Author’s note: In which there is shipping, bad past decisions come to light and Ba Sing Se looms ahead.
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Next chapter: coming soon…
***Full Moon Bay***
The sandbenders escorted them to an actual oasis, at the edge of the desert, a small lake and waterfall safely encased in rocks. They had been terrified by the Avatar’s display of power, because this had been one of the most silent trips Lia remembered. The moment they had stepped into the oasis, Aang had left the rest of the gang behind to meditate. After everyone had drunk their thirst away and Katara had filled her waterbending pouch, she and Zuko had left to spar, as they said. If it wasn’t for the occasional blast of fire in the distance, Lia would be seriously tempted to tease them to their deaths once they returned. As if on cue, Zuko’s laugh was heard from above them. Lia looked up to see him standing by the waterfall, looking behind him, in a mock-defensive stance. Katara appeared moments later and laughing pushed him off the waterfall. Zuko twisted in the air using his heat-bending (as Lia called it for simplicity’s sake) to land softly on the water, next to Aang, who had frozen himself and was now floating inside a block of ice by now.
“Waterbending bomb!” Katara called from where Zuko had stood moments ago, before she jumped.
The impact, doubled by the girl’s connection to her element, raised a huge wave that sent both Aang and Zuko to land next to Toph, and made anyone that wasn’t already, soaking.
“Sure!” Sokka said annoyed trying to dry the map he had been reading. “Five thousand year-old map from the Spirit library. Just splash some water on it.” Katara came out of the water wringing her hair dry. She looked beautiful to Zuko, who was trying resolutely not to stare too much or blush. So he was a teenager. Sue him!
“Sorry,” The waterbender said carelessly before bending the water out of the map. She caught sight of Zuko looking at her intently and blushed a little. He didn’t look at all bad in his swimsuit… Before these thought had a chance to develop – or Toph had time to notice her heartbeat – she hurried next to the others.
“So, did you figure out what route we’re going to take?” Aang asked Sokka. The self-proclaimed warrior spread out the map.
“Okay, we just got out of the desert so we must be somewhere around here. And we need to go to Ba Sing Se, which is here.” He showed the points on the map. “It looks like the only pass connecting the south to the north is this sliver of land called the Serpent’s Pass.”
“You’re sure that’s the best way to go?” Toph asked doubtfully.
“It’s the only way,” Sokka insisted. “I mean, it’s not like we have Appa to fly us there.” Lia smacked him on the back of his head. “What was that for?” he asked her annoyed.
“A little tact would be nice!” she told him, glancing meaningfully towards Aang.
“Lia, it’s okay,” Aang assured her calmly. “I know I was upset about losing Appa before, but I just want to focus on getting to Ba Sing Se and telling the Earth King about the solar eclipse.” Lia wasn’t convinced. She shot him a suspicious look, but let it go.
“Then to Ba Sing Se it is,” Sokka said decisively. “No more distractions.”
“Hello there, fellow refuges!” a cheerful voice was heard from behind them. They turned to see a man, his pregnant wife and their daughter. Zuko’s eyes widened. He was the man he had almost attacked when he had been traveling alone. Suddenly he felt glad for the self-control he had showed that day. Sokka on the other hand frowned at being characterized a refuge.
“So are you guys heading to Ba Sing Se too?” Aang asked.
“Sure are,” The man said. “We’re trying to get there before my wife Yeng has her baby.”
“That’s great!” Katara said friendly. “We can travel through the Serpent’s Pass together.” The family paled.
“The Serpent’s Pass?” Yeng said. “Only the truly desperate take that deadly route.”
“Deadly route?” Zuko said rolling his eyes. “Great pick Sokka!”
“Well, we are desperate,” Sokka said glaring at Zuko.
“You should come with us to Full Moon Bay,” Yeng’s husband said. “Ferries take refuges across the lake. It’s the fastest way to Ba Sing Se.”
“And it’s hidden, so the Fire Nation can’t find it,” she added. Zuko shifted uneasily at the mention of his Nation.
“Hm,” Katara said as if she was thinking it over. “Peaceful ferry ride or deadly pass?” she asked sending a look at Sokka. Lia giggled.
They walked together all the way to the bay. Zuko had introduced himself as Lee, saying that he and Lia were siblings. Much to Sokka’s surprise they believed his story. Once they were inside the port Katara looked around shocked.
“I can’t believe how many people’s lives have been uprooted by the war,” she said quietly.
