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Chapter Twenty: Fortitude
Of all the things he's ever seen . . .
He is still shaking.
He sits there, and he quakes, and he quivers, and he shivers.
He feels the need to move. To do something.
Her hands are so soothing upon his back. "Tell me where your pain feels most intense," she murmurs, and he doesn't reply, merely closes his eyes, his muscles tensing, tendons rigid, heart pounding. His blood is so heavy . . . so heavy . . .
He can't continue.
A spasm of pain hits him, and he grunts, "A little higher." He feels her hands traverse his shoulders, his back, his spine. The area just along his spine. The water moves slowly lower, dangerously lower, dangerous, dangerous, dangerous . . .
Another wrack of agony hits. His eyes snap open, and he can feel the rush of energy associated with the Avatar State.
The Avatar State . . . ?
No, just an echo.
But of what?
He cannot remember, so he only pretends he doesn't feel it. "Wow, you are definitely in the right area there," he whispers, his voice so soft he cannot hear it.
"I can feel a lot of energy," she answers. He concentrates on her movements, on the cool feeling of the water, of the new, clean tingle it leaves behind. He smiles ever so slightly.
Then he can feel it again. That sudden burst of energy. The sudden anticipation—a rush—a broken dam. But the energy simply rushes through him painfully, as if he were a waterskin pumped so full of water it has become perfectly circular, a waterskin in agony, begging to snap, to die, to let the energy be released.
But it does not.
He cannot break.
Cannot release the energy.
It only moves all the more, moving, moving, screaming, wanting, needing.
"Let me just see if I can . . ."
The energy inside him writhes and roils, pushing against the rim, striking, moving, knowing where it must go, going against him, refusing to listen, pushing, pushing, pushing, filling him to the brim, but he cannot release it—something's wrong—why—he—can—feel—it—any—more—
His back arches involuntarily, forming a perfect little C.
The energy coursing through him, looking for releasing.
Azula has come back to kill.
He lived when he was supposed to die.
And now he will be finished.
And he can do nothing.
He has no defenses.
He has no one.
They have all left him.
Or has he left them?
He gave them up.
Gave them up for the Avatar State.
And for what?
He was gone.
He says gone.
He says Azula took his life.
But he knows what it means.
He was gone.
He presses his hand to his cheek, feeling the wet tears.
He . . . was . . . gone.
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