Avatar: The Cycle's End...

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:38 pm

Katara could see it there, in his eyes. That vulnerability was so obvious to her though she wasn’t sure an onlooker would really be able to detect it. Yet, she had to speak the truth, let him down as easily as possible though the truth was that rejection was just as difficult to receive as it was to deliver. The waterbender was afraid to look at him as she spoke, worried that when their eyes met, he would have slid a mask over him emotions to hide them from her. The more words came from her throat, an invitation, and when she peered into his gaze, there wasn’t a mask there at all, but his expression was difficult for her to read. Though she was often fairly astute when it came to people and how they were feeling, her gift often failed her when it came to situations like this. It was probably because she was so rarely involved in these kinds of predicaments, because she didn’t allow herself the chance for them.

Was Yaomo surprised she’d asked? Was he glad, or was he unhappy with her for asking? It was a double standard, after all, to tell him she wasn’t going to change her course in life only to invite him to change his. Katara wasn’t even sure she would ever willingly trade the path she was on for a different one; Sokka would say she was too stubborn and headstrong to change, but doing anything differently than what she was already doing felt… wrong. Honestly, the year she’d spent in the North Pole after the short time she’d spent in the Earth Kingdom had changed her. If she’d thought she’d felt restless before trying to appeal to the Earth Kingdom, that was nothing compared to what she felt after.

After the destruction of her home, she’d thrown herself into training, fighting for the right to fight. However, it just hadn’t been enough, so when she’d been able to go to the Earth Kingdom, it had been both a blessing and a curse. She’d felt like she was actually going to accomplish something instead of sitting around like a snail sloth, but it hadn’t really worked out that way. Her mission had been a failure, and though the North had won a year of temporary freedom from the Fire Nation, the cost had been enormous.

But this was war, and that was always the price, and it always felt too great. Maybe the way she’d thrown herself into teaching, training other women once they’d finally started to see that they could help their nation, too, had been in an effort to try to forget that she had once again become somewhat stagnant. Perhaps it was also to escape from that undeserved title of “hero” they’d bestowed upon her. If they’d been there, would they still feel the same way? If Gui and Shen hadn’t been holding her down, would the Northern Water Tribe still exist as a thriving culture, or would it be a desolate shell of itself if not a wasteland like the Southern Water Tribe had become? Would Zuko still be alive? Would her brother or Lu Ten have been destroyed instead? No, she couldn’t’ think like that. She just had to… accept what currently was. Things were going to change. After they destroyed the harbor, there would be another mission. Maybe she just wouldn’t go back to the Northern Water Tribe to live and instead join the rebels the way she hadn’t been able to bring herself to do after knowing how clearly Zuko’s absence would be felt by her.

Katara’s thoughts seemed to all occur in only an instant. She was surprised when Yaomo spoke, bringing her back to herself, to her situation. For a moment, she forgot those feelings that were coming back to her from thoughts she didn’t want to think. Was that a small shard of happiness working its way through her at his words? He was staying with them, if only for a little while longer. His hand brushed over her cheek as lightly as a feather, sending fritillaries through her, and she didn’t know what to say. Her fingertips gently touched that hand, and she pulled gently away. “I should… go check on the others to make sure they’re ready.” She turned her back to him, a surge of guilt swarming through her, replacing that strangely pleasant feeling he’d granted her before.

What he became the victim of getting caught up in her destiny? What if he died, too, all because she hadn’t had the wisdom to refrain from informing him that he could accompany them? What if this was a betrayal to Zuko somehow? He was dead, and she knew that, but she couldn’t stop this strange feeling from encompassing her. Even though she understood that what the Spirits in the Swamp had shown her hadn’t truly been Zuko, that figure of him swam behind her eyes, that look of malice glaring accusingly at her.

Katara shut those thoughts from her mind, burying them deeply within herself as she approached her brother.

“You know, when I said you should get a life, I lied.” He said, and she looked at him, confusion filling her.

“Um… So I should just shut myself away in some healing hut instead?” Katara asked sarcastically.

“No. There are dudes who go there. I think it would be better if you maybe shut yourself up in some cave where no guys ever go and will never go.” Sokka spoke bluntly.

“Riiight.” Katara responded, rolling her eyes. “And what made you suddenly decide this?”

“Oh, nothing in particular. I’m just not a fan of how every guy you seem to encounter looks at you.”

“What planet have you been living on? Guys don’t look at me in any particular way.”

“So Jet doesn’t act like he wants to conquer you, I didn’t just see our Swamp guide touch your face the way he did, and you didn’t wake up in Lu Ten’s tent yesterday?” Sokka asked. “For someone who guys don’t look at in a particular way, there seems to be an awful lot of weirdness going on around you.”

Katara’s face flushed. “Nothing happened in his tent! What’s wrong with you? Lu Ten is as much my brother as you are, just not by blood, and I’m sure he feels exactly the same way about me.” Sokka seemed to eye Lu Ten suspiciously as the firebender seemed to be having a very awkward conversation with Due. It was almost comical, especially knowing that where Lu Ten had been raised into royalty, these people were about as low class as it got. Still, classes really didn’t matter, especially now. Zuko had taught her that much. Just one look at the state of the world was enough to show that royal blood didn’t make a person better. The leaders of the Fire Nation, royal through and through, had committed genocide and continued to try to wipe out everyone else unlike them while the Nomads seemed to live in balance with the world, with nature. The Swamp was actually really beautiful once she had begun to look at it without that suspicious, fearful eye she’d used when she’d first entered. Still, beauty could still be extremely dangerous.

“Besides, Jet can continue to look at me like that all he wants. I’ve already made it clear that I’m not interested, and nothing is ever going to happen.” Katara continued. Sokka nodded approvingly though he glared at Jet before eyeing Yaomo.

“And what about your new boyfriend?” He asked.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” She hissed, shoving her brother’s arm. “He’s just a good friend, and I think he’ll make a good ally.”

“Uh huh…” Sokka said, clearly unconvinced. Katara crossed her arms over her chest and looked away from him.

“We’re in the middle of a war. I don’t know that I have anything to offer anyone anyway, especially not right now, so you don’t have to play the protective big-brother role for now.” But she had thought she’d had something to offer Zuko a year ago. How could a year have passed and she still didn’t fully feel like it was over? He was dead… It wasn’t something that someone just recovered from.

Sokka sighed with annoyance. “I was just giving you a hard time. You don’t need to get all over emotional about it.” He hugged her quickly. “But seriously… If I catch you in Jet’s or Yaomo’s tent, I’m going to kill them.”

Reaching the edge of the Foggy Swamp seemed like a momentous occasion. Her main party left it gladly, seeming to breathe sighs of relief that it was all over. Even Yaomo seemed relieved which was understandable considering the fact that he seemed distinctly uneasy in the Swamp despite the fact that he willingly offered to be a guide for those wishing to traverse it. The original Nomads seemed perfectly at ease leaving, too. However, Katara noticed a distinct hesitation of the former-Ondin.
After the space of a few heartbeats, Ajani took the first step forward, crossing the threshold. Steadily, the others moved forward, one after the other, until all eighteen had passed. There was no going back for them now, not ever. That step had erased any chance of their ever being accepted as a genuine member of the Ondin ever again.

Katara moved back, walking next to Ajani. “I’m here, if you need to talk about it. I know I can never fully understand what it’s like for you to leave your Tribe, but I do know – in my own way – what it’s like to leave home for good. I grew up in the South Pole, and I never left it for almost fifteen years until there was no other choice. I know you’ve been in the Swamp longer, and going from a snow-and-ice covered place to somewhere with earth and rock is stranger than going from swamplands to just… regular lands, but it’s kind of similar in some respects. How are you feeling?”

It was hard for Ajani to explain to Katara what stepping beyond the swamp felt like. It wasn’t the feelings of leaving home; no, those had already been dealt with. It wasn’t the change in scenery; in fact, the new view was rather breathtaking, even in its simplicity. She’d never seen anything other than swamp, so viewing a sedentary village built on a flat plain, with mountains just beyond…it was beautiful.

It was as if she were walking into a darkness. She had begun to rely on the swamp to show her things that her own eyes could not see. She could move through the swamp by vine knowing exactly what was up ahead, by looking through the vines. It was something that she, being of highest rank of the people who left, had the most trouble walking away from. It felt as though a part of her were going blind. There were hardly any plants nearby to use for bending, let alone channeling information.

“De swamp was one big o’ganeesm,” She tried to explain to Katara while still forcing her feet to move forward. “I lea’ned to see tings trough de vines. It was an advantage I had ovah my enemies. I see not’ing out here. Not’ing is connected. De spi’it is…it like is gone.”

Ajani shook her head. "I walking away from truly eve'yting. I feel empty."

“I can understand that to some extent. In the Poles, there’s water everywhere because the entirety of the place is covered in never-ending snow. We can manipulate it to become whatever type of substance we want, and it’s a comfort to know it’s all around us, but it’s not like that anywhere else. Even though I was too severely wounded when I had to leave the South, when I started to get stronger, I felt like there was very little I could do because there aren’t oceans and snow-covered places in the Earth Kingdom.

“I studied under a master who taught me differently. There is water in everything. You just have to know where to look or where to feel for it.” Katara thrust her arm straight in front of her, concentrating. She could feel the moisture all around her. Thankfully, this wasn’t a desert, for she’d heard that the air itself was as dry as in the poles, but there wasn’t even water on the ground in such a place. The waterbender brought her arm up, swirling it over her head, and when she was done, water clung to her fingers. Hama had only been able to show her the movements and the idea behind it, but she’d been able to use this in practice in the Earth Kingdom. “I know it’s not the same.” Katara said as she deposited the water into one of her water skins. “But it’s better than having nothing, and it doesn’t hurt anything to pull it from the air like this.”

“Everything is connected.” The voice of the oldest Nomad said behind the two women. “The whole world is one big organism. We’re all connected even if most folk don’t act like it. You just have to dig deeper out here to feel it is all.” He walked off after that, not waiting for a response from either of the two females.

“Maybe he’s right. Maybe the spirit isn’t gone. It’s just… not quite as obvious on the surface. There are spiritual hot spots all over the world if you know where to look. In the North Pole, there’s this oasis where grass grows and the air is warm. There’s also a pond where two koi fish swim together. It’s really beautiful, and even though it’s small compared to the Foggy Swamp, it’s still a powerful and beautiful place. If you’d ever been to the North Pole, you’d know that warm air isn’t something that can be achieved except with fire, but fires aren’t permitted to be burned in the Spirit Oasis, and the water there is said to have special properties that can heal even the most life threatening wounds. If there’s a place like that in the North Pole, and the Swamp is like that in a way, I bet there are other places in the Earth Kingdom that are really spiritual. I bet even the Fire Nation has them if the Fire Lord hasn’t destroyed them all.” Katara paused and placed a hand on Ajani’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but it will get easier. I promise. Humans are adaptable. We can weather any storm that comes our way. It’s in our natures. You may feel empty now, but I’m sure that the things you experience will help to fill you again.”

Katara’s eyes moved to the rest of the group, and twinges of guilt nagged at her. This wasn’t like some random adventure. They were all going off to fight a war. How could experiences like that replace the emptiness inside a person? Who was to say that it wouldn’t just increase that lacking feeling until one was so empty they’d become an abyss that could never be filled? Would that happen to her? Her homeland was gone, taking a piece of her with it. The North hadn’t accepted the Southerners as Katara would have liked though things were improving. Still, that place could hardly be called home, not by her. Was her drive to keep fighting just a façade to make her forget about that void encompassing her? There had been a brief time when she’d felt a little better about life because the promise for a future, for happiness was there. There had been potential, but that had been torn from her, too. Maybe the only thing that could ever truly fill her would be the end of the war, stopping the destruction of the world by the Fire Nation. They could complete all of these tiny missions, but for her, the big one would be the end of the Fire Lord and his tyranny.

Katara’s gaze moved toward Yaomo who walked a ways ahead of the two women. Would she ever be able to offer him what he seemed to want from her? If the war ended, provided she survived it, would she be able to simply settle down and be with anyone happily? If the war continued through her lifetime, would she ever be able to love anyone beyond a familial feeling? Did she owe it to herself to try, or was that just foolish thinking? Maybe Sokka was right, and she really just was afraid. She’d tried to let herself be open to the idea of being with someone in the past, but the first time she’d been met with clear rejection, and the second time, she’d mourned the man’s death. Yaomo wasn’t rejecting her, but if he continued to travel with them to be near her, would he be killed, too?

There were too many thoughts rolling through her head, and she didn’t know how to sort through them all sanely because they conflicted so heavily. What was she going to do?

Ajani marveled at how Katara effortlessly pulled water from the air. It was not two days ago when she had been schooling Katara in almost the same way. It was almost the same concept as plantbending. Ajani had just never had a need for it, always being surrounded by water and plants with water within. She knew the movements, comprehended the idea…she just had to apply it.

Ajani listened to Huu, and then Katara, as they talked about the spirits of the rest of the world. Ajani listened with determination; she was bottom rank in this strange world, and needed to be taught many things. The idea of spirits being scarce and secretive was strange to her. The idea of spiritual locations being destroyed was even stranger. But she was determined to understand it. There was no going back.

You may feel empty now, but I’m sure that the things you experience will help to fill you again.

Katara’s words rang through Ajani’s heart. She was right. How does one fill a cup that is already full? Suddenly everything began to fall into place. When she first stepped over the threshold between the swamp and earth kingdom, she had felt confused. Why did she have to renounce her people and her home? Why could she never be Ondin again? How could she survive, walking away from everything she knew, walking away from how she knew how to survive?

…why did he reject her?

I mus’ be empty, to see dis mission trough, she told herself. To be Ondin was to be a completely separate entity. For her to survive in this harsh, war-torn kingdom, she had to let go of what she knew. She had to learn how to survive here. She had to adapt her knowledge and skill to a completely foreign world, with completely foreign styles of warfare. She had to leave it all behind.

Just as he had to do. He thought she didn’t love him…but it wasn’t true. She loved him with her everything. But she wasn’t what he needed to survive…and she couldn’t pretend to be anything but what she was. Perhaps, with time, she’d grow into a new person. Maybe even find new love…maybe. She thought of that vision in the swamp, the blindness and the love. She was certainly blind now.

“Ajani… Are you alright?” She heard Katara ask softly.

Ajani wiped a final tear and gave a firm nod. “I am ready. I am fine. Tank you, Kata’a. You’ wo’ds mean mo’e dan you know.”

Katara nodded back with a smile. They walked on in silence for a moment longer. Ajani stood more proudly, stepped more firmly, and let her senses take in everything. She tried to feel the water in the air, as Katara had, but without being able to stand and concentrate, she couldn’t produce the same effect. She marveled at the strange, brittle trees, and wondered if their water moved within. The sun was bright, but her dark eyes weren’t as sensitive as others. Every step away from the swamp was a new lesson, and she soaked it all in.

Ajani suddenly got the feeling she was being watched, and she turned to look at the source. Yaomo was gazing in her direction, but it wasn’t at her. Ajani looked to Katara, who flushed and looked away.

Inte’esting…Ajani thought.

“Wat ‘appened?” Ajani asked Katara.

“What do you mean?” Katara asked, her voice a bit higher in tone than usual.

“You was dancing wit Yaomo. Wat ‘appened of it?” Ajani asked. Perhaps Yaomo had an even better reason than Ajani realized. Perhaps he found…a more fitting love. Ajani waited for Katara to respond, half her heart excited, half somewhat dreading what she might say. Even if they were going to be together, Ajani could learn to be happy with it. Now was the time for change, and she was not going to let anything or anyone hold her back from it.

Katara felt a little sad for this predicament. She’d torn people away from their homes, but she felt pride that the cause was a good one. These people had chosen to come with her, and the world had so much to offer. While the way she’d been forced to leave her own home had been terrible, it had opened the door for new experiences that she never would have known had she not lost everything. Perhaps these people could also see the good in it, and Ajani thanked her, telling her that her words of encouragement were meaningful. The waterbender loved to help people, to make them feel good about things, so it warmed her to hear Ajani’s gratitude.

Then her thoughts seemed to get away from her again, and before she knew it, she was thinking about Yaomo, wondering if she’d even been right to ask him to come with her. As if he could hear her inner turmoil, his head turned, and his strange eyes tossed his gaze toward her, over his broad shoulder. Her cheeks reddened, and she looked away. There was so much mystery about the man. If he could communicate with the Spirits, could he also read minds? The Spirits could read a person’s very heart and reflect it back toward them. That was what had happened to her when she’d first entered the Swamp. She’d seen Zuko, and while the Spirit in question had only been seeking her demise, it had chosen the best form for doing so. If Yaomo hadn’t been there…

“Wat ‘appened?” Ajani’s voice broke the Polar waterbender from her thoughts.

“What do you mean?” She squeaked. Could all of the Ondin read thoughts? Was she asking what had happened in the Swamp?

“You was dancing wit Yaomo. Wat ‘appened of it?” The former Ondin Tribeswoman’s words would have been a relief if she’d been asking about any other subject matter. At this moment, she didn’t want to talk about her potential or her past relationship problems, but that seemed to be the way it would be going.

Katara’s face flushed hotter. “Nothing really… At least, not that I can remember. We were dancing, and I think we kissed, and the next morning, I woke up half naked in Lu Ten’s tent.” She laughed, remembering that awkwardness. As Ajani’s eyes widened in surprise, Katara lifted her hands defensively. “No. Nothing happened with Lu Ten, either! I swear it! He’s like a brother to me, like Sokka. Yaomo said he escorted me to the campgrounds, and I told him Lu Ten’s tent was mine, but then he heard us both snoring. I think he embellished the story a little. I don’t snore. Anyway, apparently, he couldn’t wake me up, so he waited outside all night to make sure everything would be okay. Honestly, I’m glad he did because Lu Ten couldn’t remember if we’d accidentally done something, either. I could tell he was just as horrified by the idea as I was.” The Swamp woman’s laughter rang clearly at the story, and she couldn’t help joining her new friend. It hadn’t been funny at the time, but now that it had all passed and everything was fine, it was actually a very funny story.

“Why we’e you almos’ naked?” Ajani asked her, and Katara’s eyes widened. She hadn’t actually thought about that part much.

“Um… I’m not really sure… I guess I probably just got overheated. That Swamp gets really hot, and Lu Ten’s body temperature is hotter like his cousin’s was, so…” She suddenly trailed off, realizing she was beginning to touch on topics that weren’t really… comfortable. For one, she had no idea if Lu Ten had told Ajani he was a firebender, so even hinting at it was a bad idea, even if she had probably already experienced that. After all, Katara did remember that they’d seemed pretty smitten the night of the party, and they had suddenly disappeared from the clearing while Yaomo and Katara had been dancing. It wasn’t that difficult to put together what must have happened. Secondly, from the look on Ajani’s face, the words had made it sound like she was involved with said cousin.

“Was?” Ajani asked more astutely than the other waterbender would have liked.

Katara’s mirth had completely dissipated, and her gaze focused on the ground just ahead of each step of her feet. “Um… Yeah… We lost him… a year ago when we were trying to stop the Fire Nation from being able to invade the Northern Water Tribe.”

“Was he you’ husband?”

“What? I… we never did… I mean… we could have… We almost did, but I… I hadn’t known him long enough, and I was… I mean… There was… We had a mission, and…” Katara took a deep breath, trying to calm her frazzled nerves. “No. We weren’t married.” Would Zuko have still sacrificed himself if she had slept with him that night in his tent? Would he have stayed alive if they’d taken that extra step together?

“Sokka thinks I need to move on. It’s been a year after all. I guess I’m sort of trying, but… it’s just hard, you know?” Katara looked at Ajani. “Oh… I guess you wouldn’t know. Things are done differently among the Ondin. I remember you told me that you guys don’t get married, and you don’t limit yourself to one person like they do in my Tribe. But I’m confused. Wasn’t Yaomo raised in the Ondin Tribe? I mean, at first, I pegged him as the sort who didn’t want to be tied down to anyone, but before we left the Nomad campgrounds, he asked me to stay here, with him.”

Katara’s face flushed at the admission, but she wanted to let it out to someone. She didn’t think the guys would understand, or they would just say something like, ‘He just wants to get into your pants.’ But they hadn’t seen the look in his eyes when Yaomo had spoken to her, and even if they had, they probably wouldn’t have understood it. Ajani was a woman, and she was one who knew Yaomo as more than the demon-eyed fortuneteller. Most importantly, Katara counted her as a friend, and as such, she trusted her with this confession. “I couldn’t stay, though. I can’t just turn my back on my people and on you guys. I already promised I was going to be there to help. I feel bad, though… I told him I couldn’t go, but I sort of told him he could… come with us… Does that make me a giant hypocrite? I mean, he only said he’d come as far as the boats taking some of us back to the North Pole, but I still feel like it hurt him that I wouldn’t stay. Do you think he’ll be okay? You’ve known him longer than I have.”

Ajani’s eyes widened at the revelation. He had fallen for Katara, that much was certain. But when had this happened? Did she decline him before or after Ajani had come forth? She felt the urge to run to him and throw her arms around him. She wanted him to be okay. Ajani stole another look at Yaomo, but he was looking ahead once again. If only he could see...if only he knew how much her heart ached for him. She imagined him going off alone once again....but, why was he taking them to the boats anyway? Ajani shook off these questions. He had told her that he didn’t want anything more to do with her. She had to respect that. Perhaps the reason why he was still with the group was because he really was considering going with Katara.

Ajani thought about this mystery cousin she spoke of. If this man could put Lu Ten off the market in Katara's eyes, he must have been a wonderful man indeed. Katara spoke of Lu Ten being a brother to her. Ajani knew that Lu Ten didn't exactly ooze the brotherly vibe. How else could Lu Ten could have become a brother in Katara's eyes, unless his cousin completely outshone him in Katara's heart? Ajani wanted to know more about this man. However, if he was no longer amongst the living, perhaps the best thing would be for her to avoid the subject. The pain was fresh in Katara’s eyes, even though a year had already past. Besides, Katara asked her about Yaomo, and she needed to figure out how to tell her the truth without making her feel even worse.

Ajani pushed through her curiosity. She wanted to tell Katara that Yaomo would be fine…but she wasn’t sure that he would be fine. She decided to admit to Katara the full story between her and him. “Yaomo struggled in de swamp. I was young and I don’t know wat ‘appened, but de woman who raised him…well, I feahed her. When he finally decided to go, I was proud of him. I knew I would miss him, but…I’d always longed for dat freedom, and de’e he was about to get it. He dese’ved it. Why not be proud? Bot….bot den he asked me to go wit him. Like you…I denied him. I was not ready to go, back den. My responsibilities to de Ondin outweighed my desiah to be by his side. Bot of all dah gi’ls he could ‘ave asked, I always wonder why it was me. I tought he was in love wit me. Eiddah he was and not anymo’e, o’ he nevah was….I don’t know.”

“Now I wish I would ‘ave gone wit him, but is silly to live in regret. Yestahday I…apologized. I asked him to come wit me. He refused. Maybe...maybe he refused because he wants to go wit you.” Ajani looked at Katara, whose cheeks were flushed and mouth was slightly open. Ajani put her hands up.

“I don’ mean to say you did someting wrong, Kata’a. I jus’ saying dat…dat boy been trough dis befo’, he didn’t take it well den. I don’ know if he’s okay o’ not, but it ain’t my place anymo’ to find out. And it ain’t you’s eiddah. Sometimes….sometimes I wonder if he sets himself up for failuh. Maybe he can’t ‘elp who he loves. I don’t know. But he ‘as to figu’e it out fo’ ‘imself, I tink. It’s good you asked him to go.”

Katara still looked uncomfortable, so Ajani took her hand. “Love is a funny ting. De pool of it seems stagnant and unmoving, but jus’ beyond de’e is a flowing rivah. I would rather he get on dat ship wit you than stay he’e and continue to be unhappy. I know dat when we get de’e, you and I will likely pa’t ways. War does not ca'e fo' friendship. But we ah friends, and if we see each ottah again, I want it to be only joy. I seen you had enough ‘eartache in you’ life.”

Katara was fascinated with the words that came out of Ajani’s mouth. She felt sad for Yaomo. If Ajani had reason to fear something when her own mother was the leader of the Tribe, how did the man raised by such a woman feel about it all? Maybe that was his reason for leaving. If her parents had been the sorts who were better feared than loved, she didn’t think she’d be able to stay with them, either. Thankfully, she’d had a wonderful childhood filled with all of the love for which she could have ever hoped. It was gone now, of course, but the memories remained. At least she still had Sokka and Gran Gran.

Still, the revelation that Yaomo had been in love with Ajani, that she’d been the first person he’d ever asked to truly… be with him, to take a chance on him, was daunting. However, she admitted she’d denied him, too, which was obvious even without the Ondin woman’s confession by the simple fact that Katara had been the one to convince her to leave the Swamp. The waterbender felt even guiltier, knowing that the two women he’d asked to be with him had both turned him down, but he had, in the end, decided to come with her instead of remaining behind.

She told herself that it wasn’t just for her sake. It seemed like the people in the village of Payoh didn’t really want much to do with Yaomo, and he didn’t seem to want much to do with anyone in the Swamp. Maybe he was just here for the human contact, then? Lu Ten seemed friendly enough toward him, and Gui and Shen seemed fine with him. When Sokka wasn’t looking at him like he was trying to defile his sister, he seemed fine with the man, too. Jet seemed the only one to openly dislike their guide, and Katara found herself wishing that he would just stop trying to be so possessive over her. Maybe if he did, he’d find a girl he could actually love instead of one he could only try to conquer.

Katara could attest to the fact that living a life where people looked down their noses at you, not really accepting you, was difficult and unhealthy. The friends she had in the North Pole were ones she could count on both hands, and they were mostly her relatives by blood or by heritage. The others were only now beginning to warm up to her, and while she was grateful for it, they could hardly be counted as close friends. Honestly, she felt closer with this group now – Gui, Jet, Lu Ten, Shen, and Sokka (though as siblings, she’d always been close to him) – than she ever did to those unrelated to her in the Northern Water Tribe.

She could try as hard she wanted to convince herself that not having friends, people she could talk to about things, wasn’t a big deal, that she was too strong to let it bother her, but that wasn’t true. Having friends was important to her. She’d had so many in the South Pole, and she missed the interaction, the relaxed way she could be around people without having to worry that underneath a façade of polite conversation, they were really thinking she was just some worthless peasant, hardly good enough to be in their presence let alone uprooting their culture. Did Yaomo receive that same kind of treatment from the villagers? She’d noticed that while many of the women among the Ondin had looked at him with desire, there were others who had kept their distance, giving him looks that were all too familiar to her because she’d received them herself on many occasions. Did he think that she was doing the same thing: feigning a polite attitude only to secretly be thinking less favorable thoughts?

Katara was lifted from her thoughts by Ajani’s confession. She suddenly felt very awkward. Here she was confessing her potential relationship problems about a man who her friend liked. Back in the Southern Water Tribe, she hadn’t been very interested in boys romantically. Sure, she could appreciate one with good looks, and she knew some guys had looked at her in a way that spoke of wanting more than friendship, but she’d been too focused on her training to fight and to heal, to learn all she could. Relationships hadn’t seemed so important at the time, so she’d never had to deal with this kind of situation where there was something like a love triangle built on unrequited feelings between three friends.

Ajani seemed quiet for a moment, thoughtful before she continued with the fact that she’d rather see Yaomo moving on, happy with Katara than suffer alone. So she wouldn’t have to choose because this woman had granted Katara her blessing on the relationship, but what if she couldn’t make Yaomo happy? What if the reason why she’d never been able to do more than open the door for a relationship without ever stepping through it was because she had nothing to offer anyone in that regard? Had the icy tundras of the poles frozen her heart, or had she just simply never had the capacity to love in the way that her parents had loved, in the way that her Gran Gran and Pakku now loved.

Would friendship and familial feelings be all she could ever truly produce? Yaomo had said she was cursed. Was this part of it? If she even got close to feeling something… more… would that be stolen from her the way it had once before? If Yaomo stayed with them beyond simply seeing them off, would they grow closer, and would she end up getting him killed?

Katara stopped when Ajani told her that the two women were friends, would always be friends regardless of how they were separated. She hugged the other woman. “I’m glad that I’ve met you, and I’m glad that we became friends. I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” It wasn’t necessarily a lie. It was more like she was voicing a hope rather than a fact, though. War was predictable in nature, but it was unpredictable in which lives it took from the world. Who knew if the next life would be Ajani’s or Katara’s? They were two waterbenders from different worlds who had come together for a purpose and happened to form a connection along the way. Would they meet again in this life or in the next? Would their next meeting be in the Spirit World or on Earth? Regardless, she hoped that they would recognize each other and be able to continue the friendship they’d forged, even if it had been done in the flames of war.

Katara felt tired. She hadn’t been on a walk like this since she’d traveled to Ba Sing Se, and this was only the third day. What she wouldn’t give to be an airbender and fly all the way to their destination. She’d heard that there had once been a creature the Air Nomads had turned into pets, creatures who could fly and were large enough to carry multiple people on their backs. Now that would be the way to travel, but it wasn’t how they traveled now, so it didn’t do to dwell on it. She watched the ground in front of her feet, worried that if she didn’t, she would collapse, and so enamored by the resting of her burning muscles would she be, she couldn’t imagine ever getting up again.

Then, all thoughts of her aching legs left her mind as she heard Gui shout the name of one she hadn’t seen in a very long time. “Ping!” Katara felt her energy increase with her delight as she hurried forward with Gui and Shen to greet the archer. She threw her arms around him, giving him a hug which he returned with a bit more restrained. The waterbender didn’t feel slighted by this in the least because last year when they’d traveled together, he’d always been less communicative with his feelings. However, the smile on his suntanned face – however reserved – spoke volumes. He was glad to see them.

“It’s so good to see you again! You look great!” She said as she pulled away from her friend. Katara watched the exchange between Lu Ten and Ping, the smile never fading from her face. She was glad that she’d be seeing more of him than just the brief time before she’d be returning to the North Pole to get those troops together.

That night, they gathered around a campfire, discussing their plans. All of the Ondin and Nomads would be going with Ping’s men to the resistance points. They would be split into groups of twenty-five, and Ajani, one of the Rebels, and Tho would lead one together to make following more comfortable for the Swamp people, but one of the Rebels would be her second-in-command. Gui, Jet, Katara, Lu Ten, Ping, Shen, Sokka, and Yaomo were going to head Southwest to Chin Village to find a boat to take the first seven to the North Pole. Lu Ten seemed unhappy when he mentioned the location where they’d need to find a ship.

“What’s wrong with Chin Village?” Katara asked curiously, having never been to that location.

“The people.” He responded.

“Well, they’re right on the western coast. You can’t expect them to be all happy and go lucky when the Fire Nation probably breathes down their necks every day.”

“You don’t understand.” Gui said. “Those people are probably the most obnoxious people you’ll ever meet.”

“Did you forget about Hahn in the North? I’ve met obnoxious. I can deal with it.”

“It’s worse than he even was.” Shen responded. “You’ll see.”

The next day, they parted from the others. Katara hugged Ajani, wishing her luck and giving her one of the four water skins she tended to wear. “So you’ll always have water with you.” Then they went their separate ways. Yaomo fell into an easy step beside the waterbender as they left, and without Ajani there to make things feel awkward – no matter that she’d given her blessing to the two of them – she found she quite liked his presence.

Still, there was a dark cloud following them the entire way, and he went by the name of Jet. He tried to start another pissing contest with Yaomo, to prove he was the better man, but the fighter had nothing on their guide, and quickly fell into step behind them. She could feel him glaring at the pair all the way there, and his gaze made her skin crawl. Why couldn’t he just get over it all, get over himself? He was a decent person when he wasn’t worrying about her. Why couldn’t he just stop this nonsense so they could form a real friendship instead of this tentative one that was due to shatter at any second? Maybe she should just stop trying to be his friend? They didn’t have to be enemies, but she just couldn’t trust him enough to be anything more than acquaintances.

“Happy Avatar Day!” Someone said to them from a booth as they entered the main area of the Village. Katara smiled at her brother who smiled back. They were having a celebration to honor the Avatar! Sokka went to the booth where they were serving fried foods, many in the shapes of past Avatars. There was Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Roku, and Avatar Inoa! No one had known what the Air Nomad Avatar had looked like, for he’d only been a small child when he was killed, so the closest they came to his likeness was a little bald monk with airbender tattoos.

“This is so exiting!” Katara said, turning toward the others. “How could you have thought these people were annoying?”

“Yeah, seriously.” Sokka said through a mouthful of fried dough. “The food here is amazing. I could get used to this.”

Lu Ten only shook his head, and they headed toward the center of town where giant floats of the last three fully realized Avatars rolled past. “Sokka, look! It’s Great Gran!” She pointed excitedly to the final float of their grandmother. She looked to be about the same age as the Avatar Roku float while Avatar Kyoshi looked young.

“Avatar Inoa was you’ grandma, Chére?” She heard Yaomo ask her. Katara only nodded, not tearing her eyes away from the spectacle. “You ain’t gonna like dis den.” Finally, she looked away from the floats to the fortune teller.

“Why not? They’re celebrating her. Why is that a bad thing?” Katara asked, completely confused. Sokka hadn’t seemed to hear them, simply happy to be stuffing his face.

“You’ll see.” Shen replied to her question, having overheard the conversation. She felt Yaomo’s comforting hand on Katara’s shoulder as an extremely well built man, buffer than Yaomo even, rushed forward with a torch. The crowd cheered, and the waterbender was tempted to do the same, but she hesitated. What wasn’t she going to like?

The man rushed forward, tearing through the skirts of the Kyoshi float, causing the paper to ignite from the torch. He ran toward Roku, igniting the base of his robes before throwing the torch high into the air, toward Inoa’s face. Horror filled her as her grandmother’s chin exploded into flame. Chants of “Down with the Avatar” filled the air, filling Katara with a fury she hadn’t felt so strongly in a very long time. Even Sokka was perturbed enough by the spectacle that he seemed to have forgotten the food in his hands. Were the same images flooding his mind as swirled within hers? Did seeing the likeness of their grandmother aflame remind him of Sozin’s Comet, too?

She rushed forward and took a stance beside some barrels of water, but before she could douse the flames, she felt strong hands grip her, pulling her back between some buildings as the water splashed uselessly back into the containers. “What are you doing?” Shen asked her, his eyes wide.

“What do you think? I’m going to put out those fires. They can’t treat the Avatar like this! They can’t treat my family like this!” She struggled against the hands that gripped her, realizing that the grip wasn’t Shen’s but Yaomo’s.

“There could be Fire Nation soldiers crawling all over this place. If you draw attention to yourself, that’s it. They’ll peg you for a sympathizer, and they’ll kill you, but if they realize you’re Water Tribe, they’ll probably interrogate you first.” Lu Ten sounded extremely unhappy with her. Guilt flooded through her. In that instant, her mind hadn’t thought to look for Fire Nation soldiers. She’d only wanted to stop this… this disgusting display of hatred. They hadn’t known her grandmother. They hadn’t known that she was a good woman, a wonderful, strong, amazing person, and still they hated her. Katara could have put them all in danger with her stupidity.

“I’m sorry. You’re right.” She felt Yaomo let her go as she spoke. “It’s just… how could anyone hate the Avatar so much? This place is awful!”

“Katara, I get it. She was my grandma, too, but we have to be more careful. You’re right, though. This place sucks.” He stuffed another mouthful of fried bread into my mouth at that, chewing angrily.

“I heard that Avatar Kyoshi killed some emperor who was trying to unite the world. They named their village after him, and they hate all Avatars because of the one who killed their leader.”

Katara scoffed. “I find it ironic that they worship a tyrant only to have another one right on their doorstep. I wonder how they feel about people trying to take over the world now?” Her words were bitter as she turned away from the spectacle. “How are we going to find a ship without giving away our destination? If there are Fire Nation soldiers here, they could find out, and we’d be out of luck.”

“I’ll take care of that.” Ping announced.

He certainly did take care of it. Katara’s eyes moved over the trading vessel that would be taking them to the Northern Water Tribe. It was big enough that all of them could ride relatively comfortably for the week it would take to get there. If the Fire Nation tried to board, they could easily hide amongst the merchandise. Ping had chosen well, and being the leader of the Rebels meant that he was really good with discretion, for the guerilla group needed to remain undetected and well hidden at all times.

While she was glad she would be leaving this Spirits forsaken place, this was it. She was going back to the North Pole again, and that meant the end of her journey with Yaomo. She still wasn’t sure if it was better this way or not, but whatever the future held for her, she hoped she was ready for it.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:33 am

"Chin village... never will you find a more wretched hive of -" Lu Ten paused as Ping and some of the others looked at him skeptically. "What? I fucking hate this place." Lu Ten muttered as he strode towards the gates of Chin village. It wasn't a lie, of course, he really did fucking hate this place with a passion. The avatar day celebration was one thing, but the entire town had their heads up their asses when it came to everything. It didn't help matters any that their leader had been some douche with short man syndrome who hadn't known that picking a fight with the Avatar, especially a hardass one like Avatar Kyoshi wasn't the best idea that someone could have in the world.

It seemed whatever legacy he had left behind was one of douchiness. The whole citizens were infected with it. Outsiders were treated as second class citizens, people who were 'too ignorant' to understand their ways. That in itself wasn't something special, most societies had some sort of rules like that. However, most societies weren't so brazenly open about it that talking to the average citizen on the street would involve someone telling it to you, or saying something like "an outsider like you wouldn't understand." Lu Ten swore that if he had counted the number of times he had heard that from his one day trip to chin village before he would have been at well over a hundred.

Once they got inside of the village it was just as bad as he remembered it being. The people were cordial enough to them, to their face anyway. But he could see the way that they rolled their eyes after they left. This would be alright, as long as they could slip through here without demonstrating some form of epic assholery that would cause everyone to be pisse-

"HAPPY AVATAR DAY!" Someone in the distance shouted.

"Fuck." Lu Ten muttered. There it was. He'd heard about this. "Why don't we go...." But there was no talking to Katara and Sokka who were enamored by the festivities at this point. Lu Ten rubbed the bridge of his nose as he waited for disaster to strike. When he heard about the fact that Katara was related to the Avatar, he couldn't help but sigh. When Katara wasn't looking, he motioned for Shen to keep an eye on her. The last thing that he wanted to do was have the water bender flip out when she saw the effigy of her grandmother being burned in this place. It was bad enough watching Roku be burned, Roku who had done so much for the fire nation, had tried to stop the war that had killed off the airbenders completely.

Amidst cheering and jeering he watched as they set them on fire. For Roku, it wasn't horrifically bad, after all, fire had been his element. But he could imagine for Sokka and Katara, who had suffered at the hands of fire benders that watching their grandmother's likeness be burned was something akin to being spit on by all of these people. Truth be told he wished that he could let the water bender go with her instinct and just trash this whole place, burn it to the ground. But there could be people watching, there were too many eyes in this place, and given it's violent hatred for the avatar, Chin village was actually sympathized with the Fire Nation rather than standing up to fight them.

Lu Ten looked at Katara, annoyed at first, but soon it turned to sadness as he could see the remorse in her eyes. He hadn't meant to come down on her as hard as he had, but she really hadn't been thinking about the big picture. He supposed maybe it was from her time in the swamp, not having to worry about such things that she'd forgotten that they had to be flying under the radar on this one, part of why they had left the majority of the troops they'd gathered behind them. Much less conspicuous to come into a town with a group of under 10 rather than to come in with a small battalion of troops that looked like they'd just come... well, from the swamp.

Ping was a relief though, when he mentioned that he would be able to get them a boat. Lu Ten personally couldn't get out of this place fast enough. When they started to board the boat, Lu Ten noticed the dock master giving them a creepy smile. Unfortunately, around these parts a creepy smile wasn't that uncommon, and certainly not worth harassing the ship captain who had been kind enough to take them aboard with a minimum of questions over. But still, there was something about it that Lu Ten didn't exactly care for.

