Disclaimer: I can't believe I forgot to mention this before, but I do not own Avatar. I hope I didn't break any laws by forgetting to make that crucial statement and I am sorry for any confusion or inconvenience I may have caused.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!! This chapter is a long one, so go get a big plate of turkey (or if you prefer, something that isn't meat) and get comfy. Hopefully the turkey, or the story, won't put you to sleep!
OK, a couple of things before we get to the story. First, I am again sorry it took me so long to get this written. Honestly, I have been working on it almost every day. I must have gone back and rewritten it a dozen times, but I am finally happy with it. I think. I had a hard time deciding where to end the chapter, so I hope I picked a good place. If anyone finds anything wonky, please let me know, K? Morgana Makaber told me not to be such a perfectionist and just post the story. You wouldn't think I'm a perfectionist if you saw my kitchen sink! But you're right, I'm done tweaking. Oh yeah, Morgana is working on a story called Conclusion of Peace. It's Zutara of course, and I really like it. Check it out!
So, I didn't think I would be hooked on reviews this much, but I am. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story. Also, thanks to those of you who have recommended this story to your friends.
It's her. It's really her. No! No, it can not be her. Not here, not like this.
She looked just like she had in his dream, the bad part of his dream. It was all the same, maybe even worse. The dirty, blood-stained bindings, the bruises, the burns. She was chained to the wall by her wrists and ankles and Zuko knew that heating the manacles with firebending would produce the same burns he saw in his dream. He couldn't see her neck because her head was hanging down and her hair was everywhere, but he could see her cheek. The handprint was there - an angry, red, blistering mark that took up the entire side of her pale, sunken face.
He had to still be dreaming. This could not really be happening.
But it was. He knew it was.
The Avatar is going to kill me.
As he stepped into the cell, Zuko was hit by a stench he could only partially recognize. There was a horrible odor that triggered something in his memory, but he couldn't quite grasp it. There was also the smell of alcohol, but Zuko was not surprised. The men surrounding the girl were all former Rough Rhinos and Dragon's Breath whiskey was their beverage of choice. It appeared that most of the men had been drinking and Zuko noticed that a couple of them were intoxicated. He also noticed that of the eight or so men in the cell, none of them were from his original crew. Again, he wasn't surprised. Lieutenant Jee and the men under his command would never take part in something this barbaric. Had they known it was occurring, they would have reported it to Iroh immediately, sick prince or not. Said prince, who was beginning to feel sick all over again, watched for a moment while the men passed around a tankard of whiskey and took turns harassing the injured girl.
"Colonel Mongke?" Zuko tore his eyes from the nightmarish scene and confronted the man he was sure was responsible for it. The colonel was smiling proudly.
"Yes, Prince Zuko? What do you think?"
"What do I think?" Zuko repeated the Colonel's question in a deceivingly calm voice. "Colonel, is that the Avatar's waterbender?"
"Yes Sir. We found her-"
"Are you insane?" Zuko momentarily allowed his temper to surge, then took a breath and tried to reign it back in. He had to control himself in front of this man, so he tried to speak calmly. He also had to fight the urge to say the first thing that came to his mind. "You want to know what I think? I think you must have a death wish."
"Prince Zuko, you're not upset about this, are you? The Avatar will come for her and we'll be ready. We will capture him and bring him back to your father. You will get back everything you've lost." Mongke smirked and raised his eyebrow at Zuko before continuing. "And as an added bonus, you get to keep the girl." He winked, then added as an afterthought, "Unless you think she'd be a nice gift for your father."
Zuko could not believe this was actually happening. Did these men really think he would approve of this? He didn't. As much trouble as this little peasant had caused him, no one deserved this. This was torture. It was disgusting and cruel. And it had been happening on his ship. The Avatar and the girl's brother would never believe that Zuko knew nothing about this. The prince could only imagine how they were going to react when they found out what she had been put through. He shook the thought away before addressing Colonel Mongke again.
