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Gold Embers Touch the Blue Veil

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Twisting your hand counterclockwise in an abstract circle you tried pulling at the invisible forces that don’t run through your veins. With your head propped on your other hand, you stared out the windows at the blue sky. Blue washed a certain calmness over your skin. You knew it would never work; you would never strike a match with your fingertips. You were stupidly lucky that one time you ran your hands under hot water and was able to fool your teacher that you performed hot hands. After that, your tricks ran thin, and they were convinced you were just a stunted bender.

Your chi didn’t burn, and never would. It just wasn’t in your nature.

Whistling through the air, a harsh cracking sound rung in your ears before you registered what had happened. You straightened up as a bamboo stick was pointed directly between your eyes making you go crossed eyed. The unlit candle rolled off your desk as a result. Your teacher’s face was a fiery red, almost as deep as their robes. “How hard can it be? Really, how hard can it be to light a candle?” He yelled, frustrated that you were straggling far behind. Your class turned around observing with a smirk, holding a hand over their mouth as they snickered under their breath.

He smacked your desk once again causing you to jolt in your seat. But with cat-buns like reflexes that time, you snatched your hands back afraid of getting smacked. You knew the pain well and didn’t want to be reminded of it today.

“Go run laps.” He tapped your desk a few times for emphasis.

Politely, as you were taught, you stood from your desk with your head down and bowed properly. You left the classroom hearing snickering come from the class. You kept your face neutral, posture fluid as you followed instructions. It quiets down as you came out into the empty hallway. You breathe a sigh of relief. As long as you could have alone for a moment.

You stepped out into the courtyard of concrete into the blaring sun. Fourth year’s, much less seven-year old’s, were never to be left alone, but you were sure they didn’t care about you. The troublemaker was always left to wander alone. You lifted your head towards the sky for some blue but instead, your eyes caught the grand statue. Trailing from the base up until you tilted your head back to stare at the face of Fire Lord Ozai blocking the blue. Scrunching your face up at him, your head shot down in silent protest. With a deep breath, you began a light jog. If they wanted you to run, you’d do it. You had to listen.

Your professor stood with his arms crossed at the window watching you run. He sneered, “If she doesn’t learn soon, she may have to go to reform school.”

The boy sitting next to the window blinked as he turned to look out the window. Your figure bounced as you ran around the courtyard. His candle flickered with interest.

The professor stepped away from the window tapping his hand with the stick, “Alright class, let’s try—.” The voice dimmed in the boy’s ears as he could only focus on you running around the courtyard.

Peculiar.

Years and years of practice, you were never able to produce a spark. It never came to a disappointment to you though. You never wanted to produce a spark. It wasn’t in your nature. It wasn’t who you were. It wasn’t in your roots, at least that’s what your father whispered to you when your mother couldn’t hear. After hours the true learning began with your personal teacher. You spent your days under the sun, but at night, when the moon was high in the night sky, your hands were cool. But while the sun was out you had to keep proving the impossible to keep your head above water.

Orange amongst red, complimentary to your true color. You kept a zipped mouth, tight and closed, to protect your roots.

Under the hot sun, you were all out in the courtyard, well you were the last one still out. Your professor was turning burgundy from yelling constantly at you as you maneuvered graciously matching his poses. “NO!” Taking a deep breath, “You’re too loose, be more rigid in your pose! You can’t fire bend when you’re not touch in your core!”

Gliding your foot over the concrete the gruff sound followed the motion as you punched the air as you twisted. You grunted out, sweat pouring down your face when out of your fist not even a wisp of smoke followed the motion. You remained in place huffing as more commands filled your ears, “AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!”

The sun was too hot, too cruel. You hated daylight.

The rest of the class had already finished their lesson and you were the last as always. Your professor was being stubborn. He knew this was beyond your capabilities, but discipline ran deep in the Fire Nation’s teachings. Fire would come if you found the passion or so he insisted.

The boy, Jin, sat under the shade cast by the shadow of Ozai. The other students were taking an early recess, but he found himself fascinated again. His friends tried to provoke him to join them in a game of fireball, but he waved them off much to their disappointment. He was the best player.

He watched you closely, finding himself fascinated by your movements. They were so strange, so foreign. No matter how many times the professor tried teaching you, you were still too lax and smooth. You didn’t put any force behind your punches, a matter of fact, your moves were pathetic for a fire bender.

Panting and heaving for air, you wiped at your sweaty forehead. His eyes flickered observing every motion trying to pick you apart. What was wrong with you?

Elbows resting on his knees, hands crossed like a bridge that he rested his chin on his eyes followed each scuff and weak and delayed movements. Your eyes were on the defense when you should be moving in the offense. His eyes widened as you raised your hand to wipe at the sweat on your forehead. Slowly sitting up he watched the water suspend around your digits for a second as if it floated around your hand before you wiped it off on your training clothes. You continued to move defensively following the commanded motions. His mind was still stuck. Did he see what he just saw or was he imagining it? He was brought out of his stupor when you collapsed to the ground, hunched over on your knees, hair wet from sweat.

The professor shook his head as he walked right past you with his hands behind his back, “You’re never going to be a fire bender.”

The rest of the class followed the professor back inside when he announced, “Lesson over.” The class filtered by you giggling or snickering following the professor back inside.

In the middle of the courtyard heaving on your knees, you couldn’t lift your head. Sweat trailed down your nose and dripped off the tip of your nose in a thick drop. It hit the floor and instantly became steam. You failed. You tried, but no matter how much you tried to put force into the motion it wasn’t natural to your body. Physically your body rejected the poses.

You heard shuffling when the ringing in your ears dulled. The person steps grew louder and they stopped right next to you. It was silent. You were waiting for a scoff, to be shoved, something…but it never came. They started walking, following the rest of the class. In a moment of weakness, you raised your head, shifting into a kneeling position as you caught sight of who was standing next to you. You huffed for air as you watched the back of a boy with blond hair. You watched him disappeared behind the walls of the campus.

Groaning you picked yourself off the floor and followed the rest in.

-------

It was subtle at first.

Involuntarily, you found out his name as you heard the other kids call him. Jin, Seokjin of the infamous Kim family, who only bear sons of war. The most popular student. It was hard to miss really, everyone liked him, he was always the center of attention, but clearly—you had. You only began to notice all that because the blonde boy, the top bender in the class, began to orbit around you in subtle ways. You’d feel the intense stare directed at you from him and when you’d respond he’d hold it with you. Cockily he’d raise a brow at you challenging the return. You’d look away every time, but you’d still feel his eyes on you. You didn’t trust him. What would the best fire bender want with you?

After months of this odd silent dance you were doing around one another, passing in the hallway, he finally spoke to you for the first time. It was empty, you remember it vividly, it was only you two. You crossed each other and just as he was slightly past, he spoke, “Red doesn’t suit you.”

He met your scrunched gaze over his shoulder as you twisted around. There was a moment of tension, it was hard to decipher his neutral expression. Yet, in ways, that spoke louder than anything. You relaxed instead of spitting at him like you wanted to, you huffed away. Your father taught you patience and silence was often stronger than words. Yet, the first words he spoke to you were so spiteful. You were right about him. You couldn’t trust him. You didn’t want to get close to him. You didn’t want to get close to anyone.

Jin watched as you tucked your books closer to your chest and began a light jog away from him. He shoved his hands in his pocket and watched as you rounded the corner. The corner of his mouth lifted.

He thought, “Peculiar.”

-------

Your interactions didn’t end there as much as you’d hope.

He’d purposely walked by your desk going to his, even though it was columns and rows away. Your water skin was on your desk and in passing he pressed his hand on it “accidentally”, causing water to spill all over your desk. You gasped and got up yelling his name, he watched your hands carefully. Your eyes shifted from his to everyone’s as the people near you laughed. Instead of giving them what they wanted, quietly you began wiping it up.

His anticipating face fell when he realized what he had done. He whispered an apology, but it didn’t cross your ears. When you didn’t answer him, he shoved his hands into his pants and walked away.

You looked over your shoulder and watched his back as he sat in his chair. The squeals from the hoard of girls that admired him followed as he moved through the isles. His friends surrounded him as he picked up a conversation with them naturally. You scowled; he was such a jerk to you. He seemed to have this vendetta against you. You squeezed the wet handkerchief in your hand holding your anger in. You couldn’t. You couldn’t do anything. You had to keep it in, keep it hidden.

Laughing half-heartedly at a joke he stared through the bodies that surrounded him towards you. He stared at the hand that squeezed your handkerchief. A smack on his shoulder brought him out of it as he pretended to laugh and rejoined the conversation.

Maybe he was wrong after all.

-------

Walking home late, unsure of what time it was, but he was tired and exhausted from late-night practice in his family’s temple. Being a son of a General was exhausting, especially being the second son and his older brother already serves the Nation. Generations could be traced back, all the way to the first Kim, all of them were known to wear the heavy red and black armor. The gold emblems were present for each tier. His parents, father especially, were expecting him to become a leader in the Fire Nation’s Army, to follow in his father’s footsteps as his brother had.

Slowly walking back home late at night, he purposefully took the long way home going through the city. Royal Caldera City was always boring for him. It was strict, but the city surrounding the main walls had a life bustling about it. The streets were crowded with people of all sorts. A sea of red, orange and yellow. Street vendors, restaurants, and colorful dance orientations were parading through the main street. Taking in the festivities it clicked, he had forgotten, today was the Fire Lord’s birthday. He would be coming home to a scolding for missing the important dinner held at his grandparents’ home. He ran a hand through his sweaty, white locks that had fallen out of his top knot as he thought of all the excuses he could come up with to appease his mother. Sighing heavily, he knew none of them could be good enough.

Through his peripheral bright flowing fabric caught his eye as people gathered around a street performance. Bodies were dancing in a flowing manner, for the first time seeing anything other than red for a long time. People were dressed in yellow, green and blue robes as they all danced around a central red figure. The masked dancers danced powerfully in a choreographed fight. The central figure with the biggest stick pranced around slicing through the yellow dancers and they fell to the floor with a dramatic spin. The green dancers stomped their feet, howling and chanting, but were ultimately slain by the red figure. The blue figured dancer stood as the last contender, just a single blue-robed dancer. The red and blue dancer twirled around one another; arms locked in a cross as they stared at each other intently. They pushed from one another and began clashing in a flow of fabric.

It was beautiful in Jin’s eyes, the mixture of blue and red almost blurring to a deep purple. He internally soared watching the red gain the upper hand. The dancers stood face to face in a final gesture. The red performer lunged his staff through the gap between the arm and waist of the blue dancer. The blue performer fell to their knee holding the “sword”. With a dramatic final breath, the blue performer held their hand out as if it was coated in blood and collapsed to the floor. The crowd roared in a cheer, chanting the name of the fire lord.

