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Author Topic: Heart of a Child [K+] Aang, Bumi II  (Read 591 times)

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Offline Water Lily

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Heart of a Child [K+] Aang, Bumi II
« on: November 16, 2013, 04:57:06 AM »
Title: Heart of a Child
Author: Water Lily
Rating: K+
Word Count: 4,003
Summary: Sometimes, a child's heart can take a cold turn despite many doses of innocence. Bumi's was such a heart- outwardly rambunctious but inwardly hopeful and stereotypical of itself. Can his efforts to please his father bring back the warm, golden memories of his childhood? Sometimes, it takes more than the Avatar's smile to bring the warmth back.

Author's Note (click to show/hide)Well...you see...this was supposed to be a drabble for the D/P Contest for this week. However, it transformed from a mere drabble to a story that reflects my attitude on Aang's parenting (which stirred lots of disagreement and disappointment among many fans among the fandom). Here is my take on how Aang would have truly and equally loved his children. Inspired by the theme "coldness." I dedicate this fic to all fathers and Faangirls out there. Enjoy :)
Heart of a Child (click to show/hide)
The flickering of a lone candle danced on the shadows of the walls although it certainly wasn’t enough to drive away the chilly air. A cold, harsh wind enveloped hushed breathing patterns of the temporary air temple residents. The colder side of the temple, however, was not far from one room’s grasp in particular. The room was edged more to the farthest corner of the temple, almost disconnected with the outside world but at the same time being one with it…the same room where one unhappy resident was supposed to be sleeping. It was unusual for the Eastern Air Temple to get so cold, considering it was in the eastern hemisphere. But cold weather was cold weather, and no one could deny that. Even the help of the candle wasn’t much to dim the wrath of the harsh environment. It was like using a hot air balloon knowing that the air wouldn’t help it lift anymore. No use.

The room, despite the chilly atmosphere, was definitely not short of its legacy, for it had most likely been one of the rooms of the ancient airbenders of the Eastern Air Temple. Long before this time, a wise airbender may have slept on this very bed that one ex-commander in particular was greatly sulking in. Not that the fact would greatly amuse him anyhow. It was evident that Bumi’s mood was greatly perturbed.

Bumi turned to face his sleeping nephew, Meelo, snoring rather rambunctiously on the mattress. The young airbender had insisted upon ruining the nonbender’s sleep, and after an hour of explaining that there was no baby in his stomach whatsoever, Bumi had succeeded in putting him to sleep.

Unlike his drastically cheerful personality and despite the short chuckles Meelo managed to steal out of him, Bumi’s lips showed no sign of a real smile. Only a few dejected sighs every now and then greeted the stillness of the air-left unattended to for centuries. The wrinkles in his forehead furrowed as another thought entered his mind. He threw the covers of the bed away from him, careful not to wake his nephew, and spent the next few moments sitting up and tightening his grip on the edges of the bed.

"Look, uh, I'm sorry I didn't turn out to be an airbender like you hoped. But I've tried my best to keep the world safe. Hope I made you proud."

Bumi closed his eyes, weary with age and experience, and remembered his previous words. His dad’s statue brought back so many memories. And it didn’t help him to be a non-bending son of the Avatar as he thought of all these things. At least that was what he believed to be. The Avatar certainly couldn’t be judged, and who knows when his wrath on his own son would appear? Bumi crossed the thought out immediately and smacked his head, a habit he must have inherited from his uncle. It was a shame for him to think that way. His dad definitely treated them all equally…even if Bumi was mostly left in charge of Kya most of the time when Tenzin went on vacations with him.

“The Avatar had other children?!”

Maybe the small amount of grey hairs on his head prevented him from thinking deeper into his childhood. Why, he and his dad had their fair share of memories…even though Uncle Sokka was, for the most part, his family member in crime. It didn’t feel right for Bumi to picture his father in that distant way. And moreover, he knew Kya was right. He just didn’t understand why he was feeling so…different… Everything was fine and everybody was equal when they were kids.

