Burn My Dread Complete
By Iain R. Lewis
Disclaimer: Characters and concepts belong to Nickelodeon, some of the concepts are similarly inspired by Persona 3 and Persona 4, property of ATLUS games.
"Kimi wa ne tashika ni ano toki watashi no soba ni ita. Itsudatte itsudatte itsudatte sugu yoko de waratteita nakushitemo torimodosu kimi wo I will never leave you"
- Kimi no Kioku
Last Month: The Fool
In Bright, Shining Moments
Aang was tired on that warm, fading summer day. The wind blew through Ba Sing Se, singing a lonesome elegy for the passing night. Aang woke up, grabbed his uniform, and went through his morning routine. Staring in the mirror as he brushed his teeth, he couldn't help but feel really annoyed at his bald head.
It was a month gone, and Zuko still refused to let him grow his hair back out.
He yawned, and stretched, and threw on his uniform shirt, and looked at the jacket, the traitorous implement, and threw it aside. It was too nice a day to go out with the whole uniform, anyway, and no one cared if the jacket wasn't there.
The Phoenix School was having a tumultuous election month, and today was finally the big day to elect the new student council president. He stretched and buttoned up the shirt as he walked out into the hallway.
"Hey, Sokka," he said, "You okay?"
"Yeah," Sokka muttered, "Major quiz today, and Pakku's going to kill me. I studied all night, man, and I can't remember a word of it. Come on, quiz me."
"Uh, what's an economy?"
"I don't know!"
"Well, Sokka, just resign yourself to your fate of flunking this quiz," Aang said, "You'll still graduate, right?"
"Zuko's laughing at me, I can see it with his eyes," Sokka said. "The School Delinquent got a higher score on the midterms than I did!"
Aang winced, he remembered seeing Sokka's name at the dead last position for the third years. "Well, chin up, Senpai!"
"Easy for you to say," Sokka said, "Mister Popularity got top of his class."
Aang grinned, "Yeah, well," Aang shrugged, "I had time to study to spare."
"He says, after working on the election and winning our last baseball game with a homerun hit," Sokka said. "You know what, Aang, I'm going to miss you so much when you go."
"Yeah," Aang said. He furrowed his brow. It was today, wasn't it, tonight he'd be on the train back home. "I'm going to miss you guys, too."
"So, what are you going to do once you and Gyatso are reunited. Go around the world looking for new adventures?"
"Well," Aang shrugged, "The way it sounded, he was thinking of heading to the Fire Nation for a few years, and we could finally settle down there for a bit. I'll miss Ba Sing Se, but, I liked what I saw of the Fire Nation, and I'd like to know more."
"Yeah, well, you let us know if you're bored and we'll come and bug you on Zuko's company jet."
"You know he hates it when you make promises like that for him," Aang said.
"He knows I hate it when he mocks me with his eyes."
"You're just paranoid!"
"Was I paranoid when I said that letter from Gyatso was a bad sign and now you're leaving us and you're going to miss my graduation!"
"No I won't!" Aang laughed, "At the rate you're going, you're not graduating at all!"
"I think I preferred my delusions of Zuko laughing at me to you actually doing it," Sokka said. "Besides, Piandao said he was going to work with me and make sure I get out of this dump. Besides, my midterms suffered, but did you see my practice entrance exams? I am so a shoo-in for Ba Sing Se University," he said.
"That's great! What are you going to take there?"
"I've been thinking about that a lot," Sokka said. "I mean, at first, I didn't even know what I wanted to do with myself. I figured I could just follow my dad's footsteps, but now, I'm not so sure. I kind of want to get into politics, actually."
"Yeah," Sokka said, "A man has to fight for what he believes in, you know? And I'm nothing if not direct."
"So, I guess I'll be voting for Sokka Floes in a couple of years, huh?"
Sokka grinned, "Yeah, this election day, go with the Floes! It's catchy, right?"
"Yeah, I think Ty Lee's campaign slogans were better. 'Vote for Me, Ty Lee!' I told her it wasn't a good idea, but she didn't listen."
