A/N: done for a challenge issued by the Reviews Lounge, Too. Simply put: a story in a chosen fandom needed to incorporate both brotherly friendship and… a moose.
This is a young-Tenzin fic, with Tenzin being an older child and his brother Bumi a young teenager.
As always, I make no claim to Avatar: Legend of Korra, and I did have a great time writing this. I hope you enjoy and reviews are always loved! :)
"So…" the inquisitive young earthbender started, rocking on his feet in curiosity. "Why do you guys have a moose in the back of the temple?"
"That's not a moose, silly. That's San." Ikki returned as if everyone should know that.
Bolin tapped his fingertips together. "Ohhh-kay. San. Right. So, what's San doing there?"
"Eating grass." Ikki smiled.
He facepalmed. Of course, he was asking for that one. "And how did San get there?"
This time it was Jinora who answered in an academic tone. "Uncle Bumi brought San back from the lands around the Western Air Temple. She's lived with us ever since."
"All right. Got it. So… why is she here?"
Both girls shrugged and finally Ikki admitted, "I don't know. Daddy never tells that story."
"What story?" Korra's voice bounded through the open temple halls as she jogged up the steps.
"How Daddy got a moose in the temple." Jinora returned.
The Avatar looked between Bolin and the two children, curiosity flashing in her own eyes. "Oooh, that sounds like a good story." She paused, and a second later she was on her feet, dashing towards the other end of the temple. "Hey, Tenzin!"
The airbending master tensed as he heard a call, followed by the herd of eager footsteps. He had a premonition that whatever question was on the minds of his student and children, it wasn't going to be pleasant. Still he put on a calm face and turned towards them. "Yes, Korra?"
"How did you get a moose in the temple?" She was grinning from ear to ear.
"You know," Tenzin started in tone that was more far mature than his nine years betrayed, "when Mom said we should go take a hike, I don't think she meant it literally."
Several steps ahead of him, his older brother Bumi strolled with his hands thrust deep into his pockets. "Why not? We don't get off Air Temple Island very often. It's a perfect time to explore."
Tenzin wavered, watching the path as it wound through blustery mountains and soft green valleys. "We don't know where we're going."
Bumi stopped and took in a deep breath; releasing it and throwing his arms open wide. "It's a beautiful day. With beautiful sun and beautiful grass and beautiful air you can bend. We don't need to know where we're going. We simply have to enjoy the path we take to get there."
"I wish you could conjure up some beautiful food," the younger grumbled quietly. If he had known how far they would be walking when he started following Bumi, he would have packed lunches and extra water.
Bumi grinned, shading his eyes with one hand and pointing with the other. "How about some beautiful apples?"
"Did you bring any?" his brother queried, catching up.
"Nope! But I can see a beautiful tree we could climb…" He paused just long enough to catch Tenzin's attention. "… beautifully!"
Clenching his teeth, Tenzin sighed. "Bumi, will you please knock it off and stop saying beautiful?"
Wagging a finger in his brother's face, Bumi made a 'tsk' sound. "So negative, my brother. Perhaps you should meditate more?"
"I meditate plenty!" he protested, puffing up his chest to emphasize his point. "You irritate me on purpose."
"Well of course I do." Bumi smiled proudly. "Somebody has to keep you on your toes."
"I'm an airbender. I'm always on my toes." Tenzin huffed quietly, stalking towards the apple trees.
Tenzin lost count of how many apples they ate. For a while he had been counting the cores as they were tossed to the ground, but soon the eating took precedence over the counting. The fruit was sweet and delicious ('see, I told you they were beautiful!' his brother had countered) and the boys ate voraciously until they were sated.
Stretched out among the strong branches, Bumi dangled one leg over the edge and stared up at the clouds. "Do you still regret coming with me on the hike?"
"Bumi, I never regret doing things with you." Tenzin returned, idly chewing off the last bits of flesh from his last apple core.
The elder snapped his fingers with a catty smile. "Darn, I must be doing something wrong!"
The airbender rolled his eyes and lightly cuffed his brother on the shoulder before he settled down to meditate for a few moments under the clear skies. Bumi had always teased him that meditation was actually an airbender's way of taking a sanctioned naptime, which was rarely the case. But with Father and the temple off in the distance, both boys found themselves simply enjoying the stirring breeze and their comfortably full tummies. Bumi was even lightly snoring when both were roused by an unusual braying call.
Tenzin rolled up to sit with his back straight. In the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a large brown creature with heavy hooves, its big equine face crowned with a spread of pale antlers. His jaw dropped a bit, watching the creature saunter through the valley.
"What is that?" his eyes widened as he peered out between the branches. "Bumi, shh!"
Bumi rolled over groggily. "Why are you 'shh-ing' me, Tenzin?"
"Bumi, there's a saber-toothed moose lion out there…" the young airbender whispered.
The older boy snapped his head up with such curious ferocity that his younger brother cringed. "Nope."