"Are you serious? Haven't you and your Rough Rhinos fought against the Avatar? Do you really not know what he is capable of? What did you think he was going to do, just land on the main deck and ask nicely for us to give his waterbender back? What do you think he'll do when he finds out that she has been brutalized by half the crew?"
"Prince Zuko, I think you are overreact-" Colonel Mongke was cut off by cheering and cat-owl calls coming from the back of the cell.
One of the more inebriated men was holding a large ladle in front of the water bender's face, asking her how badly she wanted it. She looked like she barely had the strength to keep her eyes open and didn't even lift her head as the men taunted her. Zuko watched as she closed her eyes and turned her face away from the water. He couldn't help admiring her pride and strength, it seemed she would rather die from dehydration than beg for a drink. Although, Zuko wondered if she knew just how close to death she actually was. As he stepped closer he could see that her chin was quivering, as though she were crying, but there were no tears. If her tormentors noticed how dire her condition was, they didn't show it. They acted as if she was there solely for their entertainment. The man with the ladle kept pushing it at her face while the others hollered at her to beg for it. When she still refused, he poured the water down her front. The girl gasped and tried to struggle against her chains, but gave up almost immediately. She was just too weak. Zuko took another step closer, racking his brain for a way to diffuse the situation without making a scene when one of the men began pointing at their prisoner.
"Ooh, look boys! I think that water was too cold!" The comment was met with laughter and wolf-bat whistles.
Zuko's eyes went first the goose-pigeon bumps on her arms, but before his brain was able to stop them, they settled on what the man had actually been pointing at. Her tattered bindings, although filthy and stained, had become transparent now that they were wet. The girl's captors were getting a clear view of the proof that yes, the water was too cold, and with her arms chained above her head she could do nothing to hide it. Suddenly, Zuko forgot about trying to be tactful. He forgot about trying to control his temper. His only thought was that he needed to get the girl away from these rat-snakes, now.
"Enough!" He was on them before they knew what was happening. He jumped towards the man with the water, who turned and stumbled forward, swinging the ladle at Zuko's face. Zuko blocked the strike with his left forearm and grabbed the ladle with his right hand. He smirked as the man gave him a confused look before yelling in pain. It hadn't taken much for Zuko to heat the metal ladle and burn his opponent's hand. He then dropped the ladle and kicked it away as he gave the man a one-handed shove that sent him flying across the cell.
The prince was now positioned between the rest of the men and the girl. There was a moment where the men stared at Zuko in shock before they began reacting. Then one of the Rough Rhinos spoke up defiantly.
"Aww, come on Prince Zuko. What's the point of having a pretty little thing like this on board if we can't have a bit of fun with her?"
"None of you will be having any fun when the Avatar comes for her and sees her like this."
"Is Prince Zuko afraid of a little boy?" Another man stepped forward. "Or are you just trying to protect the peasant?"
"Neither! Maybe none of you remember what that 'little boy' did to my ship at the South Pole. Or what he did to Zhao's entire fleet at the North Pole. Or maybe you have all forgotten the simple fact that he's the Avatar - the most powerful bender in the world - and that this 'peasant' is one of his closest friends!"
Zuko was blasting fire from his mouth as he yelled and was punching flames into the air to emphasize his words. Most of the men were trying to get out of the cell and away from the prince's wrath, but a few were standing their ground. They obviously thought they had done nothing wrong. They were becoming upset that Zuko was reprimanding them for capturing the girl instead of praising them. They began taunting him and making suggestive remarks about him and the girl, and his reasons for being so upset about her treatment.
Two of the men were actually brash (or drunk) enough to attack the prince. One approached from the left and swung his sword at the teen. While Zuko was dodging it the other man blasted fire at him from the right. Zuko didn't have a chance to block it properly and he felt searing pain as the flame hit his forearm. Instead of stopping the prince, it enraged him. He dodged another swing from the swordsman and counterattacked viciously. Zuko wanted to draw the fight away from the girl, but the two men seemed to be purposely keeping him between her and themselves. He began to worry that he might not be able to defend himself and her at the same time. If Zuko was unable to properly block an attack, she was going to get injured further.
