Tag Archives: Jet

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Lake Laogai

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Author’s Note: In which Jet causes trouble, Lia has a vision, Zuko learns that it’s a bad idea to try and keep secrets from Katara and a vital member of Team Avatar returns.

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***Lake Laogai***

Another night came and Jet was once again hiding in the shadows near the teashop. He had been doing so ever since he had discovered where they had been working, but hadn’t yet managed to find any proof. In his frustration he had begun considering just challenging the old man, in order to force him to firebend. Narrowing his eyes he thought of his options.

“Jet! We need to talk,” he heard a muffled voice behind him. He turned alarmed.

“What?” he exclaimed, his hand immediately on his hook-swords. Realising it was his friends he relaxed. “Oh great, it’s you guys. Where have you been? I could use some help with surveillance here.” He turned his eyes back at the teashop. Why had nothing suspicious happened yet?

“We’ve been talking,” Smelarbee continued. “And we think you’re becoming obsessed with this. It’s not healthy!”

“Oh really…” Jet said slowly. “You both think this?”

“We came here to make a fresh start, but you want let this go, even though there’s no real proof…”

“Well maybe if you’d help me…” Jet started accusingly.

“Jet, you’ve got to stop this!” Smelarbee was now raising her voice.

“Maybe you forgot why we need to start over,” Jet continued obviously ignoring what she was telling him. “Maybe you forgot how the Fire Nation left us all homeless, how they wiped out all the people we loved?” the other two teens looked away, but still seemed to disagree with him. “If you don’t want to help me, I’ll get the evidence on my own.” He walked towards the door resolutely. He’d show them that he was right.

 

Iroh was going around the buzzing teashop, serving people with freshly brewed tea.

“This is the best tea in the city!” the customer he had just served – a soldier – said.

“The secret ingredient is love!” Iroh answered happily. Zuko and Lia shared an exasperated glance behind his back. Their employer did not seem to share their sentiment as he looked at his packed shop in satisfaction.

“I think you’re due for a raise,” he said to Iroh.

 

The door suddenly burst open. Jet appeared at it, glaring full force at Iroh and Zuko.

“I’m tired of waiting!” he said, sounding just a little unhinged mad. He pointed accusingly. “These two men are firebenders.” Zuko and Iroh shared a look. “I know they’re firebenders,” Jet continued, drawing his swords. “I saw the old man heating his tea!” The soldier Iroh had served last raised an eyebrow.

“He works in a teashop!” he said incredulously.

“He’s a firebender, I’m telling you!” Jet insisted.

“Drop your swords boy,” the soldier ordered frowning, as he and his friend stood. “Nice and easy.” Jet ignored him and approached Iroh threateningly.

“You’ll have to defend yourself. Then everyone will know. Go ahead! Show them what you can do,” he prodded. The soldier made a movement to draw his swords, but before he had a chance to do so, Zuko took them approaching Jet angrily. He had had enough of this guy for the rest of his life.

“You want a show?” he asked frostily. “I’ll give you a show!” He kicked a table towards Jet, hoping to throw him off balance, but, just like he suspected, his opponent was better than that. Jet charged towards Zuko only to find his every attack blocked and not even the slightest trace of firebending appearing. That opened a major hole on his theory and pissed him incredibly.

 

Lia made a movement to join the fight but doubled over, feeling the breath being knocked out of her. She collapsed to a nearby chair and closed her eyes trying to make the speedy images of her vision slow down. She saw a lit candle spin around her madly, dimly lit corridors, the mask of the Blue Spirit smiling at her from underwater, green crystals engulfing her, a lightning strike and finally the picture of a small village near the sea appearing. Her eyes snapped open, in time to see Zuko flying out of the broken door.

 

Zuko felt a little winded from the hit but managed to land on his feet and block the next attack.

“You must be getting tired of using those swords,” Jet taunted him. “Why don’t you go ahead and firebend at me?” Zuko didn’t answer, he just pushed him back.

“Please son, you’re confused!” Iroh called worried from the door. “You don’t know what you’re doing!” The two boys ignored him, slowly drawing the battle away from the teashop.

“Bet you wish he’d help you with a fireblast right now!” Jet grumbled. Zuko wordlessly dropped his one sword. Jet looked at him surprised. Had he managed to convince him firebend?

“You’re the one who needs help!” Zuko told him, moving his remaining sword uncomfortably close to Jet’s face. The Freedom Fighter jumped away.

“You see that?” he asked the people that had gathered. “The Fire Nation is trying to silence me! It’ll never happen!” He jumped again, charging at Zuko.

 

The fight continued. For Zuko it felt refreshing to use a sword again, even though he’d much prefer to use his firebending. He had more chance to knock his opponent out with his fire than with a blade. Suddenly the crowd parted, and two Dai Lee appeared.

“Drop your weapons!” they ordered. Zuko took a few steps away from Jet, still keeping a wary eye on him.

“Arrest them!” Jet tried again. “They’re firebenders!”

“This poor boy is confused,” Iroh said calmly. “We’re just simple refuges.”

“This young man racked my teashop and assaulted my employees,” the owner of the teashop added, looking very much like he would have liked to personally drag Jet to prison.

“It’s true sir,” the soldier backed him. “We saw the whole thing. This crazy kid attacked the finest tea maker in the city.”

“Oh, that’s very sweet…” Iroh said blushing.

“Come with us son,” the Dai Lee ordered calmly. Jet tried to fight them, but they handcuffed and dragged him away ignoring his protests.

 

As the crowd was thinning, Zuko looked around for Lia. He had been surprised that she hadn’t made any comments. Not seeing her anywhere, he entered the teashop again, followed by his uncle. There she was, sitting in a chair, her face buried on her knees.

“Are you okay Lia?” Iroh asked the girl worried. She raised her head a little and nodded.

“Just a little faint,” she managed to say. “I’ll be fine tomorrow.” She tried to stand up and swayed. Zuko wordlessly steadied her.

“You’re not a very good liar, you know it, right?” he said calmly.

“I think you should stay home until you feel better,” their employer decided. “The teashop will be closed anyway for a few days. It’s about time I did some renovations.”

 

The moment they arrived back home, Zuko led a protesting Lia – she had recovered that much – to her bed.

“But I’m telling you I’m fine! It was just a vision!” she insisted. Zuko didn’t change his mind.