"What do you mean 'nope?'" Tenzin cried, a puff of wind blowing past his head as he gestured. "It's right there!"
"I see it, but that's not a saber-tooth moose lion. Where are the tusks?"
His face fell a bit. "Maybe it's a girl?"
Bumi shook his head. "The girls have tusks, too." He popped up above the foliage and took another good look at the animal. "It might be a dragon moose."
This time Tenzin shook his head. "The ears are all wrong, and where are the barbels?"
"Maybe it's just a moose."
"It can't be just a moose."
"Why not?" Bumi shrugged. "The 52nd Earth King had just a bear. Why couldn't we find just a moose?"
"But finding a moose would be incredibly rare."
"You mean finding a moose would be incredibly awesome."
Tenzin turned, noting the look that was plastered all over his brother's face. He knew that look. That look meant trouble. "Bumi, what are you planning?"
"Oh, nothing." He returned lightly, snatching an apple and lightly rolling it towards the moose. The creature looked up, inquisitively. "I just want to see if she likes apples."
"How do you know it's a 'she?' How do you know it's a moose for that matter? You've never seen a moose before!" Tenzin protested; a flush of red creeping into his cheeks.
"I don't" his brother replied simply. Slowly a Cheshire smile dawned across his face. "She needs a name."
A sigh escaped Tenzin's lips. Why did his brother never make any sense? "She does not need a name. You don't even know if it's a girl. In fact you don't even know if it's a moose."
Bumi pointed towards the animal as it lumbered slowly forward. "Look at her. This is a prime example of a lady moose. I think I'll call her 'San'"
"Why?" the word came out as a groan.
"Because in the Earth Kingdom San is a fine strong name for a young man; but in the Fire Nation it's a lovely ladies name. Therefore whether San turns out to be a boy or a girl, I'll have my bases covered." He grinned widely. "Clever, huh?"
"Yes." Tenzin's shoulders fell melodramatically as he admitted it. "It's clever."
Bumi scooted his butt over to the branch beside his brother and wrapped an affectionate arm around Tenzin's neck before he could mope too severely. "Who's a mad genius?" he crowed.
"Mad, yes. Genius, no." Tenzin replied automatically and shot his brother a halfhearted glare. It was a scenario that had played out between the siblings before, always with the same result: a short staring contest that collapsed into a pile of giggles from both boys.
Finally, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, Bumi caught enough breath to speak. "That's the brother I know and love!"
"You're still mad." Tenzin reminded him fondly.
"Oh, I know." The elder boy stretched and looked around. "Hey… where did the moose go?"
"I think we startled it off."
Bumi's face fell, and he climbed a few branches higher, frantically searching. "Aw, no. I wanted to see if I could ride her."
"Ride her?" The young airbender bit his bottom lip. "That doesn't sound like a good idea."
"Oh, come on! It's a brilliant idea."
"It's a terrible idea. Besides, the moose ran off." No sooner than he said it, did they spy a set of antlers peeking out from the opposite side of the trees. Tenzin wondered if the spirits were out to get him.
"There she is!" Bumi pointed and immediately sunk downwards as the moose looked up, startled at the noise. "Oh, she's eating apples. Come on." He slunk forward branch, by branch, pulling his younger brother with him.
Pulling back from the grip, the younger boy dragged his feet. "Bumi, riding a moose could be very dangerous."
"Come on, Tenzin! There isn't any harm in riding one little moose!" Bumi wheedled, reluctantly letting go of his brother's hand.
Tenzin's brow climbed towards his freshly shaved hairline. "It's actually a pretty big moose."
"Still. There isn't any harm in riding a pretty big moose. I mean look at it. It looks just like a horse."
Tenzin threw his arms across his chest in a sober, stubborn gesture. "It does not look just like a horse. Horses do not have horns."
"Big sharp things coming out from their heads. Whatever. You know what I meant." The airbender was starting to get flustered.
"Yup." His brother grinned widely. "It means you're scared to ride the moose."
"Yes. I mean no! Bumi! I am not scared to ride some stupid moose."
Bumi waved a hand comfortingly towards the moose as it took a cautious step backwards. "Shh, San. Don't listen to him. My brother didn't mean to call you stupid." He paused and gave Tenzin a look. "Now Tenzin, I think you hurt San's feelings."
The younger boy threw his hands in the air. "I did not mean to insult a moose. I just think this plan is stupid."
"She'd forgive you if you gave her an apple…" Bumi prompted.
Tenzin stared at his brother warily. Then at the moose. Back at his brother. Back at the moose. He sighed, and plucked an apple from the tree and held it out.
The moose wandered forward, curiously sniffing at the offered treat. Her tongue was wet and sticky; it left a trail of slobber across Tenzin's fingers as the apple was plucked from his grasp. Bumi giggled as his brother grimaced and tried to shake the spittle off.
"See? She likes you." He waggled his brows.
With a groan, Tenzin flicked the last of the moose-drool at his brother. "It's worse than getting kissed by Appa."
