AN: Sorry for the long wait. I would have had it up yesterday, but I accidently hit the backspace button here on the editing part of Fanfiction after spending four hours on this, then all my work was lost! So, once again, I'm sorry. As some of you might know, I'm starting a sequel to this called "Do Unto Others." If I get enough reviews, I'll post the sequel up tomorrow. That's right, you read right! Consider it as an apology gift. Also, keep an eye out for "The Unseen Scenes of Acts of Kindness"-most are filler, but some include awesome battles and such.
Check out -remember his crappy remake of ATLA? Well, I read about this mission in Time, and I thought it was both hilarious and a good idea.
For the last time in this fanfic, I do not own Avatar: the Last Airbender.
CHAPTER 49: THE FINAL MOMENTS
The airship was rattling so hard that Sokka and I lurched forward. Sokka grabbed my head and pulled me as we ran for safety. I had no idea where Sokka was taking me, but I trusted him. He leapt and I felt the slight terror of being a thousand feet in the air with just a hand in my palm for guidance. It was a long jump, and we hit the next airship as the one that we were on a few seconds ago exploded with a defending roar and metal tearing apart with screams of protest. The force pushed us and we fell onto the ground where the trapdoor to below opened. We fell a long way, but Sokka managed to stick his sword in one of the walls to make us slow down.
We had destroyed most of the airships, all but two. I sensed footsteps and immediately slammed them back with a metal shield. They yelled and Sokka took this as an opportunity to use his boomerang to knock them out. It was a clash of metal, fire, and shrieks as more soldiers arrived. They didn't even manage to get some good hits in; that was disappointing!
An onslaught of more Firebenders (just how many were on this damn airship?) stood in formation to unleash a major blast of heat. I tore off a wall just in time, but they pushed us into a small confinded room. I felt a strong pressure in a wide, round, and big container of sorts. The soldiers suddenly surprised us with a huge whirl of fire and we jumped back. I felt them locking the door. Cowards and fools! Didn't they see that I could bend metal? The room immediately filled up with a stifling heat that caused sweat to firm on my brow. It felt like an oven...
Sokka's panicked voice shattered my assurance. "It's a trap! We're in the boiler room and it's going to explode!"
Instinct took over. I wrenched a large part of the room that didn't have the boiler on it, formed it as a shell around us, and braced for impact.
It was the most terrifying and quickest experience in my life. The boiler blew up, large hunks of metal shooting in all directions. The force knocked us back and we were jolted in our shield like coins rattling in a beggar's cup. The heat was intense and what Zuko described as "red hot, strong enough to make the strongest metals malleable and heat up hotter than you can imagine, like a branding iron." We both screamed in agony as the hot metal touched us and the explosion had us almost sticking to the back of our shell.
We finally stopped and I broke it open with some difficulty. We panted and winced. I felt several bruises and burns, and I heard Sokka mutter, "We need Katara's healing skills now. Ouch! Note to self: don't kneel on that knee."
I felt a slight wind and knew that we were outside. Sokka gave out a cry of surprise. "A Fire Nation war balloon!"
I could see the familiar design of the machine that The Mechanist and I had fatefully created for it to ironically be one of the Fire Nation's weapons. It rose steadily to meet us, and I drew out my boomerang. One good hit, one good tear, and it will plunge down on the earth thousands of feet below. I gritted my teeth, aimed, and—
Saw a little boy in an oversized helmet clinging to the basket's sides shouting, "It's us! Come on!", along with two other figures that we both knew well.
Aang rolled to the right as On Ji sidestepped Ozai and pushed her wind forward. As Ozai's fire blaze ripped through it, Aang Earthbended a boulder into it and On Ji, as if on cue, jumped up.
"We make a good team." Aang panted.
"I've never fought with an Airbender before." On Ji commented. "We work well together-" Suddenly, Ozai was right in front of her, and before she could dodge, he threw her, hard, into one of the pillar.
"Aaah!" On Ji cried out. Her arm felt like loose coins bouncing in a money pouch, and the bones rubbed together sharply. She gripped it, tested it, and the arm hung limply. "My arm!"
Aang groped around for something to make a splint and covered On Ji while she tried to hold Ozai off with one arm. Finally breaking off two sticks from a thin tree, he tore off part of his robe and wound it around On Ji's arm as a make-shift splint.
Ozai roared with laughter as Aang helped On Ji up. "You Air Nomads are weak! No wonder most of you were wiped off so easily in the first months of the war! You waste time, trying to help every man, woman, and child instead of fighting like warriors!" He unleashed a huge fire blast the size of Appa, and Aang and On Ji flipped backward in the air together to avoid them. The Phoenix King kept cackling like a maniac. "Evade, dodge, run away, little children! Stand and fight!"
"Even the greatest warriors need to use negative jing!" Aang shouted back.
