Title: Kori and Sneers (T – violence, romantic innuendo)
Rating: T for violence, self-doubt, romance, and innuendo
Summary: This story was inspired by the unlikely but cute pairing from The Promise trilogy of Kori Morishita, the Yu Dao Mayor's daughter, and former Freedom Fighter scout Sneers. The story starts when Sneers goes to Yu Dao, after Jet and the others leave for Ba Sing Se. It continues through the new beginning of the relationship of Kori and Sneers as they meet literally by accident, and ends the eve of when she is arrested and returned to Yu Dao for the attempted assassination of Fire Lord Zuko. It does touch a bit on the issues of confidence in self-image that Promise raises about Sneers, and how Sneers works through that as Kori sees the inner charm within him. I guess you'd call this ship "Snori" but it's funnier as Snorki! XD
Sneers sat alone at the campsite, fiddling with the fire. All his closest friends had gone, mostly to Ba Sing Se. The younger Freedom Fighters went home if they had a home remaining, or they disappeared into the woods with their older siblings to fend for themselves. The Freedom Fighters were finished.
The hard lesson learned from the Avatar during the incident at Gaipan really opened Sneers' eyes that in getting revenge, killing innocents along with the Fire Nation soldiers to get that revenge made them no better than the hated soldiers themselves.
Revenge. That's all he had thought about, ever since his family was murdered several years ago, and he had wandered since. But now, Sneers was tired of fighting. It was time to go home. The last words of his dear parents were to flee to his uncle's home, but at the time he was too angry to go. Besides, the glib young man Jet was too convincing in enticing Sneers to join the Freedom Fighters. That business was finished now.
It was several days walk to his uncle's home in Yu Dao, ironically a hated Fire Nation colony that had been a planned Freedom Fighter target. "Funny," he thought, "I'm walking on purpose right into the lion-badger's den."
But he reflected further that Yu Dao was one of those few places where Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation coexisted without conflict. The colonists had work for Earth Kingdom citizens and they paid well, and the colonists needed all sorts of things the Earth Kingdom people were willing to sell and do. Maybe the people of Yu Dao had the right idea in a world tired of war. If his uncle could be successful and safe there, maybe he could too. His uncle didn't care what race people were; he just built furniture and houses as a carpenter for anyone with enough yuans.
Sneers lived off the land as he went. Life in the colony would be pretty soft in comparison to the last several years of growing up in the forest. He might find it all boring. But living in the forest with no friends around and no real purpose was very boring. Despite the war going on for a hundred years, it was clear to him that pretty soon the conflict was going to be over by the Avatar's hand. So Sneers reasoned he had to make a legitimate living somehow – being a Freedom Fighter could not be a permanent job.
Sneers recalled with admiration his encounter with Aang. The Avatar may have been a young boy, but he was engaging, intelligent, and formidable. The adults who ruled the world really were likely to far underestimate his persuasion and power.
Finally, he arrived at the huge fortification surrounding Yu Dao. After convincing the Fire Nation guards he had family in Yu Dao, he found his way to his uncle's house, barely remembering the location from family trips there years ago. He knocked on the door, and held his breath.
The heavy door opened, and Sneers was face to face with a gray-haired man of his size and build, "Yes? Who…? Sneers! By the spirits! You are all grown up. Where are your parents, my dear nephew?"
Sneers stared at the ground in the sudden return of the hurtful memories, "Hi Uncle. Well. That's kind of hard to explain. You see. Um…"
His uncle cocked an eyebrow, "Something happened, didn't it, boy?"
Sneers sighed, "Yes, Uncle. They are gone. In a Fire Nation raid."
The old man shook his head, seeing yet another instance of his Fire Nation colleagues being friends one day and conquerors the next, "I'm sorry son. Well you are safe here. The two Nations all live together here pretty well. We figured out we need each other, even though the rest of the world hasn't got it through their thick skulls. My home is your home, now, Sneers."
