The Legend of [Name].
Gentleman was hit by unavoidable delays (all my research contacts are on the other side of the world, don't'cha know), and I felt the urge to write.
Of course, this then ended up taking about five days.
It's ironic, Katara would later say, with a slight laugh. He was the worst waterbender in the world.
Oh, he'd had the talent, that was never in doubt. But there'd always been something stopping him from ever getting close to realising his potential. A tendency to think too much. An inability to go with the flow. A stubborn kind of pride that kept him from accepting his own power.
Until, of course, that day.
That day had started pretty much like any other. Go fishing with his sister. Argue with his sister (she kept trying to convince him not to use a spear to catch fish). Nearly get killed by an iceberg and a sudden current. Spend ten minutes assigning blame. Spend twenty minutes contesting assigned blame. Spend two hours trying to find a way to get back to the village without sacrificing their catch. Spend half an hour weeping over loss of catch. The usual.
Except when they got back there was this huge metal ship that had just smashed its way through the wall he had tried to maintain by himself (everyone else was too small or too old and Katara had enough to do already) and there was some Fire Nation prick throwing his weight around, asking who was in charge with a rasp in his voice and a sneer on his scarred face.
Who was in charge? Well, him. He guessed.
So he'd asked the Firebender what he wanted.
The prick had laughed in his face when he'd asked (very politely, compared to the answer that had been brewing in his head) if he was proposing they trade.
Then he'd gestured with his arm, and the soldiers at his back had begun to move into the village.
He remembered the next three seconds in blistering clarity.
He remembered the crunch of armoured boots on the snow. He remembered the way his village, his tribe, shrank back, huddled behind one another in terror. He remembered the anger radiating from his sister in waves, the kind that meant she was terrified out of her mind.
He remembered thinking that she was going to do something stupid.
He remembered thinking she was going to get herself killed.
He remembered seeing the prick take one meaningful step toward him.
After that, he remembered very little at all.
That wasn't quite right.
He remembered anger.
And then he was floating.
No. No he wasn't floating. That was impossible.
He perceived himself to be floating. That was more accurate.
There were- there seemed to be- clouds, all around him.
And then he heard- he seemed to hear- a bellow.
And then something was grabbing his arm and dragging him upwards and he was landing hard on a wooden surface and hey weren't sky bison supposed to be extinct?
And then there was a bald kid introducing himself almost sheepishly.
They had talked.
About a lot.
It had been hours when he finally drifted down, slipping back into the dream of reality.
It had seemed like hours. Except the boat was still there (in the middle distance, not going anywhere fast or soon), the tribe were still there (still crouched in terror, and some of the children had actually started to cry) and Katara was there. Standing in silence.
Yeah, this was going to be tricky to explain.
'Hey guys guess what it turns out I'm the Avatar and by the way I have to leave like right now and go learn to master the elements (and how in the name of crap I'm going to learn airbending I have no idea) and probably get myself killed on some damn fool quest to save the world oh and if I don't then the Fire Nation is going to kick the everloving crap out of the entire world before next autumn. Have a nice day, won't you?'
Yeah, not going to cut it.
Of course Katara came with him. He'd have to be a moron to think for one instant that she would even consider listening to what he said.
He was glad he wasn't doing this alone, though. And it wasn't like there was anyone else he could have taken with him.
It happened the first night they were on the shore.
They stuck to the water as much as they could- they had added various bits to their small boat, making it more suitable for long distance travel- but the fact remained that they had to land at some point.
So they had hit Kyoshi Island. Incognito. After all, while it would be nice to get some attention (and maybe some free stuff) it was pretty obvious to him that the less they drew attention to themselves, the better. Besides, he didn't really have a way to prove he was who he said he was, short of flipping out again. Which was not going to happen.
But anyway. It happened the first night they were on the shore.
He woke up suddenly, and apparently without cause. Beside him, Katara slept soundly on the bed he had insisted she take.
Drawn by a sudden energy, he crept up from the sleeping bag he had laid on the floor, and stalked over to the window.
Something large and black was sitting in the middle of the street.
For a reason he couldn't quite figure out, he found himself clambering out the window and dropping lightly to the ground (far more lightly than he should really have been able to, but he didn't notice that).
