Author’s note: In which the author struggling not to make an InuYasha reference, there are arts & crafts and shopping and Sokka gets a cool new toy.
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A rain of meteorites is something rare and therefore something unique. To have the chance to watch one during night time, especially with as busy a schedule as the gaang had, is definitely an occasion.
“This is amazing to watch,” Katara whispered her eyes glued to the night sky. Everyone was lying on their backs, staring upwards.
“Wow,” Katara said under her breath, snuggling closer to Zuko.
“Kind of makes you realize how insignificant we are,” Sokka added. He had taken to ignoring the fact that his baby sister had a boyfriend and that boyfriend was Zuko. Of course that happened after Katara tactfully told him that she would waterbend him to the South Pole and back if he tried to meddle.
Toph shrugged unimpressed.
“Eh, you’ve seen nothing once; you’ve seen it 1,000 times,” she said carelessly. A light flashed at the sky and a meteorite sprinted through the atmosphere. Everyone except Toph sat up.
“Oh, man,” Sokka whistled. “You’ve never not seen anything like this.” They watched as the meteorite grew bigger, until it crashed in the distance. The sound of the explosion sent everyone to their feet. They rushed on Appa and flew near the crater.
“Look!” Lia suddenly exclaimed. There was a small city nearby.
“The fire is gonna destroy that town!” Katara said worried.
“Not if we can stop it,” Aang decided.
They landed as close to the fire as they dared and everyone but Katara jumped off.
“There’s a creek over here. I’ll bend the water on to the fire,” she explained and took off. Aang turned to his earthbending teacher.
“Toph, let’s make a trench to keep the fire from coming any closer.” She nodded and they followed Zuko and Lia who were already putting out the fire with their bending.
“What should I do?” Sokka called after them disappointed. Aang turned unsure. Then with a sudden inspiration.
“Keep an eye on Momo!” Momo landed on his head.
“So what, I’m just a lemur-sitter?” Sokka whined. Mom chirped unhappily and Sokka petted him. “There, there. Feel better?”
Aang and Toph wasted no time in making a trench between the meteorite and the fire. Zuko and Lia remained inside the trench, staying as close as they dared to the flames, subduing them with firebending. Katara flew to the creek and half-emptied it with her waterbending. Controlling the orb over her head she sprayed the fire under Sokka’s wistful look. A few embers flew to his direction and he frantically put one out. He turned for the next one, to see that Momo had put all the other out. Sokka slumped to the ground again. Toph bended the earth to cover a line of fire, while Aang waterbended Katara’s supply near him.
“Sokka, stand clear.” He called over his shoulder, concentrating on his bending. Sokka stood up and walked away slowly.
“Right, stand clear. Got it.” Before he could move fast enough, Aang turned the water into snow and sprayed it on the fire, extinguishing it. Sokka got buried under the snow. Without noticing it Aang dusted his hands off.
“Good work, everybody!” he praised his friends.
The next morning they decided to visit the small town. Fearing that someone might see Appa they left him at their camp with Momo and walked the whole way. They arrived by midday and, after Toph’s demand, went straight to a small restaurant. They ordered their food; Katara was very thankful that Zuko explained them what some of the weirder foods were. Aang looked around.
“These people have no idea how close they were to getting toasted last night,” he said thoughtfully. Toph nodded from his side.
“Yeah, the worst thing about being in disguise is we don’t get the hero worship anymore. I miss the love.” Lia rolled her eyes.
“Boo-hoo, poor heroes,” Sokka called from the side of the veranda, where he was sitting with his feet dangling and his back turned to his friends.
“What’s your problem? You haven’t even touched your smoked sea slug,” Katara said worried.
“It’s just…all you guys can do this awesome bending stuff like putting out forest fires, and flying around, and making other stuff fly around. I can’t fly around, ok? I can’t do anything,” Sokka explained depressingly.
“That’s not true. No one can read a map like you,” Katara exclaimed.
“I can’t read at all,” Toph offered.
“Yeah, and who keeps us laughing with sarcastic comments all the time? I mean, look at Katara’s hair, right?” Aang grabbed one of Katara’s braids. “What’s up with that?” he asked. Katara took her hair back nervously.
“What? What’s wrong with my hair?” she asked. Zuko rolled his eyes and wrapped an arm on her waist.
“Nothing. Aang is simply useless at making jokes,” he said.