"Even greater warriors never have to go on defensive, breeze rider!" Ozai mocked him with the derogatory remark for Airbenders. Aang and On Ji's faces tightened with anger and On Ji used wind to trip up Ozai ever so slightly. Aang Earthbended a sharp clump of earth at Ozai's feet, but Ozai used the momentum to leap up and fire shot out of his feet, propelling him high in the air again.
"See how I conquer your precious element!" Ozai laughed, ripping through the sky like a second comet, firing large blasts of lightning and fire at the two Airbenders. Aang kept shooting boulders, shoving air, and water whipping at him as Ozai smashed or skillfully wove around them to fire yet more attacks at the Avatar. On Ji tried to use one arm to spare the other for attacks and shields, but that was too much effort for the young Airbender. Gritting her teeth, she rose her left arm and rapidly began to form a tornado, which Ozai dissolved.
"Too weak!" He voice taunted. On Ji smirked in spite of herself. Oh? You need to watch your aim, Ozai.
The tornado had exploded, fiery blazes shooting like falling stars at Ozai's face. He roared like an angered tigerdillo as the flames lapped at his bare chest and long hair. Aang stood back temporarily, but this was a foolish thing to do, as the ex-Fire Lord wiped off the flames like sweat drops and continued to fight.
"Clever, clever, little girl!" On Ji rolled to avoid his lightning bolts, but they singed her hair in the process. She jumped up and clenched her hands into fists, flicking her fingers at him to throw invisible darts at him. They barely made sizable damage, but they hit just the same. Flames flickered angrily like giant candles, burning Aang's tunic off and On Ji's boot.
"Fools! I will annihilate all Airbenders this time! Starting with the little Flameo girl and the Avatar!"
"Why do you want to destroy the Air Nomads?" Aang cried out, flipping in the air and kicking fire at his opponent.
"Because they stand in the way of Sozin's mission! We must prove that the Fire Nation is and always will be the greatest nation!" Ozai replied with a strong pinwheel attack that sent On Ji reeling back. "They are weak! Roses maintain their beauty and strength by culling the weaker buds! Our world must have no room for cowards and cripples!"
She stumbled, catching herself with one arm, careful not to further damage her broken one. Aang jumped in and shielded On Ji with an earthen shield while kicking out a strong wind.
The battle grew more intense then. Ozai's fingers were dancing to shoot the deadly blue energies, Aang was tiring, and On Ji's arm screamed in pain...
"Are you mad?" Zuko shouted as he shot a large amount of fire at Azula's blue blazing attacks. "You could get yourself killed by coming out here! Why intervene?"
His wife's eyes flashed angrily as ice coated her legs as she surfed around Azula to pummel her with a few well-placed blows with water whips. "Because I can't let you die! I won't sit by idly calling out your name every ten seconds! I am a Master Waterbender and will defend the ones I love with my last breath!"
"That's the trouble! You are so impulsive and stubborn!" Azula laughed.
Katara swept the water from the pool and flicked her fingers, turning them into icicles. Azula laughed as her fire devoured them. "Fire beats ice!"
"Not quite." Katara smirked, sending a sheet of ice beneath her feet. She whirled gracefully as Azula slid, her arms wheeling. Zuko created fire whips and lashed them out like angry snakes. Katara kicked and water smacked into Azula's blue fire wall. They worked together in a seamless team, driving Azula back. Katara used the water to "surf" around and fire rapid attacks from above, while Zuko took care to shoot fire at her feet. Maybe it was because Azula was insane and was less focused, or maybe it was because she was taking on two master benders at once, but she was tiring and they knew it.
As Zuko's fire kick smacked into her, Azula bounced on the ground and hit one of the pillars. She growled like a trapped platypus bear.
Lightning flickered and snapped like an angry tigerdillo as it raced towards Zuko...
General Iroh raised two fingers, letting flames shoot out and spread on the Fire Nation's banners, revealing the green Earth Kingdom emblems beneath. No longer was this city conquered by the Fire Nation. How ironic that he had set out to raze this city when he was a different, younger man; but now, he was freeing this great city from his homeland. Destiny was truly a funny thing...
He heard Jeong Jeong protest that Bumi would withhold all the Fire Whiskey, and Piandao suggesting that they'd share at least one bottle. He heard the tanks groaning as the broken machinery slowed down in the neat columns Bumi had stacked them in. He smelled the charred bonfires, the smoky ashes that fell like snow, dust rising in the air, and the tinge of battle that his experienced nose knew. He saw the Comet still slowly making its way through the blood red sky and prayed that his nephew, his Waterbending wife, and the others would succeed with their mission.
He walked away after briefly thanking and congratualating the Order. Walking beyond the walls of the city, he let his mind wander.
A crack startled him and he saw a shadow of a woman. Her eyes looked at him with astonishment, like a deer-raccoon caught in the bright allure of torches. She turned and, to his surprise, fled. Her long hair came loose and flew behind her, along with her cloak.