“We’re all looking for a better life. Safe, behind the walls of Ba Sing Se.” Chin, Yeng’s husband said.
“Hey!” Lia suddenly exclaimed. “Look who’s here!” They turned to the direction she pointed. Zuko’s face brightened.
“Uncle!” he cried, hurrying towards the old man. Iroh turned surprised to see them approaching. As if to astonish him more, Zuko pulled him on an embrace.
“Oh! I love group hugs!” Lia said joining them smiling.
“What are you doing here?” Zuko asked smiling his uncle. “I thought you’d be in Ba Sing Se by now.”
“I had some errands to run first,” Iroh explained carefully. He had noticed the family that had obviously tagged along with the kids. “It seems we will be traveling together for now.” He took out a few papers. “I had passports made for you and Lia, just in case.”
“What?” Sokka asked. “We need passports? We don’t have any.”
“I have one.” Toph said. “I believe it will work for everyone.” Sokka looked at her uncertainly. Nevertheless they lined up to get tickets.
Zuko, Lia and Iroh took their tickets with no problem. They moved aside to wait for the rest of the gang. Aang made a movement towards the booth but Toph pushed him aside.
“I’ll take care of this,” she said placing her passport in front of the lady who distributed the tickets. “My name is Toph Bei Fong and I’ll need four tickets,” she all-but-ordered the woman.
“Oh!” the woman exclaimed astonished. “The golden seal of the flying boar. It is my pleasure to help anyone of the Bei Fong family.”
“It is your pleasure,” Toph said mater-of-factly. “As you can see I’m blind and these three are my valets.” Momo jumped on her shoulder.
“But the animal…” the lady began unsurely.
“Is my seeing-eye lemur,” Toph cut her.
“Well normally it’s only one ticket per passport but this document is so official, I guess it’s worth four tickets,” the lady decided. Toph took them and thanked her in the same cold voice.
They moved away, with Sokka sniggering at that lady’s expense:
“All right! We scammed that lady good!” Someone grabbed him roughly from behind. He turned to see a stern-looking girl on security’s uniform.
“Tickets and passports please,” She said.
“Is there a problem?” Sokka asked her nervously.
“Yeah, I got a problem with you,” she told him angrily. “I’ve seen your type before. Probably sarcastic, think you’re hilarious and let me guess, you’re traveling with the Avatar.” Sokka looked at her blankly.
“Do I know you?” he asked her.
“You mean you don’t remember?” she asked grabbing him by the shirt. “Maybe you’ll remember this.” She kissed him lightly on the check. Sokka’s face brightened.
“Suki!” he exclaimed hugging her.
“Sokka, It’s good to see you.” Everyone else approached.
“Guys, you remember Suki?” Sokka asked them glowing.
After a few introductions – Zuko and Lia used their real names, much to everyone’s surprise – they went over to a quiet terrace to catch up.
“You look so different without your make-up,” Katara remarked. “And the new outfit.”
“That crabby lady makes all the security guards wear them.” Suki explained. “And look at you sleeveless guy!” she said to Sokka, “Been working out?”
“I grab a tree branch, do a few exercises every now and then. Nothing major,” the boy said smugly. Katara shot him a disapproving look. Lia had been sitting on the side, looking down at the lines of people preparing for the journey. One particular fellow caught her attention. Something was wrong with him.
“I’ll be right back,” she whispered to Zuko, who had been sitting next to her. He was a little uneasy around the Kyoshi Warrior. His soldiers had caused quite a problem in her village.
“Are the other Kyoshi Warriors around?” Aang asked curiously Suki.
“Yes,” she nodded. “After you left Kyoshi we wanted to find a way to help people. We ended up escorting some refuges and we’ve been here ever since.” Momo jumped next to her, excited to see another familiar face. She laughed and patted his head. “Hi Momo! Good to see you too,” she said to the small lemur. “So, why are you guys getting tickets for the ferry?” she asked them. “Won’t you just fly across on Appa?” Everyone looked away unhappily.
“Appa is missing,” Katara explained. “We hope to find him in Ba Sing Se.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Suki said sincerely. “Are you doing okay?” she asked Aang. The boy looked up to see not only Suki, but everyone in his group – even Zuko – looking at him worried.
“I’m doing fine,” he said angrily. “Would everyone stop worrying about me?”
Suddenly Yeng’s voice was heard.
