Author's Note: This is a collection of one-shots about other characters in the Solar Winds 'verse who will not be appearing in the story proper. I've managed to find a place for quite a few of them in the Avatar!Verse, but the story itself is crowded enough as it is, so not everyone could fit. They go here instead. ^_^
First up is the Changster himself, with a special guest, and I don't mean Tina. Who is it? Read on, and find out. ;)
Mike Chang – A Place to Call Home
In the foothills of the Kasumi Mountains, there lies a mid-sized village of mid-sized people with mid-sized problems. Typical village stuff, really—will we have food for winter? Have the kids eaten? Have the animals eaten? Have the animals eaten the kids? So on, and so forth. Important stuff, but far divorced from fears of war and plague, from coups and espionage, bandits and roving bands of slavers. People in this village are mainly concerned with getting from one day to the next, enjoying each moment as it comes.
That's one of Mike's favorite things about it. It's one of many reasons it happens to be Mike's favorite village so far.
He stands on a cliff at the side of one of the mountains, looking down at the sleepy village below him. Taking a deep breath, he basks in the coolness of the air in his lungs. The morning mist gives the world a slightly ethereal feel, but not in a spooky way. It feels… protective, somehow. Like there's always a spirit just out-of-sight, watching over you through the fog.
Running a quick hand over his hair to make sure nothing is sticking out too far, Mike pulls out his to-do list for the day, running over the many tasks the villagers have for him. Village life is a bit of a grind—people young and old often spend so much time just making ends meet that they don't have any left to tend to little problems. Unfortunately, little problems often pile up into big ones if left unattended. But that's what Mike intends to help them with.
Behind him, Princess, his big, beautiful air bison, grumbles as she slowly rouses from her slumber.
"I'm off to work," Mike says. "I'll be back in a few hours."
Princess grumbles at him.
"Okay," Mike says, raising his hands in surrender. "I'll try to bring some food this time. I know you're hungry."
The bison nods at him and settles back down to sleep.
Taking his staff, Mike charges towards the cliff edge and leaps off. About halfway down, he flips the switch, unfurling the wings on his staff and gliding the rest of the way down.
Mike Chang goes to work in style.
"Are you sure you're feeling up to this, honey?" Mrs. Appleby says as she guides him into her basement.
"I'm fine, ma'am," Mike says, for about the fiftieth time, "but I appreciate you asking. Now, you got the bag, right?"
Mrs. Appleby holds up a thick-looking brown sack, holding it with oven mitts. "I'm ready when you are. Just don't miss, okay hon?"
Mike winks at her. "Don't worry, Mrs. Appleby. I have excellent aim."
He heads further into the basement, stopping to peruse the various bags of feed with little holes chewed in them. The ratshrews are eating this poor woman out of house and home, but they're just hungry animals. He can't really blame them. Mrs. Appleby was considering putting out poison for them when Mike overheard her talking and suggested this alternative.
Now, he just hopes he can follow through with his own plan. "Get ready!" Mike says, spotting a hole in the wall.
"Ready!" Mrs. Appleby says.
With that, Mike takes a step forward and thrusts an open palm, sending a blast of air into the hole.
Almost immediately, the air bursts out of a second hole in the wall, carrying a small cluster of disoriented ratshrews.
"AHHH!" Mrs. Appleby shouts. "There they are! Ew, ew, get them, get them!"
"Got 'em!" Mike says. He sweeps his foot, creating a wave of air to knock the rodents upwards, and follows it up with a second gust from his hand to knock them into the bag. He continues in this pattern, following the pitter patter of panicked little feet to find more holes for him to clear out. The airbender plays the room like a twisted pipe organ—air goes in one hole, and out a completely different one somewhere else. Each blast flushes out a rodent or twelve, which Mike promptly scoops up and blows into the sack. Mrs. Appleby's bag is starting to get heavy, but Mike is fairly sure she'll keep her hold on it. She knows the only thing that could possibly be worse than holding it is dropping it.
