Tag Archives: fanfic

This is a fangirl post about Dr Strange

Standard

And there will be SPOILERS! You have been warned! I finally watched it amidst a horrible cold that left me with the mother of all scratchy throats and slightly feverish. It was all very much worth it in the end!

I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t been twitching impatiently about this movie since it was first announced on the rota. I’m not gonna lie and say I did not love the posters. I’m definitely not gonna lie and say that when this scene played on the trailer I didn’t cheer.

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για dr strange trailer screenshot

-looks around- Ok, I think this is enough to hide the spoilers from showing up on any thumbnail-sized previews or whatever. Now on to the proper stuff. My only actual contact with the character before this was the (admittedly meh) animated movie which -ironically- handled the exact same storyline. So basically going in on the theatre I knew the bare minimum about the character, that this was an origin story and that they had shamelessly whitewashed the Ancient One. I had this pipe dream of seeing him being played by Mako but unfortunately the film was made a few years too late. But let’s be real here. Uncle Iroh mentoring Dr Strange to the mystic arts would have been a gift. Not that Swindon was not badass on the role, just a pet peeve of mine I suppose. The character of Steven Strange (Doctor! Must not forget the title!) initially reminded me a little of Sherlock but I’ll have to rewatch the movie (what a tragedy, indeed!) to tell if that was character bleed or just me being used to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch as a detective. Although, with Martin Freeman officially on the MCU boat I am hoping for at least a reference joke at some point!

Other than any hypothetical character confusion, I liked Strange’s character. His arc was believable as a man of science thrust head-deep to the mystical and I liked that he kept his pragmatism and flexibility of morals (not sure if that’s the right word choice but there’s a French film playing in the background here and it’s hella distracting). The majority of characters were believable in the portrayals, except for Mordo’s Heel-Faced Turn in the end was a tad (ok, a lot!) out of nowhere. Especially accounting for the end-credit scene… I liked that the romance, what little was there, was not the central focus, and honestly I see these two more as friends than lovers. Also anyone who can receive surgical instruction by the astral projection of her patient without having a full-blown panic attack is a person worthy of admiration in my book.

Speaking of side characters that are full of win, I’d like to spotlight the Cape. Not only it looks awesome and it makes you fly but that thing has an attitude. And seems to be insanely protective of its owner. I’m really curious to learn who was its creator, but my money’s on Merlin. He just seems to be the type to enchant the leaving daylights out of a piece of fabric…. Favourite scene had to be after the Ancient One dies at the Hospital where it looks like the poor thing was actually trying to comfort him!

I’ll leave the discussion of special effects and the like to those who can offer more feedback than “That looked cool!” In my case they were, indeed, cool. And surprisingly not-migraine-inducing. Unlike Inception that my brother likened the film to. I resent the comparison! Leonardo diCaprio wasn’t nearly as charming! (My personal opinion, I don’t why I don’t like that guy but I just can’t!) Anyway, what else is there to talk about? The Cameo was awesome as usual, definitely top 5-worthy, and the mid-credits scene, oh the mid-credits scene!

—quick author’s note: I nearly fell off my keyboard from sleepiness at that point last night so I’m continuing now—

Now where was I? Oh yes, the mid-credits scene! The internet is already going on and on about a potential bromance between Dr Strange and Thor, and yes their chemistry was pretty cool. But here’s what I want to see:

My though favourite British actors (and Marvel characters), together, on screen, in character, snarking about their more hit-first-ask-later companions or geeking over some spell or other. The Avengers -Thor included- in a corner in various stages of shock because this is their supposed archnemesis and he’s conjuring floating cups of tea and talking multidimentional travel and the fine details of spellcraft with their newest member like it’s last night’s football match. And then Tony is like, “Screw this, I’m curious” and jumps in the conversation and next thing you know they need to be convinced that lightsabers are probably not a good idea against Thanos.

Anyone know any fics like this or do I need to dust my typewriter?

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Headband

Standard

Author’s note: In which there are undercover missions, fashion tribulations, secret dates, dancing and Sokka being Sokka.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Headband***

A strange cloud appeared over the little island. No one bothered to look at it but if someone had, they’d have seen in steadily losing altitude.

“I think I see a cave below,” Aang said, squinting his eyes to see through their self-created cloud.

“Shush… keep quiet!” Sokka scolded him. The cloud disappeared thanks to Aang’s airbending and Sokka jumped to the ground, looking around suspiciously. He crossed his arms and frowned disapprovingly. “Great job with the cloud cameo, but next time, let’s disguise ourselves as the kind of cloud who knows how to keep its mouth shut.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want a bird to hear us chatting up there and turn us in,” Toph scoffed.

“Hey! We’re in enemy territory. Those are enemy birds!” Sokka insisted. One bird landed on his head and squawked. The rest of the teens laughed and climbed off Appa. There was a cave near them and they moved to get in. Sokka jumped in front of them, scanning the ground. Zuko rolled his eyes and yanked him to his feet.

“You’re being paranoid,” he told him.

 

Sokka glared at the older boy before turning to the others.

“Well, this is it. This is how we’ll be living until the invasion begins. Hiding in cave after cave…after cave…after cave…” His expression fell at the prospect. Katara sighed.

“Sokka, we don’t need to become cave people. What we need is some new clothes.” She raised her Fire Nation cape to show her clothes. Aside from being Water Tribe they were in desperate need for mending.

“Yeah, blending in is better than hiding out. If we get Fire Nation disguises, we’ll be just as safe as we would be hiding in a cave,” Aang added.

“Plus…they have real food out there. Does anyone wanna sit in the dirt and eat cave-hoppers?” Toph underlined her words punching the wall. A few cave-hopers appeared and Momo rushed to stuff his mouth. Aang turned slightly green.

“Looks like we got outvoted, sport,” Sokka told the lemur. He turned to the others. “Let’s get some new clothes.”

 

It didn’t take long for them to find a laundry place nearby. Katara and Lia started immediately to scan the lines from afar, looking for something to wear.

“I don’t know about this,” Aang said unsure. “These clothes belong to somebody.”

“I call the silk robe!” Katara took off, having spotted her future outfit. Lia was immediately after her.

“I call the dress!” they heard her say. It looked like fun.

“But if it’s essential to our survival…” Aang began and smiled, “then I call the suit!” Interestingly it was Sokka who took the most finding something he liked. Zuko just picked up a vest and stored his armour on Appa’s saddle next to Lia’s. It felt strange to be in civilian Fire Nation clothes after so long.

 

“Ta-dah! Normal kid!” Aang said tying a headband on his head to hide his arrow. Sokka was also ready. Toph seemed to have a slight problem. Her clothes resembled her Earth Kingdom ones (thanks to Lia) but now she was supposed to wear shoes for the first time in many years.

“Hmm…I should probably wear them,” she said hesitantly, “but then I won’t be able to see as well. Sorry shoes!” She sat down and popped the soles out of her shoes. They hit Sokka in the face. Standing up again, Toph sighed. “Finally, a stylish shoe for the blind earthbender.”

“How do I look?” they heard Katara ask. Zuko and Aang took a look at her and turned red. She was wearing scarlet capri pants with a lighter red silk skirt and a top that left the one shoulder free. Aang noticed something.