“Avatar Aang, you have to help us. Someone took all our belongings. Our passports, our tickets, everything’s gone,” she sobbed.
“I’ll talk to the lady for you,” Aang offered, jumping to his feet, grateful for the distraction.
“Wait!” Lia called before he had a chance to make another move. She approached them hurriedly, a few bags on her hands, dragging a man by his shirt. “Are these your things?” she asked Chin. The man nodded surprised. “Suki, I think this is job for you,” Lia said satisfied, shoving the man on the other girl’s feet.
They embarked on the ship that would take them across the lake with no further excitements for what was going to be a two-day trip. Suki had disappeared after she had locked the robber away.
“I can’t believe we won’t say goodbye to Suki,” Sokka whined for the thousandth time.
“I can’t believe you’re still whining about it,” Toph snapped at him.
“Wait! I’m coming too.” Suki caught up with them, dressed in her Kyoshi Warrior uniform. Sokka turned surprised.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked her worried.
“Sokka, I thought you’d want me to come,” she told him surprised.
“I do. It’s just…”
“Nothing. I’m glad you’re com…” Suki passed him before he had a chance to finish his word. Sokka looked at her worried.
The boat was packed with refuges, most of them families with small children. Everyone would take up a little space and set their things there.
“Now it’s only smooth sailing to Ba Sing Se,” Sokka sighed, as he plopped down on the deck. They had left Full Moon Bay half an hour ago. Yeng suddenly doubled in pain.
“Oh no!” she said fearfully.
“What?” Sokka asked.
“The baby’s coming,” she explained.
“What? Now? Can’t you hold it in or something?” Sokka asked.
“Sokka calm down,” Katara ordered her brother. “I’ve helped Gran-Gran deliver lots of babies back home.”
“This isn’t the same as delivering an arctic seal!” He was practically panicking now. “This is a real human thing!”
“It’s called a baby. And I helped to deliver plenty of those too,” his sister said unfazed. She was taking charge now. “Aang get some rags. Sokka water.” She turned to Zuko. “When they bring them, boil the water and clean the rags in it,” she explained. He nodded. The unexpected labour had shocked him too, but he found Sokka was over-reacting.
“Maybe uncle and Toph can go and ask for a proper meal,” he offered. “Yeng will probably need it.” Katara nodded appreciatively. She turned to see Suki and Lia already preparing a tent around the pregnant woman and her family.
“Come with me,” she told them calmly.
The labour was going normally, much to Katara’s relief.
“You’re doing great Yeng,” she said encouragingly to the woman. She turned her head towards the exit. “Sokka, where’s that water?” she yelled at her brother. “Now, get ready to push,” she ordered. “One, two, three, PUSH!” Sokka, who had just entered the tent, fainted. Suki and Lia shared an exasperated glance and dragged him out. He gained consciousness almost immediately. Toph and Iroh had just returned, looking very disappointed. After a while a baby was heard crying from inside the tent.
“It’s a girl!” they heard Katara exclaim.
“So, you wonna go see the baby, or are you going to faint like an old lady again?” Toph asked Sokka teasingly. He stood up, swaying a little.
“No, no! I’m good this time,” he said nervously. Iroh and Zuko followed them inside, passing Katara at the opening. Spotting Aang still sitting she called him.
“Aang, you have to come see this.” The boy entered the tent. Yeng was sitting in the middle of it, visibly exhausted, but glowing, holding her daughter. The baby was still crying, but more quietly now.
“She sound’s healthy,” Toph remarked.
“She’s beautiful,” Katara said in admiration.
“It’s so… squishy looking,” Sokka said scrutinizing the new-born. Zuko shot him a look.
“That’s the best you can do?” he asked him annoyed.
“What should we name her?” Chin wondered.
“I want our daughter’s name to be unique. I want it to mean something.” Yeng said. Aang felt his eyes watering. Katara was right. It was a magical scene.
“I’ve going through a really hard time lately,” he said quietly. “I thought it would be easier if I abandoned hope and bottled away my feelings. I was wrong. To see you so happy together, it made me hopeful again,” he said at the happy family.
“I know what I want to name our baby now,” Yeng said. “Hope.”
“That’s a perfect name,” her husband agreed softly.
They left the family to rest. Once outside, Katara turned expectantly to Iroh and Toph. They shook their heads disappointed.
“We talked with the cook,” Iroh explained. “According to captain’s orders everyone is served the same food.”
