If there was one word for what was happening, Zuko would use 'chaos'. Everything was a haze after the explosion, but after that there'd been a few moments clear enough that he was able to think back to them. One of them he recalled to be the school being evacuated - a police officer putting a hand on his back and guiding him through the dust clouds toward a huge crowd outside the school.
His mother had been there, with his uncle, and both had thrown their arms around him and Azula, crying in relief. Zuko didn't understand why he was alive; the neurotoxin was supposed to have killed him, and the rest of the state. But there he'd been, hugging his mother, and uncle, and sister.
Then he remembered Azula collapsing in her mother's arms, and he remembered reaching out to help her, and then he remembered seeing the sky. And then darkness; a deep, dreamless sleep enveloped him in a burning embrace that he was unable to escape. His chest heaved as he slept, and his lungs burnt, and he was so hot that sweat rolled off his skin.
He woke up and threw away whatever it was that was draped on him, long before he opened his eyes. He was too hot. This wasn't natural; how hot he was. He was going to burn up if he didn't cool off soon. But he was too weak to get up from where he was lying down. Zuko's eyes fluttered open and he saw the squared, paneled ceiling of a hospital room. Memories whizzed past him; his eye being wrapped after his scar's infliction.
"Mmngh," he heard himself whimpering, squeezing his eyes shut and rolling on his side in the hospital bed, his ebony hair stuck to his forehead. His movement pulled at the IV drip in his arm, but it stayed secure and he was able to manage it. He needed a drink; a cold shower, an ice bath … if someone had blown in his face at that moment, he'd have prayed to them as a god.
He could hear people murmuring around him; in the halls, there was running and yelling and panic, and in the next room, he could hear someone shouting 'code blue'. All of this, of course was through a muffled kind of filter. He blinked his eyes open again and saw that he wasn't in a regular room. He was in a quarantine room.
None of it mattered. It was too damned hot.
There was a kind of stillness that came with the panic that made Katara feel like a fly on the wall in her own life in the moment where it all crumbled apart. It wasn't the explosion that brought everything crashing, but the aftermath. There was shouting and screaming, in the school she'd spent the last three or four years in, and people she'd known since freshman year seemed not to recognize her in the daze that the explosion had brought.
But she was being pulled, by Aidan, of all people, out of the dusty, smoky after-disaster of the explosion. He was pulling her by the hand in a way that reminded her of one Christmas morning, where she and Sokka had been tugging their mother by the hand toward the living room, to the Christmas tree, to see her Christmas present. He was pulling her to safety.
Then he let her go, as soon as they were out in the open air, stood completely still and threw his hands to the sky in surrender. Katara found herself grabbed by three or four police officers, or SWAT guys, or something, and being escorted away from where Aidan was arrested. She looked back as best she could, and saw him being cuffed behind his back, his eyes shut, his face wet and a tiny smile on his face.
It wasn't a smile of sick pleasure for what he'd done, but of relief for what he was. She had done something to him, something that had negated everything he'd ever known. Katara wasn't naïve enough to call him 'fixed', but he could certainly have been on the road to such a state.
"Oh my god, I'm so glad you're okay!" she heard her father's voice, and strong, supportive arms wrapped around her, squeezing her in a hug. Katara found herself overcome with relief for her own survival, and grabbed her father back, squeezing into the hug and burying her face in his chest. "You're okay, you're okay …" she heard her father whispering at a chant.
Katara shook her head and pulled back, looking up at her father. "Where's Sokka?" she asked in a panic.
"I'm here," Sokka's voice burst from behind Hakoda, and he grabbed his sister right out of their father's grasp and hugged her too. "Fuck, Katara, what were you thinking?" he cursed, his voice still breathless from the explosion. "It's only a miracle that bomb didn't …"
Katara pushed at her brother's chest and shook her head again. "No, it isn't!" she blinked at him. "Aang told me what it is! It's an activation serum, it acts with certain genetic codes-," she was cut off, probably for the best because she needed to put this together a lot better than she had.
"Whoa, slow down, Katara - what are you talking about?" Hakoda put a hand on his daughter's shoulder.
Katara pulled free of Sokka. "We need to find Aang. He knows more about it than I do. Where's Suki? Where're Toph and Zuko?" she looked around frantically.
"Suki went to the hospital. I made her go. She says she's fine, but …" Sokka trailed off, "And Toph too, but she was stumbling around like there was something wrong with her equilibrium," Sokka gestured to his head with a twirling-finger motion, "She went in the ambulance with Suki, Zuko and Azula."
Katara tilted her head, her expression darkening. "What's wrong with Zuko and Azula?"
