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Chapter 6 - Forever
Words of Avatar Kuruk:
In this moment, I feel nothing. And at the same time, I feel too much turmoil to even think.
Water is the element of comfort . . . love . . . passion . . . and pleasure. MY element.
But no element could dull the reality of this moment.
She was gone.
I tried to deny it.
I tried to close my mind to the horrible reality.
I begged the spirits to show me what I did to deserve this. What SHE did to deserve this.
And all I could see was a twisting darkness and an image that filled my mind with dread.
A world engulfed in tyranny and fear.
And him. I saw HIM. His current face wore a mocking grin.
"It was your own fault." he drawled.
His face shifted, and I saw her.
Hope fading, I turned to rage and lashed out, swearing I would hunt down this monster until I was reunited with her, my love.
I swore this, aware that my hunt may never end.
My Greatest Regret.
Ba Sing Se, inside Team Avatar's home...
"Suki!" gasped Katara. Sitting up, she slapped Aang's arm. He flinched, opening his eyes.
"Whuzzit?" he sat up, startled.
Katara pulled him to his feet. "Watch out." Motioning to Sokka, she told him to put Suki on the couch. He obliged, setting her down with extreme gentleness. Kneeling at her side, Sokka placed his elbows on the couch and buried his face in his arms.
Aang, Katara, and Toph stood in complete silence.
"What happened?" asked Aang in a serious tone.
Sokka shuddered, shaking his head. He grasped his hair, pulling it out of his untidy ponytail. Swaying back and forth, he finally gasped, "It was . . . a perfect night. I d-didn't...it..." he halted, crying out. Katara rushed to his side, grasping his forearm.
"We were walking..." he sobbed, "and it was so beautiful. We stopped in a deserted, quiet spot to enjoy it. We were just talking...and laughing. Then, mist or fog...or something...started creeping in. We didn't really notice until Suki started coughing. I realized we were being assaulted with toxic gases. I jumped up to a nearby rooftop...I tried to pull Suki with me. She was having a hard time with the gas. I told her to cover her mouth and nose with her shirt...right as she was doing it, she got caught by a blast of the toxins...and she...fell. I turned...I tried to find her."
Sokka began to shake violently. "Katara...Suki was screaming...she was screaming MY NAME. Begging me to save her...and I couldn't. All at once, the gases disappeared, and she stopped screaming. When I ran to her...she wasn't moving, but when I picked her up, she talked to me. The first thing she said was...Sokka...I think that it's my time to go."
Sokka gasped, biting his fist.
"I tried to tell her no...but she said, It's too hard to stay awake... I could really tell at that moment. I could tell that she was going to d-die! When I started crying, she put a finger on my lips. Then, she kissed me, and I held her as...as she died." Suddenly, Sokka stood up and kicked the table. Crying hysterically, he screamed, "ITS YUE ALL OVER AGAIN! I couldn't protect her, either! Now, I've failed AGAIN!!"
The gang flinched as Sokka picked up a vase and threw it across the room, shattering it into a million shards of dangerous glass. They tinkled to the floor with melodic pings. Sokka stood still, breathing heavily.
Katara and the others stood by quietly, not daring to console or comfort Sokka when he was this angry.
This could be worse...thought Katara, glancing sideways to Aang. He was in serious Avatar business mode. His arms were folded, and a slight frown was on his face. Opening his mouth, he spoke to Sokka.
"Was there anything to give a clue as to who did it?"
Sokka ignored him. Without giving eye contact, he tossed something to Aang, who caught it gracefully.
It was an arrow, identical to the one that had almost stolen Aang's life, except that this one had a message engraved in it. As Aang read, Sokka went to the couch. Pulling Suki into his lap, he cradled her body, pressing his cheek into her auburn hair. His tears dripped off of his jaw and fell on her relaxed face.
"I'm sorry..."Toph heard him whisper. "I tried to protect you...I tried so hard. I tried...so...hard." Toph turned away as tears leapt to her sightless eyes.
