In an unimportant neighborhood, an unimportant metallic blue Ford Pontiac G6 pulled up to a nondescript two-story house. From the back of the unimportant car came an ordinary blond guy, who walked casually to the uninteresting oak door and knocked in an ordinary fashion. The uninteresting door opened, revealing an ordinary brown-ha-
"Derek! Hey! Where've you been all week, huh?"
"Hey, Jason," said Derek. The boy before him looked like he'd just woken up, given his shaggy brown hair went every possible direction. He probably needed to buy shampoo. He wore a white T-shirt, a pair of blue swim trunks, and brown flip-flops. By contrast, Derek's trunks were orange, and he had tennis shoes and his AC/DC shirt. Derek's eyes were level with Jason's chin and hints of stubble.
"Dude, you look like a Halloween reject," said Jason.
"Good to see you too. So, you ready to go?"
"Yeah, just a sec." Jason ducked back into the house, then returned with a towel. "Got sunscreen?"
"In the car." They went over to Derek's mother's Pontiac, where his parents were already in the car, the engine running. Derek slipped in the back, followed by Jason.
"Hi Jason. How've you been?" said Linda.
"Eh. Could be worse."
"Why, what happened?"
"Well, yesterday I had a run-in with your cousin."
"Cousin?" said Derek.
"Mike. That football guy?"
"He's not my cousin."
"Really? You have the same name-"
"Last I checked I didn't have any cousins named Mike."
"I'm an only child too," said George, driving. "So was my father. Further than that, not sure."
"Man," said Jason disappointedly. But he perked up quick. "Heh. Maybe you really are distant cousins."
"Either way, don't care. Not related," said Derek.
"Alright, fine. Spoil the mood. Anyway, so I bumped into him yesterday on the way to the court. He thought it was on purpose, so he shoved me away. Crashed into some hot chicks, my hand landed on one of their boobs. Eve Lebsock, I think. She slapped me. Worth it."
"Uh huh," said Derek, looking out the window.
"And what've you been up to? All I heard about you all week was Lucas knocked your lights out."
"Well...pretty much, yeah." Derek didn't want the conversation to go anywhere.
"What about Monday and Thursday," said Linda, "when you went over to Lauren's place?"
Oh Lord, thought Derek.
"Lauren?" said Jason with a big perverted smile.
"I bumped into her last week, and she's been helping me with my homework. That's it."
"Yeah, but you went over to her house. Dude, I didn't know you had it in you."
"It's nothing like that! She's just a friend. Nothing more."
"What's she like? She hot?"
"Jason, shut up. I don't think of her like that."
"Come on. You gotta think something. She's a girl, and I know you're not gay, so honest. What do you think? Describe her to me."
"Well..." Derek was in a pickle. Jason constantly teased him about not thinking of any girl in terms of hotness. But not only did he not think of Lauren like that, trying to wrap Jason's way of thinking around Lauren made him think that Lauren wasn't considered "hot" by Jason's standards, which were...curvier than Lauren, to say the least. Still, he wasn't in the mood for a round of teasing, even if it was joking among friends. So what-
"So Jason, how's basketball?"
Saved by the Mom.
"Eh? It's alright. I was kinda waiting for Derek's answer, though."
"Something tells me he doesn't want to answer right now," said Linda.
"Why not?" Damnit, Dad. "I haven't met this Lauren girl myself. What is she like?"
"Oh...you know..." started Derek. "Black hair, kinda thin, glasses-"
"Glasses?" said Jason. "Since when were you into nerds?"
"Since when were nerds the only ones allowed to wear glasses?"
"Touché. So, what's she like?"
"Huh? I'm describing her."
"Yeah, but you haven't got to the good parts."
"What good parts?"
"Duh. What else is there for good parts?" He patted his chest with his fist.
"Dude, you know I don't think about that."
"You're no fun."
"Alright, alright. So, what's her brain like? Since that's clearly more important."
"Well, um... She... She's kinda... Well, at first she was kinda... a little bossy, but she's... she's alright."
"So she has a good personality. I get it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You don't think of her as hot, and she has a good personality. Add that she's just a friend. She's ugly, isn't she?"
"So you admit she's hot!"
Jason dropped the subject, but only after laughing for a good five minutes anyway.
"Ah, the beach. Sun, surf, and hot babes. What more could a guy want?"
Derek's hand quickly met his forehead at Jason's comment. "There's clouds, the waves are too short for surfing, and do you ever think of anything besides girls?"
