Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.
A/N: The sensation of touch is technically broken into four separate senses and two complimentary pairs: Warm/cold, pressure/pain. I hope you enjoy this ficwich with angst filling between two pieces of fluff bread.
1. Little Ray of Sunshine
How, Aang thought with no small amount of wonder, could something so small be so warm? He sat perched on a window seat, soaking up the warmth of the rising sun as it worked its first tentative rays into the bedroom.
The heat on his bare back, though, was nothing compared to the heat radiating from his front. The tiny bundle clutched there snuffled grumpily and turned into the comfort of his father's skin. The Avatar brushed his hand along the thick fuzz dusting his firstborn's skull, marveling again at the little radiator against him.
He pulled a tiny hand towards him and pressed a kiss against it. Little fingers wrapped around his own pointer finger in a stubborn grip. He glanced to the bed, to his wife and found her awake, watching the scene with a beatific smile. The sunshine felt cool in comparison to the warmth that spread from his chest to every extremity of his body.
She did not cry as they lay him out. She did not cry as she cleaned and dressed him, nor as she crossed his arms across his chest, the duty of a wife of the Water Tribe.
Even as they lay him in the ground, she stood stoic, eyes tired, but still dry. Her children, his children, all watched her with apprehension, knowing their passionate mother's lack of response to be more dangerous and unhealthy than any amount of weeping.
She watched, as one fascinated but detached, as the cold soil piled up on his peaceful face, bit by bit until it completely blocked him from her view for all time. The winter wind howled through the towers of the Temple, a song of mourning.
The trembling began then, but the numbness still had not left her soul, even as her body began to relent to sorrow. A hand gently took her elbow and led her back to her room. The bedroom seemed cavernous, so empty, and she could see her breath as she exhaled. A glance at the fireplace showed her that no one had even bothered to dispose of the ash, let alone light a fire, in nearly three days. It had not been needed; she had not slept here in that time.
She pulled back the covers and lay down, keenly aware of the empty space next to her. No one would reach for her tonight.
A simple thought, ridiculous really, finally stung her heart into feeling again and her inhalation became a broken sob.
Finally, a tear slid down her face to stain the pillow beneath her head. That one drop released a deluge. The thought, the question, tormented her as she wept.
Who would keep him warm in that frozen ground?
1. Growing Pains
Throughout his sixteenth year, Avatar Aang persistently suffered from aches in his legs. Even his betrothed's considerable skill with healing could not alleviate them. "Growing pains," she told him simply, "You're heading into your last growth spurt." She walked away, grumbling about bean pole airbenders, as Aang smirked at her. Even then, he stood a good head taller than her.
The pain was not debilitating, only uncomfortable and irritating. Walking appeared to be the only thing that really soothed it for any length of time. So, he spent many nights simply pacing, lapping wherever he happened to be staying. Despite the discomfort, he often found this time to be beneficial, a few hours to simply think as the rest of the world slumbered. Aang solved many a diplomatic conundrum during his restless pacing.
Yet, on some nights, he found the silence morose and lonely, his mind drifting to the solemn and morbid. One such walk in the Fire Lord's palace led him to a portrait of Avatar Roku and his family, which Zuko had restored in honor of his ancestor. The Avatar's wife stood next to her husband, serene happiness radiating from her, even through a medium of ink and paper and nearly two hundred years of time.
It was so different than his last memory of the woman, worry lighting her eyes, as she released Roku's hand. She had let him go, knowing that it could be the last time she saw him. And it was.
Aang's mind drifted to the histories of his predecessors. In nearly six cycles, only one Avatar had outlived his spouse. Katara would most likely see him dead.
The thought made him shiver and he quickly walked away from the portrait. As his legs ached and his heart ached, he wistfully thought of a time when he was younger. His thoughts had been gloriously free of such complications. There was less pain then.
2. Under Pressure
The crowd was cheering as the Earth King made his speech, excited for the arrival of their hero. The ruler assured them of peace as long as Aang walked the earth, that his mere presence would bring about the security the world had craved for over a hundred years.
While the man sang the Avatar's praises and the atmosphere lifted into almost a frenzy, Katara watched her friend's (boyfriend's? They really needed to work that out.) shoulders slump lower and lower. Only two weeks ago, Fire Lord Ozai had been defeated and they had been riding on the high of victory. Now, as he waited in the wings to be presented, the Waterbender could see the adrenaline ebbing away, reality sinking in.
He had only crossed one river, the biggest one, granted, but still only one. He would be doing this the rest of his life, with the world looking up at him with hopeful eyes. And if he failed? The Four Nations could be thrown into chaos once more.
Katara crossed the distance between them to stand at his side. She slid her hand into his, twining their fingers together. The boy jumped, before shooting her a sheepish grin. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he had not even noticed her beside him. Grey eyes turned to their meshed hands, hers dusky and his pale, and gave a nervous squeeze, as if trying to release some of tension.
I'm scared, the gesture said.
She returned the favor, though more gently.
I know and I'm here.
She tightened her grip.
I'll always be here.
His name was announced, but he did not relinquish her hand. Instead, he pulled her with him towards the stage. She made no move to retreat. She would stay by his side.
The weight of the world was much easier to bear between two shoulders.
Endnote: Er, well, er. Sorry? It seems it takes me nearly five years, a high school graduation, a collegiate career, moving to and working in another country to finish seven chapters of a drabble series. Laziest woman alive? I'm trying.
To be completely serious, however, finishing this series has made me very nostalgic. I began Synesthesia at a very different time in my life (and a very different time in the show!) and I have grown since then as an author, which I believe to be partially because of this work; and not only this project, but the people who supported me through it. Thus, I would like to thank all my reviewers, who were amazing enough to provide both encouragement and criticism, as well as endless patience. You're all wonderful.