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June 12th, 2013
Losing Myself is the sixth chapter of, and deals with the unfortunate increase of separation within the family.
I'd been planning this chapter since the story first went into production. This was the chapter where I wanted everything to just crumble beneath everyone's feet, leaving each and every character to ponder what to do next, and if there is even any hope left for the family at all.
I stood at the edge of a cliff, staring out at a seemingly endless ocean. I was twelve years old again, wearing my traditional Air Nomad training attire. It was late at night, a few clouds floating in the sky below the bright curving moon. My entire face was blank. It didn't even appear that I was staring at the ocean. It was more like I was looking past it—or rather, through it.
I must have been out there for at least an hour, maybe a quarter past. I had no real reason for being out here. I just wanted to get away and be by myself.
Soon enough I heard footsteps approaching from behind me. They were light, careful. Their owner was approaching with care. I knew who it was before they even spoke.
"You know, it's okay to miss Appa."
I remained silent, not moving a muscle to show any indication that I had anything to respond with.
"What's going on with you?" she asked with concern. "In the desert, all you cared about was finding Appa and now it's like you don't care about him at all."
My eyes drifted closed as I remembered my past actions, "You saw what I did out there. I was so angry about losing Appa that I couldn't control myself." My face tightened up as I felt angry with myself, "I hated feeling like that." My eyes drifted shut again.
"But now you're not letting yourself feel anything," she told me, the concern in her voice rising. "I know sometimes it hurts more to hope and it hurts more to care. But you have to promise me that you won't stop caring." She held out her arms, "Come on, you need a hug."
I can't remember ever denying a hug from her up to that point. I simply turned to her and bowed respectfully. "Thank you for your concern, Katara." I turned and walked down the cliff, leaving her behind. I didn't have to look back to figure out what kind of state I left her in—hurt, worried, and unneeded.
Suddenly I heard my name being called. "Aang!" I turned in response, but there was no one there. She... she was there, just a minute ago! Wait, the ledge was broken! I heard my name called again, this time it sounded more desperate. I raced towards its source. When I reached her, I could see her fingers clinging to the side. The ledge had somehow given way and she must have slipped! Her fingers began slipping. I dived forward, catching her wrist in both my hands just as she lost her grip. She let out a terrified gasp as she was almost lost to the crashing waves below.
"I got you!" I cried out to her. I saw the look in her eyes—terrified beyond belief. Her hand was sweaty from the fright, slipping out of my grasp. I tightened my grip. I knew that my added strength was hurting her, but I couldn't let her go, even if it meant breaking her wrist. It was better than losing her.
I strained as I struggled to pull her back to safety. "Aang!" she screamed my name as I made no progress.
My eyes clenched closed, my teeth grinding. I was pulling muscles in my arms as I tried harder to save her.
Suddenly I heard crying. But it wasn't hers, and it certainly wasn't mine. It was a child's, a newborn's even! Suddenly my eyes opened in surprise and they followed the sounds of the cries. They directed me towards the space where the moon had just been. It wasn't there anymore. Instead... it had been replaced by the image of the newborn crying. Immediately, I recognized the baby. It... it was Kya! Her cries were just the same as the night she was born. I stared in shock and awe. I didn't even notice that, until she called out my name again, Katara was slipping out of my grasp.
I couldn't keep my eyes off Kya. I found myself becoming oblivious to the fact that she was still slipping from out of my grasp. It was like some imaginary force was compelling me to become distracted by the sight of my daughter.
I was brought out of my trance when I felt a sharp, stinging pain build up in my wrist. I turned to her, noticing that as she was slipping, she was accidentally lodging her nails into my skin, scratching away the surface of my sleeve and skin.
Eventually, our sweaty palms replaced the friction and we began sliding out of each other's grasp. I contemplated on whether or not I should try to build a platform of earth beneath her. I was still in training, though. If I tried, I might fail and the movement could cause our grips cease and have her falling into the water below, but not before breaking multiple bones on the many rocks that rose a couple of feet above the water line.
Kya's wailing cries grew louder, and on impulse I redirected my attention towards her. Then without explanation, she was gone. I was left with a dumbfounded expression and complete confusion. I thought that maybe it was all my imagination, until I heard two sets of desperate cries. I jerked my head towards them and saw that I now had both Katara and Kya in my grasp, struggling to pull the both of them back to safety.
She was no longer a newborn. She had been reverted to her five-year-old state. She had both of her small palms wrapped around my wrist as I gripped hers. Katara was still slipping, though! Before I knew it, our hands had become like hooks, our curled fingers now being the only hope of saving her from an instant death.
I transferred the majority of my strength into my left arm, not even aware that by doing so, my grip on Kya loosened and she was now clinging to the fabric at the edge of my wrist.
"Aang," Katara called my name in desperation, "save Kya! Forget about me!" she urged.
No, there was no way I could do that. "I already lost you once. I'm not going to let you slip away from me again!" I told her firmly.
"Daddy!" Kya screamed in sheer terror as the fabric began to rip.
"Aang, save Kya!" Katara screamed to me, her voice firm with absolute demand.
I found my eyes crisscrossing between the two women whose lives were literally mine to hold onto to. I found myself trying to make the ultimate decision. The fabric was moments away from breaking off from the rest of the outfit, taking Kya with it to an immediate death. If I was to save her, there would be no doubt Katara's life would be taken. But... if I saved Katara, not only would we lose our only child, but she'd hate me forever for allowing our daughter to die. But... if I saved Kya, she'd hate me forever for allowing her mother to die. I had to choose. It was either save our only daughter, or save the love of my life.