"I'm surprised you don't think about girls more."
More than you think, Jason, thought Derek.
On one side of the group was the road, where their car was parked. To the other was a ten-foot drop to the sand below, sloping out just slightly. The group approached a staircase that led to the sand, the railings continuing a few more feet after the stairs they connected to disappeared under the sand. Off in the distance to either side was a stone jetty with people on it doing whatever. And in front of them was the ocean, a vaguely bluish expanse that stretched to oblivion. Shallow waves lapped at the sand while thicker bulges of water pulsed a bit further out.
And of course, the sand and nearer waters were covered in people of all ages. Families, groups of friends, and loners. A nearby splash of yellow on the sand caught his eye, which turned out to be a young woman with short blonde hair, dark sunglasses, a yellow-and-black bikini top over a small chest, and orange pants ending in bare feet. She was sitting up, watching the waters. A sudden smack brought Derek's attention to a group of teenagers, one of which was holding a stick and removing her blindfold to see the watermelon she just split open.
"Well," said Jason, "I'm not gonna waste all my time sitting around. Let's hit the water."
"Not just yet. Sunscreen," said Linda, holding a blue aerosol-esque can. While George set up a little picnic area, Derek took off his shirt and wrapped it around his shoes. Jason did the same, and soon Linda was spraying the two of them with the aerosol sunscreen from head to toe.
After this, the two teen boys took their cue to head for the water. They waded out some distance, to where the waves were high enough that they would either submerge the two of them or pull them so their feet left the sea floor, depending on whether they wanted to float or not. A bit further out and they came to a sandbar. The waves were breaking here. Perfect.
"Alright," said Jason. "First to catch a wave back to shore wins."
"Wins what?" said Derek.
"Uh... Ya know, I'm not sure." Jason smirked. "You still remember how to do this?"
"Works for me."
Jason carefully drifted himself to where the waves were starting to break over the sandbar. As a wave got close and broke over him, he pushed off the sand and kicked to position himself in the wave as it was breaking. Keeping in position, he managed to move maybe twenty feet before the wave finally got ahead of him, fading into a bulge of water and continuing to the shore to break again, but smaller.
Derek tried to catch a wave of his own, but kept failing, only going a few feet before the wave overtook him. "How do you do that?"
"Dad took me down to California this summer," said Jason, wading his way back to Derek. "Great waves there for surfing of any kind."
"I thought that was Hawaii," said Derek. "Or Florida."
"Or here back during Ike?"
"Yeah," chuckled Derek.
Jason tried to catch another wave, but didn't quite make it. "Well, can't win all the time."
The two of them tried body surfing for a little while, then just tried to keep their heads above the water, bobbing along with the waves. Derek tried to plant his feet and let the current move him around, flowing his arms to match as if he was the one pushing and pulling the waves. He had done this for mock-Waterbending before, but now was reminded he could actually do that for real. Could, but wouldn't.
After maybe a half hour of floating, swimming, bodysurfing, and the occasional splash fight just for the heck of it, the two of them were called back to the beach for lunch. "Coleslaw?" said Jason.
"Yeah, but Mom made it," said Derek.
Jason ate without hesitation. Derek's mother smiled. "That's nothing," she said. "Tonight we're having stir-fried chicken." She didn't need to ask to know that Derek was already looking forward to dinner.
"Aw man," said Jason. "I was gonna have pizza, but that... Damn."
"You sound like you have plans," said Derek's father.
"Yeah, my parents are out, so I got the house to myself for the weekend. I was gonna see if you could come over or something."
"I guess. I don't have anything better to do," said Derek.
"I don't have a problem with it," said Linda.
"Great," said Jason. "Hey, while we're at it, you should invite that Lauren girl too."
"Something tells me she won't like that," said Derek. That something being how angry she looked when she first saw him in the locker room. Going in there was something Jason would do with much less coaxing than an enraged Lucas on his tail. "Besides, she might have plans, and really. Asking her to go over to the house of some guy she doesn't know, with no parents around and the only other person there also being a guy?"
"You think she'd come anyway?"
Jason's tone made it clear he was joking, but that didn't stop Derek's hand and forehead from meeting.
After lunch, the two of them went back to the beach. This time, they stayed at the wet sand and built sand castles. They didn't have any tools but their hands, so the end results were more crude, but soon they had a pair of castles facing off against each other. Of course, Derek's was more detailed.