As they left port, Yaomo found himself staring out at chin village, watching it slowly move away. From his perspective it was nearly impossible to tell if the land was somehow being pulled away from them or if they were actually sailing out onto the ocean. Logically he knew the answer, of course, but leaning on the edge of the railing it was interesting to assume the opposite, especially after having been forced to deal with the idiots of chin village. It was kind of nice to think of that town especially getting sucked away into some black dark place from whence it would never show it's hate ridden face ever again. Unfortunately, hate, it seemed, was the one thing that united all people. Everyone wanted to hate someone for something else. Hate them for being tall, being better with the ladies, being more muscular, less nice, of a different nation, different gender, different skin color. There was just so much for people to discriminate against each other over that it seemed almost foreign watching Lu Ten's crew and how open they seemed to be with one another.

And then there was Katara. The water bender was... something else. She had a warmth to her, a kindness that he found enticing and yet intimidating all at the same time as he got to know her better. At first she had been kind of cute, but the more time that went by, the more he found her amazing, and could see why it was that the group gravitated around her. A part of him knew that part of it was the pull of her destiny, and yet at the same time, it had always been something sterile, detached before. He had never really hung around someone with that strong a destiny long enough to fully appreciate the full charismatic pull of their personality. Now he wondered if he could escape it, or if he really wanted to.

After they started to get out on the open seas, he finally found his way to Katara, touching her side lightly as he came up beside her against the railing, looking out at the dwindling shoreline on the horizon. "Somehow seem a bit nicer now d'at d'ey just on de horizon, non?" Yaomo said with a boyish smile. He knew that watching what she had in the village wasn't probably pleasant, and he'd shared her desire to crack skulls as well, but Lu Ten and his friends had brought up a rather good point. It was a strange life that they all had to lead. Yaomo had traveled before on his own, but he'd never had to worry about secret spies or eyes that might be watching. Then again, Yaomo was fairly good at paying attention to the world around him, he could fit in well enough with them... or was he just trying to convince himself of that to be with Katara?

"Up north, eh?" Yaomo said softly, "Gotta admit d'at be one of d'ose places Yaomo never been..." he said with a light shrug. "Still, some t'ings worth goin to the end of the earth for..." he grinned lightly, noting the somewhat conflicted look on Katara's face, and he clasped her shoulder lightly. "Don' fret, Chere, Yaomo ain't chasin you forever... just... givin you some time to t'ink on things. Sides, d'is face ain't d'at terrible to look at on the way, is it?" he said, giving her that bright unabashed smile again. Somehow looking at Katara made it easy for him to smile like that. He bit his lip lightly looking at her.

"Sometimes you so beautiful you make me regret sayin' no at d'at party." Yaomo said softly, thinking back to the way she'd looked at him as she'd slowly unlaced his pants. Slowly he stepped towards her, touching her cheek again as he started to lean in to kiss her lips, not caring who from her group or the crew saw, his dark eyes starting to flutter closed-

And without warning threw himself down on top of Katara, tackling her to the ground as a projectile whistled overhead.

Lu Ten growled a little as suddenly the water to the side of their boat exploded in a shower of surf that caused the boat to rock as if it were in a storm, just as another blast rocked it. Out in the distance from where it came, the morning mists curled, thick and deadly along side of them. They weren't headed into them, so they had seemed innocuous enough at the time, only now did the captain and the crew seem to realize that they all had made a deadly mistake. Swearing a little to himself, Lu Ten grabbed the rigging nearby him and pulled himself up it, his muscles flexing broadly before he got a good enough foothold to give himself a better view of the area.

"Please don't..." Lu Ten muttered, already knowing the answer to his prayers wasn't going to happen. Even now in the fog he could see it, that all too familiar shape coming out of the mists, it's hulking frame impossible to miss now that it was drawing closer to them. It was a Fire Nation Imperial Class Freighter. As it came closer he could see the small squares on the side of it where they had opened up panels to load in cannonballs to fire at them. Not that they needed to, of course, given their size, they could easily have just rammed into the ship that Lu Ten was riding on in order to destroy them. The worst part was not knowing whether or not they were being given quarter because they knew who was aboard, or because they thought that they might be good target practice.

The captain down below was barking orders at the crew as Lu Ten looked to the distance. He noticed that there were a handful of large merchant vessels that were deliberately headed in the opposite direction of them now. He couldn't blame them, of course. In their position, if he had the lives of a crew to worry about, he would probably order them to head the other way as well, especially when they were in a smaller vessel that didn't really stand much of a chance against the Fire Nation ship that was bearing down violently upon it. Lu Ten gritted his teeth lightly. Alright, the important thing was not to panic in a situation like this, just stay calm.

"We can take one fire nation ship!" Lu Ten heard Jet bellow down below...

...Right before two others came out of the heavy fog along side the first.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:34 pm

Katara had been really surprised when Yaomo had decided to come with them on the boat. On one hand, she was worried. What did this mean for them? What was he expecting from her? On the other hand, it was kind of nice. She liked having him there, and maybe… maybe something more wouldn’t be so bad. Then again, was this really the time to be thinking about things like that? There was a war going on, and she may not survive it, and he may not survive it because of her. What better time than now, though? If there was the chance of dying, wasn’t that the prime opportunity to enjoy life to the fullest? As they weren’t the Avatar, there was no certainty that they wouldn’t only have this one life to lead, but… still… Something held her back.

These thoughts and feelings warred within her as fiercely as some of the battles she’d seen between the Fire Nation and the rest of the world, but it a stalemate had been reached. Neither side could truly overpower the other, nor did she know what to do.

Katara rested her forearms against the railing, leaning her weight against the bars as she watched the shoreline shrink the farther away they got. She loved it out here, and she was grateful to be leaving that Spirits forsaken village. The waterbender could feel the salty liquid all around her, and her fingers moved in time with the waves, caressing them with her energy just to feel them and not to disrupt their natural rhythm. Out here, she felt safe. This was her element. Things would look up.

"Somehow seem a bit nicer now d'at d'ey just on de horizon, non?" Yaomo’s voice didn’t startle her from her reverie. Something about his voice was just… soothing. She didn’t fear him now, even if she had once. She’d seen too much in his eyes to ever have anything to fear from him again. He wasn’t a bad person at all, and Katara knew he would never harm her. It was too bad she couldn’t say the same for herself regarding him, at least emotionally. Would she ever inadvertently hurt him? Worse, what if dragging him along with them just meant that his life would be extinguished too soon like…

She couldn’t bear to think like that. “I think the world is too small for me to ever feel properly distanced from that place, but this is definitely a start, and the North Pole will definitely have to be good enough.”

Then he admitted to her that he’d never been to the North Pole, and she looked at him and laughed. “Speaking of which, if you can wear that coat in the heat of the Swamp, we’re going to have to find you the thickest parka in existence. You’re going to be more miserable than Lu Ten was. It’s going to be torture for you.”

"Still, some t'ings worth goin’ to the end of the earth for..." His voiced smoothed over her, causing her to hesitate as the meaning hit her. He was smiling, but something in his eyes told her that he wasn’t referring to the harbor mission. She felt her stomach clenched even while the fritillaries swarming it offered her conflicted feelings. What was she going to do? How could she even decide something like this? How could something like this cause her so much guilt no matter which direction she swayed?

Then his hand clasped her shoulder, and she straightened, no longer leaning against the railing. He told her that he wouldn’t wait for her forever, but it wasn’t in the same way Jet had announced it in Ba Sing Se. The fighter had flung it at her like he was trying to bait her into changing her mind about being with him while Yaomo spoke the words softly, kindly, and followed them with the fact that he was just giving her time. This wasn’t all or nothing, at least not right now. There would be time to get to know each other better as people without having to make a hasty decision.

Katara chuckled softly at his joke. Though… to be fair… his face really wasn’t all that bad to look at. He wasn’t just a beautiful body. His face was quite nice, too, and his eyes didn’t detract from it so much as they gave a mysterious vibe to him. She wondered how his eyes had gotten like that, if he’d been born that way or if some strange hoodoo magic had changed them. She’d never seen even red eyes before, let alone that inky blackness where it should have only been white. The waterbender could just get lost in his eyes sometimes, trying to unravel the mysteries behind them. She’d seen a side to him that had been less self-assured, more vulnerable, and while she wasn’t sure he’d particularly wanted her to see that part of him, she knew that he’d still allowed it, and she wanted to see more, to learn more about him.

Then he called her beautiful – had anyone ever said that to her other than adults who said it a little more condescendingly than they probably intended? – and when he mentioned the party, she felt confusion sift through her. He’d said no to her? About what? She knew she hadn’t imagined his dancing with her when she’d asked him to join her at that, and she definitely knew he hadn’t rejected her lips. Her cheeks coloured a little and she tried hard to remember what he might have been referring to. Every so often, flashes of memories from that night would come to her, but she’d been too embarrassed to allow herself to try to really remember. Now she was too curious to not try.

It hit her like a brick all of a sudden, the way her heart raced, the way her fingers shook as they untied the lacings of his pants. Her face flushed a deeper shade of scarlet. Had she really done that? Clearly, it had been her doing and not his. Katara remembered feeling so sure that that had been okay, that there was nothing wrong with it, but she couldn’t remember anything that was said, only the way she’d felt. She didn’t remember his denying her what she’d thought she’d wanted, but clearly he must have because she hadn’t felt any different the next morning, and she trusted him to not lie to her.

This was so embarrassing, but Yaomo either didn’t register that fact, or he simply wasn’t bothered by it. Her eyes locked onto his as he stepped close enough that she could feel the warmth of his body, and his fingers graced her cheek as they were wont to do. In the face of his confidence, hers gained a little, allowing the agitation to disperse a bit. He was going to kiss her, she suddenly knew, and that was okay. In fact, it would be nice to be able to feel his lips against hers again in a way that wasn’t a part of some deal or a part of her being drunk. It would almost be like a first real kiss between them. It would be like a way to really get to know parts of him that simple talking wouldn’t reveal.

Her head tilted back a little as he leaned toward her, her own lids starting to slowly slide over her eyes…

Suddenly, sharp pain stabbed through her back, her lungs losing all of their air as Yaomo came down on top of her. She heard more than saw the projectile, and she felt the splash of water exploding over them. “Are you okay?” She gasped to him as she tried to regain her oxygen. He removed his weight from her, nodding to her question. “Are you?” He asked, gripping her hand and pulling her to her feet.

“I’m fine. Is everyone else?” Her eyes looked around at her comrades. They all looked fine, but their faces had paled. Was this really happening? This would be the first time she would face a battle on a ship and not on land, but she wasn’t afraid; she was determined. This was her element, and she could fight whoever tried to harm the people she cared about.

Why was this happening now? Weren’t things supposed to go smoother for them now that they’d rallied the rest of the support they’d needed? As the massive ship came into view from the fog, Katara’s stomach dropped. It was even bigger than the ones that stood trapped in ice, abandoned in her homeland. The real question was how the Fire Nation even knew to attack this ship. There had been other trade vessels that had left port around the same time as this ship.

It didn’t matter. Regardless, they could take this ship. They had skilled fighters aboard, and one Master waterbender. Jet echoed her sentiments, and she took a stance, faltering only when two more ships of the same model as the first. “Don’t give up! We have to try!” Katara shouted to the others as the first one neared them. Her arms rose as she sent a powerful wave of water over their deck with enough force that many were shoved over the opposite railing.

Then, she crossed her arms in front of her, lifting her leg, then spreading her arms and bending her body downward, reaching with her energy to the water below. Then she lifted her body, pulling a large mass of ocean water up before spinning in a circle and, with a grunt, thrusting her arm forward. The massive wave shoved forward into the side of the enemy ship, forcing it to rock dangerously as it was sent farther away from the trade vessel.

Another canon sailed overhead, this time meeting its mark, taking out the railing to Katara’s left, sending metal flying everywhere. She ducked down, her arms protecting her head until it calmed a little, and as another cannonball flew through the air, she brought a large stream of water to encase it, freezing it on the spot. The ice cracked all around it as the momentum of the projectile was stopped, but it held in the end, and she got an idea.

As another cannon came at the ship, she pulled water from the ocean, encasing the sphere before redirecting its trajectory back toward its starting point. It hit the metal hull just as more cannons were shot forth from the other two ships that had gained on them, ripping through the trade ship and knocking the crew and the rebels off their feet. It was a good idea, but it would only work against one ship. As the only waterbender, she didn’t have enough power or speed to do this for every cannonball sent their way. Still, she couldn’t just stop fighting!

Sweat beaded on her brow as she sent projectile after projectile back toward the Fire Nation ships, tossing ice daggers and fearsome waves toward them while she was at it. One cannon escape her, tearing through her water before she could compress it, headed onto the deck. She turned, spotting Jet whose back was turned, right in its path. She rushed forward, wrapping a stream of water around his waist and jerking him to the side just as the weapon ripped through the deck where he’d been standing. “Are you okay?” She shouted as he regained his footing.

“I’m fine! Keep fighting!” He yelled back. Katara really felt for the others. There was no earth for Gui and Shen to bend, and there were no bodies for Jet, Sokka, and Yaomo to fight. Only Katara and Lu Ten were of any use as she had an unlimited supply of water to bend at their enemies, and the Captain had his fire power. Even if the Fire Nation naval officers tried to board the ship, they wouldn’t stand a chance. They would be outnumbered. No! That didn’t matter! She’d been outnumbered before! She’d won in the past! She could do it now! They all could!

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:55 am

Lu Ten growled a little from the crow's nest as he flung fireballs at the deck of the fire nation ship. It was hard to fling them far, but he was managing to do it, watching as grunts scrambled to deal with the fire that he was raining down on them. Unfortunately there wasn't much he could do about the cannonballs that were sailing towards them. He tried a couple of times to move one, but changing the direction of a giant flying hunk of metal with fire wasn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. In fact, all he seemed to be able to do was to make them white hot when they hit the deck, which probably wasn't helping anyone down below once they hit. Lu Ten growled at his own helplessness, looking down below as he saw people scrambling every which way. They were sitting ducks here on this ship, and they all knew it. Lu Ten didn't know how many cannons they had aboard, but he knew that it wouldn't be enough, no matter how many they had.

The blasts from the cannons rocked the ship, as Lu Ten saw the other start to pull up along side the first to blast them. The third, it seemed, had ballistas and had been geared for assault of some place. Even so, it would linger in case they decided to board, which at the moment it didn't look like was going to happen. They were too busy blasting the shit out of them to even seem to notice the fact that he was firing on them. Below, Lu Ten caught it as Katara washed some of their crew off the deck, and then just shoved the ship backward, Lu Ten blinking a little in surprise at that. He couldn't imagine what sort of control it would take to do something like that, but it had to be a lot. Unfortunately it put them a little out of feasible blasting range, but it would give him a moment to take a breather.

Below Katara was struggling in the hail of cannonballs that were coming down, and he tried to think of something to do. Maybe he could somehow signal to the other ships, beg them for help or something. But when he turned towards them, he blinked as he saw lights on their hulls blinking in rapid succession. They had been the ones to signal the Fire Nation to attack them. Lu Ten gritted his teeth a little as he saw red, slamming his fist down against the edge of the crow's nest, feeling it wobble somewhat unstably as he shouted out at the air. "YOU FUCKERS!" he growled, even though he knew they couldn't hear him. Didn't they fucking know that all this would do would be to spell doom for them all? Why did it seem like everyone was willing to just sell someone out and not see the big picture of things? See that helping the Fire Nation win would eventually spell doom for the world?

As the cannon blasts came down and their ship finally began to fire back, Lu Ten closed his eyes and leaned against the mast of the ship. He didn't pray to the spirits very often, but the way things were going here, they were about to capsize under a hail of cannon fire. "Mom? Zuko... look, I don't know if you guys have any sway over what happens in this world..." Lu Ten muttered lightly, "But I'm kind of in a bind here, and there's not much that I can do... not unless someone does something soon..." he whispered, clenching his eyes closed. "You know me, I don't ask for favors ever... but this is it... if we can't get off of this thing..." Katara might be able to float a few of them away in ice, but it wouldn't do much when the cannonballs came raining down on them. They would just be target practice, and she was the only bender who could do anything remotely to stop the onslaught. "Come on..." Lu Ten whispered, opening his eyes.

"No shit..."

Lu Ten blinked as he saw the third ship, the one that had been lagging outside the skirmish capsizing. The other two ships, blasting away didn't seem to notice at all. It didn't really make any sense. Could it be the spirits? Could Yaomo have really been right about all of his voodoo mumbo jumbo after all? Lu Ten wanted to shout for joy, but at the same time, they were still being fired upon. Could he really hope for the spirits to sink the other two fire nation vessels as well. It was then that he noticed something in the fog in the distance. Lu Ten blinked a little as he leaned so far forward that he nearly fell out of the crow's nest as the ship swayed. There was something out there... he could almost see it there in the fog. But there was... no way. It actually looked like it was a....

"Oh fuck me..." Lu Ten muttered as the head of a dragon seemed to be coming out of the mists. He felt a cold chill run down his spine as he looked into what it was that every Fire National feared. Dragons, it was said, had once taught people how to bend fire, but they had always been wild, like the Fire Nation itself. Untameable but to those who had the greatest courage. To everyone else, though, they were cruel, and merciless with their fire, having been rumored to destroy entire villages that did not appease them. Lu Ten had actually been to an island where they still existed, but not as big as the one that was coming barreling towards them with flaming eyes. It was massive, and it looked angry.

Lu Ten watched as it opened it's mouth and with a deafening roar spewed something towards the Fire Nation vessel closest to them. The ball of fire and metal flew outward and slammed into the bridge of the enemy vessel, smashing it, and likely killing all of the commanding officers aboard. Lu Ten blinked as he stared at the remains of shrapnel where a bridge had been, staring at the huge cannonball that was there, and then he blinked, looking at the beast again. That wasn't a real dragon, it was... a machination of some kind. But the crew of the ships were thinking what he was a moment ago, he watched as the second fire nation ship abandoned the first, trying to run, just as it slowly dawned on Lu Ten what he was seeing, the merchant vessels with the flashing lights heading towards the fleeing ship, as their sails slowly unfurled...

...every one of the black.

"PIRATES!" Lu Ten bellowed down below as he watched as a massive ship with the head of a dragon at it's mast came barreling from the fog, coming up dangerously close along side the fire nation vessel, blinding flashes coming from it as it emptied it's rounds into the unsuspecting ship, groans coming from the enemy ship as it began to sink, Fire Nationals diving overboard left and right. It wouldn't save them, of course, they were too far out to actually swim back to shore. The other merchant/pirate vessels were merrily seeming to chase down the other Fire Nation vessel as Lu Ten felt a cheer raise up in his chest, hearing the crew of their ship cheer as well as the massive pirate vessel came across their bow, pulling up along the other side of them that didn't have a rapidly capsizing fire nation vessel on it.

Lu Ten waved and cheered at the pirates who had come to their rescue, right up until he saw the gun ports on the side of the pirate ship open up as cannons came out... facing them. Lu Ten blinked a little and tried to shout out to them, "We're not Fire Nation!" Several others did the same on the bridge of the merchant vessel, trying to keep themselves from getting blown out of the water. Lu Ten swallowed a little as he grabbed the edge of the crow's nest, grabbing one of the ropes and swung down to try to speak to the people that were rapidly gathering on the side of the pirate vessel. But by the time that Lu Ten had managed to hit the deck, it seemed as if several of the Pirates were taking his cue...

In dozens they swung over on ropes onto the deck of the merchant ship. Lu Ten's hopes that they might have just been overly eager to say hello were dashed when he watched as their leader, a woman with raven hair and green eyes clocked the captain of their ship over his head with the butt of one of her swords. She raised a sword to the sky then and bellowed out to her men. "Take what you can find, and kill any who resist!" she snarled, as she kicked over the Captain of the merchant vessel with one of her knee high boots, staring down at Lu Ten as he glared up at her, leveling her sword at him challengingly.

Lu Ten felt his teeth grit as he growled and let out a battle cry as he raced up the stairs to meet her, the fire already in his hands as he sent a massive fireball at her, large enough to engulf her completely with it's magnitude, a message to any pirate that might think to trifle with them, only to watch as the woman slid into a low stance, thrusting her arms outward as the fire dissipated before her as if it had never been in the first place. In the silence that followed, Lu Ten blinked, only to hear the air filled with the roar of laughter from the pirates that weren't actively involved in a skirmish of some sort. The fire bender could only really stare as she sheathed the weapon and grinned at him, cracking her knuckles and then her neck. Closer now he could see that she had a faint scar over her left eye where she had been cut by something.

She grinned broadly at him, and Lu Ten noticed for the first time that she was rather... well, chesty. Dammit, why did all the hot ones also have to be somewhat crazy as well?

"Been a while since I've fought a bender. This'll be fun..." she said, right before she took a step forward and blasted at Lu Ten with fire. He managed to deflect it, but even as he did he glanced at the other pirates. He had somewhere internally hoped that their spectacle might distract the others enough to let his friends escape, or fight back, or something, but it seemed like those hopes were dashed. He could see Katara fighting in vain against a swath of pirates, while Shen and Gui, separated from their element went down within moments. Ping was overwhelmed as well, leaving only Yaomo, Sokka, and Jet turning back the tide, but even as he glanced at it he could tell it wouldn't be enough.

Their leader made him pay for his distraction though, two blasts of fire barely deflected only in time for Lu Ten to see the edge of her high heel come at his face, sending him tumbling backwards. He was about to hop up onto his feet when her leg slammed into his side while he was down, not even giving him a moment to catch his breath or get up as a dagger came out of her boot and was at his neck in a heartbeat. She snorted down at him and shook her head as her face took a twist that gave Lu Ten the idea that she was going to kill him. He only barely managed to scramble to his feet as she jerked him there by his hair, holding the dagger to his neck as she bellowed out loudly.

"ENOUGH!" Everyone on the deck seemed to freeze as her voice carried over all of them, her green eyes piercing any who would dare fight after she had told them not to. Clearly she was used to this sort of thing. "I don't want to have to kill your crew, but we will. Throw down your weapons, and we will take what we need from your cargo, and be on our way." she said flatly, looking across them all to see objection.

"And the girl!" one of the pirates called out then, pointing to Katara. He was tall and tanned, looking rather lanky as he leered at Katara with a half toothless smile. Clearly other than their leader, women weren't something that these pirates saw very often.

"No! You can take what you want of the cargo, but she stays wit-" Lu Ten felt the words being cut off as the woman slammed the butt of her dagger into his throat, causing him to cough lightly as she motioned to the rows of cannons that were pointed at them at this very moment.

"I don't think any of you are in a position to negotiate at this point. You either give us the cargo, and the girl comes willingly, or we take the cargo, and blow you out of the water when we leave." She smiled a cruel smile at him as she leaned down as he wheezed on the ground, rolling him over with her boot and stepped on his neck, staring out at the men on the deck of the merchant ship. "Give me an excuse to blow this piece of driftwood out of the water... please." she growled with a twisted smile.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:11 pm

Sweat beaded on Katara’s brow, and she could feel it causing her clothes to adhere to her flesh. Her breathing was heavy. Redirecting cannonballs was hard, and the more tired she became, the more difficult the task was. The waterbender didn’t know if she could keep this up for much longer. If only it was night time under a full moon, she could do so much more than she was doing now under the hot sun. As time wore on, she missed more and more of the projectiles, and she cursed her weakness.

Katara jerked backward, her eyes widening as the ship against which she’d been battling suddenly exploded into a hail of twisted, flaming metal. Well, that made life easier. Her eyes searched for the cause and saw the dragon – no, not a dragon… a ship! They were saved! This was so great! She turned to the other side of the merchant vessel and saw the second ship was leaving in a hurry. The third ship was almost completely sunk in the distance. She was in the process of cheering happily when Lu Ten’s shout stopped her cold. Pirates? Oh no… This was bad. This was really bad.

She was already so damned tired. If that pirate ship spewed one of those fiery cannonballs at them, there would be no way she would be able to stop it from decimating this ship the way it had done to the Fire Nation naval ship. Then Lu Ten cheered, but Katara couldn’t help the terrible feeling that had coiled in her stomach like a rat viper waiting to strike. Then it happened. After they sunk the Fire Nation vessel, they pointed their cannons at the merchant ship.

“We’re not Fire Nation!” Lu Ten shouted, and others joined the chorus. As she saw the pirates grab ropes to swing onto the now-battered ship, Katara pulled a thick stream of water from the ocean, guiding it in a circle around her before lifting her arms to produce a series of tentacles. She was so tired that she didn’t know how long she would last against these people, but she had to try. They didn’t attack right away, simply grinning menacingly at the merchant crew as they seemed to wait for… something… Then a woman swung aboard, and she informed her crew that they should kill anyone who resisted.

Katara felt this was bullshit. They would probably be blown out of the water as soon as the pirates left, so as a group of pirates descended upon her, she fought. There was no way she was just going to give up, to surrender. She could see Gui, Ping, and Shen become overwhelmed, but she was grateful when she became aware that Jet, Sokka, and Yaomo weren’t to be counted out. They hadn’t had much to do while the cannons had been firing at the ship, so they were still fresh, and each of them was good at hand-to-hand combat unlike the ones who’d already been taken down, so they were successfully keeping back the pirates.

A watery tentacle gripped the leg of a pirate who had almost breached her defenses, and with a graceful arc of her arms, she threw the offender overboard even while she whipped and slapped and grabbed and threw other pirates with the other tentacles she’d produced. Still, they gained on her, slipping through her defenses until one of them managed to grab a hold of her arms and pin them behind her back before forcing her to her knees. The water she’d used splashed uselessly to the deck, soaking through her clothing and into her hair. She cried out and struggled, but there was nothing she could do. He was stronger than her. She felt rope binding her wrists as despair flooded through her, and she allowed her eyes to wander to the others.

Sokka beat many of the men back with his club, but almost as soon as she looked his way, he managed to be overtaken. Jet was quicker, more agile, and he moved among the pirates, taking them out one or two at a time, sometimes moving with such speed that a pirate trying to take him down actually only ended up taking down a comrade. Still, even he was taken down, his arms pinned behind his back. Yaomo stood in a defensive stance, his bo staff at the ready while pirates circled him warily. She could see that he’d already taken out a couple of their enemies, and the pirates seemed to be attempting to try to find a way to get near him without having that heavy staff bludgeon them to death or unconsciousness. Katara didn’t know if Yaomo was the sort to kill freely if it meant saving his own life or the lives of those for whom he cared. She didn’t know if he was like her. It wasn’t that she wanted to kill, but they lived in a world at war, where it was kill or be killed. She’d learned the hard way that sparing the lives of the enemy only came back to bite her later.

“ENOUGH!” The call rang through the shouting and fighting, and everyone seemed to stop. Katara looked toward the source of the shout, seeing the pirate woman, obviously the leader, gripping a dagger to Lu Ten’s throat. Then she said that they wouldn’t kill them, just take the cargo and go. That wasn’t so bad. They were only a few hours from shore. Maybe their ship could make it back, and they could gather supplies and find an alternate route to the Northern Water Tribe? Then the blood drained from her face when one of them yelled, “And the girl!” The way he grinned at her disgusted her, and she cringed. There was no way she was going with them. They were repulsive. She had a mission! She couldn’t just abandon it to sail the high seas with a group of ruffians whose aim was probably to rape her until they tired of her and decided to throw her overboard. She struggled harder.

Then Lu Ten came to her defense only to be painfully shut down, and she yelled his name. The realization came to her then. If she went with the pirates, it would suck for her, sure, but her brother and her friends would all go free. The crew of this merchant ship would go free, too. They could make it back. If she didn’t go, all of them could be killed, and even if she wasn’t, she couldn’t save them all from the cannons, and land was a few hours away. How big of an ice raft could she make, and how long would it take them to get back to land? Too long, and she wouldn’t be able to carry the entire crew on a raft like that.

“It’s okay! I’ll go! Just don’t hurt them!” Katara yelled, trying her hardest to hold back her fears, to banish the tears that burned just behind her eyes. Sokka growled and started fighting even harder against his restraints, and she realized that Jet was doing the same. “Guys, I’ll be okay! Stop fighting them!”

“What’s wrong with you?” Sokka yelled at his sister. “You can’t just sacrifice yourself for us.”

“Actually, I can, and you don’t have to worry about me. I can take care of myself. You guys need to go! You have a mission to complete.” Katara was amazed at how calm and steady her voice sounded. The truth was that she was terrified. Being with her group made her feel safe, but she would be completely separated from them, and she had no idea what the future would hold for her now, but she definitely wasn’t going to just sit by and let bad things happen to her. Even though she would go with the pirates willingly now, she wasn’t going to idly submit to them.

She heard the sleazy looking pirate who’d requested she be a part of their spoils laugh softly to himself, and she shot him a glare. “If you try anything, I’ll kill you.”

He stepped toward her, his filthy fingers moving throat her salt-water soaked hair. “I don’t think you’re in a position to be using threats.” His face was so close to hers that she could smell his rancid breath. She brought her face forward with as much momentum as she could muster, and a stinging pain slashed through her forehead as it made contact, a cracking sound coming from the pirate’s face. He yelled and clutched his face as blood streamed from his nostrils. Even while the pirate holding her down tightened his grip, many of the other pirates laughed at their brother’s misfortune. “Consider that a warning.” Katara growled as the man glared at her.

“Load up the cargo!” Their leader yelled, seeming to be in no mood to deal with the petty trifles of her crew.

“Katara!” Sokka shouted at his sister. Their eyes met, and it seemed that an unspoken promise passed between them. They had promised their Gran Gran that they’d look out for one another, and while they would be separated yet again, it wouldn’t be forever. They’d find a way back to each other; they were family.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:34 am

"No!" Yaomo bellowed as they tried to lead Katara away. Despite the fact that it meant death, he swung his staff around, clocking one of the pirates, throwing another off of him, spinning his staff to sweep another one as he started to wade towards Katara through the crowd of pirates, growling as he fought like he was in a frenzy, until a fireball came flying towards him, exploding in his face and sending him skidding back as pirates piled on top of the man. In the crowd of what was happening, Katara couldn't see where he was, or even if he was still alive. There was no time to say her goodbyes though, calling out to Sokka, to her friends was the best that she could do, and she could tell from their faces that they weren't eager to see her go, but there wasn't much they could do against the odds that they were facing.

As she headbutted one of the pirates, their leader rolled her eyes, looking down at Lu Ten. "Since you all seem to be so eager to give up your lives for the slut, bear this in mind..." she growled, her heel digging into his neck. "If I catch even a hint of you following us, she dies, in the most painful way I can imagine. And I can imagine quite a lot..." she growled, then stepped off of him, letting him get hauled away by a couple of pirates, and dragged with the rest to be bound as the pirates began to unload the cargo from the ship on board their own. She waded through the pirates and the other men like a shark as she came up to the pirate who was gripping his nose, his hand reaching for his sword as he growled.

"You! Skeezy Gold." The leader barked, the pirate blinking a little as he looked up.

"Hey, I have a name it's-"

"It's Skeezy Gold now, Skeezy Gold." The woman growled as she tossed a small sack of gold at him. "There's your finder's fee."

The pirate looked down at the sack of gold in his hands and growled, pulling it open as he took a piece of it and bit into it lightly, then blinked in surprise as he snorted lightly and then exclaimed. "Thas some tasty gold!" He said, and then grinned broadly, tucking away his money as he went off to go help some of the other pirates with their prizes as the woman came to tower over Katara, looking at her, her emerald eyes seeming to blaze into the water bender's flesh as if she were fire bending with her eyes alone.

But there was something else there as well, Katara would see it, a look of agony in those eyes as their leader looked at her. Was there something there between them? Did the woman mourn her fate, but stood unable to do anything about it? It was possible, after all, that she could simply be forced by the sheer number of her men in order to give them a bone to chew on, a young woman in order to sate their lusts upon so that they wouldn't revolt against her. Perhaps she truly felt bad for what the crew was likely about to do to Katara, that she might get her clothes torn from her while the crew used her as a plaything on deck while her brother stood by and was forced to watch as the boat sailed away. Maybe she wanted to offer her some form of sympathy, some measure of strength before what she was about to go through, but simply could not.

As their leader hoisted Katara to her feet, the woman leaned in to whisper to her. "If I get a chance, I'm going to kill you, slowly, and painfully." She said softly, almost sweetly as she shoved Katara forward.

"COME ON YOU DOGS, OR I'LL CHOP OFF YOUR NUTS AND FEED THEM TO THE FISH!" She bellowed loudly, the men moving in double time as looks of fear crossed their faces at the prospect of their leader getting mad at them.

...so much for woman to woman bonding.

They lowered the gang plank from one boat to the other, and Katara was shoved roughly across, the woman behind her almost seeming to hope that she would fall overboard and drown in the surf below as she growled, and once aboard the other ship looked at Katara, seeming to give her a once over as if trying to make sure that she was, all things considered, alright. It seemed very contradictory for a woman who had just threatened to kill her a moment ago. But Katara would see it there in those green eyes, that mixture of hate and pain as the woman stared at her. It was the same look that Katara had when she looked into a mirror and thought about the Fire Nation and what they had done to her family. There was no way of telling what it was that she had possibly done to make the woman hate her so much, however, and the woman didn't seem about to explain.

"Wan Xue" Came a voice from one of the men aboard the ship, referring to their leader. Wan Xue stared at the man, and Katara would note that the man seemed a bit more clean cut than the rest of the pirate grunts, the fire in his eyes like that of her friends, the flame of true belief shining in them lightly. She could tell that this man would gladly die for Wan Xue if she asked it of him, though there was nothing about why the woman moved that suggested she was in the slightest bit wasteful or unplanned. She stared at Katara for a moment, as if realizing the crew member had given away her name, and looked at him with narrowed eyes. "Let the Captain know." she said flatly as she tugged Katara long the bridge.

Katara would notice it now as she moved along, the bridge was amazingly... well kept for the bridge of a pirate ship. There were some scars that showed where it had seen battle, but on the other hand the ropes were neatly tied off in a fashion, not in the slightest bit tangled. Really, whoever did the knots aboard the ship could give the Captain of her old ship a lesson in how it was done, it seemed. Perhaps the neatly cut crew member she had seen was a dedicated professional when it came to such things. As she was lead to a large door, Wan Xue narrowed her eyes at Katara. "Wait here..." she growled as she opened the door, and disappeared into the darkness within it.

"Ah, it's been a while since the captain had a fine piece of ass like yourself." a pirate called out to her with a wink as he strolled past carrying pockets full of treasure. "I hope your a screamer, he likes that!" the man gave her a toothless grin that made her shudder just before Wan Xue burst out of the doors, not looking at Katara as she snapped her fingers at one of the clean cut pirates nearby.

"Take her inside..." Wan Xue commanded, but there was a waver in her voice that even made the pirates pause as the woman stalked over to the side of the railing away from where things were being loaded, staring out at the sea.

"Come on then..." the pirate growled as he tugged her inside, pulling her into the darkness, and shoving her up against a wall. Her bonds were cut as the two of them grabbed her hands and forced them into a pair of shackles, clasping them tight around her wrists so she couldn't escape before they left her there, scurring out of the captain's cabin as quickly as they could, closing the door quickly behind themselves.

There was silence there in the darkness. It was hard to see at first going from the light of the outside into the faint candle lantern glow of the room, and she would probably start as she saw the shadows move, something stirring within them. A gloved hand reached up then to caress her cheek, and when she turned her head away she would feel it wrap against her throat, the warm leather stretching lightly against her skin, firmly. It didn't choke her, but lingered there against her, gripping her as her heart raced before it let go of her, trailing down the edge of her outfit, sliding along the neckline, tugging it half open as the figure strode away from her.

She would be able to make out the Captain's form in the darkness there, his long black coat flowing across the ground as he strode up to something hanging on the wall. It was hard to see at first as her eyes adjusted, and then still hard to see past the silhouette of the Captain until he turned, his long black hair trailing behind him as he moved past the painting, as if knowing what it was that she was looking at. On the canvas was an oil painting of a woman, frazzled and angry looking, her blue eyes shining in the night her hands outstretched like she was controlling marionettes, the fierceness in her eyes apparent as she stared at her enemies.

In the foreground she would see the bodies of Fire Nation soldiers twisting and writhing in agony... as they were bloodbent beside a train that had been burned through, the full moon rising over the outlines of the ridges where rebels were scaling down them to join the fight.

Beside that painting the portrait of a water bender, smiling, her face beautiful as she laughed with Gui and Shen, kidding around with them. The next one was her, leaning over someone in a tent, her arm extended downward out of the eyeline of the painter, but Katara would remember it as clear as day, and what she had been grabbing there in that tent, only to notice a pair of golden eyes staring out at her from the darkness, studying her as if she were a ghost, or some sort of cursed object.

"I would say you don't know how many months I've searched for you," came the graveled voice from the darkness as the Captain slowly stepped forward, his features all too familiar, save for the the fact that the part of his face where his scar surely was had been covered by a black mask that matched the shade of his hair, giving him a macabre look as if he were attending some ball. "But something tells me that you know exactly."

His boots left a steady cadence as he walked towards her, watching her mouth open as she tried to start to say something but was cut off again by his hand at her throat as he leaned in towards her, whispering into her ear. "The real question I have for you is... who am I? And why did you leave me to die?"

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:04 am

Chapter Six: Zuko Alone

The fire left his fist, and he knew that it was over. Flame and fire ignited there for one moment, and in that moment all time seemed to slow down. Zhao was grinning at him, his certainty in his victory nearly absolute. Slowly he could see his eyes sweep downward to the fire at his feet, the realization there. In the distance his men were staring at him. He could see the recognition in there eyes, even in the eyes of Sokka as he looked. He could see pain in Lu Ten's eyes... and in Katara's, disbelief. She didn't believe that he would do this to her, that he would leave her completely. He could feel everything starting to tremble for that one moment as he saw the fire starting to spread, his breath catching in his throat as the end started to come for him. He had to be strong before the end, he had to meet this with the same courage he had everything else in his life...

He could feel the fear race up his arms like trying to hold onto lightning. He had never met a spirit, he had never actually ever seen anything miraculous done. True, there was the avatar, the one who could bend all four elements. She had existed, she had proven that there were things unexplainable in this world. But had she actually been able to glimpse into the spirit world? Did she know for a fact that there were things out there that were beyond one's own imagining? Or was it some sort of trick? What if there was nothing more to the end of this life than the snuffing of a candle, a flicker of flame that was blown out, to leave behind something smoldering, empty, gone. Everything that he had done, everything that he cared about, everything that he was just simply... ended? he felt conflicted about that, not knowing whether the peace of it would outweigh the pain of never having been...

He spun before he realized what he was doing, flames dancing from his arm as a wall of flames formed up around him, a flash of movement catching his eye as one of Zhao's lieutenants rushed to his side just before the whole world went white. He tried to bend it, tried to push the flames away from himself. Yes, he knew he could do this, redirect heat, push it away from him into the air. He could feel the air in front of him start to chill to a blistering cold as he pushed the heat out of it, sweat dripping down his brow as he pushed everything he had into stopping the fire of it from hitting him in that instant. He could feel the heat pushing away from him, dissipating in a wave in that moment and he felt in that second hope, before the concussive force of the blast slammed into him like a boulder, pounding his flesh like he was nothing.

The world was black and in color as he spun, seemingly weightless in that moment. Panic gripped him in that chaos as his arms reached out for something, anything. Everything spun for a heartbeat, maybe two before he heard a dull thud of meat hitting something, a sickening crack filling him as pain lanced across him. Yet even then it was somewhere dull, not connected with him. It felt a million miles away from him in that instant, and he could feel everything slowly slipping into blackness. He had failed, and been snuffed out. But then, he couldn't really remember what it was that he had been fighting for anyway. Everything felt... detached. He could hear a branch breaking beneath something somewhere, feel as someone groaned out pain as another branch cracked, and another, sending them down further into the thick grass below.

In the end he welcomed the darkness as it came for him.

