Siren's Song

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

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers through Season One

AN: For AtLA Land's lottery writing challenge. Prompt was "Home is the Sailor."

There's no one waiting for him. Without him, his house lies empty. He has no wife. No children to shriek with joy and call his name. His parents are long gone. Little more than dust and memory now. He's never had many friends.

Water, the ocean, has always been his mistress and master. Has long been his love if not his lover. Women come and go; he doesn't care to even recall their names. He bets they don't remember his. The only names that matter are the ones he murmurs every night as he's lulled to sleep by the rocking waves.

Tui and La. Push and pull. Moon and ocean. Friend and true love.

He dreams of eyes that are impossible pools of deep blue, and he wishes every day that he were a waterbender. That he could feel the moon's tug and treat his lady the sea properly. As a good suitor and gentleman should. He has to settle for offerings. For mouthing prayers under his breath, knowing that a few of the men around him might even dare to do the same.

Shore leave is torture. Pure and simple but excruciating. He never goes so far into any town that he can't hear the waves, and he always volunteers to be left behind for the skeleton crew. It's only by miracle alone that he survives the explosion that claims the prince. He's blown from their ship and lands in the water. He only wakes up after an ensign drags him onto the dock.

Assignment to the admiral's fleet is only a means to an end; he takes it just to get back on the water. He could retire; he's put in enough time. But that means he'd only have to find a way back on his own. It's easier this way. They could send him to a fishing dingy for all he cares. He's just glad to be on the waves once more, to be rocked to sleep every night. He doesn't care that they're off to fight the Water Tribe or even that he sees his breath whenever he goes out onto the deck.

But then, battle starts, and the moon goes red. There's a stab to his heart that doubles him over, and his lieutenant grabs him to keep him from dropping to his knees. He has a moment to feel the world itself shudder before the sky lightens once more and everything goes back to the way it should be.

He rights himself in just even time to feel the ship tremble, and he hears the ocean roar. Sees the wave form and stares with awe as it approaches lightning fast and crashes over the ship. He's swept from the deck like a leaf torn in the wind, and he barely even has time to struggle before he's surrounded.

The water should be harsh. It should be cold and ripping agony that squeezes out his air and crashes into his lungs. But it's gentle, so impossibly gentle. Like a liquid blanket tucked around his shoulders. It cradles him in an embrace, and he feels himself carried away from the wreckage and thrashing bodies.

He hears singing then. Soft and sweet and just for him, and he closes his eyes. Allows himself to be lulled to sleep.

He wakes up on the shore with the water lapping playfully at his ankles. He doesn't know how, but his armor is gone. All that remains are the ripped but still viable remnants of the soft clothes he wears underneath. A nice and even dark color that's so ambiguous as to be unidentifiable. He could be Fire Nation. He could be Earth Kingdom. Skin aside, he could be Water Tribe. Maybe even from Kyoshi Island.

He almost swears that he hears laughter as it occurs to him that he's free. That this is a retirement no one knows he's taken. There's probably no one left alive who even knows who he is. There's certainly no one who cares.

But that last part isn't entirely true. There's someone who does care. Who cares very much indeed.

Water is his mistress. The ocean is his love. And it seems that she loves him back.

He stands on the sandy shore and gazes at the gentle waves in wonder. Their sound is a song to his ears, and her voice is the loveliest he's ever heard.

"I'm waiting," she seems to whisper. "I'll be here when you return."

The water curls at his ankles then and pulls to the left. He takes a step that direction to keep his balance, but the tug becomes more insistent as he pauses.

"This way," she says with all the fondest in the world. "Go this way. I'm leading you back to me."

Jee just smiles and follows her call gladly.

Ever Hopeful,