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|More from Agent Slash||Action/Adventure, Drama||PG-PG13||Positive||N/A|
|Nightmares, Part 2|
All was silent as Zuko laid in his bed. On the outside, there was just the Fire Lord snoozing away without a care. On the inside, it was much more. Within Zuko's subconscious, he sat in the Jasmine Dragon, sipping a cup of tea and looking at the gorgeous sunset.
From behind him, he heard a voice that projected warmth with every word it spoke. "More tea, Zuko?" asked Iroh.
"Sure, Uncle," said Zuko.
Iroh approached his nephew and handed him a cup.
"It sure is nice to be relaxing for a change," Zuko said. "Being the Fire Lord can be so stressful sometimes."
"Of course it can," said Iroh. "But there has never been an instance where any leader in history had to make only easy decisions. You must remember Zuko, whether a decision is easy or hard doesn't matter. What matters is if it's right or wrong."
"I suppose that's true," Zuko said, turning away to see the sun finally set. "So, do you want to play some Pai Sho?" he asked, turning back to face his uncle.
What stood where Iroh stood only moments ago was now a ferocious, horrifying beast of a man glaring into Zuko's soul. "With you? Ha! I would sooner play a game with a rabid armadillo bear!" he snarled.
Terrified, Zuko leapt back. "Uncle, what's happened to you?!" he yelled.
"Stop filling my ears with your disgusting voice!" Iroh growled. "You are no nephew of mine! You are a disgrace! You cannot govern a country, you betrayed me, and you are still just a boy!"
"Uncle, why would you say that to me?" Zuko inquired, his voice shaking.
"Because it is true!" Iroh said, his pupils now gone from his eyes. "You are a disgrace!!!"
On the outside, Zuko was screaming and hollering into the night, prompting his guards to rush in. They scanned the room for an attacker, but saw no one. "He must be having a bad dream," one of them said.
"Then let's wake him up," said the other.
The guards ran over to his bed and shook the Fire Lord. "My lord, my lord, wake up!" one of them said.
"You're just having a bad dream, sir!" said the other.
But Zuko did not wake up and instead screamed louder and louder as he violently thrashed around beneath his bed sheets.
"Why won't he wake up?" asked one guard.
"Out of the way!" a voice yelled from behind. The two guards moved out of the way as Jin came barging through. "What's going on here?" she asked.
"He must be having a nightmare," said one of the guards.
"Then why didn't you wake him up?" Jin asked.
"We tried! He wouldn't wake up!" said the other guard.
Jin knelt down and slightly slapped Zuko's face. "Zuko, it's me, Jin! Wake up!"
Still, Zuko was unresponsive.
"This is bad," said Jin. "We have to bring him out of this now. Someone go get a doctor or send Aang a messenger hawk!"
"Which one do you want us to do?" asked one guard.
"Get a doctor and if that doesn't work, then we'll call Aang!"
On Air Temple Island, Aang and Katara were in the kitchen snacking on custard tarts. "These are so good," Katara said.
"That's why they're my favorite," said Aang.
"You want some, Momo?" asked Aang, offering some to the lemur.
Momo chirped and nibbled on the tart, then flew to some other part of the house.
"Hey, it looks like Sokka left his boomerang," Katara said, spotting Sokka's trademark weapon on the couch.
Aang walked over and picked up the boomerang. "I guess I'll take it back to him."
"Really? It's kinda late," Katara said.
"I'm wide awake," said Aang. "I might as well go out and do something."
"Okay, then I'll go with you," said Katara.
"I'm not so sure about that, Katara," Aang said. "Maybe you should stay here and rest."
"Oh, what, just because I'm pregnant I can't leave the house anymore?"
"I didn't say that," Aang replied. "I'm just saying it would be a lot easier on both of us if you just stayed here and rested."
Katara hesitated before responding. "Fine," she said, regretfully.
"I'll be back soon," Aang said. He walked outside, twirled open his glider, and took off.