A recent lesson from his uncle suddenly came to mind and he silently thanked the old man for what he had thought at the time was just philosophical rambling. The firebender to Zuko's right sent a blast in his direction, but this time he was ready. The prince was able to protect himself and the girl by using a move he had seen the waterbender herself use many times. He took control of the oncoming flames, spun around, and sent the blast directly towards the swordsman. The man only had enough time to yell out in surprise and throw up his hands before the force of the blast threw him backwards. Just as the fire struck the swordsman, Zuko snapped his arms back towards himself. The flames followed his movements and Zuko held them at his left hip as he spun the rest of the way around. He then slammed the firebender to the ground with the man's own attack before extinguishing it with a flick of his hand.
No one else dared to move. Even General Iroh was shocked at how well his nephew executed the waterbending move. He was immensely proud also. Not just because the boy had actually listened to a lesson, but also because Zuko was able to use the force of the blasts to knock down his opponents without taking it too far and seriously injuring them.
"Enough." Zuko was still fuming (literally) but needed to control himself so that he could gain control of this situation. He turned towards Lieutenant Jee.
"Lieutenant! I want these men locked up until I have a chance to speak with them," Zuko said as he motioned to the men who had just attacked him. "And someone needs to get the corpsman. Tell him we have three burned guards and…" He stared at the girl for a moment, unable to come up with a way to describe the scene in front of him. "…this mess. Tell him I need him down here. NOW!"
One of the men ran to get the corpsman while a few others dragged Zuko's attackers to another cell. Everyone else still appeared too afraid to move, but Zuko wanted to clear out the cell before he dealt with the girl.
Iroh stepped forward. His nephew obviously had control of the situation and was giving orders to his crew, not asking for help from his uncle.
"Ship-wide orders. All crewmen who are not doing something absolutely essential to the functioning of this ship are to immediately report to their quarters. They are to remain there until told otherwise. Any crewman currently performing a vital task is to remain at his post until given further orders. Anyone found outside their cabin or their post will be dealt with severely."
"Yes, Prince Zuko." Iroh didn't really have a difficult task ahead of him. Anyone who had not ventured to the brig to check out the commotion was getting the story from those who had as they scrambled to their cabins. Iroh was back in the cell in less than five minutes. He was surprised to see that the girl had not yet been moved. Zuko was looking at her as though she were an incredibly baffling puzzle.
"We have to get her down, Nephew."
"I know that, Uncle." Zuko answered without turning around. He was studying the locks on her ankles. "I'm trying to figure out-"
"What is that?"
Zuko and Iroh turned around to see the medical corpsman had arrived and was staring, mouth wide open, at the waterbender.
"It's a girl, Master Chief." Lieutenant Jee returned from locking up Zuko's attackers and entered the cell behind the medic.
"What happened? How did she get on board the ship?"
"Later, Master Chief," Iroh said as he bent down and pulled a ring of keys from his sleeve. "Zuko, someone will have to hold her up while we do this."
It took Zuko a moment to realize that his uncle meant for him to do it. He really, really did not want to, but it was obvious that the other three men had already decided for him. He stood in front of the girl and carefully put his hands under her arms. The first thing he noticed was that her body was much warmer than he would have expected. He had always imagined that someone who grew up in all that ice and snow would be as cold as her element. The second thing he was aware of was the smell. The stench of alcohol had dissipated along with Mongke's men, but the other odor that had struck him when he first entered the cell still lingered. It was stronger now and he recognized it this time. Just after his banishment, while his burn was healing, part of it became badly infected. The corpsman had been afraid that he would lose his eye, but was able to save it thanks to some intensely painful procedures and a weird, green ointment. That portion of his face healed much slower and the scar was much darker there. The putrid odor that Zuko had not been able to place before was the smell of infection.
The girl was so filthy and battered that Zuko couldn't tell what was dirt and what were bruises. He had to get her down though, so he just hoped he didn't hurt her any worse than she already was. She whimpered when he touched her and tried to shake her head. She was too weak to even open her eyes. When she spoke, although her voice was hoarse and strained, Zuko could hear the same strength and determination she always showed.