"Shit... I think he's ali-..." Black shapes moved against a colorless sky as something moved him. He could heard their voices, muttering foreign words in foreign tongues that he couldn't understand. Were they spirits? Did spirits even speak normally? What if there was an afterlife, but there was no way of anything understanding anything else? He tried to open his eyes, but it was so very hard to do anything. He tried to move his lips but all he heard was a dull moan coming out of himself. As his body seemingly began to move of it's own accord, he let himself sink into it, letting himself go completely as he felt his body seemingly begin to float along. He felt something there, something he didn't want to feel at the edges of his vision as he tried not to move, but there were phantoms holding down his fingers, his arms, but mostly his chest. Even as he hovered above the ground it felt like there was a vice around it.... around him.

"You think he's... asher?" The first voice muttered, as the steady crunch of boots hitting the ground came into earshot like the ticking of a clock, fading in and out of his mind like all of the sounds were. He could hear something that he thought sounded angry but then calmed down into subdued tones, the both of them seeming to fade out into a drone of murmering voices that went on, like the calls of giant birds might have sounded, deep and droning without any form of comprehension to what they might be saying or doing. He wasn't sure how long it was he floated like that until he was lowered onto something that was soft, like a cloud of some kind. Really, if this was the spirit world it seemed... nice.

There, amongst the clouds he felt himself slipping away slowly, the feeling of the cloud dissipating until there was nothing left but the void. No voices any longer, no sensation of floating, or even really being anywhere, anything. He was numb, and there was a lifelessness to it all. This, he recalled somehow, was what he had expected from death, a nothingness, a void. Except he could think, and in that there was something that he had not expected. His thoughts were there, connected to him. And yet they were empty, devoid of substance, reactionary. He could think about the darkness around him, how it made him feel, but other thoughts, thoughts that he should think were fuzzy, hard to grasp. There was something important that he should remember.

And then there she was in front of him, a woman, gripping him tightly in an embrace that felt wonderful, that felt like it was... home. All he knew was that he wanted to curl up in it and fall asleep forever, and yet even as he relaxed into it she pulled back, her dark red cloak falling down over her features as she looked at him with pale yellow eyes, gripping him tightly, almost too tightly as she prepared to tell him something, something important, that would shape him forever. He knew that she would say it, and still he felt a blink of surprise at her next words. "No matter how things seem to change, never forget who you are."

The image faded, and the blackness remained around him and yet the thought of it kept echoing out throughout everything, permeating him with a single question in his mind that he couldn't answer... who was he?


It was a song that awoke him, wordless, yet still the most beautiful thing that he had ever heard. And with that song as the world came into focus he looked as there came a face as well to it, with dark hair and dark eyes that belted out soft dulcet tones that seemed to tug at him, make him wish that he could raise up out of the softness around him, forgot it's gentle warmth just to reach out to touch her face. With her hair down around her like that, she was amazingly beautiful, her soft lips parted ever so slightly to let the music fade out as she smiled at him a beautiful smile, her fingertips moving down across his face lightly as she caressed it slowly, brushing lightly against his skin and the stubble that was there from days if not more of growth.

"You're awake." she whispered, and then smiled brightly again. "I was beginning to wonder if you would ever come back to us." He found himself staring at her soft brown hair that fell across her features. It was slightly messy, and she looked down a little as she saw him staring at it, as if she were slightly embarrassed, her teeth sinking lightly into her soft lip. "I didn't even think about it, I look like a mess." She bit her lip and then looked at him again, pausing for that moment to stare at him with eyes that seemed to peer into his soul then glance away, biting her lip as she muttered another apology and slowly rose up, dusting off her skirt a little bit as she headed for the door in the small room.

"You're beautiful." He whispered. He could see her pause, her fingertips touching the door frame, tracing along it as she paused, her fingertips curling there as she stood there, and then slowly turned around, looking at him with an intense stare as he blinked at her, watching as she walked back towards him, slowly sat on the bed beside him, looking at him with a beautiful radiant smile, her dark eyes staring into his intently as she paused, and then leaned in closer as if she was looking at something. He blinked a little, holding still, for fear that he would move and she wouldn't get to see what it was that she was looking at, but as he held there he watched as her face got closer and closer and...

Her lips were soft, softer than the sheets beneath him at that particular moment. He could feel them moving against her, and he found himself falling into the kiss, remembering that at least, how to move against someone kissing him. Something about it felt bittersweet though, painful as if there was something attached to kissing that hurt, but he couldn't remember what it was, a phantom from long ago. As her lips lingered there, slowly he felt the pain and thoughts associated with it flowing away, and found himself concentrating on those heavenly lips pressed against him, a soft groan rising in her throat as she slowly pulled away from him and brushed his hair out of his eyes.

"You need to get your rest, my prince..." she whispered to him, and he blinked a little at her words. They sounded familiar, as if he were used to being called such things, but the memories there were like a fog. From a distance it looked tangible yet no amount of closer inspection would reveal anything about it, delving deeper just was the same thing as it had been, there were memories there, out of his grasp, and he couldn't seem to get them to come up close no matter how hard he tried to push himself. She was right though, he was tired, and before he realized it she had started to hum again softly, the music in her tone becoming a trance that he couldn't avoid until blackness took him again.

"So you don't remember anything." Song said, frowning at him, tilting her head as she looked at him as if he were making it up. The problem was, he wasn't making it up. Everything he should know about the world was there, the Fire Nation was attacking the Earth Kingdom. The Southern Water Tribe had been wiped out, killing the Avatar with it. How to make tea, how to paint or sketch, those things were there, easily accessible from his thoughts. But anything else, who he was, where he had come from, all of that seemed like phantoms that escaped him every time that he reached out to try to find them in the back of his mind. He didn't even remember where he had learned anything about the war, or the current status of it.

"No... I don't even remember what my name is. Or where I was born." He said, frowning. There was something about it that almost... was an itch in the back of his mind. That was the only way he could think of to describe it, something that he should remember about it, something about what happened to the place that he was born. But whatever it was wouldn't come from the back of his mind. Maybe it was because it was horrific. Fear had a way of making people forget things, at least want to forget things. There was something unspoken in those moments when he struggled with his mind, a deep fear in the back of his thoughts that would just make him shudder to think about. What if this was... what if it was really him just going mad.

"It doesn't matter where in the Earth Kingdom you were born." Song assured him. He didn't bother arguing with her, he had mentioned it before, the question that was in his mind. What if he hadn't been born in the earth kingdom. Song had laughed it off and pointed out how silly he was being. He clearly wasn't fire nation or else he wouldn't have been burned, and he was far too pale to have come from the water tribes. Song had mentioned that once she had actually seen one of the water tribesmen when they had passed through town to gather supplies on their way to the North. It was talked about for years afterwards, because the Water Tribe was practically like the Air Nomads had been these days, given the Fire Nation's constant assault upon them.

So Song had narrowed down his country of origin, but that still left the biggest land mass in the world to try to narrow down where he was from. The problem was, while he knew a bit about the Earth Kingdom, none of it felt familiar. Though, nothing really felt familiar. Not even this place that he had been in for days actually felt comfortable. Instead it felt more like some sterile place that he was being kept in hiding from the world. He didn't even know why it was that they might be hiding him, but it felt like it, in any case. Still, Song came to visit him daily, and those visits became more and more of a lifeline to the rest of the world. She would tell him about what was going on, and sing to him. Her voice was amazing.

"We need to think of a name for you." Song said, frowning a little as she came up to him. "What do you like?" She asked, and then grumbled a little at his blank look that he gave her. "Stupid Song, of course he doesn't know what his favorite things are, he can't remember anything." She said with a light sigh, pausing as she looked at him, pursing her lips lightly as her dark eyes stared into his golden ones. He could feel his stomach flip flop lightly and he looked away for a moment until he felt her caressing his cheeks with her thumbs, enticing her to look back at him like he was some lost animal, and when he did again, he found himself drowning in her chocolate eyes as a slow smile took to her lips.

"Yang." She said softly. "In some of the old religions it was part of one of the forces of balance in the world. Yin was the feminine dark side, and Yang was the masculine light side. And you certainly are masculine..." she whispered as her fingertips caressed down his neck lightly, across his shoulder blades, causing his cheeks to heat lightly. "But beyond that, you're a light in my life. THE light in my life, Yang." She said. He blinked as he heard it leave her lips. It wasn't his name, he knew that much, it felt foreign, and yet at the same time, he felt like if it was her name for him, that it would be alright. He smiled a little and nodded faintly.

"Yang..." he said softly, as he rose up and paused, reaching up to touch the left side of his face, feeling the soft bandages there. He saw Song flinch as he touched the bandage there, as she seemed to whenever he did. He wasn't sure why it was that she flinched like that, but the smile would always leave her features as he touched there, feeling the bandages beneath his fingertips. She frowned, and finally looked away from him as he frowned himself, feeling his fingertips curling into the bandages. "When do they come off?" He finally asked her, watching as she scooted away from him and moved off the bed and quietly went to arrange some of the medical supplies that were strewn across the room.

"It just needs some more time, Yang." She said softly, touching the bandages lightly, and he found himself watching her fingertips as they caressed the cloth, remembering how they felt against his skin. He felt his skin heat as if they were on it again, and he flushed lightly, looking away, just as Song turned towards him and gave him her best fake smile. It almost looked like her real one, of course, but he could tell. He could see when it didn't bleed into her eyes. When she looked at him he could see her real smile come out, so it was completely obvious when something else was making her force the smile to her lips. He wanted nothing to do at that moment other than give her a hug and apologize for ever asking. "Trust me, in a few weeks we can take them off..." she promised him softly.

She moved then, towards the bedside where she had set down a pot of tea when she had come in. He wasn't very fond of the tea himself, mainly because he didn't like what it did to him, which was what it was supposed to do, he supposed. Whenever he drank it a heady feeling came over him and he would sleep almost instantly, which was the point. But he didn't like the way that it made him feel inside right before it put him to sleep, as if he was somehow... detached, disconnected from himself. He already felt like with his memory gone there was so little of himself that he was able to hold on to, the idea of losing a little bit more, even with something as simple as the way that the air felt against his skin was almost unbearable. What made him bear it, however, was the person who was administering it to him, the woman who was smiling at him now as her hair, frazzled as it was, fell loosely out of the long braid she had it in. He longed to tell her to undo it once again so he could see it spilling across her shoulders.

"Just a few more weeks of drinking this stuff as well." Song said softly as she handed him the glass, staring into his eyes as she watched him drink it as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. At first he had felt self conscious about her doing it, but eventually he had grown used to the looks that she gave him, knowing what each one of them happened to mean. She seemed to be worried that he might not drink it all, given that he had rather openly told her that he hated the feeling that it gave him, and since then she had been watching him. Still, all she had to do was tell him to do it for her and he would have done it, without so much as another question.

It took some doing, but he managed to choke down the bitter concoction that she gave him, wincing a little as he felt the way that it both burned and seemed to coat his throat at the same time. And then he lay back, letting Song do what she did after he drank the medicine, which was sing. It was beautiful, wordless as usual but still outstandingly beautiful, and slowly he felt himself start to detach from the world, his eyes blinking with more frequency and yet slower, and slower still until finally they closed, and he felt himself starting to drift off.

Somewhere in the haze of the world fading out he could hear her whisper to him softly. "Goodnight, my Prince."

Song was staring at him, her dark eyes burning into the back of his head as he slowly pulled the wrappings from his face. It had been almost a month since he had come here, and his hair which he could remember at his brow now hung down to the tops of his cheeks. Even Song had been surprised at how fast it had grown, though seeing him daily as she did, she hadn't noticed until one day she had just exclaimed that it had grown quite a bit. She had shown him a mirror, and he had been surprised when he saw his own face. It was strange, looking into a mirror, and not recognizing the face on the other side of it. There was something about it that was frightening though, when he looked into his one eye, he could see something in there, almost something evil. Why was it that those yellow eyes scared him so? It seemed like there should be something to it, but he couldn't pick out what it was.

Now he stood, slowly pulling the bandages from his face, feeling Song's nervousness infect him. He knew that it wouldn't be good, he knew her well enough to know that she had peeked at his bandages, and she had been the one to change them often. But never before had she let him actually see what was beneath. Now, after a month of treatments, the doctors had decided that it was as good as it was going to get. He didn't know what that meant, but he could still tell that part of his vision on one side was obscured by the heavy burn marks that had to be there. He could feel that his eyelid would only open so far. It wasn't enough to stop him from living his life, or even from being able to fight if it came to it, but it would never been truly the same. He knew that much already even without pulling off the bandages.

Still, there wasn't anything that could prepare him for what he saw when he actually pulled off the last of the wrappings and pulled up the mirror. He could see tears brimming in Song's eyes as she looked at him, and he could see why. It looked as if part of his face had been melted, like it was glass that had gotten to too hot a flame and had oozed down slowly. He closed his eyes and set the mirror down, feeling a tear fall down his good cheek as he took in a slow breath and bowed his head. Even behind his eyelids he could see the monstrosity that he looked like staring back at him. He had expected that it would be bad, of course, some sort of scar that he would be asked about often. But there was a difference between scarred skin, and what he had on his face. No one would ever simply look at that without recognizing it... it was a mark that would haunt him for life. Most scars faded with time, but that one never would.

He could feel Song's arms wrap around his neck as she pressed his head to her chest lightly and curled her face into his long hair. "Oh Yang, I'm so sorry. We tried, we tried everything. They must not have found you soon enough. I..." she trailed off and gripped him tightly, her fingertips curling into his hair as she held him. She didn't need to say anything more. He trusted her, he knew that she wouldn't have stopped at anything less than everything she could have done in order to try to save his face. She hadn't, of course, and they both had known it, but there was some comfort in knowing that she had tried. Whatever destiny or the spirits had in store for him was out of his control, and she hadn't sat by and idly let it happen. Even so, he could feel her choking back the tears as she held him. Beyond his one, he felt too numb to shed more.

"It's alright." he said softly, touching her arm lightly, trying to reassure her. Somehow something told him it would be alright, that he could live with it. Perhaps it was the lack of his memories, or perhaps something else inside of him, but he knew that he could face making it through this world alone. He could make it without anyone looking at him as anything more than a casualty, some sort of freak that was spawned from the unspoken War with the Fire Nation. Apparently in the capitol they didn't even bother to bring it up, like they were pretending that the outlying colonies were not being pillaged in order to fuel the Fire Nation's war with the Northern Water Tribe.

"I have... something to show you." Song whispered softly, and slowly propped her foot up on the bed, slowly tugging at the hem of her long skirt, causing him to blush furiously, confused as to what she was doing as she hiked her long skirt slowly up to her knees there slowly in front of him, looking away. She didn't blush, and Yang found himself focusing on her face more than the leg that was in front of him, wondering what she was doing, wondering what it was that was causing the look of pain to cross her features, the way that she had when he had always asked about his face, wondering what was beneath the bandages that she kept wrapped around his face the whole time.

As he opened his mouth to ask a question he blinked a little, and found himself focusing on her leg. Along it there were scars, somewhat faint but at the same time also red, visible, somewhat angry looking. He wondered immediately if they hurt her, if they caused her pain, but looking at her face he realized that regardless of whatever physical pain they might have caused her, it was the emotional scars she was bearing to him now, whether or not she knew it or not. She wanted him to see all of her. And in truth it helped solidify her point to see these scars. He wondered why she was so adamant about hiding them, what it was she saw when she looked at herself in the mirror. Did they really bother her?

"Do they hurt?" he whispered to her, and she shook her head lightly, biting her lip. She seemed on the verge of tears there in front of him, though the look changed as his fingertips touched the dead skin there, caressing it softly, trailing his way slowly up her calf. She turned slowly to look at him then as his fingertips slide up higher, following the burn marks up to her knee, tracing beneath the hem of her dress as he looked at her. Her teeth had sunk into her lip at this point as she stared at him with a look he didn't recognize on her face before, but the flush that he had seen in her face was now bright on her cheeks as she looked at him, her breathing seeming deep and almost labored.

He pulled his fingertips back slowly, watching her bite her lip harder as he did, confusion spreading throughout him. He had done it on a whim, a seemingly thoughtless act, daring, but completely inappropriate, and the way that she was looking at him was if he had done something amazing. He opened his mouth to ask her what it was that he had done, but she threw herself at him then, her arms finding their way around his neck as she pressed her lips hard to his, almost too hard. He could feel himself groaning in the kiss as she pushed him down, kissing him again and again until his lips almost felt numb from how she was kissing him. Her face was bright red from embarrassment when she pulled away, looking down.

"I'm sorry, I..."

"It's... alright." he said, blinking and touching his lips as he touched her hand lightly. He felt her squeeze it tightly as she turned and looked at him, and there were suddenly tears in her eyes.

"You don't know how long I've waited for you, Yang." She whispered softly.

Yang sighed a little as he felt his legs underneath him for the first time. He wanted to run, but it had been a trying month. He hadn't really used them for weeks, and they, and the rest of him, felt, flabby, weak. He could practically hear them screaming for exercise as he moved, yet at the same time, it seemed somewhat rude to dash off in front of Song, who seemed more the sort to linger on the road and enjoy the end of the summer. Yang watched her brown eyes searching around the trees that lined the small path that they were on that lead into the village. It wasn't much of a walk, of course, the houses around were spread out just enough so that there were large farmlands around them which they lived off of. Yang could remember hearing once that the Earth Kingdom was a proud and loyal people, and he had to admit that they seemed to be...

No more so than the woman who was striding far ahead of them. Taller than Song, she was nearly Yang's height save for a few inches, and her black hair tumbled behind her wildly, unlike Song's which was mostly braided and well kept. Somehow Yang found himself liking it, liking the fact that she only let it down for him when she sung her songs to him before he drifted to sleep. Her cousin, on the other hand, who she was staying the house of, openly said that it was disgusting. She had told him point blank that she thought the idea of him fucking her cousin under her house and pretending that it wasn't anything was sickening to her, that he had just lured Song in like a bird with the broken wing and now was taking advantage of her. Yang attempted to explain to her that, despite appearances, it was innocent, but she wouldn't have any of it.

He could remember how angry she had been to learn that he was going to come on this trip to town with them. Song had eventually soothed things over with her somewhat, but she had still glared at him and stormed ahead of the two of them. That suited him just fine. There was little point in trying to explain to someone who hated you and wouldn't listen why they shouldn't. If she wanted to hate him, just let her hate him for all he cared. There were more pressing things he had on his mind now, like seeing if someone in town recognized him at all. Song had seemed to frown when he mentioned that idea to her, but had eventually agreed that it was the best way of finding out who he was or where he came from. Still, he could see a hint of sadness in her eyes as she had turned to get ready, and had recognized her forced smile as she slipped off to her room.

Yang couldn't help but blink as he entered the small town, realizing that he didn't recognize anyone in this village, or even the village itself. He wasn't sure why he was surprised, there wasn't a single thing that he really DID recognize, but he had hoped for something, to look at the shape of a building, and to point at it and shout in surprise, to suddenly realize all of those things that were just beyond his mind's reach were suddenly in focus. But there was nothing of that here, no house that held it's secrets, no surprises waiting for him in the people's faces that were gathered there in some form of group in front of the town square. Only, there was something strange about the faces that were gathered there, the way they were gathered. He saw as Song's cousin stiffened and then started to dash ahead.

"Wan Xue!" Song called out as she began to hurry down after her cousin, leaving Yang to do the same. His legs complained at the sudden change in pace, but after a moment or two it felt natural, and the burning there subsided somewhat as he ran after Song. He was less worried about her cousin than she was, but he certainly was worried about her, and the people that were crowding about. Something tingled in the back of his mind as he knew the word for this, though any thoughts of where he had seen it before eluded him. Still, there was no mistaking a lynch mob when you saw one.

Yang watched, horrified as they slowly lifted a man up and tied him to a large platform. The man's right eye was bloodied, scarred, and deformed. Yang could tell that the wounds were fresh, as they were practically dripping blood, but rather than look upset about what was happening to him, the man bore a smile that didn't belong. Deep and twisted, it didn't seem to meet the look of his hollow eyes, which seemed to look like there was something in them, deep and profound that had since evacuated and left him... empty. Even so, like a living doll, the man laughed loudly to the roar of the crowd, grinning half toothlessly with a twisted, inhuman smile. "I'm Prince Zuko! You all should be worshiping me... if you return me to my father, he will give you untold riches!" the man said before devolving into a series of laughs that felt so out of place it gave Yang shivers.

"Fucking Asher!" Someone cried as they lobbed a rock against him. Yang watched as it hit the man in the face, cutting him deeply, a bright red trail of blood running down the man's forehead as he seemed to just laugh through the rocks being thrown at him.

"What are they doing?" Yang said, starting to move forward only to feel a hand on him and feel himself be thrown to the ground by Wan Xue.

Her cold green eyes bore into him as she sneered. "What are YOU doing, Yang? Don't tell me Song's fallen for an ash-lover..." She glared, narrowing her eyes at him, so much that she didn't notice as Song stepped up to her angrily, a glare on her normally fair features.

"Take it back." Song growled in a way that Yang had never seen her act before. He blinked slowly and scrambled to his feet, dusting himself off as Song grabbed him by the hand and pulled him back, away from Wan Xue who was looking at them like a lost pet that was being left behind, her green eyes staring at them through the crowd as she called out.

"Song! I'm sorry... Song? Song!" At that point she hung her head, and turned when she realized that Yang was seeing the pain there in her eyes.

When they were far enough from the crowd, Yang stopped Song, and then turned. The mob was starting to get violent. "Stay here." He said softly to Song as he turned to look at the crowd, trying to figure out what would be enough to break their blood lust.

As he took a step forward he felt Song gripping his wrist painfully tight. "What are you doing, Yang?" She demanded, the same anger that he had seen in her eyes before leveled at Wan Xue was now staring him in the face as he paused, frowning a little as he looked over his shoulder.

"This isn't right." Yang said softly.

Song tugged him back. "No, it isn't. But if he wants to side with the ash-... with the Fire Nation, then he deserves what he gets. Do you know how many Earth Kingdom people their Prince had to have killed? I heard that he was involved in the raid on the Southern Water Tribe... that it was he who dealt the Killing Blow to the Avatar herself and took her head back to his father to try to gain his favor again..." Song said, shaking her head lightly. "The world is a better place with Zuko dead... and anyone who revels in pretending to be him, deserves what they get."

"He does? Just for resembling some Fire Nation royalty? I've got a scar on my face too, what if that mob was surrounding me, wanting to kill me thinking that I was some Fire Nation spy?" Yang said, staring into her brown eyes.

"That's silly." Song said, shaking her head. "Your scar is on the wrong side of your face. Everyone knows Zuko had most of the right side of his face melted off. You have a much smaller scar on the left side of your face. And you're Earth Kingdom, not Fire Nation. And unless you were claiming to be the dead Prince, no one is going to look twice at you... we all have our scars from the Fire Nation... you know that, Yang."

Yang frowned, not knowing what to think of it. It felt wrong, yet at the same time he had to do something. "That man is clearly not in his right mind. I'm sorry... I can't just..." Song glared at him with tears in his eyes as he turned away from her and rushed towards the crowd, trying to get his way through, but by the time he had moved past a couple of people he saw it, the fire at the pyre by the man's feet shooting flames up into the sky.

"Look at me fire bend!" the Prince Zuko impersonator howled as the flames consumed him.

Yang watched in horror as the crowd cheered then, watching an insane man burn alive. Eventually, as if sanity had come to him at the last possible second his screams turned from screams of joy into something horrific, tortured, but by then it was too late to save him. Yang slumped as he watched the body collapse under the flames, and the mob, their lust sated, started to dissipated, talking about how much they hated ashers and just wished that every one of them could burn in a fire just like this one.

By the time that Yang found Song and Wan Xue, he felt numb. Wan Xue saw it and smirked at him. "Fucking Asher." she growled as she brushed roughly past him with her shoulder, going to talk with Song, who was staring at Yang with that same pained look in her eyes that she had held before. The two of them didn't talk for a long time as they went out shopping for necessities.

When they stopped by an art stand, Yang blinked a little as did Wan Xue as Song got a few supplies. "I thought it might help Yang remember something. If he can't remember this place, then maybe he can paint where he remembers. This is the stuff that you use, isn't it, Wan Xue?" She asked, and Yang could see a look of anger cross her cousin's features. "I think you're just worried that he'll wind up being better at painting than you are..." Song said with a little smile.

"If he is, I'll marry him." Wan Xue growled which caused Song to laugh, and Wan Xue as well. When the two of them had moved on from the stand, Yang quietly used the money that Song had given him to buy something he wanted to buy a different brush than the one Song had gotten. Something told him that it would be better for the types of materials that she had gotten for him. He tucked it into his pocket without much fuss, and went to catch up to them.

On the way home, he still hadn't said a word to them when Song trailed back, and looked at him, touching his arm lightly. "I'm sorry, Yang, I know that what happened today upset you. But you don't know what the Fire Nation did to our villages, to our people. My parents were killed because of them... Wan Xue's mother... she was raped and then murdered by one of them... a spy, no less." Song shook her head, looking at him. "Once you remember your past, you'll understand... you'll see what they did to you, and understand why nothing we can ever do to them will be worse than what they've done to us."

Wan Xue choked on the tea that she had been drinking as she peeked into Yang's room. He pretended not to notice, even though he did. She had some decent paintings of fruit or rocks or things, but her shading needed work, she didn't really have a concept for seeing the way that the light hit an object. So he could only imagine that she was surprised by what was there on his canvas. In honesty he was surprised as well, he had started off, knowing the concepts of it, but also knowing that the concepts didn't make a good painter. He had felt his way along the canvas, and as he moved his brush across it he could remember someone telling him that the stroke of a brush was like the stroke of a sword... final.

And it was because of that philosophy, Yang found himself looking at someone he didn't recognize at all. No, that wasn't true, he remembered flashes of her, from his dreams, and his hands had just focused on painting that, when he had been trying to think about the past. He blinked a little as he found himself staring at her, her dark skin, her amazingly blue eyes, her dark hair, fanned out slightly as she looked at him from the canvas, seeming to stare into the heart of him. It was strange, but he almost thought that he painted love into those eyes, though he had no idea how such a thing was possible. That was something that you gauged from someone after knowing them... you couldn't just... see love in a stranger, could you?

"What is it... oh... my..." Song said, blinking a little as she came in to look at the work that Yang had done, her eyes going wide as she looked at the canvas, staring at it. "It's like you can just... almost... reach out and touch it..." Song said, staring at the person there. She paused then, and frowned a little, a worried look crossing her face. It suddenly occurred to Yang that Song had asked him to think about his past when painting something, and now she was seeing this and she most likely thought that it was something that was there in the past, a phantom that she had to compete with. "Who is this, Yang?" She said softly, her frown deepening.

"It's... you." Yang said softly.

Song tilted her head. "But my eyes are brown."

He bit his lip lightly, and then shook his head. "I... It's a dream I had. Haven't you ever had a dream where you knew that you were with someone, even though in the dream they didn't look the same? That's what I did... you from the dream." Yang lied. He wasn't sure why it was that he did it, except that he knew that Song would be hurt if he told her the truth, that it was some woman, some woman who felt like she was from his past. Were they lovers? Was it just some woman that he was obsessed with? He didn't actually know, but he knew that there was something there, some emotion that he was trying to paint into her face, something that she wanted to tell him but couldn't.

"You bettered not be planning on marrying him since you lost your bet." Song said, half jokingly and half tinged with a threat to Wan Xue.

Wan Xue's emerald eyes rolled as she walked past them, snorting derisively as she headed down the hall to her room. "Try not to make too much noise fucking tonight..." Wan Xue called out.

Song blushed deeply at that, enough so that Yang had to blink a little at the way that she was acting. He had kissed her before, and he knew the feel of her skin beneath his fingertips, but that was as far as anything had gotten. The way that Song looked now was if Wan Xue had actually called her out on something that she had done before. It confused Yang when he looked at her, and when she glanced the confusion on his face she bit her lip and blushed a little more, which only served to be still more confusing.

"What if it wasn't a joke?" Song asked. Yang blinked still looking confused as she touched his hand, guiding him to put down the paint brush as she held his hand in hers. "I mean... what if you and I weren't a joke. No, that's not, we're not a joke, I mean... I think I'm falling in love with you, Yang. When I saw this painting, all I could think of was how jealous I would be of Wan Xue if she proposed to you, and you accepted." Song said, looking down, shaking her head as she reached back and slowly pulled her hair out of her braid in the way that she knew that he liked, looking at him as she did it. "Would being married to me really be so terrible?" She asked meekly.

"No, of course not..." Yang said softly, "I just sort of had hoped that I could... I mean." He frowned lightly. "I was hoping that I would remember, that I would remember all of it so that when I asked you I could ask you as me..."

"Yang IS you," Song said, gripping his fingertips. "I know that you think that you'll discover this great person that you once were, but, the simple truth is you were likely just a simple farmer who got caught in the crosshairs of a Fire Nation attack that went wrong. The rebels fight with them all the time now, spirits bless them. I'm just saying, Yang, you're probably living a more exciting life here with me than you ever had been before." She smiled softly, and looked at him, biting her lip.

"You're right..." Yang said softly, watching as Song undid her braid completely and then went to him, touching his neck softly as her lips found his. He could smell her all around him, intoxicating as she kissed him and then slowly pulled back, reaching for the neckline of her kimono, looking at him in the eyes as she slowly started to pull it open. For some reason at that moment, Yang could feel more than ever the blue eyes of the woman staring at him from the easel. His hands raised to stop Song, curling around her fingertips.

"You don't want to?" Song asked softly, her large eyes staring at his.

"No, it's not that," Yang lied again, feeling more guilty than he did the first time, "I just..." He paused and gripped her hands, "I know you wanted to wait. We should wait, wait until we're married..." he said, offering her a smile. The talk of marriage made her eyes light up and she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly, snuggling up against him.

"If you're sure." Song said.

Yang smiled, "You've waited this long, a little longer won't hurt..." he offered, though he did feel somewhat guilty. In the past he had driven their lusts. Had Song's chastity not stopped him before he might have claimed it. Now... now he felt completely confused, feeling more detached than he ever had from the warm house that had been willing to take him in.

Song kissed him slowly and his thoughts seemed to melt before she pulled back lightly, stroking his hair. "Mmmn, if I keep that up, neither one of us is going to be able to say no..." she said softly and kissed him again, lingering against his lips as she whispered, "Goodnight, my Prince."

Yang breathed a sigh of relief as he heard her door slide shut, and realized that he was the lone person awake, shutting the screen to his room as he went to one of the candles and paused, holding his hand over it slowly. As his eyes narrowed he slowly pulled the small flame, feeling it bend to his will as he frowned, his stomach twisting in a knot as he sat there in the dark.

"Just a simple farmer..." Yang muttered sadly.

Join date : 2009-10-03

Posts : 144
Age : 1516
Location : On a mountain somewhere

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:04 am

The moves came back to him almost too easily, as if they had been written down on scrolls for him to learn by. He had simply started with a basic attack posture, and found his body moving into forms that it remembered even if he did not. He knew what they were for, knew how to use them in a sense, but he didn't know what they were until he found himself doing them. It was strange. But if he could see in his mind's eye an attacker coming to throw a punch at him he could easily brush it aside and slam his fist into the side of their neck, then spin downward for a low sweep only to spin into a flip and come down against their sternum with his heel in one fluid motion.

The more that he did the more that he found it came back to him, the endless hours of training, but he couldn't remember what for. No, that wasn't true, his abilities that he had experienced previously, they had something to do with this. He could feel where his punches would easily release fireballs if he let them. In fact it was harder to control the energy, to keep them restrained. On the other hand, if he let Song see him as he moved it would likely cause her to panic and have a discussion he wasn't sure he wanted to have with her yet. So he kept his abilities a secret and forced his training on based on the things that he knew how to do, that his body did instinctively.

Thankfully he knew enough about what exercises he needed to do to get himself back in shape, and as his third month since the accident rolled around he was back in the shape that he needed to be in. What it was that he needed to be in it for, he couldn't say, but he had a sensation while he was lazy, tame, that something was utterly wrong, that he needed to prepare for it. Song, skeptical at first, had seemed to learn to appreciate his more muscular body and the strength that went along with it, at first claiming that it was good for someone who was recovering from injuries to get exercise, and then later would come to watch him as he worked out. Sometimes he would catch her, watching him with her lower lip between her teeth as she saw him shirtless and sweaty, though that seemed something of a mystery to him why one thing would evoke the other in her.

"Looking good..." Came the call from the fence on the edge of the field where Yang practiced. Yang knew the voice well enough by now to recognize Gan, the overly muscled friend of Songs. Yang held a heavy distaste for the man who was looking at him, staring at him with dark green eyes, and yet everything outwardly that Gan did seemed friendly. There was just something about him that bothered Yang, that had bothered him from the first time that they had met. Something in his eyes, the way that he smiled. There was something off about it, like there was something there that didn't seem right. Given that he was an Earth Bender it seemed odd that there wasn't a thing about him that was straight forward, but something inside of his personal repertoire of knowledge told Yang that it was possible for even earth benders to be deceptive.

"Thanks." Yang said cautiously, looking at the man. He wasn't sure why it was that whenever he came to see Song he felt the need that the two of them should talk as if they were old friends. Song claimed that it was him trying to be friendly, but to Yang it felt like the man was trying to feel him out, the way that someone would feel a board for signs of weakness, a crack where they might strike at it. Yang, for that reason, always felt compelled to put on the face that he got when he was practicing, the cold, detached demeanor that could mean that he was simply sizing up an opponent, staring off into space disinterested, or counting down the heartbeats until he attacked. Each time it seemed to him as if Gan's eyes would narrow, ever slightly, as if he were annoyed, and his smile would fade away somewhat. Song again, attributed that to Yang's spurning of Gan's niceties.

"Well, I don't want to keep you from your practice, Yang." Gan said with a grin, running his hand through his short cut dark hair. It stood up reminding Yang a little of an angry boarcupine. Yang made sure he didn't let out the glare he wanted to give the other man as Gan tossed him a light wave over his shoulder as he headed towards the house, and then paused a little, turning as his green eyes settled upon the other man. "That was an interesting style you have going there. I've been doing Earth Bending quite a while and I've never seen anything like it. What exactly did you say the name of it was?" Gan asked, leaning on the fence again as he looked at the other man.

"I'm not sure. I don't even remember my own name, how would I remember the name of whatever fighting form I'm using?" Yang asked him with a seemingly careless shrug. "Something tells me it's not very common though. I think I picked it up on the edge of the Earth Kingdom... but again, that's just a hunch I guess. Maybe there's a village where this is the only style they practice, for all I know." Yang said, tilting his head as he looked at Gan, whose eyes had narrowed again as if something had bothered him.

Once he was gone, Yang found himself working with a new fury, the fire inside of himself barely contained by his self control, but he wanted to let it come out. He could feel it beneath the surface, bubbling and writhing like a serpent under his skin. It was wrong to fire bend with anger, he knew that much. It was a destructive path, and one that could lead one to depend upon it for all of their bending. Many fire benders thought that it was the anger that let them bend with power, and it was an easy way to get there. But it would corrupt the bender from the inside out, and the truth of it was that understanding the true source of it, while more difficult, would provide stronger bending than rage. It just took more time.

Yang wasn't sure how he knew those things, but they came out as he moved, recognizing what to do and what not to do. As he moved he felt another pair of eyes upon him. If it was Gan again, he knew that it would take all of his willpower not to send a fireball blazing at the earthbender's smirking face. As he spun though, he saw Wan Xue, staring at him there. She looked white as a sheet as she stared him, and when he took a step forward, she took a slow step back, shaking her head for a moment before she seemed to calm herself. Yang narrowed his eyes lightly as he took a step forward then, again, staring into her eyes. "Are you alright?" he asked, frowning.

"Yeah, I'm... fine." Wan Xue said softly, shaking her head, forcing a smile there. "I need to go, I'm supposed to be in with them..." she said softly, biting her lip as she turned from him.

Yang was going to protest, but he actually felt better about her being in with Gan. He would never suspect Song of cheating on him, but there was something in his gut that said that if she wanted to Gan would be more than willing. He shook his head a little as he went back to practicing, his fist slamming into the air as he tried to mentally calm himself. He didn't know why it was that he felt so bad about Gan. Song had promised that she wouldn't go into town alone with Gan, and here with Wan Xue and her grandmother within earshot, he was certain that nothing was going to happen. He was probably just getting jealous...

"Come on... it's one last chance. You have what? Maybe a week?"

Wan Xue paused, and frowned as her hand paused against the grain of the sliding door that seperated out her room from the others. She could hear him inside, Gan. Of course, they had all been friends for a while, there wasn't any reason to think anything less of the man than Song did. But why did it feel like his visits were getting more frequent as of late, that he was coming to visit her more? She was more than willing to give Yang a hard time about it. Given how he acted, he really deserved it. He bumbled about, like he had no memory of anything, or anyone, something that Wan Xue highly doubted. And yet at the same time he seemed to have no focus, no desires. Song had practically thrown herself at him and he had accepted it, but he should have been the one to ask her cousin, not reply to her cousin's overt desires. She knew that Yang wasn't alright with the way that Gan came to see Song, which bothered her quite a bit.

After all, why was it that Yang could be so seemingly inept to everything else about his life, so going with the flow, yet that would bother him? At least, that was what she had thought at first. Now she could feel a similar knot tying in her stomach as she heard Gan trying to convince Song to sneak out to go with him to the village. Yang had allowed Song to speak with them here, at her house where both Wan Xue and their grandmother would walk through every now and again to see how everyone was doing and ask if they wanted any tea or anything. But going out to the village was another matter altogether. This was something that she knew that the scarred man wouldn't be alright with. He wouldn't be angry, though, nothing it seemed angered the man, nothing that she could manage to do anyway, and she had tried several things, but he would be... disappointed. And that would likely be enough to hurt Song.

"I don't... I mean, Yang just left to gather firewood, and the sun is setting!" Song said in her usual cheery voice. In some ways, she was suited for Yang, as she never seemed to have a particular care in the world. Outwardly anyway. Inwardly, Wan Xue knew what it meant when she had seen the scar on the man's face, and what it had meant when it hadn't gone away. It meant safety, someone who wouldn't look at her own scars the way that she was afraid other people would. Song was a beautiful person, and had a beautiful heart, and in Wan Xue's opinion the fact that she felt like she couldn't be loved with the scars on her legs was a tragedy. Even more so, that she saw some sort of Prince, some sort of salvation in a man as unfortunately scarred as she. Wan Xue wanted her to have a real Prince, someone who was unmarked, and as beautiful on the outside as he was on the inside, not someone who was just... disinterested.

Slowly, Wan Xue stepped out of her room to interrupt the pair. She disliked Yang as much as the next person, in fact, in the beginning she had outright hated him, but even someone like him didn't deserve to have someone that he loved cheat on him. Wan Xue hated the fact that he didn't openly show her cousin more love, but on the other hand, there was something in the way that he looked at Song that made Wan Xue believe that he actually loved her cousin. And, as much as she hated to admit it, the fact that he was willing to hold his ground against Gan on the fact that Song shouldn't be going anywhere alone with him made a fairly compelling argument for the fact that although he wasn't forward about everything there were some things that he was willing to stick his ground on.

She could see Gan's eyes narrow as she came out of her room, and she frowned slowly, watching him. Why did he look at her now like she was just... in the way? Was there something about her being there that really bothered him that much? Wan Xue wracked her brain. Song's wedding was a week away. Was there something that Gan wanted to tell her alone? Something that he wanted to confess to her without anyone else being there? She had always known that he had had just a little crush on Song since they all were little, but he also wasn't known for sticking to that desire, either. He had gotten around with more than his fair share of ladies, so it seemed strange that he would be so hung up on Song all of a sudden. Perhaps he was the sort who just wanted something that he couldn't have.

