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Between A Rock and A Hot Place

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            As a child, you didn't care much for the war.

            It was to be expected to some extent.

            You were seven. Too stupid to understand politics. Too young to've learned the history. Too naive to see it as something bad.

            Fighting wasn't good. You knew that much. But sometimes it was necessary. You knew it better than most. You had two younger twin siblings.

            But when you were eight and five almost became six, suddenly things didn't sit quite right in your soul. You brushed it off as anxiety. You'd never been away from home before but your father insisted you were going somewhere better. There was more space, he said. You'd get to see the world, he gushed. It sounded nice and it was for a second after you got used to the changes.

            Green replaced Red. The names rolled a little differently and the food wasn't as flavorful. There was dirt and wood instead of stone and iron. Skintones were darker. Eyes were like grass...but you loved it.

            You were nine and in the last year, you and your family had thrown yourselves into this new land. You had a home that was a little too big since your new sibling had turned out to be only a strange feeling on your mother's part but you didn't mind and neither did the Earth Kingdom villagers until you turned ten.

            Then the Red returned. Seeping into the earth. Into the clothes. Into the food. Into those darkening hearts.

            There were more Fire Nation citizens settling in now. You didn't mind in the begining. But that was in the begining. Before the rumors started. Before the looks and before the distrust.

            At eleven you still didn't understand. It didn't make sense--how someplace could feel so much like home and yet so terribly foreign. Like sewing on a new patch of fabric into an old shirt. It was fixed and it fit but it felt wrong and looked even worse.

            You were twelve. Your mother was pregnant. For real this time. You could see it.

            You were happy. You were about the only one.

            "Just how many is she going to have?"

            "At this rate, we won't need to wait for their army. They'll build one of their own."

            "Maybe that's their plan."

            "Are they really coming?"

            "What could they want with this place?"


            You jumped at the sound of your name shouted out in such an excited manner. Sparks danced at your fingertips. Your stomach felt hot.

           "Oops! Sorry! Didn't mean to scare you!"

            That voice was familiar. The first thing you saw upon turning around was a bright grin in a pale face and spiky brown hair. Your shoulders sagged in relief.

            Liu Lim. His family had come to the colony not too long ago. His appearance was probably not the best thing considering the current mood. Too many Fire Nation citizens in one place unnerved the villagers (when did you stop counting yourself among them?) but you felt better with him there all the same. His confidence was comforting.

            His eyes, darker than most and closer to brown than gold, slid over to your mother when he noticed her pressing her hands harshly to her abdomen, "Ah, sorry, Mrs. [L. Name]. Guess I scared you, too. Geez! You guys are always so jumpy now!"

            Your mother merely smiled and dismissed the two of you as ignorant children. She was only half-right.

            "That's normal, isn't it? Listen to what people are saying," you sighed and turned away.

            Liu Lim fell into step with you as you trailed along after your mother. A frown twisted his lips, "Agh, well, who cares? They're just mad because we're winning the war. That's what my dad says. He's at an outpost near the coast." You had nothing to say to that but even if you did Liu Lim wouldn't have given you a chance. "Is that why you never come outside anymore? Because of what they say? Aww, [Name]! Just throw a couple fireballs at their feet and they'll leave you alone--"

            "It's not that," you rushed to say when a woman with black hair and hazel eyes glared and flinched away from her melon stand at your approach. The last thing you needed was for another vendor to start denying you service. It's why you had to come with you mother in the first place. They could deny you but they couldn't deny an adult. "I've just been busy with Go and Ri since Mom's..."

            "Yeah, she's pretty huge. Are you excited?"

            "I'm...trying to be..." You murmured. Something about the saleswoman was strange...

            In any case you supposed it was a good thing you weren't over the Sun about your mother's pregnancy. She had a miscarriage two days later.

            You were thirteen when the soldiers came.

            It was funny in a way because the villagers brought it on themselves. They wouldn't have come if they hadn't started attacking their Fire Nation neighbors. You had no pity for them. They were the reason you smothered your new siblings with a fierce protectiveness you never imagined you'd possess.

            You closed your eyes to their pain and you grew bold and strong under the protection of your Nation's military support. You did not care for the war but you did not care for the Earth Kingdom either.

            You were fourteen when things started to balance out a little. The soldiers were a common presence now. Open hate crimes were largely a thing of the past. The people were scared. The Green had been snuffed out by powdery Red...

            And you didn't care.

            And you wouldn't care until you were fifteen.