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|Prayers for Recovery|
November 26th, 2013
Prayers for Recovery is the seventh chapter of Lost Without You, focusing primarily on all the characters stepping onto the edge of hopelessness, fearing that all that had once been right in there lives has been lost forever, due to their loss. However, extenuating circumstances arise and it seems the hope for their family's recovery is becoming as bleak as ever....
Sokka returned home later that night, clutching his arm where a shard of glass had pierced him. He had wrapped the wound with a piece of his clothing he had torn off, applying pressure to it. The cut had been deeper than he thought, as evident by the amount of blood the wrapping had soaked up. His skull had crimson blood trickling down the side of his partially shaved head from the glass bottle that had been shattered against it, but there wasn't much he could do for that on his own, and there was a trickle of dried crimson-black blood hanging off his lip. Apart from some more bruises around his ribs and an aching spine, the cuts were his only major injuries.
He kept thinking back on what had happened, the events playing back in his head. There were many things he regretted, mostly about his own actions, but overall, he was ashamed for attacking Aang with such ferocity. He had assaulted the drunk's face, with the intention of knocking him unconscious, and even had the audacity to crash him into a table of thick glass and weak wood, leaving him there to wallow in his own misery. He wasn't even sure if Aang was going to be okay, or check if the glass might have pierced him and caused a serious injury that may result in him bleeding out too... Sokka didn't even want to think of that. A part of him wanted to turn back and go make sure he'd be alright, but the aggression he was still harboring inside thought it wise to leave him be and learn from his mistakes. It was a decision his mind made on its own, and he continued on to his apartment.
Sokka was lucky to catch the man in charge of handling the elevators, as he was just about to take off for the night. The man stared at him with concern, but thought it best to mind his own business. He tended the elevator with no questions asked and sent Sokka up to his penthouse.
He exited the elevator and opened the door to his home. He tried to be a quiet as possible while he entered the apartment as to not wake his wife or niece. It was times like this he hated how much noise the door made while closing; its squeaking hinges echoing throughout the quiet abode.
The light flickered on and Sokka nearly jumped out of his skin, turning to find that Suki had waited up for him.
She immediately saw the dried blood on his lip and the torn clothing and blood-stained wrapping, not to mention how irregular his entire appearance was. He looked like he'd been in a bar fight. Ironically, he might as well have been.
"You're hurt!" she addressed as soon as she saw the wounds.
"I'm fine," he assured, shrugging her off. "Just a scratch."
"A scratch?!" she negated, "Sokka, you are bleeding! That wrap is soaked in blood!" Suki went on, distraught and speaking way too loudly for Sokka to ignore.
"Would you shush up!" Sokka insisted, placing a finger on her lips. "Kya's asleep, remember? I don't want her waking up and seeing me like this."
Suki quieted herself and acknowledged she understood with a nod, taking a relaxing breath so she could take in his injuries and deal with them appropriately. "Come on, you're probably going to need snitches..." She grabbed his other arm and pulled him into the dining room, gesturing him to sit while she gathered the first-aid kit. She just hoped she had what she needed to stitch the wound, that way they wouldn't have to go to the hospital and wake up Kya. They couldn't just leave her alone, and Suki wasn't going to send him off to the hospital on his own. The hospital would be a last resort for now. He would still have to go in sometime tomorrow to get it checked, but at least then Kya would have no knowledge of the visit, assuming her uncle was at City Hall working.
Fortunately she had what she needed. She unwrapped the cloth around Sokka's arm, grateful the bleeding had mostly stopped. Still, she had to clean the wound. She gathered some clean water and flushed out the cut for about three minutes, and then gathered the needle and thread. She placed the tip of the needle in the flame of a nearby candle and began to thread the She worked quick to close the wound, but she did so as carefully as she could. Sokka would wince now and then from the small, yet sharp pain the procedure brought.
"Hold still, you big baby," Suki warned him. "I thought you said it didn't hurt?"
"That was before you began sticking a needle through my skin," he shot back, wincing some more.
Once she closed up the cut she finished up by tying the thread. "There, that should do it. Now to cover up that cut on your head..." she stated, noticing the blood in his hair while she'd been stitching him up. The cut wasn't deep—just a scratch, actually. "A bandage should be enough."
There was a bowl full of bloody rags and cloths which she'd used to clean up his injuries. She went to throw them away while Sokka examined the minor surgery done by his wife. It was hurting more than before, but that was probably due to him thinking about it too much.
Suki came back and sat down next to him, "Now, tell me what happened," she demanded, crossing her arms and looking away from him, "As if I even have to guess... I thought I asked you not to start a fight with him," she continued harshly.
He grabbed her arm, forcing her to look at him, "Hey, now wait a minute, I didn't start anything. I admit, I arrived there a bit aggravated, but I didn't directly start that fight."
"What do you mean you didn't 'directly' start it?"
Sokka sighed, "Alright just let me explain. I did throw the first punch, sort of, but I didn't just waltz in and beat the crap out of him. I was angry with him, but I tried to be rational, talk it out with him. But he was drunk. I couldn't even speak to him before he started acting like the ass he's become..."
"Sokka!" Suki gasped.
"It's true, Suki," he pressed on, "He mentioned my father, asked if he was going to live as if it didn't even matter to him!" Sokka sighed again, bringing himself back together. "I asked him why he is going to put Kya up for adoption. He said he's trying to continue the tradition of the Air Nomads, that they never raised their children and instead gave them guardians with no relations to them whatsoever, and that it is the best thing for Kya. I went on to tell him that what she needed was her father, and a family that cared for her, no matter how small. According to him, the monks wouldn't have allowed us to care for Kya since I'm her biological uncle."
Suki continued to listen, but Aang's attitude was stabbing her again. She didn't want to turn her back on him, but at the same time, Aang's personality was making it nearly impossible to not simply give up on him.
"And then he brought you into it. He said we need to stop playing pretend with Kya, that we're pretending to be her mother and father just because we can't have a child on your own, and that there must be some force in the world that doesn't want us to have children. He was getting under my skin, but I tried to keep myself together. But... he just kept going, as if he were just trying to start a fight. I forget too easily, he said. In his mind he believes I just want to forget she ever died, that she ever even existed. He thinks I just want her to be left in the past. That's how he pushed my buttons, Suki. I knew I was going to lose it if I stayed there, so I tried to leave, but he just went on."
"Sokka..." Suki began, reaching out to comfort him.
"He asked if I was going home to tell you to stop playing pretend with Kya, and that's what pushed me over the edge. I tried to punch him, but he countered it. We got into a pretty violent fight, and after I flipped him over the couch and accidentally smashed him into the table, I left him there."