Sokka drew his shoulders up pensively. "I don't know. Suki and Toph got into the ambulance, and Zuko and Azula were out cold on gurneys. Zuko's uncle said they fainted, and their mom was just crying her eyes out," he pulled a face and fixed his eyes on his little sister. "What about you, are you okay, Katara?"
Katara nodded emphatically. "I'm fine," she promised in the loud chatter and yelling of the crowds outside the smoking school. Katara didn't remember there having been a fire, but she supposed it had been hard to see in there. "I'm just a little shaken up is all," she added at the trembling feeling in her hands. She felt solid on her feet, nothing like fainting, but she was a little shaky.
"Okay," Hakoda took his daughters shoulder and pulled her in for another hug, before smiling wanly. "We can go home now, alright? You're going to eat, and then go straight to bed as soon as you get home, got it?" he told her seriously, before glancing to his son. "Both of you. Kelly is on her way with the jeep, she said she'd whip you up whatever you two want to eat."
Sokka smiled weakly at this, the idea of sleep so comforting now after all that had happened. Katara nodded wearily and hugged both of them one more time, worried for her friends and worried about the activation of that whole 'bending' thing. She had to find Aang. Aang would know what to do.
Toph never cried. Ever. It just wasn't her nature. Sure, maybe under her hard shell, she felt just as strongly about certain things as Sokka (high-strung as he was) did, but she kept her emotions in check at all times. That was just how she was, and her friends accepted her that way. It had never been questioned. But for one of the first times in her life, she was truly scared.
Scared because her eyes were itching, and her sight problems were varying from their regular color-challenged-ness. She was cuffed to her hospital bed on doctors orders - she'd only told her doctor, and made him swear not to tell anyone, even her parents - to keep from scratching her suffering eyes. But she was crying just the same, and the tears did their part to soothe the itching, and the ache behind her milky green eyes, but it was still agony.
Toph remembered being dizzy before getting in the ambulance, but not because of her sight failing her; because she felt the pull of the earth stronger than she'd ever felt it before. Part of her thought it had felt like gravity had been stronger, and part of her had felt like it wasn't the planet's magnetic pull and rather the earth - the dirt - itself. She still felt the earth pulling at her, though it was weaker while she lay flat on the bed in the hospital room.
Beyond the itching, Toph's eyesight had gotten steadily worse over the course of the hour she'd been in this room, and she'd found herself using a dictating program she'd written a long time ago for blind people to document what was happening to her, on her laptop. Not for any scientific benefit to the world, but because she wanted to keep a record. She'd pressed the familiar 'control' button and spoken, but when she'd finished with the obvious, she had found herself unable to say how she felt.
She didn't know how to put her feelings into words.
More tears fell and Toph kicked her laptop off her lap and it clattered on the floor, before the tears broke into sobs and she cursed that Aidan guy, and Katara for not getting them out of there, and Aang for leaving her here to go blind, alone, with her last images being only those of a hospital room, and her parents for giving her faulty genes.
She screamed into the room angrily, tears spilling from her eyes as she thrashed furiously.
Suki sat in the waiting area, unrelated to either Zuko or Toph and therefore unable to see them. The whole hospital was a buzz of panic and chatter, and people were having all kinds of undocumented reactions to the neurotoxin. The news was on at full blare in a corner of the room, with a crowd gathered around it. Suki kept a hand on her middle, grateful that she and her baby were completely fine. She wasn't dumb enough to consider herself out of the woods yet; delayed reactions were still occurring nationwide.
'LIVE FROM SEATTLE, MASS REACTIONS TO THE NEUROTOXIN RELEASED IN DAHLIA COAST, CALIFORNIA HAVE REACHED WASHINGTON. HOSPITALS ARE BEING FLOODED WITH PATIENTS. CURES USA CORRESPONDANT ALEXA REDFORD HAS MADE A STATEMENT PLACING THE TOXIN AS THE RESEARCH OF DR. KATHERINE ROBERTS OF THE DAHLIA COAST BRANCH OF CURES USA-,'
'-BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, PEOPLE ARE COLLAPSING IN THE STREET WITH ADVERSE REACTIONS TO THE UNIDENTIFIED NEUROTOXIN INVOLVED IN THE DAHLIA COAST PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL HOSTAGE SITUATION-,'
'… LONDON, ENGLAND - CURES USA BRANCH LEADER DOMINIC ROBERTS, HUSBAND OF THE NEUROTOXIN'S CREATOR, HAS SEEN TO SETTING UP CLINICS IN HOSPITALS ACROSS THE NATION TO TREAT RESPONSES IT'S CHEMICAL MAKEUP …'
'Los hospitales españoles se inundan con los pacientes!'
'Reakcje są neurotoksyny przejście Europy!'
'neurotoksin barat menjejaskan timur!'
