy. "It's always sad when relationships end."
His head snapped up and he spluttered in his attempt to quickly correct her. "What? I wasn't— I'm not— I was travelling with my uncle and we had an argument, that's all. It was a stupid argument, really. Well, I was stupid. I thought I could have done better off without him, but I guess I don't."
"You miss him," she smiled sadly and looked to her hands as she twisted them in her lap. "I know what you're feeling. My father and my fiancé have left to go fight the Fire Nation. I really didn't want them to go, but… It's personal for them. Last year, soldiers attacked our home while they were at the next town gathering supplies. My mother was killed and I was badly injured." She lifted her robe, exposing her leg, which should have been a smooth, milky-white yet was a rough dark-pink, terribly scarred. Zuko touched his own mark absent-mindedly. She noticed his action, and lowered her robe, placing her hand on his knee in a comforting gesture. "If you don't mind me asking, how did you get your…?" she fumbled over the right way to say it without offending him.
He lowered his hand and hesitantly spoke, feeling that she deserved the truth but couldn't know the entire story. "I spoke out of turn. He wanted to leave me a reminder of how to act."
"You are a brave man, Lee," she beamed. "I admire your courage." Before he could correct her that he wasn't brave at all, she picked up the bowls and left to wash them, advising him to rest.
"These trees are freakin' huge!" Sokka gaped as they made their way through the forest. With Aang's skill in fancy footwork and Toph's unique ability to 'see' all obstacles, the Water Tribesman found himself tripping and falling face-first in unidentifiable gunk more times than he would have liked. Appa had been left in the clearing – the air bison's large frame making it impossible for him to navigate through the thick forest.
"Seriously," he continued to rant. "This is like some sort of obstacle course. You think they'd be traveller-friendly and create paths; I'm tired already! I hope we don't have to kick no bad guys' butts 'cause I am pooped!"
At that moment, several scantly-clad, hairy men emerged from the bushes and took on a fighting stance. Aang shook his head at Sokka's tendency to aggravate the universe, muttering "You just had to go and say it, didn't you?", and readied his staff.
Sokka took out his boomerang and pushed the youngest member of their group out of the way, telling her not to worry as they would handle it.
He needn't have bothered, for Toph raised her arms and clenched her fists, causing the sloppy mud to encase them in a firm grip and then dry, hard as rock. Some of the swamp-inhabitants squirmed in vain while others openly gawked at the appearance of the earthbender that had incapacitated them all in one move.
Sokka almost fell back. "Huh?!"
"Hey, Snoozeles," she growled as she poked him hard in his midsection. "Stay outta my way when there's a fight, capisce?"
"Understood," Sokka gasped as he clutched his stomach. Her jab had definitely left a bruise.
"Good, let's carry on. Those goons must mean that your friend's nearby."
Hesitantly, the two boys trailed after the obviously-more-than-capable-in-battle girl. Aang felt sweat trickle down his forehead as he remembered that it would be her training him and would undoubtedly show him the same amount of compassion: none. Sokka, reading the Avatar's thoughts by his facial expression, patted him on the shoulder in a gesture of sympathy and sucks to be you.
Zuko was using the water-pump outside the house to gather water to boil the rice in when he was attacked.
Even though he was not fully recovered, he managed to seamlessly dodge the arrows without much difficulty. There was a YuuYan archer and a chain-wielding Fire Native, both riding komodo rhinos. He sprinted into the house, instantly prioritizing the tasks he would have to fulfil.
First: get Song out of the flammable hut and away from the danger zone, leaving him free to take out the mercenaries without breaking the trust she had placed in him. She had saved him, and knowing that he was the same as the monsters that had scarred her, murdered her mother and forced her remaining family into battle would have torn her apart. It wasn't fair to her.
She had heard the attack, too, as she was on her way outside. He gripped her wrist and dragged her out of the house and into the forest to the east. The trees were sparse, but would offer at least some cover against the attacks.