“Even so, you need to rest. You look like you’d collapse if you move.” He hesitated for a moment and Lia rolled her eyes.

“Come on, ask me!” she told him, a hint of exasperation in her voice. Zuko looked at her guiltily.

“Okay, what did you see?” he asked. Lia opened her mouth to answer, but Iroh came in.

“What are you doing talking?” he asked them sternly. “You should be resting. Go to sleep,” he ordered them. Behind his back Lia mouthed, I’ll tell you tomorrow.

 

When Zuko woke up the next morning, he was surprised to see that the redhead was already up. She was at the kitchen, packing a small bag quietly. She looked up guiltily when she heard him entering the room.

“So you’d leave like this?” Zuko asked her tonelessly. Lia didn’t answer, just went back to her packing.

“I need to travel for a while.” she explained. “Get out of this town, it’s not good for me.” Zuko looked at her suspiciously.

“Where are you going?” he asked her carefully. Her expression saddened.

“I can’t tell you,” Lia said closing the bag and walking towards the door.

 

Zuko looked at her leaving. Something was not right. Lia never acted like this, so distant. He was still thinking of it when his uncle woke up. The old man looked around surprised.

“Where’s Lia?” he asked, a little worried. Zuko was looking out of the window at that time and jerked when he heard Iroh’s voice.

“She left,” he informed his uncle. “She said she had to travel for a while.”

“But why would she leave? She wasn’t in any condition to travel yesterday night.”

“She was looking much better today.” Zuko said in a cold voice, going back to staring outside the window. What had she meant? “I’m going for a walk,” he said going over to the door. Iroh opened his mouth to answer but the teenager had already left. The old General shook his head. There was an air of foreboding in the atmosphere.

 

Zuko’s feet carried him to the teashop, where the workers had already begun making repairs. It would be a few days until they return to work, but thankfully the damage wasn’t big. His eyes wondered absentmindedly to a lone figure in blue. Katara seemed to sense someone’s eyes on her because she turned to face him.

“What happened here?” she asked surprised. Zuko shrugged.

“Nothing major,” he said embracing her and hoping she’d drop the subject. He didn’t want to talk about it. It didn’t work. Katara took a step back and looked at him suspiciously.

“The teashop is closed for repairs, half the front wall was demolished and you’re telling me nothing major happened?” she asked a little hurt. “You know you can trust me.”

“It’s not a matter of trust!” Zuko assured her annoyed. First Lia, now Katara. What was going on today? “I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“And when will you want to?” the waterbender asked, her eyes flashing dangerously.

“I don’t know!” Zuko exclaimed. “Can’t I keep something to myself?” The moment he had said it, he regretted it. Katara’s expression closed off and she stepped away from him.

“When you want to talk with me, you know where I live,” she told him before turning and leaving. Zuko looked at her going away; feeling much like lightning struck him. What was he to do now?

 

A few days later, in the living room of a house in the Upper Ring, papers were scattered everywhere, covered with pictures. Sokka had been working on them the whole morning, trying to make something that resembled Appa. It was harder than it sounded. The front door opened and Katara and Aang stepped in.

“We found a printer to make our posters!” she said excited. Aang nodded approvingly at the – obviously professionally made – poster. Sokka looked up annoyed.

“Hey, I thought designing the “Lost Appa” posters was my job.” He held his latest creation up. “I’ve been working on my Appa the whole morning.” Katara tried to stifle her giggles, while Aang looked shocked.

“Sokka, the arrow is on Appa’s head!” he said.

“This is his head!” Sokka cried offended.  His sister knelt next to him.

‘Why are there feet coming out of it?” she asked suppressing her giggles.

“Those are his horns!” Sokka bowed his head defeated. “I haven’t seen him in a while, okay?”

“It looks just like him to me!” Toph said cheerfully. Sokka turned towards her.

“Thanks, I really worked really…” he frowned, realisation hitting him. “Why do you feel the need to do that?” he asked her.

“Let’s just stick with the professional version,” Katara decided. Sokka ripped his latest “creation” angrily.

“Come on!” Aang said excited. “Let’s get busy!”

 

On the Lower Ring of the city, a small teashop was bustling with life, celebrating its re-opening. Iroh had just served a few fancy-dressed men. With barely a sip they stood up and approached him. The fancier-dressed one said:

“So you’re the genius behind this incredible brew! The whole city is buzzing about it.” He smiled. “I hope Pao pays you well.”

“Good tea is its own reward,” Iroh replied good-naturally.

“But, it doesn’t have to be the only reward,” the man continued. “How would you like to have your own teashop?” he asked.

“My own teashop?’ Iroh said thunderstruck. “This is a dream come true.” Pao heard his words and rushed between them.

“What’s going on here?” he asked hostilely. “Are you trying to pouch my tea-maker?”

“Sorry Pao, but that’s business to you, am I right?” the man said laughing a little.

“Mushi, if you stay I’ll make you assistant manager.” Pao said desperately. “Wait! Senior assistant manager.”

“I’ll provide you with a new apartment in the Upper Ring. The teashop is yours to do whatever you want. Complete creative freedom,” the other man proposed.

 

Zuko glanced at them before returning back to his job. So long it had to do with tea, he’d let his Uncle handle it. He had his own problems.

“I even get to name the shop?” Iroh asked.

“Of course!” the other man laughed. Pao tried one last time.

“Senior executive assistant manager?” he half-whined. Iroh wordlessly handed him the teapot. Seeing Zuko passing by he smiled.

“Did you hear nephew?” he asked. “This man wants to give us our own teashop in the Upper Ring!”

‘That’s right young man!” his uncle’s new employer said. “Your life is about to change for the better!”

“I’ll try to contain my joy,” Zuko said, sarcasm virtually raining from his words. He banged his tray on a free table, before exiting the teashop.

 

The Fire prince looked longingly at the sky. He hadn’t seen Katara for almost a week now, and had to admit it was entirely his fault. He acted like an idiot and all because he had been jealous of Jet. He knew the boy meant nothing to Katara, Agni, she had almost killed him back at the ferry. He couldn’t explain it but Zuko didn’t want her to know that Jet was around. Maybe it’s because I know it’d upset her, he mused. Smiling bitterly he turned his eyes towards the sky, hoping for a solution to all his problems. A paper landed in front of him. Curious Zuko picked it up. The picture of a sky bison caught his eyes immediately. So Aang hadn’t found Appa yet, he thought grimly. That wasn’t good for the little monk. But it could be for him.

