A/N: This chapter definitely took more time and work than others up until now. I hope it was worth it.
What I Learned at SRU
Chapter 15 - An Angry Girl
- Saturday, September 25th -
"Nope. Not since Tuesday."
"You've just been...ignoring them?"
"Yep. I told them at the funeral: I'm done."
"Well, er..." Sokka shrugged, passing Jane her a white cup with a simplified dragon printed around its surface. "Good for you, eh?"
"Good for me," Jane dryly agreed, taking a sip of her coffee.
Ow. Fuck. Almost burned my tongue.
She popped off the lid to her cup and stared at the liquid for a moment, inspecting it. It looked like Sokka had administered enough creamer, at least - nice and light brown.
"So...What happens now?" Sokka wondered.
"Well, like...I-I thought I heard Katara say at some point that, like...you couldn't just leave the Freedom Fighters..."
"Hmph," Jane snorted, avoiding his curious gaze. "That was back when we had a leader."
"What about that gang that attacked you? Aren't you scared of them?"
"If I have to deal with them I can do it on my own," insisted Jane, gently blowing at her coffee. Store-bought coffee was always too fucking hot. Damn. If she wanted to burn off her tongue she'd lick an electric stove.
"Well, aren't you just the big tough girl?" Sokka teased with a grin, nudging up his mug in a casual toast, leaning back against the wall behind him.
"Damn straight," scoffed Jane, still wary of her coffee's temperature. Sokka slurped a bit at his own. How could he drink his? Was his tongue heat-resistent?
Am I being a pussy, or something? Wimpy little prep boy here can drink hot coffee and I can't.
"Sooo...What did you want?" Jane wondered, her pale eyes finally glancing up at Sokka. He lifted a brow at her across his travel mug.
"Mm?" he hummed out through his sipping.
"You wanted to...to meet? And have coffee?" Jane mumbled expectantly. "What did...you wanna talk about?"
"Oh." Sokka shrugged, setting his mug down. "I dunno. Whatever."
"Whatever?" she repeated with a flat irritation.
"Yea," he replied with nonchalance. "Just wanted to chat, Freckle-Face. Get to know ya."
"A-huh." Jane wasn't terribly amused by this. She let Sokka wallow in silence for a minute or two, letting her coffee cool. At last, she asked, "What do you want to know?"
"Errr..." Sokka was obviously beginning to notice her grouchy disposition. "I don't-...Ehm. What should I know?"
Jane sighed, rolled her eyes, and drank a small bit of coffee.
Hmph. Too much sweetener. God damnit.
"You should know that I'm not a very patient person," Jane gruffly explained.
"That's something we share in common," Sokka jumped on the chance. "At least, when it comes to people."
"People are assholes."
Sokka's enthused face cracked a bit, his mind's gears cranking to come up with a segue-way.
"Whh...Y-yea, I mean, they can be, but not all of them."
Jane bobbed her head to the side in a half-shrug and sipped a little more this time.
"Like your sister," Jane conceded quietly, staring off at a random student behind Sokka.
"Katara's pretty cool," admitted Jane meekly, running her finger around the edge of her cup.
"She certainly is," concurred Sokka with a hearty smile.
"Even if she can be a little crazy," Jane muttered. "But everyone's at least a little crazy," she mused with a smirk.
"I know I sure am," Sokka chuckled, slapping his palm on the table.
"Not as crazy as me," Jane concluded with eyelids half open and brows lifted.
"You strike me as more...angry than crazy."
A laugh escaped Jane at this comment.
"Ohhh, I am a pretty fuckin' angry person. But also crazy."
"Why's that?" Sokka wondered as he leaned forward on his elbows, curiosity pulling him.
"I've got my reasons," Jane affirmed coldly before drinking some more of her overly sweet coffee.
"Most people do," observed Sokka with a solemn shrug.
"Most people don't have my reasons," Jane insisted with a narrow glare.
"Fair enough." Sokka sucked down the last of his drink.
"What should I know about you, Sokka?"
"I like food. A lot."