"Don't. Touch. Me."
Zuko looked to his uncle, who said nothing but gestured for him to continue.
"No." She wasn't really trying to fight. She seemed to know it was hopeless, but she was determined to let him know that she didn't want this. "No more." Zuko thought he heard her whisper the word "please" under her breath, but he knew she was too proud to beg for anything, even her life.
He was reminded of the one time in his life he had begged for mercy. He had been denied. It was on that day that he decided he would never beg for anything ever again - he would rather die standing than live on his knees. Zuko was sure this girl felt the same way. She assumed that Zuko was here to hurt her the way her guards had, not that he blamed her, but he wanted her to know that he was trying to help her. He didn't think she would believe him, he barely believed it himself. He shifted a little to get a better grip and she again told him not to touch her. He tried to reassure her, but it backfired on him.
"I'm not going to hurt you, but I have to touch you to get you down."
At the sound of Zuko's voice, the waterbender's entire body tensed up and she lifted her eyes to meet his. The look on her face was one of shock and absolute terror as she recognized the young man standing before her. Zuko had been trying for months to elicit such a response from this girl and should have been quite proud of himself for finally inciting fear in her. But now that he had achieved it he was faced with an emotion he couldn't name. Or maybe he just didn't want to.
"No." Her voice didn't sound nearly as strong as it had a moment before. It was barely a whisper and she sounded as though she were trying to convince herself of something she desperately didn't want to be true. "Not you."
The broken girl allowed her head to fall and shook it slowly back and forth. She then began rambling. Her voice only seemed to work every third or fourth word, making it impossible to understand her.
"No… lying… you… here… can't…"
Zuko had no idea what she was trying to say, but he had other things to worry about. He tried to ignore her as he lifted her by her underarms, trying to use his burned arm as little as possible. Her body was shaking and she sounded like she was trying to fight back sobs.
"Uncle, hurry up!"
"I'm going as fast as I can, Nephew." Zuko heard a click and felt the girl's legs fall away from the wall. Iroh stood and backed away so Lieutenant Jee could unlock her arms. "Do you have a good hold on her?"
"Yes, just hurry." The girl was trying to squirm away from him, but was too weak. Her head was resting on his shoulder - she didn't even have the strength to hold it up, though she was trying. Her weight wasn't bothering the prince, in fact he wondered if his men had fed her at all since they brought her here. What bothered him was the way she was sobbing without producing any tears and the way she was whispering, so quietly he could barely hear, "No, please don't do this," over and over into his neck.
Zuko tried to ignore the girl's pleas and focused on watching Lieutenant Jee work on her chains. He noticed the position her arms were in. They were up over her head, and back, supporting her body, which was leaning forward. It didn't look natural.
"Uncle, are her arms… should they be like that?"
Zuko couldn't see the faces of the other men, but the silence worried him.
"Damn it!" The corpsman swore quietly under his breath, but Zuko heard him.
"Her shoulders are dislocated, Zuko. It's going to hurt when-" But Iroh was cut off by the girl as her arms were released from their chains.
For four days she had been hanging in that position, with her shoulders holding up all her weight at an unnatural angle. They had gone numb some time ago, but the sudden change in position tore through her nerve endings. Her voice was hoarse and broken, so her screams sounded more like they were being made by a terrified animal than a human.
Zuko tried not to panic. He had expected to relieve her pain by unchaining her, not intensify it. Lieutenant Jee grabbed the girls wrists and held them up as Zuko lowered himself to the floor. He ended up sitting awkwardly with the girl's head still on his left shoulder and her arms being held up behind her. He didn't know what to do with his hands, so he kept them under her arms. The waterbender had quieted down and Zuko, thinking that she was no longer in pain, shifted so he could see her face. He instantly wished he hadn't.
She was staring ahead with her bloodied lips pulled back in a sort of snarl. There was a primal, growling noise as she breathed in and out through her clenched teeth, trying to control the pain. Zuko turned away from the girl and saw that the corpsman was studying her shoulders.