Suki shook her head in her hand, thinking to the night before this whole ordeal. She'd told her father and grandfather about her pregnancy, and subsequently gotten herself kicked out of her own home. She remembered packing her bag and leaving, forcing herself not to cry, and then she recalled Sokka cleaning up his entire room of pretty much everything to make room for her.
Clothes on the floor had been whisked away to their respective places, empty wrappers had been put in bins, and he'd actually gone to the trouble of making his bed up nice and tearing down any posters of bands (namely Linkin Park and Paramore) that he recalled her not having liked in the past. Suki then cried that her father had kicked her out and that Sokka had been so willing to change his whole life for her and their baby.
She'd been planning to tell him later on in the day that she'd go to New York with him in September. Suki breathed a heavy sigh. She wished Sokka were here.
Ty Lee burst into Azula's hospital room, with Mai right behind her. Ty Lee skidded to a halt beside Azula's bed, where the Scorsese girl was still unconscious in her bed, and she felt her eyes welling with tears. She should never have left to join the circus. She'd been leaving the city via interstate, in a trailer with the circus horses when she'd received the news via cell message.
Their school had been held hostage. And then Azula was in hospital; Azula, who'd been a sister to her for as long as she could remember. Mai had picked Ty Lee up from the highway services and then they'd received a speeding ticket for racing back into the city to sit with their possibly dying friend. Mai approached quietly and solemnly, her face sullen.
Ty Lee threw her arms onto where Azula lay, and then recoiled at her raging fever, her hands on her cheeks in shock. Then she put one hand over her mouth and her brows tilted. "Her fever is …" she took an actual step back, "and her aura …"
Mai rolled her eyes at Ty Lee and her damn 'aura' nonsense. "What about her 'aura'?" Mai raised an eyebrow.
"It's not constant. Auras don't fluctuate this way. It's melting between red and a purplish black …" Ty Lee made a motion around her head and then shook it. "I never should've left," she then gasped as if she'd realized something. "I think she's trapped," she whispered suddenly.
Mai stared apathetically at Ty Lee. "Trapped," she repeated skeptically. Then she sighed, deciding to humor her friend. "Okay, trapped by what?"
"I don't know!" Ty Lee suddenly flung her arms around Mai, catching the taller girl off guard. "But there has to be something we can do to help her!"
Mai grimaced and plucked Ty Lee's hand from her shoulder, gently pushing the girl with the braid away. "Like what?" she breathed, inspecting her nails. She really wasn't all that worried about Azula; the girl was younger by a year, yes, but she always pulled through, no matter what was happening. She was content in herself, needed nobody else to approve of her and used her mind as a gymnasium to bounce ideas around.
Mai could recite a wonderful list of reasons she had faith in Azula. If anyone was going to make it through this, it was Azula. It was a waiting game.
"I know!" Ty Lee brought a hand to the air and pointed a lone finger upward. "If anyone will know what to do, it'll be her uncle!"
Mai's frown deepened. She really didn't like that old man. It was actually the latest reason she and Zuko had broken up. She glanced away at the thought of Zuko. She'd be lying if she said she didn't love him - she'd always love him - but she wasn't in love with him. She loved him the way she loved Azula, and Ty Lee. "Alright, fine," Mai breathed out. "Let's go find the old man."
Ty Lee grabbed Mai's hand and dragged her toward the door, calling back into the room to Azula as though she could hear her that they'd be back soon.
Katara snuck out of the house instead of going to sleep, as per expected; why else would she have found her balcony door locked up and a bicycle parked right where she usually climbed down the trellis, in her way, and all the gates locked up? Not to worry, though; she was the Painted Lady. She hopped over the bike and slipped through the brush hedges onto a walk-path adjoining their property.
She'd found herself undecided between going to the hospital and going to find Aang, at first, but then she resolved that Zuko probably didn't want to see her, and Toph and Suki had each other. Katara wondered what Aang was up to. He probably had a lot to figure out, what with the world going crazy and all. Things would probably get a whole lot worse before they got better.
She shivered and zipped her jacket up higher. It wasn't a specifically cold day - in fact, it had been really hot earlier, but still, it was chilly now. It looked like she was going to have to do what she could alone. If there was any place in the world to start looking for clues as to what was happening, why it was happening, (etcetera, etcetera), it was Dahlia Coast. Katherine Roberts had invented the toxin, as far as she knew, so maybe Cures USA was a good place to start snooping around.
When she actually got to the Cures USA building, people were rioting at the foot of the skyscraper, and the security guards were acting as a sort of brute squad to keep them out. Katara had a feeling things would be the same at Lydia's house, but she still needed to talk to Dr. Roberts. If anyone knew what was happening, it was her. As expected, she was right; the main gates were locked shut and people were rioting outside them, some throwing stones that didn't even get close to the house.
