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Avatar Fic: Inner Nature (His Dark Materials Crossover) 
14th-Dec-2008 05:14 pm
Avocado

Remember when I said I would wait until I post all the holiday drabbles on Christmas? I lied. This one ate at my brain until I posted it. P.S. Still time to request your holiday drabble if you would like one.

Title: Inner Nature
Pairings: None
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2000+
Summery: "I never hid the scar. I wore it as a symbol of shame, of the banished prince… but I never hid from it. I never hide what my daemon is, either. Or what she isn’t."
Notes: Thanks to thistle_chaser who suggested the prompt and everyone else who had great suggestions on the natures of everyone's daemons. (Although I had my own silly ideas most of the time.) Also the ending line is totally ganked from The Golden Compass.
*******

 


“We should join them.”

Zuko scowled. “They don’t want me over there. I—She’ll think I’m just going to hurt the Avatar.” He took another bite of rice — so coarsely milled and plain, lacking all of the spices he had grown used too in his short weeks at the palace.

A sharply pointed rat-like face scowled up at him from somewhere near the vicinity of his right knee. Of course, Chihiro had read his mind. She was his mind. “You know it tastes better than anything in the Palace. It tastes better because it feels better to be here, even if you do insist on sulking.”

“I am the Avatar’s firebending teacher. I am not here to make friends,” he said.

“Uncle was right. You just like being miserable.”

The mention of Uncle struck like a barb to his heart. “What is your problem?!” Zuko snapped, and it came out louder than he intended. He saw a couple of glances thrown in his direction from across the temple common area, and Zuko looked away, his cheeks hot.

His daemon couldn’t have been less concerned. She sat up, cleaning her whiskers. “I thought the idea for us to come here was to join the good side.”

“None of them trust me.”

“They will. We will just have to prove ourselves.”

Zuko gave a long suffering sigh, but there was no getting around it; his daemon was correct. When had they ever given up this easily? He stood to his feet, rice bowl in one hand and scooping up Chihiro with the other. She scuttled to his shoulder and in another moment she was a messenger hawk; regal and glaring around with sharp eyes and a sharper beak.

The Avatar and his friends were sitting in a semi-circle around a fire across the large opened air room. Sokka was chatting animatedly, and a couple of the others were laughing — laughter that stopped the moment Zuko sat himself down in an unoccupied spot.

There was a moment or two of awkward silence where Zuko knew, knew he shouldn’t have listened to Chihiro. This was ridiculous. He should just go back and eat in peace—

But then Aang smiled in his gentle sort of way and chirped out, “Hey Zuko, there’s plenty more rice if you want seconds.”

“Thank you, Avatar."

“His name is Aang.” Katara’s voice cut from the other side of the fire. Her daemon, a large elegant Sea-Swan puffed out his feathers and rearranged his wings with an angry flick. Chihiro glared back coldly. And instantly there was a frozen tension in the air — as if all the kids were holding their breath to see what the firebender would do to the challenge.

Zuko met Katara’s fierce blue eyes, and nodded. “Okay Aang, then.” His voice was carefully measured, and in a moment the girl’s daemon’s feathers were down. Pacified, the Sea-Swan started to peck at the small blades of grass that had started to grow between the dirty flagstones.

Aang, ever cheerful, turned to Sokka and asked him to continue the story he had been telling.

Zuko listened politely, although as he had been come into the middle of it, he didn’t quite understand all the details. But as the Water Tribe boy talked, the tension slowly faded from the group and he began to relax, and eat.

Chihiro leaned over and whispered in his ear. “You know, this is already better than Ember Island."

He knew exactly what she meant. He wasn’t trusted by the Avatar’s group, but already only a few hours after they'd given him his chance he found himself more comfortable here than he had at any time with his sister and her friend. Katara’s earlier death threat had rattled him, but now his confidence was returning. Was that all she had? He’d had worse as a child in the palace."

His daemon was right. They would find a way to prove themselves.