“Says Gloomy-Face!” Toph said sarcastically. The prince glared at her. Sokka sighed.
“Look, I appreciate the effort, but the fact is each of you is so amazing and so special, and I’m not. I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” Katara walked up and sat next to him.
“I’m sorry you’re feeling so down, but I hope you know none of us see you that way.” With a sudden inspiration she smiled at him. “I know something that’s gonna make you feel better.”
“You do?” Sokka asked uninterested.
His sister nodded and as soon as they finished their meal, she dragged everyone to a nearby building. Sokka’s eyes doubled in size when he spied the variety of weapons inside.
“Shopping!” he cried, clapping his hands in glee. He ran forward, jumping from weapon to weapon while the others scattered around the room.
“Maybe a little something to reinvigorate my battling,” Sokka muttered to himself, trying item after item. Toph and Lia wandered together mostly bored. Zuko went straight to the swords. Katara was trying on some gloves when Aang called her. She turned to face him and widened her eyes.
“What do you think?” the airbender asked. He was wearing a huge armour shinning from the light coming from the door. “Pretty slick, huh? All I need to complete the outfit is a wind sword.” Katara’s eyes widened.
“What’s a wind sword?” she asked confused. She had thought that the Air Nomads were peaceful.
“It’s where I get a sword handle. And then I just swing this around and bend air out like a blade,” Aang explained excited.
“Yeah…nice,” the waterbender agreed hesitantly. Aang gave her a dazzling smile when the armour – too heavy for him – started teetering. Katara made a move to catch him but he crashed to the floor.
“I’ll just stick to what I got,” he said weakly.
Sokka had moved from disappointment to disappointment through the different weapons on the shop. He noticed Zuko still examining the swords and walked up there. His eyes widened.
“That’s what Sokka’s talking about,” he said satisfied.
“You have a good eye,” the shop keeper commented as everyone gathered near them. “That’s an original from Piandao, the greatest sword master and sword maker in Fire Nation history. He lives in the big castle up the road from here.” Zuko’s eyes widened when he heard the famous name.
“That’s it. That’s what you needed all along, Sokka,” Aang said with a sudden inspiration.
“A sword?” the Water Tribe warrior asked confused.
“Not the sword…a master,” Lia said catching on. “All of us, me included, had people to help us get better. You should see if you can study with Piandao.”
“That’s a great idea. I could’ve never gotten to where I am without Master Pakku. Everyone needs a teacher,” Katara admitted.
“I learned from badger moles,” Toph shrugged. “They don’t talk, but they’re still good teachers.” Sokka looked at the sword thoughtfully.
“It would be nice to be a master swordfighter,” he said. “All right, I’ll talk to him.”
With Sokka gone everything was quiet at the little camp. Bored and a little sleepy Aang looked at the others, sprawled to the ground lazily.
“What should we do today?” he asked reluctantly.
“I’m tapped out. I already picked my toes, twice,” Toph said bored.
“Twice?” Zuko questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“The first time was for cleaning, but the second time’s just for the sweet picking sensation,” Toph explained, oblivious to the disgusted looks the others shared.
“Sokka’s been in charge of the schedule. I’m not sure what we should be doing,” Katara admitted. Lia sniggered a little, opening one eye.
“Never thought I’d heard that from you.”
“Plus, it’s so hot today!” Toph groaned.
“How hot is it?” Aang asked her expectantly.
“I don’t know,” She shrugged. “Real hot.”
“It’s so hot, it’s so hot…Momo is shedding like Appa,” Katara tried to make a joke out of it. Only Zuko sent her a soft smile.
“I guess the jokes don’t run in the family,” Aang sighed. Katara crossed her arms.
“Oh, everyone’s a critic.”
The silence that followed didn’t last for long. Lia jumped to her feet, having decided that she was bored long enough. She looked at the half-way asleep teens.
“We could always train, you know,” she pointed out.
“Nah!” Aang and Toph said at the same time. “Too hot.” Katara had fallen asleep already so Zuko was the only one left. Noticing his mentor’s expectant look he sighed and stood up. With a glare to the Avatar he followed the Spirit a little further.
“You so owe me one,” he hissed at the airbender as he passed him.
At sunset he and Lia returned, Zuko sporting a small burn in his arm. As soon as Katara saw it, she abandoned her cooking and rushed to his side. Zuko closed his eyes as the cooling sensation of a healing relaxed him. The waterbender glared at the Fire Spirit.
