Notes Edited 1/2012
Title: Rainy Season
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Characters: Main characters
Genre: Friendship, General
Word Count: 3296
Author's Notes: Originally posted in 2007.
When the rainy season hits the Earth Kingdom, Azula doesn't believe it will last for long. She shakes her head, nods at the officials, and waves it off as a passing storm. She can hear the officials' voices in her head after they leave – "I'm not so sure, Princess," and "This is the monsoon season, after all" – but she doesn't pay attention.
Back 'home', in the Fire Nation, it is also raining. But it's a tropical land over there, and it's humid and rainy all-year round.
That doesn't change the bitter fact that the rain reminds Azula of home.
Zuko is still with his sister and her posse when the rain starts to fall. He spends many of his nights lying awake in his bed, listening to the soft drum of the rain on the curved roof of the home inside the city in which he is staying. One night, he can hear the soft knocking of someone on the door, and he opens it to find a servant.
"Yes?" he asks, not as rudely as it sounds. The now-again prince raises an eyebrow at the man's hesitance.
"Your sister," the servant says, "requests your presence at the palace." Zuko nods tersely, character so different from only moments before, and walks through the door softly.
He puts on his shoes in the entrance room (Azula always lies, he chants to himself), and steps out into the rain without an umbrella.
Mai has never liked the rain.
That is why she used to spend all of her time back home in the training courts, practicing her aim, throwing knives and darts alike at a circled target. She hates the rain for many different reasons, but the prevailing reason is the fact that every time she goes out into the rain, she returns sick and miserable (and vulnerable). And she hates being vulnerable.
She can now hear Ty Lee babbling in the background and Azula's commanding footsteps; they must be coming to either consult her on something - or they're just bored and have come looking for her companionship.
So Mai sighs slowly, takes a knife, and aims for the middle.
Ty Lee has always loved the rain.
There's something about the way that the liquid falls from her forehead down to her chin, and eventually lands, among with the many others, on her pink outfit. She always returns back inside drenched from head to toe, but smiling her trademark smile. Ty Lee knows that Azula and Mai aren't large fans of the rain, so she doesn't expect them to understand.
She spends a large portion of the days of the rainy season (at home or on her travels, and even with the circus) meditating under the onslaught of water. Somehow, she's never gotten sick.
When Azula remarks on this, Ty Lee just shrugs and smiles, stretching out her limbs in the normal practice. "I'm just lucky."
"Give him tea, and that's all." Azula had commanded, and so now they brought the old firebender tea three times a day. He sips his tea with grace, only the way that someone had been in similar situations without breaking a sweat could. He speaks to the guards politely, though they never speak back.
"This is very nice tea," Iroh comments. "Please pass on my compliments to the maker." He sits back a bit, the rustling of the chains a sore and unneeded reminder. "But, oh, I wish I could see the sun." He has said this on a regular basis, and every day, the guards remain quiet.
One breaks the silence. "You wouldn't be able to anyways," the guard says, reluctant but wanting to speak, "it's the rainy season now."
"Oh," Iroh remarks sagely, taking a sip of ginseng, eyebrows raised slightly in the darkness.
'New Ozai' is a city full of many secrets. The least – or most – of these is that there is a secret underground organization of earthbenders, waiting to revolt. Their king, of course, is King Bumi. He is a bit unusual, they muse, but better than some (Ozai and Azulon come to mind). One of the advisors one day catches Bumi, dressed in plain Earth Kingdom clothes, looking through the window into the falling rain.
The advisor, foolish and almost rash in his actions, moves towards his King and begins to speak. But a hand stops him in his tracks.
"Stop," Bumi says, "and listen."
The advisor tilts his head to the side, and listens, but can hear nothing other than the rain.
"Sir?" he asks unsurely.
"Exactly," says King Bumi.
The harvest season didn't go too well last year, and the merchant is out of things to sell. He works for a tea shop in the Lower Ring now, since their last serving boy and jolly old man had disappeared (somewhere around the same time as the flip of power, he's heard). The cabbage merchant does take the time to frequent the market in the spare time he has left over.