He ran after her, driven by a strange impulse, but he couldn't keep up with her. He decided to continue on his journey.
Finally, he reached the western side of the wall, still miraculously untouched. Carved with shaky script were these words:
Here was where Prince Lu Ten of the Fire Nation died after a fatal attack by Earthbenders. Agni, rest him in your warm embrace. I love you, son, and there will always be a gash in mh heart for you. May you find peace and happiness in the Spirit World.
Iroh kneeled in front of this site and talked to his son silently. He talked to him every day, but poured out his words like a barrel of spilled water. He remembered this day, too, so clear as if it were yesterday...
Fire was shot out of catapults, hands, and tanks. How the Fire Nation army roared in triumph as the great walls of Ba Sing Se fell. Soon, there will be victory for the Fire Nation! He was sure that finally, he would be able to return home with his son to Ursa, Zuko, and his family. His soldiers were confident and seemed to laugh when they fought.
He fingered the fine craftmanship of the pearl handled dagger that the Earth Kingdom general had given him when they had broke throughout the Outer Wall. He shouted orders as he struck down many of the opposing soldiers. He was the Dragon of the West, and nothing would stop him!
Suddenly, there were huge screams and a loud rumble. He saw with his eyes, the image that would be burned in his memory forever. One of the walls that crumbled with the force of the Earthbender's army. The Fire Nation soldiers below yelled, fire blasting rubble and trying to run, but it was too late. The avalanche fell on the poor soldiers, and he heard himself screaming in pain, a searing heat burning his chest that never compared to the most horrible wounds.
Lu Ten, his son, who had eagerly joined him in his siege to take down Ba Sing Se, was buried underneath the great walls.F
Iroh felt himself back in the present, tears streaming down his weathered and wrinkled face. He remembered holding his son's body in his arms. Cruel Fate hadn't closed Lu Ten's eyes and smoothed out his face into a peaceful expression. His only son's face was filled with fear and horror, many wounds all over his broken body.
Almost everyone had called him a weakling for surrendering, but it felt like the right descision to make. Ursa had held him with tears in her eyes, while his nephew tried not to cry as he held his uncle's hands.
Iroh sighed and straightened up. It was over. It was finally over. The Earth Kingdom was free again.
He smoothed the wall with great sadness and longing. "Goodbye, my son."
Iroh, for a moment, saw a ghostly figure in golden light appear before him with a smile and lips that formed "Goodbye, Father. I love you."
"How did you get here?" Sokka shouted over to them. "Thank the spirits you're here! We were almost roasted by that thing!"
"Well, did you expect us to sit around and do nothing?" Haru jested, helping Toph up. "All aboard!"
"Dude, you even look like a conductor with that caterpillar hanging from your face."
"It's not my fault that you can't grow any hair on your face."
"Right, I'm so jealous-" A blast of fire collided with the war balloon, interrupting their banter.
A terrific air battle began with the rest of the airships. Teo threw his bombs into the propellors, and some airships sunk like stones; his bombs sometimes collided with the soldiers. Haru threw boulders from the pillars at the airships, while Toph blindly tossed them in the air with directions from The Duke, who was yelling out where attacks were coming from and helping Teo throw bombs. Sokka was tossing his boomerang and steering the war balloon to avoid hits.
A fireball zoomed towards the balloon, and Sokka quickly closed the lid to block the fire making the balloon rise.
"What are you doing?" Toph screamed as they plunged downwards.
"Avoiding that gigantic fireball!" Sokka shouted as the mini comet barely grazed the balloon. Sokka felt like laughing as he pulled the lid off once more and the balloon rose again.
Toph felt useless as the battle went. She couldn't see anything except in the war balloon, and she felt her rocks were doing minimal damage. How useless she was in the air! If they were on that airship, or better yet, on the ground, she could kick the Firebenders' asses in a few seconds. She traveled far and wide to prove that she was no helpless blind girl who was lucky to be born into the Beifong clan and could Earthbend a few pebbles. No, she was Toph, Master Earthbender, Champion of Earth Rumble Six, and Earthbending teacher of Avatar Aang. There must be something she could do!
A metal rope brushed her cheek, and she grabbed it, feeling tiny sparks of vibrations. She "saw" a guard with that same rope around his waist to meet them face to face. Ignoring this, she followed the gold sparks to a big, huge pool of silver rings pulsing with vibrations and energy. It shook and danced like flames.
The airship...of course! Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the rope and whipped it sharply. The soldier flew off, and with more access to the sparks, she sent them into the airship. The rings trembled, and she pushed and men tally stretched them out. They fought back, widening into thicker rings. No. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she ignored the battle around her. Fire ripped in the balloon as she heard yelps and felt heat. The rings expanded more as she forget them and gripped her leg, but she held onto the rope with both hands this time, shoved with all her might and being as the airship thrashed and finally, finally, crumbled into a ball.
