Celina leaned against the railing of the Fire Navy ship that they managed to capture back in Chameleon Bay. It had been weeks. Weeks at sea with her adoptive family and men from the Southern Water Tribe. Weeks of using her spirit abilities to heal Aang. Weeks of questions. Weeks of nightly forced visits with a certain Fire Nation Prince. With everything going on Celina just wished for a moment of peace so that she could catch her breath. But the universe didn't want to give it to her as Aang had just woken up.
"Twinkle-Toes, that's got to be you," Toph smiled.
Celina headed over to where Bato and Hakoda were standing along with Toph and Katara. Standing there was the awake and confused airbender. Katara was the first one to attack him with a hug.
"Aang, you're awake!" she exclaimed.
"Are you sure? I feel like I'm dreaming," Aang replied, trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
"You're not dreaming. You're finally awake," Katara said, releasing him from the hug.
Sokka swooped in, walking up to Aang dressed fully in Fire Nation soldier armor and gave him a quick hug. "Aang, good to see you back with the living, buddy," he said.
"Sokka?" Aang asked confused.
Celina quickly saw how much everything was becoming for Aang and noticed how his body wasn't exactly ready for it. Something Toph sensed as well.
"Uh-oh! Somebody catch him, he's gonna…," Toph tried to warn.
As Aang fainted Celina swooped in and stopped his body from hitting the floor. Everyone gathered around, including Appa who had felt Aang's distress.
"I think the helmet was the tipping point," Celina informed her brother.
"My bad," Sokka apologized and took off the helmet.
Celina laid Aang down in her lap and went to work. Drawing water from her flask Celina covered her hands and set them on Aang's temples. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them her eyes were aglow with spiritual energy which leaked into the water, causing it to glow even brighter. Celina gently began to coax Aang awake. He'd been asleep far too long. A groan from Aang was all it took for Celina to stop and return the water to her pouch, her eyes returning back to their normal state.
"Let Appa come through," Celina instructed. The rest of the Gaang backed off, allowing the flying bison to walk up to Aang. The airbender slowly came too and smiled at the sight of his furry friend.
"Appa," he muttered before finding the strength to sit up and hug the face of his pet. Appa nuzzled into him, happy to see Aang again after so long. Having a familiar anchor to hold onto Aang looked at his surroundings before settling his gaze on his friends who were dressed in Fire Nation cloaks and armor in Sokka's case. "What's going on?"
"Katara, perhaps you should catch him up while I get things ready for a healing session," Celina suggested, standing up.
Katara nodded and plopped down next to Aang while the others headed off to give them some space. Celina headed to the ship's kitchen to gather some supplies. Upon seeing her enter the kitchen the worker quickly filled two jugs of water and handed them off. He was used to her asking for them after all these weeks. She gave him a nod thanks and left for Aang's room. Setting the jugs in front of the bed Celina pulled out a small platform for Aang to sit on. She was just fishing fresh bandages out of a chest when Aang walked in with Katara.
"Perfect timing," Celina said. "Let's get the bandages off and then we can begin."
Katara went to work acting as Celina's second in command, helping Aang slip out of the robe he was given before removing his bandages and tossing them in a bin to be washed and sterilized. While Katara helped Aang onto the small platform Celina took a moment before bringing forth her spirit abilities once again.
"What are you doing? You should be saving your strength. Both of us shouldn't be out of commission," Aang expressed worried when he saw Celina's glowing eyes.
"It's fine, Aang. I'm passed the point of passing out afterward, at least healing wise. These past few weeks being your healer has helped with that," Celina assured him.
"You've been healing me with your spirit abilities the entire time?" Aang asked.
"I asked her to. I wanted to make sure that you'd be alright," Katara told him.
"Alright, enough questions for now. Let's get to your healing session," Celina said, bending some water out of the pots, the liquid emitting a powerful glow of spiritual energy.
Aang relented and turned around so that Celina could properly get a look at his back. A scar had been left right in the middle, splitting apart the blue of Aang's tattoos. It was rough, having settled in after all these weeks as Celina's focus hadn't been on softening and getting rid of the scar. There were more important things to take care of. Aang bit his lip to fight off a bit of pain as Celina easied the water into his body through his scar, some settling on the surface. Celina went to work, going back to fixing some muscles and nerves that had been fried thanks to Azula's lightning. With a mix of her spirit abilities and bloodbending, she had practically restored them back to normal. She noticed as she went from one spot in his body to another Aang would tense up in pain in.
"Tell me where your pain feels most intense," she instructed, glad that her patient could finally communicate with her.