Within her own subconscious, Toph pounded away at the earth beneath her feet. She raised a boulder out of the ground and shot it at a rather greasy man who was running away from her, knocking him to the ground. She approached the man and stood over him. "Oh, man, I love my job," she said. "Metalbending and chucking rocks at people for a living? It doesn't get much better than that. So, is there anything you want to say before I take you to the slammer?"
The greasy man stood up and spoke in a voice very familiar to Toph. "You've been a bad girl, Toph. Very, very bad."
Startled, Toph's expression shifted as she recognized the voice. "That voice, it sounds like-"
"Little girls are meant to be seen and not heard," the greasy criminal said once again. Suddenly, Toph felt chains wrapping around her entire body. She attempted to metalbend them away, but to no avail. Again and again she tried, but she could not help herself.
Sensing the vibrations, she felt the greasy criminal shift into the size and shape of someone she had known her whole life: her father. He spoke in his usual stuffy voice, but with a new sinister sound to it. "Don't try to unchain yourself, Toph," he spoke. "There is no need for you to go anywhere."
A chilling sense of claustrophobia was starting to set in as Toph found that escaping these chains was impossible. The more she struggled, the tighter and tighter they became, squeezing her until she could hardly breathe.
"You will stay here, Toph," said her father. "You will never leave here. We will bring you your meals, you will sleep, and we will always be watching you. Your days of earthbending and adventuring are behind you."
Desperately trying to fight back the feeling of suffocation, Toph was starting to seriously panic as she realized how helpless she was.
"I am doing this for your own good, Toph," said her father. "You are blind and tiny and helpless and fragile and that is what you always will be."
Toph screamed as loud as she could in a desperate attempt to wake up, but it was no use.
It was the perfect night. Of course, it was all in his subconscious, but this was the perfect night for Bo. He sat with his arm wrapped around Ai, holding a glass and gazing out at the Mo Ce Sea which was bathed in moonlight. "I have to tell you, this feels so right," said Bo.
"I know," said Ai.
"I know we decided to just stay friends, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I think I'm in love with you, Ai," Bo confessed.
"You know what I think, Bo?" Ai asked.
"What?" asked Bo.
"I think you won't be able to love without a heart!" Ai screeched in a raspy voice that was nothing like her own.
Bo leaped out of his seat and saw Ai was now disheveled in appearance with her eyes glowing a bright white. "Ai, what's happened to you?"
Ignoring the question, Ai gestured towards Bo's chest. "Let's see how long it'll take me to rip out your heart, lover boy!" she rasped.
Bo's eyes widened as Ai dug her nails into his skin and started to tear her way through.
Meanwhile, Katara was sitting at home, thinking of ways to entertain herself. There has to be something for me to do around here. She thought. I have to find something to do. I'm just not tired. Not even a little bit. It was then that she heard a rapid knock at the door. "Who's there?" she asked.
"It is Yukio!" called out the voice from the other side of the door. "Let me in quickly!"
Katara moved as fast as she could to get to the door and opened it to see Yukio standing there. "Yukio, what's wrong?"
"The gas! The gas in the canisters that Suki brought here with her!" Yukio started.
"You mean that stuff she sprayed in here while me and Aang were in the bedroom?" Katara inquired.
"Yes, I just realized what it was! It was Kela the Screamer's fear gas!"
"Who the what?" asked Katara, confused.
"Kela the Screamer," Yukio explained. "She is an ancient spirit who uses deadly fear gas to make people see their worst nightmares. She and I had a quarrel about a thousand years ago. It was quite intense."
"So, does that mean that everyone that was sprayed by the gas is going to be affected by it?"
"Everyone except me," said Yukio. "I am immune to it."
"Then we have to help them!" said Katara.
"Yes, indeed," said Yukio. "Where is Aang?"
"Aang is already at Sokka and Suki's house, so-"
"I am sorry, Katara, but I am afraid that in your current condition I cannot allow you to come with me."
"Well, I'm not just going to sit back and do nothing while all of my friends are in danger! Besides, you need me. I could heal them and bring them out of it."
"I'm afraid that won't work. There is only one way to bring them out of it and the longer we stand here, the closer they are to dying."
"Alright, fine, go ahead," Katara said, frustration dominating her voice.
