Longer the Lost

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers up to Season Three

AN: For AtLA Land's writing challenge. Prompt was "Red Moon/Dead Moon."

He's playing Pai Sho.

It's a quiet night. Peaceful and soothing. The moon is full and beautiful. Bright in the sky and shining down on all her children. The ocean is still and serene, gently rocking the ship beneath them. His men are a soft din in the background; all he hears is the buzz of their voices and the occasional laugh in the cool night air. Everything is still and serene, seemingly perfect.

Hakoda sighs and sips his tea. His mind is a thousand miles away, and his blue eyes don't really see the board in front of him. He's losing anyway but can't bring himself to care. Kya was always a better player, and he only does it now to pass the time. To help him remember her amused voice as they talked for hours over their games.

He wonders about his kids then; they're never far from his thoughts. He wonders how tall Sokka has become. If Katara has grown even more beautiful. He hasn't seen them in so long, in years, and Hakoda fears that it'll be years more before he does. Before he sees home, his family.

His heart is heavy as he turns back to the board and takes his turn. It's a lack luster move at best. Hakoda still doesn't care. Win. Lose. It doesn't really matter. He'll be back tomorrow to play again, drink his tea, and miss Sokka and Katara.

He takes another sip, grimaces at the bitter taste, and glances out the window. Only to abruptly choke. The cup slips from his suddenly nerveless hand, but he barely notices the tinkle it makes as it shatters on the wooden deck.

The moon is red. The moon is bleeding.

His spirit goes cold. It freezes in his chest and threatens to splinter into a thousand pieces. A hundred frantic thoughts race through his head, but all of them fall away at the sudden knowledge that his kids are in danger. He doesn't understand how, doesn't even question it, but Hakoda knows. He knows with every part of himself that they're involved. Instinct screams inside of him that they are in the thick of things. That peril hounds their footsteps and death is just a pace behind.

Hakoda has never been so afraid as he is in that moment. Not in battle. Not in Fire Nation raids. Not in racing after his daughter to find his wife. Never.

The moon is red. The moon is bleeding. The moon has gone dark. The ocean rumbles beneath their ship. His men shout with worry and panic and fear.

And all Hakoda can think about is his children as dread coils and trembles in his heart.

Ever Hopeful,