A sort of follow up to Pandalilies… which if you haven't read, I would recommend it on the grounds that it is awesome. XD Anyway, this is multi-coupled or without couples, inspired mostly by the events from Season 3 (that means spoilers WARNING), and relatively short. Credit to SylverEyes for the challenge of 13. I'm very proud of this and that is why it is presented as a birthday treat. All of the Avatar lovers out there, I hope you can find something you like about this. Reviews are worshipped.
Avatar: The Last Airbender belongs to its respective creators.
10: On Tradition
"Remember that they are an extension of your body."
Discouraged, young amber eyes shimmered. She hurled down her swords with a double CLANG! onto the stone cold palace floor. Her elder shook his head patiently.
"Throwing fits will not make you stronger, Ursa."
"I KNOW THIS! WHY DO I EVEN -BOTHER- LEARNING ANY OF THIS? I'M JUST GOING TO BE STUCK IN THE PALACE ANYWAY BECAUSE OF THIS -STUPID- BETROTHAL TO THAT -STUPID- PRINCE!"
Spent of her anger, the dark-haired girl dropped to her knees, bringing them slowly to her chest and fighting the urge to cry. She would not show anymore dishonor.
The man stared at her evenly with similar yellow-amber eyes.
"You have always been weak. You might as well cry like the child you are. This is all I can do for you, my daughter. Insure that your life will be full of riches and security. I am leaving this world soon and I can no longer take care of you. The elegance of swordsmanship has been passed down in our family for many generations, the blood of our Fire Nation nobles runs through our veins. You were born sickly and female, there is no male heir to learn our tradition. Do you wish to disappoint your Father?"
Trembling with anxiety, the fifteen-year-old rose to her feet and bowed her head respectfully. Repeated the phrase she knew since she began speaking sentences.
"No, Father. I was a failure when I was born. I was not a son. I will not fail you now."
He gestured to her to come forward and turned his blank face (was he even human…?) sideways as she bent down to kiss his newly shaven cheek. That smelled like fragrance. Like sweat.
"Remember that the swords are an extension of your body. They are one, not two." The elder leaned back in his chair, as she retrieved her weapons somberly. "Do not fail me."
"Yes, Father. I was a failure when I was born. I was not a son."
"Yes you were."
A pocket of stale air clenched up in her throat.
Hands shaking, she glanced unsmilingly into the reflection the softly curved metal provided. A glimpse of her visible weakness as a line of wetness formed down her jaw line.
"I will not fail you now."
11: On Feeling
I'm going to kiss you.
I just have to work up the nerve.
I can't imagine what it would feel like; I have no clear images to go on. I could piece together abstractions of what you might feel and smell like.
Like the spice of wood fire, like the softness of wet sand in my hands.
You talk to me idly, the rise and fall of your honest, rich voice make my face and my chest grow hotter.
Little do you know that I crave to hold your face between my palms, to learn the shape of your nose, your delicacy of your eyelashes, the texture of your hair.
My thumbs to touch your lips.
My lips to impact yours.
Would it show you clearly to me for the first time?
I'm going to admit that I love you.
The warrior girl…
Suki's come back to you, your long-awaited arms, and yet it's me that I hope you'll smile to last before the evening ends.
Even if I couldn't see it.
I'm going to smile for you.
On the day you marry her.
Because if I don't…
There will be nothing to prevent me from screaming at you, or myself.
From tasting the tears I've long since hated exposing in my weakness.
So I will smile... this fake, shiny grimace.
You will think it genuine.
According to plan.
12: On Regret
The chill, the heat, the grace of him in all his imaginary particles brings her to an agony never felt by anyone else. It is an agony only a God could have given a mortal.
Filtering a drug-like surrealism, a banshee roaring in already full eardrums, those reaching fingertips hungry for touch.
She gropes for a meaning of it. Always does.
Those who mourn lost lovers claim to be aware of their company: if they visit the living by their bedstead, if they are bound to the Earth eternally to afflict those they had once loved in life.
Without warning any of the guards, she left the palace walls to approach a small meadow outside the Earth Kingdom— empty with whistling grass, a dipping sun-laced horizon— to stand atop a hill.
