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|By Katherine Rebekah||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Katherine Rebekah||PG||None||None|
|But A Crushed Spirit Who Can Bear|
Katara clutched the necklace in her hand and held it to her chest. It was still dark in the room, only a small sliver of light came in from the window. All the rest was snuffed out by the thick curtains. Normally, Katara would have been up by this time, even on a Saturday, but she had gotten little rest that night because of her feverish dreams. She had spent the night drifting in and out of unpleasant memories of the years Ozai had control of Kyoshi Island. One memory, in particular, had haunted her. The memory of her mother's death.
It was the only memory in which she could see Kya's face clearly. In the good memories is was always hazy, like a fog was surrounding her features. No matter how hard she tried Katara could only see the fear in her mothers eyes as she sat in a pool of her own blood, slowly slipping from the world. Katara was only a child then, and she couldn't fully comprehend what was happening as her dying mother pressed the necklace into her hand. Even now, seventeen years later, Katara still found it hard to process what had happened. Her mother had been stolen from her. She was gone, and that made the world a heartless place.
The door to her bedroom creaked open, letting in far to much light. Aang flipped on the switch and the room was folded with a florescent glow. Katara buried her face in a pillow.
"Aang!" She let out a muffled groan.
"Sorry." He flipped the light back off, and in a few moments she could feel the bed compress as he sat next to her, and the cool of a washcloth being placed on her forehead. She looked up to see his shadowed figure.
"I told you my fever broke at eight this morning."
"I know." He brushed the damp strands of hair from her face. "I just want to make sure."
Katara removed the wash cloth from her head despite the fact that she was still hot, and it felt good, and Aang had only been trying to help.
Then he clicked on the lamp, which cast a dim glow, that was slightly less annoying than that of the overhead light, but still caused Katara to hiss like a vampire.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
"I just want to see if you're okay." His voice sounded so innocent with just enough undertones of pain to make Katara feel like a jerk. She let out a sigh.
"I know, sweetie." She reached up and placed a hand on his cheek. "I know you are, but I just want to be left alone for a while. Please?"
Aang looked as if he didn't know what to do, but eventually he nodded, turned the light off, and left her alone in the darkness.
Sometimes when you take a nap you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to handle the rest of the day, other times you wake up with drool on your pillow, crust in your eyes, and a fresh hatred for life. Katara woke up the second way.
She tried to roll over and get back into that state of heavy dreamless sleep, but it was just not happening. Her tongue felt like sandpaper in her mouth and she could taste her own breath. This was enough to motivate her to get out of bed and go grab some water.
Katara stepped out of the hall and into the living room, blinking in the afternoon light. Aang was sitting on the couch. From what Katara's foggy brain could deduct he was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. She tried to make her way to the kitchen unnoticed, but to no avail. Aang practically bounced out of his seat at the sight of her and was doting over her in no time, following just at her heels on the way to the kitchen.
"How are you feeling?" Katara didn't answer, just grunted at him. "Are you going to go back to bed?"
They were in the kitchen now. She grabbed a cup from the cabinet and began to fill it with tap water.
"Come on, Katara. You've been asleep all day and I don't want to leave you here alone."
"What do you mean?" Katara took what she thought would be a sip of water but turned into her chugging the whole glass.
"I'm going to meet Toph, Suki, and Sokka for coffee at the Jasmine Dragon. I have to leave in like thirty minutes."
"So leave then. I don't care."
Katara began refilling her glass with water. Aang put his hand on her shoulder and looked at her with a deep concern in his gray eyes.
"Sweetie, what's wrong?"
Katara let out a sigh. "Just give me a second to get ready Aang. I'll go with you to the Jasmine Dragon. I have some big news to tell everyone."
Katara had got dressed in a pink breast cancer awareness shirt with the word hope scrawled across it in sliver glitter, sweat pants, and made herself to appear less miserable by covering her hollow eyes in makeup.
When she was ready they climbed into their yellow hybrid and drove to town in silence. Katara thought it was only fitting that it began to rain on the way there. She usually loved the rain, but this was a solemn kind of rain, the kind that made you want to crawl into a hole and hibernate for years, or at least until the sun came out, but maybe it was only her mood that made it seem that way.
