Spark, Zutara Week 2013
Immortals were not allowed to fall in love with the mortals they guarded and guided. Their job specified that they must deal with these mortals objectively. Conflict of interest occurred when their actions started being influenced by emotion. It could disrupt the delicate balance between the Mortal Realm and the Spirit World. As soon as emotion became involved, the Balance shifted.
Yet she had been unable to help herself and Tui-Yue, Agni, La, Koh, Himeakatateha – anyone help her, she didn't want to stop feeling.
It had been so long since she had felt anything at all beside sadness and sorrow and torment.
She collected souls in pain or suffering and when it was time, she ensured their final moments were peaceful before being brought up to the heavens. She took their pain into her, took it out of their body, to give them peace and clarity. She cleansed their Spark – the force inside everything, mortal or otherwise, that was the reason they existed. Every Spark looked different and individual. No two were the same. But, her touch could calm and soothe every Spark, no matter what. She could allow them to die quietly, painlessly, by taking their feeling away and living them with their cleansed Spark. It was what she did.
She loved what she did, because the Spirit World was beautiful and she had seen the anguish and pain of life. The death and destruction and heartbreak. She never understood why so many chose to start again, be reincarnated as someone else. Live a new life with new choices and new experiences. The spirit retained all of its past lives upon their death and many would go back over and over, hoping to do something different or take a different path. But they never could, really, because their life was set out on its path and it could deviate and backtrack, but it would always return to the main road.
She was the best of her Kind. She Obeyed the Law. But sometimes she wondered what it would be like to live. To feel heat and warmth, tiredness and cold, hope and misery, hunger and thirst. Fear. She wondered what it would be like to lose something she cared for greatly.
The man was seriously ill; he was dying. She always arrived seven days before the mortal was actually supposed to die, to ease the suffering they were experiencing and help their spluttering Spark as it was snuffed out by her Water on the eighth day. The Spirits had more leeway with the Mortals, but for Immortals, like her, there was a set of laws that must be obeyed.
This man was handsome; she had to admit, as she crept in through the open window of his hospital room and softly padded up to his bed. Rugged, earthy. Smooth skin kissed by Agni's light, warm eyes the colour of mud and wild, untamed hair. He looked like a fighter. Someone who had always worked for what he wanted and was never given anything.
On the first day she touched his cheek gently, her hand glowing blue as her Water sunk beneath his skin and into his Spark. Are you death? His eye had winked open lazily, staring at the wall a metre to her left. She had covered her mouth to stop from laughing - Our Third Law Is To Never Break The Silence – and shook her head.
She spoke to his mind, letting her Spark brush against his. "No."
"Then what are you?" He asked with his mind again, using her telepathic abilities.
"I'm here to make you last moments peaceful before I can take you to the heavens." Her lips did not move although she spoke. Her thumb brushed along his forehead tenderly, a small smile on her face.
"The pain is… fading. Are you doing that?"
"It is my job."
On the second day, the Mortal told her about his life. His dreams, his passions, his victories, his defeats, his regrets and the torturous moment's in-between that made up his life. All his most cherished and vivid memories were off three people: Long Shot and Bee, his Mortal girlfriend, and his brother. Zuko.
He had been a soldier, fighting for justice and right and good, and he had met Bee, Long Shot and Zuko on the battlefield. These tale interested her the most. She had watched Mortal fights all her existence, watched the vile killing and inhumane acts with sadistic, disturbing curiosity. She had always found it strange; the way Mortal nature wanted heroes and yet wanted to destroy their heroes when they got them. It was a kind of mass insecurity, wanting something to look up to and get a buzz off but, at the same time, wanting to destroy it because it made them feel insecure.
She didn't understand why so many of her Kind had wanted to be Mortal.
She also learnt that Zuko was not actually his brother. She hadn't asked what this Zuko was to him, though she had felt strong feelings surge and bubble in his Spark, bleeding through the thin barrier that completely separated her from him whenever he thought of him. But she had listened with riveted interest as he told her about what he and Zuko had gotten up to in their youths. The fights and brawls; the escapades and shenanigans; the loving and the living.
She had decided that she would probably like this Zuko-mortal. He has guided by honour and treated everyone with respect and acceptance. No matter their race, gender, family or position. Which was, apparently, strange because Zuko was from wealth and fortune and power.