"Okay, okay, but come on, her name rhymes with Me, so she can get away with it," Sokka protested, "I've got to be creative. Who are you voting for anyway?"
"I'm not," Aang said, "I don't feel right casting a vote between two friends. Besides, I'm not going to be here next semester, so."
"Right," Sokka nodded. "I was really leaning towards Mai with her whole I Believe in Mai campaign, but Ty Lee did promise snack machines."
"I think Suki would get the wrong idea if you voted for Ty Lee."
"Yeah, okay, so the girl likes me, can I help being absolutely adorable?"
Before Aang could respond, he heard Katara snort as she made a futile effort to contain the fit of laughter that followed. "Adorable, Sokka?" she managed to squeak out before another fit of laughter took her over.
"I made the top of Ty Lee's Cutest Guys list. Sorry, Aang, you only got third."
"Who beat me?" Aang wondered.
"Zuko," Katara managed to say, her laughter reduced to a titter. "Ty Lee's not exactly the smartest member of our student body, though."
"Zuko got second on that list?" Aang wondered, "How did that happen?"
"Don't let it get to you," Sokka said. "In my book, you're both losers."
"Gee, thanks, Sokka," Aang muttered. He yawned loudly, and rubbed at his eyes. "Morning, Katara." She looked at him with a worried, motherly expression. "What? What's wrong?"
"When did you get to bed last night. You look like you haven't slept in days."
"I got to bed early enough. I don't look that tired, do I?"
"I guess not," she said. "So, last day at the Phoenix School. Looking forward to seeing Gyatso again?"
"Yeah," Aang said, "I'm going to miss everyone though."
"I can't believe midterms have already come and gone. Feels like I'll be a third year before I even realize it."
"Yeah,' Aang said, "I'm going to a Fire Nation school, so I'll be a second year there next semester."
"At least some things will be consistent, right?" she said. "Oh, right, before I forget, could you go and remind Zuko to go to school today. He left early and probably forgot it's your last day. That boy, I swear," she crossed her arms, "Everyone here seems to act like I'm their mother. Some more than others."
"I heard that!" they could hear Toph shout from upstairs.
"Oh, uh," Aang looked around, "Where is he?"
"With his sister," she answered. "You know he goes and sees her every day, before and after school."
She seemed less than enthused with going to see Azula, so Aang shrugged and agreed. "Great!" she said. "Now, remember, we're all meeting on the roof at lunch, so don't be late, Aang."
"I won't be!"
Aang hurried down the stairs, almost sliding down the railing as he went, and ran for the door, grabbing his books as he dove through the door. He slung them on his back and, suddenly, felt like his strength had been all sapped away.
He looked up at the sun, and listened to the wind. The city seemed so quiet in the morning. It was too early for most of the students to begin going to school, and most of the salarymen were already in their offices going through the daily grind.
Aang sighed. Walking slowly, he wondered what was wrong with him. If he was getting sick, it was a bad time for it.
The election was today, and he had to give moral support to both candidates. At the same time, the Principal was having a morning speech, which he was certain he'd fall asleep through at this rate. Last night, he had sent the last of his things off back to Gyatso, and his room seemed very barren.
Momo seemed to like Sokka's room, but still looked sad when Aang turned to leave. The lemur had snuck into his room the following night, and he found him in the morning at the foot of his bed.
The last six months had been interesting. When he arrived, he would never have believed that he was going to be sharing his dormitory with a delinquent prince, let alone become friends with him. He also didn't expect to feel so sad to leave behind all of his friends. Toph, especially, he'd miss. But none more than Katara.
He sighed. He'd failed to work up the guts to tell her all year, and he was beginning to regret that.
The tram carried him through the town he'd come to think of as home and he wondered if he'd ever see it again after today. It seemed to be shining gold in the dawn's light, and the people on the tram didn't even begin to appreciate it.
But, a part of him said, they must, or else there wouldn't be another dawn.
Somewhere, in the back of his head, something stirred. A distant memory of some kind, until now forgotten, but it felt so recent and new to him. It was foggy now, obscured in his brain, but it was threatening to come forth, and he wasn't sure if that was something to anticipate with excitement or fear.