"I won't let Appa know you said that." The older boy winked and picked a second apple, waving the moose forward. She snuffled and took the treat, wandering comfortably close to the children. "Look, I bet we could get on her back."
"I don't want to get on her back."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Tenzin? This is freedom, this is spontaneous! This is your airbender heritage calling!"
He frowned, biting his bottom lip. "Just because I don't want to ride on a moose doesn't make me any less of an airbender."
"I never said it made you a bad airbender. You're a fantastic airbender! You're just not any fun." Bumi stuck his tongue out at his brother impishly.
"I – I'm fun! I have plenty of fun!"
"Yeah, by meditating and being boring."
Tenzin threw his arms across his chest and made a harrumphing noise. "I can have fun. I'll prove I'm fun."
"Then ride the moose." Bumi grinned.
"Okay, I'll ride the moose!" He regretted the words as soon as he said them, but he couldn't take them back now. The moose – he was starting to think of her as 'San' already – was tantalizingly close. He reached out a hand to pat her neck and she didn't run. So Tenzin took in a deep breath to calm his nerves and quietly climbed upon her back.
"Here we go!" Bumi cried, jumping on seconds later. He gave the moose a light kick to the flanks and she took of, galloping across the fields.
WAAAHOOO! The whoop of joy pierced the sun swept valley as one moose and two boys streaked through the thick grass. Bumi sat tall and confident on the beast's back, while Tenzin gripped the neck with white knuckles, biting his tongue to keep from screaming.
Unused to having riders on her back, San stumbled as she crested one of the hills and kicked her legs to keep her balance. The boys struggled to keep hold of their impromptu ride as she bucked and dashed. Bumi had enough weight to bear down and keep himself stable, but Tenzin's slight form kept slipping. Bumi tried to wrap an arm around his brother, but as San bucked again, a gust of wind picked up and Tenzin was thrown from both Bumi's grasp and the moose's back. Bumi yelled for him as his brother went flying, and landed on the side of the hill, rolling down to the bottom where he stopped in the long grass.
After a moment of panic, Bumi leaned down, patting San's neck until she calmed down enough that he could dismount. Once his feet hit the ground he was off and running towards where Tenzin fell. His brother was stirring; he hoped that was a good sign.
"Hey, are you ok?" Bumi called worriedly, falling to his knees by Tenzin's side, holding out a hand.
Tenzin took the offered hand and let Bumi pull him into a sitting position. Startled and bruised, he wiggled his fingers and toes. When he was greeted with just a small bit of pain from the bruises where he fell, he counted it as a good sign. He took in a breath and fixed a serious gaze at his brother. "Bumi, I never want to ride a moose again."
On impulse Bumi leaned forward and threw his arms around Tenzin, drawing the younger boy into a fierce hug. After several seconds of awkward squirming Tenzin relented and leaned into his brother, returning the gesture.
After several seconds of silence, Bumi gave a soft sigh. "I'm sorry, Tenzin. I shouldn't have goaded you into riding the moose."
"It's OK, Bumi." Tenzin buried his head into his brother's shoulder and uttered a soft admission. "I was afraid we'd get hurt. But since you were going to ride it, I was going to ride it with you."
The older boy gave a faint, choked cry and he gave his brother one last squeeze. "Are you sure you're ok?"
Pushing him back, Tenzin nodded with a little grin. "Yeah. Airbender, remember. I don't fall, I fly."
Rubbing his head with a chuckle, Bumi got to his feet and helped Tenzin up. "You scared me there for a second. You fly with panache." Taking in a breath he looked around and took a few steps up the hill. "Wait here for a second."
"Hey, where are you going?" He reached a hand out for his brother.
Bumi turned, holding up a finger as if to say 'wait a second.' "San was just as scared as we were. I'm afraid she's run off and I need to coax her back here."
"I'm gonna bring her with us and ask Dad if I can keep it!" He grinned merrily.
Tenzin sighed, feeling it necessary to point out the flaws in his brother's logic. "Bumi, how will you get it home, and where will you keep it?"
"Tenzin… we have stables."
"For air bison."
"Last time I checked, a moose was smaller than an air bison. I'm sure we can find room."
Tenzin groaned. His father was a pushover when it came to friendly animals. And his brother may not be a bender, but he had a way with words that always seemed to let him wheedle things in his favor.
Late in the evening, as his children bedded down and Avatar Korra trained her firebending and earthbending with her newfound friends, Tenzin strolled out to the fields around the temple. The original San had long since passed – something Tenzin didn't have the heart to add into the story – but his brother Bumi always kept his father's predilection for bringing home lonely animals. The current San was rescued from a squalid Earth Kingdom zoo. Tenzin drew an apple from the folds of his cloak and held it out, and she obligingly trotted up.
He patted the creature's neck as she slurped the apple from his fingers and chuckled to himself. Some things never changed. The same old slobber, the same old rough fur, the same old foolish brothers.
Still, one thing Tenzin was sure of: No matter how much he'd protest against it, he'd still ride with Bumi any day.