"She did it!" The Duke cheered as Toph collapsed onto the floor. The group watched in fascination as the airship tore apart as easily like a giant ripping paper, some chunks glowing red and orange. Some pieces knocked into the other airships, bringing them down.
In desperation, someone threw a long sword blade at the balloon, but Sokka flicked his wrist, and Boomerang flashed through the sky and knocked the blade out of the way. But the boomerang landed with an inaudible clatter on one of the airships. Without warning, Sokka jerked the balloon towards the airship in the direction where his boomerang went and dove onto the airship, slicing with his sword at incoming soldiers and rolling away to avoid fire attacks. Haru went to help, ordering the younger ones to stay in the balloon.
"Sokka, do you have your boomerang?" Hed shouted at Sokka.
"Yeah!" He called back.
"Get on the war balloon, then; I have a plan!" Sokka nodded, and Haru grabbed the rudder and bent it sharply. The airship, without the guide of stability, rolled like a spinning sideways top to the next airship.
"Jump!" The Duke yelled. "Now!" Haru flipped off the airship just as it crashed into the next one. Sokka grabbed one of his outstretched arms and pulled him to safety. Haru winced as his leg hit the basket. "Maybe I overdid it a bit, but I'm glad that you taught me Metalbending, Toph."
Toph, who stirred slightly, grinned weakly. "You didn't do so bad."
"Yeah..." Haru smiled, but shot a boulder into an incoming barrage of fire. The last airship was furious, and wild attacks threatened to tip the war balloon over.
"It's best if we get on the airship!" Toph shouted. "It's better than risking the balloon to go down!"
The others leapt onto the airship. Teo stayed in the basket to make sure the balloon didn't fall, and he wasn't sure how he would steer his wheelchair on the moving airship. He tossed bombs as usual. The Duke was ordered to stay, much to his disappointment. He wanted to fight!
Suddenly, the airship rolled, and everyone shouted as they grabbed onto a stray piece of metal or fell out of the sky. Sokka found himself falling into what he recognized as the boiler room and gulped as a menacing Firebender stormed after him. He engaged him in combat, slashing his black sword and throwing his boomerang. Haru, on the side of the upside down airship, climbed to the top and battled with a group of non-benders. Toph was standing boldly on top, tossing metal boulders and jerking up shields as easily as moving her fingers.
"Where's Sokka?" The Duke peered over the edge and drew the balloon to the right.
"I can't see him! Did he fall?" Teo asked, chucking another bomb at an advancing Firebender.
"I gotta find him!" The Duke jumped out of the balloon, ignoring Teo's cries of, "No! Come back!"
He jumped into the nearest open door, saw Sokka, and lunged at him as something collided with the boiler.
"No!" Katara screamed in rage, fury, and worry. Before Zuko knew what was happening, she shoved him brutally out of the way, causing him to stumble and roll towards the waterfall. Zuko would never forget the sight of the blue lightning bolt, charged with deadly energy meant for him, streak towards Katara, her stance wide and her arms spread as if to block it, hit her. She gasped and whimpered, collapsing onto her back, sliding on the rough rock, into the pool of water. Her hair spread out, her eyes wide with shock and pain, and the first thing Zuko saw was the bloody, open wound across her stomach and chest. Katara circled up in a fetal position, then arched back into a spread eagle, almost sobbing as the blue crackles of lightning stabbed her body again and again.
"Katara!" He screamed in agony, as if he was the one who was hit. "Katara!" Azula cackled madly, as did Ozai at his son's horror struck face and desperate eyes. Blindly, Zuko shot something at him, hearing the loud crash and bang. Only then did he realize that it was lightning, but he didn't care now what it was and how he did it. He rushed to his wife's side, holding her in his lap protectively.
Stone walls rose to cover the two, and Zuko reminded himself to thank Aang if they survived. He heard On Ji and Aang heed Ozai and Azula, the twisted duo, away from them to give him and his injured wife some time.
"Tara, Tara, my sweet, sweet, Tara." He caressed her face and pulled off his shirt to staunch the blood that was leaking alarmingly fast out of the wound. Zuko felt bile and the taste of salt enter his throat as he kissed her lips. "You're going to be fine, Katara," he said with conviction that seemed to come from his determination. "You'll be okay."
Katara's response was to gasp again, and Zuko noticed dark fluid leaking out of her pants. What was happening? Had she wet herself?
Apparently his wife knew, as her face twisted up in horror and something that Zuko felt was too painful to look at directly. She struggled to sit up, trying to hold her stomach the where the liquid was flowing out, and her breathing was fast in panic.
"No, no, no, I'm sorry!" she wailed. "Please, no!" She started to sob, pleading and begging.