Katara eventually found a way in, behind the brushes and forestry to one side of the house, using a tree to help her get a leg up to hop the high wall. She jumped down to the soft grass and made her way toward the house. She knocked politely on the front door and then waited. Hopefully knocking would let them know she meant no harm. She held her hands together behind her back and rocked on her feet thoughtfully.
After a few minutes, and much whispering from inside, the one of the large double doors cracked open, a safety chain holding it connected to the other, and soft, young features peeked through the door, with deep brown eyes. It certainly wasn't Lydia, or her mother (Katara had seen Katherine Roberts on TV after her experimental and expensive treatment for diabetes). Katara wondered if everyone who lived on Milton Avenue had an illegal immigrant working in their house.
Not that she had anything against illegal immigrants; if you managed to get into the country, good on you, but Katara rather wished she too had some extra help in the house herself. Maybe someone to get the laundry done while she did the cooking and cleaning would be nice. Anyway. She'd found herself thinking on a tangent. She needed to get back to the task at hand.
"Um, hi," Katara lifted a hand and waved. "I'm looking for Lydia?" she blinked at the woman innocently.
The maid undid the chain and opened the door wider to eye Katara skeptically. "Ms. Roberts is terribly ill, Miss …?"
"Marina," Katara finished for her and put her hand back at her side, "Katara Marina. I didn't know she was sick, but I can guess why. I need to see her, and Dr. Roberts too, for that matter. It's really important. Could you please let me see them?" she tilted her brows and smiled awkwardly, rocking again on her feet and glancing out to the blue sky.
The maid bit her lip. "I … suppose so," she stepped back in defeat, allowing Katara into the house. "My name is Poquita - Miss Lydia and her mother are upstairs; in the east wing. Take the first left and then it's the large brass and glass doors at the end of the hall. You cannot miss it," she announced formally.
Yeah. That was about what Katara had expected Lydia's bedroom doors might look like.
Katara smiled at Poquita and walked through the main doors into an open-plan reception room, with some wicker sofas and chairs with tables for coffee and newspaper-reading. Katara stepped through the reception room to find herself in a room not unlike Zuko's ballroom, except nowhere near that size. It was warmer than the ballroom; instead of marble floor, it was dark, hardwood flooring, and the walls were painted rich, almost dark, forest green with chair rails that matched the floor. Someone here had an aesthetic.
The staircase began to the right side of the room, against the wall, and bent in the corner up the back wall. Katara recalled that this house was not as big as Zuko's; not as highfalutin. It was more traditional, if that was possible. Well, maybe not more traditional, but traditional in a different way. Whatever. It didn't matter.
Katara laughed inwardly. So this was the fabled 'terrah-cottah adobey caloneyawll', huh?
She made her way up the staircase and turned left down the hall into the 'east wing'. Her house didn't have wings. Or maybe it did, but they didn't call them that. Her bedroom was surrounded by its own few rooms like a bathroom, an extra living space, a study and a room with all the fittings to become a kitchen. In theory, she could build a whole apartment around her room if she wanted to. But, she liked going downstairs to fix herself food, and she liked spending time with her family. The same all went for Sokka, though he probably preferred just having the bedroom and bathroom, because if he started working on the kitchen, he'd have less credibility when asking Katara to cook for him.
Katara walked down a wide hall toward a pair of brass doors with clouded glass panes in it, and a Latin phrase on it. The door handles seemed to be made of rosewood. Katara was on good terms with Lydia, but she'd never deny that the girl liked her things big and fancy. Katara found herself biting back laughter at a dirty joke she'd made in her head.
She turned one of the handles and it made a soft, satisfying click of a noise as she pushed it open and stepped in. Katara's breath caught in her throat as she looked around at the beautiful color scheme. Cream and darker browns mingled together, highlighted with certain accents of a deep, dark midnight purple. It was gorgeous.
"Wow," she breathed in awe.
"What are you doing in my home?" came a sharp snap from behind her.
Katara whirled and saw an open door leading into a bathroom, where she could see Lydia in a bathtub. Katara flinched at first and then stepped closer, tentatively. Lydia was thankfully wearing clothes in the tub and Katara stood in the doorway, gazing upon the blonde girl. She was so pale. So damned pale. "What's happening to you?" she heard herself question meekly.
Lydia stared up at Katara and clenched her teeth. "Me? Oh, nothing. Just freezing to death," she stated with distaste. "Don't just stand there, Marina. Go help Poquita fill kettles, or something!" she shuddered in the water, and Katara could hear that Poquita woman coming into Lydia's bedroom from behind her.
"I can't," Katara replied apologetically, "I need to find out more about the toxin. I need you to help me."
