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Sokka-centric fic for avatarflashfic

This was written for the Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic exchange at avatarflashfic. One of the things the recipient wanted was Sokka-centric fic, so I hope they like this.

Title: Four Games of Pai Sho
Author’s Name: rosehiptea
Requester’s Name: xplodey_di
Pairing or Character: Sokka-centric, some implied Sokka/Toph, also features other characters.
Rating: PG
Squicks/Spoilers: Character death
Word Count: 1,578

Thank you very much to kelles for beta help.



Four Games of Pai Sho

A Water Game

Before Sokka’s father leaves for war, he teaches him how to play Pai Sho. Sokka picks up on the rules quickly and can soon play a good game, though mostly he just wants to spend time with his father before it’s too late – not that he ever admits to himself that someday it will be too late. Their last game is played in the fading light of the evening a few days before Hakoda leaves.

"Pai Sho isn’t just about getting behind the opponent’s front lines," he instructs his son solemnly as he moves a tile. "It’s also about keeping your own defenses up."

Sokka rolls his eyes. "I know what you’re getting at, Dad. I have to stay here and protect Katara and Gran Gran and the tribe."

"You’re too young to go with me," Hakoda says. "But staying here is a big responsibility too."

"I know I’m too young. But stop trying to make me feel better. It isn’t working."

Hakoda nods. "I hope the war is over by the time you’re old enough, but since there is no Avatar now, the day may come when you do have to fight. I’m not sure that should really make you feel any better, though."

Sokka shrugs and moves a tile.

"Are you sure you want to put that in front of the leaf tiles like that?" asks his father.

"Considering where you’re piling up those water tiles, I’m pretty safe," he replies.

"You really are a fast learner. I imagine Ki himself would be impressed."

"Who is Ki?" asks Sokka.

"Ki of the Fire Tribe invented Pai Sho, or so we’re told."

Sokka stares at his father. "The fire tribe invented this game, and you taught me to play it?"

"It was long ago, Sokka. Ki wasn’t even a military leader."

"How do you know? He could have been worse than Sozin himself. Since when do you defend the Fire Nation?"

"You can hardly say I’m defending them when I’m about to fight their warriors."

"After what they did to Mom, I shouldn’t have to teach you to hate the Fire Tribe!" Sokka shouts. He looks at the board in disgust and pushes over the game.

His father calls after him as he stomps away, but he doesn't mention Pai Sho to his son again.


A Fire Game

The next time Sokka sits down at a Pai Sho board, he’s in a Fire Nation bar in a bad disguise, hoping everyone is staring at him because he seems too young to be there and not because they know who he is. He’s trying to get information for Aang, something to keep them from despairing before the comet comes. By now he’s met a fair amount of Fire Nation people, both those trying to kill him and those who aren’t. Mostly he’s given up on the illusion that the Fire Tribe consists solely of evil individuals, though that might make it easier to kill them. But he doesn’t trust the old man at the table opposite him, no matter how harmless he seems.

The old man is a good Pai Sho player though. When he finally traps almost of all of Sokka’s active pieces, in a desperate move Sokka takes the white lotus tile from his pocket and places it on the board. This changes everything.

The next thing Sokka knows he is in a back room with men who are laughing and smoking, telling him about the White Lotus and assuring him that all nations know their ways. Iroh is there, and then Sokka has the information he needs. Sokka doesn’t understand Iroh at first, thinks that he is only telling everything he knows because he was once the Crown Prince and resents his own brother. But after a few days of hiding out, after learning advanced Pai Sho tactics, the story of Lu Ten’s life, and the words to "The Girls of Ba Sing Se," Sokka understands better. This man realized long ago that some things are more important than one’s own tribe. Sokka tells himself that this only counts for the Fire Nation, but even then he knows that isn’t the whole truth.

When the final battle comes, far too many people are lost, but the Avatar wins because of Iroh. Sokka sees the Dragon of the West die at his own brother’s hands, and for Iroh’s sake Sokka tries to blame Ozai and not his entire nation. There are many visions of the battle that Sokka tries to push out of his mind, but he remembers Iroh, to remind himself that he can also cry for a Firebender.

An Air Game

What do you do when the war is over, and even the conflict after the war has calmed to an uneasy peace? Sokka plays a game of Pai Sho with Aang.

He is one of the few people who can laugh at the Avatar. Sokka will always remember him as a scrawny bald kid stuck in ice, and even as Aang increases in his confidence and ability to give orders it stops at his old friends.

They play at the Northern Air Temple. It is still not filled with Airbenders but may be someday, after Aang has children of his own. Perhaps they can go on to make the world over again, even if it can’t be what it once was.