An ordinary green hill in spring.
Years of rain cleansed his blood from the land.
The whistling meadow held its breath. Like a gunshot, nature exhales; the chill, the heat, the graceful winds immerse everything into turmoil.
As if she controls this rage, her silk-spun sleeved arms will his element to lessen, spreading them straight up out her sides.
Somehow... he finds her.
Finds her to that very spot every time she nears it. He greets her with the enthusiasm of a child, his embrace, the warming breeze cocooning where she suffers in silence.
Violent bursts of wind curl the gold embellished folds of her crimson robe, lingering to free every strand of hair pinned to her head.
Dry kisses sweep across the back of her bare neck to her cheekbone where the barren of his kisses rids her of her released tears.
In the screams of the storm, louder than any mingled sound of war, than any dying last wish...
...is his laughter.
Between her light brown digits, she plucks at the complicated networking of golden threads detailing her kimono.
Brushing her long, painted fingernails against the Fire Nation insignia clinch to the base of her throat.
'What do you think of me now, Aang?'
'What do you think of me now? Seeing me like this? A woman turned to the enemy?'
Interrupting her private reverie comes a small tug on her right sleeve. Glancing downwards, her Majesty addresses the tiny stranger, "What is it, my precious?"
Her youngest daughter smiles uncertainly, small glass-amber eyes shining with all the child-love she could possess for her Mother.
"What are you doing out here alone, Momma?"
"Momma wanted to think for a while, go back inside the palace." She touches her palm into her child's spine sternly. In spite of herself, she smiles at the pout her daughter throws over her shoulder as she runs through the field homeward, dark curls to contrast with the brightness of the sunrise. She begins resembling her father more and more everyday. Slender, aging brown hands begin to shake.
'It should have been your children, Aang.'
13: On Flexibility
"…You're kinda cute."
Pausing between unconsciously calculating the angle to toss his boomerang to where it would most effectively and vulnerably strike her (thus rendering her momentarily powerless from attacking his pressure points— he had been lucky so far) and staring blankly at her innocent smile, the normally perceptive fifteen-year-old boy hesitated.
One of Azula's cronies giggled— not the displeased one with the knives hidden up her sleeves and where else she put them but the cheerful-looking one— and held up a hand to her mouth shyly.
He didn't get what was so funny.
"Shouldn't you be attacking me or something?" he questioned.
"If I really wanted to, I would have done it already, silly." Another girlish giggle. The kind that made his teeth cringe. "Mai and I… oh, that's her over there—" The displeased girl fingering one of her glinting weapons rolled her eyes as the other waved fervently in her direction. "We decided that we want to help you and the Avatar. Oh, and Zuko too."
She added, dropping her voice to a loud whisper and pressing her index finger to her small, tender mouth, "But that's because Mai loves Zuko. Sooo…"
"TY LEE! SHUT UP!"
Without warning, the knife once in Mai's hands found itself sunk deeply into the bark of the five inches above Sokka's forehead. Shrinking slightly from it, the now bug-eyed Water tribe boy watched on as the knife welder marched past to the now frowning girl, scowling as she retrieved her object— not even sparing a apologetic look at the almost victim as she walked off from the duo.
The girl named Ty Lee sighed, clasping a hand over her upper arm uncomfortably. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that."
"Are you serious about helping us defeat the Fire Lord? And Azula? I thought you were her friend. How can I be sure that this isn't so trap set by the Fire Lord's daughter?"
"Are you always so paranoid, silly?" She smiled teasingly. "I can understand you not trusting either of us because we attacked you in the past but you trust Zuko now, don't you? How do you know that Zuko isn't a part of some plan to get at the Avatar?"
He hated to admit it— but she had a point.
"If you can convince Aang, you have my vote." Sokka crossed his arms guardedly, bright blue eyes narrowing as Ty Lee beamed, clapping her hands several times in approval.
"Now you are even cuter!"
An angular brown eyebrow convulsed once. Twice.
"Please stop doing that."
14: On Divinity
Drums shook every molecule in the air.
