"We need to rest," Sokka heard Aangmutter tiredly. "I really don't want a repeat of when Azula and her big steam car-thing chased us all night.
Oh, yeah, that was a good call. Last time Appa the sky bison had fallen asleep-how you feel asleep while flying he didn't know, but whatever-and they'd nearly ended up splats on the ground. Luckily, the shaggy, flying, six-legged beast had woken and made a... controlled crash. Ugh. "Controlled"and "crash" shouldn't be in the same sentence. But, anyway, that's what had happened.
He watched Aang direct the bison down to the ground. As soon as he got some solid ground under his feet, he unpacked and burrowed under his blanket. Toph was even having a nice-streak today and had made the ground soft. Yeah, really sof-
And then he was out.
Huh? Where was he?
Sokka groaned, rubbed his eyes, and sat up. And noticed...
"Oookay..." he muttered, "this is kind of weird."
Stretched out, all around, was this big field of... black. Like, blacker-than-coal black. Like black enough that an army of firebenders could be roasting kittens or whatever and he wouldn't notice. Oddly, though, he could see his body just fine. Huh. You'd think that with all this blackness you wouldn't see your own hand.
Even weirder, he was all fine with this. You know, with all this freaky black, you'd think he'd be frightened, or at least confused. I mean... all this freaky black!
"It's because you're dreaming," a familiar voice said from behind him.
He whipped his head around and saw... what the?
"Yes, you're seeing someone who looks almost like you," the Other-Sokkasaid to him. "But I'm the idealized version of you. Who you'd like to be."
He looked Other-Sokka over and... yeah. Those were some big muscles. And the hair looked well-kept without having to resort to the weird little tie thing he had to use to keep it out of his face. But...
"Oh, that," the doppelganger answered before he asked. "You always joked about it, but you never did like a beard that looked like it was eating up your face. The small, managed looked, frankly, looks better. Mountain-man look is definitely out"
He frowned at his double. "Okay, something is wrong here."
"You bet. It's not every dream you get to talk to your subconscious. That mean's I'm you, by the way."
Wait, what?"Since when I did I use words that big?" he asked suspiciously.
"Since you started doubting yourself, you failure," Other-Sokkaspat.
That got him to bristle. "What do you mean by that?"
Other-Sokka curled a lip and sneered at him. Darned weird to see himself sneering at, well, himself.
"Oh, please, you're not that stupid," the copy doubled. "You're me, after all."
He didn't say anything back. Other-Sokka just shrugged.
"Your whole life is one big collection of mistakes, blunders, and disappointments, Sokka." He glared at the double. "Oh, please. Admit it to yourself. You couldn't save Mother from the Fire Nation. You couldn't save the other soldiers in the Black Sun invasion force. You couldn't save Yue. You couldn't even keep Suki safe. Poor her."
He shot to his feet, and automatically reached behind his back for his black sword.
"What, that hurts? Get a grip. You know the truth hurts. I'm the little part of your brain that acknowledges the things you're scared off."
He thought back to when he'd gotten his sword, which had involved dragging a boulder-sized meteorite a couple of miles and surviving a darned swordmaster. Well, Toph had done most of the pushing. "They like my jokes," he said.
"Yeah, sure. But did you ever think about why you tell your stupid little one-liners? You're scared. Heck, not even scared of what you've got to do, which involves taking down the most powerful nation on this planet with nothing more than a boy with arrows on his face, a blind girl who can do scary things with rocks, and your kid sister, plus a hairy flying thing, a troublemaking lemur, and a messenger hawk that's probably off wandering some icebergs at this point. That's not what you're scared of.
"You're scared of the truth, which is that you're useless. No one needs you. Even when you thought you did, you failed. Remember the Black Sun invasion, eh? In those few minutes Aang could've whipped the Firelord, but noo, Sokka couldn't keep his temper under control."
Sure he did. He'd thought he'd thought of everything the Fire Nation could have tossed at them, but he'd messed up at that. And he'd take too much time wondering if he should punch Azula's face in to get information-any information-about Suki.
He took his hand from the hilt of his sword and sat back down, staring at the ground. The... Other-him was right. His whole life was adisappointing list longer than Toph was short. Sokka failed this, Sokka can't bend, Sokka's useless.
"Yes, you are. Just realize that. Stop being a burden to the group. Jump off a cliff or something, or wander off while they're still asleep. They're better off without you."
He sat there, silent, thinking. Humph. This... Other-Sokka was garbage.
He climbed back to his feet. "You know what? I'm tired of listening to you-or me, whatever."
Other-Sokka curled his lip. "And everyone's tired of listening to-"
"You know what?No, they aren't. They like my jokes. I don't know when Istarted getting guilt trips this bad, but you're lying. No one's tired of listening to me. Well, most of the time."
"Why the sudden resolve? You're just going to-?"
"Fail? Maybe." He reached behind him and locked his hand on his sword. "But failing happens."
"Small consolation to Mother and-"
"What could Ido? I was a kid, and there were Fire Nation soldiers everywhere. I would've died too, and we wouldn't be arguing about this. And I loved Yue, you know I did. I loved her so much it hurts. But she made her choice, and I'm not going to keep beating myself up for something she chose. I miss her, yeah, but I'm not blaming myself. If anything, I'm proud of her."
He readied himself.
"You've got me on the time I wasted back at the invasion. That's one of things I've gotta wrestle with. But not preparing enough? I came up with idea for the submarines, man! I got the troops moving after Dad got hurt, which probably saved a whole bunch of them."
It was almost time.
"And you're right about something. I am scared. I'd be nuts of drugged up on cactus juice notto be scared. Like you said, it's just me, a kid with arrows on his boy, ashort blind girl, and my motherly kid sister, plus Appa,Momo, and-I guess-Hawkyagainst the strongest army out there.
Time. With a grunt he drew his sword and stepped forward, slashing. The Other-Sokka had drawn a blade, too, and was blocking him. He locked blades and pushed as hard as he could. Heh. For all those big muscles, Other-Sokka was only just as strong as he was. Still, it was a... hard match.
"But you're wrong. I'm not... useless. I might not-unh!-have magic water or flying... rocks, but I've got... my muscles-okay, kind of-and I've got... my brain. That's all... I need.
He pressed harder, straining. "I know Suki might... be out there, hurt or imprisoned by the Fire Nation. And... here's the thing: If I take a... swan dive from a cliff or wander-urk!-away to get lost somewhere, I'm not going to be able to save her!"
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Other-Sokka's sword shattered to itty bitty pieces. With a shove, he knocked his double to the ground.
"And you can go chew on that," he said to the defeated Other-Sokka.
As he watched, the copy lost the malice and smiled. "Good to see you still got your head screwed on straight."
With a gasp, Sokka shot up.
A dream... a dream... all a dream.
His blanket slipped from his shoulders, and he felt the cold of the night against his sweaty skin. Bleh. And it was still dark. Speaking of which...
He looked up a the full moon hanging in the sky. Yup, Yuewas looking down at him tonight. Comforting to know.
He lowered his gaze and looked at the people sleeping around him. Aang. Katara. Toph. The Duke. Teo. Haru. Even that mountain, Appa.Oh, and Momo.
Well, if he and this bunch of kids were going to beat the Fire Nation and end this war, he was going to have to come up with some downright fiendish plans and schemes. Oh, well, that was his job, anyway.
He smiled, laid back down, and closed his eyes.
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