"A little higher," Aang replied. Celina followed along, moving up his spine towards his center, having a feeling of what he was referring to. Aang's eyes squeezed shut and gave out a grunt of pain. "Wow, you are definitely in the right area there."
"I think I know what you're talking about. Raava has been kind enough to my intrusion when healing you but she's not the best patient when it comes to healing her," Celina said.
"Raava? What are you talking about?" Aang asked confused.
"She's your Avatar spirit. The one who's been with you through all of your lives," Celina explained.
It had taken Celina a while to figure out the mystery of spiritual force she'd first felt when healing Aang. She finally got an answer in the second week of healing Aang. Right in his center, right where Celina's spirit abilities laid in her, was a spirit fused with Aang's core. Raava was kind enough to introduce herself and give a nice explanation of her involvement with the Avatar. Sensing that the spirit was just as hurt as Aang, Celina tried her best to heal her. Raava was fine with it at first touch but when Celina tried to deepen the healing Raava's energy would push her away.
"Can you talk to her for me?" Aang asked.
"I'm sure you'll be able to talk to her yourself. All it will take is a little inner meditation. Perhaps now that you're awake though, I'll be able to heal her properly. I have a feeling her pain is resulting in yours," Celina said.
Working the healing water to focus on Aang's core Raava was once again welcoming at first but when Celina tried to go deeper into the spirit's wounds she thrashed about and pushed her away. Aang arched his back in pain, causing Celina to draw back the water, not wanting to hurt Aang more. She returned the water to the pots and blinked her eyes back to normal. After recovering from the shock Aang turned around in realization, staring at Celina.
"I went down! I didn't just get hurt, did I? It was worse than that. I was gone. But you brought me back," he said.
"It's possible that when you were hit that your heart stopped for a moment. When I was able to examine you there was barely a pulse. I used a combination of the spirit water from the North Pole and my own spirit powers to bring you back," Celina explained.
"You saved me," Aang in awe.
"That's why I insisted Celina be your healer. I couldn't lose you," Katara revealed. Katara and Aang locked eyes in a look at Celina could easily identify.
"I think you can take over from here, Katara," Celina decided. She picked up the bin of dirty bandages and headed to drop them off to be cleaned. Those two deserved a moment alone after so long. Besides, the detour on the way to her room would give her time to prep for the night's visit.
Celina sat up in a tree, the skirt of her dress hanging out over the branch, as she pet a lemur. Considering how late it was Celina was a bit surprised to find that Zuko hadn't shown up yet. Though she didn't mind. This world was much easier to control when the arrogant prince wasn't around. Not that Zuko's will was strong enough to match Celina's when it came to manipulating this place. It was late into the night when Zuko finally made his appearance. Celina looked down from her tree, feeling his presence beneath her. They would always appear near each other at first though often Celina would try and move away from him.
A few nights after Celina learned the world could be manipulated Zuko caught on and figured out how to conjure up a replica of Mai. He would follow after Celina and purposely shove his pathetic relationship with Mai in her face. Celina hid her annoyance with Mai, not wanting to let Zuko know how much the imagined girl bothered her in multiple ways. This night though he didn't do that. Zuko simply looked up at Celina in the tree and walked off towards the clearing in the forest that Celina had created. Curious, Celina made the lemur disappear and followed after Zuko. He had come to a stop at the edge of a lake which sat in the clearing, looking down into the water. Celina stood behind him, arms crossed.
"What? No Mistress of Misery tonight? I thought you enjoyed badgering me with your 'relationship'," Celina questioned. Zuko didn't say anything. "Ignoring me now? What you finally learn that I wasn't putting up with your attempts to bother me?" Still, he didn't reply, he just continued to stare down into the water. "What in the world is so interesting about the lake?"
Walking up to the shore Celina looked down and was surprised to find the water reflecting memories Zuko had of his home. The Fire Nation palace was prominently featured though every once in a while there'd be memories of a beach and continuing returns to a garden pond that starred a gentle looking woman beside a young Zuko. It was strange to see him without the scar. Younger versions of Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee would appear along with a few memories featuring Iroh and a boy who Celina could only guess as Lu Ten.
Fire Lord Ozai didn't seem to make an appearance in any of them until a memory of a duel came to the water's reflection. People were gathered around to watch Zuko fight his own father. Celina's hand curled into a fist, recognizing that this wasn't like the duel she had had with Pakku. She picked out the eager malicious faces of Zhao and Azula while Iroh looked ashamed and horrified. Zuko was on his knees begging forgiveness from his father who in turn showed no mercy. Celina let out a gasp as she watched Fire Lord Ozai burn the scar onto Zuko's face.