The tram stopped at the station, and he hurried out into the city, eager to get away from his thoguhts.
The hospital was a familiar sight. Sozin Memorial knew him by name, and when he walked in, the receptionist just smiled and said that Zuko was already with Azula, and wished him a good day.
Zuko sat at his sister's bedside, a place that seemed to dominate a lot of his memories of Zuko. "Is she okay?" Aang asked.
"I think so," Zuko said. "She seems peaceful. It's been about a month since the incident."
"Yeah," Aang said, "That was a scary call."
"I didn't think she was going to make it, but she's pulling through," Zuko said, "But sometimes I wonder if it'd be better if she didn't. This is everything she hated, Aang. She was mean, she was sneaky and coniving, but she still was a person with hopes and fears."
"Yeah," Aang couldn't think of anything else to say. He knew Azula was always so uncomfortable around those Apathy Syndrome patients. Still, he couldn't believe what his eyes told him. She was there, comatose, suffering from the same inexplicable symptoms.
"Katara sent you, huh?" Zuko asked. "Yeah, I remembered. Today's your last day. Not going to be the same in the dorm without you. Actually, thinking we'll close it down after this semester. Two people can easily be moved into the girls' dorms, and, well, it has a lot of memories."
Aang nodded. "You ever get the feeling there's something you just can't quite remember, but every now and then it just peeks through?"
Zuko raised his brow, looking at him. "What brought that on."
"Nothing," Aang yawned.
"You look sick."
"Maybe," Aang whispered. "I just feel really tired for some reason."
Zuko sighed. "I'm thinking of taking the entrance exam for Ba Sing Se University. It's not exactly my first choice, but I don't want to move her."
Aang looked at Azula. She always seemed so perfect and restful in that sleep. He wondered what it was like, idly, to be lost in that sea of the unconscious. "She'll appreciate it, I think."
"No," Zuko shook his head, "Let's be realistic. This is Azula. When she wakes up," he said that often, never letting himself fall prey to the trap of 'Ifs.' He continued, "When she wakes up, she'll be more likely to yell at me than to thank me."
Aang shrugged, "Well, that's the Azula we love."
"Yeah," Zuko said, "Why am I doing this again?"
"Because you're a good brother,' Aang said. "And because she needs someone here for her when she wakes up."
"So, what are you planning to do with your life. Are you going to just be president of the Phoenix Group?"
Zuko shrugged, "I'm not sure. I don't want to follow in my father's footsteps, that's for sure. If I'm going to be the president of the company, it's not going to be like when he was in charge. But, at the same time, I don't know. I thought about business, but I was thinking maybe I'd see about enlisting in the navy."
"Follow that dream?" Aang asked. Zuko nodded. "I approve! You could do some good that way that you couldn't do by being the best president the Phoenix Group ever had."
"We'll see," Zuko said. "But we're going to be late, and we have a lecture from Chey."
"I'm going to beg Katara to write down the best of Pakku's pained cries of desperation while listening to him."
"I'm looking forward to it. Lunchtime, right?"
Aang and Zuko walked together towards the school. The crowds of students was thick and the air was heavy with gossip and rumors bounced from group to group with the speed of light. Zuko spoke about his date with Mai the other night, which Aang listened to politely.
"So, things are better? After the study date fiasco."
"I did not plan that,' Zuko protested. "Sokka did it."
"Now you're sounding like Sokka."
"Don't even joke about that,' Zuko snarled. The school clock was minutes away from chiming the start of the day when they passed through the gates. The students were running through, some looked out of breath, others seemed to be laughing at the ones who were having to make a dash just to be on time.
It was so normal.
Aang couldn't help but wonder why that seemed so odd, but it was this normal life that he enjoyed, finally free from traveling from place to place, staying little more than a month or two before leaving.
It seemed to pass too quickly.
"Hey," Zuko said. "Do you know that girl?" Aang looked over in Zuko's direction, and then passed him at a strangely beautiful girl with white hair. She was watching him from a hiding place, looking bashful when she realized she'd been spotted. Aang shook his head. "She seems familiar somehow, but I don't know why."