When they got to the coffee shop, it took Katara awhile to realize that the car had stopped moving and she got out in a zombie like fashion, stomach churning with apprehension at having to be the bearer of bad news.
Sokka, Toph, and Suki were already standing around waiting for them in the damp parking lot. Sokka and Suki were arguing about something while Toph just stood leaning against Sokka's pickup with an amused smirk on her face. All of them seemed oblivious to the fact that they were getting rained on.
"If you're planning on going into the military, I'm coming with you!" Suki was getting red in the face.
"Calm down." Sokka put his hands on her shoulders and she wasted no time in shoving them off. "You and Toph have work here, remember? The dojo?"
"That's true, Suki. I can't run the dojo without you," Toph interjected herself. Suki opened her mouth to say something to Toph but then thought better of it and turned back to Sokka.
"We will finish this conversation later."
"Hey guys," Aang said with a nervous laugh as he strode up to them. "Everything all right?"
"Yeah, everything's cool," Sokka said.
Then Toph turned to Aang and Katara. "Suki is upset that her fiancé is going to run off to war and leave her here."
"I'm not going to war."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Truth is, Sokka, none of us want you to go. Why don't you just jump straight into your political career when you're done with school?"
"I have already been over this with you people. I just want to serve my country. You know, do something bigger with my life before I have to sit in an office all day. Can't you understand that?"
"I can," Katara said.
"What?" Aang looked at his wife like she had gone nuts, "You were the one most against this last week!"
"I didn't say I want him to go." Her hollow tone made her words cling to the air, "I just said I understand why he wants to do it. Why he has to do it. I think the best thing we can do is support him. In his own way, Sokka is being noble."
They all stared at Katara, blinking blankly. Sokka appreciated his sister saying that but instead of warming his heart it set him on edge. Katara usually didn't look like that, or sound like that, even though she did say things like that.
"Let's just go in and get our coffee," he broke the eerie silence and they all nodded in gratitude.
Iroh's coffee shop was the perfect place to escape to on a rainy day, It was cozy and smelled like caffeinated drinks and warm baked goods. There were also weird nicknacks all over the place that Iroh had collected during his travels. Some were creepy, like the frowning blue mask with protruding canines. Others were just perplexing, like the instrument that sat propped in the corner collecting dust, since Sokka had discovered that he couldn't play it without making everyone's ears bleed.
Katara and Suki sat down at the groups normal table, a circular booth by the front window, with a perfect view of the down pour which had increased in intensity in the seconds it took them to get inside. Everyone else went off to order their drinks, leaving the two girls alone.
"So are you feeling better, Katara?" Suki asked, using a napkin to squeeze some of the water from her hair.
"Well, Aang said you had a stomach bug, and I haven't seen you since yesterday morning. Are you over it?" Concern was starting to creep onto her face and Katara knew she was noticing something off.
"Yeah, the virus is gone. It turned out to be a twenty-four hour thing, instead of the flu."
Suki nodded. "Good."
"Yeah." Suki began to strum her finger nervously on the table as the conversation came to an uncomfortable halt. Thankfully, before the awkward feeling had become unbearable, Aang walked up to the table with Katara's coffee. He handed it to her with a big cheesy grin, obviously trying to lighten the mood, and brought his own cup to his lips. Then, as soon as he began to drink, Toph strode up walking right into his back, causing him to spill hot coffee all over his yellow polo shirt.
"Toph!" There was an unmistakable whine in his tone as he scrambled to grab napkins from the table.
"Sorry, Twinkletoes. It's not like I can see where I'm going." She said it with a maniacal grin and without the faintest hint of remorse in her tone.
"You have a cane. Why don't you use it?"
"That stupid thing?" Toph slid into the booth next to Suki. "I hate it. Plus I should know my way around the Jasmine Dragon. Don't you think?" Aang didn't answer, just walked away grumbling and wiping at his soaked shirt.
When everyone finally slid into the booth, Aang with a stained, but less soaked, shirt, and started chatting away Katara started having second thoughts about sharing her information. They just looked so happy, talking and sipping their coffee, she didn't want to ruin that for them. They would learn about it soon enough, just not right now.
