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Rebuilding

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"Avatar: The Last Airbender"
"Rebuilding"

(Begins during and, immediately after, 'War's End'; the final chapter of
"Unusual Circumstances".)
(Usual stuff, I don't own A.T.L.A.; Mike D., Brian K., and NICK do.)
(Contains references to intimacy between teenagers, as well as death)

Prologue
They had won, Aang, the Avatar could hardly believe it, but as he looked down at the deposed, and powerless Firelord lying on the deck of their airship, it finally sank in. But, now, Aang knew they had to get back to the capitol of the Fire-nation; during his battle with Ozai, Aang had felt searing pain tear through his chest. Aang had experienced such pain once before, when Azula, Ozai's daughter had shot him with a lightning bolt.
Aang's first thought was that Ozai had somehow managed to fire off a burst of lightning without him being aware of it, but he was uninjured. What then, had caused the pain? Aang touched the ground beneath him, and was transported, in spirit, hundreds of miles away.
-Twenty minutes before, Aang's POV- 'I'm somewhere else, it is much warmer here, and there are fires burning all around. I look around, but I can't see clearly, I can only see in color in my right eye; and my left is half closed with something tough, and fibrous, surrounding it.' 'Zuko, I'm seeing through Zuko's eyes! '
Katara is here, and so is my, I mean Zuko's, sister; she's supposed to dual me, but she takes aim at…NO, no one else is going to pay for my mistakes, my failures! No one else will suffer because of me; no one except; forgive me Aang; I loved you, you saved me; now, I have to do this to save Katara.
I jump in front of the bolt, I try to redirect it, but I'm only partially successful, some of it catches me in the chest, close to my heart. PAIN! The pain is unbelievable, not even when the Firelord, I refuse to think of him as my father, anymore; burned me, did it hurt this much! And, then, there was blackness! ***'
'Oh no,' Aang thought, as he snapped back to reality, 'I think Zuko may have just….NO, I won't let myself think like that,' Aang told himself; just the same, he reached out with all the spirit energy he could spare to try and touch Zuko's mind. "Zuko, can you hear me, please, PLEASE be safe." "I'm coming, remember, your strength is mine, and mine is yours, you've got to hang on; I'll be with you soon."
-25 minutes before, Zuko's POV- 'I'm on a cliff, surrounded by a sphere of stone; how'd I do that? I can't Earth-bend; it's incredibly hot in here! I hear Ozai gloating just beyond the wall Wait a moment; I'm, I mean Aang's supposed to confront him.' 'I am AANG; I mean, I'm seeing through his eyes!' I can hear that sadistic tyrant, Ozai goading me; he threatens my friends, he means to destroy them, he wants to kill…Zuko, after first debasing him! NO! I WILL NOT ALLOW IT; THIS...CREATURE MUST BE STOPPED! I feel a charge of energy, almost like lightning, but even more powerful, run through my body; and I hear a chorus of a thousand voices roaring in my mind.
'Strangely, in spite of how many of them there are, I pick out each individual voice, and I know the name of each voice's owner. These are, or were, my voices! I am now the most powerful person on the planet, I will stop Ozai permanently, Only justice can bring peace; I must actively shape my destiny, and the destiny of the world, therefore, I must be decisive; Wait, that doesn't sound like me. It isn't me, it's them, my, I mean Aang's; past lives, and they mean to put an end to Ozai's evil by ending him! I've got to stop them, before it's too late, he's an evil man, but he's still a human being. Even if Zuko could forgive me for doing this, I don't know if I could ever forgive myself. And then, there was blackness! ***
Chapter 1
Aftermath
(Set right after the Agni-Kai between Zuko and Azula)
Zuko felt searing pain tear through his arms, and down through his torso. Had Azula hit him? No, he'd redirected most, but not all of the lightning harmlessly away into the night sky. Of that much, he was certain; otherwise, he wouldn't be laying here, in agony, pondering what had happened.
Zuko faded in and out of consciousness; he could barely hear the sounds of the ongoing battle between Katara and Azula, he hoped Katara would come through this alright, but, strangely, he also wanted Azula to be okay. He felt a liquid warmth flowing through his seared arms and down into his torso. The crushing feeling in his chest faded to a dull ache. Zuko opened his eyes and saw Katara looking down at him with tears in her eyes as she used her water bending to try to heal the massive electrical burn in his chest.
"Zuko, can you hear me; please, PLEASE be safe," was that Aang's voice? "I'm coming, remember, your strength is mine, and mine is yours, you've got to hang on; I'll be with you soon." Zuko sat up with, Katara's help, and thanked her; she hugged him, being cautious of the wound on his chest. She had repaired the worst of the damage, but it would be some time before he was fully healed. Zuko and Katara turned toward the sound of histrionics going on behind them. There was Azula, chained to a post and sobbing uncontrollably.
Katara had won, and had managed to achieve victory without killing Azula; but, at what price? Looking at his sister now, Zuko wondered if death might have been more merciful. She seemed to have totally lost her grip on reality. He leaned over and gently kissed her forehead, and whispered, "I'm sorry it had to be this way, 'Zula, but it's over, now; I don't know if you can understand me, but I love you, little sister." For just a second, Katara swore Azula's crying softened a bit, whatever Zuko had said to her had seemed to bring her back, briefly, to lucidity.
"Katara," Zuko wheezed, with pain, it still felt like there was a giant tortoise-seal sitting on his chest, "Can you keep an eye on things here, for a while; I need to be alone for a little." "Are you sure you'll be alright," she asked, and tactfully added, "You could stand a little more healing; or at least, some rest." "Thanks for caring, Katara, I really just want some time to think, I'll take it easy," he assured her and winked with his good eye. Zuko walked slowly away, down the path that would lead to the one place in this mausoleum of a palace that really felt like home to him, anymore.
Zuko made his way to the turtle-duck pond in the gardens and sat down stiffly beside the water. As he stared at his reflection, Zuko wondered if all this was worth it; so much destruction, so much loss. His mother was missing, his cousin was dead, his sister had lost her mind; and, depending on how their confrontation was resolved, either his father, whom he feared, or Aang, whom he loved, would not return. Zuko found himself wishing fervently Ozai was the one who didn't come back; it was no less than he deserved! Zuko hated himself for entertaining such thoughts, had he finally become the hard, unfeeling monster that Ozai had always wanted?
Zuko looked at his distorted reflection in the rippling waters of the pond, dammit, he was ugly, on both the outside, and the inside, now! Zuko hated what he saw when he looked at his reflection; he built a ball of fire in his hand, so great was his self-loathing, that he caused something to happen which he'd never achieved before. The fire-ball burned hotter, and brighter than any he'd made before. Zuko had generated the hated blue fire! In disgust, he threw the fire-ball at the pond, and the surface erupted in a cloud of steam. Zuko didn't recoil from the steam, he felt it scalding his skin, but he didn't care. He clutched his knees to his chest, which still ached; he didn't care about that, either.
Zuko felt a lump in his throat, and tears stinging his eyes. All the pain, and loss, the pressures of four years of banishment, and fighting, and lost opportunities came crashing down on top of him. Zuko wept, he couldn't help it, and he was beyond caring if anyone saw him.