Chapter information

When Past Meets Present



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Release date

25th May, 2013

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The Fireflies

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Okay, I don't normally do this, but I wrote almost the entire chapter while listening to Florence + The Machine's Cosmic Love, and well... it kinda sets the mood, I guess...


Shaking, twisting, turning.

Fear, undefined, unfathomable, the depths of which has never been felt by the tiny child subjected to it.

Laughter, warped and cold. It chills her to the bones and yet she is unable to drown it out.

Her breath becomes ragged, the air escaping before she can suck it in. She panics, whirling around as though she might see the cause of her distress. She doesn't—she never has and never will—but the knowledge only serves to terrify her further as she runs naked, away from the voice that so easily infects her mind. The creature, the Fear, chases her, whispering secrets and lies as she tries desperately to ignore it, to swallow the unbelievable dread rising in her stomach like bile. It flavours her mouth with mutated tastes, the overripe fruit of lost opportunities making her gag and scream out in anguish and pain.

She is lost.

She is abandoned.

She is alone.

The laughter sounds, a call to arms warning those that would try to help her that the foe is much greater than they can fathom.

Help me! she screams to the nothingness, the black world that is hers. Save me!

How can people save you if you do not let them? a silky voice asks, so unlike the one that plagues her. The girl, tears streaming, stops running. She imagines a corner to curl into, she imagines forgetting, ignoring, but the strange voice comes back. She collapses on the ground, so cool and inviting yet hot and disgusting, her body bare and mind open, for she has lost the control to protect herself.

He tells her of her foolishness, spouting riddles that can't help but remind her of Iroh, and the tears begin anew that the gentle man cannot comfort her. There is but one who has ever calmed her distraught mind, but he is gone, lost.

Just like she is.

The silky voice continues his tirade, the dripping disappointment setting her teeth on edge as she listens; and she is willing to listen, for this voice drowns out the wicked lies and insults that She, the first one, whispers in her mind.

Shrieks sound, warped with echoes and pain and desolation that is both in her and of her. She is no longer alone, but she wishes to be if only so she can suffer with silence, not the prolonged destitution in her heart. Her heart, her dark world aches, desperate for a splash of sun to guide her.

Somewhere, a baby cries.

She hears one other, and prays silently to the spirits. He has come back for her, like he does every night. For a single moment, a speck of time that spanned the life of all avatars to her, she hears Him. But, it isn't; the one that she lost and was lost is gone, no matter how much she wishes the opposite. Her eyes twinkle with renewed hope, though, because for another night she can be with Him, before it gives away to a bleak future as she realises that it is temporary. The future she wants is impossible. It cannot be possible—it shouldn't be, and she knows that it isn't.

She hears Him come closer, gentle steps reverberating around the empty world. The silky voice has retreated—she knows it will be back, but for whatever life she has left inside, she cannot bring herself to care, to worry. The girl knows that the Fear is out there—She hasn't fallen silent, the heavy breathing weighing down on her, but for the first time she cannot find it in her to give up. The man she most admires fought and battled, and he imparts his wisdom on her, wisdom one can only gain through loss and defeat.

Toph? the stranger, not so strange, stops in front of her. The only thing that separates the two are her knees, curled up under her chin. Her hair is brushed from her face as he peers into her useless eyes, arms snaking around her naked back to envelope her in his grip. She slowly releases her hold on herself, allowing him to come closer as she collapses on him in a heap, a mess, as she has done every night for the past year.

She runs her hand through his hair, along his face, sucking in details she may have missed during the other rendezvous. She hasn't, of course, and soon his gentle hands, calloused like hers, are running up and down her face, her arms, in her hair and he soaks her in, solidifying the memories.

She imagines a field, wild poppies dancing in the breeze as she lies with Him. She can feel the wind caressing her skin before it is replaced by his lithe fingers. They tickle her and she squirms into his grip, lying on his chest as she rests her head on his heart. She hears nothing, and taps out her own beat. It is fainter this time, and she knows she hasn't long to wait.

Slowly, delicately, softly, she feels the touch of his lips upon her hair, and she looks towards him as he places them on on her forehead, gently kissing between her eyes and down to her small nose before hovering above her lips. She closes the distance, tears mixing with the sweet taste of his as they melt into one another. For another night, she is happy.

For another night, she is safe.

She falls asleep in her dreamworld, in her fantasy, to wake up in life. That is her dream, really. But this time, she doesn't. This time, as her eyes open uselessly, she is not surrounded by her friends. She is not surrounded by her mentor. And she is not surrounded by her lover.