The girl sulked back into the shadows, and was gone form their sight, but Aang couldn't help but feel she was following him. "She looks like a third year."
"Who looks like a third year?" Toph said, whacking Aang's shins with her cane. "Are you daydreaming again. Like a third year would have a crush on you."
"Just, saw this pretty girl outside," Aang said.
"She seemed to be watching Aang. I don't know who she is. She was wearing the school uniform though, so, maybe she goes here. I could check in the other classes."
"It's okay," Aang said. "Toph, you voted yet?"
"Yep, I put in my vote for moodiness over cheeriness, like all good students should. Seriously, if you want Ty Lee to make addresses at morning assemblies, you're crazy!"
"I better put in a vote for Mai before the polls close," Zuko said. "See you at lunch, Aang. Toph, try not to hurt Ty Lee's feelings too much."
"Yeah, whatever,' Toph said. "Come on, Bumi's about to start role and you're not there yet!"
"Neither are you."
"But I'm teacher's pet," Toph said, "And you're a kid with arrow tattoos that makes Bumi subconsciously call on you every day. How do you deal with it?"
"Know the answers."
"Good idea," Toph grinned. She held onto Aang's arm as he walked through the crowds. "How am I going to get by without my seeing-eye Aang, anyway?"
"You'll just beat up more people with your cane," Aang laughed.
"Excellent suggestion." She whacked someone with it as they passed, laughing as they made a large crash on the ground, papers flying everywhere. "That was perfect, did you hear that?"
"Yeah," Aang said, "But it wasn't very nice."
"Nice-schmice, it was funny."
Aang looked back at the fallen young man, and in the crowd, standing still, trying to appear nonchalant, was that girl again. The way her eyes seemed to shine like moonlight set his mind back into the distant pits of memory, to a girl he knew, but somewhere, that snapshot seemed to be another life. "What is it?" Toph asked, tugging at him, "That's the wrong way, Aang. Class is about to start --" and as she spoke, the bell sounded, "Well, five seconds ago. Let's go!"
"Oh, right," Aang said, turning back. "I just had a weird sense of deja vu."
"To the hundred times we've been late? Come on!"
Aang felt himself shoved in the vague direction of the class door, as Toph whacked anyone who dared get in her path with her cane. He felt bad for the one or two kids too slow to move, but it was well known that getting in Toph's way was basically a license for her to wail on you.
Toph put her feet up as soon as they got settled in class, enjoying the strange immunity she had to any retaliation from Bumi. The old mad scientist himself seemed to be going through roll call in an alternating fashion, top then bottom, all coming in close to the center of the list.
"So, anyway," Bumi said, "Now that that's all out of the way and settled, I hope everyone's gone and voted, since polls closed -- oh five minutes ago according to my clock. Yes, I know it's an interim appointment, but your votes could have repercussions you can't even imagine. Ty Lee for example will bring love and cheer to everyone in the building, while Mai may or may not actually cause the principal to break into tears."
"So, I guess they're about the same," Bumi finished.
Toph snickered. "This is going to rock."
"So, let's all get our things together and head on down to the auditorium for another riveting assembly." The class shuffled to their feets and listlessly started down to the auditorium. Teo grinned at Aang.
"So, how is it working with both candidates? Isn't that a conflict of itnerest?"
"I wasn't going to vote," he said.
"That's right, today's your last day," Teo said. "It just isn't going to be the same without you, man."
"I'm going to miss you a ton, Teo," Aang said. "I'll try to write, but."
"Yeah, school," Teo said. "Well, I'll try and keep Toph in line on my own, but something tells me she's just going to get more fierce when people start calling her senpai."
Aang's eyes widened as he contemplated this.
"You must keep this from her as long as possible," Aang said, "For all our sake's."
Aang yawned. "I hope this lecture isn't too boring. I don't want to miss the election results."
"Aang, you okay?" Teo asked. "You look sick."
"Well, I guess the word's fatigued. You look like you're about to fall asleep standing up."
"Why does everyone keep saying that?"
"Dunno, maybe you should see the nurse," Teo suggested.