Lydia drew in a long breath through her nose as Poquita pushed past Katara with two kettles. Katara stared in horror as the Mexican woman poured in the boiling water and Lydia just tipped her head back a little to the enjoy the wave of heat that rushed past her. How cold could she be if the only thing that provided her warmth was boiling water? Lydia spoke again.
"My mother didn't make the toxin," she managed, struggling not to stutter. "Your bald friend gave it to me to test. The school nurse injected him with it. He told me he thought someone paid her a lot of money to keep an eye on him. I took it to the lab to test it, and it correlated with almost everything my mother was researching."
There was a brief pause.
"What was she researching?" Katara asked nervously.
"Elemental abilities, for want of a better phrase. A hybrid animal was found in Asia with the genetic ability to shift earth beyond physical force, and then there were dragon fossils and the bison found in the Tibetan mountain range … they all linked up to a single allele in the genetic code of human beings.
"My mother never found the fourth code, despite knowing there had to be one. After running over my test results a hundred times over, she's found it in me, but she hasn't found its animal counterpart as of yet. The water allele. Against my mother's wishes, we tested the toxin on me. Three hours later I was unable to keep my own body temperature in. My guess is that Aidan moron took it to get back at me for not wanting to fuck his brains out."
Katara frowned hard, choosing to ignore that little tidbit of information. "Is there any kind of antitoxin your mother can put together? If these abilities develop …"
Lydia shook her head. "They already have, Marina," Lydia struggled to lift a hand in the water, and she brought the water with it, in a shimmering glove around her hand. She wasn't even thinking about it, it was just … following her. She stared at it herself and then the water dripped off her hand back into the tub. "If anyone knows how to change it back, it's got to be your bald friend."
Katara stared for a moment and remembered the woman at the circus - the witch. There had to be people who kept abilities like that under wraps. Aang had known about them, and that witch woman had had them. Who else could help her. "I hope you get better, Lydia," she smiled weakly at the blond girl.
Lydia raised an eyebrow. And then reluctantly, "Thank you."
Katara went back to the house and put Ollie on the leash, deciding she had left Sokka to walk him for too long now. Ollie was beginning to look more like a dog and less like a puppy, but he was still adorable. Lydia had said she'd been affected three hours after being injected. So why was everyone else reacting already? It was only barely half past two, and lunchtime at school (i.e. the time the bomb had gone off) had been at one o' clock.
Katara looked at the sky and thought back to what Aang had said about the 'benders'.
'I'm an airbender, so I don't rely on any external sources of energy, but firebenders draw their strength from the sun, and waterbenders draw their strength from the moon. Earthbenders are like airbenders in that they don't need to draw strength from an external source, but they feel at one with the earth, just as airbenders are … uh, were … taught to feel at one with the universe."
If Lydia was a waterbender - what a strange word! - then maybe it had been three hours until the moon had come up from when she'd been injected. Maybe the first moonrise after 'activation' was what had affected Lydia. So a whole new wave of symptoms were going to crop up tonight once the moon came up. Katara grimaced as Ollie trotted along ahead of her on his leash.
Katara patted her own hips to remind herself she had her guns. In this chaos, she wasn't about to go outside unarmed. It was a strange feeling - to have to carry guns to be safe. She'd traded her favorite leather jacket in for one of Sokka's navy blue and white varsity jackets, since it came down to her mid-thighs and easily covered her customs. Her snow boots made a scuffing sound on the tarmac path through the park as she walked. Why was she so damned cold?
Before Katara knew what was happening, the tarmac under her feet shifted and she pushed herself across it to avoid the shift under her feet. A sinkhole? She turned on her heel and stepped backward, scooping Ollie up into her arms - eliciting a little yap from him - and looking around frantically. She saw a man, a good fifteen feet back from where she had been walking. He held a clump of rock in his hand, and was dressed in heavy robes of a deep green so dark it was nearly black.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but are you aware that it's past curfew?" she heard a voice from beneath the man's conical hat.
Katara screwed up her face, hugging Ollie tighter, involuntarily. Curfew? "What?" she heard herself question, as the wheels of her mind began to turn. "America's a free country, we don't have a curfew," she stated, more to herself than to him. What, was he some kind of wacko or something? He didn't sound American.
"As of one 'o clock today, a curfew is imposed on all major cities in the United States. If you were not informed, you have been now. I am Agent Fong of the Dai Li. Allow me to escort you to your home, miss," he bowed briefly and then moved toward her.
Katara's left gun was out in a split second. Her right arm was still a little choppy since her injury, and she wasn't taking any chances. Dai Li? What the hell? "Hey, stand back or I'll shoot," she warned darkly, her golden gun gleaming in the sunlight. Only then did Katara realize how completely deserted the park was. Nobody was around at all. "I don't know who you think you are, but if there had been a curfew imposed by the American government, I'd have heard about it."