A thick sarcasm dribbled out through Jane's lips. "You're shitting me."
"I like history. Especially wars. How people have mindlessly murdered each other in the past...But more importantly, the strategies they used to do so."
"That's...probably the manliest thing I've heard about you so far."
"I haven't heard a single womanly thing about you," Sokka teased. Jane's fist tightened around her cup at his comment.
"Guess you don't know very much about me, then."
"Well," Sokka tapped his fingertips against his forehead. "Clearly there is much we have yet to learn about each other, Ginger."
How many nicknames does this guy have for me, anyway?
"From what Katara's told me about you I'm not really so sure how much I want to learn..."
"She's my sister - come on. She's going to paint me in a bad light. With ugly paint."
"Weren't you just saying how cool she was?"
"Well yea, but I'm more gracious than she is, so of course I'd say that."
"Fff! Yea, OK..."
Sokka grinned at her doubt, polishing his fingernails on his button-down shirt.
"I can be very sensitive," Sokka advised. "Like, ehm...-"
Jane stared at him, eyes wide with amusement and expectation.
"I'm sorry about your parents," he tossed sympathy out bluntly. His tone's sharp wit had rapidly dulled. "I know how hard it can be." His wandering gaze quickly leapt back to her slightly flushed face. "An-and I guess we were lucky, in...in a way," he injected. "We still have our dad, at least."
Jane's bowels rotated at the sudden twist in topic. What the hell was up with this guy, suddenly trying to be all sentimental and crap?
"That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Jane recited with a shrug.
"Or it...ya know...makes you angry," Sokka theorized touchily.
"Both," Jane swatted down what she perceived as some kind of offensive against her attitude.
"At least your boyfriend seems pretty mellow."
"Yea," Jane mumbled. "He...he's super chill. Keeps me steady."
"Everyone could use someone to ground them," Sokka acknowledged.
"Heh, especially me."
"I feel like your drill sergeant will probably keep you so grounded your legs will be buried."
"Pah, I'd like to see him try."
"Do you get a lot of crap from them?"
"From...ya know. From the other guys in training."
"I've seen you guys jogging around campus. Aren't you the only girl?"
Sokka shrugged in defense.
"N-nothin', I just...I would figure they might give you a hard time or something."
"I can keep up with them just fine."
"I bet," Sokka agreed. "But, I mean...There would be certain things that they'd be able to do easier than you...right?"
Jane glowered at his entirely valid point, utterly infuriated by this truth as Sokka stated the obvious.
"'Cuz they're just bigger than you, is all I'm saying."
"And bigger is better, is that it?"
"N-not at all! I'd just...I just wonder if that becomes an issue."
"I get everything done that I need to," Jane specified. "I don't need anyone's help."
"And...So that's why you needed Katara's help bandaging that head," Sokka observed, nodding up and glancing at the band of white cloth around Jane's head. Katara had been helping replace it with a fresh cloth each day all week, in fact. Her eyes narrowed further and she opted to glare at her coffee as she drank some more. "And you needed that bandage 'cuz that's the same attitude you had the night your friend died."
Jane's jaws were grinding together.
"What's your fuckin' point?" she hissed in a whisper through grit teeth.
Sokka frowned back for the first time in their exchange. His misted blue eyes gazed into the recesses of her olive pools of rage.
That Jet might still be alive if I hadn't tried saving him on my own. If I had gotten help.
"My point? My point is that if you're going to fit into our group, 'Smellerbee,' your attitude isn't gonna work out."
"No one cares about this 'tough-girl' act. I get that you're not exactly into unicorns and fairies and believe me, I respect that. But this loner thing? I don't like it."
"And why the hell should I care what you think?"
"Because what I think is that I don't want to see my sister get hurt because of the crap you get yourself mixed into."
Their eyes remained locked and intense, like two swords sparking against one another.
"She'd better not."
"Why?" Smellerbee spat irritably. "What the fuck do you think you're gonna do about it? Huh, Abercrombie?"
