allekha: (Default)
allekha ([personal profile] allekha) wrote in [community profile] lgbtfest2016-08-31 11:28 pm

Avatar: the Last Airbender: Ebb and Flow

Title: Ebb and Flow
Fandom: Avatar: the Last Airbender
Rating: K
Fanwork type: Fanfic
Prompt: Avatar: The Last Airbender; Kyoshi warriors; an all-female warrior group deals with the issue of transsexuality -- either a potential candidate is transgender, or a current Kyoshi warrior decides to start living as a man.
Notes: None


In the fading twilight of evening, Suki had just thought that she needed to get up and find a candle – it was really getting too dark to do accounts by – when there came a soft knock at the door, which she always kept half-open when she was at work. "Come in," she called, finishing up one last calculation, before she looked over to see one of her warriors sitting quietly on the mats.

"Aki," she said, inclining her head and putting her brush aside. "What is it?"

Aki visibly hesitated, then gave a glance toward the door. "May we speak in private, please?"

"Sure." Suki stood and crossed to close the doors leading outside, while Aki slid shut the one that lead to the rest of the dojo. Once Suki had lit a candle, they sat down again, this time on the same side of the desk.

Aki didn't start to speak right away. Suki looked at her and wondered what could be the matter. Aki was always quiet, only speaking when she had something to say. There was little to glean from her expression except for the way her narrow eyes were lowered, fanning her long, elegant black lashes over the painted white of her cheeks. There should have been no reason for her to look down like that.

Aki took a deep breath – subtle, but Suki could see the way her shoulders shifted under her kimono. She raised her gaze, looked Suki in the eye, and said, "I'm am planning on quitting."

"What?" The word slipped out before Suki could stop it. She hastily corrected herself. "That is – can I ask why? You're one of our best warriors." She was the one who led the sword drills, in fact, because of how well she could concentrate and hold her patience. Beating her in a practice match was a mark of pride among their band of Kyoshi warriors.

As Aki gathered her words, Suki tried to figure it out. She could be wanting to quit to have a family – some warriors stayed on even after having children, but others wanted more time with their babies than a warrior's lifestyle let them have. That didn't seem right, though; when had Aki ever expressed a longing to settle down? She didn't seem ill, and Suki couldn't remember her having a serious injury lately. It was rare, but once as a young child, Suki had seen a warrior quit to go on a long religious pilgrimage, who had only come back a year ago. Aki liked to talk of spirits on occasion.

"I," Aki said slowly. "I had a dream last night. I think it was a vision, perhaps. It helped me to decide on something I have struggled with for a long time. Tomorrow, I am going to the fortune teller to have new characters written for my name – as 'Akio'."

...oh. Trust Aki to take the long way around to say something. Why hadn't she just told her?

Reluctant to lose one of her best warriors, Suki protested, "I know it's not normal for our tradition, but there have been...." She cut herself off as Aki gently shook her head. It had been a long shot, anyway - the male warriors in their past were few and far between, rare exceptions to the Kyoshi warriors' mission to empower women in the art of defense.

"I don't believe I would be comfortable like that. I... I never said this to anyone, but I had a hard time for years. I couldn't understand why everyone seemed so happy with their image and their roles while I hated mine so. I've been proud to serve my community, but I need to do it in a different way now. In new clothes and a new name and a new role."

"It seems like you really thought it over," Suki conceded.

Aki nodded. "I haven't made this decision lightly."

"Then that's all I can really ask. Maybe you could at least come up to help with sword drills now and again."

"Perhaps," Aki said, with no inflection to the word.

"Let me get my record book." She stood and rifled through the many drawers until she found it, then sat with it at her desk and picked up her brush again. "You're absolutely sure?" she asked, brush held at the ready.

Another nod. Suki wrote tomorrow's date next to her name, in the column to indicate when someone had retired. "I'll let everyone know, and we can have the ceremony tomorrow morning. How does that sound?"

"Good."

"We're going to miss you," Suki said as she closed the book and set it aside.

"It was an honor to fight with you and everyone."

"And with you as well. I'm glad to have had you at my back."

Aki stood and trailed off to the door. Suki turned back to her accounts, only to look up again when she didn't hear the door slide open.

Aki had paused with her hand on the door frame. She made a half turn and met Suki's eyes again. "I enjoyed my time here training with everyone," she said. "There were difficult times, but I don't regret being here at all."

"Good to hear," Suki said softly, and then Aki was gone.

~!~

The ceremony started just after sunrise. Suki took Aki's head guard off, while other members of the group took her – rather, his – armor off and slid the robe from his arms. All of them were shivering a little standing in the chilly surf, but as usual, Aki made no complaint.

Aki had done the face paint for the last time, and now Suki removed it for him. The red blurred and bled around his closed eyes, down his closed cheeks, as she poured water from the bay over his face. Then she tipped oil on to her hands, free of her usual gloves, and used it to scrub away the white and the wax that lay beneath. Flecks of black and white clung to Aki's eyelashes, which Suki touched only gently, and it took several repeats of oil – soap – water to erase all remnants of makeup. Stubborn bits stuck to Aki's ears, or near his hairline.

Finally, though, it was done, and Suki tipped one last bucket of fresh spring water over his head. By now his under-robes were thoroughly soaked, but the youngest member of the group, Chiyo, came up bearing the clothes he would wear from today onward.

She had apparently taken the liberty of including a couple of towels, too, and though it wasn't technically in the ritual, Suki didn't stop her from offering Aki one for his face, or patting his hair with another to help it dry faster, after she had handed him his dry clothes.

Then it was done. Aki stood before them without any of the trappings of a warrior, save for one – one of the insignia from his warrior robes, strung on a necklace. He could wear it or not as he pleased, but it was his. He still had a warrior's strong heart, after all, even if he was no longer a Kyoshi warrior.

There was a long moment of silence. Then, now that it was finished, the seriousness of the ritual evaporated. Several members shouted out well-wishes, while others offered to walk with him to the fortune teller. Chiyo tugged on his arm. "You're going to get 'o' as in 'heroic', right?" she asked.

"I think that's up to the fortune teller," somebody pointed out, making Chiyo pout as she pulled on Aki's arm.

It was difficult to see someone she had fought beside for years turn away, bare-faced, and leave her behind. Suki could only hope that he would be alright in the end – she had seen previous warriors who had retired have difficulty integrating into normal village life. Most of them spent most of their time with their fellow warriors – training, patrolling, eating and talking and laughing – and to lose that constant companionship seemed hard.

She and Aki had never been especially close, but watching Chiyo tug him excitedly up the path to the village, she hoped that they wouldn't lose each other entirely. Not after the times they had spent together, teaching sword lessons or struggling through dark marshes in pursuit of a thief.

The rest of the warriors were splitting up – going to the docks to patrol, into the village to hear about the news (or perhaps to tag along with Aki and Chiyo), or starting fan practice here on the beach where the sand would provide an additional challenge. Suki took her place at their head and started to lead them through the form, letting the familiar movements take over as Aki's footsteps slowly faded away.

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