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In this week’s crime log: iPads stolen from BP and thefts from Pho King Noodle House
By Suki Jun | February 20, 2020 9:31 PM

Retail Theft

February 8: A suspect took merchandise and left Pho King Noodle House without payment.

February 10: A suspect took merchandise, including several cartons of cactus juice, from Si Wong Store and passed points of sale without payment. Possible connection to last month’s bust on the illegal cactus juice ring is unknown.

Bike Theft

February 7: Suspect identified as Smeller Bee, unaffiliated with New Republic, was observed removing a bait bike from where it was locked outside the NRU Bookstore. An arrest was made.

Theft from Building

February 12: Complainant reported finding his iPad missing from his carrel desk in Kyoshi Library.

February 14: Complainant reported an unknown suspect taking her laptop, a bouquet of flowers, and a box of chocolates from a common area in Omashu College House.

February 17: Complainant reported iPad and tablet stolen from unattended desk in Boiling Point Dining Hall.

Attempted Robbery

February 17: Attempted robbery reported in the 1900 block of Makapu Street. Suspect reported as a middle-aged man with sideburns and a topknot. No arrest has been made at this time.

Vigilantism

February 18: Student reported a masked figure sneaking around the halls of Omashu College House. A laptop and a bouquet of flowers was later found in the common area with a note: “My apologies for the chocolates.”

February 19: Student reported seeing a masked figure chasing down a robbery suspect along Jang Hui Street. Suspect was apprehended and later identified as F. Zhao. An arrest was made.

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Spirited Away: Masked Vigilante Strikes Again
By Sokka Nanji | February 21, 2020 4:58 PM

New Republic University may very well have its own Batman in its midst.

Though the university campus has been touted as one of the safest in the Eastern Hemisphere, it still experiences its fair share of crime—and it seems like one person is out to change this status quo.

Nicknamed the Blue Spirit for their distinctive mask, this silent steward has been prowling the streets of our campus, a do-gooder who chases down potential suspects and performs unimaginable feats of dexterity… that is, according to eyewitness accounts of the Blue Spirit in action.

“I think that whoever the Blue Spirit is, they’re actually doing a lot more good than campus police,” says Haru Tu (‘22), a sophomore who saw the Blue Spirit take down a drunk guy who was following a group of sorority rushes to a rush event. “I reported the incident to the NRU Police as soon as I saw it, but no one actually showed up until after the guy was taken down by the Blue Spirit. Blue’s the real deal.”

Ty Lee Wu (‘23) is a freshman with her own story to tell about the mysterious guardian. “I was walking home late one night by myself, and someone started walking after me and catcalling me. The Blue Spirit appeared out of nowhere and beat that person up before escorting me back to my dorm to make sure I was safe.”

Though the Blue Spirit’s actions seem to be positively received by some people, others consider the efforts to be a nuisance. In an email from the NRU Police Chief, Piandao Jian, Jian advises that although the authorities “appreciate the efforts of the Blue Spirit,” the NRU Police are also cautioning this individual from performing any more “reckless or dangerous stunts that may endanger the general public. Leave the job of keeping NRU students and faculty safe to us.”

Now one question remains: who is the person behind the mask of this mysterious hero? Unfortunately, the identity of this masked marauder is anyone’s guess. The Blue Spirit themselves could not be reached for comment.

But whatever your opinion is on the Blue Spirit and their actions, one thing’s for certain: everyone in NRU can sleep a little sounder each night, knowing that someone’s watching out for their safety.

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Sokka sits back and closes the tab on his laptop, stretching his arms above his head. His editor at the New Republic Reporter had finally given him the go-ahead earlier that day to publish, and Sokka’s article is now front page news on the website. The article is a far cry from the campus housing updates and dining hall changes that he’s usually responsible for writing, and he hopes that it’ll give him an opportunity to get the editorial promotion he’s been gunning for since the beginning of the semester.

That, or maybe a transfer to the Crime & Legal division of the newspaper, which had been Sokka’s original choice when he signed up before the executive editor had assigned him to Housing & Dining, of all things. He’s spent two—wait no, three—semesters covering everything from the seasonal mold invasion in the freshman dorms to the expansion of vegan options in the dining halls. The sheer boredom Sokka experiences on a daily basis is enough to leave him on the verge of tears. He’s a second semester sophomore, for cryin’ out loud. He has seniority over the puny little freshmen on the team, and yet here he is, still covering the only section that’s printed in size seven font so no one actually reads it.

(Sometimes, Sokka wonders if the editors just hate him because he actually tries to put a creative spin to make his articles seem more interesting. So maybe using “Highway to Kale” as the header for his report about the contaminated salad bars last year wasn’t the best idea, but hey. Whatever works.)

Honestly, joining New Republic Reporter hadn’t been high on Sokka’s list when he first set foot on campus. In fact, he spent most of his time in the scitech section of the club fairs. Though Sokka was initially interested in joining the robotics club or the electric racing team, he soon discovered that there was some sort of unspoken bias against humanities majors participating in STEM things. It seemed that Sokka, as a comp lit major, “wouldn’t be a great fit,” as one of the club members put it.

Bullshit.

Suki had swept in to save the day. The feisty brunette from two doors down had dragged him away from the potential fistfight (Sokka was literally this close to seeing red) and into the office of New Republic Reporter, plopping him down in a chair and giving him a full-fledged spiel on the benefits of joining an esteemed and “critically acclaimed” student-run multimedia organization. (Though looking through the first drafts of some of the articles, Sokka can’t comment on the “critically acclaimed” part.) Sokka barely remembers actually signing up for the organization but here he is now, three semesters in and a full-fledged Housing & Dining reporter. And even though he’s not writing the stuff he wants to write, at least it’s better than having to deal with those pretentious snobs in the engineering department if he had actually gotten into a club. Now that would be literal hell. (Or kale.)

Speaking of Suki—Sokka reminds himself to take her out for dinner sometime. When Sokka first came up with the idea to write about the Blue Spirit, Suki had fought tooth and nail with the editors to publish the piece, and he has everything to thank her for. She’s the whole reason that he’s even able to publish his article in the first place.

Sighing, Sokka takes off his glasses and rubs his tired eyes. He wonders how long he should stick with New Republic Reporter. It’s not like the organization has a lack of writers anyways, and Sokka’s seriously considering looking for an internship at a local city newspaper instead. Yeah, he’s probably going to have to claw himself out from a hole of writing posts that no one reads (like usual), but at least he doesn’t have to come up with more ways to talk about bug infestations. There are literally only—Sokka counts on his fingers—seven, maybe eight ways to say the same thing about sugar ants in the dorms. (Yikes.)

As the last bit of February sunlight descends over the horizon, Sokka gets up and leaves the discomfort of his desk, poking his head into the living room. Zuko’s sitting on the couch, eyebrows furrowed as he squints at his open laptop and scribbles out notes on a notebook. Sokka’s surprised to see him there because, well, his roommate is pretty much never home. Zuko usually has some excuse about leading practice for his wǔshù martial arts club, and seeing him on the couch in their living room throws Sokka for a loop.

“Zuko?”

“Hm?” His roommate looks up from his notes. From what Sokka can tell, there’s a lot of graphs and numbers on the page. He can’t even begin to guess what things Zuko, a business major, is actually studying.

“Oh, nothing. Just surprised to see that you’re actually home.”