"If my sister ends up in the hospital...or dead...because of you and your gang, it's gonna be on your hands-"
"They're not my gang, anymore, Sokka. I'm done."
"Then why are you still acting like you have something to prove?"
Another heated moment of silent stares passed before Smellerbee tore her eyes from his, arms shoving themselves across her chest.
"This is who I am, Preppie."
"That's great," Sokka grumbled, cocking his head slightly to the side as he stared at her averting eyes. "As long as you don't get my friends pulled into any shady business. For all I care, you can go on with your nonsense nickname. What the hell does 'Smellerbee' even mean? Go head, keep on acting like you're a thug, pretending that you're a freaking boy, always trying to-"
Don't you fucking dare.
"-make sure everyone knows how tough you are all the damned time, being angry at the whole freakin' world because-"
"Stop." Smellerbee flashed up her palm at him. "You don't know a fucking thing about me, man. Just...shut the hell up." She gruffly rose to her feet. She glance at him briefly, his gaze still locked onto her. She immediately pulled away and shoved the chair against the table, causing her coffee cup to splash a bit. He could drink the damned sugar water for all she cared.
"What are you trying to prove?" she demanded, ignoring the various coffee-drinkers around them who were uncomfortably staring or fidgeting about.
"That I love my friends, and I don't want to see them get into trouble," Sokka replied with a collected simplicity. "That you rub me the wrong way, and that I don't trust you, Freckle-Face. Not yet."
"I don't need your fucking trust," seethed Smellerbee viciously. "I don't have anything to prove to fuckin' assholes like you."
Having said the few words she needed to say like a blunt club against Sokka's face, Smellerbee stomped out of the coffee shop, brutally shoving the glass double doors out and rushing up the stone steps out into the sunny afternoon. Jane paused a moment to soak in what had just transpired. Her gut had been right: Sokka hadn't just wanted to talk, he'd wanted to try and get inside her head because he had a problem with her.
Shit. Katara is not gonna be happy with us...
"Jay-mee, Jay-mee! Little Cousin It!" jeered the boy with the chunky frame.
"Shut up!" hissed the bully's victim, a lanky child of twelve.
"It! It! It!" was the countering chant.
"I said shut up!" Jamie screeched through the taunting, punching the opposing child in the arm. The chubby boy absorbed the hit with nary a problem, Jamie's puny little fist leaving no sign of impact. The larger, brutish kid fiercely shoved his opposition, knocking them down into the grass beside the flower patch in the back yard. "I hate you, Nils!" Jamie growled, ignoring stinging elbows.
"Everyone hates you, freak!"
"No, they don't!" defied Jamie, slamming a fist into the ground.
"Leave me alone! Already told you, Nils: my cousins are in the house." Jamie was scrambling backward nervously as Nils slowly approached, towering above. Nils was a friend of Jamie's older cousins and lived down the street, but as of late he seemed to have taken pleasure in tormenting the youngest child of the household when he visited.
"But this is so much fun, Jamie," Nils chuckled. "I'm just trying to teach ya how to be tough."
"I can be tough when I wanna..."
"You're too girly to be tough."
"Shut up! Go away!"
Jamie kicked out a slender leg at Nils' fat shin, and he grunted as the sneaker heel rammed into him. Hands pushing through dirt now, Jamie finally flipped over and crawled across the small garden, crushing a couple of flowers in the escape. Nils laughed and stomped right into the thin garden that ran alongside the wooden fence of the backyard. Jamie had inadvertently knocked over a flower where a bee had been harvesting pollen. The bee swerved and landed on Jamie's hand - the child froze and stared at it as it scurried along the pale, freckled wrist. Jamie could clearly see in that moment its chubby, round shape and distinct black and yellow stripes - it was a bumblebee.
"Ya gotta stand up for yerself, stupid."
Nils laughed as he stomped on Jamie's back, eliciting a gasp from his victim as he plastered the redhead's body flat into the ground. This caused the bee to fly from Jamie's hand and spiral through the air in fury. It angrily buzzed and whirred around Nils, causing him to lift his foot off of Jamie in a panic, fumbling backward. He frantically thrashed his hands at the insect, eyes wide and afraid.