 

Zuko quickly climbed at the roof of the teashop, looking around for the little airbender. He only saw more papers being carried by the breeze. What was the difference? If Katara didn’t want to talk to him, not even the Avatar would convince her otherwise. Sighing, the young man moved to put the flyer in his pocket. Then he paused and hesitantly scrutinized the paper. What would Lia tell him if she was there? He buried his face in his hands. Probably stop being an idiot and go make things up with the waterbender. Zuko shook his head. There was no way she’d talk to him, unless… Zuko stared on Appa’s picture thoughtfully. She’d talk to him, if he brought them the thing they were looking for.

 

Sokka and Katara were playing cards when Aang returned.

“I just finished dropping all the leaflets,” he announced. “Has anyone come with news about Appa?” he asked joining them at the table.

“It’s only been a day,” Katara answered, not bothering to raise her eyes. She had been a little moody lately. “Just be patient.” Aang plopped down disappointed, to jump on his feet again, hearing a knock on the door.

“Wow, you’re right!” he exclaimed. “Patience really pays off!” he ran to the door excited. His face fell immediately when he saw who was there. “Ju Dee?”

“Hello Aang and Katara and Sokka and Toph,” she greeted them with her usual bright smile.

“What happened to you?” Sokka asked. “Did the Dai Lee throw you in jail?”

“What? Jail? Of course not!” she said dismissively. “The Dai Lee are the protectors of our cultural heritage.”

“But you disappeared at the Earth King’s party,” Toph insisted.

“Oh, I simply took a small vacation on Lake Laogai, out in the country. It was quite refreshing.”

“But then they replaced you with some other woman, who also said her name was Ju Dee,” Katara added. Ju Dee looked at her surprised.

“I’m Ju Dee,” she said.

“Why are you here?” Aang asked. She took out one of the flyers.

“Dropping flyers and putting up posters isn’t permitted within the city.” She explained. “Not without proper clearance.”

“We can’t wait around to get permission for everything,” Sokka said frustrated.

“You are absolutely prohibited by the rules of the city to continue putting up posters,” Ju Dee said, her smile only brightening. Aang felt the blood rushing to his head.

“We don’t care about the rules and we’re not asking permission! We’re finding Appa on our own and you should stay out of our way!” he slammed the door on her face.

“That might come back to bite us in the blubber,” Sokka remarked, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t care,” Aang snapped. “From now on we do whatever it takes to find Appa.”

“Yeah! Let’s break some rules!” Toph exclaimed, before earthbending a wall to ruins to underline her point. No one bothered to answer her. Instead they took the posters they had printed earlier and went out to put them up. No one noticed to shadows dressed in dark green following them silently.

 

Zuko returned to their apartment, hoping to find it empty. Instead his uncle was there, packing their few belongings. Hearing the door open and then close Iroh said:

“So… I was thinking about names for my new teashop. How about, the Jasmine Dragon? It’s dramatic, poetic, has a nice ring to it.” Zuko handed him the flyer.

“Aang is still looking for Appa,” he said instead, turning to look out of the window. His uncle gazed first at the paper and then at the tense figure of the prince. For a moment he flashbacked to their days on the ship.

“We have a chance for a new life here. If you start stirring up trouble, we could lose all the good things that are happening for us,” he warned the teenager. Zuko felt his temper rising. Good things? Nothing good had happened to him in this city, aside from his dates with Katara. He spun around angrily.

“Good things that are happening for you. Have you ever thought that I want more from life than a nice apartment and a job serving tea‌?” Iroh shook his head.

“There is nothing wrong with a life of peace and prosperity.” His face grew stern. “I suggest you think about what it is that you want for your life, and why.”

“I want my destiny,” Zuko mumbled.
“What that means is up to you.” Iroh watched his nephew leaving for the roof wordlessly. “The Tea Weevil!” he suddenly exclaimed. He frowned. “No, that’s stupid.”

 

At the roof the Fire prince looked down the city. His uncle thought obviously that he was after the Avatar. Zuko smiled bitterly. There was nothing further from the truth. His thoughts turned to the mask, securely hidden inside his things. Spotting a figure dressed in dark green walking down the street he started working on his plan. Tonight, the Blue Spirit would be hunting once again.

 

Sokka carefully put up a poster on the wall. A little further away Katara and Aang were doing the same, while Toph was resting against the wall” observing” their work. The warrior looked at the stack of posters they still had to place.

“We’ll split up to cover more area,” he decided. Turning to the petite girl near him he said, “Toph, I guess you should just come with me.” Toph glared at his direction.

“Why? Because you think I can’t put up posters on my own‌?” she snapped. Snatching the brush from his hand she splashed the wall with glue and slammed a poster on it. The others just looked.

“It’s upside-down isn’t it‌?” Toph asked sounded resigned. “I’ll just go with Sokka.” She sighed.

 

They split up and Katara somehow found herself in the Lower Ring. Approaching a small stream she sighed, thinking of the times she had sat there with Zuko after they had been shooed away from the roof from Iroh. She closed her eyes stubbornly. She would not think of him before he decided to apologise for his lack of trust.

“Katara!” she heard a boy calling behind her. A boy she knew. Turning sharply she saw Jet smiling confidently at her.

“I think I can help you,” he told her approaching.

 

Before he had a chance to say anything else, Katara’s shock melted into rage. Raising her arms she bended the water behind her into two huge waves, sending them against the Freedom Fighter.

“Katara, I’ve changed!” Jet yelled alarmed as the water swept him into a nearby alley. Katara ran after him, a rather impressive amount of water in her hands. She froze it mid-air, turning it to icy daggers and sending them at him. Jet dodged them with his hook swords, only managing to fuel her frustration.

“I don’t want to fight you! I’m here to help,” he said dropping the swords to the ground. Katara approached him cautiously. Seeing his one hand moving slowly to his back she pinned him to the wall with the remaining ice.
Footsteps approached and she heard Sokka calling her.

“Katara, what is it‌?” he asked a little out of breath. Behind him appeared Toph and Aang.

“Jet’s back,” she informed them tonelessly, not bothering to turn and look at them. Sokka opened his mouth, probably to ask for an explanation but his sister cut in. “We can’t trust anything Jet says.”

