Not much to say except that this fic comes from the bottom of my heart and takes place just after the season finale. That's all I can say. And that 'Still Here' is inspired by the song 'The World is Black' by Good Charlotte.
Disclaimer – I don't own A:TLA
After three long weeks, drifting on the sea with nothing to eat we finally spotted land. It was a remote Earth Kingdom village. One that used to be a great city before it was burnt to the ground by the fire nation, by my people. I never realized how much death was caused by us. It never sunk in. People said things, hated the Fire Nation, hated us but I never truly understood why. Everything became clear when I opened my eyes today and saw the truth. Now I want to close them and turn away but I can't.
My uncle and I were starving by the time we landed. The moon was shining above us casting an eerie glow on the water. The sea lapped at our feet as we dragged ourselves onto the ground away from the forsaken raft. I've never been so glad to see land. Almost a month at sea, solid ground had never seemed so welcoming. As soon as we were a few feet away from the freezing water I collapsed onto the beach, lying on by stomach, my face half buried in the sand. Uncle dropped beside me resting a hand on my shoulder. He sighed a long contented sigh and patted my shoulder. Even though I wasn't looking I could see the smile on his face, the relief of surviving the long harsh journey on the ocean. I smiled too sharing the same joy he was feeling, of simply being alive.
Suddenly Uncle tensed and hand disappeared off my shoulder. I pushed myself off the ground into a sitting position, my eyes darting around for the slightest sign of movement. Out of the blue a rock came whizzing towards Uncle who at the time wasn't wearing his armour (we'd been using it as a dish to boil water in). It hit him in the ribs with a sickening crunch.
"Uncle" I cried as he fell onto his knees. Fear gripped me like a vice. Not many people could take Uncle, the great Dragon of the West out like that in one hit. He grunted in pain, his hands clasped on his left side blood trickling through he fingers. He tried to stifle another cry but I heard it. My fear quickly transformed to anger. Uncle was hurt badly and I would protect him
"Zuko, run," I hear him mutter. Uncle knows I would never run from a fight. Our enemy must be much stronger than I imagined but if Uncle thought I would abandon him without a second thought he was wrong. Uncle didn't raise a coward. I hissed furiously. Who would attack us in the middle of the night when we couldn't see them to fight back? They had no honour. It was obvious Uncle wouldn't be able to fight back. I had to defend us both. Whoever did this would pay.
Another rock flew through the air striking Uncle again. He let out a cry before slumping onto the ground. His breathing sounded sticky and uneven, blood continuing to pour from the open wound. His eyes were still open, pleading with me to flee and leave him to his fate. I would not run away though. Escaping wouldn't be an option, not without Uncle anyway.
"Come out and fight coward," I shout into the night air. Flames were already curling round my fists ready to take out whoever was attacking us. Adrenaline was pumping through my body like fire giving me strength to fight even though I hadn't eaten anything for weeks. I wouldn't let them assault Uncle again. I would defend him like he would defend me, with my life.
A figure stepped out of the shadow. The 'they' happened to be just one person. His features were set aglow by the light from hands. He was a middle aged earth bender. Scars criss-crossed his cheeks, a very large, ugly one marring the right side of his neck. His eyes were filled with pure hatred and anger. It was obvious all the scars had been caused by burns. He looked wild and feral with the shadows flickering across his face and the malice that burned in his eyes scared me.
"You fire benders took away everything I had. You slaughtered my people. You massacred everyone without a second thought." I wasn't expecting him to speak. I should have attacked him there and then but something held me back. His eyes were glazed with tears and his pain filled glare left me rooted to the spot.
"I had a family once. Everything was perfect until you lot attacked." He let out a howl of rage that chilled me to the core. All of a sudden he lunged at me bowling me off my feet, winding me. A shower of sand blasted into my face. I try to rub the grains from my eyes but cascades of rock pound me into the ground. I cross me hands in front of my face and chest in a pitiful attempt to defend myself but with the wind still knocked out of me I can't summon any flames.
"We fought with everything we had but it wasn't enough. You kept coming until we were down at your feet but you didn't stop there. You pulled families apart. No one in our city was left unscarred. Everyday our soldiers were sent out to put up a resistance knowing that they wouldn't return." He choked on his words taking out his cities rage by pounding me. I couldn't gather my strength to throw him off. When he attacked Uncle he was using carefully calculated attacks of a master earth bender but now his rage was unleashed he fought blindly, pelting me with anything he could control. It was an attack of pure desperation, one to strong for me to fight back.