"Excuse me," a quiet voice intruded. Toph nearly jumped, pulling Teo with her when the girl appeared behind them. Aang turned, and looked at her. She was very pretty, almost unearthly. And the way she smiled at him seemed to be so familiar. "I'm sorry for intruding. You're Aang," she said, though she tried to pose it as a question, she caught it too late, arcing the end of his name sharply.
"Yeah, that's me," Aang said. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
"That's complicated," the girl said. "My name is Yue. I have something I need to talk to you about, if that's okay."
"I guess so," Aang said. He could feel something resonating between the two of them. Perhaps it was a twinge of familiarity. The way she acted, so rigid and proper, seemed almost like Azula, but there was a distinct lack of fierceness hidden beneath it. It was almost calming.
"So, on the roof, would you meet me -- alone?"
"Whoa," Toph murmured. "How's she look, Teo?"
"Uh," Teo whispered back, "Like a goddess."
"I keep telling Katara to tell him --" Toph said, shaking her head. "Hey, Aang, let's get moving, okay?"
"Oh, I suppose," Aang said, "Look, we've got the assembly, and if I'm not there when Bumi counts us, he'll make me stay after and --" he yawned, "Well, it'll make me late for my train."
"Yes," Yue said, "I understand. I'll meet you on the roof. Don't be late."
"So," Toph asked, when they were apart, "How did you rope in someone like that?"
"I don't know!"
"She seemed familiar," Teo said. "I think there was an exchange student named Yue. But she went home. Oh, right! That's it, she went to the prom, too. We even got a picture of you all together."
"We did?" Toph said. "I don't remember that."
"Okay, now you guys are getting forgetful. She was pretty close to Sokka, I think," Teo said, "I remember Suki glaring daggers at Sokka all night long."
"Wasn't that the night the earthquake took out the gym?"
"Yeah," Teo said, "Really, really weird though. I don't think the school's built on a fault line, let alone the gym."
"Pfft, science, who needs it."
"Hey, Toph," Aang said, quietly, "Do you ever get the sense that you've forgotten something. Something big, too."
"What?" Toph began, bristling, but when she was about to speak, she hesitated. "You know, now that you mention it, yeah. Shouldn't we know Yue if she had a thing for Sokka?"
"That's bugging me, too," Aang said.
"What are you two muttering about? This isn't one of those mysterious Bending Club meeting things, is it?" Teo asked. "We're going to be late if you two don't hurry it up!"
When the assembly began, Principal Chey took the stage and began talking. Aang didn't really hear what he was saying, though it sounded as if he was being very serious about something. Bumi was throwing him an angry eye, but Aang was too busy looking for a glimpse of that strange girl.
For the past month, the feeling of something being missing had struck him. Sometimes, he'd wish for a grand adventure to happen, like in the movies, but at the back of his head, he always thought, 'Be careful what you wish for.'
Now, he was certain there was something more to it.
"Aang, I'll have to give you a detention on your last day if you don't sit down. Pakku's already complaining about my class to Piandao, I can just feel it. Do you have any idea what it's like with those two old guys? Blah blah blah, Bumi's too lenient, blah blah blah, can't dress himself properly, blah blah, we're getting too old for this, blah."
"Sorry, Bumi," Aang said, looking a bit sheepish.
"And, well, I don't really understand the whole science of it," Chey was saying, "It's always a total downer to hear one of our own being cut down in their prime. Azula's brother, Zuko, has asked me to thank everyone who's visited her in the hospital, and we all pray for a speedy recovery."
He looked at his notes. "Oh, right, and the election results are in. Apparently, it was pretty close, but Mai eeked out the highest number of votes."
Somewhere, in the audience, Mai could be heard shouting, "What?"
"Well, uh, we can sure tell she's excited," Chey began. "Whoa, what do you mean we didn't tell her? Oh, right, I was supposed to do that before the assembly. Sorry."
Teo snickered, "Look at old man Pakku over there. He looks set to explode."
"Yeah," Aang chuckled. "Poor Mai. I bet she doesn't have a speech ready, either."
Mai stumbled onto the stage, looking back at Ty Lee, who gave her a double-thumbs up. She looked at the treacherous sheet of paper in her hands, and then back at Ty Lee. Then, she walked up to the podium.
