Draining the grass
Picking Up the Pieces
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True Winds, Flowing Water



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A Harsh Reality

Chapter 13 – Picking Up the Pieces

Words of Avatar Kyoshi:

The dark, ominous, hateful clouds part above us and a rainbow paints the sky as the last remnants of the Storm pass, and a surreal calm settles on the devastated land.

We know that, at long last, we are safe.

But we know nothing of the fate of those who braved the Storm with us

Of those who fell at our side before the unrelenting assault.

Despair sets in as we search through the rubble and broken ground left in wake of the catastrophe, and we come upon our loved ones, battered and bruised, but alive.

We race to their side and draw them into our embrace, feeling the warmth of their body, the rhythm of their breath, and the steady beat of their heart.

Together, we have survived the Storm.

For Love is merciful, and eternal.

In the Storm's Wake.

Ba Sing Se, Royal Palace Infirmary...

Aang opened his eyes, surprised at how stiff his eyelids seemed to be. Disoriented, he stared at the ceiling and tried to focus. Groggily rolling his eyes around, he gathered in the strange room around him. Moonlight streamed in through an open window somewhere off to his right, reflecting on the bare white walls and tiles, and he suddenly realized that he was in an infirmary. Frowning, he attempted to lift his head and gasped, immediately dropping it when a stabbing pain pulsed through his temples.

He tried to move his arm, but realized that something warm was pinning it to his side. The warm something twitched slightly when he pulled, and he gently turned his head.


She was fast asleep, breathing heavily. Her body was curled up into a ball, and the curve of her back seemed to fit perfectly in Aang's side. She was snuggled up extremely close, her hair just brushing his jawbone. However, this didn't seem to keep her warm, and he realized that she was shaking feverishly.

Gritting his teeth, Aang gingerly sat up, groaning when a thousand other pains added to the one in his head. Trying to shake it off, he leaned forward and grabbed the blanket that was precariously bunched at the end of the mattress. He turned and winced when a terrible pang of agony punched right into his stomach. Holding in the moan, he softly draped the fuzzy material over Katara, and then lowered himself back down, this time lying on his side. He placed his arm around her waist, pulling her closer so that the curve of her back now rested comfortably against his chest and stomach. Propping his throbbing head up with his other arm, he laid there and watched her sleep, glad to see her chest rising and falling steadily. He couldn't see her face, though, and wondered if she looked peaceful or distressed.

Sadly recounting the events of their wedding evening, he remembered how he had fallen right in front of Katara.

"I'm so sorry..." he whispered, stroking her hair, "You deserve better. You shouldn't have to be put through so much pain...especially while we're so young." Sighing, he rested his arm on her waist again. He let his eyes drift shut, but he knew he couldn't sleep. There were too many points on his body where pain was prevalent. Azula crossed his mind, a thought he had come to associate with true hatred, and he scowled.

"I promise, Katara...I promise I'll stop Azula, even if it means killing her." A dark look clouded his face. "The monks taught me that all life is sacred, to be treasured...but she's gone too far."

Aang sat, trying to ponder on positive remedies. A strange thought abruptly paraded through his mind.

Katara is my WIFE...we're married...He smiled. She's not just my girlfriend anymore, she's my partner.

He jumped when Katara moaned in her sleep, twitching. Aang froze, holding his breath. She shifted again, more noticeable this time. She uttered another soft groan, but it formed into words.

"No..." she mumbled, "No...!" Her back suddenly arched, and she gave out a small cry. "Not him!" she sobbed, still asleep. "Not him...please..."

"Katara!" Aang murmured, rubbing her arm. "Wake up!"

She grunted, trying to shake his arm off. He sat up with less difficulty, clutching his stomach. "Katara" he repeated "wake up, love." He shook her harder this time.

Finally, she jumped and fell still. He hesitated, hand still on her shoulder.

"Katara...?" he murmured again, trying to get her attention. He leaned over and pulled the hair from the side of her face. As he did so, she seemed to come around. At the feeling of his touch, her head flipped over, and he found her big blue eyes staring at him in disbelief.

"Hey," he whispered, touching her forehead, "are you awake now?"

At that, she fumbled around a bit, but hastily sat up. A small cry escaped her lips when she threw her arms around his neck and began to sob. Her whole body shook with the force of her cries.

Aang wrapped an arm around her, slightly alarmed by her abrupt hysterics, but he let her sob her heart out on his shoulder.

When she calmed down a touch, he asked, "Nightmare?"

She hiccupped, grasping the fabric of his shirt in her fists. "You're awake!" she stammered, sniffing. "Finally awake..."

"Finally?" Aang asked, confused.

Katara nodded against his chest. "You've been out for a week."

Aang's eyes widened. "Seriously?"

She nodded.

"Oh..." He murmured, using a hand to pull her closer. "I'm so sorry, Katara." She stayed quiet, tears still escaping from her tired eyes. "What about you?" Aang asked. "Are you all right?"