“But we don’t even know why he’s here,” Sokka reasoned.

“I don’t care why he’s here!” Katara snapped. “Whatever the reason is, it can’t be good.”

“I’m here to help you find Appa.” Everyone turned to stare at him as he unrolled one of the leaflets Aang had dropped earlier. The airbender looked from the paper to Jet and then to Katara.

“Katara, we have to give him a chance.” Jet seeing his chance tried again.

“I swear I’ve changed. I was a troubled person, and I let my anger get out of control. But I don’t even have the gang now. I’ve put all that behind me.” His words reminded Katara a little too much of another dark-haired boy she knew. She closed her eyes frustrated for a moment before glaring at him again.

“You’re lying,” she said simply.

Now Toph was never a really patient person. She had learned when she was still young to hate dramatics, what with her parents fusing over her all the time. She was ready to cut Sugar Queen some slack, as she had obviously argued with her boyfriend lately, but this was ridiculous! Brushing past the older girl, the blind earthbender touched the wall next to Jet and concentrated.

“He’s not lying,” she announced.

“How can you tell?” she heard Sokka asking incredulously.

“I can feel his breathing and heart beat,” Toph explained. “When people lie, there is a physical reaction. He’s telling the truth.” She turned towards Katara expectantly, feeling Sokka and Aang doing the same.

“Katara, we don’t have any leads. If Jet says he can take us to Appa, we have to check it out,” Aang said pleadingly. Katara sighed defeated.

“Alright…” she said melting the ice on the way. Before Jet had a chance to move she turned rapidly towards him with a warning glare. “But we’re not letting you out of our sight!”
Surprisingly, near the alley they had been in, there was a large warehouse. Katara wondered how she hadn’t seen it before.

“This is the place I heard about,” Jet explained as they started looking around.

“There’s nothing here,” Aang sighed disappointed. Katara turned angrily towards Jet.

“If this is a trap…” she began with her hand already on her pouch.

“I told you, I work nearby! Two guys were talking about some giant furry creature they had. I figured it must be Appa,” Jet snapped, a little annoyed himself.

“He was here!” Toph suddenly exclaimed. Everyone rushed to her side to see her holding a clump of white fur. She silently handed to Aang.

“We missed him,” he whispered.
“They took that big thing yesterday,” an old man suddenly appeared behind them. Aang spun to look at him in shock. “Shipped him out to some island,” The janitor continued. “About time, I’ve been cleaning up fur and various, uh leavings all day.”

“What island?” Aang asked frantically.‌ “Where’s Appa‌?”

“Foreman said some rich royal type on Whale Tail Island bought him up, guess for a zoo or such, though could be for the meat; would be good,” the old man answered on the same weary tone. Aang turned to the others anxiously.

“We’ve gotta get to Whale Tail Island.” He crouched next to Sokka, who had already spread a map on the ground. “Where’s Whale Tail island‌?” The warrior’s face fell.

“Far. Very far,” He announced pointing at the map. “Here it is. It’s near the South Pole almost all the way back home.”

“Aang, it’ll take us weeks just to get to the tip of the Earth Kingdom,” Katara reasoned. “And then we’ll need to find a boat to get to the island.” Aang stood up, his face set.

“I don’t care. We have a chance to find Appa. We have to try.”

“Must be nice to visit an island. I haven’t had a vacation for years,” the janitor suddenly commented, sweeping in the background. Katara looked at him annoyed.

“Don’t you have some more hair to clean up‌?” she snapped.

“Shuffle on, I get ya. No more need for “old sweepy,” the old man grumbled. The waterbender turned back to Aang.

“You’re right Aang,” she said placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Right now, our first concern has to be finding Appa. We can come back when we have him.” Everyone stood up.

“All right, let’s get moving,” Sokka said decisively.

“I’ll come with you,” Jet said firmly. Katara glared at him.

“We don’t need your help.” The boy looked at her hurt.

“Why won’t you trust me‌?” he asked her. Katara crossed her arms.

“Gee, I wonder‌!” she huffed. Toph raised an eyebrow.

“Was this guy your boyfriend or something‌?” she asked confused. Katara blushed a little.

“What‌? No!” she shook her head and headed towards the door.

“I can tell you’re lyyyyying,” Toph called from behind following her.

Out in the street Sokka had already began planning.

“We can take the train out to the wall, but then we’ll have to walk.” He didn’t seem enthusiastic about the prospect.

“Don’t worry!” Aang said cheerfully. “On the way back, we’ll be flying!”

“We’re finally leaving Ba Sing Se.” Toph threw her arms in the air in relief. “Worst city ever!”

Suddenly two more familiar figures appeared. Smelarbee’s eyes doubled in size seeing her old leader walking freely around.

“Jet!” she called rushing after the group with Longshot behind he. Katara heard the cry and turned surprised.

“I thought you said you didn’t have your gang anymore‌,” she accused Jet.

“I don’t,” he told her bewildered. As if to prove him wrong Smelarbee threw herself on him, relieved he was still in one piece.

“We were so worried,” she told him. “How did you get away from the Dai Li‌?”

“The Dai Li‌!” Katara said alarmed.

“I don’t know what she’s talking about‌!” Jet said close to panicking.

“He got arrested by the Dai Li a week ago,” Smelarbee explained. “We saw them drag him away.”

“Why would I be arrested‌?” Jet wondered. “I’ve been living peacefully in the city.” Toph knelt on the ground, her brow furrowed in concentration.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “They’re both telling the truth.”

“That’s impossible,” Katara said dismissively. Sokka looked thoughtful.

“No, it’s not. Toph can’t tell who’s lying because they both think they’re telling the truth. Jet’s been brainwashed,” he concluded.

“That’s crazy! It can’t be.” Jet looked at them closing in, in panic. “Stay away from me!” he half-ordered them.

***

Patrolling the streets at night must have been one of the most boring jobs in Ba Sing Se. For the lone Dai Li agent though, things were about to become very interesting. A dark figure with a Blue Spirit’s mask suddenly knocked him out of the way, running through an alley.

“Out of my way, skinny!” he ordered not bothering to look back. The agent ran right after him, to see a figure waiting motionlessly on the back of the alley. Knocking his stone gloves together, he managed to make the dummy fall to the ground. The Dai Li looked at it perplexed. Before he had a chance to move, a sword was resting dangerously close to his neck.

