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Chapter Fifty-One: Sport
"So that's where my friends and I would play air ball!"
She smiles. He's so happy to be back here . . . he really missed this place, didn't he?
"And," he continues, pointing towards what appeared to be stables of some kind. "over there would be where the bison would sleep, and . . ." His words echo faintly, mockingly. "And . . . ?"
His shoulders seem to slump; he sighs sadly, and she takes a nervous step forward. "What's wrong?"
"This place used to be full of monks and lemurs and bison . . ."
She can feel the powerful grief in his voice, so carefully contained within him but threatening to burst out.
"Now, there's just a bunch of weeds . . ."
Lowering her gaze and feeling as if she is intruding on something personal, a terrible secret, something that he has kept locked up since his reawakening from the iceberg.
"I can't believe how much things have changed."
She exchanges a glance with her brother and moves her head in a gesture. Sokka immediately understands and calls, "So, uh, this air ball game? How do you play?"
A smile spreads across his face, and she is relieved.
He is doubled over in laughter. "Aang seven!" He wiggles seven fingers in the air, then makes a circle with his cupped hands and moves his arms to trace a zero. "Sokka zero!"
In sport, he Airbends Sokka into the snow. She giggles. Serves you right for playing air ball without Airbending! "Making him feel better," Sokka complains, "is putting me in a world of hurt." She hears a sharp inhalation. "Katara, check this out."
Her breath catches in her throat as she turns to stare at the black-and-red helmet, a helmet that has haunted her since her mother died.
In sport, they killed her.
The two words that hiss from her mouth speak volumes.
Sokka glances up at her. "We should tell him."
He should know. She turns and attempts to signal him. "Aang, there's something you need to see."
"Okay!" The cheerfulness in his voice is almost too much for her to bear; he walks towards them, giddily shifting the ball from hand to hand.
How can I do this to him?
Closing her eyes, she inhales and Waterbends the snow on the overhang; the virgin white tumbles onto the destruction as a cleansing rain brings peace, quiet, and tranquility.
Beneath the slush, she hears her brother protesting.
Grinning broadly, he stands next to her, surveys the scene, and inquires, "What is it?"
"Oh, just a new Waterbending move I learned," she temporizes.
He flashes a smile. "Nice one. But enough practicing!" He tilts his head imploringly and starts towards a distant tower. "We have a whole temple to see!"
Her brother frowns. "You know, you can't protect him forever."
She lowers her gaze to her feet.
For his sake . . . I have to try.
Yes, I know there's a scene transition, but do you know what? It works nicely without it. Ha, ha, take that!
Yes, indeed, in sport. There's the sport of killing . . . but there's also the sport of, uh, love and peace. This was one of the many chapters I had to rewrite, and I was going to say something about the original chapter, but now I can't remember.
There's a purposeful grammatical error in here. I didn't dare take it out, or the script wouldn't have flowed as nicely.
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