You guys know the drill: Of course I don't own Avatar the Last Airbender or any of the characters except for Kelyin, Ren, Shaya, Ayash, and the Outcasts. Though you will later find out, I'll make it clear now that everyone is 3 years older. Zuko was 16, now 19, Katara 14/17, Sokka 15/18, Aang 12/15, Toph 12/15. Also, the events of this story were written after the second season, so please disregard all events from the final season of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
/. /. / CHAPTER 15: The Beach
/. /. /
Consciousness woke him once again, making him relive every one of his plaguing injuries. He willed his weary eyes to open, but they would not obey. They never did. The ground beneath him was freezing against his naked skin. He curled into a fetal position, shivering.
"You really love them… don't you?" A soft female voice issued from above him. His body tensed as a gentle hand began to stroke his hair. "To offer yourself up to so much pain just to protect her from being arrested and to see your mother, uncle, and cousin again. That is a very strong power of love." Delicate fingers traced his naked hip. The skin of her hand was warm in the freezing air. He opened his eyes slowly and reality swam in and out of focus.
"I'm… dead?" He whispered.
"Yes, burned and then dragged down to the ocean floor by your chains, where you drowned…" He struggled to sit up, and she stood, helping to pull him into a sitting position. Everything was blurry and his head was throbbing. A heavy blanket was laid around his shoulders, and he gratefully pulled it around himself. "You're in the spirit world, Zuko… but neither Iroh nor Ursa are here…"
His head snapped up to her face, just beginning to come into focus. "My Uncle isn't here? How is that possible?"
"His execution was faked by the nomads that work with the Avatar. He lives with them, but he and Mai are on Kyoshi looking for you now…" Tears ran down his cheeks at the news of Iroh's greater fate. She kneeled before him and her face finally emerged from the blur of his aching eyes.
"It's you…" His voice was filled with awe. He looked away from her, bowing his head in respect. "I cannot apologize enough for Zhao's actions and the sacrifice you were forced to make because of them."
"It was a sacrifice that needed to be made. The moon gave me life, it was only fair that I return it to her by becoming her." Yue spoke gently. She rested a hand on Zuko's cheek and he looked up timidly. She smiled, wiping a tear away with her thumb. "However, as great as your sacrifice was… it is not your time yet, Zuko. You have too much to accomplish in the world to go from it so quickly… so quietly. You must return to life."
"But… you said I burned and drowned." She stood and smiled, turning to walk away. Her white hair blew softly in the snowy wind. He looked around. There was nothing within site. No homes, no place of shelter whatsoever. No mountains or even hills, not even any trees. Just endless flat land, covered in soft snow with a grey sky. "How can I return?"
"Just find the will to stand up and follow me." She said softly before she faded into the snow that blew around her.
"Yue? Yue!" Zuko called out, his voice sounding small and hollow in the vastness of the land around him. He pulled the blanket tighter around himself and slowly began to push himself up. His legs felt so weak, like they could barely hold him up. He stumbled forward, catching himself before he fell. "Yue!" He yelled again. How was he supposed to follow her when she just disappeared. He walked timidly toward where she had faded away…
/. /. / BEI FONG ESTATE
Toph rubbed at her eyes. Her head was throbbing. She laid her hand on the ground beside her, but instead of dirt, she felt clean silk sheets. She sat up suddenly.
"Ren!" She screamed out, tears filling her blank grey eyes.
"Oh sweetheart! Everything's all right now, that evil man can't hurt you anymore. Your safe at home, dear." Toph felt everything within herself go numb as she felt her mothers arms wrap around her, stroking her hair and rubbing her back.
Home. She was home again… she was in prison again… and he was dead. Her mother was still talking, babbling about how they would disguise her awful haircut under an expensive wig, and that her cloths would have to be refitted because it looked as if she'd gained a bit of weight. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. She was trapped here. If he couldn't rescue her, a living mountain of a man, then no one could. This was it… she was alone in her wretched prison.