“Uh…” he said tentatively. “Your mom’s necklace.” Katara’s expression fell as she realised the problem.

“Oh…oh, yeah. I guess it’s pretty obviously Water Tribe, isn’t it?” she took it out and stored it along with her clothes.

 

Zuko fingered reluctantly the small package in his pocket. He had been working on it for quite some time now but still was reluctant to give it to Katara. Lia nudged him as they began walking towards the nearest town.

“Go give it to her,” she told him, motioning towards Katara.

“But what if she doesn’t like it?” Zuko asked unsure. Lia rolled her eyes.

“She loves you,” she said plainly. “Of course she’ll like it!” With a last wary look the firebender sprinted to catch up with his girlfriend. Lia watched their exchange with an amused smile that only widened when Katara squealed and hugged Zuko.

“What’s the big deal?” Toph asked, confused by their vibrations.

“Look what Zuko gave me!” the waterbender showed everyone her new Fire Nation-style necklace.

“Wow! It looks wonderful!” Toph said sarcastically.

“Sorry,” Katara said sheepishly before handing it to the younger girl. Toph traced the carvings carefully.

“It is nice,” she decided finally. “Good job Sparky.”

 

There was a small town nearby where they bought a few accessories to go with their new outfits. Lia also bought a vest to stop Zuko’s grumbling. Her dress was tying with two thin strings around her neck and her brother insisted that she should wear something over it. Aang made sure to hide Momo inside his jacket, wanting to avoid any questions.

“I used to visit my friend Kuzon here a hundred years ago. So everyone just follow my lead and stay cool. Or as they say in the Fire Nation – “Stay flaming”!” Zuko raised an eyebrow but said nothing. This should be entertaining… he thought amused.

“Greetings, my good Hotman!” Aang called to a random citizen as they walked by.

“Uh, hi. I guess?” the man said unsure. The rest of the kids passed trying to look innocent.

 

Sokka laid them to a butcher’s shop.

“Oh, we’re going to a meat place?” Aang said disappointed.

“Come on, Aang,” Sokka said exasperated. “Everyone here eats meat,” he pointed at a hippo-cow. “…even the meat!” Aang made a face of disgust.

“You guys go ahead,” he decided. “I’ll just get some lettuce out of the garbage.” The teens entered the shop as Aang started nodding to the passer-bys.

“Hotman, hotman, hotman hotman hotman…” he stopped short when three officials approached.

“It’s over, we caught you,” the leader said.

“Who me?” Aang asked, trying to sound innocent.

“It couldn’t be more obvious that you don’t belong here,” the man pointed out. Aang tensed, ready to be arrested. “Next time you play hooky, you might want to take off your school uniform,” the man said sternly. Aang laughed awkwardly before following them to the school building near the end of the town.

 

Aang returned to the cave at night, his clothes full of soot traces. Katara stood when he entered, her hands on her hips.

“Where have you been? We’ve been worried sick!”

“I got invited to play with some kids after school,” Aang said cheerfully.

“After what?” Sokka and Zuko shouted simultaneously.

“I enrolled in a Fire Nation school, and I’m going back tomorrow,” Aang explained, still smiling. Sokka looked ready to have an aneurism.

“Enrolled in what?” Toph kicked his legs forcing him to sit down. Aang took his seat near the fire and told him about his day.

 

Zuko had been schooled by tutors at the palace so it wasn’t his place to speak, but even that experience had been so horrible that he couldn’t understand why would anyone want have a go. Sokka seemed to share his sentiments.

“Aang, I’m trying to be mature and not immediately shoot down your idea. But it sounds…really terrible,” he said.

“Yeah, we got our outfits. What do you need to go to school for?” Toph made a noise of disgust when she said school.

“Every minute I’m in that classroom. I’m learning new things about the Fire Nation. I already have a picture of Fire Lord Ozai.” Zuko flinched at the sight of his father. “And here’s one that I made out of noodles!” Aang continued taking out another paper. Lia snatched it out of his hands.

“That’ll be good for target practice…” she muttered.

“Impressive, I admit. But I still think it’s too dangerous,” Sokka insisted. Aang raised an eyebrow.

“I guess we’ll never find out about the secret river then. It goes right to the Fire Lord’s palace. We were supposed to learn about it in class tomorrow…” he trailed off. Sokka paused thoughtfully.

“Hmm… I am a fan of secret rivers.” He stood up. “Fine, let’s stay a few more days.” Aang jumped to his feet ecstatic.

“Flamey-o, Hotman!” he shouted before rushing on Appa’s side to inform his friend of his plans.

“Flamey-o??” Sokka asked Zuko. The prince shrugged, equally clueless.

 

When Aang returned at noon the next day his face had a look of impending doom. After his explanations silence reigned for a whole minute. Then his words sunk in.

“What do you mean you have to bring your parents?” Zuko yelled at the boy, the campfire almost reaching the ceiling behind him.

“It wasn’t my fault…” Aang tried to say, feeling very much like he was being scolded by a very strict father.

“It doesn’t matter Aang!” Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose frustrated. “Which of us do you think could be passed as your parents? What have you even told them at that school?”

“That I’m from the colonies,” Aang said in a small voice.

“I could be the father,” Sokka said behind them in an over-exaggerated adult’s voice. They turned to see him sporting a beard and a very stern look. Aang gulped. “Katara could be the mother,” he continued. Indeed after Lia had fixed the waterbender’s hair and had rolled Zuko’s vest under the girl’s vest, she could pass as a young pregnant woman.

“I hope this works,” she sighed.

 

The headmaster was a stiff, old man that could be mistaken for an Admiral rather than a teacher.

“Thank you for coming, Mr and Mrs…”
“Fire!” Sokka said in his fake voice. “Wang Fire. This is my wife, Sa Fire.” Katara sent him a mild glare before smiling pleasantly at the headmaster.

“Sapphire Fire, nice to meet you.”
“Mr and Mrs…Fire,” the headmaster sighed. “Your son has been enrolled here for two days, and he’s already causing problems. He’s argued with his history teacher, disrupted music class, and roughed up my star pupil.”

“My goodness!” Katara feigned shock. “That doesn’t sound like our Kuzon.”

“That’s what any mother would say, ma’am,” the headmaster said calmly. “Nonetheless, you’re forewarned. If he acts up one more time, I’ll have him sent to reform school… by which I mean the coal mines. Are we clear?”

“Don’t you worry, Mr Headmaster. I’ll straighten this boy out something’ fierce.” Sokka turned to his “son”. “Young man, as soon as we get home, you’re gonna get the punishment of a lifetime!” he yelled.

“That’s what I like to hear,” the headmaster concluded.

 

Sokka waited until they were safely back at the cave before he exploded.

“THAT SETTLES IT!” he yelled. “NO MORE SCHOOL FOR YOU YOUNG MAN!” He straightened his posture and stroked his beard in a self-satisfied manner. Zuko shuddered.

“You sounded like my father,” he told the Water Tribe boy. Aang sighed.

“I’m not ready to leave. I’m having fun for once, just being a normal kid. You don’t know what it’s like, Sokka. You get to be normal all the time.” Toph burst out laughing at that. Even Lia snickered a little. Sokka scowled at them.

