auspice, patronage, advocacy, encouragement

"So then I had to explain that I wasn't the one who put the bucket of lychee juice above the door, Meelo was! She was sooo mad."

"Uh huh..."

"Hey, what's up?" Ikki asked, rolling over on her stomach to face her older sister. "You usually like it when I tell you stories."

Jinora looked up from the wooden crate in which she was stacking leather-bound books. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm just ... I've been thinking about this whole university thing. Maybe I'm not making the right decision."

Ikki shifted to a sitting position. "What?" she asked quietly. "But I thought you were excited to go. I thought you wanted to."

The older airbender pushed her long hair back with one hand the way she did when she was nervous or frustrated. "I am, I want to go ... But I'm afraid it's not what I should be doing."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well ... We're the last airbenders in the world. Maybe I shouldn't be going off to university, maybe I should stay here and help dad carry on gramp-gramp's legacy. Maybe I should stay with the council. I feel like I'm leaving behind all of this responsibility for something I don't even need. What if I'm being selfish?"

Ikki looked at Jinora and thought of how much she'd changed. She tried to remember when she'd worn her hair short and in a bun, she tried to remember a time when Jinora would have jumped at the chance to go to a university, or anything that had to do with learning. Honestly, it was hard to remember Jinora without her tattoos. For the longest time, becoming an airbending master was all that Jinora seemed to care about.

Ikki remembered the months when she hardly saw Jinora at all because there was always something to practice, always something to review, there was always a new form, and never time for things that used to matter to her. And after she received her tattoos from Dad at the age of sixteen, Jinora was different. Ikki knew that the tattoos were extremely painful, and though he never said anything, her dad had a really hard time doing it. He was the only one who could, and he was so proud, but Ikki thought a little bit of her dad broke off the day he pulled out the same needle Avatar Aang had used on him. She figured she would understand when she got her tattoos too. And the more she thought about it, it became clearer and clearer that not only did her dad break a little that day, but Jinora did too. Dad didn't let the newspapers publish anything about it, so whenever Jinora went out in public, people stopped, stared a little, then realized what they were doing and hurried on. Jinora had never been outcasted, gawked at, been made into private discussion. Yes, Ikki remembered those months, vividly. Jinora had her friends and family, but preferred solitude.

Those were also the months when Skoochy would visit the island. He would speak quietly with Mom and Dad, sometimes bring candy and toys for her, Meelo, and Rohan, then he would disappear into Jinora's room, sometimes for hours. Usually, it was quiet, and Ikki suspected that Jinora wouldn't talk to him. A few times she heard Jinora shouting, but Skoochy never shouted back. A couple of times she even heard Jinora crying. Mom and Dad never got involved when Skoochy saw Jinora, and Ikki wondered what was going on that she wasn't being let in on. No matter how much Jinora ignored him, screamed at him, sobbed to him, Skoochy never slammed the door on his way out, and he always came back the next day.

Eventually, the people stopped talking and Skoochy's visits became less frequent. Jinora distracted herself with work and responsibility. She continued to train airbending with Dad, even though she knew all there was to know. She started helping Dad with the council; the other council members highly respected her and even let her vote on certain issues. She also began to delve into historical documents and kept her own journals (meanwhile receiving many publishing offers, all of which she denied). A few times, Ikki recalled, Jinora went on dates with Skoochy, but one night when they returned on the island Ikki saw them talking on the shore. Jinora kept running her hands through her hair and Skoochy nodded with his hands in his pockets. Ikki never found out what was said that night, but they didn't go on any more dates.

Then there was the night Ikki found Jinora at her desk – she'd fallen asleep and Ikki peeked over her shoulder to find an illustration of young Avatar Aang in the book Jinora must've been reading, and Ikki was shocked by what she saw. In the picture, Aang looked a little older than Jinora. They both had that determined, yet not unkind gaze, proud shoulders, tall back, slender, steady legs. She wondered how they would've gotten along had he still been alive. People on the streets probably saw it too – the resemblance – then she realized with horror if this was what Jinora thought she had to live up to. It was unnerving, and she had discovered it too late, but it made sense.

And now, sitting across from her, Ikki wondered why she didn't foresee this. As her sister sat on the floor, starring at all the empty crates, her hands wouldn't leave her hair, and the air was charged with anxiety, self-blame, confusion. For all of her thoughtfulness, for her watchful eye, Ikki found difficulty in forming the right words to comfort her sister, who was supposed to be too strong to have second thoughts.

"Think of all the good you can do in Ba Sing Se. You can spread our culture, you can teach everyone about gramp-gramp. You know, if you stay in Republic City, your talents will totally be wasted. It's probably the least selfish decision you can make. You might even become as famous as gramp-gramp!"

Jinora laughed lightly. "Ah, I doubt that. I appreciate your confidence in me, though. Thanks, Ikki."

"Anytime, anytime," she said with a wave of her hand. "Who knows, you might even meet a really cute guy!"

"Ooh, maybe!" Jinora cooed with mock enthusiasm. She cupped a hand to the side of her mouth and whispered, "Just don't tell Skoochy. He promised he would wait for me."

Author's Note

I'm really glad to be writing again. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. I love Jinora and have a lot of headcanon about her. I believe she went to school in Ba Sing Se, and she did suffer from depression at some point in her life and probably wanted to shut out Skoochy, but he wouldn't let her, etc, etc, I could go on all day. Anyway, I'd love to write more about her, maybe I'll do a continuation or series based on this little piece. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you happy holidays. Hopefully you'll be seeing more of me before I have to go back to school.