Parade of Ants

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The others, Sokka occasionally mused, didn't know what they'd done in ending the war.

War required so much from people – the hardest warriors with the strongest bending abilities, able generals, and leaders like his father skilled in the arts of battle and survival. But so little else...

Now, the world was at peace under the new Fire Lord and the Avatar. In the weeks following the final battle, people swarmed in like a parade of ants to the capital, a new light shining in their world-weary faces. The masses clothed in green and blue cheered exuberantly as the people in red hesitantly participated. The Fire Nation was still thrown off kilter by the sudden unexpected events and change in regime, but happy nonetheless. Sokka knew that they were simply glad their fathers and sons were home and no longer out dying and freezing in a land far away, not glad to have a new leader as others believed. Ozai had been a cruel man, but he always saw to it that country had the best the world could offer.

Sokka had to stifle his snort as Zuko, the banished-prince-come-Fire-Lord, gave the masses a speech about Aang's greatness and how his own new rule would be one based on kindness and love. The last nearly made Sokka bust a rib at its utter ridiculousness. He knew better than to hope for something like that. Even if he hadn't skimmed his share of history books in that stupid sinking library, Sokka knew better than to think that any sort of government could be sustained on the pure love and kindness ideals that Zuko, Aang, and even Katara held so precious. He would bet two, maybe three months at most before Zuko was deposed by his own people, especially those power-hungry generals-types whom had been so important to Ozai's rule and somehow wheedled their way into staying.

Quite by accident, the tribesman's eyes caught those of the wizened Iroh. They exchanged a searing glance as the crowd roared and screamed approval of Zuko's heartfelt words.

Iroh did not speak. Sokka knew what the man wanted anyway. Zuko's uncle had already announced his intention to retire to Ba Sing Se and stay out of politics entirely, leaving his nephew to find his own way among all the twists and turns of monarchy. Sokka grimaced at the thought.

In the Water tribe, Zuko would not be chief for many years until age, experience, intelligence, a certain hardness of heart, and good character made themselves known; then the clan chose him to lead them if he was most suitable. In the last weeks Zuko had shown much of the latter trait, but he still lacked the other characteristics that would only build with time. He was ignorant, in a way, of the workings of the world, of leadership and the utter dedication required for it.

Many would notice that Sokka did not include bending on the list of required traits, and he could well defend the position. Katara was an excellent waterbender, but did not realize the hardness that went into making choices for the good of others. She had no tact. Diplomacy would suffer and die at her hands. Toph was the same. Sokka shuddered at the thought of her ruling anyone. Aang was the Avatar, a bender, the most powerful person in the world. He seemed to carry infinite wisdom around in an invisible bag that he could whip out at any given moment. Yet naiveté still lingered, promoted by his stark determination not to take a single life. Sokka thought it sad that the boy seemed to conveniently forget all the soldiers he'd blasted into walls, off battlements and over ship sides, not even mentioning his stint with the Ocean Spirit. Sokka hadn't paid true attention at the time, but he remembered the snapped necks, the mangled limbs and the stink of blood that lingered in the aftermath of a battle with the "monk who doesn't kill."

Bending would not help them in this new world they would unknowingly create. None of his dear friends were equipped to handle it. And in Iroh's gaze, Sokka had seen a message. You must help Zuko. He does not know what he's doing.

Help? Ha. The water tribesman did chuckle this time. His gaze broke from Iroh's, sweeping over the crown as hoots and clapping pealed throughout the courtyard. No one noticed his scrutiny, and Sokka doubted they ever would. To them, he was simply another collateral, a powerless nobody who'd helped the greatest benders in the world through their journey and then stood aside as they engaged in the final glory. No one, not even his friends, truly realized how much he'd helped them. How they owed their lives to his constant stream of movescramblerunwhatthehelldowedonow planning as his mind raced, even while he dodged fire and lightning and deadly rock, to find a way for them to survive; to simply make it out alive. In the little things (food, shelter, strategic places to sleep) he saved their lives in many more ways than they did his.

And now Iroh wanted him to help Zuko, to keep the prince safe from all the schemers and snitches and peasants with a grudge who would bring his "peace" falling down around their ears. The old man didn't know what he was asking. To the people, Sokka was unnoticeable, a simple background amorphous person whom they could ignore even as he whispered in their Lord's ear.

The benders were no longer needed. A new era was dawning, where those whose power lay with the brain would rule in place of Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. The others didn't realize what they had done.

Sokka fingered the Pai Sho tile painted with a delicate flower, pulling it out of his pocket and eying it as a large, silly grin spread over his face.

In ending the war, they'd given him all the power.


A/N: A slightly darker take on Sokka's character and the aftermath of the war. More to come. Maybe. Prepare for NaNoWriMo, everyone!