Katara nodded once again. "I broke my arm in three places, my ankle in one...but I'm okay now." She dropped her arm, showing him the splint that encased it up to her shoulder. "I'm not worried about myself, though." She added, pulling back to look at him. Lightly, she placed her fingertips over his stomach. Though her touch was soft, he winced.

"Sorry." She said, jerking her hand back.

Aang shook his head. "Don't be." Touching her face, he wiped away the stray tear tracks gleaming on her cheeks. "I need to see it, anyways." He dropped his hands to his shirt and pulled it over his head, careful to avoid the lump that was perched right on his crown. Dropping the shirt on the bed, he saw that his entire torso was wrapped in clean white cloth.

"This will be the second time I've woken up like this..." He mumbled as he began unwinding the strips. One after another he removed, and the pile of cloths grew in his lap. Finally, he reached the last one. Holding his breath, he removed it.

Katara looked away, shuddering.

Right above his belly button, there was a long, thin line that showed where the knife had struck. It was red and swollen, looking inflamed. All around it, a deep purple bruise spread its fingers like a dark ink splotch. The edges were fading out to yellow, but it was far from healed.

Aang stared at it, making a disgusted face. "Well, that's gross," he said, about to poke it with a finger. Katara reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling it away.

"They just finished repairing your stomach." She explained. "The dagger went right through it. They just sealed this up yesterday." She gestured to the wound. "Plus, you had a huge fracture in your skull." Her bottom lip quivered and she took a shuddering breath. " almost died. More than once."

Aang pulled her to him, kissing the top of her head. "You saved me, didn't you?" he squeezed her. "I love you...more than you know."

Katara inhaled, absorbing the wonderful feeling at hearing those words again. "I love you, too" she murmured.

Aang gave her another squeeze. "Now," he said drawing away slightly to face her, "what was your nightmare about?"

Katara shuddered. "I don't want to talk about it. I've been having it every night." Aang felt her body tremble.

"It'll make you feel better if you tell me," he said, rubbing her back soothingly, "it'll get it off of your mind."

Katara hesitated, chewing her bottom lip. "It..." she started, taking a deep breath. "Every's the same. Azula is there, standing in the courtyard...and she is always laughing. B-blood is streaming from her mouth. That's bad enough...but then, you appear, and s-she..." Katara shook her head, and she let out a low moan.

Aang continued to rub her back and pressed his lips to her hair, sighing. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to wake you up..." He said. "I should have been there for you."

Katara pulled back, scowling. "Don't be sorry for something Azula caused." Taking a deep breath, she placed a hand over the stab wound extremely carefully. "Especially something like this."

Aang didn't reply. Gently, he took her hand from his stomach, interlacing their fingers. Staring at some unseen object across the room, he lifted her hand and pressed his lips to the back of it. He held it there, still gazing into the darkness. "I'm sorry, Katara." He murmured. "Sorry that I have to be such a danger to you."


"No," he sighed, closing his eyes. "It's true...don't deny it. Maybe if I wasn't the Avatar, we could live a happy life together...with no danger involved."

"Aang," Katara interrupted softly, "if you weren't the Avatar, we wouldn't even know each other, much less be married. You would probably be dead. In fact, you WOULD be dead. I wouldn't even know that you had ever existed." She touched his face with her wrapped hand. "We wouldn't be sitting here right now."

Pulling their hands away from his lips, she leaned forward and kissed him. "Sometimes, it's a curse..." she murmured, her lips still brushing his, "but most of the time, it's a blessing. If you look at it that way, can you still look me in the eye and tell me sorry for being the Avatar?"

Aang's lips slowly twitched up into a smile. He shook his head, laughing softly. "You always bring out the best of everything," he mumbled, sweeping her hair out of her face. "I love you for that."

Katara grinned, yawning.

"What time is it, anyways?" He asked.

Katara rubbed her eyes. "Sometime in the middle of the night."

Aang nodded. "You need to get back to sleep. You look exhausted."

She shook her head. "I want to stay up with you," she mumbled. But, she yawned again when Aang pulled her forward and kissed her forehead.

"I'm here now," he said, "and I'll be here when you wake up." Gently, he turned her around, and then pulled her down with him as he lay on his side. Pulling her closer, he situated himself so that the curve of her back was placed evenly with his chest and stomach, just as it was before she had woken up.

"I don't want to have the nightmare again..." she whispered.

"You won't," Aang assured her. He pulled her hair back from her face again, stroking her cheek with loving fingertips. Katara caught the hand that was draped over her waist. Grasping it, she said, "I know I won't have it now." Sighing, she added, "I love you."

"I love you, too." He replied softly as Katara's grasp on consciousness slipped away.

Eventually, Aang slipped into rest as well.


A shaft of brilliant morning light flowed through the open window, warming the infirmary like a sunroom before falling on the form of Katara as she slowly opened her eyes.

"Good morning, sunshine," came a familiar voice.