“I do live here and pay rent.” Zuko pushes back his hair from his face and ties it into a ponytail. His eyes flicker between his notebook and his open laptop with an unreadable expression.

“Yeah, yeah.” Sokka shakes his head silently before slouching down next to Zuko and peering over his shoulder. “Whatcha working on?”

“Case comp.”

“Sounds complicated.” Sokka snorts at his own pun. He’s heard that term thrown around in casual conversation during group dinners or coffee meetups, but he literally has no idea what a case comp is. From the little information he’s gathered, case comps have something to do with students arguing with other students about business things? Then again, Sokka’s never taken a business class before, so what does he know?

“It really isn’t,” Zuko replies, eyes still transfixed on the pie chart in front of him. “My team and I just have to make sure we have a solid outline before we write out all of our points.”

“Huh.” Sokka flops backwards and spreads his arms outwards. “Uh, good luck?”

“Thanks.” Zuko turns around and smiles, and Sokka feels his stomach twitch. He’s already come to terms with the fact that Zuko, with messy raven hair and shimmering golden eyes, is handsome as hell. The scar on his left cheek does wonders to catapult Sokka’s roommate into the bad-boy archetype, and the whole I-practice-martial-arts-for-fun thing doesn’t hurt, either.

Sokka’s instantly transported back to the first time they met as freshmen. NRU has a policy of equitable housing, or as the students like to put it, random roommate roulette. So it was completely up to chance that Sokka ended up sharing a room with Zuko, the two boys exchanging awkward handshakes and Messenger profiles before continuing to unpack. Zuko is neat and organized and quiet, and Sokka realizes that he’s hit the roommate jackpot after all. And even though they have no classes in common, the two of them still spend a lot of time together in the library or the dining halls around campus, doing their work side-by-side in (relative) silence. (Well, complete silence on Zuko’s part. Sokka usually listens to lo-fi on his cheap earbuds, the sound leaking everywhere.)

So when spring semester arrives and Sokka starts eyeing potential housing for next year, Zuko’s right by his side, combing through the apartment listings on Campus Apartments and Zillow before deciding on a nice and small apartment just a few blocks away from campus.

It comes to no one’s surprise when Sokka begins to catch feelings for his roommate. (Literally no one, because the only person he’s told is Suki, and Suki isn’t fazed by anything in the slightest.) He can’t even begin to think of when or how he fell for Zuko, but like a slow-moving wildfire, it simmers for a bit before overwhelming his heart. Zuko’s snarky and cute—especially when he’s tired—and Sokka can’t help but want to scoop him up and cuddle him all night long. (That, and make breakfast for Zuko. There’s nothing quite like watching someone’s eyes light up when you make them a hearty plate of sausage and eggs in the morning. Sokka loves those days, though they’re usually few and far between.)

Sokka shakes his head to clear his thoughts. “You wanna grab something to eat?”

Zuko hastily scribbles in his notebook before closing his laptop and putting everything into his bookbag. “Sounds good to me.”

“Lemme check if there’s anything going on.” Sokka eagerly scrolls through Facebook on his phone to see if there are any free food student events going on tonight. Those things usually serve better food than the dining halls, and he's been craving free chicken sandwiches all week.

“Go for it.”

“Ooh, the Taiwanese club has free boba and dumplings tonight!” Sokka says excitedly. “Dude, I haven’t had boba in ages.”

Zuko wrinkles his nose with distaste and Sokka laughs. He remembers the first time he ever bought boba with Zuko, and the look on his roommate’s face while spitting out the tapioca was a sight to remember.

“I’m just going to eat the dumplings, you know.”

“Does that mean I get to have your boba?” Sokka asks excitedly.

“If you want, I guess.” Zuko grunts.

“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

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“And that’s all for today.” Professor Macmu-Ling looks over her investigative journalism seminar. “If you have any questions about your midterm project, I’d be happy to discuss them with you through email or my office hours. I’ll see you next week.”

The room erupts with the sounds of everyone packing up for the end of the period. Sokka slides his laptop into his backpack and stands up to stretch.

“Wanna grab lunch? I forgot if you have class after this.” He looks down at Suki. She’s still zipping up her bag and grabbing her water bottle.

“Sure,” Suki replies. “I don’t have class today since Fung’s at some plant biology conference.”

“Sweet. Cabbage Cafe sound good to you?”

“As long as you don’t make me eat the cookies.”

“Deal.”

The Cabbage Cafe sits a few blocks away from the main campus, so Sokka and Suki power-walk to the restaurant before the busy lunch hour starts. Suki finds them a spot near the window while Sokka goes up to order: one braised pork belly for him, and one shrimp fried rice for Suki. (Ironically, the Cabbage Cafe is more famous for its non-cabbage food.) He returns to their seat with two cups of steaming hot tea.

“So,” Suki clasps her hands, “have you figured out what you’re gonna do your midterm report on?”

Duh.” He wiggles in his seat with excitement. Macmu-Ling has just assigned them a report that involves covering a topic around campus in some detail, and everyone knows that it’s going to be difficult to please their English professor. With that being said, Macmu-Ling’s investigative journalism class is probably Sokka’s favorite class this semester, and he wants to do everything he can to impress her. And he knows exactly what he’s going to be writing about.

The Blue Spirit.

Ever since his childhood, Sokka’s been obsessed with superheroes. He’s amassed a humongous collection of comics that takes up more than half of his bedroom at home. He’s watched the entire MCU movie collection at least five times. He’s even bought an entire set of collectible Avengers figurines and arranged them around his desk. Sokka knows that superheroes—or people with superpowers, really—don’t actually exist in the real world, so imagine his surprise when he learns about the Blue Spirit, NRU’s very own real-life superhero who showed up about a year ago and has been helping out with crime fighting and doing good deeds ever since.

(Well, “doing good deeds” is putting it mildly. Some people in the area think that the Blue Spirit does too much in terms of citizen justice, but Sokka thinks that as long as the Blue Spirit isn’t technically breaking any laws, the vigilante can keep on doing whatever they want to do.)

(And okay. So Sokka might be a little obsessed—but who can blame him? The Blue Spirit is a real life superhero, for Tui’s sake.)

Suki coughs quietly, startling the boy out of his thoughts. “Let me guess. The Blue Spirit.”

“How’d you know?” He gasps in mock amazement. “You read my mind!”

Suki rolls her eyes. “Please. Of course I know. The Blue Spirit is literally the only thing you’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. I literally begged the higher-ups so you could publish your little article—great article, by the way. The Studio Ghibli reference was top-notch.”

“They don’t call me the pun prodigy for nothing,” Sokka grins, nursing his tea.

“Literally no one calls you that.”

“Ha, ha. Very funny.” The tea burns its way down Sokka’s throat when he takes a sip and he gags a little. It tastes a bit like jasmine and that weird perfume that Katara, his sister, is obsessed with. Sokka suddenly remembers why he doesn’t like drinking tea from the Cabbage Cafe all that much.

“No, but seriously.” Suki arches an eyebrow. “The Blue Spirit? No one knows anything about the guy.”

“How’re you so sure they’re a guy?” It’s Sokka’s turn to stare.

“Ugh, forget I said anything.”

“Nuh-uh. I’m gonna use this for my report and quote you on it.”