Still, his stories were incredible and she found herself wanting to hear more. Wanting him to go on and on and on. She wanted to look into his memories - Our Sixth Law Is To Never Enter The Mind – just so she could see the memory play out and put a name to the face of his Zuko-mortal. To see Bee and Long Shot, and Duke and Pip, and all the people he had met and loved and fought besides.
She had never wanted this before.
On the third day, he had his first visitor since she had arrived,
"Hello?" She turned to the person who entered the room and she had started, eyes widening. She knew who this man was immediately, even though he looked nothing like the man on the bed who had told her story after story after story. Hi skin was pale, the colour of the snow she had seen grace the ground in Winter and his hair was long and thick, straight. It hung over his forehead and touched the bridge of his nose, hooding his eyes from view.
He held the slightly bigger build, his shoulders broad and well-muscled, his jaw strong, his arms iron bands. He moved fluidly, like a cat or lion. His Spark would have blinded her if it wasn't curtained in sorrow. She had never seen a Spark so bright. It was obvious that he had been sleeping little and yet he forced a small smile as he walked in, even though his brother could not see it.
Molten gold met her eyes, staring straight into her Spark, even though she was invisible to all but her charge.
"Zuko," he informed her, his thoughts reminding her of a strangled breath. "That is my brother. He comes by whenever he can escape his duties. I can hear him but I can never respond."
Since the living could not see her, he did not even acknowledge her presence as he walked over and sat down at the chair beside the bed, setting down a small box on the stand. "You always were a lazy dick, but this is just ridiculous…"
It was not the first time that she had seen a moment like this, but It was the first time she had ever been affected by it. Her eyes were fixed on the glaring, angry burn-scar across his left cheek and temple, branding his otherwise perfect skin. His golden eyes held such a profound sadness in his twisted face that she felt… she felt something.
She wanted to materialise and wrap him in her arms, bring him to her chest and whisper soothing, comforting things in his ear. She wanted to tell him that his brother would be fine – Our Seventh Law Is To Never Shed A Tear – that he would be happy where he was going and that he would miss him so much.
But she didn't. She sat down on the floor cross-legged in front of him like the small children she had seen in classrooms, and watched him as he read to his friend. He he spent hours with him. Sometimes he would read. Sometimes he would talk. Sometimes he would sit and hold his brother's hand while he slept on.
Twice, she watched in tortured silence as he broke down, so quietly that she would have missed it if she was passing by on a hospital round. But because she was there, right in front of him, she saw. She couldn't take it.
It hurt her to see him cry
On the fourth day, he arrived again, dressed in very formal attire and carrying a stack full of papers.
He didn't say anything to the body in the bed, or acknowledge her presence in the stark, white room. He pulled the table on wheels from the corner, moving it around the small space, until it was right in front of the window and beside the bed. Then, he sat down and started reading through the papers and doing work.
She watched him, fascinated, as his shoulders tensed and untensed. She watched the fluidness of his hand as he moved over the pages, writing and marking and crossing out. She floated over to the window and sat on the sill, bringing her knees up to her chest and resting her head on top of them. She studied his face. The patchwork nature of it, the emotions that flickered.
She reached out tentatively, her hand hovering over the scar, before pulling it away and letting it hang limp by her side.
"His father did that to him," he whispered in her mind, startling her out of her ruminations as she observed. "His father was a sick bastard who took pleasure in the pains of others. His mother disappeared when he was young, leaving Zuko and his sister, Azula, alone with that sadist. The only person who actually gave a damn about Zuko was his Uncle. Iroh."
She stared at Zuko as he stopped his writings. He glanced up, his golden eyes focusing on where she sat and she froze, going stiller then anything of nature could. His eyes were unfocused, and she wanted to them to look at her. Wanted to see them take her in, wanted to see them acknowledge her presence.
He squinted and his breath caught. He jerked, sending his papers flying everywhere as he jumped out of his chair, sending it flying backwards into the bed. His golden eyes widened in fright and confusion, focused intently on her.
"Can he see you?" She had reply. Her shock broke the connection she held with him and his body lurched in its bed. Zuko turned around quickly, severing whatever connection he had ignited and rushed to his side.