“Listen, guys, those kids at school are the future of the Fire Nation. If we wanna change this place for the better, we need to show them a little taste of freedom,” Aang tried to convince them.

“What could you possibly do for a country of depraved little fire monsters?” Sokka asked. Zuko slapped him on the head.

“I’m gonna throw them… a secret dance party!” Aang said enthusiastically. Everyone’s jaw hit the floor from the shock. Sokka was the first to recover.

“Go to your room!” he said in Wang Fire’s voice.
It took a lot of pleading but Aang managed somehow to convince them to host the party in the cave. By way of revenge Toph had dragged Aang away for some earthbending practice with Lia as their referee, while Sokka set on organising their schedule until the invasion. Zuko and Katara had sneaked away to enjoy a small picnic. They were sitting on the top of the cave, looking at the sunset.

“Aren’t the colours beautiful?” Katara said motioning at the sky.

“You are,” Zuko whispered, too busy looking at her to watch the sky. Katara blushed a little. She was still getting used to on being showered by complements.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too,” He said back before he kissed her.

 

Before things had a chance to escalate a cough was heard from the background. Toph appeared from behind some rocks.

“Excuse me lovebirds but Sokka needs your help setting up.” The two teens looked up in irritation.

“Can’t you see we’re busy?” Zuko said before returning to kissing Katara.

“Oh, okay,” Toph turned to leave. As she walked away they heard her shout something. “Sokka, Katara and her boyfriend are busy right now!”

“What?” the warrior said, running up the cliff. He simply saw the two teens gathering their things from the picnic.

“We were just coming down,” Katara said annoyed. Sokka shot them a suspicious glance, but followed them without a comment.

 

The cave was almost ready for the party. Toph had made a stand for the band, Zuko and Lia had lighted candles all over the place and Katara was preparing beverages.

“I can’t believe we’re having a dance party. It seems so… silly,” Sokka said to no one in particular. He still couldn’t get how they talked him into this.

“Don’t think of it as a dance party, but as a cultural event celebrating the art of fancy footwork.” Aang gave an example of the fancy footwork. Even a three-hour practice with Toph hadn’t quelled his energy. Suddenly the earthbender looked up alarmed.

“They’re coming! Everyone stop bending!” Aang approached Appa.

“Sorry, buddy. You should probably wait out back.” Appa groaned but walked further inside the cave nevertheless. “I know,” Aang said. “You’ve got fancier feet than anybody…and six of them!”

 

A few of the kids had brought musical instrument and were now playing a quick melody. Aang was ecstatic.

“Ladies and gentlemen, The Flamey-os! Yeah, this ought to get everybody moving.” He looked around but none of the Fire Nation kids were moving from their places at the walls of the cave.

“Now what do we do?” a boy asked.

“This is when you start dancing,” Aang explained.

“I don’t think my parents want me dancing in a cave,” another boy said nervously.

“Yeah, what if someone finds out?” his friend said scared. On the side Aang caught sight of Zuko shaking his head.

“Oh, boy!” Aang scratched his head and took a determined expression. “Listen, guys…dancing isn’t something you think about. It’s a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you.”

“Maybe it was different in the colonies, Kuzon. But we don’t do that here,” the first boy said.

“Sure you do. You have for generations.” Everyone’s eyes turned to Lia as she walked up next to Aang. She gave him a mischievous smile. “It just so happens that I know several classic fire nation dances. A hundred years ago, this was known as ‘the Phoenix flight.’” She did the move, he dress and her trailing behind her like the wings of a bird. Aang took his cue.

“And this was the ‘camelephant strut’.” He did another, more complex move, landing in front of a few girls who blushed and giggled before jumping back to the centre of the cave.
Katara and Toph were sitting nearby, observing Aang. Toph’s face broke into a smile.

“Who knew Twinkletoes could dance?” she wondered, her mind drifting to the first nickname she had given him: the Fancy Dancer. Aang landed in front of a girl who had introduced herself as On Ji and led her in the middle of the dance floor.

“And this is how they do it in the ballrooms of Ba Sing Se,” he showed her the move and she began coping him. Soon more kids followed their example and began loosening up.

“Wow,” Sokka said impressed. “They look pretty good together.” Toph frowned.

“Eh, if that’s what you like,” she said dismissively. Aang appeared out of nowhere and dragged her to her feet.

“Come on Toph!” he said as he led her to the dance floor. “Yeah, that’s it. That’s the sound of happy feet. All right, go with that. Everybody freestyle!” he instructed the rest of the kids.
Katara sat nervously alone. Even Toph was dancing now, only with Aang of course, but she seemed to be having a great time. Katara wasn’t so sure she could walk up there and try the same. A shadow fell in front of her and she looked up to see Zuko extending his hand with a shy smile.

“I don’t know, Zuko. These shoes aren’t really right for dancing, and I’m not sure that I know how to…” she trailed off nervously.

“Take my hand,” Zuko said softly.

“Okay,” Katara allowed him to lead her to the dance floor.

“Remember our fights,” he whispered and they started circling each other, their arms in the air, wrists barely touching. Noticing the new pair most kids stopped dancing and turned to their direction.

“Zuko, everyone’s watching,” Katara muttered nervously.

“Don’t mind them,” Zuko whispered back. “It’s just you and me now.” Katara blushed and they continued on with their dance more confident. Lia paused from her own dancing a little further and turned to look at them. With a small smile she took a discreet firebending stance. Their audience looked awed as two thin trails of fire, a red for Zuko and a blue for Katara followed their movements. They finished in a pose way too intimate for Sokka’s taste and the crowd cheered.

 

The party was now in full swing. Even the most embarrassed and awkward kids had loosened up and were dancing, in various degrees of skill.

“This is incredible. It’s like my inhibitions just disappeared!” A boy said. Suddenly a few shadows appeared at the entrance of the cave. The school’s headmaster had obviously been tipped about the party and he had come, bringing along soldiers. The Fire Nation kids froze. “Okay. They’re…back again,” the boy muttered. Aang passed oblivious, still dancing. He froze when he heard the headmaster.

“He’s the one we want. The boy with the headband!”

“Uh-oh!” Aang gulped and disappeared running amongst the kids.

The guards dashed frantically amongst the students, trying to find Aang. The airbender managed to sneak unnoticed at the back of the cave where the rest of the gang waited for him. One of the kids turned and winked at them as they made their exit. Aang bowed Fire Nation style before closing the tunnel behind him with an earthbending move.

 

In a matter of minutes they were on Appa, flying away.

“We’re safe, Sokka,” Katara said with a smile from her position snuggling on Zuko’s warm chest. “You can take off the moustache, now.”

“Oh, no, I can’t. It’s permanently glued to my skin,” Sokka answered in the voice of an emperor. Apparently the role of Wang Fire suited him.

“Way to go, Dancypants. I think you really did help those kids. You taught them to be free.” Toph smiled at Aang’s direction.

“I don’t know. It was just a dance party, that’s all,” Aang said blushing at the compliment.

“Well, that was some dance party, Aang,” Katara chuckled. Surprising everyone, Toph leaned and kissed softly Aang on the cheek.

“Thanks for the dance,” she muttered softly, before turning her back to everyone and pretending to sleep. Aang looked at her with wide eyes before smiling and lying down himself.