The night was dark. Every light in every building was out. The stars provided the illumination, shining weakly down on him and the black ...thing in the road.
As he stepped closer, he was dimly aware that he should probably be getting the feeling that this was a bad idea right about now. Except he wasn't.
There was something... right about this. Like he was being reunited with an old friend.
An old friend that was cocking one feathered head at him, a look on its beak that was one part curiosity to two parts amusement.
It was a jaguar-hawk. Sleek and muscular, smaller than an ostrich-horse but larger than a wolfbat, the beast would come up to his shoulder when standing. Now, resting back on its haunches, it saw eye to eye with him. This one in particular was a large specimen, and there was a strangely intelligent light in its eyes.
It cawed softly at him as he reached out his hand, as if he was dreaming.
He knew without thinking why the animal was here.
Only one question remained.
"What am I going to call you?
"Also, we're going to need a bigger boat."
He didn't like to use his bending when he fought.
It was a point of contention between him and... everyone else, really. His sister, the voice in his head (Aang, as he had introduced himself), hell even the prick (who kept following them, for a reason he never cared enough about to work out) had called him out on it.
The way he saw it, he was just being practical.
He was no good at waterbending. He had no idea how to use any other element yet (and Katara had vetoed the idea that he could go learn earthbending for a little while first). And, of course, people kept trying to kill/capture/maim/scam him. So he had to fight sometimes. And he'd be damned if he was going to rely on something he was no good at. He was pretty handy with his club and machete, and besides, Hawky had his back (he had decided, mournfully, that Jaguary was never ever going to work).
Besides, no power in this world or the next would ever part him from his boomerang.
Meditation was a pain.
He had to do it. It was fundamental to everything he did as Avatar. He knew this because Aang had told him so.
Bur mainly all it really did, when he finally (finally) managed to get it right (and it was hard, because slipping into a meditative trance was, he found, almost indistinguishable at first to falling asleep) was give Aang more opportunities to bother him.
He wondered if Aang was attempting to live vicariously through him. Actually that was kind of stupid, when he thought about it. But Aang pestered him. A lot.
Mostly about airbending, and what he was going to do about it.
One evening (Katara insisted that he try meditation every evening, in the tone of voice that brooked no disagreement. He told himself he allowed her to persuade him intentionally) he had simply asked why Aang couldn't teach him.
Didn't work like that. Apparently.
But he had sparked the beginning of an idea in what remained of the mind of the young monk.
"I can't teach you the forms," the ghost said, incongruously normal sounding as ever, considering he seemed to be made of nothing more solid than animate sunlight, "but I can help you to think like an airbender."
He had shrugged.
"Alright. How, exactly, am I supposed to think?"
Aang had frowned.
"Well, for starters, you shouldn't think exactly. Airbending is all about freedom. Living in the moment." He grinned for a second, as if amused slightly by an irony that had suddenly occurred to him. "Letting your hair down."
This didn't sound promising.
But he had tried. The first attempt had been a disaster, and that failure had set the tone for the next twenty attempts. He'd never quite manage to get that sense of freedom right.
It wasn't working, to Aang's chagrin. So he decided that he was going to do this on his own terms.
So one evening, while his sister was by the stream a little way away, he neglected his homebrewed attempt at meditation, and thought about ice, scratching behind Hawky's long ear-feathers contemplatively.
He liked ice. It wasn't like water, which was tricky and had something of a will of its own. Ice did what he wanted it to do, when he wanted it to. Plus it stayed there, which was always nice.
Maybe there was something similar he could do with air.
Oh, he'd have to learn airbending proper sooner or later, but a cycle was a cycle, and he could work out how exactly he was supposed to rediscover 'real' airbending after he was done with firebending (cart before the ostrich-horse, a little bit there). But it couldn't hurt to try and experiment now, could it?
The first thing he determined was that he was not going to jump around. That sort of thing, without guidance, was just going to end badly. So he was going to stay right where he was.
He stood, dislodging Hawky's head from his lap abruptly.
If he stayed here, and just... relaxed...
The air danced around him, unattended. At his feet, the jaguar-hawk resettled, resenting the loss of attentions.
So, if the air was always in flux, perhaps forcing it was like trying to dam a stream with twigs and pebbles. Not happening.
