Art of Dying

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

Warnings: Speculation, General Spoilers

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #25: Jail.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.

- Richard Lovelace


She first notices his eyes. They're a familiar sort of green. The same seen throughout the city's populace. Middling and even and nothing too special. But there's an odd ring of gold surrounding the outside, and that captivates her attention to the exclusion of everything else. Green and gold like the sunlight through leaves. Beautiful and beaming.

You're mine. Never forget that. I love you more than anything.

She knows those eyes. She's seen them before, but she doesn't know from where or even when. But she knows them when she doesn't remember her own name. When she doesn't remember her family or her home or anything save the fact that she loves this city and its people and that this is the best place on earth.

Look! Look! Watch the rock. Watch it!

He's a young man. Not quite a boy but certainly not old enough to be married or long out of his family's home. His face is blank, green and gold eyes watchful under his hat, hands behind his back. His clothes are a dark color and very well-made. Not quite the level of the highest nobles. But certainly no commoner. No useless peasant.

The pin on his collar marks him as a rookie. As a newly elevated trainee.

That's some talent there! Not often is a child so talented! You must be very proud.

A Dai Li. The protectors of their cultural heritage. His mother must be so proud, wherever she is. Not everyone has the strength to join. They're the best of the best. The elite. The ultimate earthbenders. United and strong and everything anyone could ever aspire to or want to be.

She swallows. Her mouth is dry.

What… what are you doing? Take your hands off me! We haven't done anything!

There's a scream, and she glances around, but no one else reacts. The young man doesn't even twitch, but his green and gold eyes flicker to her. Weighing and assessing and narrowing oh-so-slightly.

She can't breathe. She can't think. All she sees is green and gold. Gold and green. Feels phantom little boy hands as they tug her forward. Hears a childish voice full of happiness and laughter. Watches miracles in bending and things she didn't even think possible.

Amazement. Wonder. Horror.

My son! My son! Where are you taking him! Get your hands off! Stop touching him! Come back! Come back! My baby! My son!

It's there. It's shrieking in her head.

She knows him. She does! She's so close. So close! Please come back. Don't go! Don't take him. Don't! She begs. She pleads. She stares at the light as it goes in circles, and a voice reaches out. It reaches straight through. She can't think. She can't…

There's man in front of her. He whispers in her ear.

There is no war in Ba Sing Se.

Joo Dee stills then, smiles, and doesn't remember anymore.

AN: I'm fairly certain I recently read another fic that used the same quote, but it was too perfect for the prompt.

Ever Hopeful,