"Is he alright?" asked Suki, partly concerned.
"I don't know..." he shook his head, ashamed. "I said some things I probably shouldn't have. I told him he was nothing to me now..."
They both became silent, not knowing what to say to the other. They felt uneasy about it all. They were running out of ideas, what to say to the other, and how to explain everything to their niece. How could they explain it to her? It made almost no sense—five years and her father finally comes to see her, and not eve two hours later, was shutting the door on her and about to set her up for adoption. Even if Aang dropped the idea of adoption, she would grow up always wondering the same question: "Why doesn't my father want to be with me?" That was a question they could never answer... She knew her mother had died giving birth, but that wasn't enough to explain why Aang was doing all of this to her... But still, Sokka knew he had gone over the line by disowning him as a family member.
"I shouldn't have said that, but I was being irrational—I wasn't thinking clearly," Sokka added softly, barely speaking clearly enough to be understood.
Suki remained silent, still not knowing what to say.
"I ruined my only chance, Suki; Dad depended on me to help Aang, but all I did was push him away. There's no way he would listen to me now..." Sokka glanced at his wife, "Would you say something, already? It's not helping my self-esteem you being so quiet."
"S-sorry... it's just..."
"You agree with me, don't you? You know there's nothing we can do now, don't you."
She hesitantly nodded, "Y-yeah..."
Sokka sighed, turning away from her, "I knew it..." He got up from his seat and went to the freezer box, taking out a beer. He didn't normally drink, and most of the time they were never stocked up on alcohol, but from time to time even Sokka needed a little something. Suki glared at him with disapproval.
"What? Come on, Suki, you know I don't drink often. One is not going to hurt," he reasoned, heading out onto the balcony.
She just shrugged and looked away, still not approving but knowing she couldn't do a thing about it. Secretly, she also wanted a drink, but she couldn't let herself also submit to a resort such as alcohol. She followed him out onto the balcony, hugging him from behind and giving him a peck on the cheek.
"I'm going to head on to bed, okay? I'll wait up for you though," she spoke softly and sweetly in his ear.
He nodded, "Don't wait up. I'll be in bed in a bit."
His wife nodded and let him go as she headed inside, watching him take a sip of his drink before closing the sliding door and heading to her room. As she strolled down the hall, she peeped into Kya's room, making sure she was asleep. She seemed to be. She was quiet, in the same position she'd be when she slept in her bed, clutching the ragdoll she had picked out at a store a year ago when they went shopping. Sokka and Suki had been surprised by her choice that day, and while at the time they'd been harboring a small grudge against Aang for fighting with Zuko and running off to who knows where, they allowed her to have it because they knew she needed something to compensate for the absence of her father.
Sokka continued to sip his drink. He groaned after chugging nearly half of it, "I shouldn't be doing this... I'll set a bad example for Kya if she sees me..." he muttered to himself. He shrugged and let it go, "She's asleep..." he told himself, deciding not to worry about it.
He didn't finish his drink though... He got to about half of it before pouring the rest in the sink and discarding the bottle. He headed into the living room, glancing at the shelf by the fireplace and noticing Katara's picture. He stared at it for longer than he expected to. It was always an entrancing image to him. He almost always expected to hear her voice come up from behind him, to joke about how he'll burn a whole through the picture if he kept staring at it so hard. Now he just couldn't stop thinking about Aang, if there was anyone that would be able to help him at this point besides her. There had to be someone! But... there was no one. Sokka was the last hope for him, and he blew it. He knew it, and wouldn't forgive himself for failing his best friend. If only she were here... if only... she could talk to him?
Sokka wiped a forming tear in his eye and went into the kitchen, opening the cupboard and taking out some incense sticks. He brought them by a candle and lit the tips, setting off a soft aroma. He strolled into the living room and placed them on a stand that he set on the table placed in front of the chairs in the living room. Afterward he retrieved the picture from the shelf and also set it on the table, and took the seat facing the frame.
His body shook furiously, unable to control even the slightest of his movements as the sweet aroma of the incense spread throughout the apartment. He inhaled it deeply, trying to relax his shaking muscles so that he could speak without stuttering. His lip was nearly quivering, as he was unable to control the droplets of water than formed in his eyes and began to drip from his cheeks, dropping his head. He'd always tried to hold it in. He always wanted to be the strong one in this family. He was the one who was never supposed to be seen crying. He was the one who no one would question that he had sadness brewing inside him, albeit never letting it be shown. He didn't just want to be the strong one... He had to be. Sokka had to keep the family together, no matter what. He was failing himself... he wasn't just failing his father, or even Aang for that matter. He was failing his sister Katara, and her daughter Kya....
With time, he was able to bring back control over his body, control his tears and the shaking. It wasn't easy, but he was able to get it done. He raised his head and looked directly into the eyes of his sister, wiping his eyes before he spoke. He could almost hear his sister teasing him, "Come on, Sokka, man up. I thought you never cried?" It made him chuckle lightly, almost unheard.
"I don't know if you can hear me..." he began, softly with a quivering voice, "I don't know where you are or what you're doing... I don't know if you even exist as a spirit anymore..." Sokka struggled to go on, the tears in his eyes making everything blurry until he wiped them away. It was almost annoying having to discard them after every few moments.
"Kya's five now... She's been with Suki and me since that night. I don't know if you know this or not, but Aang... he's changed. I-I don't know who he is anymore. First, he went to go stay with Zuko in the Fire Nation so he could cope. I don't know how it happened, but it was there he got involved in alcohol and smoking. He can't go even five minutes without a smoke or a drink... He and Zuko, they got into a fight about two years ago. Zuko found out about Aang's drinking when he found Aang passed out in his room one morning. For a moment, they thought he was dead... They found he'd been so drunk he had passed out, nearly to the point of gaining alcohol poisoning."
"When Aang became conscious, and strong enough to speak, Zuko confronted him... I don't know exactly what happened after that, but that night, Aang had disappeared. We hadn't heard from him in two years. We began to suspect he'd never come back... until he did about a month ago..."
"But it's worst now, Katara. He... he's doing drugs now. I tried to get him with Kya, so that maybe he would realize what he is becoming, and take a responsibility for his own daughter, but he turned his back on her when Dad came. He's convinced that Dad influenced you not to struggle that night... when you became weak, just like Mom..."