At the darkest moment of the night, Bumi wondered if Aang still thought of him with the same love and acceptance Tenzin received.

“And I’ve really enjoyed having you two around.” Tenzin had said. “Reminds me of all those great vacations we took as kids with Dad.”

“Uh…I think your memory’s a little foggy.” Kya interjected. “Bumi and I weren’t on those ‘great vacations’. It was always just you and Dad.”

Indeed, it was cold in the temple, but not as much as Bumi’s heart.

“Aren’t you cold, Bumi?”

“No.” he grumbled back. As soon as he was aware of who said what, his eyes widened. He turned around to sense something out of the ordinary, greeted only by the stillness of the air again. He could have sworn it was his father’s voice.

Regret etched over his face. If only he had the ability to take back how he said what he said. He loved his dad too much to use such a tone with him. What he didn’t understand was the tone behind the voice… if it did belong to his dad.

“D-Dad?”   

He was almost afraid to say the word out loud. It’s been long…far too long…He knew it wasn’t possible that his dad would come to visit him. He shook his head.

“Great, I’m hallucinating,” he murmured. But deep down in his heart, he wanted this to be true. He wanted his dad take some time to visit him as he would to his mother and the current Avatar.

“To the point where you can’t recognize your own father’s voice?”

The voice came again. Soft, but at the same time hard and strained from being melancholy. Bumi’s harsh eyes softened. He turned around, almost flinching at the majestic savior of the world encased in a spiritual blue hue. He didn’t know if this was involuntary or not, but he could actually feel his lips betraying his resolves and smiling at the sight of his role model… the savior he missed since forever. His heartbeat increased in rhythm and joy emanated through his obviously surprised expression. It was one of those times a son would open his arms to greet his father with such love and happiness, and although Bumi was no different, he was paralyzed to his spot.

Aang and Bumi exchanged glances that were far too weary for either of them, regardless of age. Expressions as ancient as lion turtles. Bumi couldn’t help smiling his goofy way. His father had not changed. That equally goofy look, that powerful innocence held with perfected pools of grey, that maturity consisting of an authority-based tone… but one thing was new. Sorrow. Bumi had rarely seen sorrow in his father’s majestic eyes.

Aang smiled sadly, opening his arms expectantly. Although he didn’t say anything, it was clear that he not only wanted but needed a hug from his oldest of offspring. It was like he was saying, Come on, Bumi. You know you want to hug your dad.

Bumi’s previous resolves fading for a moment as he lunged out of bed to greet his father and dive into that set of opened arms as he always did when he was a kid, but before he could do so he felt his robe being tugged by Meelo’s tiny hand.

Bumi stopped abruptly, disappointed but at the same time unsure of how else to proceed. He looked from Meelo to his waiting father before taking the initiative to uncurl Meelo’s fingers around his robe.

“U-Uncle Bum-mi...!” Meelo murmured louder.

The nonbender’s eyes widened, eyebrows arched in an annoyed frown. “Kid, I’m right here…”

“It’s okay.” Came Aang’s voice. “Don’t move away from him. He might wake up.” Aang’s unseen sorrow lengthened up to a greater height. He looked down for a moment and let out a broken sigh, letting his arms drop to the ground disappointedly. He took a deep breath.

A cloud of smoke soon surrounded the room, leaving the furniture and time span intact but transforming the appearance of the ex-commander. Within moments, Bumi’s eyes were widened as he saw his wrinkly hand turn younger with age. The fold of his hands were no longer weakened, but were rejuvenated with youthful skin. Before he knew it, Bumi was transformed into a ten year old version of himself with the Avatar’s features resembling that of when he was in his late thirties. The spiritual magic swept away all distinctions and united father and son in the situation they found the most of each other’s company in.

Bumi didn’t know how to approach his dad’s sudden visit, but he felt much better to know that he wasn’t the only one disappointed in the slipped chance of a hug. Especially after so many years of separation. He also didn’t know what to think of the surprise visit. He knew Aang was a master in dealing with the spirits. But for the first time, the possibility of his dad visiting him was so strong that it was more like a surprise than a figment of reality. Was he just here to console him? Or was the visit just for inquiry?

