A/N: After writing "In Love, Death, and Life", and "Toph on Ice", I felt that Aang's story needed to be touched upon. TTAvatarfan wrote a fantastic short story about Aang's stay in the Fire Nation hold, but I needed to write my own to get the ideas out of my head.
EDIT: 9-24-07 Yay for stylistic rewrites!
Rated T for violence. Yay violence!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
In the beginning, he hadn't been sure what to expect. As they stood there in the center of a large hall, he was filled with a fear that he had never known before; it wasn't the 'fear of heights' fear, or even the 'I have to let Katara go to save us all' fear—it was pure, genuine fear for the lives of his comrades and for his own life. Sokka, who had heard of Toph's destination, gave her his heavy parka with a word of comfort before she was carted off to some sort of ice chamber. Katara grabbed Aang roughly by the arm and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug, whispering words of encouragement and warning into his ear.
"Don't worry, Aang, we'll get out of here," she murmured. His hands shook as he wrapped them around her waist and held her tight. "Do whatever you have to, and we'll get out of here."
Aang shook his head, fighting to keep back a bout of tears. "I don't know what I can do, Katara. You know what they said: if I do anything to escape, they'll kill you—all of you!"
"I know, I know. But promise me one thing."
At this, Katara pulled away from the hug and held Aang's shoulders at arm's length. "Don't give up hope," she said, her voice solemn and shaking. "If you give up hope, we'll never make it out of here alive. Toph's already been taken away to an ice chamber, and Sokka and I are going to be locked up somewhere else." She chanced a glance around the room to make sure that the guards weren't listening, then added in a low voice, "Appa and Momo are going to be treated as respectable creatures for the reason that you need them in order to fight, so for now we just need to worry about us. When the time is right, we'll get out of here. Okay?"
Even after Katara's words of comfort, the tug of worry and fear wouldn't let him feel safe. Nevertheless, he nodded once for Katara's sake. Two tears slipped from her eyes and she pulled him close again, both he and she willing themselves not to cry. Somehow, he told himself, they would get out of this terrible place.
All sorts of training equipment lined the walls and floors. The room was enormous—a training center with a ceiling that seemed to reach skyward—and standing in the center of it all was a middle-aged man. He had a short beard, a long, thin moustache, and long, black hair that had been pulled back into a topknot. His Fire Nation armor complimented the faint trace of a smirk etched upon his angled face.
"Hello, Avatar," he greeted Aang, voice rasping and low.
Aang, who had abandoned his shirt at the door, bowed low, his hands clasped together. "It is an honor, master Huo," he said. "I look forward to training with you."
"Yes, I thought you would," Hue replied airily, "Especially since we have your friends in custody." The man strode forward and began to circle Aang, his hands behind his back. "You look younger than I expected. Scrawnier. Tell me, Avatar: have you yet attempted to Firebend?"
The memory of Katara's pained cry echoed through Aang's mind like a gong. He closed his eyes and answered, "To no avail, sir." Best to be professional with these guys, he thought.
"No avail, you say?" Aang nodded in confirmation with the mandatory "Yes, sir". Huo stopped behind Aang, raised his fist into the air, and created a Fire Whip in one swift motion. The next thing Aang knew, he was on his knees and gasping in pain. Heat, striking him with the force of a heavy chain, had come in contact with his bare back and knocked him to his face.
"There is no such thing as 'no avail' here, Avatar," Huo warned. With a flick of his wrist, the Fire Whip came at Aang again and, when he raised an arm to shield his face, struck him just below the collar bone. "We will begin training immediately, so that you will be ready to fight for the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun. Now get up! You are going to wish you had never questioned the Fire Nation."
Wincing, Aang scrambled to his feet and touched the spot where the whip had come in contact with his chest. His fingers were coated with a thin layer of blood.
I have to get out of here, he thought desperately as he straightened up and wiped the blood on his wind pants.