"That's not the worst of it though, Katara... Aang, he wants to get rid of her, to give her away to strangers by putting her up for adoption. I went to go try to try to talk some sense into him, because I know he'll regret it if he does. I couldn't let him throw Kya away like that!" Sokka tears grew stronger, and sobs began to show their faces in his eyes, making his vision blurred and causing him to cover his face with his hand, crying into it. "I failed him, Katara. I failed Aang, I failed Kya, I failed Dad... but worst of all... I failed you. I-I was supposed to help him, to get this broken family and put it back together, but all I did was screw it up even more! I was supposed to make you proud by saving Kya's childhood, and Aang's future, but I failed... I showed hostility, not kindness and nurture, as you would have. You could have helped him, but all I did was make matters worse... It's no wonder he won't listen to me anymore."
Sokka raised his head, slipping out of the chair and onto his knees, joining his hands, his eyelids being drowned by his tears, "Please, Katara... I-I need you! Kya needs you, Aang needs you. You're the only one who can help him now... You're the only one... the only one... who can save him, and put Kya back in her father's arms!" He lowered his head again, almost as if he was about to pray. "I'm begging you, Katara. I can't let Kya or Aang go on like this... please..."
Unbeknownst to Sokka, Kya hadn't fallen asleep. She had faked her slumber when her aunt came to check up on her, waiting for the right moment to go and grab her doll. She'd dropped it when Suki had picked her up earlier to put her back in bed, but hadn't tried to retrieve it. As she lied in bed for a good hour and a half, she found she was unable to sleep without that cheap little doll of hers. Kya had slept with it every night, and carried it with her everywhere, since it had been bought for her. Sleeping without it for even a single night was more torturous than she thought, and once her aunt had come to see if she were asleep, she thought that meant Suki and Sokka would both be in bed in a matter of minutes, where she could then go and grab her doll. Instead... she found her uncle crying with some incense sticks lit and the picture of her mother placed in front of him, and then watched him fall to his knees in prayer.
She hid in the corner of the hall, peeking out and watching to him talk to her mother's spirit in some form. Tears rolled down her own flushed cheeks as she listened, and she had to hold back the sounds of crying that kept trying to escape her throat. She saw her uncle raise his head and she brought her head back behind the wall, not wishing to be seen. She didn't hear anything but his sobs. She'd hardly seen her uncle cry for as long as she knew him. He'd always been so strong, and seeing him cry like that broke her little heart. It was like a dagger struck her when she finally realized everything that was wrong with her life. Her mother was dead... her father had abandoned her... her family... wasn't a family at all.... It was shattered, severed... and detached. She would always remind herself that she had Sokka, Suki, and Gramp-Gramp... but now she knew the truth of it all—she was left in their care because she had nowhere to go. If they hadn't raised her, she would have been put in the arms of strangers. Maybe... maybe that was best, she began to think. Maybe it was all because of her that their family was like this. If she hadn't been born, her Mommy wouldn't have died, and her Daddy wouldn't have abandoned her and all his friends and family. Her mother and father would still be together, in love and happy, even without a child. Kya began to tell herself that, and she fell to the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest and crying into them, wishing she hadn't been born so Daddy would be happy again, and Mommy would still be with him.
Before she knew it, her uncle was walking into the hall, heading for bed. Kya stayed hidden in her corner, trying desperately to keep her tears held back so she wouldn't be discovered. It was more difficult than she thought it would be. But she was able to pull it off; Sokka went to bed, completely unaware of his niece who'd been crying in the corner.
Kya came out of her little ball and raced into the main room of the apartment, spotting her rag doll and running for it. She accidentally tripped over herself, and practically leaped at her doll, scooping it up in her arms as she slid against the hardwood floor. It hurt, but she didn't care. She was just glad to have her father back, in whatever form he may be in... She just wished... it was her real father....
"Daddy..." she wept with the doll in her tight, grasping arms, voice trembling. "... Daddy, please come back to me."
I woke up the next morning in a pile of glass, my body sweating and my back aching, feeling as shitty as ever. This was a new low for me, waking up like this. I thought I'd endured the worst of hangovers, but clearly there was no limit for them. On top of that, it felt as if I'd woken up after being smacked by a train, and with it came a horrible fever. My clothes were damp from all the sweat emitting from my skin. I felt like vomiting, but I don't think I had enough water in my body to do even that. I must have laid there for another two hours before I figured it was time I got off my ass and try to pull together some objective for the day besides drinking half a liquor store and snorting whatever was left in that little capsule Kazuto gave me.
Which reminded me...
I rolled off the broken table, wiping as many shards of glass off my clothes as possible. After that I stumbled into the kitchen, nearly falling flat on my face at least six times as I tried to hold myself up against the wall. I looked like some mindless animal, my jaw just hanging there as drool slithered off my lips and onto the floor while my constricted eyes were practically staring at the back of my head. Such a pleasant sight, wasn't I? Definitely a man you'd want around children. Finally I reached the kitchen, attempting to hold myself up against a table consisting of more empty liquor glasses and bottles than my mind couldn't care less to count when it suddenly tipped over from the imbalance of weight, causing me to collapse to the floor and dislocated my shoulder when it smacked against the chair on my way down. I didn't fall alone at least. About thirty-two bottles worth of glass shattered against the tiled floor as well. Those bottles were willing to follow me anywhere it seemed.
I was caught in a daze, laughing to myself out of nowhere as I picked up one of the bottles that hadn't broken and eventually chucking it at a nearby wall, ending its torment of being the only one who survived while all of its brothers and sisters perished. Huh... remind you of anyone else? After needlessly creating more sharp fragments for my feet to be tortured with, I crawled toward the counter and got on my knees, desperate to reach a half-empty whiskey bottle sitting at the back. Eventually I reached it, but after that I was too hungover to keep myself standing. I slouched against the cabinet, twisting off the cork that kept the whiskey fresh and downing it like it were a glass of water and I'd just finished a brutal training session... as if I'd trained at all in the past couple years. By this point, it wasn't about the taste of liquor on my tongue. It was just the effect the alcohol would submit my body with, leaving my livers feeling tied up and about to burst.
After downing about half of what was left in the bottle, I took a break and allowed my arms to go limp against the floor, breathing heavily while laughing some more. I don't know what I was laughing at. Perhaps it was at myself, at how ridiculous and petty I must have looked. Or maybe it was at the whiskey, whose presence for the last five years had kept me from going insane; not that this was any better. At least if I were insane, I'd believe this were just a dream—a nightmare that just wouldn't seem to end. Maybe it'd end... maybe it finally would... if I were to end as well. Then it would all be over... I wouldn't have to deal with all this pain... I'd be able to see her again... Kya would lose her father, but would she really miss me? I'd never been there for her, I never thought about her the five years I was away. Her birthday... when I finally held her... that was just a fantasy... A fantasy of what I wished our lives could be, but also of what it can't. I thought that maybe now was the time for me to get out of here as my eyelids grew heavier, gradually coming to a close. I relaxed, my grip around the whiskey coming loose before it finally slipped out of my hand and spilled as it rolled away. My head then became heavier as well; and my mind--my thoughts--became dark and empty. I released a restrained breath, and at that moment, I felt that it was finally over...