His hand twitched, faster than it had ever been before.
The air responded, swirling ever so slightly.
He felt a grin stretch across his face.
The air was going to move. There was nothing he could do about that. So he had two choices. Move with it, which he didn't feel confident in trying, or... what was the word?
Manipulating. Herding. Nudging ever so slightly, little things that could, in the right place, lead to big changes.
And he got to keep his feet on the ground at the same time.
When Katara found him, an hour later, he was flicking branches from twenty feet away and giggling like a madman.
He'd almost missed the way her eyes had shone. She almost looked hopeful.
She hadn't looked like that inso many years.
Had been surprised.
He wasn't sure he liked the look in the man's eyes when he heard the news. Well, once he had seen proof. It was almost...
Reverent. It made him intensely uncomfortable.
In fact, he'd almost been relieved when the prick had showed up at the nunnery with a hot chick in leather (which had surprised him, if only because it seemed so random) and chased them away.
Except Bato said he was going to meet up with Dad, which meant that Dad would know, and that was almost unbearable.
He relied on his sister a lot more than he let on.
Sure, he tried to be self-reliant. It was a matter of principle for him that he be able to look after himself- it was something he remembered his father telling him once. A man had to take care of himself if he was going to take care of anyone else.
But Katara was a crutch, especially in those early days when he'd lie awake at night and the sheer enormity of his completely impossible task would just come crashing down on him and he'd realise every night just how much was resting on his shoulders and he never let himself cry for home. She reminded him that he wasn't doing this alone and he always tried to remember that.
She helped, too, in reminding him how he had to act. When they were low on food, he might have been tempted to simply take what they needed and run- after all, what were a few fish when he was out to save the entire world?
But that was wrong. If you started doing bad things on the basis that you were going to do good things later, and it would all somehow balance... yeah, that was kind of a slippery slope.
Katara didn't understand that. It was too deep for conscious understanding. It was fundamental. It was part of who she was, at bone level.
She might not always do the smart thing, but she always tried to do the right thing.
Some days he wonders why she isn't the guardian of the world.
Usually he chalks it up to the Spirits having a laugh at his expense.
He was entranced the moment he saw her. From the moment their boat passed hers, he was lost.
She was beautiful.
He had to talk to her.
In retrospect, he blamed all this airbending-meditation-ghosts-in-his-head-stopping-by-to-chat malarkey. It had made him far too impulsive.
But that was why he followed up on his mad impulse to hop off from the boat, away from the honour guard that flanked them, ignoring all the ruckus and wreckage he was leaving behind, leaping to shore to chase after that girl on her canoe.
Soon, a few sprints and mad haphazard leaps over canals brought him level with her. While the men rowing her canoe were shooting him distrustful looks, she herself seemed not to have noticed him.
So he cleared his throat, as he jogged, keeping pace with her.
After a second, she looked up, startled and unsure.
What was he doing?
He was too spontaneous for his own good. Surely he hadn't been like this before.
"Hey, um... what's your name?"
Another moment of confusion on her part and his.
"...Yue. What's yours?"
"Sokka. Um, nice to meet you. I... just got into town, and-"
"Really?" Her eyes lit up suddenly. "You aren't from the city? Where are you from? Narwhal Island?"
He had never heard of the place.
"Uh, no. I'm actually from the South Pole."
She looked stunned. One of her rowers took this as a sign to butt in.
She cut him off with a wave of her hand.
"You ...are from the South? But..." something clicked inside her head.
"...You are with the Avatar? He is coming from the South, people said. Has he arrived in the city?"
For some bizarre reason, relief flooded him when she didn't make the mental connection.
"Yup. Travelled with the Avatar."
"Oh, but this is wonderful!" she gushed, all mystique purged from her expression as she looked up. "You shall have to tell me about the world!"
He knew opportunity's knock when he heard it.
"Well, when can I meet you? 'Cause this walkway isn't nearly long enough for that conversation."
Suddenly, her face was sly.
"I am sure we shall meet again soon. Indeed I count on it."
He was fairly sure his grin was getting decidedly dopey right now.
"I'd like that."
She waved as her canoe pulled into a tunnel.
He abruptly ran out of path.