Jin’s smile stretched from ear to ear shouting the name of the Fire Lord alongside everyone. The red performer was the only one that took a bow amongst the lifeless. As the red performer bowed, he noticed someone across the circle. You were standing directly across from him. Your eyes were watering as you stared at the actor’s lifeless bodies as they laid on the floor. You began backing away, pushing through the crowd to run away.

His feet began moving before his mind had registered what he was doing. A drizzle began trickling cutting the summer heat, he didn’t mind nor noticed. He was already a sweaty mess and was focused on following your figure. “Y/n!” He called out your name, but it was drowned out by the hissing and complaints from the crowd.

You picked up your pace, slithering through the heavy crowds. The rain began picking up into a cold downpour. People were shouting trying to move to a dryer place. The paper decorations slumped, lanterns extinguished, and the festivities stopped. He shoved past through bodies until he noticed your figure swamp into the bodies. Just when he thought he found you, he lost sight of you again. His heart was racing in his chest. He called your name loud, “Y/N!” He received glares and stares from people around him, but none of them were yours. His head was jerking fast trying to find you. He was panting as his mind tried catching any glimpse of you, your red shirt, or your face.

It occurred to him that you weren’t going to follow the stream. He began searching the edges and he caught a glimpse of your being sneaking off into an alleyway. With a jolt of adrenaline surging through him he picked up the pace, slipping out of the crowd and into the alley. He called your name, but you kept a breakneck pace nearly clipping crates, giggling drunks, and promiscuous couples. You banked right and he followed you through the darkness. As you both ran deeper and deeper into the urban area of the city it grew quiet and dark. He couldn’t figure out why he was following you exactly, but he knew he had to. His instincts were telling him to go after you. “Wait, don’t run! I’m not going to hurt you!”

You made a sharp left as the alleys began narrowing to an arms width of extension until you reached a high fence leaving you trapped in at a dead end. The rain was heavily pouring making it hard for you to see a way out as every time you looked up rain would get in your eyes. Your back raised and heaved as you faced the fence. You tried to jump, but it was no use.

His thumping feet came to a splashing stop as was out of breath, “Why-are-you-running,” a deep, dry breath, ”from-me?”

You turned around with trembling pupils, eyes unsure, but you had a burning fire behind them. He was taken aback by your hostility, he’d never seen it before in your eyes. You’d always stand tall against him, but now you…looked afraid.

The harsh glowing light of the moon illuminated your scowling face perfectly for him to see.

“Why did you run—?” He tried questioning, but he was cut off by you.

“Don’t! Don’t come any closer!”

He stopped his leg from naturally jerking towards you. He raised his hand reaching out to you making you flinch. His face scrunched; he’d never seen you do that either.

“Why—why were you cry—?” He was cut off again as your eyes bulged speaking a thousand silent things to him. You backed away and reached for the fence to climb it again. You tried jumping again and nearly slipped. His eyes widened as he jogged towards you. “Where you going? You’re going to hurt yourself!” It suddenly clicked, a pang following the thought, “I’m not going to hurt you, y/n.”

He was a split second away from grabbing you when suddenly you turned around and screamed. “STOP FOLLOWING ME!” It was like gravity was suddenly pulled as the heavy rain halted and levitated around you and him. His thoughts paused, brain stuttering, as it took seconds for him to process and catch up. He was paralyzed. The water droplets oscillated in their spot, glimmering as it caught a bit of moonlight that slipped through the dense clouds.

In limited motion his eyes scanned, head slowly rolled, eyes glimmering and wide. “It’s-it’s…true.”

The impact of your choice knocked all air from your lungs and with that loss of traction, the rain began pouring again. Struggling to inhale and exhale you got out sounds, “No, no, no!” Nausea built up, “You-Jin-you didn’t see anything! You saw nothing.” From the corners of your eye’s tears began melting in with the rain, you were becoming hysteric.

He stepped a bit closer to you, mouth hanging agape. He had never imagined this, well, that’s a lie. He’d always been curious about you. He knew what he saw all those years ago, but to see you like this, pulled at something. You were always so assured. The moments between you both were short but that look on your face never gave way to anything. The way you tilted your head back, equally challenging him at all times. It always irked him, made him want to just glance at you a bit more to see that fire behind your eyes light.

You pleaded with him again, “Please. Please. Please.”

Your pleading set off something in him. He rushed up to your trembling figure, nearly chest to chest. He was conflicted, but deep down the honest crawled through. The first words he blurted, “Wow, that…was amazing.”

Your eyes shot up to his towering figure, his broad shoulders were embellished in black, red and gold. His blonde hair was sticking to his forehead, a unique thing in the fire nation, and the only family in the nation to ever have blonde. Slowly you let your eyes trail up to meet his. Yet, what you were looking for, a threat to out you, anger, or a snide remark he normally would say…wasn’t there.

In a whisper, your voice trembled, “Don’t tell anyone, please.” Tagging off at the end when you were out of breathing, “I don’t want to die.”

Your words hung heavy in his ears, weighting down the canal until it settled in the back of his throat. He was choking on his own words. Moments flashed before his eyes to the way he had smiled earlier, what he had done to get a reaction out of you, the comments in passing, all of it. He envisioned your face in the place of the blue-robed mask. That could be you. If the nation found out, found out that a water bender was in the capital, there would be only one fate for you.

He never wanted to hurt you.

He was just…curious.

You’re a water bender.

He looked at you with a quirk to his head, swallowing his hearing, “Tell anyone what?”

He could make out your tears silently poured down your face from the rain. “Are you playing me? Are you telling me this and going to tell all your friends? Your father? I’d imagine you’d look great if you came to your father with me.”

He felt another pang in his chest, “No, I’m not.”

You looked at him and he confessed, “I always wondered about you. You never made sense; how come you couldn’t even light a candle? I mean, I learned how to do that when I was still in diapers, but you couldn’t even do that at the age of ten. You were just so odd, and the teachers always yelled at you because you couldn’t do anything right. You never did anything right. You were so…odd until I saw it, I saw you bend water. I knew I saw it that day.”

You wrapped your hands around your chest, “What? When?”

He cleared his throat feeling your body heat radiate a bit towards him in the small proximity he made. You were practically harshly whispering to each other. “That day when we were doing poses in fifth year, you wiped your sweat…and it happened.”

Holding onto the quiet, “Why didn’t you out me then?”

He combed the hair on his forehead back, “I never wanted to hurt you. I’m just curious…I wanted to know more…about you.”

Unbelieving of his words you repeated a word he said, “Curious?”

Then like a light went off in his head, he extended his hand, “I’m Jin.”

You looked at him then back to his hand then back up with a quirked brow. He nodded his head in encouragement. In your eyes, Jin was always geminal. He had two sides of him that never made much sense to you. He was a part of the popular kids, always had been. He knew his face was gorgeous and would put it out there, half-seriously and half-jokingly. He was clumsy, extroverted, but when it came to fighting it was like a demon took over his being. He spewed fire from his fingers as if it was an extension from himself and he wielded it with such grace. His moves were clumsy when you were children, the dexterity just wasn’t there. But as time went on you caught him staying late at the academy practicing his moves. As much as you hate to admit on a testing day you remember your jaw unhinging as you watched him move with such grace and fight with furry.

He had so many chances, yet he never took it. Everything he’s done up until now makes sense, but it didn’t mean you forgave him for it.

He was beginning to get weary when you didn’t respond, “I think I owe it to you to reintroduce myself and offer you my promise to keep your secret safe. I won’t hurt you. Never.”

You weren’t sure you could trust him. After years of back and forth tugging, it was hard to see this working out. But there was one thing you did know about Jin. He was always honest and kept his word. You took his hand hesitantly in acceptance, “I’m Y/n.”

The rain was still pouring, rain dripped down both of your faces. He was shivering from the cold, his broad shoulders hunching in, but he made no complaints.

For you, it felt just right, under the moonlight accompanied by rain.

For the last reinforcement, you jutted your chin at him like you always had, “Keep it.”

“Keep what?” He smirked.

-------

He kept that promise. That’s the thing with fire benders, it’s in their blood to be loyal.

You still held your books tightly to yourself, as much as your expression was tight still too. However, things changed as you passed Jin in the halls, he’d raise his hand and smile at you. You nearly stuttered in your pace giving him an odd glance before he’d continue on his way with a lasting smile. Slowly he would hang around you during break and eventually you both became close. How could you not when he was just always around. The whole school found it odd, hearing whispers here and there but he told you to ignore it.

In secret, far away from anyone, you showed him one of the deepest parts of yourself. Leading him you brought him to a lake just on the outskirts of town. It was where your father would teach you waterbending. You wanted to show him this side of you. Show him that you weren’t what you were under the daylight, but who you were. He’d never seen a water bender in real life, limited by the capital. Sitting down after demonstrating the way water was second nature to you. He asked how you figured out you had the abilities and you told him it was just something you always felt. It was natural. He told you it was the same for him. It was just…instincts.

Sitting lakeside Jin waited for you as you stepped up to the shore soaking wet as you plopped down next to him. Laying down heaving after a good practice session you took in the stars in the sky.

“The Moon is so bright tonight.”

He asked, “Do you feel it? You know—feel it?”

You hummed turning over to look at Jin. His profile was illuminated by the reflection of moonlight off the surface of the lake. It was odd at first seeing him at night, his personality and being matched the sun too much. Staring at his profile you began to notice his masculine features had been setting in, his jaw was defined and his shoulders very broad.

Blinking out of your stupor you barely caught on to his question. “Why is your family in the capital?”

You gathered all the water off your clothes in a ripping motion away from your being. You hovered over the blob of water and relinquished it back to the lake. Softly answering, “My Grandparents are from the Southern Water Tribe. At the beginning of the war, my grandfather was out on a mission just before the fire nation raid. My grandmother tried to get as many people out before they landed but it was too late. My grandmother got my father, their only child, out with a few other people on a canoe. Somehow, my grandmother left a note for my grandfather in words only he would understand.

When he returned from his mission with his men they found the whole tribe had been nearly wiped out. He decided to go find my grandmother and somehow they reconnected years later.”

You sat up suddenly feeling the weight of the world on your chest. You began playing with the bits of grass the trailed the shores. “It wasn’t safe to go back, it wasn’t safe to travel to the North either, so my grandparents chose to leave everything behind, including waterbending. They said the safest place is the eye of the storm, so they moved to the Fire Nation Capital in disguise of exotic tea merchants. They set up shop and have kept it for years. My father ended up marrying my mother, a local merchant daughter.”

Jin questioned, “Does your mother know about…you know?”

You shook your head, “No, she doesn’t, and she can’t ever.”