Zuko picked up his limp hand and grasped it in his. She quickly moved over to his bed and placed her hands on his temples, closing her eyes as she re-established her siphoning.
A nurse ran in, a chart in her hands.
"What's happening? Is he...?"
"No, sir. He isn't waking up."
Zuko fell asleep, clasping his brother's hand. She retrieved his paperwork and organised it for him. – Our Ninth Law Is To Never Leave An Impact –
On the fifth day, he told her his last memory.
"We fought… about something so stupid, I can't even remember what it was. I think he feels guilty because he thinks that those are the last word I will remember sharing with him. The last words he spoke."
Which wasn't true, she had known that and he knew that. But Zuko didn't, and he was suffering because of it. Unfortunately, there was nothing either of them could do about it. In the end, she had remained longer than she should have, watching the young, beautiful man as he told another story about a pregnant friend named Toph and her partner Aang.
She knew that her charge… her dying friend greatly appreciated these stories, was glad that Zuko came to talk to him even if he couldn't reply.
When Zuko's face fell blank, losing all emotion, she rushed to his side. Zuko buried his face in his hands and a shudder rocked through his body. "They say that people in a coma can still hear and sense what is going on in the world around them. They say that they know when someone is with them, but they just can't move. I want to believe it – I want to believe it so badly that it makes me physically sick to think otherwise… but I can't keep going on. I can't keep the pain at bay… I was always so weak… I can't keep doing this… Jet, please…"
She was before him, crouching down in the space between his legs as he dry-sobbed into his hands. She couldn't watch him cry again – Our Fourth Law Is To Never Touch Bare Skin – and she couldn't let the darkness consume him. She reached out a hand and cupped his cheek, feeling the flutter of his heartbeat like butterfly wings or a hurricane; feeling the heat and warmth he radiated like Agni through her palm. He shivered as she gasped, a spark appearing and dancing along her fingertips and along her hip and spine and across her clavicle to her chest.
She felt Zuko shiver again as her hand, coated in glowing blue, stroked his jaw and rough, calloused hands. She soothed, humming a soft lullaby as she calmed his Spark. When his breathing returned to normal and his heartbeat slowed a little, she lessened the glow.
"Please don't stop…"
She stilled, her hand ghosting along his jaw.
"You make the pain fade…"
Before she could think, before she could react, the same nurse from the day before entered. Song. She was small and petite and attractive, and she found herself hating Song because of that. And because of the way she looked at Zuko and touched him.
"Are you alright, sir?" She asked.
Zuko blinked, staring right through to gaze at Song.
"No. I don't think I ever will be."
It was his dedication and obvious love her charge – Jet – that captured and held her curiosity and thoughts, she rationalised to herself as she watched him. She had seen many people do as he did, but never with the same amount of resolution. No matter what, rain or shine or heat or cold, Zuko arrived in Jet's room and sat with him.
"Do you remember when we were seventeen, and Uncle took us to that lake in the country outside Ba Sing Se? Laogi, or something? And you and I fought over that girl, Jin, trying to decide who would ask her out. Uncle stopped us and that night, she asked me out as I worked in the Jasmine Dragon?" Zuko chuckled. She had long since decided that she liked the sound of his voice. Wood catching fire. "You refused to acknowledge my presence for the rest of the summer, even though she and I only had one date. You always could hold a grudge. Uncle would always say that was why we were friends…."
He sighed, running a hand through his thick hair. He did that a lot, so much so that she wanted to do it too, just to see why it held such an attraction to him. And because it always seemed to calm him.
"I think I can feel something… whenever I am in here, I feel something calming. It's like the sound of a trickling stream through a dark forest on a hot summer's day. Tranquilly and peace. A sense of comfort and home. At first I thought it was you, Jet, but I know you outside and in… I have ever since that summer when we were eighteen and heartbroken… ever since that night…"
Zuko made a frustrated sound and got out of the chair, stalking around to the other side of the bed. She sat perched on the edge of the bed, curled up into a ball like a small child or kitten, watching him with all her attention. With all her being.
"Even though I want to believe it's you with everything inside me, I know it isn't. I know that it's something else… and it's addictive. This presence is like a drug that I can't get enough of. A drug that numbs the pain."