On one particularly hot day, the guard took Aang out of his cell and led him down a corridor of metal. He looked around, anxious, for he wasn't sure where he was being taken. In order to get to Huo's training center, he would usually go outside and walk along this side of the building, flanked on either side by guards and occasionally Huo himself, if the man felt like going. So, while he had been outside this part of the building many times, he had never been down this particular road. Aang grew wary, casting anxious looks about until—
Standing there, gripping the bars to her cell, tired-looking but clearly alive, was Katara. Aang gasped in surprise and, ignoring the aching pains that ran through his body at the unexpected exertion, darted over to where she stood. He hugged her through the cell bars as tight as he could possibly manage.
"Katara! Sokka! Are you guys okay?" he asked. His eyes darted from Sokka to Katara, both of whom appeared just as tired upon second glance as they had the first.
"I should be asking you," replied Katara breathlessly. She reached up and took his head in her hands. "You look so tired," she breathed. "And what's this from?"
Aang tried not to wince as her too-cool thumb ran over the swollen, burned cut where one of Huo's Fire Whips had come in contact with his face. As painful as her touch was, it was still the most soothing thing he'd felt in a long time.
"Just a scratch," he answered, his voice as close to nonchalant as possible. "Master Huo's been teaching me lots of stuff."
"And they've been treating you okay?" She shot a mistrustful look at the guards who had accompanied him. Neither moved the slightest bit.
Aang nodded and lied, "It's like a vacation." Oh, how he hoped he looked convincing. He'd even put on a fake smile! Somehow he felt that the burn on his face gave him away—he hadn't seen his own reflection since before they had been captured a few days ago.
Sokka's head appeared over Katara's shoulder, his expression skeptical. "You getting enough food?" he asked. Again Aang nodded. "Have you heard anything about Toph?"
"No," Aang replied solemnly, shaking his head, "I haven't heard anything. I'm sure she's fine, though; it's Toph, remember?"
Sokka shrugged, still clearly unsure. And Aang couldn't blame him in the slightest.
A few minutes later, Aang hugged each of them one last time before he was escorted away again. As he and the guards walked back towards his cell, his plastered smile began to fade into a frown.
That had been over two weeks ago. In addition, it had been almost two weeks since his last 'real' meal. Aang lay on the cold, dusty floor of his cell and tried to ignore the constant growling of his stomach. Whenever he could, he slept; it was a way to pass the time. Days and hours and minutes seemed to melt together, and the only means he had of remembering the days was by marking the wall with a piece of chalk. On the other hand, he also knew that he was probably marking the same day several times.
The cell door opened and a flickering light fell across Aang's legs. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and pretended that the guard wasn't there.
Aang said nothing in response. This particular guard was usually the one that picked on him the most; a cruel brute with a knack for harsh words. When the guard heard no answer, he walked into the cell and kicked Aang in the small of the back. A sharp gasp escaped the Avatar, surprising him into reacting.
"I said are you hungry, Avatar? Do not ignore me!"
"Yes," responded Aang through clenched teeth. No matter what, he was determined not to break. "Could I please have something to eat?"
Laughing, the guard reached into his pocket and took out a biscuit. He let it drop to the floor, where it bounced and rolled over like a rock. Next, the guard grabbed Aang's empty canteen off of a nail on the wall and replaced it with a different one; Aang knew all too well that the large container was less than half full—a quarter at most. His empty stomach lurched painfully.
"Enjoy your meal," the guard snapped, and then he was gone.
Once the guard's echoing footsteps had vanished, Aang scrambled to his aching knees and shuffled across the ground. He snatched up the stale, overcooked lump of bread and wolfed it down in a matter of seconds. Then he took a sip from his canteen (which was filled, as he had suspected, with hardly any water at all), and hung it back on the wall for safekeeping. He would need it later, after he trained with the despicable master Huo. Of course, he hadn't been doing very much training.