“Sokka Nanji, don’t you dare—” Suki leans over the table and cups her hand around Sokka’s ear. “You didn’t hear this from me, but a trusted source told me that they heard the Blue Spirit talk one time.”

“No way.” Sokka’s eyes widen in disbelief.

“Uh, yes way.” Suki smiles. “And whoever the Blue Spirit is, apparently they have a hella nice, very masculine voice.”

“Okay, fine. But you know you only got me more interested in doing this now, right?” Sokka asks as their food arrives. His mouth waters at the sight of the glistening red pork belly covering a bed of fluffy rice, a few stalks of Chinese broccoli added on the side.

“Yeah, I figured.” Suki shovels a forkful of steaming rice studded with shrimp and egg into her mouth.

Stomach growling, Sokka picks up a piece of meat and stares at it reverently before eating it with a spoonful of rice. The flavors of sweet soy sauce and buttery pork melt in his mouth and he almost moans out loud. Friggin’ delicious is what this is.

“But still, how’re you going to get enough information about the Blue Spirit to write up a report?” Suki continues.

“Easy,” Sokka says in between mouthfuls of juicy pork. “I’m gonna interview him.”

“You’re crazy,” his friend declares flatly. “You didn’t even know that the Blue Spirit was a guy until I literally just told you, and now you’re somehow gonna become best buddies with him?”

“You never know unless you try.”

“And just how are you planning on getting close enough to even talk to the guy?”

“I have my ways, Suki Jun,” Sokka replies cryptically. “I have my ways.”

“Ooh, someone’s being sneaky.”

“Just trust me on this. I’m gonna write up a report so good, even Macmu-Ling won’t hesitate to sing her praises about it.”

“Don’t let me stop you,” Suki stabs at another shrimp. “Good luck with whatever idea you have.”

“I don’t need luck. I just need myself.”

“That’s what they all say.” Suki shakes her head. “That’s what they all say.”

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Okay. Okay. So maybe Suki was right about how hard it is to track the Blue Spirit down, but Sokka’s definitely not going to tell her that. He doesn’t need her to know how much of a struggle work he’s put into finding the mysterious masked man.

At first, Sokka thinks he can rely on his Grade-A stalking skills to find the Blue Spirit. He’s pretty notorious for being able to find dirt on literally anyone with just a few quick clicks (lookin’ atchu, Professor Feng), and although he knows the Blue Spirit won’t be easy to find, he’s feeling pretty confident in his abilities. But four hours and two hundred Google searches later, Sokka’s only found three other articles that mention the Blue Spirit (not including his own) and one tiny photo so blurry that it makes Sokka’s eyes hurt when he squints at it, trying to make out the individual details or features.

He takes off his glasses and tries again. Nothing.

The articles themselves aren’t that helpful, either. They mostly talk about how the Blue Spirit earned his moniker because of his blue oni mask (something that Sokka easily finds on Amazon) and because of how he moves like an unseen spirit—here one moment, gone the next. The NRU Police themselves haven’t even been able to track down the man or even catch a glimpse of him in action, and everything that the articles cover is mostly by word-of-mouth from students or people passing by.

Sokka’s annoyed and hungry and pissed by everything. He still has about a month left to submit his final report, but at this rate, he won’t even get a measly rough draft in on time. The Blue Spirit, it seems, is a terrible idea to write about. Macmu-Ling is probably laughing at him in her office right now.

But then again, Sokka is the living embodiment of Nanji stubbornness, and he’s also a willful asshole who will do anything to get his way. Just because the Blue Spirit can’t be found online doesn’t mean he can’t be found somewhere else, and Sokka is dead set on hunting this guy down at all costs.

Determined, he leaves his glasses on his desk and slips on an old hoodie–the one with a cactus on it that says “i’m a prick, deal with it”—and lopes out of his room to get something to eat. The living room is dark and quiet, and it looks like Zuko hasn’t been back in a while. Probably his case comp thing, Sokka thinks to himself as he makes his way to McDonald’s to satisfy his midnight cravings.

The streetlights flicker as Sokka walks down the sidewalk of a quiet street, his earbuds stuck firmly in his ears as he tosses the paper bag filled with McNuggets from one hand to the other. A prickle sends shivers up his spine and he pulls on his hood, chalking it up to the cool breeze whistling through the trees. His mind goes back to thinking about how he’s going to figure out where to find the Blue Spirit—

And he suddenly realizes that he’s not alone. Sokka can feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up and a sense of dread draping over his shoulders. He quickly yanks out his earbuds and whirls around.

“Who’s there?” he falls into a defensive stance, all those years of taekwondo finally being put to good use.

Nothing.

Now you can't get anxious over everything, Sokka tells himself. The last time he’s felt this anxious was when he was waiting for his fine arts portfolio score to be released on Canvas last year. Chill. you’re just too hyped up about the Blue Spirit.

There’s a sudden shuffling noise above his head, and Sokka instinctively cranes his neck upwards and chokes back a gasp. A cerulean oni grins down at him, ivory teeth curved in a wicked grin.

Oh fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck—what the shit?

(Okay. Let’s back up a bit. Now’s a good time to clarify that Sokka doesn’t actually get scared easily. He enjoys watching horror movies, for one, and he’s pretty unfazed by jump scares and the like. Not to mention that Sokka’s big into teasing his sister and has gotten his fair share of pranks in return, so something like a blue demon doesn’t actually scare him. It actually just kinda catches him off guard. Plus, oni don’t actually exist, so he has nothing to be afraid of.)

Wait a minute.

Sokka opens his mouth. “Are you—?”

The oni crouches on top of the wall for a split second more before it leaps away into the night with barely a sound except for a clatter as something falls to Sokka’s feet. He leans down and picks it up, eyes scrunching in confusion.

“Hey!” Sokka shouts after the retreating oni. “You dropped this!”

The oni doesn’t even pause, and it disappears around a corner and out of Sokka’s sight. He scrambles for his glasses and realizes that they aren’t there. You left them in your room, you moron.

(Damn. In situations like these, Sokka really hates his glasses. His vision is best described as “okay, but bad enough that he can’t see in class without glasses,” and that honestly sucks when it comes to chasing after wayward oni at night.)

And if Sokka can still put two and two together, he figures he just had his first—and last—encounter with the Blue Spirit himself. He slaps his forehead in frustration before pocketing the object and trudging back to the apartment. Just his luck. The one time he manages to figure out what he wants, and it vanishes in front of him like a magic trick. Great job, Sokka thinks. What a great, friggin’ job.

When he’s finally back in his room and eating his frustration in chicken nuggets, Sokka takes the object out of his pocket and stares at it. Whoever the oni is, they’ve apparently been carrying an NRU Behavioral Research Lab keycard with them, dangling from a raggedy-looking lanyard. Sokka turns the keycard over in his hands and sees a flash of handwriting on the edge: “IF FOUND, PLEASE TEXT”, followed by a string of numbers written neatly in black pen.

Sokka picks up his phone and flicks to his messages app. Interesting.

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[(434) 685-6837 // 12:49 AM] hey u dropped ur stuff earlier & i have it

[(985) 524-7223 // 12:54 am] Who is this?

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:00 AM] dont play dumb w/ me, i kno ur the blue spirit
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:01 AM] i saw u tn

[(985) 524-7223 // 1:06 am] Who says that I’m the Blue Spirit?
[(985) 524-7223 // 1:06 am] I don’t even know who the Blue Spirit is.