"Can you help her?" The prince's voice was as strong and demanding as always, but Iroh noticed that he asked the medic to help the girl instead of ordering him to, the way he usually did. It was as intriguing as it was unusual.
"Yes Sir, but it's going to hurt." The corpsman took a folded piece of fabric out of his bag. He looked between the prince and the peasant, and then back at the cloth. He unfolded and refolded it so that the fabric that had been on the outside was now inside and vice versa. He then handed it to Iroh. "Here, General Iroh. I assume you remember what to do with this?"
Zuko tried to keep his face passive, but his right eye grew wide as his uncle took the cloth and knelt down beside him and the girl. Zuko remembered the cloth. He remembered what the cloth meant. The cloth always meant pain - excruciating pain. Oh Spirits, how he hated that cloth.
"Alright my dear, we're going to fix up your arms, but first I need you to do something for me." Iroh's voice was soft and kind. He spoke to the girl the same way he had spoken to Zuko during his long and agonizing recovery three years earlier. A part of Zuko, the spoiled prince part, didn't like that his uncle was attempting to reassure this girl. She was still the enemy. But another part of him was glad Iroh was there for her and hoped the old man could be of some comfort to her. He watched as the girl focused her eyes on Iroh and allowed him to put the cloth in her mouth.
"That's right, now bite down hard. Good girl. No, no. Don't look. Look at me. Focus on me. Ready?" The words rang through Zuko's memory as Iroh rubbed the girl's back with one hand and motioned to the corpsman with the other. "OK, here we go, on three…"
Zuko knew this trick. He held the girl still while Lieutenant Jee and the corpsman positioned themselves on either side of her. Each man took an arm as Iroh began to count. Somewhere between one and two Zuko heard a "pop-pop" as the waterbender's shoulders were put back into place. It was obviously painful. Zuko felt more than heard the girl moaning into his neck and when he looked at her face her eyes were glazed over and unfocused. Afraid she might pass out, he moved her so that she was lying across his lap, with his left arm cradling her head and his right hand twitching nervously like he wasn't sure what to do with it. He watched her face relax and her blue eyes close before turning his attention to her arms. They hung limp at her sides but her hands slowly began to open and close as though they hadn't been able to do so for days.
Zuko was surprised at how warm the waterbender's body was. Just holding her was making him sweat. He shifted the girl awkwardly and used the front of his tunic to wipe his forehead. Iroh noticed and frowned.
"Zuko, you look flushed. Are you alright?"
"Yes, Uncle. I just thought she'd be… cooler." Zuko wiped the sweat from his forehead again and adjusted his grip on the girl. He saw the confused look on his uncle's face and tried to explain. "I mean, she's from the South Pole. She's a waterbender, I would have assumed her skin would be… I don't know. I just never expected her to be this warm."
"Warm?" Iroh directed his question to the corpsman who approached Zuko and the waterbender with a worried look on his face. "Master Chief?"
The corpsman was pressing the back of his hand onto the girl's forehead and frowning. He didn't answer Iroh right away. Instead, he placed his hands on the girl's face and chest and arms, trying to judge her temperature. He then placed his hand back on her forehead and put the other hand on Zuko's. "General Iroh, she's burning up."
"Burning up? You mean she has a fever?" Zuko swatted the corpsman away and placed his own hand on the girl's head. "So… does that mean one of these wounds is infected?"
"That would be the most likely cause, Prince Zuko." The corpsman was looking over her wounds, paying special attention to the worst-looking ones. "Some of these injuries are a few days old. I'm sure no one bothered to clean them out properly."
"I'm sure no one bothered to clean them out at all," Lieutenant Jee added with no small amount of disdain.
"Right, Lieutenant," the corpsman continued. "So they became a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things. The fever is her body's way of trying to kill whatever is causing the infection. Prince Zuko, you had a terrible infection when-"
"I know, I remember. So, what can you do for her?"
