"Okay, so let's see – you'll do the whole giant blobby things first, and then the twirly water dance one, and next will be that whole icicles and giant balls act." Sokka began, gesturing at the paper before him. "Then all of Pakku's students will come in for the finale, you'll do those giant wavy moves and Aang'll light up the stage with his Firebending."

"Still the plan guy, I see," Katara commented, raising an eyebrow at him.

"Okay, okay, I didn't actually come up with it," Sokka grumbled, "But I worked out the details, okay?"
"Okay," his sister replied, still sounding skeptical. "Is that okay with you, Aang?" the waterbender asked, turning to the shivering airbender beside her.

"Yeah, it sounds like a good routine," he chattered, rubbing his hands up and down his arms. "You'd think firebending would keep you warm at a time like this."
"That's because it's supposed to keep you warm, Aang." The young avatar turned around to see Zuko standing there, an exasperated expression on his face. "Iroh taught you the Dragon's Breath; for Agni's sake, don't go and just forget all your lessons!"

"Oh, right," Aang muttered embarrassedly, taking a deep breath and cupping his hands over his mouth. But his attempt at exhaling fire ended in a hacking cough and another bout of shivers.

"Aang," Katara began worriedly, pressing the back of her hand to his heat-radiating forehead, "You're sick."

"But I can't be sick," he protested, eyes wide with concern. "If I don't go, someone else with have to –" the airbender suddenly broke down into a coughing fit that last well over a minute, finally coming up panting, an look of defeat on his face.

"See, you are sick," Katara said firmly, gently beginning to lead Aang away from the stage. "We have to get you back to your quarters."

"Alright, Katara, but first, I –" Aang didn't get to tell her, for half way through his sentence he collapsed upon the waterbender, his face contorting with pain and a feverish look coming into his wild and scared eyes.

"Sokka! Zuko!" Katara yelled, checking her friend's pulse. "Come help me carry Aang. It's worse than I thought."

Through a haze of old memories so deeply buried and half-forgotten nightmares, Aang, with the little energy he had left, was able to wonder dimly, What is this? Am I going to...die?

Then everything disappeared into a sea of blackness.

XXX

"Toph?" Zuko stuck his head into their room, his voice a forced calm.

"What is it, Zuko?" Toph asked wearily, lifting her head up off her hands. "Did the stone blocks get here? I need to bend, now."
"No, it's not that," the firebender replied, his eyes shining with a concern that was unusual for him.

"Well, then, what is it?" Toph asked, annoyed.

"Aang is sick," Zuko burst out.

"He'll get over it," she responded, sinking back down into her chair.

"No, I mean really sick. He has a high fever, he's delirious, and Katara is worried."

"Sugarqueen worries about everyone," Toph replied, obviously untroubled. "Relax, Sparky."

"I'm serious, Toph." Zuko told her, voice solemn. "His condition is awful – trust me, I've seen him. Twinkle Toes could be on his death bed as we speak."
"So, you've adopted his nickname as well, I see," Toph commented before suddenly whipping around her head and saying incredulously, "Death bed? Are you sure?" she asked, already straightening up and snatching her parka from a nearby chair – how she'd known it was there, Zuko didn't know.

"Yes, I'm sure, now come on, Toph – we have to go! Aang…Aang needs you." The Firelord added desperately, already guiding his wife out the door.

"Us," Toph corrected, turning her sightless gaze onto him with chilling accuracy. "Aang needs us."

"Yes," Zuko replied softly, looking directly into her sea-foamy green eyes. "I suppose he does."

And with that, the couple began to hurry down the hall, both wondering desperately if their oldest friend would even last the night.

XXX

"Katara? Are you there?" Toph asked softly as she paused in the doorway of Aang's room. "Zuko and I are here, if you need anything. How's old Twinkle Toes doing?" her attempt at a causal tone came out shaky and afraid; it was obvious Toph was greatly fearful for her former Earthbending pupil. Taking a few steps forward with her husband at her side, Toph sat down quickly in one of the light blue chairs set beside the bed.

"He's…nothings changed," Katara replied, staring at Aang with great intensity, as if she could heal him by sight. The unconscious avatar was tucked tightly into his bed, beads of sweat on his forehead and heat waves coming off of him.

"Maybe…maybe he's just really hot 'cause he's firebending?" Top suggested hopefully, trying to sound like it was at least a possibility.

"No," Zuko answered softly, "That's impossible. Firebending can't do this to you; your body would be hurting itself. It would stop automatically once it got too bad. And Aang's condition has already greatly surpassed 'bad.'"

Toph didn't answer, merely pressed her head to her hands and muttered prayers to the spirits. Zuko began pacing back and forth, his eyes straying to the window and closing after a moment as he contemplated the horrible scene before him.

Only Katara remained still, staring at Aang with an unnerving intensity. Her blue eyes seemed to be glowing as she looked upon the airbender, and Zuko knew that she must be cursing the gods for letting this illness befall her friend.

But Zuko knew that if Aang were to survive, they would need all the help they could get.

Gods included.


In this chapter, the characters took over. It's like they walked off the page and told me what to do. In other words, Aang WANTED to get sick, lol. But...did I bring on his illness too fast?
And...if you don't like this chapter, tell me. Even I'll admit it's a VERY unexpected twist.

So, review and give me feedback!