attackfish: Jet and Zuko fighting in the teashop, text "Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics" (Jet Juko TDL quote)
[personal profile] attackfish
These were written for the [livejournal.com profile] atlaland Work at Your Own Pace Seven Fanworks Challenge, where I chose Suki. Since I posted three of my fills as graphics (and the two wallpapers aren't set in the Firebender Suki universe) I'm only posting the artwork I made for this universe and the four one thousand word fics . The artwork is intended to be this universe's banner. All fics are 1000 words long and take place either before or during this AU's version of Book One, Water.


Firebender Suki in her Kyoshi uniform in Fire Nation colors


The Avatar Comes to Kyoshi | Fire Sifu Suki Meets Jeong Jeong | Out of Order | The Bright Burning Thing | Ty Lee on Kyoshi




Part One


A long time ago, her mother used to tell her, before there was a Firelord, or a Kyoshi Island, the Fire people had lived on a cluster of islands that themselves breathed fire. There were dragons everywhere on the islands, and when a dragon female was ready to lay her eggs, she would eat a huge meal of meat and fly away in search of an empty cave, deep in the side of a volcano. The people would follow, because the dragons were sacred, and every village wanted to live under a dragon's wings. One day, one of the female dragons took off and flew far to the south, away from the islands. The people crossed oceans to follow her, and their food and water had almost run out when she landed on the southern tip of the Earth Continent, far from any volcanoes. She made her nest high in the snowy hills that filled her newfound peninsula's interior, and the people who followed her made their homes along the beach. The dragon's eggs hatched, and her descendents have stayed on the peninsula, and then the island ever since, laying clutch after clutch in the caves just outside their village.

Sometimes, Suki could see them flying, chasing each other around the clouds.

The day she put on the red and gold uniform for the first time, her mother was gone, but her father wrapped her up in a hug, and pressed her to his chest. Suki wriggled away so that her facepaint wouldn't be smudged, but she kissed him, leaving a reddish lip mark on his cheek.

It was high summer, but the snow lingered on the ground, and she was grateful for the wool, silk, and leather of her uniform as she ascended the hills. There were no dragons flying overhead that day, and Suki scanned the sky nervously. Most girls came back down the same day or the next morning, but some had to stay up in the hills for days or even weeks, sitting by their bonfires until the dragons came out to dance with them. And a long wait was never a good sign. Suki didn't want to be one of them.

The other girls before her had carved stairs into the hills. Suki let her feet follow them. At the top, there was a wide clearing, ringed with pine trees. Ashes and black soot marks marked the places where other girls had built their fires before her. She took her foot off the last step standing on the soft earth and snow for a few moments, catching her breath, before the excitement and the anxiousness that had driven her up the hillside propelled her into the undergrowth to gather branches for her own bonfire. She pushed her own fire from her hand into the heart of her pile of branches, sat on the ground, and watched the sky grow dark.

Under the heat of the flames, she could feel the facepaint melting and sliding over her sweat-slicked skin. The fire dimmed under her power, and she gritted her teeth at her own weakness. She wanted the dragons to come, didn't she? The flames fell again. Furious with herself, she walked away from the fire, out into the cooler shadows. There were no scaly shapes in the darkness winging their way towards her and Suki felt her stomach tighten. She wasn't going to be one of those girls who had to wait out in the clearing for days and days. She was a strong firebender. She wouldn't stay away. And if they did, she was a good shot, she could catch them something...

On the horizon, there was a faint glow, and it was too late in the evening for it to be the setting sun. Floating on the hillside, she could see smoke winding its way upwards. Suki stared at it, open-mouthed with hope. She killed the fire with an abruptness so brutal it left her head reeling as she took off down the hillside in the cold and the summer snow.

At the bottom of the hill, her heart pounded and her breath came fast and shallow. The hillside in front of her, with the glow nearly at the top looked like one of the mountains in her mother's stories, the mighty volcanos on the Fire Nation islands, like it would take her forever to climb.