I couldn't make a decision. No matter what, I'd lose the two most important people in my life. It was all about whose life I believed deserved to last longer.
I took too long to choose... The cloth ripped and separated from the rest of my torso and Kya began to fall. Impulse took over and I took my grip from Katara's arm and attempted to take hold of Kya's hand. But I was already too late. By the time I let go of her mother, Kya had already fallen out of my reach. When I tried to grab hold of Katara again, she too had fallen out of my reach. I was too stunned at the image to move any muscle in my body. I could only lie there and watch as they both fell to an instant death.
I could have saved one of them... I should have saved one of them...
I was woken up by a violent shaking, followed by the desperate calling of my name several times. I hadn't even remembered falling asleep, much less sitting down. I'd been pacing back and forth across the hallway. I don't know for how long, but the next thing I knew was that I was being shaken awake.
"Aang, wake up!" the voice demanded. My vision readjusted and I found my brother-in-law hovering above me.
I shoved his hands off of me, "I'm awake, alright!" I said with grumpiness from my sudden awakening.
"What happened?!" he demanded as I rubbed my eyes. "What happened to my dad?!"
I was immediately reminded of the events that took place only an hour or so ago. For a moment, it seemed like he was just coughing or something. Next thing I knew, he was lying face-down in the snow, no longer breathing. I had started CPR, what I knew of it at least. All the monks were taught it at some point in their lives. We had the ability to control air, and though it was barely useful during most medical emergencies, CPR and airbending seemed to fit like a glove. I did everything I could, but I couldn't get his blood pumping again...
"He-he had a heart attack," I answered. "Didn't they tell you anything?" I asked out of confusion. Surely whoever alerted Sokka that his father was in the hospital could have at least given him the basics of the incident.
"No, all they said was that he was here," he explained. "Is he alive?!" he asked desperately.
I sent a look to him, of concern and surprise. They...didn't tell him?
"Is...he...alive?!" he said it louder, spacing out his words as if I didn't hear them the first time.
I breathed calmly. Even after I gave the news, the outcome would surely end up in me being the cause. That wasn't entirely inaccurate...
"He's alive..." I began before adding, "...barely, though."
Sokka breathed a large sigh of relief. "At least he's alive; that's the main thing."
"You seem to be taking this well?" I inadvertently said aloud.
He cast me a look, "Because he's still alive. I know my father—he can get through anything long as he's still breathing."
I turned my eyes away from him, "He wasn't for a minute there..." I muttered softly.
"What was that?"
"Nothing—Are Suki and Kya here with you?"
He nodded, "They're outside in the carriage. I wanted Suki to stay home with Kya, but she must have overheard that her grandfather was in the hospital and insisted on coming," he stated, soon thereafter adding, "That's the first time she's left her room since you left."
That hurt, really. "Did you come here to check on your father or see if I had anything to do with it?"
He rolled his eyes, "Honestly? A little bit of both. He said he was going to talk to you, and then an hour later I'm being told my father's in the hospital. I have to admit, my first thoughts weren't all that pleasant towards you."
"Well, you're welcome," I said harshly. "If it hadn't been for me, he'd probably be dead right now!"
Sokka scoffed, "If it hadn't been for you, he probably wouldn't have had a heart attack in the first place!" he retorted. I couldn't help but admit that there was a certain truth to that statement. "Tell me, Aang, when did he have that heart attack, huh?"
"He was just leaving," I answered, hiding the details as best I could.
But Sokka could see the full truth was hiding in my eyes, "And what happened before that?"
"Nothing," I insisted, unknowingly avoiding eye contact as I stared at his boots.
"Tell me, Aang!"
The anger building up inside me was becoming tenser. "Drop dead," I spat.
The councilman misunderstood my response, and I could tell by the look on his face that he was on his wits end with me, "I...said...tell me!"
I stood up from my seat. "I just did," I sneered before turning away from him and heading down the hall towards the exit. As I swung open the doors to the hospital, I spotted an ostrich horse-drawn carriage parked by the curb. I recognized it immediately by its navy blue paint job, not to mention the five-year-old peeking out the window. She stared at me for only a brief moment before she sat back down in her seat, a depressed look on her face.
I halted myself and thought for a moment. They still didn't if Hakoda was okay or not. Right now Sokka was probably in his father's room, talking to the doctors or something. No telling how long he'd be in, though. I breathed a sigh and approached them. I tapped the window with a comforting smile.
Kya glanced at me only briefly before turning away. Suki reached over her niece and slid the glass window down. She was speechless, but her eyes asked for the news.
I looked to Kya, "Gramp-Gramp's going to be okay, Kya," I told my daughter. "His heart just didn't agree with him tonight."
Suki caught on to my meaning and breathed a somewhat sigh of relief, as her husband had done.
Kya just turned away, scooting closer to her aunt and burying her face in the clothing. She was mad at me; I could tell. Earlier she couldn't keep her eyes off me, now she wouldn't even look at me for more than two seconds. I reached in to brush her hair with my hand but she swatted it away. A look of disappointment rose upon my face and I brought my hand back. I stared at her, marveling her beauty and the similarities to her mother for only a few minutes more when I heard the hospital doors open from behind me. Sokka was coming down the steps.
I left the carriage, straightening my coat as I walked away into the cold winter night, asking myself the same question over and over again: What do I do now?
The voice and the dreams—they'd come back again. It had been impossible to sleep. I'd been trying to keep from drinking, and every night I hadn't, it'd take hours just for me to fall asleep because of the screaming I could swear was coming from someone standing over me. On top of that, I'd wake up countless times in a single night from dreams. They varied randomly, but the basis of each was pretty much the same: what my life would have been like if Katara hadn't died.