“Couldn’t you have been more careful?” she snapped. Lia raised her eyebrow.
“It’s firebending practise,” She said walking away. “Someone is bound to get burnt.” Picking up her bag she climbed on Appa’s saddle and took out her parchments.
“I think she’s more stressed about the invasion than we are,” Zuko told softly his girlfriend. “She wasn’t really going hard on me but that was because her mind was elsewhere. I think that she knows something and she doesn’t tell us.”
“She’s never absent-minded enough to burn you during practise,” Katara pointed out as they walked near the fire again. Zuko smiled sheepishly.
“That was my fault,” he admitted. “I didn’t block properly.” Katara sighed and leaned against him as she stirred the stew with her bending. An over-exaggerated cough was heard behind them.
“Excuse us lovey-dovies but we’re hungry,” Toph said, earthbending them apart and sitting between them. “What’s for dinner?” The two older teens glared at her. Aang saw it and decided to play peacemaker. He quickly served two bowls and turned to the earthbender.
“I’ve served for both of us Toph. Why don’t you come and sit with me?” his eyes widened when he realised what he had said. Both he and Toph turned redder than their clothes.
“If you really want this Twinkle-Toes,” Toph said dramatically to cover her embarrassment, “I’ll humour you.” She sat next to him and soon they were too absorbed into their conversation to notice the satisfied looks Katara and Zuko exchanged.
The next morning Katara insisted on taking out Sokka’s maps to figure out at least where were they.
“So where are we going next?” she wondered out loud. She picked a random island. “We’re starting from here.” Aang shook his head.
“No, we’re over on this island.” He pointed a place far from Katara’s. Toph “looked” at the sky frustrated.
“You noodle-brains don’t know what you’re doing. I miss Sokka,” she whined the last part. Katara suddenly smiled triumphantly.
“Ooh, I got one. If you miss him so much, why don’t you marry him?” she grinned hopefully at Toph and Aang. The earthbender rolled to her side to face away from Katara. Sensing Zuko and Lia returning from their practice she pointed at their general direction.
“Just… go make out with your boyfriend…” she mumbled-ordered. Huffing Katara marched up at them and dragged Zuko away, ignoring his yelp of surprise.
Lia sat next to Aang.
“Another lame joke?” she guessed. Aang nodded, looking very disheartened. Toph must have felt his vibrations so she yelled after Katara.
“And I don’t have a crush of Snoozles!”
“Who do you have a crush on then?” Lia asked teasingly. “We’re running low on boys to choose for you.” Blushing, Toph stormed away. Aang ran after her immediately. With a short laugh Lia tidied the camp before lying down to enjoy the sun and quiet.
Early in the afternoon, she was still alone on camp when Sokka’s figure appeared approaching from the distance. Sitting up hurriedly she yelled.
“Come out, come out everyone! Sokka’s back!”
Aang and Toph appeared first, covered in dust. Apparently they had been earthbending. Zuko and Katara came hand in hand from another direction, flushed and Zuko looking very annoyed.
“Hey, guys. What are you doing?” Sokka called as soon as he was close enough. Aang, Katara and Toph tackled him into a hug.
“We missed you so much!” Katara exclaimed.
“Say something funny!” Aang asked eagerly.
“Funny how?” the Water Tribe boy said confused. Nevertheless his three friends laughed heartily. Alarmed he turned to the firebending siblings. “What’s their deal?” Lia shrugged.
“They missed you or something. I’m going to miss the peace and quiet now,” she said.
“Thanks. That warms my heart,” Sokka said sarcastically. Turning to the others he smiled again. “Anyway, I need some help.”
He told them of his lessons with Piandao and of his current problem.
“You want to make the sword out of the meteorite?” Zuko asked sceptically.
“Master Piandao said I could use a something special,” Sokka insisted indignantly. Why not a meteorite?”
“This thing is huge Sokka.” Aang said hesitantly. “It’s going to take some serious bending to move it and…”
“Hello!” Toph called, waving her arms. “Best earthbender in the world!”
“…and we need to be discreet,” Aang finished. Toph huffed.
“I can be discreet if I want to.”
After some talking Toph and Sokka convinced the rest of them. They ended up pushing the meteorite uphill to Piandao’s estate, while Toph came last and pushed it forward with her earthbending, smiling smugly. Sokka rushed to the door and knocked enthusiastically. Piandao opened almost immediately. Spying the group of teens he asked his student.
