Author's Notes: How's Nightmares and Daydreams for an episode? Instead of a crazy Toph/Sokka like Aang was in this episode, I went for dark. Because angst makes the world go 'round, yes?
Ten to Three
9. Mind Shadows
She dreams in darkness.
Her sleep is empty, void of color, or shape, or depth. She dreams how she sees, only more and less.
There are no sounds in her nightmares, no screaming or pleading (but that just makes it worse). There are no vibrations, showing her people or things. There is nothing to her dreams to suggest they are dreams, because her dreams are nothing more than darkness.
But in her dreams, she feels.
The screaming (the pleading, and her name, over and over again) rips through her soul as if his lips were pressed against her ear, though silence is all she can hear. His voice rattles and echoes inside of her, like the lingering vibrations of an earthquake.
She can feel, with stunning accuracy, the fire that bites into his skin as if it were her very own. She cries for him and with him and for herself as flesh chars and how she knows she doesn't understand but all she can feel and see and comprehend is his pain as it racks her body.
And all the while her useless self watches in horror as the Firebender (she can sense his revulsion, his terror, his regret) moves to the next enemy soldier and unleashes a suffocating handful of fire.
His heart is slowing in her chest but for all her will, her legs won't move. Her name, falling from his desperate lips, constricts her lungs, no matter how silent it may be.
He dies in front of her, as silent and empty as her dreams.
He dreams of darkness.
His sleep is filled with color, and sound, and touch. He dreams how he sees, only more and less.
There is color in his nightmares, but it is pallid, and faded, and tinted a washed-out orange. There is sound, but his ears are covered in cotton and he understands more than he listens. There is touch, but it is hidden under invisible layers of unmovable cloth, almost reaching but never quite there.
He dreams in an apathetic fog.
Her voice, smothered by incomprehensible boundaries, crying for him, desperate for him, reaches for his heart but cannot succeed. Underneath, shrouded like sound, nearly but not quite, he can feel his heart ready to burst, longing and pained. But like sound, sight, everything, it is enveloped by the fog and leaves him confused and cold.
He can see her, in front of him, her body marked by fire, her clothes burned to her skin. He can see her in this pale, fuzzy world and his heart plucks a sympathetic note for her that quickly fades into silence. She cries for him, frantically, but he remains unmoved.
Slowly, her shouts fade and her head drops limply to the ground.
Pain, sharp, fast, sudden, fierce, relentless, pain and sadness and grief and regret hit him like his heart shattering a thousand times, until he can't think but for that all-encompassing pain that came a moment too late.
It overwhelms and presses in, blinding, drowning, and all the while a grey fog rolls out from over the sun.
The next morning, no one says a word.
She doesn't mention how she lay for an hour, listening, feeling, sensing his steady heart beating comfort back into her bones until she could pull her hands from the ground and open her eyes. She doesn't mention how she will listen, enthralled, to every world he will say, so that she can tuck it away and never be forced into endless silence again.
He doesn't mention how he lay in his sleeping bag and wept his eyes dry, swearing never to ignore her, or to only pretend to care, or to disregard her words. He doesn't mention how he will follow her into battle and keep her always in the corner of his eye, lest she disappear from view and never be seen again.
Before the invasion, they embrace.
Her hands grasp fistfuls of blue cloth and tighten until her fingers ache. His arms encircle her and squeeze until he fears she can't breathe.
They both wipe away half-fallen tears and walk into battle with assurance.
After all, dreams don't always become reality (they pray).