10,000 is not enough
. helium lost .

Author's Notes: My attempt to fill in some plot holes brought up from the movie (so, obviously, there are spoilers), and a little bit of introspection/memory for Wan :D Yeah, I know Wiki has his name as Wong Shi Tong, but the real Chinese translation of "knows 10,000 things" would be "Wan Shi Dong", so I'm sticking with that.

Edit: Me and my fuzzy canon—thanks to Rashaka and Sabrina for pointing out that animals can bend. ; I've fixed it now.

x x x x x

One can get lonely after hundreds and hundreds of years of confinement.

This was the case with Wan Shi Dong, who was sitting hunched over a large table, turning his head as he read the documents before him. Of course, he couldn't waterbend, but he still admired the style, their grace, the way they moved so effortlessly and beautifully.

It was a shame, he thought, that he had to expel that waterbending girl, and that she didn't have a chance to bend a defense.

Wan ruffled his feathers uncomfortably.

Then, there had been that professor—head of anthropology at Ba Sing Sei University, was it? He had at least had some sense, had some mind to do something other than to plot destruction—he had truly been interested in learning for the sake of learning, and nothing more.

Wan sighed and closed the scroll—there was no way he'd be able to concentrate, his inner voice speaking out so loudly and clearly, berating him for all his mistakes. Of course, he had known the end result right when they stepped foot into the library; he wasn't an all-knowing being for nothing. He had seen in their guilty gazes that they weren't there for "knowledge for knowledge's sake", as they had claimed, and he knew that they were lying. Even the Avatar was not immune to the common human need of dominating, of conquering.

Yet, he had let them in anyway. He sighed and looked around the room, head swiveling on his neck. The torches on the walls flickered gently—not that he really needed them, anyway; he could see well enough in the dark. But they did add a nice, decorative touch, and, well—they were there to help the humans who managed to stumble into the library.

It was those humans that both fascinated and infuriated him.

On one hand, they could be hell-bent on causing destruction, acting on only their needs, forgetting those of others.

Yet, on another hand, they could be remarkably wise for their years.

There had been a man who had entered his library once, years ago—a jolly man, one who loved good tea and a good game of pai-sho, which he had taught to the owl. In fact, Wan had taken the man's pai-sho board as payment for entering the library.

He had been an agreeable man—interested indiscriminately in all the bending arts, not just firebending, and interested for the sole purpose of appreciating their beauty, their culture, their ingenuity. He had sat, poring over volume after eclectic volume, ranging from things like torture methods ("It is amazing to see how humans can inflict such things on fellow humans, though I am still wondering whether or not that is a good thing.") to penguin-sledding ("I wonder, do the penguins enjoy it?").

He had displayed a curiously strong interest in the spirit world, which drew no warning signs from the owl—after all, it was good to see someone—and a human, at that!—trying to fully understand its mysteries.

But then, when he had noticed Wan's inquisitive look, he had said that he was looking for a way to get back his son…

And Wan had stared at him, his smiling face, eyes holding so much sadness, the worn tome resting lightly on the palms of his hands, yellowing pages smoothed out delicately and lovingly. The owl himself had never known loss—he was the only one of his kind, and his foxy assistants were not only immortal, but bound to the library—they could go if they wanted to, but, ultimately, they always came back. He had, naturally, had things stolen from him, but such was the nature of having so many possessions—they were bound to get lost, and, besides, he had already read them, and he never forgot anything he read.

They had stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity, the human's shining, hopeful eyes reflected in the owl's cold, incomprehensible gaze.

Then, he told the human to leave, to take his selfish desires elsewhere—he would have no tolerance for this petty human behavior (though, he wondered, why did his heart feel this way, squeezed tight and caged?). And the man had obliged, carefully putting the tome back into place, making sure that it lined up with all the other volumes nestled beside it, understanding blanketing over the fragments of crushed hope littered on his face.

It was those same shining, hopeful eyes that had met his gaze when he saw the professor, effortlessly balancing so many volumes of books in his arms. He was, realized Wan, the human that he was waiting for—one driven solely by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and nothing else. In a sense, he reminded him of himself, that same rapt, absorbed look on his face when he read, shutting out the world around him in his intensity.

So he had let him stay.

But the professor was still human, and, inevitably, humans would all fall to the same temptation, the same need to dominate… and he wouldn't have that.

Wan sighed and turned to the pillar, wordlessly looking at the stuffed head of the professor, curious eyes gently closed.

Yes, he'd let him stay for an eternity…

x x x x x

Author's Notes: Being that I wrote it in one sitting, and that I've had minimal time to edit, any constructive comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!