Jin’s face turned down.

You smiled, but it was sour, “They’d always hope that I too would be a firebender, like my mother, but it never happened.”

Jin’s eyes widened, your mother was a firebender?

“My mother kept insisting it would just take time. That was until I did the unspeakable. I bended water. My father caught it and punished me for it without my mother’s knowledge. When I grew up later, I found that what I was doing wasn’t wrong, but it was to be a secret. In secret, he began teaching me things. It pained him what happened to us and he didn’t want our traditions to die. He didn’t want our abilities to be hidden, but that’s…that’s not reality.”

Jin’s face turned down. His heart ached that you must hide your self from your mother. He could hear the pain in your voice as it pitched. He moved around you, caging you in and molding his chest to your back. He wrapped his arms around your front. He knew you would push him away if he went about it the normal way. Your body tensed like you had been doused with ice. You weren’t sure what to do, but your heart was beating out of your chest. His warmth radiated over you, but it was so comforting. He squeezed you tight before dropping his head into the crevice of your neck. His thick lips tickling the skin there causing your heart to jump. Quietly to you, “I promise.”

You reached up and held onto his forearms that wrapped around you.

He held you tight with the promise he spoke against your neck, “I won’t ever hurt you.”

A tear rolled down your cheek and dropped onto his forearm. You felt safe in his arms.

-------

It was routine, you would practice by a lake just outside the city. You would stand in the water and he would practice his fire bending on the shore. When you got the hang of things, able to move ribbons of water, you’d splashed him on the occasion and would get a grunt from him. He’d complain he can’t fight back because he’d hurt you. However, that didn’t stop him from getting revenge, he’d get in the water and splash you, pick you up and toss you in.

That was when, face to face, for the first time you realized how thick Jin’s lips were. How handsome his face was and why all the girls were. Your heart would beat in your chest, but you pushed it down. Jin was your best friend and only your best friend. That’s all he’d ever be.

You were like Yin and Yang, with him being the pull and you the push. He centered your gravity and gave you hope.

But hope, hope was fragile.

Jin’s father, dressed in full armor, resided in his office. Holding the official scroll in his hands with a request to see him crossed behind his back, he cautiously approached his father, as he marched to a solid stance in front of his father’s desk. He properly brought both of his hands to the front to bow then crossed them behind his back again.

His father dipped his brush in the black ink and quietly wrote and punctuated his scroll. When he was satisfied, he rolled it up and his hawk soared into the room onto its golden perch. His father stood and attached the scroll and watched the bird fly off with the message. Jin never took his eyes away from front-facing as his father sat back into his chair.

“Why are you missing practice son?”

Jin spoke firmly, “I’ve been practicing at the academy later instead of going to the temple.”

His father blankly stared at him, “I know that’s not true.”

Jin thick brows wiggle as he blinks, “I’ve kept with my studies and practice father.”

Jin’s father smiles, but Jin knew it wasn’t gentle. “I know son.” His father picked up a new scroll and laid it out, “I know about the girl you’ve been hanging around.”

Jin kept his posture but began manually controlling his breathing. His inside began to sway. His father continued, “Your mother was the one that told me.”

Jin remained silent unsure of what to say next.

Jin’s father took his black brush and dipped it in ebony ink. “A non-bender, she brings shame to her family.”

Jin gulped.

“Tell me son, is this girl just a friend?”

Jin’s eyes widened. He knew the only answer his father would like to hear, even if it wasn’t the truth. “She’s just a friend father.”

His father chuckled, “A friend?”

Jin formally kept himself, “Yes, father.”

His father finished off his next scroll with a chuckle, “Son, I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Jin tilted his head down, then lifted it, adjusting his posture so he was standing straighter, “She may not be the best fire bender, but she’s smart and capable. Her abilities lie beyond bending.”

His father smirked still, “Son, you are to no longer see this…friend. We can’t have a—connection—like that to our family. We can’t have her associated with the Kim name. No useless non-bender will be seen hanging around my son.”

Jin untangled his hands as they rested down by his side, “Father—!”

His father held up a hand, powerful motion that hushed Jin immediately. “That’s final.” He waved Jin away, “Leave.”

Jin’s fist clenched at his side. Begrudgingly he bowed and walked out his father office, turning down the corridor. The harsh oranges and yellows of the torches highlighted his taunt face, irked with anger.

Escaping to his family’s temple he practiced all night. Letting his rage flow through his fist as he struck and kicked with a passion. He brought himself to the brink of exhaustion, muscles twitching in protest. Sweat dripped down his toned bare torso and off his nose. He fell to his knees and leaned back and roared fire blazing from his fist and mouth in rage.

Chest heaving up and down, steam escaped through his clenched teeth.

What was he going to do?

-------

Your feet were light as you walked down the hall. As you caught a glimpse of Jin your pace picked up, butterflies filling your stomach with excitement. You wanted to tell him about a new technique you had learned over the weekend. A huge smile was plastered on your face, “Jin, I have som—.” You weren’t able to complete your sentence as he brushed past you, hands in pockets as he kept going. A cold chill overcame you despite the sun being high in the sky. Namjoon, his other best friend who you were only on greeting terms with looked over his shoulder back at you with a somber expression. You clutched at your fist and tried, “Jin?” He didn’t bother looking back but instead walked out into the courtyard, leaving you in the shadows of the empty hall.

You kept trying, day after day, greeting him, waiting for him at the normal spot, but he’d never show. He pushed you away as if you never existed. You’d watch the water ripple alone, the moon high above reflecting on the water, but yin fell short without yang. You tried practicing to keep your mind busy, but the moves didn’t feel the same. The flexions felt to ridged. You thought about him. His face was practically imprinted on the back of your eyelids. You couldn’t go to his house, merchants, tea house shop owners like your parents, people like you, weren’t allowed in certain areas in the Royal Caldera.

You truly felt lost.

You never stopped trying though. You were frustrated with his sudden closing off. It wasn’t like him. With confidence, in passing in the hall, you went up to him, but he ignored you again. He brushed passed you and each time the air around you grew colder. Time felt like it slowed as from the corner of your eye his face was trained rigid and blonde hair covered his eyes. When he was a few steps away you twisted and followed after him, “Jin, what’s wrong?”

He stopped and turned around eyes empty as if he was looking through you. “I don’t want to see you anymore.”

Your heart sunk. Was it all that simple? “Why? Did I do something wrong? You know you can talk to me?”

He sighed running a hand through his hair to push it back in frustration. He looked different, everything about him felt different. The human you were looking at wasn’t Jin. Plainly he demanded, “Don’t seek me out anymore. We’re not friends. Your nothing to me.”

You were left standing in the corridor as he backed away from you. You didn’t know how to react. Tears welled in your eyes as you watched, but you didn’t let them breach. With venom lacing your tongue, “Red doesn’t suit you Jin.”

He stopped in his tracks but didn’t turn around. But you knew, you knew what you said.

Red suddenly looked tasteless. It made him look so distant, the near armor we wore to school reminded you exactly who he was. The General’s son, a son of the Fire Nation, it was bound to happen sooner or later when you’d realize you both were from two different worlds. That he’d hate you eventually like everyone else.

He straightened out his broad shoulders and kept walking away from you. You never let those welding tears fall as you turned away from him.

-------

A turn of seasons came and went. The lake you practiced at truly never frosted over in the Winter, but the chill reminded you a year had passed. It was colder there being alone. Senior year came in a blink of an eye, and so did the following year’s Summer. You were to graduate.

You felt numb at all times. Jin never did talk to you, you never saw him anymore, not even by chance. The only time would be in class, but it was never more than that. You didn’t know what you did wrong, but you knew something deep down was wrong. You were angry, had he used you this whole time? Your other half was telling you he would never do that, that wasn’t the Jin you knew. You tried figuring things out, in denial, bargaining, putting mismatched puzzle pieces together, but you kept coming to dead ends.

He left you.

You sat there biting on your nails. Everything, everything had come to this. You were supposed to demonstrate what you’ve learned, but you had nothing. You stood in the columns of students ready for their last demonstration to graduate. When the signal sounded everyone assumed the stance and you followed. Flames erupted around you, yet you were just dancing about, following the same moves.

Your teacher shouted, “Y/n! Are you not taking this seriously?”

The whole class stopped. You bowed in apology, “I’m sorry.”

Your professor had a smile erupt onto his face. “Come to the front of the class.” Your hands trembled as you stepped out of line to the front of the row. You passed students who looked at you in sneer form their side gaze. You kept your face ahead as you stood before the podium.

Jin was in the front row, alongside the other best benders in the class. You didn’t bother looking towards Jin. It would do nothing.

Your professor tapped his podium with his bamboo stick as he nearly laughed, “I will let you pass…if you pass an Agni Kai.”

A hushed gasp ripped through the room.

Jin standing a few paces from you gripped his fist together. He swallowed hard. Each of his muscles was protesting to do something, to reach out and pull you away. He wanted to shout, but he couldn’t. He stood there facing forward with a controlled expression.

The only way to win an Agni Kai is when one opponent burns the other. You were trembling, saliva thickening, you were terrified internally. You were going to get burned, but what choice did you have.

Apathy washes over you like a wave. It was always going to come down to this. You were going to get burned one way or the other. “I accept.”

Your teacher smiled, nearly clapping like a seal. “Your opponent is,” he scanned the auditorium before it settled right next to you, “Kim Seokjin.”

Jin stepped out of the front of the line, knuckles turning white, as he stood next to you.

The teacher softly spoke, dearly towards his pupil, “Do you accept Kim?”

The room was immersed in silence waiting for his response. For the first time, he looked at you. He looked you in the eyes but it felt like he was looking through you. In a bass rough voice, he turned away, “I accept.”

In the courtyard, you observed the statue of Ozai. Your back was to Jin as he faced the opposite end of the courtyard. On command, you both turned and bowed to one another in a locked stare. Your heart was thumping in your throat. This was the first time facing him and your stomach still churned. Unsettled things battled in your hollow stomach. Jin’s thick dark brows contrasted his wavy untamed blonde hair. His eyes were smoldering, centering his hardened expression.

The gong was struck and Jin darted at you first fast like lightening. You braced yourself and blocked his attacks. You shifted your footing and countered it with your jabbing move. Your instincts were telling you to bend, to send bullets his way, but you suppressed instincts. Hands, forearms, and shoulders meet as you pushed and struck one another. There was no holding back in pure fight, but no firebending came from his hands. You tried hard to avoid eye contact, you kept your focus on his motions. You both had practiced hand to hand combat before many times. You spared countless times by the lake, so you were familiar with his technique. As you moved about one another, it was like falling back into an old habit. You both were sweating after minutes of tight fighting. You felt bruises forming on you while you barely had struck him, but you made each impact purposeful. You were going to use his moves against him. It worked because you began to notice he winced every time he put pressure on his side.