Aang, frustrated, snapped the arrow in half as easily as he would a reed. Stepping carelessly over the splintered pieces, he approached the window. He leaned his body against the wall and gazed through the glass with a look of intense thought and extreme concentration.
Katara bent to pick up the shattered arrow. Twisting the halves over and over, she finally worked out how they fit together. Pressing, she got them to stick together. Rotating the shaft, she read the message on the front. Chills prickled the hairs on her arms.
Engraved on the side: Avatar, your girl will not survive. She brought my disgrace...now I will fulfill her death, just as your friend Suki perished. AZULA
Katara threw the foul message aside, watching it clatter and re-break. She was scared.
Edging around a chair, Katara faced Aang.
He slowly pulled his head up. His eyes were wet. Unfolding his arms, he pulled Katara into his chest, holding her tightly. Katara hooked her arms under his shoulders, pressing her face into his fresh shirt. She inhaled the clean scent.
"Is it an understatement to say that I'm frightened?" she whispered.
"I'll protect you," he murmured back fiercely, "no matter what."
Toph, stuck between two couples, sat in her chair in solitude and silence, feeling the emotions that roiling over in the room. Sokka was in devastation and anger. Aang was feeling extremely protective, but love was in there, too. Katara was scared, but hope, love, and confidence in Aang were quickly chasing out the terror she felt.
Toph didn't know what she herself was feeling. Sadness probably, and some pity, too. She stood, walked over to Sokka and knelt next to him, providing whatever comfort she could.
Suddenly, Aang had a brilliant idea. Pulling away from Katara, he turned toward Sokka.
"Sokka," he said, "I think I can talk to Suki." Reaching back to take Katara's hand in his, Aang walked to the couch where Sokka sat. "If she just barely left, I think I can talk to her in the Spirit World. Maybe...maybe I could convince the spirits to let her come back."
Sokka looked up hopefully. "Seriously?"
Aang nodded. "Don't get too excited...the Spirits are extremely strict and touchy on this kind of subject. If she does come back...it might not be for so long."
Sokka nodded. "I'll take any kind of time," he said, "do it."
Aang bowed his head. "All right." Glancing over to Katara he told her, "Don't let go of my hand...it relaxes me."
He gracefully sank to the floor, followed by Katara, who was still keeping hold of his hand. Pulling his legs in to a meditation position, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Katara jumped when his arrow seared brightly and began to glow. Nowadays, it was no problem for him to enter the Spirit World. Katara could remember the days when it was so hard for him to even consider the Spirit World.
Suddenly, she felt extremely curious. For some reason, she wanted to know if his arrow burned when it was glowing. It seemed reasonable, since it glowed so brightly. Slowly, she placed a finger right in the middle of his forehead. She smiled when she felt how surprisingly cold it was.
"Hurry back." She whispered.
Sprit World, realm of Koh...
Opening his eyes, Aang found himself in the strange, abstract world of Spirits. Though he was now familiar with all of these surroundings, they never failed to creep him out.
He stood and stared at his reflection in the placid water.
Concentrating, he called Avatar Roku.
A column of water rose, and Roku solidified out of the raw liquid. He bowed.
"Hello, Aang." He greeted. "I trust you have been doing well?"
Aang bowed his head. "I've had better days, Roku. That is for sure."
Roku nodded. "I have heard of your struggles with Fire Nation rebels. I am sorry."
Aang shook his head. "Don't be. Besides, I'm here on different matters. Roku, can people come back from the dead?"
Roku sighed. "Aang, that is beyond the capabilities of the Avatar. We do not control when people are called to die...we control the balance and well being of the world."
"I know, Roku," Aang interrupted, "but this is important. Sokka, my friend—"
Roku held up a calloused hand. Aang fell silent, respecting his older, wiser self. "Think, Aang." Roku demanded. "If you bring this person back, what will happen?"