"We'll have Wan Xue go with us." Song said excitedly, and Wan Xue noticed the delay in the way that Gan smiled, as if he thought about it half a second longer than he should have if he wanted to lie. Something told her that he was going to confess his love for her tonight, if she let him. But, Wan Xue knew that, even had he been anointed by the Earth King himself, there was nothing that Gan could do at this point to get Song to see anything but Yang when she thought of love. It was a fools errand, to be sure, but was it really better to stop him from making a fool of himself, or just let him get it out of his system and finally be free of it. Probably the latter, but on the other hand, the way that Gan was looking at her made her... nervous.

"No, I mean, we shouldn't... Yang is probably going to be back shortly and wondering where we are..." Wan Xue blinked despite herself. Were those words actually coming out of her mouth? No, she was resolute in them. This was a bad idea, and she was not just going to blithely go along with it.

"Not if we leave now, get back quick." Gan said, his smile spreading, "You know, I think this is actually a great idea. Come on Wan Xue, it'll be an adventure." He said with an easy smile that somehow didn't comfort the green eyed woman any as she looked at him. There was something that was inherently wrong about this, she just couldn't figure out what it was.

No, there wasn't anything wrong with it! She was just letting Yang's jumpiness get the best of her. Or his possessiveness, or something. Gan was their old friend, and Yang himself had said that it was alright for all of them to hang out together. There wasn't anything to worry about. "Yeah, sure, alright." Wan Xue said softly, pausing for a moment. "I just... gimme a minute to get ready, alright?" She said, walking into the kitchen, pausing as she took out a piece of paper. She wasn't sure how old it was, but it hadn't been used for anything, it was far too small for a scroll. She wrote the word village on it, and shook her head as she looked down at it. She didn't know why she was leaving a note for Yang. But maybe this would make him not worry about them while they were gone. It was just a courteous thing that she was doing, that was it.

"Fucking Ashers." Gan said as they got out onto the road a ways, far out of sight of the small house that they all lived in, near the docks beside town, where the trees were a little thicker on the sides of the trail. Perhaps Gan was going to take Song to the suicide cliffs in order to profess his love there. It was said that they were named for the lovers that had dived off the cliffs to their death after being rejected by the ones that they loved. Perhaps Gan was going to take her there as some show that if she didn't accept he would dive over the cliffs to his own death. Wan Xue knew him better than that, though. For all he might prattle on about there being one woman for him, he wouldn't simply end his life just because of one rejection, even if it was Song.

"I know. I just wish that they would all go off and die..." Song lamented softly. "I just don't understand why the avatar didn't wipe them out when she was around. If she had just killed off enough of them then there wouldn't have been a problem until the next avatar came around. And by that time then we could have just started doing it ourselves. Like the hunters start to hunt wolfbats when they get to be too big of a problem." Song said softly, frowning a little. "I mean, how could anyone think that the world wouldn't be a better place with them gone? If they're so concerned about balance, just leave like one or two alive..." Song said, shaking her head.

"Yeah..." Wan Xue added in, but immediately felt her stomach twist as it always did when talking about such things. She wanted to change the subject, like she usually did, but there was no changing it to anything else. She hated thinking about the Fire Nation, about what had happened to her mother. She hated it with every fiber of her being...

"Hey, let's take the trail into the woods," Gan said, smiling. Yeah, he was definitely headed for the cliffs, wanting to make it so that they could see the ocean and the beautiful moon rising over it when he admitted his feelings for her. Wan Xue had to admit it would have a little bit of style. She hung back lightly, watching as Song seemed to debate for a moment.

"I thought we were going to the village," Song said with a frown.

"Let's just head up there for a second." Gan said. Song seemed conflicted until he touched her shoulder, and then she seemed to shake it away, as if it were something that could be discarded. Wan Xue wondered what she would say to Gan when he told her about how much he loved her. Would she even hesitate when it came to Yang, and his love? As they walked up the trail, she could see Gan seeming to fidget a little more as they went along, his head looking around the trail. It was kind of amusing to see him that nervous.

"Do you remember when we were little, Song? And you had such a crush on me?" Gan started.

Song laughed softly, letting it light up the night around her with joy. "That was a long time ago. If I remember you rejected me for another girl who had... matured a bit faster," Song offered, pausing. "What was her name?"

"It doesn't matter." Gan said quickly, "What matters is... I made a mistake." Wan Xue paused a little. Was he actually going to talk to her here, before they got to the cliffs? It seemed strange to put the cart before the ostrichhorse as it were. "I want, you, Song. I can't live without you." Wan Xue heard the sound of an animal snapping branches around them but was more distracted by the fact that Gan at that point went to kiss Song. She could see her cousin's hands pressing against Gan's chest to try to push him away as he forced the kiss on her.

"HEY!" Wan Xue growled as she started to come forward only to feel a grimy hand slap against her mouth. She let out a muffled scream as she was grabbed and held in place.

"What are you doing?" Song shrieked as she slapped Gan, whose face twisted with rage.

With a fluid motion he backhanded her hard enough to make her spin. Song stumbled to the side and fell on her hands and knees, her dark eyes glaring up at Gan. "Shut up you little cunt," Gan growled as he grabbed her thrashing hands and pinned them down to the ground, tugging on the ribbon that sealed her kimono shut, tearing it open as he smiled. "I'm taking what should be mine. Just because some stranger comes with a scar as fucking ugly as yours, you think you can just shack up with him and forget about me? Do you know how many nights I thought about how good you'd feel wrapped around me? I'm just getting the first shot at it..." Gan said, struggling a little with his belt.

Wan Xue was thrashing hard, kicking and biting at her attackers, feeling her nails draw blood as she heard the words that caused her blood to freeze like a glacier. "Go ahead and have fun with her boys. I was thinking you'd have to settle for my payment and a show, but it turns out you're getting a bonus after all... " Gan said as he fumbled with his belt again.

Breathe. It's all about breath, Wan Xue. Breath is where the energy of life comes from. It's what fills us with power. The power to protect the ones that we care about more than anything else in this world. She could hear his words, her father's words in her head as she almost disconnected herself as she was thrown to the ground, the dirty faces above her holding her arms above her head. She could see their missing teeth, the fact that one of them had an eye patch. Pirates. She was going to get raped by pirates and there wasn't anything that she could do about it. She could feel herself starting to shake with anger and pain and rage, all of them building up as they laughed at her, laughed at her pain.

"Wait... please... I don't... want it to be like this... I just... wouldn't it be more enjoyable if I went along with it?" She said softly, looking at the blinking looks from their faces as she felt the hands holding hers down lessen. She looked down and saw her own ribbon cut from her kimono, the clothing torn away from her sensitive areas, not even realizing it had been done, and felt her body shaking as she slowly stood up, looking at them. They looked at her like she was a rabbit about to run, which she wanted to do, but she knew she wouldn't get far, she knew that the first sudden movement she made, they would be on her.

She smiled a little, watching them look at her body in what little tatters remained, and walked to the man with the biggest weapon, slowly tugging at the strings that held up his trousers, feeling her stomach turn as her hands trembled. Breathe.

Her hand slipped into his pants then, she took a slow breath, and then in one motion slammed her fist downward while her other fist aimed at the one eyed man's good eye. Fireballs shot from both hands, a horrific scream coming both from the man with a single eye, but not nearly as loud as the man whose trouser tent had suddenly burst into horrific flames. Amidst their wailing though, she heard a third scream, and turned towards her cousin ready to aim a fireball at Gan...

But she stopped as she looked at Song. Her face was twisted in rage as she stared at Wan Xue, a look of hatred there that she had not even revealed to Gan as he tore her clothes from her. Wan Xue felt her heart drop, and for her moment of hesitation she saw the flash of steel too late as a sword flew upward past her, her head jerking back just in time to save her right eye, though with the pain there and the darkness, she couldn't tell.

She did what came naturally next... she ran as fast as she could, in whatever direction she had been facing.

Yang smiled a little at the flowers that he had spent some extra time picking for Song on the way back from collecting some decent firewood from the forest. He'd found a good ash tree that had needed to be cut down badly. The wood was dry and perfect for starting up fires. As he hauled it back on his back, he stared at the flowers again. He'd been doing little things for her like this lately, gathering her flowers, doing paintings of her that were as beautiful as any that he had ever done before. She was a wonderful subject, though she didn't need to stay nearly as long as Yang asked her to. Sometimes though, he would tell her that it took longer just so that he could watch her, watch the smile on her features, see her dark eyes staring at him as she looked at him longingly, both of them eager for the day that would come in just a week.

The other woman had left his mind, for the most part. He wasn't sure where she had come from, why it was that her face had evoked such a powerful emotion inside of him that he had just been... forced... to paint it, but the more that he had gotten it out of his system the less it had seemed to bother him. Song seemed to take her place in his dreams now, her smile, the way she felt touching his skin. And occassionally the dreams about what would finally happen in a week, when the two of them would be inseperable forever. Yang shook his head lightly. He wasn't sure where he'd gotten the idea of a water bender girl from, but Song was right, this.. this union between them was right. He needed to leave his old life behind, he needed to stop thinking about what he was, and concentrate instead on who he was going to be.

The only hurdle in it would be the fact that he still had to tell her about his... ability. Quite frankly he was petrified of it, what she might say about it. But he had resolved to do it tonight. He couldn't wait around any longer in order to tell her, it was a week away, and she deserved to know what he knew before the two of them were married. He had been stressing over how to do it all day long, and he had finally come to the conclusion that he would just tell her, openly and honestly that he had the ability to bend fire, but it didn't define him, not all of him. It was part of the past, it was part of what he was leaving behind when he was marrying her. He would promise that he could control it, that he would never use it again, and the two of them would be together, finally and completely and that would be the end of it.

He could lead a happy life, all he had to do was try hard enough, try to be what Song wanted, and the rest, the dreams, the things that he just seemed to know, all of that could be forgotten. He was so tired of trying to tax his brain, it had been almost 4 months now and he was no further along with it than he had been when he'd started. Everything he tried to remember was just... gone. Wiped away like a canvas that had been splattered with paint. There was no way to get what was beneath, it had been painted over, his memories gone. It had taken a long time to struggle to come to terms with that, but he had finally done it, finally let go of the demons that had been taunting him from behind his eyes for so long.

Yang blinked as he looked up from his thoughts, noticing that there wasn't a single light on in the house. Without thinking about it he dropped the pile of sticks on his back, running forward to the house, stepping inside of it. He struck a match to light a lantern and paused, looking around the house as the light filled the room, moving from room to room, trying to figure out where it was that Song had gone. Her grandmother was off visiting one of her friends in town for the evening, so that wasn't strange, but where Song herself had gotten off to was disconcerting. What if something had happened to her? It wasn't like her to leave, not when she said that she was going to be waiting for him when he returned.

As he moved into the kitchen he paused, and looked at a note that had been left there. The village. Yang sighed a little, and shook his head. They must have gone for something, he just needed to go find them. It was odd that they were out after dark, but once he caught up with them everything would be alright. He knew that he would feel a rush of relief as soon as he saw Song's face.

Running out of the house, in retrospect, had been clumsy, a clumsiness that he didn't usually allow himself. Every other time it hadn't mattered, and he had felt silly for his over-cautiousness, but tonight as he burst from the house the ground erupted to the sides of him in two pillars that jutted upright and enveloped his forearms, jerking him up high enough that he was off his feet, hanging by his wrists as a pair of overly muscled earth benders walked up to him, one of them tilting his head as he looked at their captor, a slow lazy smirk touching his features as he shook his head. "We're supposed to take out some farmer? Ha- I mean, the leader really wants us to just off some nobody."

The other one glared at him. "You bettered be more careful with your tongue. You know we don't mention his name, ever. They say if you mention his name, the spirits will place a curse upon you that can never be removed." the second thug growled. "And no, Gan wanted us to off this clown. It turns out that he did a good job back near Tu Zin. Got himself a favor. Ain't our fault that he asks for crappy favors, now is it?" The second thug smiled, and then came forward with a blow that even with Yang's muscles flexed seemed to reverberate up into his teeth.

"Baby going to cry?" The first thug said as he got in a sound punch to Yang's stomach as well, making the scarred man glad that he hadn't been able to eat anything recently, or it surely would have come up at the second punch. He could hear the sound of their laughter filling his ears as he felt his fingertips finally loosen from the lantern that he was holding, the object falling to the ground with a soft crash as the two assailants laughed, looking at it, and then shaking their head at him.

Never forget who you are.

He could hear it echoing in his mind even before he moved, his feet swinging up and blasting both of the earth benders in their face with a jet-stream of fire as he felt his arms strain against the rock holding them there before finally it shattered, sending him flying towards the house, his back pulling it into a flip as he landed on his feet, his shoes smoking as he stared at the men there who were grabbing the charred remains of their faces. Yang stared at them for a moment, then walked over to them, grabbing a sword from their sheath and planting it in the chest of the first, then the second, slow, methodically. There wasn't even a question anymore. These people were trying to kill him, it was kill or be killed.

Something compelled him to pull the second sword from the other man's sheath, spinning both around in his hands. Two of them seemed to feel more natural to him than one alone. He didn't reflect on it though, instead running towards the trail towards the village. If these men were after him, than they might be after Song. He had to warn her, and find Gan and make him pay. Yang tried not to think about how he'd been right all along, about the feeling that he'd gotten in his gut looking at Gan trying to snuggle up close to his fiance. Or what other plans that Gan might have for Song.

He couldn't remember running that fast before, and yet it felt natural despite the fact that he was already worn out from a day of work. This he was used to, running through the night, tired, swords drawn. He could practically feel his enemies around him, know where they would be. He paused as he got to the fork in the road where the path lead up to the suicide cliffs. If Gan had already gotten to Song, the path to the cliffs would be a good place where no one would find her. On the other hand, if she was alright he should hurry to the village. Yang gritted his teeth as indecision bit into him, his knuckles white against the blades as he looked from one trail to another.

He hadn't taken more than a dozen steps down the path to the cliffs when several screams pierced the night, letting him know that he was on the right trail. Amongst them, he could hear Song's. "Get her you fucking worthless pieces of shit. I'm going to stay here with my friend and show her what a real man is like... ", Gan bellowed out through the darkness, as Song screamed again. Yang knew in an instant what was happening to the woman that he loved, and in that moment, there was nothing but white hot unquenchable rage. All of the anger that he had tried to suppress when it came to Gan suddenly came pouring forth like white hot lava through his blood, and he started to let out a war bellow that stilled the air around him as he charged through the woods.

They were waiting for him, but it didn't matter. One swung a battleaxe at him that he ducked under, spinning upwards with his blades and bending at the same time. The man twisted out of the way of the blade itself, but the fire slashed along his abdomen, causing him to flail and swat at the fire to try to put it out only in time to get a blade slashed across his throat. Yang didn't stop to watch the man die, instead spun and sent a wave of fire to toast the next guy, this time his hair catching on fire which, reacting to Yang's anger shot up in a white hot blaze, the man screaming as he fell to the ground, trying to put out the unquenchable flame as the remaining two blinked, dropped their weapons and started to run.

Yang didn't let them get more than a body length past Gan as he threw his blades, the twin swords arching outward until they stuck in the backs of his targets. Yang's eyes turned towards Gan who was fumbling with his pants as he tried to stand up to draw a blade. Yang grabbed the hilt from his hands, completed the drawing motion, drawing it up and out, slamming the butt of the weapon into Gan's chin before thrusting the weapon down into his groin, slamming him and pinning him to a tree with it. His hand came up in a quick motion then and slammed into Gan's windpipe, a bulging look in Gan's eyes as Yang's hand slammed there a second time, and a third until he felt the bones crush beneath his hand.

As Gan flailed from lack of oxygen, Yang paused, looking at Song on the ground, naked. "I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner." Song shook her head slowly as she started to cry there. "Did he...?" Yang felt terrible for asking her that, but on the other hand he didn't know what to do, didn't know what to say at this point. What could he do to apologize for getting here too late?

"No... no..." Song whimpered, but still wrapped her kimono shut protectively as if it would somehow shield her from the pain she was feeling right now. Yang paused then as he looked in the directions of a struggle. There were people here that he hadn't actually taken out laying on the ground, two men, who had clearly been the victims of fire bending.

"Song... Wan Xue. Where is Wan Xue?" Yang asked, looking to the trees for some type of sign of where she might be being held. Fear raced through his heart then. The woman hated him, but on the other hand, no one deserved the fate that these men clearly had in store for her. "Where is Wan Xue?!?" Yang pressured her again, wondering why she wasn't helping him to run after her.

"The cliffs... I don't know. It doesn't matter." Song said through her tears. "She's... she's a filthy fucking fire bender anyway. I hope they kill that asher piece of shit..." Song spat, sitting upright to rock back and forth. Yang stared at her, blinking slowly as he tried to process exactly what it was that she had said. With the adrenaline in his system it was all still fuzzy, but he had to be mishearing it, he couldn't be understanding Song right in what it was that she was saying.

"Wha..." Yang felt himself start out soft, but then felt the anger rising again in his body, his arms practically trembling with it. "What does that even matter?!" He bellowed out at Song, who blinked at him as if he had grown a second head. And then, he saw it there, in her eyes, he looked at her dark eyes as they glanced to the bodies of the fallen, still smoking, some of them still with small fires on them and then looked at him. He saw her blink, seemingly as incredulously as he had at her words before, back to the bodies, then back to him slowly as her eyes started to widen from fear, to surprise, to horror, and finally they grew wide enough that Yang knew all they had was rage.

Her scream was wordless, and yet it held more hate and anger in it than his own had charging down the pirates that been holding her as she grabbed a dagger off of the ground and came after him with it. He hesitated, not believing it was possible that she would, only to catch her wrist as she plunged it down, stopping it an inch or so away from his eye, his own muscles straining against her own and the strength that he never would have guessed that she possibly could have had as she screamed at him wordlessly. As she wailed finally her words took form as she pressed a second hand against her first to try to drive the dagger home.

"You Asher! Asher piece of shit! You killed my mother! You killed my fucking father and burnt me while I was trying to escape! I'll kill you, I'll fucking kill you!" She shrieked as she pressed harder against the dagger, her eyes wide as he finally over powered her, spinning her into a three, pressing his hand against her throat as he grabbed her wrist and slammed it into the tree until she finally dropped the dagger. She looked at him and then spat in his face, snarling darkly at him. "So you saved me from Gan just so you could rape me yourself you fucking Ashland scum? I'm sorry I ever saved you, Yang, if I had known what you were I would have bashed your fucking skull in with a rock the moment they brought you to me!" she shrieked.

Yang stared at her for a moment as he felt her nails dig into his arm, drawing blood as he stared at her, and then blinked, feeling something in him break in that moment, snap like a dry log on fire. "A life for a life then. You saved my life, and I saved yours. We owe each other... nothing." he said faintly, and then threw her down against the dirt, he saw her fall to her knees and stare at him with malice, but he was already running away from her, towards the cliffs.

When he got there he saw Wan Xue struggling with them, one of them seeming to be waiting to flank her while she and the other teetered precariously close to the edge of the cliffs. With a growl of rage he watched as Wan Xue kicked the side of the man's leg she was struggling with sending him over the cliff and nearly sending herself after him. Yang could hear a sickening thump as the man's body hit the rocks below. She turned to look at the other one, who had drawn his weapon and was grinning as he headed towards her. There was no where for her to run, but Yang caught the man before he could get to Wan Xue, grabbing the man's sword arm and snapping it at the elbow before pulling the sword away from the man and ramming it into the man's back.

Wan Xue blinked at the carnage, staring at him with a wild look. "Wan Xue... It's me." Yang said, taking a step forward, but as he moved forward, she took a step back towards the fatal cliffs.

"Stay back." She said, looking at him, and then looking behind her at the cliffs below. Yang paused, not taking any steps forward, but not backing up either. He frowned as he looked at her with confusion, opening his mouth to say something before she cut him off. "Don't... just... don't. I'm... I'm a firebender, Yang." She said softly. "My mother wasn't... she wasn't raped by a Fire Nation spy... she was loved... by a Fire Nation defector." Wan Xue started to cry at that, "I'm so tired, Yang, so tired of hiding who I am, what I am... hating the Fire Nation when I know that they're not all... evil." She closed her eyes. "They'll catch me, I won't be able to run from them forever, Song knows I can firebend now."

She drew in a shaky breath at that point, and looked at him with emerald eyes that seemed to shine in the moonlight. "You saw the way that they treated that Firebender in the village. You know what they'll do to me. I'm sorry, Yang..." she said, closing her eyes then as she took a breath, spreading her arms wide like a bird and leaned backward to fall over the edge.

When he caught her arm and jerked her back towards him, he could feel her struggle against him for a moment, and then look at him, her green eyes accusing him of all the things that she was afraid he might be, though none of them he actually happened to be. She started to tug back, to try to free her arm until she saw him holding in his left hand a small flame, bending it there in front of her, her eyes widening as she blinked, struggling to come up with something to say. "I won't stop you again." Yang said before she could utter her words. "Everyone deserves to be in charge of their own fate, no man or woman deserves to be told that they cannot die if it is what they truly want. But don't throw it away because you're afraid of some people who won't even take a moment to understand you, who would hate you just because of something you can do." Yang said softly.

"Never forget who you are."

"What if I don't know, Yang? What if I don't know who I am!?" Wan Xue cried.

"Then you're no better off than me." Yang said with a half smile, shaking his head as he slowly turned from her. He only made it a few steps when he felt her fingers curling into the back of his shirt, gripping it tightly as she pressed to him there, and then slowly pulled herself around in front of him. She looked at him with her emerald eyes then, proud emerald eyes as she went over to take the blade from the back of the man Yang had killed, slowly wiped it on the grass to clean it, and then with the unstained edge cut her palm slowly in front of him, and slowly sank to her knees, staring up at him.

"I don't.... I don't know who I really am, any more. But you saved my life, and you are the only future I have left. As long as you will have it, as long as I still draw breath, my life is yours."

Join date : 2009-10-03

Posts : 144
Age : 1516
Location : On a mountain somewhere

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:55 pm

Chapter Seven: “Treacherous Waters”

Everything would be okay. It became a mantra of sorts, repeated over and over in her mind. She feared for Yaomo because he fought for her, risking his life. She didn’t want him to die, especially not for her. Still, she wasn’t hypocritical enough to not be grateful for his friendship. If the roles were reversed, she would have done exactly the same thing because she cared about him. Even so, another death of another person for whom she cared all because of her wasn’t something she wanted at all, and even though she had to believe everything would be okay, she also wasn’t one to do nothing when faced with the very real possibility that it wouldn’t be as fine as she hoped. “Don’t kill him! Please! I’m going, willingly, without a fight. Just don’t kill him!” Katara begged.

There was nothing to indicate that they wouldn’t harm him, wouldn’t end his life, and with the mass of pirates that had collected around Yaomo to restrain or kill him, she had no idea which option they would take. Her jaw clenched, and she willed herself to restrain the tears that threatened to gather in her eyes. She had to be strong. No matter what happened, she had to stay strong. If she started to cry now, she knew Sokka at least would do something stupid and get himself killed. If she went bravely – at least to all outward appearances – then her brother wouldn’t be as quick to protect her. Katara was a fighter, a warrior, a waterbender, a healer who had dealt with situations even Sokka couldn’t handle, and she was one hell of a strong-willed woman. There was no way she would let this situation break her, and there was no way she was going to let anyone – pirates or friends – see the fear she felt.

The man holding her on her knees used a dagger to cut through the straps of her water skins so they fell uselessly to the deck. Her jaw clenched tightly, the muscle working angrily. Of course they wouldn’t let a prisoner have her weapon of choice – or any weapon at all. That was just stupid, but she’d been secretly hoping they wouldn’t think of it. Apparently, they were smarter than she’d hoped.

When the apparent leader approached Katara and drug her to her feet, the Water Tribeswoman met the firebender’s gaze boldly. She couldn’t read the expression there. Did she feel any remorse for the fate she’d sentenced to this dark skinned stranger? As a woman, she had to know this wasn’t right. Enemy or not, rape and torture weren’t right, and Katara would never wish anything like that on anyone, no matter how terrible a person they were.

"If I get a chance, I'm going to kill you, slowly, and painfully." The pirate said, causing the other’s eyes to narrow coldly.

“I’d like to see you try.” Katara hissed back, her face a mask of icy fury. The woman’s only response was the shove her forward forcefully. The waterbender really wasn’t in a position to be fighting due to her wrists being bound behind her back and a hoard of pirates all around, but she wasn’t going to back down, and she wasn’t going to show the unease she felt. All they would see was her anger, her distaste.

Katara wasn’t walking slowly, but she wasn’t exactly eager to cross the gangplank to get to the pirate ship, and the leader seemed to take this as an opportunity to roughly shove her every couple of steps, as if she wanted the waterbender to fall over the edge. Actually, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea, now that she thought of it. Her feet weren’t bound, so she could easily swim away, using waterbending as an aid. Having her arms bound would make it less simplistic, but they could just presume the lack of arms would have caused her to drown. Even waterbenders weren’t immune to such things. Most waterbenders didn’t use their feet and legs to bend, choosing instead to stick with only the use of their arms, so only the people she knew were aware that she used the more challenging techniques on occasion, so it could work in theory.

Maybe they would leave her group alone at that point. Then again, the failure could cause them to get pissed off, to take it out of the crew of the merchant ship including the rebels and her brother and Yaomo. The uncertainty of the situation kept the graceful waterbender from feigning clumsiness and pitching herself into the water.

When she heard the leader’s name, she collected it in her mind, not forgetting it. In a situation like this, information could be the best way to talk her way out of the situation since she couldn’t fight without risking the lives of the people about whom she cared and the lives of the crew that had been gracious and unlucky enough to try to take them to the North Pole. As if understanding her intent, Wan Xue eyed the waterbender suspiciously, but she kept her face carefully composed, still not willing to show any weakness among this ragtag crew of miscreants.

As she was led across the deck and to the bridge, she was surprised that it wasn’t… dirtier. Really, of all of the things she’d heard of pirates and what she’d seen of the crew so far, she expected something smelly and moldy and slimy and disgusting. Like there should be some kind of sea growth all over the ship due to a lack of proper maintenance. This was… clean and organized and tidy. It was the kind of ship Water Tribesmen would keep if they rode metal monsters instead of the smaller, homier ships she was used to seeing. Honestly, this group of pirates kept a better ship than the merchants had, and that only worried her more. It meant whoever rant his ship was as calculating as he or she was cold. It was a dangerous combination, and it meant she would have a harder time just talking her way out of this.

When Wan Xue disappeared inside the cabin, Katara began working to loosen the rope securing her wrists behind her back. The bonds cut into her wrists, chaffing her, but she didn’t care. If she could get them loose enough to slip even one hand through, she could protect herself. There was water all around her, and she could feel it, just waiting to be summoned if only she could free her hands. She jerked in surprise when a pirate strolled by, calling to her, telling her how much the Captain liked women who screamed when he took them. She glared at him, but fear began to squeeze tightly against her chest, making her more determined to free her now shaking hands from her bonds.

Wan Xue reappeared, and the waver in her voice sent a wave of panic through Katara. If the waterbender’s going into that room disturbed even this cold, menacing woman, then something truly terrible was going to happen. While she’d agreed to go willingly onto the ship, she’d never agreed to being raped or tortured or harmed, and when the two surprisingly clean pirates came for her, she fought hard to avoid them. She ducked beneath their hands, rolling out of the way. Even with her arms bound, she was quick, but she was still hindered, and even though her efforts were valiant, she was soon caught and dragged roughly into the cabin, into the darkness.

Her heart was racing, and she struggled harder, trying plant her feet against the force of their tugging, but Katara had never been one to best another in a test of physical strength. Her bending and her words were where she could triumph over others, but with her arms bound, she couldn’t bend easily enough, and she knew her words would be useless against these men. When she was shoved against a wall, she began kicking, and she started to attempt her evasion skills again, but it was useless. However, her hands were soon freed as they cut the rope, and she used those to lash out, too, scratching and punching to keep them away from her. If only she had longer nails, this would have been better, but long nails were a hindrance for a woman of the Water Tribes. As it was, even while her muscles strained hard against what happened, they grabbed her wrists and secured them in metal shackles.

They seemed to breathe sighs of relief when it was done, clearly not expecting such a battle of strength and wills, before quickly leaving her there. Katara’s eyes searched through the gloom, trying to make things out. There were a few lanterns, but after the brightness of the day outside this room, the lanterns were as good as useless. She was breathing heavily from the fight, panic filling her nearly to the brim.

He watched her, the way that she reacted to this situation. She was a caged animal, a saber tooth moose lion in a cage barely able to hold her. And, as he had suspected and feared, she knew it. He could see her testing the restraints that held her, as if to see if she could get free. Once she was free, she would be able to control him. She was a bloodbender, and despite the fact that he didn't remember how he had garnished the knowledge, he knew that bloodbending was possible, that a water bender could assume control of another. She could easily have control of him, and thereby his crew in a matter of heartbeats. He had instructed them to kill him, if she was to come out controlling him, but he knew Wan Xue better than that. The firebender would gladly die a thousand times over before she would let him come to harm. Were any of the others more ruthless and yet still as loyal he would have asked them in her place, though he knew of none on his crew that fit both descriptions.

Her body jerked in as she saw movement, the cabin having been so silent and still that she’d hoped she was alone for now. She pushed her back against the wall tightly as the person approached, as if she could simply melt into the metal to get away. I hope you’re a screamer, he likes that… The words came to her, sending shudders down her spine and an extra wave of fear. Then she felt soft, well used leather caress her cheek, and her eyes closed tightly, her head turning away. There was no way she could fully hide her fear now with how potent it had become, but she tried desperately to beat it down to some dark place within her where she couldn’t feel it. It didn’t work.

Then his fingers were around her throat, not hurting her, but it felt like a possessive gesture or perhaps a warning. She wasn’t sure which. The waterbender could feel the heat of his body through his glove where the leather touched her flesh above her mother’s necklace, and she wondered if he was a firebender. The thought occurred to Katara that she probably wasn’t going to make it out of this alive. While that certainly wasn’t okay with her by any means, at least it meant the others got to live. Besides, would it be so bad if she got to see her mother and father and great grandmother again? Would it be so bad to be able to see Zuko again, to tell him all of the things she hadn’t gotten a chance to say when he was alive, when they had both been too stubborn and afraid to confess anything to each other until it was too late for them to have any kind of future?

She felt the man’s hand – and she was certain by now it was a man – moved lower, tugging lightly at the wrap of her dress though not enough to actually release the ties or tear the fabric before he moved away before she could ready herself for a well placed kick at him. Her eyes opened, the room a little easier to see now that her eyes were adjusting a bit to the gloom. Details were a little easier to make out like his long, black coat and the shape and height of him. Before him, hung something on the wall that she couldn’t make out because he was obscuring it with his body, but then he moved aside, and her breath caught in her throat at the sight.

It was a painting, an expertly done piece, of a woman bloodbending, of Katara bloodbending. She had never seen herself do it before, having never had any desire to watch herself in a mirror while she did that, but her skin felt chilled as she gazed upon herself. She looked… fierce and terrifying, and the look in her eyes made it clear that she was enjoying the power she held over the soldiers who had become little more than crude puppets to her. It was no wonder the rebels had all called her Water Witch and had feared her so much for so long. Even when they’d met with them after the Swamp, some of them who remembered still looked at her uneasily though her friendship with Gui, Jet, Lu Ten, and Shen had eased the fear of most. Still, it wasn’t enough for some, and she was still something to be feared even a year later.

She thought about what she’d been told during her time in and around the Foggy Swamp. Back when she’d done what was depicted in the painting, she had been so filled with power that she’d almost allowed it to consume her. Sokka had aided her, making sure no one could sneak up on her while she’d just gone to town on those soldiers. It had been such an exhilarating experience, but when she’d finally come down off her power-high and had seen what she’d done, she’d been so disgusted with herself that she never wanted to bloodbend again. However, she realized now that it was something she needed to learn to control so it couldn’t control her. She also believed that she could find ways to use the art for good, some way to use it for healing or something along those lines.

Still, with a painting like that, it was no wonder she was chained on this ship the way she was. Her only concern with the painting was who would have painted it. Any one of the rebels could have done it, but from what she understood, the rebels and the pirates had nothing to do with each other. Could a Fire Nation soldier have accomplished this and sold it to a pirate? No. If they’d been close enough to get this vantage point to get such magnificent detail of that night, they would have succumbed to her power and been killed. It had to have been one of her allies, but whom?

Then her eyes were drawn to another painting, and her eyes widened. It was one thing to have a single painting of a woman when she was at her fiercest among a group of people, but it was another completely to have one of her while she was laughing around a campfire with two of her friends when there had only been a small group, all of whom she knew to either be unassociated with pirates or dead. While she couldn’t remember what she and Gui and Shen had been saying the night that picture depicted, she could recall their laughter mingling as they joked with one another. Though the others weren’t depicted, she knew Jet, Ping, and Zuko had been there as well. Obviously, it hadn’t been Gui or Shen or the painting would have been from a different perspective. She tried to remember where everyone had been seated that night in the circle, but she couldn’t recall, and it bothered her. Something was tickling the back of her mind, but she couldn’t bring it to the forefront, into clarity.

The next one caused her to draw in a sharp breath of air. This was altogether different from the others. There was a sensual quality about her even though there was a hint of uncertainty in her blue eyes as she leaned over. She examined the painting, remembering that night, the tent around them. Her perspective had been very different, so she’d seen it differently, but it wasn’t hard to guess at which moment this image had been captured. Katara still recalled the feel of him, ready beneath her hand, how she’d wanted him, how she’d wanted to lean over and kiss his lips, to let go and just… be with him, but at the last moment, she’d hesitated, and in that moment, she’d allowed fear and uncertainty to take over, and she’d pulled away from him. It was something she wished she hadn’t done, but it was already in the past, and there was only one person who would have known about that moment in such striking detail.

Katara’s eyes darted toward the figure as he turned toward her, and she noticed the glint of gold in his good eye as he stared at her. Her heart nearly stopped, but then it began a frantic rhythm of panic. She knew those eyes, could never forget them as long as she lived. Zuko… The name skittered across her mind, and tears welled in her eyes. He had to have painted these images, and now he stood before her. As he stepped forward, she heard his voice, and she reached toward him, her astonishment and joy unmatched until she remembered where she was, how she was bound.

Confusion filled her. This was Zuko, and she was Katara. Why was she bound like this? Her eyes lifted to the chains, and she jerked hard on them, willing them to break, but the effort was wasted. They were secure, and unmovable. What was going on? Why had he searched for her for so long without finding her? He should have known she’d just go right back to the Northern Water Tribe to be with her family. Nothing else made sense. She didn’t have a home anywhere else. Her eyes moved to his. Why hadn’t he just gone there to see her?

Fear filled her. This was a trick. It had to be. She’d seen his body, and the Swamp had already messed with her once, and here he was, looking exactly the same as he had in that place – minus the malice in his gaze she’d seen then. Zuko wasn’t a pirate. He couldn’t be. The tears released from her eyes as he moved closer.

No… This was really him; this was really Zuko. He was just a little different. What had happened to him over the last year? Why was he looking at her that way? Why hadn’t he just gone to the most obvious place to find her if he was looking for her? Anger started to rise within her, her eyes flashing. This was bullshit! He knew exactly where she would be. He knew where his family would be waiting, and yet he’d abandoned them all only to act like he’d been looking for them – or maybe more specifically her – this entire time. It was complete shit!

Her lips parted to ask all of these questions and more and to give him a piece of her mind when she felt his hand at her throat again. It felt like a warning this time, a threat, but having him touch her sent a thrill through her, her skin pebbling at the contact. He was so close, so warm, so real. When he leaned toward her, his lips by her ear, she could feel the heat of his breath caressing her skin, and her head tilted against his as she inhaled his scent. This really was Zuko. It could be no one else. Then his words hit her, and she jerked away, surprised. “You don’t remember?” She asked in reply to his questions. How could someone just forget everything like that?

The mind is a complex organism, Katara… Great Gran Inoa’s words moved through her thoughts. Even the greatest healers in the world have never fully been able to understand the minor nuances of it. A person can remember things as clearly as if they were happening to them, and others can remember nothing at all. Injuries can make this worse, can change a person. We must be careful when healing things like this. It can be very dangerous…

Katara recalled the time when a young woman, seven years her senior, had gotten into an accident, hitting her head and cracking it open. Great Gran had healed her head, but the woman had lost all of her memories of the last five years, including those of marrying her husband and having two children. She hadn’t been able to take it, and she’d moved up North, to be with her mother and father again. She’d abandoned the husband and children that she had never been able to truly reconcile with the life she’d remembered, and her husband had tried to force the recovery of memories forever lost. Even the Avatar and all of her healing abilities could not fix the situation. What was Katara going to do now that Zuko was in this state?

"Did I chain you up often before?" Yang asked her as his eyes narrowed slightly at her. He could see the look of indignance in her eyes that told him that the answer was no, however, another question bristled to the surface. "Or perhaps you're not surprised that I might be wary of you." Yang postulated aloud, trying to work his mind around what could possibly be going through her mind. All the while he watched her reactions, trying to stare into those blue eyes of hers to see the truth of what she was saying without getting lost in them, without really letting himself feel anything more than he should in this particular situation, which should be cold detachment, reasoning...

Instead he felt drawn to her, her flesh, her face. It was strange to see his paintings come to life, to hear the voice that he had only imagined in his mind, speaking to him from the canvas. She was the obsession that he couldn't quite rid himself from and because of it he felt drawn to her, like he should be closer to her, even though logic told him to keep his distance. Even so, his desire for her was making it hard to concentrate, though Wan Xue's concerns echoed in the back of his mind even as he felt himself drawing closer to her. How much of this was merely obsession? How much of what he felt was simply a fantasy constructed in his mind, a perfect woman that couldn't ever be with him?

As he gripped her, he watched the way that her body behaved, the way that she reacted to it, the increase of her breath, the parting of her soft lips as she seemed to lean into everything that he was, her eye lids closing as one who wanted more than he was offering to her. It was interesting, of course, but he wasn't sure what it meant. She could be a wonderful actor, or she could want this. But her wanting it didn't presume her innocence either. The two of them could have been lovers, as his paintings might depict, in which case it was just a familiar touch that garnished such a reaction from her. Had she given herself into it he might have doubted it, but a moment later she pulled away as if regaining her senses, reminding herself perhaps what she was truly after here.

Katara was fairly pissed off. This was never the kind of reunion she’d dreamed of having with Zuko should they meet again in this world or in the next, and having him stand there, asking her stupid questions was just hurtful. No, he’d never chained her before. In fact, he’d only ever freed her from chains during a moment when she’d felt… lost and hopeless. He knew that. Why couldn’t he just unchain her so they could talk? He could explain why he’d disappeared for a year. She could explain what she’d been doing. Then they could go back to the merchant ship and see Lu Ten, Gui, Shen, Jet, and Ping who would be extremely happy to see him, and Sokka and Yaomo could be happy to see her alive and unharmed, provided the pirates had kept their promise and that they hadn’t just killed everyone. Her stomach clenched painfully, not knowing what was happening with her family and friends.

Then he said that maybe she just knew he should be wary of her. Confusion sunk into her. What was he talking about? Sure, she was a bloodbender, but he had nothing to fear from her. What was going on? This whole situation was just wrong, and at the back of her mind, something prickled, wanting to surface, but the thought was only partially formed, extremely hazy. There was no way to even bring it forth without having a clearer idea of what was bothering her.

He was so close to her, his hand at her throat, his breath in her ear, causing her to realize what had been bothering her. This hadn’t been like him because he couldn’t remember who he was. He didn’t trust her because he didn’t know who she was, what they’d shared a year ago. Her eyes moved to the paintings. Well, he obviously remembered some things, right – just not everything? He must have painted these things. He remembered her. He remembered Gui and Shen. She looked at him, and her face fell, and more tears came. No. That wasn’t true. He really didn’t know who she was. Maybe all he remembered was seeing her, but he didn’t recall who she was or what had happened to him. “We thought you were dead.” She said softly, swallowing hard at the memory. “There was a body, burned beyond recognition. You were right in the center of the explosion. We had no way of knowing it wasn’t you. If we had known, I would have searched the ends of the Earth to find you.” Katara wanted nothing more right now than to touch him, to run her fingers through his hair, over his face, to wrap her arms around him and hold him tightly, but she couldn’t. Her arms were bound, and even if she was unbound, he didn’t know her. She was a stranger to him.

