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Chapter Seventy-Six: Broken Pieces
He thrashes. He can't think. He can't breathe. The fire presses in all around . . . the Fire Lord snarls in anger . . . the Fire Lord laughs cruelly . . . he can see her, screaming, screaming—
He sits up, panting, one hand over his stomach. His clothes are plastered to his skin, and the smell of sweat and something else fills the air. He pants heavily, feeling the cool breeze along his shaven head. "It's nothing," he temporizes. "Just some nightmares."
The full moon straddles the sky, and its glow reminds him of . . . of the night he ran away. Of the night he . . . of the night he sentenced the rest of his people to death.
She lies across the campfire, snug in her bedroll. It's lined with furs . . . and this always bothers him . . . but tonight? He brings his hand to head, and he can feel how hot his forehead is. "Are you sure? You've never . . . screamed before."
He glances up at her in surprise. "What? I was screaming? I'm sorry if I woke you up," he says quietly, and she crawls out from her bedroll and steadily works her way in an arc.
"It's okay, Aang. Yes, you were screaming . . . you were screaming something over and over . . ." She embraces him, but he finds that he cannot relax. He tucks his knees into his chest and wraps his arms around himself, leaning into her, and he finds that he is shaking.
Just enough the surface, he knows, lurks the Avatar Spirit, but as long as she is with him, he can keep it at bay.
"What . . . what was I screaming?" But he already knows the answer, because the phrase itself has echoed so many times in his nightmares.
He feels her hands on his head and on his cheek, and then she throws herself onto him and hugs him as tightly as she can. "Oh, oh Aang . . ." She awkwardly tries to stroke his arm, and he attempts to relax, but he can't.
"What was I screaming?" he repeats, his voice trembling.
She embraces him, tighter, tighter. "You were yelling . . . I hate you."
He inhales sharply, and he can feel the tears on his cheeks. "They broke my life. They wanted to send me away."
"I know, Aang. It's okay. You're allowed to ha—"
"But that's not it," he explains. "I was screaming I hate you . . . at myself." He presses his face into her shoulder.
"I ran away."
He shudders, and he can feel her body shaking with his.
She murmurs. "Aang . . ."
Another shiver runs through his body, but this time he relaxes. "But as long as you're here, it's okay, because you'll help me pick up all the broken pieces . . ."
I actually cried while writing this.
And it's nothing even that sad.
Based on a personal experience.
""But as long as you're here, it's okay, because you'll help me pick up all the broken pieces . . ."" -> [sobs]
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