"Agh, go away!" he cried, oddly horrified by the pudgy bug. The more he swung his arms, the angrier the bee got, until it finally landed on his arm. It jammed its stinger into Nils' skin and he shrieked, swatting at his tricep only to miss. The bug swerved away and landed on his shin, injecting its stinger at him once again. Another roar of pain, and Jamie realized that the 'bully' problem for today just fixed itself. Jamie forced skinny legs onto skinny feet and scuttled right behind Nils, who was fleeing the garden.
"It stung me, it stung me," Nils was repeatedly gibbering, limping away to the back deck.
"That's what you get!" Jamie declared in furious retribution, following him closely, savoring the moment.
"I'm allergic, you ass!" the chunky boy snarled. Sure enough, upon observation, it could be seen that the spots where Nils had been stung were swelling and turning bright red. "Why didn't it sting you?"
"'Cuz!" Jamie blurted out immediately. "It...It could smell your fear."
"Bees can do that?" Nils whimpered, clambering up the patio steps.
"Of course!" Jamie went along with this fanciful idea. "It could...it could smell that you were afraid. It could smell the evil coming from you."
It was probably the delusional state of shock and pain that the boy was in, but Nils seemed to buy in to this embellished explanation.
"Friggin'...-" He was gasping out now, his voice wheezing as they entered into the living room through the back door.
"Uncle!" Jamie yelled out irritably into the house.
"What is it?" the mustached man wondered, thumping down the stairs. "What happened?"
"Friggin'...Smelling...bee..." Nils was panting out. "Did I...smell bad...?" Definitely delusional at this point. "Dohn wanna...smell evil..."
"What?" spat out the only adult present, baffled. "What happened, Jamie?"
Jamie's arms were crossed, accented by a frown. "He got stung," Jamie replied with a shrug, hands tucked behind the back and words lathered with innocence.
"By what?" demanded the uncle.
Nils offered the answer in a drawling moan, his eyes squint shut in pain.
A smirk formed under olive eyes, which glared across patches of freckles at the coughing boy as he sat on the couch, choking on the dish of revenge. For months Nils had been grieving Jamie, but today was the day of his first defeat. That small yellow and black insect, that harbinger of this long-awaited revenge, had a name all its own now: the name assigned to it by Jamie's fallen nemesis.
Katara sighed and shook her head, tossing her arm out dismissively.
"No, it's...it's all right, Jane. He can...My brother can be a real pain sometimes, I know." She collapsed into their booth at Appa's. "He seems to always think he's right," she muttered. Her expression dulled as she added, "And more often than I'd like? He is right..."
"Well, he sure as hell ain't right about me."
"No," Katara vehemently agreed. "He definitely isn't." She paused to contemplate the situation and the cracks in her armor of determination became apparent as she thumped her head into her arms on the table and groaned miserably. "Urgh, why is it one thing after the other?"
"That's life, Babe," Jane apathetically informed her, slapping Katara playfully on the back of her head, stirring her out of her exasperated stupor.
"Maybe...you should tell him. Tell the whole group."
Jane could tell that Katara's suggestion had been carefully considered, simmering around in her mind for time before this conversation, waiting for just the right time to come out.
"N-not sure that's such a great idea," Jane grumbled dubiously, her pale face flashing like a stop light.
"Come on, Jane," Katara pleaded softly, latching her hands onto her arms with a shiver. She grabbed her Aqua hoodie from beside her on the booth's cushion and slipped it on.
"You cold?" Jane inquired, perplexed.
"Little bit," Katara admitted, rubbing at her arms before stuffing her hands in her waist pocket. "Why wouldn't you do it?" Katara continued, not letting the subject go so easily.
"Ach," Jane grunted, rolling her head about indecisively. "I don't know, Kat, it's...-"
"It's very sensitive," Katara knowingly acknowledged. "It's very personal. I know, Jane. But you can't expect people like my brother to know any better if he doesn't know the truth. And-and maybe if you open up to them, they won't feel so intimidated by you."