“Oh, these are my friends. Just other good Fire Nation folks,” Sokka hurried to assure him. Piandao bowed to them slightly and they bowed back. Turning at the meteorite Sokka asked. “Do you think we can make a sword out of a meteorite?” The sword master laid a hand on its surface, examining it.
“We’ll make a sword unlike any other in the world,” he finally declared.
Sokka slaved over the fires for the entire night, declining everyone’s help. With Piandao’s guidance he crafted a sleek, black blade. Zuko felt a pang of jealousy looking at it and then at his own battered Duos. In the morning they gathered inside the mansion. Sokka knelt in front of his master, as Piandao took the new sword in his hands.
“Sokka, when you first arrived, you were so unsure. You even seemed down on yourself. But I saw something in you right away. I saw a heart as strong as a lion turtle, and twice as big. And as we trained, it wasn’t your skills that impressed me.” He smiled lightly. “No, it certainly wasn’t your skills. You showed something beyond that. Creativity, versatility, intelligence…these are the traits that define a great swordsman. And these are the traits that define you.” He knelt in front of Sokka and gave him the sword. “You told me you didn’t know if you were worthy, but I believe that you are more worthy than any man I have ever trained.” Sokka looked at the weapon in his hands and hung his head.
“I’m sorry, Master. You’re wrong. I am not worthy. I’m not who you think I am. I’m not from the Fire Nation. I’m from the Southern Water Tribe.” The gang behind him exchanged worried looks. Sokka continued talking. “I lied so that I could learn swordsmanship from you. I’m sorry.” Piandao turned to the other side.
“I’m sorry too,” he said gravely, before swinging his sword at Sokka.
Piandao spun and moved to attack Sokka. The gang jumped on their feet, ready to join the fight, but Sokka raised his hand.
“No, this is my fight, alone.”
Lia thought she caught a glim of pride on Piandao’s eyes, but when she looked again it was gone. As the two warriors took the fight out on the garden, the gang gathered on the balcony, where they could watch. They collectively winced at a few close calls as the duel drew to an end, with Sokka on the ground and Piandao’s sword over him. They immediately jumped behind Piandao but before they could attack him, he sheathed his sword.
“Excellent work Sokka,” he praised the winded boy. Sensing them behind him, he turned on their direction and smiled friendlily at Aang. “I think I’m a little old to be fighting the Avatar,” he said wryly.
The kids looked at him surprised.
“How did you know?” Aang asked astonished. Piandao shrugged.
“Oh, I’ve been around a while. You pick things up. Of course, I knew from the beginning that Sokka was Water Tribe. You might want to think of a better Fire Nation cover name,” he told the boy. “Try ‘Lee.’ There’s a million ‘Lees’.” Zuko let a small snort. Katara was still weary.
“But why would you agree to train someone from the Water Tribe?” she asked the older man.
“The way of the sword doesn’t belong to any one nation. Knowledge of the arts belongs to us all.” He picked Sokka’s sword from the ground and gave it back to him. “Sokka, you must continue your training on your own. If you stay on this path, I know that one day you will become an even greater master than I am.” He bowed at Sokka, who bowed back.
As they were leaving the mansion, they heard someone calling them.
“Wait!” they turned to see Piandao’s butler. “The Master wanted you to have this, as something to remember him by.” He gave Sokka a small bag. The children gathered around him curiously. Sokka opened the bag to reveal a Lotus tile.
“It’s a Pai Sho tile!” he said surprised.
“It’s the white lotus,” Zuko explained. “It was uncle’s favourite.”
“What does it mean?” Katara asked confused.
“No idea,” Sokka said. Behind them they heard the doors to the mansion closing. They turned to see a white lotus decorating them. Sokka jumped slightly.
“Ooh, that reminds me. Toph, I thought you might like this since you’ve probably never had a chance to bend space earth before.” He gave the girl a small piece from the meteorite. Toph’s eyes widened in delight as she bended the material.
“Sweet! Check this out!” She formed a bracelet and put it on.
“You know, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘space earth’. If it’s from space, then it’s not really ‘earth’,” Katara said thoughtfully.
“Must you ruin everything?” her brother whined. Katara sighed.
“I can’t believe I missed you!”