If a person had lost all recollection of who they had been, were they still even the same person?

“Can we talk about this like civilized people? It’s going to be a lot to take in, and we should both be sitting for this.” She moved her arms, the chains rattling together, as if to indicate that he should unlock them.

"Clearly," Yang said with biting sarcasm when Katara mentioned that they thought he was dead. He had been scooped up, taken away, but he hadn't known how long it had been, only that he had woken up almost a year ago... How long was it that they had been missing him? He felt the urge to ask, and yet, her next statement caused his brow to rise slowly. She would search to the ends of the earth to find him. He wanted it to be true, and yet he had his doubts. It sounded like the sort of thing that you would tell someone when you were saying exactly what they wanted to hear. The fact that she chose to say it right before her statement about letting her out of her chains caused him to burst out in laughter.

"Flattery, right before you demand your freedom. I like that." He said with a sarcastic grin, as he turned from her. "But you can't really think that I've gotten where I am today by being that stupid." he said, chuckling. "Nor would you, honestly, if the situation were reversed, let loose someone who could easily blood bend you, solely on the word that they would go to the ends of the Earth to find you."

When she told him they should both sit and discuss his past, the one he couldn’t remember, together, she heard his laughter ring out. However, it wasn’t the same tone that she recalled when she’d confessed that his mother had threatened her, when they’d realized that they had both been so stupid, trying to avoid each other so that they wouldn’t have to suffer any more rejection when all they both really wanted was to be with one another. This laughter, right now, was mocking, cold.

Katara’s eyes stung with salt water. He didn’t believe that she would try to find him, that she wasn’t lying to him. All he saw was what had been depicted in that first painting she’d seen. Her eyes moved to it, and she was disgusted by the sight. All of the regrets she’d had about that night welled within her once more. “I don’t think you’re stupid. I just assumed you could read people better than that, and I hadn’t realized that you only remembered one small aspect of bloodbending: that it could be done. It’s daylight outside. As a firebender, this is your time, not mine, but even tonight, I wouldn’t be able to do it because it’s not a full moon. I never told you that much when I saw you last, but if I could just bloodbend whenever I wanted, we wouldn’t be in this situation. I would have been able to take out Zhao myself so you wouldn’t have had to risk yourself to get to him, and I would have done it regardless of how much I hate who I am when I’m bloodbending.”

He couldn't help but chuckle as he watched her starting to cry, looking at the incredulous look on her face as he showed amusement. "They say that tears are a woman's weapons..." Yang explained calmly, "You wield them well." It was true, of course, her tears made him feel guilt, remorse for what it was that he was doing, and yet not so much that it overrode the fact that this was overwhelmingly a good idea. He had no idea about her, what she was capable of. But he knew that she was a water bender, and one of decent power. What she wanted, why she had let herself be taken, those were questions he still had for her, but he wouldn't outright demand them from her yet, the game was half of the fun, after all. And, having interrogated people before, they would clam up the instant that you revealed your true hand and intentions. Keep them guessing and, well, you never knew what they would tell you when they thought that you might be looking for anything.

“Maybe you only think I ‘wield them well’ because some part of you knows I’m not using them against you, that I’m not lying to you.” Her voice was hoarse, and while she tried to sound angry, she was just… sad. This whole situation was terrible, and she just wished there was some way to remedy it, to make him see the truth, to help him to remember.

He snorted when she claimed that she thought he could read people better than that. Flattery as well. She was good; he had to give her that. But none of it was convincing, nothing that she said really came out as anything more than hollow words with a lack of substance. There were no facts to what she said, only empty platitudes about how she would have done anything for him in life and they had all assumed he was dead. Interestingly enough he wasn't so certain that that piece of the story was truly a lie. After all, the best way to tell a good lie was to interweave it with the truth seamlessly. That way when it started to unravel one would cling to the parts which were actually true, like a drowning man clinging to a log.

"Yes, and as someone who might be out to kill me, I don't suppose you'd really have anything to gain by telling me that you couldn't bloodbend in the daytime either." Yang said sarcastically, his golden eyes rolling skyward.

She heard him scoff at her, still disbelieving, still thinking she offered him only lies to save herself.

“Why would I be out to kill you? I didn’t even know you were alive, and you were my friend before we all thought you were dead.” Her jaw clenched. They’d been on the verge of something more than friendship when she’d seen him last. In fact, they’d crossed that barrier and only needed time to figure things out, to take it further, but time hadn’t been on their side. It had been against them, and she’d lost an entire year and all of his memories of her in the process.

"And maybe you're saying that in order to try to make me not suspect you." Yang fired back just as easily, raising his eyebrow at her as he watched her expressions. For someone who was trying to convince him so badly that what she was saying was not a lie, she again relied heavily on emotions, trying to cause him to open his heart as if suddenly the skies would just drop realization in his lap and he would see the error of his ways. It seemed oddly optimistic for someone who was clearly at least somewhat used to fighting, somewhat used to forcing her will upon others. As much as people tried to glorify it, in some fashion that was what learning to fight was, being able to press your will upon another who did not want to receive it. Grim as it was, it was also important, and to try to glorify it as something else seemed silly.

He listened to her speak, watched the way that she clung to her chains, fearing him, fearing who he might be. Was it fear that he might know more than he was letting on and thusly leading her into a trap, or fear that he might be someone completely different as well? He was playing this game double blind, that she might be honestly telling him the truth and fearing the lack of honesty that she feared might be in him. If he was in position he might be scared either way, and thus he needed some way to find out whether or not she was honestly telling him the truth. The question was, how would he get her to betray it one way or another? There really was no way of knowing, any way that he tried to find out.

He slowly turned and paced back towards her as he spoke, until at the end he was right in front of her. She would feel a gloved hand reach to grab her by the hair and tug her head up a little, forcing her to look at him while at the same time his other hand reached down to her belt, roughly tugging it free of her form as he tossed it on the floor, watching the edges of her outfit hang loose, his hand straying inside of them, leather moving to caress along her stomach slowly as he leaned in close enough that she could feel the heat of his breath on her lips.

"Besides, I think I actually like you chained up like this..." he murmured.

He was so close, and the heat of him seemed to inflame her. Katara wanted him, wanted to be with him, to feel his lips on hers, his skin against her own flesh, but it couldn’t happen. She was still herself, but he’d lost who he had been, the man she would have loved. Who was he now, the leader of pirates, threatening a young woman with rape if she didn’t tell him who he was even though he refused to believe what she said? It was hopeless, and she could feel despair filling her. Tears streamed over her cheeks, following the trails of their predecessors.

Then his fingers were twining in her dark hair, using it to force her head back so her cerulean gaze met his golden one. Katara tensed when she felt him removing her belt rather forcefully, and her dress unwrapped without it, hanging loosely, revealing her flat stomach and the bindings of her underwear. Her flesh pebbled when the soft leather of his glove moved over her stomach, the heat of him seeming to seep into her very core. As she felt his breath on her lips, her eyes closed tightly.

How many times had she wished she hadn’t held back in the tent that night? How many times had she wondered what it would have been like to be with him in such an intimate way? Then she heard his words, and her eyes flew open, and she pressed back against the wall, as far from him as she could get though it was futile.

This wasn’t the Zuko she’d known. A tear streaked down her already stained cheeks. “No, please… Not like this.” She couldn’t just be someone’s conquest, a one-night stand with a stranger. Especially not in this way, where she had no say in the matter, when she’d never done anything of the sort in her life in the past. If she had to, she would strike out at him before she allowed this to happen, no matter how much she wanted him to trust her again. His trying to force himself on her would be going too far.

“Please. I’ll tell you everything I know. I’ll tell you about when we knew each other. I’ll tell you everything I learned about you when I was traveling with you. Just…” Her jaw clenched. “Please, Zuko. This was never the kind of person you were. Just go sit down or something. Even if you feel more comfortable with my staying chained, I don’t care. It’s just going to be a lot for you to take in.”

He started to come in closer as she pleaded with him, but when she called him Zuko, he paused, and smirked, nodding slowly as he turned around from her and gave her a slow, sarcastic clapping on her performance. "Zuko... that... that is very good." He reached up to tap the half mask that covered his scar lightly. "I like that. I can only imagine the person you used to know must have been quite the egoist if you expect that I would fall for that. I can see why, too; he's probably the only person in the three kingdoms more reviled than I am. The Water Tribe would kill him on sight for being a firebender, the Earth Kingdom blames him for the actions of Admiral Zhao and has lynched several men claiming to be him, and those who survive to get to the Fire Nation are executed by his sister, Azula."

Yang laughed. "Why wouldn't I want to be Zuko?!" He shook his head slowly. "I applaud the effort..."

“He was the opposite.” She said softly in response to his comment about the person she used to know being an egotist. “I think he hated his bloodline, that his father is a monster, and he spent his life trying to make up for that fact. It hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. The Northern Water Tribe reveres you – him – now. He gave us a year of peace for his sacrifice, and even though he couldn’t stop what happened during Sozin’s Comet, he tried, and that’s all that matters. My brother and I would be dead if you hadn’t been there to fight against your own nation, Zuko.”

He still didn’t believe her. She could tell by the look in his eyes. He thought she was lying, offering hollow sentiments, empty flattery, to persuade him, but she knew the truth. Would there be any way to convince him of it? She couldn’t force his memories to return to him; she could only give him the fact in the hopes that something would seem familiar, that it would sink into his mind, and he would know he could trust her.

He came up to her again and grabbed her face, his fingertips wrapping around her lower jaw, keeping her mouth shut as he looked at her and shook his head slowly. "You are beginning to try my patience, waterbender." he growled out darkly as he slid open her robe slowly, sliding his hands along her sides, whispering in her ear as he pressed close, too close for her to get off a good kick if she was thinking of it. His gloved hands found the knot holding the wrappings across her chest in place and tugged at them, struggling only a moment before he tugged them loose, slowly, ceremoniously starting to unwrap them.

"I saw how you reacted to my touch before, and how you stopped yourself. I guess if you don't want it like 'this', then you had better start talking, because once I rid you of your clothing, I think you'll find I go with your body’s desires, and not your mind's."

She tensed as she realized his hand was moving over her scar, but she realized that with his gloves, he probably couldn’t feel it, and even if he could feel it, what did it matter? He had a scar, too, after all, and while scars were surprising and drew attention, her friends had already made it pretty clear that it wasn’t really a big deal aside from minor curiosity about it. Her muscles relaxed a little though not much considering the circumstances.

He was pressing closer to her, his lips near her ear as her skin prickled into tiny bumps. It was so hard to keep herself still, to stop herself from pressing against him, from allowing her lips to graze against his skin. Then his hands found the knot of her under-wrappings, and her body tensed again. She gripped the chains attached to her shackles for support. If only she’d kicked at him before he’d become so close to her, she could have at least kept him from her. Now, he was too close, and there was no good angle for this sort of thing.

She tried shoving her body forward, into him, in an attempt to use her weight to at shove him back enough to send a decent kick at him, to force him back farther, but he didn’t budge. Instead, his arm wrapped around her waist, holding her away from the wall as he slowly unwound her underwear. She struggled to pull away, to press her back tightly against the cold metal behind her to prevent him from unraveling her bindings, but it was to no avail. She was stuck in his strong embrace, unable to regain any sense of control.

“This isn’t exactly easy for me.” She spat at him, her body trembling with each complete circle, with each new length of unused fabric. “My body remembers who you were, and it’s so hard to reconcile with the person who my mind now understands you are.” Fresh tears streamed down her face, and she choked on her words. He continued to slowly loosen her bindings, revealing more of her dark skin, his gloved hands grazing across her chest with each revolution. Katara squeezed her eyes shut, her jaw clenching, trying to collect herself. She couldn’t do this, not this way, not with a man who covered his scar, who touched her with gloved hands so they couldn’t feel each other’s skin.

She resolved to tell him everything, no matter how badly it made her seem to him. Her words came quickly, almost panicked with worry that she couldn’t speak quickly enough. Katara told him about the first time they met, how she’d been locked up, ankles and wrists, to prevent her from bending, and she’d been separated from the rest of her group, stuck in a box with other prisoners she didn’t know, ones that weren’t restrained like her. The waterbender told him about seeing him for the first time, how she wasn’t sure what to make of him because even while he was rescuing her, she’d felt like he was mocking her. She told him that the scar on his face had made her think he was on her side until he began to melt the metal with his firebending. It had terrified her. She’d thought he was trying some trick, making it seem like she was being rescued only to turn around and hunt her down for some twisted game to amuse the Fire Nation soldiers.

Katara confessed that as soon as she’d been freed, she’d used her bloodbending against him. She’d never intended to kill him. She just didn’t want to be attacked. She’d wanted answers about why he was there, why he was tricking them. “I guess in retrospect, the roles are reversed now.” She said bitterly. “You want answers, but you won’t believe the ones I give.” Then she continued. She told him how Sokka had shown up, dressed as a soldier, how she’d used her bending against him until she realized it was her brother and not a soldier. If Sokka hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t have released Zuko, wouldn’t have known he was a rebel, but she’d been quickly informed that Zuko was the one leading the mission. She’d apologized, releasing him before leaving the car to bloodbend the real enemy, the Fire Nation soldiers just how the image in his painting showed it.

Katara confessed that she’d felt such a sense of overwhelming power that it had controlled her, that she’d willingly and gladly killed so many of those soldiers, but when it was all over, she’d looked at what she’d done, and she’d felt only remorse and disgust for herself. It hadn’t helped that everyone aside from her brother and one of the rebels, Jet, had looked at her the same way. She told him how they’d begun to call her the Water Witch, a nickname she loathed. “When I saw you again, I knew you hated me for what I had done, and you were justified. What I had done was terrible, and while I knew I’d done it because I was frightened, because it was the only weapon I had against someone I’d thought was an enemy, it still wasn’t right.” Even so, she’d asked for help, and even though they’d been reluctant to give it, an agreement was made. Sokka would go with Lu Ten and the others to assassinate Zhao. The three remaining waterbenders who hadn’t been killed would go warn the Northern Tribe that the Admiral was working on a plan to battle against them. Katara would go with Zuko, Gui, Shen, Jet, and Ping to Ba Sing Se to finish the mission the waterbenders had originally been trying to accomplish, asking the Earth King for military support. It was meant to be a sign of good faith.

“Before we all left, Lu Ten took Sokka and I aside. He told us about your past and his so we would be more trusting of the separation, of going with you guys on different missions. He told me that he was framed as a traitor, and around the same time, your mother was banished. They live in Ba Sing Se now. Anyway, he also told me about how your father burned you, giving you that scar and banishing you as well, just because you spoke out against the Crimson Battle.” Katara’s skin prickled as she felt the air caress the exposed bottom swell of her breasts, but Zuko stopped unwrapping her underwear at that point, lingering over her, the fabric still in his hands. She felt his arm slip away from her waist, and she pressed her back against the metal wall in case he decided to change his mind and continue unraveling her underwear. He didn’t speak, and he didn’t drop the white fabric. Instead, he just watched her, warily, as she continued to speak, a little less panicked now that he’d stopped trying to undress her.

“Lu Ten also told me that you were the one who led the strike force against the Fire Nation the day of Sozin’s Comet, when they wiped out my entire tribe. If it wasn’t for you, I would be dead, but you and your rebels took out enough ships that the one with seven of us on it was able to escape. Unfortunately, two of us still didn’t survive the injuries, but five of us still exist, and that’s better than nothing. You asked why you wouldn’t want to be Zuko, but you should have thought of why you do want to be him. You told me later that you met my great grandmother Inoa, that she healed you before the South Pole was destroyed. Getting the blessing of the Avatar is kind of a big deal, you know? Zuko may be the son of a monster, but the man I knew was a good person, and he fought against his father every step of the way.” Katara revealed.

The waterbender continued. She told him about those first few days, how Jet had practically hounded her, how Zuko had assigned menial tasks to keep the fighter away from her. “I think, even though you didn’t like me, you must have felt bad that he wouldn’t leave me alone, and I was grateful to you for keeping him away from me.” But then she revealed what she’d overheard, the argument between Jet and Zuko, how it had ended. She also confessed that she’d gone to Jet while he’d been on watch, to appeal to him for information about Mai, Zuko’s first love. Katara didn’t leave out the fact that she’d flirted to get said information. Sure, it made her look bad, and she could see that her words practically confirmed the Pirate Captain’s suspicions that she wasn’t to be trusted, but she wanted to give him the full truth, leaving nothing out.

She told him about how Jet had taken her flirtations to mean something else entirely, how they’d fought only to have Zuko end it. Then, the next day, she’d had to scout with Ping who had spoken little to her, but they’d come to an understanding. He’d been the first to accept her, but Gui and Shen were still very wary of her, so Katara and Zuko had sparred to prove that she wasn’t going to freak out and bloodbend them all to death.

It had been a tough fight, and in the end, Zuko had pinned her, but Katara confessed that she’d cheated by kissing him to throw him off guard to best him in the end. Her cheeks blushed at the memory of his lips on hers, the way he’d seemed to just go with it, how she’d almost forgotten why she’d kissed him in the first place. He’d been furious after, and she’d been pissed off at herself once she’d thought about it. She’d felt like she’d betrayed him with that kiss, and when she’d gone to apologize, he’d asked why she’d done it. “At the time, I thought I’d only done it to distract you, to win the match, but I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think that subconsciously, I respect you and was attracted to you. I wouldn’t have tried to win that way with anyone else, but I did it with you because I wanted to kiss you. It’s that simple. Having the guise of distraction just made it easier to hide the truth, even from myself.” But it didn’t matter because she’d never gotten the chance to tell him. Before she’d known what was happening, he was kissing her, and she’d succumbed to it.

Katara revealed the truth behind his kissing her this time, and she told him about the battle against the Rough Rhinos, how there had been so many of them, but they’d taken them all out with a lot of difficulty considering their tired states from sparring earlier. Still, they’d won in the end, but Zuko had seemed… broken about the way in which he’d taken down the leader, Colonel Mongke.

Then came the confession about what had occurred in his tent that night, how she’d gone to heal his legs, how they’d almost done more. Katara explained to the pirate Captain why she’d held back even though she hadn’t wanted to do so, that she’d been afraid of going so far, not knowing what it would mean for them or for her. Just remembering the details sent her heart racing, her cheeks flushing. Then she explained what happened the next day, how he’d rejected her, how she’d thought it was because she hadn’t slept with him, and it had caused awkwardness through the rest of their travels to Ba Sing Se.

That city had been a nightmare, and she didn’t miss it, but she explained all that had occurred. She told him about Joo Dee and the Dai Li. She confessed to him the conversations she’d had with Lady Ursa only to have it shoved in her face that Zuko was betrothed to a beautiful, rich Earth Kingdom girl who was blind. Then that horrible excuse for a double date in which Jet had rubbed it in her face that Zuko was taken, that he didn’t want her, that she was just some simple peasant who couldn’t ever be on the same level as a man who was raised as the Fire Prince. He’d used the pain and vulnerability he’d caused to kiss her, but it hadn’t lasted long. She didn’t want to be with him, and honestly, he was a giant prick that night, so she’d left the alley only to see Shen sneaking off toward the restaurant where Zuko and Lady Beifong still ate.

Though Katara was ashamed to admit that she’d found the rest of their group there, spying, she had joined them rather than returning to the tea shop, she didn’t leave that out, either. She told him that she’d done it under the pretense of suspicions that Toph Beifong wasn’t who she’d seemed because she’d been discovered to be an earthbender, but the truth was that Katara had just been jealous. However, when the group had followed the betrothed pair to a park and had seen them kiss, the waterbender had left, taking the rest of the group with her.

It had only been the next day when she’d gone to his room, to try to work out some kind of peace between them. She’d been tired of the awkwardness, fed up with the silence. They were working together, and she was friends with everyone else. He was their leader, and she’d at least wanted some kind of friendship with him if she could have nothing else.

It hadn’t worked out that way, though. Instead, after fighting and talking for a while, it had ended with confessions that revealed that neither had truly been done with the other, thinking that the other simply didn’t want anything more. It had all been so stupid and silly, but the feel of his lips on hers without any pretenses of winning a sparring match or distracting their enemies had been wonderful. There had been so much promise, and if his uncle hadn’t interrupted them, she suspected they would have genuinely become an item. Still, there had been that interruption, and she’d ended up in conversation with Iroh who had been a wonderfully understanding man.

Still, Katara had gone and ruined everything by using the invitation for Toph and Zuko to attend the Earth King’s party to get the rest of them into it as well. She’d hurt him, she knew, and she’d never gotten the chance to make it up to him. Everything after that seemed to happen too fast. They’d been kicked out of Ba Sing Se, told to leave the next morning if they wanted to live. Then they’d had to leave that night anyway because her brother, his cousin, and the other rebels were in trouble. When they’d arrived on the scene, it had been a trap, and there had been a choice for only Zuko to make: save Sokka and keep peace with the Water Tribe or save his cousin, the man who was like his brother.

Tears stung her eyes as she explained how Zuko’s plan had unfolded, how Gui and Shen had held her back when her bluff to bloodbend Zhao and all of his men had been proven empty. Zuko had gone to Zhao himself, trading his life for her brother and Lu Ten’s. At the last minute, when he’d looked at her, she’d understood what he was going to do, and she’d tried to stop it, but there was nothing she could do, and suddenly, he was gone, the Admiral was dead, and the fighting began.

“I tried to get to what I thought was your body. It was unrecognizable, but it was even more badly burned than Zhao’s, so I thought it had to be yours since you were right at the center of the explosion. I had water from the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole, and I was going to use that, but Sokka stopped me. He told me you were dead, the same words Lu Ten had used, that we had to get out of there before we were all killed. Even I can’t bring someone back from the dead, and even if the spirit water had given that body back its life, there was no way to know that it would have healed all of your wounds. I could have been dooming you to a life of agony until the burns healed, if you didn’t just die again anyway. We went back for your body later, and we brought it to the outskirts of Ba Sing Se where we held a funeral service for you.” Her voice cracked at the memory, trying to reconcile the fact that they’d burned his body only to have him stand here, looking at her, his face unreadable as she began to conclude her story.

“Sokka and I went back North and told the Chief all that had happened. We were considered heroes for our trouble, and you were honored for your sacrifice. I never felt like a hero. I feel like it was somehow my fault that you had died, that if I had just gone with Sokka to Ba Sing Se myself, that you would still be alive. Or maybe if I had understood your intentions, I could have escaped before Gui and Shen held me down. Or maybe I should have just killed Zhao myself, with waterbending even though I couldn’t use bloodbending. It wouldn’t have mattered if I died as long as you lived. You could explain to Sokka what happened in Ba Sing Se. You did more for this war than anyone I’d ever met, and your death was a greater loss than mine would have been.

“Lu Ten stayed behind in Ba Sing Se, and Ping became the leader of the rebels. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I saw any of them again. They came to the North Pole to warn us that the Fire Nation is finally getting together a force against the Northern Tribe again. We went to the Foggy Swamp to gather more forces, and we were just going back to the North Pole to regroup when the Fire Nation attacked us only to be taken out by your pirates.” Katara laughed mirthlessly. “We thought you were on our side at first until you attacked us, too. Your first mate, Wan Xue, threatened to kill everyone if I didn’t go with your crew, if anyone fought. We were already tired from fighting the Fire Naval ships, and we weren’t in a position to fight you guys, too. I can’t believe this is the person you’ve become, Zuko. How did this even happen?”

Kathryn Lacey
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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Aug 26, 2012 3:57 pm

Yang listened to her tale, scrutinizing the details as she went over them. It sounded almost too real to be believed, that a Fire Nation prince would define himself in exile, leading a life of justice. Though, could he say that he had done much differently with his own life? True, he led the pirates, and they did attack merchant vessels from time to time for their money, on the other hand he went after the vessels that carried the most goods, the ones that could be replaced. People did not starve because of what it was that he did, and he shared the wealth with the poor in the towns that he had visited. It was because of those good deeds that people had flocked to him, that his ships were half filled with reformed pirates and the other half were true volunteers who wanted to make a difference by fighting the Fire Nation's assault on the Earth Kingdom.

She was candid about details though that he didn't know that he would have been in her place. He couldn't tell if that made her bluntly honest, or in fact was indicative of her crafting some sort of tale. She seemed to breathe easier as his hands stopped unwrapping her chest covering even though it was so loose at this point that it would practically fall off if she moved. He longed to touch her breasts, to see her gasp with excitement, and yet at the same time she had made it clear that she found it abhorred if he were to touch her, even though her body seemed to ache for it. He paused, and blinked, everything seeming to come into focus all so clearly in that moment that he knew how he could tell the truth of what she said.

As she continued, told him about how she had longed for him, he knew that what he was about to do was the smart move. Slowly as she spoke, he started to nod a little more, chewing on his lip as he nodded, right up until the ending. Didn't he have a dream, a dream about fire and screams? It could have been anything, but he seemed to remember seeing her there, crying right before the end. He didn't know what it meant, and she could have cried over anything. But what if it had been him? At the end of it he paused a little, and swallowed slowly. "Tell me your name..." he asked her, blinking as she said it, and he slowly reached up to pull off his mask, staring at it for a moment as he shook his head.

"I think... some of it is coming back. Lu Ten... the rebels. I..." He blinked and looked at her. "But it's still fuzzy, like it's all in some sort of fog..." he whispered, and then blinked as if remembering she was chained up. "Katara, I'm... I'm so sorry..." he whispered to her, reaching up, fumbling with the chains slightly as he let her wrists down, his gloved hands moving across her cheeks to brush the tears away as he pulled her towards him, his lips seeking her own, kissing her slowly, warmly, his eyes opening in slits during the kiss to watch it, watch the way that she reacted to it as he kissed her lips, then her cheek, his hands trailing down, tugging the rest of her top from her body as he pressed her against the wall.

His hands found her breasts, her nipples, warm leather pressing to them, kneading them slowly as he pressed his lips to hers again heatedly, groaning in between kisses. "Spirits, Katara... I want you..." he breathed out against her lips as he slid back a little, hurriedly tugging at the strings of her trousers, letting them fall to the floor as his hands started to unbind her wrappings there, lust and wanton desire in his gaze as he looked to her eyes to see her reaction, see how much it was that she wanted this man in front of her, claiming to be everything that she wanted...

The waterbender watched him warily, wondering if he would claim she was lying again, wondering if he’d torment her more, trying to get information he’d rather hear than the truths she spoke. However, he looked at her strangely, and he asked her name. His voice was softer, gentler, and she felt no qualms with telling him. “Katara.” Her voice was equally as soft. Her eyes followed his hands as he removed the mask that covered the left half of his face before her eyes roamed over the ruined flesh of his face, flickering from one golden eye to the next as he gazed at the mask in his hands. After a moment, he tossed it aside, the metal face-plate clanking to the floor.

Katara wouldn't actually appreciate how wonderful it was to hear her name, to know it finally. Even as she said it, it seemed to fit, like some itch in the back of his mind had finally been scratched. He didn't doubt that it was her real name; after all, she would have no reason to lie about that. Even if she were here to kill him all that having her name would do would be to give a dead man something else to take to his grave. Katara... finally he had a name to the face that had plagued his dreams more and more often these past few months. What he did next was probably a mistake, and certainly felt as if it were unkind, but at the same time, he had to know, he couldn't risk his own life, much less the lives of his crew, on a hunch that the woman in front of him was actually telling the truth and not one of the many people who wanted him dead.

Katara’s eyes widened in surprise when he said he was beginning to remember. Was that really all it took, just telling him and he could recall? It was true that he obviously had some memory of his life before the explosion at least as far as images went, for he’d painted these things, but it just seemed so easy. Then he looked up at her, and he seemed surprised at himself as he apologized and unchained her, as if he well and truly recognized who she was and wasn’t seeing her like one sees a phantom. It was true that she’d only ever met one other person who had amnesia, and while she’d never recovered her memories, who was to say that Zuko’s weren’t closer to the surface, able to come back more easily? The mind was so complex that even as a great healer, she couldn’t fully understand it, and she didn’t know anyone else who had a firm grasp on its workings.

The waterbender accepted it. Her muscles screamed as she lowered her arms when he released her wrists from their shackles. There was a raw, red band of flesh where she’d fought first her ropes then her chains, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was that Zuko was with her, that he was remembering his life, remembering her. Her face brightened, a small, awed smile touching her lips as he touched her, wiping away the tears that had streamed down her face. Then she was in his arms, feeling the warmth of his body against her as his lips came upon hers. Katara kissed him back, nearly crying at the fact that she had him again, after a year of missing him, that the year of nightmares concerning his supposed death, the year of wishing she’d done things differently, of blaming herself for what had transpired and what hadn’t happened that should have. She held back her tears, her lids closing over her eyes as they kissed.

Her hands rose, ignoring the soreness that still plagued her muscles. Her fingers moved over his face, feeling the stubble along his jaw, the ripples of his scar, before her fingers curled into his hair. It was still soft though it was longer. Her heart began to race and her breathing deepened as he broke from her lips, trailing kisses along her cheek. She tensed as he felt his hands tug away the rest of her bindings, but she didn’t fight him when he pressed against her, sandwiching her between his body and the wall. A small gasp was sucked into her throat as his hands moved against her breasts, their peaks hardening at his touch. His lips were on hers again, that familiar sensation that she’d been missing all this time despite having too few moments like this before.

Katara’s body began to tremble as he spoke, groaning against her lips, his words resounding in her, causing her flesh to pebble and heat to swarm through her core. He released the ties on her pants, feeling them drop around her boots, revealing the bindings wrapping around her thighs and the fabric hanging at the front and back of her. Her blue eyes gazed into his molten gold ones, seeing his desire for her there, feeling it reciprocated back at him. However, as his hands moved to the ties of her underwear, she gripped them, pulling them away, her gaze leaving his only for a moment as, with shaking hands, she slowly worked each finger loose from their leather confines before pulling the gloves off completely and tossing them aside where his mask lay.

Katara’s fingers moved over his, as if she was afraid that this action, touching his hands, would cause him to disappear again as if he had never existed, as if her mind had simply conjured this image of him, imagined the way he kissed her, the way he touched her. But that didn’t happen. He stayed firmly solid, and her eyes moved back to his before closing as her lips graced his again. She pushed back his long coat, hearing it ripple to the floor in a heap, and she pulled his shirt over his head. Sokka was right. Their culture was dead, and she needed to find something else to follow. The waterbender wasn’t going to allow herself to regret not doing something again. It didn’t matter that she was so nervous in this moment that her entire body trembled, even as her hands smoothed over the hard muscles of his abdomen. She was completely sober, and she would remember this; she wanted this, wanted Zuko to be her first, and she was glad that he would be. “I’ve missed you so much.” She whispered against his lips as her quivering hands trailed to the ties holding his pants closed.

He felt her touching him, caressing him, and he was almost certain that he was right about her. She did know him; she did want him. He forced himself not to flinch as she touched his scar, even though he wanted to. Despite Wan Xue's urgings to the contrary, all it reminded him of was Song, the way that she had used it to try to brand him in her mind to be just like her. Were there a way to be rid of it, he would have done it in a heartbeat. It looked as gross and hateful to him in the mirror as Song's face had when she spat her hate towards him. He wondered, if he was wrong, would Katara spit the same threats at him, would she have as much hate in her eyes as she tried to kill him, or would it be a cold, ineffectual look of indifference?

Still, such thoughts went away as he touched her, as he felt her against his body. He could feel her responding in ways that he knew weren't faked. She wanted this; she wanted him as much as he wanted her. It occurred to him in his darker thoughts how easy it would be to take her like this, to claim her the way that he had always wanted to, to give himself over to what he wanted to do more than anything in this moment. Let himself feel her, all of her and drown in her body. Inside his thoughts he could already picture her the way that he had fantasized about her thousands of times, her body pinned against the ground, legs wrapped around his torso, head thrown back in ecstasy...

It was the final test when he reached for her under garments, and he blinked in surprise when she stopped him, only to sigh a little bit of relief when she just pulled away at his gloves. But it was her touch next that truly turned his stomach, not because of what she was doing but because of what he had done in order to ensure that his crew would be safe. He felt her pulling away at his clothing and stripping him and he let it happen in his hesitation, but when she whispered that she missed him so much he pushed away from her, gently. He could see the confusion there on her features, wanting to know what was going on. He could see the fear that Song had gotten when he had first seen her scars there in her eyes, fear that he might not find her desirable. He knew that more than likely it would turn to rage in heartbeats.

"I can't, I'm sorry." He whispered, stepping back from her, looking at her. "I doubt you will understand, despite the fact that you just did the same to save the lives of your friends. Sometimes in order to ensure the safety of those important to you, you have to do things that you don't want to do. I... I had to know, to make sure, even if it wasn't right." he said softly, and moved to where his mask lay on the ground, picking it up, staring at it for a moment as he looked at her. "Know that, if I could snap my fingers to make you love me I would, Katara." He said softly as he slowly put back on the half mask, looking at her horrified look with his golden eyes as he prepared himself for how she might react. If she tried to blood bend him he would probably have to kill her, regardless of how he felt inside.

"... But I am not the person that you claim I once was, any more than I was when you entered."

Katara’s heart almost stopped when he pulled away from her, the look on his face changed from a moment ago. She was so confused. Two seconds prior, he’d wanted her just as badly as she still wanted him, and now he was pulling away from her. She watched, stunned as he began talking, as he retrieved his mask. As his words sank in, her body began to shake, but this time, it wasn’t from nervousness at giving herself to him; it was from rising fury at what he had done to her. The waterbender felt… violated. She never would have made herself so… available if she had known that he’d been lying, that he didn’t remember anything, that he didn’t remember her. It had been intentional, to see if she was telling the truth about the things he couldn’t recall.

“Love isn’t something you can force, Zuko.” Her voice was soft, but it had the coldness of barely contained anger. Her anger was so fierce right now, with no way to let it out, a single tear slipped passed her barrier. She wiped it away, forcing the rest of them back as she pulled her pants over her hips, tightly securing them back in place. How could she have been so fucking stupid?

Katara had believed what she’d wanted to believe, that he was being honest, that he was still the same person he had been. It had all been a lie, and the toll for it had been hers to pay. Her chest felt far too tight, making breathing difficult. It felt as if there was a void within her, filling her to the brim, torturing her with the knowledge that there should be something there. This wasn’t Zuko. This was a doppelganger that had his face, his scent, his taste, and his voice – a false version of the man she’d known.

She wanted him to hurt, to physically feel the emotional pain he’d caused her, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to do something to make him see that what he’d done hadn’t come without repercussions, that she wasn’t some weak-willed woman who just threw herself at men, stupidly, wantonly.

He could see the anger and rage in her, as she nearly growled the words at him about forcing love on someone else. "Your anger is... understandable." Yang said softly, and paused, "But before you get too high up on your ostrich horse, bear in mind what you have done in order to protect those who are important to you." Yang said, and gestured to the painting of her blood bending. He might not remember much, but he knew that she had done terrible things in order to do what was ultimately right. "The feelings of two people aren't worth the safety of an entire crew of people, much less the movement that I have started here." Yang said flatly as he stared at her. "Or perhaps the people of the Northern Water Tribe were thinking that the lack of Fire Nation ships in their waters did not come without a cost..." Yang said simply.

It would be so easy to just rip water straight from the air, to fling it at him, to bruise him, to hurt him, but she didn’t do any of that. Instead, she remembered her great grandmother’s teachings. Breathe deeply, and count to ten, Katara… She told herself, counting silently in her mind as she reached for the bindings of her underwear.

Katara looked toward the painting at which he gestured, only giving herself a moment to look at the horror of her appearing the puppet master of live people before she looked away, toward the floor. The waterbender understood that in order to protect people, one often had to tread upon a darker path, but even knowing that… there should still have been rules. The way even her allies had looked at her after she’d used bloodbending, despite having helped save so many lives, had been… terrible. They’d felt enough horror that most wouldn’t even allow her to heal their wounds unless they felt there had been no other option for them. Treading the line between healer and killer had never been easy for Katara, but she’d accomplished it, was still accomplishing it, somehow.

Then he mentioned that the Pirates had been keeping the Fire navy out of Water Tribe waters, and her eyes widened, and she looked at him, surprised. “I thought the pirates attacking Fire Naval ships was just… a coincidence, a fluke. I didn’t realize it was deliberate.” Then she added a soft ‘thank you.’

Yang smirked when she mentioned that she thought that it was some sort of fluke. "That's good. Spirits willing that everyone else thinks the same thing." He said, solemnly. "If they thought that we were organized against them and not just in some sort of dispute over who owned the waters, then they would turn their full might against us, which I don't know that we could handle. Fire Nation vessels are one thing, but if they littered the sky with airships, then we would have a whole different fight on our hands." It was a frightening thought. They were barely stemming the tide at this point, but he knew sooner or later they would be put in a position where they would need to either improve their firepower, or submit to the Fire Nation. He didn't really know that Katara would even have a clue what all of that would mean for her, or the world.

“Turn around.” She said quietly, with considerably less anger but with more hurt, despite understanding the reasons behind his deception. He owed her at least this much, but what could she do if he didn’t comply?

Instead, she turned her back on him, allowing her dress to fall from her back, not caring if he saw the scar that marred her flesh as she wound the white fabric around her chest and shoulders. When she was done, she replaced the dress on her body and secured it with the white belt at her waist, keeping her back toward him. Katara was calmer, less violent though she was just as angry as she was hurt. However, more of that anger was geared toward herself than toward him. He had no reason to trust her, and now that she was calmer, more resigned, it was easier to think clearly.

"Gladly." he said when she told him to turn around, and he did the same, grabbing his clothing. He wasn't sure what he had expected from this. He knew that she wouldn't be alright, but the irony of it burned into his thoughts. Here was the literal girl of his dreams before him, and yet he was duty bound to insult her in order to make certain that everyone else was safe. So much searching, and yet it was all for naught. The girl of his dreams, it seemed, the person that he had seen saving dozens of people couldn't understand the weight of lives upon someone else's shoulders? That in order to protect the people underneath you, you had to do things that you didn't want to do? Perhaps Wan Xue was right about her, that all she had been pumped up to be in his head would make the real her a pale shadow by comparison... and yet, he found himself unable to give up, not yet.

They’d met under worse circumstances when they’d known each other before. She’d bloodbent him when he was trying to help her, and yet he’d forgiven her. He’d forgiven her again when she’d kissed him to win the sparring match. Could she forgive him for having done whatever he felt it took to be certain that she wasn’t going to just attack him and his crew, to decimate them all for having captured her? The waterbender turned to face him, her sapphire eyes examining his face, his eyes.

Katara’s anger was ebbing a little. The healer in her was often stronger than the killer, and in this case, her memories of a man she’d missed for so long, the man whose physical form stood before her even while his being was lost, were so strong that she couldn’t help but to want to help him, to help her friend, her almost-lover. Then there was also the point that he at least claimed he had feigned recognition to help his people, his crew, and not necessarily to hurt her. He had to know, and her lack of restraint when she’d honestly believed he was who he said he was had proven that. Would she have done the same thing if the roles were reversed? There was no way to know, but the fact was that he’d stopped before things had gone too far between them. She couldn’t deny that she was grateful for it. Such a thing wouldn’t have been the same, regardless of the fact that physically, he was the one she’d known. A connection like that shouldn’t be forged between two strangers.

“Maybe you don’t have to stay like this forever, not remembering anything.” He gave her a curious but skeptical look. “I’m a healer, Zuko. Maybe I could try to reconnect whatever part of your mind has disconnected, to try to open the pathways toward your memories. I won’t lie to you; it’s dangerous, but I would be more careful than I’ve ever been about anything, and I would only use the water from the Spirit Oasis from the North Pole to do it because of the special healing properties it possesses. I don’t know if it would work, but it’s worth a try, right? If it doesn’t… I… Maybe we could start over, reform the friendship we used to have from scratch.” Her gaze moved away from his, finding it too difficult to continue looking into his familiar eyes when she knew a different person resided behind them.