/. /. / FIRE NATION VILLAGE
Shaya had taken care of all Ty Lee's wounds, only a few of which required stitches. Ayash had brought dinner home, as well as a small array of clothing for the petit ex-acrobat. After a meal full of far-fetched stories about various adventures the brothers claimed to have been on, Ty Lee helped clean up as best as she could. She was still laughing at some of the tall tales, but an unease came over her as the two men became serious, casting nervous glances to one another. Ayash's face was stern as he gave Shaya a barely visible nod.
"What is it?" Ty Lee asked softly, the pit of her stomach feeling like a lead weight. Shaya turned to face her while Ayash finished cleaning up.
"Ty Lee… it's your arm… it didn't heal properly and the only way to fix it is to re-break it." Her eyes widened and she clutched the mangled right limb to her chest.
"No… not again." Ayash stepped forward and the petit girl backed away from them.
"If Shaya breaks it and sets it right, you'll be able to use it again, almost as well as before. Right now you can't even lift a cup with that arm."
"If you ever want to use your right hand again, I have to set the bones straight." Shaya spoke softly. Behind him, Ayash lifted a long, heavy wooden box onto the table. There were several slots in the sides and the top was missing.
"Please don't…" Her voice was a whisper as she hugged the useless limb to herself. Her big grey eyes were full of tears. Shaya held out a one inch thick stick of round wood.
"This is for you to bite down on when the pain comes."
"You said I was safe here!"
"You are safe here, Ty Lee. But I also said I would fix you." He stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders. "Your arm needs to be fixed." Shaya guided her to the table, she moved with him, but her head was shaking no in a silent protest. Ayash gently pushed her to sit and gingerly lifted her arm to lay in the slotted box, causing her to lean down so the entire length of her arm lay in the box, palm up.
"Put the stick between your teeth and do your best to stay still." Ayash watched as she placed the wood with a shaking hand. Shaya turned to her, holding three thick, heavy stone tiles. He placed each into one of the slots of the box, precisely where the bone had broken originally. She clenched her eyes closed as the brothers nodded to one another. Shaya's gentle hands rested on her shoulders.
"Do you want a warning before each one?" She removed the wood, her eyes still closed, tears rolling down her cheeks.
"No… just do it." She replaced the stick. Shaya nodded to his twin and Ayash lifted the first stone tile to the rim of the box, before taking a deep breath and ramming it down with all his strength. The sound of the crack was clean and sharp. She didn't even scream, she just went limp, her head falling against the table as she blacked out.
/. /. /
His eyes snapped open and panic met him immediately. He was deep under water, heavy chains were wrapped around him and his lungs were bursting. He began to struggle in the chains when a soft, pale golden glow appeared, Yue in the midst of it. She laid a hand on his chest and he felt the instant relief of air in his lungs. Both her hands and his worked to undo the tangle of chains. "When you reach the surface, swim to the first direction that you face. You will reach a very small island where you can rest and recuperate your strength and bending abilities."
"What if I swim in the wrong direction?" He spoke before thinking, but no bubbles came from his mouth and his words were just as clear as they would have been on the surface.
"Fate knows where you are supposed to go, and you are supposed to go to the island. No matter what direction you swim, you will be where you are meant to be." She smiled as the last chain slid from around his waist, but he remained, hovering in the deep water just in front of her. "Are you ready to fulfill your destiny?"
"What about Azula's ships? Won't they be waiting?"
"No. They left long ago. You've been dead for hours." He looked down at himself. Not a burn in site. His clothing was nothing more than rags, but he was whole. She gave a small laugh.
"I was able to repair your flesh, but your cloths didn't come out as well." He looked into her ocean colored eyes… just like Katara's…
"…Yes… I'm ready to face my destiny."
She laid her hand on his chest once more and suddenly, the air was gone. "Then swim." He immediately began clawing his way to the surface.
/. /. / EARTH KINGDOM COAST
Smellerbee ghosted a hand over the mans face, tears in her eyes. Longshot stood over her beside the owner of the small boat in which his body rested.