“If you don’t want to end up like him, you’ll do what I say,” the Blue Spirit hissed.

 

A few blocks away the gang had gathered in Jet’s apartment. Katara was staring at the boy thoughtfully.

“The Dai Li must have sent Jet to mislead us, and that janitor was part of their plot too.”

“I bet they have Appa here in the city. Maybe he’s in the same place they took Jet,” Aang said turning to Jet hopefully. “Where did they take you‌?” he asked. The Freedom Fighter looked at them cluelessly.

“Nowhere. I, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We need to find a way to jog his real memories back.” Aang looked around for ideas.

“Maybe Katara could kiss him. That should bring something back.” Sokka smirked at his sister. It disappeared when he saw the death glare she was giving him.

“Maybe you should kiss him, Sokka,” She snapped.

“Hey, just an idea!” he said nervously

“A bad one.” She glared at him. Suddenly Sokka’s eyes brightened.

“Oh, wait. I got it!” He rushed to the mattress and picked a straw. Rushing back to Jet he pocked it on the other boy’s mouth, looking at him expectantly.

“I don’t think it’s working,” Jet remarked flatly, spiting the straw out.

“Try to think of something from your past that triggers your emotions,” Toph suggested.

“The Fire Nation!” Smelarbee suddenly exclaimed. “Remember what they did to your family?”

“Close your eyes,” Katara instructed. “Picture it.”
Jet complied, closing his eyes. Silence reigned into the room as the rest of the teens waited for something, anything, to happen. Suddenly he snapped his eyes open.

“No! It’s too painful,” he managed to choke out. Katara walked behind him, bending some water from her pouch.

“Maybe this will help.” The water began to glow as she placed it on his temples. Jet stared right ahead, his eyes unfocused, as if he was seeing something no one else could.

“They took me to a headquarters under the water, like a lake,” he said tentatively after a while.

“Wait!” Sokka exclaimed. Everyone turned to look at him. “Remember what Ju Dee said? ‌ She said she went on vacation to Lake Laogai.” Jet jumped on his feet.

“That’s it! Lake Laogai.”

 

They waited until morning before taking the train to the northern outskirts of town. The lake was beautiful, surrounded by mountains, a few small islands tracing its surface. Sokka looked around.

“So where’s this secret headquarters‌?” he asked to Jet’s general direction. The older boy scratched his head.

“Under the lake. I think,” He said unsure. Toph pointed to her right, her head still facing forward.

“There’s a tunnel right there near the shore.” She walked away whistling innocently. Reaching the end of the shore, she stomped her feet, creating a stone pathway with a hatch at the end of it. The teens peered inside it, before climbing in. Momo flew away, chattering nervously. That dark hole looked evil to the poor, little lemur.

 

Inside everything was lit with a dim, green light. The passage was spacey, created by smoothly-cut stones. Clearly the work of expert earthbenders. The group waited for a pair of Dai Li that were walking by to disappear into a nearby passage before sneaking in. Jet took the lead.

“It’s all starting to come back to me,” he said quietly, his memories falling back into place. They walked silently past a slightly open door. Sokka sneaked a look and felt his eyes widen. Inside there were at least a dozen of women, all dressed like Ju Dee, repeating the mantra a Dai Li was chanting.

“I’m Ju Dee. Welcome to Ba Sing Se,” he said and they repeated. “We are so lucky to have our walls to create order.”

“I think there might be a cell big enough to hold Appa up ahead,” Jet said, taking again the lead. He stopped in front of a door. “I think it’s through here. “
Appa raised his head as the door to his cell opened. He moaned uncertainly, wishing it wasn’t another Dai Li. Instead he saw a figure dressed in black, wearing the mask of the Blue Spirit.

“Expecting someone else‌?” Zuko whispered drawing his swords. Appa tried to back away, but the chains on his feet wouldn’t let him. Zuko approached carefully the bewildered animal. Raising slowly a hand he patted the bison’s nose, just like he had seen Aang do. To his surprise Appa relaxed. Lowering his guard a little Zuko whispered.

“I’ll help you if you help me.”

 

In another part of the headquarters a door opened. Jet and the others stepped into a massive cavern. Suddenly the door behind them thud shut. Looking around warily, they noticed the Dai Li hanging from the ceiling over them. Turning to face the door, they saw Long Feng.

“Now that’s something different.” Sokka remarked, still staring at the Dai Li on the ceiling.

“You have made yourselves enemies of the state,” Long Feng announced grimly. “Take them into custody,” He ordered his men.

 

The Dai Li dropped from the ceiling surrounding the teens. Two of them launched their stone fists but Toph turned them into dust before they could hit a target. Before the men had a chance to do anything she launched them across the room, much like she did with Sokka and Aang whenever she was annoyed with them. Behind her Jet was fighting another pair. Aang was using both his air and earthbending, giving his opponents a field day, while in another corner Sokka and Katara were fighting together. Suddenly two stone fists grabbed the two Water siblings. Toph sensed the movement and placed a wall between them and the agents. Before they had a chance to hit her, she made earth rise under her, creating a rather impressive pillar and forcing the agents surrounding her to do them same, becoming easy pray for Aang’s airbending.

 

Soon it was obvious that the Dai Li were going to lose. Long Feng turned wordlessly and left, shutting the passage behind him. Aang saw him.

“Long Feng is escaping!” he cried. Together with Jet they lunged after him. Aang blasted the door open and the two boys raced after the Head Dai Li. He led them to another huge room before disappearing. They looked wearily around them when they heard the door close behind them. They turned just in time to see Long Feng dropping from the ceiling.

“Alright Avatar, you’ve caused me enough problems. This is your last chance, if you want your bison back,” He said threateningly. Aang looked at him aghast.

“You do have Appa. Tell me where he is!”

“Agree to exit the city now, and I’ll waive all charges against you and allow you to leave with your lost pet,” Long Feng insisted.

“You’re in no position to bargain,” Jet said raising his swords.

“Am I not‌?”

“You’re definitely not!” Aang shouted, bringing his staff forward.

“Jet,” Long Feng said calmly. “The Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai.” Jet’s eyes dimmed.

“I am honoured to except his invitation,” He said in an empty voice, before turning and attacking viciously Aang.

 

In Appa’s cell Zuko had knelt and was working on the chains on the bison’s feet, when he heard the door creak open. He sprung to his feet, swords ready for attack. Seeing who the person who opened the door was, he nearly dropped them in surprise.