“Goodnight Toph,” he said softly. “Night everyone!”
Sokka chuckled at the exchange and turned to make a comment to his sister. The words died in his throat as he noticed her and Zuko asleep in each other’s arms. He sucked a breath ready to yell at them but Lia placed a hand in his mouth silencing him.

“What does this mean?” he hissed, pointing at Katara and Zuko’s direction.

“What does it look like?” Lia answered calmly. Sokka’s face turned purple.

“But my sister… he… Fire Nation… enemy…” he managed to choke out. Lia rolled her eyes and lied down.

“Goodnight Sokka,” she said, leaving a very pissed Water Tribe boy to stir Appa.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Awakening

Standard

Author’s note: In which there are tensions, plan-making and Avatar-yelling. Also, in which the author would like to apologise for last chapter’s cheesy ending. I was feeling nostalgic….

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Awakening***

Aang drifted back into consciousness slowly and painfully. His whole body hurt and he could feel bandages covering his arms and torso. Managing to sit on his bed he blinked a few times to clear his vision. A wave of pain came through his stomach.

“What happened?” Aang muttered confused. Looking around for the first time he realized that he was on a Fire Nation ship. His eyes widened. Azula captured me. Scrambling off his bed Aang made a beeline for the door. He grabbed his staff from its resting place not pausing to think why the Fire princess would leave it there. Limping through the corridors Aang tried to find his way on deck. Coming out of a corner he saw two soldiers standing a little far ahead. He gasped and quickly hid behind the corner again.

“You hear something?” one of the soldiers asked.

 

Aang decided to use whatever element of surprise he had. He jumped out of his hiding place and bended a strong air current to the soldiers. As they shielded themselves Aang ran between them, down the corridor.

“He’s awake!” the taller soldier exclaimed. They ran after him and Aang tried desperately to stay ahead. “Stop, wait!” the soldier called. He ignored them and seeing a small staircase in front of him he half-limped, half-airbended himself on deck. He ended up on lying on his stomach, the staff having been tossed on the other side of the deck. In front of him he saw Momo being petted by   Zuko who was wearing a Fire Nation armour. More men were scattered here and there wearing armours. The prince looked up when he heard the sound of Aang bursting out. Momo squealed happily and rushed to the boy, licking his cheek.

“Momo?” Aang asked uncertainly. He heard Toph’s voice.

“Twinkle-Toes, that’s got to be you!” She and Katara rushed to his side along with a smiling Zuko, Lia and another soldier, this one wearing a helmet.

“Aang, you’re awake!” Katara said relieved and happier than anyone had heard her for quite some time. Aang rubbed his eyes.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I feel like I’m dreaming.” Toph lunged herself at him, hugging him furiously.

“You’re not dreaming. You’re finally awake,” Katara assured him. The soldier with the helmet gave Aang a quick hug.

“Aang, good to see you back with the living, buddy,” a familiar voice said. Aang looked incredulous.

“Sokka?” he asked. His eyes rolled to his head and the last thing he heard was Toph.

“Uh-oh!” she said worried. “Somebody catch him, he’s gonna…” Aang fell to the ground unconscious before anyone was quick enough to catch him. “…faint.”

 

It took only two minutes for Aang to wake up again. Zuko handed him a cloak which the Avatar put on gratefully. He turned to Katara who was sitting in front of him.

“Why are we on a Fire Nation ship? Why is everyone dressed this way? And why am I the only one out of it?” Katara placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You need to take it easy, okay? You got hurt pretty bad.” She gave him a small smile. “I like your hair.” Shocked Aang touched his head.

“I have hair? How long was I out?” he panicked. Katara chuckled.

“A few weeks.”

 

Hakoda approached them worried.

“Everything okay?” he asked. Katara rolled her eyes annoyed.

“We’re fine dad,” she snapped. Hakoda offered his hand to Aang.

“I’m Hakoda, Katara and Sokka’s father,” he introduced himself. Katara huffed.

“He knows who you are. I just called you ‘Dad’, didn’t I?” Aang shot her a surprised look as Hakoda’s small smile fell.

“I guess you’re right,” he said. Aang extended his arm on a warrior’s handshake.

“Nice to officially meet you, Chief Hakoda.”

“It’s an honour to meet you,” The man said back. Katara simply waved her hand.

“Great, great. Now you guys have finally met, so would you mind giving us a little privacy?”

“Of course,” her father sighed and walked off to Appa. Aang looked at the waterbender curiously.

“Are you mad at your dad or something?” he asked tentatively. She looked at him surprised.

“What? Not at all, why would you say that?” she asked confused. Aang shrugged and immediately doubled over as pain shot from his back.

“Maybe we should go upstairs,” Katara decided. “You need a healing session.”

 

With Lia’s help Katara carried Aang back to his room. There the Spirit leaned on the wall, looking them with a measuring gaze as Katara knelt behind her patient and placed the glowing water on his back.

“Tell me where your pain feels most intense,” she instructed him. Aang squeezed his eyes shut and grunted a little.

“A little higher,” he told her. He gasped as the ghost pain from the lightning hit him again. “Wow, you are definitely in the right area there,” he mumbled.

“I can feel a lot of energy twisted up around there. Let me just see if I can…”

 

Katara tentatively drew her water back, coaxing the trapped energy to follow it. Aang arched his back, letting out a grunt of pain. He took a few deep breaths, trying to recover from the shock and looked alarmed at the girls.

“I went down! I didn’t just get hurt, did I? It was worse than that. I was gone.” He turned to face Katara. “But you brought me back.” The girl shrugged.

“I just used the spirit water from the North Pole. I don’t know what I did, exactly.”

“You saved me,” he told her plainly. Katara eased him on his bed.

“You need to rest,” she told him before leaving the room with Lia.

 

Later that night Zuko heard a knock on his door. He was about to get ready for bed and the only one he could think of coming to visit him at this hour was Katara. His face fell a little when he saw Lia standing at his door but he let her in anyway. The past weeks she would scribble down furiously in any piece of parchment she could get her hands on, always making sure no one saw what was written on it. And now here she was with the expression of someone mentally preparing themselves for an argument.

“You are going to be mad at me,” she said decisively. Zuko looked at her confused.

“Why? Did you set someone on fire?” Lia gave him a small wink but quickly put her serious expression on.

“I took my sweet time telling you this but there was hardly any appropriate time earlier.” She took a deep breath. “I found your mother.”

 

Zuko looked at her thunderstruck.

“She’s alive?” he finally whispered, throwing himself to a chair next to her.

“Alive, well and happy now that she knows you are okay too,” Lia assured him.

“You spoke with her?” She nodded. Her words sank in at last. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME EARLIER?” Zuko shouted, hurt that she had indeed taken her “sweet time”. Lia glared at him a little but didn’t shout back.

“When?” she asked him. “While we were running from Azula, trying to convince Hakoda that yes you won’t murder everyone in their sleep or the last two weeks when you had decided to spend half your time in the engine room and the other half revising Sokka’s plan?” her voice started to rise too but she controlled herself. Zuko lowered his head.

“It’s just…” he said quietly now. “It almost feels like a dream that after all these years my wish came true.” Lia smiled gently.

“I promise you Zuko,” she said. “Your mother will see you in your coronation. But for now she is safer in anonymity. Once everything is over we’ll go together and bring her back to the palace.” The younger firebender gave her a small smile.

