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Chapter Thirty-Three: Expectations
There are so many things he can say, and so many things he can cry, and so many things he can scream . . .
The others sleep, in slumber deep, and he does not wish to disturb them. Even she is asleep, and from his vantage point, he can see her form, the shadows about her flickering in the firelight; her chest rises and falls, and she seems so small, huddled against Appa, the Fire Nation baby still clasped against her chest. The child, too, snoozes soundly, his fingers grasping at the air.
He smiles to see it.
If he closes his eyes, he can see his own—
He smiles again, and this time, it is because he can see it.
Removing the orange-red sash from his belt, he gently folds it around itself several times until he has a small bundle. Absentmindedly working the cloth, he sways back and forth in the breeze, imagining the scene he is confident will come . . .
If not soon, he knows then one day.
He is kneeling on the floor. It's wood—no, it's stone, polished stone. He's in one of the Air Temples. The Southern Air Temple, he thinks. Yes, the Southern Air Temple. And he is holding a smooth, round bowl. Peering into it, he sees a dark blue liquid, likely some sort of ink or paint . . . Very slowly, he reaches into the bowl with two fingers, and the coolness of the paint soothes him. In the light, removed from the shadows cast by the sides of the bowl, he can clearly tell what color it is—the same as his own tattoos, as his own arrows.
He knows what it is.
Not a tattoo.
The paint, he knows, lasts a total of nine months, and during that time, the recipient is expected to wear her temporary arrow proudly; afterwards, the paint simply washes off easily, yet if success is had . . .
It is made permanent.
A show of love from the mother to the father.
Usually, one would apply it with careful fingers, but he wants to do it perfectly. He will use Waterbending.
She stands there, clearly unsure, the blindfold tight about her face, and he trusts that it is obscuring her vision. "Aang . . ." she murmurs somewhat warningly, one hand on her somewhat inflated stomach; her skirt has been hitched up, and the light reflects beautifully from her belly.
"It's an Air Nomad tradition," he begs, and, hands shaking slightly, he Waterbends the deep blue paint from the bowl and spreads it over the skin, fashioning it into an arrow. When he is certain it is perfect, he removes all of the water from it in a single fluid motion, leaving just the marker of his love just above the place where his son rests.
For she, his wife, is expecting.
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