“Uncle‌?” he whispered taken aback. The old man crossed his arms, looking at him with fake puzzlement.

“So, the Blue Spirit,” he began disapprovingly. “I wonder who could be behind that mask‌…” Zuko sighed before removing the mask.

“What are you doing here‌?” he asked his uncle. Iroh scowled.

“I was just about to ask you the same thing. What do you plan to do now that you have found the Avatar’s bison? ‌ Keep it locked in our new apartment? ‌ Should I go put on a pot of tea for him‌?” Zuko turned back to face Appa.

“First I have to get it out of here,” he said, his eyes searching for possible exits.

“AND THEN WHAT‌!” Iroh yelled. “You never think these things through! This is exactly what happened when you captured the Avatar at the North Pole! You had him, and then you had nowhere to go!”

“I would have figured something out!” Zuko shouted back. This wasn’t helping. His plan had been simple: free Appa and return him to Aang, hoping to get back in Katara’s good books.

“No! If his friends hadn’t found you, you would have frozen to death!” Iroh said, concern lacing his frustration. Zuko shut his eyes, memories of his two fights with Katara at the North Pole flashing through his mind. He had thought that was his destiny. He knew better now.

“I know my own destiny uncle.” Iroh didn’t seem to agree with him.

“Is it your own destiny? ‌ Or is it a destiny someone else has tried to force on you‌?”

“Stop it uncle. I have to do this.” Zuko tried to shut the voices out of his head.

I must do it.

There are other ways. Lia’s voice said inside his head.

Katara hates me.

No she doesn’t. She’s just hurt because YOU wouldn’t trust her.

But…

“I’m begging you prince Zuko! It’s time for you to look inward, and begin asking yourself the big questions. Who are you‌? And what do you want‌?” Iroh said silencing the debate inside his nephew’s head. With a cry of frustration Zuko dropped the mask and his swords on the ground.

He still thinks I’m after the Avatar, he thought bitterly. And Katara accused him for lack of trust.

 

Aang was twisting and turning, trying to avoid Jet’s attacks without hurting him.

“Jet, it’s me Aang! You don’t have to do this,” he pleaded, hoping to help the Freedom Fighter snap out of his trance.

“I’m afraid he no longer has a choice,” Long Feng sneered. Jet stopped, trying to catch his breath. Then he charged again towards Aang yelling. The Avatar sent a blast of air against him, but Jet used his hook swords to grab onto the stones of the floor. Taking advantage of the break, Aang tried again.

“Jet, I’m your friend! Look inside your heart!” he pleaded.

“Do your duty Jet,” Long Feng ordered. Jet obeyed nearing the airbender.

“He can’t make you do this! You’re a Freedom Fighter.”

 

His words made Jet freeze in shock. Images of Smelarbee, the Duke, Pipsqueak, Katara, Longshot, Iroh and Zuko flashed through his mind. Being dragged away from the Dai Li, the brainwashing. Iroh, the Fire Nation soldiers that had attacked his town and Long Feng. His eyes cleared as Long Feng ordered once again.

“Do it! Do it now!” Enraged Jet whirled and attacked the head Dai Li. Before he had a chance to land a hit, Long Feng sent a huge rock against him, before earthbending himself to the exit.

“Foolish boy,” he said scornfully. “You’ve chosen your own demise.” Aang moved stunned to where Jet was lying injured.

“I’m sorry, Aang,” He said quietly.

“Don’t be,” Aang said back, sitting next to him.

 

Behind them, the door opened once again and the rest of the group appeared. They all rushed next to the fallen Freedom Fighter. Katara knelt next to him, drawing her water and starting to heal the crushed portion of Jet’s chest. Worried she turned to the others.

“This isn’t good,” She said gravely.

“You guys go find Appa. We’ll take care of Jet,” Smelarbee decided. Katara looked at her shocked.

“We’re not going to leave you,” Longshot shook his head.

“There’s no time. Just go. We’ll take care of him. He’s our leader,” He said gravely. The others looked at him shocked by the fact he spoke.

“Don’t worry Katara,” Jet smiled weakly. “I’ll be fine.” Katara closed her eyes to keep the tears from running. She never thought it would end up like this. As they headed away from the Freedom Fighters Toph whispered to Aang.

“He’s lying.”

They hurried silently from cell to cell until they reached the right one. Stepping inside they only saw Appa’s former manacles lying broken on the floor.

“Appa’s gone. Long Feng beat us here,” Aang concluded disappointed.

“If we keep moving, maybe we can catch up to him,” Sokka said optimistically.

 

Toph took the lead and after blasting a few walls away, the gang ended up on one of Lake Laogai’s islands. Aang tuned his head in time to see nine Dai Lis following them.

“Do you think we can outrun them‌?” Sokka asked running at his side.

“I don’t think it’s gonna matter.” Aang said seeing six more Dai Lis and Long Feng ahead of them. The agents bended two walls, effectively trapping the teens inside. Momo appeared suddenly appeared and sat on Aang’s shoulder, chattering excitedly.

“What is it Momo?” the airbender asked.‌ The lemur took off again and for a moment seemed to disappear on the midday sun. A few moments later he returned, followed closely by the familiar figure of Appa.

“Appa!” Aang called delighted.

 

The bison crashed into the first wall, bringing it down easily, as Aang and Toph did the same for the other one. (Toph earthbended as many Dai Li as possible into the

lake in the process.) Appa landed in front of Long Feng. Seeing his men running away, the earthbender fell into stance with a malicious look on his face.

“I can handle you by myself,” he said. He launched a kick but before he had a chance to strike, Appa caught his leg between his teeth. With one mighty move, he tossed Long Feng to the lake, before spitting the Dai Li’s shoe out.

 

Sokka, Aang, Katara and Momo threw themselves on the giant animal while Toph stroked his nose tenderly.

“Yeah!” Sokka yelled celebrating. “Appa!”

“I missed you, buddy,” Aang whispered, feeling like crying.
Back on the shore Zuko climbed tiredly out of the trap door Toph had created earlier. Turning, he helped his uncle out. The old man took a few breaths. All this running and climbing had taken its toll on him. Nevertheless, he gave his nephew a proud look.

“You did the right thing, nephew,” Zuko wordlessly took out the Blue Spirit mask, staring at it longingly.