“That would be nice,” he said. That night he dreamt of his mother.

 

The next morning they were all eating breakfast on the deck. Sokka was sitting in the middle on the group of friends and was filling in Aang on what he had missed…when his mouth was not completely full of noodles.

“After what happened in Ba Sing Se, we had to get you to safety,” he explained. “We flew back to Chameleon Bay, where we found my father and the other Water Tribe men. The Earth King decided he wanted to travel the world in disguise, so he set off alone.”

“Not completely alone,” Toph jumped in. “That creepy bear-thing-pet of his followed him.”

“Soon, the bay was overrun with Fire Nation ships,” Sokka continued after an annoyed look which Toph didn’t see. “Rather than fight them all, we followed Zuko’s plan, captured a single ship and made it our disguise.” He unrolled a map and showed their route to the Avatar. “Since then, we’ve been traveling west. We crossed through the Serpent’s Pass a few days ago. We’ve seen a few Fire Nation ships, but none have bothered us.”

“So, what now?” Aang asked confused.

“We’ve been working on a modified version of the invasion plan,” Hakoda explained. Katara shot him an annoyed look.

“It’s Sokka’s invasion plan,” she corrected him.

“Yes, Sokka’s plan,” Hakoda repeated uneasily. He turned back to Aang. “We won’t be able to mount a massive invasion without the Earth King’s armies, but the solar eclipse will still leave the Fire Nation vulnerable.”

“So we’re planning a smaller invasion,” Sokka continued. “Just a ragtag team of our friends and allies from around the Earth Kingdom. We already ran into Pipsqueak and The Duke.” He pointed at said people.

“Good to see you again, Aang,” Pipsqueak said.

“And the best part is, the eclipse isn’t even our biggest advantage!” He leaned towards Aang and whispered as if fearing someone might overhear them. “We have a secret. You!”

“Me? “ Aang looked at him confused. The whole world knew he was back.

“Yep, the whole world thinks you’re dead!” Sokka stood up enthusiastically. “Isn’t that great?” Aang looked at him shocked.

“The world thinks I’m dead? How is that good news? That’s terrible!” he finally managed to say.

“No, it’s great,” Sokka insisted. “It means the Fire Nation won’t be hunting us anymore. And even better, they won’t expect you on the Day of Black Sun.” Aang shook his head.

“No, no, no, no, no. You have no idea. This is so messed up!” He clutched his head frustrated.

 

From somewhere nearby a horn was heard. They all looked up alarmed to see another ship approaching them. Zuko squinted his eyes.

“They’re signalling us to stop,” he informed Hakoda. Aang took out his glider.

“I’ll handle this. The Avatar is back!” However, even the simple movement it took to open his glider made him double in pain. He ignored it and took position to take off.

“You’re going to give our cover away,” Lia pointed out calmly. “They think we are Fire Nation.” Aang lowered his head resigned and closed his glider.

“Everyone just stay calm,” Hakoda ordered putting on his helmet. “Bato and I will take care of this.”

 

Pipsqueak and The Duke hurriedly covered Appa with a piece of tarp, making him look like a bulky mass of cargo. Momo quickly hid next to his friend. The kids hid on the staircase that led below deck with the exception of Zuko and Lia who wore helmets and decided impromptu to act as “soldiers”.

“I hate not being able to do anything,” Aang muttered. Toph heard him and rolled her eyes.

“Hopefully, you won’t need to,” she snapped at him.

 

A bridge was put between the two ships and a Fire Nation officer accompanied by two soldiers crossed to their ship. Hakoda bowed to the man.

“Commander, why are you off course? All Western Fleet ships are supposed to be moving toward Ba Sing Se to support the occupation,” the officer demanded.

“Actually, we’re from the Eastern Fleet. We have orders to deliver some cargo,” Hakoda improvised quickly. The man seemed to believe him.

“Ah, Eastern Fleet. Well, nice of Admiral Chan to let us know he was sending one of his ships our way.”

“I am sure Admiral Chan meant no disrespect, sir,” Bato assured him hurriedly.

“I mean, how hard is it to write a quick note and send a hawk our way?” the officer insisted. By the looks of it this Admiral wasn’t the most helpfully person to work with.

“Next time, we’ll send two hawks to be sure you get the message,” Hakoda assured him.

 

He and Bato bowed to the officer and he bowed back. As he turned to leave a soldier whispered to him:

“Sir, Admiral Chan has been on leave for two months at Ember Island.”

“What? Why doesn’t anyone ever tell me anything? Something’s not right. They should’ve known that. I think this is a captured ship,” he lowered his voice. “Just stay quiet until we’re safely across the ramp. Then we’ll sink this ship.” He didn’t count on Toph’s exhalent hearing though. She jumped from her hiding place.

“They know!” she shouted before metalbending the bridge and throwing the three Fire Nation men on the water.

 

Katara jumped out too and hurriedly gathered a small mountain of water between the two ships. Her father opened his mouth to warn her not to bend so much water or she might lose control but then she simply used it push the two ships apart with the ease someone swats away a fly. The ship began to accelerate as Zuko and Lia returned hurriedly on deck.

“The engine will go faster for a little more but we need to lose them fast or they’ll sink us,” Zuko shouted. Both he and Lia had dropped their helmets and were preparing for battle. The other ship prepared the catapults and started firing at them. It was only their steadily increasing speed that saved them from the first few shots.

“Now that seems oddly familiar,” Sokka called over his shoulder as he dragged Aang to a small room on deck where he would be safe. Zuko ignored him. On the back side of the ship Pipsqueak was placing boulders in front of Toph. She sent them back on the enemy ship, destroying one of their catapults and stopping mid-air one of the flaming boulders that came against them.

 

Aang saw a fireball landing centimetres from the ship and made a move to go out. Sokka grabbed him by the shoulder forcing him to stay inside. Frustrated the Avatar knocked his head on his glider. The Fire Nation ship fired a projectile, piercing the side of the ship. Katara shut the hole with ice and turned to Lia.

“We need some cover!” she called and the Spirit nodded. A cloud of mist and steam rose between the ships hiding each other from view. Another fireball appeared and Lia hurriedly called the flames to herself in an attempt to minimise the damage done.

 

Inside the small room Aang huffed.

“I can’t just stand by and do nothing!” he rushed outside.

“Aang! No!” Sokka ran after him. He grabbed the other boy’s staff. “You’re still hurt, and you have to stay secret. Just let us handle this.” Aang snatched it back.

“Fine!” he muttered before returning to the room. Sokka barely had time to send him a concerned look before another hit was launched. Zuko saw it and pushed Katara out of the way, managing to kick the fireball to the water. She gave him a small smile in thanks.

“How we doing?” Toph asked.

“Things couldn’t get much worse,” Sokka called back, leaning against the railing. Just then a giant serpent decided to appear behind him. Sokka gulped. “The Universe just loves proving me wrong, doesn’t it?” he said resigned. Toph sent a glare to his direction.

“You make it too easy!” Another fireball was launched. Lia smirked and redirected it to hit the Serpent. It screeched and dived underwater to appear moments later and proceed to attack the enemy ship.

“Thank you The Universe!” Sokka sighed.