Aang stared at Roku. "I would make Sokka very happy."
Roku shook his head strongly. "No. Imagine what kind of publicity that would achieve. Every day, the world would hear more and more about how you can bring people back. Chaos would fall in place of balance, monstrosity in the place of peace. People would lose themselves. Nobody would be patient, because they know that if they failed, you could just bring them back. Aang, death is a natural part of life. It surrounds everything. But it should not be sad. We should rejoice for the loved ones that have passed...they now watch and protect us with their love and guidance."
Extending his arm, Roku plucked a leaf from the strange tree over their head. Holding it in front of Aang's face, he set it on fire.
"Can you see the flame?" Roku rumbled.
Suddenly, the flame vanished, and the scent of burning vegetation clouded Aang's nose.
"Can you see it now?" Roku growled.
Aang shook his head.
"But the smell remains." They spoke in unison.
Roku smiled at this. "The smell is lingering, though we cannot see the flame. It is a remnant of what was there." He swept his arm back into the sleeve. "Do you see how it compares to life, Aang?"
"Then you know why we cannot."
Aang exhaled long and slow. "I understand, Roku. I knew this was the answer I was going to get."
Roku set a hand on Aang's shoulder. "Aang," he said, "you must get back."
Sighing, Aang nodded again. But, just before he turned around, he turned back to Roku with questions written all over his face.
"Roku, I have to ask you something."
Aang averted his eyes, twiddling his thumbs. "How...how old were you when you got married?"
Roku's expression cleared, and a small smile lit his face. "I was twenty-eight," he recalled, "and very handsome, if I might say." He looked at Aang. "Why?"
Aang would have blushed. "I'm almost sixteen," he explained, "I really, really AM seriously thinking of...well, proposing to Katara." He shuffled his feet in the muddy water. "I know we're young, but Water Tribe tradition is sixteen, and she is already seventeen. Plus, I don't' think there is anybody else for me in the world." He took a breath. "I could love her forever...I can tell right now that that would never die."
Roku smiled at Aang. "Aang, I offer you the deepest of encouragements. I think you are ready."
"Well..." Aang replied. "I hope Katara feels the same way.
Ba Sing Se, inside Team Avatar's home...
It was very late. Due to much tears, anger, and sadness, everyone was exhausted. Sokka was dozing, still holding Suki, and Toph was snoring in a distant corner. Katara, however, sat and stared into the black of the night.
She was thinking of where her and Aang's relationship was going. As far as she could tell, it was not going down. She honestly could not think of a single person on the planet who would be more perfect for her than Aang.
Every minute I spend with him, every time I look into his eyes...I just fall deeper in love. And I KNOW he feels the same. A smile slowly spread across her face at the thought. He's everything I could ever want. Support, love, companionship, fierce devotion...
She jumped when Aang suddenly sucked in a huge breath of air. His chest expanded. Looking at his face, she noticed that a slight smile was playing about his lips, and wondered what could be happening in the Spirit World that would make him grin.
Shifting so that her head as on his knee, she thought again of her future. She could actually picture it very well...where she would go, what she would do. But, a nagging thought was pressing at the back of her mind.
It was a familiar feeling. She had brushed it off many times, so many times she had forgotten. It was a similar thought to the one that had bugged her while she and Sokka were traveling with Aang. It was always with her, and had now resurfaced.
This thought had evolved, and was now the question, do I want to spend the rest of my life with him?
Katara decided to confront that question now, with Aang so close. Of course, it was no surprise when her entire heart and mind screamed YES! and a warm feeling flooded her chest.
Raising Aang's glowing hand, she pressed the back of it to her lips and whispered, "Forever."
It was an hour later when Aang finally returned. Katara was still awake, but Sokka and Toph were still out, drooling and snoring.
When the hand that Katara was holding stopped glowing, she was engulfed in complete blackness.
"Aang? You back?"
