Evening In the Garden

"Has anything really changed" Jeong Jeong murmured, heading shifting on Piandao's shoulder.

Piandao paused in composing his brief ode to the glass-winged fireflies in the Fire Lord's Palace's gardens. "Well," he said as he dipped his brush in ink then scrawled another few lines in the Fire Nation cursive script, "There would probably be a lot more guards angry at us for being here if nothing had."

"Seriously, Master Piandao." Sokka raised his head from the paper he was writing on. "It's cheating to give your forfeit drinks to Master Jeong Jeong."

"If I didn't, I'd be much too drunk to compete with you." Piandao smiled slightly and brushed a few more characters. The poem was, all told, doggerel, but the point was to compose it at all, not to compose an epic for the ages.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Suki said as she lifted her brush off her fans. They were covered with criss-crossing characters in Earth Kingdom script, and Piandao knew the toasting earlier tonight hadn't left him sober enough to puzzle out what she was writing about.

At least he'd convinced Sokka to learn Fire Nation cursive script.

"That's because you're evil," Sokka grumbled. "Wine doesn't affect you at all. Me, I'm fighting to finish these things because as soon as I take a drink- Bam! No more Sokka-poems."

Piandao smiled. His student, like Master Pakku and Chief Hakoda, seemed to have no tolerance for alcohol. And they had all been toasting quite freely tonight.

After all, a year ago today, Avatar Aang had ended the War.

Little cups of wine on bamboo ships floated down the stream towards them, and Sokka hastily bent over his poem again. He finished it with a triumphant flourish that garnered a laugh from his lady-love.

Piandao looked over his, decided it really wasn't worth finishing, and fished a ship out of the stream. He took a small drink of the wine, raised his glass in a salute towards Sokka, then passed the rest to Jeong Jeong.

"Cheating." Sokka rolled his eyes.

Jeong Jeong tilted his head back and blew a plume of fire skyward. "I haven't had a drink in ten years, boy. Stop whining."

"I'm not whining," Sokka huffed. Suki reached over and patted his hair fondly, immediately distracting him as she always did.

To be that young again.

Jeong Jeong shifted against his side, reaching out to place his hand on Piandao's knee. Fires glimmered like fireflies, attracting the glass-winged insects over to investigate and add their own many-colored lights to the small gathering.

Suki sighed in wonder, her hand stilling on Sokka's hair. He grinned and reached out, catching a firefly between his hands. He pulled it back to show her, grinning her in that way that said 'look how clever I am, don't you want to smile"'.

Piandao covered Jeong Jeong's hand with his own. I could paint this scene, he thought, and I would never capture the wonder of this moment.

-End-