"Uh, thanks. I guess. You really want to do this?: I mean, I know it's for a few months, but, really? Me?"
The audience seemed to suddenly be comprised of crickets. A lone cough echoed in the silent auditorium. "Fine," Mai said. "Ty Lee gave me her speech to read, but I can't actually make heads or tails of what she wrote. I am a jellybean? Rainbow butterfly oatmeal? Ty Lee, this is just a picture of you next to the number one."
"Sorry," Ty Lee squeaked from offstage, "I wrote it last night, I was a little tired."
"I'm just going to have to go with something short, then. Look, you voted for me, you don't get to make take-backs, got it? You may not be happy with what I do, but deal with it, and I'll try and be the best council president you guys could have. I mean, other than Azula."
The audience looked stunned.
"Uh," Mai looked over at Chey, who just motioned for her to go on. "Well, I guess I'll state that my first act is we'll be needing a new treasurer. So if you like having your soul dripped out like Ba Sing Se water torture, then, hey, come to me. And, secondly, uh, that's it."
"Huh?" someone shouted.
"That's my speech. Go Phoenix High Firebirds. Or don't, whatever." She looked at Chey, "Can we, I don't know, finish this up?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure," Chey said, "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention."
"Okay, let's get out of this hot, sticky auditorium, everyone. You heard the man."
The audience just watched spellbound as Mai hopped off the stage and through the door. Toph grinned. "Oh yeah, she's going to be perfect."
"You mean besides her total boredom with routine and pageantry?" Teo whispered.
"She is Miss Phoenix High," another classmate said, "Besides, this auditorium's so hot. I think my butt's stuck to the seat."
"Do I even know who you are?" Toph asked, glaring in the general direction of the voice.
Aang snuck out of class a few minutes before lunch. He was curious just who this Yue girl really was, and why she wanted to talk to him. If she was, as Teo said, an old transfer student, why did she come back just to speak to him?
Something at the back of his mind absolutely ached, begging to be heard, but stifled by a heady fog that went through his brain. He gripped his head, and felt his legs buckling as he climbed the stairs to the rooftop. The Dai Li were nowhere to be seen, and he was glad for it.
Long Feng's creepy glorified hall monitors aside, the trip upstairs seemed plagued more by his unwilling legs. He was drained, fully, and he wondered if maybe going to the nurses may have been a wiser idea than he first thought.
Opening the door, he walked out onto the roof, and over to the old familiar seat. They met there so often, to talk about -- about something important at the time -- and he couldn't quite remember what. He remembered Azula bringing her cooking, how she looked just slightly happier whenever someone complimented her.
He missed her a lot. Katara's cooking replaced it after the incident, and he wondered why his friendship with Azula had broken so completely.
The breeze seemed so lonely, and he smiled into it, it made his head feel lighter, and as though he could remember, just briefly, those old adventures he had.
"You really came," Yue said, "I'm so glad. I was worried you'd completely forgotten me."
"I'm sorry," Aang admitted, "I don't think we've really properly met."
"Of course we have, silly," Yue said, "You just don't remember it. But, this is all one big lie you've made, Aang, just for a brief moment of happiness."
"I don't understand --"
"Your real memories are returning to you, as the Avatar Spirit inside you grows more distant. Soon, you'll remember everything," she said, "For better or for worse. I wanted to be here for this, though."
"Yue, I'm not sure I --"
He stood up, but his feet gave way, and Yue was there to grab him. She rested his head in her lap as she sat down. "Don't push yourself," she said, her voice so melancholy behind the sweet smile. :"You've done so much, Aang, you're doing so much and you don't even realize it."
Sokka snorted and woke up with a start. He looked around the classroom. The teacher stared at him as if he'd grown a second head. "Mr. Floes, what is it?"
"Sorry, uh," Sokka said. "I just really have to go. To the bathroom."
"Class is over in a couple of minutes," the teacher said, "Can't you hold it until lunch?"
The teacher sighed. "All right, you're excused."