With a couple of curving gusts, Mike sweeps the last of the ratshrews off of a shelf and into the sack. A few more streams of air confirm that the walls are now empty, and Mike happily relieves the infinitely grateful Mrs. Appleby of her squirming burden, holding the sack over his shoulder.
"Oh, thank heaven for you, boy!" Mrs. Appleby says. "I've been trying to get rid of those varmints for months!"
"Anything I can do to help," Mike says happily.
He takes the ratshrews fairly deep into the forest before dumping them out and dashing to his next task.
The nearby family of hungry cat owls wishes there was a way to thank him for the delivery.
Mike steps into Mr. Bartleby's attic very lightly, not wanting to wake his set of unwanted visitors.
Mr. Bartleby stands next to him, hiding under a very thick blanket. "Do you see them?"
Mike peers up at the ceiling. Lots of little winged shadows hanging between the rafters. "Oh, yeah. You've definitely got a wolfbat problem."
"Can you make them go away?" Mr. Bartleby asks.
The Air Nomad ponders the question for a second. "I'll see what I can do. You… umm… you just go warn people that there might be a lot of cranky flying things coming out of this building for a bit."
Mr. Bartleby doesn't need to be told twice. He dashes out of the house, screaming a prophecy of teeth, fangs and shrieks.
The prophecy comes true.
Mike opens every window he can find. Once that's done, he heads up to the attic, takes a deep breath, and wakes the horde.
For the next several minutes, the Bartleby house behaves like a small warzone. A cacophony of screeching, plenty of crashes, and the occasional curse can be heard from within. Blasts of wind erupt from the windows at odd intervals, carrying with them large numbers of wolfbats and quite a shocking bit of dust.
By the time it's all over with, Mr. Bartleby's house is completely free of two things: 1. Wolfbats, and 2. Standing furniture.
"Sorry," Mike says as he comes out of the house, covered in dirt and coughing. "That wasn't quite as… neat as I'd hoped."
"Son, I've considered setting fire to this house to rid myself of those pests," Mr. Bartleby says. "Your solution works just fine with me." He stares at the house, shaking his head. "Now, I just wish I could figure out how they are getting in…"
Mike ponders this for a moment. "Hold that thought," he says, running back into the house. "I'll be right back!"
Mr. Bartleby watches as the young Air Nomad dashes around his house, closing, one-by-one, all the windows he just opened.
After a few minutes, he re-emerges and takes position in front of the door—the only thing on the house that's still open. "Keep your eyes on the roof," Mike says. "Tell me when you see dust."
With that, Mike takes several steps back and charges forward. He jumps, spins, and thrusts his hands into the open door, blasting a continuous stream of air into the house. Mr. Bartleby watches carefully, his eyes set high. He gets a bit nervous when it seems like the house is actually bulging from the pressure building up inside, but then, it happens.
"There!" Mr. Bartleby says, pointing a small geyser of dust erupting from the roof. "I see the leak!"
Mike wastes no time. He grabs Mr. Bartleby and leaps two stories in a single bound, landing on the roof right next to the dust-burst. A fairly obvious hole—one Mike is 99% sure he just made bigger—greets them. The wood around the edges of the hole looks rotten, so Mike has to guess it's been there for quite some time, unnoticed.
"Well, I'll be!" Mr. Bartleby says. "Aren't you a smart young fella?"
Mike blushes and scratches at the back of his head. "Thank you, sir. Do you need any more help?"
"Nah," Mr. Bartleby says. "I can fix this easy. You've done right by me, son."
Mike bows to him. "Anything I can do to help." And then, he's up and gliding off to his next task.
Mr. Bartleby turns begin work on his roof, only to realize…
"Huh. Should've asked him to bring me my tools…"
"…or a ladder. Oh well."
Mike's next task for the day involves doing some yard work for a rich widow. Ms. Epstein is a pretty nice lady. Just… a little bit weird.