The ice crunched beneath her feet, and she kept kindling a flame in the palm of her hand so she could see where she was walking only to let it die again when it outshined the faint glow on the hillside. The facepaint felt frozen to her skin. Her breath condensed in front of her.

And she climbed higher.

The light grew brighter as she neared, and what had looked like flickering from below resolved into pulsating bursts of brightness. Suki crept close. The hillside opened up, the light pouring out of the mouth of a cave in soft, dark, cherry-rose red tongues of fire.

All ten of the island's dragons lay curled together, coiled around a mound of hatched eggs and four scrawny, bizarre-looking baby dragons. The cave sweltered with the heat of all ten dragon's breath.

The outer-most dragon turned her blue head and yellow eyes on Suki. She trembled. The dragon opened it's mouth. There were some girls who never came down at all. Suki shook and shook, and fire poured out of her hand, and the dragon sniffed her all over and moved out of the way.

Suki swallowed, and breathed a stream of fire into the cave. Surrounded by the scales and the shimmering heat, she sat awake until daybreak,watching the sun rise from behind a dragon's back.

The eggshells caught the morning light like pearls. She pulled one opened egg out as the baby dragons scuttled over her arm. If she could show the village- No. They would have to be content with the eggshell. Surely this was a good sign.

 

Part Two


He came out from behind the screen with his arrow disappearing under the facepaint. His legs were bowed with the weight of the armor. "You look good," she told him, biting her bottom lip to keep from laughing.

He shot her a faintly sulky look before smiling. "Thanks."

She swept her leg out into a horse stance, and the Avatar followed suit. "Before we begin, I want to tell you a little something about fire."

"Okay..."

She swallowed and steepled her fingers together. The silence hung in the air between them as she thought about how to say what she wanted to. "Fire is life. It's alive. It breathes with you."

He closed his eyes, and nodded.

"But life is dangerous, and if I catch you playing with this, I will burn off all of your fingers, okay?"

He jerked, startled, and lost his stance.

"So..." She drew the word out as he lowered himself back down, watching her warily. "The most important part of firebending is breath. You breathe in, and breathe out." The young Avatar obeyed, and Suki felt a little more sure of herself. "Feel the sunlight coming in through the window above you. The sun is the source of all life. It makes plants grow. Its rhythms wake you in the morning and send you to sleep at night. You take it in when you breathe, and you release it as fire.

"Okay." He breathed in through his nose. "I'm ready to try."

"What?" Suki stared. "No you're not."

He gazed at her blankly, lower lip quivering. "But I thought-"

A shadow fell over the room. "Hello ladies."

"Hey Sokka!" the Avatar's face broke into a grin, but he held his stance, and it was suddenly easier to imagine that he was just any other kid she was teaching, getting ready to meet the dragons.

The Water Tribe boy glanced at her. "Having fun with your dance lesson?"

Suki let her legs slide back together and her knees straighten. She walked over to the Avatar, and hooked her foot around his, sliding his legs wider, eyes on Sokka.

The Avatar grimaced, but kept his legs wide and his knees bent low. "Sokka!" He drew the syllables out in a groan.

"Does it look like we're dancing to you?" she snapped, striding up to him until her face was right next to his.

He put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her back. "Look, I was just looking for somewhere to get a little workout."

"Well." She smiled unkindly. "You came to the right place." Her face softened as she took off her gloves to crack her knuckles. "Sorry about yesterday. I didn't know you were here with the Avatar."

"It's all right," he said with a smug grin, swinging his arms and stretching his shoulders. "I mean, normally I'd hold a grudge, but seeing as you're a girl, I'll make an exception."

"I should hope so," she drawled. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Avatar open one eye to watch them. "A big strong man like you? I wouldn't stand a chance."

"True," he shrugged. "But don't feel bad, after all, I'm the best warrior in my village."

"Wow!" She leaned in. "Best warrior, huh? In your whole village? Maybe you'd be kind enough to teach me a little something."