Aang laughed a bitter, raspy laugh and curled up on the floor again. Thus far, he hadn't even tried to Firebend. First of all, he was afraid of doing so, even with Katara locked safely—if 'safe' was the word for it—in a cell and away from harm. The other problem was that he had no desire to learn from any Firebender who planned on using his talents for evil. If Aang learned from Huo, then he would have a debt to him, and the last thing he needed was a debt. Score one for the Avatar, negative five for the Fire Nation.
Yes, he was trapped at the moment. He had made a promise to fight for the Fire Nation if they spared the lives of his comrades, but he still had hope of escaping. The only question was how. If Toph were in a metal cell like the rest of them, they'd have escaped a week ago. But alas, she had been detained in a cell made of ice and water so that she could not Earthbend at all. Katara, as far as he knew, was locked up with Sokka in a plain cell, with only enough water to drink so that Katara couldn't try to escape.
An hour later, the guard came back and escorted him to the training facility, where master Huo bossed him around for hours on end, leaving him exhausted, hungry, and overworked at the end of the day.
"Avatar, I have news for you."
Aang sat up in his cell and turned his gray eyes to the guard, whose malicious grin told him that he was about to hear ill news. Perhaps even literally. His stomach gave a low growl.
"Princess Azula has informed us that our facilities are receiving a budget cut," said the guard, cracking his knuckles in a businesslike manner. "Do you know what that means?"
Aang shook his head, unsure if he really wanted to know what it meant.
"It means," the guard continued, "that food rations are going to be cut for your friends. And you know something?" A low chuckle escaped him, and he allowed himself a moment of pleasant reminiscing before he finished, "Your Waterbending friend seems to have come down with something. I imagine that—"
Katara. Aang didn't hear the last of the guard's words, because he leapt to his feet and stumbled forward.
"Don't cut her rations!" pleaded Aang, dropping to his knees in front of the guard. "Don't cut any of their rations! Cut—cut mine instead."
The guard's eyebrows shot up. "You do realize that that means your meals would be cut by roughly… fifty percent?"
Ignoring the grumbling of his stomach and the plummeting of his heart, Aang bowed his head. For Katara. "Yes."
"What was that, Avatar?"
Aang raised his head. "Yes," he repeated, quietly. "Cut my ration. Do what you have to—just make she gets enough to eat."
After a moment of silence, the guard nodded and left, locking the door behind him. Aang dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands.
"What am I going to do?" he whispered into his hands. "I can't keep training like this, and with half the rations I'll be lucky to make it a month." He let himself fall backwards and pulled his shirt over his face. His words were both muffled and desperate. "I'm going to die here."
What had once been his only refuge was quickly turning into a nightmare to match his days. Even sleep was painful now—full of tossing and turning, terrible dreams, and half consciousness. For that reason, Aang wasn't quite sure if he was awake when a guard came to the door; it was a guard that he had never met in the past.
"Psst… Avatar Aang, wake up."
With a soft groan, Aang rolled over on the floor and turned his head to the doorway. Standing there was a man clad in the guard's uniform, but Aang had never seen this man before.
"What's happening?" asked Aang. He looked up at his small window and saw that it was still night, and a cold one at that. "Am I training again?"
The guard shook his head and opened the door. He stepped into the cell, and Aang saw that he was carrying a box. "My name is Guy. I brought you something."
"… Brought me something?" Aang couldn't help but feel suspicious about the kindness in this new man's voice. For a boy who had once trusted everyone, Aang noticed, this was a big change; the Fire Nation had already begun to harden him.
Nodding, Guy got to the floor in front of Aang and placed the box between them. "I realized that the Avatar is the world's last chance for peace. I don't agree with what they're doing here. After I heard what you did to keep your friends from going hungry, I decided that I would help. If I could, I would break you out of here, but that's not really an option at the moment. For now, this is all I have to offer."
