To Miba and Dave, without whom this story would not have been possible.
Thanks, with love from Carrot
"Hey guys, what's up?" Sokka asked as he walked into the upstairs level of the Jasmine Dragon to find his friends gathered together and bending their heads over something.
"Oh, hey Sokka." Aang waved a hand at his friend. "Come on over."
"What's that you got there?" Sokka peered over Aang's shoulder. "A book?"
"Not just any book. Remember Professor Zei, the professor from Ba Sing Se University who took us into the desert to find Wan Shi Tong's lost library?"
"Oh, you mean the one who got himself buried underneath the sand with the rest of the library."
"Yes, that one," Katara replied. "Iroh found this delivered to the Jasmine Dragon this morning. There's a note that came with it." She handed a slightly tattered piece of paper to her brother, who started reading the neat small handwriting on it:
Dear Avatar Aang and friends,
It has been almost a year since we parted, and I have heard of your victory over the Fire Nation from the foxes, which have been of great help to me in familiarizing myself with this vast collection of knowledge. I write to tell you of an extraordinary piece of literature I came across while exploring the secrets held by the bookshelves. It mentions you, Avatar Aang, and your friends in many places, as well as people I know nothing about. The stories here, or 'fanfictions' as the book calls them, seem to come from another world far away from the one we live in, as the great spirit Wan Shi Tong, He Who Knows a Thousand Things told me himself, for he is the one who has brought this book to be added to his beloved library. I am now sending you the book itself, for it may be of use to you, and in any case Wan Shi Tong does not seem to mind the loss of this book. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, for though some of the stories may be shocking, they are quite entertaining if not anything else.
"So he sent us a book of 'fanfictions'," Sokka said. "Huh. Well, what's this gift of his look like?"
"Here." Aang passed him a large thick volume with ornate and slightly peeling writing proclaiming the book's title, The Gaang's Companion.
"What's 'The Gaang'?"
"I dunno, Sokka. It definitely sounds like it comes from another world, doesn't it?" Aang said.
"Yeah, plus it sounds like your name, Aang. Way weird." Toph leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms. "Anyway, I don't trust books one bit."
"That's because you can't read them at all. Besides, the letter says we're mentioned in the book! We'll get to read about ourselves in the stories!" And Sokka eagerly opened the book, flipping through the pages while taking in bits of content here and there.
"Well? What's it like?" Aang asked.
"Hmm," Sokka turned to a random page and read aloud. "The Avatar may think he is safe now that he has defeated the Fire Lord, but he is not. Someone is out to get him, and his attack will be deadly. Will the revenge of the Green Bomb be the end of the last Airbender? R/R."
"Ooh, serial killers out to get Twinkletoes. I think I might like this book after all," Toph grinned.
"Great, but let's not start off with serial killers, alright? By the way, it seems like the four of us aren't the only ones in this book." Sokka rifled through the pages and scanned the lines. "There's Zuko, Suki, Iroh, Momo, Appa – tons of people! Wow, it's like almost everyone we know is in here, plus some we don't know!"
"Cool," Aang commented.
"So, shall we start checking out the stuff here right now? I'd be happy to read it out to you guys, especially since you can't see, Toph," Sokka said.
"Actually, Zuko will be coming by soon. Why don't we wait until they're here before we start reading?" Katara suggested.
"Fine by me. Besides, since quite a few stories seem to involve Zuko, I'm guessing he doesn't want to miss out on this."
Half an hour later, the five were seated together in the lounge on the upstairs level of the Jasmine Dragon, waiting for Sokka to begin. The self-appointed narrator was browsing through the pages until he stopped at one page, seemingly having found something satisfactory. He settled himself into a comfortable situation and cleared his throat. "Okay, this one's called The Start of Something New, with Katara and Zuko as the main characters. The summary goes -"
"Enough with the summary, we just want to hear the story," Toph cut in.
"Fine, fine. Here goes:
Zuko was lounging under a shady tree in the Fire Nation royal palace gardens, watching the turtle-ducks swim lazily in the pond, just like he did with his mother when he was young. He sighed contentedly as he rested his incredibly ravishing body on the soft grass while he watched the ducks sail across the water, quacking merrily.
Zuko blinked. "Wow. I seem to have a whole lot of spare time, if I can actually lounge in my garden while watching turtle-ducks swim in the pond instead of worrying about a thousand other things that come with the role of ruling the Fire Nation. And I think that's the first time I've heard my body being described as 'ravishing'."
"Hey, I don't even know what that word means," Toph piped up.
Suddenly a loud outburst of wailing interrupted the serene peace of the late afternoon. Zuko looked up in surprise as he saw Katara run towards him, her face hidden in her hands and sobbing uncontrollably. She kept on running until she reached his side, where she collapsed onto the ground and fell onto the grass.
"Katara, what's wrong?" Zuko asked as he helped the olive-skinned girl sit up.