“No exceptions,” Toph added, mimicking the bossy voice of the man. Lia’s eyes narrowed.
“And where exactly is the kitchen?” she asked innocently. Zuko caught the undercurrent of her words and told her horrified:
“Oh no! There’s no point on going around stirring trouble.”
“Whatever you say. Blue,” she whispered the last part to him. Zuko looked at her for a long moment. He couldn’t risk to be revealed as the Blue Spirit, but maybe it would help. He still remembered how happy the villagers had been, to discover they had their money back.
“Anyway, I’m going to see if I can help anywhere,” Lia continued. “In a ship that big, I’m willing to bet that a healer can always help.”
“You’re a healer?” Suki asked her surprised. “But you’re a firebender.”
“I’m not as good as Katara, but I can help around.”
“Lia’s right,” Aang said. “We should probably see if anyone needs help.”
“What?” Sokka whined. “Can’t we ever get some rest?”
“Nope!” Lia said happily. They left, each one taking a different route, scattering around the ship.
Zuko and Iroh remained where they were, silently gazing at the horizon. Suddenly Iroh spoke.
“Who would have thought,” he started solemnly, “after all these years, I’d return to the scene of my greatest military disgrace, as a tourist,” he smiled hopefully at his nephew. Zuko had seemed to be more relaxed when he was near Katara, but when they had told them what the cook had said, he had returned to his old, frowning self.
“Look around. We’re not tourist, we’re refuges.” He took a sip from the “soup”, to only spit it out disgusted. “Is this considered food? There is a woman that just gave birth and many small children on this ship. Can’t they give us something better? I’m tired of living like this, not being able to help these people,” he said. No, Iroh amended. He has definitely changed.
“Aren’t we all?” a voice said behind them. He was a young man, he couldn’t be older than Zuko, but like the prince he looked like a seasoned fighter. “My name’s Jet and these are my Freedom Fighters Smelarbee and Longshot.” Two younger teens appeared.
“Hello,” Zuko mumbled, going back to staring at the horizon. He couldn’t guess why this Jet-guy had opened conversation. He couldn’t be the only one complaining!
“Here’s the deal.” Jet continued. “I hear the captain is eating like a king, while us refuges have to feed of the scraps. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?”
“What sort of king is he eating like?” Iroh asked curiously.
“The fat, happy kind.” Iroh’s mouth watered at the thought. “You want to help us… liberate some food?” Jet asked Zuko. The prince stared at the water. An image flashed through his mind’s eye.
“So” he had said slowly, trying to understand the Spirit’s strange moral guide, “if I helped us, but at the same time helped some people who also need it, you wouldn’t consider it wrong?”
Lia had shaken her head. “It would still be wrong, but the outcome would be worth it.”
“I’m in,” Zuko said, wondering what Lia would say about it.
As if he had summoned her by thought, the Spirit appeared, with one small child on her arms and two slightly older following her running. She was laughing carelessly.
“Lee, tell them!” she told her brother pleadingly. “They don’t believe me when I say that the Knowledge Spirit is a giant owl!”
“Wang Shi Tong?” Iroh asked surprised. Where exactly had his nephew been?
“He can’t be!” the oldest of the kids, an eight-year-old boy said.
“And what do you think he looks like?” Zuko asked, kneeling next to him.
“He just can’t!” the kid insisted, obviously not having a better answer.
“Well he is,” Zuko said. “You should believe my sister when it comes to Spirits. She knows more than anyone about them.”
“Was the other thing she said true too?” the other kid, a girl of six, asked.
“What was it?” Zuko asked, stealing a glance at Lia.
“She said that the Blue Spirit broke into a tax-collectors carriage and robbed him, to return the money to the people they were taken by,” the little girl looked amazed.
“It’s true,” Zuko assured her. He turned to Iroh. “Uncle, you know many stories about the Spirits, why don’t you tell them a few?”
“I would be glad,” Iroh said with a giddy expression. Lia left the three children and followed Zuko a bit further, with Jet following.
“I thought you didn’t approve of the Blue Spirit’s actions,” Zuko half-said, half-asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t approve of some of his actions,” The Fire Spirit answered lazily. “Now, what were you two plotting?” she asked carelessly. Jet opened his mouth to deny it but Zuko spoke first.
“We’re going to get some real food for dinner,” he said carefully. One can never be too cautious. “Why don’t you come with us?”