"Oh, look at you! Look how tall you are," she says when he arrives. "I bet you can reach all sorts of things with those big, strong arms of yours."
"Ummm… yeah," Mike says carefully. "They're… great for yard work?"
"Of course!" Ms. Epstein says. "Of course they are. Now, come right this way, dear. You can start on the weeds…"
There are a lot of weeds to pull, and airbending doesn't really help. It's rough work, but Ms. Epstein is nice enough to bring him a drink. "Oooh, you're so sweaty," she says, oddly breathless as she carries a large cup of water. "Perhaps you should drink this. Or perhaps you should pour it all over yourself and take off your shirt. You know. To cool down?"
Mike blinks at her. "I… think I'll just drink it. Thanks."
"Very well dear," Ms. Epstein says. "Just let me know the second you change your mind."
He pulls the rest of the weeds, and is just about to start trimming the hedges when he notices that he really is hot. Without thinking, he casually pulls his shirt off and tucks it into his pants. He's preparing to assault the hedges with a few airbending slices when he hears a loud crash from inside the house. Mike quickly dashes inside. "Ms. Epstein? Are you alright? I thought I heard something fall."
Ms. Epstein is lying on the ground, looking none the worse for wear. "Oh, I just had a little tumble is all," she says lightly. "Help me up, would you dear?"
Mike reaches down to pull her up. For some odd reason, she decides to grab his bicep instead of his hand. "Such strong arms…" she says, all low and breathy, almost like a moan.
"There we go," Mike says, setting her upright. "You sure you're okay?"
"Oh, I assure you, I'm quite fine," Ms. Epstein says, sounding a little lightheaded. "With a strong, strapping young man like yourself around to help an old woman out, how could I be anything but?"
Mike isn't quite sure how to answer that question. "Well, okay then. I'm just going to… umm… go finish."
"Take your time!" Ms. Epstein says. "No rush at all, dearie!"
By the time he's finished, he is sweaty and filthy in about a dozen different ways, but he feels… satisfied. Nothing quite like the feeling you get after completing a day of good-old-fashioned hard work. "Well, that's everything on the list, Ms. Epstein," Mike says.
"Are you sure?" Ms. Epstein says, pulling out a small, ornate fan and rapidly wafting the air towards her. "Perhaps you'd like to… clean my gutters?"
Mike looks at her roof. "…your house doesn't have gutters."
"Doesn't it?" Ms. Epstein says.
"Nope," Mike says. "Sorry."
"Ah," Ms. Epstein says. "Well then…"
She continues to fan herself in silence for several more seconds, staring at Mike like she's really hungry and he's a big piece of… meat…
"Well, I've got a lot of stuff to do," Mike says, hurriedly tossing his shirt back on. "Thanks for all the… umm… water!"
"No, dear, thank you," Ms. Epstein purrs.
"Anything I can do to help!" Mike says.
He dashes from the premises, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake.
"Come back anytime!" Ms. Epstein calls. As he moves out of sight, she collapses against the doorway, sliding down the wall with a sigh. "Anytime at all."
The remainder of his chore list is pretty much a breeze.
With graceful, spiraling movements, he airbends the many fallen leaves in the village into a collection of neat little piles for easy sweeping. He glides over the roofs of the houses, blowing debris into the streets for people to collect ("My throwing disc!" "My favorite ball!" "My lucky underpants!" "So that's where my dog went!") He blasts clogs out of gutters, blows years of dirt and grime off the fronts of houses and shops alike, uses little whirlwinds to clean up spilled bags of grain, even saves a nervous cat from the branches of a high tree by blowing it free and making a soft pillow of air for it to land on.
(He uses a similar trick on Mr. Bartleby, when he remembers that he left him up there.)
When he finally reaches the end of his chore list, he sits down in the village square and passes the time by conjuring up little whirlwinds for the kids to ride in. He's spinning three of them at once when the village elder, Mr. Jackson, approaches him.
