DISCLAIMER: I do not own Avatar the last Airbender, and any of its various characters, creatures, and concepts.
WARNINGS: Rated M for coarse language, violence, and adult themes.
The Board is Set...
Colors had always been difficult for Toph, for obvious reasons.
She had been born blind, and never fully understood the concepts of light and darkness, color, writing, pictures.
Her mother and father were almost too careful with her; never letting her out late, keeping her life as much in check as they could, always to protect their 'sweet little blind daughter'. She had to admit, she played the part well. They never knew the true her, couldn't guess that she was a member of the Earth Kingdom, a powerful gang in their area of the city.
She couldn't do much for her fellows, because of her blindness, but she could smuggle contraband better than anyone, and who would suspect a rich little blind girl, anyway? Definitely not her parents, and definitely not the police.
The only people who were smart enough and knew her true nature well enough to suspect her were the Fire Nation and Water Tribe's members.
Her difficulty with colors was one reason why she always had someone with her to protect her; she couldn't see the colors a person was wearing and couldn't know if they were a potential threat.
That's why today, she had another girl assigned to protect her.
She could hear Suki's steady, sure-footed steps beside her as they walked to school. She had bargained with her parents to let her walk to school, and used that time to transport goods and meet up with the other members of the Earth Kingdom. With Suki along, they were more than safe enough; Toph was surprisingly adept at close hand combat, and Suki was fantastic.
"The light's green." Suki said, placing a hand softly on Toph's shoulder to tell her to stop at an intersection.
Toph stopped, half wanting to chastise Suki for not knowing that she could figure something like that out for herself, but decided not to. Suki's intentions had been good, and Suki almost never treated Toph differently than other people.
Toph perked at Suki's comment, confused.
"I saw a guy in orange just now."
"Orange and yellow were the Air Nomads' colors."
"Well, it's prolly a neutral color by now. How long's it been? Six years?"
"I guess. I just haven't seen anyone in orange for a really long time is all."
Toph made an affirmative sound.
"So how are you and Jet doing?" Suki asked all-too-casually.
Toph suppressed a groan. "I don't want to talk about it."
She and her boyfriend were a less-than-perfect match. He had been great before they had started dating, but now... he was over possessive and over protective.
If there was anything that Toph really hated, it was being smothered, and he was smothering her.
"If it's going south that fast, you really should end it."
Suki wasn't a very big fan of Jet's, and never had been. She currently didn't show any interest in anyone, though Haru was busy chasing her. Toph always suspected that she might secretly like a non-gangmember and just didn't want him to get involved because he very well might get hurt. People tended to date within their particular gang for reasons like those.
Finally, they arrived at school. Toph could hear the people talking, lockers opening and closing, sneakers squeaking on the waxed floors, and the bikes pulling in. She could smell the cafeteria slop being prepared long before lunchtime, the perfumes and colognes the students wore, and, as they passed a boy's bathroom, several other... notably unpleasant odors.
Toph's hearing was quite sharp from going to a public school instead of the Institute for Blind Youth. She almost shuddered at the thought of that place. She had begged and begged her parents to let her go, and they did, but she had less freedom than other students.
Not that something so trivial could stop her.
She was so well-practiced, she could determine exactly where a person was in relation to her and how fast they were moving from their footsteps, allowing her to navigate through crowds. She also could tell her friends apart from the sound for their footsteps, though that trick was much less vital.
She heard Suki's footsteps falter.
"The guy in orange is here." she said in a quick whisper.
"What about it?" Toph said, not bothering to keep her voice down.
"He has the tattoos."
Now Toph was interested. She had never been able to fully grasp the concept of tattoos, the only explanation given to her being 'a picture on a person's skin', but she did know that the Air Nomads had the largest and most elaborate tattoos of the city, legendary in their own right.
Then, she heard the footsteps. They were light and airy, almost too airy to really be there. They were small enough to belong to a young girl, but spaced far enough that they would have to belong to someone too tall to be female.
These were the first that se had heard of their kind, and she was intrigued. But that was unimportant. She shook the feeling off and listened as the footsteps came beside her, then continued down the hall at the same steady pace.
She realized that the conversation had quieted as the stranger had walked past, and now filled out into the same dull roar that it had been before.
"Damn," Suki said, "this is sure as hell gonna be interesting."
Toph couldn't help but agree.
Aang's chakras were anything but open at the moment.
In the city where he and Pathik had been hiding out, he'd been able to keep his chakras in order, but back in this city, in these same streets where he had once walked with his parents, Gyotso... his slice of inner piece had vanished and been replaced with a pounding headache.
His bad mood had only worsened when he walked down the main hall of school and had been stared at by every student, minus one girl who he was certain was blind by the cane she was holding.
Now, he had been stared at pretty much anywhere he went in the other city, but that was because he was tattooed and wore a garishly orange sweatshirt all the time. Here, the people wearing colors of the gangs that slaughtered his family and nearly killed him were staring at him in disbelief, as if thinking, we didn't finish the job?!