Hawky was a near-constant companion. Acting more like a bodyguard than a pet- sorry, "spirit guide", and neither he nor Hawky seemed to know what exactly his duties as spirit guide actually were- he was always at his back, glaring at any unfamiliar person that invaded his personal space. He approved heartily.
But it made him hold off a little while before introducing him to Princess Yue.
Princess. He could not wrap his head around that.
Funnily enough, she had expressed the same sentiment about him and the job slung around his neck.
"You should have told me!" she had said, playfully irritated. "It would have made a much better opening than 'I just got into town'."
"Hey," he had shrugged, with a slight grin. "It worked, didn't it?"
Secretly, he was glad that he hadn't told her.
People paid attention to him, there was no denying that. But really he couldn't escape the thought that they only listened to him because he could potentially shoot fire out of his ears despite not being born in the Fire Nation.
Oh, he knew he was worth listening to, but it was nice that someone else seemed to think so too.
As it turned out, he really didn't have to worry.
"Watch out, he bites. No, seriously, he bites. Yue, the last guy apart from me or Katara that tried to pet him ended up losing a finger- oh Spirits I can't look- … … I'm not hearing screams. This is either very good or very bad. Could you please tell me which it is? I don't want to look. …Yue? …I hear purring. That either means he's happy, or he's just eaten. Okay, I'm looking now. If he's eaten you, you can't say I didn't warn you. Okay, here I go."
She had just laughed. It was almost music, soft and lilting and it made him think of moonlight on the snow.
He thought he would like to get used to hearing that.
Waterbending was hard, but many thousands of times easier under Master Pakku's caustic rule. He found something about the man's no-nonsense approach infinitely reassuring, as though it demonstrated that a practical, no-nonsense attitude was no obstacle to becoming a master waterbender.
Plus, it was kind of cool not to be handled with kid gloves for a while.
Now if only he could somehow persuade him to teach Katara.
"Look, in case you don't know, it's a pretty dangerous world out there right now, and at least half of the people I meet seem to want to kill me. All I'm saying is that if you're going to keep Katara on bandage duty, then it kind of leaves us unable to, you know, fight effectively. And that, knowing my luck, is probably going to get us killed. So if you're cool with that..."
Hadn't worked. Pakku had just acted as though he was insulting the old master's teaching ability, and had got him practising until sunup.
Direct reasoning had failed, so it was time for a different approach.
"You know, the second we leave this city, she's gonna be bugging me and asking me to teach her. What, you don't believe me? Learning waterbending has been literally her lifelong dream since forever, and before you say anything healing doesn't count. Look, all I'm saying is that she's going to get taught, and really you'd make a better teacher than me by a long shot."
That had gone over even worse, if such a thing was possible.
He had almost no free time. He trained in waterbending for six hours every day, but that was only half of it.
Waterbending wasn't the only thing that he could learn here. He had begun to train in his weapons with the other warriors. So far he had ascertained that there were few indeed who could come close to his skill with a boomerang (and that was a source of immense pride, a talent he could call his own, with no external destiny guiding his hand), but he grudgingly admitted that his close-quarters fighting could use work.
At first the other trainees had been puzzled. Why did the Avatar seek to learn such mundane arts? Was he insulting them? Laughing at their inability to shape the world to their whims? Did he wish to try his hand at mortal toys for a while? No one said as much, of course. The jaguar-hawk that was constantly at his side added a touch of menace that he thought was otherwise missing from his person, and besides, who was going to say no to him?
Really, he just thought that in case he ever needed to fight someone without bending, he'd better be able to actually use the damn weapons he carried around.
But that sapped more of his time, and there was still more that he should be doing. He was keenly aware that he wouldn't always have access to this many repositories of information. Hell, he'd even asked Katara if it was possible for him to learn healing- after all, that sounded like something that could come in handy. Once she'd started talking about chi and energy flow and balance, though, he'd had to accept that it didn't sound like something he'd be able to get his head around any time before senile dementia kicked in.
So every free hour he could steal away was more precious than anything he could think of. And he spent them with her.
She was incredible. She was grace and poise and ethereal beauty and she was smiles and laughter and wide-eyed wonder at the world he described for her as truthfully as he could and she was a look of scandalised amusement that said she should be offended by the sharp comment he had about Master Pakku's moustache but instead she found herself giggling and he simply could not get enough of her.