The professor shouted enraged, “It isn’t over until one is burned.”

You darted towards him punching at him, knowing he would grab your arm when you moved a certain way. He did it like you anticipated bringing you face to face with him. Your eyes meeting truly for the first time. All his guards were down for a split second, you caught a glimpse of him somewhere within them. Through pants, you whispered to him, “Do it, Jin. It’s okay.”

As quickly as you saw him underneath it was glazed over with the stranger again. He wasn’t listening. He growled at you, sparks coming from beneath his feet as he pushed you away. In a full swing, he lunged for you and kept sparing.

You were growing tired, he was a great fighter. You knew he was going easy on you, trying to hit major points to end it all quick. But you were playing the same game. It was tiring for both of you in this odd dance around each other. In frustration, you danced around him avoiding his swinging arms as they swept at your legs. You ducked under his arms and pushed him. For a moment he lost his footing but he squared his hips and roundhouse kicked you. The impact caused you to roll and tumble to a stop. He ran over to you, straddling you and pinned your wrist above you.

You pleaded with him, panting, “Do it.”

He closed his eyes and growled, fire seeping through his nostrils. Heartbeats passed as you raised yourself and he allowed you in a short struggle so you were level with him. Speaking over the crowd chanting at you both to get it over with. You spoke only for him to hear, “Do it Jin.”

When he opened his eyes they were glassy, anger, frustration, and pain-filled his eyes. You were sure yours reflected it. His hands glowed like hot plate as he grabbed onto your open forearm for a second before he released you. You screamed as the immense heat burned, it felt like you had been stabbed by a thousand needles. Still kneeling in front of him you slumped forward in exhaustion.

It was over.

A growling groan echoed through the courtyard. Jin stood up as the victor. A rumble sang through the crowd, “That wasn’t a win!”

Jin wasn’t paying attention to it all, he was focused on you. He wanted to tuck you close, but all he could do was stand there with his chest heaving.

With suppressed tears, you stood straight up despite your arm screaming at you. Your eyes searched the crowd of your classmate and professors, they were sneering at you, faces of disgust. Your eyes landed last on Jin. As soon as his bleak eyes met yours it was like he was looking through you. He turned on his heels and began walking away. Your eyes filled with tears as you watched his back, blonde wavy hair rustling in the wind. Choking on a sob, you’ve had enough. You’ve had enough of all of this—for it all to come to this. Your ears began to ring, every face began to blur, and your breathing became more rapid and shallow. Every instinct in you was telling you to run. You listened to that voice inside. You bolted through the entrance of the school and kept running.

Jin paused in his steps as he heard your footsteps grow distance, but he kept his back to you. “Jin, Jin, Jin!” Voices of his classmates erupted into a cheer, cheering his name in rhythm. Although his name faded in his ears as he stared down at his fist that trembled.

He tilted his head back allowing the sun to beat down on his face, he opened his eyes and the blinding light filled his sight.

-------

Your feet carried you far, you kept going until you were home. You stood outside your parent’s tea shop. You peered in through the door ready to cry out, but your voice was stuck in your throat. You watched your father serve customers as your mother brewed tea behind the counter. The smiles on their face tugged at your heart. You couldn’t go home. You couldn’t bring shame to your family, you failed, you couldn’t blend in. You couldn’t break your parents’ hearts.

Everything you do gets undone.

This was your way of protecting them. A tear found its way from your eye as you pulled away from the door with a silent goodbye.

Standing under the bright sun you leaned your head back and let the daylight overcome you. Taking a deep breath you picked up the pace and into the shadowed you disappeared.

 

–10 yrs later

The blue mesh fabric sewn to your flat, wide-brimmed bamboo hat was an all-encompassing veil that protected you from the strong night breeze. The black cloak you wore over black pants and a blue long sleeve, loose shirt, however, wasn’t great against the crisp weather. The lantern hanging on a stick swung gently as you paced quietly through the alleyways like a shadow.

In the outer ring of Ba Sing Se, a place you never expected to find a home in, wasn’t the safest place at night. You weren’t sure how much longer you were going to be here before you were going to be on the move again. You blended in here, no one cared about you.

That was the point.

You kept your footsteps light on the dirt road unstirring the dust. You were probably the only soul wandering this time at night in this side of town. Everyone knew at this hour the guards were about. You kept yourself to the shadows, but you felt them before they came around the corner. You had no choice but to be calm in your steps. Four fire soldiers appeared at the intersection in a two by two march. Soldiers patrolled all ends of the city but especially focused on the lower ring dissolving rebellions. They were always on the lookout for offenders or renegades, but mostly they picked on the impoverished.

In a cocky huff a solider huffed, “What are you doing out this late,” one leaned in close to you, “Miss?”

Another cocked up, squaring out his body, “Show us your face.”

You kept quiet and raised your hands up together over your chest and bowed to them.

A solider behind the two frontiers stepped towards you with a raised brow, while another chuckled, “Ah, a Monk.”

You heard through hushed whispers from them, “Monk? Nah, she looks more like that-ugh—painted lady from that one place we were at a while ago.” They all simultaneously stared at you for a moment looking you up and down before one spoke up haughtily. His gold emblems shined from the swaying lanterns they carried as well. Their uniform appeared new, the cuirass was without a single dent and their boots were polished. “Doesn’t matter what you are, monk lady or not, you gotta show us your face even if you’re a part of some religious thing.”

You nodded, setting down your lantern carefully so the melted wax wouldn’t set out your light. They watched you carefully as you reached towards your hat. The air was crisp, but it was a humid night. Instead of grasping onto the brim, you swung your arm around your head in a circular motion. You contorted your fingers, pulling water out of thin air creating a ribbon of water. You bended the water at a solider like a whip. With a groan and unexpected huff, they all shouted and their hands lit up.

From the fist of two soldiers who were upfront, they thrust a bomb of fire towards you. Extending the ribbon into a thin sheet that instantly you froze. The shield blocked the fire and the heat caused steam to radiate from the shield. Standing up tall again you broke down the shield and wielded it into ice disk. Avoiding more burst of flames, you dance about to avoid any strikes. The two from the back took advantage of your vulnerability and spun with fire arcs that attempted to slice you down the middle. Popping open your gourd in the next second you created a sphere around yourself. You thinned it out to a ring then morphed them into four ice lines. Projecting them they all struck the soldiers accurately on their helmets, effectively knocking them out.

They all slumped to the floor in a uniform thud. Willing your hands around you collected the water and streamed it back into the gourd. You popped the cork back on and adjusted your hat. You picked up your lantern and stepped over their knocked out bodies and kept on your way home.

-------

Jin sat in his office staring at the night sky. Office work was never his style, but ever since his promotion to general. He was in the capital when he was promoted, but he couldn’t help feeling the burden of it. He was happy, he finally got what he worked his whole life to become, yet it felt empty. He wanted to leave, he put in a request to be stationed elsewhere, command a new set of people. A new outlook. They gave him a spot in Ba Sing Se. He moved as soon as he could, his father sent him away with a proud smile as he left. It was almost erased weeks ago when word got out that the prisoner had escaped. An investigation was currently underway from the Dai Li on how the prisoner was able to escape the General’s guard. No one had ever under his watch, much less the Dai Li’s, everyone was suspicious.

Knocks sounded on his door, while still writing with his brush he called whomever in. His secretary walked into his office, “There are four soldiers here to see you, General. They said that they have important business to report.”

He set his brush back into his ink and looked up, “Important business?”

His secretary, Yoongi, a long-time friend he met in the military, was already rolling his eyes. Jin nodded still allowing them the visit.

Four stumbling soldiers came through the screen door, their heavy steps echoing on the wooden floor. He crossed his hands as they lifted their heads, fat bruises littered their face, jaws puffy and some eyes closed as they were too swollen to open.

They all swallowed realizing he was waiting for them to continue. One of them clutched onto their helmet, “Sir, we…there’s a rogue woman in the city pretending to be a missionary.”

Jin spoke deep in his throat, lifting a brow, “And what do you expect me to do?”

The men looked at one another their hands trembling, “General, I don’t want to speak out of term, but—.” He swallowed, “We didn’t even see her coming! She came out of the shadows and attacked us without a warrant. She jumped us and her stronger than anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t go protecting the city on without telling you that there is a dangerous person in the city. Fire bending didn’t affect her.”

Another one seemed to want to add on, “General, she was wearing a hat that covered her face with a veil. She was wearing dark clothes!”

Then in a quiet voice, another added in, “She was a water bender.”

Jin tilted his head to the side, anger building up within him. Were the soldiers here that cowardly? In the capital, this kind of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. Even a lowly soldier like them could be able to handle that, four of them more of the reason to handle a….rogue…woman.

He picked up his brush, “You’re dismissed.”

The four soldiers looked at one another attempting to speak again, but Jin cut them off, “Did I stutter?”

The four of them bowed and limped out of his office.

The odd thing was he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to write next. Four soldiers were beaten by a woman? Much less, she was a water bender. It was illegal for all other element benders to use their ability in the city. Who dared to fight fire soldiers and use their ability?

In the upcoming weeks, he had found himself hearing the same story of a mysterious woman haunting the outer walls. She would attack them with her water bending skills and take down the soldiers with ease.

After a long day full of meeting and strategy he came back to his empty home. The estate was large, and without the staff that would maintain it, it was especially immaculate. Late, when the moon was filtering through the open doors in his private practice room, sporadically the room lit up with his lashings of flames. Core tight as he swung his hips around into stable poses and moves, he fought with trained burst of flames leaving his limbs. Slicing through dummies with flames daggers he weaved about the manmade obstacle coarse. With a roar erupting from his gut he used the momentum in his swing as he pivoted to jab the dummy in the center of their chest. Stumbling away from his defeat he centered himself with a heavy breathe extinguishing all flames coming from him. He rolled his spine up, bare chest dripping with sweat as he wore nothing but black calf tight trousers. Licking his lips his mind felt unsettled, there had been too many reports. Why couldn’t any of his trained soldiers take down the mysterious bender? Far too many for it to be a casual rogue among the lower ring.

With a made-up mind, he rushed out letting the embers of the dummy fall to the concrete floor. He had to go find out about it for himself.

He wore loose fit brown pants, a dark green kimono tunic that was tightened around his waist by a yellow strap. No one would be able to recognize him without his uniform, but his hair was a telling factor. He put on a bamboo hat tucking in his blonde locks, completing the extra uniform that belonged to the gardeners. He left his estate through the servant entrance sneaking to the main streets like a shadow.