“I’d love to, but I can’t,” Lia sighed. “It’s either me or your Lady girlfriend taking care of these little demons,” she smiled affectionately at the kids, “and she is far better as a healer than I am. So I took up the babysitting.” Zuko had blushed crimson when she had said “your Lady girlfriend”. “Besides,” Lia said standing, “I promised to tell them how prince Zuko kicked admiral Zhao’s butt, more than once.” She stretched the last words, before standing to leave. Zuko and Jet stared at her as she left. Both of them refused to believe, why someone would want to hear this particular story, but for quite different reasons. Jet found unbelievable that a story, even one for small kids, would have the Fire Nation prince as the good guy. Zuko didn’t understand how the kids had learned of it.
When night fell four shadows were quietly slipping on deck, effortlessly melding with the darkness. They found the kitchen easily; it was near the captain’s quarters. Zuko took one look inside and felt his stomach tighten with anger. There was plenty of food in there for everyone. Smelarbee stayed behind, keeping open eyes for any guards, as Zuko used his swords to open the door. He and Jet entered the room and set to work quietly. They had managed to pack enough for almost everyone when Smelarbee called: “Guards coming.” Longshot sent them a rope tied on an arrow. They sent back the food, before climbing down themselves. Just as the rope came down, a guard passed. Unnoticed the four teens left silently.
They handed out the food to the people with Lia’s help, before settling to eat themselves. Zuko briefly wondered where Katara and the rest of them were. He hadn’t seen them around.
“So Smelarbee, that’s an unusual name for a young man,” He absently heard his uncle saying.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not a man,” she spat. “I’m a girl!” She stood and left angrily with Longshot at her heels.
“Oh, now I see,” Iroh called behind her. “It’s a beautiful name for a lovely girl.” Lia laughed.
“This is better than what you said about Aang’s evasing maneuvering!” she told Zuko quietly. He looked at her blankly for a moment. Then the memory came back to him and he laughed too. As they stifled their laugh Jet sat beside them.
“From what I heard, people eat like this every night in Ba Sing Se. I can’t wait to set my eyes on that giant wall.”
“It is a magnificent sight,” Iroh agreed.
“So you’ve been there before?” Jet asked curiously.
“Once,” Iroh said solemnly. “When I was a different man.”
“I’ve done some things in my past that I’m not proud of,” Jet admitted. “But that’s why I’m going to Ba Sing Se. For a new beginning, a second chance.”
“That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances,” Iroh shared a meaningful look with his nephew.
“Only second chances?” Lia asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Jet asked her curiously.
“This.” She said spreading her arms, as if to embrace the whole boat. “This is the third beginning I’ve had in my life. And even though it’s not the best, it’s the only one I’m proud of,” she added cryptically. Zuko looked at her worried. Before he could ask her anything, her face brightened. “Well look who’s here,” she said mischievously. The three men looked up to see a Water Tribe girl approaching them. Jet’s eyes widened.
“Katara?” he said disbelievingly.
The waterbender felt her smile freeze on her lips. What was he doing here? She immediately slid into fighting stance. Zuko and Iroh looked at them surprised. Lia on the other hand had a strange smile, as if she had seen this coming.
“What are you doing here?” Katara asked her voice more cold than the ice she could bend.
“Trying to start over?” Jet told her. He smiled hopefully at the girl. “I swear I’ve changed.”
“Tell that to another girl Jet,” Katara snapped at him, forming a few ice daggers and sending them at the boy. They didn’t have time to hit him. Mid-air they melted and fell like rain on the deck. The waterbender glared at the Fire Spirit. She hadn’t moved, yet her expression was far too innocent. “This is none of your business,” she snapped, before turning on her heel and storming away. Zuko ran after her immediately.
“You shouldn’t have seemed so hopeful,” Lia advised Jet indifferently. He was looking at her suspiciously.
“Are you a waterbender too?” he asked her carefully.
“To the contrary, you could say I’m the complete opposite of water. It’s usually far too cold for my taste.”
“So you’re a firebender?” Jet said his hand immediately on his swords.
“Of course not!” Lia said annoyed. “Why does everyone keep thinking of it? Just because I’m the complete opposite of water, doesn’t mean I’m a bender.”
“You’d better drop the subject Jet,” Iroh advised. “She’s just like her brother. When they get worked up, you can’t talk with them reasonably.” The young man nodded reluctantly. His gaze turned to where Zuko and Katara had disappeared.