Hearing Celina react beside him Zuko summoned fire into his hand and shot it at the water, disturbing the reflection and stopping Zuko's memories from playing out. Zuko went to walk away from Celina and the lake but stopped when she started talking.
"That's the home you're so desperate to go back to?" Celina questioned. "Spirits, you're gonna be walking right back into the armadillo lion's den."
"It's my home," Zuko quietly replied.
"It's abusive," Celina stated.
"You don't understand," Zuko said.
"Who said I didn't?" Celina said, her voice rising. Zuko's eyes widened and turned to look at Celina. "Physical abuse isn't the only kind to leave scars."
"I thought the Water Tribe was all about family and community," Zuko replied, confused as to how someone could abuse someone like Celina.
"My family wasn't the problem. It was the emotional abuse I got from everyone else," Celina explained. "My scars are harder to see and I still deal with them almost every day. But I'm a survivor, and I refuse to let someone hurt me like that ever again."
Zuko didn't know how to reply. He just stared at Celina as the world around them disappeared and both of them woke up.
Sokka had come to Celina's room, asking if she could join him and the others in explaining more to Aang about what was going on. She easily accepted, not needing the additional bribe of seaweed noodles he threw in. Walking out onto the ship's deck, Bato handed Celina and Sokka a bowl before heading over to the rest of the group plus Bato and Hakoda. Sokka hurriedly gobbled down his noodles before getting to business.
"After what happened in Ba Sing Se, we had to get you and Celina to safety. We flew back to Chameleon Bay, where we found our father and the other Water Tribe men. The Earth King decided he wanted to travel the world in disguise, so he set off alone. Well, not completely alone. Soon, the bay was overrun with Fire Nation ships. Rather than fight them all, we captured a single ship and made it our disguise. Since then, we've been traveling west. We crossed through The Serpent's Pass a few days ago. We've seen a few Fire Nation ships, but none have bothered us," Sokka recounted.
"So, what now?" Aang asked.
"We've been working on a modified version of the invasion plan," Hakoda answered.
"It's Sokka's invasion plan," Katara corrected annoyed.
"Yes, Sokka's plan," Hakoda agreed. He looked at Katara, worried about what was going on with his daughter before continuing on. "We won't be able to mount a massive invasion without the Earth King's armies, but the solar eclipse will still leave the Fire Nation vulnerable."
"So we're planning a smaller invasion. Just a ragtag team of our friends and allies from around the Earth Kingdom. We already ran int Pipsqueak and The Duke," Sokka said. "I asked Celina to try and get some information out of Zuko but she hasn't gotten anything yet."
"We don't really talk battle strategy. We hardly talk at all," Celina said a bit annoyed. She dealt with Zuko enough during the night, he didn't need to be brought up during the day when she was away from him.
"Zuko!? Zuko's here? Did we capture him somehow?" Aang questioned confused.
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Katara said, looking over at her sister to explain it.
Celina sighed and set down her bowl of noodles. "With the crystal's powers down in the catacombs I didn't just send Koh away from the mortal world, I cursed him to remain in his tree forever. My parents believe he cursed me back, causing me to see the person who betrayed me every single night via some sort of mental connection," Celina explained.
Because of the nightly visits with Zuko and her passing out after healing Aang, in the beginning, it took her awhile to contact her parents to try and figure out what was going on. Her parents were relieved when Celina was finally able to sit down and meditate her way back into the Spirit World. Upon explaining what happened back in the catacombs and what was currently going on regarding the nightly visits with Zuko, Ai and Bishamon figured that Koh must be the one responsible. They were pissed at the face stealer and proud of their daughter for taking control and locking him away in his tree, if only by accident.
"I still can't believe you were gonna go out with that jerk," Sokka said.
"Says that guy who kissed the moon. Our love lives are full of unbelievability," Celina shot back.
"Wait, does everyone know about your… abilities?" Aang asked, glancing over at Hakoda and Bato.
"A select few," Hakoda answered. "When Katara explained what happened down in old Ba Sing Se she informed us about Celina's heritage. Which in turn helped us understand why she was to be your healer even if she fainted afterward."
"It came as quite a surprise but made sense with our conversation back at the abbey," Bato added.
"We agree with my daughter in keeping it secret from as many people as possible. It will help keep a bigger target off her back than she already has," Hakoda continued. He looked over at Celina who had returned to her bowl of noodles, giving him only a glance before continuing to eat.
"Plus it will come as a surprise for when we invade the Fire Nation. But that's not the only secret we have up our sleeves. We have you," Sokka said a smile appearing on his face.
"Me?" Aang asked confused.
"Yep, the whole world thinks you're dead! Isn't that great?!" Sokka said.