An hour later, deep into the lower ring, no one recognized him. He blended in, mimicking the average behavior. He floated through the crowd a shadow, keeping his face shadowed. The lower ring was notorious for all kind of things. He walked the dirt streets, pacing around through the various street like a vagrant. He stopped at a few shops when trinkets caught his mind and gave a few coins to an elderly man begging for money.

It was much more exciting here and full of life compared to the upper ring. It reminded him of the times the capital would host festivals in honor of Ozai. His mind crossed back to when he would spend dinners with his family and the time he watched that performance on the street. The flowing of fabric crossed his mind until they gave way to your face. He paused in his steps the then your face popped in his mind. The streets had grown barer without him realizing. A rikshaw suddenly speed by him with a earthbender thrusting the earth beneath them to move faster. He clutched his hat before it flew off, bringing him back to the present.

A decade. It’s been a decade, yet your face still makes his heart stop. His whole being tenses as your face plays through his mind regularly. He’s never forgotten you. He would never admit it, but he’s been looking for you. After graduation, in the dead of night, he went to seek you out, he waited by the lake, but you never showed. His head hurt for months, the stress of holding his tongue. It was only later that he found out you had left the capital completely that day. You vanished into thin air.

Adjusting his hat, he cleared his throat as he watched the swinging lantern attached to the rickshaw disappear around the corner. The streets were nearly bare the farther away he roamed from main streets where sightings were stated. He paced around for hours more lost in thought, but eventually, he went back home with nothing.

There wasn’t a “Painted lady in the Slums”.

However, he couldn’t resist the itch, it didn’t stop him from going back the next day. Walking with his hands in his pocket he found himself whistling through the same streets he walked yesterday. Dropping coins into the same old man’s cup and pondering through the shops. Soon he felt that he wasn’t wandering alone, he felt presences following behind him. Purposefully he dipped downside streets weaving them away from the public

There was a fight inside him, should he do something but risk revealing who he is? The men kept following him and eventually he turned and turned until he came to a dead-end street. He turned around back to the fence, head brimmed low. Five men with their knives out shoved close in his direction. He could easily take these guys out. It was all calculated out in his head; he had his hands still tucked in his pocket. He smirked and was about to make the first move but in one moment their knives disappeared. Even the thieves were surprised. Suddenly their eyes rolled to the back and they all collapsed. Jin looked up and saw the alley empty. He rushed forward looking forward, stepping over the thieves foot splashing in a puddle of water. He looked down at it before it clicked.

It was the painted lady.

His heart raced in his chest. He ran to the end of the alley searching the crowd of pedestrians shopping at the night market. Eyes working overtime, he caught the back of a bamboo hat blending in with the crowd of the main street. He searched and searched through the crowd, but they disappeared.

He stood amongst the flowing crowd, lost.

-------

The blue veil was suffocating as your panting chapped lips were fighting for anything but dry air. Your vision lacked focus as you were just coming too. Dizziness churned your brain into mush and you were unsure where you were. A harsh tug and you could tell you were being rounded, but where, you were unsure.

One thing for sure was you felt the heat from torches as you passed them rapidly. Five paces between each. The sound of your captor’s relentless march indicated you were still going far and deep within somewhere; fifty paces so far deep already from when you awoke. Your arms were pulled behind your back, forearms horizontal with a cuff of rocks holding your whole forearms together. Abruptly you all stopped and suddenly the ground was knocked from under you as the Dai Li stomped their foot. The ground shifted underneath you, your legs gave way in your dizziness and you collapsed like a ragdoll. Your knees scrapped against the harsh ground tearing the knees of your pants. Every single fiber of your being felt like dead weight, your arms heavy as you fought with a grunt to resettle yourself. You shuffled on your knees to turned around and confront them. You never got the gratification as the cell door slammed. You were left in complete darkness. Your mind fought for consciousness and something to hold onto. You slumped forward listening in closer to the ground as you heard their footsteps retreat away from you.

A sudden tickle sent you coughing as soon as they were far enough. Your throat burned, body chalky wherever you were was devoid of any water. Your senses couldn’t register anything around, you must be somewhere deep or far from the capital?

You hung your head clenching your jaw. You failed orders. How could you have been so careless? It was going so well, you were moving with others then suddenly you were ambushed. The green robes came down from the ceiling and it was all a blur from there. You remember sending ice bullets in every direction, and just when you were about to cloak yourself in water you remember your pressure points being struck. Your arms were immobile then you were struck in the back and then everything went black. Heaving a single sigh of relief you were glad you didn’t bring the token with you.

Your chest and mind raced in tandem as you were swallowed in darkness.

-------

“We got them, General.”

His hooded eyes flicked up to the two guards that stood in front of his desk with proud smiles tickling the edge of their lips.

“The Dai Li caught them sneaking into the Palace.”

He quirked a brow before he set down his ink brush and rose from his desk like a giant. His broad shoulders and armor that elaborated the width and casted a shadow over the room as he stood at full height dowsing the two in shadows. The edge of a smirk died on the guard’s lips as Jin rounded his prominent desk and set pace with embers burning in his eyes.

Impatiently, he trailed down the apparating damp steps from the depth of the lake as the Dai Li raised the platform. He walked fast through the dark corridors tunnels, orbs of light lined the bottom edges of the wall. The tunnels smelled sterile despite it being underneath water. His hands were bristling with heat nearly flickering with flames. Finally, finally, they caught a lead on the opposition. The Dai Li lead him towards the cells holding the prisoners.

Stopping in front of a cell, the metal door was completely sealed and locked by a heavy metal slab.

He spoke monotonously, “Let me see the prisoner.”

Two Dai Li slid the metal bar across and opened up the cell door in a calculated fashion. Darkness greeted Jin’s eyes as he blinked to adjust before he noticed the prisoner was hunched over in the shadows of the cell. Only a single ray of light from an external torch barely stretched its light inside. Stepping slightly forward to stand just at the threshold of the cell, from deep within his throat he commanded. “Prisoner, face us.”

The figure didn’t move.

He smirked and glanced and the Dai Li with a curt nod before he turned back to the prisoner posed proudly with his hands behind his back. He knew not to underestimate the prisoner, they were worth gold. He’d been working his whole career to do something this defining. To catch someone in the order, and they had done it. It all happened in a split second that the floor shifted circularly around the prisoner and earth bended around their earthen shackles so that they were sitting upwards. Their silhouette was still concealed by the darkness.

He stepped inside the cell unlacing his hands behind his back. Using a single hand with minimal effort he created a glowing flame that sat in the palm of his hand as a personal torch. On full guard, he had his fist raised for light, but also ready to strike the prisoner if they were to try anything.

His heart paused as he recognized the top of the bamboo hat, the flowing blue fabric that covered the figures face. It was the Painted Lady of the Lower Ring. His fire sputtered sending embers tricking down from his palm. Conflict floated about him, the other night when they had “saved” him, did they know who he was? The mysterious figure that had been haunting the slums was a part of the order?

He stood on guard in front of the figure, whose head was still hung despite the forced position. Growing frustrated with the prisoner’s disobedience, voice harsh in a growl, “Head up.”

The figure refused, the flames from his hand flickering as seconds passed. He was near breathing steam through his nostrils, but he was never one to lose his cool. He was the General. Each word was punctuated, “Head up prisoner.”

Slowly their head raised and tilted back, but still, a shadow covered their face. Their eyes were glued forward not meeting his. “Head up prisoner.” When their head tilted back fully, through the blue veil their eyes blinked up to meet his.

The flame in his hand dimmed the slightest and it felt ice-cold seeping from the palm of his hand and contracting around his heart. The chill held his heart in a contracting embrace. He truly felt cold for the first time. All the while his inside felt like nothing, as if there was nothing there, except for his strangle heart in his hollow chest.

His face remained trained neutral. The flame in his hand restored itself to a torch when his mind returned.

It was you. You were the painted lady. The one who haunted his mind.

A moment of silence passed over you both. Then Jin tilted his chin back, allowing the light from his palm to cast over his face intensely. He turned around in a steady march, stepping out of the cell with his back facing you. You watched his flame die out and the metal door was bended back in place. You were engulfed in darkness and alone once again.

He paced down the hall face still trained, shoulders taunt and back tight, but his mind was racing a million miles per hours. His guards were following with the Dai Li right behind.

The image of your eyes was burned into his.

image
Azula sat center with the panoramic view of the upper ring encased in a burning sunset behind her. Fire Nation flags and emblems replaced every décor in the open council room. Dai Li was stationed around the room as her personal guards. All officials stood from the table and in unison, they all bowed before walking away from the table.

As Jin was about to depart, his mind working in different ways, but he wasn’t present at today’s meeting. He could only picture your face.

The dungeons.

Why?

Why were you there?

Azula called to him sweetly, “Jin?”

He paused in his pace both feet clasped together, body ridged. He bowed and turned towards her, “Yes, Princess?”

She rounded the war table and stepped up onto the large map. She walked over the nations with her heavy boots. The model pieces after each nation were positioned around the map, modeling the next strike on the world. She maneuvered a piece, knocking over the rock with a fire piece. “I’ve moved the other prisoners to the Boiling rock. But, the prisoner in the dungeon, she, I can tell she’s the leader of her little group.”

He watched her motions carefully, fire flickering on her face, as she softly smiled. Although, he knew under the expression was something waiting to bite.

“Why is it taking so long?”

He knew to never falter in front of a snake, never to take eyes off it. “It’s all strategy Princess.”

She scoffed, picking up the other trinkets on the table indicating the other nations. She picked up the Earth element she knocked over and picked it up, rolling it around her hands. With a short shrug her grip tightened on the piece then she arched her arm back and sent it flying out the window out the tower. She picked up the air symbol and tossed it out as well. Walking over to the North she picked up the water symbol and held it up in front of her facing Jin.

“Jin, I don’t have the patience for such childish games you plan on playing with the prisoner. I need answers now. I need you to get them to confess. Find who they’re affiliated with and all the information. I don’t care how you do it, but I need it. Now.”

He watched as she engulfed her hand in flames melting the wax water element trinket in her hands.

Jin kept neutral as he bowed again before walking away. “Yes, Princess.”

-------

It hurt to blink. All moisture of your being was being sapped by the atmosphere.

You had tried counting how long you were in this prison, but the guards never walked by in even intervals. It was quiet, too quiet all the time. It left you a lot of time with yourself and to think. You kept running back to his face. You were proud of yourself for keeping a straight face, but you felt opposite internally. His face was the same, but by far more masculine. It was undeniable he was still handsome, but there was a roughness to his features. Your last encounter kept running through your mind.