The spiritual cloud dispersed, signifying its presence and emphasizing of its future reappearance. Meelo stirred in bed and murmured Bumi’s name again before sinking deep into the pillow and sheets, floating back into sleep. Aang and Bumi both smiled softly, the ex-commander grateful for a distraction to temporarily escape the awkward moment. As he completely transformed into his miniature self, he scooted over to let his father sit next to him.

“D-dad…” Bumi just couldn’t take everything in. He smiled as he noticed his voice was not as deep as it was but more high-pitched, resembling his age group. His smile stretched wider and wider as his father affectionately rumpled his hair.

“I can’t believe…” he began again, not really sure how to react to the changes and his dad’s visit. “Are you really you?” He froze in place, knowing that probably wasn’t the way he should have greeted him.

Aang’s smile remained intact, but the sorrow in his pupils deepened. “You weren’t expecting me, were you?”

“I-I didn’t mean it that way…” Bumi said quickly. “I just…I was just wondering…”

The airbender’s ancient chuckle served no true purpose in lightening the situation, but it managed to dim the fine line of surprise Bumi was still facing. “I know I don’t make guest appearances to a lot of people…”

“But Mom’s an exception.” The nonbender smirked.

“Of course she is,” Aang laughed, his eyes sparkling. “But I’m here to see you today, Bumi.” He placed one cerulean-coated hand over Bumi’s shoulder. Bumi was surprised to see the tiniest hint of tears bordering the corners of the Avatar’s eyes. “You know how much I love you, my son.”

Where his father’s hand was designated to be upon his shoulder was only felt like a wisp of surprisingly warm air, but he only smiled wider. He was an old man in reality and was caught in his child form resembling his child-like heart, and he still felt tingly at the words he felt were awkward to say, but he didn’t care. Now was not the time to prove his so-called “manliness”, another trait he was sure he inherited from his uncle. Instead he only wondered…had he become such a strange to his father’s love? The thought irked him immensely as he cleared his throat.

“I…love you, too, Dad,” his rough, but temporarily high-pitched voice managed to say.

He watched as Aang diverted the attention to a sleeping Meelo, taking the time to brush his partially bald, tattooed head. “What’s this little guy doing here?”

“The kid wanted to prove me wrong.” Bumi snorted just as he would back when he was ten years old. “It… took me forever to get him to sleep.”

Aang laughed again, his voice rumbling as he pierced his sorrowful stare into his son’s cerulean hues. His eyebrows furrowed. He licked his lips and let out a deep breath (which Bumi found a little unusual because Aang was a spirit now), his tattooed hands slightly shaking as he grasped the edge of the bed.

“What’s with the spirit magic?” Bumi asked. “I mean…I like being my mini self but…”

“I figured it would help in our little conversation.”

Bumi tilted his now tiny head. Aang smiled. “Bumi…how about a heart to heart?”

Bumi tried not to give away his increasing surprise. “A what…?” he asked a little too awkwardly.

“A heart to heart.” The Avatar repeated. “Father to son. What do you say?” Aang’s right hand remained gripping to Bumi’s shoulder, the grip tightening just a little firmly. “Or did you already dedicate the best ones to Sokka?”

Bumi felt an odd feeling creep over his normally rambunctious mood. He internally winced. His father had no idea. “I always have time for you, Dad.”

And he meant it. Even though he grew up on the idea that he was a disappointment to his parents, he loved his family more than anyone else in the entire world. Yes, Kya complained of how he neglected his mother after his father passed away, but it was for that very father’s pride that Bumi had to stay behind. And whether Aang realized it or not, he was the one who had always been a role model to Bumi. Sokka was a major supporting character in his life because he, too, was a nonbender. But that didn’t mean Sokka had to be Bumi’s only hero.