"What's happening?" he asked wildly, though he suspected. "Katara!"
"Miscarriage..." Tears rolled down her face. "I'm sorry, I should have stayed behind. I'm so sorry, baby..." She held her stomach more, as if begging the baby to stay, but dark liquid flowed out like a river that broke its dam.
And like the dam, Katara seemed to break.
Zuko held her close as she wept, murmuring apologies and laments. When he released her when her sobs died down, she looked at the mess and placed her hand over it. In raspy, soft words that Zuko could not understand, Katara sang over the remains of their child with tears rolling slowly down her tanned cheeks.
Suddenly, Katara buckled over and fell again backwards, and Zuko, alarmed, caught her. She touched her wound solemnly and said in a clear voice, "I'm dying." There was no uncertainty or hesitation, but her voice betrayed fear and exhaustion.
"Don't you say those terrible things!" Zuko shouted angrily, slightly shaking her. "Heal yourself!" He picked her up and rushed her to the pond, placing her in tenderly but hastily. She placed a water-gloved hand to her wound; the blue light flared, but stuttered and died like a candle in the wind.
"I don't have the strength." She whispered. "Zuko—" Katara coughed violently, blood coating her hand. Her eyes widened, but she put down her hand and continued when Zuko set her head in his lap. "I have something to tell you—" Her words were slow and concentrated, but she slurred and rushed them as if she was afraid that they won't get to him fast enough. "Remember the eclipse? How the Firebenders lost their bending, and after and before that, their bending was weak?"
Zuko nodded impatiently. What was she telling him?
"Well, I felt a little more powerful than usual. The moon was covering the sun, and I felt energized and stronger. Not so strong that I could do powerful feats like I do under the full moon, but I felt like it was night. And today, as the Comet approached, I was feeling weak and a bit listless. Not because of your tea—" Zuko hung his head in shame, but she patted his arm faintly. "But I felt drained, like it was the lunar eclipse again. Of course, I had to get here and help you. But I think the Comet makes Waterbenders weaker—Aang is strong, but he has the other elements to help him."
"Tara, look what you did today. You fought Azula and Ozai like you were a small army."
"I was determined, but my qi was...weaker. It's like drinking water with salt in it. You must keep drinking, even if the water will run out." She sighed softly. "I—"
Zuko kissed her then, softly, as if this was her first kiss again. It was an odd sight, him bending even lower as he sat with her in his lap and kissing her.
Her face lit up, though her face was slowly turning paler and paler. "I see them..."
"Who do you see? Tara?" Zuko gripped her hands in his in slight panic. No, no. This couldn't happen.
"I see Mom..." Katara's mouth was wide open with joy and surprise, tears leaking from her eyes. "And the ones who died today...D—" She choked as blood spurted out of her mouth, and Zuko hurriedly set her up against a rock. "I see your cousin, Zuko. He says he was watching your uncle...he's safe." Her voice weakened with the effort in trying to speak as she forced words to Zuko, assuring him that his uncle was alright and so far, none of the Gaang had died.
"Shh..." Zuko kissed her, blood lingering on his lips as he pulled away. "Save your strength." She looked sadly at him. "Zuko...I'm dying. You know that. I told you a couple of—" She gasped in pain again as she held her bleeding wound. Katara gently pulled off her mother's necklace with a struggle, then handed it to Zuko with a shaking hand. "Take it..."
He pushed her hand away. "No."
"Please." She closed her eyes briefly.
"No, Katara, no. You can't! You—" She pressed her lips to his and sank down as if falling into bed. Her voice was as soft as breaths of feeble wind as she said softly, slowly, stutteringly, "I love...you, Zuko. You...will be a great...Fire Lord. Be happy..."
Then Katara slumped onto the hard rock with jabbing stones, her hair and one hand trailing in the water like seaweed and a stick, and she closed her blue eyes that Zuko adored so much with a small sigh, as if releasing her last breath to the earth.
Zuko felt a lump in his throat rise and rise and keep rising, with a gut-wrenching pain in his stomach and in his chest, as if an icy, and hot at the same time, tight fist squeezed him slowly like a crushing hard packed snow.
"I love you, Katara." He said, too late, and kissed her on her forehead. Gently taking the tattered, fraying ribbon with the carved stone, he tucked it securely into his pant's pocket, wheee a clever zipper was hidden by folds of cloth. He took his bloodied shirt off the wound and turned it inside-out to place it over her like a blanket. How small, how fragile she looked in death like a fallen bird. He did not cry loudly, wail despairingly, nor sob uncontrollably. He could only kneel down next to her in silence while rivers of tears flowed freely down his cheeks, the lump in his throat seeming to grow. Sometimes a low undignified (not like he cared anymore about that) snort and sniff came out, and he brushed his tears away with his bloodied hands.