The agent tilted his head back so Katara could see his face beneath his conical hat. "The curfew was not imposed by the American government," he explained, amused, "The Dai Li Party have imposed it, as they will have full control of Washington DC by morning. I advise you to put your firearm away and allow me to escort you to your home."
Katara screwed up her face and hugged Ollie to her chest with her right arm. A political takeover? No! No, a military takeover. America had been invaded. Where were these Dai Li agents? All the major cities … Katara's mind churned as she realized that the Dai Li were situated all over the country - there was no way that had happened in the two hours since Aidan had blown that bomb off. Aidan had been involved in … no! No, how could he? He'd been changed. She'd changed him! Why hadn't he told her?
Katara found herself swallowing hard. "If you're the new government …" she squeezed, testing, on the trigger, "then I guess I'm the first official member of the Resistance!" and she pulled back the trigger, two or three or four times, and ducked out of the way, her expectation meeting reality - the clump of earth in the agent's hand dispersed into shards splitting into her direction. She and Ollie ducked behind a low stonewall and she hit the ground, back first.
Sokka would kill her for getting mud on his jacket.
"Miss, I urge you to reconsider your course of action," the monotonous voice came again, closing in on them.
Katara found herself wishing she didn't have to keep an eye on Ollie at this point, but she kept him in her arms and moved away from the wall, away from the voice and turned to fire a few more bullets at the agent. One ripped through the green-clad shoulder of the agent, just as a perfectly round stone clipped Katara in the side of her head and sent her reeling backward. She went down, back-first. The mud was soft, but marked the entire back of her clothes.
'Dammit! I don't even have a fighting chance against this sonovabitch! The guy has superpowers!' her mind screamed in her head. 'Fucking hell!' she cursed in her own mind and glanced to Ollie, who gazed at her as if smirking at her use of language inside her head. Ollie was a smart dog, and sometimes he just knew things. Katara was sure of it. He even looked smug when she came out of the bathroom looking thoroughly sated, with the ghost of Zuko's name on her lips.
Damn Toph for explaining to her the ins and outs (pun not intended, but nonetheless achieved :3) of female masturbation.
Katara's head span for a moment with the hit to her head but she regained her bearings and drew in another breath on her back. The Dai Li agent hissed in pain with his pierced shoulder and she staggered to her feet, firing another two shots and taking advantage of his indisposition. He growled and threw his arm toward her, a stone fist racing in her direction. One of Katara's badly-aimed bullets ripped through the agent's upper thigh, and the stone hand collided with her ankle, nailing it to the floor.
'No! I'm trapped!' she panicked, trying to pull her foot up and finding herself unable to do so. She fired a shot at her own foot, desperately hoping it didn't rip through it too. Much to her relief, it didn't, ricocheting off the condensed stone as it exploded from around her ankle. Katara took a step back as the bleeding agent staggered to strike her again. His shot missed by a mile and Katara deemed it safe to turn and run, as Ollie yapped with each bounce as she ran.
"Aang!" Katara panted, "Aang!" she gasped for air, as Ollie raced along beside her on his leash. Aang turned from where he was standing with Yue Chander in front of the hospital. Aang turned to face her and his eyes went wide. She ran right into him, throwing her arms around his shoulders and breathing hard. Ollie kept running and then tugged on his leash, his feet coming right out from under him.
"-Oof!" Aang grunted on impact, the wind knocked out of him. "What's going on?" he queried, choking on his surprise.
Katara pulled back and then smacked him across the cheek. "You took off on me! The whole world is changing right under us and you took off on me! I just got attacked by some guy trying to impose a curfew; he said the 'Dai Li' were taking over … I don't suppose you know what that means?" she panted for breath as Ollie sniffed at Aang's ankles.
Aang's eyes widened. "The Dai Li are here?" he whispered in a panic.
Yue eyed them curiously.
Katara nodded emphatically; "He said the Dai Li Party were imposing a curfew on all major cities across the country," she ran her tongue along her chapped lower lip. "And … and that they planned to have taken over Washington DC by morning. We've got to stop them, right?" she asked worriedly.
Aang's brows came down hard. "I have to stop them," he corrected his friend, his hands emanating warmth through the sleeves her jacket. "You need to warm up."
Katara frowned. "What? No - how can you take on an entire-,"
"Katara," Aang shook his head quickly, "You need to take care of yourself. The moon is coming up, and your reaction's going to come on. Go home and get in bed."
Katara shivered almost as soon as he said this. She had been right in her assumption earlier. "There's no way you can fight off a takeover like that, superpowers or no!" she insisted adamantly, and then she drew her shoulders up against the cold.