During construction, Derek thought for a bit. Once his castle was done, he started etching in the sand, drawing the shape of a body.
"Hey," said Jason. "You wanna go back and hit the waves?"
Derek looked up at Jason, primarily because the latter was standing where he was drawing. "Uh... Sure." But when Derek stood and turned around, he saw why Jason wanted to hit the water. There were more girls out there now. "Come on, Jason. Can we spend one trip to the beach without you failing to hit on someone you don't even know?"
Jason looked over at the water for a few seconds before relenting. "Yeah, alright," he said, going back to the sand. "So, what're you drawing this time?"
In truth, Derek had been thinking about his transformations and wanted to draw another one of them. But he decided it would be a good idea to keep Jason from knowing about any part of that. "Katara," he said, starting to fill the appropriate details.
"Heh," said Jason, going to make another sand building. "You talk about not wanting me to talk to real girls, when you're the one drawing fake ones at the same time."
"Yeah, but the difference is that I don't hit on them or get slapped for it."
"Touche," he said.
The two of them worked for a little while, building a small town out of sand. Derek, of course, put a little extra effort into detail, at the very least labeling the bookstore or the McDonalds. They started working on the same side, making a few larger buildings and going back and forth to the water to grab some extra wet sand without compromising the sand they already had.
And, of course, as they were building a stadium on one side of the town miniature, a couple of kids came up to the other side. One of them smashed just one building, but the other seemed to be playing hopscotch with the rooftops.
"Hey!" shouted Jason.
This didn't stop the more destructive of the little boys from falling down and rolling around in the former town. The other wisely stepped back.
"We were working on that!" said Jason.
The kid rolling in the wrecked town stood up and stuck his tongue out.
"Screw you!" said the kid. "Only babies play with sandcastles!" He ran off, laughing.
His apparent friend came up and said, "I'm sorry about him. He's such a jerk sometimes."
"He'd better get that under control," said Derek, "or it could get far worse when he grows up." He was thinking about Lucas. And Lauren's brother came to mind.
"I know," said the boy. "He won't get any other friends if he acts mean all the time." The kid walked off before he could get a response.
Derek looked down at the wrecked half of the town. "Well, so much for that."
"Eh," said Jason. "It would've been wrecked when the tide came in anyway." He paused for a moment. "Hey, you see a bathroom anywhere?"
Derek glanced around. "Uh... Well, no, not really."
"Darn. That means I gotta look for one. Be right back."
"I'll be in the water when you get back."
"'kay." Jason headed back towards the seawall, stopping for a moment to tell Derek's parents where he was going and to grab his shirt and sandals, then climbed the stairs to the top and over towards an intersection.
With Jason off to the bathrooms, Derek ran into the water, kicking a couple of waves on his way out. Working his way foot by foot, he soon found himself back towards the sandbar so he could try to catch the waves again. He waited for a moment, kicking off the ground and using the waves to let him see higher up. From his vantage point, the people on the beach were about the size of flies at best. His parents were still in their spot, sunbathing. Only now did he realize the sun had come out. Derek squinted further, and it looked like his father was rubbing lotion on his mother's back. Or massaging her back. He couldn't tell what they were doing from this distance.
The frightened girl's shout came from some ways to the right, and some ways out into the water. Derek turned his attention and saw a redhead wade further and duck down under the surface, pulling a young man up. She seemed to struggle to keep him up. Then she called out, "Help! Help, somebody! My boyfriend's unconscious!"
The girl's frantic screams brought attention from swimmers nearby, and people on the beach. Somewhere, a lifeguard whistle blew, but Derek couldn't for the life of him tell where they were.
"Hurry! I don't think he's breathing! Help!"
Derek started towards the girl, trying his hardest to run through the water. But then he stopped. "No, not... Oh, damnit. I don't have time for sec-" Interrupting himself, he took a deep breath and sunk down into the water.
A few seconds passed, and the water began to stir and spin. A small whirlpool started to form. Then, in a quick burst, a surge of water darted towards the girl with the drowning boyfriend. Water pulled in from the sides, up the back, pushing forward in a rolling wave. And in front of it, waist deep and standing as if surfing, was Amelia, the form in the swimsuit, hair and robe whipping behind her.
With a determined face, she pushed herself through the water, thrusting her arms back as if pushing against the water, only serving to propel herself forwards from the wave she stood in. In any other case, she would've paced herself, taken the time to control her occasional wobbles, near-stumbles, and general imbalance. Not now. No time for practice. Her focus was locked on getting to the scene, then to shore, as fast as possible.