"Well, if that's what you want, I'd be happy to." He flashed her a smile full of teeth. "Alright, you stand over there."

He pushed her backward, but she stood firm, and balanced.

He blinked, but tried to hide it. "This may be a little tough, but try to block me."

In one fluid motion, she drew her fan and blocked his punch with her forearm.

The Water Tribe boy rubbed his shoulder, and laughed anxiously, "good. Of course, I was going easy on you.

She nodded. "Of course."

"Let's see if you can handle this." The last word came out as a grunt, obvious and careless, and it was easy to sweep his leg out from under him. He scrambled to his feet. "That does it!" He lunged at her again, and she plucked his arm out of the air and spun him around like he was dancing as she tied his arm to his foot with is belt. He landed on the wooden floor with a satisfying bang.

She strode over to where he had landed and smiled down at him. "Anything else you want to teach me?"

"That's not fair," he yelped, staggering to one foot, trying to free himself. "You're a bender."

"I didn't bend at you!"

"Yeah, but you people have weird woo woo spirit stuff, and it just comes out, even wh-"

She rolled her eyes. "Alright, I'll call one of my girls over here who doesn't bend and watch her stomp you into the ground. You." She rounded the Avatar, who had a snigger hidden behind one hand. "Keep breathing."

~*~

"You make that uniform look good."

He glanced at her nervously. "I just feel so girly."

"This uniform has been worn by the girls who have defended this island for thousands of years," she smirked. "Do you see the Avatar complaining?"

Aang looked up sheepishly from where he stood with a fingernail-sized flame in each hand.

~*~

Suki drew her fan across her body, and the fire from the Firelord's son's blast followed. Each blast he sent her way just gave her more ammunition to send back at him, but he broke away when he saw the Avatar's bison flying past. Suki thrust herself forward and tackled him to the ground.

"You're just going to leave?" she shouted at them, standing on the prince's back.

"When we go, Zuko will leave Kyoshi and follow us," the Water Tribe girl shouted back.

The Avatar brought the bison low. "You can come too, I still need a firebending teacher."

Suki looked back at her girls, fighting bravely, and nodded, grabbing the hand Sokka held out for her.

 

Part Three


Her tunic was brown. Her skirt was a muddy yellow-green, clingy and narrow, too narrow to let her move. Her fans sat awkward and hard to reach in the leather belt Sokka had lent her. The uniform she had worn every day of her life since she had met the dragons was gone. Purposely put away to cloak her in Earth Kingdom anonymity. The skirt stuck to her legs and tripped her up as they walked.

And they wouldn't have to be walking if Sokka hadn't decided- "Why can't Appa carry everything?" she grumbled, "I mean, even if you're making us walk, we can still load everything in his saddle and let him carry it."

Sokka opened his mouth and held up his hand. And then he shut it again. "Okay, fine."

Katara stuck her tongue out at him as she scaled Appa's back and dumped their supplies into the saddle. "Maybe we should let Suki's instincts lead for a while."

Suki jabbed her thumb into Sokka's back. "Hey, my instincts say we should fly, so..."

"I know you all want to fly, but my instincts tell me we should play it safe this time and walk."

"Oh yeah, and your instincts are always the best ones," Katara shot back from the saddle.

"Look, Appa's just too noticeable."

"He is not," Aang yelped, wrapping his arms partway around Appa's huge neck.

Sokka smacked his face. "He's a gigantic fluffy monster with an arrow on his head! It's kinda hard to miss him!"

Aang stroked his bison's fur. "Sokka's just jealous 'cause he doesn't have an arrow."

"I don't want an arrow!" Sokka howled, waving his arms indignantly.

Sometimes, in a noisy crowd, there were moments when almost everybody went quiet at the same time, and one person's voice carried in the stillness. Suki felt like that when the trees broke and they were suddenly standing in the sunlight, and the Fire Nation soldiers camped out in the clearing turned to look at them.