"Well, we need to find where the infection is and clean it out. Some of these are really bad and more than one of them could be infected. If we miss anything the infection could kill her."
The corpsman began to examine the girl's injuries and her body tensed up again. Her eyes opened in a panic and when they found Zuko's face she started to struggle. He wondered what her problem was. She normally faced him with a courage that he didn't often encounter. Now though, the fear in her eyes reminded him of a small child.
"Listen, I know you're in a lot of pain, but the Master Chief here is going to take care of that. He's really good. He has been my medical corpsman for over three years and - what?" She was babbling again and trying to push away the corpsman. She wasn't making any sense at all. She wanted Zuko to let her do something, but he couldn't figure out what it was she wanted to do, so he kept talking. "If you hold still this will go a lot easier. We're trying to help you."
The girl seemed to become more and more agitated the more Zuko spoke. He looked up at his uncle for help, but Iroh only shrugged and nodded for him to continue.
Zuko tried a few more times to reassure the girl, but she showed no signs of calming down. She wasn't really doing anything, she just turned her face away from the prince and kept her eyes closed. She tried to shake her head 'no,' but she didn't even have the strength to lift it off Zuko's arm. He decided to give up on talking to her. It only seemed to be making things worse anyway. He watched the corpsman for a few minutes. The older man was trying to clean the dust and dirt off the girl so he could get a better view of her injuries. There were a few wounds that looked serious, and Zuko wondered how badly infected they were. He tried to push away the thought that if those infections weren't treated soon, they could enter her blood and kill her. The last thing he needed was to have the Avatar's girlfriend die on board his ship.
The girl seemed to have relaxed a little after Zuko stopped talking to her, though she glanced at him every so often with her blue eyes full of fear. She was trying to reach for a particularly nasty wound on her abdomen, but the corpsman wouldn't let her touch it. She gave up after a few moments and asked for water. While Zuko waited for Lieutenant Jee to bring her some (there was no clean water anywhere on the prison deck) he went back to watching the corpsman, who was frowning and looking extremely worried. The man placed his hands on the girl's belly and pressed down, which seemed to cause her intense pain. He seemed to be feeling for something. He and Iroh kept exchanging looks and Zuko got the feeling that he was intentionally being left out of the loop. He let his gaze fall back to the girl's stomach and did a double take. The wound that the corpsman was feeling was the same one that she had been reaching for a few moments ago. Zuko recognized the shape of the injury, and had to fight the urge to be sick. It was a boot-print. She had been kicked. Zuko was struck by another realization too. He voiced his thoughts before he could stop himself.
"That wasn't there in my dream."
"What was that, Prince Zuko?" the corpsman said, looking up.
Zuko looked quickly at the corpsman, then at his uncle. The look on Iroh's face convinced him keep his dream to himself.
"I uh, said that I didn't notice that before."
"Oh. Well Sir, I think it's a fairly new injury because the bruise is still forming. My guess is that it's less than half an hour old."
"How bad is it? If it's new it can't be the one that's infected, right?" The boot-shaped injury was indeed getting worse, but Zuko was trying to hold on to any chance that this girl wasn't going to die in his arms.
"No Sir, this one isn't infected, but it's still really bad. I think she may be in danger of bleeding to death."
"What? There's no blood, how can she be bleeding to death?" Zuko knew the answer, but found himself in a serious state of denial.
"Zuko," Iroh's voice was calm, but his nephew could detect the worry in it. "I think the Master Chief means that she's bleeding internally."
The prince closed his eyes and tried to process what his uncle had told him. He knew what that meant, but he was desperate to find a way out of this situation.
"What can you do to stop the bleeding, Master Chief?" Zuko's voice was calm and demanding, as though ordering the man to save the girl would make it possible.
"There isn't much I can do, Prince Zuko. Judging by the size of this injury, it was a very large boot. And it must have hit her pretty hard. My guess is that more than one of her internal organs has been ruptured. She is so dehydrated and weak… I could try to go in and find the bleeding. There is a chance I could stop it. But that in and of itself might kill her in this condition."