He paused when she mentioned that maybe he didn't have to not remember his past. "What if I don't want to remember?" He voiced aloud calmly as he turned towards the paintings on the wall, staring at them.

How could someone just… not want to remember who they were? If she had lost her memories, she would want them all back, no matter what it took.

“What about your family?” She asked gently. “I mean your real family. Your Uncle, Iroh; your mother, Ursa; and your cousin, Lu Ten. They’ve all missed you so much. From what Lu Ten told me, they haven’t handled your death very well. Your friends have missed you, too, and so have… so have I. Maybe life wasn’t exactly easy for you, but at least you had people who loved you, people who cared for you and believed in you.”

"The person that you described... I cannot imagine his life was a pleasant one.”

“No one has an easy life, Zuko. You think I’ve just sailed through mine, dancing along rainbows and playing with fritillaries? I was helpless to stop the destruction of my entire homeland, and I have had to fight hard to earn my way into a place of fragile respect from the people in the North. Even so, I would never want to lose my memories. If you get rid of the memories of hardship and sadness, you also lose the ones that made you happy. You can’t give up just because things are hard.”

“If we are all but a collection of memories, events that shape us, then will having the others destroy me? Or has a year’s worth of time been enough that it will bleed into the person that you knew, so that you have neither him nor I, but some combination of them both, neither the person you long to be with, nor the person I want to be..." He frowned a little as he thought about it and shook his head. He had been doing this for nearly nine months and it had all seemed to go past in a blink, what was he to do if everything that he was happened to be destroyed. "I will need to think on it."

"Also, Wan Xue will never agree to it unless one of our own is there. Thankfully there is at least one water bender on our crew." Yang said softly.

Katara didn’t initially know what to say to his observation that regaining his memories on top of the ones he’d made in the last year might change who he was today. Then at last she offered, “Everyone grows and changes, Zuko. If we didn’t, life would be pretty stagnant, don’t you think?”

Then he told her he would think about it, and with his concerns, it was the most for which she could hope, so she didn’t press him further. “If you decide to do it, I don’t have any qualms with others from your crew coming along as long as they’re respectful to the people there.”

He was been surprised at her offer. It was... generous, in a way. At the same time it was completely, well, frightening. She seemed to brush past the intricacies of it as if she didn't fully understand. Something told Yang that it was a lot different to be the one who might totally change based on what was remembered. He blinked a little when she mentioned his family. It was strange to think of a family, people who were related to him by blood. Would he love them, even if he couldn't ever remember them? "Would they really expect that I would destroy myself just for memories of them to come back? To you it seems like nothing at all, to me the request seems... oddly selfish." he said, frowning slightly.

“I’m sorry.” Katara said softly, a frown taking her features. “It probably is selfish, but having known you before you lost your memories, it’s hard to believe that anything could truly destroy you. You’ve been through so much, and yet, you were still a good person. Lesser men would have been broken by the things you’ve suffered, but you’re not a lesser man.”

"You should stop calling me Zuko. I am not him, and may never be... but if the crew thinks that I am such, their resolve will weaken. They know I am a firebender, but it is a long distance from an exiled Fire Bender to the son of the man they are fighting against." Yang said.

Katara’s gaze moved back to the floor when he told her to stop calling her ‘Zuko.’ It would be difficult. She’d had a hard time of it in Ba Sing Se when she’d had to use his alias, ‘Ryu,’ and she didn’t imagine it would be easier this turn, either, but she had to try. He was offering her some semblance of peace, and as she was virtually helpless on his ship, she had to take it. “Okay. What should I call you, then?”

"You can call me, 'Captain', or 'Yang'." He said softly, shaking his head. "I'd prefer Captain, that's what everyone else knows me as, for the most part. Yang was a name that was given to me by... my ex fiancée." he said, watching the look on Katara's face that he knew would come when he mentioned Song. "It's... not as bad as you might think. True, we did almost... get married. Let's just say that... even if you save someone's life, not everyone is as welcoming as you might think to discover the fact that their memory wiped fiancé is actually a fire bender." He said, shaking his head a little, closing his eyes. "In any case, that was almost a year ago now... Which, when you've only had memories for a year, is pretty much a lifetime..." he said with a faint hint of a grin.

His response surprised her. ‘Captain’ was easy enough to remember, seeing as that was his title, but where in the world had he picked up Yang? She was reminded of the koi fish in the Spirit Oasis, how their constant circling of each other reminded her of the yin and yang symbol, especially with their unusual markings and colouring.

When Zuko revealed how he got the name ‘Yang,’ Katara felt her stomach clench, and she tried to wipe her face of the momentary expression of shock that had quickly made its way through jealousy and hurt. However, while she managed to affect a more apathetic expression, it was too late. He’d seen the expression, had read it clearly. Had he slept with her? How long had they been together before they decided to get married? Had he truly loved her? The thoughts only served to hurt her, to make her feel an acute unhappiness, but she tried hard to keep it contained within her, so he couldn’t see. Somehow he must have already, for he gave a quick explanation that lacked more than a couple of details. The faint grin on his face held mirth that didn’t really seem to reach his eyes.

His fiancée had hated him for being a firebender? If she hadn’t known, did that mean they’d only been together for a short time? Was Zuko so quick to love any woman who showed him affection? Really, how long had Katara known him before he’d lost his memories? It hadn’t been long, and yet… he’d been willing to break off a well-matched betrothal to at least try to see where things would go with the waterbender.

Don’t focus on that… She told herself. The Zuko she’d known was gone, and even if he consented to a few healing sessions to try to recover himself, they may be for naught. He could just remain forever forgetful, never again the man she’d known. What would she do in that situation? No, she already knew. She would try to start fresh, to become his friend. Even if she’d initially hated Zuko for being a firebender, that had been before she’d known him, and this doppelganger of himself was still a generally good person even if she didn’t necessarily approve of his methods. He could have taken her, raped her, not tried to stop the Fire Nation from encroaching on Water Tribe waters, but he didn’t do any of that.

He sighed softly, looking at her. "In terms of keeping up appearances, I will have to offer you an uncomfortable choice. My reputation demands that women who come to my chambers either leave satisfied or... ravaged. So you will need to decide which role you wish to play, the satisfied tamed woman who sleeps in my quarters and clings to me, or the woman I have just raped who fights and is confined to a locked, but decent set of quarters close by."

Her cheeks coloured at the explanations of her potential choices. Could she really choose between those options? “I… We wouldn’t actually…” Damn it… Why couldn’t she just say it? “Nothing would actually happen, right? It would just be for show?” Her heart was racing. Would he expect her to have sex with him if she shared his quarters? Would he really rape her if she chose the less savory option despite the restraint he’d shown earlier? Even though he admitted to good deeds, he was still a pirate no matter what good he did, and she couldn’t afford to forget that.

When he presented the choices to her, he raised an eyebrow at her reluctance. Strange that she would be so attracted to someone that she had barely known, and yet he, who she also barely knew, would be despicable to her. He didn't actually bring that up, however, leaving Katara to think what she wanted to about their little arrangement, and instead just laid out the rules more clearly. "Something wouldn't happen, unless you wanted it to happen, Katara." That was all he said. Whether or not she wanted to, well, that would be some sort of inner battle that Yang definitely didn't want to get in the middle of. Whatever she decided he would more than happily comply with, though he knew what it was that he wanted, even if it conflicted with her own desires.

She had her options, and she had to mull them over. On one hand, there would be no real acting involved because she’d be shut away from everyone. The other option offered the difficulty of acting but fresh air and a chance to get to know this new version of Zuko, to try to be his friend, to potentially have him allow her to heal his mind, to bring back the person she’d known, the person for whom his family still grieved.

Her face flushed when he said that nothing would happen… unless she wanted it. Her clear blue eyes glared indignantly at him, not giving him a response to that. Though… Katara was glad to know that he wouldn’t forcibly take her to his bed.

She didn’t really care what a bunch of pirates thought of her, and whatever she chose would only have repercussions for Zuko and for herself. Then a new fear sank into her. How was she going to pull off a charade like this? How could she pretend to hate him, to have been raped, to fight him when none of it felt right? Sure, he’d pissed her off royally, but she thought she understood to some extent his motives, provided he wasn’t lying to her.

If she chose to feign the role of lover, how could she even accomplish it? She’d never actually had a boyfriend before, so it wasn’t like she had some memory to reference. Besides, he had said she’d have to ‘cling’ to him, and the idea of clinging to anyone, lover or no, was repulsive. She’d seen the way that girls clung to boys when they were still in the courting phases of a relationship, and she’d never wanted to be that sappy or pathetic. Yet, now he was asking her to do it.

That wasn’t even the worst part. Katara had never really been good at faking what she felt. Her emotions were all on her sleeve, apparent to anyone looking. Once, there had been a small play held in her village in the South Pole about the history of their people, and she hadn’t gotten a part after auditioning. Sokka had teased her, saying that her line delivery had been worse than the sounds of tiger seals during mating season. Katara hadn’t really wanted to be an actress anyway, much preferring becoming a master healer and a master waterbender, and she’d never tried to act again.

However, this time that was one of her choices, and she was worried she would fail if she chose it. Still, wouldn’t it beat being locked away in a room every day, pretending to hate someone she didn’t? Did every woman get this choice, or was she an exception? “Do you do this a lot, pretend to be with women, or do you actually…” She trailed off, realizing suddenly that she didn’t want to know. No, that wasn’t true. She was extremely curious about the subject, but she was terrified of what the answer would be. Had he raped women? Had he satisfied them? How many women had there been? Had he loved any of them? She shoved the thoughts from her mind, still trying to choose what her own fate on this ship would be.

As she asked about other women he shook his head. “No, but keeping up appearances is important for any leader.” It was to the point. He didn't know of any leader that actually led without keeping a thing or two to himself. Especially when starting, the fear itself was something that shook you to the core, practically. Leading people into battle, holding their lives in your hands... it was terrifying. Luckily when he'd started, he remembered what he had learned about it before, though not through any horrific memories of people dying on his watch. He'd had enough of that for a lifetime, and that brought back to mind all of the horrible things that he could remember if Katara healed him.

"I gave them the same offer that I gave you, in order to make it look like there was something going on." He paused, and chuckled. "Every now and again I would find one that was stubborn enough to refuse either, and in that case I would find some feature that I thought wasn't particularly pleasing about them, claim that it was just too much and that I could do better, and have them dropped off at the nearest port." he said with a shrug. "It is a system, and one that has worked remarkably well so far."

He responded, informing her that he hadn’t raped the women who were brought to him, and she felt another wave of relief at his response though she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – say why it mattered.

He cleared his throat lightly and paused. "If your actions since coming aboard are any indication, I'm guessing the second would probably come more naturally to you." His teeth sunk lightly into his lip at that point as he walked to her and touched the side of her jaw for a moment, gauging her reaction to it. She would still see the look of lust barely contained in his eyes as he looked at her there. "On the other hand, if you truly are willing to start over, there is little more that I would desire than more time... alone... with you."

His words brought a mirthless laugh from her. “Can you blame me? Would you have just sat idly by while someone dragged you into a dark room after having been taunted about potentially being raped? I agreed to come on this ship so your crew wouldn’t kill my brother and my friends and the merchants who were nice enough to agree to take us to the North Pole. I didn’t sign on to just… let myself be abused and violated.”

When she mentioned what she had come on board this ship to do, he suddenly burst out in loud laughter. "Remind me to keep you away from the negotiating table, my dear." he said with a smile, "You agreed to come as a prisoner, to what you then thought was a band of blood thirsty pirates, some of whom, like... what’s his name..." Yang didn't dare call him Skeezy Gold in front of Katara but he was having trouble remembering the man's real name at the moment, "were leering over you... nice job on the nose, by the way," he said with a chuckle, "And you somehow think that you have any right to dictate what it was that you signed up for? I have bad news for you about how the real world works."

His laughter caused her to jerk back, her eyes wide. In that moment, he had looked and sounded so much like the Zuko she’d known that it had felt like he’d delivered a physical blow, the pain cut so deeply. It wasn’t because he was laughing at her – though it was clear that he was. It was because it was easier to pretend that Zuko was lost to her, at least for now, than to admit that parts of him were still the same. This way, she wouldn’t have to long for him, to feel the cuts that having him so near yet so far from her caused. Even so, she wondered how much of the Zuko she’d known was still in there, just beneath the surface, begging to escape, to remember, to take over the body that had been his. It gave her hope even while it hurt. The pain would only be momentary, she assured herself.

Katara placed her hands on her hips, quickly recovering from the shock of his laughter. “No, I believed that someone would try something, but I figured I’d be able to fight them off long enough for them to either forget about the merchant ship or at least not care about it anymore. I wasn’t just going to lie back and take whatever they delivered. I just hoped that if they decided to kill me it wouldn’t be prolonged. Also, if that pirate… I think Wan Xue called him Skeezy Gold… is expecting me to heal the break I caused, he can forget about it. I warned him, and he got too close and too mouthy. He had it coming, and he can suffer through its healing naturally.” The waterbender resisted the urge to rub her forehead where it had made contact with the pirate’s face. It had hurt at the time, but it didn’t hurt now. Still, breaking another’s bones with her face hadn’t exactly been pleasant.

Katara looked up when he approached her, and as his hand graced her cheek, leather once more instead of the warmth of his skin, her muscles tensed a little, but she didn’t jerk away. Instead, her eyes met his, and the intensity in the eye uncovered by the mask caused her cheek to colour and a heat to spill into her despite logically wishing it would just go away. Hearing the words come from his lips caused her face to become an even deeper shade of red, and she looked away from him.

A thought occurred to her. Maybe the fact that her mind and body couldn’t reconcile the idea that this was not Zuko could work to her advantage. Maybe if she didn’t try so hard to have her body fight its reactions toward him, she could succeed in fooling the crew. Meanwhile, when they were alone, she could fight her reactions while simultaneously trying to get to know him as a friend or an ally better. After a moment of silence between them, her gaze met his again. “Okay. I’ll pretend in front of your crew that I’m a willing participant in whatever they imagine goes on in here. I don’t want to be locked in a room the whole time I’m here.”

Katara took a breath. This could work… maybe… She just had to pretend, in public, that she had no self-respect, right? She began to have doubts again, but she sucked them down. It didn’t matter what anyone here thought as long as she could get through to Zuko, who she had to remember to call Captain or Yang. She wasn’t sure calling him a completely different name would be easy, so she decided she would stick with his title instead.

As he got close to her and saw that she didn't pull away, he leaned in slowly and kissed her lips, softly, slowly, tentatively. It wasn't overly long, but instead seemed to be testing the waters. She would see it in his eyes there as he looked at her. The same look that Zuko had gotten in his eyes when he looked at her, that heated look of longing that she hadn't realized until too late that was there. His fingertips trailed down slowly as he took a step back, leaving the deadly open question hanging in the air... given that she had let the last time they had nearly been together slip through her fingers, would she risk letting another opportunity fly from her?

When he came toward her, Katara hadn’t expected him to do much more than caress her cheek as he was currently doing, but when he leaned down to brush his lips over hers, she was overcome by how familiar and how right it felt. This felt like her Zuko, the one she had kissed to win a sparring match, who had kissed her to distract their enemies, who had kissed her to show her that they could be something more. Her eyes fluttered closed at that, her lips responding to his. Her right hand lifted to the left side of his face, and when her fingers met with metal instead of flesh, she remembered that no matter how much this felt like Zuko, it wasn’t him. This man didn’t know her, and she no longer knew him. Gently, almost reluctantly, she pulled her lips away, her body warring with her mind before the latter won the fight.

Her eyes opened as she moved back a little, trying hard not to give into her physical desires. Their gazes met, and she felt another slash of pain deep within her at the look in his eyes, one she’d seen before back when he’d known who she was. He was still there, the Zuko she’d known and wanted. He was just buried deep, lost somewhere within himself. Could she heal him, bring him back if he allowed it? If she couldn’t, would she have the strength to let him go, or would she be so attached to his form, his physical familiarity that she couldn’t bear to lose him, even a stranger as he was now? Would this stranger be enough like that man she’d known that it wouldn’t matter, that she would find it within her heart to love him? Could she love him? Could he love her, too, or would he be too stuck on the visions of her he’d painted that the reality could never compare? Katara had to stop thinking like that.

Her brows furrowed a little as she looked at him almost cautiously. “You wouldn’t be willing to maybe regroup with the merchant ship I was on so I could let my brother and the others know I’m okay, that they need to just get to the North Pole and finish our mission, that I’m not being raped and beaten? It wouldn’t… ruin your reputation of being a morally-absent pirate or something, right?”

"No... We're not going back to your friends. At best they would have rested and be ready for another fight that I would have to explain. Besides, as you described them, they will probably either go to the Northern Water Tribe to complete their mission, or abandon their mission in order to find you. Either way, if I simply head to the Northern Water Tribe on my own, they will follow. I will have Wan Xue set a course for it, but I have not decided if I like the idea of my memories being altered, even if it means just restoring the old ones... You will have to decide, Katara, what you will do if I do not decide to go along with it, or if, perhaps, it doesn't work. Whatever you decide... I will respect it."

While she wasn’t surprised that he denied the request, a sudden fear filled her when he spoke. “You won’t let your crew hurt them if they follow, right? I mean… Wan Xue made it pretty clear if they followed, I’d be killed, but if they do it anyway, they’ll be trying to find a stealthy way to do it, and if they’re caught, I don’t want them to be harmed.” She was desperate to insure her friends and family would be safe, unable to bear the thought of them getting hurt to try to help her, especially considering all that had transpired.

“It’s not my decision to make.” She said in response to his words that he may not agree to her healing – or at least trying to heal – his mind. It was an acceptance of the fact that he could refuse her. With something as potentially dangerous as fiddling with a person’s brain, she would never try to force healing on him, even with water from the Spirit Oasis. “I already told you that if you don’t agree to it or if it just doesn’t work, I’m not going to just abandon you. We can start fresh, form a new friendship; just don’t lie to me anymore. I still think that, regardless of what happens, you should see your family, though. If nothing else, they deserve to know you’re alive. They’d rather see you alive and well but changed than dead.” She knew this because she felt it, too. No matter how badly she wanted the old Zuko back, no matter how much it hurt to see him and know he didn’t see her with any true recognition, she took solace in the fact that he was still among the living, that he hadn’t passed into the Spirit World.

Yang sighed softly, as he prepared to open the door. "Are you ready to play your part?"

Katara took a deep breath when he asked if she was ready to adopt a foreign role, her heart pounding wildly and her cheeks flaming. Sudden panic took hold of her. What if she couldn’t do this? What if he left her at some random harbor because she couldn’t keep up the charade? “No.” She responded to his question, the worry clear in her voice. “I’ve never… I don’t even know where to start. They’re going to see right through me.” Katara tried hard to recall how girls in the Tribes had clung all over their suitors, but her mind went blank. Why was it that she could find a way, in the heat of battle, to bend cannonballs back toward her enemies, but she couldn’t figure out how to feign a simple thing involving love – or lust, rather?

You can do this, Katara. Just think of it like its own kind of battle. Your actions are your weapon, and if you can master the façade, you’ll defeat your enemies… The pep talk soothed her somewhat, and she found herself able to sort of picture what she was supposed to do. She curled her left arm around his right, placing her right hand on his bicep. “Okay. I’m good. Let’s do this.”

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:35 pm

"Is there a reason why she isn't dead?" One of the pirates growled darkly to his compatriot, who simply remained in the shadows staring down at him. He truthfully was a sad sort, but then, that was what made him particularly useful to the council. Within any organization there were a few positions for truly gifted individuals, but the need for useless chaff like him was nigh limitless. The concealed man wasn't even truly sure that he remembered the pirate's name, only that he was used to get messages to the council. Messengers were of a particularly expendable sort, and were often found killed, whether it was because they were discovered, or because they knew enough that a certain 'accident' was required the next confrontation with the enemy was another matter. Still, the man served his purpose well enough, though he would have done better to do it without needless prattling questions.

"She serves the will of the council." The shadowed man watched as the other man's eyes widened as for a moment he thought the impossible. Were it not for the fact that he would likely blather something to someone without thinking, it would have suited the shadowed man just fine to let the messenger think it. "Inadvertently." The shadowed man growled, crossing his arms, and shaking his head as he saw the slow dawning realization occur to the man who then glared at him as if somehow he'd had a trick played on him. It was infuriating sometimes, explaining things to people, which was why he did it so very infrequently. It rarely gained him anything and most of the time they would stare at him with some sort of blank look.

"Here, take this." he said, stepping from the shadows, his eyes narrowing on the messenger as he handed him a scroll. He watched as the man looked it over examining every inch of it and then staring back at him incredulously.

"There's no seal on it." He said dubiously, and then opened it up, staring at the symbols, looking as he was expected to look. "And none of it actually makes any sense whatsoever."

"Which would be why I don't need to put a seal on it." he said to the messenger, feeling himself already starting to get annoyed with the fact that he was being forced to explain himself. He needed to remain calm though, another dead body on the ship would raise questions, especially given that the Captain was probably eagerly enjoying his little gift. Given Katara's feelings for him, it would be interesting to see if the Captain was actually ravaging her, or simply pretending the way that he did with all of his other little pets. Most of the crew was foolish enough to believe that he simply bedded whomever he wanted with impunity, but if he had, Wan Xue likely would have seen them come to much more... gory ends, rather than to leave them at a dock someplace once the captain had experienced his 'fun' with them.

As it was, it would remain interesting to see what the firebender would do with her new found competition. As long as she didn't maim the water bender too badly, it wasn't really any of his concern. All he was interested in was what the waterbender would do after she and the Captain got close, which would be to ultimately convince him that his memories needed to return. For a brief time there had been those on the council who had been worried that she had been lost to the swamp, though he had known otherwise. Given who her guide was, it was impossible that she had simply been left to die somewhere, especially when he had survived, and come back not on a drinking binge. Yaomo was many things, but he was ultimately soft when it came to the ladies, even if he didn't want to think of himself as so easily predictable.

"You're a real piece of work, Hanzo. I don't know whose cock you had to suck to get a job as a grunt working for the council, but don't think that the rest of us don't realize that you're in over your head." The messenger growled at him, and Hanzo tilted his head slightly, forcing himself to frown even when he wanted to laugh outright. It was the common man who most often trumpeted his greatness above those around him. Hanzo was more than content to let the messenger do exactly that. Instead his eyes looked down, almost meekly away as he looked into the distance, not saying a word as the man got close to him, uncomfortably close. His hand started to reach up to touch Hanzo. Hanzo's eyes snapped to the man, murderous intent flashing across them for a moment, but it was enough. Something deep, animal in the man, like all other men caused him to blink and step away, somewhat stunned, as if he didn't realize what he was doing. He wouldn't believe it a moment later, that he had seen what he had seen, such was the way of it. It was impossible for someone of his intellect to fathom that he had glimpsed the eyes of a killer there when he'd gotten close. Surely, he would think to himself, it must have been a trick of the light.

"You should go now. Our First Mate approaches." Hanzo said softly, looking at the man who still seemed to blink as if in a daze, looking around, and then back up at Hanzo as if there might be something there, some indication of the creature whose eyes he had seen.

"yeah..." The man said as he stumbled off.

Hanzo had a moment to relax himself as Wan Xue stormed towards him. In times like these, it was best to be the reed that bent with the storm, as Wan Xue's anger was more than capable of uprooting the mighty oak if tested. Even as angry as she was though, she was amazing to behold. He had to admit that he had been surprised at the Captain's reluctance to take advantage of his first mate, and even more so when he had caught a glimpse of Katara being lead into his quarters. If it were him, he would eagerly have chosen the first mate over the water bender. Katara had been notoriously headstrong from all he had learned and seen about her. It had made getting her aboard the ship a relatively simple task, on the other hand, it was not the sort of quality that Hanzo found desirable in a woman. Much better to go with one who was willing to support you than one who challenged.

"I'll kill her..." Wan Xue growled under her breath, crossing her arms under her distracting chest.

"No you won't." Hanzo said softly, noting the glare that came from Wan Xue at it, a look that bespoke she was daring him to challenge her to do it. "The Dragon cares for her. And you care for him. Despite your overtones to the contrary, you won't rob him of true happiness, even if it kills you do to it." Hanzo's eyes focused on her, and her glare narrowed, and then softened into a familiar look, one that Hanzo specifically didn't like on anyone's face. Were it another he might have considered killing them just for expressing it.

"Is that how you feel when you're around me?" Wan Xue asked, staring at him. Hanzo forced himself to look away from her. This was normal, falling for someone who didn't care for you. And yet, in it's essence it was an act, or so he thought. The problem with telling too convincing a lie, of course, was that if it truly was that good, you might start to believe it yourself without even realizing it. He could feel her green eyes upon him, staring at him as if hoping for an answer only to feel her touch his shoulder comfortingly. "You really need to find someone else." She said simply. Hanzo made a point of flinching slightly when she said it, but he didn't feel it, not truly.

Still, attracted to her as he was supposed to be, left little questions for why it was that he wasn't pursuing other women, or bedding whores the way that some of the crew did. It also made him look weak, soft, exploitable. Looking that way meant that when people were assessing potential threats, Hanzo was the last on the list, when he truly should have been the first. "I'll be.. alright." Hanzo said softly, and looked at her, seeing the grim look there of understanding. After all, she had probably told the Captain something similar by leading in his love to him.

"We should go," Hanzo noted as the doors to the captain's chambers opened up slowly, the captain emerging with his new prize. Hanzo saw Wan Xue stiffen slowly before forcing herself to follow him up to meet Katara. Around, Hanzo could hear whistles of appreciation at the Captain's new toy from those of the crew who were simply pirates. The few that were clean cut in their appearance were more subdued, having followed the Captain less because they thought that he was a murdering pirate and more because they believed in what he told them, which was regardless of what he did personally, they were serving the greater good by being on this ship and raiding the fire nation. With Ba Sing Se ignoring the Earth Kingdom, after all, what choice did they really have?

"Hanzo. This is Katara." The captain said when he got close enough. Hanzo prepared for the inevitable as he looked at Katara. She would stare at his eyes, as most people did upon meeting him. Hanzo's eyes, as fate would have it, were actually different colors. His right looked as deep blue as the ocean seas themselves, similar to the water benders eyes, while his left looked nearly as emerald as Wan Xue's. It made for an interesting first impression, and usually caused people to stare even in situations where they really shouldn't.

Hanzo was nothing but smiles to the water bender, however, and bowed lightly to her. "It is a pleasure to meet you... Katara, was it?" Hanzo said softly, his eyebrows raising. Convincing the Captain to go after her ship had been a relatively easy task once he'd tipped off the fire nation to the prescence of rebels aboard the boat. Of course, convincing Barker Oh that it was his lucky day and that he stood a good chance of finding the girl that the Captain had put a hefty reward on finding was a little more tricky, but doable.

"Hanzo is the ship's navigator. No one knows the seas better." Hanzo bowed his head lightly as the Captain praised him, seeming very meek about it. Then again, simply navigating a ship wasn't truly something that Hanzo felt was worth bragging about. The introductions to Wan Xue came next, though all the water tribeswoman got from the green eyed firebender was a glare as Wan Xue muttered a greeting and then mentioned she had to be off, leaving the Captain to blink and watch her as she went, a sigh escaping his lips. He knew, of course, Hanzo knew that the Captain new.

"Where are we headed, Captain?" Hanzo asked, blinking in fake surprise as the Captain mentioned the Northern water tribes. "We're already on a course for the North, I'll make sure the helmsman knows to hold it." Hanzo said, turning only to pause as he heard his name uttered from the Captain's lips.

"Hanzo... would you mind showing Katara around the ship? I would like to make sure that Wan Xue is alright." The Captain said, giving Katara's shoulder a reassuring squeeze as he started to head off, leaving the pair of water benders alone. Hanzo made certain to study Katara's reaction to the new development, as it would be, in many ways, very telling.

"Your hands look hurt," Hanzo said softly, noting the cuts along her wrists from where she had obviously pulled against her chains. "Would you like me to heal them for you?"

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:26 am

The light was almost blinding after having become used to the dim lighting inside the chamber, and she lifted a dark hand to shield her eyes from the daylight though her other one remain clasped to Zuko’s arm. The whistling that met her ears caused her face to flush. These pirates thought that she and the Captain had slept together, and that’s exactly what they were supposed to think. Still, it was embarrassing having even the idea of it aired in public. She’d always hoped that her sex life would remain… well… private, whether she actually had one or not.

You don’t care what they think… Katara told herself, but her cheeks remained scarlet, and her grip tightened on her false-lover’s arm, her other hand lowering to find a place on it as well as her sapphire eyes adjusted to the brightness. Her heart still raced, fearing that she’d give herself away at any second. She wondered if there were people who could simply know a person hadn’t been bedded just by looking at them, but that seemed silly, right?

Katara noticed that Wan Xue and an unknown man came toward them, and Zuko was happy to introduce them. Her gaze met with the one’s belonging to the man named Hanzo, and she was struck by their strangeness. Never before had she seen dual coloured eyes, and she would have liked to look a little longer, but she caught herself before her stare became uncomfortably long. The waterbender nodded her head in a sort of bow, afraid of breaking her hold on Zuko’s arm. She was supposed to be clingy, after all, right? Besides, she wasn’t terribly well versed in greetings offered in other countries. Traditionally, Water Tribesmen would clasp forearms upon meeting.

“It’s nice to meet you, too.” Katara responded, surprised that any of the pirates would offer her any kind of courtesy or civility even now. After all, she was little more to them than the Captain’s fling-for-now, so why should they be nice to her, especially after she’d fought them so hard? It was interesting to know that he was the ship’s navigator. It was an important task, but the man seemed very humble about his job. It was kind of nice. So many men in the Northern Water Tribe were so… well… pompous about their self-importance. She hadn’t seen quite as much of that in the Earth Kingdom.

The official introduction to Wan Xue was… tense, and as the other woman made an excuse to leave, understanding dawned on the waterbender. Her eyes moved to the Captain’s face as he sighed, and she found herself wondering if he’d been romantically involved with his first mate at some point. Katara could have almost laughed at the coincidence if she didn’t feel both guilt and jealousy twisting inside her. Even without his memories, he seemed doomed to be involved in some kind triangle. As Zuko, he’d been betrothed to a woman who clearly was pleased with the match, and Katara had been the one who had had to deal with the pain of believing she couldn’t have him. Now, she was in the role of the one that potentially could have him, and this other woman was the one left in their wake.

Katara felt bad for Wan Xue, truly she did, for she understood what it was like to be in that position of hopelessness. However, the woman had been unpleasant from the beginning, and while the waterbender could understand why, it didn’t do the First Mate any favors. She certainly wasn’t rooting for the Captain to see the error of his ways and wind up in the firebender’s arms. Then again, the Water Tribeswoman wasn’t exactly hoping to be the one in his arms, either – or so she told herself. This wasn’t Zuko anymore, after all, and she couldn’t just… be with a stranger. Besides, what if she didn’t live up to his ideal of her? It wouldn’t do to throw herself at the man only to have him realize he’d rather be with someone else. Lady Beifong had been lucky she hadn’t had to go through that though the idea of his death had pained them all.

Then the course for the Northern Water Tribe was commanded, and a small smile formed on Katara’s lips. She would be going home, and hopefully she’d see her brother there soon after. Of course, it probably wouldn’t be very soon because that merchant ship had been pretty devastated by the Fire Navy’s attacks on it. If she hadn’t been there to redirect them with her waterbending, the thing would have been sunk, but there had been too many blasts too frequently for her to have redirected them all, and it would need repairs before it was fit to sail again. No, they would need a new ship first. Hopefully they would be okay, despite the fact that she was certain they were worried about her just as she would be worried about them if the roles had been reversed.

Relief and panic simultaneously coursed through her at different intervals when she heard Zuko ask Hanzo to show Katara wound the ship while he left to speak with Wan Xue. She was relieved because she wouldn’t need to worry if she was being physically showy enough to suggest they were actually lovers, but she was panicked because – even if he was no longer the person she’d known – he was still the only familiar face on the entire ship. He seemed to sense the tension at his leaving, and he squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. Her eyes met his briefly before he left, and her gaze followed him for a moment before she turned her head toward the navigator. She told herself that they were just going to talk, that it wouldn’t end the same way her last talk with Zuko as he had been had gone when she’d spoken to him about wanting to just be friends. It’s not him… It’s not the same… She told herself, repeating the thought like a mantra, trying to convince herself she didn’t care, that it wasn’t a big deal, that if he took a real lover, that was none of her business.

She smiled softly at Hanzo, determined to give the man a chance. He was cleaner than some of the other pirates, and he’d been so cordial to her. She wouldn’t disregard him just because he was pirate. Well, she wouldn’t be happy about his profession, but these pirates were helpful in the fight against the Fire Nation, and even if some of them were rather foul, she was going to at least show them the same courtesy they showed her, and the navigator had been quite respectful toward her.

Her brows cinched together when he pointed out her wrists, and her gaze traveled downward to where he’d indicated. They were sore, yes, but she’d been so wrapped up in her inner turmoil that she’d nearly forgotten about them. Above the bindings wrapped around her wrists and forearms, there were red, raw marks, some of which had begun to bleed, and the wrappings had shifted during her battles, revealing more bruised and raw flesh beneath. The waterbender unraveled the wrappings on each arm, carefully peeling the fabric away from her sensitive flesh. “Are you a waterbender?” Katara asked him curiously, and he responded in the affirmative, bringing a smile to her lips. “I take it you’re not from the Northern Tribe if you know how to heal.” She observed. Until about a year ago, healing had been strictly a womanly art as far as anyone in the North was concerned. Even now, it wasn’t exactly manly according to some, but the Southerner thought it was great that anyone could learn either style of waterbending: healing or fighting.

“No. I’m from all over.” He responded. “I’ll show you to sick bay, first. There’s fresh water down there.” He seemed a little evasive about his history, so she didn’t push. While she was a naturally curious person, she wasn’t going to pry into a stranger’s life when he seemingly didn’t want her to do so.

They made their way below deck, and through a series of rooms until they were in one section which was clearly used for injuries. A sickening crack resounded in Katara’s ears followed by a short yowl of pain coming from the direction of two men standing at the other side of the cabin. “Sorry I couldn’ get to it sooner, mate. Had to help sort the merchandise. Ya know ‘ow it is.”

The other man snorted at him derisively as the other applied a bandage to the break. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll get a real healer to fix it fully.” Katara watched, her eyes widening a little as she realized who was being mended.

“Well, it won’t be me.” She said before really thinking about the consequences. The pirate whirled around, his bruised eyes moving from the navigator to the woman – the latter of whom received a glare that quickly turned into a smirk.

“That’s just fine.” He said. “You earned me a hefty finder’s reward. Some of the tastiest gold I’ve had in a long time. I’m sure the Captain was mighty pleased, especially at the price he paid for you.” The pirate said suggestively, causing Katara’s face to flush at the implication. She wasn’t a prostitute, but this man had just insinuated that she was. Whatever. She didn’t care what he thought, not really. Hanzo seemed to be watching the verbal back-and-forth cautiously, and the waterbender female turned her attention back to him, ignoring ‘Skeezy Gold.’ “You said there was fresh water down here?”

He nodded and moved to a barrel, effortlessly pulling a stream from it, splitting it, and wrapping it around each wrist before a healing blue glow appeared. Katara hadn’t had anyone heal her for so many years that she’d almost forgotten how strange it felt to have someone else using their energy to pour through the water and redirect her energy into a speedy healing. It was foreign and strange, but she didn’t have the energy to do it for herself. The confrontation with the Captain hadn’t exactly been relaxing.

When Hanzo was done, Katara smoothed her hands over her newly unmarred wrists and thanked the navigator for his skilled work. He’d been relatively quick, too, which had been nice. She rewrapped her bracers. Then he took her on a formal tour of the ship. There was the deck, bridge, and Captain’s quarters which she had already seen, but below deck, there were four more levels which housed the officer’s quarters, crew’s quarters, food storage, weapons storage, gun room, and other such things. It was probably the largest ship on which she’d ever set foot. Water Tribe ships were practically toys compared to this thing, but Water Tribe ships weren’t normally meant to sail far, so there was no need for such an intense size.

By the time they were done, the sun was setting, and Katara was tired. She’d received cat calls almost any time she’d encountered a pirate during her tour, and the emotional toll of worrying about blowing her cover constructed by their Captain had taken a lot out of her. Was she supposed to just take their cat calls? Was she supposed to respond with some kind of affirmative to their suggestions that their leader had given her quite the time? One of them had suggested surprise that she could still walk after her time with Zuko, and Katara had had no idea how to react to that, so she’d just blushed and had allowed herself to be led elsewhere by Hanzo.

He really was a nice man in her opinion. He was polite and though he wasn’t the sort to be incredibly chatty, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plus, while he didn’t actually defend her against his comrades, he had generally kept her away from any of the ones who taunted her openly about her new affiliation with the Captain.

When they were done, Hanzo directed her back toward the Captain’s quarters, and she knocked lightly before entering. The smells of cooked foods greeted her senses, and her eyes adjusted to the lantern light more easily now that the light outside had been about as dim as in this room. Zuko was there, waiting for her, and she could feel fritillaries pulsing through her abdomen as she saw him. She sat at the table in this room, perusing the meal that had been prepared, and she suddenly realized she was starving. It had been hours since she’d eaten last, but she didn’t just dig into it. Instead, she took a sip of water from her cup before setting it down. “What happens now?” She asked. “It’s going to be at least a week before we reach the Northern Water Tribe unless your ship is faster than its size would denote.”

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:36 am

Hanzo studied the water bender quietly as she watched the Captain go after his first mate. On one hand, it was important for the man to keep peace on his ship. Even one as unruly as a pirate ship, the idea, the perception of strength in the chain of command was important. Most pirates came from some sort of military background, and even if they didn't, following orders was basic human understanding. Just as basic, however, was testing boundaries, seeing how much you could get away with, and going against those in power so that you yourself could get in power. If the Dragon simply let things go with Wan Xue, it would expose a weakness and open him up for a potential mutiny somewhere along the line.

Fortunately, it didn't matter at this point whether or not the water bender and the Captain wound up together. She had done what he had required of her. Set the ship on a course to the Northern Water Tribe. It would be horrifically convenient if she had convinced the Captain to let her try to repair his memories, but it was not actually required. The ultimate goal would succeed, even if minor plans failed. Something told him though that the Captain, who had painted images of this woman almost entirely since he had come to his senses would ultimately choose to do what it took to be with the water bender, even if it took risking everything to do it. Hanzo himself couldn't see the appeal in it, but he knew that the Captain would, and that would be enough for him.

As the water bender smiled at him though, he smiled back softly to her. It was a brief fleeting thing, and the smile didn't really suit his features. Hanzo looked best when serious, focusing on something rather than with his features locked in a smile. Even so, he knew how to smile, how to seem non threatening. Unlike the other pirates aboard this ship, and even some of the more clean cut crew, Hanzo appeared almost... normal. A bit more quiet and shy than Katara or her brother perhaps, but kind and harmless enough. "Yes." Hanzo said quietly when she asked him if he was a water bender, and didn't actually elaborate on it at all until she asked him the follow up question, which he had somewhat expected from what he knew of her personality.

"I'm from all over." he said, realizing that it didn't really explain anything about who he was. Rather than simply leave it at that, however, he decided to elaborate, if only slightly. "My mother was from one of the water tribes, though I don't know which one." It was a lie mixed with a truth, carefully crafted for the blue eyed girl in front of him. It hid well what he wanted to keep from her, while at the same time giving her the information that she would have been able to deduce from looking at his eyes and seeing the mixed nature of them as well as analyzing the fact that his fair skin was quite a bit lighter than most of her kinsmen's would have been.