Suki looked over at Sokka, and wondered what it was that had gotten into him. Then she noticed Zuko looking over at Sokka with an intense expression that she couldn't quite read. She rubbed her head. Had she fallen asleep too? Her head felt like a fog had lifted.
"Mr. Houou, I didn't excuse you -- oh forget it. Class dismissed," the teacher finally said in frustration.
"You felt it too?" Sokka asked. "What was that all of a sudden?"
"I don't know," Zuko said, "But suddenly I've got a really bad feeling about all this. Could a Spirit be attacking and we didn't even realize it until now?"
"I don't know," Sokka said. "Let's find the others and meet up. We need to figure out what just happened."
"I'll get Toph and Aang, you get your sister," Zuko said. Zuko headed down the stairs, pushing past students walking along. Sokka blinked, got his bearings, and ran downstairs. Katara was running up the stairs as he passed, and he turned around when he saw her.
"What's wrong, Katara? Did you get that weird feeling that you'd been asleep for the past month too?"
"It's Aang," she said, "I've got this horrible feeling that something's wrong."
"Well, why are you coming upstairs. First years are on the first floor, remember?"
"No," she said, "He's not down there. I already checked. The only other place I can think of is the roof. Toph said he was heading up there to talk to Yue. Yue!" Katara steadied her head in her hands, "This is all so confusing. What happened to us?"
"Well, I don't know, but maybe Yue has some answers. How is she even here? The full moon was a week ago."
Toph was pulling Zuko up the stairs behind them. "What are you doing standing around for!" Toph shouted.
"What's this bad feeling, anyway?" Zuko asked, irately, as Toph tugged on his jacket. "Aang was fine this morning. What makes you think suddenly he's not."
Katara looked coldly over at Zuko. "I just have this memory of waking up in a beautiful field, and Aang looked so sad, like he was going somewhere far away."
"And that's it?" Zuko scoffed.
"You don't understand," Katara said. "It wasn't a dream. I'm sure of it now. He's going away."
"Yeah," Zuko said, "Home."
"Can't you just trust my intuition?" Katara asked. Zuko was about to speak, but stopped. "Thank you."
"The roof, let's go!" Toph urged. She looked nervous, but hid it behind an angry scowl. "You're so slow, Zuko."
Sokka lead the group up the stairs to the rooftop. He pushed the door open and looked around the rooftop. The sun was warm and the breeze cool as the last days of summer wrapped around them in a perfect embrace.
The sound of birds as they flew down to the trees below in the courtyard out front seemed to be carried on the wind towards them. Sitting, peaceful and serene, Yue seemed to be almost unnatural, her hair caught the light of the sun and shimmered.
She looked up at them, and she managed a weak smile. "You're here," she said, quietly.
"Aang!" Katara pushed past Sokka when she saw Aang, resting his head in Yue's lap, looking as if he was about to fall asleep. The clouds drifted overhead in patterns and he seemed to watch them dreamily. "Aang, what happened. All of a sudden, I just remembered everything that happened. The Spirit World, Ba Sing Se coming down on top of us, everything --"
"It's okay," Aang said, weakly.
"What's wrong, Aang?" she asked. "You look so tired."
"Why does everyone keep saying that?" Aang laughed. "I'm fine."
"Yue, is he --" Zuko managed to ask.
Yue looked aside. "In a way. When we defeated Agni, it was already too late to stop the worlds from colliding. Without the flames of destruction, this world wasn't ready for it, however, and if the two worlds had merged, the results would have been unimaginable."
"But that's okay, now," Toph said. "So, what's the deal? Why can't I bend if the Spirit World's okay? I mean, it is okay, right. You're here, and --"
Yue nodded. "I suppose with the two worlds separated, your bending has just stopped. But the Spirit World is okay. I'm projecting myself here, not unlike how Iroh did. It takes an awful lot of concentration, and I don't know how much longer I can be here, but I will try to stay as long as I can. At least, until --"
"No!" Katara yelled, "We need to do something!"
"Katara," Sokka put a hand on his sister's shoulder, and she stared down Yue, daring her to tell her otherwise. "Come on, you can't be telling us we beat a god but saving our friend? That's impossible?"