Until... I heard her voice!
"Aang... Aang, sweetie, wake up," I could hear her say, first faintly but then clear as day. I struggled to open my eyes, but I was afraid to. I feared that once I opened them, her voice would disappear, and I would never hear it again. "Please, Aang... open your eyes, for me." I couldn't refuse her, not after this long without hearing her voice outside a dream. Unless this was yet another dream? I had to find out for myself. I opened my eyes... and there she was, on her knees hovering over me. I felt her hand caress my cheek, and at that moment I could swear I was dreaming. Her soft, smooth skin resting on me once again was enough to make me break out in tears. I had to fight against his though. I couldn't allow watery eyes to blur my vision, not when this could be the last time I would ever see her standing in front of me.
"Katara, is... is it really you?!" I questioned, not yet sure whether this was real or another of my foolish hallucinations. I hoped for the former, obviously.
"Shh," she silenced me softly, "Don't talk, just listen," she continued, cupping my other cheek in her hand. I nodded, not daring to defy her simple request. I was shaking so much I probably wouldn't have been able to. My attention was focused solely on her face, dark and silky brown hair blended seamlessly with her tan and nearly flawless skin, soft, sweet lips and cheekbones perfectly sized with the eyes of a sparkling ocean—a thing of beauty since the moment I first laid eyes on her. Only one thing disturbed me, though. She wasn't smiling. I always imagined that the day her spirit finally came to me, she'd be smiling, beaming with glee from the fact that I could see her again, living or otherwise. Instead, however, she looked to be frowning, and I was no fool to the obvious disappointment she displayed within those curved lips and furrowed brows. Her lack of happiness seemed to rub off on me after she finished silencing me. I grew worried, almost expecting what she was going to say next.
"Why are you doing this, Aang?" she asked simply, but the disappointment her face expressed has made its way to her voice as well.
I honest did not know how to answer that; at least, not without angering her or disappointing her further. She was expecting an answer, I couldn't just throw one out there just so I could give her one. I went through multiple answers I could respond with, but none of them would be reasonable enough to accept. Finally I just threw out whatever would escape my throat.
"I don't know..." I murmured, my eyes drifting away from hers, not able to bare the reaction she would obviously have.
"You do know..." she persisted, "you just don't want to admit it."
She was right, though. At the time, I felt forced to confess that she was right, but by now I've realized that I hadn't been forced, instead I'd felt that if anyone should know why I was letting all this happen to me, why I'd made the choices I had, it should be her. Only her...
I sighed and met her gaze again, darting at me as if I was the suspect in an interrogation, and she was the interrogator. She had always known how to squeeze the truth about anything out of me with the simplest gestures.
"You're right," I confessed solemnly.
"So please, Aang... Tell me why." Her voice had been sweet, but her true feelings were still evident.
"I didn't want to," I began, but somehow I knew she wanted the specifics, so I expanded my response, "I didn't want to raise Kya on my own. We were supposed to do it together, so I was afraid that I wouldn't be able do it alone. I knew I'd have to take her into my care sooner or later after you passed, so I ran away... just like when I found out I was the Avatar." I became bitter at myself as I confessed. I had promised myself that I'd never run away from my responsibilities again, but here I was making exactly the same mistake all over again. Way to go, Aang, proving yourself not only irresponsible, but also selfish and childish. This is your Avatar of the generation, everybody.
"Why come back then?" she demanded. "If you are just going to keep rejecting Kya, why come back after all these years?"
"I couldn't stay away any longer!" I snapped back at her, my eyes narrowed as I stared into hers. "I couldn't stop thinking of this place, of you and Kya, how I'd been so negligent of both of you! It was tearing me apart, and I couldn't live with myself any longer. I had to come back here, to Republic City, where we were determined to live together, raise a family—the city where you died and were buried in after we spent so long making it a peaceful place where everyone could live. That was our dream!" I growled at her, unable to control my heated outbreak. She shot back at me with equal force... It wasn't until then that it occurred to me we were having another fight, something that we hadn't had in a long time and that I somewhat missed, believe it or not.
"Then why, Aang, are you trying so desperately to taint it with your alcohol and drugs?!" she bellowed; now standing over me while I was left slouched against the cabinets. I got onto my feet to be within somewhat equal height with her. I was still a few inches taller than her. I used to tease her about my growth spurt, how I was now the alpha in the relationship. She never backed down, though. Height wasn't something that she gave in to.
"I'm not trying to taint it!" I rejected loudly in her face, practically yelling at her.
"Fine then—why are you allowing yourself to do so?" she retorted, jabbing her finger into my chest. "You aren't doing a damn thing to stop yourself—no, you are just sitting idly by while the booze and the dope make the decisions for you! You had the chance to make things right with Kya, on her birthday, but no you just had to let your stubbornness get in the way!"
"I didn't know what to feel, Katara!" I threw my arms up into the air. "Ever since that night, I felt he was responsible, that he somehow convinced you to let yourself die."
She scoffed. I just realized that this whole thing had started off with her trying to be gentle and patient with me, but I had elevated it into the fight it was now... just like in the past, I just had to make things more complicated. Now that I think about it, all of this had started with gentleness and patience, the option to take the time to recover from her loss, but I had escalated it into negligence and alcohol and drugs, and a broken family. Why was I even still arguing with her?
"You really think that I would actually allow myself to die, that I wouldn't do everything in my power to prevent that? Wake up, Aang! Wake up and face the truth—yes, I died that night, but you know who didn't? Kya—Sokka—Suki—my father, they are all still alive, but you are pushing them all away to the point where they hardly even want to help you anymore..." The look of anger on her face began to fade, replaced by a saddened confusion. "Why are you being so dense about this, Aang...?" she asked as she turned away from me, although I suspected it was more a question for herself than for me. I answered anyways.
Leaning back against the counter again, letting myself calm down before speaking, I looked down at the ground and muttered, "Like I said... I don't know what to feel..."
She turned back to me, now looking even sadder than before, like she was near the part of crying, her eyes already swelling up, "What do you want to feel?"
I didn't even have to contemplate that one. "Like I did before all this even happened, when we were happy and together, facing the harshest moments of our relationships, but still determined to go on no matter what happened..."
She came closer to me, trying her hardest to muscle up a smile, "Why can't you feel like that with Kya then?"
"I don't even know her..." I muttered under my breath.