She didn't know who lobbed the first fireball. It might have been her. She saw the insignias and the soldiers, and just started fighting. Fire was bad. Fire was the enemy. And her own fire crackled in her hands. She heard Sokka yelling at her to run, but then they were all fighting with her. That was always the way it was when she fought. Everything blurred together.

Things started to sharpen again when the stranger with the hooked swords and his friends dropped into the middle of the fight and took it over.

~*~

"I can't believe him!"

Suki rolled her eyes. "Sokka."

"Why do you think he's so great?" Sokka paced back and forth on the plank platform stuck into the tree. The wood bent and creaked under his weight and he flinched at each sound. I mean he flung you into the air too."

Suki dangled her feet over the edge of the platform and gazed down on the leaves below. She couldn't see the ground, and it felt like there was nothing but them and the leaves in the whole world. "No, you grabbed onto me after he flung you into the air."

Sokka put his hands on his hips. "Oh, so you're blaming me?" His voice rose with each word. "Those launchy pull yanky things of his are dangerous!"

"They got us up here, didn't they?" she snapped.

"Well yeah, but..." He huffed and sat down on the other side of the tree. "Could have killed us."

She didn't answer. You're just jealous, she wanted to say, because he's a real leader, and you're just playing pretend.

Looking at the rebels with their leader made her think about her girls. They were a band with a sacred trust. They had each other, and only each other. She could see them light up when Jet spoke, and it didn't matter if every time he talked, she wanted to stand up and tell him she was a firebender, that she was Kyoshi, and what were people like him going to do with people like her in the new world they imagined.

Her earth green clothes and silence when he asked if she was a bender weighed heavier than usual.

But he was a leader and Sokka was just jealous.

Besides, flying up into the tree tops on that thin, fragile piece of rope, rushing through the leaves and branches, even if Sokka had been squeezing the breath out of her, had been... Jet's rebels had to do that every day. She wondered if it ever got old, if it ever stopped feeling just wonderful.

~*~

She stared into Jet's eyes as he hung, pinned in ice. Angry tears ran down Katara's face, but Suki's anger made her fists clench and her lips pull back in a grimace. Sokka stood straight and proud next to her, and sometimes she wanted to pat him on the back before she smacked him.

"Stop acting so high and mighty." She poked Sokka in the ribs with her elbow. "I'm the one who got you out and took care of Longshot."

"Yeah, but I was right. My instincts-"

"If you say one more word about your instincts..." Suki trailed off, a flame flowing between her fingers like a ribbon.

Jet's eyes grew huge and his pupils shrank. "You're a firebender!"

"Yeah." She turned away from Sokka to face him. "And Katara's a waterbender, and you tried to murder children."

"The Avatar-"

"Is my student!" she hissed. "He's a firebender too." Her green clothes itched and weighed on her shoulders, and it felt like it was never going to be over, like she was never going to be able to go home, like everybody was her enemy, like someday, it was going to be easier for everybody else.'

 

Part Four


The ice buildings rising up from the glacier gleamed in the light like dragons' eyes. Suki's breath caught in her throat. "Is this what it's like where you're from?" she asked weakly, and Sokka shook his head soundlessly.

Katara gawked, twisting herself around and around in the saddle, an open mouthed smile stretching across her face. "I can't believe how many waterbenders live up here!"

"We'll find a master to teach us, no problem!" Aang grinned hugely at her.

Suki cupped her gloved hands over her mouth and breathed into them. Sokka's eyes narrowed onto the thin glowing lines between her fingers. "What are you doing?" he yelped.

"What?" she demanded, clenching her fists, trying to keep them warm.

He glanced back at the waterbenders all around them. "I just don't think you should be firebending while you're here."

"No one saw," she assured him a just a little resentfully. "I'll be careful."

"Oh hush, Sokka," Katara told him. After a few minutes, she breathed into the quiet, "This place is beautiful."

But Sokka wasn't paying attention, leaning over the side of the saddle, eyes misty as he watched a beautiful girl with white hair drift past in one of the canal boats.

Suki elbowed him in the stomach. "It's rude to stare."

