Tales of the Sun
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.
Warnings: AU-ish, General Spoilers
AN: For the AtLA Land drabble challenge.
It's more than being out of reach. It's more than being out of sight.
He can still hear the whisper of Lu Ten's voice. His wicked laughter. See his boyish smile. Feel phantom hands on his shoulders.
Even as he watches Zuko train on the deck, his son stands beside him. As they eat dinner, Lu Ten sits next to his cousin with an all-too-familiar grin. When they cross this world and explore every corner, Lu Ten is right there with them.
He's in every step. Each city and town. All the battles.
He's standing in the shadows as they reach a crossroads. And that's where it all goes wrong.
Lu Ten drifts left. Zuko heads right. And Iroh is left behind to stare after both of them.
Lost, Take Two
To be the Avatar is to be alone. To be the sole person in a crowd. To have countless others by her side but to be the only one there.
A perfect circle without end or beginning. A constant loop. An endless ring of life and death and life again. And again. And again.
She looks in front of her. Where soon there will stand another and then another in front of him. She looks behind. To the unending line so full that it reaches beyond her sight and into obscurity.
She is one among many. She is utterly alone.
Kyoshi merely sighs and keeps going.
It doesn't mean anything to her. Green. Blue. Grey. Gold.
Fire shades. Burnt and bloody. Ashes and flames.
Toph can't see them anyway. Doesn't care. No matter how Sokka much grumbles about their clothes. Or how Katara always tenses when she spots the soldiers in their armor. Or how often Aang fidgets with his old headband.
Toph really doesn't get the big deal. Or why everyone seems to care so much. Why it even matters.
Fire is fire is fire. Black and red and gold don't matter.
But Zuko burns bright and warm. Toph snuggles into his side and goes back to sleep.
Color, Take Two
It all looks the same in the end. Jeong Jeong can't even tell whose blood it is on the ground. In the street. Splattered on the walls. It was all red, and now, it's all gone brown. Black as it mixes with ash.
His boots are coated. So are his hands.
"We didn't have a choice," Piandao says from beside him.
But his voice is soft and somber. Sad.
They've just saved this city. Freed its people.
And it's their own who lay on the ground. Motionless and fragile. Broken and some still bleeding.
It looks just same from the children cowering nearby. From the women weeping in the road. From the men struggling to stand.
It's the same.
That bothers him more than he'll ever admit.
It's grey and raining. Pouring down in sheets. And buckets. And maybe even in oceans.
The ground is soft, muddy beneath his boots as Zuko finally stands to survey his work. No one but an earthbender will ever be able to tell something is buried here. Maybe not even then.
Zuko shivers. He can already feel the chill creeping through his skin and muscle, right to his bones. To his fingers and up his arms and into his spine.
No one knows where he is. Aang. Or Sokka. Katara. Toph. Mai. Not even his uncle.
Ozai was many things – Fire Lord, murderer, monster. And prison, losing his bending, his position, his power… It was just too much. Too much to suffer through. Too much to survive.
But Zuko would never leave this task to anyone else. They don't even know yet. No one does but a single guard with eyes too old and a memory too long, but it's a secret that she didn't even have to promise to keep.
Zuko gives a nod then and pauses for a heartbeat longer. Then, he turns away.
He never comes back.
Cold, Take Two
Death is surprisingly pleasant, Aang decides.
Like the gentle rock of his kids in his arms as he once sang them to sleep. Like the smell of Katara's favorite flowers. The taste of Iroh's tea or Gyatso's cakes. The sound of Zuko's voice as he and Sokka exchange stories. The feel of Toph as she sits beside him and digs her toes into the dirt.
It's all of these things. And nothing.
Warm. Bright. Dark. Cool.
It's chilly almost. Like the bite of air in the late evening after the sun has gone. Like the nip that makes him reach for a blanket and wrap it around his shoulders. That urges him to lie down and sleep without dreaming.
Aang finally rests.