Day/Theme: November 12 - little anodynes that deaden suffering
Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Character/Pairing: Song, hints of one-sided Song/Zuko
The day is easing to a close and Song sits on the edge of the porch, stretching her leg out in front of her. She reaches out and does her best to grab her flexed foot; she can hook her fingers over the tips of her toes, but barely.
Hold for ten seconds, then release. Hold for ten seconds...
Her leg still pains her. The burn scars don't hurt--those are nothing but dead flesh. All they do is sit there and look ugly. It's the damage to the tissue beneath those scars that causes the pain. Muscle tissue was destroyed as well, and other muscles and tendons are strained to compensate. While she doesn't have a limp as such, the end of a hard day's work will find her walking with a hitch in her step. She can already feel a persistent ache in her hip, a grandmother's sort of ache, and here she is not even eighteen.
So, Song does her stretches, and when she's done, she tucks her legs up into a half-lotus, the burned leg resting on the whole one so she can work. When she's ready, she rolls her pants leg up (carefully, so as not to set any wrinkles or creases) and massages a pungent ointment into the warmed and stretched muscles.
The massage hurts nearly as much as the stretching at first, but it fades, and the strong menthol of the ointment stings her nose and clears her mind. The sun is now well past set, but she doesn't get up to light the lamps. It's a clear night, and she can see well enough. Besides, she was on her feet all day, and any little bit of rest she can steal is welcome. The ache in her leg is now something almost pleasant, the feel of a job well done, and a reminder that she is taking proper care of herself.
Pain doesn't go away, not entirely. Well, it can, she thinks, but she still hopes that day is a long way off. In life, pain just changes and transforms over time. Sometimes, it even fades.
The same thing happens with memories. Her memories of the Fire Nation attack on their village were more like waking nightmares for a while. She wouldn't go near open flame, and the smell of cooking (burning) meat would invariably cause her to panic and then throw up everything she had eaten that day. Every night, she used to dream about what happened when the Fire Nation came and took her daddy away, and how she'd torn free of her grandmother's arms and was running after him, screaming his name, and then one of the soldiers casually tossed a fireball at her and laughed and laughed and laughed as if the change in her screams was the funniest thing he'd ever heard.
Song takes a deep breath, and closes her eyes against the memory. Pain never goes away. If she's not careful, she'll start to hear the soldier's mocking laughter rising above the sound of the crickets. If she's not careful, she'll start to think about the rumors of how Earth Nation men are put on the front lines as cannon-fodder, and she'll start to believe them.
Eventually, things got better. Not perfect, but better. Throwing herself into her work may have helped. Then, there was the way the passage of time simply deadened things in its course. Once upon a time, her scars had been so sensitive to heat that she could only bathe in tepid water. Now, though, you could splash her with boiling water and she might not even feel it.
It took her a long time, but she thinks she's figured out how to ease the pain of her memories.
Hope that her daddy will return one of these days. Hope that their lands will be free. Hope even helps with the pain in her leg, because if she takes care of herself, she can keep it from becoming a crippling injury.
Yes, it's laughably simple, but so is a splint. So is a bandage. So is using a willow-bark infusion for a headache, or ginger for an upset stomach. In fact, it's often the simplest remedies she turns to first, as they are often the most effective.
She looks out from the porch and thinks of someone she met not long ago, someone who bore the same kind of scars she did, and who had clearly known the same kind of pain. In a way, Song thought his pain was worse than hers, because she could see in the set of his shoulders and hear in the clipped flatness of his voice that he knew nothing of the one simple remedy that had made her own life more bearable.
It is now so dark that she really can't see much beyond the edge of the porch. Even so, she thinks she could just maybe make out the black slash of the old hitching post, now untenanted.
The ache she feels in her heart is not one that will go away any time soon. Still, the old remedy helps a little bit. It may be foolish, but the ache becomes somewhat bearable when she hopes that he comes back one day, bringing with him if not their ostrich-horse, then at least an apology. She can always hope.
And then, she hopes, maybe he will sit with her for a while, the way he did before. Just the two of them, out on the porch listening to the crickets as the sun goes down. At last, once the sun sinks below the horizon, he will speak to her in a voice that is no longer so choked with burning despair and tell her how he learned to find hope.