The drinking water was sickly warm and flavored with briny minerals. Zuko set his cup down and got to his feet; surely they could do a little better than this. The kitchen area was nothing more than a collection of odd pots and pans, but he quickly found a kettle and filled it with water.

He was some ways away from the others, but the tightening of Chihiro’s claws on his shoulder warned him of approaching company. Zuko turned to face an annoyed Waterbender. She glared at him with arms crossed over her chest. “What do you think you’re doing?”

He held up the kettle. “Making tea?”

“What?” A look of confusion crossed her face before she gave a disgusted sigh. “That’s right. You were working in that tea-shop in Ba Sing Se, weren’t you?”

Zuko gaped at her. “My Uncle’s shop. How-how did—”

But he never to finish. Katara whipped around, momentarily incensed by something other than the untrustworthy firebender. “Sokka!” she snapped. “You’ve had enough sweetsauce… and use a spoon!”

Her brother was greedily dipping a finger into a small pot of sugar sauce, used for flavoring the rice. He had been caught, literally red handed. Katara’s daemon flew after her brother’s — a slyly grinning arctic fox-coyote — beating her about the head with his powerful wings and driving him away from the kitchen while Katara bickered with Sokka.

Toph and Aang stood by the fire, not alarmed, talking softly between themselves as if this was an every day occurrence.

“You may want to steep the jasmine,” Chihiro said as they looked on. “Uncle always said jasmine tea was calming.”

 

                                                                                                *******

 

Zuko didn’t call for a break until just after high noon in the very heat of the day. Taking a towel, he wiped out his shaggy hair while Aang groaned and sprawled himself down on the cool flagstones groaning in relief. Maybe Zuko could have been easier on the kid… but they didn’t have time. They only had a little more than a month until the arrival of Sozin’s comet.

Besides, there was something satisfying — deeply satisfying — about working with the new moves he had learned from Ran and Shaw. The Dancing Dragon were a simple set of forms, yet the more he and Aang worked on them, the more he began to see how they could be applied to what he had learned before. In a way The Dancing Dragon was simple; rooted in the more popular Firebending forms allowing hidden connections between the styles.

It was… engrossing. Zuko had forgotten the time more than once.

There was a slight breeze floating through the air temple; hot air from the canyon below, but still welcome against Zuko’s sweaty back. He sat on an up thrust bolder, and faced the fountain. Chihiro and Aang’s daemon were in the water  — Chihiro as a bobbing turtleduck and Aang’s Payma as a playing koala-otter.

“Zuko, can I ask you something?”

Aang had come to his side, propping himself up on one elbow was watching the scene along with him. He bit his lip when Zuko nodded. “Your daemon… she hasn’t settled?”

Something about the way he asked it, the way the little monk wouldn’t quite meet his eyes, made Zuko think that his had been a topic of conversation before; most likely while he was out of hearing range. Well, it was odd.

Zuko didn’t answer for a long minute. When Katara had tracked him down the first night, now a week past, and told him, “We both know you’ve struggled with doing the right thing in the past. So let me tell you something right now. You make one slip up, one more change, one backwards step and you won’t have to worry about your destiny any longer. Because I will end it. Permanently.” she had been talking not about him, but Chihiro. He had heard it before, in whispered comments, and from his crew on the ship. How they trust a man whose inner nature still changed?

“I used to ask my daemon about it,” Zuko said at last, meeting Aang’s gaze. “We used to get in fights. I just wanted to grow up and have her settle already. My father would talk about it all the time — he would call me weak, a child. Then....When I was banished,” his hand brushed past his scarred left eye, although the gesture was involuntary. “I never hid the scar. I wore it as a symbol of shame, of the banished prince… but I never hid from it. I would never hide what my daemon is, either. Or what she isn’t.”

Aang looked thoughtful. “Sometimes I wonder what Payma is going to be. I’ve asked her a few times, but she doesn’t know.”

“Don’t all airbender’s daemon’s settle into birds?”

“Yeah.” He grinned. “It would be horrible to have an ostrich-horse or something. I could never leave the ground!”