The Fear breaks over her in waves. It crashes and consumes her as she begins to realise that perhaps it is not he who is gone, but her. Her heart breaks as the darkness envelops her heart once again. She curls into her herself, the voices returning as they scrutinise her. Every fibre of her being is open to the Spirits as they mock and taunt her with their control.

She hopes for the nightmare to end, but of course it doesn't. Even if she could find a way to wake up, the nightmare would continue to plague her. The happy friends she has gathered suck her own joy as she tries to forget—they don't let her forget.

She is sobbing now. The choking gasps push their way past the lump in her throat, the heart in her throat as she submits to the pain and loss, finally. She knows she has to accept it, but can't; she refuses to believe the pain is real, because she knows she is unable to go on if she finally acknowledges it. Crying curled, prostrate with solitariness and dereliction, she does not feel a person approaching. She does not realise he is not the one she is looking for until he reaches a hand out touching her as he softly speaks her name. The gentle word seems to scream out for her as she realises that there is another with her, another she didn't expect in her dreamscape.

She unfurls, like a fern reaching for the sun; he is her sun, temporarily covered by clouds but shining even brighter because of it. He is not who she wants, but he is who she needs, and she throws herself into him, their naked bodies meeting as she breaks down on his shoulder.

Aang, she breaths, sobs into him as he strokes her back and hair, gently soothing her. The feminine voice has all but disappeared, taking the suffocating atmosphere with her as it retreats in anger. The girl breaths a sigh of relief as the silken voice washes over her—she does not see her companion stiffen at the sound, she doesn't notice him move until her head is on his chest. She hears his own heartbeat as he hides her face from the dark world, the mad world of shadows and secrets.

They lay back, this time surrounded not by poppies but daffodils as he holds her close.

He's back, she whispers to him, reverently, and for a moment he cannot understand the meaning. It takes but a second for him to become conscious of one other being. The boy teases her hair over her face, covering it as he shuts his eyes. He gently rocks her, ignoring the voice as he convinces her body to sleep. The fierce frown disappears quickly, and he steals away into the gloom, knowing she will be safe.

It doesn't take long for him to reach to edges of her mind. He has passed through such dreadful things, but cannot hope to unravel that which she doesn't want to share. He is an alien within her, more foreign than the strange creatures that inhabit her mind.

He sits on the very edge, looking over what could and may happen. The possibilities overwhelm him and he closes his eyes and begins to speak. The anger is hidden from his features and tone, but the voices understand his fury; they feel it in the air, infecting the small world that isn't his to alter. They laugh at the futility, and he calms himself. He can feel the presence of three, and the lingering scent of one other. His old friend is sleeping, dreaming hopefully of better, of greater things than what he is experiencing. There is a strange aura, one he has no wish to speak to—he fears it, the unknown.

Avatar, a voice calls. It has followed him, and he breaths a sigh. Toph is safe, as safe as she can be, stuck inside a nightmare.

Thank you for joining me, Avatar, he hears his name called again, and can do little but suppress a shudder as he recognises the voice. A creature approaches him, and the Avatar squeezes his eyes once more before opening them to the gloom. Before him is a spirit, ancient, that he knew he would meet again.

Face Stealer. What have you done to her!? he demands, his tone bland as his face slips into a mask. Beneath, he is seething, raw fury magnified by his thousand lives; magnified by one in particular.

I needed your attention, he replies silkily, the many masks changing from female to female, so out of place with his timbre.

There are better- easier ways! Stay away from her!

Too late. The game has begun, and you know better than anyone about rules, Avatar. The spirit laughs a coy, knowing laugh that sends a chill through the air.

Game? Why would a spirit like you play with a mortal?

I did not say it was her I was playing with—although unfortunately she has been forced to participate. Every game has rules—Miss Bei Fong understands this game better than anyone.

The Avatar's ears perk up and he stands, mere millimetres from the spirit. His heart thumps loudly in anticipation and anxiety—and terror, for his friend.

How does Toph understand this game? Why is she playing with you?

A hollow laughs sounds, coming from neither of them, and the Face Stealer frowns. He slithers around the Avatar, a smile dancing on his lips.

Miss Bei Fong has been playing this game much longer than any other before her. She has learnt to play the same way anyone learns anything. There is a technique, instinctive to you mortals.

The boy looks up at the spirit, too numb with fear and dread for the answer to his next question to show emotion.

What technique is that?

The Face Stealer lowers his head to gaze directly into the Avatar's eyes.


A/N: Umm... sorry this took so long. And that it doesn't reveal much... I was gonna add in an intro, but I like the chapter like this. It feels... complete.

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