Title: Completing the Cycle
Author: Candyland
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender: A bald kid with some really weird tattoos is the world's best hope for survival. Oh, and don't mess with the girls. They will kick your ass. I don't own it!
Wordcount: 1201
Taunt: My fandom has animals that defy physics!


She is the most powerful Waterbender at the South Pole, a status befitting the only Waterbending Master there. And she throws herself into her duties as such without a hesitation, sometimes going so far as to forget to eat or sleep in favor of training, practice, or meditation.

Her students ask her why she continues to practice so much when she obviously knows so much of the art. She tells them that the truly wise are those who never let themselves believe that they know everything, and so the true Masters are the ones who continue to search for ways to better their skills. Then she puts them back to work.

She is a stern teacher, demanding but kind. Her students respect and adore her, and take her teachings to heart as she passes on the ancient Waterbending art to them. Under her tutelage, they learn to make the best possible use of their powers, no matter the level. After all, she tells them, there have been situations where a Bender of little power but superior training has been able to take down a Bender of great power but poor training.

This is the village where she was born and grew up. She is known by all here, and trusted and respected by all. Many come to her for help with their problems, and they are never turned away. But the most frequent calls for her aid come from the village doctor and the midwife.

For she has a power, an ability intertwined with her Waterbending abilities. She has the gift of healing, and she will use it to help those who are injured or suffering. Her talents have saved many lives.

Some have asked why she spends so much time doing such things. There is nothing for her to give back, is there? She has already done more in her young life than most people have accomplished in lives twice as long. She has helped to save the world. Why doesn't she relax a little and enjoy her life?

She smiles and tells them that since she has this gift, she should use it to its fullest advantage. Sitting by idly while people are suffering is not her way. And she has reasons to be thankful as well, she says. She has seen the world and known true adventure, where so many do not. This is her way of thanking the gods for that blessing. Most accept this, sometimes with a laugh, and are satisfied.

These reasons are all true. She trains the new Benders because she is a Master, and it is her desire and her duty to make certain that the art is passed down to the next generation and so stays alive.

What she does not say aloud, though, is that she also does this as penance. She uses her magic in this way because of the one person she could not save. At the most crucial moment, she failed. And so each injury she heals is another step towards forgiveness; each life she saves is another step towards an absolution she sometimes thinks she will never truly allow herself.

But that is why she is here now. The midwife's apprentice came to her door, begging for help. A young woman was about to give birth, the girl told her, and there were signs that something was wrong. Her skills might be needed to save the mother's life. She dismisses the student she is working with, telling him to continue his exercises on his own, and rushes to the midwife's tent.

She recognizes the woman in labor. She is young and a new mother; this is her first child. The poor girl is screaming in pain as she tries to deliver her baby. Immediately, she sees signs that the midwife's diagnosis was correct. She has not been formally trained herself, but assisting in this fashion has allowed her to acquire a few skills, and so she recognizes that there are complications.

The apprentice is sent to bring more water, and she rolls up her sleeves and prepares herself. Her skills will be needed now to save this woman and her child. The midwife allows her. They have done this several times, and both know what the other needs to work quickly and effectively.

As the crucial moment approaches, she Bends water and waits. At last, the mother lets out a final scream and the baby is born. She moves immediately, using the water and her own special gift to make certain the young woman is safe. As she does this, the new mother slumps back to the floor, exhausted, but no longer in pain and no longer in danger.

She turns to the midwife, but it seems that the baby is fine. The newborn is a healthy baby boy; he cries robustly as the blood is washed away. She sits back, pleased, and watches as the midwife and her apprentice wrap the newborn in a blanket and pass him to his mother.

After a moment, she asks if she might see the child. It always makes her happy to see the newborns. They are innocent, completely untainted by the world. That purity is priceless, yet far too short lived.

The mother knows her, and gratefully hands the infant back to the midwife, who passes the wailing child into her waiting arms. She cradles him with practiced care and takes a good look at him. Her first impression is that he is, of course, a handsome boy, as most are.

Her second impression is that his eyes are wide open—unusual for one only minutes old.

And something about those eyes gives her pause. She takes a closer look.

And for a moment, she sees something behind those eyes. A flash of something that she cannot name. Is it simply the wonder of a newborn at the world around him? Or was it…

Recognition?

She felt herself start to shake slightly as she brought the baby closer, and whispered a name. "…Aang?"

The baby stops crying and stares at her with a fascination unlike anything she has ever seen in a child this young. One small hand flails at her slightly, as though trying to grab onto her hair. As she watches, she remembers the cycle as it has been repeated for centuries upon centuries.

Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

The Avatar cycle. And the last Avatar was born of the Air Nomads, the only survivor of that decimated people. Which meant that by the cycle, the new Avatar should be…

Staring into eyes that looked so much like those of the friend she had been too late to save, faced with an infant who did not cry, but seemed to recognize her…

She would train this child when he came of age. She would teach him the ways of the Waterbending. She would make him the Master that he was destined to be, and once again do all she could to bring balance to the world. And deep down, she would always know that somewhere, buried deep within that child's heart, was someone very, very dear to her.

Realizing all of this, Katara hangs her head and weeps.