While the two boys talked, their daemons had grown tired of the water and had changed into a pair of cat-puma’s and were licking the water off their paws and carefully arranging their fur. Apparently both Zuko and Aang had a neat-streak in them.

“You know,” Aang said. “Monk Gyasto used to tell me that a daemon didn’t just settle when you grew up. It was more about when you knew who you were.”

Zuko thought to Katara’s daemon — elegant, powerful and ready to henpeck at a moment’s notice. Sokka’s was snow white coyote-fox, so full of sly intelligence and ready to pounce and rend and laugh all at the same time. Even Toph’s; hers had apparently settled only a few months ago (the proper age for such a thing) into a rabbit-hedgehog, a form that loved and understood the earth just as much as she did.

“But… for the first time, I feel like I’m really truly doing the right thing.” Zuko glanced at Aang, frowning. Every time he thought Chihiro would settle; when he was banished, when he found the Avatar, when he finally came back to the Fire Nation, and now… she hadn’t. “For the first time I’m being true to myself, but she’s still changing.”

“Maybe you’re being true to yourself, but I bet you still haven’t found yourself.” Aang grinned at Zuko’s raised eyebrow, but got up and extended a hand down before he could puzzle over those words for very long. “C’mon, Sifu Hotman. You want to get something to eat?”

                                                                                                ******

Zuko could hear the crowd, just behind the thick curtain. His promise to Aang, spoken just moments ago rang in his head, and he paused there letting the wonder of the moment fill him with joy.

“We will build it together.”

Yes. That was the way. The only true way. He was filled with certainty now… his rule would be a long, hard one. But at the end of it, he will have returned his nation’s honor.

And since when had he ever backed down from a challenge?

He felt a gentle squeeze of claws on his shoulder, and glanced over. Chihiro had changed into something he had never seen from her; a large bird with breathtaking red plumage fading to colors of orange and yellow at the tip of each feather along her long tail and elegant wings. Her beak was sharp, curved forward wickedly like a raptor; but this was no ordinary bird.

“Isn’t being a fire phoenix a little flashy for the occasion?” he asked, ignoring the fact that it was his coronation. They were coming from the end of a hundred year war, after all.

His daemon clicked her beak. “The phoenix is a sign of rebirth and hope. I want everyone to see that we may be knocked down, we may be banished, but we will just be reborn into something new and brighter.” She paused. “I don’t think I’ll be changing anymore.”

Zuko gave a start. But there was a… finished quality about his daemon he had never seen before. As if she were a brilliant painting with all the details finally drawn in.

He reached out and pulled the curtains aside, and Zuko and his daemon walked into the sunlit courtyard and to the waiting crowd.

                                                        ******




Comments 
15th-Dec-2008 02:01 am (UTC)
::LOVES UPON::

I like the cat, though I think I mentioned that once before. The phoenix is good too, though.

This is a lovely crossover. Can I have more, please?
15th-Dec-2008 03:58 am (UTC)
:D

Thanks! And yeah, I could see him with a cat daemon... or even Iroh. A big fat cat (I would somehow resist making it orange striped) with glaring amber eyes and unexpectedly sharp claws. And a love for milk with her tea. lol.
15th-Dec-2008 02:02 am (UTC)
Pure, unadulterated WIN! I really love the idea of Zuko's dæmon not having settled until he finds out who he really is; it fits him. ^_^
15th-Dec-2008 03:58 am (UTC)
Haha! Thanks! Yeah, I figure Zuzu really can't have anything easy in life. :P Glad you liked!
15th-Dec-2008 04:00 am (UTC)
He's pretty much the universe's whipping boy. Poor boo.
15th-Dec-2008 02:22 am (UTC)
What a beautiful fic!
15th-Dec-2008 04:00 am (UTC)
Awww... thank you!
15th-Dec-2008 04:06 am (UTC)
I wish i had better feedback for you, my friend. But it's brilliant, what more can I say?
15th-Dec-2008 05:04 am (UTC)
To hear that you liked it is all the feedback I need. :)
15th-Dec-2008 05:05 am (UTC)
Hehe, how about a drabble to show my adoration?