Guy opened the box and Aang saw, to his surprise and delight, that it was filled with—
"Food!" he gasped, and snatched up the giant loaf of bread. Without thinking twice, he crammed a large bite into his mouth and gobbled it down without stopping to savor the taste.
As Aang continued to eat with growing gusto, Guy looked on with a sad smile. "I was going to bring meat as well, but I spoke to your Water Tribe friend, and she told me that you're a vegetarian."
Aang choked on his mouthful of food at the words "Water Tribe". He forced himself to swallow, and then gasped, "You spoke to Katara? Is she okay? What about Sokka? And Toph! Have you seen her?"
The man held up his hands and answered, "Now, now, young Avatar, don't worry. Your friends are fine—a little hungry and worried, yes, but fine. I haven't spoken to the Earthbender personally, but the guard of her cell said that she was very… interesting… to look after. He had quite the bump on his head, and I presume that she threw something at him.
Heart swelling with pride, Aang took a deep breath to keep tears from rising to his eyes. He finished the last of the food, closed the box, and handed it to the guard. "Thank you," he said. "You don't know how much you helped me – by both bringing food and assuring me that my friends are okay."
Guy took the box, smiled, and stood up. "I should be thanking you, Avatar," he replied, bowing. "You have given me hope that the world can one day be restored to balance." In two steps, the young guard crossed the room and opened the cell door again. "I'll return again tomorrow night; you should not have to starve on my county's behalf."
"Thank you, Guy."
He never had the chance to return. The next morning, a group of guards came to Aang's cell, shackled his hands and feet, and brought him to a room that he had never seen before. It was big and empty except for a chair, upon which sat Guy, surrounded by several Fire Nation guards. Aang's felt his mouth run dry in horror, his vision blue for a moment. One of his escorts had to reach out and grab his upper arm to keep him from toppling over when his knees gave out from beneath him.
"Avatar, this is what happens when you double-cross the Fire Nation," said the guard that gripped his shoulder.
The look on Guy's face—one of terror and hate—was enough to let Aang know exactly what was going to happen. He turned around to face the stern guard.
"Please," he begged, twisting his hands around his back, struggling with the iron shackles that held him, "don't hurt him! He had nothing to do with it, I swear! Leave him alone!"
Ignoring Aang completely, the guard turned to face the other guards. "Men, proceed."
Aang made to run forward, but three pairs of hands grabbed him and held him back. One of the guards began to move swiftly toward Guy, creating a Fire Whip in one hand as he strode. Another man conjured two large flames in the palm of his hand and, in unison, brought them to Guy's chest.
Two screams erupted in the room, though Aang wasn't quite aware that his body had taken action on its own. He wanted to close his eyes, to block out the horrifying images, but he couldn't. All the while, he continued to struggle against the guards, knowing that he could do nothing even if he tried; he was too weak to Bend now, too weak to fight, and it was killing both he and the only man who had shown kindness to him.
When it was over, and once Guy's limp, burned body had been dragged from the room, the guard restraining Aang forced him roughly to the ground. Aang gasped as his knees came in contact with the solid metal and the shock ran up through his entire body. In a second, the guards were on him, holding him down against the dirty floor.
"Now, Avatar, it's your turn," the guard growled, picking his head up off the floor by his collar. Aang gagged, black lights dancing before his eyes. "We know all about the little gift you received last night, and you're about to give it back."
That night, when Aang was thrown bodily back into his cell with his mouth tasting of vomit and blood, he wept for the first time since he'd arrived at the Fire Nation hold.
It would not be his last time.
Time passed. Lessons with Huo became just short of torture, what with Aang's 'inability' to Firebend. He became weaker and weaker with each passing day from lack of food and drink, and punishment for doing poorly in lessons was less food. Often times he awoke in the middle of the night, crying out for salvation from this nightmare that had become his life. When he sat alone in his cell, his thoughts drifted to Katara more than ever. Had she found out about the sacrifice he'd made to keep her from getting less food? He hoped not, and didn't plan on telling her if he made it out of here alive.