"You didn't even know me when I found you in that iceberg, Aang... but if I remember correctly you were already determined to gain my friendship and trust," she argued, but made her voice soft and sweet. There's that supportive nature of hers again... "Please, answer me one question as truthfully as you believe."
Like always, I couldn't turn her down. My brain wouldn't let me even if I wanted to. I nodded.
"What do you want?"
"I don't know..."
Her eyes narrowed at me sternly, "Don't say you don't know; you do know. Just tell me, please."
"I want you to come back to me—to us, both Kya and I, so we can be a family again... But that's not possible, I know... but every time I look at her, or even think about her, it hurts so, so much, because it always reminds me of what I've been doing to her since she was born. Every time I dream—about you, about me, about our daughter, all together as happy as can be—I want to take her back, to run away with her to someplace no one can bother us and I could raise her just like you'd want. But then I remember how much I've hurt her... She was smiling while I was at her party, but deep down, I could feel that she was mad at me. I had to force myself to look into her eyes. I wanted to avoid her. I knew that if we reunited, she would be angered with me. Sure, she was happy once she saw me, but if things had gone any further, had I taken her home that night and officially took her into my care, she'd soon enough ask why I'd left her all alone, and my pathetic excuses would draw her to hate me... How could I ask for forgiveness after all I've done?" At this point, I was sobbing, unable to control the salty tears pouring out from my eyes. "But I can't take it anymore, Katara! I do, I want to raise her... but I don't think I'd be able to handle what she'll think of me once I do."
"Won't she think worse if you don't, though?" she reasoned, "Aang, you have to think less of what might happen and think more of what is already happening. Stop thinking about the past; stop thinking about the future. Think about right here, right now."
Her hands cupped my cheeks and her thumbs wiped away the tears from my reddened eyes. "I've been so stubborn, haven't I?" I criticized, "I've been such an asshole... to everybody..."
"Don't forget to add a "selfish" somewhere in there," she teased playfully, somehow causing me to smile a moment.
"Thanks, that really helps, sweetie..." I said sarcastically.
"Good," her hands traveled to her hips as she leaned toward me, "Maybe it will teach you not to mess with my baby."
"Our baby..." I corrected, grinning.
Her smile glowed, "Now that's what I want to hear." We gazed into each other's eyes for a while, not making a single sound. The silence was deafening. Before I knew it, I was slumping back against the counter, slowly sliding back onto the floor. My legs gave out. I had no idea why, but I'd suddenly felt tired, yawning like a bison after a full day of flying needing nothing except rest. Katara joined me on the floor, laying her head in my lap, softly caressing my leg. It felt good, feeling her touch me again.
"That's it, sweetie..." she encouraged softly, sweetly. "Go to sleep."
I began to oblige before a thought crossed my mind: when I fell asleep the first time, I woke up to her... if I fall asleep again, she might be gone. If that was the case, did that mean this was all just a dream? I wouldn't be able to handle another false dream like that, convincing me to believe she had done everything in her power to visit me, and it turned out just to be my imagination running wild. Fatigue was overwhelming me. I didn't have long before I would pass out, and I hated every minute of it... being forced away from her like this. If this were some dream, couldn't I just stay here? Couldn't I just stay, and make things right in this world? What would be the harm in that?
"K-Ka... Katara..." I called her name softly and tiredly.
"Is... Is this a... a dream? Are... are you really... h-here?" I managed to ask, the weight on my eyelids pulled them down to a close, but I tried to fight against it. My eyelids twitched from my struggle. Her caressing grew softer; she was deliberately trying to comfort me enough to put me to sleep.
I could feel her head shake gently in my lap, "It doesn't matter. It never did..." she whispered, letting her eyes close.
"... W-wait..." I argued, but fatigue had already won this battle. My vision blurred and my eyes finally close, just before she softly faded away into what I believed to be blue crystal-like orbs that drifted into the air. I hung on to that image, trying to keep it as close to my heart as possible. My head slumped to the side and I finally fell asleep... but... it felt more like I was preparing to enter a new world... I started hearing faint voices at the back of my head, shouting... but it wasn't the same as before. Those sounded more like desperation, whereas seemed like panic... "Wake up," it shouted. "Wake up!"
"There, that should do it," said the nurse, retracting her bloody healing water and having it float into the sink to be washed down. She admired her work on the cut, nursing it into a fleshed scar. "I wouldn't advise doing any heavy lifting or such with that arm for the time being, Councilman Sokka. You quite nearly cut a blood vessel. Luckily your wife was able to stitch it closed until it could be properly healed."
Sokka nodded appreciatively, "Thanks for patching me up on such short notice, Jolin." He hopped off the hospital bed, bowing to her.
"No thanks necessary; it's my job. You're father's doing well, by the way. He's really been able to start putting himself back onto his feet since you saw him last... quite literally too. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if he was released by the end of the week," Jolin explained, glowing as she delivered the good news.
"That's great..." Sokka replied, rather sadly.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, not at all; just some home issues. It's nothing, really," he insisted as he approached the door, "I'll be back if it starts to swell. Thanks again," he called to her as he left the room and proceeded down the hall, passing Hakoda's room and catching a glimpse of his father—it was still early, a few hours past dawn, so it wasn't surprising that he was still asleep. However, Sokka hadn't as little as slowed down as he walked past his dozing father's room. Since he was admitted, Sokka had stopped by every day to see Hakoda once he was off work for the night. Sometimes Suki and Kya would meet him there, but most times it was just him and his father. It didn't even matter if he was asleep—Sokka would still be there, sitting there watching him sleep until visiting hours were over. It hadn't been until yesterday he'd regained consciousness, and Suki expected her husband to visit her father-in-law once he got done having his wound healed. But he didn't—just kept on walking down the hall, through the lobby and out the door into the light of the sun, slowly climbing to its peak in the sky, beaming enough heat onto the earth to keep its inhabitants from freezing this snowy winter.
There was still a nice layer of snow covering the ground, at least three or four inches of it. Sokka's breath turned to mist in the cold air as he left the hospital, trotting down the steps leading up to the entrance and onto street level. He had decided to walk today instead of taking the carriage.
He began heading down the street, intent on taking a leisurely walk so clear his mind after recent events. He didn't expect to be approached by a close friend, who rarely had the chance these days to make her presence known to him outside of professional matters.
"Hey, Sokka, didn't know you'd be here," Toph called to him, recognizing his figure with her seismic sense.
His body turned to her, easily recognizing her voice alone, "Hey, Toph. And technically, I'm not at the hospital anymore. What are you doing here? One of her officers get injured on the job or something?"