Shock hit Aang's face. "The world thinks I'm dead? How is that good news? That's terrible!" Aang exclaimed.
"No, it's great. It means the Fire Nation won't be hunting us anymore. And even better, they won't expect you on The Day of Black Sun," Sokka explained.
"No, no, no, no, no. You have no idea. This is so messed up!" Aang lamented. The horn of another Fire Nation ship blared, causing everyone to look and see one approaching up ahead. Aang stood, ready to take on the approaching ship. "I'll handle this. The Avatar is back!"
He grabbed his glider and slammed it on the floor to open it which caused was Aang to flinch in pain, clutching his side. Aang tried to bear through it but Katara ran over and placed a hand on the glider.
"Aang, wait. Remember they don't know we're not Fire Nation," Katara reminded him. He looked at Katara, submitting to what he knew she wanted him to do. The airbender closed his glider.
"Everyone just stay calm. Bato and I will take care of this," Hakoda told the group.
While Hakoda and Bato donned their Fire Nation helmets the group went to work hiding Appa, Momo, and themselves from the Fire Nation soldiers who'd be making their appearance soon. The Gaang hid inside the stairway leading below the deck.
"I hate not being able to do anything," Aang whispered.
"Hopefully, you won't need to," Toph said.
They waited, holding their breath in hopes that they could get away from this without having to defend themselves. Unfortunately, Toph discovered what they all had been dreading. The Fire Nation soldiers knew. Jumping into action Toph thrusted her hand towards the floor, grabbing a piece of metal and twisted it. The metalbender sent a fissure in the metal leading all the way up to the bridge that the other ship used to connect to their own. The bridge buckled, causing the officers to fall down into the water along with it.
Celina ran out onto the deck, the Fire Nation cloak blowing behind her. Reaching the opening where the bridge was she bended a mountain of water between the two ships before slamming it against the enemy ship. The ship was sent back several yards with some of its member having been swept into the water below, giving the stolen ship some time to start to flee.
The distance Celina gave them wasn't enough as the Fire Nation ship began to launch flaming boulders at them. Everyone tried to regain their balance as the hull was hit. Katara ran out to aid her sister in putting out fires while Toph went to work with Pipsqueak and The Duke to laugh her own rocks. The disks she shot out managed to take out a trebuchet and some of the flaming boulders that were being sent their way. The flaming boulders weren't the only missiles they were dealing with. The ship rocked at a metal projectile pierced the hull, causing a huge leak which only grew as the projectile was pulled out. Katara jumped away from the fires to the edge of the deck, looking down at the breach. Pushing her palms down she exhaled a freezing mist which descended down the ship and closed up the breach with a thick layer of ice.
"I'm gonna give us some cover!" she shouted to everyone.
Pressing her arms down she pushed down on the water between the ships causing a cloud of mist to form before lifting it up into the air. Pushing it out she caused the mist to float behind the stolen ship, clouding the view. Celina ran over as Katara was doing this and started to create a large whirlpool in front of the Fire Nation ship, causing it to spin around in hopes that it would discombobulate the enemy. The fireballs kept coming, destroying Toph's supply of rock discs and hitting the back of the ship's deck and engine. The Water Tribe girls returned to extinguishing fires as a wave of smoke gave away their location. Sokka had run out from inside the ship to examine all the damage that had currently been done.
"How we doing?" Toph asked.
"Things couldn't get much worse," Sokka answered. Proving him wrong the giant serpent, for which the Serpent's Pass was named after, burst from the water, towering over the ship. "The Universe just loves proving me wrong, doesn't it?"
"You make it so easy!" Toph sassed.
Leaving Katara to deal with any fires that were sent their way Celina ditched her Fire Nation cloak, ran over to the edge of the ship, and dove into the water. Submerged she used her bending to swiftly travel through the currents towards the serpent before creating a vortex to lift her up in front of the animal. The creature was about to strike the ship but stopped when it spotted Celina. She gently placed her hand on its scaly head and flashed her glowing eyes.
"The other ship. Attack the other ship," she urged the serpent.
The serpent let out a shriek before diving back into the water and swam over to the enemy ship. When it emerged the serpent wrapped its body around the Fire Nation vessel, stopping it in its tracks as the soldiers tried to fight it off. Celina returned to the ship's deck as the others ran over to the edge of the deck, watching.
"Thank you, The Universe! I mean, Celina," Sokka corrected himself.
"That was amazing! How'd you do it?" The Duke asked.
"What can I say. I have a way with animals," she smiled before using her bending to dry off.