Vibrancy and splendor of an array of colors and shapes twirled within the barricade of the celebration. He had no idea what these people were celebrating so passionately but— the heat of victory— the humming of curiosity led him into the very wild of the jubilation. Acrobats clad in bizarre gems and hues leapt nimbly in circles around the bonfires in the center of town.
A rainbow, sparkling slipper came an inch or two from smacking his ear and he backed away from the performance, clapping along with the rest of the spectators.
Now that he looked around the shadowy surroundings of town — alight with shades of red, orange, and gold — there were no spectators to follow.
The bonfire closest to him swelled enormously, creating a blossoming contour before erupting into cinders and birthing three or four mesh-covered creatures into existence.
These creatures moved with liquid grace, diamonds on their eyelashes and strange tattoos scarred beautifully into their bare lean legs. Figments of koi fish, tigers, serpents, and fiercely detailed dragons spun around him in a mindless blur, causing him to stagger from dizziness.
Among the dancing figures, he caught the beauty with the only decency of a full length dress laughing with her head thrown back, her soft brown curls sweeping softly around her tender, dark neck.
As the other women scattered, she stayed behind loyally to spin about, the tips of her red-dyed satin slippers digging into the earth. She stopped to sling an arm around his neck before letting herself be dipped back with his embrace around her waist. Her perspiring neckline begged to be kissed. Carefully, his lips touched the cup of her throat, sucking the moisture gathering there.
Tentatively, he brought her upright to have a floral blue gaze back at him disdainfully, her faultlessly curved breasts heaving beneath the sheer cloth of her dress.
The same contempt in her eyes made well known as she pressed her warm little mouth against his jaw.
Shock of her.
"You belong to me."
The monk awoke from his sleep with a wonderfully terrified cry, sweating generously through his clothes. He moaned huskily and rolled over onto his stomach, rubbing his cheek against the cold stone-ground for comfort. His palms began squeezing his face harshly as if punishing him for his dream.
"Are you alright, Aang?"
As the familiar, reassuring voice of Monk Gyatso filled the temple room, the twelve-year-old boy lifted his head from the floor dazedly.
"Did you fall out of bed again?"
He nodded silently, slowly crawling back into the cot. The master Airbender sat down beside him, placing a soothingly cool hand on his bare shoulder.
"It was another dream."
"A girl. I keep seeing her." Large, gray eyes stared up questioningly at his father figure. "Is it something to do with my destiny as the Avatar?"
"Perhaps, but let's not talk about destiny at the moment," Monk Gyatso blessed the child with a tiny smile. "How would you like to bake with me instead of training today?"
"The Masters won't like that." His pupil said, matter-of-factly.
Gyatso chuckled, standing up, "When has that ever stopped us?"
Aang grinned happily in response, hurrying to change into his uniform. As he poked his head through the opening of his collar shirt, he chirped merrily, "Anyway, the girl was really pretty. But I don't know if I've ever seen a Fire Nation celebration before, there were these bonfires everywhere and one exploded—"
"It is best you keep these dreams private, Aang."
The boy hesitated at the grave tone coming from his instructor, turning around in time to fortunately catch the kind smile on the elder man's face, "Come, we'll get started."
Aang screwed up his face comically as he adjusted his boots before hopping to his feet, taking Monk Gyatso's outstretched hand before stepping into the sunshine.
15: On Fixations
I have lived forever.
I am the decay of the ancient, the nightmare of the Spirit World. The creature whom they fear and respect. That humans hear about in legends and myths.
I feel everything. But you are not allowed to show it in my presence.
I have fought an Avatar for stealing his lover's face. The foolish human tried to take vengeance when his woman was already dead. Killing me would have not satisfied him. But I granted his wish of joining her (in my collection).
This new Avatar is interesting, indeed, he is.
What a lovely bold face.
16: On Regret (2)
The War had been over for almost a decade now. Although suspicions arose still against the Fire Nation and their superiority, the Nations were at last negotiating for a period of peace and understanding.
Something that needed to happen once the Avatar vanished.
People stepped lightly around the subject of death.