 

Later that afternoon they docked near a small island to restock. Aang was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, bored out of his mind when his friends appeared at the door.

“Hey, Aang, we’re going into town to find some dinner,” Toph said cheerfully.

“Well, I am pretty hungry. Maybe dinner’s a good idea.” He was still down from not being able to take part at the battle earlier. Sokka took out a red headband.

“Here, tie this around your head. It’ll cover your arrow,” he explained. Aang glared at him.

“I’m not going out if I can’t wear my arrow proudly,” he snapped.

“Aang, be practical,” Sokka tried to make him understand.

“Why don’t you guys go ahead and we’ll catch up with you,” Lia said suddenly. With an uncertain glance from Katara they left.

“It’s because of Ba Sing Se, isn’t it?” she said as soon as everyone was out of earshot. “You don’t want people to think you failed.”

“You’re right, I don’t. But the problem is, I did fail,” Aang muttered. Lia raised an eyebrow.

“You’re alive. That alone disproves your point.”

“But I was in Ba Sing Se. I was there, but I lost. And now, the Earth Kingdom has fallen for good.” Lia tried again.

“We still have the invasion plan,” she reminded him, forcing herself to sound cheerful.

“And I hate the invasion plan, too!” Aang said angrily. “I don’t want Katara or any of my friends risking their lives to fix my mistakes.” He tried to take a few calming breaths. “I’ve always known that I would have to face the Fire Lord, but now, I know I need to do it alone.”

“Aang…” Lia began in a slightly reproving tone but he cut her.

“Lia, please. Just go, please.” She sighed defeated and made her way to the door.

“Is there anything you need?” she asked before leaving.

“I need to redeem myself. I need my honour back,” Aang said resolutely. He was sure he heard her say “Zuko all over again” before she moved away.

 

Katara had made sure to bring something nice from the town for Aang. Meatless of course but Zuko had assured her that this was one of the best dishes in the Fire Nation and she trusted his opinion.

“I brought you some food,” She called entering Aang’s room. Her eyes widened seeing it empty and the tray fell from her nerveless fingers. Not caring about it she ran back on deck immediately.

 

She ran immediately to where her father and Bato were standing. Seeing her crying Zuko made a movement to go to her but Lia placed a hand on his shoulder. Getting the message he stood back.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Bato said awkwardly.

“What’s wrong Katara?” Hakoda asked worried. He hadn’t seen his daughter cried since his wife’s death.

“He left.”

“What?” he asked her confused.

“Aang. He just took his glider and disappeared. He has this ridiculous notion that he has to save the world alone. That it’s all his responsibility,” she explained frustrated.

“Maybe that’s his way of being brave,” her father told her calmly.

“It’s not brave. It’s selfish and stupid. We could be helping him. And I know the world needs him, but doesn’t he know how much that we need him too? How could he just leave us behind?” Hakoda looked at her in silence for a few moments.

“You’re talking about me too, aren’t you?” he finally said gravely.

“How could you leave us, dad?” Katara was finally crying and she felt like she couldn’t stop the tears. “I mean, I know we had Gran Gran, and she loved us, but…but we were just so lost without you.”

“I am so sorry, Katara,” Hakoda said sadly as the girl cried inside his embrace.

“I understand why you left,” Katara managed to say through her sobs. “I really do, and I know that you had to go, so why do I still feel this way? I was so sad and angry, and hurt.”

“I love you more than anything,” her father assured her. “You and your brother are my entire world. I thought about you every day I was gone, and every night when I went to sleep. I would lay awake missing you so much, it would ache.”

Plans were made immediately. They would go on Appa to find Aang and meet with the main force at the day of the invasion. While the others were hurriedly loading their stuff on the bison Lia was standing near the edge of the ship, glaring at the horizon. Following Zuko’s example everyone had wisely avoided her. Sokka was leaning over Appa’s saddle to take a bag of provisions from his father’s hands when she spoke.

“Screw the rules!” she shouted before doing a very complicated move of firebending. Everyone stopped to watch her as the majestic figure of Avatar Roku appeared through the flames. Some of the Water Tribesmen fell to the ground in awe. Lia didn’t seem to share their sentiments.

“Where in the Nations are you?” she yelled at Roku. Hakoda sucked a breath worried. That girl had been able to summon a past life of the Avatar and now she was yelling at him. They were all as good as doomed. Lia was continuing her ranting.

“I don’t care what the rules say! Find that current incarnation of yours and make sure he stays alive long enough so that I can kill him!” she paused for a breath. Before she had a chance to say anything more Roku spoke.

“I will see you at my last home.” He disappeared. Lia looked around at the shocked faces.

“What?” she asked.

“You just yelled at Avatar Roku,” Zuko pointed out. His Guardian shrugged.

“I’ve never got in big trouble for yelling,” she said. “Besides he was a firebender. He knows I have to let the steam out.”

“Pun intended I supposed,” Toph commented wryly. Lia ignored her.

“We’re heading to Crescent Moon Island,” she said climbing on the saddle.

 

Not very far Aang was struggling to keep control of his glider. As he managed to gain some altitude he saw a blockade in front of him. Taking a deep breath he closed his glider and dived to the ice cold water. He managed to avoid the blockade and resurfaced on the other side. Luckily for him a piece of drift wood was sailing next to him. Smiling Aang climbed on it and used his glider to windsurf through the tides. His luck lasted only so far and soon it began to rain. A wave threw him in the water and Aang had barely time to catch another piece of drift wood and avoid being drowned.

“I’m not gonna make it. I failed,” he whispered exhausted. A flash of lightning lighted the sky and Roku appeared in front of him.

“You haven’t failed, Aang,” he assured the boy.

“But everyone thinks I am dead again. They think I’ve abandoned them, and I’m losing this war. I’m letting the whole world down,” Aang insisted. Roku looked at him with guilt.

“If anyone is to blame for the state of the world, it is me. I should’ve seen this war coming, and prevented it. You inherited my problems and my mistakes. But I also believe you are destined to redeem me, and save the world.”

“I don’t know,” Aang said hesitantly.

“You already saved the world,” Yue’s voice was heard. Aang looked up to see the once princess of the Northern Water Tribe smiling down at him. “And you’ll save the world again. But you can’t give up,” she encouraged him. Aang nodded.

“You’re right. I won’t give up.”

 

He climbed again of the drift wood and started waterbending himself. Slowly an island appeared in front of him. By early sunrise he managed to drag himself on the shore where he collapsed exhausted. He woke up a few hours later when Momo hopped on his chest. As he sat up he was tackled by Katara.

“You’re okay!” the waterbender said relief. Soon everyone, even Zuko, joined the group hug.

“I have so much to do,” Aang said once they gave him some breathing space. Katara nodded.

“I know, but you’ll have our help.”

“You didn’t think you could get out of training just by coming to the Fire Nation, did you?” Toph asked raising an eyebrow. Neither she nor Aang had realised that they had been holding hands since the hug had broken. Still Aang wasn’t assured.

“What about the invasion?” he asked Sokka and Zuko.

“We’ll join up with my dad and the invasion force on the day of the eclipse,” the warrior assured him. Lia felt something poking her foot. Looking down she saw a piece of wood having been washed out.

“Is that your glider?” she asked shocked. Aang took it from her hands with a demure smile.