"I am sorry, Katara," said Yukio. "I will make sure that all of them make it." Yukio rushed out of the house, leaving Katara alone.
Meanwhile, at Sokka and Suki's house, Aang knocked on the front door and got no reply. "All of the lights are out," Aang said to himself. "I probably shouldn't go in, but I might as well return this to him." Aang opened the door and walked into the house, placing the boomerang ever so slightly on the couch. He then started to tiptoe out of the house when he suddenly heard screaming coming from the bedroom. He ran to see what was wrong and saw Sokka and Suki lying in bed together, violently thrashing around and yelling.
Aang approached the couple and shook them, attempting to wake them. "Guys, guys, wake up. You're just having a bad dream."
Yet, still, neither of them woke up. Aang was now starting to seriously worry. "Guys, wake up!" he shouted. "Wake up!"
"They cannot wake up," said a voice from behind. Aang turned to see Yukio approaching him.
"Yukio, what's going on?" Aang asked.
"They have been hit with fear gas. They all have."
"Fear gas?" Aang inquired.
"They are dreaming of their own worst fears and they cannot wake up from them, making the dreams very dangerously real," Yukio elaborated.
"How can we save them?" asked Aang.
"There is only one thing we can do," said Yukio. "You must go into their dreams and wake them up."
Aang paused before speaking. "And how am I supposed to do that?" he asked.
"By concentrating hard enough, you can project your spiritual self into their dreams while your physical body remains here."
"And what happens if I can't bring them out?"
"Then they die," Yukio said bluntly.
"Alright, well, I hope this works. I've never done anything like this before," Aang said.
"It is actually not that different from going into the Spirit World," said Yukio.
Aang sat down and began to meditate. "So, would I just do the same thing that I would do if I was trying to go to the Spirit World?" asked Aang.
"Yes, but try to focus on where you're going," said Yukio.
Aang nodded and closed his eyes. He took deep breaths, in and out, and he focused intently on his destination. He felt a sudden surge and opened his eyes. He could see that he was no longer in the house. He was on Kyoshi Island, watching every last building burn to ashes.
He looked over and saw two people, one of whom was standing over the other and holding a weapon.
Suki was on the ground at the mercy of Hong Shu, the corpses of Sokka and Ty Lee at his feet. "I have won, Suki. Your village is destroyed and your people are dead and I hope the screams of the burning children are the last thing you hear before you slip away."
The Kyoshi Warrior was glued to the ground, gravity preventing her from standing. She could only watch as Hong Shu grabbed his knife and plunged it downwards.
"Suki, wake up!" Aang called out.
Both Suki and Hong Shu looked over at the Avatar.
"Aang, help me!" Suki called out. "I can't get up!"
"Yes, you can," said Aang. "This is your dream and you have the power to do whatever you want."
"But I can't-"
"Suki, you can do anything you set your mind to," Aang said.
"Don't listen to him!" said Hong Shu. "You are nothing more than an ant beneath my foot!"
"That isn't true, Suki. Don't let this be your worst fear. You are stronger than he is. You have to know that. You are the embodiment of everything the Kyoshi Warriors stand for: courage, bravery, and honor. You saved the world and you didn't even need help from any of us to do it! You can defeat one man who is only still alive because he cheated death."
"Enough of this!" Hong Shu declared. He swung the knife downward, but Suki caught it. She leaped to her feet and kneed her nemesis in the stomach then lifted him and tossed him into the ocean.
Aang walked over to his friend and put his arm on her shoulder. "I knew you could do it," he said.
"You were right. I had nothing to be afraid of. He is smaller than I am."
"Alright, now wake up so I can get to Sokka's dream."
Everything started to fade away as Suki woke up. Aang closed his eyes and was whisked away to the next dream. He found himself in the middle of Republic City at night. It was as if he wasn't even in somebody else's dream. He then saw a gargantuan shadow cast over the city. He looked into the sky and saw every last drop of water in Yue Bay being lifted into the sky. It was then that he saw Yue herself bending the water.