They honored the heroic, the martyred Avatar Aang. He went to join his ancestors in the afterlife, they whispered respectfully, but the fact remained that the Air Nomads line had disintegrated. Rumors spread shortly that a small colony of Airbenders lived up in mountains, readying to reveal themselves when the Three Nations would require them.
False hope hung like cobwebs above reality. It would stay a fanciful plea in the back of her mind for perhaps the rest of her years.
Her children became her main focus.
Her marriage to Zuko had been somewhat of a front to everyone, and a bit to herself. After the final battle of the One Hundred Year War, after losing Aang to death, she took comfort from something familiar to her. True, she distrusted Zuko even as the rest of their group accepted him under the premises that he could help the Avatar succeed by teaching him firebending (albeit making it a sort of private grudge), but she had nothing else. Both Sokka and Toph had met their fate at the very end of the War, without suffering.
Katara and Zuko's youngest daughter, from birth, showed an excellent display of resolve and skill in the art of fire bending. Their oldest, however, seemed dull.
Zuko was fonder of the youngest; Katara babied the older.
Though dull, she was sweet-natured and obedient. And as one of her personal servants assured Katara, children needed time to define their characters and not all traits could be strong from the beginning.
When her daughter aged to about four years, Katara discovered that she could bend ripples in her mother's teacup.
A week later, the Fire Council requested an audience confidentially with her little one.
Waiting outside the double doors to the drawing room, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Fire Lord and gripping his hands hard enough to bruise, she waited for a grand total of seven hours.
What they were waiting for couldn't be given an answer.
When their daughter was handed back to her parents, it was announced formally.
The Avatar had been reborn into the cycle.
17: On Stalking
"I AM THE BLUE SPIRIT OF THE FIRE NATION! HERE TO SAVE THE AVATAR!"
On the stage, the oversized mask chased the Zuko actor behind the curtain.
The woman in Airbender clothes swooned, jumping on top of the mask, crossing her legs and smiling flirtatiously.
From beside him, Aang felt his companion shift around in his seat uncomfortably.
They exchanged horrified glances.
As everyone in their group snickered at the awkward moment, he grimaced, glad that the darkness of the theatre hid his blush from sight.
Zuko nodded, scrunching down. Also glad for the dark.
18: On Tradition (2)
From the wall of blue fire— the Fire Lord witnessed a deep-rooted ghost emerge from the flames unharmed— an exceptionally angry ghost, at that.
After the mild effect of surprise wore off, he smirked, his hearty laughter bouncing off the walls of the Fire Palace fortress— absorbing the concentration of several fighting groups in the very same chamber. His son and daughter, rivals and battling for their lives against each other, slackened from their Bending stances with equal motions of astonishment.
The Avatar and his friends along with the rest of the palace's soldiers halted briefly as well to stare.
"Come to protect your precious Zuko, my dear?"
Upon seeing his patronizing sneer, something she knew all to well when directed at her, the woman sneered back, cruelly. With an unnatural speed, she sprinted forward to snatch up Zuko's forgotten double swords. Ozai moved his arm up, protecting his neck as seconds later the polished edges of the blades jammed against the metal teeth of his wrist armor, sending colorful sparks flying.
From behind them, their son murmured, blinking tears from his good eye, "Mother…"
Never moving from her position, Ursa's hardened expression lessened somewhat, and keeping her voice harsh, she said in his direction, "Listen to your Mother, Zuko. Protect the Avatar. This is your destiny. I am so proud of you, baby." As more sparks materialized from the clashing steel, she added and smiled maliciously, "And keep your sister occupied. Your Father and I need to have a long talk."
Sliding the swords free, this signaled the fighting to pick up once more. The Fire Lord said with little feeling, still sneering, "Banishment was too kind on you."
"Where is this kindness you have been imagining?"
Tossing one sword at him which he caught solidly, Ursa said, "Because I don't recall any." She pointed her own at his. "
Try being honorable. If I am to be killed by my husband, I want to know you were doing it in a fair and dignified manner other than barbarically with that type of Bending."
"Your son can do the same."
"Only to save himself. I know Zuko. I know his heart. Azula has been tainted too deeply by you, Ozai. All I can do for her now is to make sure she can't harm herself or anyone else around her."
