Let There Be

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

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers up to Season Three

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #19: Light.

Companion to Awaken, Empress.

She breathes in, and it's death. She breathes out, and it's sorrow. End of the beginning and beginnings without end.

Kyoshi never wanted to be the Avatar.

She has her own plans. Her own dreams. Her own future. She doesn't want to babysit the world. She doesn't want to leave her home and travel endlessly. She doesn't want to be forced into fixing other people's problems when they can't be bothered to help themselves. She doesn't want any of it.

Kyoshi wants to be free.

But earth isn't freedom. Earth is steady, dependable. Always doing what's hard and not at all easy. She'll never follow in her father's footsteps. Never take over his forge one day. Never be the best sword maker in the world and pass on that craft to her children.

"Kyoshi," he father murmurs as they come to take her away. "My little girl…"

And she wants to cry. She does cry the first night. Weeps until her tears run out and all she can do is clutch the golden fans he made her.

They make her learn fire first. It's all heat and light. Emotion and blazing and even wonderful some of time. But even it can't ease her heartache. Can't make her forget what it means to run through the woods by her father's forge or to happily train with her fans until her hands bleed.

The Fire Nation is warm, comfortable. The people are full of life and passion. But it seems they make her move on as soon as she's content there, happy even.

The hallways of the Eastern Air Temple are always cold. The winds are chilly, and she wants to wear layers even in high summer. The nuns don't let her. She has to rise above worldly desires and pains. She has to be transcendental. She has to be the Avatar. They frown whenever Kyoshi dares laugh. Frown and cut her with words, belittle her until she doesn't even do that anymore.

Then, they fly her off to the Northern Water Tribe. It's even colder there, but somehow, she breathes easier. Kyoshi can at least be emotional here. She can laugh and even cry, and they're glad for the water if nothing else.

And the oasis is beautiful. The first trace of green she's seen in years. It's like being home. Like closing her eyes and expecting her father's voice to float to her ears. But it isn't him she sees when she opens them again.

Instead, there is another man. Translucent but brilliant. Ethereal. Otherworldly in his Water Tribe furs. Everything a spirit should be. Everything an Avatar could hope to attain.

But his face is blank, and his eyes are full of grief. He is powerful and great and all alone. He is water, and she is earth, and in the end, they are the same.

"I am Kuruk," the man says then, "and I'm sorry."

Ever Hopeful,