Ironically, he stops next to a cart of cabbages, and speaks with his fellow merchant.
"The harvest didn't go too well this last year," the other man says.
The cabbage merchant nods his head and replies slowly, "Yes, I know." They stand for a moment in silence, underneath the overhanging roof and safe from the falling rain.
Then, jokingly: "How long do you think it'll last?"
Longshot and Smellerbee sit in front of a nameless mound, with a partly crushed flower lying on top. It's barely drizzling, and they are both wearing hats that keep most of the rain from their clothing, though here and there drops have made it, leaving little circular wet spots on the fabric.
After a few minutes, Longshot nudges 'Bee with his elbow, and they both stand up hesitantly.
"It's time to go," Smellerbee says unnecessarily, and Longshot jerks his head back to the small town they had taken up shelter in.
As they walk back, she feels the compulsion to speak. "When we lived in the forest, we missed most of the rainy season." It's a statement, but the boy next to her nods his head solemnly anyways.
"Yup," she says. "Rainy season's here."
"They'll come," Suki says stubbornly, chin jutting out, tears too afraid to fall down her face. "I just know it."
Time passes by, though, and they never come. She and her group (disappearing slowly in the night, one by one) can hear the soft drum of the rain – they aren't as far underground as the old firebender that they have heard about, because apparently they don't exhibit as much of a threat. Suki still has hope – "Tomorrow," she says, and again the next day: "I promise you, tomorrow is the day-".
After awhile, she stops; and then, she's the only one left.
"I swear," her voice is broken, "that they'll come. By the end of the rainy season, they'll come," Suki says into the empty cell. The soft pitter-patter is suddenly harsher on the roof.
"But we just saw their fleet less than a week ago," the young Haru says, brows furrowed between his eyes. They are deep lines around them that didn't used to be there.
"Half their ships were wiped out by a storm, and the other half by the Fire Nation," the general says mercilessly. "Sorry, sir."
Haru dismisses the man and looks out into the sunset, rain obscuring his vision of the world.
"Where are you when we need you, Avatar?" The earthbender asks.
He turns around when he hears a call of: "In the distance, through the rain! I can see ships!"
Haru takes looks through the glass – the ships are approaching quickly. "Captain!" he yells over the loud roar of the now pouring rain, "Ready the ship for battle!"
Jun isn't too fond of the rainy season, like many people in the Earth Kingdom. She dislikes it for different reasons, though. There is less work in the rainy season, and so that puts her here, sitting in bars by herself and waving off weak attempts from men. She also remembers in the rainy season, and she doesn't like that either.
She starts when two men sit in front of her. One is large and muscular, and very shirtless, while the other is leanly muscled, wearing a vest. The large one smiles at her while the other frowns.
"They say you're the best," the frowning man says, "at hunting people."
Jun quickly swallows the weak sake in her mouth. "That's because I am," she says cockily.
The man gestures between him and the smiling man. "I am Xin Fu; this is The Boulder. We need you to hunt someone down for us." He puts a large bag of money on the table.
"I'm listening," she says, hungrily eyeing the gold.
The man explains, but she only hears half of what he is saying. She tunes back in as he's finishing.
"- Toph Bei Fong." Ah. "We'll leave tomorrow – it's raining too hard for us to leave tonight."
"The Boulder is excited," the large man comments, flexing his overly large muscles.
Jun wonders what kind of company she's fallen into.
"I can too see the future," the old woman childishly insists as yet another nameless person stalks out the door, only to rush back in (soaked) to grab their umbrella and stalk out again. The fortuneteller sighs sadly, fingering the coins that had already been given to her before the session had started.
Meng smiles toothily as the old lady beckons to her. She sets the tray of sake down on the floor and pours two cups before turning back to the fortuneteller. "Yes?" she asks.
"Give me your hand," she says. "I haven't read yours in quite awhile. And then," the old lady states exaggeratedly, "I will tell your future."