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:08 AM] omfc jfr u can’t b srs
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:08 AM] dude i literally saw u tn
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:09 AM] u were walking on a fucking ledge
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:10 AM] ur mask is an oni mask

[(985) 524-7223 // 1:15 am] … You’re very observant.

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:16 AM] haha thx
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:17 AM] but stop trying to change the subject
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:17 AM] i kno ur secrets

[(985) 524-7223 // 1:19 am] …
[(985) 524-7223 // 1:20 am] You’re very persistent.
[(985) 524-7223 // 1:21 am] Okay, I concede. I am the Blue Spirit.
[(985) 524-7223 // 1:23 am] You said you had something of mine?

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:24 AM] bitch i knew it!
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:25 AM] yea i have a keycard

[blue spirit // 1:29 am] The keycard is very important to me, and I’d like to have it back.
[blue spirit // 1:30 am] Will I be able to get my keycard from you?

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:31 AM] maybe maybe not
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:32 AM] depends on how i'm feeling
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:32 AM] & i’m pissed cuz u ignored me earlier

[blue spirit // 1:37 am] How can I ignore someone I don’t even know?
[blue spirit // 1:38 am] Perhaps you should tell me your name.

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:31 AM] nuh uh ur playing 1 of those mind games
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:31 AM] not gonna give u leverage on me

[blue spirit // 1:32 am] Very well.
[blue spirit // 1:32 am] What should I call you?

[(434) 685-6837 // 1:34 AM] ooooooooooooh
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:35 AM] uhhhhhhhh
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:37 AM] u can call me
[(434) 685-6837 // 1:38 AM] red rum

[blue spirit // 1:40 am] … Red Rum?
[blue spirit // 1:41 am] I see we have a Stephen King fan in our midst.
[blue spirit // 1:42 am] (Is that really the best you could do?)

[Red Rum // 1:45 AM] ok ok fine that was literally the 1st thing i thought of ok
[Red Rum // 1:45 AM] no judgie
[Red Rum // 1:46 AM] like blue spirit is any more original
[Red Rum // 1:47 AM] u wear a friggin blue oni mask

[blue spirit // 1:50 am] … Point taken.
[blue spirit // 1:50 am] So, Red Rum.
[blue spirit // 1:51 am] When can I expect to get my keycard back?

[Red Rum // 1:54 AM] lets negotiate

[blue spirit // 1:57 am] I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
[blue spirit // 1:58 am] I’ve been known to be very persuasive.

[Red Rum // 2:00 AM] u think ur gonna scare me like that?
[Red Rum // 2:00 AM] nah dude

[blue spirit // 2:04 am] …
[blue spirit // 2:04 am] Fine.
[blue spirit // 2:05 am] What are your terms?

[Red Rum // 2:07 AM] i wanna interview u
[Red Rum // 2:07 AM] for a project i have

[blue spirit // 2:11 am] … You want to do what?
[blue spirit // 2:12 am] Interview me?
[blue spirit // 2:14 am] The Blue Spirit would like to maintain his anonymity.

[Red Rum // 2:17 AM] HAH called it dude
[Red Rum // 2:18 AM] but srsly
[Red Rum // 2:18 AM] like my grade depends on it
[Red Rum // 2:19 AM] plsplsplspls

[blue spirit // 2:22 am] What’s in it for me?
[Red Rum // 2:24 AM] uh well ur keycard? duh
[Red Rum // 2:25 AM] & i promise i won't spread ur name
[Red Rum // 2:26 AM] in fact i don’t even wanna kno who u r
[Red Rum // 2:26 AM] like ur identity omfg
[Red Rum // 2:27 AM] i just think ur super cool

[blue spirit // 2:30 am] I’m flattered.
[blue spirit // 2:31 am] I’m not going to say you’ve fully convinced me, but I’m very interested.

[Red Rum // 2:34 AM] well yea that’s what i was hoping
[Red Rum // 2:35 AM] mind if i ask u some questions anyways?

[blue spirit // 2:40 am] You’re very diligent about this.
[blue spirit // 2:41 am] Fire away.

[Red Rum // 2:45 AM] lmao k then
[Red Rum // 2:46 AM] when did 1st become the blue spirit & why?

[blue spirit // 2:49 am] Actually, could we do this at a different time?
[blue spirit // 2:51 am] It’s really late.
[blue spirit // 2:52 am] I should be getting to bed.

[Red Rum // 2:57 AM] ok fine but ur not off the hook
[Red Rum // 2:58 AM] imma b texting u later don’t u dare block me

[blue spirit // 3:00 am] If I wanted to do that, I would’ve already blocked you when you first texted me.
[blue spirit // 3:01 am] Goodnight, Red.

[Red Rum // 3:02 AM] lmao r we on like a fake 1st name thing now
[Red Rum // 3:03 AM] jk jk gn 2 u 2 blue

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

Sokka is pretty sure he’s gone completely insane—if talking to the Blue Spirit at three in the morning has anything to do with it.

Or text him, at least. And judging by the texting, Blue (Sokka does love a great nickname every now and then) is a pretty tight-lipped and formal dude who uses proper punctuation everywhere. On the other hand, Sokka can literally feel his inner comp lit major crying and cringing at his own shorthand texts.

Sokka asks Blue a ton of questions, and much like his mysterious nature, the oni isn’t quick to give up information readily. Yes, he started masquerading in his Blue Spirit persona last year and yes, it had something to do with upholding honor and justice in the face of a corrupt system. (Well, Sokka wouldn’t call the system corrupt as much as slow-as-fuck-to-dole-out-justice, but it is what it is.) Blue, apparently, comes from a family that prioritizes absolute power and ambition over everything else, and the whole Blue Spirit persona is Blue’s way of going against his family’s wishes. By day, Blue actually works at the NRU Behavioral Research Lab on projects relating to bias and prejudice to see how different people respond to different scenarios.

(Sokka writes this down in his notes: blue spirit = compassionate rebel.)

What starts out as a fairly one-sided interview through text quickly disintegrates to a barrage of memes and GIFs in typical chaotic Sokka fashion. It begins with a meme, the one with the old guy raising his hands and saying: [when you realize humanities majors are unemployable: guess I’ll die]. This is one of Sokka’s favorite memes, and when he gets a “Do I need to call Mental Health & Counseling Services for you?” in response, he gasps. It seems as if Blue has no idea what a meme is. Sokka is horrified.

(He jots that down, too: memes?!?!?!?!)

But Blue’s also quick at catching on, and soon the guy’s sending Sokka his own memes. Sokka’s personal favorite is Blue’s version of “Slaps Roof of Car”: [Car Salesman: *slaps roof of car* this bad boy can fit so much student mental health budgeting in it].

(It’s a little wordy, but Sokka gives him an A for effort. And another note: actually rly funny.)

Before long, the two of them have exchanged a week’s worth of memes and banter (mostly Sokka ranting about his classes and the Blue Spirit griping about the lack of justice around campus), and Sokka’s used his deductive reasoning skills to come up with a few more points about his new, mysterious friend:

Blue is a student at NRU (no shit, Sherlock);

As awkward as Blue is through text, he’s also endearing as fuck (his memes!!);

Sokka might be crushing obsessing falling crushing on the guy.

(Okay. Give him a minute to process that.)