"One night fire benders came tearing through what was left of our city. A herd of them came breaking into my home. I tried to fight back but they beat me down until I couldn't move yet they didn't kill me. I watched them toy with my wife torturing her to the death. Then they moved onto my children turning them to ash. Have you ever smelt burning flesh before? Have you every smelt the stench of death? Have you seen your family die around you, heard the screams as they are tormented knowing that there's nothing you can do? Have you tasted despair before, felt it wrapping round you smothering out your life? I have. And I will avenge their deaths. You fire benders are all the same. You have no value for life. No mercy, no heart, no nothing. I WILL MAKE YOU ALL PAY."
Tears streamed from the man's as his every word drove into my soul like a sword. I was paralyzed by his words. I didn't know how to react. I felt so ashamed, so tainted with blood. As his brutal attack continued I barely felt his blows. I couldn't fight back. I'm too tired. So tired.
I was banished and wounded
But you were there
When you could have been safe
You followed me here
I open my eyes and see Uncle lying next to me. It's dawn now and the sand has long gone from my eyes. Uncle's in worse condition than he was in last night and it's all my fault. I should have fought back harder. I don't know why I couldn't. He was too fast, too strong. I can barely move. Everything hurts so much.
You taught me to run
You taught me to fly
You taught me the person
To be inside
I watch in despair as I see Uncle struggle to breathe. Each breath a fear will be his last. Every time his chest falls I pray that it will rise again. If only I had been stronger. I could have protected him. I failed again. I'm one big failure. I'm sorry Uncle. I'm sorry I never told you that I love you. I'm sorry for letting this happen and dragging you into this mess. I'm so sorry.
You were there through the bad
You were there through the good
You never left
Even though you could
I take hold of his blood stained hand and clutch close to my chest. I long for him to squeeze back, open his eyes and tell me that everything's a dream. I want him to tell me everything will be fine and time can heal all wounds. I want to hear his proverbs of wisdom, to get up, pat my shoulder and say that this wasn't my fault. I want so much.
You made me smile
Wiped away my tears
Helped me to face life
Without any fear
Uncle was there after my Agni Kai against father. He stayed with me everyday never leaving my bedside until I healed, telling me stories of the great Fire Nation of the past. He cleaned my wounds and gave me comfort. Without him I would have probably died of the infection.
You were my anchor
From the cruelty of the world
You kept me
He followed me into banishment when he could have stayed behind with a comfortable life as a retired general at the palace but instead he followed me. For two years he stayed by my side teaching me fire bending. I know I wasn't the best student. I always wanted to move onto the next set not realizing how important basics were. I lost my temper so often but he stayed by me never wavering.
You taught me when to flee
You taught me when to fight
Told me to follow my heart
To do what was right
Without him I would never have been able to defeat Zhao. I would never be able to do half the things that I have done. He followed me onto Zhao's ship to make sure I was safe. He was always there to catch me when I fell. He was always there to push me on my feet and the thought of loosing him is too much to bear.
I've always had to fight
Always to struggle
But it made me strong
Having to work double
But no matter how strong I got
I still would fall
But you helped me get back up
To stand proud and tall
I would give my life for him. If I had to choice to trade places with him and die instead I would do it without a second though.
I'm glad that you were there
No matter what I say
And I vow to repay you
One day in a way
"Don't go Uncle. I need you. I want you by my side." I force out the words which stick in my throat. A lump has settled itself painfully there making it hard to breathe. I try to swallow it but I can't. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut trying to bloke out the pain.
I'm so tired
I've lost my way
But you were there
By my side you stayed
A shadow passes over me. I look up and see the flying bison the avatar travels on. He's landing on this island. He's my ticket back home. But now, I don't want him. The avatar has caused too much damage. If I wasn't so obsessed with capturing him maybe Uncle wouldn't be in this predicament. The avatar can do what he wants. I don't care. All I want is Uncle to pull through this.
When the time comes
To protect you
I'd do it with my life
Anything for you
"Uncle, I…" I trail off. I don't know how to say it. I don't know how to say how much I care about him. Tears well in my eyes leaving a salty trail down my cheek.
You gave me a second chance
To rise again
And because of me
We're stuck again
I'm drowning in despair. If Uncle doesn't make it I… I wouldn't be able to cope. The pain, it's overpowering.
"Uncle I… I love you". I can't ever remember telling anyone that I loved them but I really love Uncle. I never knew how to say until this moment. And now it's too late. I only wish I could have prevented this and what hurts the most is knowing all the things that I could have done to stop this from happening. I should have listened to Uncle when he said that chasing the stupid avatar was pointless. Then none of this would have happened. This is all my fault. I can't begin to imagine what that earth bender had to go through. I don't want to, I'm in enough pain. I don't need someone else's to add to it. Uncle can't even hear my sobs that overtake my body. I'm not even sure is he's still here.
I can't keep fighting
I've had enough
I want this to end
I've had enough
Just incase you know, this is meant to be a one-shot. That means no second chapter unless i getsudden burst of inspiration.