I couldn't take it anymore. They had to stop. I started drinking again and I didn't regret it one bit. They kept the voice quiet for a while, but the dreams continued without any lag whatsoever. Soon enough, the voice grew stronger as well. Not even drinking would shut it up. I tried again and again without any success. Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and I decided to get in touch with Kazuto.
I sat in the bar at a table, wearing a hat and gloves to cover my tattoos, waiting for him to show as snow fell outside. I had asked the bartender about him earlier, if he was a regular. The bartender stated that he was usually there on Friday nights from sundown until an hour before closing. It was past sundown and the sky was pitch black, not even a star in sight during this new moon. I was beginning to think he wasn't going to show when he finally arrived. I sent him a wave and gestured him over to the table in a corner, separated from the main area of the bar. He greeted me and sat down.
"Haven't seen you here in a while," he said. "I thought you skipped town."
"I've been in a little trouble with the law," I stated.
Kazuto's attention was suddenly caught to the fullest. He leaned towards me, his eyes firm with stone. "Did they find it?"
I nodded in the affirmative.
He suddenly gripped my shirt collar, pulling me across the table so that I was only inches from his face, "You didn't rat me out, did you?"
I grabbed his wrists and shoved him off of me, "Calm down. I didn't tell them anything, alright."
He sighed in relief, "Good." He cast an apologetic smile, "Sorry, Kuzon, but when it comes to stuff like this, a guy like me can get a little tense at times."
"Just don't take it out on me," I warned. "Listen, you got a little something on you?"
"And little 'something' more," he retorted.
I looked around for a bit; making sure no one was in hearing range. I leaned in, "Kazuto, I keep hearing this voice all the time. It's screaming in my heard. I can barely get to sleep at night, but even when I can sleep, I keep having these dreams."
"What kinds of voices?"
"That's not important," I said, disregarding the question. "What's important is I need to know if you got something to make them go away!"
"Ever try tequila?" he asked, cocking a brow as if I was insane.
I rolled my eyes, "You think I haven't tried that yet?"
Kazuto made a contemplating eye roll and sighed, "Alright, follow me."
We departed from our table and proceeded outside. We crossed the street and walked into a nearby alley. Kazuto looked around, specifically the street surrounding the area, and continued farther down until we reached an empty area. He told me to wait there before proceeding cut around the corner on the opposite side of the alley we came from. A few minutes later he returned, breathing fire into his hands. It was freezing outside, but nothing compared to temperatures I had endured in the South Pole.
He took a small capsule from out his coat pocket. Inside was some kind of white powder, like flour or something. I cocked a brow in question, "Flour? You're giving me flour?"
Kazuto made a snorted chuckle, "Sure, 'flour'. Just don't use it for baking or nothing."
I stared at the capsule for a while, and hesitantly began to reach out for it when a thought came to mind. "Are you sure this stuff will get rid of the voices?"
"Yes, I'm positive that it will. Trust me—just, uh, be a bit careful with it, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," I said, handing him some money. He swiftly removed it from my palm and slid it into a pocket hidden inside his coat. He cast a soft smile, somehow seeming pleasured by my purchase. In all honesty, at the time I still found what he was doing to be quite vulgar and sick, selling illegal substances to anyone who seemed interested. But I didn't really care at the moment. Right now I had gotten what I wanted and just wanted to get out of there. I stuck the capsule in my pocket and proceeded out the alley, scanning the areas and tipping my hat down to cover my arrow as I strolled home.
The days passed quickly, so much I rarely was able to keep track of time. I kept myself isolated in the house, positioned just on the edge of the island. No one bothered me, no one dared to come near me. The only time I left the house was to go and grab some cigarettes and a new bottle of booze. I'd pick food from the greenhouse, too, but that only took minutes. I was in my own world—a world I no longer had any control over. There was no use trying to regain control. I'd lost it completely the night she died. What did it matter anyways? It had become clear I didn't have what it took to take my own life, so I might as well just let the universe do whatever the hell it wanted to with it.
I woke up to find myself sprawled out on the couch. My brain was pounding against my skull with the force of a thousand boulders. Upon the resurrection of my other senses, I discovered an empty bottle in my hand, dangling off the edge. I was momentarily confused. I hadn't any recollection of even lying down the night before. I groaned groggily, knowing that I was awake and that there was no point in returning to the blissfulness of sleep with my skull taking punches from fists of ragged stone. Hell, it wasn't even a peaceful sleep. I didn't remember any of it, fortunately. No dreams. No voices. Maybe now I could convince myself I wasn't insane.
My body was forced to its feet by an unknown force, driven to hide away in the bathroom and take my "medicine" the "doctor" prescribed for my hallucinations.
On the outside, I looked like I had just woken up after only a few hours of sleep; however, inside I longed for someone to just come and take me away from this constant masquerade known as "coping with life."
I opened the door to the bathroom and closed it behind me. I placed myself in front of the sink and began searching my pockets. I took out a small capsule and opened it, sprinkling two lines of white power across the counter, then closed it and put it back. I shoved my hand into my pocket and ripped out a cripple banknote, rolled it up, and leaned down toward the counter. I snorted the lines of drugs, feelings the near tingling sensation as it coursed up my nose and into my system. I sniffed softly; making sure none hadn't been left any behind in my nostril. I then continued to pump some water into the sink, cupped some in my hand and splashed my face to wake me up, using the remnants of the water to clean off my upper lip and right below my nose.
All of a sudden, I felt weaker. I gripped the edges of the counter, trying to keep on my feet. I felt drunk. Huh... five years ago I never even wanted to experience anything like it, and here I was comparing it to what I suspected was exactly what I paid for: something to finish me off.