Aang and Bumi sat in silence for long moments, both listening to Meelo’s even breaths and sometimes smiling whenever the kid blurted random things in his sleep. They alternated their attentions from Meelo to the flickering candle in the corner. They were surprised to notice how both of them sighed simultaneously. The situation could have sent them both chuckling for the millionth time but stopped them due to the unsaid tension.

“Still doing crazy stuff to prove your worth?”

“Huh?” Bumi rubbed the back of his neck, a habit passed down obviously from the Avatar himself. “Not exactly…”

The airbender’s eyes hardened. “Really?” he asked. “Then what was that whole ‘hope I made you proud’ thing about?”

Bumi was silent as he remembered his words again. His eyes also started to burn. He expected his father to chide him for his low confidence. He remembered all those times when he idolized his dad so much that his self-esteem lowered itself gradually. To the point where he felt oblivious…blind even…to his dad’s love for him.

“Bumi…” Aang’s voice trailed off as he tried to suppress his sorrow until he got his point across. “I know you aware of my duty to the world.”

The “ten year old” nodded, penetrated by the words. Even though he was rambunctious, he had always been as sensitive as he blames Tenzin to be. “Yes. You’re the Avatar, and it had always been your destiny to be the world’s protector.”

“And you know how the world expected me to repopulate the Air Nomads,” he added.

“Of course.”

“But…all of these duties…these obligations… they don’t make me a…a bad father… do they?”

Bumi could feel his heart suddenly stop. A pang of guilt washed over him. His father had always been the all-knowing spirit ever since he entered the spirit world. What if his father could realize his thoughts without him having to say it? His hoarse throat burned.

“N-no…not at all...you’re an awesome dad…”

He had the feeling his father knew every single ounce of a hesitation in what he said. Bumi was never a good liar to begin with. Even the enemies made him stop and think for any necessity of a lie. He had always been blunt and straightforward.

Aang didn’t seem satisfied, although he was deeply touched by the words. “I know every Avatar has flaws… but not so much as to commit such injustice with his own children…like playing favorites…”

Bumi looked up at him.

Aang’s hands still shook slightly. “The world isn’t always kind to its subjects.”

He held his father’s shaking hand. “I know, Dad.”

“The world can be blind sometimes….even judgmental…you know why?” The Avatar stared at the dancing flame from the candle before him. “Because sometimes… it overlooks a father’s bond with all of his children.”

Bumi couldn’t respond. He couldn’t turn his head away, either. Now was not the time for him to think or hunt for some trace of love in his father’s tone.

“The world thinks I play favorites, Bumi.” Aang continued. “It sees me as a father who only had children for the sake of repopulating his nation.” Aang stopped for a moment, thinking again.

“That’s not true.” Bumi interjected with a child-like frown.

“Right…but only my family would realize how much I love you all equally ,” the airbender added. “That’s why I’m thankful for all of you. For your mother. For you…for Kya and Tenzin…because I know my family knows who I truly am.” He smiled widely. “Am I right?”

Bumi could tell the smile wasn’t genuine. He felt guilty.

“The world thinks I left you in care of your little sister when I trained Tenzin.” Aang murmured. “It tells the story of how a father loved his youngest son more than his oldest. But only our family would know I trusted you and let you be the man of the house when I’m gone.”

Bumi’s weary eyes moistened. The guilt shot through his veins. He nodded.

“The world thinks I have too many hopes for Tenzin and that was why I was with him, day and night, to make him achieve his goal. But only our family would know I didn’t spoon-feed by two older children because I was proud and confident they could succeed through their own independence.”

Bumi could clearly see the pain the Avatar was trying to hide.

“The world thinks I abandoned my first two children.” Aang muttered. “But only our family would know of all the picnics and birthdays and banquets we all celebrated as a family. The laughs we shared, the fun we experienced, the goofy stories of my rambunctious children that were the envy of the world.”

“The world isn’t right.” Bumi said sternly. “It doesn’t know how the Avatar’s oldest son was loved and inspired by his dad enough to become one of the most powerful commanders in the world.”

Aang smiled as if he proved the point he was trying to make. “But if you know the world isn’t always right…” he pierced an almost broken look into his son’s cerulean hues. “…why did you believe it?”