Belatedly, he noticed the furious orange flames raging in the path he had planned to take, the heat creeping steadily closer and way too strong for him to diminish without screaming hey hey look I'm a firebender. Biting his cheek, he turned slowly to face the two that waited behind him. They sneered.
"Hey, Doc," the one holding the chain spoke up, staring down Song. The way he had given Zuko a long look-over suggested that he did not recognise him and hadn't met Song before (the bandages wrapped around Zuko's head were practically a label for 'PATIENT'). "We happened to be helping some pretty lady look for her chest, and one of your patients said you got a fancy-looking chest, yourself. You wanna show it to us?"
She stuttered. "I d-don't know any chests." Zuko noticed she blinked too many times to be telling the truth; the man seemed to detect the lie, too.
"Oh yeah? Well how about that we burn down that little house of yours and then raid through the rubble? Hmmm? Or how about we give your big-boy patient another scar?"
A bead of sweat could be seen under her bangs. "I…"
Song had no chance to supply them with the truth – or another lie – as a heavily-armoured firebender emerged out of the door to the very cabin they had threatened to destroy, carrying a small chest with intricate carvings and faded paint. Deciding to make another break for it before it turned ugly, Zuko tapped Song's palm and discreetly pointed to the west behind his back so the Rough Rhinos – who he now recognised from the tales Iroh had told him of a ragtag group including a firebender, archer and weapons' expert – would not see.
"Well, well, look what we got here. Did you really think you could—"
"RUN!" Zuko hollered as he threw the metal pot he had in his hands to be filled at the water-pump at the YuuYan archer, stunning the greatest threat in their escape. The spokesperson for the group threw his ball-and-chain, which Zuko kicked away. It wrapped around the foot of the YuuYan archer's komodo rhino. The creature panicked and stampeded to the south, carrying the archer away and dragging the other man off his own method of transport.
The firebender hesitated on dropping the chest and firing a blast or carefully placing the object down and then attacking, which was all Zuko needed for them to escape to the beaten track leading to the nearby town. The Rough Rhinos would not risk making a big scene there.
Shrugging, the firebender – known to his friends as Yeh-Lu – mused that at least they had the chest.
But, strangely, it felt as if it was empty.
The mysterious man – Aang and Sokka blinked with familiarity; Zuko… without a scar? – was so quick to pounce upon them that even Toph didn't have time to give them a warning. He leapt upon Sokka's back and gripped both his boomerang and club, throwing them far away to the side. He then flipped off, kicking the back of Sokka's head in the process.
The Water Tribesman fell face first in the mud and groaned something about his luck.
He faced Aang next, sprinting to his side and lifting his knee up to try and wind him. Aang jumped backwards with the aid of his airbending and took out his staff. Creating small balls of air, he began batting them towards their mysterious assailant, who dipped and ducked and dived and dodged to avoid them as he steadily closed the distance between them.
The Zuko-Clone took out his sword – an odd-looking object with a black blade and a grey hilt that was studded with rubies – and lifted it high above Aang's head. Panicking, the Avatar created an upsurge blast of air that should have knocked the weapon out of his hands but instead the blade sliced through the air current and cleanly sliced Aang's staff-cum-glider in two. He flipped the sword, making another attempt to wind the Air Nomad but was knocked off-balance by a wall of sloppy mud driving into him from Toph (who Sokka would later lecture for taking far too long and hey, why didn't she save him from getting the worst headache in the history of headaches?).
Aang and Toph combined forces; Toph lifted the mud and made it as dense as stone while Aang sent it flying. The Zuko-alike was coping, but obviously not well a large mudball glanced off his hip. He winced, clutching his side.
"Hmm. An earthbender too, huh? I didn't think I'd have to bring out the surprise this early. Ah well." He clicked his fingers. "Oh, dear? We've got visitors. Look after the Avatar for me, will you? He's a very important guest."
"Yes, darling," a familiar voice gushed.