"Death may have claimed you," he murmured softly, brushing his palm against her cheek. "But you are mine as I am yours." He laughed softly. "You're so beautiful, still, Katara." The young, battered Firebender smoothed her hair and kissed her brow for several moments.
The hardest thing was that he knew he had to end this. He wanted to lie down with her in his arms and wait out the battle, but as the stone shivered, he knew he had to still fight and prevent anyone from losing someone important like this. He placed Katara on the ground, smoothed her hair once more, kissed her lips and cheek again, and whispered, "I'm going to make this right."
Zuko then blasted the rock shield open ever so slightly and charged towards a laughing Azula.
"Get over here, you bitch!" He shot white lightning that danced and swirled beautifully like a cobra striking, and it knocked her back. Barely feeling the riding triumph in his throat, he fought grimly and channeled all his emotions into the fight. His burnt arm throbbed, but his mind seemed free of physical pain. If Azula's shots had hit him, he was sure nothing could be as painful as the thought that Katara, his love, his wife, was dead.
"No! Get back!" He shouted at Aang and On Ji, who tried to come to his aid while battling Ozai. "She is mine!"
"Hahaha!" She taunted and shrieked with elation. "What will happen to you after all your little friends go too? Will Zuzu go the same way as Katty?"
"YOU-WILL-NEVER-TOUCH-MY-FAMILY-AGAIN!" Zuko roared, pure white pouring out of his fists and feet, not flinching from all her incoming attacks. He wove through each one, knocking Azula back. The Fire Prince knew then what was going to happen before it did.
His lightning flew at Azula, who stood still for a split second, and hit her in her stomach.
Azula screamed, her hair aflame with white flames and her clothes burning; she looked like a demon rising from hell.
Zuko looked at her with cold eyes, the eyes that would make his father proud, and lit his fists in dancing colors of white, blue, red, orange, yellow, purple, and green.
"You are finished." He stated, and lunged forward.
Aang was falling.
He was falling from the cliff where Ozai's blast shook his earth barrier. The force had shoved him into the sea.
"Aang!" On Ji yelled, and sent a spinning wind directly at the Phoenix King's left side. As he stumbled back, On Ji threw all she had into the fight to buy Aang some time.
Aang frantically whipped the water up to catch him and deposit him safely on the shore. As he saw Ozai using fire rockets to launch himself at him, he covered himself in a rock shell. On Ji right behind him, using wind to speed up her dive towards the ocean. As she ran on the very ocean, Ozai's fire blasts and taunts hit Aang's barrier until all hell broke loose as the shell broke and he was dashed back on the cliff behind him.
He suddenly saw flashes of the past Avatars and realized I can unlock the Avatar State. I could once I let go of Katara long ago. If this is the last time I could use this, I will use it now.
No. Avatar Roku's voice washed through his head. You have to cut all the strings of your attachments to the earth.
I thought you once told me long ago that the Avatar was born as an ordinary human being to understand emotions and bond with others. Understand feelings so that the Avatar could have something to fight for, to connect with the people. I will access the Avatar State no matter what...for my family and friends. Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph, On Ji...everyone.
Then understand that you might not succeed.
I will. That's a promise.
He focused on creating the bridge of light and energy beneath his feet and hardly dare to look up until he could picture clearly the glowing Avatar. He ran across the bridge, which to his surprise, grew wider when he put his foot down in empty air. Maybe, somehow, the Avatar State knew what he was going to do, willing to sacrifice anything to save the world. He jumped into the glowing, purple sphere cupped in the hands of the giant Avatar.
Ozai was blown backwards, more than ten feet, into the far side of the cliffs near the sea.
"That was...wow!" On Ji came running up to him. "Do you need help, Aang?" She touched his arm.
"No." Aang stated in a calm, clear voice. "I'm going to gamble everything. I will unleash the Avatar State!"
On Ji could only stare at him. He was no longer the goofy kid; he was the serious, solemn Avatar.
"Oh," was all she said and what she could think to say. She leaned up in front of him and kissed his cheek. "Good luck," she told him.
Aang slowly turned her face slightly and turned it into a real kiss, lips against lips, in a brief kiss. On Ji stood still like a butterfly landing on a leaf while Aang kissed her softly and delicately as if tasting a cool drink. They pulled apart slowly, as Ozai began to recover. On Ji nodded and stepped back.
Then, Aang's eyes and tattoos glowed bright white, and the Avatar, with the help of his Airbender, flew to meet his destiny.
"Zuzu. Don't kill me...I'm sorry, Mother." Azula's six-year-old voice came out of her deranged looking face, stopping Zuko's fist momentarily. Could he kill his little sister? Could he actually drive a knife or a fire dagger into her beating heart?
"Zuzu, please. I didn't mean it...Daddy made me."
She wasn't always like this...but it had to end...