The chief turned her head towards the hospital, remaining silent for about a minute before responding, "Eyewitness—victim actually, of a mugging at about ten or so of last night. He was able to describe the guy as an earthbending male, but that was all we could get out of him before he passed out on the gurney when we reached him last night. I got word he regained consciousness this morning, so I came to get a statement from him, try to get a more specific description of his attacker."
Sokka cocked a brow, questionable of her intentions for visiting the hospital, "First off, and no offense, but you are blind. How is a description going to help you specifically? And second, isn't this usually a job for one of your officers, or detectives for that matter?"
Toph's hands traveled down to her waist, "Maybe this guy is a personal friend of mine," she argued, rather persistently, "I may be blind but I can still hear y'know. I can pass the statement onto a sketch artist, asshole..."
"A personal friend, huh?" Sokka scoffed, crossing his arms. "Can't make much time for your old friends, who would really appreciate your presence these days, can you? Work is just too busy, isn't it? If it's not professional, it's just not worth your time."
Toph's eyes were darted at him, slit with anger. "You want to know who it is I am here to see? You really wanna know? It was to see your father, Sokka. I heard he was in the hospital and I just thought I should stop by and see how he's doing."
"You could have just said that," Sokka stated, "And for your information, he wasn't mugged by anyone. He had a heart attack... and you're a little late—it happened two weeks ago."
"I know when and what had happened, Sokka... I just found out the other day... I figured I already looked bad enough finding out about it weeks after it happened, so I figured I would go ahead and try to see him."
"You do look bad... I don't see how it took weeks for you to find out, after I sent you numerous messages. Then again, you have made yourself known to be the last to hear of this kind of stuff..."
Toph's bottom lip stuck out and her lips twitched a bit, "I said... I was sorry..."
Sokka's eyes darted at her with an icy glare, "Three days, Toph! It took you three fucking days to find out she had died!"
"I... was busy..." her eyes drifted from him, her body shifting.
"Busy?! That's not an excuse, Toph! Zuko and Mai heard about it less than twenty-four hours after it happened, and not three hours after that they were on their way here. You were only miles away, and it took three days, dozens of messages, before you finally heard about it. We needed you, Toph! Aang was falling apart, my father would hardly speak, and I couldn't even sleep for weeks—months! You were hardly there for the service, not to mention the burial. You acted like you didn't even care that your best friend had just died!" Sokka erupted, shouting at her at the top of his lungs, being heard by countless bystanders who stared at them strangely.
"I did care!" she screamed. "I still do! Not a day goes by that I don't think about her, that I don't regret the fact I wasn't the first to know my best friend had died giving birth. She was always there for me. She was the only person I felt I could say anything to, and not be judged... How do you think I felt when I found out that I wasn't there for her?!" Her face wrinkled up as tears started to break through the barrier of her eyes, flowing across her cheekbones to her chin, where they dripped into the snow below her. "It tore me up inside—I felt so guilty for it. I tried to stay strong, for her... I-I just couldn't stand it there, at the service. I wanted to leave as soon as I stepped inside that place. And everyone expected me to watch her be buried? It was bad enough I wasn't there to see her alive for her final moments, but to make the last time I ever see her be when she's put six feet underground, so she can..." her voice cracked, "... rot there? I didn't want my last memory of her to be of her being lowered into some hole. I want to remember the last time she was alive, when we were all together on the island for dinner just a week before it happened. Is that so much to ask?!" Toph barked at him, quickly swerving to turn from him and burying her face in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
Sokka's face loosened up and his eyes fell to his feet, ashamed of himself, heart tearing itself apart. For so long, it had seemed Toph had taken the same route Aang had, hiding from the truth and everyone involved. She couldn't help it, though. Frankly, Sokka could no longer blame her for her actions in the past. He understood... albeit wishing Aang had the same perspective. He would never be able to forget what happened to her, but at least he would have Kya to remind him of what she wanted for them both.
She continued to sob into her palms, trying to calm herself but the tears just kept flowing. Someone's hands gripped her shoulders. Toph turned and wrapped her arms around Sokka's neck, burying her face in his shirt as she continued to cry, albeit calming down enough to where her sobs were heard only by the man she had engulfed in her arms. His hand came up to the back of her head, lightly stroking her hair to comfort her. His lips were only inches from her ear when he whispered to her, "I'm sorry, Toph... I am so, so sorry for judging you like that. It's just... For so long I've felt like I needed someone to blame, but there is no one to blame. Not you, not Aang... no one."
They stood there in the snow for quite a while afterwards; Sokka continued to stroke Toph's hair while she gradually regained control over herself. He'd never seen her like this, so vulnerable. It just gave him all the more urge to hold her, despite the image it might have reflected onto those who walked past them, smiling at them for they mistook them for a couple. Sokka didn't care though. He knew the truth, and Toph did too.
Eventually her sobs subsided and she continued to welcome her friend's soothing embrace. A soft smile soon formed but disappeared quickly after as she broke away from him.
"Thanks, Snoozles," she teased him. "I now see how Suki has been able to stand you all these years—a regular cuddler, huh?"
"Screw you..." he retorted. That was Toph: emotional to joking in a matter of seconds.
"You would if you had the chance!" Toph continued, grinning smugly at him.
"In your dreams," he rolled his eyes playfully.
Her smug grin faded and her lips straightened to a serious mood, "So how's Aang?"
That had come so out of nowhere, it nearly made Sokka jump. "Um, I-I honestly don't know... Fine, I assume" he said, looking away from her.
"You're lying," she declared sternly. "You know how I hate liars."
Sokka groaned, "Fine, you want to know the truth?"
"It would be better than lying to my feet."
"He's high as a cloud, alright! The man has lost his mind to whatever dope he's on right now. I went over to his place last night to talk to him, and he was there just trying to irritate me into getting in a fist-fight with him. And you know what, it worked! I tried to knock one of his teeth out! Hell, I might have done worse than that, throwing him onto that glass table like that and just leaving him there."
Toph cocked an eyebrow in shock, "Wait, back up a bit. He's on drugs now, and you left him alone?! Sokka, that's the worst thing you can do to a drug-addict! Not only that, you left him alone with a bunch of broken glass?! Do you know the kinds of suicidal thoughts that may be rummaging through his mind right now? He could try to kill himself, you big doof!"
"How was I supposed to know?!" the councilman asked defensively.
"By actually caring..." she stated, grabbing his wrist tightly, "Come on, we gotta get to the island."
"Why do I have to go?" asked Sokka sourly.
The chief spun around to glare at him, "Because he's your best friend, you asshole. Don't you care about what he may do to himself?"
"If he doesn't want to hurt himself, he won't. If he does, why should we stop him? It's his choice to make."
Suddenly he was struck with a stern smack across the face, leaving a fainted red imprint across the right side of his face as it was jerked in the opposite direction. He refocused his vision on Toph, whose glare made him shake more than her slap.