"They feel intimidated by me?" Jane was both perplexed but pleased with that idea.
"Toph was a little at first, but you two are alike in a lot of ways, so I know she really likes you by now. Sokka is totally intimidated or else he wouldn't have said any of that stuff to you. And Aang and Suki?" Katara shrugged, her expression nervous. "They just don't know what to do with you. You've been very...antisocial. And quiet."
"But...But I'm fucking trying, here," Jane declared defensively, "What more do they-?"
"No, you're right," Katara quickly eased, palms out. "You are, I know you're trying, Jane. I know it's...not natural for you."
Jane's heartbeat turned irregular and her breathing went sharp for a couple of moments, a swell of emotion seeping out for reasons she didn't comprehend. Just dwelling on this idea was stressful, bringing back pain and confusion and hatred and rage.
"I don't even...What is natural for me, Katara?" Jane demanded in an oddly desperate growl. She smacked herself in the forehead and huffed, fiercely restraining her recently disturbed inner turmoil from escaping the thick shell she bound it within. It felt like a dormant dragon of unspeakable power being awoken and she was being tasked with keeping it at bay in its cave.
"Jane, Hun..." Katara extended a hand across the table, but Jane refused to take it, keeping her arms stiffly straight at her sides. "Whatever you feel is right. That's what's natural for you." She retracted her hand and frowned with regret and sympathy, unsure of what to do to help. "I'm sorry. I'm not meaning to pressure you into it. I think it'd be healthy to do it - to let it out. And I know that they'd be supportive. It'd help them understand why things are so difficult for you, and...and they'd probably be more receptive to you if they felt like you trusted them. Does that...Does that make any sense?"
Jane bobbed her head back and forth with a quick glance, the doubt clouding her eyes receding.
"That's how I feel about it, Jane. And as your friend, I'm letting you know that. But...If you aren't comfortable with it, then you shouldn't do it. I just don't want you to think that this is something you need to hide from them. They want to be your friends, they-"
"Your brother sure as hell doesn't..."
"Ehhh..." Katara scratched her ear, tucking a loose locke of hair behind it. "He does, Jane. He knows there's more to you than meets the eye and he wants to get along with you. I know he does. He wouldn't have been so rash with you if he didn't care."
I don't trust you, Freckle-Face. Not yet.
Not yet, he had said. She'd overlooked that specific addition to his phrase in the heat of the moment.
"Sokka's different from me in that way," Katara explained. "We're kind of like opposites. You really have to earn his trust. But once you earn it, he is always going to look out for you." She informed Jane of this with specific deliberation, and Jane couldn't deny the very strong bond between the two siblings just based on the tone of her voice, regardless of all she had witnessed between the two in person.
"Hmph," Jane puffed out, barely affirming Katara's guarantee. "How are you like opposites?" she questioned, confused.
Katara grinned and rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly.
"I, um...I trust really easily, but..." She shrugged. "I kind of have a lot of trouble getting over stuff when that trust gets broken. Ya know?"
"Yea," Jane murmured, all too familiar with faith being shattered. She found it somewhat admirable how Katara openly tossed out this flaw of hers. She just threw it out there. Jane recalled when they had been getting to know one another months prior. Katara would let Jane peek into the windows of her life with such ease and honesty. At first Jane had wondered what was true and what wasn't, but everything Katara had told her during that summer seemed true - even the flaws she had admitted to, like the over-worrying and trying to fix everything.
"Anyway, like..." Katara showed her friend a confident and encouraging smile. "I don't want to bother you about it, I'm just asking you to think about it."
"OK." Jane nodded, rubbing her eyebrow with her finger.
Maybe I should just...get it out of the way, then?
"Let's, erm...Let's do it, then," she decided weakly. Her words were muddled with uncertainty.
"Wh-? Like...Right now?" Katara was taken aback. "Are you serious?" She was not convinced, keen to Jane's hesitancy. "You sure, Jane?"