Grinning, she rolled over and sat up, a warm feeling flowing through her chest as her eyes found Aang, sitting at the end of the bed, meditating.

"Did you sleep well?" He asked, his eyes still closed. Katara noticed that his head was clean-shaven.

"I slept VERY well," she said, grabbing a crutch from the wall. Standing, she leaned on it heavily. She stood and hobbled over the Aang. He had a fresh bandage around his stomach, but she wanted to check on it.

"I can probably heal the stab wound," she said, placing a hand on the side of his face. His eyes slowly opened.

"Do you think you could look at the back of my head first?" He asked. "It's killing me. It's throbbing so badly that my head feels like a balloon that wants to pop."

Katara nodded.

He shifted and turned. There was a goose egg, roughly the size of a small teacup. Like the knife wound, it was purple. There was a thin line where the skin had split.

"Ouch..." she said, sucking in a surprised breath.

"Yeah, no kidding." Aang muttered.

Katara set to work. Limping to the sink, she filled a small ceramic bowl with icy water before limping back to situate herself behind him. She bent the water to encase the back of his head, rotating her hands rhythmically and closing her eyes. The water glowed blue and the skin shifted under her touch.

Aang clenched his hands, furrowing his eyebrows. The pain lasted only an instant, and the throbbing in his head vanished. His body visually relaxed in relief. A small groan of relief emanated from his chest. "Thank you," he said, "that feels a million times better."

"You're welcome," she replied, drawing her hands away. "Now, unwrap your stomach so I can heal it."

Aang nodded, and began to unravel the fresh cloths. As he did this, Katara hobbled over to get some fresh water.

"How is your ankle feeling?" He asked from across the room.

"It's all right," she said, "It's just a pain not being able to walk or use my arm." The bowl filled, she hopped back to Aang. He had finished undoing the straps, which sat in a heap at his side. The stab wound looked the same as it had the night before. Katara shook her head.

"What am I going to do with you?" she muttered. Lightly pushing his shoulder, she said, "Lie back."

He obediently did so, wincing when his stomach flexed.

"Relax." She said. He closed his eyes, trying his best.

"It'll hurt for a second," Katara warned as she used her left hand to summon water from the bowl. Inhaling deeply, she placed her palm over the wound. The water swirled around the inflamed skin, glowing a piercing blue as it drained out the infection. "The rest has to heal naturally," Katara informed him, "but that shouldn't be a problem. It looks so much better now." She traced a finger over the thin white line. She shook her head again.

"What?" Aang asked, curious.

Katara frowned. "You have so many scars..." she muttered. "I hate being reminded of how much you have suffered. I wish they would just...disappear."

The pain in her voice could not have been clearer, and he tried to think of something to say that would comfort her. A sudden idea struck him and he eased off the bed. "Let's go do something!" he exclaimed enthusiastically.

"Like what?"

Aang shrugged. "I don't know...but you and I need to spend some time together. I mean, we're married and we haven't even been on a date yet." He bent over and plucked his shirt up off the ground. "What would you like to do? Lunch, walk, go flying...anything."

"Well," Katara said, "nobody knows you're awake, Aang. I have a feeling we are going to face a bunch of people before we go anywhere."

"Good point..." He agreed, his voice muffled by the shirt he was pulling over his head. "Plus, we need to stop by the house so we can look presentable." He motioned to his plain white infirmary robes. "I feel like Mai."

"Well, you don't look like her." She teased.

Aang's expression suddenly darkened. "Is she all right?"

Katara nodded. "Zuko was really mad that you trapped him in that earth tent. He said that he wanted to fight. Apparently, when we fell unconscious, some Earthbenders let him and Mai out."

Aang nodded. "Anyone else hurt?"

"No," she answered, "they found Toph and Sokka though, unconscious. Azula and her thugs knocked them out so that they couldn't help us."

"Thank goodness she didn't..." Aang trailed off, not voicing the painful thought of what could have been.

An awkward silenced fell between the two, in which Aang scratched his head and Katara fiddled with her splint. After a moment of this, Aang abruptly stepped forward, pulling Katara to him and resting his cheek against the top of her head. She hooked her uninjured arm under his shoulder, grasping the fabric of his plain infirmary shirt.

Aang sighed and smiled as he relished the feeling of her body pressed against his; warm and soft. Katara.

"It feels so good to hold you again." He said. "We need to get away for a while, don't we?"

Katara nodded slightly. "Yeah...we really do."

They fell silent again, absorbing each other's company for several minutes. Katara sighed as they pulled apart. "Thanks, Aang. I needed that."

He flashed another smile. "Take my hand" he said.

Katara took it, beaming. "Okay." Standing close, they strode to the infirmary door and slid it open.

Instantly, there were cries of "HE'S AWAKE!" and they were engulfed in the crowd.

As always, be sure to check out the rest of the series, more chapters coming soon!

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For the collective works of the author, go [[:Category:{{subst:Lovebender110}} (fanon)|here]].

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