"Well, I --" Yue looked hurt. "I didn't --"
"Guys," Zuko said. "A man has to do what a man has to do. Aang must have his reasons."
"How can you be so calm?" Katara asked. "He's dying!"
"No," Yue said, "It's not dying, exactly. The Avatar Spirit -- his spirit -- is the barrier between our worlds now. Without him, the worlds would just continue to collide."
"So he'll just end up like Azula?" Zuko asked. He clenched his fist. "How is it we keep finding these things we can't fix?"
"Stop it," Aang managed to say. "Come on, guys. Trust me, okay?" he smiled, "I know what I'm doing. I'm the Avatar, after all."
"But we need you," Katara managed to say.
Aang laughed, "Come on, you're acting like this is goodbye, forever."
"It is, isn't it?" Zuko managed to say. "We can hope, we can pray to the spirits until our mouths our dy, but it isn't changing the fact that we couldn't do anything."
"You can do something," Aang said. His voice seemed so small, so scared. "Just -- stay with me, okay? So I don't forget who I am."
Katara sat by Aang, and Yue moved him gently so he was resting on her lap. She stood up, and looked over at Zuko, Sokka, and Toph. She nodded to them, and they came closer to Aang. Katara was the first to speak. "We're never going to leave you, Aang."
"You guys," he managed to cough out, "You guys are the best. When I was fighting Agni, I saw everyone's hearts fighting back against him, too, but it was your voices that gave me the most strength."
"Hey," Sokka said, "What good are we if we can't be your moral support."
"Aang, you need your strength," Katara scolded, lovingly. "There's so much we need to talk about still. I wish there was more time."
Aang smiled. "Katara, I know."
She flushed, "I know, but I wanted to tell you, just once." She suddenly felt very insecure, looking at the others, looking over at her. Toph, for her part, wasn't actually looking at her -- her eyes were actually still focused on the ground in front of Aang, but she was making motions to continue.
"Come on," Yue said, whispering.
"I, uh, I love you."
Aang smiled, his eyes drooping. "I feel the same," Aang managed to say. "Katara, promise me something?" She leaned close, to hear his voice as it began to drift, totally drained of strength. She nodded, slowly, as he spoke. "Whatever you do," he said, "Please, don't let the world wish for Agni to return."
Katara closed her eyes, feeling tears sting her eyes. "Of course, Aang."
Aang smiled. The wind seemed to sing an old, somber song, It felt so cold, even with the warm summer air, and Katara shivered.
Aang closed his eyes, and drifted away into a peaceful slumber..
"You were right there besides me. Always, always, always standing there smiling besides me. Even if I lose you, I'll get you back. I will never leave you."
- Memories of You
There it is, the end of Burn My Dread Complete. The story spans sixty-six chapters and evolved from a one-off idea that I put up as Burn My Dread in Part, a kind of pilot for the concept. That I'm here, writing the words, "the end of Burn My Dread Complete" is almost like dreaming. It's over, it's finally over.
And so what now?
It's time for a sequel, duh! The first sequel, Burn My Dread FES will be more of an extended epilogue to the story. It will pick up a few months after the ending, and focus on a different character, but every main character will have their moment to shine in the sequel, I promise. That said, the story should be largely stand-alone, so you don't need to go back and check on this one and go, 'Oh yeah now I remember.'
I'm sure there are going to be questions, still, and I did try my best to keep the main plot points clear and concise, but the problem with writing a story like this is you have to tread carefully the ground between exposition and letting the audience figure it out for themselves. This final chapter may be the weirdest, so a brief explanation.
Nothing changed from the end of the Solstice to the next morning. They simply don't remember it as anything more than a dream. But as the month drew to a close, their memories slowly started to return until they all came back very suddenly. Most people remember normally -- Teo remembers their weird Bending Club excursions -- but Suki, Mai, Ty Lee, and anyone else privy to the secrets of the Spirit World also forgot about it.
If you have any questions that desperately need answering, please send them to me via PM, and if the question isn't going to be be addressed in FES, I'll try and answer it to the best of my ability.
I hope everyone enjoyed the story, and will join me for Burn My Dread FES.