Our Eighth Law Is To Never Create A Connection
The lines between her home and this mortal plane were blurring the more time she spent in the presence of his Spark. She couldn't get enough of it. If he wasn't so lonely and sad and angry and bitter, it would be the brightest Spark she had ever seen. It made no sense. Each Spark was different, yes, but they all burned in similar ways. She had been taught that no one Spark could truly be brighter then another, yet Zuko's…
She didn't know anything for certain anymore
"I can't hear this anymore. The pain… Zuko's pain… I feel it… its tangible and moving… it's so dark that I'm losing focus on the light." Jet's word on the seventh day pierced her like a hundred thousand knives, digging deeply into her and twisting.
She understood. It was her constant connection to him that allowed Jet to see and feel what Zuko was feeling. Jet asked her, pleaded. Can you really do nothing but watch? That's what she was meant to do. What her Kind were created to do. But, everything had changed.
In an instant, she broke.
It was the seventh day. Tomorrow, she would kill Jet.
"Good evening, sir."
Her voice split the air of the room, cutting across it like a knife. She was taken aback for a moment, never having heard it before. Lilting, like running water. She was visible now, appearing as girl dressed all in blue. – Our Fifth Law Is To Never Reveal Our Presence – She walked into the room, her smile warm. She caught a glimpse of dark chocolate out of the corner of her eye. Hair and skin. At first Zuko spared her only a passing glance and a murmured a greeting, before his gaze suddenly snapped back to her in complete shock.
It was one thing to watch, it was another thing being watched.
She saw Zuko force himself to look back down at his brother. "You're new." His voice was flat.
"Not really," she said, listening to the own trill of her voice. "I have been taking care of Jet for the past week."
Frowning slightly at the use of Jet's name, Zuko's molten gaze flickered over her. "Thank you for taking care of him... though it's a surprise. I have been here every day."
"I knew your brother."
Another frown. He was truly looking at her without turning away, despite obviously being affected by her presence. He stood and she fought the urge to place her hand against her chest as unfamiliar feeling started. Zuko stood up from the chair and walked towards her, skirting the edge of the bed. She took two instinctual steps backwards before stilling herself. He stopped in front of her and for a moment it looked as if he was going to touch her, but refrained. "You knew him? How?"
"Ba Sing Se." Jet had met Zuko when they were both sixteen. In Ba Sing Se. Iroh had taken Jet in a year later. It made sense. "We were friends. Actually, I requested to transfer here for a little while... when I heard about… We weren't very close..." Now that she had the ability, she couldn't find the words. "He spoke about you…"
This surprised him. "He...he did?"
"Yes. All the time." She pretended to check over Jet. "It's nice to meet you, finally. I feel like I've known you for a while."
He said nothing. She couldn't say anything. The silence stretched between them.
He blinked, snapping out of his stare, and his face coloured. "Are you..?"
"Oh!" She wiped at the liquid that trickled down her cheeks. "I...I'm so sorry..."
"It's fine," He said seriously but he wasn't really looking at her but rather at Jet. She could still see the colour on his pale cheek. "I'm kind of glad he had someone… we had a rocky beginning, and I wasn't always the..."
"I know. He told me about this one time in the lower ring…"
They traded stories. When hours had left them, she got up to leave. But before she could, something firm wrapped around her wrist. Gasping, she turned and he was standing right in front of her. His hand encircled her wrist, his thumb stroking the place she was supposed to have veins. She remained speechless, lips parted, face flushed. Being so close to him like this felt really good.
"Thank you for this…" He trailed off, lips turning down, releasing her wrist. She smiled, lips pulling up and she wondered what it would actually be like to feel the warmth of his hand on her skin. She wondered if she was as cold as the ocean where she was as warm as the sun.
"That's fine, Zuko." Something crossed his face and she wondered if it was because he was desperate to know more about his brother.
Or something more she wasn't allowed to comprehend.
Today was the day she would kill Jet.
Today was the last day she would see Zuko.
"It's today, isn't it?" Jet asked, the question floating through her mind and hanging in the air like a guillotine over a neck.
She made no reply, verbal or telepathic, but continued to stand by the open window, looking out over the bay, a still silhouette against the dawning light. Gazing out, she felt a tear slid down her cheek and rest at the corner of her mouth. She gave an unsteady breath even though she didn't need to breathe.