I was so lightheaded I figured my heart-rate was raging so fast that it was about to burst.
I began to cough violently, like I had nails stuck in my throat.
"Why are you doing this to yourself, Aang?"
My eyes widened to a voice, one I hadn't heard in a long time. I was sure I'd never hear it out loud again.
I forced my head to look up, into a glass mirror, where I saw a figure standing behind me, one that was all too familiar.
"Gyatso..." I whispered the name, shocked and confused. I saw his face; his old, shriveling face, yet kind and nurturing with the smile that rested below his snow-white fu-manchu mustache.
However, his smile quickly turned upside-down into a disappointed frown. "Why, Aang? You had always been such a good boy—a bringer of peace and love. Everyone around you looked up to you; knew that with you around anything could be done."
"That was the old days..." I muttered below my breath before looking back into his eyes. "I was foolish; a child who knew nothing of the real world and all the pain it brings people. There is no happiness in life, not without that one person you love to keep you going."
"Love is a form of energy, Aang, and it swerves all around us. Love can never be destroyed; it can only be reformed."
"You aren't the first person to convince me of that lie, Gyatso!" I said angrily. "Seeing love being ripped away from you is what destroys it, and without love life is nothing but a barren wasteland!"
"Then what is Kya?"
My eyes widened again.
"Nothing; she's nothing to me..." I said, turning away from him with my eyes shut.
"She's your daughter, a bundle of life formed by the unity of two loves. That is the reformation of love, Aang."
I tightened my eyes, trying to prevent the tears from escaping the wells of my face. "Like you'd ever know," I growled, turning back around and looking him dead in the eyes.
"The Air Nomads never kept their children! No, they gave them away to others to take care of them for them! I'm simply carrying on the tradition!"
"You never believed in that tradition. You always found it vulgar and dishonorable."
"Well, maybe it's time I stopped being so childish about that as well. Maybe she doesn't deserve her real family, rather one that will actually care for her!"
"You're being foolish, Aang. You know well that these aren't the new traditions of the Air Nomads that you are trying to put forth with your Acolytes. You just don't want to escape the fact that you have to move on, and stop living in a world where everything is pointless. Life is for a purpose, not to be thrown away because you just can't let go of Katara!"
"Shut up!" My fist pounded against the counter and the marble bent around my fist. I growled angrily as I suddenly punched the mirror out of sudden rage. The glass shattered all over the place, breaking into even smaller bits and pieces upon impact with the floor. I found myself leaning against the wall, sliding down against it as I cried into my palms before finally resting on the floor and into the fetal position.
"Councilman Sokka, your father can see you now," the nurse told him.
Suki's comforting hand retreated from Sokka's leg. He got up from the chair in the waiting room and followed the lady to his father's room. He had asked the nurse that the moment his father had awakened to come and get him. They had asked him to come in tonight due to the possibility Hakoda would have enough of his strength back to have visitors. He'd been awake for days, but the heart attack he had gone through had taken a lot out of him.
He was led down a corridor of hospital rooms; almost each one had a patient in them. She began to slow her pace.
"Now he might still be a bit weak. Though, this is common with most heart attack victims. We've given him some herbs to help keep his heart at strength. His blood pressure simply got too high, so the causes could very... though we're fairly sure that stress or irritation was the cause," she informed the councilman. "Try to keep him away from stressful situations from now on, and he'll be just fine." She gave him an assuring smile.
"Thank you, ma'am," he bowed softly to her and headed into the room.
His father saw him coming in immediately and smiled, "Heyy, I know that handsome face..." he said softly, weakly.
Sokka smiled softly; glad to know that his father was feeling well. He took up a seat next to Hakoda's bedside.
"How are you doing, Dad?"
"I've been better. The healers here know what they're doing, but..." the smile on his face vanished for only a moment, "...I've been attended by better."
The councilman knew who Hakoda was referring to, but decided against commenting on it. "You sure gave us a scare, y'know. Kya and Suki are waiting to hear from you. They've been really worried, especially Kya."
However, Hakoda didn't seem interested in the fact that they were there. In fact, it almost didn't make a difference to him. Currently he was only worried about one thing only.
"What about Aang?" he asked.
Sokka was surprised by the question; his eyes widened and then sighed softly, "He's not here. He left after we first arrived the night you were admitted. I haven't seen him since."
"Did you talk to him?"
"Yeah but, uh... we aren't really on the best of terms right now."
His father sighed, "Sokka... You can't just give up on him, especially not now when he needs you the most."
"He told you to drop dead, Dad, and you nearly did! What if the Acolytes hadn't found you? What if you had been left there to die in the snow?"
"He doesn't care for you anymore, not the one of us!"
"Sokka," Hakoda barked, startling his son with his sudden burst of noise, "it was Aang who saved me."
"What?" his son question in near disbelief.
"I was in a daze, but I know what I saw, Son. He was trying to revive me, shouting my name as loud as possible. I don't think he even realized that I regained consciousness before the medics came," his father explained.
The councilman was surprised by this, but at the same time relieved. It could be seen in his eyes, how they widened and small tear he managed to hide from his father's view. Perhaps Aang was still himself, but trapped deep down inside the pit that alcohol and nicotine had formed around his kind spirit.
"Aang may still be who he is deep down, Sokka; but the truth is...he's had every right to be angry with me this whole time."
Sokka shook his head, "You didn't do anything wrong..."
Hakoda sighed in self-shame, "Yes, I did..." he began. "When Katara went into labor, I spoke with Aang outside the room in private. I never told you this, but when your mother went into labor with you, she lost a lot of her strength, and became very weak. She lost consciousness over and over again, but she always woke up, eventually."