~*~

Katara sank down onto the rug in the guest house. "How's warrior training going?"

When Sokka kicked his bag so furiously it flipped over, the rug jolted and Suki lost her grip on her needle. "Sokka!"

"That bad?" Aang asked sympathetically while Suki hunted for her needle in the thick fur.

"No, it's Princess Yue. I don't get it. One minute she wants to go out with me and the next she's telling me to get lost!" Sokka waved his hand in the air before letting it fall back to his side. When he spoke again, the words came out wooden and dripping with false nonchalance. "So how's waterbending training?"

Katara let herself fall forward onto her bedroll, her hood covering her head, instead of answering. The needle Suki had just found disappeared back into the rug, and she yanked off her glove to try to find it by feel. "Katara!"

Aang patted Katara's shoulder. "Master Poophead won't teach her because she's a girl."

"Ow!" She found the needle when it found the side of her finger. "That's stupid." She grabbed the needle in her other hand and pressed the cut to her mouth. "Aren't they afraid some woman's going to melt the whole place down by mistake?"

On Kyoshi, the men didn't learn to fight, but no one in their right mind kept an untrained firebender around.

Aang and Sokka shrugged and Katara groaned. "They let us girls learn to heal, like we're too delicate for real waterbending."

"Why don't you just teach her, Aang?" Sokka glanced over at his sister.

"Why didn't I think of that?" Katara shot to her feet. "At night, you can teach whatever moves you learned from Master Pakku. That way you have someone to practice with and I get to learn waterbending. Everyone's happy!"

"I'm not happy," Sokka informed her. Suki wasn't happy either, but she didn't feel the need to mention it.

"But you're never happy. Come on, Aang." The two of them left the guest house at a run, and Sokka made a sullen little huffing sound.

"Oh shut up." Her finger muffled the words, and she pulled it out of her mouth, heedless of the drops of blood running down from the needle scrape.

"What, I'm not allowed to be unhappy?"

"You can be unhappy all you want." She huddled in her borrowed parka and slid the needle through the fabric of her Earth Kingdom skirt, cut up and slowly becoming Earth Kingdom trousers, at last. "I just don't want to hear about it. And I don't want to hear about Yue either."

"You don't like Yue?" His voice rose until he was almost yelling.

"I'm sure she's perfectly nice," she shot back. "I should probably warn her about you."

"Warn her about-" he stuttered, standing up and walking to the door. "Wha- aww."

~*~

She followed him out the door and watched him leave to meet up with the princess again, but one he was out of sight, she headed down towards the canals. The ice shimmered under the moonlight, and the air was so cold it froze her breath before it could leave her body. It was so cold she couldn't make herself care that someone might see when she blew a thin stream of fire into the air. The sparks bobbed in the air in front of her. It was strange. She always imagined that the furthest north place in the world would be hot, like the heart of a flame.

She thought longingly of the gloves left back in the guest house as she passed under the bridges bridges turned down alleyways, between the shadows of ice buildings. Holding her hands close to her chest, she kindled a flame between them, shielding it from the night winds.

"My men told me they saw you firebending."

The fire in her hands split in two to lick at her fists as she spun around, body falling into a fighting stance without her needing to think about it.

The Water Tribe chief held his hands up soothingly until the fires died and she let her hands fall to her side. He smiled at her, but Suki didn't relax. "They seemed to be under the impression that you were some sort of spy."

"I'm the Avatar's firebending Master," she said stiffly. "No Firelord has ever ruled Kyoshi Island."

He nodded. "I thought you must be. It will be good to see balance return to your kind.

She stared ahead, past him. "Yes."

"It's a shame that the world is robbing you of your girlhood, though." He put a hand around her shoulder.

She shrugged it off. If she were home, she would be leading her island to war.


Date: 2011-08-02 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavanyasix.livejournal.com
I love this 'verse.

