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Chapter Seventy: 67%
"So, I've mastered Waterbending, and I've mastered Earthbending," he explains, counting on his fingers, "but I've yet to master Firebending. Or even start. I'm two-thirds of the way there, but Sozin's Comet is coming in less than a month!"
She shifts closer to him, watching the fire. Toph is already asleep, and her brother is sprawled over his maps, snoozing. Tomorrow, she knows, they will likely reach their final rest stop before the Invasion, a whole four days ahead of schedule.
"Here, turn around, and take off your shirt," she tells him, and he seems more than happy to follow her instructions. She rubs his shoulder comfortingly. "It's okay, Aang. We won't need Firebending. You'll take down the Fire Lord on the Day of Black Sun. Come on. Smile for me?"
He glances back at her, one hand reaching up to remove his scarlet headband, and he seems so utterly Fire Nation that for a moment, she doesn't know who he is.
So utterly Fire Nation.
So utterly foreign.
So utterly alien.
Then she catches his eyes, gray like the coming storm, and he obliges, grinning like an idiot.
"There's the Aang I know." She laughs and tickles the back of his neck, but as she reaches across, he sits up, blushing suddenly. "What's wrong?"
He turns away from her. "Nothing. I'm just . . . uh . . . it's a little too cold for me to take my shirt off, don't you think?" She can hear the embarrassment in his voice. "I mean, unless you—"
"Aang," she responds warningly, "that's not what I meant. Come on, Aang. Grow up a little. You can do it."
He tilts his head from side to side. "Probably . . . but . . . never mind."
Even in the darkness, she can detect the almost luminescent pink of the blush.
"Aang, I'm a healer. I want to see your scar. It's been a while since we had a healing session. Aang?"
He seems to be weighing his options, and finally, he does remove his shirt, revealing the scar, which has faded from the ugly crimson blotch it once was. It's a pinkish-red now, and she remembers how he, too, has healed. Inside.
She coaxes the water from her waterskin, and it settles around his scar; moving her hands in a circle, she heals him.
He still fears for his possible death, but he no longer fears for his letting down of the world.
He still feels guilt for the things he has said and done, but he no longer feels guilt for his actions at Ba Sing Se.
But he still is ashamed that he could not fight Azula.
He is still ashamed.
He wants his honor.
He wants his people.
He wants . . .
She continues to soothe him, and she listens to him breathing.
Breathing in time with her motions.
They follow the same beat.
The same tempo.
In the original draft of this chapter, there was a healing session, but when I ran over the word count, I took it out and forgot to replace it. Thankfully, Sifu Vulmen managed to catch my grave error before the chapter turned out to be superbly perverted.
And by mastered, I mean "has learned to do". He's technically only mastered Airbending, but he can use Earthbending and Waterbending extensively.
When I first saw this theme, I thought: "Seriously? Percentages in Avatar?" But it more or less works out.
Trivia: Although two-thirds is not a tempo marking in music, three-twos is.
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