I do not own any creative rights to Avatar: The Last Airbender. I do, however, own this story.
As you may or may not have guessed from the title, this will be an alphabet-themed collection of stories, in which I write a short piece for each letter of the alphabet. I know, it's probably been done to death, but it sounded like fun and I did try to put my own little spin on the concept to keep things relatively fresh. For now, my plan is for there to be ten chapters, with the middle eight consisting of three stories/letters each, and the first and last each containing one along with a prologue and epilogue, respectively. That may change though; I'll just have to write and see how it goes from there.
The other thing I wanted to point out is that in this collection I'm going to be experimenting with a more minimalist style of writing (at least, more minimalist than the stuff I usually do, anyway). It's kind of a new direction for me, so please let me know what you think.
In the flickering light, Aang could feel the heat emanating from the hearth. It was comforting, like draping a blanket over his seated figure as he gazed off into the flames dancing in the modest fireplace. He could feel his head starting to nod wearily and he would have dozed off, but his progress was impeded by the figure seated in his lap.
"Daddy," Thao protested, pulling on the monk's traditional ocher-tinged robes. "Don't fall asleep! You promised you'd tell me a story!"
Oh man. She was usually the one who told the bedtime stories, but Aang had promised his wife the night off that night. Hoping the added light would provide some inspiration, he subtly flicked his wrist, causing the now smoldering cinders to reignite. Meeting his son's gaze, he smiled.
"I did, didn't I? Well, let me think for just a minute now…"
"Thao? Is your father slacking off already?" her voice called from the bedroom.
"Of course not," Aang countered, feigning indignity. "My stories just take a long time to think up because they're that special. Right, kiddo?"
"Yeah!" Thao agreed enthusiastically, bouncing up and down on his father's lap which got a chuckle out of the Airbender.
"All right then," Aang said favorably. Staring off at the ceiling for a moment, he considered the possibilities. He could tell Thao about that one time Sokka broke his arm trying to impress Suki by riding a wild lion-boar. Of course, there was also that one time where Katara had tried to teach Toph how to swim. Or maybe…
Huh? Aang frowned, his gaze falling upon his young son and the neatly-folded piece of parchment the boy held in his hand. "What have you got there, Thao? Some hidden treasure?"
"I found it," Thao said seriously, nodding his head and lowering his voice to a whisper, as though speaking too loudly would cause the wondrous artifact to vanish into thin air. "You can look if you want to… but you can't tell no one!"
Aang nodded gravely, sealing the pact, and took the parchment from his son. A small smile broke across his features as he unfolded it and took in its contents.
"I can't understand what the squigglies mean," Thao admitted from his perch atop Aang's knees.
The monk shook his head slowly. He'd recognize Katara's handwriting any day. And then, suddenly, as though Roku had come down and delivered the inspiration himself, Aang was struck with an idea.
"Okay, Thao. How about this? I'll tell you what all of these 'squigglies' mean." If there was one thing that hadn't changed at all since the end of the war, it was the mischievous smile adorning Aang's face.
The boy looked up and wrinkled his nose incredulously. "But what about the story?"
"I'm glad you asked," Aang continued with a grin. "Believe it or not, the story is all about them."
"That sounds like a really confusing story."
"Some parts of it are confusing," Aang admitted. "But some parts are happy. Some parts are sad. Some parts might even be a little scary!"
When Thao did not reply, the Airbender looked down to see that his son was gazing up at him, already fully enraptured. And so Aang continued.
"What's most amazing about this story is that it's actually made up of lots of little stories. And they're all true."
"Really? All of them?"
"Absolutely all of them." Aang paused for a second, taking in the gentle heat of the fire as he pondered where exactly to begin. "It all started like this…"
A is for Airbender
He loved this time of day. The breeze, the grassy hill upon which he lay, the way the sky's cheery blue bled into a majestic pastel orange in the twilight… it all blended together to form a beauty beyond comprehension. Despite this, his mind was elsewhere.
He was an Airbender. The last of his kind, his people lost a century ago, the victims of a ruthless genocide. There was a hole that would not be filled, a loneliness that could not be tempered… not even in the serenity of dusk. Not even by her.
"Aang, what are you doing?" Her face filled his vision, her eyes staring straight down into his own.
His reply was not immediate, but after much delay he finally said simply, "Just thinking, I guess."
The attempt at evasion was a futile one. She could read him like an open book, and she knew it. If she were bothered however, her face certainly did not echo the sentiment as she broke into a bemused grin. "You've been laying out here staring at the sky for half an hour now. What could you be thinking about?"
"Oh… nothing in particular."
He wasn't even trying anymore. "Right. Of course you were. Now, are you going to tell me the truth or am I going to have to force it out of you?" Her threat sharply contrasted with her playful tone.
Slate eyes bored into cerulean ones as he weighed the consequences of telling her. And for a second, his gaze wavered. Hers did not.
It was all he needed.
"I'm the last one, Katara."
"The last Airbender." The words hung in the air, swaying in the evening breeze. And for a little while the two were silent.
She lifted her arm, and he noticed for the first time that she was kneeling over him. And then, warmth as she softly placed her hand on his cheek. Her touch was as soothing as the twilight itself.
"Aang, I know how much you miss them…"
"It isn't that simple." Their eye contact was broken as he shifted to sit up beside her.
"What do you mean?" Her tone was one of genuine confusion, of worry. Compassionate.
"What happens when I'm gone, Katara?" His reply was abrupt, his words spilling out faster and faster as he went on. "What happens when we're gone? My race will be completely extinct. Nothing will remain of us… only ghosts and memories."
"Aang, listen…" She wanted to tell him. Needed to tell him. Now more than ever, he needed to know.
"And the world won't even blink," he spat bitterly, tears threatening to fall. "It's pointless."
Her hand reached his shoulder. "You don't mean that," she said simply. "I know you don't mean that."
"Aang, you risked everything you had to save this world," she said, her eyes meeting his once more. "You did it for me and Sokka and Toph and everyone else. And the world will always remember you and your people for it."
"But that won't bring them back," he countered sullenly, face buried in his arms as he brought his knees to his chest. "The memory of my people will die with me."
Again, there was her touch. "I wouldn't be so sure about that one."
His eyebrows shot up. He hadn't been expecting that one. "What do you mean?" His stare, which had been intently fixed on some imaginary object somewhere off in the horizon, turned now to Katara.
She did not reply. Instead, her free hand left the soft grass and came to rest upon her abdomen as she gave him a small, shy smile.
And with that tiny, seemingly insignificant gesture, everything was suddenly different. Aang couldn't help but break into a smile so wide that he honestly questioned whether or not his face could take it as he gave a great whooping laugh and met his wife in a tight embrace.
He loved this time of day. It reminded him of what was important, of all the blessings in his life. It reminded him of who he was.
He was an Airbender.
A/N: On a final note, in case anyone was wondering, don't expect these stories to be in any sort of chronological order. Aang's just sort of pulling these stories from memory based on the letter, so I'm going to be jumping around the time line a bit. Most will probably take place sometime after the show's conclusion, though some may take place during the show's events and a couple may even happen beforehand.
With that in mind, see you all in chapter two! Thanks for reading.