Aang blinked at her for a moment. "Not alone. I won't be able to stop them from taking DC. But we'll have to form a kind of rebellion to take it back. For now, we need to get past the activation reactions. We'll figure it out, Katara. I promise. But first, we need to get past this. Go home. Take care of yourself," he smiled wanly at her. "I'll keep you posted on how the others are doing. I'm going in to see Toph and Zuko now."
Katara's brows knitted in frustration. "Me too. I want to see how-,"
"I said go home, Katara. Before you start shivering."
Katara growled irritably and turned away, looking to Ollie. "Come on, Ollie." And she ran.
Ollie yapped as Katara curled up in her bed for the second time that day, with a hot cup of orange-flavored hot chocolate with marshmallows, three hot water bottles, her fuzzy, powder-blue bed robe (a birthday present from Sokka), her warmest pajamas, her fuzzy Christmas socks, her faux-fur Christmas slippers (a gift from Aang, because he was the best) and a hat pulled down over her ears. The puppy eventually curled up at her feet as she stared into her hot chocolate.
Aang had been right, of course; because she was now freezing, despite all her warm-and-fuzzies - probably not as cold as Lydia Roberts, but pretty damned close to it. She put her hot drink down, remembering the night she'd left a steaming cup of hot chocolate on the kitchen counter upon her abduction. Katara still shuddered each time she saw the pinkish stain on her kitchen floor, and looked over her shoulder every four seconds when she was in that room.
She picked up her mother's journal, tried to read it, but found herself unable to concentrate on anything other than her shivering. She cursed herself for not having gone to see Zuko before this had taken her whole body over. There were goosebumps on her, and she knew this was because she hadn't been completely taken over by the cold yet. She could still feel the warmth of the hot water bottles. Then again, she wondered if Zuko was mad at her. She'd made a pretty dumb move trying to save the school.
No. Not the school. The world.
Sokka brought her another hot water bottle, and Suki took the empty hot chocolate cup away. Katara glanced to the bulge in Suki's middle, and found herself grateful that her sister was okay. There really was a silver lining, she supposed. It was a miracle Suki was okay, especially when she, Toph and Zuko were all being affected. Aang she guessed, as the 'Avatar' - whatever the hell that meant - was immune to the effects. Katara felt a twinge of jealousy in her gut as a wave of cold took her over.
She switched on the TV to see the news.
'Mass effects of a new wave of the toxin reactions have broken out across the world. Fox news' anonymous source for the toxin explains that this is the 'water' sector of the population, that which is feeling the delayed reactions. The statement he gave was that water 'benders' would be taken by extreme chills and losses of body temperature, the direct opposite of the high-grade fever being experienced by what the source named 'firebenders'. More as the story develops.'
'In other news, though not necessarily unrelated, curfews are somehow being enforced in major cities by an external authority calling itself the 'Dai Li Party'. While it has so far only treated compliant citizens with courtesy and understanding, resistors have been murdered and beaten brutally in unexplainable manners. The curfew is guessed to be at 3PM, as the earliest enforcement was encountered barely past three this afternoon. We have received word that curfew lifts at 6AM. Hospitals where reactions are being treated seem not to have the curfew enforced. Again, more as the stories develop.'
The TV chattered on in the background, and Ollie barked after it turned to the weather update, before his soft brown eyes turned to Katara and he tilted his head curiously. Katara had fallen asleep - or unconscious - the remote in her hand and her chin against her chest, eyes fallen shut and her paling lips parted. Ollie yapped some more, knowing something was wrong, before he skidded out of the room to fetch someone for help, still barking frantically.
The girl looked in the direction of the voice, but saw only a blur of skin with blue tattoos and an orange sweatshirt. Toph felt her face contorting with anger and fury as he drew nearer, obviously confused as to why she was cuffed to the bed. He laid a hand on hers and she jerked it away, only to tug on the restraints on her wrists. Aang drew his hand back and lifted it to the back of his neck, confused.
"Look, I'm sorry I left, but I had to talk to some people. A lot of things are happening; DC's under attack, a curfew's being imposed on all major cities across the country-,"
Toph screwed up her face. "Why are you here?" she stared into the darkness, knowing she wasn't looking at him, and that it was the best course of action.
Aang was taken aback for a moment. "I … came because I wanted to see you."
'See me. Yeah, go ahead and look. Take a nice long look, you sonovabitch.' Toph gritted her teeth. "We're not together, Aang. We're done. Over. Capiche? I don't want you here," she turned her blurry gaze even further away from him, trying her best to maintain her inner calm. If he suspected something was wrong, he might tell the others. How do you explain something like that? How was she supposed to tell him - anyone - she was quickly going blind?