"Kid, you are a blessing from heaven, you know that?" Mr. Jackson says.
"Anything I can do to help, sir." Mike's expression is sober as he bows to the man. "After everything you've done for me, this is the least I can do." He stands back up. "So, what's on the list for tomorrow?"
Mr. Jackson laughs. "That's it!" he says.
Mike blinks. "…that's all?"
"Kid, you've only been on your feet for a week, and already you've solved damn near every little problem we've got around here. I'm glad you want to help, but you don't owe us anything." Mr. Jackson says. "Take a day off. Relax!"
Mike's smile drops. "I… can't do that," he says quietly.
"Why not?" Mr. Jackson blinks.
Mike just shakes his head. "I have to keep moving."
"Says who?" Mr. Jackson says. "You'd be a great addition to the village. Anybody here would be happy to have you."
It's a tempting offer, it really is, but… "I'm a Nomad, sir. There might be others out there who need my help. It's my duty to find them."
"Huh," Mr. Jackson says. "And all Air Nomads do what you do? Just wondering around helping people?"
"…if they don't, they should," Mike answers evasively.
"Hmmm," Mr. Jackson says. "Well, if you must go, at least let us repay you for everything you've done."
Mike holds up a hand. "Mr. Jackson, your people saved my life, I can't possibly accept—"
"Yes you can," Mr. Jackson says firmly. "You came to us so sick you could barely breathe, son. Saving your life was just common human decency. What you've done for us over the past week is above and beyond that. We're thankful, and we want to show it, and we won't take 'no' for an answer."
Mike sighs. "Well… alright. If it means that much to you…"
Mr. Jackson leaves and returns with a cart loaded so full of food that Mike has to call Princess to carry it off. By the time she gets there, word has spread through the village, and Mike is drawing a crowd.
"You're leaving?" one of the kids says. "But why?"
"I've got to keep moving," Mike says. "It's what Nomads do."
"But I thought you lived in those big fancy temples," Mrs. Appleby says.
Mike avoids her eyes. "Some do. I… chose a different path. That's all."
Princess touches down behind him, and he climbs onboard.
"Awww, come on!" says one of the kids. "Don't go!"
"We'll miss you!" says another.
"WHY, GODS? WHY MUST YOU TAKE HIM? HAVE I NOT SUFFERED ENOUGH?" cries Ms. Epstein.
"I wish I could stay," Mike says quietly. "But… I want to help people, and I've done all I can here. I wish you all the best, and thank you so much for everything you've done for me. Maybe one day I'll see you again, but for now… I have to go."
With that, Princess grabs the cart of food and takes off into the heavens. The villagers watch as he fades into the distance.
Mike does the same for the villagers.
Once they get back to Mike's camp site on the mountainside, he lets Princess eat pretty all the food she wants, having lost most of his own appetite. He can't help but mosey over to the edge of the cliff, pulling out his binoculars for one last look at the world down below.
It's that one last look that allows him to see something strange. A cloaked figure dressed in unusually bright clothing with the same color scheme as Mike's. He's talking to one of the villagers, who points up in Mike's general direction.
"Another Air Nomad," Mike says, suddenly feeling cold. "How did they find me?"
The question goes unanswered as Mike dashes around, gathering what supplies he can and tossing them onto Princess's saddle. He jumps on top of her as she continues to chow down. "Yip-yip!"
Princess keeps right on eating.
"Yip-yip!" Mike repeats. "Come on, girl, we've gotta go!"
Princess grumbles at him.
"Don't take that tone with me, young lady!" Mike says.
Princess unceremoniously bucks forward, catapulting Mike and most of his supplies into a jumbled heap on the ground.
