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Benders in the Family

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Little fire deep inside why could you not be blue?

Why could you not be cold and calm like twisting oceans’ hues?

Alas, little light inside my chest, swelling and so warm,

You cannot deny yourself for fire’s always red.

The Fire Nation was coming to their little village and he had to be ready. So Sokka started to mix the war paint for his face. He was the only male that could defend the village. He had to fight. He had to. Otherwise, the fire-benders would kill and rape anyone they wanted to.

And yet, a small part of him found he wasn’t as upset about the rape part as the water tribesman in him was telling him to be, because then, there was a chance, if a child was born, he could share his secret with someone besides his father.

Wincing, he quickly hated himself for having the thought, especially when he imagined Katara’s belly becoming round with an unwanted baby.

No, he had to bear his burden alone … and yet he couldn’t completely smother the excitement that bubbled in his stomach, warm like a small sun.

He was actually going to get to see a fire-bender, get to see life be brought to fire and openly revealed, not hidden and smothered like he was used to. Yes, he always told everyone in the village that he didn’t care for benders, that it was magic and unearthly, but what else was he to say to keep eyes away from him?

Not all benders were gifts in the village.

His father, after having yelled at him and telling him to never ever do that again, had to reluctantly tell him why his gift wasn’t a gift like his little sister’s bending.

It had happened to his father’s mother, Kanna. Hakoda had murmured that they both should be glad … that they took after his mother's looks though both of them had thin faces and pronounced jaws like their grandfather. Not the grandfather that took Sokka fishing for the first time … the one no one told the village about. Kanna had kept her secret well and married quickly.

Sokka had wanted to hate her for not smothering his father in his crib, for allowing him to be this way, but Hakoda had looked and acted normally like a good water tribesman so why would she have?

He was not, though. He was not a good water tribesman. He was a bane; a dirty secret. He had to believe that bending was just magic so it would not eat at him, so the little fire under his stomach would not remind him that it was … a part of his soul.

The fires in his stomach blazed for a moment as if they knew that he had just thought of them and the teenager had to place a hand on his stomach, feeling a little inner fire blaze and beg to be released if only for a moment. Perhaps he had to cook something or light a candle when no one was looking. Anything, anything!

Gritting his teeth as he pressed against his stomach as hard as he could, Sokka pushed the feeling down and back into a cool dormant flicker though he knew that he shouldn’t have done that. He should have pretended to kindle the fire a little more or heated his water skin so that he could have a warm drink, warmed his hands a little as they shook, but he couldn’t. The shame was too great.

His father’s voice echoed in his head as he pushed his inner ability down: you will go mad.

Sokka closed his eyes and struggled to not be afraid of his inevitable fate. Benders who denied their bending always went mad and died slow horrible deaths. Sokka, not wanting to burden anyone with this fate or the knowledge of what he really was, had made a vow years ago … one day, when he started to slip, he would go to the ice flows and not return.

No one need know the secret shame of his grandmother Kanna and why she had really left the North Pole.

Letting go of his stomach, feeling a dull ache in his soul, Sokka promised himself that he would hold on just a little longer. That he would keep the madness at bay … at least until the men returned to the village. Then he could go. Then he could die an honorable death like a real water tribesman. Perhaps that was why he was not afraid right now. Why he was so gladly prepping to defend the village even though he was just one teenager.

If he died, at least no one need know what he really was … and if he didn’t die … at least he would get to see a real trained fire-bender. He could see real fire-bending. He could see the katas they used and how they controlled it and maybe … just maybe he wouldn’t go mad with just the sight of fire released freely.

Perhaps just seeing it would sooth the sun in his belly, the blistering heat under his skin.

Possibly, he could even memorize one kata and in the wilderness as he hunted alone … he could practice, just once. He could practice just a little and strive off the madness. Maybe he could live a semi-decent life even with his burden.

Maybe, he didn’t need to be ashamed of who his genetic grandfather really was.

And yet, his face growing sullen, he slowly painted his face in war paint, hiding his features in gray and white. He knew better than to have these thoughts, to allow the fire in his belly to have any hope. He needed to hide that part of himself … and he hoped that war paint and sarcasm would be enough. He secretly prayed that it would be enough to hide the shameful little fire-bender deep inside him.