Hidden Flames - Part One
Summary: Eventually, Arin stood as the three others ran off into the forest, kneeling beside the river. He stared at his reflection, grimacing slightly at the shimmering pool. Finally, he lowered his hand to touch the surface, drawing up a spiral of water as he lifted his hand. Danny gasped. The boy dressed as a Fire Nation member was a waterbender.
Genre: Avatar AU, Humor, Adventure, Egobang, Mystery, Fluff
A/N: This won’t be very many parts, maybe 3-5. But I couldn’t resist putting my own spin on the Gru//mps as Avatar: TLA characters. I hope you’ll forgive what kind of bender I made everyone, as this is just my personal preference. I’m unsure if people will like this, so please, please, please let me know what you think!
The first time Danny saw the waterbender, he was alone for once, enjoying the pleasant spring morning.
Airbenders didn’t mix with others very often. They led a somewhat isolated lifestyle. It wasn’t necessarily because they disliked the other tribes, it was just because they valued their lifestyle and stuck to their heritage. Especially Danny’s family.
Danny had grown up learning about the free-spirited, funny, stubborn waterbenders, the reckless, fun-loving firebenders, and the hard-working, stoic earthbenders. He’d always wondered what they’d be like. Airbenders were disciplined and calm, but could be as carefree and risk-taking as anyone else.
His closest friend, Brian, was a somewhat strict airbender that had grown up in the temples, practicing and working every day to the point where Danny teased him about being akin to a ninja with how serious he could be. But even Brian had his moments of fun and being a reckless boy.
Danny had been around ten, and it was rare that he was alone. He’d glided down to the bottom of the air temple, gazing out into the forest and wondering what was beyond.
Then he’d heard laughter.
Curious, he scooted down until he found a river with four kids running around it, all about his age. Three boys and a girl. They were dressed like firebenders.
“No fair! Bending is cheating!” One boy yelled at a blonde skinny boy, who smirked.
“Just because you can’t bend, Barry, doesn’t mean I can’t use my fire!”
“That’s exactly what makes it unfair, Ross!” The first boy huffed, chasing him.
The third boy plopped down next to the girl, watching Barry and Ross chase each other. “What d’you think, Suzy?”
The girl, her dark eyes bright, brushed her hair back. “I didn’t use my fire, so I didn’t cheat, Arin!”
Arin laughed, and Danny felt something in his chest spark at the sound. There was something magical about that boy’s–Arin’s–laugh.
He wanted to hear more.
“Hey, Arin! Why don’t you come practice your firebending with me since Barry can’t?” Ross called, and Barry retorted by scooping up mud to throw at Ross.
“Ah…maybe later!” Arin called back, and his shoulders drooped as Suzy glanced at him.
“You haven’t told Ross yet?”
“I mean…” Arin scratched his head. “It’s not that simple, Suzy. You’re like family to me. Everyone thinks we’re siblings…”
Danny inched closer as their voices dropped.
“Ross and Barry are our best friends. They’ll understand,” Suzy was saying.
“I know, and Barry isn’t even a bender, but still…”
Arin stared at his palm, curling his hand into a fist. “I’d like to know where I came from and who I am before telling them.”
Suzy just nodded, eventually standing to pat Arin’s back comfortingly before dashing off in pursuit of the two boys in the middle of a mud war.
Arin watched her go, and Danny felt his heart ache at the look of unhappiness on Arin’s face. He wanted to comfort him, but he stayed put.
Eventually, Arin stood as the three others ran off into the forest, kneeling beside the river. He stared at his reflection, grimacing slightly at the shimmering pool. Finally, he lowered his hand to touch the surface, drawing up a spiral of water as he lifted his hand.
Danny gasped. The boy dressed as a fire nation member was a waterbender.
There wasn’t anything wrong with that, but it was very unusual. Why wasn’t he at the North or South Pole along with the other waterbenders?
Danny watched, mesmerized, as Arin formed the water into little animals–an armadillo-lion, a catagator, a dragonmoose, even a lemur!
Then Ross ran out from the trees, his face splattered with mud, and the water-lemur suddenly dropped back into the river, lost with the rest of the flowing stream.
“Tag!” Ross yelled as he passed Arin, leaving a muddy handprint on his back. Arin leapt up, a bright smile on his face.
“No you don’t!” he said gleefully, chasing Ross into the trees and out of sight. Danny distantly heard Suzy shriek and then laugh, presumably getting tagged.
Danny wanted to join the game, but he couldn’t get the image of the boy gently caressing the water, winding it in and out of his fingers with ease.
He’d looked so peaceful for those few moments.
Then he glanced up, realizing the sun was very low in the sky and that he’d better get back before he was missed.
With a last long look at the river, he summoned a gust of wind and flew back up to the temple.
Danny had never forgotten that day, as it had been his first encounter with members from another nation.
He could also never forget the face of that waterbender boy.
He told Brian about what he’d seen, too excited to keep it to himself. Brian had listened interestedly.
“I wonder why he won’t tell the others?” Brian had wondered after Danny had finished. “It’s very unusual for a waterbender to be living in the Fire Nation and pretending to be a firebender. Why doesn’t he just go to one of the Poles?”
“Maybe he can’t?” Danny suggested, and Brian had shrugged. They’d dropped the topic, since neither had any more information.
A few years later, things had changed. Danny had changed. He was twenty, and he wanted to see the world. He wanted to learn about other cultures. He wanted to meet new people. He wanted to see more than this small air temple.
His parents had wanted him to keep learning in the temple, but they understood. They couldn’t keep Danny here, and they recognized that. So with their blessing, Danny contacted several areas offering places to study before settling on a small farm in the Fire Nation where he’d study local horticulture for six months.
As he was packing, he heard footsteps and turned to grin at Brian. “You here to see me off?”