Everything she knew - encryptions, mathematics, sequences, patterns - was going to be useless in a matter of hours. Her life was over.
Aang swallowed hard. "Toph … what are you looking at?" Aang turned his head in the same direction as her as if trying to see what she was watching.
Toph growled under her breath. "Fuck you, Aang, get the fuck out of here!" she shouted at him, moving to grab something to throw, but only finding her wrists bound against that action. She snarled at this frustration and turned her head, desperately hoping she was glaring at him, her eyes narrowed. She saw the blur of his gray eyes in the sea of his skin. Even now, the stormy color of his eyes stirred her. But she glared just the same.
Aang fixed his eyes on hers - she wasn't even making eye contact. He took an involuntary step back and shook his head, brows knitting together. "Toph, something's wrong with your-," he stopped himself when he realized her cheeks were wet and he ran his tongue over his lower lip. No. No. This was his fault. If he'd stopped Aidan, if he'd stopped that bomb from going off, hell … if he'd just been there …
Toph choked a miserable, heart-wrenching, graceless sob and squeezed her eyes shut, hunching over and crying hard, tears falling into her blanketed lap. She tugged wildly on her restraints to rub at her eyes but couldn't get free. "I-! Hate you!" she screamed hoarsely, "Get out! Get the fuck out!" and she sobbed even harder, her black bangs falling over her face as she cried. She inhaled sharp, gritty breaths between sobs.
Aang shook his head in horror and lifted his hands to grip his head. 'No! No, no, no, no! Oh, fuck, Toph … Toph, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, this is my fault, I'm so sorry …' Aang's mind ran loops in his cranium and his eyes were so wide he felt they wanted to pop out of his head. Toph was crying her - soon to be useless - eyes out in front of him and he could do nothing, and say nothing, to help her.
"Get out! Just leave me the fuck alone! I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!"
A/N: Welcome to Life Is Like A Lyric! I really wanted to try something apocalyptic, but still kind of upbeat and light, so this is a whole new experience for me. This was finished on the morning of December 3rd, 2011 - also known as My Birthday. Alrighty then - let's get started. We'll go scene to scene.
Scene 1 (Zuko's Memory and Awakening) - Now, Zuko doesn't get all the 'aw, I want to cuddle him now' attention Katara does, and I think that needs to be remedied. I really hope I got the chaos right in that scene; his cluttered memory of the aftermath of the explosion. I also think Zuko could be affected by his first time back in hospital since he got his scar.
Scene 2 (Katara Gets out of the School and goes to Sokka and Hakoda) - I wanted to try the thing where the families show up in a panic because they have loved ones in the situation like that. I saw a movie where a plane was being held hostage, and the families of the passengers all gathered together at the airport in frenzy. I wanted to see what I could do with it.
Scene 3 (Toph realizes what's happening to her) - Toph going blind was a decision I struggled to make. I know it would screw me up immensely if I went blind, especially since computing is my whole life. Again, it's interesting to see what it's like to change a character's whole life, and to see how they react to things. Toph is a great character and I want to try more with her.
Scene 4 (Suki in the hospital, News on in background) - This scene really has less to do with Suki and more to do with how the world is reacting to the toxin. It's affecting the whole damn planet and nobody knows how to deal with that. The spell between the reactions and the Dai Li becoming apparent was important to me because I wanted to make it known that the world is already having a crisis, without the hostile takeover to complicate things.
Scene 5 (Ty Lee and Mai go to see Azula in hospital) - is because Ozai's Angels are the biz. I promise to have you some Ozai/Ursa lovin' next chapter.
Scene 6 (Katara does some snooping and talks to Lydia) - Waterbender!Lydia is the best idea I've had since I brought her into this fic. ^_^
Scene 7 (Katara is attacked by a Dai Li agent) - is mainly because I wanted Ollie to pop up. The Dai Li guy just showed up and I figured out how to bring the Dai Li into it. Thanks to Ollie!
Scene 8 (Katara finds Aang) - Aang is especially selfless here with the whole 'go home' thing. I think Aang needs more love because he has a lot on his shoulders. Saving the world at fourteen is not an easy task, and Aang accepts that he can't expect Toph to understand it, despite how much he loves her.
Scene 9 (Katara finally feels the effect of the toxin) - nuff said.
Scene 10 (Aang visits Toph in hospital) - I love writing Toph. I hope I did her justice.
Oh-kay! So, that's chapter one done. Lyrics are from Fleetwood Mac's 'Go Your Own Way'! REVIEW guys! WELCOME BACK TO THE LILA series! HAPPY NEW YEAR! Btw, I did a happy new year comic on DA, featuring Lydia in a bathrobe ... XD