The word 'if' had become more prominent in his life than ever before, and he had only been in the Hold for three weeks. To a healthy, happy person, three weeks would pass with speed. To Aang, however, each day was a year, and three weeks was more than a lifetime.
On the third day of the fourth week, Aang sat in the corner of his cell with his arms wrapped around his legs. The room spun around him in a swirl of dull color and grimy walls. He reached up and ran a hand over his head, feeling the short hair that had begun to grow; the guards had forbidden him from having and sharp objects, including the tools he had used the shave. Whether it was to keep him from hurting them or to keep him from ending his own suffering, he wasn't sure.
Besides, Aang knew that suicide would never be an option for him even if he'd wanted it—which, quite frankly, he didn't. He had a job he had to do, if and when he got out of this place. But for now, he had to keep from falling asleep. The room continued to spin, making him dizzy and nauseous. A twisting nausea whirled in the pit of his empty stomach. His eyelids drooped and he fought to keep them open—
And then, suddenly, he awoke. Where he was, he wasn't quite sure, but he soon realized that he was not in his cell. In fact, he noticed with the most displeasure, he was in the same room where they'd tortured and killed Guy—in the same chair, even. He was in the same room where they had induced his vomiting until his stomach had been completely empty. This, Aang knew, meant that he was, once again, in for something that he would most likely not enjoy.
The door opened and a man strode in. He had sideburns large enough to bring Admiral Zhao to mind, and a sneer worthy of Azula. The combination was, to no surprise, unnerving.
"You've fallen ill, young Avatar," he said. His voice was smooth like silk, but harsh like a Fire Whip on bare skin.
Sick? Aang's heartbeat sped up.
"Your guards found you unconscious in your cell," the man continued. He crossed the room and stopped in front of Aang's chair. Aang leaned back a little. The man brought his face close to Aang's and muttered, "Poor boy, you must feel so… terrible. Just terrible. I feel terrible just thinking about it. So I want to help. I'm a doctor."
The stale smell of alcohol made Aang wince. This man, this 'doctor', had been drinking. And no matter what this 'doctor' had in mind, Aang couldn't help but wish that he was strong enough to Bend.
Defensively. Just in case.
"I think I'm okay," Aang hastily answered, wincing and moving his head farther away from the man. He was surprised at how raspy his own voice sounded. "I feel great!"
As fate would have it, a scratchy feeling rose in Aang's throat at made him cough. The doctor smiled a knowing smile and stepped back far enough for Aang to get a breath of fresh air.
"You'll notice, young Avatar, that your hands are locked up nice and tight—your ankles, too."
Aang clenched his fists. They were shackled securely to the chair. "I noticed," he answered, trying to smirk and failing.
"You know why, young Avatar?"
Aang did nothing.
"It's to keep you from hurting yourself. You wouldn't want to hurt yourself, young Avatar, would you?"
If he heard 'young Avatar' one more time, Aang thought that he was likely to scream. Then, something happened that did almost make him scream. The doctor reached into his back pocket and pulled out a long knife. The man ran his fingers along the edge with a loving grin, as if it were a friend of his, or a trophy he'd won in a pie-eating contest as a kid. That twisting nausea erupted once again in Aang's stomach. He was surely going to be sick. Before he knew what had happened, Aang began rocking furiously in his chair, empowered my adrenaline. He couldn't Bend, no, but that crazy old man was going to have one heck of a struggle trying to dice this young Avatar up.
The man laughed and grabbed the front of Aang's shirt, raising chair and all into the air as if it were nothing.
"Now now, young Avatar, I don't want to kill you," the doctor warned, sounding like a man chastising a boy for breaking the house rules. "Now stop struggling or this knife will end up in your throat. Understand?"
Two tears welled up in Aang's eyes and slipped down his face and neck. He didn't want to die, not now. He still had a war to end, the elements to master, and a confession to make to the only woman he'd ever loved. Eyes clamped shut, he felt rather than saw the chair make contact with the ground again and the grip loosen on his shirt. Then, a click followed and his left arm was released from its shackle. Aang opened his eyes.