"That is the only reason you came. Because you wanted to ease my pain in the week before my death…"
"I told you that myself." She wanted to her the lilt of her voice, but she continued to speak into his mind, afraid of what the silence contained.
She felt his Spark crackle and the pull inside her started. It was time.
"The Spirit World will welcome you, brother."
Pain lanced through Jet's chest and she immediately pulled her Water to her, letting it glove her hands, the blue glow a strange, ethereal thing to behold. Jet's body didn't move, but she felt the roar of his emotions. Pain, suffering, anguish. Torment, hope, sadness, love, happiness… pain, pain, pain.
She gasped, never before feeling the emotions as strong as she did now. She wondered if it was because she was too close to him. That she had formed a connection that shouldn't even exist. Whatever the reason, it didn't matter. He was in pain, he was dying and she was supposed to kill him.
"I'm trying… please, just stay with me."
The door to Jet's room burst open and she lurched. Zuko stood in the doorway – strong, powerful, alive – and his eyes focused intently on Jet as he lay in the bed, noiselessly and still. She felt herself tense, felt her Spark flare.
"Jet…" Zuko pressed forward. She noticed that he wasn't as put together as all his other visits. His hair was a wild halo around his head, his clothes were rumpled. His tunic-top was half undone, giving her a glimpse of smooth marble flesh with defined muscles. "Jet, no. Jet you can't leave. Jet I'm so sorry. Jet, I don't hate you. I didn't mean what I said. Jet, wake up. Jet. Jet. Jet?!"
She didn't know if what she was feeling was Jet's pain or her own. Whoevers, it was a hit to the stomach, a sword through the stomach. She couldn't do this. She couldn't watch. She couldn't be here and not let him know she was here. Jet's Spark was almost gone, and like all Sparks, it was trying to get to her Spark, to absorb its warmth and power, to feel alive again.
Can you really do nothing?
She could feel Jet's pain as she slipped into his body, using herself as a medium so that he could have his last few moments. It felt heavy. Substantial. She saw Zuko catch his breath as she slowly lifted a dark hand. Jet leaned in, startling the chair backwards, and she felt the touch of his warmth as Zuko slid his hand into Jet's.
"Idiot Fire Nation, I know you could never hate me." The words were said slowly but clearly. "Thank you, for coming here.. for staying with me. I know...you don't..." now he was frowning, mostly in concentration. His body wasn't going to last much longer and he could feel the strain it was putting on the girl who had kept him company all week with her beautiful face and soft touch. "Live, Zuko. I know you don't feel that you can do that without me but...live the life I couldn't. If you can at least try...I can die in peace. I want you...to be happy."
Still holding his brother's hand, he dipped his head. His words came out hard and strained. "I promise I'll try. My brother." His gripped tightened. The words caught. "Thank you for being my brother, Jet. I know I didn't show it, but I was...happy." his voice cracked but still he did not look up at his brother, couldn't.
"I was happy...to be… your brother… Fire Nation… even if it had… been for just a… little while…" Jet squeezed Zuko's hand and placed a kiss to his lips. "I never regretted... I love… Zuko…"
She was thrown out of Jet's body, through the air and into the wall opposite the bed. Her head connected with the edge of a painting and she felt pain. Zuko's head snapped up and his gaze focused on her, eyes widening in disbelief.
She avoided Zuko's gaze as he stared at her with those piercing golden eyes. He was very intelligent, he was able to put two and two together for the most part.
Bolting up from his chair, golden eyes locked onto her, stunned. She blinked up at him, struggling to get up, but finding she couldn't support herself. She heard a twinkling bell and started, looking down to see her legs fading. He came towards her and she scrambled backwards.
"I-I'm sorry Zuko..." but she had to go. She couldn't stay. She needed to take Jet and move on, forget about everything that had happened in his room… Even though leaving him was the last thing she wanted to do.
Faster than she had expected, he was there by her side, his hand lightly gripping her fading arm. His gaze, was intense. Fire and passion. He looked confused, lost, and afraid. Determined.
"You...he had been able to speak to me because of you."
"Who are you? What are you?"
"I have to go…"
"No. You can't… I won't let you."