“So they’re together?” he said a little disappointed. Iroh nodded.
“The magic of love,” He said dreamingly. Jet stood up.
“It’s getting late,” he said. “I’m going to sleep. Good night.” Once he was outside of earshot Iroh turned to Lia.
“That was a risky move you pulled,” he said sternly.
“It was more risky to let Katara kill him,” she answered yawning. “I think I’m going to sleep too.” She unpacked a blanket and curled up on her side. “Goodnight Iroh.”
“Goodnight my dear,” The old man told her and settled to wait for his nephew to return.
Zuko found Katara at the back of the ship, still trembling with fury. He hesitantly approached her, and put his hands on her shoulders. She twirled to face him, her expression softening only slightly, seeing who it was. She buried herself wordlessly in his embrace.
“Are you okay?” he asked her quietly.
“Does he know who you are?” Katara asked back worried.
“No, but why? How do you know him?” Zuko insisted.
“We came across Jet and his Freedom Fighters a little after the incident with the pirates.” Katara explained approaching the railing and looking down at the water. Zuko silently followed and stood behind her. “At first I was awed by his skills and the good he was doing,” she continued. “But things turned out to be different. There was a city nearby, controlled by the Fire Nation. Jet planned to flood it, so that he could drive the soldiers away. He wouldn’t even stop to consider the consequences this would have for the innocents living in the city. He almost succeeded.”
“Almost?” Zuko asked her, feeling his dislike for the boy rising. Katara nodded.
“Sokka didn’t trust Jet from the beginning. So he left and warned the people in town, to leave. Everyone’s live was saved.”
“You’re not telling me everything are you?” Zuko felt a little bad for pressing her, but he knew from experience that this kind of feelings should be talked out. Katara avoided his gaze guiltily. After what Lia had told her, how could she tell him she had liked Jet?
“It’s not nice, nor something I am proud of,” she said, trying to get out of the situation.
“It can’t be worse than anything I have done,” Zuko said calmly. “Please Katara, tell me?” The waterbender took a deep breath.
“It wasn’t just admiration I felt about Jet,” she began slowly. “He was the first boy I liked. And that’s why I hate him. Because he used this to convince me to help him with his plan.”
“But you didn’t know what he was going to do, did you?” Zuko asked her calmly. He was feeling the jealously burning in his stomach again but he refused to take it out on Katara. It wasn’t her fault.
“No!” she assured him vehemently. “I would never agree to something like that.” She cast him a worried look. Was he mad at her? She searched his eyes and although she saw a little hurt, he was looking her with trust and love. “What did you do?” she asked him hesitantly. Zuko smiled.
“Stole enough food to give everyone a proper meal,” he said. “I hope you don’t have any objections.” To his surprise Katara laughed.
“You’re talking to the girl who stole a waterbending scroll from pirates,” she reminded him.
“Right!” Zuko laughed. A cold breeze sent Katara snuggling next to him. He smiled at the girl. “Remember our fight at the North Pole?” he asked her.
“Uh-huh,” she murmured, resting her head on his shoulder. Zuko gazed at the moon.
“It was the hardest fight of my life,” he said quietly. Katara looked up surprised.
“Why?” she asked. She wasn’t that good at waterbending back then.
“I was worried I was going to hurt you accidentally,” the prince explained. “And to make matters worse, you were so beautiful, bending under the full moon, I wanted to kiss you.” The waterbender blushed. Then she shot him a mischievous glance.
“Like how?” she asked teasingly. Zuko leaned down to her.
“Like this,” he whispered before kissing her passionately. Katara kissed him back with equal passion, feeling like the whole world was spinning around her and Zuko was the only stable thing. When they broke away she smiled at him.
“I could get used to that,” she breathed before kissing him again.
Two decks lower, Sokka was staring at the moon. He felt confused. He knew Suki was more than capable of taking care of herself, and that his antics only annoyed her, but he couldn’t afford to lose her like he had lost Yue. He wouldn’t be able to take it. He heard footsteps approaching.
“It’s a beautiful moon,” Suki said quietly.
“Yeah, it really is,” Sokka sighed, remembering the princess that had become a Spirit. Suki took a seat next to him.
“Look,” she said. “I know you’re just trying to help, but I can take care of myself,” she told him softly.
“I know you can,” Sokka answered.
“Then why are you acting so over-protective?” the Kyoshi Warrior asked.