"Okay, is it just me, or am I being a bit too emotional in here?" Katara interjected. "And of all the things I could do if I was sobbing uncontrollably, why would I barge into Zuko's palace to find him?"
"Same reason why Zuko was lounging in his garden while watching turtle-ducks swim in the pond instead of worrying about a thousand other things that come with the role of ruling the Fire Nation, I guess," Sokka suggested.
"Oh, Zuko, I can't bear the pain! It's just too horrible! How could he do this to me?!" Katara sobbed.
"Calm down Katara, and tell me what happened. It's alright; I'll help you."
"That – that - that horrible Aang! I can't believe he did this to me! It's just too painful!"
"Okay Sugar Queen, we get it. You're in desperate pain, whatever Aang did to you is really horrible, and you can't believe he'd do this to you. You don't need to repeat it twice," Toph said.
"I dunno, maybe it's the author's way of getting the point across," Sokka offered.
"Yeah, or they just have a limited vocabulary. Go on."
"It'll be fine, Katara. Just tell me what did Aang do."
"He – he – he cheated on me! He's dating that girl On Ji behind my back! And then, just now, he said he wanted to break up with me! And then – and then – he left! He turned his back on me just like that!" Unable to hold it in any longer, Katara fell into Zuko's lap while crying brokenheartedly.
"Why would I want to choose On Ji over Katara?" Aang wondered aloud. "I haven't even met her ever since that dance party in the cave!"
"Beats me, but if you do try any funny business with my sis, you'll have me and my boomerang to answer to," Sokka said before he continued reading.
"Oh, Katara," Zuko said as he wrapped his arms around her body, which was shaking from her loud sobs. "Don't worry, there are always other boys who would love to be your boyfriend."
"There – there are?" Katara hiccupped as she looked up at him through swollen eyes red from crying.
"And how would Zuko know that? That doesn't sound like him at all," Toph said. "Besides, we all know he's not much good in comforting people."
"Hey, I've already decided that I'm not going to question anything in this story and just read all the way to the end. Would take too much time if I had to go through everything one by one," Sokka said.
"There are," Zuko reaffirmed. "In fact," and here his face was growing red, "I would love to be your boyfriend as well."
"No wait, I don't want to be Katara's boyfriend!" Zuko said as Aang glared over at him. "I don't even know why I'm saying that!"
"Relax, it's not you. It's the fanfiction!you, which we've already known is nothing like the real you," Toph reassured him. "For one, the real you would've made horribly-emotional-Sugar Queen cry even more when you try to comfort her."
"You do?" Katara rubbed away the tears from her eyes slowly before turning to look at him again. "I… I would love to have you for a boyfriend, too."
"Cheer up Aang, it's just a silly story," Sokka said when he noticed Aang's face growing darker.
Zuko held her closer. "I've always loved you, Katara. Ever since the first time we met. It has always been you, and you only."
"Hmm. I vaguely remember that the first time we met, you bonked Sokka on the head with his spear that you broke, grabbed my grandmother before throwing her roughly back at me, and threatened to burn our village to the ground. Not really love at first sight, if you ask me," Katara said.
"Meh, it was all old stuff already. I've forgiven him for breaking my spear," Sokka said.
Katara sighed contentedly as she nestled into her new lover's arms. "Oh, Zuko. I've always loved you too," she mumbled softly as the two leaned in for a passionate kiss.
"New lover, huh? Wow, Sugar Queen swaps boyfriends real fast," Toph observed.
Sokka closed the book and looked at everybody. "Okay, that's the end of the story. Any afterthoughts?"
"The author's got big problems with characterization," Katara muttered.
"They seriously need to get their facts right," Zuko added.
"It's 'The Boy in the Iceberg' all over again," Aang concluded.
"Well, I'm still up for the serial killers mentioned earlier," Toph said. "Anyone up for it?"
"Actually Toph, I think I'd pass," Aang replied, thinking that the last thing he needed after hearing a story where his girlfriend gets taken by someone else was hearing a story where he gets brutally murdered.
"Me too. Unlike my alter-ego, I don't have time to lounge in my garden while watching turtle-ducks swim in the pond," Zuko said as he got up to leave.
"I dunno. I don't think there can be anything worth reading in there," Katara said as she gestured at the book.
"Oh come on Katara, don't tip the whole boat with just one lousy tale. There might be other stuff in here that's better, and frankly, I think few things would be worse than what we've just read," Sokka said as he opened the book again and flipped through the pages.
Toph rubbed her hands with glee. "Ooh, things are gonna get interesting."
Hey there, great to see everyone again in the New Year! First things first: to all the Zutarians out there, no this is not intended to make fun of your OTP (One True Pairing), so you can put that torch down. This is a shipping-friendly zone, okay? And to everyone else, any comments, suggestions or story prompts are heartily welcome. You can even see your own story here; just drop me a note and I'll PM you! Until then, have fun with The Gaang's Companion!