She shouted in a voice that thundered across the city, making the skyscrapers and mountains tremble. "How could you do this to me?!"
Aang saw Sokka cowering on the ground just a few yards away from him.
"I'm sorry, Yue," Sokka said. "I-"
"SILENCE!!! This was part of your scheme all along, wasn't it? You let me die so you could have her instead! That Kyoshi Warrior will not be nearly as faithful to you as me!" Yue bellowed. "You have betrayed me and now you will drown!"
"Sokka, wake up!" Aang called out.
"Aang!" Sokka shouted. "Do something!"
"I can't do anything, Sokka, only you can," said Aang.
"What do you mean?" asked Sokka.
"You have to let her know."
"What does that even-?"
"You know exactly what that means, Sokka," Aang said.
"I can't, Aang! She's going to kill me!"
"She plans to kill you either way," said Aang. "There's no harm in telling her."
Trembling, the Water Tribe warrior got on his feet and stepped forward. He tried to put on a brave face and looked his former love in the eye. "Yue, I am sorry that I couldn't protect you. I truly am, but I had to move on! And I have moved on. I've met the most amazing woman I could ever meet and if I live through this, I'm going to marry her. She loves me and accepts me for who I am whether she's dealing with my sarcasm or my complaining or my talk of meat all of the time. I know you did, too, but you're not here anymore, Yue, and I'm sorry!" Sokka closed his eyes and a single tear rolled down his cheek. When he opened them, Yue was gone and everything was normal once more.
"Good job, Sokka," said Aang. "I knew you could do it."
"Thanks for the encouragement, Aang," said Sokka.
"Hey, encouragement is all it was. Those words were what saved you. Now you have to wake up so I can go to the next dream."
"Alright, see you on the other side, buddy," said Sokka.
And with that, Aang was off to the next dream. He now found himself at a wedding. He saw the bride and groom and realized that this was Suki and Sokka's wedding. "What's so scary about this?" he asked himself.
"If there is anyone here who objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace," Iroh said, ministering the wedding.
The door leading into the chapel slammed open and everyone looked back to see someone standing there. "I object!" Miki yelled.
Everybody, including Aang, was gasping at this sudden turn of events.
"Suki, please, you can't marry him! I've kept it a secret for as long as I've known you, but I can't hold it in anymore! I love you!" Miki confessed.
Suddenly, the walls and floors started to melt and Miki recoiled in horror as everything around her shifted.
Iroh's voice, now louder than ever, boomed as it spoke the words, "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
A hole in the floor opened up and Miki and Aang fell through. There was nothing but blackness surrounding them now.
"What are you doing here, Aang?" asked Miki.
"Wow, Miki, I had no idea," Aang said. "How long have you felt this way?"
"Like I said, ever since I've known her. Since we started warrior training together on Kyoshi Island. Now they're married and here I am. Alone.
"So, that's your worst fear. Not having anyone," Aang said.
"What do you think is going to happen once Suki and Sokka get married?" asked Miki. "It's because of him, not to mention the rest of you, that she hardly spends any time with us warriors anymore. It's always strictly business. It's going to be even worse now. She's going to abandon us."
"Suki isn't going to abandon you," Aang said. "She would never give up being a Kyoshi Warrior. And as far as her marrying Sokka, you have to ask yourself this: is what they have true love?"
Miki sighed before replying. "I guess."
"Then there you have it," said Aang. "There's nothing you can do to stop it."
"You don't understand," said Miki. "Do you know what it's like to love someone for so long, but not have them love you back?"
"Yes, I do," Aang said. "Look, you love her, right?"
"And you want to see her happy?"
"Then don't you think it's best to let her be happy with the one she loves?"
Miki hesitated. "Yes."
"Alright, now wake up."
As Miki's dream ended, Aang was off to the next one. He found himself standing in the Jasmine Dragon and immediately saw the problem. Zuko was being assaulted by a beastly, ferocious Iroh. "You are nothing to me!" the Dragon of the West hollered. "Do you hear me? Nothing!"
Aang approached Zuko and spoke to him. "Zuko, it's okay. Wake up."