It’s like a plot straight out of one of those mushy-gushy K-dramas that Katara likes to watch, the ones with tropes like enemies-turned-lovers or convoluted love triangles that Sokka outwardly rejects but secretly watches on the down-low. (He’s on his third rewatch of Goblin now.) Sokka can’t believe he’s fallen into this trap of wanting to know more about Blue as a person and less about him as a mysterious masked man. Blue is shy and prim and just charming enough that it takes all of Sokka’s willpower not to straight-up ask the guy out. (He imagines that the results will be catastrophic, even by his own standards.)

Their conversations gradually shift away from Blue’s nighttime activities and Sokka backs off, midterm report long forgotten. (He’ll just BS it anyways, like he does for all of his classes.) Still, he makes sure to remind Blue to stay safe as best he can, and he hopes the vigilante is listening.

(If only he can say the same thing about Zuko.)

Sokka’s crush on his roommate is, if anything, growing stronger by the day. Zuko’s been spending more time at home now—apparently his case comp team finished in second place at the event—and he’s taking a break from wǔshù to focus on his upcoming exams. But he’s still going out late at night, slipping away when Sokka isn’t paying attention, and that’s terrifying. NRU may be fairly safe—even with the Blue Spirit—but Sokka knows better than to stay out late by himself, and he’s annoyed that Zuko doesn’t seem to think the same way. There's only so much Facebook Messenger can achieve, and Sokka slaps his head in frustration when he realizes he's never bothered asking Zuko for his number (no thanks to the omniscient campus wifi).

“You don’t need to go out so late,” Sokka says during their study session one evening. “It’s not safe.”

“I have things to do and places to be,” Zuko takes a sip of his coffee.

“Gee, I hope you aren’t up to anything dangerous.” Sokka shakes his head slightly.

“Like what?”

“Oh, like the Blue Spirit, y’know,” Sokka says. “The whole vigilante-of-justice thing.”

Zuko abruptly chokes on his coffee and splatters it all over their rug—and that’s the end of their short-lived conversation on campus safety.

And there’s another more pressing issue besides Sokka’s growing concern for Zuko’s safety: the more time his roommate spends at home, the more Sokka realizes just how distracting it is to have your crush in the same space. How is he supposed to focus on studying when Zuko is literally one room away? Or clear his mind after tough classes? Sokka tells himself that he’s going to spend more time at the NRR office, but he invariably finds himself in the living room and sitting across from Zuko, the two of them lost in thought as they review their notes for their respective classes.

They’ve just returned from a workout session at the gym, and Sokka’s had too much time to mull over his thoughts and his feelings on the treadmill. He remembers how Zuko casually does twenty pull-ups without breaking into a sweat, his hair pulled in a small ponytail that has all the people around them tittering and Sokka slowly dying from the secondhand embarrassment of it all. (Sokka himself manages to do seventeen pull-ups before his arms give out.) When they arrive home, all sweaty and exhausted, Zuko tugs off his t-shirt without a second thought. Sokka grabs the nearest thing to steady himself because damn, he’s completely unprepared to see a shirtless Zuko and—wait, what are those?

A mosaic of bruises and scars are scattered across Zuko’s back, and Sokka holds back a gasp.

“I thought you said you weren’t doing wǔshù because of exams!” He pokes one of Zuko’s bruises and the boy winces.

“I’m not,” Zuko says petulantly. “It’s just… old injuries. Forget it.”

Sokka narrows his eyes. “I don’t have to be premed to notice that these are fresh.”

“Sokka,” and Zuko’s pleading, his eyes downcast. “Leave it alone. I’m fine.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Seriously, I’m okay. It’s just that, um, I might be doing some… late night sparring? With my teammates? It’s all after I’ve finished studying and I’m watching out for myself, I swear.”

Sokka wants to tell Zuko that he’s lying, that injuries like these don’t come from mere sparring sessions, that Zuko’s going to end up getting seriously hurt if he keeps doing whatever he’s doing, but Sokka keeps his mouth shut. Zuko will tell him when the time comes; he’s sure of it.

“I’m gonna go take a quick shower,” Zuko mutters before making a beeline towards their bathroom and closing the door. Frowning, Sokka walks back to his room and collapses into his chair, mind racing with thoughts about Zuko, about Zuko being hurt, about Zuko hiding things from him—and the last part hurts him the most, because Sokka cares so much about Zuko. He hates seeing the bruises on Zuko’s back, hates the secrets that Zuko’s been keeping because Sokka wants to know everything so he can keep him safe. He doesn’t want anything bad to happen to his crush his roommate.

Sokka takes a second to steady his erratic heartbeat.

Suddenly, he hears a loud clattering coming from the kitchen. Sokka jumps out of his chair to see what’s going on. He rushes into the kitchen, only to see Zuko picking up some cans from the floor, face full of guilt. Sokka immediately kneels down to help.

“I apologize for the noise,” Zuko says after they’ve gathered everything onto the table. “I hope I didn’t scare you.”

“Dude, it’s all good,” Sokka replies. “You’re okay, right?”

“I’m just making dinner. Would you like some?” Zuko declares, holding up a can of Spam in his left hand. He’s wearing that stupid apron, the one that says “KISS THE COOK” in big, bold letters.

(Sokka resists the urge to do anything stupid.)

“Yeah, of course,” he barely manages to say without a stutter. “Need any help?”

“I think I’m okay for now. I’ll let you know when the food’s done.”

“Okay,” Sokka nods. “Thanks for everything, Zuko.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Zuko grins toothily, and Sokka presses a shaking hand against his heart as he strides back to his room and falls to the floor.

What am I even doing? He asks himself. Stop reading into meaningless things.

Sokka’s phone dings, and he unlocks it to see that there’s a message from Blue.

Oh, fuck. Sokka hasn’t even had a chance to factor his feelings for the masked vigilante into this whole mess because, well, he’s got himself a bona fide love triangle right there.

I’m literally a living cliché, Sokka whispers to himself. Katara’s never gonna let me live this down.

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

[Red Rum // 8:14 PM] hiiiii how r u? :o

[blue spirit // 8:20 pm] Hey, Red! I’m doing well. I went to the gym earlier with my friend, and now I’m finishing up on some studying.

[Red Rum // 8:22 PM] oh fr u were at the gym? damn i just went to the gym with my roommate
[Red Rum // 8:23 PM] lmao r u telling me we could’ve seen each other

[blue spirit // 8:27 pm] Interesting.
[blue spirit // 8:28 pm] If it was true serendipity, I would probably recognize you, then.

[Red Rum // 8:31 PM] nah fam lmao jk jk
[Red Rum // 8:31 PM] bet the odds r like next 2 none

[blue spirit // 8:35 pm] You don’t say.
[blue spirit // 8:37 pm] Speaking of chance encounters, do you know when I can have my keycard back?
[blue spirit // 8:38 pm] I’ve been borrowing my coworker’s card because she’s on sick leave, but she’s coming back next week, so I won’t have an excuse for my supervisor.

[Red Rum // 8:41 PM] …
[Red Rum // 8:41 PM] …
[Red Rum // 8:41 PM] OMG OMG OMG
[Red Rum // 8:42 PM] u wanna meet???!?!!!!?!
[Red Rum // 8:43 PM] yeah ofc i understand yeah sry abt keeping the card 4 so long
[Red Rum // 8:44 PM] when do u wanna meet

[blue spirit // 8:46 pm] It’s fine, Red.
[blue spirit // 8:47 pm] Actually, do you know about the basketball game on Friday?