"What the hell is the matter with you!" she demanded angrily, "I can't believe you are saying you'd rather let him kill himself than try to help him! Thank God I'm blind because if I wasn't, I'd be disgusted to look at you right now!" She threw his wrist out of her grasp, clamping her fists closed.
"He's not himself anymore, Toph. He doesn't care about anything anymore!"
"And that's justification to let him die, right?"
"How do you know he's even going to try anything?"
"How do you know he won't?" She shook her head, sighing irritably, "Fine, you know what, you can stand here all day in the snow for all I care, but I'm going to go check on him, whether you like it or not." She spun back around and started down the street, but before she could go anywhere Sokka had grabbed her wrist.
"Wait, I'm coming with you," he stated insistently, albeit sounding defeated.
"Oh, so now you care, because you know that as soon as I get back I'm going to kick your ass, right?"
"Just let me come with you," he pleaded, slightly annoyed.
She scoffed, "Fine, but you didn't need my permission in the first place."
Once they had stopped bickering at one another, they set off down the streets, searching for the nearest taxi-carriage to take them to the docks. With the roads so covered in snow, the trip took longer than it normally would. At least an hour had passed when the ferry to the island finally came into their view, a hundred or so yards away. Once they reached the port, they quickly shuffled out of the carriage and towards the ferry. Of course, the Acolytes recognized them from a mile away and got the boat ready for travel so they could disembark as soon as they were boarded.
With more snow being in the air than there was wind, the travel to the island had also been annoyingly slow. Once they finally docked, Toph practically jumped out of the boat rather than walking down the boardwalk, as Sokka had.
Halfway up the steps leading to the courtyard of the island, they met Anil on his way to City Hall, with Toph nearly knocking him down as they met. He luckily regained his footing and faced them.
"In a hurry, are we, councilman?"
"Sort of. Have you seen Aang this morning?" asked Sokka.
Anil shook his head, "To be honest, I don't see much of him anymore. He's normally locked up in his dorm."
"Don't you ever, y'know, check on him?" Toph questioned the Acolyte.
"Frankly, Chief Beifong, I don't see it as our place to interfere. Right now, I would say it's only those closest to him that deserves that right," he explained calmly. "Do what you need to, and I hope that last night's..." he paused for a moment, "... quarrel is forgotten between the two of you." He glanced at Sokka, face rather serious. "It's about time I should take off for City Hall. I'll make it known to the other Council members that you are taking a personal day off."
Sokka nodded at him gratefully as he took off, but turned to meet a concerned chief of police.
"Quarrel?" she questioned. "You two had a fight last night?"
"Yeah, I-I guess you could call it that. It was nothing, really..." He grabbed the upper part of his arm as he started back up the steps again, rubbing it without consideration of the lingering pain it still brought.
"There you go again, lying to me..." she huffed, crossing her arms. "Why can't you just tell me the truth? I think I deserve it after you made me break down earlier. Besides, what good does it do for you when you know I can tell whether or not you are telling me the truth?"
"Because it doesn't matter anymore... The only reason I'm coming up these steps with you is to make sure Aang is alright, and that he hasn't hurt himself. That's it. And after that I'm going home to spend some time with my family."
"You know, you're acting extremely bipolar right now... I can't tell whether you really care for him or if you just want nothing to do with him."
"Both..." he huffed. "But it's not my fault, y'know. He started it."
"Started what, the fight? That's immature of you! That's no reason to forget he was ever in your life. I thought you were better than that."
"You don't even know what I'm talking about," he scoffed, starting to storm up the steps with Toph following closely behind.
"Then tell me. Stop keeping me in the dark. I know I haven't been around lately, but now I am. So fill me in before I smack you in the back of that thick head of yours."
"It doesn't concern you. It's between me and him."
Toph frowned irritably, stomping the ground and producing a wall of earth from the step directly ahead of Sokka, stopping him in his tracks almost immediately to keep from losing balance. He groaned and turned to her, "Fine... It's adoption, Toph. He wants to put Kya up for adoption. He had this ridiculous belief that she should be raised just like the Air Nomads, and that includes being raised by someone else. He wants to give up all of his rights to her."
Toph cocked an eyebrow, shocked but confused. "Don't take this the wrong way, but isn't that a good thing—for you and Suki, I mean. At least until he comes to his senses, you'll know she's with good people, right?"
"I told him the exact same thing... but then he said that we wouldn't qualify because we're her relatives. He wants to give her away to strangers. You wouldn't believe the things he said afterward. I swear, I've never seen anybody so doped up in my life..."
She sighed, "You know what, I think I've heard enough... Let's just get up there and see if he's alright. Then we'll figure out what to do with him."
Sokka scoffed, "You can do that yourself. I told you, I'm done with him. Until he gets his act together, I don't want him anywhere near Kya."
Her eyes rolled, "You are being a real jerk, you know that right? I know I haven't seen it all like you have, but he's still your friend and you should still try to help him, if for no reason than for Kya at least."
"We'll see, Toph... To be honest, I don't even know if he can be helped." Behind him he heard the sound of rocks sliding and turned to see Toph's wall of earth being lowered. They continued up the steps onto the courtyard of the island, proceeding to the dorms where Aang's was located. It was more of a small house than a dorm, perched on the edge of the island overlooking the ocean. The two officials approached the house, where Sokka approached the door to knock on it.
"Don't bother," Toph interrupted. "It doesn't feel like anyone's home."
Sokka groaned, "He's probably out getting his booze for the day."
"It's nine in the morning!" the chief proclaimed.
"Yeah, I know. Guess he's starting early today," he murmured, crossing his arms.
He noticed Toph step forward and he cocked a brow at her, "I thought we just agreed that he's not home?"
"We did; doesn't mean we still can't go inside. Remember, Air Temple Island welcomes all," she stated, grinning. She reached for the doorknob and turned it, expecting it to be unlocked. "See? He's practically welcoming us inside already." She opened the door and walked in, her foot pushing an empty glass bottle across the floor.
"I swear, there are more empty bottles in here than there is in a bar after Happy Hour..." Sokka said bitterly.
"Good thing I can't see then." Toph continued into the main living area of the house when she felt something faint beneath her feet. "Wait," she announced in a hush, extending her arm in front of Sokka. He stared at the back of her head strangely while she held him back. "There's someone in here..."
"But you just said that you didn't feel anyone inside. What makes you think—"
"It's faint, I can't really explain it, but there's someone in here, I know it."