She was engaged.
Pakku was first to notice. Because the morning after that confused, unhappy, angry angry angry meeting on that bridge, he had waterbending practise at first light.
And he was terrible.
Nothing worked, nothing felt right, and no matter how much he tried to push past it and focus on what he was supposed to be doing he couldn't put that fucking betrothal necklace out of his mind.
Pakku hadn't been happy. And he hadn't exactly been subtle in letting him know it.
He wasn't really sure he cared right then.
He went back to her.
Of course he did. It was pathetic, he knew it on some level, but he couldn't stay away from her. It wasn't even a matter of choice any more.
He was just lucky that she seemed to feel the same way.
Oh, they were 'just friends', as if they'd never been more than 'just friends' and never would be more than 'just friends' and he tried to convince himself that that would be enough.
Every other thought was confined to his dreams.
Oh yeah and on top of all that it turned out that there was a huge Fire Nation armada bearing down on them. Just, you know, to spice things up a little.
That's a lot of boats.
He's standing on the wall, acutely aware of the fact that every single head in the vicinity was subtly-or-not turned to look at him.
He almost wishes, for half a second, that Master Pakku had been convinced to teach Katara, so she could be with him, and not waiting with the healers.
Then he remembers that as long as she's with the healers, she's a lot safer than him.
Hawky freely displays the agitation that he himself is bottling up, pacing up and down, paws crunching on the snow, tail thrashing.
"Easy, boy," he finds himself saying, reaching out a hand to gently halt the beast.
Then he looks up as the first volley of flaming stones hurtle for the wall.
He has scant milliseconds to react.
He has scant milliseconds to plan.
The boulder smashed into the wall below him.
Go with the flow.
He tried to remember the feeling. Of just accepting the movement of the world, of letting what happens happen and just moving with it.
It was the feeling she gave him.
Faster than a blink, he moved, and as the boulder struck the wall it was absorbed into it, curling around him, building momentum as it erupted out of the back of the wall, swinging back up behind him and slingshotting back out towards the fleet.
Maybe he could do this.
All day. Sunup to sundown he had been rushing along the wall, barely getting time to breathe, propping up wherever needed him the most. Everywhere needed him.
He was just about ready to collapse from the fire in his limbs and the thudding weight in his heart and the knowledge that he just couldn't keep this up a moment longer.
Yue and Katara were, for lack of a better term, fussing over him. He knew Katara must be feeling frustrated about now- she hated being stuck on the sidelines under any circumstances- and he thought Yue was worried about him. It was something he chose to believe, and he hoped it was the reason she stayed, hovering close to him as Katara healed the injuries he had sustained during the day, and Hawky sat nearby and looked plaintive.
"It's too much," he'd confessed, knowing full well that he was hurting Katara by admitting it- she believed in him, but more importantly she believed in the Avatar- but it was the truth. "I can't do it, there's just too many of them." He leant back against the cool wall, and pressed his palms to his forehead. "I can't do it."
Then Yue had an idea.
"...Sooo... any ideas?"
He stared into the pool. Aang's reflection stared back.
"...Sorry. I got nothing."
A moment in which blank stares were exchanged.
Aang spoke again.
"...Sooo.... you got any ideas?"
He just blinked back.
"Aang, no offence, but if I had any ideas, I wouldn't be wasting my time hanging out in a mystical swamp with Mr. Cheerful over there" he jabbed his thumb at the Monkey King behind him, who simply huffed and redoubled his faked meditation "and my reflection. Or the reflection of my past self, anyway. Is there no-one else I could talk to?"
"Sorry. Not unless you want to pull an all-nighter. I mean, you could probably reach farther back if you tried, but..."
"But then I'll be in meditation for hours, which means I'll be good for nothing tomorrow, when the Fire Nation will resume their attack. Thanks, but no thanks."
"Not like it's your fault. Anyway, see you around."
He awoke to very strange sounds.
No, wait, just screams of pain and terror. Not that strange after all.
He opened his eyes, and uncrossed his legs, before turning to the source of the screams.
Hawky was savaging someone in blue.
That couldn't be good.
