The river's ebb stroked Suki's bare feet. She tried to imagine that the little river was the ocean that surrounded her island home. She saw a small fish jump and imagined it to be the fierce Unagi. She closed her eyes and tried to take herself back to that time before – before she met Azula, before she was imprisoned, before she had this great void inside of her.
She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her head atop them. A single, silent tear slid from her eye, dripped from her cheek to her knee, and made its way down her bare leg to her foot where it was washed away, down the river.
A half an hour passed in delicate silence with Suki gazing out across the water, her thoughts churning in her mind. She heard Katara's voice in the distance, calling everyone together. Dinner time. Suki stood and bent over the river, splashing a bit of water over her face. She moved to the red heap of clothing that made up her outfit – Katara had gone into a fire Nation village and bought it for her. Katara didn't know why Suki had asked for something that covered her midriff – not in this heat – but Katara hadn't seen the scar.
Standing before the river in her white undergarments, the evil red scar was highly visible. It smiled viciously across her stomach, covering six inches of skin above her navel. It hugged her all the way around, clawing its way across her back. Suki didn't want anyone to see it.
She pulled her red clothes on and headed away from her stream sanctuary.
As usual, the meal was rather quiet. They were an awkward new group – Zuko was not yet trusted, and he was always being watched out of the corners of the others' eyes. Haru was quiet, most likely thinking about his father – as he always was. The Duke was silently pushing his soup around in his bowl, flipping the vegetables over and over with his spoon. Katara was keeping an eye on everyone and everything, playing the protective mother in the group. Aang was immersed in thought, staring at the ground without seeing it. Teo fiddled with his goggles. Zuko didn't look at anyone, but stared at his bowl – he didn't want to see the looks the others were giving him. As Suki sat beside Sokka he asked her softly, "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," Suki said. She saw Toph shift and put a hand on the ground in a single subtle movement. Toph knew she was lying. They all knew. Ever since they'd rescued her, they saw that Suki had changed. That something was not quite right.
The truth was, nothing was quite right.
Although the others were kind and understanding, Suki felt isolated – as though she might as well still be in prison. She had been rescued, but that didn't make her free. She had suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of her captors but was too proud to admit – even to herself – that she had been hurt. She tried to brave it alone. It tore her apart.
She longed to be one of them – whose smile did not mask pain, who laughed freely, who had not been damaged as she had. She ached with the wanting. She thought she knew now how the ocean felt – always chasing the moon but never able to reach it. She was slowly and silently drowning in her pain, collapsing into the emptiness that filled her - and she didn't know how to stop it.
After dinner Suki went off to be by herself again. She stood at the edge of the river and watched the sky paint itself the colors of the sunset. But the sun did not seem to be consumed by the darkness, but rather it let the darkness slide into its place – it embraced the darkness. How could she embrace the darkness inside of herself? The pain? The loneliness? The sorrow? The fear?
She didn't know. She turned her back to the sunset. She could never be like that. She retreated into the forest where the darkness shrouded her, but she did not acknowledge it. And she did the same internally, retreating inside of herself, ignoring the void. The result was that Suki became hollow. She went through the empty motions of day-to-day life, floating but not really feeling. Her depression deepened, taking control of the deepest recesses of her heart. Soon, it would destroy her.