Sokka rubbed his head. Boy, it really sounded like his sister but it couldn't be…
"Katara?!" he screeched as she emerged from the forest. She didn't pay him any mind, batting her eyelashes at their assailant then approaching Aang. "What are you wearing?"
It was ruby-red with black lining and made of a satin-like material and far too revealing for someone like Sokka's innocent baby sister to wear. It wasn't too short, touching the ground – yet had no stains on it whatsoever – but the square-neckline was indecently low, in Sokka's opinion. Dear Yue, it showed off her cleavage!
Sokka turned to Aang, who was drooling. "Stop looking!" he shrieked at him before facing Katara again. "Sis, cover yourself up! What's going on here?!"
"Sokka," Toph called as she tried to placate him with a hand on his arm as he threw a tantrum out of confusion and disgust. "Is Katara wearing something strange?"
"Strange? Do you not see—ah, sorry."
"No worries. You'll get used to it. Anyway," she began in hushed tones, "I just heard those swamp men talking and they said that Aang's acting the same way that Katara did when he tied something to his wrist. Can you see anything?"
"Yeah, a red ribbon or something," Sokka described as he squinted his eyes to look at the Zuko lookalike, even though the ribbon was clearly visible without straining his eyes. "Hey! It's the same colour as Katara's dress!"
"He must be using it to seduce Katara just like what Katara's dress is doing to Aang."
"Wow. That's really convenient that you overheard the swamp-people saying that. It would have taken us at least the rest of this chapter to figure it out."
"Don't complain about it."
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" He wasn't, but he didn't want to be humiliated by the little girl again so he nodded emphatically. "Okay. And no more screaming please – it hurts my ears."
And with that, Toph earthbended a wall of mud to push Katara into their enemy's pathway, who had grown tired of their chatter and was mounting an attack to separate them from their hushed whispers. He was taken aback by Katara's presence a few inches away as she blushed prettily. The Zuko-lookalike dropped his sword and grabbed her to plant a kiss on her full lips, weak against the magic of her dress when there was the element of attraction.
"Hey! That was the plan?!" Sokka yelped, making Toph's ears ring. She gave him the best evil glare a blind person could muster – which was pretty good, actually – and ordered him to pick up the sword since both his weapons had been chucked somewhere in the dense wood that surrounded them.
He did as he was told.
The sword felt strange in his hand; he'd handled one before though never had lessons because he'd always favoured the blunt club as a short-ranged weapon. Partly because Sokka was incredibly accident-prone and whacking himself with the club was better than slicing himself into bits. This one felt like an extension of his arm and seemed to make his arm move with more grace than even the waterbenders.
Sokka glanced at his sibling kissing the Zuko-clone then the scrap of cloth around the jerk's wrist. Slowly, a grin formed on his face.
"Time for my plan!"
As gently as he could (which wasn't very gentle at all), Sokka pushed Katara away from the stranger. His golden eyes widened, taking in the sword as the water tribe warrior lifted the weapon high above his head.
Sokka sliced downwards.
Zuko and Song stopped at a small stream that flowed slowly through the forest they had been sprinting through for the past fifteen minutes or so. Usually, Zuko could go for longer but Song had almost collapsed after five and supporting her had finally taken its toll. He wondered how his uncle managed to keep running when they were chasing the Avatar or fleeing from bounty hunters.
She splashed her face with the cool water, attempting to get her breath back.
"Thank you," she panted. "I don't know what would have happened to me without you. It would have been easier if I'd just given it to them but… I couldn't. It means everything to me." At this, she broke into tears.
Zuko – unsure of what to do – pat her on the back hesitantly. "Consider it payback for healing me. I'm sorry you had to leave your precious item behind."
Through her tears, she let loose a small chuckle. "I didn't. The chest was empty; I have it on me all the time, to remind me of my fiancé." She showed him her hand, which bore a thin gold ring with four encrusted jewels: a ruby, a diamond, a sapphire and an emerald. "It's our engagement ring. He found it in that chest when he was hunting for food in the area. I could never give it to them. Never."