He's trying to disentangle himself from his sleeping bag when he hears a whoosh of air, followed by the crunch of footsteps on rocks. He can't see who it is, but he doesn't really need to. "Look," he says, flailing around in his sleeping bag in a manner that resembles drunken dancing among college-age inchworms, "I know why you're here, and I'm sorry you came all this way, but I'm not going back. You can tell dad that if he wants to talk to me, he can damn well…"
The sleeping bag is yanked off of his head, and Mike trails off as he sees the dark-skinned face of a friend where he expected a stranger.
"…Matt?" Mike asks, incredulous.
Matt smiles at him. Princess notices the newcomer and recognizes him, breaking from her meal to give him a big, friendly lick.
"Hey, you're not allowed to like him better than me!" Mike says with a grin. "I'm the one who feeds you."
Princess grumbles and returns to her feast as Matt swirls the air around himself to dry off.
"What are you doing here, man?" Mike asks.
Matt flattens his mouth and narrows his eyes at Mike, in a blatant expression of 'really?'
"Right," Mike says, his grin slipping. "Stupid question." He sighs, wandering over to his pile of stuff, finding a spot that looks soft and plopping down on it. "Look, man, as glad as I am to see you, I meant what I said," he says. "I'm not going back."
Matt comes to stand in front of him, arms crossed. His posture is impatient, but his expression is merely inquisitive.
"Come on, dude. You know why," Mike says. "You were there…"
"No," Mike says.
He raises himself up to his full height, but still feels small as his father's eyes stare a hole in his chest. The other airbending students are completely at a loss. They stand stock still, waiting, with bated breath, to see who triumphs in this battle of wills. No one has ever defied Monk Chang before. No one ever expected anyone to do so.
Least of all his own son.
Chang Sr.'s glare could freeze a man solid. "Excuse me?"
From the back of the students, Matt silently pleads with Mike to back down, but he just can't do it. Not this time.
He swallows thickly, his heart racing. "No," Mike repeats. "I won't do that again."
He gestures to another airbending student, who lies on the ground, gasping for air. His skin is almost completely white, and his lips are only just regaining their color.
Chang Sr. clenches his fist. "You will do as you are told."
"No," Mike says simply. "Dad, I nearly killed him!"
"It was a simple demonstration. I would have stopped you before you caused any serious damage," Chang Sr. says.
"I don't care!" Mike says. "Airbending isn't meant to be used like this. It's not supposed to… to suffocate people…"
"If you have a problem with my teachings," Chang Sr. says, stalking towards him until he's so close Mike can practically feel his breath. "You are free to address them with me, in private. This kind of public outburst is not acceptable."
"Bison shit," Mike says. "You refuse to discuss the matter 'in private' too!"
"Because there is nothing to discuss!" his father says. "Our enemy is powerful and dangerous. The Stormbringer clan would destroy us completely, enslave us to their cause. They are the direst threat we have ever faced as a people, and we must prepare for them."
"How?" Mike asks. "By becoming as bad as they are?"
"They would wipe us out without a moment's hesitation!" Chang Sr. growls. "They care nothing for the ways of old. They corrupt, pervert, and mock everything that the Air Nomads stand for—"
"So do you!" Mike shouts. The students flinch backwards from his volume. Mike nearly flinches away from himself.
Chang Sr.'s face is beginning to resemble one large blood vessel, turning dark red and throbbing with rage. "I will hear no more of this," he growls. "Rest assured we will discuss this in great detail after class, and there will be consequences for this blatant defiance. The matter is not open for discussion, Michael. Now go over there and demonstrate the technique as you are told."
"Why should I?" Mike asks.
"Because we are at war," Chang Sr. says. "And you are a soldier."
"No, I'm not," Mike says.
"You are a soldier, or you are nothing!" Chang Sr. shouts, finally losing control of his volume. "If you will not serve the temple, then you do not belong in it! So unless you want to face life as an exile, I suggest you fall in line! Do you understand?"
Mike stares his father down for as long as he can, but he just isn't strong enough to beat him in a battle of wills. Eventually, his head sags in defeat, and he deflates. "Fine…" he says, turning around to head back up to the demonstration platform.