“That’s okay. If someone saw it, it would give away my identity. It’s better for now that no one knows I’m alive.” He turned his head towards the still smoking volcano. With a few airbending jumps he was on its crater.  Aang looked at his glider for one last time before he tossed to the magma and turned his back to join his friends.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Meet the Father

Standard

Author’s note: In which there is damage control, set up for the first half of part III and the closest to lime I dare write on something my mother might read.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Meet the Father***

Hakoda had been scanning the horizon for any signs of a flying bison ever since Sokka had left with the Avatar to save Katara. Given the unnatural silence of the Fire Nation in the last days, he had a lot of time to do just that. But it seemed now that his patience had paid off, as a large shadow appeared at the horizon, rapidly growing to the distinct shape of a sky bison. Hakoda quickly signaled the ships to return to the shore.

 

As they grew closer the Water Tribe chief scrutinized the people that were sitting on Appa’s back. Sokka must have been stirring because he jumped down first, followed by a young man dressed in fancy robes who jumped clumsily off and an animal that looked like a platypus bear. Behind them appeared a young woman whose hair caught Hakoda’s eye because of their unnaturally bright red color. She landed much more gracefully than the two young men and turned to make a signal to those still sitting on the back. An Earth Kingdom girl roughly the age of the Avatar, jumped to the ground and made relatively large platform of earth rise to Appa’s back level. Hakoda guessed she was Toph, the little earthbender Sokka had told him about. The chief couldn’t help but feel a little worried seeing neither the Avatar nor his daughter. Katara stood up then and walked to the platform. Another young man stood behind her, the limp body of a younger boy in his hands. As he handed him over to Katara Hakoda caught a glimpse of yellow. The Avatar. Feeling more alarmed than he had felt in a long time the Water Tribe chief shouted to his men to make the ship go faster.

 

By the time the ships reached the shore, the children were already halfway through making camp. A tent had been set and Katara had disappeared inside with Aang. Toph had set her own earth tent while Zuko, Sokka and Lia were saying goodbye the Earth King. Finally Zuko decided to break the silence.

“Do you think Aang will be okay?” he asked Lia hesitantly. She gave him a grave smile.

“I hope so,” she said. “But I have a feeling that his connection with the Universe is broken. I can’t sense him in the Spirit World.” Sokka looked at her confused.

“But that’s good right?” he asked. “I mean if you felt him there wouldn’t he be considered… I don’t know. Dead?” he gulped audibly thinking of the prospect. Lia opened her mouth to answer him but closed it again as the Water Tribesmen with Hakoda on the lead approached them. Unconsciously she drew closer to Zuko.

 

Sokka turned to see what had made her look uneasy all of a sudden and his face brightened with a smile.

“Dad!” he exclaimed as he rushed towards the man. Hakoda smiled at his son and hugged him briefly.

“I’m glad to see you managed to find Katara,” he said Glancing at the rest of the teens he asked his son: “Won’t you introduce me to your friends?”

“Of course!” Sokka beamed. He dragged Toph forward. “This is Toph.” The little girl yanked her shoulder free.

“Greatest earthbender of the world at your service,” she said with a small, mocking bow. “Can I go now Snoozles?” Sokka’s face turned red at the mention of his nickname and the laughs it got out of the men.

“And these are Lia and Zuko,” he said annoyed, gesturing at their general direction. Lia merely waved at Hakoda but Zuko approached him, giving a small bow to the man. It wasn’t just that he was the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe. He also happened to be his girlfriend’s father.

 

It took the sharp intakes of breath from the man to realize his stupid mistake. He had bowed, out of habit, Fire-Nation style. After a short tense silence Hakoda decided to speak.

“I hope there is a good reason that the prince of the Fire Nation is traveling with you,” he told Sokka in a disapproving way. His son frowned and opened his mouth to retort when Katara’s cold voice was heard.

“Because he is on our side,” she said, pointedly standing next to him. Her face was worn and she was tired from the multiple healings Aang’s condition required, but it only served to strengthen her glare. “Besides,” she continued turning her back to her astonished father, “as soon as Aang masters earthbending he will need a firebending teacher.”

 

After a quick lunch, which Lia had prepared, having all but ordered Katara to rest, and a quick description of what had happened in Ba Sing Se, Hakoda brought a map and together with Sokka they were trying to figure what their next move would be.

“We need to leave here,” the chief insisted, “There’s no point in staying. The Fire Nation is bound to send ships this way. It’s the fastest route to Ba Sing Se.” Sokka nodded.

“Zuko!” he called. Hakoda frowned. He didn’t trust the young firebender, despite the fact that he had turned his back to his family to help the Avatar. As soon as he sat next to him, Sokka asked: “How long do you think we have until the Fire Nation knocks on our door?”

“The Western fleet controls a lot of ports nearby,” Zuko said thoughtfully. “I think we would have a week at most until they arrive at the bay. Knowing Azula she will probably demand the presence of the entire fleet to support the occupation, if only to show off.” Sokka’s hopeful expression fell.

“We can’t pass unnoticed through the entire fleet!” he whined. Zuko seemed deep in thought.

“We don’t have to,” he said finally. Raising a hand to silence any questions he continued. “We can take over a ship, preferably one of the last of the fleet and use it as a disguise.” Hakoda looked at him doubtful.

“And how do you propose we do that?” Zuko opened his mouth and closed it again as if having thought of something. Quickly excusing himself he ran to where the girls were sitting and began a conversation that mostly involved him asking them questions. After a few minutes he returned, a satisfied grin on his face.

“The girls say it’s doable,” he announced. Spreading out a map he pointed at a narrow spot near the opening of the Bay. “An entire fleet will take a lot of time to cross such a narrow point. By sundown or at early night there will still be a few ships left to cross. Katara and Lia can raise a mist and Toph create a few reefs. Fire Navy captains know better than endangering their ships on such occasions. They will stop for the night.”

“That’s when we sneak in and take over a ship!” Sokka exclaimed exited. “That might actually work!” He slapped Zuko in the back, making him wince a little. Still Hakoda look thoughtful.

“Are you sure that three girls will be able to pull this through?” he asked. Both boys looked at him shocked.

“Dad,” Sokka began tentatively, “they are all Masters on their elements. You wouldn’t exactly want them to hear you doubting their abilities. If they say they can, then they can.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence Snoozles,” Toph called from where they were sitting, planning out their attack.

 

A guard was posted on the highest cliff and the Water Tribe ships were camouflaged safely. It only took five days for the first ships to appear from the horizon. Immediately the whole camp was set on alert. Anything that would be needed was packed and loaded on Appa along with Aang, carefully tucked in Katara’s sleeping bag. The girls had placed themselves on the riverbank, while the warriors remained hidden. They waited all day as ship after ship passed before them. Toph was beginning to feel restless. Finally at sundown the last ship appeared. It was a relatively big cargo ship, able to carry everyone.

 

Lia and Katara shared a nod before taking their stances. Slowly a mist started to rise from the water. When visibility reached minimum Toph made a few pointed rocks emerge from the water. A few shouted orders were heard from the ship and it slowly came to a halt. Silently the warriors approached them. Moving closer to the ship they climbed from the sides with expertly mastered only after many battles. Zuko followed them with Toph clinging in his back. Earthbending would make way too much noise.