So I guess Kyoshi Island still has the odd earthbender born there, otherwise Kyoshi herself would be hard to explain. I wonder how those benders are treated in a very fire/dragon-centric culture. If you ever do another prompt meme, I'll have to ask for an AU of this AU where Suki's an earthbender. :)

I liked how you nodded to Suki's big PRIDE button in Part 3, when she must remind Sokka that, yes, while he was right about Jet he still had to be saved from Longshot by her so be quiet about it already. That pride's also very much her shield in Part 4, which is a good show of the flip side of her berserker button. It turns a character tic into real characterization.

Date: 2011-08-02 05:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
I actually have to write a fic with her training Aang that explains Kyoshi being the Earth Avatar. I have an explanation, but I never can find a place to fit it in, but earthbenders are not born on Kyoshi island.

I love that aspect of Suki's personality, because it leads her to act in silly ways, (like when she tells Sokka she fell on purpose to make him feel better) that i just wanted to do something with it. (It's also a strong aspect of my own personality). The fourth one, I call the "Suki won't admit she likes the clueless Sokka" fic.

Date: 2011-08-02 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavanyasix.livejournal.com
I also liked the origin story of the villagers following the migrating dragons. It was a neat answer to why there's this group of firebenders living so far afield.

Do Kyoshi Island and the Fire Nation have a kind of quid pro quo going on? The islanders don't kick up any fuss abroad and in return Firelord treats them like a Taiwan; officially they're part of the Fire Nation but in practice they're fully independent, not having to contribute troops to the war?

Date: 2011-08-02 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
You know, when I started this for [livejournal.com profile] clockwerkchaos's prompt, it was just supposed to be a one off, and I didn't have all those things planned out. I'm playing catch up.

The Fire Nation doesn't know that Kyoshi is full of Firebenders. They had been living on the peninsula for so long, and they had kept to themselves so well, that everybody had forgotten they existed until Kyoshi, but then she was an Earth Avatar, so... but now that Zuko has landed there, and Suki has left the island, the Fire Nation knows about them.

Date: 2011-08-02 10:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavanyasix.livejournal.com
I've been there, like with my Uncle Zuko drabble. It's the trouble with *Soufflé AUs that prove popular. Everyone starts asking lots of questions and then the tasty AU threatens to implode from the noise.

* Soufflé AUs are what I call cool looking but fragile stories. Too many fridge logic questions make them pop, so the trick is to make them so pretty that nobody thinks about that fridge logic.

Date: 2011-08-02 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
I usually leave questions on that kind of thing unanswered until i can think of a really good one and then I pretend like that's been my answer all along. It took me a little while to think of an answer for Kyoshi's Earth Avatarness, and now that I have one, I keep waiting to stick it somewhere.

The worst is when you answer questions, and five minutes later think of a better, cooler answer.

Date: 2011-09-30 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morkhan.livejournal.com
...huh. I really, really like this. To think that such an awesome plot bunny could come from Sokka's terrible drawing skills. XD

This is just one of my favorite kinds of AUs. Where you go back to the beginning (or close to it, anyway) and change one thing, and then just let ripples flow. Sometimes everything is shifted. Sometimes not very much at all. But done well, the journey is always interesting. I loved the dragons, and the migration (a quirk of genetics favoring a colder climate?). I also love that Suki has to hide who she is. I might be a horrible person for saying this, but I really hope the Korra series has a bit of firebender discrimination going on. Only 70 years after a century of war, in a world of exceptionally long-lived people... I'd imagine the wounds are still painful, and that letting go is not easy. It'd make sense for their to be grudges, and grudges are, unfortunately, often passed down through generations...

Sorry, little off-topic there. ^_^;; But yes, this was very compelling.

Date: 2011-09-30 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] attackfish.livejournal.com
Because Sokka is right, Firebending Suki is awesome.

In y head, dragons just like hanging out on volcanic islands, any volcanic islands, deep in the mountain where it's warm, and the home island for these guys got a little too crowded.

I think Byrke are letting the world have its hands full with prejudice against benders, but it would be really cool for them o do some kind of multilayered prejudice.

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