His dark gold eyes glittered both amused and treacherously.
"You would take your own daughter's life?"
"Imprisonment. Sedation. Whatever it takes. But her life is not worth stealing. I'm not like you, my husband; I would not try to kill one of my children."
She lowered her sword, smiling wider, almost manic-like.
A tiny sliver of an unfamiliar emotion crawled up the base of Ozai's spine. "The Avatar will defeat you tonight. I saw it in my dreams. I saw this boy walk away from this war unscathed and you a crippled, conquered ruler. I am merely buying him time to destroy your legacy. It doesn't matter if you fight me or not. Your future is certain."
The man's sword was blocked with hers automatically as he shoved it towards her chest, and his grip loosened slightly as Ursa deflected another blow with ease. Breathing heavily, a long strand of his kempt black hair falling over his nose, he scorned her. "You are a weak woman. You have always been. You fit Zuko well in weakness."
"He is stronger than me, Ozai. More important. Because I am old, because my place in this story can end. Don't underestimate your son. Or this Avatar. Your chapter in this story is coming to an end as well."
"Can you accept it is the question I ask you…"
Another block. She chuckled, darkly.
"I'll let you think it out with the time remaining."
19: On Regret (3)
Her daughter left the palace at age twelve to begin training.
Katara never thought she could hate someone so entirely, so completely and yet feel so close to them in her heart.
Her little girl, the next Avatar of the world simply because of the cycle… or maybe it was the Spirit World's idea of a cruel joke.
The Fire Council told her waterbending child that contact with Avatar Aang was an extremely important factor in her training. There could be no one living to guide her. Though she should have been thrilled that her daughter were able to share that special link between Aang and her, that she could truly be like the child that never was —
Resentment, jealousy, clung so dearly to the Katara's judgment that it drove her to break connections with the locations of where her daughter prepared. She ignored any messages from her, confided herself strictly to her living quarters despite to her bad health, fought bitterly with the Fire Lord about every little subject, but as a result took more care in her youngest.
That love and attention was not welcomed back.
Many more years passed before the newest Avatar returned to her home, maturity and experience weighing down her blue eyes, eyes that felt like a vivid, sickening mirror to Katara's in her early years.
Instead of outright greeting the two people whom missed her the most, she walked right past her father and sister without a word to kneel in front of her aging mother, grasping her aging brown hands in both of her pale, marble ones. She pulled her away from the entrance of the gates, approaching a meadow she knew from childhood.
"Do you remember the story you use to tell me about this place, Mother?"
The Avatar helped her to the very top of the hill. When Katara said nothing, she insisted calmly, "There was a spirit that protected us. A spirit made of air. I remember seeing you on this hilltop sometimes, willing the very wind around you as if you were an Airbender in disguise. I use to say that you were to Father, he would only pat my head and tell me to go play with sister."
She eyed the sunset, smiling gently.
"Aang still loves you, Mother."
Katara slid one of her hands free, fumbling for the space above her heart shuddering painfully, muttering angrily. "You don't understand. You are still a child."
"You were only a child yourself when you fell in love with him. Aang has accepted his death and thus losing his ties to you. Why can't you do the same for him?"
Something hot and real stung behind her eyelids. The older woman clenched her teeth. "You don't understand…"
Tears ran freely down her face, a reaction to the shocked feel of her daughter's body roughly colliding into hers. The Avatar murmured lovingly into the hug, into the shoulder of her robe, "Please… just let him go. Your suffering and your hatred for me has already weakened our family enough."
Katara stiffened in her grasp, plagued by the scent of woods and rain in her daughter's dark brown hair, a smell easily found in Aang's yellow and orange bearings —
With that image of deep, stormy-gray love, she found peace.
Limp to the sense of falling, passing on, to the field of the slain warriors where his blood painted murals of acceptance and ambitions too great for one Avatar's lifetime.
The War had been over for almost two decades now.
A young, tattooed boy stretched out a hand to her that didn't grasp his glider. He grinned, heaving her fallen body into the safe warmth of his arms.
"I've been waiting."