Title: Equal Author: Miana Kenobi Genre: Drama, Teen angst. Summary: Bumi is the only non-bender of Avatar Aang’s children. A reflection on the difficulties of his childhood. One-shot. Author's Note: So big note here: I wrote this when we were a whole two episodes in to Legend of Korra. Back then, when we found out that Bumi was a non-bender, I was SO CERTAIN that the huge twist was going to be that Bumi = Amon. Alas, I was completely off, but Bumi still fascinates me. I'm so excited for more of him in Book 2, just because I want to know so much about him and the challenges he faced being a non-bending child of two of the world's greatest and most powerful benders. -------------------- Aang had always known that he and Katara would one day have children. Visions of a flock of little airbenders and waterbenders had frequented his thoughts after the war. After their marriage, the vision grew even stronger. Unfortunately, the world still needed to be saved every few years from some new threat, and settling down was not an option for a few years. It seemed like ages, but almost ten years after winning the Hundred Year War, Katara finally announced that she was pregnant. Many bets were made as to whether the child would bend air or water. Little Kya showed her ability at an early and the family welcomed their first waterbender. Bumi was different. It came as a shock when Bumi did not start bending any elements. The thought that any of their children would not be benders had never even crossed Aang and Katara’s minds. Katara was one of the greatest waterbenders in the world and Aang was the Avatar. Kya had begun bending by age two, yet by age four, Bumi still hadn’t. He would watch his sister during her waterbending lessons and his father in his exercises. Try as he might, neither air nor water moved for him. Aang and Katara tried not to think of it; for all they knew, Bumi simply was a late developer. Before long, Katara was pregnant once more, and Tenzin joined the family. As he looked much more like his father than either of his siblings, Aang had high hopes that his son would be an airbender. Tenzin did not disappoint, and by the age of three, the world finally had its second airbender. The only person who was not overjoyed was his seven year old brother Bumi. He knew, as his parents did, that if he had not shown signs of bending by now, he never would. Katara and Aang reassured their son time and again that they were not disappointed. Bumi would often complain that he was different, yet Katara would tickle him till he laughed and remind him that that was what made him special. However, they knew they could do little to stop sibling rivalry and jealousy. Katara spent much of her time teaching Kya, while Aang spent what time he had at home devoted to Tenzin. Both still devoted much time to their middle son, yet even though he knew his parents loved him, Bumi knew he was different. He did not remain inactive, nor would he leave himself undefended to his older sister’s unending pranks. He spent much time with Katara’s father and the other men of the tribe who taught him fighting and tactics. When his uncle Sokka visited the South Pole, all of Bumi’s time was devoted to him. It was Sokka that Bumi confided in, and it was Sokka who helped remind him that even non-benders could save the world. When Aang and Zuko proposed to build Republic City, Katara would not hear of remaining behind. The Avatar’s family were some of the first citizens of Republic City. Sokka and Suki helped pick the location while Toph and her growing army of metalbenders were recruited as well. Aang and his family lived on the small island off of the coast, but Aang soon decided to turn their home into an air temple. These were some of Bumi’s most cherished days; construction was something he could help with, and it gave him quality time with his father. When his father heard reports of a herd of Sky Bison hiding in a remote part of the Earth Kingdom, Aang gleefully went off to find the beasts. When he returned with a whole flock, the island became chaos. Appa was older, calm, and easy to care for. Raising a dozen young bison, however, turned out to be an adventure. While he still helped care for and loved the beasts, he saw how his father and younger brother had much more of a special connection with the animals than he could ever have. Tenzin would often take his glider up into the sky with the young bison. Bumi remained on the ground. By the time Bumi hit his teenage years, Republic City was expanding at an incredible rate. Benders and non-benders from all over the world moved to the city, and Bumi’s parents found themselves busier than ever trying to sort things in order. Bumi, however, found himself lonelier than ever. Living on Air Temple Island was a blessed relief to get away from the city, yet it was a pain to leave if you couldn’t air or waterbend. Bumi started to find that he preferred living on his boat more than the island, for the sea was at least some place that he felt like he belonged. When Kya married and moved to the North Pole, Bumi found his patience had ebbed. Kya, though his long childhood tormentor, had become his conscience. He found Tenzin too much of a boring suckup to be any fun, and being around benders all day was beginning to grind on his tolerance. His parents saw this, did all they could to help ease it, but there was not more that they could do. Aang had watched his son day by day grow more and more distant. He lamented that he could not spend more time with his son, but his duties were growing far too numerous. Katara tried, yet found that her son was at that stage where it was not “cool” to hang with one’s mother. Katara often wrote to Sokka for advice; he could relate to her son far greater than she could, and while his letteres were still peppered with awful jokes, he still offered her some sage advice. When he offered to have Bumi live with him for a while, Katara knew that while she hated her son being so far away from her, it might just do some good. She approached the subject with her husband while he was in his Meditation Pavilion. It had become one of his favorite places as of late, as it was one of the few quiet places on the island. Katara smiled softly as she looked over her husband’s form sitting on the ground. Had