You were too deep in thought to hear the footsteps approaching your cell, the sound of the metal door sliding open and closing. Only when you heard the door closing did you register that someone was in the cell with you. You whipped your head up when you felt a sudden heat fill the room and strangle you from the inside out. It took only a brief second for you to acknowledge the silhouette amongst the darkness. Pulling from the remaining strength in your core, you gathered the sweat dripping from your face and body moving it like an aggregating amoeba. In a matter of seconds, you collected as much as you could on your chest silently.

Feeling the ripples in the air break as the figure took a step towards you, like a viper’s strike, you sent the dart of ice whistling forward. Bending his hands counterclockwise and diagonally from himself flame appeared in both of his palms. Halting the dagger just under Jin’s chin, your gut has recognized him before your eyes had, but you kept it hovering there.

Your eyes met and staring had become your only form of communication. However, it felt different. The first time it felt like he was looking through you, but this time he was looking at you. Those eyes that you once used to fall into salvation with were glazed with something different. Polished by someone and refined by the twisted. You knew you were looking at Jin, but it wasn’t him. The gold of his emblems, the burgundy that outlined his black armor, and his golden hair…he was a stranger to you.

“Why?” He spoke lowly, afraid to break the tension.

You didn’t respond, unblinking you continued to hover the dagger.

He spoke again, “Why are you here?”

You returned the cold tone that would’ve sent anyone begging for forgiveness. Your dehydrated voice was hoarse from disuse, “Why are you here?”

Hearing your voice, all be it, hoarse tickled his hollow chest, stimulating his frozen heart. Yet, the question put a weight right over the stimulation, muting it. Words jumbled in his brain then mouth; for a moment he felt drained of the assertiveness. Drained of what here meant, but defenses were still high, ten years’ worth of putting each brick into that wall.

“It’s my duty. I’m the General.”

Your facial expression didn’t change, but your words were cold and sharp, “You invaded Ba Sing Se.”

He licked his lips, suddenly feeling the skin pull taunt and chap, “No.”

Directive with your eyes flickering down to the dagger then back to his brown eyes, “No?”

He was supposed to be interrogating you, not the other way around. Anger began to fill his words, defensive of himself, “I didn’t but I’m here on orders of the Nation.”

You snickered mockingly, “Duty. Still taking orders Jin?”

“I’m doing what I have to do!” The fire in his palm was growing as his tone went up.

You tilted your head, having him right where you want him. “Doing what you have to do? Do you?”

He stepped closer to you, the dagger following forward but still pressed to his neck. He hovered over you with a burning look in your eyes. “I came here to see you. I wanted to know why. I wanted to…” He was so worked up. The heat of his being was making you sweat, the dagger was dripping, but you didn’t falter.

“Help,” you kept your eyes placed on his burning one, “Is that what you wanted to do Jin?”

He was silent and you took that as an affirmation. You pressed the dagger closer to his Adam’s apple, pressing into the skin enough for it to feel like a prick. “Leave.”

His brows creased, the anger conflicting with something internal.

“Leave. I don’t need your help.”

Anger turned in his head, that nauseating feeling of an empty chest filled him. You weren’t like you used to be. This wasn’t what he was expecting when he came here. He wanted answers—needed answers.

You changed.

With a snarl, that turned out a roar to you, he turned on his feet. Armor shaking as he forced the heavy metal cell door open with brutal strength. He slammed it shut with a growl. You could hear his hard footsteps resonate down the empty hall.

You dropped the dagger and the dehydrated cement gladly soaked it up.

— days later

The sound of crickets sung in the darkness as he sat on the porch of his backyard. The large backyard filled with horticulture was meant to be trailed, yet he never dared smell the flowers. He poured liquor from the bottle into a ceramic cup. He filled it to the brim and set the bottle of liquor down and the liquid inside swished and spilled over. He brought the cup up to his lips and downed it all in one shot and set it down chipping the cup. He wiped the drips off with the back of his hand before he dropped it on the wooden porch like it was led. The breeze was cool, but to his natural heat, it felt like a pleasant summer breeze.

Seeing ghost, he was seeing a ghost, not the girl who once filled his days with life. The girl who he’d watch from the shore smile like a maniac when she was able to finally make a water ribbon. The girl whose playful touches were something he yearned for more than playfully. No, you weren’t her anymore. And he ruined that all. The day he pushed you away was the day he died and a shell of who he once was took over him. Under that blue veil you hid under, your eyes haunted him, he’d never meant to seek you out again.

He was pulled two ways, he shouldn’t see you, he shouldn’t be thinking of you.

Droplets of rain fell from the sky causing him to jerk at the sudden cool.

He shouldn’t be thinking of you

— days later

You were visited by guards, interrogated back to back the Dai Li, but you remained silent. You didn’t speak or bend for anyone. Although you were feeling weak, mind teetering, but you kept it together in the small confinement of darkness. Your clothing was in tatters form struggling and your hat had long been tossed somewhere off in the darkness. You’ve experience worse you kept chanting to yourself. They wouldn’t break you. You would never take a knee to the Fire Nation. You’d never betray the order.

You spent your time instead of worrying about the rest of your team. As the leader of your unit, you were expected to stand tall still, and you were going to.

Your mission wasn’t over.

Laying on your side with your cuffs moved to the front in your last interrogation you attempted to sleep for the night or day, you weren’t sure.

The metal door opened, and footsteps entered, but at this point, your senses were extremely dulled. You couldn’t bother moving to turn to the person. Perhaps it was the guard here to give you a surveyed meal? They would have to poke the sleeping bear if they wanted to harm you. They stopped just behind you and then kneeled behind you. They were silent and that’s when you knew who it was.

With the little energy, you had left you slowly turned around with your joints clicking loudly in their sockets. He had brought a torch this time, but it was burning discarded nearby. Slowly blinking your eyes open you stared into his deep eyes. You expected anger to still fill them but instead, you found a glazing of sadness over them. Heavy darkness like smudged charcoal had taken home under his eyes.

“Y/n” he began softly. You swear you could see him cracking through a mask that he had built upon his new face. It was him, but it wasn’t still.

Mumbles spilled from his lips that were unintelligent on your ears, but you could slightly make out what he was saying. You were unsure of what to say.

A crack severed down the center of his mask and his eyes, his eyes, those were the ones you recognize as he lifted his head and repeated it. “Y/n.”

You just picked up on the fact that his chest was rising and falling rapidly, had he run here? His face was damp with sweat.

You raised your cuffed hands out of instinct, a deep part inside of you calling out to this, but you slowly lowered them when you realized what you were doing. He was Jin, but it didn’t change anything in the big picture. He was still the General…and you…you were—.

He watched your hands and it seemed he hesitated too as his hands jerked at his side. He wanting to reach out and grab your hands, but instead, he clenched them at his side.

You looked at him once over, still harping on the red and black armor he wore. His being was giant, but he looked so small hunched on his knees. In a tired voice, you finally spoke, “Why are you here?”

“I needed to see you.”

Afraid of an answer, you asked anyways, “Why?”

He rubbed his knees, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for getting angry at you. I—.”

You wanted a genuine moment, but you couldn’t trust this side of emotion. “Jin.”

He stopped and looked at you with rounded eyes, realizing why he’d come to see you. “You to escape.” I don’t care if I get punished, but I can’t let them…I can’t let them wash—.”

Your eyes widened, it was just rumored in hushed whispers, but it was true. Without him having to continue you knew what he was implying.

You croaked out, “How?”

He briefly smiled at you, slowly reaching out for your hand on instinct. When he just touched the tip of your fingers with his, his chest felt a bit fuller. When you didn’t pull away, he kept it there, the feeling sending goosebumps over his being. You were real. When his smile widened, you knew he already had an idea.

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Your eyes remained stable as Jin came later as promised. His head tilted back, eyebrow raised in mock as a Dai Li entered the room along with him. The mask was back on.

Jin smirked, “It’s time to take the prisoner for reconditioning.”

The Dai Li commanded you up, but your legs protested. The ground shifted below you and soon enough you were standing up. The Dai Li had your cuffs behind your back once again and he was shoving you through the cell door out into the hall. Your legs wobbled and you stumbled from having sat so long. As you passed Jin you side-eyed him with a sneer.

You grumbled as a mesh black bag was placed over your head and the Dai Li was leading you somewhere. You could hear Jin’s footsteps leading the three of you somewhere. Twisting and turning down the hallway, it was all disorienting.

Soon you heard another door opening and you were shoved into another room. You were maneuvered until you were forced to sit in a chair. Your hands were locked in place as the cuffs fastened themselves to the chair. The Dai Li stood behind you and ripped the mask off, and you blinked against the dim lights. Jin waved his hands and lit the candles within lanterns that were placed on a metal ring in front of you. You watched the candle in front of you flicker as your eyes looked over to Jin’s once. There was darkness swirling behind his eyes that weren’t there before.

Your insides caught fire, propelled by anger that you projected onto your face. Jin stepped forward as the Dai Li stepped into the center of the ring. Jin rounded the circle and stood next to you in the chair. “Inmate, we wouldn’t have had to come to this if you only told us what you know. Unless you want to confess now?”

A growl left your lips as you hissed and jerked towards him in a bite, but the cuffs connected to the earthen chair locked you in.

He snickered as he stood in between you and the Dai Li who was awaiting commands. As he stood in front of you, back facing the Dai Li, his eyes softened for a split second.

The plan.

“Y/n, do you…do you still remember how to do it?” He whispered to you as he held on tight to your hand. He didn’t have any intention of letting go.

You tilted your head to the side, “Do what?”

He licked his lips, “The one your father used to do?”

Your mind filtered back and you knew what he was talking about. “Jin, I don’t…that’s.”

His smile faltered, “I know. I’m sorry to ask you to do it, but it’s the only thing I can think of.”

You sucked in a breath tight through your teeth. “I’ll…I’ll do it.”

Silently his eyes communicated to you the go-ahead. You took a deep breath in and released it to take in another deep breath rapidly. Your hooded eyes brimmed up as you took control of the only water in the room.

Jin’s pupils expanded as you watched his body grow taunt. The Dai Li behind him was imprisoned in our grasp as well. They groaned and huffed trying to regain control of their being, but you held it tight.

In a near squeak, pitched and strained the Dai Li muttered painfully, “Blo-od Be-nding.”

With your mind, you forced Jin to pick up his legs and move aside. His eyes widened as he followed the moves, his jaw tight, the muscles in his neck taunt and on display. You had pleaded with Jin to not practice it on him, but he said that to play it upright he needed to be a part of it the rouse. The Dai Li gulped hard swallowing a scream they wanted to shout. You forced their hands up with twitching of your fingers and mimicked the motions you’d seen them do when they adjusted your cuffs. The earthen cuffs split open and fell and soon your arms were free. You shifted your arms for the first time and raising your left hand above your head and your right to your eyes. Lowering your hands you commanded the Dai Li to kneel.