"So Aang," says Sokka conversationally, "I hear the Firebender rebellions have pretty much died out."

"People seem to accept Zuko as Fire Lord. In the end most of them are going to care about themselves and their own families more than about ruling the world."

"Maybe. But then why did the whole war start in the first place?"

"Sozin wanted to make the world as prosperous as the Firebenders."

"Do you really believe that?" asks Sokka skeptically.

"I don’t know. I think mostly it was the comet. They just had that one chance to conquer everything, and they took it."

"So you think if there were a comet that helped Airbenders they would have taken over the world instead?"

Aang shrugs, pushing a tile randomly on the board. "I don’t like to think of it that way. There were never even that many of us to start with. But I’ve been a Firebender more times than I can count, right? And I’m still me. I think anyone has good and evil in them, and in the end it’s about power."

Sokka puts an earth tile in the center position. "I never used to think that. I thought everyone wanted peace except the Fire Nation. But really... I think you’re right."

He wipes the board with the Avatar as usual. Aang knows the rules, but usually neither he nor Monk Gyato had usually had the patience to finish a game, and Sokka after all had Iroh to learn from.


An Earth Game

Sokka’s travels through all the nations lead him in the end back to Earth and the home of the Bei Fong family, where he plays another game.

"So, you have come here for permission to marry my daughter?" Toph’s father asks him.

It was more of an announcement than permission, since Toph has never let her father stop her from doing anything and seldom returns home. But Sokka has learned a hint of politics over the years, and simply moves a fire tile deliberately to a more vulnerable spot.

"And I should let her marry some nothing warrior from the Southern Water Tribe?" her father persists.

"The Avatar is hoping that all tribes will now work together," Sokka answers smoothly.

Toph’s father waves a hand in dismissal. "Don’t name-drop in this house. The Bei Fong family has more than one incarnation of the Avatar in our family line. But it hasn’t been easy finding a husband for my daughter. She has somehow gained a reputation for being willful."

Sokka bites his lip to keep from laughing and watches his pieces disappear on the board.

"Do you promise to do what is necessary to keep my daughter safe?"

Since the answer to that is to keep out of her way, Sokka can easily promise.

"We would never consider such an offer, but desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. I will permit you to marry Toph, but be aware that she carries only a small dowry."

Toph has never mentioned a dowry, but she never mentioned caring for her father’s opinion on her marriage either. This is all Sokka’s idea, to try to keep the peace, something he has learned over the years as well as he has learned war.

Her father makes the final winning move and crosses his arms solemnly. "Very well, son-in-law. Toph is yours now. You are at least a man who knows how to show proper respect. But you are a terrible Pai Sho player."

Sokka’s life is filled with many games, with a daughter who bends earth and a son who bends water, as well as any number of grandchildren. He doesn’t have to tell them stories of the world because they see it themselves, if only because you have to go somewhere else to come home. All of them, boys and girls, not only learn to play a good game of Pai Sho but to care for children and to dodge the ice. And even at the Pole surrounded by its water, they also rely on earth, fire, and air.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
sensoo
Nov. 28th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
I have not been following Avatar very closely, but I enjoyed your fic. ^_^
rosehiptea
Nov. 28th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
I was very certain I was not going to watch it until a couple of months ago... XD I'm really glad you liked the fic.
shiegra
Nov. 28th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
A lovely balance between not only the elements but the facets of his character and his growth. I loved the son-in-law conversation.
rosehiptea
Nov. 28th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much. The son-in-law part just sort of came to me, the more I thought what a political challenge that would be for Sokka and that silence might be his best course of action.

I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Edited at 2007-11-28 08:23 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
rosehiptea
Nov. 29th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm really glad you liked it. And Happy Birthday!
sunlit_music
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)
I don't watch Avatar, but I really liked this fic. I especially liked how Sokka's views of the Fire Nation changes and how he ends up trying to keep the peace. I also liked this quote best:

I think anyone has good and evil in them, and in the end it’s about power.
rosehiptea
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! In canon I kind of see Sokka as going back and forth about the Fire Nation -- he's realizing that they aren't all bad and that there is bad stuff going on in other nations too, but I think it's going to take a while, and I sort of tried to reflect that here.

irrisia
Dec. 15th, 2007 09:16 am (UTC)
[Formerly elena_takami, following the link you left me in canon_details]

This is awesome =D. Sokka/Toph is always nice. Sokka is excellently voiced. And Pai Sho, and a mention of Iroh just make for extra win.
rosehiptea
Dec. 15th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! When I got the prompt I thought of Sokka and the lotus tile and then it had to have Iroh. (But I love him so much anyway.)
(Deleted comment)
rosehiptea
Dec. 9th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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