"What are you going to do to me?" he asked, his expression hard but his voice weak. Never in his life, not even when he had been locked up in Zhao's tower, had he ever been so certain that this was the end.
"Please," he pleaded, "don't kill me. I have to—to finish what I started." He took a deep breath. "Please."
The man took Aang's left arm and lightly traced the knife's tip up the length of his arm's underside. "I'm not going to kill you," he said pleasantly. He took his eyes away from his knife and set them on Aang's tearstained face. "You're ill. And do you know the old remedy for curing an illness?"
Aang's breath hitched in his throat as a searing pain erupted at the crook of his arm. He looked down to see a red liquid beginning to ooze from his skin. Horrified, he fought the creeping faintness and turned his eyes back to the crazy man who'd done this to him. Two more tears splashed down his stained shirt.
The man offered Aang an insane, crooked smile and whispered, "Bleeding."
The last days were nothing more than a blur to Aang. Time became nothing more than a way to schedule the torture of pointless training and receiving food that tasted like dust. Water became little less than a lifeline; a memory of what once had been life. The last few days were ones in which Aang, sicker than ever before despite—and possibly because of—the 'treatment' that the crazy old man had given him, had to be bodily lifted off the ground each morning and half-dragged to the training center. And it was here where the last real occurrence took place.
It was hot. Aang licked his dry, cracked lips and squinted in an attempt to see the looming training center up ahead. How many times had he taken this trip now? It felt to him like it must have been a hundred. And to think, it had only been a day or two short of a month. The caked, dry sand underneath his bare feet told Aang that it was midday, and a hot one at—
Shouts echoed all around him, from every direction, and suddenly Aang found that he was no longer standing. Somehow he had ended up on his hands and knees, and he had no idea how he'd gotten there.
Then, the booming voice of Huo broke through his confusion. "On your feet!"
Aang closed his eyes and tried to obey before the man could break out the Fire Whips, but the combination of illness, lack of food, and insufficient water had finally drained him completely. The bandage around his arm made his shoulder throb in an ominous manner.
"I can't…" It was all he managed to whisper.
"I said UP!" Huo's foot connected with Aang's bare side, sending him flying backwards in the dirt. Several of the other men laughed. "I thought the Avatar was supposed to have incredible strength," the master spat.
Aang picked his head up off the ground and glared at Huo, his vision spinning yet again. "The Avatar needs food, just like everybody else!" he countered loudly. It hurt to speak, and yet he had just done so. He had never spoken out against his master before.
And, of course, Huo did not take the outburst well. As predicted, the man created a whip of fire and lashed out at Aang with a yell of rage.
Aang stirred on the ground a few moments later, still unable to get up. He could feel the hot burn of the whip, but it was nothing new now. Even the tears that leaked from his eyes were nothing new—not after everything he'd been through. Huo rounded on him again with increasing impatience.
"I will not tell you again, Boy," he growled. "Get up or I'll kill you and all your little friends. Move!" He stomped over to where Aang lay on the ground and gave his ribs another hard kick.
When Aang finally looked up, he did not set his eyes on his cruel master. He looked past him and straight at the outside of the building, where he saw someone who he did not expect to see.
She was somehow boosted up to the window, her hands gripping the bars as she watched him struggle. Her face, thinned but still pretty somehow, was stained with the tracks of fallen tears. The two seconds in which they shared eye contact lit a fire inside his heart that he thought had been doused long ago. Aang broke the eye contact, relieved his face of any expression, and looked up at the angry face of Huo.
"Yes," he whispered, looking not at Huo as he said it, but at Katara, "I can make it."
Huo watched the Avatar for a few moments as he climbed to his feet before giving a grunt of satisfaction. "Good, Avatar; I see that my training has finally gotten to you. Now move along to the training center. Move!"