Sneers smiled through his glistening eyes, and his uncle put his arm around him, "You can stay in your cousin Huang's room. He's all grown with his own family and home."
After a hearty meal fixed by his aunt, and a good night's sleep, he went out exploring the next day while his uncle went off to work. He arrived in the main plaza where hundreds of merchants hawked their food and wares.
The bustle of the colony was fascinating to him, compared to the quiet and calm of life in the woods with just a few people he knew all the time. As he went along the streets of the marketplace, he was startled by a cart that came loose from its chocks, lurched, and crashed into a large stack of heavy crates filled with fruits and vegetables. It started to tumble into a group of young women on a shopping trip.
With lightning fast reflexes, he caught the teetering stack, and with an enormous surge of strength, pushed them safely upright. Sneers avoided the careening cart, tossing an empty crate under its wheels to block its path, and to prevent it from harming anyone. The topmost crate started to fall from ten feet above, and was headed toward on one of the girls. He pushed her aside effortlessly as gently as he could, and caught the crate in his hands, deflecting its fall. There wasn't a single cabbage bruised.
The girl was in a crumpled heap, and very slow to get up. Sneers got on his feet quickly, and reached to pull her gently to her feet, "I...I'm very sorry, Miss. I had to do that to keep the crate from falling on you."
Sneers got a really good look at her. She was thin, had beautiful short brown hair, perfectly proportioned, and showed a lot of her lithe body in a two piece red and green outfit. She had a beautiful oval face, and was smiling at him, even though she was dazed.
"What does this mean? Those colors are never mixed." Sneers thought as he puzzled over her red/green clothing.
"Thank you, young man, for saving me. I never saw the crates fall," said the girl with a beautiful sweet tone.
"This girl is amazingly beautiful," thought Sneers.
She smiled more demurely, "I would have been crushed except for your bravery."
"Glad to have helped, Miss…?"
"Kori," she lilted.
Sneers was mesmerized by this girl. There were few teenage women in the Freedom Fighters. None of them looked like Kori. The only really pretty one - Smellerbee - was no ordinary girl. She was all 'business'. She did everything she could to hide her gender so that no enemy would know, and frankly, everyone knew she was Longshot's girl.
"Let me show my appreciation for what you did, umm…" asked Kori.
"Sneers," he smiled awkwardly and fidgeted.
She laughed, "I like that name."
"Why?" Sneers puzzled. Girls were so enigmatic.
She grinned. "Because you don't sneer. I like your smile. And you are very strong. A half-dozen of my fathers' men couldn't have stopped those crates."
"Well Kori, I'm kind of used to carrying heavy loads."
Sneers was walking on air, which he reminded himself would be a pretty amazing feat for him and anyone in his family.
"Come to my family's home for dinner tonight. My mother is a great cook. When you see my dad, you'll know why he eats every morsel she serves. And my mom samples her own cooking," she giggled.
"Uh, sure, but umm…where do you live?" Sneers asked.
Kori turned and pointed to the huge house on the hill, "You must be new here. It's over there. Be there at six."
She gathered her bags, with help from Sneers. They brushed arms and hands momentarily, sending an electric spark through Sneers. She smiled at him shyly. "She felt it too," he thought.
She and the girls all departed, giggled, and looked back at Sneers as they disappeared into the crowd. Kori's friends kept poking her, causing her to blush several times at the girls' teasing.
Sneers stood in the street, dumbstruck. He thought, "How could such a pretty girl have any interest in me?"
He suddenly felt self-conscious at his size, thinking of how petite she was, and thought of all young men trimmer than him that he was seeing on the streets of Yu Dao.
The merchant, whose crates and stock he saved, nudged him and said, "Thanks boy. You saved her and you saved my profits."
"Uh, no problem, sir," Sneers said in a distracted way as he strained for another glimpse of Kori. He thrilled when he saw that she was still looking back, but looked away since he noticed her.