"I'll show you to sick bay first," he said, changing the subject politely as he went down below decks with her. The fact that Barker happened to be down there was unforeseen and annoying, but Hanzo instead took it upon himself as a learning experience to study Katara's reaction to things that she clearly didn't like. He'd heard about the man's broken nose, and it had been very telling about things he had read about Katara. She was the sort to be violent when violence was called for, and sometimes when it wasn't. Rash and impulsive she would easily hop into a fight if she was sufficiently provoked, which would come in handy if he ever needed to do something. Wan Xue would likely make the best target for her anger, as the two of them seemed enraged at the prescence of one another, but he would deal with that if it came up.

Barker didn't even bother to look to Hanzo when it came to healing his nose. Healing wasn't exactly something that he openly did for the other people aboard this ship. It had, however, come in handy a time or two when the Captain's wounds had needed tending, and had been worth revealing it to him and Wan Xue in return for their trust. After all, what purpose was there in saving the life of someone that you were enemies with?

"I have to apologize in advance, even though I'm a water bender, my formal training was... rather lacking." Hanzo said with a frown. "I think I still can heal relatively well, even if it isn't quite as good as what you are likely used to...." he said as he split the water, and healed her wrists. He had meant to keep it somewhat slow, but his skill bled through a bit, and he could see it in Katara's eyes that she was pleasantly surprised with the job that he had done, which was exactly what he hadn't been looking for. Still, there was little harm in having a hand for healing if nothing else. If she knew the other things that he could do, she might be a little more cautious around him.

"I'll give you a short tour of the ship." he said after she had re-bandaged herself.

Wan Xue's anger rested heavily on Yang's mind as he sat at the table and waited for Katara to return. He had gone after her and spent the better part of a half hour trying to get her to talk to him. Instead she had simply shook her head, shut him out and stormed away from him yet again. He didn't know what the hell he was supposed to say to her in order to make her feel better about this whole situation. A part of him accepted the fact that in some ways he never WOULD be able to make her feel good about the situation. After all, she cared for him, he knew that she did. It had started off slow enough at first, her willingness to follow Yang being something of a repentance for the way that she had treated him and a repayment of her debt to him.

But somewhere he had noticed that she stopped looking at him like a Captain, a figure to be followed and started looking at him like something to be worshiped, something that she couldn't live without. Yang had to wonder sometimes if the love that she felt for him was true, or if it was just born out of her idolizing him. Regardless of the reason, though, Wan Xue cared for him intensely, protectively. Yang was secretly glad that Katara had agreed to stay with him, simply because he wasn't sure exactly what Wan Xue might have tried had Katara been locked up someplace else. He would like to think that she wouldn't have done anything, but a part of him wondered...

As she came before him, he smiled as he opened up the trays in front of them both to reveal a well cooked Halibut that had been caught earlier in the day. It had been lightly salted and flavored lightly with a dash of lemon. Yang watched Katara as she took a bite, and then asked him the question that he himself had been mulling over all day long. Where DID they go from here? Yang shook his head slowly as he took a bite of the fish in order to give himself a few more moments to think about what he was supposed to say to her question. What really was there to say about it?

"I guess it depends on what you want." He said simply. "You had said that you wanted to start over, and yet at the same time I think you want me as more of a... friend," The word was bitter in his mouth, "Than anything else." It was fine of course, that she wanted that instead of his affections, and yet at the same time, he felt a pang of longing even just looking at her. He wanted to touch her again, to feel her beneath his fingertips. He couldn't really blame her though, after all, trying to replace her with Wan Xue would not be the same. How could he really ever hope to replace the person that she had lost?

"In terms of sleeping arrangements, there's not really a guest bed, for obvious reasons, but there are plenty of blankets if you don't mind the floor." he offered.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:57 pm

It was strange seeing Zuko smile so freely. When she’d first met him, it had taken a long time for her to ever see a genuine smile on his face. He’d been so serious those first few days. It was understandable. He’d been on an unwanted mission, helping a woman he couldn’t trust, one who had attacked him when he’d tried to help her. Katara hadn’t blamed him, but with the idea of starting over fresh with him in his new pirate-like, memory-lost state, it was still strange to see him smile at her so soon.

Then again, once Zuko had become more comfortable around Katara, he’d smiled more frequently a year ago. Maybe he’d sped through the distrust phase because she’d been so open and honest with him about everything earlier. He didn’t remember the things she’d told him, but he’d proven to himself that she was what she said to his satisfaction, and now he was moving toward more familiar territory. The waterbender didn’t mind, really. It was a step forward, and she found herself smiling back at him when he revealed their meal to her.

The smells of cooked fish were almost too much to handle, and her mouth watered, but she didn’t immediately take a bite. Instead, her face turned serious, and she sipped her water, trying to keep her grumbling stomach quiet. Her question was asked. Where did they go from here? Then, while he mulled over the answer, she bit into the fish. It was flaky and delicious and perfectly cooked. It wasn’t over-flavored like some things could be, but it wasn’t as bland as food in the Water Tribe – though lately, food had become more flavorful with the trading of spices and such.

She watched him carefully while he began to speak, but at the bitterness in his voice when he said she seemed to want a friendship with him above all else, her eyes moved to her food. So it was hard on both of them. Seeing him there, so close, was so difficult. What was she supposed to do? It was as if she’d learned of Zuko’s death only to end up meeting his twin brother or something. Everything about them was the same except for the memories that had shaped them each. Morally, it felt wrong to give into him, to be with him in a way that hinted at something more than friendship, but physically… it had felt so right that even now she was having difficulties stamping down her hormones. It was easier this way. Well, no, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t necessarily easier, but it made things less complicated for now.

Katara’s eyes moved toward his face once more when he offered her the floor, and she laughed. “Wow, Zuko. Who would have thought that being around pirates for so long would have turned you into such a gentleman?” She asked teasingly. “Are all of your guests so highly regarded that they’re offered the floor?”

Yang could see it there on her face, the way that she looked down when he pointed out the fact that what she really wanted was friendship. And there it was, hanging between the two of them. As much as he wanted to let it go, he could feel it bubbling up inside of him, and it suddenly dawned on him what it was about the whole mess that bothered him. The real question was whether or not he should divulge it to her, or instead let it be, let it go and let them go on their journey together. No, it seemed right to bring it up, though he wondered if he could do it without a sense of bitterness in his tone or not. Instead he'd decided to focus on the sleeping arrangements, which seemed safe.

An eyebrow, the only one that he visibly had, rose when she mentioned that he had been around pirates so long that his sense of gentleness had left him. Then she proceeded to ask him about his guests, and his eyebrow rose further. He tilted his head, letting the question hang in the air for a moment to see if she was actually going to retract it, and when she didn't, he shot back calmly, "Would you have preferred that I offered them a place with me in my bed?" He was attempting to point out the inconsistencies in what she was asking. "But since you pointed it out, no, I'm not a gentleman, and I am a pirate." he said simply, deciding to focus on his fish.

It only was after their dinner had been finished that he found his mind returning to the question that he had pushed back, now coming to his mind with ever increasing frequency as the hour when he would take to his bed neared. Finally, he felt it bursting from him without his ability to really form it well into the question that he wanted, yet even so he couldn't refrain any longer. "So which is it?" he finally asked her, noting the look of puzzlement upon her face as he did so. "You can't tell me that you don't actually see the hypocrisy in it... in your logic that is." He could feel his anger rising a little as she genuinely looked as if she didn't know.

Rising slowly, he looked at her. "When you ask me to risk my mind, to risk everything I am, you tell me that in fact, I am not risking anything. That this Zuko that you knew is me, and I am him. That regaining those lost memories wouldn't obliterate what I am today. And yet, when it comes to how you treat me, whether or not we are romantic, you treat me as if the difference between he and I are night and day, that we could never be the same person. So which is it, Katara? Am I the person you knew, who shouldn't fear what my memories hold for me, because at its core I'm the same person? Or am I the stranger you treat me as, who has every reason to fear?"

Katara shouldn’t have replied back teasingly. She should have just said what she thought about sleeping on the floor and not tried to joke with him. Maybe they just weren’t familiar enough yet for that kind of thing. Maybe it had pissed him off that she was trying to joke with him the way she would have if he still had his memories because that fact was that he didn’t have them. Still, his voice was calm when he offered his retort, but it didn’t have any of the joking sarcasm that hers had contained, and she found her cheeks reddening and her eyes dropping at his question. “No.” She responded softly, appearing to be speaking to her fish. She clutched her eating utensils more tightly when he added that he wasn’t a gentleman though he was a pirate, and her jaw clenched.

Why was it that she could look past his being the Prince of the Fire Nation, but when it came to his being the Captain of pirates, she had more difficulties? Maybe it was because he couldn’t choose his lineage, and she’d witnessed firsthand how he’d fought against his father’s rule. Perhaps it was because she’d had more time to get to know him previously? Maybe it was because she still felt like she was a captive rather than a guest on this ship. Katara wasn’t as hungry any more, but she finished her fish, never one to waste food and knowing that she’d need her energy.

All too soon, dinner had ended, and the time neared that they would be going to bed. She expected that he’d just give her blankets for sleeping on the floor, but instead, he spoke, asking her a question. She looked at him, her heart beginning to race though confusion filled her. Was he asking her if she wanted the bed or the floor? But it didn’t make sense because earlier he’d made it pretty clear she’d have the floor, that he wouldn’t be giving up his bed to her. Then he continued, and she realized he was on a different subject entirely, but it was one about which she was completely clueless.

He was angry. It was apparent to her suddenly, even before he stood. Honestly, she was a little afraid because she had no idea why he was angry, and not knowing was debilitating in knowing how to calm the situation. However, it wasn’t long before he revealed what was on his mind though it didn’t relax her. Instead, she became tenser and a little sorrowful. He was right, of course. She’d been treating him like someone who was completely different, but while he had been living a different life, what he’d told her so far made her realize that the person that he’d been was still inside him. He had been a rebel fighting against the Fire Lord on land, and now he was a pirate fighting against the Fire Lord on the seas, and there were little things that were still the same that weren’t as obvious. He still had a good sense of right and wrong though that line had been blurred a little more to accommodate his new role in life. Zuko wasn’t exactly the kind of pirate captain one envisioned after being told the stories of murder and plundering that were pretty basic, every day things for the job. He’d changed the underlying structure while still maintaining notoriety with all corners of the world.

Cerulean eyes met gold, and she stood as well, finding it uncomfortable to have him looking so far down on her. Katara moved forward, resting one of her hands comfortingly on his shoulder. “You shouldn’t be afraid of regaining your memories. I truly believe that deep down you’re the same person.” She said quietly but firmly. “That doesn’t mean that this is still isn’t difficult for me, though.” She dropped her hand and crossed her arms over her abdomen.

“Honestly, I’m the one who’s afraid; not that you’ll lose your mind if you regain your memories. I’m more afraid of the ‘what if’s.’ What if you agree to let me heal your mind, and I fail, or what if you decide not to let me try in the first place? Would you be clinging to some fantasy you’ve constructed about a woman whose face shows clearly in your mind’s eye and on your canvas but who’s still a stranger to you? I’ve told you everything, even things that I didn’t tell you a year ago, but I’m worried that maybe you’re just biding your time until the fantasy you’d prefer me to be shines through. I can’t live up to a fantasy, Zuko. I’m a real person, flesh and blood. I bleed and I feel, and I have ambitions and hopes and flaws just like everyone else. I don’t want to take things as far as I would have taken them if you remembered me only to have you realize that I’m not what you wanted after all.”

Katara sighed. If hormones were the ruling factor in this equation, neither of them would be occupying the floor tonight, and there had been times in their past as well as today that her body had gone into a state of need too primal for simple logic and reason to overpower. Not until something had gone wrong on one side or the other, whether she’d regained an inkling of her senses or he had. Just being this close to him was making it difficult for her to not lean forward into him, but she had to stay strong; she had to master her hormones.

“I can’t just pretend like nothing has changed because obviously they have. You have this huge gap in your memories, and I’m a stranger to you now. I can’t get involved in something fleeting, either, Zu-Captain.” She corrected herself quickly, the title sounding a little harsher than intended. “I don’t want to start something only to have you realize you’d rather have… something else.” Her jaw clenched, and she looked away. After all, he’d known some… other women longer than she’d known him, and she was just some image he hadn’t been able to get out of his head. Katara didn’t want the reality of her to be a disappointment to him, and she didn’t want either of them to have regrets, and now that he no longer remembered her, she didn’t have confidence that he wouldn’t regret finding her.

He hadn't meant it to be as bitter as it had sounded. On the other hand, it was frustrating to the core to think that he stood at the precipice of something completely life altering that was reduced to nothing by the waterbender's logic while at the same time, he had no ground to stand on with her. He could see a part of her that looked at him as if he were a stranger. And that, by itself, would be alright, were she not expecting him to make the decision of what little life he could remember in a few days. There were other dangers as well, of course, he had never even heard of healing a mind with water bending. Even though he didn't have memories of very many things, he had memories of the way the world worked, and that extended to knowing about what sorts of bending were possible. But the idea of healing something in the head like this... it was... frightening.

"I never expected it to be easy for you. I can't even imagine what it would be like, talking to someone who I had known all of my life only to find out that they barely knew who I was." He paused, and then stared at her with his golden eyes. "On the other hand, if they had been searching for me all this time, that would mean... something. There were days when I doubted you existed. I offered a bounty to any of my men on any of our ships that could find you. More gold than most people would make in five years of hard honest labor." he said calmly. It wasn't that he thought that he had over paid for finding her, it was more that he wanted her to understand what finding her had meant to him.

What she said next made him chuckle softly and smile, though it quickly faded from his lips as he realized the implications of what he was about to say. After all, who was more experienced than Yang himself with the fact that people could change, people could be who you didn't think that they were?

He closed his eyes for a moment and then reached out to touch her cheek, brushing his fingers across it, looking into her face. "Cannot the same be said for any relationship at all? Isn't that what makes all of this exciting? The risk of it, the fact that we don't know each other. If you knew that you were going to wind up with me, that we would be the perfect people for one another, what would be the point in being invested in it at all? It would be like reading a book that you already know the ending to." he said softly. "You knew Zuko for a week. Who was to say that you were not just seeing in him in that week all that you hoped that he would be, not who he really was? Perhaps he and I are exactly the same person, just one you never got to know."

"You told me that you were willing to start over with me. I don't know what that means or entails. Only you can decide that. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself and me. If I am the person that you knew, the one you want to be with, then go with it. If I am not, that is alright too." He could feel himself longing to reach in and kiss her, but he knew that it would be an overly romantic gesture, not the sort that a friend gave one another. Slowly he turned from her and took the most comfortable blankets he had on his bed and pulled them off, draping them over the cushioned seat that Katara probably could have curled up in if she wanted to try to sleep in it. Given the gentle rocking of the boat, however, she might just be asking to roll off again.

"I will let you decide where you want to sleep tonight." Yang said softly as he slid the coat off of his shoulders and hung it on a hook on the wall, his shirt following suit, leaving himself bare from the waist up as he removed his gloves, his yellow eyes looking at her as he gestured to extinguish most of the lights, save one in between the pair of them. Then he slowly kicked off his boots and slid out of his trousers. Normally he slept in his undergarments, but looking at the blush on Katara's cheeks he smirked a little as she seemed to relax, thinking it was all he would take off before he pulled down the last bit of clothing, giving her an eyeful of what she had only felt in the tent a year ago, stepping out of his trousers, his muscled ass flexing then as he strode from her and slipped between the sheets on his bed alone.

His words struck her. She didn’t know if he’d used that wording on purpose or not, but it made her remember that she really hadn’t known Zuko long at all. Really, most of the time she’d ‘known’ him, they’d been avoiding each other because they’d been so stuck on the idea that they’d been rejected by the other person. What did she even know about him? Why had she been the one whose face he’d remembered, the one who he’d sought? Lu Ten was his family, but she didn’t see any paintings of the man anywhere, and the only image she’d seen of anyone from the original group had been one that had focused mostly on her. Gui and Shen had simply been a part of a scene that depicted her laughter. The waterbender couldn’t really use the excuse that she was the last person he’d seen, either, because Lu Ten had been there the day that Zuko had sacrificed himself to kill Zhao, too.

Did a part of Zuko care about her so much that even after his memories of his life had been unrecoverable, her face had glowed like a beacon in his mind? Then why did he still lack the memories of his life, of her even if he could remember snippets of scenes from the last week of his life before his memories departed, the ones that contained her? She wished so badly that there was some sort of way to learn the why’s and how’s of it all, but there were no real answers to be had. All she had was speculation, and that wouldn’t get her very far.

Katara felt frustration well within her when he laughed at what she was saying. How was that even remotely funny? She was being serious, and he was blowing it off like she was just some inane child who couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of the circumstances in which she had been placed. She glared at him for a moment until his mirth seemed to fade, and he reached out to touch her face. He was still wearing his gloves, but she could feel the heat of his skin through that barrier. The way his eyes bored into hers caused her breath to catch. Her gaze flickered to his lips for a split second before returning to his visible eye. It wouldn’t take much to close the gap between them, to lean up just a little until she felt their lips touch.

The waterbender held herself perfectly still as he began to speak, and she finally remembered to breathe again, attempting to make it sound as normal as possible despite the erratic pounding of her heart in her chest.

Katara had never had a boyfriend in her life. Zuko hadn’t exactly counted seeing as how they’d never really gotten the chance to figure things out after they’d realized how stupid they’d both been. She hadn’t exactly made it easier when she’d blown it when putting her mission ahead of him, either. But here he was now, a year later, giving her a second chance. He didn’t remember anything, and even though she’d revealed all to him, he still wanted her, to be with her, to at least try to see if they still had potential, if they could still work. The nineteen-year-old didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t how she ever would have envisioned things, and she clearly wasn’t prepared. She needed time to think, to plan what she was going to do. She wished her pulse wasn’t rushing so fast. It was making her light headed… or maybe that was just his presence.

When Zuko turned away from her, she released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Her eyes watched as he gathered some blankets and placed them on a cushion on the floor. Then he announced that she would have a choice in where she slept. There really were only two choices, though. She could either sleep on the floor with the blankets and the cushion, or she could sleep in his bed, next to him. Her mind raced, sifting through the pros and cons of each before she chastised herself. She wasn’t really considering sleeping in his bed, was she? That would be too far, wouldn’t it be?

Katara watched transfixed as he began to remove his clothing. Her eyes moved over his torso when he removed his shirt. She hadn’t really gotten the chance to look at him because earlier she’d been too pissed off by his fallacy to care, but right now, she could still remember the way his hard muscles had felt under her hands and the heat of his skin pressed against hers. Her cheeks flushed at the memory. Her gaze stayed on his as he used his firebending to extinguish all but one light in the room, casting everything in deep shadow. Then he removed his mask, boots, and trousers, and she began to relax as she realized her probably just preferred sleeping in his underwear the way she was used to doing herself. There wasn’t anything odd about that.

The waterbender was wrong. Her eyes widened as he pulled off his underwear, and for a moment, she glimpsed a part of him she’d never seen previously before he turned his back on her and strode toward the bed. How was he still so damned muscular? Even his legs and his ass were toned. Katara closed her eyes tightly, turning her head away when she realized she’d been staring. She heard him slip under the sheets on his bed, and she willed herself to move to the cushion where she sat and removed her boots. Her heart wouldn’t stop beating, and her mind wouldn’t stop going over what she’d seen.

It wasn’t like she’d never encountered a visual of a man’s penis before. She was a healer after all, and for nineteen years she’d lived with her brother, so it wasn’t unheard of. It was just… different this time. This was Zuko, someone to whom she was extremely attracted, someone who she’d already touched in the past though through the barrier of underwear, someone who clearly wanted more from her than friendship. She worked to release the ties of first her dress, then her pants before removing them, folding them, and setting them aside with her boots. Her fingers curled around one of the blankets, and she wrapped it around herself.

Katara’s pulse beat almost painfully as she stood and gathered the rest of the blankets into her arms before making her way toward his bed. Her limbs shook as she deposited the covers there, hesitating only a second before climbing on top of it, beside him though not under the only thing that covered him. On the list of stupid things she’d done in her life, the logical side of her mind was trying to tell her that this ranked incredibly high, but impulsiveness and rationality rarely went hand-in-hand, and right now, her hormones were running the show while her mental faculties seemed to have taken a seat in a shadowy corner so far in the back where they could hardly be found.

Katara slipped from between his legs and crawled forward on his bed, settling herself against his right side, her head on his shoulder. His skin was so warm, and she found her own body relax against him. Her fingers played with the tuft of hair on his chest, as soft as the hair on his head. If someone had told her two years ago that she’d be lying here like this with the Fire Lord’s son, with a pirate, she would have laughed at their idiocy, but titles and bloodlines didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter that they were both as physically scarred as emotionally. All that mattered was that they’d somehow found each other again, and this time, she would make sure she didn’t lose him.

Kathryn Lacey
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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:13 am

Yang blinked as daylight came to him, his eyes staring up at the sky as he felt the warmth of Song curled beside him. For a moment, he allowed himself to relax and let the events of the past few days float to the back of his mind, the haziness of sleep still letting it seem easy to let all of those things just be forgotten. And yet even as he closed his eyes, he felt the nagging sensation that he was forgetting something, that something was wrong, that he was letting his sleep cloud more than it should. There was something there, nagging at the edge of his mind, and yet wasn't that something that he was used to by now? Something there seeming to want to be remembered even though he couldn't quite remember it? But this was different, if he let himself pull from Song long enough to-

The Sky.

Yang blinked a little as he noticed the soft azure of it and remembered that Song had never been one for camping, or the outdoors. She preferred to stay in a proper house and had laughed a little when Yang had suggested that the two of them travel together. That was of course, before she had tried to stab him the night a few days ago when he had managed to fend off her would be rapists... and his attempted murderers. He could see so clearly that look of hatred in her eyes, even now. It had wounded deeper than he imaged she could have plunged that knife, to know that his abilities, where he was from was so much more important to Song than anything the two of them had managed to share. It wasn't her that was asleep next to him though, now that the haze of sleep had cleared he knew exactly whose cheek was pressed up against his bare chest beneath the blankets atop him.

As if sensing that he was awake, Yang watched as Wan Xue shifted against him, her emerald eyes looking up at him for a moment as she stared at him and then closed them again, nuzzling her way back to sleep. This wasn't the first time that this had happened over the past few days, and Yang was fairly resigned to the fact that it would happen again for at least a few more. Rather than attempting to fight what was going to come next, he simply sighed a little and made sure to shield what was critically important between his legs so that it didn't get smacked as he mentally counted down the 20 seconds in his head that it would take for Wan Xue to realize that she was sleeping against him.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she shouted just as he got to one and braced himself, her hands coming out to smack him as she pulled away and took the blanket with her. The air outside was an icy invader that caused the air to momentarily seize in Yang's lungs as he tried to take in a breath, feeling his skin prickle a little at the sensation of it before he breathed out and focused, the way that he knew that he could, feeling his body heat and watched as steam rose off of it, Wan Xue's eyes watching him with fascination, the way that they always did now when he utilized his bending capabilities. Standing up he reached into his pack for his shirt, pulling the cool fabric over himself as he pulled on his pants as well, letting them get warmed by his abilities.

"You're in my blankets." Yang said dryly, trying not to let his annoyance at it shine through, even though it seemed to be becoming something of a habit lately. "Again." His golden eyes looked into hers as he watched what had become the familiar transformation of her face from a dark angry scowl, to a look of silent shame as she noticed that she was now standing on her own blankets, and the memories of the previous few mornings finally found their way into her sleep addled mind. She paused, and frowned then, seeming to struggle with herself in order to say something that would excuse her of everything. Yang had a fairly good idea what it was that she would come up with.

"It's not my fault you're so warm." Wan Xue protested, covering herself with his own blankets as if worried that he might be spying on her, but even as she started to do it, he had turned from her and gone off into the woods for the morning. Wan Xue's inability to provide her own body heat at least provided him with the opportunity to teach her how to start the morning fire, if nothing else. Yang was hoping that with time it would get better, given that fire benders by their nature tended to run a bit hot blooded once they learned to bend. He attributed her not being naturally hotter to her mixed heritage, but hopefully once she started to learn how to truly bend she wouldn't be sneaking into his bed at night.

Actually getting her to start a fire was another headache altogether once he had collected the wood. Wan Xue seemed to have inherited the famous hard-headed tendencies of the Earth Kingdom and somehow combined it with the raw emotional nature of a fire bender, meaning that she got upset too quickly and once there would often stay in that state, pouting for sometimes hours. It made teaching, in a word, painful. Still, Yang found that he could coax her out of these moods a little more quickly by telling her either that he was proud of her or that he was disappointed, depending on how he felt out her mood to be. Wan Xue was eager to please, and the right timing on his compliments of her could have her mood soaring for the rest of the day.

Today, however, would be different. They had followed the trail of the pirates who had attacked them back a town called Pinyin, which seemed to be filled with a population of the sketchiest looking individuals that Yang had ever seen. Not that he had seen very many places, but there was something about this particular village that bespoke of the fact that one should watch their back. Most of the population was toothless, and their eyes squinted in the light as if they were more used to nocturnal ventures. In fact, looking at them, Yang was fairly convinced that a fair amount of them were actually hung over as he watched them, wanting to shake his head at the sight.

It wasn't exactly hard to find pirates in any particular city, given that they were sure to sooner or later wind up at the docks. Yang posed as a potential porter for incoming ships, seeming to emotionlessly allow other laborers underbid him when it came to actually getting work. Under his guidance, Wan Xue had covered herself in a cloak, and passed off fairly easily as his 'partner'. Though she had strongly objected to it at first, he had eventually gotten her to promise that she wouldn't get involved in the fight to come. Given what had nearly happened to her the other day, the last thing that Yang wanted to do was put her in a similar position if for some reason he lost the fight.

Finally the man who was clearly the captain of the pirate ship docked there walked down the docks, looking as if he owned them, a flock of pirates on either side of him. Yang motioned Wan Xue to get clear of him as he stepped onto the middle of the dock, several of the dock workers looking at him as if he were suicidal for standing there, in blatant defiance of the cadre of pirates that were headed towards them. Yang however didn't move, nor did he blink as they paused a few yards from him, all of them narrowing their eyes at him in a way that belied what they were thinking. He was a nuisance, but they hadn't been successful this long by simply treating a man who might otherwise be someone important as something to be cut down. Still, he could tell they were thinking about it.

"Your men came to my village the other day. They were hired by a man named Gan. They're dead now." Yang watched as they bristled openly at his simple declaration, their hands moving to their cutlasses as they stared him down. Yang breathed in slowly, forcing himself to stare the Pirate Captain in the eye. "I came in order to declare a truce between us. I have no doubt that left to your own devices, you eagerly would have tracked me down to the end of my days," a couple of men laughed at that knowingly, "so instead I came to offer peace before there was any more bloodshed." he offered lightly.

The pirates roared with laughter at that. "Came to offer us... peace. Before there was any more bloodshed did you boy? Haha, well, the only way you'd be doing that would be if you were the captain of my ship." The Captain said with a chuckle.

"And how exactly would I become captain of your ship?" Yang said flatly.

The pirates roared again with laughter, this time longer and louder until the Captain quieted them down. "You'd be doing that the same way I did, by killing the captain of the ship..." the Captain said with a wide spreading grin as he drew his cutlass and took a step forward. "So draw your steel, me lad, or run and get stabbed in the back, it doesn't matter to me. But I've got a pub to be in, so do us a favor and die nice and quick."

"Can I at least borrow one of your swords?" Yang asked calmly.

The roar of laughter continued, but the Captain didn't join in this time, rather started to walk forward with a cruel smile on his face. The smile of someone who had already won the battle he was about to undertake. "No, I don't think you'll be having a sword for this fight." he said as he started to cross the distance between Yang and himself.

Before he had taken a second step, the lightning had left Yang's fingertips, flowing into the now shuddering body of the captain, until finally it arched into the water below as the captain fell to his knees. Yang stared into the empty sockets where eyes once had been. Eyes had had been exploded by the sheer power of the move that he had just pulled. The pirates took a moment to stare at their captain, their hands still on their hilts as they paused for a moment...

...then all fell to their knees.

Yang's eyes opened slowly as he felt a head against his chest. Instead of the sky, there was the darkness all around him, until he pointed out into it instinctively, flicking his fingers in a direction and loosing a small burst of fire which caught a wick. He repeated the process for a few candles as he let the haze of sleep and familiar dreams wash over him. Somehow it felt right to linger in this sensation, for he truly feared what would happen when the haze of sleep finally left his frame and he was forced into the waking world. He knew though, that sooner or later he would have to abandon the joys of dreams and live in the present time, to lead his crew, to not think about the things that he could never have.

As the fog of dreams started to push from his mind he leaned up again to rebuke Wan Xue for finding a way to sneak into his cabin again when he blinked, noting the hue and color of her hair. Dark, but a chocolate color rather than the raven black that Wan Xue and he himself had. Darker skin to match, just like the kind that he had painted dozens of times in his travels, trying to capture the perfect hue of it in his mind, for he only saw it in dreams and flashes of other times that seemed so very far away. Yet he still couldn't remember it, couldn't remember any of what had taken place before he had been found on the ground, clinging to that place somewhere between life and death.

It was a wonderful sensation to think that it hadn't been a dream, the past few nights with Katara. There had been days when he had woken from dreams of her so certain that he would find her curled up beside him only to find his First Mate there instead. And of course, Katara being real meant that there were other things that had been real as well. Yang couldn't help but smirk a little as he thought about the long sleepless nights the two of them had spent exhausting each other exploring the pleasure of one another’s bodies the past few days. Katara had turned the tables on him the first night, but he had gotten his revenge the night after, and had seen her muscles twitching in ecstasy several times before the night had finished.

Still, there was a nagging sensation that struck him, something he couldn't get out of his mind. Slowly he untangled himself from Katara's form, kissing her lightly on the forehead as he dressed in silence, re-donning his mask as he stepped outside, closing the door behind him and locking it, letting the feel of the cool breeze hit his skin as he made his way to the bow, leaning over the edge of the railing as he watched the water crash against the wood of the ship, a small frown touching his features. He hadn't noticed it at first, but the ship's navigator, a few feet away from him, was doing much the same thing, staring off into the distance as if there was something on his mind.

"Do you ever get the feeling that something is just... off sometimes, Hanzo?" Yang asked him over the soft roar of the waves. As Yang saw the blue and green eyes looking back at him, he felt as if there was something there that Hanzo wasn't saying, but Yang had always been the sort to let men keep to their secrets.

"Constantly. But that's just life's way of telling you to... correct the problem." Hanzo said mysteriously, as he turned and went back to his duties.

Join date : 2009-10-03

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:22 pm

Six days. It had been almost an entire week since Katara had boarded the pirate ship and learned that Zuko was still alive. Many times, in the moments just before waking, she’d believe it had all been a dream, that any moment now, she would awaken in the North Pole, that he would still be dead. Her mind had already proven that it could be deceitful and cruel. After all, she’d had nightmares about his death for months. However, whenever she opened her eyes, she would take in the sight of the now-familiar cabin where the pirate captain slept, where she slept with him, with Zuko, but he was rarely there in the mid-morning when she awakened, for he was a much earlier riser than she was.

He’d gone from being the Prince of the Fire Nation to Commander of the Rebels to the Captain of the Pirates. How had life given him so many important roles? The only important role she’d ever had in her life was as emissary to the Northern Water Tribe, and she’d succeeded one out of two times in her goals on that front.

Well, technically, she hadn’t quite succeeded yet. If the information about the Foggy Swamp Tribes lending aid to the harbor effort didn’t get to Chief Arnook, it was all over. Thankfully, the first night on the ship, Katara had convinced Zuko to take her there. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to convince him to return her to her brother and her friends, but he’d been suspicious the first day, and by the second, it would have been too late anyway. The pirates had covered too many miles, and the others would have had to go back to find a new, less abused ship on which to travel. The only thing she could hope was that her brother gained the knowledge that they were on their way to the North Pole and would simply follow and hopefully feel less worried about whatever predicament it looked like she was putting herself into when she saw him last.

The waterbender knew her brother and her friends would be extremely upset the entire time they traveled just as she would be if the pirates had taken one of them in her stead, but what was done was done, and there was no taking it back, no matter what the consequences.

Her brother’s anger could be dealt with easily as she’d always taken it. The others would probably be only relieved to see her alive, and when Lu Ten was reunited with his cousin, his joy would overpower everything else. Yaomo was the only one she knew would be hurt by seeing her again – provided he was still alive, but that seemed more and more likely the longer she was on this ship – because she was going to have to tell him her choice. She took comfort knowing she wasn’t exactly being as fickle as she must appear to be. Zuko had still been a part of her heart even when she’d met Yaomo, and she had just started getting over the former’s death when the latter began showing romantic interest in her. Katara would put it a lot more delicately than that, but there was always pain with rejection no matter how much one hardened herself or himself to it. No matter how sound she was in her choice, there was still some guilt. Katara hated to hurt those for whom she cared, and while she couldn’t be with Yaomo romantically, he was still her friend regardless, and he’d only been good to her in the time they’d spent together.

She stirred, sleep dissipating just a little when she felt Zuko’s lips graze her forehead. A low murmur left her throat as he moved away from her, taking his heat with him. In the nights she’d spent with him, she’d gotten used to his body heat warming her, especially now that they were getting closer and closer to the North Pole, the temperature dropping with each passing day.

Still, she didn’t completely wake, having gone to sleep so late the night previously. The night was her time, when she felt strong and awake while the morning was his. He seemed able to run on less sleep than she could though she had no idea how. There were days when he would awaken her early to explore her body, but she supposed it was only fair. As a waterbender, she rose with the moon, and as a firebender, he rose with the sun. She felt strongest at night while he felt his strength during the day. Why wouldn’t their physical needs reflect that?

Even so, they’d never quite moved past the point of no return. No matter how Sokka’s conversation with her in the Foggy Swamp had gone, no matter what she’d decided in terms of following the old customs of an obliterated society, she couldn’t quite bring herself to come together with him in a way that normally would have marked a marriage union. It was okay, though. Zuko was a caring and patient man, and he never pushed her to move further than she was comfortable. That wasn’t to say they hadn’t come close, but in those moments, she usually tried to curb any potential awkwardness by taking control of the situation, by changing things as she had that first night.

Their nightly – and sometimes daily – activities weren’t a power struggle by any means. There was simply a delicate balance between them. There were times when she enjoyed being in control, and there were other times – most often, really – when she liked him to have it. They were intuitive to each other’s needs, and they learned new skills each time they came together.

Hormones weren’t all that drove them, though. They actually talked about things, about life. They’d discussed the things in her life, and he’d told her a little of his though he quite obviously skimmed over any mention of his former fiancée. Sometimes, it hurt that he couldn’t talk about the woman he had loved. He’d never talked to her about Mai, either, quite frankly. Katara wanted him to be able to talk to her about anything, but she understood enough that she wouldn’t press him. Honestly, he probably still loved the woman who had so cruelly rejected him just because he was born with the gift of bending fire.

While it was true that Katara herself had once used bloodbending against him because she’d learned he was a firebender, she hadn’t known him, the kind of person he was, until after the fact. The waterbender could never have dismissed him so easily if she’d known him enough to have become his fiancée. Though she’d never tell him such a thing, Katara felt that it showed that his former fiancée hadn’t truly loved him though he must have loved her.

Every time she felt any insecurities about the idea that he may still love that woman, she reminded herself that said woman wasn’t there, that she had chosen to disregard his love, and Katara would not make that same mistake. Besides, there was no denying the fact that he had sought her for so long, and if he didn’t love her now, she comforted herself with the hope that he would someday find a place in his heart for her, that it wouldn’t be too cramped by past loves.

Katara stretched her body as the last remnants of sleep were swept from her mind. Zuko wasn’t in the cabin, but while the bed wasn’t quite as warm from the time that had passed, it hadn’t fully cooled on his side, either. She got up and dressed. In one more day, they would be in the North Pole, and Katara could speak with the Chief about the Swamp aid, and more could be discussed in detail when her brother and the others arrived.

She dressed in her usual attire, but now she wore a coat to shield her from the cold of the outdoors. She would be so relieved when she could bundle herself in her nice, warm parka. It was much better suited to this weather, but for now, a simple, hooded coat would do.

For the past few days, she’d been allowed to take a larger role on the pirate ship than she’d had for the first three days. Being the Captain’s arm candy had its perks, but it was also dreadfully boring. Besides, she was Water Tribe. While they didn’t make ships like these in the Poles, the basic principles were the same, and after a much needed discussion with the Captain, she was permitted to make herself useful in the waking hours. In fact, she’d even made peace with many of the pirates, and she’d grown close enough with them that she could join freely in their conversations, holding her own fairly well. Her sense of humor wasn’t quite as… obvious or ill timed as her brothers, but it still existed when she wasn’t trying to force it. The key thing with many of the pirates was mocking each other in a friendly manner, and even though she was a healer at heart who never wanted to hurt anyone, she was strangely good at that kind of jesting. It had earned her some respect among those crew in the crew who had clearer morals.

Katara still didn’t get along with “Skeezy Gold” whose real name had been revealed to her to be Barker Oh, but that was okay. His bruised eyes pleased her only because she felt he deserved his now crooked nose. He shouldn’t have tried to frighten her into believing that she was going to be a toy for the crew, and he’d used her to line his pockets with gold. She wasn’t going to stand for it even if it had all turned out really beautifully in the end. She was also still mocked in a rather cruel, unfriendly way by the grittiest, most bloodthirsty of the pirates, but that was fine because there were those with whom she could get along just fine.

However, she felt she’d made a nice acquaintance with Hanzo. He was quiet and serious, but he seemed like a good man, and he was kind enough to her. He was the second person on this ship – after the Captain of course – to show her any kind of respect, and she appreciated that immensely.

What she didn’t appreciate was the way the First Mate glared fire-daggers at her every time Katara noticed those green eyes on her. The waterbender had tried so hard to have things be fine with that woman, but Wan Xiu saw her as a threat, and she was so clearly in love with the Captain that Katara had given it up for a lost cause. She would be civil with the woman because she was Zuko’s friend and ally and because she was good at what she did, but that was as far as it would go. Friendship and mutual respect just weren’t in their cards.

For Zuko’s part, he seemed to get the hint that the two women couldn’t get along – though not for lack of trying on Katara’s part – and he found ways to keep them apart. In some ways, he hadn’t really changed, regardless of what he could or couldn’t recall. He still tried to keep the peace for the sake of those he commanded. He was a good, fair, and strong leader who always tried to do the right thing. The waterbender wasn’t blind to the fact that not everyone of the crew was really… the pirate type. Some were notably clean cut, who only called themselves pirates because they believed in the good that their Captain did to help the world to not suffer so much at the hands of the Fire Nation. They respected him as he deserved, as men had always respected him. To the casual observer, he may not have been beautiful with the scar covering the left side of his face, but he had a certain… something that just drew people to him like moths to the flame. Katara couldn’t help but to recognize that she must be one of those moths, but she didn’t mind.

On this ship, with Zuko, she was happy regardless of the taunts from the ruder pirates, regardless of the glares from Wan Xiu. The Captain had chosen her, a Southern peasant, and she could tell that he was happy, too, with her. She knew they both worried that they’d awaken and it would have all just been a dream, but each day proved that this was really happening. They were together, and she wouldn’t let anything take him from her again as long as he wanted to remain by her side and have her at his.

Katara left the cabin, her eyes scanning the deck for the Captain. He stood, gazing at the frigid seas rolling around them. She walked toward him, her hands smoothing up his back before she rested her cheek against his arm, her eyes looking at his pensive face. “Are you okay?” She asked him. She wondered if she was worried about going to the Northern Water Tribe. After all, once there, they’d have access to the water that could bring back his memories, but it was his choice and his alone if he wanted to go through with the process of having his mind potentially healed. She hadn’t pressed him to do it. It was dangerous after all. On one hand, she could seriously screw something up if she did something wrong. On another, it may not even work at all. If it did work properly, she knew she worried it would destroy him to have the memories of such a pain filled life flooding back to him. Still, she believed it was worth the risk. He was strong. He’d survived living such a life, and she knew he could survive remembering it, too.