[Red Rum // 8:48 PM] yeah my friend’s covering it
[Red Rum // 8:28 PM] gonna help her with photos

[blue spirit // 8:50 pm] I was thinking about going, too, since it’s after my exams.
[blue spirit // 8:51 pm] Do you want to meet there?

[Red Rum // 8:54 PM] yeah!!!
[Red Rum // 8:55 PM] but wait how will i kno who u r

[blue spirit // 8:57 pm] How about we leave it up to fate?
[blue spirit // 8:58 pm] I’ll be waiting outside after the game.
[blue spirit // 9:00 pm] Near Roku Fountain.

[Red Rum // 9:02 PM] yeah i’ll b there
[Red Rum // 9:03 PM] omg i can’t believe i’ll be meeting u omg
[Red Rum // 9:04 PM] i’m so excited
[Red Rum // 9:05 PM] i can’t wait 2 meet u blue
[Red Rum // 9:05 PM] hey that rhymed lmao

[blue spirit // 9:10 pm] I’m excited to meet you, too.
[blue spirit // 9:10 pm] I’ll see you on Friday, then.

[Red Rum // 9:13 PM] :DDD

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

For all of his bravado, Sokka’s actually terrified as fuck. What if Blue is actually that tall, scary-looking dude he alway sees walking down the street? Or if Blue turns out to be someone who doesn’t actually want to meet with Sokka and is only playing along to get his keycard back? Or worse—what if Blue doesn’t even show up?

(Spirits, Sokka doesn’t think his heart can handle that plot twist.)

On Friday, Sokka’s on pins and needles the entire time, shifting agitatedly in his classes and sneaking intermittent glances at his phone. Blue hasn’t texted him back since they last agreed to meet up, and a ball of worry begins to roll around in Sokka’s stomach. He hopes that he hasn’t been overly enthusiastic or too forward in his reactions; he doesn’t want to scare the other guy away. By seven, Sokka’s heart is practically bouncing out of his chest as he makes his way to Suki’s place, knocking on the door. He’s tucked the keycard away, safely inside the inner pocket of his jacket.

“You ready?” Suki greets him, pulling her media lanyard over her head.

“Yep!” Sokka nods, pulling out his own lanyard and slinging it over his neck. “Let’s go!”

“You seem awfully excited for this,” Suki remarks as they walk over to the arena. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this bouncy since Little Sheep announced their all-you-can-eat KBBQ menu.”

“Just excited!” Sokka grins shakily. He can hardly hold back his anticipation. Even Suki’s in the dark about this; Sokka hasn’t even told his closest friend about meeting Blue.

“Uh huh.” Suki looks skeptical. “Whatever you say.”

The basketball game passes by in a flash, mostly because Sokka’s too busy trying to take action shots of the players as they leap and jump around each other, but also because his mind is completely occupied with counting down the minutes until he finally meets the Blue Spirit face-to-face. Sokka can’t remember the last time he’s been this excited to meet someone, and he nervously shifts from one foot to the other without even realizing it until Suki points it out to him.

“Stop that, you’re making me nervous,” she says, and Sokka does his best to stop fidgeting. (Spoiler alert: it works for a few minutes before he starts thinking about Blue again.)

The end of the game can’t come fast enough, and NRR somehow manages a buzzer-beater that upends the score and sends the crowd into a frenzy, everyone screaming as the team dances around the court in celebration. Sokka snaps a few quick photos before muttering to Suki about wanting to leave before the halls get packed. She punches his arm lightly, reminding him to email the pictures to her as soon as he can, and Sokka’s off, weaving through the throngs of basketball spectators and towards the exit.

The brisk night air sweeps over Sokka’s senses, and in the distance, he sees the twinkling lights surrounding Roku Fountain beckoning towards him. Sokka wipes his clammy hands on his jeans, puts on his most nonchalant attitude and saunters forward, the sounds of his shoes tapping against the pavement and bouncing off into the air.

The fountain bubbles loudly with the sound of cascading water as Sokka finally gets close enough to see the people milling about. None of the people look vaguely like what he imagines Blue to look like, and he scratches his head. Why did the Blue Spirit suggest that they leave it up to fate? Fate is such a finicky—

Hang on. Sokka thinks he spies someone familiar approaching the fountain. He slides closer to get a better look, only to shrink backwards in surprise.

Zuko? What is he doing here?

Sokka quietly ducks behind a bush and watches as his roommate walks up to the fountain. Zuko’s talking to a girl. She looks vaguely familiar, and Sokka thinks her name is Mai or something; she’s one of Zuko’s friends who happens to be part of his martial arts club. Mai looks like she’s laughing, her hand reaching up to cover her mouth at whatever Zuko’s just said, shoulders shaking silently.

Sokka grows more irritated by the second. What is his roommate doing here? And better yet: why is he here? When Sokka asked Zuko earlier about going to the basketball game, his roommate had said something about meeting up with someone else later that evening. Sokka wonders if Zuko had been talking about Mai, and he feels a feeling of unease spread its roots in his stomach. He doesn’t know why Zuko hasn’t been telling him things, and even if it’s something as normal as meeting up with a girl, Sokka understands. Not on the girl-part, but on the part of meeting up with someone you’re interested in—oh, shit. Are they on a date? Sokka’s stomach clenches uncomfortably, and he feels like he’s going to throw up. He clutches the keycard in his pocket tightly and feels the abrupt tinge of pain wash over his entire body.

(Of course Zuko’s as straight as an arrow. What the fuck is Sokka going to expect?)

And oh, fuck. Sokka’s jealous—he’s jealous of a girl, for Tui’s sake. How is he supposed to compete with Mai? Wait. Compete with her? What is this, some kind of playground crush? The more Sokka thinks about it, the worse he feels. He doesn’t like seeing Zuko hanging out with the girls, but he also has no right to stop him. Sokka’s just the roommate, after all.

The instant Mai reaches up to brush back Zuko’s hair, Sokka knows he has to get out of there. He barrels out of his hiding place from behind the bush and sprints past the fountain as fast as he can, his lanyard fluttering desperately behind him. Sokka doesn’t stop to see if Zuko or Mai sees him. He just wishes desperately for his legs to carry him out of there before he breaks down completely.

Sokka’s so caught up in Zuko that he only remembers how he was supposed to meet the Blue Spirit at the basketball game when he gets home.

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

[blue spirit // 10:34 pm] Hey, we didn’t get to meet up tonight.
[blue spirit // 10:34 pm] I was waiting for you at the fountain, but I guess you never showed up.

[blue spirit // 10:41 pm] Red? Are you there?

[blue spirit // 10:55 pm] Red?

[Red Rum // 11:02 PM] oh shit mb
[Red Rum // 11:03 PM] yeah i’m here sry was thinkin bout stuff
[Red Rum // 11:03 PM] & i did go to the fountain!!! but i didn’t c any1 that reminded me of u
[Red Rum // 11:04 PM] so i went home

[blue spirit // 11:05 pm] I was there.
[blue spirit // 11:06 pm] When I say I’m going to meet someone, I keep my promises.
[blue spirit // 11:06 pm] I don’t lie about these things.