Zuko was about to respond when Lieutenant Jee reentered the cell with a large bucket of water and a clean ladle. As he stepped forward with the bucket Zuko shook his head and gestured for Jee to only give him the ladle. He ignored his uncle's scowl and held the water up to the girl's mouth. She barely took a mouthful, then turned her head away.
"Finish this first." Zuko tried offering the water again but she refused it.
"This is still full, drink this and then you can have more."
"It's… not enough." As weak as she was, she was still being a stubborn pain in the ass.
"It's enough to drink."
"I need… more."
"Listen, I'm not giving you an entire bucket of water. You're really sick, but that doesn't mean you can't bend. I know you think I'm stupid, but - ow!" Zuko pulled his arm back quickly. He had completely forgotten about the burn on his arm until the girl began poking at it. "Don't touch me! How dare you? What - what… are… you…"
Zuko gasped and stared in shock as the water floated from the ladle he was holding and coated the girl's hand like a glove. The girl held her hand over the burn on Zuko's arm and the water began glowing an other-worldly blue. She glanced up at him for a moment before dropping her gaze back to his wound. He wondered if the fear and confusion showed on his face as he tried to figure out what she was doing. He panicked when she lowered her glowing hand onto his burned arm.
"Hey - ahh…" The pain in Zuko's arm intensified for a brief moment, then instantly began to ebb away. He sighed in relief and forced himself to keep his eyes open so he could watch the waterbender. Her eyes were closed in concentration, but her fingers seemed to move of their own accord. They floated over his arm, passing charred flesh and leaving pink, healthy skin in their wake. The glowing water was used up quickly and the girl turned her head to rest it against Zuko's chest. He thought she was done, but after a moment she opened her eyes and lifted her hand, giving her fingers another little wiggle.
"Whoa!" Lieutenant Jee Jumped out of the way as the water in the bucket leapt into the air and rushed towards the water bender's hand.
The girl worked for a few minutes longer and healed about half of the burn. Zuko was able to feel the glowing water enter his burn and seep into his arm. He watched the burnt flesh glow blue and then disappear to be replaced with healthy skin. The prince had been so enthralled with watching his skin magically repair itself that he didn't notice the girl's condition. The color had completely drained from her face and her body was shaking uncontrollably. Suddenly her hand fell to her lap and what was left of her water splashed over the two young benders and onto the floor.
"Can't finish," she said as she turned her face back into Zuko's shirt. Her body relaxed and she seemed to be asleep.
Zuko watched her for a moment, then looked back at his arm. The burn wasn't completely gone, but the part of it that she had healed looked perfect. Still a little pinker than the surrounding skin, but otherwise perfect.
"What did…how did," Lieutenant Jee was at a total loss for words. "What the… how…what did she do!?"
"She… healed my arm." Zuko's whispered voice was filled with awe. "She used her waterbending and healed it."
"Sages," Iroh said. "Will you look at that?"
"I can't believe it." The corpsman looked like he really wanted to inspect Zuko's arm, but was afraid to touch it. Finally he ran is fingers over the newly healed wound, obviously impressed. "I've heard of this. The best waterbenders can use their abilities to heal, but this… this is incredible. There's no sign of the burn at all. This girl must be a waterbending master."
"That's great," Lieutenant Jee said. "We'll just get her some more water and she can heal herself."
"I don't think that will work, Lieutenant. Not now." The corpsman was again inspecting the girl's abdomen. It was swollen and deep purple and her face was a sickening shade of gray.
"She's unconscious, she exhausted herself healing Prince Zuko's. The best we can do now is keep her comfortable, and maybe pray for a miracle."
"Pray for a miracle?" Zuko felt his uncle place a hand on his shoulder and looked up at him. There was a finality in the old man's eyes that terrified the scarred prince. He looked down at the girl and then to the corpsman. "What do you mean, 'miracle?' Why do we need a miracle?"
"There is nothing more I can do for her, Sir. She's bleeding badly and there is no safe way to stop it. I'm sorry Prince Zuko, but by the looks of this injury… she'll be dead within the hour."