"You know you saved the mayor's daughter, don't you?" the store owner said.
Sneers spun his head around, and he asked in shock, "What?"
"Boy, Kori Morishita is the Mayor's daughter. She's the most eligible girl in town. And she only has eyes for you, if I might be frank," the merchant smirked.
He walked home in a daze caused by Kori, and when he arrived, his aunt asked, "How was your day?"
"Oh, I just walked around taking it all in. And saved a girl's life," he said offhand.
"Oh? How sweet, dear. You always were strong for your age. And always helpful. Any idea who it was?"
Her aunt dropped the plate she was washing.
"The Mayor's daughter?"
Sneers rolled his eyes, "Everyone has been telling me that."
"What's going to happen?" his aunt said with excitement and some trepidation.
"I am supposed to go to her house for dinner tonight."
"Not in those clothes, boy," she said excitedly.
He got some her husband's finery out. When she was finished adjusting and primping him after he got dressed, he looked resplendent.
Ushering him to a mirror, he said, "You look like a Xiang Pu ceremonial wrestler, my dear. Now you can visit the mayor's daughter properly. Your dear uncle was a wrestler long before he was a carpenter. 'There wasn't any money in professional fighting,' he kept telling me. I still think he was wrong about that. Besides, I was a fan girl of his! That's how we met."
They chuckled at that. Sneers made his way across town, turning eyes as he went, made his way up the hill, and knocked on the Mayor's home gate.
The stern guard opened a viewing slot, and growled, "What do you want, boy?"
"I am Sneers, and I am here for dinner with Miss Morishita."
"Oh! Well, young man, they are expecting you. Come in."
He made his way over the bridge and past the eel-koi pond. Across the end of the bridge was Kori. She was beautiful in her kimono, and her hair was done up exquisitely.
"You look marvelous!" Sneers observed politely.
"You look very handsome," Kori mewed.
"Eh, I am not much to look at."
"You underestimate yourself, Sneers."
She slipped her arm formally into his, as they walked in proper ceremonial fashion to her father's study.
She brought him before her father. Sneers was shocked. He was a huge man.
"Well, so this is the young man my daughter could not stop praising for saving her life today," said the Mayor cheerfully.
Sneers bowed, and said, "Thank you Mayor Morishita-san. It was just a simple act."
"No simple act to save my only child, Sneers."
He caught Kori's grateful smile from the corner of his eye, and felt her grip on his arm tighten.
"Where do you come from, son?" asked the Mayor.
"A small village near Gaipan, but after it was destroyed, I have come to live with my uncle Mùjiàng. He's a carpenter."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, son. Those were some terrible days, and we could not do anything to stop such things. We live in peace here. And yes, Mùjiàng. The Carpenter. He's the best carpenter in the city, boy. He does some incredible work. He did this study all the furniture pieces you see here. Study and learn from him, Sneers. You will be in high demand."
They heard an older feminine voice call from across the rock garden, "It's dinner!"
The Mayor chuckled, "Well, kids, we never want to be late for my wife's dinner; let's chat more later."
They walked to the dining area, and as they walked, Sneers was overwhelmed at the opulence of Kori's home.
The dinner table was even more impressive. Before them was all manner of tempura, sushi, and hibachi-cooked meats and fish. It was all served by a smiling, portly woman. Sneers finally understood why his own size was no issue with Kori, and was grateful.
Dinner went wonderfully. Afterwards, the Mayor took out a pipe, and lit it with a flicker from his finger.
Sneers gulped and held his instant anger, "Mayor, you're…you're Fire Nation."
"Well son, this is a Fire Nation colony, and so I have to be."
"Oh," Sneers felt his anger grow within him.
"Yes, Sneers, I do know what you are thinking, but things are different here. My wife is an earth bender. She lived in a village nearby Yu Dao, and she won my heart," they snuggled and kissed lightly.