"Serious? Yea. Sure? No," admitted the redhead, her face pinkened again, her entire hand of fingertips running over her brow now. "B-but it's not like they're not gonna find out eventually..." She sighed and dropped her arm, wedging her hands between her legs as her foot bounced habitually. "I trust you, Kat. If you...If you think this is a good idea, maybe they should know." She let slide a smirk to her blue-eyed friend who reciprocated, and Jane was glad to see it.
I'm not exactly a Freedom Fighter anymore. Don't really have anywhere else to go, but Katara seems to want me around. And Johnny wants me to stick with these people...I still don't get why he thinks they're so good for me, but...
"Besides," Jane amended with a chuckle, "This way if anyone says any shit about me I have every right to kick their ass, no questions asked. Right?"
"Baha!" Katara slapped her leg in concurrence. "You sure do."
"Then let's get this over with."
"Shhhhuuure," Katara awkwardly agreed, still thrown off by Jane's eager disposition. She fumbled around and whipped out her cell phone. "I'm, uhh...I'll let them know." She froze, staring at her phone with a blank expression. "Wait, so...Who am I...-?" She glanced up with a raised brow.
"Oh, er..." Jane's eyes darted to the left as she considered her options. "The whole...gang. I guess."
"You sure you're comfortable with that?" Katara double checked.
"Yea," Jane immediately spat. She wasn't entirely comfortable. She was pretty pissed at Sokka and she still knew next to nothing about Suki. But she had faith in Katara's decision. The more Jane seemed to trust in this girl the more Katara seemed to prove how trustworthy she was.
"All right." Katara's face exploded into a grateful and relieved grin and she began to feverishly punch numbers into her phone.
Jane pulled out her own device and sent a message.
[To: Johnny Longshot]
[hey im thinkin of tellin my new friends bout...THAT. what do you think?]
"Hiya, Sis, what's going...-?" Sokka froze in his tracks when he noticed Jane spread across Katara's bed to his right. The two practically drew swords with their eyes. "Oh, hey, Smellerbee," Sokka demeaned.
"Hey, Asswipe," Jane hissed back.
"Did she tell you-?" Sokka immediately began, his concern having crumbled into rage as he jabbed an accusing pointer finger at the aloof girl on the bed.
"Yes," Katara interjected, sweeping by Sokka and pushing his shoulder to ease him into her desk chair, which was pointed to face her bed. "Now, stop it, you guys. Come on." Her words sparked with disappointment.
"Is this some group therapy session, Katara?" Sokka grumbed, kicking off his loafers and leaning back in the chair. "You the mediator or something?"
"No," Katara groaned, her lids squinting in frustration for a moment. "Just...Quit it. Where's Suki?"
"What do you need her for?"
"But...I thought she was with you when I called."
"Yea, but you said you needed me for something."
Jane popped an aspirin as Katara mumbled a response.
"Oh...I-I guess I just assumed...-"
"She had a thing with some friends this afternoon," clarified Sokka.
Sokka seemed to be in a fairly irate mood - Jane recalled him telling her earlier that day about his lack of patience with people. She knew full well that his state of mind had more to do with herself being present rather than his sister.
"We can still...go ahead, then - don't you think?" Katara turned to Jane, who shrugged, crossing one leg over the other. She was kind of relieved - she barely knew Suki at this point and wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of that girl knowing about this, anyway.
[From: Johnny Longshot]
[ ;D ]
"What are you talking about?" Sokka demanded in a growl, slapping his knees impatiently.
"Jane has something she needs to tell you guys," Katara firmly explained, glaring at her brother with pleading eyes, begging him to calm himself down. Her expression served its purpose well as Sokka's hostile stance faltered.
"Fine," he gave in with a huff. "I don't see why this couldn't have wai-"
"We're heeeeeere~" sang Toph from the hall as they approached. Her voice could be heard singing from the hall: "~Shave and a haircut~" There was a brief pause before Toph thrust herself dramatically in front of the doorway, expression wild as she finished, "~Two bits!~" flailing her arms out.