His father's anger dissipates slowly, like a thunderstorm, as he turns and begins the lecture again. "We will start from the beginning. The vacuum technique is one of the most dangerous in our arsenal. Mastering it is crucial to victory. A man can live for weeks without food, for days without water, for hours with no heat, but without air, he will last only minutes. This technique is extremely difficult to counter, causing panic, disorientation, and confusion in the enemy long before death…"
And Mike can't take it anymore. Reaching deep down inside, he finds a wellspring of strength he never knew he possessed. With a calm, clear voice, he turns around and cuts straight through his father's lecture with the words that will change his life.
"I choose exile."
The silence in the temple is as thick as fog in the Northern Sea. The tension holds together like a pressed leaf, centuries old. The slightest touch could collapse it.
His father does not look at him. "Then go," he says flatly.
Mike gathers himself up and marches towards the exit. At the last second, he stops, if only to make one last effort. "Dad, you know this is wrong, you—"
"ENOUGH!" Chang Sr. shouts. His outburst creates a wave of air that nearly topples the students nearest to him. "You no longer have the right to call me that. You've made your choice! As long as you refuse to do your duty to your people and your temple, you are welcome among neither. You are nothing! Do you hear me? You are no monk. You are no Nomad. And you are certainly no son of mine!"
Every proclamation is like a slap in the face, a needle threading in and out of his heart. But he won't back down now. He can't. The fragments of dissent that have been floating freely in his blood for so long have finally gelled into something concrete and real. "Very well… Monk Chang," Mike says simply, turning and marching from the room.
He packs what few possessions he calls his own into a sack, throwing it over his shoulder.
As he leaves the temple, his fathe—Monk Chang awaits him at the gates.
"What do you want?" Mike asks.
Without a word, his father marches straight up to him and reaches for the Air Nomad medallion that acts as the clasp for his cloak. In a single swift motion, he tears the medallion off, taking it and the cloak and tossing them aside. "Now get out," he says.
So Mike does. With a single sack of possessions on his shoulder and a thousand sad, silent stares at his back, Michael Chang Jr. leaves the temple he has called home for much of his life. He maintains his composure almost the entire way. It is only as he reaches the bison pen that he begins to break.
"Just you watch!" he says, turning around and shouting desperately at all of his onlookers. "I don't need this temple, or these teachings. I don't need a home. I'll go wherever I'm needed. I'll live like a Nomad is supposed to! Just watch…" he trails off, blinking the tears out of his eyes.
The Air Nomads stare after him silently, unable or unwilling to reply.
"Just watch," Mike whispers.
With that, he turns and walks to his bison, throwing his possessions onto her saddle and riding away from the temple, never to return.
Mike leans back against the mountain, eyes on the setting sun. "I can't go back to that," he says quietly, "I'm not going to be a pawn in my father's war games anymore."
Matt puts a gentle hand on his shoulder in camaraderie.
Mike looks up at him, confused. "I don't get it. If you're not here to bring me back, then why are you here?"
Matt answers by unceremoniously plopping himself down next Mike and silently daring him to say something.
Mike totally takes the dare. "Dude, no. Don't be stupid. You've got… friends. Family. Being an exile sucks. Believe me; you do not want my life."
Matt tilts his head at him, inquiring.
Mike sighs, and begins to list off the many reasons why. "I'm usually either hungry, cold, bored, or all three. It's not easy to find food sometimes, and most of what I do find goes into the bottomless pit over there."
Princess spits an apple core at him, which Mike easily dodges.
He continues. "There's dangerous animals, dangerous environments, dangerous weather… there's like a million different ways to die out here. I almost died myself a couple of weeks ago!" he says without thinking.
Matt looks at him, completely flabbergasted.
"What?" Mike says.
Matt grunts and throws his arms up in exasperation.
"…oh, the almost dying thing," Mike says, scratching the back of his head. "Well… look, I mean… it wasn't that bad…"
Matt thwacks him in the back of the head.