"And I am an earth bender, too," announced Kori proudly, juggling some rocks in mid-air.
"Two earth benders in fire bender's home?" Sneers was trying to stay calm.
"We are both Nations here together, Sneers. The Fire Nation lives side by side with the Earth Kingdom, in peace. The world could learn from us and the other colonies, son. But the powers in the capital cities will not stop their bickering long enough to listen. So we play our roles. We are both Nations, and yet we may be neither Nation."
"Stop that talk, husband. It will get you in trouble," warned the kind older woman.
The combined reds and greens of the Morishita family's clothing and home decorations finally all made sense to Sneers. So did everything else, especially this sweet young woman he had saved. They sat closely together at dinner. They touched each other several times without drawing back, and Sneers dared to hold hands with Kori during the string entertainment after dinner, which she willingly allowed.
Finally dinner was over, and it was dark, and her father said, "You kids spend some time together. As usual, my work never ends."
His wife added, "I have some chores to do."
Kori and Sneers stood alone in the garden.
"Sneers," she asked as she slipped her fingers delicately into his, "have you ever felt this way before, so quickly?"
"Never, Kori," Sneers replied instantly, not questioning what Kori meant by 'this way'.
"Me neither. You are a special boy, Sneers."
"And you are too, Kori."
Embarrassed, he corrected himself, "Uh…I mean – a special 'girl'."
She giggled and got closer, "I know what you meant."
He took her closeness as a cue to lean in and kiss her tenderly. Feeling a surge and her urgency, he kissed her again more earnestly. They broke, and smiled at each other.
"That was nice. We need to see each other more, Sneers."
"Any time you want, Kori."
They were interrupted by a voice from across the courtyard, "Kori, time for bed; say goodbye now."
The older couple watched Kori and Sneers make their way to the front gate, lingering closely together. Standing discretely by the door to their bedroom, Kori's mom asked, "Did you interrupt them? Did they…um…?"
"Yes dear, they did. I only called out after they did."
"That's good. He is a sweet young man."
"And from a good family."
"Do you think…?"
"Only time will tell, dear. She couldn't take her eyes off him the entire night. I suppose probably ever since he saved her life."
The Mayor and his wife turned and went into their bedroom.
Kori kissed Sneers one more time as she showed him out the gate. He was elated as he walked home. And so was she.
They began to see each other regularly. He couldn't believe he had such feelings for Kori. They walked hand in hand often. The townspeople smiled at them wherever they went. They'd never seen her so happy with any other suitor, all of whom she rejected. But not Sneers.
One evening, several months later on her sixteenth birthday, he surprised her - to her delight - by showing his skills as a Xiang Pu Wrestler, a sport that he knew she loved, against the city's best. It was an ancient sport, almost as much religion and ceremony to it as wrestling. We would know this sport as Sumo. His uncle Mùjiàng had been teaching him the skills so he could surprise his girl, even though his aunt just rolled her eyes at times at them both. The Mayor was happily involved in the 'subterfuge' in the surprise party for his daughter. Her mother was very satisfied at Sneers' care for their daughter's happiness, and helped keep the secret from her also.
Sneers got thrown by the more experienced opponents a few times, but won more rounds than he lost, and after the match for her birthday present, Kori wrapped her arms around his sweaty, bruised body in their quiet corner of her family's garden. The feeling of her bare arms and toned stomach on his skin restored him instantly and more. She thrilled to the feeling of his hard body. Sneers may have been a large person, but he was all muscle. It was hard for both to hold back, but the time would be soon for both of them. They both knew where the relationship was heading - to something much more permanent.
"I'm gonna have to bulk you up a little more, my love," said Kori tenderly.
"That should be easy, Kori. Your cooking is even better than your mom's."
"Don't tell her that; you'll get thrown completely out of the ring by her personally."
They laughed, and kissed.
"Besides, I love seeing you in your Mawashi belt. It kind of lets my mind wander."
"I'd rather your fingers do the wandering."