[Red Rum // 11:10 PM] ok sry i didn’t c u
[Red Rum // 11:11 PM] maybe it wasn’t meant 2 b

[blue spirit // 11:11 pm] Don’t say that.

[Red Rum // 11:12 PM] i’m tired lmao
[Red Rum // 11:12 PM] look i didn’t c u there and u didn’t c me
[Red Rum // 11:13 PM] so i think ur hypothesis on serendipity didn’t work

[blue spirit // 11:13 pm] Just because we didn’t meet up this time doesn’t mean we won’t meet up next time.

[blue spirit // 11:13 pm] Maybe today just wasn’t our day.
[Red Rum // 11:14 PM] yeah yeah ok
[Red Rum // 11:15 PM] it’s kinda late and i kinda just wanna sleep
[Red Rum // 11:15 PM] had a long day today
[Red Rum // 11:16 PM] i’m gonna leave ur keycard at the lab
[Red Rum // 11:17 PM] in the morning
[Red Rum // 11:19 PM] i’m yeeting off 2 bed gn

[blue spirit // 11:23 pm] Good night, Red.
[blue spirit // 11:23 pm] I hope we’ll meet each other soon.

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

It’s been a shitty week. For one thing, Sokka figures that he simply can’t study at home anymore and makes the absolutely logical choice to study in the NRR office instead. Zuko isn’t happy when he hears about Sokka’s plans, and the two roommates end up in a tense stand-off about Sokka staying out late at night. (How the turn tables.)

(Sokka doesn’t tell Zuko about the hurricane of thoughts inside his head, ricocheting off the walls and pounding a blistering headache into his skull.)

After the Blue Spirit ghosted him that night (Sokka can’t even laugh at the pun), he comes to the sobering realization that the vigilante has too much to worry about and that he doesn’t have time for Sokka except to get the keycard back. Guilt engulfs Sokka’s very being, and he feels terrible that he’s been practically extorting someone for information. True to his word, he leaves the keycard at the front desk of the behavioral research lab, and when Sokka returns the next day to check, the receptionist hands him a note that reads: “Thank you.”

At least I don’t have to worry about the Blue Spirit anymore—well, except for the paper. And the thought of his report adds to Sokka’s mounting frustrations. He’s made absolutely zero progress except for some notes and scribbles he’s written down here and there, and he’s fighting against the paper to get it to come together. It feels like there’s some imaginary swamp in between him and his completed paper, and Sokka is trying desperately to push himself through to the finish line. Macmu-Ling emails him multiple times to ask about his progress, and Sokka gives her generic excuses about how the research is going well and that he’s looking forward to sharing his thoughts with her. Sokka’s pretty much lost interest in writing about the Blue Spirit at this point, and now he’s doing his best to sketch out a rough framework for how he wants to finish his report, yeet it into Canvas, and be done with it.

Which is how midnight finds Sokka slouching in a chair at the NRR office, idly tapping a red pen on the desk and driving Suki nuts.

“Sokka, you can go home,” his friend gently removes the pen from his grasp and places it on the table. “It’s really late.”

“But I wanna stay here,” Sokka pouts. “And aren’t you doing work? I can help.”

“You don’t have to wait for me. I’m just making a few last-minute edits on this article before sending it back.” Suki highlights something on her laptop before typing. “Go.”

Sokka scowls at her, but shuffles his things into his backpack anyways. He’s not in the mood to argue with her. Plus, Suki can be pretty loud when she gets riled up, and Sokka doesn’t think his perpetual headache can take that.

“Good, good. Now go home and get some rest! I don’t want to see you here for a few days!” Suki waves after Sokka while he stumbles out the door and into the darkness.

Mumbling, Sokka slides in his earbuds and pulls on his hood, the sounds of lo-fi overflowing into the silence around him. The rusty streetlamp outside the office winks at him as he trudges along the sidewalk. Sokka slips his hands into his pockets, humming as he crosses the street and towards his apartment.

He’s so caught up in the music that he doesn’t even see or feel the fist slamming into the side of his face. Sokka’s head collides with the brick wall behind him and a sharp pain has him crying out before a dull ache sets in. He feels someone yank out his earbuds roughly and throw them onto the ground, tinny lo-fi pouring out on the asphalt.

“Shhh,” a gravelly voice whispers in his ear, and Sokka’s in so much pain he can barely hear the next words over the sound of blood rushing in his head. “Now gimme everything you got.”

Sokka smells booze and sourness wafting through the air and sees a metallic glint of light bouncing off of the knife at his neck. “Look, dude, please don’t do this.”

The knife jams harder into Sokka’s throat, and he feels a thin shard of pain. “Shut the fuck up, and gimme everything you got. I’m not gonna ask a second time.”

“Okay, dude.” Sokka can hardly breathe as he fumbles in his pockets, taking out his phone and handing it to the man. His mind races as he formulates whatever escape plan he can. He can probably get away if he lands a solid kick in the nuts.

“Wallet.”

“I don’t have one.” Oh, for fuck’s sake. Of all the times Sokka decides to leave his wallet home, it has to be today.

“Wallet.” The man hisses, waving Sokka’s phone in his free hand.

“Dude, seriously. I don’t have one.” Sokka pulls out his pockets to prove his point. He simultaneously thanks—and curses—Venmo’s entire existence.

“Yer lyin’ to me,” the man says, and under the dim light, Sokka can see his puffy, red eyes.

“I’m not. You can look through my stuff if you want,” he motions towards his backpack. “Go on. Check.”

When the man lowers his knife and reaches for Sokka’s backpack, Sokka kicks out instinctively, nodding his head slightly in satisfaction when the man howls and recoils in pain. (Honestly, thank the spirits—and his dad—for ten years of semi-useful taekwondo finally put to good use.) He prepares to make a run for it, only to see a dark shadow slip into the light as a mysterious figure punches the man in the face.

Sokka gapes. It’s the oni from last time—wait, no. It’s Blue.

It’s the Blue Spirit.

Stunned, Sokka can do nothing but watch the scene unfold before him. It’s like an action movie, with all of the tension and none of the actual action because it’s clear that this isn’t a fair fight. The man is much too drunk to do anything besides lashing out with his knife, and the Blue Spirit is practically dancing circles around him, dodging the random stabbing with ease and landing a few carefully-placed kicks and punches that leave the man cursing the name of every god in the spirit realm. Finally, the Blue Spirit grabs the man by his shoulders and slams him into the pavement, knocking the man out cold.

Sokka trembles when the masked figure kneels down to retrieve Sokka’s phone before handing it to him.

“Call 911.” The Blue Spirit’s voice cracks and it sounds so familiar, yet Sokka can’t seem to place it in his racing mind. The masked figure makes a motion to go, but Sokka reaches out, grasping his arm.

“Stay,” he croaks, and the Blue Spirit hesitates before nodding his head slightly.

Sokka’s fingers tremble as he dials in and reports the attempted robbery, his voice stuttering as he rattles off the address and no, no major injuries except for the suspect. The Blue Spirit stands completely still, pausing to crouch down and tie up the unconscious man to a nearby tree.

“We need to get out of here before the police arrive,” the Blue Spirit says, gingerly rising to his feet and wincing audibly when he finally stands up. Sokka rushes to catch him before he falls over, and he grunts under the weight of the Blue Spirit.