Celina once again found herself leaning against the ship's railing, looking out over the ocean. After fleeing from the Fire Nation ship they managed to stop at a merchants' pier to pick up some supplies. The Gaang had gone out to get food, minus Aang who refused to leave if it meant having to cover his arrow tattoos. The food was good but Celina returned back to the ship early with Katara in order to have some time alone. She had managed to get a few moments in for herself before Hakoda approached her. Celina sighed. She'd been avoiding any conversation just the two of them since they joined up with the Water Tribe men. But tonight it looked like her time was up.
"You did amazing today. The battle strategy you and Sokka share along with the control you and Katara have over your bending is extraordinary," he complimented.
"We get it from our parents," Celina replied, still looking out over the ocean. She felt him tense a bit recognizing that Celina was referring to the separate sets of parents.
"Celina, I want you to know that spirit or not I still love you as my daughter. I hope you still consider us family as well," Hakoda told her earnestly.
She almost laughed hearing him say he loved her. Almost. "Sokka and Katara will always be my family, Hakoda," she assured him.
"But not me," he noticed.
"You still hold the title of my adoptive father. However the fatherly part has been missing for some time," she told him. Hakoda looked at her confused as to what he had done to give her that impression.
"How long have you thought this?" he asked confused.
"How long has it been since mom died?" Celina asked, turning to finally look at him. "Because it was at that point you stopped bothering with me. Who cares if the tribe is constantly tossing insults Celina's way. Who cares if Celina's being ostracized from the tribe. Not you. All you cared about was marrying me off so that I could be some other man's problem. And even then it was just an afterthought to Gran Gran before you left."
"Celina…" Hakoda tried to talk to her, to explain himself, but their conversation was interrupted as Katara came running out on the deck in tears. Hakoda looked at Celina worried before turning his attention to his daughter who had run up to them.
"What's wrong, Katara?" he asked.
"He left," she replied.
"What?" Celina asked confused.
"Aang. He just took his glider and disappeared. He has this ridiculous notion that he has to save the world alone. That's it's all his responsibility," Katara explained frustrated.
"Maybe that's his way of being brave," Hakoda said.
"It's not brave. It's selfish and stupid," Katara argued angrily. "We could be helping him. And I know the world needs him, but doesn't he know how much that we need him too? How could he just leave us behind?" Everyone was quiet for a moment as Katara's words sank in.
"You're talking about me too, aren't you?" Hakoda asked.
Celina stood off to the side. She might have problems with Hakoda but Katara loved her father and it was about time the two had a heart to heart about what she was going through.
"How could you leave us, Dad? I mean, I know we had Gran Gran, and she loved us, but… but we were just so lost without you," Katara cried.
"I'm so sorry, Katara," Hakoda apologized. Katara threw herself into her father's arms and cried.
"I understand why you left. I really do, and I know that you had to go, so why do I still feel this way? I was so sad and angry, and hurt," Katara sobbed.
"I love you more than anything. You three are my entire world. I thought about you every day I was gone, and every night when I went to sleep. I would lay awake missing you so much, it would ache," Hakoda told her.
Hakoda looked up at Celina, his eyes begging her to believe the words he said. To believe that he loved her like he did Sokka and Katara. And for a moment she did.
When Sokka and Toph got back to the ship from dinner Celina filled them in on what had happened with Aang and the plan that she had formed with Katara and Hakoda. The two were immediately on board and hurried off to get their belongings and say their goodbyes before leaving on Appa to find Aang. Celina provided cover in the form of a cloud as they headed towards the Fire Nation. Dawn had just risen when they found him, passed out on the shore of Crescent Moon Isle. Momo flew ahead, excitedly waking Aang up with cheek kisses. The others were quick to dismount from Appa when they landed, running over to form a group hug that even Appa and Momo included themselves in.
"You're okay!" Katara exclaimed.
Aang gave Katara and extra squeeze before pulled away from the hug. "I have so much to do," he said.
"I know, but you'll have us," Katara told him.
"You didn't think you could get out of training just by coming to the Fire Nation, did you?" Toph joked.
"What about the invasion?" Aang asked.
"We'll join up with my dad and invasion force on the day of the eclipse," Sokka explained.
Feeling something bumping into her side Celina looked down and found the object to be Aang's glider. She frowned seeing how broken and burnt it was. "It's your glider," she said, handing it off to the airbender. "I'm sorry. I know how much that thing means to you."
"That's okay. If someone saw it, it would give away my identity. It's better for now that no one knows I'm alive," Aang said.
Taking the broken glider in his hands Aang jumped onto a mound that trickled out lava. He looked down at his glider solemnly before spinning it above his head and implanting it in the mound. Aang jumped back towards the group just as the glider was ignited and consumed by the lava's flame.
The Gaang was officially in the Fire Nation.