This was too much at once. Bumi wasn’t surprised that Aang realized his thoughts but still looked away, feeling the way his eyes stung as a distraction.

Aang looked down at his tattooed hands, wincing slightly. “You see these hands, Bumi?”

Bumi still didn’t face him. He was too guilty. Had he really gone as far as questioning his dad’s love for him? What happened to all of those memories they shared when he was a kid? Did he really let the sibling tension get to his head? Just because of what someone chose to say out of ignorance didn’t mean the Avatar would never love his non-bending son.

“You know why I’m proud of these hands…?” Aang looked at his son with all the love he held in his heart. “Because I held you with these hands.”

For once, Bumi felt his lips starting to curve up with hope.

Aang could feel his spirit merging with the emotions of the physical world. “You were… so tiny…so innocent… For the first time I held my little boy…my oldest child…no other father could have been as happy as I was that day…”

The nonbender’s eyelids closed with guilt and love and nostalgia. These feelings never just came to him without a particular reason. Not even whenever his little sister would up to hug him or his brother confessed how much he had missed him. Today, it seemed like a first time for everything. He imagined, with such fear and empathy, how his words had killed the Avatar on the inside.

“I held you.” Aang repeated. “And then I held my little princess. My favorite little angel after your mother.” The airbender smiled again. “And then came the day when I held Tenzin.”

For any other son especially as older as Bumi, this would seem like a moment of reminiscence. But for Bumi himself, it was much more. It was like patching up broken pieces of an unnecessary hole he created within himself. He never felt so foolish in his entire life.

He took this opportunity to tackle his dad at last, the awkward air ceasing to exist. Bumi was surprised with how the Avatar’s form was rigid and felt so physical as opposed to the way spirits were portrayed from the start, but he didn’t care for any of that. For some reason, this hug seemed to overrule the billions of other hugs they both shared.

“I’m sorry, Dad…” he croaked sincerely. “I’m sorry…I never wanted to upset you. I was…I-“ He couldn’t finish. He had no idea how deeply his father loved them all. He neglected the fun times they all had just because of one ignorant servant’s comment that stirred millions of foolish notions.

Aang sighed and held Bumi by the shoulders. “Bumi…don’t ever think of yourself inferior to Tenzin or even Kya. Ever. All of you are equal…all of you are my children…” He tightened his grip. “Look…Tenzin may be my destiny, Kya may be my life, and your mother may be my soul…but you are my hope. My strength. Backbone. Pride. I can never be more proud of anyone else except for my three beautiful children. Remember that.”

Bumi smiled and nodded vigorously, using the robe on his arm-now much enlarged considering his tiny form- to brush away the moistness in his eyes.

“And you say Tenzin's sensitive.”

The ex-commander laughed with teary eyes and nodded, not feeling the harsh chills of the atmosphere as much. He felt a warming sensation in his chest…an old ache soothed with a loving glance.

“I’m warning you. If you even think about doubting yourself, I’m going to have to go Avatar State on you.” Aang winked playfully.

“I still think I can beat you with my…awesome fighting skills.”

“Oh yeah?” Aang commanded, holding his arms out once more. “Come here.”

Again Bumi leaned in for a hug-one that he was sure he and his father weren’t going to let slip away. And it was obvious that Aang would make several more guest appearances to soothe Bumi’s child heart.

“Do you want me to change you back? Before Meelo wakes up?” Aang asked.   

Bumi shook his head and buried his face into his father’s shoulder. “I like being a kid. I get to hug you more often.”

“Good answer.”

And at last, it didn’t seem so cold anymore.


~To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.~

Offline Cassidy Alice

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Re: Heart of a Child [K+] Aang, Bumi II
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 06:32:17 AM »
This was such a wonderful, touching story! Excellent work as usual, Lily!

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Offline Water Lily

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Re: Heart of a Child [K+] Aang, Bumi II
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 02:41:33 PM »
Thanks, Cassie!


~To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.~

 

       
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