"Aang? What are you doing here?" Zuko asked.
"Your uncle loves you, Zuko. He loves you with all his heart and more. You never have to worry about him feeling ashamed of you," said Aang.
"Your uncle is the last person in the world who would judge you. He is already the wisest, most loving man in the world and you are like his son, so that means he loves you most of all. He doesn't judge you for your mistakes like other people do. You have to let go of your fear and accept that Iroh loves you for who you are."
Zuko closed his eyes, squeezing them shut. When he opened them, he saw Iroh once more.
"Of course, Zuko, I would love to play a game of Pai Sho with you. It will be nice to defeat the Fire Lord once again," he said warmly.
Zuko breathed a heavy sigh of relief and embraced his uncle. "I am so thankful you're here, uncle," Zuko said.
Taken aback by his nephew's suddenness, Iroh replied. "And I am thankful you are here as well, Zuko."
"Good job, Zuko," said Aang. "Now wake up. I'm sure Jin is worried sick about you."
Aang then went on to the next dream as this one ended. He saw Rong and Ling arguing, but they looked different. They were younger than they were now. He then saw Rong huddled in the corner in the fetal position.
"You're overreacting!" said Rong.
"No, you just don't understand what I'm saying!" Ling shot back. "It seems like you never do anymore!"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Rong asked.
Aang walked over to Rong and knelt down.
Rong looked up at him and spoke. "I keep seeing it and hearing it over and over and over again!" she said. "This is the fight we had that broke us up! I can't listen to it anymore!"
"Easy, Rong, calm down," said Aang. "It's going to be alright."
"No, it isn't! Don't you understand?! That's exactly what Ling and I thought when we came to Republic City and everything took a turn for the worse. I just feel like I was too hard on him. I feel like I should have been there for him," Rong said, sobbing. "But it's too late and now we'll never be together again. I mean, we can hardly even look at each other anymore." "Rong, you have to stop beating yourself up," said Aang. "You did what you thought was right and even if it wasn't, there is still a chance for you and Ling to redeem yourselves."
"Do you really think so?" asked Rong.
"Yes, I do," said Aang. "All it'll take is a little time."
Rong wiped the tears out of her eyes and looked up at Aang. "I just want to make things right."
"And you still can," said Aang. "There's still time."
Rong nodded. "Then I know now what I have to do."
As the dream ended, Aang went to the next one. However, he found everything to be the same except Rong was no longer in the corner. He looked into one of the corners on the other side of the room and saw Ling sitting there. He walked over to him and knelt down.
"What do you want from me?" Ling snarled.
"I want you to tell me what's wrong," Aang said.
"You know what's wrong," said Ling.
"You're right, I do, but I want to hear you say it."
Ling looked at Aang and replied. "Look at me, Aang," said Ling. "I am nothing more than a shell of a man. I used to be so happy. I used to be so peaceful, so tranquil, I just wanted to love life and love Rong, but I blew it. It was my fault. Once we moved to Republic City, I changed. I grew more and more irritable and depressed and angry and I pushed her away. And when she told me she was ending it, I just took out all of my anger on her. I've been such an asshole to her."
For the first time in his life, Aang saw Ling shedding tears.
"I loved her, Aang. I loved her. I loved her. I loved her." Ling kept slowly repeating the phrase. "And now I don't know how to make her forgive me. I don't even know how I can forgive myself."
"Ling, you are a good man," Aang said. "You always have been. Even now, there's a good man underneath this ragged exterior, trying to get out. You have to let him out, Ling. You have to let him out."
Ling stood up. "You're right. I do."
Everything faded and, yet again, Aang was taken to a different dream. He saw Lao Beifong and his wife, Poppy, eating dinner with Toph chained to one of the chairs. There were two guards, a man and a woman, trying to feed her dinner.
"We must have everything be done for you, Toph," said Lao. "You are too helpless to do anything on your own."
"Dad, mom, please stop!" Toph yelled.
"Silence, daughter," said Poppy.
Aang walked over to Toph and spoke. "Toph, wake up. You have nothing to fear."
"Aang?" asked Toph. "Get me out of here!"