"Wha?" Aang blurted from her side as he grabbed her arm to prevent the wobbly girl from toppling over in her crazed drama.
"I could use a haircut..." Sokka muttered to himself thoughtfully, running his fingers through his floppy bangs.
"Oh, hi, Meathead," Toph enthusiastically cried, fumbling into the room and tripping over his loafers. Aang instinctively reached an arm out as if to once again prevent her from hurting herself, but she had gone off on her own at this point. She laughed and shoved the shoes aside with the side of her foot, slipping her sandals off and heading to her bed, only to bump into her desk chair, which had been moved in lieu of Katara's own chair being rearranged. She rebounded from her chair and finally fell into her bed. Her hair had been styled into pigtails, which she quickly undid and united into a ponytail as Aang joined her, shrugging sheepishly to his friends.
"Hey," Sokka greeted at last.
"'Sup, Toph?" Jane made her presence known.
"Hi, Jane!" Aang waved his hand at her with a wide grin. The ginger girl couldn't help but smile back and lift a hand in reply, charmed by his innocent eagerness.
"Thanks for coming, guys," said Katara as she gently closed the door, locking it from the inside. "Sorry I wasn't specific about what was going on - Jane wanted to talk with us about something."
"Is everything OK?" Toph immediately wondered. "Is your head all right?"
Jane smirked, amused by Toph's slightly more-off-kilter-than-usual mood.
"Fine," she replied.
"Didn't seem so fine to me just a little while ago," Sokka grumbled.
Noticing Aang and Toph's expressions rapidly change from relaxed to confused, Katara quickly laid out the situation.
"Sokka and Jane had a bit of a spat today, and it made us realize that there's something Jane wants you guys to know."
Jane sat up as Katara took a seat beside her brother. The frustrated Irish girl took a deep breath. She ran her hand through her dirty hair - she'd been avoiding washing it for fear of worsening her injury, but Katara was helping keep it disinfected with each change of bandages, at least. Every time she'd receive the same scolding for refusing to go to a hospital, but Jane was simply not going to put herself through that process.
"This doesn't leave this room," Jane issued her condition. "Got it?"
"Y-yea, sure," Toph agreed instantly.
"Promise." Aang crossed his finger over his heart.
Jane's glance cast itself to Sokka, who was hunched in his chair, stroking his patch of chin hair contemplatively.
"What about Suki?" he wondered. Jane shook her head with firm resolve.
"I'll tell her myself when I feel like it."
Sokka sighed and shook his head with a shrug, as if he had little choice in this matter.
"All right," he gave in. "Your secret's safe with me."
"OK." Jane folded her legs up in her chair. Her tight black T-shirt had started to ride up from laying on the bed so she tugged it down, taking a moment to appreciate the bumblebee symbol stitched into the left chest. Her throat dried up, a knot bound her guts together, her heartbeat quickened...
She met Katara's gaze and was calmed by the sapphire eyes that radiated confidence and courage, fueling her to be strong, assuring safety. She cleared her throat and wrapped her hands around her waist, olive eyes shedding their rough shell, grit teeth loosening behind frowning lips.
"I told you guys that my parents died when I was little," Jane reviewed. "And that I ended up moving in with relatives...What I didn't tell you is that my parents left all of their savings to me for two reasons." She lifted up her thumb. "One: to pay for my college education." She raised her index finger. "Two: to let me have surgery done when I was old enough to decide what I wanted." Jane at last looked up at the puzzled expressions of the group - Katara's, of course, being the exception. They seemed speechless, unsure of what Jane was getting at.
"I was born an intersexual," Jane announced, knocking her voice down a couple of decibals.
"So you like boys and girls?" Aang whispered, his face beet red at the topic. Toph laughed through her nose and shoved an elbow into his side.
"That's bisexual, Twinkle-Toes."
"Like...a hermaphrodite...?" Sokka muttered quietly.
"Intersexual," Jane specificed irritably, obviously disinterested in the particular word Sokka had used. "When I was born, I...-" She twitched her shoulders. "-...wasn't really a boy or a girl. I was...kind of both."