"Okay, okay, fine, it was pretty bad!" Mike says. He sighs. "I got… sick. I don't know what happened, maybe I didn't drink enough water or whatever, but I got a lot worse really fast. By the end… I couldn't even move on my own. I was too weak," he quietly admits.
Matt's jaw falls open.
"Princess picked me up and carried me here in her mouth. It was kind of gross," Mike says. "The villagers gave me medicine, nursed me back to health. I've done everything I can to repay them, and it doesn't feel like enough…" He sighs. "If it hadn't been for them…"
"And you, of course," Mike says, smiling at his big, beautiful bison. "I'd be hopeless without my best girl here with me."
The enormous animal trundles over and gently nuzzles against him. He smiles at the rare show of affection and pats her on the nose.
"Anyway," Mike says. "I think all of those are pretty good reasons for you to stay at the temple. Don't throw your life away just because I did."
Matt looks at him carefully for a few moments. His eyes wander off onto the horizon, deep in thought. After a few moments of concentration, he seems to come to a decision. Without a word, he stands up and moves over to the edge of the cliff. Reaching up to his Air Nomad medallion, he unclasps his cloak and holds it out over the edge.
"What are you doing?" Mike says. "The word was 'don't.' As in 'do not'—"
And Matt lets them go, tossing a small gust of wind at them to blow them off into the distance.
Mike is stunned. "…you'd really throw it all away? For me?"
Matt answers by stepping forward and holding out his fist.
The exiled airbender grins, answering by approaching with a fist of his own.
It seems like they are going to pound them together, but at the last second, both airbenders open their hands and neatly dodge around each other. They continue to weave in, out, and around each other's hands without ever touching, eventually forming a small orb of spinning air between them.
"Thanks, man," Mike says quietly. "I couldn't ask for a better friend."
Princess grunts in the background.
"A better human friend," Mike amends.
Matt just slaps him on the shoulder with a grin, and the two of them settle in to eat whatever Princess left behind (after being sure to blow it off first). The two boys joke and laugh long into the night, and Mike goes to bed feeling lighter than he has in quite some time.
As they settle in, Mike offers to give Matt his sleeping bag. As it turns out, Matt brought his own, and Mike is once again stunned that his best friend really did come all the way out here to join him.
They lie awake for quite some time, staring at the starry sky. "Tomorrow, we'll head out. Look for another village, see if they need any help," Mike says.
Matt turns over and quirks an eyebrow at him.
"Hey, I resent that!" Mike says. "I've helped a lot of people, and not just the ones who save my life, either. I've met all kinds of awesome folks," he continues. "There are all sorts of things airbending is great for, besides just fighting."
Matt gives him a long, thoughtful look.
"I meant what I said," Mike says. "I'm not just some dumb kid running away from home, you know? I think this is what Air Nomads should do. Go where they're needed, help whoever they can. Use their bending to lift people up, not to blow them around."
Matt gives him a longsuffering smile and shakes his head, rolling over.
"Yeah, I know," Mike says. "Me too. Hey, thanks for the pep talk, man. You always know how to put things in perspective."
Matt flashes him the thumbs up sign.
As Mike and Matt drift off, just as the chill of night really begins to set in, Princess the air bison quietly shuffles over and lays her tail on top of the boys, keeping them safe and warm.
With his best human and animal friends at his side, Michael Chang Jr. drifts off to sleep, dreaming of the day he can go home again.
Because even if he prefers to wander… it's nice to have a place to call home.
A/N: So there we have Mike. Fun fact: in Solar Winds, the cloaked airbender's identity was up in the air for a little while. I knew I wanted to add either Rachel or Tina to the group; if I'd chosen Tina, it would have been Mike instead of Jesse. Ultimately, I decided that Rachel was a better fit for the plot.
Which means Tina gets a chapter here. ^_^ I think you'll like what I've done with her. In the meantime… what did you think of Mike, the Exiled Airbender?