"Only you can get yourself out of here," said Aang.
"What are you talking about, Twinkle Toes?" asked Toph.
"Toph, you have nothing to fear. You are your own person. Your parents don't dictate your life. You do. You are not helpless, fragile, dainty, or any of those things. You are Toph Beifong, the greatest earthbender in the world and no dunderhead should ever forget that. You are in control of your own life and you alone have the power to shape your destiny."
Suddenly, everything began to shake, then the metal, snake-like chains that held Toph prisoner were destroyed and Toph leaped out of her chair. Everyone else vanished except for her and Aang. "Thanks, Twinkle Toes," she said, slugging him in the arm. "I owe you one."
"Don't mention it, Toph," said Aang. "You're the one who found your confidence. Now wake up."
As Toph began to wake up, Aang moved to the next dream.
It was pretty clear what was happening here as he saw a disheveled Ai attempting to literally rip out Bo's heart. He knew he had to act quickly.
"Bo, I'm not sure what exactly your fear is, but whatever it is, remind yourself of this: Ai is a great person. She's kind, caring, and as nice as any person could be. You have no reason to be afraid of her."
"He's right," Bo said to himself. "I don't have any reason to fear her. Ai is an amazing person! She's kind, caring, as nice as any person could be, and I think I love her!"
And with that, the disheveled Ai reverted to her normal self. "So, where were we, Bo?" she asked.
Bo looked over and smiled. "Thanks, Aang."
"Don't mention it," Aang said, completely confused by Bo's dream.
He moved on to the next one and found himself in Omashu. It was pouring down rain and people were rushing for cover. He saw Ai walking along with the rain coming down on top of her. She stopped at a food cart, paid for an apple, and left. Aang ran to catch up with her. "Ai, what's going on?" asked Aang.
Before Ai could respond, a bolt of light came out of nowhere and singed one of the mail chutes.
Ai darted her head upwards, looking at the legions of lightbenders coming down from the sky. "No! Not again! I won't go through this again! I won't!" she screamed. "Not another invasion! Not another invasion!" She started to run in the opposite direction, but ran into Aang.
"Ai, what's wrong?" Aang asked.
"Another invasion!" said Ai. "All my life I've dealt with invasion after invasion. First Omashu was invaded by the Fire Nation, then Ba Sing Se was invaded by the Sons of Ozai, and now this! I can't take it anymore! Anyway, what do you care? None of you even give a damn about me!"
"What are you talking about?" asked Aang.
"Why do you think I'm in Omashu right now? Because there's no reason for me to be in Republic City. Most of you just act like I don't even exist. I'm completely expendable to you guys!"
"Ai, that's not true at all," said Aang. "We all care for you just as much as we care for every other person in our group."
"Stop lying to me, Aang! You guys hardly ever even let me get a word in! Sometimes I think you forget that I was a member of this team before Bo or Ling or Rong or Yukio!"
"Ai, I'm sorry if you feel like we don't care about you, but please wake up so we can care about you even more."
Just then, a lightbender appeared overhead sent a light surge right in Ai's direction.
"Ai!" Aang pleaded. "Wake up!"
Ai leapt out of the way just in time. She took the rain and converted it into ice shards, firing them at the lightbender. She looked back at Aang and nodded. "Promise me you'll care more."
"I promise," said Aang. He then found himself moving to the final dream. "Alright, one more to go," he said.
Back in the real world, Yukio, Sokka, and Suki all stood over Aang, awaiting his return. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light and Aang was back at last.
"Did you get everyone?" asked Suki.
"Barely," Aang replied.
"And you are certain you got everyone?" asked Yukio.
"Yeah, I just got Ning out and I'm certain she was the last one," said Aang.
"Alright, then," Sokka yawned. "All of this has made me tired," said Sokka. "Goodnight, everyone."
"Sokka, how can you possibly sleep at a time like this?" asked Yukio.
"Like this," Sokka said, zipping under the bed sheets.
"I wouldn't sleep for too long, Sokka," said Aang. "The sun is rising. It's a brand new beautiful day."
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