She rapidly approached the girl and her boyfriend, slowing to a stop nearby. She twisted her arms up, causing water to bulge and hold the unbreathing man, and she pushed herself under him, holding him on her back. She shot towards the shore, carrying her unconscious passenger, supporting him with water as well. The water surged up onto shore farther than it would at high tide, then dropped down, leaving the two of them to roll onto the sand. Fortunately, the man stopped on his back, and Amelia on her side. She sat up. "Rough landing," she said to herself, quickly stepping over to the young man.
This was a problem, though. She had no idea what to do. Keeping his head above the water was a no-brainer, but she didn't know a thing about how to cure drowning. "Hey!" she shouted. "I need help over here! Does anyone know CPR? Hurry!"
Fortunately, her pleas were answered by some middle-aged man running over. "Here! I got it," he said. Amelia wisely stepped back as the man knelt beside the unconscious person...Mark, she remembered his name was. The apparent rescuer bent down to put his ear next to Mark's mouth and looked at his chest. After a second, he stood and yelled, "Somebody call 911! Quick!" He looked into Mark's mouth, then tilted his head sideways. He carefully nested his hands together and placed his palm at the bottom center of the younger man's ribcage, locking his arms straight before jamming down quickly. Fourteen more of this, and he let go and looked into the boy's mouth again. "Still nothing..." He bent down, tilted Mark's head up, pinched the victim's nose, and planted his mouth over Mark's. Mark's cheeks puffed out a little, and his chest rose. The rescuer leaned back and took another breath, then breathed into Mark a second time, before shifting back to do more chest compressions.
Amelia knelt beside them. "Maybe I can..." She held her hand near the boy's chest, not getting in the way of the rescuer. She pinched her fingers together, then pulled them towards Mark's mouth. Nothing happened.
"What are you doing?" said the rescuer.
"Trying to get water out of his lungs if there is any." She tried again, but it didn't work. "Come on. Why can Katara do that but I can't?"
The man finished the set of 15 compressions and two more breaths, then went back to another set of chest compressions again. The atmosphere was tense.
After the sixth chest compression, the boy coughed suddenly, an immediate cue for the man to stop and back up. The boy turned to the side and spat up a small puddle of sea water, coughing and spitting for several seconds.
"Oh, thank goodness," said the man. Amelia likewise sighed in relief.
The boy opened his eyes and said, "Ungh. What happened?"
"You were knocked out and drowned for a moment there," said the man.
"I... I was on the sandbar," he said weakly. "I think a wave bludgeoned me."
"Well the waves break at sandbars," said Amelia.
The teenager looked over at Amelia. "So... You saved me?"
"Yeah. Well, he did the CPR, but I got you to shore."
"With some strange control over the water," said the man. "How did you do that?"
"Hey!" came a terribly familiar voice. Jason. He ran up close to Amelia. "You! How did that happen just now? With the water? That was amazing! You're like the Avatar or something!"
"What?" said Amelia. "I'm not the Avatar." She was filling with dread. She did not want to meet Jason like this.
"Then you're a Waterbender, then. Sweet! I never met a Waterbender chick before!"
Jason was starting to use familiar terms. "Uh... I gotta go," said Amelia, starting to back away.
"Aw, come on. You gotta stick around!"
"Sorry." Amelia turned around to run towards the water.
She was suddenly stopped by Jason grabbing her wrist. "Come on. You can't just leave. You're too cute to just run off like that."
Amelia's face flushed red hot with embarrassment. Without a word, she reached towards the water and pulled a stream from it, splashing Jason in the face with it. He let go, and Amelia sprinted into the water, parting it around her as if surrounded by an impenetrable bubble of air. When she got deep enough, she formed a wave behind her and shot off like before, dunking down under the water just past the sandbar.
It was several minutes before Derek surfaced near a different crowd of beachgoers. He worked his way back to shore and walked over to where his parents were. Jason was already there.
"Yes, Jason," said George. "You've told us a hundred times already. We get it. We saw from over here."
"But it was incredible!" said Jason. "She was the most awesome super prettiest girl I've ever seen! Well maybe not prettiest, but she was damn cute!"
George was rolling up his towel, an annoyed look on his face, when he spotted Derek. "Ah. Where have you been?" he said.