"Whoa." The word slipped out of Aang's lips, his eyes wide, though Toph's brows were furrowed, her face pensive. A look at Sokka's face revealed that he was likely regretting some of the comments he had made up until that point, avoiding her gaze, fidgeting with discomfort.
"My parents didn't want to make me be one gender or the other, so...they decided they would let me decide on my own when I was old enough."
"Wouldn't...that make things super confusing when you were growing up?" Toph theorized.
"Yea. It would," Jane confirmed. "But I'm glad I was given the choice. Not everyone like me is so lucky - a lot of the time there's health complications, and...Sometimes they just aren't given a choice."
"Soooo, like, how does that work out, then?" Sokka asked, flopping his hands around as he spoke. "I mean, with the kinds of organs, and stuff, how would-?"
"Sokka," Katara snipped, slapping his leg.
"Ow. I'm just curious!"
Jane groaned and rubbed her eyebrows, mentally exhausted as it was.
"Isn't 'Jane' a girl's name?" Sokka followed up.
"They named me 'Jamie'," Jane illuminated. "All you need to know is that it was really awkward growing up, and that when I started going through puberty, I decided I wanted to be a girl. And I had surgery done, and I...became a girl. Changed my name."
"So...everything works, then?" Toph asked, fairly concerned, it seemed.
"I...I guess. Far as I can tell," Jane confessed, cheeks shimmering red. "I mean...we're not really sure if I can have kids or not yet." She huffed through her nostrils, considering whether or not this was something she even wanted. "Not that I've tried or anything."
"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this is probably why you keep getting mad at me when I pick on you about...being...not so girly," groped Sokka's words hesitantly.
Toph, hand on her chin, piped up with the question, "How come you chose to be girl?"
"Yea," Aang concurred. "I mean, ya just...You're...really tough, and...and everything..."
"I was raised by men," Jane flatly informed. "I guess they rubbed off on me..." She sighed as her mind fought to damn up the cavalcade of memories that were piling up in her consciousness. "And I got sick of them. Wanted to be...not...like them." She removed blue specks of blanket lint that had stuck to the bee logo on her shirt.
"Makes enough sense," Toph conceded.
"Not all guys are assholes, though," deduced the redhead, rewarding Aang's polite courtesies with a smile before deliberately sharpshooting Sokka's now guilty slump with her glance.
"Jane hasn't exactly had it easy," Katara concluded to her friends. "She was afraid of telling you this because other people have treated her badly in the past." Jane knew what Katara wanted to add to that: 'People like Jet.'
Damnit, Katara, I don't need them thinking I'm some fucking wilted flower in need of watering...
"Bottom line is," Jane announced, "Don't go sayin' shit about me." Olive daggers pierced the pale blue iris pair on Sokka's face.
"O-of course not," Aang assured. "That's...wow. Like, I can't even imagine..."
"This doesn't make you think of Jane any differently, right, guys?" Katara threw out.
"No, that just makes me think you're even more bad-ass," Toph complimented with a grin. "That must be tough to deal with. No wonder you're such an awesome chick - you chose to be one."
Sokka clucked his tongue.
"Man, Jane, you made the wrong decision on that one," he advised, waggling his index finger. At first, Jane's instinct was to kick him in the groin, but she quickly realized he was trying to use his humor to lighten the mood between them now that he had new material to work with. She wasn't entirely sure how she felt about this. "What were you thinking? You probably regret it by now, doncha?" He winked her way, his index poking in her direction. 'Work with me, here,' was the sentiment his demeanor implied.
"Sometimes," she slyly went along. "About..." She rolled her eyes up in mock contemplation. "A few days every month." A round of chuckles brightened the pity party, much to Jane's relief.
A/N: I could discuss a great many things here. But I'll let you figure out what you think on your own. There is more to Jane's backstory which we'll see as the story progresses. Speaking of which, yes, I know I need to move the plot a bit more forward. Will be working at that as best I can soon.