Every once in a while, Aang would glance sideways at her, as if hoping she would open up her mouth and tell everyone what was bothering her, but he didn't say anything, didn't force her. He didn't want to back her into a corner. For that Katara was grateful.
As she watched her friends and family talk and laugh and argue for once in her life, she didn't feel the need to add her two cents. There was something like a glass pane between her and them. She couldn't see it, but she could feel it. And she wondered how they could be so happy and carefree when the world was so awful of a place. She wondered how she had been just like them only yesterday. It seemed like ages ago, yesterday did, like she was now a completely different person.
Suki glanced at her watch and a look of horror spread across her face.
"Guys, we have to get back to the dojo now."
"What?" Sokka said through a mouth full of bagel. "I thought we had the rest of the day off."
"No, dummy." Toph knocked back the remainder of her coffee before continuing. "We're expecting a contractor to fix the leaky roof, and you're our ride." Sokka let out a moan, but there was no contradicting both Suki and Toph, and the three were out of the coffee shop in no time. The only evidence of their presence left were three lonely coffee cups on the table.
Katara watched them out of the window, obscured by rain droplets, as they drove off and wondered why she had even come in the first place. She should be at home sleeping. A gentle hand atop her own shook Katara from her thoughts. She looked up to see two confused gray eyes.
"Sweetie, you said that you had something to tell everyone, but you barely said anything. What's wrong?"
"I just- they were in such a good mood, I didn't want to spoil that, but I should tell you. You deserve to know."
She took a deep breath. Maybe it would be easier if she just spit it out in one big chunk.
"The men who worked for Ozai, the ones that are in prison, most of them are coming up on their release dates."
The shock on Aang's face was undeniable.
"Including Yon Rha."
He put a hand to his bald head and rested his elbows on the table, and Katara knew what he was thinking about.
Years ago, when Aang was only twelve, he lived in the monastery with Gyatso, the only father Aang had ever known. He had snuck out one night in rebellion. One night. One mistake. When he returned, everyone was gone, but their bodies remained, lifeless and drenched in blood.
It was so hard on him, and Katara could see that pain in his eyes, still lingering all these years later. She never understood though, how he could live on, how he could forgive. He was better than her, so much better, because he hadn't let the hatred take root in his heart. She remembered his words from so long ago:
"The monks wouldn't have wanted me to hate. They would have wanted me to forgive."
And as they sat there at the table, Katara could see his shock melt away into peace as he took slow deliberate breathes.
"I'm sure that they would let out anyone who is a threat to society. I'm sure it will be okay." He lightly squeezed Katara's hand. "How do you feel about it?"
Immediately, a scowl darkened her features. "How do you think I feel? I'm furious. How could they be so stupid to allow these men their freedom?"
"Most of them are so old, Katara, especially Yon Rha."
"That doesn't mean they're not a threat."
Aang nodded. "Then here is what you do. You go to the court hearing and tell them your story. You tell them why you don't think he should get out."
"I'm going to do that, but Zuko said they'll probably let him out anyways. And I'm still mad at those idiots. How stupid do you have to be to set release dates for murderers?"
"Well, there was no solid evidence-"
"It was a rhetorical question, Aang," the snap in her voice seemed to hurt him, but he didn't do anything about it.
A silence commenced but she could see the wheels in his head turning and she knew what was coming next. It would only be moments before some "wise" saying Gyatso taught him came spewing from his month.
There it was, his mouth was opening, but before he could say anything Katara put up her hand.
"Sweetie, I appreciate that you want to help me, but I don't want to hear any solutions right now. Okay? I just wanted to tell you, because you deserve to know what's going on."
Aang bit his lip, "Okay then."
She sat there silent and unmoving, Aang still clasping her hand. The warmth and support that she usually felt radiating from her husband was a comfort she couldn't tap into. Katara felt detached from the world as she stared out the glass at the rain, listening to it pitter patter against the window pane. She was trying to reconnect, trying to feel normal, hoping she could be at peace like her husband, but it was impossible. Katara's spirit was crushed, and a crushed spirit who can bear?
So, not much to say accept that I'm really glad to get this out. I'm confident in this chapter but I could also see how it could get a little boring. Hang in there! Next chapter will shake things up a bit.
Song is Hurt by Johnny Cash as suggested by.
For the collective works of the author, go here.