Flashback-:

Lia had handed him a small package. “If you’re going to make life hard for Commander Monkey-face you need a proper alter ego.” Zuko opened the box to reveal a Blue Spirit mask. He raised an eyebrow.

“A Water Tribe Spirit?” he had asked her dubiously.

“What? I know the guy! He’s great for secret missions. We’ve gone to a few together. And who would guess prince Zuko under it?”

“Good point,” the boy had murmured still scrutinizing the grinning mask.

-End Flashback-

The mask had turned out to be so much more for him. But perhaps it was time to let go. Iroh put a hand on his shoulder.

“Leave it behind,” he encouraged the teen. With a sigh, Zuko walked at the edge of the small path and threw the mask in the water. The last tie to his ship-bound years was gone.

 

At the same time, on the shores of the Earth Kingdom Lia was walking through the streets of a small village. She stopped at a house near the coastline and took a deep breath. It was time for her search to come to an end.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Drill

Standard

Author’s Note: In which Aang finds out something, there are separations, Ozai’s Angels make a comeback and team names are discussed.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Drill***

As soon as the ship docked Katara, Sokka and Toph walked out hurriedly. The port had two exits: one that led outside the outer wall and one that lead inside Ba Sing Se. At Toph’s request they decided to walk around for a while before entering the city itself. The little earthbender didn’t seem at all enthusiastic about entering the huge city. As they returned to the port, Katara saw Aang’s glider in the distance. The airbender landed in front of them.

“Aang, what are you doing here?” she asked him surprised. “I thought you were looking for Appa.”

“I was; but something stopped me,” he answered worried. “Something big.”

“What’s so big that Appa has to wait?” Sokka asked surprised.

“You’ll see,” Aang said, leading them to the base of the outer wall. There he and Toph earthbended everyone on top of it. As they climbed up, a Fire Nation drill came into view. “That is,” Aang said, pointing at it.

“What are you people doing here?” a voice called from behind them as soon as they reached the top. “Civilians aren’t allowed on the wall,” the same soldier continued. Aang stepped forward.

“I’m the Avatar,” he introduced himself. “Take me to whoever’s in charge.”

 

They were immediately taken to the General, an old man who – Sokka was willing to bet – had never been in battle. He looked at his young visitors good naturedly.

“It is an honor to welcome you to the outer wall young Avatar,” he addressed Aang, “but your help is not needed.”

“Not needed?” Aang repeated shocked. They had a Fire Nation drill closing in on their wall and still thought they were safe!

“Not needed,” the General confirmed. “I have the situation under control,” he continued as he stood up. “I assure you, the Fire Nation cannot penetrate this wall.” The teens followed him out of the room in quiet disbelief. “Many have tried to break through it, but none have succeeded,” the man said proudly.

“What about the Dragon of the West?” Toph chimed in. “He got in.”

“Well…technically yes…” the General stammered. “But he was quickly expunged.” Toph seemed unfazed. “Nevertheless, that’s why the city is called Ba Sing Se. It’s the impenetrable city. They don’t call it Na Sing Se,” he laughed. “That means penetrable city,” he added sobering.

“Yeah, thanks for the tour,” Toph said sarcastically. “But we’ve still got the drill problem.”

“Not for long!” he assured them. “To stop it, I’ve sent an elite platoon of earthbenders called the Terra Team.”

“That’s a good group name,” Sokka said admirably. “Very catchy!”

 

They watched the Team as it was attacked and taken down by two very familiar petite figures. The General looked up from his spyglass.

“We’re doomed!” he cried. Sokka slapped him.

“Get a hold of yourself man!” he yelled.

“You’re right,” the General said, rubbing his check. “I’m sorry.”

“Maybe you’d like the Avatar’s help now?” Toph asked smugly.

“Yes please,” he said on a small voice. The four teens turned to study the drill. It was slowly but steadily approaching the wall.

“So the question is: how are we going to stop that thing?” Aang voiced everyone’s thoughts. Everyone turned expectantly to Sokka.

“Why are you all looking at me?” he asked uneasily.

“You’re the idea-guy,” Aang explained.

“So I’m the only one who can ever come up with a plan?” he whined. “That’s a lot of pressure.”

“And also the complaining-guy,” his sister added.

“That part I don’t mind.”

 

Meanwhile, at the port, Zuko, Lia and Iroh were almost done with the procedurals.

“So,” the terrifying lady at the booth said, “miss Lia, mister Lee and mister Mashi, is it?”

“It’s pronounced Mushi,” Iroh corrected her. She glared at him.

“You telling me how to do my job?” she asked.

“Uh, no, no!” he hastily amended approaching her. “But may I just say that you are like a flower in bloom. Your beauty is intoxicating.” She looked at him flattered.

“You’re pretty easy on the eyes yourself handsome,” she purred before stamping their passports. “Welcome to Ba Sing Se,” she added. Iroh turned to see both Zuko and Lia face-palming. Zuko snatched his passport from his uncle’s hand.

“I’m gonna forget I saw that,” he grumbled as they left for the station to catch a train that would take them inside the city.

 

Back at the infirmary of the outer wall Katara was using her bending to heal the men of the Terra Team. It didn’t seem to work.

“What’s wrong with him?” the General wondered. “He doesn’t look injured.” Katara bended the water away.

“His chi is blocked,” she explained. “Who did this to you?” she asked the soldier.

“Two girls ambushed us,” the man managed to say. Taking a few shaky breaths he continued. “One of them hit me with a bunch of quick jabs and suddenly I couldn’t earthbend and I could barely move. And then she cart-wheeled away.” Katara’s eyes widened.

“Tai Li,” she said under her breath. “She doesn’t look dangerous but she knows the human body and its weak points. It’s like she takes you down from the inside.”

“Ohohohohoh!” Sokka yelled suddenly.

“Yes?” his sister asked him unimpressed.

“What you just said. That’s how we’re gonna take down the drill! The same way Tai Li took down all these big earthbenders.”

“By hitting its pressure points!” Toph completed. They approached the window.

“We’re going to take down from the inside.” Aang summarised.

 

They moved out of the wall and as near to the drill as they could go unnoticed. Toph turned to the others.

“Once I’ll pop up some cover you won’t be able to see, so stay close to me,” She warned them. She made the earth erupt around them, creating a dust cloud. They ran inside it. Soon they were next to the drill. Toph created a hole on the ground in front of her.