“It’s so hard to lose someone you care about. Something happened at the North Pole and I couldn’t protect someone,” he admitted. “I don’t want something like that to ever happen again.”
“I lost someone I cared about,” Suki said softly. “He didn’t die, he just ran away and I only had a few days to know him, but he was smart and brave and funny…” Sokka stood up.
“Who is this guy?” he asked annoyed. “Is he taller than me?” some part of his mind (the one that had Toph’s voice) told him that he was reacting like an overprotective boyfriend, but he couldn’t help it.
“No,” Suki said carelessly, “he’s about your height.”
“Is he better looking?” Sokka insisted.
“It is you stupid,” Suki said, standing up too exasperated.
“Oh!” Sokka said, feeling his self-confidence climbing a few steps. They stared at each other’s eyes and Suki leaned forward slowly. Before their lips had a chance to meet, Sokka turned his head.
“I can’t,” he said painfully. He couldn’t do this again.
“I’m sorry,” Suki whispered.
“No, you shouldn’t be,” Sokka turned and left. It was Suki’s time to gaze at the moon.
When Katara woke up the next morning, she saw Aang sitting at the railing, looking at the horizon. The city wall was beginning to appear beyond the early morning fog. She stood up and went over him, pausing only to cover Zuko and Toph, who had somehow managed to crawl out of their sleeping bags during their sleep.
“You’re up early,” She said to the boy, approaching him. “Are you okay?”
“You were holding hands with Zuko in your sleep,” Aang said colourlessly. He refused to look at her, instead glaring at the horizon. “What’s going on between you two?”
“I didn’t mean for you to learn it like this,” Katara said sadly. “But Zuko and I…” she trailed off hesitating. She didn’t want to hurt Aang.
“You’re in love,” Aang finished the sentence. “Do the others know?”
“Lia definitely and Toph probably does,” Katara said, feeling her cheeks bloom at the mention of the l-word. “I wanted to tell you once we reached Ba Sing Se, and found Appa.”
“About this…” Aang took a deep breath. “Maybe I should go ahead and look for him. You are safe on the ship and then once you get out of it, you will be inside Ba Sing Se, even safer.”
“That’s a good idea,” Katara agreed relieved. He had taken it much better than she had imagined. Aang opened his glider.
“Will you say goodbye to the others for me?” She nodded. “And tell Zuko that if he dares hurt you, not even the Spirit of Fire will be able to save him.” Katara laughed.
“I’ll tell him. See you soon Aang.” The airbender nodded once and then took off.
“What do you mean he left?” Sokka asked disbelievingly.
“Sokka, I told you! We’ll meet up with Aang inside the city. He just went ahead to look for Appa!” Katara explained for he thousandth time.
“Well, I hope he gives that big fuzz-ball a hug from me when he finds him,” Toph said cheerfully. Lia laughed, before returning to her packing.
“Are you going to help or what?” she asked playfully. Once almost everything was ready, Suki approached Sokka. They had been avoiding each other the whole morning.
“Sokka, it’s been really nice to see you,” she said. The warrior looked up.
“Whoa, hold on,” he exclaimed. “Why does it sound like you’re saying goodbye?”
“I came along because I wanted to make sure you made it through the lake safely,” she explained. “But now I need to get back to the other Kyoshi Warriors.”
“So you came along to protect me?” Sokka looked at her incredulously.
“Listen, I’m really sorry about last night,” Suki said blushing. “We were talking and saying things… I got carried away and before I knew it I…” Sokka didn’t let her finish, instead he leaned down and kissed her.
“You talk too much,” he told her, before kissing her again.
A little further, Zuko and Katara were saying their own farewells.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked him sadly.
“We’ll try to keep a low profile. We’re wanted men in both the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation.” He tried to sound careless. It didn’t really work, because now Katara was looking at him worried. “I promise we’ll be okay,” he told her.
“Can I come and see you once you settle?” Katara asked hopefully.
“Of course!” Zuko assured her. “Just look around for good tea. Uncle Iroh will probably be near it and…”
“And you’ll be near your uncle,” Katara smiled. She cast a careful look around her. No one was paying attention to them. She gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “Until we see each other again,” she whispered. Zuko was staring at her as she left.
“You are soooo in love,” Lia approached him smiling slightly, with Iroh right behind her. The old man waited for his nephew to deny it angrily, but he merely stood there smiling.
“I don’t see why this is bad,” Zuko finally said.