Title: Empty Doors and Maple Leaves
Summary: A history of grief.
Author's Notes: Boy howdy, do I love Koh the face-stealer. Best character ever, mmhmm. Not sure I like this, but eh, I'm sick of looking at it. First Avatar fic.
Empty Doors and Maple Leaves
The spirits know the future better than they know the past; they know that all that will come to be was decided long ago, and there is no room for anything else.
But when it is summer and the sun beats his tree red and black, Koh retreats to the cool, dark depths of the earth, shuffles through his collection, and thinks of they who thought otherwise.
And this one made things from the steaming mud of the spirit swamp, and that one almost remembered how to fight. And this one had no plan, and that one thought he might.
And this one stretched her hands out to him when she found him, and all her desires rose to the surface of her skin, dancing across her face like fire -
And so he took them.
He is so old that his very thoughts swell and creak when the storms come rolling in, and his grudges ache like severed limbs.
Inside him there is a hollow place, but no matter how many faces he takes, it will never be filled. This he knows, because he knows the future better than the past.
And this one slept inside burning buildings, and that one thought he could find his home here. And this one smiled like the moon, and that one like the sun.
And this one wandered for years, and when the night comes cold and the wind gathers the echoes of the swamp inside its heart, he can feel her wandering inside him, still looking for a way out.
But she will not find it yet.
He can want, but he cannot have, and he knows this.
And the day is coming when he will run out of time, and that is fine. He knows this, too.
It is the way it is meant to be, because he knows the future better than the past.
And this one waited until the winter came, and that one thought she could survive the summer. And this one had a laugh that could scorch the sky, and that one thought it was a good day to die.
And this one slipped between the folds of battle and found his way here, but when his father followed it was too late, too late, as it was meant to be.
Surely, surely as it was meant to be.
So he taught them about futility, and fate, because he knows the future better than the past.
But it was they who taught him about empty spaces, and about the one thing that can fill it.
And sometimes he wonders.
And this one was beautiful, searching for her brother, who promised to always find his way home, and that one walked the tired plains, calling out his beloved's beautiful name...
( - and this one found his death looking for fame, and that one wept tears that tasted of rain, and this one was born in a year when the chestnuts were hollow, and that one never learned how to scream - )
...until finally into the dark they came, down and down again, and he waited for them; lost and alone, each passed through his door, brimming with want and fear -
- but he is kind, in his own way, and all are welcome here.
And when the Avatar comes back, with earth and fire, with wind and water, and finally kills him, he will break open. All his emptiness will spill out, like the flesh of rotted fruit, and the faces will vanish, and all the desires he has consumed will climb the air into the sky and never look back.
But his own will remain behind, so he will use what he has learned and he will fight it, when it comes, even though he knows the future better than the past.
And he will smile, because one can always hope.