"I'm sorry for your loss. I didn't know she would be so aggressive when she came to take the girl. I… I didn't know she'd kill him… If I'd know, I… I would've never…" The older man went quiet and looked down in shame as Longshot placed a gentle, comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Jet's going to be livid… Ren was his best man…" B spoke softly. She looked up to Longshot. "And who's going to let the twins know? They're living in enemy territory…" She looked down at Ren's face again, trailing a timid finger over the arrow shaft in his throat. "They'll want to be part of the burial ceremony, even if they weren't close after he left them at such a young age. Family is family…"
/. /. / HEADING SOUTH
Katara and Sokka sat opposite one another on Appa's back, neither one speaking as Aang steered the flying bison toward the Southern Water Tribe. Kelyin had tried to start a conversation to lighten the mood, but was met with dead air. Now she sat beside Aang, both of them talking softly to one another, no doubt he was explaining the depth of the situation.
Katara stared off into the horizon behind Appa, the image of a pyre of black smoke permanently ingrained in her vision. She could feel Sokka's eyes burning into her, waiting for her to apologize and explain herself, but she refused to look at him. She couldn't.
/. /. / KYOSHI ISLAND
Mai had rejoined Iroh on the other side of Kyoshi. Being that they didn't know where Zuko was, they thought it best to split up to search. He'd taken the news hard, but now they sat on the beach together, watching the sun set behind where the smoke of Zuko had been. Both were quiet, reminiscing about the tortured young man in their heads and paying last respects to the body they would never be able to lay to rest. A quiet sob racked Mai's body, and Iroh put a gentle arm around her shoulders in silent comfort. So close, so close to everything she'd ever wanted. So close to being with him. Now she was an enemy to one of the young leaders of the Outcasts, carrying his child, with little options of avoiding the situation. The Southern Air Temple was her home. She had to return to her people, but the Council valued Jet's expertise and would never banish him just for attacking her. She did go against orders by searching for Zuko. How would she face them again?
/. /. / FIRE NATION VILLAGE
Ty Lee awoke slowly, feeling groggy as her right arm gave a dull throb. She looked down at it. It was splinted with wood and wrapped tightly to keep the bones straight. She looked around her. She was laying on a mat by the wall, propped up with pillows and cushions to make her comfortable. The twins were sleeping on mats on the floor nearby. Neither had a pillow or a blanket, both sacrificed their comfort for her. A warmth filled her as she looked at the two of them. Both of them were risking their lives to save her from Azula's clutches. Being twins, she was reminded of her sisters, whom she had not seen nor heard from since she'd run off and joined the circus. She sighed, content in the small apartment on her cushioned mat on the floor. Danger seemed so far away. If not for the dull ache of her re-broken arm, it almost seemed like a long nightmare. She smiled and closed her eyes as Ayash let out a snore. Somehow she knew she was home. Everything was okay now. She fell asleep as Shaya mumbled in his sleep, shoving at his brother to turn over and stop snoring.
/. /. /
Zuko dragged himself from the water, his body exhausted from swimming. He collapsed on the warm sand of the beach, breathing heavily as his limbs sent screaming messages to his brain. He lay there on his stomach, unable to move, his cheek against the sand, his eyes closed. Air in his lungs had never felt so precious, the feeling of the tiny particles of sand against his skin so important. He'd been dead. Gone from this world, burned and drowned. But here he was, gulping air on a beach of an unknown island. Every gust of wind through his damp hair was suddenly vital. He heard a gasp, followed by the sound of a glass breaking. He looked up, slowly pushing himself up. His good eye widened and his face went slack as he took in the persons face, a broken bowl at their feet.
/. /. / POST SCRIPT AUTHORS NOTE
P.S.A.N. : Well, this is it. The last chapter of the Final Scar. After 234 reviews, visits/hits from 32 countries, 106 favs, 218 alerts, and 36,394 words, it's over . . . until the first chapter of 'A Single Drop Among the Waves' which will start September 17, 2010. I cannot thank all of you enough for reading my work and leaving SO much feedback. I eat your reviews like candy and I love you all so much for taking the time to leave them.