Brian rolled his eyes. “I just wanted to confirm that you’re serious about this.”
Danny looked at him. “Of course I am, Bri. You know me. I never liked being stuck here for so long. I need to see the world, and this is as good a place to start as any.”
Brian nodded. “I know.”
Danny held his friend in a brief hug before letting go, smiling. “Come visit, won’t you? It’ll do you good to get out of that stuffy temple every now and then.”
Brian shoved him playfully, and Danny set off for the Fire Nation with hope and excitement burning in his chest.
When he arrived, the door was thrown open to reveal a young man his age with shaggy brown hair and a five o’clock shadow.
They looked at each other for a solid minute, both seemingly nonplussed, but then the guy grinned. “I take it you’re the airbender who’s living here now?”
Danny smiled and bowed slightly. “Name’s Dan Avidan.”
“I’m Barry Kramer.” Barry opened the door wider. “C’mon in.”
Danny walked in to see another girl and two other guys also in the house, all chatting animatedly as he entered. Barry gestured to each of them.
“Dan, these are Holly, Matt, and Ryan. They’ll also be studying with you. Holly’s from another air temple and Matt and Ryan are earthbenders from Ba Sing Se.”
The three other greeted him politely, and Danny was thrilled to see that Holly was a fellow airbender. He talked to her, as she was from the Eastern Temple, and Matt and Ryan seemed like nice guys.
“I hope to study the Fire Nation’s unique aerial animals. I love birds and the like,” Holly explained, her eyes bright. “You’re studying the flowers?”
“Yeah, the local horticulture. Though I hope to also study the actual culture itself, too,” Danny laughed as Barry offered them cups of herbal tea. “I haven’t seen much besides the Western Air Temple.”
Holly nodded as Barry chimed in. “I think you’ll like it here. We’re not far from the capital, actually. But it’s a pretty quiet farm town. I’ll have to introduce you to some of the people I know. I have a friend that’s pretty much a whiz at all the types of bending.” Barry smiled. “I’m not a bender myself, so that’s why I needed help on the farm. In exchange for lodging, y’know?”
Danny nodded excitedly. “When can I meet you friend?”
“His name’s Ross, and I don’t know. I was planning on going into town tomorrow to do some shopping. Would you like to–”
“Yes!” Danny replied eagerly, bouncing up and down. “I want to see everything!”
Barry laughed. “Okay. Around ten, then.”
Danny was up and ready to go as Barry came in from farmwork.
Barry laughed at Danny’s eager expression. “Alright, alright. Let me change and we’ll go. Are you sure you want to wear that? You’ll blend in easier if you wear Fire Nation clothing.”
Danny shook his head. “I like my air nomad clothing.”
Barry shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
So they marched off a little after ten, Danny absorbing everything he could. He marvelled at the street vendor stalls and all the different people. The people here had lighter skin tones than he was used to seeing, and lighter eyes. Everyone smiled as he passed. They all seemed so friendly.
“Hey, look who’s here!” Barry laughed, waving. “Guys!”
Three other people hurried over, two men and a woman.
Danny’s eyes skimmed over them and came to rest on the second man.
His breath caught. Beautiful.
Before he could think more, Barry clapped his shoulder. “Guys, this is Dan Avidan from the Western Air Temple. He’s here to study the culture and staying with me for awhile.”
The first man stuck his hand out, grinning. “Hey, Dan. Welcome to the Fire Nation. I’m Ross, your local firebender.”
Barry rolled his eyes as Danny shook Ross’s hand. Something was stirring in Danny’s memory at the names Ross and Barry. What was it?
The woman also shook his hand. “I’m Suzy. My family runs a little restaurant here in town. You’ll have to stop by!”
He smiled at her, nodding. “I’ll do that. Thank you.”
Then he cast his gaze on the final man, feeling his heart thump. He was drawn to this man for some reason he couldn’t quite explain.
The man smiled at him, extending his arm. “Hey, man. My name’s Arin.”
Danny’s blood froze as he robotically shook Arin’s hand, hearing himself say: “Nice to meet you, Arin.”
The same name as that waterbender from ten years ago.
Could it be a coincidence?
He couldn’t recall the memory completely, but he did remember the children’s names. So that’s why the names of these people sounded so familiar. These were the same people he’d spotted back then.
And Arin…Arin was the boy with the wistful look as he stared into the river. He could never forget the image of the water snaking in and out of Arin’s hands as he gently skimmed the surface.
He felt dizzy.
Arin’s eyebrows knit together. “You okay, man? You look a little pale.”
Danny cleared his throat. “Sorry, just tired from travelling yesterday. So all of you grew up here in the Fire Nation?”
“Yeah, we’ve lived here our whole life,” Ross replied brightly. “Suze and I are firebenders.”
Danny licked his lips. “And you, Arin?”
Ross looked panicked for a split second, glancing at Arin, but Arin replied smoothly. “I’m not a bender. I can’t bend.”
“When we were kids, we used to think Arin was just a late bloomer,” Suzy laughed, placing a hand on Arin’s shoulder. “But he and Barry can’t bend. It’s no big deal.”
Danny nodded. “I see.”
A shutter had closed over Arin’s eyes. To anyone else, it wouldn’t be noticeable, but Danny was sensitive to others’ emotions and could see the painted expression Arin wore.
Hearing Arin’s name and actually meeting him now, as a young adult, stirred old memories and emotions Danny hadn’t dwelled on in years. He now could recall that afternoon; the way Arin had laughed, the private conversation he’d eavesdropped on, and even Ross’s taunts beside the mud bank.
It ignited the old flame of curiosity within him.
He wanted to know more.
But this time, he thought as he glanced at Arin, feeling that spark of something in his chest, I won’t let him slip away.