"Mother, I'm sorry." Her golden eyes were out of focus and looked at a delusion to the right of him. "Mommy!"
Zuko, despite himself, turned to look with a wild hope that he, too, could see Mother, but just then, Azula's pupils spread out like spilled tea, covering his irises. She snarled and hit Zuko right in the back with lightning.
Zuko yelled in pain, tears stabbing his eyes. Struggling against the black clouding his vision, he blindly shot lightning as his sister, suddenly glowing red like a strange light, charged up. The lightning missed Azula by a few feet.
No. Zuko thought. No.
Suddenly, the lightning rocketed off the cliff and hit Azula squarely in the heart as she turned to look at "the pretty light."
She fell, jerking in convulsions and screaming like a banshee. Zuko flinched at the sound.
Azula fell, chopped hair over her face, and lay limp on the ground. Zuko stared, and slowly, hesitantly, pressed two fingers in the curve of her throat. There was no bump of breath that signaled that she was alive. He checked her heart, her wrists, held a hand over her mouth to detect breath. None. I killed my sister.
Zuko felt weakened and tired. The fight, fury, anger, had taken a lot out of him. He felt blood trickling down his back freely, and he knew, like Katara, he was dying. Strangely, this didn't scare him. Truth to tell, he expected it. All he wanted was to hold Katara as he died.
With the last of his strength, he dragged himself over to Katara's body a few feet away and reached out a trembling hand to take Katara's with all the effort he could muster. Her hand was the only thing he could touch as his vision faded and flickered like a dying candle in a storm, and he died with the feel of her soft hand in his.
Aang felt like laughing as he ran across the cliff. He had done what the Lion-turtle had told and shown him, and now Ozai's bending was no more! He had bound Ozai to the cliff with earthen shackles, and when he saw a group of people stepping out from an air balloon, he started to come towards them, recognizing them as the Gaang. He saw Sokka hobbling with many burns, an unconscious Toph cradled in Suki's arms, Teo with bruises and burns to his legs, and Haru with a festering burn to his right arm carrying a small bundle wrapped in a red blanket.
He then noticed that they were stumbling as if drunk and sobbing.
What? He thought. What happened to them?
As if Haru heard his thoughts, he slowly pulled off the blanket and Aang stood, horrified and transfixed at the charred, blackened, unrecognizable except for a slightly melted helmet, of the body of The Duke. Aang felt his heart drop into his stomach and smash like a glass cup. The boy's eyes and ears were melted into his head, but betrayed a look of horror and shock. The body was horrible and grotesque, but Aang couldn't look away.
He was so full of promise, Zuko said. He was on his way to become a great warrior. He was like a little brother to Zuko, who adored him. He had his whole life ahead of him, but now...
"What...what happened?" He whispered.
"It's my fault," Sokka muttered balefully. "I lost Boomerang, so I jumped onto this airship. I got the whole group involved to help me, and I was fighting this angry soldier in the boiler room, which was a stupid idea-" Sokka sniffled and wiped his eyes. "Considering that Toph saved us from being killed from a boiler explosion a couple minutes ago. And something hit the boiler hard, and I didn't notice that The Duke..." His voice trailed off. "I was thrown a good distance from the explosion, but The Duke...he wasn't so lucky-damn it!" He hit the ground as he fell on his knees. "He was just a little kid! Why the hell did he have to die? Why wasn't he blasted from that accident!"
"He died a hero's death, Sokka." Haru started, but Sokka cut him off.
"I don't care if he died a hero! He was just a stupid, stupid boy that just wanted to help..." Sokka buried his face in his hands.
"It's my fault." Teo murmured. "I was throwing my bombs, and one might have exploded and caused..."
"It's out of our hands now." Suki whispered. "Nothing will bring him back."
"Where did Suki come from?" Aang asked as Haru covered up The Duke's body.
"She took over an airship, swung out to meet us, and caught us as we fell. There were still some soldiers there, so we jumped onto the war balloon and let the airship go. I threw an excellent slime ball at the propellors." Teo explained.
Aaang raised his eyebrows, but didn't say anything. He felt like letting out a long sigh. His body felt beaten and numb.
"Hey, where are Zuko and Katara? Shouldn't they be coming-" Haru was cut off by a shriek of horror.
"Aang!" They all turned to see the young Airbender girl racing towards them. She wore an expression of distress. "Zuko, Katara...they-"
"No!" Aang hissed. "Not them, too!" Sokka looked horrified, then half-limped, half ran towards On Ji and shook her. "Where are they? Where's my sister and my brother?"
On Ji looked startled, but pointed to the west, where the pool of water was.
"Katara! Zuko!" The group followed Sokka and gasped.
Zuko's body was inches from Katara's, and his hand rested on Katara's bloody hand. The bodies were limp, but marred with burns and bloody wounds.
Sokka dropped to his knees and touched their arms.
