Title: Carried Heart Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender Author: devilinthedetails Genre: Romance; Family; Tragedy; Drama Characters: Hakoda; Kya; Sokka; Katara Summary: Before he goes off to war, Hakoda visits his wife's grave to say goodbye. Notes: Written for @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha's Romantic Quote Challenge. My romantic quote is from e.e. cummings and appears at the beginning of the story and in its body. I take no credit for the words of e.e. cummings. "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling i fear i carry your heart with me"--e.e. cummings Carried Heart Hakoda stood before the grave of his dead wife Kya. The Fire Nation had come on a raid and slain her in their own ice house, stealing the warmth from her skin and breath, and now her cold body was buried in the frozen ground of the Southern Water Tribe’s largest cemetery. Her grave, cleared of snow and ice like every other plot in the sad cemetery, was marked by a circle of gray stones. He was dressed in his wolf armor that was designed to not only protect him in battle but to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies by making him resemble a charging wolf. His face was painted in the distinctive manner that announced he was not only a man and warrior of tribe but also their chieftain. A sharpened spear was clutched between his clenched fist, and, from the wolf skin covering his head to the fur boots around his feet, Hakoda felt ready to sail off to the Earth Kingdom to fight the Fire Nation that had torn their world apart with warfare for over a century. The Fire Nation that had wiped out the peaceful Air Nomads in their tranquil, now abandoned temples. The Fire Nation that had enslaved earth benders on steamships surrounded by water they couldn’t bend, forcing these earth benders to provide slave labor in service of the Fire Nation’s war efforts, fueling the insatiable conquest of the Fire Nation. The Fire Nation that was besieging the Earth Kingdom’s great walled city of Ba Sing Se. The Fire Nation that had raided the Southern Water Tribe for generations. The Fire Nation that had captured and killed every water bender they could find until only Hakoda’s daughter remained of that proud heritage among their people with nobody to train her in the ancient art of water bending and only her instincts to guide her as she discovered the depths of her water bending powers. The Fire Nation that had slaughtered his wife, the love of his life, in cold blood. Going to aid the Earth Kingdom in the war against the Fire Nation was what courage and justice—for the serene, murdered Air Nomads; for the captured and lost water benders of the Southern Water Tribe; for the enslaved earth benders of the Earth Kingdom; for the besieged residents of Ba Sing Se; for his children whose mother was stolen from them; for himself whose wife was buried in cold ground instead of standing beside him; for Kya who had been brutally killed in her own home—demanded of him. He would not be able to look at his own reflection in the ocean water if he didn’t go off to fight the Fire Nation with every able-bodied man who could serve as a warrior in the tribe. War was a terrible, deadly thing, and he hadn’t made the decision to sail off to it lightly. He would miss Sokka and Katara with every breath he took, every beat of his heart, until he could hug them to his chest again, knowing that they were finally forever safe from the Fire Nation. It would hurt him like a sword wound not to watch Sokka grow into a man of the tribe and Katara a woman of the tribe. Dropping to his knees before his wife’s grave, Hakoda remembered with a brightness like the dazzling, dancing red and green rays of the Southern Lights how he had said farewell to Kya before he had undergone the rite of passage that would make him a man of the tribe. A rite that soon Sokka would be old enough to undergo, but that Hakoda would not be present to experience with him. A thirteen-year-old boy who wanted only to be seen as a man by all around him, Hakoda had been nervous about going out in a boat with his father and two friends but determined not to reveal his fear to the girl who had stolen his heart or anyone else in the tribe, for that matter. He would have felt an admittance of fear on his part as something shameful, and an awareness of his fear in another as a humiliating insult to his courage. It would be his responsibility to steer the ship around the ice in the ocean, shouting out orders for his friends to obey that would guide the ship past any encountered peril. That would be how he would earn the facial paintings that declared him a man and a warrior of the tribe: Hakoda the Brave. “I will undergo the rite of passage today, Kya,” he had told her, his gloved hand tucked snugly through hers, as they walked along the shiny snow of their tribe’s streets. “Then I will be a man of the tribe who can seriously date you. Wait faithfully for my return.” “Aren’t you afraid of the waves and the ice?” Kya chewed her lip in obvious worry. “The ocean isn’t calm today, Hakoda.” “The ocean must be changeable or else the rite of passage would have no meaning.” Hakoda recited an ancient proverb of the Water Tribe. When Kya’s worry did not crack into a grin, Hakoda tried another tack. Placing his palm over his heart, he repeated a verse from one of the sagas of love and lost his mother sang by flickering whale-blubber lamps during long, dark nights. “I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear, and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling.” “Sappy, very sappy and nonsensical.” Kya laughed at this overwrought sentiment as he had hoped she would, but also seemed sincerely touched, as he had also hoped that she would. “Are you saying that when you steer the ship past all the ice, it will be me who does it?” “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Hakoda took her chin between his fingers and brought her face close to his. He didn’t kiss her on the lips or even on the cheeks. In the cold weather, hot skin and warm lips could fuse together, earning young lovers endless ribbing from other tribe members that redden ears. Instead, he pressed his snow-flecked eyelashes against her soft ones and felt them flit delicately against his as she blinked her wide, blue eyes at him. “I love you, and I carry you in my heart always.” Back in the present, it shattered something inside Hakoda to think that he would never again be able to kiss his wife again. To feel her lips beneath his. To brush his mouth across the smooth skin of her face. To blink his eyelashes in unison with hers. Reaching into the past to try to touch her spirit through shared memory, he whispered at her grave as he prepared to march off to war, ““I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear, and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling.” Then he rose and left the cemetery to say goodbye to his children. To tell Sokka to guard the tribe while he was gone and Katara to continue to grow as a waterbender even though he wasn’t around to see her master new skills and gain greater control over her gift.