Aang, hands clasped together behind his back, began to walk.
Shortly after that hot afternoon, though no more than a few days, Aang was awoken once again in his cell. This time, though, it was not by a guard, or Huo, or even a crazy doctor. This time it was Katara, and he had never been happier to see her, though he found himself unable to show it when he tried. She ran across the floor of the cell and dropped down on her knees beside him, covering her mouth with her hand at the sight that met her eyes.
"Come on, Aang," she whispered. As gentle as she was trying to be, her voice was still urgent.
Aang opened his eyes and looked up at her from his spot on the ground. After everything that had happened, she was here. He opened his mouth to speak, but found that the words wouldn't come.
"Come on," she urged him again, placing her hand on his shoulder and shaking it a little. "We're getting Toph, then finding Momo and Appa and getting out of here. Can you get up?"
It took almost all of his strength to shake his head. A few seconds later, the sound of rustling clothing came to his ears, and Sokka appeared in his line of sight. His face was thin and pale, like Katara's, his expression grim. Nevertheless, Sokka set his jaw and lifted Aang off the ground with nothing more than a grunt of enormous effort.
"Up you go, Aang, come on," he said.
Then they ran for it. Aang thought that they must have looked pretty stupid: three kids, one of which was being carried, running as fast as their legs—thin from malnutrition or whatever it was that plagued their bodies—would carry them. How did they know where Toph was, anyway? Somehow Sokka must have figured it out; as the 'plan guy', he must have been making careful observations for quite some time.
Finally they reached Toph's ice chamber. Katara Bended some of the water from the chamber and used it to take out the guard before he had time to give a shout. After placing Aang on the ground, Sokka took the guard's key and opened the cell door. The room was a pool of water, except for a small ice sheet in the center, where Toph lay.
"Make a path," Sokka said over his shoulder.
Katara nodded and answered, "Make it quick, Sokka—I don't know how long I can hold it for."
Sokka nodded and, once Katara had moved the water to make a path and some steps, darted across the floor, up the steps, and dropped to his knees in front of Toph. Aang closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he waited. As much as he wanted to know that Toph was all right, he knew that he would need to carry himself for the rest of their escape; having Sokka carry him would weigh the group down far too much. He needed, therefore, to rest while he still could. The very thought of escape seemed to lull his buzzing mind.
Once Toph and Sokka had reached the main platform, Katara let the water splash back into place. Toph Bended a cage around the guard, more likely just for the sake of Bending rather than as a precaution ("Ground!" She exclaimed, stomping her feet. "Beautiful ground! Feel like I can see for the first time!").
"Yeah, that's great and all, but we really have to go," Sokka informed her, grabbing her wrist and beginning down the hall with a speed that Aang, in his state, could never have achieved.
Katara got down on her haunches in front of Aang, who was propped up against the wall like a rag doll, and helped him to his feet. "Come on, Aang, you can do this," Katara whispered calmly, though an urgency was riddling every word.
With a last deep breath, Aang nodded and they began running down the hall, still unnoticed by the guards. He hoped that the guards didn't realize that they were missing until long after they had flown away. He was too weak to fight, and too tired to go through all of this again. For now, they needed to escape and get something to eat. Maybe afterwards he would have Katara heal his arm, and then he would get back on schedule with his Bending training—he had, after all, fallen way behind in the month that he had been held prisoner in this terrible place.
But right now, even the war seemed a million years away. Food itself seemed like the second-best thing in the world right then. As Aang struggled to keep up with the others, Katara holding his hand all the way, he couldn't help but feel that soaring feeling that only comes with one brilliant, long-awaited word:
A/N: To be honest, I was really pumped while writing this story. But after I proofread it, I decided that I don't like it very much. Sometimes my writing style gets on my nerves. I don't know what about it that I don't like, exactly, but it just doesn't excite me like some styles do. Oh well. D:
Thanks for reading!