She takes the young girl's hand in her own and traces the lines…
"I see a grand romance in your future - "
The sound of thunder breaks her voice off for a moment.
"Do you have anymore rash ointment left, Song? I would greatly appreciate it," the woman asks nervously, hands wringing the water out of her soaked skirt.
"Of course," Song gratifies, looking through her medicine bag. As she finally finds it, the woman is still going on about how her husband must have ran through some poison ivy while hunting the other day. Song smiles and hands the lady of ointment, refusing any payment.
As the woman steps outside, she calls back to Song, "Make sure to lock your windows! The rain may have stopped for a bit, but it'll be back later! It always is," she waves and walks back to her home.
Later, Song is in the stables, feeding the ostrich horses one last time before heading inside for the night, when she sees one that she swore hadn't been there before. She heads to the opening of the stables, looking about wildly for any leftover sign of who had left it here.
The only thing she can see is that it's beginning to rain again.
Jin still lives in Ba Sing Se. She still frequents the tea shop everyday, hoping to maybe run into Li or his jolly uncle Mushi, but so far no luck. They mysteriously disappeared not too long ago. Now the tea shop has this rude and abrupt server, who wasn't as handsome or as much as an enigma as Lee at all.
She sighs, looking through the slats on the windows of the tea place, seeing the rain falling slowly to the ground. It's too bad; she was hoping she could share the rainy season with Li.
Now Jin frowns, and asks the server, in her polite voice, "Do you know what happened to the last server here?"
The man frowns slowly. "No," the server says, "All I know is that he disappeared a while ago."
She sighs, looking out into the rain. "Thanks anyways," and the server walks away. She slaps some money on the table for her bill, and then steps out into the rain.
Lee and his family are sitting down to dinner on when lightning strikes in the distance and thunder reverberates throughout their entire house. The chicken-pigs squeal nervously as the first rain begins to fall. Lee rushes to the window, and jumps up and down, pointing to the falling rain.
"The monsoon has finally come!" He exclaims, pulling on his mother's sleeve as she smiles fondly down at him.
It isn't until the next day, when an uncomfortable-looking official from the army trails up from the path to their humble farm, and says unerringly to his father's face, "I'm afraid I have some bad news."
The Avatar hasn't seen rain like this in a very long time. Sure, it's drizzled. Sure, it's poured. But it hasn't been a continuous onslaught of water so that he had to travel on ground most of the time since Appa couldn't fly in it; it also hadn't been the extra spring in Katara's step, or Sokka's smug smile, or Toph's confusion.
He loves being able to bend the water out of his clothes at the end of the day's work, and having to dry out logs with Katara so they could build a fire for dinner. It's something new in their schedule. Aang is childish, yes, but he also needs hope, and the rain washes everything away.
"I don't know what you are so worked up about, Twinkle Toes," she says, not even shielding her eyes as her face turns toward the pouring sky. "It happens just like this every year."
Sokka has seen rain before, yes, but nothing like this. He isn't Katara or even Aang – he can't bend the water out of his clothes. That leaves them damp, even when it isn't raining, because the humidity makes it impossible (wet clothes are very, very uncomfortable).
The rain also brings other responsibilities.
Such as when we wakes up in the middle of his peaceful sleep to cries of "No! You can't go…", and his sister's voice travels off every cloudy night as he shakes her awake, whispering to her that's it's just a dream, that it's not real. She buries her head in his shoulder and sobs her way back to sleep, only to repeat the process a few hours later.
In the morning she remembers nothing.
Toph has never been particularly fond of the rain.
She sees everything with her feet, and the constant drum on the ground or the roof drives her senses crazy. As the rain lands on her hair, she sighs, letting her toes curl into the solid ground before it starts to pour again.
Early the next morning, just after the sun had risen, Toph wakes to the talk of her fellow travelers.