Katara felt Aang stretch, and sat up so that he could stretch his legs out as well. "Yeah." He murmured. "Is it really this late?"
Everything suddenly flared to life as he conjured a flame in his free hand. His face flickered creepily in the orange glow. Katara frowned when she saw how drawn and pale he looked.
Aang stood up, releasing Katara's hand, and lit a lantern. Pacing around the house, he lit all of them. Then, he returned to Katara.
"I tried..." He whispered. "I spoke to Roku. He said no...so I left him and went to the previous Avatar's that lived before him. They all said the same thing, and gave me the same answer. No. I understand why I couldn't bring her back...it's just hard to get it to sink in..."
Sitting across from Katara, he lifted her hands up to his lips, letting his eyelids flutter closed.
"Then, when I was coming back to my body, I noticed...Suki was there. In spirit. She was standing over Sokka...and crying. I stopped right as I was about to enter my body, and spoke to her. She told me how she knew that she couldn't come back...and that if she did, she would be miserable. I asked her why. She told me that her family was waiting for her, in a place more beautiful than I could ever imagine. She said that she had left to say goodbye to Sokka."
Katara turned to look at Sokka and Suki's still forms.
"She's not there anymore..." Aang muttered. "But before she left, I granted her one thing. I let her enter Sokka's dreams, so that she could give him a proper goodbye. She's in his mind right now."
Katara's eyes started stinging. "So...she's gone?"
Aang nodded, furrowing his eyebrows in silent grief.
Katara bowed her head respectfully as her sorrow spilled over in the form of crystal drops.
A thought came to her slowly. It filled her with painful grief. He won't want to hear a word of it, but it's the truth...
"So...if I do happen to...you know, get 'caught'—"
Aang's head jerked up, and his eyes blazed. "Don't talk like that." He demanded. "You won't get hurt...I promised."
Katara placed a finger over his mouth. "I know, love. Just listen. If I do—" she shushed him when he was about to protest, "Then at least we know that you can come see me before I go to join my mom."
Aang pulled her hand away, placing his own on the side of her face and wiping away the wet streaks. "No," he whispered, "Please don't talk like that. It scares me more than you know."
Leaning forward, he kissed her. "Nothing can separate us." Reaching out, he pulled her into his embrace, and held her tightly.
Katara smiled gently. Repeating her gesture from earlier, she pulled up his hand that was interlaced with hers and kissed it.
"Forever." She whispered.
Ba Sing Se, Royal Memorial Graveyard...
Funeral services were held. As person after person stood to speak of Suki, nothing negative turned to defile her perfect memory. Everybody spoke of her kindness and willingness to lead. As each of the Kyoshi Warriors stood to speak, they all noted on Suki's affectionate position of "Mother" in their band of female fighters.
But, everybody mostly commented on her love for Sokka. Nobody left out how special he always was to her.
As they approached the graveside, almost all were in tears. Aang held Katara around the waist, pulling her into his chest as she began to sob. Toph stood in the front, crying as well. The Kyoshi Warriors performed a beautiful act of grace for their fallen leader. Each of them frequently wiped their eyes as tears muddled the makeup that adorned their mysterious faces.
Flowers and gorgeous vines decorated the site of Suki's burial.
Finally, Sokka approached the casket that contained the body of the beloved woman everyone had grown to love. He placed a hand on her cheek, an ageless act that would never rapture the moment of full love and admiration as he gazed at her timeless face. Slowly, gently, and with all of the love the world could contain, he kissed her for the last time. Pressing his forehead against hers, he whispered, "I never could have lived without you."
He stepped back as the lid was closed, and Suki was lowered into the gaping hole that would contain her for the rest of eternity.
Aang held Katara tighter, tears falling in cascades down his face and into her wavy hair.
"Forever." Sokka whispered, and began to sob.
As always, be sure to check out the rest of the series, more chapters coming soon!
For the collective works of the author, go here.