- six years later -
"Daddy! Daddy, guess what?" a five year old boy with a full head of shining black hair and light amber eyes said as he ran at his father.
"What is it, Taro?" Amon asked as he threw his son into the air and caught him.
"I can firebend! Put me down so I can show you!"
A sense of discomfort dug itself into Amon's stomach, but he plastered a smile on as his eldest son showed him some basic firebending moves. "That's great." Taro smiled and returned to his father for a ride back to their home.
"Why aren't you super excited?" the boy asked with a crinkled brow.
"I am, you just can't tell."
Taro's expression turned to annoyance. "You always say that, but I do know when you're happy!"
Amon hoisted him onto his shoulders. "Let's wait to discuss this with your mother, okay? She'll be mad if we're not on time to dinner."
Taro rested his hand on his cheek. "I guess you're right."
That night, dinner was spent in silence between Amon and Emi, both sensing the elephant rhino in the room.
"So who'll be teaching me? Will I go to a class or will Mommy teach me?" Taro asked.
Emi answered. "Ro, your dad and I need to talk a bit about it. How about after dinner, you wash off and get your night clothes on and we'll tell you before you go to bed?"
Taro smiled. "Okay!"
Once Taro went speeding out of the room, Kenji, Taro's thirteen-month-old brother, started fussing. Emi pulled him out of his high chair and jiggled him.
"What do you think?" Amon asked.
Emi frowned. "I can take care of it. Teach him, practice with him. It's fine. You don't have to even think about it."
Amon shook his head. "For some reason, I feel like I should be dealing with this. I can teach him, and you're busy with the baby."
"Come on, I can do this."
She smirked. "You can't firebend."
He smirked back. "Princess Azula's firebending teachers were non-benders, yet she was one of the best firebenders in history."
"I uh, I'd kinda prefer if he didn't turn into Princess Azula."
Amon chuckled. "I was going for Dragon of the West."
She patted his shoulder. "That's better." She sighed. "I guess we can give you a try. Don't screw him up."
"Your honor is relying on this."
The next morning, Taro and Amon hiked out to an unpopulated area of the island town Emi and Amon had settled on years before. When they reached a clearing with a small patch of fire lilies and a pond, Amon stopped.
"How can you teach me firebending when you're not a firebender?" Taro asked.
Amon sat down and crossed his legs. "Because I know how to teach you. Join me." Taro took the same cross-legged position next to his father. "What I'm going to teach you is control, and after that, you can learn all the bending tricks you want with your mom."
"Why's control so important?"
"Fire is a dangerous element. One wrong move, and you could burn down this whole field." Taro looked around with apprehensive eyes. "Just like strokes with a brush, a firebender cannot take back a blast of fire, even if they don't mean to hurt something…or someone. But, if you learn control, you don't have to worry so much about this happening to you. Plus, it allows you a clearer frame of mind so you can learn tricks that your friends can't figure out."
Taro smiled. "How do I control?"
"Your bending comes from the sun. Can you feel the sun beating down on you now, filling you with power?"
Taro tried to copy his father's hand position as they sat in his lap. "How do I know if I can feel it?"
"It'll feel like energy running through your chi paths."
"Just trust me, you'll be able to feel it."
Taro closed his eyes, but they fluttered back open. Then what?"
"Proper breathing leads to a more powerful firebending. So, breathing."
"But I already know how to breathe!"
Amon smiled. "You have to learn discipline if you don't want to end up hurting anyone."
Taro's expression softened. "Like what happened to you."
Amon's scar, after plastic surgery in its first month, had softened in appearance: the angry red was a pink-red, the skin in his cheek had been recovered by a graft, and the areas around the scar that had been blistered and bubbly textured skin had been reduced to skin that was raised and felt leathery to the touch. But, his ear still looked malformed, and did not work, and neither did his left eye. "What happened to me was deliberate. But, you could still hurt someone."
"I don't want to hurt anyone."
He put a hand on his son's back. "I know you don't, but we have to be careful."
Taro closed his eyes. "I want discipline."
Amon drilled his son in breathing exercises for hours, with the boy only becoming more antsy and frustrated as the hours dragged on.
"I'm tired of this!" Taro exclaimed as he broke out of the stance Amon had put him in. "I want to firebend!"
Amon took a deep breath; he couldn't keep his son from the flames, no matter how hard he tried. He picked up a leaf and handed it to his son. "See how long you can keep this leaf from burning."
The leaf was burned into a crisp and left a flame in a matter of under a minute. A huge smile locked onto Taro's face as he played with the tiny flame.
"Be careful with that, son," Amon said, watching how Taro used his ability.
"It's okay, Daddy. I have this."