"But she was fine, Dad. Last time I checked, she didn't die from giving birth to me," Sokka interjected.
"I know, but that's not the point. I was afraid that, like your mother, Katara would go through the same pain, and felt I should warn Katara and Aang. I managed to tell her a couple weeks after we discovered her pregnancy, but only told Aang the night she went into labor. I didn't want to worry him or make him more paranoid than he was already becoming," Hakoda continued, voice shaking. "Right before she died, she told Aang what I told her, and she seemed to believe this was how it was supposed to happen. She somehow felt she had to accept that she might die that night... And she did, and now Aang believes that I encouraged her to accept death and not fight it."
"He feels betrayed..." Sokka muttered to himself.
"You need to help him," his father told him, interrupting his train of thought. "You and Suki and Kya, you're the only ones who could possibly help him."
"I've tried, Dad. You don't think I have?"
"I'd never doubt you on that," his father reassured. "But you'll find a way, Sokka. I know you will."
"I don't know, Dad. It seems like every word I say to him just goes in one ear and out the other. I can't get through to him," Sokka shrugged, looking away from his father from lack of self-confidence.
"You just have to find the right words."
Sokka nodded, "I'll try."
Hakoda looked at his son with confidence, "Now, go on home. Kya needs her sleep."
"Okay; I'll come visit you again in the morning."
"Don't rush yourself. Put Aang first, alright?"
"I will." He hugged his father, "Bye, Dad. Get better while I'm gone, okay."
"I'll do my best," the chief chuckled.
Sokka left for the door, taking a final glance at his father before finally leaving and reuniting with Suki and Kya. Suki was still wide awake, waiting for her husband to return and for good news, meanwhile Kya slept in the seat next to her aunt, snoring lightly with drool hanging off her bottom lip, and the doll of her father in hand, clutching it tightly in her sleep. She seemed to be sleeping blissfully. It was almost a shame to wake her in order to get her into the carriage.
"Is he okay?" asked Suki as Sokka entered the room.
"He's fine; still a bit weak, but he'll make it. Like I said: As long as he's breathing, he can make it through anything," Sokka stated confidently, reassuring his wife.
Suki turned to Kya, watching her sleep for a moment. She smiled, but it soon faded as she turned back to her husband.
"What are we going to do?"
"About all of this!" Suki exclaimed as quietly as she could, sitting back down next to her niece, softly stroking her brown, silky hair. "She doesn't deserve this, Sokka. No child does. She's forced to live everyday of her life, feeling unloved by her own father. But still, she has hope for him..." A tear dripped from her eye. "That's the hardest part, Sokka," Suki continued. "It is hard watching her have so much hope for Aang, and we don't even know if he is ever even going to look at her again, not to mention accept her as his daughter."
Sokka sat down next to her and grasped her shoulders in comfort, "I know, Suki. It's hard for me, too. But we just have to keep trying with Aang; it's the only way."
"I try to understand what he's going through," Suki continued, twisting her body around to meet Sokka's and nudging her head into his chest, "but sometimes I just want to hate him for what he's putting her through."
"I know, Suki, I know. I'm going to go see him again tomorrow. He was himself for a while when he was with Kya. Maybe all we have to do is get them back in the same room," Sokka suggested, nestling her in his arms.
"I hope you are right..." she murmured.
Sokka sighed, glancing at Kya, "I hope I am too." Sokka yawned and separated from Suki. "I think it's time for us to head home for the night, and get Kya to sleep."
Suki nodded in agreement, "Yeah, we should, shouldn't we?"
"Mhmm," acknowledged Sokka, getting up from his seat to scoop Kya up in his arms, as gently as he could to keep her from waking. They left the hospital and got back in Sokka's carriage, and he took the reins and guided them back home. It was nighttime now, and the moon was nearly full. It was almost that time of the month for the full moon to return. Sokka kept his eyes on it more than he did the road. Before when he would look up at the radiant moon, he would think of Yue, but now all he could think about was Katara. She would cross his minds hundreds of times a day, but he would barely acknowledge her image. He didn't want to turn out like Aang, unable to get her off his mind and letting the depression sink in and devour him. It was something he couldn't allow to happen, no matter what.
It didn't take long before they were back hope. They took the elevator up to the penthouse, with Kya in Sokka's arms. He got the keys from out his coat pocket.
"I'll go put Kya to sleep. Could you check the mail?" he asked Suki as he stepped inside their apartment.
Suki nodded and opened the mail slot outside their door, taking out a small pile of letters and bills. She flipped through them, looking to see what all needed to be dealt with as soon as possible. She took the letters inside with her as she flipped through them, and one caught her eye.
Kya was set gently in her bed, still clutching her doll. Her uncle softly put her blanket over her, tucking her in. She could tell she was in the comfort of her own bed, grasping the blanket and pulling it up to her chin, uncovering her feet. Sokka chuckled softly and left her be. Normally he would put her in pajamas, but it would just wake her at this point. She would be fine.
Sokka closed the door behind him, meeting an illuminated hallway. He looked down the hall to the living room, finding the light on. He thought Suki would have gone to bed immediately after checking the mail. Why was she still up?
He strolled down the hall to fetch her. As he got closer, he heard what sounded almost like sobbing. As he reached the end of the hall, he found Suki in one of the chairs, reading a letter while tears rolled down her face. She was shaking, barely able to hold her hands still. Sokka, now shivering and curious as to what she was crying about, approached Suki, kneeling by her side.
"Sweetie, what's wrong?"