You pick the topic and you'll have it by Friday.
15th-Dec-2008 02:43 am (UTC)
What a wonderful crossover :) Thanks for sharing.

...Now I'll be spending the evening musing over the daemons for various characters...
15th-Dec-2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Haha. That's a fun exercise, I'll tell you! This totally took over my brain when I was supposed to be working. lol. Glad you liked it!
15th-Dec-2008 02:50 am (UTC)
I must say I was skeptical and morbidly curious by the thought of an AtLA/HDM crossover, but...wow. This was not what I expected (I'm not sure what it was that I expected), nor was it even really a crossover in the strictest sense, but it was extraordinarily well-done. Zuko is such a conflicted character. And you've blended the daemons into the story so well, it's almost easy to imagine they were there the entire time in the show. (For some reason, the easiest to see Jet's, whose daemon I think would be a monkey.)
15th-Dec-2008 04:02 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad that you liked it! *grins*

Oh yeah, I could totally see his as a monkey. The daemon would totally be at home in the trees, and would be a rather cute thing... but with very sharp pointed teeth. At least that's the way I see it. :P

Thanks again!
15th-Dec-2008 02:52 am (UTC)
:D I miss reading your fics! I've been behind on stuff due to finals, so it is nice to finally pay attention to the writings again!
15th-Dec-2008 04:03 am (UTC)
I've been behind on posting stuff, too! Glad you liked, and good luck on the finals!
15th-Dec-2008 03:28 am (UTC)
I LOVE this!! It's wonderful- you'd think the crossover would be awkward, but it blends perfectly with the story/avatarverse.

Any chance of more? :D:D:D
15th-Dec-2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you think it blended... I wasn't sure if I got that or not.

More? Well... maybe. I did make Katara and Zuko's daemon's birds for a reason. XD.
15th-Dec-2008 04:17 am (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful! What a great crossover =)
15th-Dec-2008 05:01 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D
15th-Dec-2008 04:34 am (UTC) - appropriate icon is appropriate?
This is absolutely fantastic. I've wanted to see a crossover like this forever, and you executed it better than I could have ever hoped for. I'm so proud of Zuko! <3
15th-Dec-2008 05:03 am (UTC) - Re: appropriate icon is appropriate?
Haha! Zuko can't have anything easy, can he? Thanks so much for your kind words, and hey look! Chihiro! I was wondering if anyone would catch that. :) That is an appropriate icon.
15th-Dec-2008 07:47 am (UTC)
That was surprisingly entertaining. I didn't think I was going to like it when I saw that it was a Golden Compass crossover. It's more just borrowing the daemon theme, which I actually found kinda cool. Good job, keep it up.
16th-Dec-2008 07:23 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! Yeah, I didn't even want to go there with other worlds and the like, so I stuck with daemons. I'm glad you liked it! :D
15th-Dec-2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
Very Nice. And fun to read!
16th-Dec-2008 07:23 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
15th-Dec-2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
Eee! Wow, that was perfect! I liked the idea of her forms still being changing, and the final one at the end was just right! :D

Thanks so much for writing this!
16th-Dec-2008 07:24 am (UTC)
No problem! Thank YOU for suggesting it! I'm glad you liked it. *beams* There may or may not be a part II on xmas day. (This was still supposed to be an xmas drabble that...exploded. hehe.)
16th-Dec-2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
Eee, yay potential part two!
15th-Dec-2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Interesting crossover, I liked the uniqueness of it and how you were able to fit it into the story so well :)
Ive really got the read the rest of that series, Ive only read the first book ^^;
16th-Dec-2008 07:25 am (UTC)
Thank you for your comment! I had a fun time writing that, and I'm glad you liked it. :D