Taro experimented with making the fireball bigger and smaller, and even throwing it into the air and catching it. Amon stared off at the fire lilies, reminiscing. In a moment of naivety that could only come from a five-year-old discovering a great power, he threw the fireball to his father, forgetting that there was no way Amon could catch it.
"Heads up, Daddy!" he cheered, realizing his mistake a moment later.
The fireball was en route to hit Amon's face, but he managed to deflect it with his hand. He sucked in a cry of pain and plunged his hand into the pond. Taro's eyes widened and he ran to his father. "I'm so sorry, Daddy! I forgot. I'm—I'm so sorry. Please don't get mad at me. I promise, I'll never do that again. Daddy?"
Amon took a deep breath, letting his frantic thoughts settle. "It's okay, Taro. Training accidents happen. Go pick your mom a couple fire lilies and I'll be ready to go back when you're done."
Although the boy still looked like he could burst into tears at any moment, he followed Amon's orders. He sucked air in through his teeth as the burn couldn't be quelled with just the pond water. The pain was nowhere near the pain of losing his face, but he hated having Taro see him as weak.
When Taro returned with two fire lilies, Amon walked him home.
"Daddy, I'm so sorry I hurt you. It won't happen again."
"I know. Really, I'm not mad."
Amon must've repeated that answer ten times on the walk home, and Taro locked himself in his room once he reached the house. Emi looked to her husband. "Something wrong?"
He held out his hand. "Give me some aloe and some time. It'll be okay."
Emi put down Kenji and spread aloe on Amon's burn. "Lost control?" Amon nodded. "You sure you can handle it?"
Amon nodded. "He told me he never wants to firebend again. I have to face my prejudice head on."
Once the aloe was spread, Amon walked into Taro's room. "Can we talk?"
Taro wiped his nose. "I guess."
"You shouldn't stop firebending because of what happened. When I was younger, I would've told you to stop bending, but I had a twisted view back then. Now, I see something: bending is a part of you, and it isn't something you can suppress."
"I'll keep it inside if it means not hurting anyone."
He placed his hand on Taro's shoulder. "You can never prevent accidents. I should've been paying more attention. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're only five."
"But you were so brave at my age. You tried to protect your parents from a mean firebender and then Koh gave you special powers. All I can do is hurt you."
"I would never ask for my past for you. You're lucky. Now please, let yourself be a firebender. You were so excited about it before."
"But you're a non-bender. Why are you letting me firebend, even if I'm dangerous?"
Amon took a deep breath; all he had to do was say that he was too dangerous to firebend and he'd have a non-bender son without any special powers. Yet, what had life taught him? He knew what it felt like to lose pieces of himself, and he could never wish that upon his own flesh and blood. Remembering the pain of losing his balance to the deaf ear and his perception abilities from the blind eye clawed him to his final answer.
"There's nothing wrong with being a bender so long as you learn from your mistakes. I think you're going to be more careful next time, so I want you to keep learning."
He licked a tear from his cheek. "Will you still teach me?"
"If you really want, I will."
Taro buried his face into Amon's chest. "You're being so nice to me, but I hurt you. It doesn't make sense."
Amon rustled Taro's hair. "You're my son; I'm not allowed to be mean to you. Now come on, are you gonna keep firebending?"
Amon wrapped his arms around his son. He won't turn out like his grandfather. You have to have faith. "Why don't you go play with your friends? You've been working really hard today."
Taro wiped the tears off his face and ran out into the open. Amon stayed behind with his wife.
"I did it. He's okay to keep bending."
Emi smiled. "It took some guts to do that. How do you feel?"
Amon shook his head. "Anxious, but that might just be the fact that Avatar Korra and I haven't made connection in six years and I can't imagine Koh's going to keep himself from her for very long."
Emi shook her head. "You always focus on the wrong things."
She kissed his cheek. "I think that's fairly important."
"Yeah, but I can think of something more important."
"I think you regained your honor."
A/N: Whew! Wow, yup, there's the ending to my first full length fic. I hope that everyone enjoyed this story!
Thanks to everyone who read, favorited, and alerted. A special shoutout to thearistocrat, SarahSimon, Anime-baka, KhAel, UltiXevoz, Elena-Unduli, SaiyanWarrior200, goodgirl528, Vazio, Gauchadeutsche, Aeire, Apples Who Dance With Oranges, Gravespawn, flutflutflyer, eelbroth, and the various anonymous and guest reviewers. Whether you reviewed one chapter or all of them, I truly appreciate the feedback.
As for my future as a fanfiction writer, I can't exactly say what's going to be happening. I'm focused on my original fiction right now, but I'm going to begin an urban fantasy series that takes influence from the Spirit World of Avatar if anyone's interested in that, PM me.