He brought her wet, tearing eyes to meet her husband's. Her voice quivered, "H-he is getting rid of her, Sokka. He's setting Kya up for adoption..." she gripped his collar tightly, "He's going to take her away from us!"
Sokka was shocked, and angered. For a moment, he couldn't believe her words. He took the letter from her hands and scanned over it while she continued to sob. After reading over it, he crumpled the paper in his fist, clenching it tightly.
"He's gone too far now," he said, angered, hugging Suki tightly, trying to ease her sobs while trying to hold back his own. They had treated Kya as their child for five years now, and if in the event Aang never would change, they knew they would take Kya into their custody in a heartbeat. But now Aang had other plans. He wasn't going to give Kya to them; he was going to take her from them, and set her up to be taken by strangers she's never seen before. She'd gone through enough without this! That's what angered Sokka most, that Aang just couldn't accept her as a member of this family, in any way. He wanted to keep her out of his life, but he crossed the line with adoption.
"I'm going over there," said Sokka, breaking the tight embrace. "I'm going to knock some sense into that boy's head."
Suki grabbed his arm when he started to leave, "You can't! That will just antagonize him more, Sokka; you'll encourage him."
He knew she was right, but he didn't want to admit it. He just wanted to knock some teeth at this point. He was ruining this family, a family that had brought him in when he had nothing.
"Ugh, fine..." Sokka groaned, "But I'm still going to go talk to him. This needs to stop—he's out of line."
Suki wiped her eyes with her sleeve, "I-I know, but I don't want you to hurt him."
Sokka couldn't make any promises. No, there weren't any promises to be made. Whatever happened between them was going to happen, and Sokka wouldn't hold back if it came to that. He turned to Suki and nodded, giving her some satisfaction that he would at least consider her words, without necessarily promising to keep them. She let him go and he left, nearly slamming the door behind him.
Suki continued to sit where she was, trying to control her sobs. She was afraid this might happen to her. She was becoming too attached to Kya that she was beginning to feel she truly was her mother, and the thought of losing her was too much to bear. She had to control herself. Unfortunately, that became much more difficult when she emerged from the shadows.
"Suki, where is Sokka going?" she asked sleepily, rubbing her eye and still half asleep, trying to make sense of her surroundings.
Suki sniffed and put herself back together so she wouldn't be seen like this in front of her. It was easier said than done, but she managed to accomplish doing so.
"He's just going out for a while. He will be back, and you need to go back to bed," she told the little girl, as nurturing as her emotions would allow her to be at this moment.
"But why?" she asked, confused.
"He just has something to do," Suki answered as she scooped Kya up in her arms, causing her to drop the ragdoll of Aang. "Let's get back to bed now, alright?"
Kya's eyes remained fixated on her doll. She wanted to reach for it, and demand her aunt to get it back, but something stopped her. She didn't know what it was or why it didn't want her to beg for the lifeless object. She was put in her pajamas and set back to bed. Suki planted a kiss on her forward and bid her sweet dreams before leaving the room. She had tried to hide it, but Kya had noticed she'd been crying earlier.
I awoke to the sound of something pounding at my door.
"Aang! I know you are in there! Open up!" yelled a voice. It was angry, but I didn't care. I wasn't in the mood for someone else's own drama. I'd had a busy day, and had been aching for some sleep. Now this jerk comes over and wakes me up? Guess his parents never taught him no manners...
I picked myself off the couch, taking a minute to wake up. I grabbed the half bottle of beer from the coffee table in front of me and took a sip of it to wake me up, as if the pounding on the door wasn't enough. Meh, it wasn't enough to wake me up though. Luckily, I had something else that would wake me up just enough.
I reached in my pocket and took out the capsule of coke. It hovered over the table as I tapped it, making a line of drugs. I closed the lid to the capsule and placed it back in my pocket, replacing it with a rolled up yuan. I bent down and sniffed up the drug, making sure to get it all up. I coughed quite violently as the buzz hit me. I shook my head to shake it off and made sure I got it all, ensuring no fragments of it were left on my nose.
"Aang, wake up you lazy bastard!" the voice yelled, pounding on my door some more with the bottom of his fist.
Calling me names now, huh? I thought to myself as I turned to the door. Ever heard of a respectful guest? I got up from the couch and approached the door, my head aching from my hangover and my hair drenched with sweat. I swung open the door, not finding the face of my visitor to be a pleasant one.
"Well, hello, Sokka... What brings you here at..." I glanced at the clock across the room, "...one o'clock in the morning?"
"I came to talk to you," he said, his eyes narrowed with what I suspected to be anger. I didn't acknowledge it. Like I had said, I wasn't in the mood for someone else's drama.
"Can't it wait till morning?" I asked leaning against the door frame some more, grinning with my bloodshot eyes.
"No, it can't, unless you're too doped to talk," he retorted.
I chuckled, "Well, now that you mention it..."
Sokka groaned in disgust, brushing past me into my home without at least giving the courtesy to invite himself in.
"Sure, come on in, Sokka," I said sarcastically, closing the door behind him. "Want a drink?" I should have at least offered him a drink, right?
"I'm fine..." he said, looking around my small cabin home. It was crazy in there, dirty bowls and plates scattered everywhere, beer bottles doubling the number of dirty dishes, and clothes scattered. Right now I was only wearing a pair of pants, and my shirt was somewhere in there. I just couldn't remember where.
"No, I'm fine," he finally answered.
Sokka glanced to where the bathroom was, and the door was left open. He looked inside and saw the shattered marble on the ground. He walked towards the restroom and took a peek inside, finding glass shards and fragments of the marble sink spread across the floor. He looked disgusted by the current state of my home. Like I was supposed to care what he thought. He didn't live here.