"Shush you, don't tempt me. I'll bind your hands with rock cuffs. Every female Xiang Pu Wrestler fan wants to know what's hidden inside those Mawashi belts."
"I dare you to."
"Soon, my love."
They kissed more passionately and deeply.
With little restraint offered by the cloth belt, she felt much of what was in store for her when they wed, and leaned in more closely to him to get the fullest effect.
About a year into their relationship, the summer before they wed later that year, things got more complex. While gathering wood pieces for his uncle, Sneers got hit in the head with a pebble.
"Psst. Sneers, over here," hissed a familiar voice.
Sneers could not believe who he say, "Smellerbee?"
She stood with Longshot behind her, and said, "The Freedom Fighters are back, Sneers."
"So where's Jet?"
"Sorry, Sneers, he didn't make it," admitted Smellerbee sadly.
"Oh. I'm sorry, guys," he said sullenly, and could not miss the fact that Longshot and Smellerbee were holding hands, and understood who was in charge now.
"Yeah, I know. But we still need you, Sneers."
"Didn't you hear, Smellerbee? The war is over."
"Sure it is. The Avatar and King Kuei are finally gonna get rid of the ash makers in our lands, but our leaders are gonna need our 'help' in getting all those flame throwers to leave."
"Yeah. I know all about the Harmony Restoration Movement," he said with doubt, remembering the strained conversations he'd been having lately with Kori about being forced to move back to the Fire Nation.
"It's not going be that easy. The older colonies don't want to give up their homes."
How well he knew that, but left it unsaid, "I'm not leaving to live in the woods again with you guys. I got it pretty good right now."
He was thinking of Kori rather than his nice room, but Smellerbee and Longshot didn't need to know that.
"We're not asking you to do that. You can help us from the inside. It's perfect! Will you help us with the fight?"
"Uh, I can still help. A little. I have a real job and real family now."
With a smack on his back, Smellerbee grabbed his hand and shook it, "Put 'er there, pal! Glad to have you back in the Freedom Fighters, Sneers. I know you are out here all the time. You are still the best scout we have. Give us a daily report of all the troops and ash maker leaders' movements. If they refuse to move, we'll be the first to make them move."
Sneers head was spinning with the complexities of 'spying' for the Freedom Fighters, "How do I find you?"
"We'll locate you. You're not hard to find."
He resented that implied insult. His family, his love, and her family didn't care. Why should anyone else? He started to think that maybe Smellerbee and her gang wasn't such a good fit for him now. As fast as they came, Smellerbee and Longshot silently vanished into the woods.
"Now what do I do?" he thought. He loved Kori, but he was friends with the Freedom Fighters, and maybe being rid of the Fire Nation soldiers and bureaucrats would be OK.
As long as Kori stayed with him. Sneers was saving his yuans for an engagement bracelet.
A couple of days later, Sneers stopped by for his weekly date with Kori to go get some fresh, hot mochi from the best barista in town.
Her mother greeted him with a sad face, "I'm sorry, Sneers. Kori had to go on a diplomatic mission for the Mayor to the Fire Nation capital. She'll only be gone a few days."
"OK, Mrs. Morishita," he said with a pout.
"You miss her, don't you dear?" she smiled.
"I do. Any time she's out of my sight I miss her, but out of the country. Wow…" he admitted.
"You're a nice boy, and you two are very good together. You know you have our blessings, Sneers."
Sneers blushed, "Thank you Mrs. Morishita. But you know I have to ask Mayor Morishita-san formally."
A sparkle came to her eye, "I'll be much happier when you can call us 'Mom and Dad' Morishita."
"Me, too," They smiled.
"Well if she's not here, I better go help my Uncle, Mrs M!"
They bowed and he headed home. He could hardly wait for Kori's return.
Little did Sneers know that three days later she'd return in chains - and in the custody of Fire Lord Zuko himself - at Kori's attempt at his life.