Something tugged at him; the memory of Katara's obsession with her blue necklace sprung up in the forefront of his mind with a sharp onset of… He didn't want to think about it any more. Didn't want to think about her any more.
"They'll be back, won't they?" she asked, spinning the gold band around her finger. The precious stones glistened in the midday sun. "They'll chase me forever and eventually they'll get it. I don't know what they want it for but I can guess it's something bad."
Zuko looked closely at the ring. He didn't think it looked particularly special; the Fire Nation possessed much more valuable items that made this look like a beggar's trinket. Zuko's brow furrowed as he glared at the ring, hoping it would provide answers via telepathy. Unfortunately, it didn't.
"I want you to have it, Lee."
He blinked. "What?"
She eased the ring from her finger and held in tightly in her fist. "I have this instinct telling me that you're the best person to have the ring. You're the only one that can look after it."
Zuko spluttered as he tried to come up with excuses for taking a girl's engagement ring from her. He didn't have any idea of what to do with it, it didn't even fit him, and it was a bit too girly for a guy to wear. Nevertheless, she forced it into his hand as if she wanted to get it rid of it as soon as possible before she changed her mind.
Then something quite odd happened.
In front of their very eyes, the ring quivered. The gold band seemed to lose its solid structure and form a thicker, glutinous ring before slowly hardening, clearly a number of ring sizes bigger.
"Try it on," she whispered. And he did.
"Ohh," Dao sighed mournfully, staring at his stump of an elbow and the twitching limb on the floor. The Water Tribe boy was in shock, mouth agape, wondering why he did not bleed like them. The Avatar, who had turned away once the boy raised Dao's sword (what a weakling) but peeked through splayed fingers, was in a similar state.
Katara shook herself out of the fabric's spell, now that the scrap that Dao used had been oh-so-courteously slashed away from his body. Holding a hand to her head, Dao made a mental count to three before, true enough, her blue eyes rolled into the back of her head and fainted.
He considered catching her with his one arm but, really, it would leave him wide open to any other cheap attack the elder brother attempted. Besides, the blind earthbender had already heard her feminine sigh and built a compact mud-bed to catch her.
Ah. Now he was in a dilemma. The swamp-people had turned tail upon witnessing the skill of the small earthbender. One immortal being versus an earthbending master, an Avatar and someone who possessed his sword were not good odds. Of course he couldn't die but being hacked to pieces was extremely detrimental to his plans.
Time to bow out, but not without a little speech to get the ragtag group to do his bidding unintentionally. After all, he was Yan Li's brother and had picked up on some of her 'motivational' speeches over the centuries.
But first, his arm.
He shook his new arm experimentally. It was unmarred and working fine, but felt a little numb. In his experiences of losing appendages in the past (because, believe it or not, this Water Tribe kid was not the first person to get a lucky shot), this sensation faded after the first hour.
"What the heck are you?" the blue-eyed boy shrieked, pointing Dao's own weapon at him. Dao pouted; seeing such a shrill idiot holding his precious weapon burned.
"A friendly spirit," he smiled pleasantly as he held both hands up in a surrendering gesture. The earthbender scoffed. "I have to say I am impressed. Using my own bait against me? Classic. Oh, don't worry," he added as the warrior took an aggressive stance with the blade pointed directly at Dao, "I think you've had enough fun today and I can put my hands up and admit when I've lost the battle.
"That sword of mine – or rather, of yours – is a legendary blade. Any wielder of it has never been defeated… as long as they don't drop it, of course." That wound on his pride would smart for a long time. "You may wonder why I'm telling you this and I guess it's your prize for beating me, along with the sword. You see, that item is one of ten. Your dear waterbender was kind enough to bring me through to this world so I can collect them all and conquer the mortal and spiritual realms. Don't even try to stop me by collecting them; it'll only be fun for me, and you'll just embarrass yourself."
He just loved reverse psychology, but not as much he would have enjoyed the look on the Water Tribe boy's face when the self-professed 'friendly spirit' disappeared in a cloud of smoke.