I leaned against the wall across from the bathroom, just waiting for him to comment. Something inside me wanted him to pick a fight with me about something, anything really.
"So how's your dear old daddy? He gonna live?" I suddenly asked, breaking the silence.
Sokka shot a look at me of annoyance and disgust. Seemed like that was the only look he gave me these days. "He'll be fine. No thanks to you."
"Hey, let's not forget who was there when he collapsed, and quite possibly saved that old fart's life!"
"Let's also not forget who caused him to collapse!" Sokka retorted, not pleased by my words...obviously.
I rolled my eyes, "Well if you're looking for someone to blame, looks like I'm the guy you're looking for. It seems everything's my fault nowadays."
Sokka growled in annoyance, trying not to get sidetracked. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what? Like I said, seems that I'm being blamed for everything."
He twirled around facing me, "Why are you putting Kya up for adoption?!"
"Ohhhh, that!" I remarked, a smile forming on my face as I walked into the kitchen, feeling dazed and my balance wobbling. I grabbed a beer from the freezer box and popped the cap off on the table, immediately bringing it to my lips. I took a breath of satisfaction, "Well, Sokka, it's quite simple. Unlike you, I don't have a mother, or a father. I don't have brothers or sisters. It's just me, and that's how all Air Nomads are. We don't have families, only guardians. We never see any of our biological parents, and that tradition has been carried on for centuries."
I sipped down more of my beer. "So, I figured the best way to fix this whole mess is to give Kya away, follow the traditions of my ancestors. Set her up for adoption, give her to some guardians."
"What's wrong with me and Suki?" Sokka demanded.
"Simple: You're her biological uncle, meaning you are a biological relative. And the Air Nomad's wouldn't allow that, no, no, no," I explained, deliberately trying to antagonize him with my inconsiderate tone and facial expressions.
"So, adoption is the best decision. Besides, there's a bright side. You and Suki get to stop playing pretend with Kya. Now you can get back to your mediocre lives and stop acting like you are actually parents. Clearly there's some force in the world that doesn't think you're fit to be parents, or else Suki would be able to have kids of her own."
"You leave her out of this," Sokka warned sternly.
"Maybe Katara was wrong; maybe it's not Suki's defect, but yours instead," I stated harshly. "Maybe you are the reason you can't satisfy your own wife with a child, and have to rely on my daughter instead. That's why you are afraid to lose her isn't it? Not because of me, but your own selfish needs."
Sokka tried to ignore my words, and focus his intentions. I was making it difficult for him though, getting under his skin.
"Kya doesn't need this, Aang," Sokka began again. "She can't be taken away from the only family she knows and put into the hands of strangers! She won't be able to handle it!"
I shrugged, "It took me a while. I should have made this decision long ago, when she was still a toddler. That's my mistake, but it must be done either way."
"No, it doesn't!" he rejected. "What she needs is her father, a family that will care for her!"
"I'm sure the adoptive family will take good care of her," I argued, sipping more of my drink.
Sokka growled, "Would you stop being so stubborn, and realize what you've become! For God's sake, Aang... what are you?" he shouted at me, more desperate than demanding. I hated how he tried to care about me. I knew the truth. He didn't care about me. He only cared about himself, Kya, and Suki. He was just here because I was trying to take Kya away from him. Couldn't he just understand I was trying to help her! If she didn't have to deal with this detached family, she would be happy. I know she would be.
I turned away from him, chugging a great amount of my drink before responding. "The result of nothing but pain and misery..." I mumbled to myself, leaning all my weight against the wall as I chugged the alcohol some more. Before I knew it, the bottle was empty. I tried to gather the very last drop before accepting that it was time for another.
"You sure you don't want a drink, bro?" I offered once again. "It would help you accept what's going to happen to your dear niece. Trust me; I know it makes the pain go away."
"I'm not going to become like you, Aang. Unlike you, I dealt with the pain of losing Katara, and accepted it, just as I had to accept the loss of my mother!"
I made a sarcastic gasp, "Congratulations! What, do you get a reward for every time you mention your 'acceptance'? Get over yourself, Sokka..." I said as I retrieved another beer. I opened it and began chugging it, "See, this is the difference between you and me. You forget too easily. You wanted to forget she died so you wouldn't have to deal with the loss. You didn't accept it. Hell, I doubt you accept it even now. You want to leave her to rot in the past, just like how she's rotting in her grave."
Sokka's fists clenched and his eyes were narrowed, glaring at me from across the room. I knew he was trying to hold back, but it wouldn't be long until he started the fight I was itching for, whatever the reason was.
I strolled into the kitchen and retrieved another bottle of alcohol, quickly removing the cap and bringing the bottle to my lips, chugging about a quarter of it down easily. I took a breath of satisfaction.
"But you didn't come here to talk about me, now did you? You came to talk about the adoption, probably even to get me to reconsider, right? Well here is my final decision:" a smug grin formed on my lips, "She's going to be adopted, Sokka. I'm going to get her out of this broken family, and put her in the arms of some strangers. She'll never see me, you, or Suki ever again, and I can promise that. All I have to do is say the word. Because whether you like it or not, it is my complete right to do so, and you have no right whatsoever to say otherwise."
He stomped toward me. Come on. Let it all out. He was on the edge, and he and I both knew it. He was on the brink of starting the fight I was dying for. He didn't strike me though. He stood toe to toe with me and looked me in the eye.
"I will not allow you to do that to her," he stated with emphasis.
I tipped the bottle into my mouth and drank the rest, then set it on the table. "What are you going to do, Sokka? Punch me? Go right on ahead; it won't change a thing."