"I was in the water," said Derek. He'd had a few minutes to practice his lie, though he knew his parents would see right through it. "I saw that Waterbending action and wanted to see what was going on, but whoever it was-"
"She!" said Jason. "She was-"
"Who ever it was," continued Derek with interrupting emphasis, "left before I could get there. I was trying to see if they went on shore further down."
"She!" repeated Jason. "That girl was awesome! I wish I got her name. Heh. Or her phone number. Man, it would be so awesome to date a Waterbender."
"I think you should put this Avatar nonsense behind you, Jason," said Linda. "If she was interested in anything like that, she would've stayed. But she didn't, so she clearly wasn't." With a smirk, she said, "Besides, I get the feeling she's not your type." A quick wink to Derek was all he needed.
"How do you know? She might be exactly my type. I just gotta find out how to meet her again."
"I she kinda left," said Derek. "I don't think there's any way of getting a hold of her."
"Jason, could you help me get this stuff to the car?" said George.
"I don't get why we have to leave," said Jason.
"I told you. I got called in to work at the last second, so we can't stay or I'll be late."
"But you're at the beach. Home's gotta be like twenty miles from here. Couldn't you say that you're at the beach? And isn't your home farther away from here than your office?"
"The sooner we get going, the sooner we can make it to work. Come on, help me with this stuff." He walked off, and Jason picked up a few things to follow behind.
When they were sufficiently out of earshot, Linda said, "That was close, wasn't it?"
Derek shrugged. "They couldn't really see me under all that water, so I think I'm good." He picked up a towel and started to dry himself off with it. "The real problem there was what Jason said."
"I thought that would be problematic."
"Yeah. Usually it's funny to watch him crash and burn, but form the other side, it's kinda creepy."
"I can imagine."
"Yep. It was creepy. He was hitting on me." He paused, then shuddered for a moment. "Amelia's never meeting him again."
"I didn't think she would."
The two of them rejoined George and Jason up at the car. "Still don't get why we have to leave," said Jason.
"I know, I know. You have surprise work. Your boss has terrible timing."
"You have no idea." George wasn't following the lie this time; his boss had an uncanny habit of calling George in at inopportune moments, such as Derek's birthday two years ago.
Derek and Linda put the rest of the stuff in the car, lining the seats with towels. But Jason stayed outside. "Hey, can we hold off on leaving for just two minutes?"
"Why?" said George.
"Well I kinda have to go too if you get my meaning."
"Wait," said Derek, "didn't you already go?"
"I was gonna, but when I was at the light I heard shouting and then saw that Waterbender and I jumped down to go see what was going on."
"And you couldn't just go in the water?" said George.
"I think this is a little more solid for that."
"Thank you for sharing, Jason," said Derek.
"We'll stop on the way back," said Linda.
"But there's a McDonalds right there," said Jason, pointing to the building almost literally across the street from them.
George sighed. "Make it quick."
After they got home and changed, George drove off to maintain the illusion while Derek and Jason walked (for a good twenty minutes) over to the latter's house. During the several ensuing rounds of Halo, Jason spent more time than he should've talking about the water rescue, which Derek always took advantage of by getting another kill in, until Jason took the cue and dropped the issue, suddenly becoming much more competent at the game.
The day went by without incident. Derek and Jason returned to Derek's house for dinner, then back to Jason's for more gaming. They went into the night playing Mario Kart, Soul Caliber IV, and Resident Evil. The next day was more of the same, with Derek returning home at around lunch.
But after he got home, his mind started to wander back to yesterday's events. "I can Waterbend..." he muttered to himself. "And... I saved someone's life." He looked down at his hands. "But... hmm..." Lauren's right to wonder about this, he thought. What else can I do? He locked his door, picked up his sketchbook, and started transforming.
The video was shaky, but there was no mistaking the bulge of water flowing against both the current and gravity as it moved towards the small pinprick of people, then towards shore. It was set to some Avatar: The Last Airbender music that seemed appropriate.
"Three thousand hits already," said the woman.
"I know," said the large man. "First that flying girl, now this."
The man clicked to another video of the same scene, taken from a different angle. This video started as the alleged Waterbender was on her way to shore, showed the CPR rescuer in action, and ended with some boy trying to grab the girl's wrist, resulting in her splashing him in the face before darting away on a jet of water. The top comment said the CPR rescuer was gay, which was flamed to death by other comments that said CPR couldn't afford to be picky about gender.
"I don't know what's going on," said the man. "But I'd like to find out. Get someone to trace the IPs of those videos."
"Yes, Mr. Fluke," she said, walking out of the room.