He rolled his eyes and pushed through her arm, "Come on, Toph... Think for a second—who would be in here, a burglar? It's not like Aang has a bunch of money or priceless artifacts lying around. It could just be an Acolyte cleaning up the place in another room or something. Or maybe Aang is home and he's just passed out in a chair or something in another room so you couldn't sense him as well.
She shook her head, "It's not another room... it's close." She turned her head to the left, "There, in the kitchen." Sokka sighed and approached the kitchen, not really expecting to find anything. There was a wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house, and as Sokka got closer he noticed piles of broken brown glass—shattered beer bottles, he guessed. The next thing he noticed was the collapsed table, which caught his eye until he saw Aang's foot poking out from behind it. The limb caught all of his attention and he rushed toward the back of the tiled room, finding his friend slumped on the floor, arms and head limp and eyes closed; his skin pale, bluish, and cold to the touch.
"Toph! Get in here!" he shouted desperately as he fell to his knees beside the seemingly-lifeless body.
She rushed into the room, "What is it?" she questioned, concerned by the councilman's desperation for her aid.
"It's Aang; he's unconscious and his skin is cold," he squirmed, looking for any sign of life. He checked the monk's pulse while eyes were nearly bulging out of his skull from fright. His skin felt cold and clammy to Sokka's touch. "I-I can't feel his pulse, Toph!"
She fell to her knees beside them both, snatching Aang's arm from Sokka's grasp and checked the pulse herself. Sokka was half-right—there was hardly a pulse, but it was there, so faint that it wasn't surprising that Sokka hadn't felt it. Fortunately she had a keener sense of vibration. "It's there, but it's faint. He's hardly breathing!" she concluded, urgently reaching her arm behind the limp man's head and softly laying him down on the floor. Toph pressed her hands against Aang's chest and began pumping it steadily, struggling to regulate the flow of oxygen to his lungs. "Sokka, go find a doctor!" she urged him.
"I'm not leaving him again, Toph!" he asserted reluctantly.
Now wasn't the time to argue; Toph quickly removed herself from Aang's chest and was immediately replaced by Sokka as she charged out towards the courtyard in search of aid, desperate to find it as quickly as possible.
"Come on, buddy," he muttered as he continued for Toph. "Don't do this to yourself, man." He started pumping his chest harder as the growing fear continued to ravage his insides. "You know I didn't mean it." Sokka started holding his breath as he focused his entire self on trying to get him breathing again. He gasped for air and pulled himself away from the still friend, wiping his forehead and proceeding to lean down towards his face, opening his mouth and breathing air into his body, proceeding to thrust against his chest some more. "Come on, Aang—breathe!" he ordered in frustration before connecting his mouth with the monk's to blow more air into his body.
A few more minutes passed and sweat had formed across Sokka's forehead. He was becoming exhausted, but reluctant to quit. The more he tried, the more hope he lost. He was doing everything he could—CPR, mouth-to-mouth, even resorting to apologizing every second and hoping his friend would hear him and come out of unconsciousness. By now, he'd become afraid he was doing more harm than good, but couldn't take the risk of stopping. Aang was still breathing, albeit not strong enough to allow enough oxygen to reach his lungs. The manual inclusion of air from Sokka's own lungs may have been preventing this from happening, but it wouldn't work for much longer... To make things worse, Toph still hadn't returned with a doctor of any sorts.
"Wake up, Aang!" he shouted at the body. "Do you really want to die like this? Are you just going to give up on yourself?" Sokka shouted, clutching his eyes shut and gripping Aang's top in his hands, unaware of the fact he'd stopped pumping his chest. He pulled at the cloth as water began to seep through his eyelids. "Don't give up, Aang! Please... I've already lost my mother and my sister... Don't take my brother away as well..." his voice quivered. Shortly after, he heard a soft exhale of breath escape Aang's throat. The sound forced Sokka's eyes to pop open and gasp in horror. Out of anger, he lashed out and gripped Aang by the collar of his shirt, "No! Don't you dare die on me! Do you hear me?! Don't do this to yourself, to your family!"
Aang didn't respond, and not another breath escaping from his mouth was heard. A knife pierced Sokka's heart as stumbled away from the body, crashing against a close cabinet as he started choking on his own tears. He had failed him for the final time, and the consequences took their toll. His failure to help Aang resulted in his death, and that had burned a larger hole in his heart than anything had ever before. He couldn't control his own breath. It was so rapid that he could hardly remain conscious. At the same time, though, he didn't feel like fighting it. He wanted to pass out, fall asleep and wake up to find out this was just a horrible nightmare. But it wasn't... this was reality. But it became a miracle...
A soft glow began to emit from the still body's bare feet, from the tattooed arrows atop them. Slowly it began to creep up his legs, still weak yet showing signs of effort to strengthen. The glow made its way to the spine of the Avatar, following the blue pathway and jumping over the gruesome scar and continuing upward towards his shoulders, dividing at the three separate pathways, two of them flowing across the shoulder blades while the third continued upward toward the neck. The glowing paths proceeded down both of his arms and met the arrows atop his hands. The speed of the traveling glow decreased as it reached the back of the neck. Gradually the glow began to brighten while it made its way through the arrow extending across the bald man's scalp. Just as the glow met the tip of the final arrow, a set of eyes blasted open as a powerful burst of light filled the room.
As quickly as it began, the light faded and the still body jerked itself upright, breathing heavily then resorting to coughing roughly as it grabbed his chest. He could hardly control his choking cough, unable to grasp the fact that this were actually happening, leaving himself lost and unaware of everything around him. Finally once his coughs subsided, he was able to breathe again, however irregularly and caused himself to hyperventilate and nearly pass out again. His falling body was caught by Sokka just before it hit the ground. He stared into the airbender's eyes—weak and confused, but able to recognize the face he was looking into.
"Hey, Sokka... Thanks for coming..." he said weakly as he was unwarily set up against the wall.
"Just stay awake alright, buddy. Help's on the way," Sokka assured him, still questioning why Toph hadn't returned.
He shook his head, letting his eyes drift closed, "Stupid..." Aang muttered, "Ka-Katar—Kya..." he continued to slur, shaking his head and breathing heavily.
Confusion took control. Everything blurred, became faint. The sound of something slamming alerted Aang, but not enough to refocus his senses. He saw another figure appear in the background, seemingly start kneeling beside Sokka. His voice slurred some more, incomprehensible to the others as his head continued to sway, as if trying to shake something off his mind. A third figure appeared; the world he had come to know fell into an abyss, replaced by the one he had known once before.
The next chapter, Seeking Redemption, will focus primarily on Aang's newly found hope to rebuild his family after his near-death experience. But first, he has to regain Sokka's trust, and prove he has changed and is ready to raise Kya...
For the collective works of the author, go here.