He is in love with you. Jet observed dryly from beside her, his spirit leaning against a wall, alert.
He is an easy person to love if you can get close enough to him, isn't he? He seemed amused and a small smile drifted along her lips.
"Please. Don't do this." She didn't know if she was speaking to Jet or Zuko or both.
You can talk with someone for years, every day, and still, it won't mean as much as what you can have when you sit in front of someone, not saying a word, yet you feel that person with your heart, you feel like you have known the person for forever... connections are made with the heart, not the tongue. Jet continued.
He has fallen in love with you. He's never shown an interest in anyone before. I know him. Better then he knows himself. It's alright to love him back.
The grip tightened and she realized his fear was of her leaving. Jet's words danced across her mind and she felt herself breaking. Now she understood why immortals weren't supposed to interact with mortals... especially if they were in love.
"Why?" she shook her head but that wasn't an answer he was going to accept. "I had thought it was weird that you had all of a sudden appeared and no one had known who you were." Her eyes widened at this. He had actually asked about her? "Now this. I don't know what's going on, none of this with you makes sense but I know you're the reason I was able to talk to Jet…" The grip tightened and he almost spoke the words aloud but they wouldn't form.
She bit her lip briefly. "It was the only thing he wanted...was for you to be happy. To know that he knew how you felt and that..." she cut herself off. "I can't..."
"Wait." His gaze was pleading and she knew this was too much too fast for him. Because she had allowed herself to become personally involved, because they had fallen…
"I'm sorry. I really am sorry..."
Before she realized what was going on he was gripping her arms and lips moved over hers in a hard kiss. She returned it eagerly, knowing it would be the first and the last. Being in his arms felt as wonderful as she had imagined; his lips were surprisingly soft. She clung to him as arms wrapped around her slender frame tightly; as afraid that she would completely fade if he let her go.
"Don't go..." His face buried into the crook of her neck. "Please, don't go."
She shook her head, openly weeping. "I...I can't..."
"I promised him and I...I'm not just saying this because of..." his voice caught. "I want to keep my promise, but I can't if you aren't…"
"I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry..."
She stood before the council. Agni. Tui-Yue. La. The Star Queen. The Earth Father.
And they made their judgment.
It started to rain as he reached his brother's grave and he stood in front of it, expression impassive. Winter had blanketed the world, and cold sinking into his skin. Knowing Jet, he had probably gone into Heaven or whatever; he had been a good man. A good brother.
Closing his eyes, he bowed his head slightly as he knelt. He sent a small prayer to his friend, hoping that he was doing well in the afterlife and promising that he would try and fulfill his vow the moment he could. Because he hadn't been able to since they had both left his life in the summer. All Jet had asked was for him to be happy. One simple thing and yet he had failed so spectacularly.
Suddenly, his eyes snapped open at the sound of rain hitting fabric. He could no longer feel the drops falling down on him. Confused, he stood up and turned. The moment he did he almost dropped down to his knees.
"You…" It was impossible. She had literally disappeared. He would have thought her to be a figment of his desperate imagination had other people not seen her as well.
She was standing, holding the umbrella high enough to cover the both of them, in a blue dress. Her long hair was pulled back into a braid, two loops moving away from her temples. A pendent on a choker around her neck.
"You never told me your name."
Zuko ran a hand through is hair. "I didn't know your name, so I've been calling you Katara."
"It means hope."
She smiled sadly. His movements were automatic, he wasn't thinking as he closed the distance, his brows furrowed with confusion and disbelief and the love he felt. Her eyes were shining with unshed tears and when he slowly began to move to wrap his arms around her the umbrella dropped as she all but flung herself against him. They clung to each other and he actually felt himself sigh in relief.
"I'm never letting you go."
"One day, you'll explain this all to me."
"I love you so much."
"I love you to."
Our First Law Is To Never Fall In Love
Our Second Law Is To Never Take Without Reason
Our Third Law Is To Never Break The Silence
Our Fourth Law Is To Never Touch Bare Skin
Our Fifth Law Is To Never Reveal Our Presence
Our Sixth Law Is To Never Enter The Mind
Our Seventh Law Is To Never Shed A Tear
Our Eighth Law Is To Never Create A Connection
Our Ninth Law Is To Never Leave An Impact