 

A few hours later:

Hakoda breathed a sigh of relief. The prince’s plan had worked and now the ship was under their command and sailing towards the sea again. None of his men had been injured and it was impressive to say the least seeing a team of Masters working on their respective elements. The children had retreated to their rooms after making sure everything was secure and Katara had given another healing session to the unconscious Avatar.

 

The next morning came only too early for some. When Hakoda and Sokka stumbled half-asleep on deck the sound of fire alerted them immediately. To their surprise they saw Zuko and Lia wearing Fire Nation armors practicing a few moves. Or more like Zuko doing the move again and again with Lia correcting him. Sokka scratched his head.

“Uh… guys?” he asked hesitantly. They two benders looked at him surprised. “Why are you wearing these things?” Zuko shrugged.

“Just in case we’re intercepted by another Fire Nation ship,” he explained. “It will look suspicious if they see people dressed in Earth Kingdom or Water Tribe clothes, don’t you think?”

“Plus,” Lia added, “I’m sick of green.” She looked at her dark red uniform satisfied.

“Where did you find them?” Hakoda asked thoughtfully.

“On a storage room next to the one with the weapons,” Lia explained. “I think there might enough for everyone.”

 

Indeed soon enough all men were dressed in Fire Nation armors. Sokka had grumbled on how much they weighed until he saw Lia do a backflip to avoid Katara’s waterwhip (they were practicing) and shut up to salvage some of his pride. The gang had broken now that they were on board. Zuko had disappeared to the coal room and since then they were going steadily faster. Katara was showing Lia some waterbending moves after the Spirit’s request and Toph was practicing on a small piece of scrap metal she had found. Seizing the opportunity Sokka went to the navigator’s room and spread out on the table his plans for the invasion. Without the Earth King’s support he would have to reorganize the whole thing again.

 

By nighttime most of them were dead on their feet. Katara dragged herself to her room after healing Aang again. She was getting worried that the boy was still unconscious but his injuries were slowly beginning to look better after the multiple healings so she held hope. She paused briefly in front of Lia’s half-open door. The redhead was sitting on the floor writing down something that looked like a very complex diagram. Judging by the amount of parchment around her it wasn’t her first try. Knowing better than to disturb her, the waterbender returned to her room and threw herself to bed. Only to have a very nasty surprise. She couldn’t sleep.

 

Three nights later Katara was fighting insomnia. She had silently agreed with Zuko to continue letting everyone to believe that they were just good friends. She was beginning to tire of the secrecy though. When they had been traveling together, she could almost always find an excuse to stay alone with him and then in Ba Sing Se they would meet always at the Lower Ring, where Lia and Iroh were more than understanding and left them on their own. She had grown so accustomed to acting as his girlfriend around Zuko, that she was now finding it tormenting to hide her true feelings. The ship was so big, she had been certain they would be able to sneak somewhere and be alone. How wrong she had been… And to make matters worse, Zuko’s room was just at the end of the corridor, very near to her own.

 

Her thoughts kept going in circles as she tossed and turned on her bed. Finally, frustrated, Katara shot standing. She pulled on a robe over her nightgown and left her room. She was probably acting like some crazed teen girl and not at all like a strong waterbending master, but she felt as if she would burst if she didn’t see Zuko now. Silently she walked through the corridor, debating all the way with herself. However, when she reached his door she opened it without the slightest hesitation, thankful it didn’t make noise. Katara closed the door behind her and turned to face the room. Zuko was lying on his bed, seemingly asleep. She felt her heart sink. But then again, she berated herself, what was she expecting? For him to suffering the same insomnia she did? He was helping around all day, never stopping to take a breath. He was probably dead on his feet by nightfall.

 

Zuko was lying with his eyes close, trying to get some much-needed sleep. It was the third night he couldn’t sleep. Being around Katara so much, it was almost tormenting for him. He wanted to kiss her, after seeing her almost every day on Ba Sing Se; he couldn’t imagine how he had been able to be for so long thinking of her as his enemy. And now they were together, but he couldn’t embrace or kiss her as he wanted in fear of giving away their secret. All of a sudden he felt another presence inside his room. Sitting up, he saw Katara’s figure half-turned towards the door. He stood up silently, approaching her, feeling a sense of wonder rising through him. Had he finally fallen asleep and now his subconscious was torturing him? He had to touch her, feel for himself if she was real.

 

Katara felt a light touch on her shoulder and jumped guiltily to face Zuko.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I shouldn’t have bothered you. I’ll…I’ll just go now.”

“You are real!” Zuko whispered, more to himself. She didn’t seem to hear him as she turned to open the door. “Katara wait,” he asked her softly. The waterbender turned slowly to meet his eyes. “Why have you come here?” he asked her. She blushed crimson.

“I missed you,” she tried to explain, playing nervously with her hair. She was suddenly feeling very self-conscious, standing there on her nightclothes. “I couldn’t sleep and…” she stammered again. “I don’t know why I came. I suppose I just wanted to see you.” She tried again to leave but Zuko embraced her tightly from behind, preventing her.

“I missed you too,” he whispered on her ear, making shivers run through her spine. “Don’t leave Katara, please,” he asked her, still holding her close. Katara swallowed. Suddenly her mouth had gone dry.

“I won’t,” she managed to say. She felt his hands sliding down her sides until they reached her waist. Tenderly the prince turned her to face him again, drinking in her features. Katara took a step and felt her back touch the door. She looked up to see Zuko leaning down to her. She didn’t have time to think any more, because now his lips were on hers on a deep, passionate kiss. She kissed him back feeling a fire rising inside her. They broke away only too soon.

“I love you,” Katara whispered resting her forehead against his.

“I love you too,” he whispered back hoarsely. Now that he was sure she was here he felt like he couldn’t stay away from her. “Will you stay with me?” he asked her hesitantly.

 

Katara blushed furiously. She didn’t want to leave him either, but to spend the night together… She didn’t dare to imagine what everyone would say if they found out. She definitely shouldn’t stay. She shouldn’t have come on the first place. And the moment she raised her head to answer him, she knew she shouldn’t have done that either. There he was, his golden gaze full of emotions. Katara had always found it fascinating to read his eyes. They told her all those things that Zuko was normally too shy to say himself. Right now she saw the hope and to her surprise a little fear. She realised that Zuko too knew how improper this was, but still he needed her. They both needed each other. Her presence there was proof enough.

 

Zuko looked at the girl he loved hesitantly raising her eyes to meet his. He knew he was probably asking her too much. He searched her eyes. If he saw there the tiniest bit of hesitation, he wouldn’t insist. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked her on the first place. The prince let himself sink on the blue of Katara’s eyes. Surprised he saw no hesitation in them. She needed the closeness as much as he needed it and was willing to accept it. As if to confirm his thoughts Katara told him:

“I’d love to.”

 

They laid down on the bed, still in each other’s arms. Katara brought Zuko’s face down near hers and kissed him softly once more. Then she rested her head on the crook of his neck, feeling all of a sudden relaxed. Zuko turned his head a little to face her. She was looking up at him, her eyes already half-closed. He also felt the tension leaving his body.

“Good night,” he whispered before falling into a peaceful deep sleep at last.