Disclaimer: Avatar is not mine; wish it was!

Requiem: noun
1 a mass for the dead
2 a a solemn chant (as a dirge) for the repose of the dead b something that resembles such a solemn chant
3 a a musical setting of the mass for the dead b a musical composition in honor of the dead

A/N: This will be a dark, disturbing fic, taking place several years in the future. Ozai is dead by Aang's hands, yet the war is not at all over.

This will all be in first person POV. Angst and character deaths.

It is dark, but in the darkness I can distinctly detect the acrid smell of burnt flesh. It is a scent that I know well.

My first thought is that I am dead. Dead by the hands of the Avatar himself, just like my father before me, and now I am in some sort of hell created just for me. It would be no less than I deserved, for my failure to restore the fire nation to the glory it had known under my father's rule.

'I have failed you, father. I have failed to avenge you, and now… now I am in hell.'

"Lord Zuko."

Someone is calling me. The voice is soft, feminine and familiar. It belongs to someone I know, but I can't find it in myself to care very much. My throat is parched and my body is wracked with pain. I can barely feel my arms at all and when I do finally open my eyes, it is with great effort. It is still dark and all I can see is a large shadow hovering over me surrounded by a very bright light. Too bright – it burns and I close my eyes tightly in an attempt to block it out.

There is both a cough and then a sputter…and it takes me a moment to realize that the sounds come from me.

"Here… drink."

That voice again.

A soft, cool hand gently cups the back of my head and lifts. I open my mouth to protest, but instead feel a cool, smooth liquid against my lips. Reflexively, I lap at it eagerly, painfully raising a hand to grasp the arm that is holding the canteen to my lips. The skin under my fingers is smooth and pliant, and for the fist time I wonder if I may have survived the battle after all. Surely, not a single denizen of hell would offer me such comforts.

It hurts to move. I can't feel my legs at all and my entire body is aching, yet somewhere from within I find the strength to scoot backwards and sit up, just a bit. My senses are immediately assaulted by the scent of another –of flowers and milk, and I once again force my eyes open so that I can take in my surroundings. My eyes sting and it is tempting to close them, but this time I am more alert and able to fight the temptation off.

It takes a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight and to focus, and when they do, I am instantly on guard.

It is her.

That rogue water bender – consort of the Avatar. She protectively cradles an infant against her chest; one old enough to hold up its head, but too young to crawl or walk.

I had heard rumors that the Avatar had fathered a child, but had yet to see for myself.

Hypocritical, self-righteous monk can't even follow his own teachings. Further proof that he is only human – something I have known for many years, and yet the world looks upon him as if he's a savior – no, even more than that.

The world looks to him as if he is a god.

I hate him… so much so that the bile rises in my throat, forcing me to turn my head to the side in order to spit it out.

The water bender remains poised above me, a faraway look in her eyes. In her arms, the infant starts to wail, but she does not even seem to notice.

Why is she here? Why am I here?

And, most importantly…

"Where is the Avatar?"

My voice is broken, hoarse. I frown and look down on myself as best as I can. The waves and the storm have done much to tear my clothes, exposing my legs to the elements. There are several small lacerations on each leg, all covered in gritty sand. They look painful and yet, I cannot feel the sting of the injuries.

She doesn't answer. Wearily I turn my head, looking at her in profile. Why doesn't she attack me? If I were in her position, I wouldn't hesitate. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm vulnerable at the moment. Doesn't she know that she could end this… right now… for her side?

"Woman, where are we?"

She turns her head and frowns. There is a large cut on her right cheek, and her clothes are just as ratted as mine. She moves slowly, as if injured in several places, while tightly holding the bundle of ragged cloth that holds her child against her chest. Her footfalls are soft upon the sand, and I can hear each one, along with the crashing of the waves upon the shore.

She tosses her canteen to me.

"Drink… you need to drink…"

She kneels by my side. Against her chest, the infant that she holds cries softly.

I watch curiously as she examines my legs intently for a moment before tearing a bit of fabric off of her already ruined robes. Her eyes are deadened; unreadable as she then uses the piece of fabric to wipe some of the grit and sand out of the laceration on my legs. The whole situation is so surreal that I am struck speechless for a moment.

"What – what are you doing?"

She does not answer me. For a moment a flash of anger goes through me at this – I am not used to being ignored – but then again, I am not used to being field dressed by an enemy, either.

I drink from the canteen while warily watching her. It is hard to swallow, but I manage to get some of the water down my throat, although a good portion of it still dribbles down the sides of my face and disappears into the sand beneath me.

"Hand me the canteen."

Bemused and still out of sorts, I comply. Only after the canteen is in her hand do I realize that I may have made a tactical error. But she does not use the water in the canteen against me. Instead, she merely pours it over the large cut on my leg, which has the effect of washing the rest of the grit and sand out of the wound.

"We'll have to boil some water so that we can treat this wound. If it gets infected, you could lose the leg. And I'll have to treat your burns as well."

The tone of her voice is flat and utterly calm. I have only known this water bender through our battles, but that gives me enough knowledge of her to know that something is terribly wrong. She should be pressing her advantage right now and restraining me – not treating my wounds.

Maybe I am in hell, after all. In hell with a water bender who has apparently lost her mind along with the wailing child of an Avatar.

"Will you shut that child up?"

Crude. I know it is crude, but I don't care. At this point, I'm trying to antagonize her. I need to get a reaction from her that makes sense.

But she simply shifts the child from one arm to the other, ignoring the barb.

"Where are we? Where are my men? Where is the Avatar?"

The strong light of the sun casts shadows across her face… her eyes are drawn and haunted, her pupils wide. I watch curiously as she stands and prepares to leave.

"I saw some aloe plants further up the beach. I will be right back."

"Hey! You didn't answer any of my questions! What are we doing here?"

Her eyes meet mine briefly, before looking away. I furrow my brows, attempting to wrack my mind to remember exactly what happened… how I got here, wherever here was, and why I was being tended to by the Avatar's lover… but the only thing that comes to me are flashes… vague, disconnected flashes… of a storm, of my ship, of screams… of blood…

But not my blood…

There was a battle.

My ship… did my ship go down?

The Avatar's eyes had been an electric blue.

Furious at the thought that he may have bested me once again, I try to kindle the flame within me, if only to release it through my hands and into the ground. It is something that I usually do when frustrated, and it generally helps calm me down.

But there is no response. My fire… is gone. I can't find the flame and a jolt of sheer panic goes through me.

I can't bend.

What had happened?

The water bender is motionless, looking out to the sea. There is a tear on her right cheek and I follow the path of it with my eyes as it slowly trails over her dark skin before falling down to the beach and disappearing into the sand, right next to her canteen.

The canteen. With it, she could have used the water inside to bind me. She could have also used the water inside to heal me – and herself, for that matter. I've seen her do both.

I won't admit my own weakness to her, but… could it be that she has lot the ability to bend as well?

If only I could remember… what the hell happened?

I shift, ignoring the pain radiating through my body as I do so and I grab the canteen, hastily bringing it to my lips and drawing the last few precious drops from it.

"Woman, I demand that you tell me what happened. Now."

She clears her throat. The baby in her arms makes a gurgling sound and she shifts the child, doing something with her hands to adjust what remains of her clothing in order to put the child to her breast. She does so swiftly and naturally, taking a deep, hesitant breath.

"I don't think that you should try to move. I'll be back."

Her voice is soft, toneless, as if she were nothing but a walking corpse herself.

And when she walks away, this time I don't try to stop her.

end part I