Jin stood off to the side watching it all with a bit of fear inside him. He had heard of this bending from you, it was illegal, you had told him when you were children that your father used it in medical practices and had shown you tricks. This was different witnessing and feeling it. The feeling of no control of his own being sent his body on overdrive, heart pounding. To be able to do this, control someone else with just your eyes, meant you had more power than you lead onto. No wonder they had put you in a deep cell with doors that were nearly impossible to open.

You. You were dangerous.

Within this time you let go of Jin, but his body was still too in shock to relax.

Focusing all your energy onto the Dai Li, like a marionette, you stood up slowly approaching the ring of metal with your pose controlling his kneel. You contorted your fingers and with a bit of pressure, you halted the blood in his neck flowing to his head. You watched his eyes flutter and he passed out with a muffled huff. Gently you released his being and laid him down gently. You stumbled over to him to check for a pulse and was able to find a slow pace still beating.

You slowly turned to Jin, “What now?”

His eyes widened and blinking for a second. Without commentary, he moved you over and began undressing the Dai Li down to his underwear. Noticing this you turned around, a hot flush coming over you. Jin tapped your shoulder, “Here, dress quick and let’s go.”

You looked at the clothing in your hand then looked over your shoulder. “Turn around and don’t look.”

He snickered and obeyed. You looked over your shoulder a few times to assure you could only see his blonde hair. You changed like it burned to touch the clothing. You slipped on the black and green hat, tucking your hair into it. “I’m done.”

Jin turned around looked you over once, he stared more than necessary and coughed. “Let’s move. Stay behind me, head down and hidden.”

Moving through the halls caused your heart to beat erratically in your chest. You weren’t sure this plan was going to work, but you were going to trust in him.

The domed tunnels were made of cement blocks. The torches flickered on the floor with a green flame, yet the walls were a deep emerald. You followed orders and kept your head down. Hearing footsteps coming towards your direction you kept your head level but cast. A Dai Li lead a group of women and out of the corner of your eye you glimpsed at them. All of the women looked similar all dressed in a yellow dress with the same haircut, mostly the same washed look in their eyes. You flicked your eyes back and kept them forward.

Guards bowed to him as he walked past but Jin kept his shoulders taunt as he moved forward without acknowledging them. It was minutes before you both reached the entrance. Walking up the stairs Dai Li guarding the entrance and with Jin’s presence alone they opened the gate that leads up and out.

Quietly you followed Jin up but your arm was grabbed by a Dai Li causing your breath to catch in your throat. The man stared you directly in the eyes, “Who are you? You’re not one of us?”

Your eyes widened but the arm was soon ripped from yours and Jin pulled you to him. He pushed you behind him. “You dare touch one of Azula’s warriors? Do you understand what kind of punishment would come to you?” Jin’s voice boomed towards them with anger.

Their eyes widened before they bowed with an apology. Without missing a beat, Jin guided you out to the surface and into the night.

You both disappeared into the smoke that covered over Lake Laogai.

-------

Stepping into his home you trod carefully through the garden, sneaking in through the servants’ entrance. Looking through the trees you got a glimpse of his immaculate home. His home was made of stone with yellow tiles on the expansive roofs. He grabbed onto your hand leading you through, “The help is gone for the day, no one will find you here.”

He kept you close as he led you to a wooden porch that seemed to wrap around the entirety of the back of his home. Stepping up onto the porch Jin finally observed his grip on you and he let go like he had touched fire, coughing uncomfortably as he ruffled his hair to ease the awkwardness.

You glimpsed inside his home, as it seems he always left the doors open, internally you analyzed all the fire emblems that decorated everywhere. You were in the Earth Kingdom, but it was dowsed in Fire.

You slipped the Dai Li hat off your head and held it between your hands. The energy of the Moon grazes over your skin sending goosebumps along your skin. You turned to gaze at the full moon, “You get a good view of the Moon from here.”

He stepped up next to you, surprisingly nervous, but he kept his posture. “It’s nice.”

You turn to him, “Thanks for everything Jin.”

He cocked his head, “I don’t know what you’re thanking me for?”

You scoffed a laugh finally looking up at him, “I should leave now. They must know I’m gone and with you being gone, things won’t look good.”

You were about to turn without another word as his hand latched onto your wrist holding you in place. His warm touch was searing hot, but it was welcomed to your aching wrist. You turned to look at him with a raised brow.

“Don’t…go.”

You turned but he still held your wrist. “They will be looking for you, it won’t be safe for you to leave Ba Sing Se now. Stay…until the morning at least, then I’ll let you leave.”

Words were stuck in his throat, there was more to it than that.

You pondered on it for a moment. It irked you knowing you were too weak right now. Your body was only full of moon energy, but overall you still felt weak. You probably couldn’t make it past the rings to get to the Lower ring to headquarters without being spotted. You nodded.

“Come.” He took your hand and lead you inside. You bathed, changed clothes, and when you came out to the living room he was sitting out on the porch with a meal set up on a small table. He smiled and beckoned you over with a wave of his hand. You sat across from him tucking your feet under you. The food looked delicious.

“I didn’t know you know how to cook. I thought you had people do that for you?”

He scrunched up his fast in protest, “I don’t have them do everything for me.”

You laughed at how much protests he put up. Then, it hit you, you knew nothing much about him anymore. When was the last time you had laughed with him? Clearing his throat as he saw the light in your eyes drop, he urged you to dig in. You both ate in silence, the sound of crickets filling the silence.

He broke the silence, curiosity eating away at him. “Where did you go?”

You dipped your spoon into your soup and contemplated for a moment. His eyes filtered down to the scar on your forearm as the sleeve of your shirt lifted as you brought another spoonful of soup to your lips. His handprint discolored your skin in a deep purple that wrapped like a bracelet. He frowned. It still pained him to know he hurt you.

“I’m sorry.”

You followed his gaze to your forearm, then back to his sad eyes. “I don’t blame you anymore.”

His eyes filtered up as he set down his utensil he had been strangling. “Why? You should. It was horrible what I did. Nothing I ever did to you should be forgiven. I walked away when you needed me the most.” A look of pain crossed his face, swallowing hard, “I hurt you.”

A tung pulled within your chest that you haven’t felt in a long time. The way he looked at you took all your breath away and expelled it to the universe. Butterflies filled you, but you tried fighting the feeling. You weren’t going to let those feelings resurface.

“You had no choice.”

His face was complex, he wanted to say about a thousand things.

Instead, you answered him, “I…I had to leave the capital. I knew after what happened it wouldn’t be safe for me in the capital. I escaped on a ship and let it take me wherever it was going. I was on it for days before it stopped at Jang Hui delivering parts and supplies to the factory. I snuck off the ship and tried to find a place where I could start new. I stayed by the small town just by the river in the forest, but an old man I came across told me I couldn’t stay there. He told me it wasn’t safe for a young water bender in Fire Nation territory. After some discussion, he offered to mentor me. Without a place to go, I took it. He’s taught me everything I practically know…even a bit of blood bending.”

Jin’s eyes widened, finally understanding how advance you were in it, how you understood water so well.

“I stayed there for years, I stayed in town as a fisher to blend in and had a small home and everything.” Smirking, “The painted lady uniform you called was ironically from there. I wore that as my fisherwoman outfit.”

Jin asked, “Why’d you leave?”

“Things changed when my mentor came to me one night in a panic. He told me he had to leave, that he was called upon.”

Licking your lips, Jin followed the motion with his eyes. “There was news that the Fire Nation was going to attack Ba Sing Se and they called upon him to put a stop to it.”

Jin’s eyes flickered back up to yours hearing about the order.

“I told him that I wanted to go with him, but of course he protested. Eventually, I convinced him I was ready to join the order. He laughed like I was crazy, but I told me I wasn’t. I told him if I could follow him and help then I would help in any way. I was his mentor after all. I ended up going to Ba Sing Se and built a small team of other refugees and we formed our own syndicate within the order.”

Somewhere along the way he had pushed the small table out of the way and had situated himself in front of you. He looked like he was holding his breath, eyes holding yours as you looked away from your scar you had been tracing.

“It’s all my fault.”

You shake your head again, “You didn’t have a choice.”

He shook his head in denial, but still lacked comment.

You squinted your eyes at him. “What do you want Jin?”

He was silent. “I don’t know.”

You brought your knees up to your chest, “Do you want this?” You pointed to his visage.

Although he was just about a meter away from you, he felt so much closer.

“I don’t know.” In a sigh, he confessed, “I never stopped thinking about you.”

The air around you both had changed, it was intimate. The way his eyes were looking at you with something similar to affection was teasing the feeling within you. Gaze swimming with something deep. Cautiously he reached out for your hand again, wanting to hold onto something stable.

You look him in the eyes, the feeling in your stomach undying and it terrified you. “I can’t be here.”

He sits up straight feeling you slip through his fingers. “ Y/n.”

“I don’t belong here.”

He grows frustrated with this game you had been playing your whole lives. He didn’t know what he wanted. He didn’t know much, but one thing he was sure about was you. You’ve never migrated far from his thoughts, always lingering, and he never wanted to lose the real thing again. Maybe from the moment, he looked out the window when you both were kids, that’s when his heart was pulled towards you. He never had a choice, never had a choice…up until now.

Scooting forward in he grabbed your elbow twisting you around as you tried getting up. He stares intently into your eyes, golden embers burning behind them. “You belong here. You’ve always belonged.”

“Jin.” In a stable voice, you wanted to remind him you don’t. Remind yourself.

Urged on by your unmoved expression, fire filling his veins to prove to you. “I need you.”

“I’ve had enough decisions made for me. It’s always been you and I’m not letting you slip away if I can help it. That’s my choice.”

He watched your eyes flicker down to his lips then back up. He grabbed the back of your claves and pulled you to him like you weighed nothing. In a squeak naturally, your arms went to clutch at his shoulders. He pulled you into his lap and wrapped your legs around his waist. His warm hands sent a shiver up your spine as he grasped you tight to him.

“Can I?” He tipped your chin with the back of his fingers while his eyes were glued to your lips. You nodded squeezing his shoulders. He presses your lips together hard like a starved man, moving them against you with ferocity. Your lips were stiff against his, unsure, it felt like you were dreaming. You had always wondered if his lips were as soft as they appeared, but they beat all expectations. He moved his plush lips bruising over yours as if he was afraid he was going to lose you. When he finally pulled away his pupils engulfed his iris, but they were trained on you. Despite the feral beast hiding inside the blond man, his touch was gentle. His hand that was tangled in your hair came around and cupped your cheek. “Do you need me too, Y/n?”

You nodded, you wanted this too, you wanted him. You clutched at his shoulders, “Please.”