Near the entrance to the Spirit Oasis, Katara was standing, looking a little singed, but happy enough, smirking with her arms folded. Yue had taken a step forward, and looked concerned, but not about to step in. So what was going on?
The figure looked up for one moment, and noticed his movement.
"Avatar! Control your beast and face me like a man!"
The prick. What the hell was he doing here?
Oh this was just too much.
He should really rein in Hawky some time, before the guy got any more scars to add to his collection.
Eh, he'd do it in a minute.
Considerably more than a minute passed before he eventually decided enough was enough.
"Hawky! Come here, boy. No, put him down first, you don't know where he's been."
His respect for the prick rose a few notches when he somehow managed to stand. Of course, it's easy to improve on nothing.
"...C'mere! I'll catch you, Avatar! I'll catch all four of you!"
It almost seemed unfair at this point to knock him backwards into unconsciousness with a plume of water.
And people said a complete lack of regard for the concept of 'fair' was an impediment to his Avatarly duties.
Day is almost upon them, and they still haven't decided what to do with the guy.
Oh, he's still unconscious and now tied up, and Katara has insisted on patching up his various injuries (but he knows his sister, and he'd be more worried if she hadn't shown concern for the guy), but that's it so far.
The Fire Nation makes the choice for them, as the dawn breaks.
They hear the explosions from the Oasis.
He finally decides to take charge of the situation.
"You two, I need you to stay here."
"But-" Neither look pleased, but it's Katara that speaks.
"No. Stay here, and keep an eye on this guy. Please."
After a second, she backs down.
He bends slightly, so he's eye-to-eye with his jaguar-hawk.
"I need you to stay here, buddy. You look after them, okay?"
The beast nods sharply, once.
Before he leaves, Yue grabs his wrist and pulls him into the most forceful and desperate kiss of his life.
It's (so so) tempting to stay, to tell the world just to stop while the two of them stayed there with each other.
Unfortunately, the world doesn't listen to such pleas.
He left moments later, to do what could be done.
He's fending off another of those ...giant metal things (the things can't survive being buried in a snowdrift, or submerged) when he hears it.
A murmur of a warning, a feeling of chitinous movement behind him, and a low voice whispering doom into his ear.
Something is terribly wrong at the Spirit Oasis.
No no no he can't believe what he's hearing.
"I knew this day would come," she says, putting up her best impression of calm, but he knows her well enough now to see right through her. "I have always known. I'm... -I'm -I'm not scared."
She's lying. She's lying, and he won't let her go.
She shakes her head, unshed tears shining.
"There's nothing left. Without the moon spirit, there's no waterbending, and without waterbending..." She's going to kill herself.
He doesn't let go of her arm, silently pleading with her
There has to be another way.
The voice calls from the pool, a tongue older than language. It calls to him, screaming and howling and demanding its revenge. It calls for aid. It demands.
Eyes already beginning to turn, the wind straining to respond to his mere presence, he turns to the pool.
He shakes his head, and falls backwards into the water.
They are one.
The destruction of the Fire Navy is all but complete.
He remembers only one moment, as the ships lie in wreckage around him, blood paid in blood.
He looks up, and feels Her light upon His waters.
And He is sated, and He feels Her weight once more, pulling him ever upward, towards the future.
He is happy. And his mind/
And his heart breaks.
A few clarifications.
One- No. This series will not take precedence over any multi-chapter story I am writing.
Two- No. Most of them will not be this long. Only the Sokka ones and probably the Mai one (favouritism? In my writing? It's more likely than you think). The others will vary wildly in length.
Three- Yes. This is a series of oneshots exploring the concept of "X is the Avatar", where X is anyone you care to name.
Four- Yes, anyone. Avatar Ty Lee? Yup. Avatar Kuei? Duh. Avatar Jin? Easy. Avatar Long Feng? Please. We're talking Avatar Ozai. Avatar Cabbage Merchant. Avatar On Ji. Avatar Mai's Dad.
Five- No. Not everyone. Excluded are anyone too old, such as Azulon and Bumi.
Six- And Teo. Because seriously, fuck that guy.
Seven- I'll probably end up writing Avatar Teo, just for completeness. Expect it to reflect him thoroughly, though.
Eight- That means it'll suck. In case I was being too subtle.