Here Lies the Hero

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

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #14: Supernatural.

Title is taken from the name of an author. Since really, it was too good to pass up.

Death is easy. Living is hard.

He stands unseen behind a Fire Nation prince with a hand on his shoulder. The boy's face is half-covered in bandages, and the tears only come from his good eye. The task set before him is daunting and impossible and just an excuse to be rid of him. He'll try anyway, but he doesn't even know where to begin.

"You'll make it. I believe in you," the ghost says with a squeeze.

Somewhere else, there's a blind girl in a garden, empty and forgotten as people watch but don't see. She's so young to be this hopeless and frustrated. He takes her by the hand as she runs away and keeps her from tripping on her long dress when they go underground. He stays to hear her laugh with the badgermoles and presses a kiss to her forehead.

It's later. He's beside another girl with blue eyes as she helps her brother pack his canoe. They're already arguing, and she seems ready to stomp back to their icy home and let him leave without her. There's ghostly fingers on her elbow, however, and he gives her an invisible nudge.

"You should go with him; it might be important."

Then, her brother has a choice to make. Innocents or hate. Follow the leader or spare the old man. Flood the village or save it.

"You'll do the right thing," the ghost whispers in his ear at the moment of decision. "You always do."

Time skips. The last of the Air Nomads is feverish and near dying. His face twists in his sleep, and his thrashing threatens to reopen his injuries. A ghost sings in time to the rock of the ship beneath them and stays by his bed for days, stroking his hair through the nightmares.

A world away, he visits an old man in a dark and dingy cell. Time and life has worked against them both; he can only be here when the man sleeps and listen to him murmur the names of his two boys.

"He'll come back," the ghost always promises. "He will."

Weeks pass. There's a princess who plans to burn the world and talks to people who aren't there. She's cunning and clever and broken with ash and blood stained beneath her fingernails. He simply watches when she shatters and cries until she runs dry.

"You're a monster," he murmurs into her hair as he kneels next to her, "but I love you all the same."

Then, the war is over and done, and he thinks that maybe it's time to finally rest. He visits one last time as they drink tea and play games. The old man starts at the sight of him in the doorway, but he just waves and begins to fade.

"Good luck," he wishes them all.

Lu Ten smiles then and is gone.

Ever Hopeful,