Presently, the he was waiting outside the attendance office for his schedule, fuming. He could just hear Pathik's voice inside his head, telling him to calm down, to let go of his wrath before it destroyed his soul or something like that.
"...Ugh." He was not having a very good day.
"Aang?" a miscellaneous secretary called, and he got up and wandered into the attendance office. The woman gawked for a second before picking up her jaw and stiffly handing him the schedule.
"Thanks." he said automatically, leaving the office without another word. Joy. History, first period. Exactly what he needed.
He folded the schedule, put it into his pocket, and left to find his classroom, not wanting to spend the rest of the morning loose in the school with all of his... classmates.
After a moment of searching, he found his first class, just as the bell rang.
He thanked his luck as the teacher arrived early enough for him to sort out his affairs with the man and be pointed to a seat before too many other students arrived. He honestly wasn't antisocial, it was just... he hadn't seen a single person in neutral colors yet, and...
Just thinking about it nearly made his hands shake with rage. They had killed his family. Slaughtered them... and nearly killed himself and Pathik in the process.
Another groan escaped his lips and he smacked his forehead to his new desk with a satisfying 'THWAK'. Leaving his head there for a moment, he watched the other students as they filed into the room, instantly noticing the blind girl and, a few students later, a boy with a nasty facial scar.
A few nondescript students after him, someone much more interesting walked through the door. Long dark brown hair, willowy, huge blue eyes.
He perked up for a half of an instant before he noticed that she was wearing blue. As beautiful as she was, she was definitely an enemy.
He nearly sighed when he saw someone much more interesting walk through the door. Frizzy hair, buck teeth, obnoxiously pink sweater.
Pink was a neutral color.
Then, to his shock and complete luck, she seemed to spot his clothes and scurried over to him, taking the desk beside his. There was a definite curious light in her eyes, though she seemed too shy to express it.
He reached down to his bag to pull out a piece of paper, meaning to slip her a note asking to talk at lunch, when his hand met fur.
Said furry mass poked a chocolate face out, purring loudly. The girl stared openly, shocked.
"Momo, I told you you had to stay with Pathik..." he hissed at the purring siamese, who, despite his great intelligence, never seemed to understand the concept of not being with Aang at every given moment.
Momo just blinked up at him, furry little kittyface as innocent as always.
"Momo- paper and pencil."
The cat scurried around for a moment, then the head popped up with both objects in his mouth.
Aang took the items, then pushed Momo's head down and zipped the bag.
Luckily, the teacher haden't noticed, and none of the students seemed to be jumping to tattle on him. The girl was still watching him as he scribbled on the paper, simply, 'I'm Aang.'
He passed the paper to her, and she read it quickly before writing, her handwriting girly with the i's dotted with tiny hearts, 'I'm Meng. Are you an Air Nomad?'
'Yes. Can I sit with you at lunch?'
She seemed to hesitate for a moment before writing, with a trace of a blush, 'Sure.'
Reading her last reply, a ghost of a smile appeared on his face. Maybe he'd have a chance here, after all.
Katara was not having a good day in the slightest. First, she had woken up with a pounding headache for no reason other than God deciding to torment her today. Then, her toast burned and her brother ditched her instead of giving her a ride to school. Next, she had run into her absolute favorite person (Azula) and she now had the beginnings of a massive bruise on her face. And finally, she had gotten to class late enough that she wouldn't have time to do her homework before it was time to turn it in.
Despite her bad mood, however, she saw something completely unexpected.
A boy with Air Nomad tattoos and clad in a baggy orange sweater, jeans, and yellow shoes. He sat in a very relaxed way, watching the door with intelligent grey eyes. An Air Nomad.
She felt a red-hot pang of something between rage and bitter sadness in her heart.
Air Nomads had killed her mother.
The Air Nomad seemed to notice her, but lost interest almost immediately. As she sat down at her desk, a thought struck her.
They would probably kill that boy.
She knew that she should help her comrades, should at least just sit back and watch, perhaps consider this person's death as revenge for her mother. That's what any other loyal Water Tribe girl would do.
However, she was anything but your average, loyal Water Tribe girl.
So she whipped out a piece of paper and her favorite blue pen and wrote, simply, 'Leave this place or they will kill you for what you are.'
She passed on the note carefully, and there was no sign of it even passing until it was returned to her with three words scribbled under her own in a sharp, masculine scrawl:
'Bring it on.'
She read the note over three times before she really realized why she was so shocked. This boy was planning to stand up to the three gangs, something that no one had ever done before.
She snuck a glance at a certain boy with a facial scar, dressed in his usual red.
Whatever this boy tried to pull, Katara somehow knew that she would cheer him on.
A/N: So much love for anyone out there reading, and for the reviewers, digital cookies all around. HHHMMM, I wonder what ever could have possibly been behind that look Katara snuck at a certain scar-faced boy? -taps chin thoughtfully-
Review and I will love you even more.