he not already shaved his head, Katara was sure he would have already been bald from so much stress. As it was, there were already streaks of grey in his beard. She came to a halt beside him, lightly placing a hand on the back of his head. His breathing changed only slightly but a smile crept onto his lips. After a moment, he opened his eyes and looked up at his wife. “What’s wrong?” “I think Bumi should go stay with Sokka for a while.” Aang said nothing at first, only looked out over the sea. He let out a sigh. “I was thinking something similar.” “He’s not happy.” Aang gave a curt nod. “I wish he was,” he said wistfully. He looked up at his wife once more. “The choice of course will be his. Though I think a change of scenery will do him good.” Katara stroked the back of his head and gave a sad smile. “It bothers you that he is so close to Sokka.” Aang gave a small laugh. “Only in the jealous sense,” he admitted. He grew pensive once more, then turned his head and kissed Katara’s hand. “Sokka understands him better than we do. I’ll ask him this evening if he wants to go.” ____________________________ Kyoshi Island had grown since Bumi had last visited. The small village just off the coast had expanded incredibly. The Warrior’s Grounds had increased, buildings now towered over the trees, and much to Bumi’s excitement, there were no water or airbenders. His uncle Sokka was also a blessed change of conversation. Bumi found his dry wit and humor fit in much better at his uncle’s house than with his own family, though he noticed that Aunt Suki rolled her eyes just about as much as his mother did. His older cousins Harook and Piando towered over him, and Bumi loved being around men once more. Suki tried to mother him, but Bumi noted with relief that she was much less abrasive about it than his own mother, for which he was grateful. She made sure he was taken care of, but treated him like an adult and not a child. What surprised Bumi the most was that he discovered how much he relied on bending sometimes. His parents or Kya had always brought up the water from the wells every morning; Bumi had almost forgotten that everyone else had to do it by hand. Or that clothes didn’t dry out instantly, dishes had to be dried by hand, and candles had to be blown out. At first it annoyed him, yet Bumi soon grew to love it. It gave him a feeling of normalcy that he never had experienced at home. What he loved most was that his uncle Sokka just got him. He knew, better than anyone, what it was like growing up with a bender as a sibling; the insecurities it brought wondering why they were special and you weren’t, the jealousy, anger, and depression. “I know it’s different,” Sokka admitted one night as they sat down by the shore and watched the sun set. “When we were little, Katara was the only waterbender in the whole tribe, and even then we had to hide it. At least back then, she was the different one. But you still never stop wondering why they got the super powers and you didn’t, do you?” Sokka asked. Bumi shrugged, trying to pretend like his uncle’s words hadn’t hit home. “I try and tell myself sometimes that they’re all the freaks and I’m the normal one, you know?” “For a while, I thought I hated bending,” Sokka admitted. “I mean, it was coming in useful, sure, but this one night, there was a wildfire. Toph was bending a giant rock to squash the fire, Katara and Aang were doing all this crazy bending to put it out, and I was babysitting Momo.” “Ouch.” “I felt so helpless. I was just so angry inside that they could do all these things and I couldn’t.” Bumi pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. “Yeah, I get that,” he mumbled. “But then, I discovered my own strengths. Sure, it wasn’t something amazing like being able to move water, but I could still do things that they couldn’t,” Sokka said with a smile. “Dad said you planned the invasion of the Fire Nation.” “I did. And designed the watercrafts, and I learned the sword, and mastered other skills. Like no one ever thinks of a boomerang as a serious weapon until they’ve been knocked out by one,” he said with a laugh. He eyed his nephew mischievously. “If you want to see something funny, you should dare your father to throw a boomerang without bending.” Bumi laughed as well, feeling his heart lighten a bit. “I’m really good with a bo-staff.” “I could never master those things. I always ended up hitting myself in the face with them,” Sokka admitted. Bumi smiled, then looked out over the sea. Resting his chin on his knees, he let out a sigh. “I sometimes wish that nobody could bend. That way, no one was special, but we were all equals.” “Sometimes,” Sokka admitted slowly, “I wish that too.” __________________________ Ty-Lee often stopped by with her small troupe of acrobat daughters in tow. Her eldest took a shine to Bumi, much to his dismay and his uncle’s amusement. However, after Bumi rather rudely turned down one of her advances, she delivered four quick jabs to his stomach and legs that caused him to collapse to the ground immobile. He was furious at first, but overall in awe of what had just happened. His uncle helped him into a much more dignified position, telling his own introduction to Ty-Lee and her crazy chi-blocking. “We were terrified at first. We had no clue people could do that sort of thing. Katara especially. Losing the ability to not bend, even for a few minutes, terrified her beyond words.” Bumi was beyond fascinated. A normal person could stop someone from bending with just their bare hand. It was a power that he did not existed, nor did he think that most of the world knew either. “Do you think she would teach me?” Bumi asked eagerly. Sokka blinked for a moment then turned to his wife. Suki also looked a bit perplexed. “Ty-Lee really only taught Chi-Blocking to the Kyoshi Warriors. Even then, not all of us were able to master it.” At Bumi’s crestfallen face, she quickly continued. “However, I broke tradition when I taught Sokka the ways of the Kyoshi Warriors, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask Ty-Lee.” Bumi beamed. A strange hope filled him at the thought. He could picture it now; any time Tenzin or Kya tried to show off bending, a few quick punches and they wouldn’t be able to. They would be defenseless. They would be normal. Equal.