“I gotchu,” Sokka whispers, running a hand up the Blue Spirit’s side and pausing when he feels something wet. “Hey! You’re hurt!”

“It’s just a scratch,” the masked figure groans, and Sokka realizes that in the dim light, the dark blood blends right into the darkness, a shadow that slowly spreads across the front of the Blue Spirit’s black shirt.

“Yeah, and I’m a doctor,” Sokka rolls his eyes.

“Really?”

“’Course not. Haven’t you heard of sarcasm?” Sokka bends down and adjusts his hold on the Blue Spirit. “I’m gonna take you home and patch you up.”

“No.” The Blue Spirit struggles, yelping when Sokka tightens his grip.

“C’mon. You saved me and now you’re hurt. It’s the least I can do for you.”

“And you wouldn’t think that I would end up attacking you in your own home?”

“Dude, you saved me.” Sokka says. It’s flawless reasoning, obviously. He glares at the Blue Spirit, daring him to say anything else.

“Fine, but I’m walking on my own.” The Blue Spirit shakes off Sokka’s arm and begins to limp unsteadily.

Vigilantes and their honor complex, Sokka snorts as he leads the way back to his apartment. It’s only until he’s reached the doorstep that everything in the last hour rushes over him like a tsunami. The attempted mugging. The Blue Spirit. The knife. He can feel his entire body shaking and a feeling of dizziness falling over him when he tries to enter the access code into the keypad on the door.

Sokka’s so overwhelmed by everything, he’s completely oblivious to the Blue Spirit reaching around him and calmly typing into the keypad. The door clicks with a merry beep, and the two of them tumble into the apartment as the door closes behind them.

“Wha—wait, fuck—wha—how the fuck did you get in here?’ Sokka pushes the Blue Spirit up against the wall, an arm against the vigilante’s throat. The Blue Spirit struggles, and Sokka digs in a little harder. He may be all jacked-up on information overload right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t land a mean kick or a punch in self-defense.

“Um, I live here?” The Blue Spirit chokes.

“Wrong answer. Try again.” Sokka pushes harder.

“No, seriously. Sokka. It’s me,” and the Blue Spirit pushes back, his arms flailing against Sokka’s chest in a feeble attempt to get away. “It’s me.”

A shuddering breath. “Zuko.”

(Huh?)

And the lightbulb in Sokka’s head pops as everything rushes back to him in an instant. Blue—no, the Blue Spirit—no, Zuko—is staring at him through the mask with bright, golden eyes. He’d recognize those eyes anywhere,

“Fucking hell,” Sokka says, reaching forward with his free hand and pulling off the mask. A head of raven-black hair falls forward, and Sokka’s staring into the pale, slightly scarred face of his roommate crush.

What the actual fuck,” Sokka breathes again and drops his arms, grimacing at the laughter he feels bubbling up from his chest. “You! All this time, it’s been you!”

“What do you mean?” Zuko coughs.

“The Blue Spirit! You lied to me!” The entire situation is so unbearably absurd, like something Kafka or Camus might write, and Sokka wheezes at the bemused expression on Zuko’s face.

“Well, technically I didn’t lie to you because you never ask—mmph.” Zuko doesn’t even get to finish his thought because Sokka’s already surged forward, fingers running through Zuko’s hair as he kisses him.

“I love you,” Sokka murmurs into Zuko’s ear. He really feels like his heart can’t take any more of this idiotic nonsense, and if Sokka’s going to take the plunge, it’s now or never.

When Zuko doesn’t say anything, Sokka feels his heartbeat ricochet through the roof with anxiety. Why isn’t Zuko saying anything? Is he trying to find the easiest way to break it off? How can you break something off if it never happened in the first place?

“Oh, Sokka,” Zuko sighs, cheeks dimpling. “I love you, too.”

And Sokka lets out a sigh of relief because Zuko—his dear, dumb, danger-seeking vigilante of a roommate—is smiling sweetly at him.

“Don’t scare me like that ever again,” Sokka says, his blood pressure slowly returning to normal.

“How long have you known about the Blue Spirit?” Zuko asks him quietly.

“Um, literally found out just now.”

“Are you serious? I thought that, the basketball game, and you running away—”

“Wait. You thought that I knew that you were the Blue Spirit?”

“—and that’s why you didn’t want to meet me, because you were ashamed of what I was—huh?”

“Zuko,” Sokka clasps his hands. “I told you. I literally just figured it out.”

“Then you’re a dumbass.”

“Yeah, but I’m your dumbass.” Sokka smirks. He pulls Zuko in by the collar of his turtleneck and kisses him again, gently at first, and then all at once. Sokka tastes sunshine and smoke and a hint of mint. He grins and nibbles gently on Zuko’s bottom lip, the other boy letting a tiny moan escape from in between his parted lips.

Hnnng,” Zuko keens, and he’s utterly adorable just like that, soft black hair tangling around his face and pupils darkening with desire. “Sokka.”

“Yes?” Sokka tucks Zuko’s hair behind one ear, marveling at its sleekness. “What’s up?”

More,” Zuko whispers, and they’re kissing again, tongues flitting against one another as Sokka holds them up against the wall, his knee digging into the wall between Zuko’s legs. Zuko grabs Sokka’s wolftail and pulls, pain and pleasure melding into one as Sokka’s eyes sting with tears.

“So, Blue—” he rumbles when they finally break apart to catch their breath. “Whaddaya wanna do next?”

The wink Zuko sends him is so wicked, Sokka pinches his own arm to bring himself back to reality. “I don’t know, Red. How about you show me?”

Sokka grabs Zuko’s head in his hands and dives in for another kiss. “Gladly.”

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦ ✧ ✦

[Socks // 5:14 PM] babe i got my paper back
[Socks // 5:14 PM] macmu-ling’s comments are SENDING ME
[Socks // 5:15 PM] i’m legit dying

[zuko <3 // 5:19 pm] What did she say?
[zuko <3 // 5:19 pm] I’m curious.

[Socks // 5:24 PM] “Mr. Nanji, your paper is very well written, and you’ve done quite an admirable job in organizing your thoughts into an engaging discussion about the perils associated with vigilante justice. One might even say that you have had a personal experience relating to the Blue Spirit, especially considering the anecdotes and factoids you have added throughout your paper. They do not, however, detract from the overall strength of your argument, and I thought that you presented your argument in a very concise and engaging manner that leads readers yearning for more. Perhaps a follow-up piece might be in the works? 99/100.”

[zuko <3 // 5:32 pm] What happened to the missing point?

[Socks // 5:33 PM] omg babe chill it’s just 1 point
[Socks // 5:34 PM] maybe it went 2 u
[Socks // 5:34 PM] cuz ur my number 1 (point)

[zuko <3 // 5:40 pm] Sometimes I wonder how I put up with you.

[Socks // 5:44 PM] u do it cuz u love me

[zuko <3 // 5:50 pm] …
[zuko <3 // 5:50 pm] Thank you for stating such an obvious fact.

[Socks // 5:53 PM] babe don’t make me crack up
[Socks // 5:53 PM] i’m outside i can’t giggle in public like this

[zuko <3 // 5:55 pm] Come home soon? I made dinner.

[Socks // 5:55 PM] omw i’ll c u soon xoxo

[zuko <3 // 6:00 pm] I’ll be waiting.
[zuko <3 // 6:00 pm] Stay safe. :)