Yeah, the rest of the series is pretty fascinating, although the first book is my clear favorite.
16th-Dec-2008 05:04 am (UTC)
Oh how I love this. I've read it twice today already. I think you may have convinced me to actually read His Dark Materials.
16th-Dec-2008 07:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! And oh! You totally should read it! At least the first book (which in my opinion is the best, and can almost stand alone).
16th-Dec-2008 05:26 am (UTC)
Just wanted to say that I think is a lovely fic. You use the devices of the daemons to give insight into the characters' motivations and behavior, rather than just having them around for window dressing. I loved it, and kind of want to watch all of Avatar all over again, but this time with daemons. ^___^
16th-Dec-2008 07:27 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! That was what I was aiming for, and I'm really glad it came through. *beams* It wasn't a true crossover, but a lot of fun to write anyway.
16th-Dec-2008 08:16 am (UTC)
I am surprised, how perfect this two worlds fit together, but they do, because of the spirit world of Avatar. The story was woderfully written, kind and in character, and the decision of the demon at the end was just right.
16th-Dec-2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. I particularly liked Aang and Zuko's daemons not having settled until they had.
17th-Dec-2008 12:58 am (UTC)
Between this fic and one for Gundam Wing with a similar premise, you have now officially convinced me to read the His Dark Materials books. :D

Also, remind me that I need to catch up on reading your fics over on FF.N.
14th-Oct-2009 12:56 am (UTC)
I hope I'm not out of line, popping up nearly a year after the fact; I strayed here via Dungeonwriter. As Last Archangel points out, you fit the daemons quite gracefully into the World of Four Nations.

It occurs to me that, as the Avatar, Aang's soul--and therefore his daemon--may not follow standard operating procedure; perhaps Chihiro (and yes, I caught the Fushigi Yuugi allusion) may never stabilize--or, since an Avatar by definition must cultivate mastery of all the elements, will settle into a rotation of four forms? And is the same daemon reincarnated along with the Avatar?

Your choices for the rest make eminent sense--Katara's as an elegant and formidable species of mother hen (or father cob); Sokka's as a (properly arctic) trickster animal; Toph's as something that will stay resolutely put on terra firma where she can keep track of him (humans and their daemons mirror one another's injuries; would this extend to birth defects, making him blind too?)
28th-Oct-2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Oh hey, you know what would be fun? If I checked my Live Journal inbox on a more regular bases. *face palm*

Thank you for your wonderfully detailed thoughts on this. :) My thoughts with Aang were that his form would probably settle into some sort of bird. While he's the Avatar, his spirit is really that of an airbender in this incarnation -- although I do really like the idea of his daemon having about four fixed forms. That wasn't something that occurred to me. Although... I think daemon's settle anywhere from ages 11-15 or so normally (following puberty), and the Avatar is traditionally confirmed around 16... so that would be a pretty solid way to find your next Avatar! Haha.

Phillip Pullman never brought up the subject of a person with a disability and their daemon in his book series (that I can recall), but my impression was that the daemon's shape was more or less limited to the person's imagination. Slow witted children had slow witted daemons who didn't change very often. So my thought with Toph is that because she cannot see, a manifestation of her soul probably wouldn't be able to see for the same reason. But you can bet whatever form he had would allow Toph to earthbend that much better. :D

Anywho, thanks again for your review and many apologies for the lateness of my reply.

29th-Oct-2009 12:09 am (UTC) - An erratum...
I'd spoken of Chihiro (Zuko's daemon--and a phoenix is an excellent choice of final form) when I'd meant Payma (Aang's); you evidently straightened out my meaning, though. Sorry about that.

A further possible complication in the Avatarverse: daemons with an obvious elemental affinity are going to make disguise a lot harder. (Most of Pullman's hunted fugitives were prepubescent children, so that was another issue that never arose; I presume that "Wanted" posters in Lyra's world would feature a description of the daemon as well as the human.)
14th-Jul-2010 01:19 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh this was fantastic!!! :D I really loved this- two of my favorite things meshed to perfection.
2nd-Apr-2011 05:25 am (UTC)
Terrific! I like your choices for the others, and I really love that phoenix. And foxy Sokka. Every fandom needs a HDM cross over, I just love the concept of daemons in fiction!
9th-Aug-2011 10:19 am (UTC)
restumbled on this, and I like how the daemons are a part of the characters and advise the kids. Idly, what would Ozai and Azula hav as daemons?
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