"The sky is really grey again today," Katara comments, and Toph can tell she is cooking their breakfast over a fire (she can smell the grease of whatever she's burning; also the fruit that Aang is chewing on).
"Do you think it'll rain some more today?" Aang asks excitedly, and Toph can almost imagine what he's thinking – almost.
Toph snorts out loud and barely conceals her grin. "Of course it will, Twinkle Toes. Like I said, this happens every year." She turns her face up to the sky again, wondering what 'grey' looked like. "Nothing to get worked up about."
Katara would like to pretend that she has feelings about the rain either way. But the truth is, she didn't mind it, but she didn't like it. The rest of her group may think less of a waterbender who wasn't wildly in love with the rain, but Katara honestly just liked the way it cooled her down, but hated the way that it brought troubles. News of Azula and her group's crazy endeavors never seemed to be far behind the first raindrop.
But she smiles; because her brother seems tired and worried these days, because Aang is childish but he needs to save the world, and because Toph looks and acts more mellow than normal. And they need some comfort in their regular routine.
"Hey, Katara?" Aang asks.
She looks down, on her face a motherly smile, and Aang blushes lightly. "Do you think it'll rain today?" He asks this every day, and normally it's Toph or Sokka who answers with something sarcastic, but today they are off doing chores, and so it's left to her to answer.
Katara leans her head up and smells the thick, humid air – the first raindrop hasn't fallen yet, but it's never far behind the clouds. "Yeah," she says hesitantly, slowly. "I think it will."
In the end, the rains last for a month and a half.
"The rain is finally over," the officials tell Azula, and she smiles her cruel smile. "Of course it is," she says, "I told you it wouldn't last long."
Mai's apathetic, almost unusual smile and Ty Lee's deep frown express everything as they look up to the empty sky.
"I've done what you've asked, Azula," Zuko says to his sister, and she pats his head, like a dog. Then she tells him she's always had faith in him.
Iroh sits in his cell; "I can't hear the rain anymore," he comments. Neither guard answers and he can deduce the rainy season is over.
King Bumi stops court one day – "Listen," he says, and they do. They hear nothing, nothing at all. "It's over," one councilman breathes with relief. "Exactly," King Bumi says, with conviction.
The market is open again and there's so much more room to walk now that everybody doesn't crowd underneath the overhanging roofs. The cabbage man finds himself standing in front of a large basket of cabbages, just as two children run and knock it over. In the distance, the other merchant yells: "My cabbages!"
"Yup," Smellerbee says, seeing the cloudless and endless sky, "Rainy season's gone."
They come in the end, after the rain has stopped, and by then, Suki isn't the same. But she steps out into the fresh air, takes a deep breath, and says, "Thank Kyoshi it's over," and one of her rescuers looks at her strangely. "Yes, you are free now." "No," Suki says slowly. "The rain."
"How many men survived, captain?" Haru asks. "Not many." They stare at the rainless horizon.
The Boulder is hogging all the room again: "The Boulder needs room!" And then, from Jun, "I'm sick of this." Xin Fu looks to the sky. "It has stopped raining."
Meng miserably looks out at the cherry trees. "Where's my grand romance, now, old hag?" She mutters under her breath.
Song has named her new ostrich horse Popo. It's surprisingly stubborn and mean.
"Have you seen a man with a scar across his eye, just so," Jin makes a movement by her eyes with her hand, "around here lately?" And the man frowns. "You aren't talking about Prince Zuko, are you?"
The uncomfortable army man is even more uncomfortable in their house, where he has three solemn Earth Kingdom (victims) staring at him. He clears his throat. "I'm afraid your son and brother," he nods his head to the young boy Lee, "has died in battle." He can't go on to say more about his honorable death because the mother is sobbing too loudly.
Aang frowns. Sokka yawns. Toph doesn't understand. "Where's the rain?" she asks Katara. And after a pregnant pause in which they are all reminded of Toph's blindness, Katara smiles down at the younger girl. "It's gone," Katara says. Toph smells the air and heavily sighs: "Looks like the rainy season's over."