Upon regaining consciousness, the first thing Jet thinks is, she's gorgeous.
Then he thinks, hey, the pain's gone.
Then he wonders, what kind of girl wears all black? Everyone he ever met was always dressed in shades of green or blue or red, except that Avatar kid. One of the things Jet insisted on among his band of freedom fighters was to mix up the colors they wore, to show that they were not dedicated to a nation, but to a higher cause.
Hey, the words sounded nice, even if they were crap.
“I think you believed them,” says the lady in black, spinning her parasol. She is really pale, fairer even than that Li guy. Jet cocks an eyebrow, wondering how she knew what he was thinking. Instead of being freaked out, though, he feels oddly calm.
He does want to get out of this place, however. The underground room smells like mold and fear and something sickly sweet he can't place his finger on. He's reminded of Long Feng and of the boulder that jerk sent crashing into his chest. Jet shouldn't have survived that. Sheer dumb luck, he supposes. No matter, now that he's all healed up, time to find Longshot and Smellerbee and get the heck out of this crazy city.
The lady says, with a sad tilt of her head, “You'll be leaving, but not with them.” Her eyes are mesmerizing, inky like her bun and lined in even more black, with the kohl extending into a curl at the corner of one eye. The glint of her necklace catches Jet's attention, a large silver pendant hanging from a simple chain, bright against the solid black of her tunic. It's a really strange pendant, an oval on top of two perpendicular bars that flare out on the ends. He's never seen that symbol before.
A sob makes him turn and he spots Smellerbee, a tiny figure kneeling in the middle of the huge stone floor. She has her back to Jet and her shoulders are shaking. Longshot stands opposite her, head down, his face obscured by his huge straw hat. Jet cranes his neck to see what they're looking at. Pair of legs in faded blue pants stretched out limply. Gangly arms to either side of a torso that seemed just a little too scrawny for the frame, like the owner of said torso never quite had enough to eat for many years. Bits and pieces of armor strapped to the body, shuang gou* laying on either side where they had fallen...
Oh, no. No. Spirits, no.
But after the initial shock and horror at seeing his own body cooling there on the ground, Jet asks himself why he's surprised. He knew it was coming when he sent Katara and her friends off.
“Could she have saved me?” he asks around the twig in his mouth—where did that come from? Was it even real?
The lady in black shrugs. “Maybe. It's hard to say.” Something about how she gazes at him reminds him of his mother. He thinks he might love this woman a little, which makes no sense. She's a complete stranger.
Except she's not. He knows who she is.
“I thought you would be some kind of ugly spirit or something,” he says. “You know, wild hair, gnashing teeth, buggy eyes...”
Her smile is a beacon in the dark. “Would you like me to be?”
“No, no, that's okay.”
She holds out her hand, thin white fingers poking out from the bell-like sleeve. “It's time to go now.”
Jet casts one last look at his friends. Longshot is leaning over now, placing a gloved hand on Smellerbee's shoulder. They're gonna be okay, he tells himself, and the thought brings him comfort. Great, he thinks with a mental chuckle. Dying's turned him into a sap.
Jet takes the lady's offered hand. “This life was all right,” he muses. “I mean, a lot of it sucked, and I screwed up sometimes, but some parts were good. Only got sixteen years, but I think I made them count in the end.”
The room fades into darkness around them, and there's a sound kind of like beating wings, like when birds would take to the air around his treetop home. “You got what everyone gets, Jet,” she replies. “You got a lifetime.”