We glared into each other's eyes. He was about an inch or two taller than me, but I wasn't intimidated in the least. Finally, he broke eye contact and shook his head, turning away from me.
"Where are you going, Sokka? Going to run back home and tell your wife to stop playing pretend with Kya?" I taunted him, watching him with a smug look.
"I told Suki I wasn't going to do this, but you leave me no choice..." Sokka suddenly twirled around, swinging a balled fist toward my face. I stepped slightly to the side, grabbing the upper part of his arm and leaning backward, raising my leg and kicking him in the chin with a counterattack. He stumbled backward upon the impact.
"Careful, Sokka; some drunks are stronger and faster than you'd think," I taunted him again as he grasped his chin.
He growled, raising his fists, "Or is it the dope enhancing your performance? I saw your eyes, Aang! I never thought you'd actually resort to drugs."
"You don't know me..." I snarled. I charged at him, hoping to deliver another blow. I had been lucky earlier, but the truth was, I was too drunk and stoned to actually fight. This would be an easy fight for Sokka, and he knew it.
He stepped to the side, enough that I ran right past him. As I passed, he jabbed me in the back with the side of his hand, his fingers straight. It was enough to make me clutch my back. I turned back around and balled my fist, aiming for his face. He executed a counterattack similar to the one I used on him earlier, except his was stronger. I was put into a daze and stumbled, bumping into the back of the couch I had been sleeping on. There was an empty bottle on the back of it. I didn't even have to think about it. I took it in my hand and chucked it at him. Of course, he dodged it and came back for me. I tried to focus my senses enough, and gather some form of speed. As he approached me, I was able to kick him in the gut, causing him to bend over in pain. I grabbed his shoulders and began to thrust my knee into his chest repeatedly. Each was strong enough to make his body jump, and he grunted loudly from each blow. I struck him about ten times before I began to lose my strength. I shoved him away from me, knocking him into a wooden chair which fell over and snapped once he fell into it.
"Get out of my house... Get off my island..." I ordered him, bending over and breathing heavily, about to lose balance.
Sokka was set in a daze, his ribs throbbing. His right sleeve had been ripped by the wood of the broken chair, leaving a nasty cut on his upper arm. As he regained his focus, he saw I was kneeling over, trying to keep my balance and grabbing the couch to support me. He forced himself back onto his feet, launching a strong punch across my face. My face jerked to my right from the force of the attack, disorienting me. He curved his fist into my chest, forcing me to kneel over where my face met his kneecap. My head lurched back, making everything blurry and my lip cut and bleeding. As stunned as I became, I could still feel each of the following assaults. He grabbed my shoulder, holding me in place while he punched me with two right hooks, and then switched to a single left hook. By now, I was backed against the wall, at the mercy of his anger being unleashed.
In a daze, I saw the bottle I had set down earlier. I managed to reach out and grab it, shattering it against Sokka's skull. It was enough to stop him from attacking me again while he grasped the spot where the glass shattered, groaning from the sharp pain. He looked at his hand to find small spots of blood. As minor as the injury seemed to be, it hurt like hell to Sokka.
I didn't have the energy to fight back, much less move. I slumped down the wall, ending up on the floor. I could barely control my breathing and my face stung like hell. But Sokka was hungry for more.
The cut on his head had taken its toll on him, and he could now get back to beating the shit out of me. He grabbed my collar and picked me up onto my feet. A left hook snapped my head to the right. With all the other pain I was experiencing, I felt hardly anything. Sokka was ready to finish me. He grabbed my collar again and swung me to the left, shoving me toward the couch. I flipped over it and I landed on the coffee table, breaking both it and the glass cover. The glass shattered under my back, and the wood slanting downward toward my limp body. I was left in the debris of a broken furniture piece, my face bruised and my lip cut and bleeding. The glass ripped some of my clothes and cut me in numerous places, but none very severe.
Sokka approached me, grabbing his arm where he'd been cut. He looked down at me, breathing angrily in a soft growl.
My breathing was rugged, straining as I coughed. "What... are you... waiting for?" I demanded in between short breaths, "Why don't you just... kill me now?"
"I'm not going to kill you, Aang. I would do anything like that. Killing you would hurt Kya and Katara more than you have already."
I resentfully raised my head, "I never hurt Katara..."
Sokka looked away from me with disgrace, "If you truly believe that, then you are lost."
I sighed in annoyance, dropping my head against the debris, "Fuck you..."
My words didn't reach him, or at least he didn't let them faze him. "You stay away from Kya," he warned. "Do you hear me? Stay away from her, stay away from me, Suki, my father—ALL OF US! All you care about is yourself; you don't even care about Katara anymore. You blame all your pain on her loss, but really it's just you trying to justify yourself. At this point, you can rot in Hell for all I care," he growled.
"Your words... won't affect my... decision..." I interjected. "She's not yours to raise..."
"Go right on ahead, Aang. I dare you to try and take her from us," he continued. "I will use every last bit of my power to make sure that never happens. Just because you're the biological father, doesn't mean you know what's best for her."
I was silent mostly the next couple minutes. I wasn't thinking about anything. I just wanted to lay there, let the alcohol, drugs, and fatigue put me to sleep. Finally, I spoke for the final time that night. "Get out... Just... get out."
Sokka just couldn't leave without having the final word. "You were my brother, Aang. Now... you're nothing to me."
The next thing I heard was the door slamming shut. Afterward I didn't even think to get up and at least prop myself on the couch. I just laid there the rest of the night in the pile of debris until I fell asleep, hoping I would never wake up. I would never admit it openly, but Sokka was right. I was nothing to anybody now. The only reason I was alive was because it would be too much trouble to die...
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