"They're still a little warm!" He shook Toph's arm, and stirring, she woke up. "Toph! Check to see if they still have heartbeats!"
Suki set Toph gently on the ground, and she crawled over to the two bodies, looking shocked at what she woke up to. She kneeled down and felt the earth for Katara's quick, soft jumps and Zuko's wild, sudden leaps. But there was nothing. She pressed harder and harder onto the earth, desperate to have a shred of good news on this day. Tears poured down her face as she looked up at them.
"I'm sorry," was all she said.
"No, no!" Sokka cried. He gripped Katara's body. "My baby sister..." Sokka reached to grasp Zuko's free hand. "My new brother..." He buried his head in his hands and sobbed as Suki knelt beside him, wrapping her arms around him, crying too. Haru stared stupidly at the bodies, then back to The Duke's covered body. Teo stared with horror in his eyes. Toph still sat there, listening for a heartbeat that would never come.
As Aang dropped to his knees, he noticed that the two hands, intertwined, were glowing a small white light into the blood red sky.
AN: Thank you all for your reviews! I'm glad that this fanfic was a success!
"Agni..." Zuko immediately dropped to a reverent kowtow, bowing his head and not daring to look at the god in the face. Katara, watching Zuko, did the same. Her white dress brushed on the floor, and her eternal glow radiated in the presence of the Dragon Creator of the Fire Nation.
One of the spirits, who wore a feathered mask and had pursed lips, frowned. "Roku, you should have not brought them here. Look at this!" She gestured towards the pair still bowing on the floor. "The woman is dead, and the man will be very soon! Why spare them?"
Agni bade the two to rise, and nodded to Roku, who looked at Zuko and Katara one at a time. "These two...do you not guess their ancestry? Don't they look familiar?"
"The Lady Katara cannot stand as the Fire Lady." Nobleman Tang snapped, ignoring the indignant outbursts of Zuko and his allies. "She is Water Tribe. The noble blood of Agni will not be tainted with the muddy blood of a savage!"
"My blood is no dirtier than yours, Nobleman Tang." Katara said boldly, loud enough to get everyone's attention. No one spoke as she continued. "After all, I am married to the Fire Lord Zuko. There were witnesses, my father gave me away, we consummated the marriage. I looked through all the scrolls, and you cannot dissolve my marriage."
Tang sucked in his cheeks as if he had tasted a bitter olive in one of his salads. "Do you have an heir to the throne, then? The heir is usually a male and a Firebender."
Katara looked down, taking a bite of her stir-fried noodles with oyster sauce.
Zuko stared as she entered the ballroom. Glossy black hair was loose around her shoulders and back, kohl was applied above her eyes, red lips were in an even line of calmness, her brown eyes were lowered demurely, her head was raised proudly, and her red robe with black roses swished elegantly. His heart stood at a standstill and he swallowed the lump in his throat.
Zuko stroked Katara's hair and smiled. "Katara's pregnant!"
The Gaang erupted into applause. Hakoda looked stunned, his eyes widening. Pakku smiled and clapped. Gran Gran exclaimed in happiness and hugged Katara. Iroh looked at the old wonan with a wide grin. "You owe me ten silver."
Katara stared. "They BET on when I'll get pregnant?"
"Pay up, losers!" Toph yelled, as Sokka, Gran Gran, and Pakku handed her a pile of silver. She called out to the palace staff, who emptied their pockets with scowls and smiles in Zuko and Katara's direction.
Zuko's eyes bulged. "She made a bet with the palace staff?"
"Jet?" Katara gazed at him once more. He looked the same as the day she first saw him. His brown, narrow eyes that always looked slightly calculated, almost always had dangling dark brown hair in them. His sharp nose and quirked mouth that had pressed against hers in her first ever kiss. That ragtag armor held together by tough leather strings that strangely suited him. He did not have his hooked swords, though, and he smiled at her stunned face as she reached up to touch his face.
Katara didn't struggle as the knife was pressed lightly to her stomach, but hard enough to feel that if she did fight, one stab could puncture and kill again.
"You won't get away with this!" She declared, eyes stormy blue that made a less braver soldier step back. "My husband and the Avatar and armies will catch and bring you back for your execution!"
A coarse chuckle resounded in her ear. She felt revulsion as warm breaths coated it as the man replied, "If Fire Lord Zuko brings an army, we will kill you." He smirked and bound her hands together with rough cuffs that made her wrists chafe if she moved. Laughing, he hit her sharply on the head with a well aimed smack of a cudgel.
Zuko stared at those familiar eyes, the ones that held everlasting kindness and made his childhood endurable. The ones that shone brightly when he accomplished even a small Firebending feat, the ones that held tenderness when they fed the turtleducks in the garden, the ones that flashed so much like Katara's when defending him in front of Ozai, the ones that smiled when she tucked him in with his stuffed dragon.