After receiving an affirmative about his well being, and an admission that he was worried about something but that he didn’t know why, it was just a feeling, she squeezed his arm. Anything that would come their way, they could handle together. They were a good team when they needed to be. He just didn’t remember that. “Everything will be fine. We have to get through the bad to get to the good, and I believe we’ll see the good in our lifetime.” She kissed his cheek. “Let’s go get something to eat.”

They did just that, then they got to work. Life aboard this ship wasn’t a pleasure cruise, and Katara was grateful for that. When they were alone, that was when they could relax, and those times were extra special because she hadn’t remained idle through the days. This would be their last night sleeping in the same bed because such things were frowned upon for an unmarried couple in the Northern Water Tribe. He and his crew would be sleeping in the guest huts while Katara would be sharing her grandmother’s home once again. Women, after all, didn’t leave their guardian’s home until they were married and moved into their husband’s huts. Sokka had his own hut, after all, despite being unmarried. It was just another sexist injustice that Katara wanted to fix, but it was proving more difficult than getting women the same training as men and vice-versa, especially because that had been a custom of the Southern Tribe, too – at least until a woman was middle-aged and still single.

Neither of them was particularly pleased that they wouldn’t be able to share their nights and early mornings together any more, but they wouldn’t be completely separated, and Zuko was wise enough to respect the customs of the Water Tribe. Still, knowing that this was their last chance for some time to share a bead had stoked the fires of their passion to higher levels, and it was a memorable last night together.

“There’s the wall!” A shout rang out over the deck, and Katara’s head perked up. She swiftly moved to the bow of the ship, gripping the railing and seeing the familiar wall that had the Water Tribe insignia carved into it. They would see the pirate fleet coming, and they would probably worry about it, but she knew that if they saw her through their telescopes, they would let them in. True enough, when the main ship got closer, a large portion of the wall melted into the sea, directed by several waterbenders on either side of the wall’s opening. Once the ship had passed through, the waters rose behind them, freezing solidly and patching the opening as if it had never been.

The ship docked at the harbor where trade ships were welcomed, and a ramp was lowered. Katara and the Pirate Captain walked down it, side-by-side, followed by Wan Xiu, Hanzo, and three of the cleaner, more respectable crew men. Everyone else had been directed to remain aboard the ship for good reason. Pirates weren’t exactly trusted anywhere, let alone the Water Tribes.

“So I see you’ve brought pirates to our shores now, Katara.” A slightly annoyed voice broke through the noise of the crowd as Master Pakku stepped forward. His eyes passed skeptically over the six accompanying his step-granddaughter, stopping to linger over the Captain’s face and especially the black mask covering the left half of it.

“Yes, well, we can’t really be picky about whoever offers us rides home safely, can we?” The young waterbender said, drawing a raised eyebrow from the older master. “This is Captain Yang; his first mate, Wan Xiu; the ship’s navigator, Hanzo; and crewmen, Chao, Niu, and Zemin.” She turned toward the crewmen. “This is Master Pakku.”

“And how are your brother and the rebel leaders being brought here safely?” Pakku said, not bothering to acknowledge the introductions.

Katara’s face fell. “Well… They’ll be along any time now. It could be later today or a day or two. I imagine they caught a ride with a merchant ship hoping to trade with us. I’ll explain everything. All you need to know right now is that we were successful in getting aid from the Foggy Swamp tribes, and I’ll talk to Chief Arnook once the others arrive. Is Gran Gran at home? I’d like to talk to her.”

“Right.” Pakku said simply. “Your grandmother is at the healing huts, delivering the extra bandages she made. You go to her while I show our guests to their lodgings where they’ll be warmer.”

Katara smiled and turned to Zuko, squeezing his hand lightly. “I’ll find you soon, okay? I’ll bring you guys warmer clothing, too. These coats really aren’t going to cut it.” She gave a quick kiss to his uncovered cheek, and with that, she rushed off toward the healing huts, leaving the pirates with her step-grandfather, not noticing the older man’s quirked brow or the way he studied the Pirate Captain with a new glint in his eyes.

“Gran Gran!” Katara called toward her elderly grandmother when she got close enough. Kanna stopped and turned toward the voice, a smile spreading across her wrinkled face.

“My little waterbender.” The old woman said happily as Katara hurried toward her. The younger woman hurried into the elderly one’s arms, and they embraced tightly. “I’m happy to see you’re home safe. Where is your brother?”

Katara pulled away. “Um… He’s… on his way, I think. Another day, maybe…”

Kanna frowned and examined her granddaughter’s face. “Why weren’t you traveling together, and why don’t you have your parka in this weather? That coat isn’t nearly warm enough!”

“I’ll explain everything. Let’s just go home where it’s warm and private.” Katara suggested, and the two women went home to warm themselves and to prepare that evening’s meal together. Trading with the Earth Kingdom had enabled them to acquire spices they would otherwise lack, so hopefully the food would be more tolerable to their guests.

For her part, the waterbender explained everything she felt comfortable saying. She told her maternal figure about the Foggy Swamp and that she’d met someone with a romantic interest in her, but she left out the less savory details about getting drunk and nearly sleeping with him. Then she told her grandmother about rallying support and about how they left from Chin Village only to be attacked first by the Fire Nation navy then by pirates. Her grandmother seemed extremely unhappy about this, but she squeezed Katara’s hand when she explained that she had to go with the pirates or else be killed, but that it turned out to be the best thing because she learned that Zuko was still alive.

Kanna’s eyes widened at that. “Why didn’t he try to let you know he was alive?” She asked.

“He doesn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember me or his life up until a year ago when he woke up with his memories already stolen from him. He somehow survived the explosion, and the body we found must have been one of Zhao’s men. Don’t tell anyone, though, Gran Gran. I mean, I know you’ll tell Pakku because you two don’t keep secrets from each other, but I don’t want the entire city to know that Zuko is the Pirate Captain. He doesn’t remember what he did, so it wouldn’t do for him to have people thanking him for it, and he doesn’t think his crew should know he’s the banished prince of the Fire Nation, either. He believes it will lower morale, and the pirates do so much for us and for the Earth Kingdom by taking out Fire Naval ships that it would be terrible if his fleet deserted him just because of his lineage.

“Gran Gran, people in the Earth Kingdom hate Zuko. They don’t even know him, but his name alone brings up so much animosity. They don’t know how much he’s done to help, even before when he remembered who he was. They hate him just for being the son of the Fire Lord. It’s unbelievable.”

“I understand, Katara. People hate what they fear, and they fear what they don’t understand. They can’t understand that there can be good people stemming from the Fire Nation, especially not of royal Fire Nation blood. They’ll learn some day, and they will cover their shame by pretending they believed in him all along, but that day may be very far away. Your destinies are intertwined now, and I know you two will help each other do great things.” The old woman patted the younger one’s hand before going back to stirring the sea prunes, and the latter continued her story. She divulged the ruse that had to be in place for the pirates to accept her place on the ship, but she left out the activities they actually did.

“Did you marry him?” Kanna asked, seemingly able to read between the lines though her gaze was focused on the meal. Katara stopped slicing the seaweed noodles, her eyes going wide.

“What? No! We’re not married. I just slept in his cabin, and we spent a lot of time together.” She replied evasively.

The skeptical look on her grandmother’s face was a replica of the ones Kanna’s husband frequently wore. “Really?”

“Wow! Pakku has really rubbed off on you hasn’t he? We didn’t have sex. I like him a lot Gran Gran, but he’s only known me for a week now, and collectively, I’ve really only known him for about two weeks. I don’t really think that qualifies us to get married, do you?”

“Love is a funny thing, my young waterbender. Sometimes, two people are so drawn to each other that years may pass between them in only a few moments.”

Katara was silent for a moment, contemplating those words. “Was that how it was for you and Gramp Gramp?” She asked, referring to her grandmother’s first husband.

“No, but I’m told that was how it was for Inoa and Baldo. They married after knowing each other for only one week, and though they were both very young, they were both happy for the rest of his life, and he traveled with her to all of the places she had to go to learn to become a proper Avatar.” Kanna’s words reminded Katara of stories that her great-grandmother had told her about her life in her youth. Grandpa Baldo had died long before Katara’s mother had been born, but Avatar Inoa had never remarried. It was clear by the way she’d told her great-granddaughter stories about him that, even in her old age, she still loved the man deeply though she’d lost him so long ago.

“Yeah, well, I’m not going to try to force that kind of love. If it happens for Zuko and me, then it’ll happen. If not, at least I have him at all. Just a week ago I thought he was dead. This is a second chance for us. I’m not going to ruin it. We’re happy right now, and I’m content with that.”

“I’m glad you’re happy, dear, but have you thought about what to tell this Yaomo person when he arrives with your brother?”

Katara’s face paled a little, and she looked down at her hands in her lap. “Sort of. I don’t want to hurt him, but I know I need to be honest.”

“You’ll find the right words when the time comes.” Kanna put lids over the pots to let them stew or simmer or boil for a while. Pakku entered the hut.

“Mmm… Smells delicious.” He said, giving his wife a kiss on her cheek. Katara smiled at the show of affection. When she’d first met him, he’d been so bitter and grumpy and sour, and while some of his personality traits were still the same, he’d become warmer, kinder, and more affectionate since he’d married her grandmother.

“Your friends are set up in their hut.” He informed his step-granddaughter.

“Just one hut?” She asked.

“Yes.” He responded with finality.

“Okay. What about a fire? They’re probably freezing.” She said.

“There was wood in the pit, and one of them lit it before I left. You certainly like to make friends with the strangest people. Firebenders and pirates, sometimes both…” The old man shook his head and tsked at her.

“Well, sometimes friendships aren’t always conventional, but it’s important not to judge people by things like their professions or their looks or their sexes.” Katara said pointedly, bringing a smile to the old man’s lips before he shook his head.

“You’re always so headstrong. Must get it from your grandmother.” He announced before lifting the lid off a pot to smell its contents. Kanna batted his hand away, and he chuckled. “I’m going to talk to Chief Arnook, let him know what’s happening and that we’ll discuss the harbor effort when Sokka and the Rebels arrive.

“Let’s go bring your friends some parkas.” Kanna insisted.

“Captain?” Katara called before pulling aside the thick furs that covered the entrance to the hut where he was staying. All six crewmen were jammed into this hut, huddled around a fire, probably by Pakku’s doing. It would, after all, be easier to keep an eye on them if they were all in the same hut. Thankfully, the hut was just roomy enough for all of them though the Captain probably found it cramped since he’d had his own space – larger than this one – on his ship. Kanna stepped into the hut behind her granddaughter.

“This is my grandmother, Kanna. Gran Gran, this is everyone.” She proceeded to give names to each face. “We brought you guys some parkas and mittens, so you’ll be warmer.” The two Water Tribe women handed the clothing to each pirate who seemed to accept these offerings gratefully. Some even went so far as to pull on the coats and gloves even though they were indoors. “Will you guys be comfortable here? If you need more space, I can get you guys more huts.” She didn’t care if Master Pakku had purposely stuffed them all into this place; she wasn’t going to force them all to potentially be uncomfortable just because Water Tribesmen were paranoid. These pirates had made it so that the Fire Nation stayed out of their waters, and they deserved more respect.

“We’ll deal with that later.” Kanna said. “You’re all invited to dinner in my home. Katara tells me you haven’t eaten since breakfast, and that won’t do.” Katara took Zuko’s newly mittened hand and led him out of the warm hut into the cold with the other pirates following.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:34 pm

"I see the wall!" Ping's voice called out over the rest, and Lu Ten grimaced slightly as he looked at it. For better or worse, the pirate ship that they had been chasing for the past few days had wound up docking at the Water Tribe. Under what pretense, though, was the Northern Water Tribe hosting these people? Were they convinced that they were some form of exotic merchants simply there for trade? Or perhaps the Captain of the ship had found out just how valuable Katara was in terms of her bloodline, and had tried to ransom her off. Either way, sleep deprived or not Lu Ten knew that this was coming to a head right at this very moment, and there wasn't time for rest if it meant that Katara's life was in danger. A ransom would be fine, but what if they were actually there to try to attack at the very heart of what little was left of the water tribe?

Lu Ten half halfheartedly barked orders as he closed his eyes and mentally tried to prepare for what might be lying ahead. Sleep deprivation hadn't been as bad for him as it had been for Sokka, he knew that much, nor Yaomo. At least Lu Ten had managed to sneak in a few hours a night. He was fairly certain that the dark eyed man and the water tribesman hadn't actually slept since they had literally passed out on watch almost 2 days ago. Lu Ten was just glad for what sleep he had gotten, as it was enough to allow him not to snap under the unrelenting badgering of Sokka and Yaomo to somehow make the boat that they were going on try to go faster, as if they somehow could storm the pirate ship that held Katara and have any better result than they had the first time.

In reality, they had been lucky to find the ship that they had found as it was. The original merchant ship had refused to go further than the nearest dock, but it was there that they had found a sailing ship that was barely big enough for all of them. What it lacked in size though, it made up for in speed. Sokka and Yaomo had objected to it, but there hadn't been any canons or real cargo to speak of onboard. It was a reckless play, but given their size Lu Ten had been focusing on being able to pursue rather than try to confront an armed pirate ship on his own. Once they went to whatever base of operations they had, a small team extraction might be possible, but trying to out gun a ship that was built solely for it wouldn't be possible unless they wanted to sail to the Fire Nation to try to pick up a warship.

Even then, the very real possibility that they would simply lose the ship they were following was a concern. It was a big world out there, if they lost more than a few hours on the ship that they were persuing, that might be it. The Fire Nation alone had thousands of little islands and inlets that could hide a pirate ship or two, which was part of why they seemed to thrive on the fiery coast, or at least had, until the Fire Nation's ships had become so numerous that it became suicide to attack even a single Fire Nation warship. The Fire Lords past had made it capitol treason to attack a military vessel, and several pirate dens had been mortared into oblivion before the lesson had stuck, but eventually it had stuck.

Now they preyed primarily on ships or towns that were on the earth nation's coast, primarily the western side, closest to where they could return to their bases of operations in the Fire Nation. It was Lu Ten's greatest fear that he might find out that the ship that had taken Katara was headed for the Fire Nation itself, but instead, it looked to be heading North. The good side effect of the coastal towns being raided meant that several of them had lookout posts for pirates, and it was at one of them that Lu Ten had managed to find someone who had gotten the bearing of the ship that had attacked them. That, and the fact that the pirate ship that had attacked was, well, in a word, distinctive.

Within a day they had the vessel in their sites, which was when the biggest fights began outright. Sokka had demanded to charge the ship to take his sister back. Lu Ten understood the reasoning behind it, after all, he didn't want to think about what was most likely happening to Katara at this very moment, probably being forced to share the captain's bed. If she was lucky, that is. He didn't want to think about what might happen if she wasn't lucky. Despite the fact that Sokka had threatened to kill him several times, Lu Ten had argued til both of them were hoarse about what the best plan of action was. From the Captain's standpoint, trying to board the enemy ship, even after nightfall was suicide.

Thankfully for Lu Ten, the speed of the other ship was formiddable, which finally made Sokka relent. Even if they could catch a better wind than the enemy vessel, they would likely spend close to an hour in it's wake, more than enough time for their smaller ship to be shot to pieces. Even Sokka and Yaomo's protests got quieter after that realization. Lu Ten could see it in their eyes, however, that drive to go after them. There had been once when he had felt the same, for a flicker, a brief moment now it seemed. He still would have laid down his life for Katara, but that feeling... that sensation of suicidal rage that one felt when the most precious thing in the world to them was taken away... that he didn't remember any longer.

Now they had finally arrived at the gates to the water tribe.

As the scouting vessels approached Sokka waved them off and motioned for the gates to be opened to them, Lu Ten marveling again at how a group of water benders could easily make a large enough hole in a giant chunk of ice for them to sail through. However, even as he watched it, he could feel the adrenaline kicking into his system as he knew that there was a battle likely approaching in the next few minutes. If the pirates were here, there wouldn't be any way to stop Sokka and Yaomo from storming that pirate ship. Once their feet touched the ice, they were running, Sokka making a hurried inquiry as to where the pirates were. Lu Ten didn't bother to process all of it, just the important parts.

Most were on the ship, but their leaders were off meeting with Pakku.

Lu Ten barely managed to catch Sokka as he started to bolt for the enemy ship. "Sokka, no. We go for the leaders first." Lu Ten said with a cold stare. The shove back from Sokka was expected, as the look of anger and rage in his eyes. "If you storm the ship, they could kill her before you kill your way to her. If we get the leaders we can have a prisoner exchange. It's not what you want right now, but you know it's her best chance for survival. If this was anyone else but your sister, you would do the smart thing." Lu Ten growled out from the ice as he picked himself up, seeing the hatred and loathing in Sokka's eyes, most likely due to the fact that Lu Ten was right.

Not waiting to see what the pair would decide, Lu Ten dashed towards the center of town, sighing with relief as he glanced over his shoulder and caught Sokka moving to pass him, running at a hazardously fast pace. If they got into a fight the extra speed now would be a hindrance, but Lu Ten knew that there wouldn't be any talking the water tribesman out of doing this at least, he'd been lucky enough to keep him from a fight to the death. Of course, none of them expected what they would see once they rounded the corner: a small procession of people, including the woman who had attacked them all, two unknown men, and Katara of all people. Lu Ten paused, but saw that Yaomo and Sokka didn't.

One of the men who Sokka didn't recognize turned first and stepped out of the way as if he had sensed them coming, taking a few steps back as he readied himself with what looked to be a water bending pose. What came next happened so fast it was hard to really process it until after it was over. Sokka ran forward and pulled Katara out of the way roughly, sending her spinning into the waiting arms of Yaomo, who at least had the foresight to catch her as Sokka did what he'd been aching to do for the past week. His club raised up even as Katara cried out, but as it came down towards the second man, Lu Ten watched in disbelief as he struck a firebending pose, slid to the side of Sokka's strike and then slammed two fists into his side. Had he wanted to, they probably could have scorched through several layers of skin, but the firebender was holding back.

None of that though was as shocking as what came next. Lu Ten felt his throat swell closed as Sokka, tossed to the ground froze mid way through getting up as a pair of yellow eyes glared down at him, and then slowly turned towards Lu Ten. Despite the clothes he had worn to ward against the cold, Lu Ten felt his blood chilling in his veins as the man stared at him. And then there came the anger, blazing up from his core as if it had always been there, all the suffering and pain and everything he'd gone through for the past year seeming like some sort of sick joke. "You're... alive. You're alive and you didn't let us know? What the fuck is your problem, Zuko?" Lu Ten snarled as he started to take a step forward before he felt Katara's hands stopping him.

"He doesn't remember, Lu Ten. He doesn't remember anything." Lu Ten looked at her, and then he saw it in the golden eyes of the man in front of him. There was no sign of recognition in those dangerous eyes. All he saw from any of them were potential attackers who had come after them. Lu Ten was about to say more when he heard people around him whispering Zuko's name and looking at the pirate Captain as well as all of them. Lu Ten had forgotten that up here, Zuko had been hailed as a savior who had been willing to give everything to protect them.

Lu Ten clenched his jaw slightly as he looked from Katara back to the man who was wearing a mask. A mask over a scar he had learned to deal with, a scar that he had learned to wear with pride in battle. A scar that Zuko had told Lu Ten several times that he wanted to cover, but wouldn't. He wouldn't give his father the satisfaction of covering it up like some lepers mark. And yet this man clearly had it covered behind a dark mask. Lu Ten closed his eyes briefly and then nodded slowly.

"Maybe we should go... talk somewhere in private." he said finally with a sigh.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:13 pm

Katara hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings. Instead, she’d been looking at Zuko, keeping up a bit of chatter to keep his mind off the frigid temperatures. That was why, when Hanzo made a defensive move that she caught from the corner of her eye, she was momentarily confused. Then she was grabbed and tossed aside only to be thrust into the arms of Yaomo. Her face flushed with guilt, but she quickly turned back toward the procession to witness her brother lifting his club to bash in the pirate Captain’s skull. “No! Sokka, stop!” She yelled, moving forward to disable him with waterbending, but Yaomo gripped her arms. He wasn’t hurting her, but he was still stronger than her, and she definitely didn’t appreciate this.

As soon as Sokka fell, his attack thwarted by Zuko’s better, calmer battle skills, Yaomo released her, as if he suddenly understood there was no need to hold her back. Perhaps he expected her to fight for her brother, perhaps not, but all that mattered was he released her. Katara, for her part, knew that Zuko wouldn’t severely hurt anyone in the Water Tribes because he couldn’t risk ruining the shaky peace – or was it merely tolerance? – the Tribesmen had with the Pirates at this moment. She looked at her brother apologetically for only an instant before she heard Lu Ten speak, and the look on his face sent sorrow through her.

The waterbender had desperately wanted to do this in a more delicate manner, revealing the fact that Zuko was alive gently and privately. Instead, she heard Lu Ten speak the Captain’s name, and she closed her eyes momentarily to gather herself. She could hear the whispers circulating from onlookers; their savior was there, among pirates? She opened her eyes, and the looks on his crewmen’s faces disturbed her. She wasn’t supposed to reveal to them who he was because everywhere other than the Water Tribe, Zuko was seen as a monster.

Katara stepped forward and placed a hand on Lu Ten’s shoulder as he started toward his cousin. “He doesn’t remember, Lu Ten. He doesn’t remember anything.” Her voice was sad, for it was painful to know that the person they’d known had no knowledge of them, that they had to start all over again. Even now, having spent the week with him, having enjoyed his company, it was still depressing. He was in there, somewhere deep, and parts of his personality were the same, but he wasn’t exactly the same as he had been.

Sokka had gotten to his feet and was brushing the snow from his clothing. “So while we’ve been worrying sick about you all week, you’ve been off having the time of your life with pirates! We thought you were being raped or tortured! You should have let us know!”

Katara spun around to face her brother. “And how was I supposed to do that? I was worried about you guys, too, by the way, and I knew you would be worried about me. There aren’t exactly messenger birds on pirate ships, and they wouldn’t stop or turn around, okay? All I could do was convince them to come here at least so I could finish the mission!”

“Right. I’m sure you wanted to miss the chance of spending time with your boyfriend in order to make us all feel better.” Sokka countered rather callously considering Yaomo’s presence. Katara’s eyes narrowed at her brother.

“You’re an ass, Sokka. It’s not like that at all. I wanted to find a way to let you guys know, but even though the pirates aren’t the bad guys here, they’re still pirates, okay? I’m not one of them, and they don’t take orders from me, they take them from him,” She motioned toward Zuko. “As it is, he doesn’t remember me, so really, it was amazing that he didn’t just keep me as a prisoner in a hold on the ship, okay!”

Sokka’s blue eyes, so like his sister’s, turned toward Zuko, murder in his eyes. “Where exactly did he keep you?” He asked his sister though his glare was on the Captain.

Katara glowered menacingly at her brother. “What does it matter to you? For a whole year you were comforting me because we thought he was dead, and now that he’s really alive, he’s suddenly your enemy?”

“It matters because I’m not going to have some guy defiling my little sister when he can’t even remember her name!” He shouted.

An icy wall cracked somewhere nearby. “He knows my name, Sokka!”

“Yeah, because you had to tell him what it was!” He turned toward Zuko. “If you touched her, you had better either make an honest woman out of her or get lost!”

Another crack of ice sounded through the air, followed by another closer to the group as the waterbender’s rage grew. “You are such a hypocrite! You sleep around all of the time! Remember that girl from the Ondin Tribe in the Swamp? What about Yu-”

“Maybe we should go… talk somewhere private.” Lu Ten said with a sigh, cutting off Katara’s words. There were Water Tribesmen gathering to hear the siblings fight, and none of it was really something that everyone and their mothers should know.

“Good idea.” Kanna piped up, the old woman touching her grandson’s arm gently while the younger attempted to cool her rage. “We have plenty of food for everyone, so you’re all welcome to dinner.” Pakku approached them, looking between his step-grandchildren suspiciously. “Pakku, why don’t you go start a fire in the largest room of the hut so we’ll all be warm?”

The old man looked at his wife. “Lighting the hearth fires is women’s work, and someone needs to go fix the damage Katara just caused with her outburst.”

“Not today it’s not, and they already have people fixing that now; I can see them from here.” She countered sweetly though there was a slightly dangerous edge to her voice which had Pakku’s brow raising.

“Fine.” He said wisely and left them for the hut.

“Katara, come with me to help me dish out the food and serve it.” Kanna said.

The waterbender paused, finally letting her anger go as she looked from Sokka to Lu Ten, from Jet to Gui to Shen, and finally, her gaze rested on Yaomo whose eyes seemed to flicker with a hurt that Katara knew she had caused, but just as quickly as she’d noticed it, he’d hidden it away behind his mask of relaxed indifference. “I really am glad you guys are okay. I’m sorry I worried you so much, but now we’re all safe, here in the Northern Water Tribe. Anger and grudges aren’t going to solve anything. Let’s go eat and talk about all of this. I’m sure Chief Arnook knows you’re all here now, and he’s going to want to know how recruiting from the Swamp went.” She turned and followed after her grandmother.

Behind her back, she didn’t see Sokka place to fingers near his eyes before turning them on Zuko and mouthing the words, “I’m watching you.”

Katara helped her grandmother serve the food. They all sat in a circle, pirates separated from rebels with a bit of space, but she also noticed that the other pirates had purposely kept some space from Zuko. She wondered if they felt betrayed, knowing who their leader was now, or if they would turn on him the first chance they got. She hoped they didn’t, but if they did, she hoped Zuko would be ready for it, and she would be at his side to help as well. No one would take him away again. When she handed him his bowl of seaweed noodles and meat, their hands brushed, their eyes locking momentarily, but she had to move on, to serve the others.

As soon as she was done, Sokka gripped her wrist and tugged her down beside him so that she sat between him and their grandmother, preventing her from sitting anywhere else or beside certain pirates. “I think we’ve all waited long enough. We deserve to know what happened to you on that ship.”

Katara had already explained this all to Gran Gran, so she knew the old woman would know where the truth was stretched a bit, but she was also aware that her relative would keep mum about the holes in her story. Instead, she explained that when she first boarded the ship, she was a prisoner and was taken straight to the Captain. She gave a much abbreviated explanation of learning who the Captain was, why she’d been kidnapped, and how he had no memory of anything but saw flashes of memory in the form of meaningless images that he would paint. She revealed that she was allowed to remain relatively free on the ship, but she made it sound as if this was in exchange for her earning this freedom with honest work. One of the pirate crewmen scoffed at this, but she looked at him blank-faced, and his facial expressions became impassive once more as if in understand that she was around her family, and talk of what was understood to be her role on the ship was not to be discussed here in front of the people who had loved and raised or had been raised with her.

“Where did you sleep?” Sokka asked darkly.

“Look,” Katara began with a sigh, “there was only one safe place for me to sleep, okay? I stayed in the Captain’s quarters.” Before she could continue, Sokka leapt to his feet.

“I’m going to kill you!” He shouted at Zuko, venom dripping from his words.

Pakku calmly set aside his emptied dishes, and while he continued to sit calmly, it was obvious to those who knew him that he was prepared to step in and end any fights that broke out in his home.

Katara gripped her brother’s wrist. “Sokka, let me finish, will you?” He glared down at her, clearly upset that she would defend someone who would defile his sister, but she wasn’t deterred. “I wasn’t expected to do anything, okay? There was no pressure on me. I wouldn’t have been safe anywhere else on the ship at night unless I was going to be a prisoner, chained and locked away in the brig the entire time. It was the only way.” She conveniently left out that she had done things with Zuko even if half of her purity was still intact, but she knew Sokka wouldn’t pick up on it.

For the moment, he seemed mollified, but he was still pissed off. His glare never left Zuko’s face even as he reseated himself. Pakku, sensing the fight go out of his step-grandson, lifted his tea cup to his lips and took a sip. However, his own face had slightly darkened, and Katara knew that he must have read into what she hadn’t told her brother. Her cheeks flushed at the knowing disapproval the old man gave her, and she quickly turned her attention toward her tea.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:01 pm

Lu Ten could feel the anger starting to drain from him when Katara explained that Zuko had no recollection of who it was that he... well, was. It did take a moment, but as he thought on it logically, it made sense, the choices that he had made and the reason why they hadn't been in contact. Zuko didn't know any of them from any other group of wanderers. The only real outstanding mystery to it all was why it was that he had bothered to capture Katara and take her with him. The obvious reasoning of course was because she was beautiful... but that started to lead Lu Ten down some... interesting paths of reasoning as to what happened on the ship. Then again, from the exchange that was going on between Sokka and Katara at the moment, Lu Ten wasn't exactly sure that his interesting reasoning was that far from the truth. Katara did seem oddly... light on details. Something told Lu Ten though that she wouldn't have been nearly as kind to his cousin if it had been against her will.

Which filed it nicely under the category of none of their business. Unfortunately, Sokka didn't seem to catch on to any of that. Lu Ten would have liked to have said he didn't blame the water tribesman, but on the other hand, Katara was of marrying age, and Lu Ten knew from experience that Sokka wasn't the sort who had any right to speak about anyone else sleeping around. Then again, it was a fairly common shortcoming of people to look at fault with others but not see fault with anyone else. Lu Ten could see the situation starting to bristle a little, as was Zuko. He was far more used to the Zuko who was not easily riled, tempered by his training with Iroh. This Zuko he could see bristling somewhat visibly, and in a way it reminded him of Ozai in a way that chilled his blood.

"I was the one who decided not to let her have contact with your ship." Zuko interjected in the midst of Sokka's raving. "I knew you would follow me, worried or not, and that you would try to attack me once you did. I would rather have it on neutral ground, where I wouldn't have to fill my brig with Katara's friends." He said, his golden eyes like daggers as they stared at Sokka. Lu Ten could realize fairly simply that his cousin was practically spoiling with a fight for the warrior, if for no other reason than to keep him from running his mouth. It almost made Lu Ten want to groan with frustration. Years of training that had gone into tempering Zuko's anger seemed to have gone away, but thankfully some of the anger seemed to have as well.

Lu Ten gritted his teeth as he saw Zuko smirk at Sokka rather than contradict him when the tribesman demanded that Zuko make an honest woman out of his sister. Well, that answered the question of whether or not the two of them had slept together, that was for certain. And Lu Ten knew exactly what it was that his cousin was trying to do as well, but remaining silent and smiling that grin at him, he was hoping to coax the man into a fight that it had been clear from earlier that he could win. Something told Lu Ten that knocking Sokka's teeth out wasn't going to win Zuko favors with Katara. On the other hand, given the way that Katara was responding, it did make one wonder if she wasn't about to do the same thing herself if left to her own devices for that much longer.

“Maybe we should go… talk somewhere private.” Lu Ten offered, giving one last go at defusing the situation before he was going to let the two of them settle it out with fists. Given the way that Zuko had taken Sokka's defense apart before, Lu Ten doubted that his cousin would seriously hurt the man, but then, if Sokka really went for him with intent to kill, something told the Firebender that his cousin would be more than happy to do what it took to truly defend his life as well, even if it meant killing Katara's brother in the process.

Lu Ten quelled the urge to thump Sokka in the back of the head as he caught him mouthing words about watching Zuko. Zuko merely grinned back at him in a way that clearly was making Sokka fume even more, but Lu Ten realized that it was pointless to deal with the two of them when the one thing they were arguing over would have an easier time defusing the situation. Making his way up to her as she walked away, he leaned in and whispered softly to her. "You need to reign in your brother, or he's going to talk his way into a fight with Zuko he's not going to win." Lu Ten cautioned her, seeing her look at him with questioning eyes, he sighed slightly. "He cares about you, and he won't try to hurt you, but you don't know my family, or how naturally conflict comes to fire benders. If he doesn't remember to control himself, he's going to be looking for a fight with your brother to prove a point, family or not." Lu Ten said, and then slipped away, leaving Katara to consider that as he let himself slow down to walk with the Yaomo and the bunch.

The dark eyed man seemed especially quiet in all of this, but Lu Ten could hardly blame him.

It hadn't escaped Yang's attention that the pirates at the dinner table seemed more distant from him, but they would come around. Wan Xue would drive their loyalty, if nothing else. And he knew that he had that, at the very least. He had saved her from her old life, and the two of them had been by one another's side for months. Whatever feelings she might have for him, she owed him enough that her honor would keep her loyalty in place if nothing else. He could see her though, staring at Katara darkly. Despite the fact that she was and would remain loyal, he knew that neither she nor Katara were likely to be fast friends any time soon. Thankfully, Hanzo seemed the most calm of any of the others here. In fact, he seemed eerily calm with the surroundings here. Perhaps it was because he was a water bender, or perhaps there was something else at play, but of all of his crew that came ashore, Hanzo seemed completely... serene. Yang just wished he felt better about what might be causing it.

His polar opposite, however, was Katara's brother, who seemed to be more than willing to shoot his mouth off if it meant trying to prove a point. Yang was more than willing to accommodate whatever conflict the water tribesman had in mind. His fighting was sloppy, and if Yang had bothered to bend at him, no weapons in the world would save him. As it stood, Yang guessed that his dual sword style would be more than enough to disarm whatever weapons Sokka could bring to bear, if such things were even really necessary. Throughout all of this, the one person here he was not afraid of was Sokka. Though in reality Yang wasn't afraid of any of them. Of all the people that were Katara's friends, Lu Ten, the one who was supposed to be his cousin was the biggest mystery. He held himself like a true firebender, but then, Wan Xue was on Yang's side if they really needed to overpower him.

At her brother's first question, Yang's eyebrows raised lightly at Katara as he stared at her with a blank poker face. If she wanted to lie to her family members, Yang wasn't about to stop her. Yet at the same time, he wasn't going to deny anything that he had done either. Let her do it if she wanted, and he would go along, but he saw no shame in it. As Katara admitted to where she had been sleeping, he saw Sokka starting to go for him, exclaiming that he was going to kill him.

"You can try." Yang shot back icily, watching the warriors eyes widen further with rage. In honesty, Yang wondered if it wouldn't be better just to wipe the floor with her brother sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than to teach him who his better was. The real question was whether or not Katara's brother was one of those types that would keep going after someone who beat the tar out of him until he died. If he wasn't, then by all means it would just simplify matters to get this over with. But something made Yang wonder if her brother was even more hard headed and determined than Katara herself seemed to be. As Sokka finally decided to sit back down, Yang's golden eyes stared him down, wondering how long it would be before he got his next lesson in his fighting deficiencies.

They turned to Pakku, however, as he noticed the way that the water bending master held himself. He was clearly waiting for a fight as well, and perhaps that was what caused Sokka to so calmly sit down. There was little doubt that the water bending master could have put him in his place with barely a gesture. Aside from Hanzo, the air in the room seemed to be getting tenser. He caught Lu Ten studying him again, and Yang's golden eyes met that of his supposed relative, staring back into his eyes, wondering what they might have shared in a life that Yang could no longer truly remember.

Another looming question was what it was that the dark eyed man meant to Katara. There was something there, as the dark eyed man kept glancing at Katara, and then looking at Yang himself, as if he were somehow judging the person that Katara had chosen. Either he wanted to be with Katara, or he had been in the past. Either way, from the way that Katara sometimes looked back at the man, Yang got the feeling that she felt bad for him. There would likely need to be a discussion about that at some point, but Yang wasn't nearly insecure enough to worry about the other man that had been in Katara's life before he had come into it. Katara wanted to be with him, that was all that mattered at this point. The only thing left was to beat it into the thick skulls of Katara's family.

"I suppose you would have preferred that I let her sleep, unguarded amongst my crew, half of which are the most blood thirsty pirates to sail the seas." Yang said dryly, and narrowed his eyes a little at Pakku's judging gaze, to Katara. He was a stern man, but Yang had assumed the two of them would at least get along, perhaps that had been... premature.

The rest of dinner proceeded with a certain awkwardness that couldn't be helped. Yang would have preferred that Katara told them all to mind their own damned business rather than meekly sit by and deal with their unspoken judgements, but instead it was more small talk than anything else. That was of course, until after dinner had concluded. Yang looked to Sokka to see if the man still wanted to have it out with him, but something had seemed to mollify his desire to fight, and Yang was willing to let it slide at this point, for Katara's sake if nothing else. As it so happened, the peace would be interrupted by Pakku's intrusion.

"A word, if I may, Young Man..." the Waterbending Master said in his usual tone of half annoyance and half condemnation. Yang nodded and followed him out towards the frozen walls of the city, tossing Katara a smile as he left with her former master and step grandfather. Once they were out of earshot of everyone else, Yang had expected that Pakku would start in with some sort of lecture, but it seemed like the older man was having trouble getting out what it was that he wanted to say, his lips opening and then closing a few times, not actually managing to spit out anything of value.

"I... wanted to speak with you... about..." Yang was pretty much prepared for everything except the word that came next, "Fornication."

Golden eyes widened slightly in no small amount of horror as Yang felt himself swallowing. He'd expected some posturing from the old man, given his look of condemnation earlier, but Yang hadn't expected it to really be this... awkward. "I'm sorry... what?" Yang found himself asking, wondering for a moment if perhaps he had actually heard wrong and there was something else that Pakku wanted to talk about. At this point, Yang pretty much was willing to talk about anything if it meant avoiding this particular line of questioning.

"Fornication... between yourself and Katara. I need to know if you fornicated, and what you are planning to do about it."

Yang paused, and sighed, pressing his fingertips to the bridge of his nose. At least the man wasn't trying to stutter over the word 'sex' he supposed. "I think that's a question for your granddaughter more than it is for me." Yang said simply, and watched as the older man's eyes widened in what might have been surprise or anger. "I don't really know you, or what your customs are here, but what Katara chooses to discuss with you is her own affair and no one else's. Don't expect me to spill her secrets out of some fear of your authority over me." Now there was a glint of anger in the old man's eyes.

"Then perhaps you'd like to tell me what your intentions are towards her." Pakku said with a much less forgiving tone.

"I want to be with her." Yang said flatly, uncompromisingly. "I certainly have no gain in being here otherwise, you have to have realized that by now. Your approval is important to her, as is her family, which is why I'm here with her. I plan on making her happy, even if it is a bit of a struggle." That seemed to cause the anger to fade with the older man, who nodded solemnly. In fact, if anything there seemed to be a look of respect there, but it was fleeting, and only for a moment.

"You and my granddaughter will not be sleeping under the same roof." Pakku reiterated icily as he started to walk away. "Goodnight."

As things began to wind down, Yang let Wan Xue lead the pirates back to sleep in the guest room that had been set aside for them. When it had come time to bid Katara goodnight, however, he'd kissed her cheek and asked her to meet him outside of her family's house once they all had gone to sleep. She gave him a questioning look but didn't really say anything afterwards, as the whole exchage had needed to be fast enough that neither Sokka or Pakku actually noticed it. By the time that the light was out in their place, the air had grown to an icy chill that made Yang glad he had his dragon's breath to keep him warm, though Katara when she stepped out seemed hardly bothered by it at all, probably an indication that by Water Tribe standards, this wasn't actually that cold.

When she opened her mouth to speak, Yang made a motion to be quiet instead, and motioned for her to follow him through the streets, back towards the guest houses where they were staying. Katara seemed comfortable enough following along side him, though he had no intention of going right towards where the pirates were. Instead, a few houses before then he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her inside of a darkened guest house that he had noticed was empty earlier.

She opened her mouth to protest but instead his lips pressed against hers to silence it into a muffled grunt as he pressed her up against the wall, fingertips tugging at her parka to undo it and let his hands wander to the layers underneath, wandering in a way that he felt her body respond to as he broke the kiss and looked at her with a heated gaze.

"Your grandfather says we're not supposed to be sleeping under the same roof. I was going to have us camp out under the stars, but... given how cold it is outside, I think we're just going to have to find a way to stay up all night instead..." Yang whispered, almost against her lips as he gestured to a set of thick furs that he had moved from his guest room to this one...

Join date : 2009-10-03

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