Lust, a look you dimly began to recognize took over his being, but your mind struggles to catch up with. He leaned in and peppered kisses down your neck to the collar of his shirt. You shivered in his embrace. His touch had you melting to him and you moaned as he moved back up your neck to capture your lips again. His tongue pried open your lips and tasted you as he moved it around yours. You were intoxicated on his kisses and you could only moan out his name.

Instantly he was tightening his embrace around your waist and lifted off the ground. You yelped, his cold armor was a contrast to his hot hands and body. He walked you through his home and before you knew it, he was dropping you down onto his bed. He kept himself hovering over you as you still had your legs wrapped around his waist. He caught your lips as he propped his elbows by your head. With a bit of confidence, you reached up and tangled your hands into his soft, thick hair.

He groaned into you as he pulled away too lightly bit at your lower lip. “You don’t know how long I’ve been wanting this.”

You didn’t get to answer as his lips answered yours by pressing his lips sweetly to yours. Your cheeks flushed as he fully pulled away and sat back on his legs. Your legs fell from his waist as he shifted about. He began unlacing his armor and tossed them aside, along with his undershirt while still maintaining eye contact with you. Your eyes widened as you gazed at his sun-kissed toned arms and bare chest. Your mouth fell slightly agape. All the scars that littered his chest were immense. Subconsciously you reached out to touch them tracing the longer ones that lead into smaller ones. Carefully you trailed your hand up and noticed a fresh one. He sucked in a breath through his teeth and he hissed in pain at a recent cut that had yet to heal.

You gazed around the room and noticed a vase holding a bouquet. Apologizing to the flowers mentally, with an extended hand you bended the water over to you. Jin watched you carefully as the water covered your hand like a glove. You flickered your gaze up to his before you brought your hand closer to his chest, just over his heart. He patiently let you, although both of your chests were still rising and falling with adoration and lust. When your hands touched his searing chest your hand turned a silvery blue glow. Jin watched in fascination, feeling a tickle over the wound. It was a few seconds before you pulled your hand away and smiled at the perfectly closed skin.

He looked at where his injury once was in awe. He leaned down and caught your lips, “You’re amazing.”

With confidence, you bring him down closer to you. Tightening your legs around his waist you flip him over onto his back and straddle his waist. You lean down and mark up his neck tasting his salty skin. He groans his hunger for you swallowing him whole with unadulterated desire. As you made your way down his chest where you’ve left a trail of saliva you breathed an icy breath that appeared like a gentle stream of smoke over his chest. He shivered tossing his head back as his half-hard length tightened in his pants. The feeling was new as it sent shivers down his spine.

You got close to the waistband of his trousers. You looked up through your lashes at him and he nodded watching you pull down his pants from his small waist. His pants protested coming around his thick thighs before he shook them off somewhere on the floor. Your eyes came back to meet his thick and long cock. You felt intimidated by the size, your last partner didn’t compare. If a cock could be pretty, his was pretty. Imagining it fitting inside you sent a shiver down your spine. You steel your nerves and swallow any tempting thoughts. You licked your lips and relaxed down between his legs as they naturally spread to accommodate you. He gulped and you watched his Adam’s apple bob. Internally you smiled, maybe he was just as nervous as you were. You took his cock in your hand and you felt him shiver under your touch. You hadn’t realized that in your excitement your body naturally took on a chill ready to shift phases if you were to bend. You noticed small, white droplets oozing out of the tip and without much thought you lean in closer and lick it up. He groans legs shifting as his hand’s fist at the blanket. He attempted to say your name, but it was swallowed as you began peppering kisses down the side of his length only to work your way back up on the other side. When you touched his thighs with your cold hand he hissed, “Ah, so cold.”

“Is this okay Jin?” You licked the tip once more as you look up at him innocently. You take the tip into your mouth and begin sucking wanting to work your way down. Jin’s eyes were glazed and disoriented. “Ugh, you’re going to be the death of me. You’re taking me so well.”

When he hears you wantonly whimper his name with a string of saliva connecting you to his cock, he loses it. You can suck him off next time. With unrivaled strength and martial precision, he flipped you over, his touch was so hot like coals as he began tugging at your clothes. You hissed as your clothing began to light creating holes in it that were extinguished before it caught fire. You yelped, “Jin,” as he tore your shirt off you with impatience.

You look beautiful, your eyes brimming with something that melts his tough exterior. He could practically hear your heartbeat, but he was sure you could hear his own. His large hands encase your waist, cupping just under your breast as he ran his hand over your velvety skin. With his mouth, he kisses down from your lips to your clavicle until he reaches down and takes a nipple into his mouth. Everything about him was hot, especially his tongue that was tasting your soft lumps. With his other hand, he was rolling your breast in his palms before flicking the nipple with his thumb. You arch your back feeling his plush lips encompass one. You hadn’t realized how sensitive you were until you were arching up, you’re your hands rest on his shoulder squeezing occasionally. He tested a thrust into you as he wrapped a leg around his waist. He squeezed your thigh when you granted him a moan in return.

He was nearly purring as he made his way down your body before he was in the apex of your thighs. He kisses them before he was back on his knees. Extending his hands, he lit up the candles in the room with a flick of his wrist. “I want to see you, all of you.” It felt like he was a dragon as he rose on his haunches, powerful and willing to devour you as his prey. He stared down at you and subconsciously you wanted to cover yourself up, but he didn’t allow you to as one of his hands brought it up to his lips kissing your palm. “So beautiful.”

He brought your legs together and slipped off your pants and you allowed your legs to drop open. With no underwear on you bear all your natural self to him. He situated himself back down between your supple thighs. He leaned in and licked a long strip up your slick folds with a devious smile. You withered underneath him, but he held you down as he wrapped his thick arms around your waist. You were nailed to the bed as he tasted you, licking around your folds and dipping into your entrance. Just when you thought it was too much he began suckling at your clit that had pleasure washing over you instantly. He pulled away when he noticed you were getting too close to the edge. With a finger, he prodded at your entrance before he sunk it in slowly. His finger was so hot it felt like you were going to melt deliciously. You moaned as he crocked the finger upwards and began moving it in and out of you. When you could take that much he thrust in another that had you crying out. You felt so cold and it only made him want to make himself hotter, have you melting underneath him.

“I want you to cum on my cock.” He pulled away just as your coils were about to burst causing the fire to fizzle out. It still thrummed through your veins and your core tightened around his fingers at the prospect. He chuckled feeling you tightened around his fingers as he pulled them out of you.

A wanton moan tore through your throat as he lined himself up with your entrance. He ran his cock up and down your slit then flicking around the head of his cock picking up your essence. You groaned when he rubbed the head against your clit. He chuckled the breathier you got. He leaned down stopping his teasing capturing your lips, “You’re so good for me.”

On his elbows with your noses touching he pushes into you slowly. Your mouth falls open as you wrap your arms around his back and hold him tight. Yes, you’ve done this before, but it’s been a while. You felt the pinch and stretch as his thick cock buries itself in you inch by inch. He attempted to soothe and distract you by drowning you in kisses and tweaking your nipples. It worked but the stretch brought a bit of tears to your eyes as he slowly pushed completely inside of you. As you two meshed, the feeling was hot and icy at the same time was euphoric.

Pulling away he wiped them away, “You did so well for me. Tell me when I can move.”

He felt like a furnace on top of you and you were sweating, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. You wiggled your hips against him, “Please, Jin.”

He rocked his hips into you testing out the motion. You moaned at each motion; you hadn’t realized how sensitive you were. Every place he touched was like he was setting off a blazing fire bringing you closer to an end, but you wanted to hold on. You wanted to feel him longer, but you weren’t sure you were going to last. Your legs trembled around him.

He pulled out almost all the way before he slammed himself back in. You let out a moan at the delicious pleasure as his cock stretched you out. Each time he met your hips with a slap from his own you choked on a moan. His grip on your hips was possessive and tight as he thrust into you with fever. His skin sweating like it was the hottest day of summer. It was building and building inside him. “Fuck, you feel too good, you feel too good.”

He growls, rough and dangerous.

“Cum with me, give it to me.” He placed his thumb over your clit and began rolling and pinching it. His pace was unrelenting as he brought you over the edge. When he came, he threw his head back mouth falling open as flames erupted from his throat. He captured your lips in a sweet kiss as your bodies twitched against each other in pleasure.

He rolled off you, landing on the bed next to you. He pulled you close to him tucking you to his side. Lazily you brought your leg up and draped it over him as he hugged you tight to him.

In the moment of peace, your body was still buzzing with pleasure. Jin turned his head, blonde hair stuck to his forehead, and he beamed a smile at you. You reach up and catch his lips and he gladly returns the lazy kiss.

Feeling like you swallowed metal, all thoughts of reality came to you as your high began leaving your system. “I need you too, but I can’t stay.”

His heart stops in his chest, you slip from his embrace and sit at the edge of the bed. He immediately sits up and embraced you. He tightens as you try to get up to leave. He tucked his head into your neck as he mumbled, “Don’t leave.”

You turned to the side to face him face to face, and it killed you inside seeing his eyes scrunches, eyebrows furrowed in worry. “Jin, we’re in two different worlds. No matter how much I want you, us—we…we won’t work.”

His words came out rapid, “It will!”

You reached up and cupped his cheek, despite his scrunched expression he leaned into the touch, “I love you, and always have.”

Slowly you slipped from his embrace and you picked up his discarded shirt and began pulling it over your head. It was eerily quiet, your heart pounding in your chest. You finally said it to him, a feeling you’ve always held. Tears welled in your eyes; you couldn’t face him.

The sheets shifted behind you and hard and fast footsteps followed before he grabbed you and spun you around. He pressed his lips to you in fever and you melted into it, the motions now feeling vintage between you two. Gently pulling away for air he rested his forehead on yours. When you opened your eyes, he was already returning the look, eyes trimmed with near amber.

“I’ll leave it all.”

Your eyes widened as you tried pushing away, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

He grabbed your arms holding them tight so you couldn’t look away, “No, never again, I’m not losing you again, but I can lose all of that and not give a damn. It’s you. That’s my choice. I love you.”

You searched his eyes for deceit, for anything of insecurity, but you couldn’t find it. He repeated himself to you. “I love you.”

A single tear dripped down your cheek as you reached for him, “We leave at dawn.”

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There’s a chaotic rebellion in the simple things.

Tranquility amongst the ever omnipresence of war in the world.

The world was engulfed in flames.

His blonde hair rustled as he stood amongst the sea of other benders ready to finish the 100 year war. Standing tall next to you, your blue veil flowed about you in your shadowed silhouette. With members of the Lotus, they all walked as equals.

Your hands engulfed in water and his fist alight, it was time to end it all.

You were going to take back the world.

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