“Everyone into the hole,” she ordered them. She jumped in last, closing the ground behind her. Underground it was pitch-black.

“It’s so dark in here, I can’t see a thing,” Sokka complained.

“Oh no! What a nightmare!” Toph said from behind him.

“Sorry,” he apologized awkwardly. They came again above ground and now they were right under the metal monster. Sokka pointed at an opening, probably left there for easy maintenance.

“There!” he said. He, Aang and Katara jumped inside. Toph though, didn’t follow them. “Toph come on!” Sokka called her impatiently.

“No way am I going into that metal monster,” she said decisively. “I can’t bend in there. I’ll try to slow it down out here.”

“Okay,” Sokka nodded. “Good luck.” Then he and Aang disappeared inside the machine, following Katara.

 

Inside pipes were crossing each other everywhere, with no apparent pattern. Sokka looked around.

“I need a plan of this machine. Some schematics that show what it looks like. Then we can find its weak points.”

“Where are we going to get something like that?” Aang asked him. Sokka smiled taking out his sword. He broke a pip, letting the steam come out and create a cloud.

“What are you doing?” Aang exclaimed worried. “Someone’s gonna hear us!”

“That’s the point!” Sokka explained. “I figured a machine this big needs engineers to run it. And when something breaks…”

“They come to fix it,” Katara completed. Indeed, soon a mechanic appeared, looking rather bored. Katara sneaked behind him and bended the steam, turning it into ice and freezing the man. Sokka snatched the blueprints out of his hand.

“This will do,” he said cheerfully. “Thanks!”

 

They moved to another engine-room, at a safe distance from the main corridors and opened the papers. Sokka studied them for a few moments.

“It looks like the drill is made of two main structures,” he concluded. “There’s the inner mechanism where we are now, and the outer shell. The inner part and the outer part are connected by these braces. If we cut through them, the entire thing collapses.” They nodded satisfied. That would do.

 

The train station was packed. Lia let her eyes wonder around, bored out of her mind. Normally she would do a few tricks with fire, just to pass her time, but even she wasn’t so reckless to do so here. So she refrained, sitting between Iroh and Zuko and scanning the crowd. Jet appeared through it suddenly. Lia felt Zuko tense next to her. She squeezed his arm warningly. He gave the tiniest nod as an answer.

“So, you guys got plans once you get inside the city?” Jet asked interested.

“Get your hot tea here! Finest tea in Ba Sing Se!” a merchant called. Lia shot to her feet.

“Jasmine, right uncle?” she asked, grateful for the distraction. The old man nodded delighted. “You Lee?” she asked Zuko.

“I don’t want any, thanks,” he answered absentmindedly.

“Suit yourself.” She shrugged, before going over the stall to get a cup of tea. She returned with the cup on her hand. Iroh took a sip and his expression turned from dreamy to insulted.

“Coldest tea in Ba Sing Se more like it!” He glared at the merchant’s direction. “What a disgrace!”

“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?” Jet asked Zuko. The prince sighed before following the other boy a little further. What did he want now?

 

Once they were out of earshot Jet turned to him.

“You and I have a much better chance of making it into the city if we stick together. You wonna join the Freedom Fighters?” he offered.

“Does the invitation include my sister and uncle too?” Zuko asked carefully.

“No,” Jet shook his head. “We need warriors and neither of them struck me as one. However, I don’t think you have to worry about the old man. I bet your sister can take care of him.”

“Then thanks,” Zuko said, “but I don’t think so. Besides you don’t want me in your gang.”

“Come on!” Jet tried to convince him. “We made a good team smuggling that captain’s food. Think of all the good things we could do for these refuges.” Yeah, like flooding cities, Zuko thought bitterly. He turned to leave.

“I said no.”

 

He returned to where Iroh was sitting. Lia had moved away and was talking to some people lightly. Zuko turned to see what Jet was doing and caught him glaring wide-eyed at Iroh. The Freedom Fighter turned and left, trying to look indifferent. Zuko tuned to his uncle, to see what the big deal was. The cup the old man was holding was steaming now. Zuko felt some of his old anger flair again. He knocked the cup out of Iroh’s hands.

“Hey!” Iroh exclaimed.

“What are you doing firebending your tea?” Zuko hissed. “For a wise old man that was a pretty stupid move.”

“I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea…” Iroh sobbed. “But it’s just so sad.” Lia came back to them, fare welling some kids over her shoulder.

“What happened here?” she asked surprised noticing the spilled tea.

“I thought you’d watch over him,” Zuko told her angrily. “Now we’ll have to watch our backs even inside Ba Sing Se.” Lia rolled her eyes.

“Do you have any idea how huge this city is? And anyway, Iroh is an adult.” She gave a meaningful stare at the old man. “We shouldn’t be supposed to babysit him.” The old General just chuckled awkwardly.

 

Outside the ignorant city the huge drill was still approaching. Inside it, Katara, Sokka and Aang had just found the in-between section of the machine. Not that it was hard to miss… Sokka looked around awed.

“Wow!” he said. “It looks a lot bigger in person than it does on the plan. We’re gonna have to work pretty hard to cut through them.” He looked at the pillars supporting the construction.

“What’s this we-stuff?” Katara asked him annoyed. “Aang and I are gonna have to do the whole job.”

“Look, I’m the plan guy,” Sokka argued, “you two are the cut-through-stuff-with-waterbending guys. Together we’re team Avatar!” he concluded. Grumbling the two benders began working. Halfway through the pillar they paused, breathing heavily. The metal was obviously top quality, thick enough to exhaust even them quickly.

“Come on team! Don’t quit now!” Sokka called them from the side-lines. “We’re…” Katara almost waterwhipped him. “I mean…you’re almost there,” Sokka corrected hastily. Without any more distractions they cut through the pillar. It seemed to give way at first, but then the two pieces stuck.

“At this rate we won’t do enough damage before the drill reaches the wall.” Katara sighed.

“I don’t know how many more of those I have in me.” Aang said tired.

 

Suddenly a strange rumble was heard. The whole construction started to tremble.

“Did you hear that?” Sokka said excited. “We took it down. We’d better get out of here fast.” They rushed to the door. As they exited, a voice was heard.

“Congratulations crew,” a man’s smug voice was heard. “The drill has made contact with the wall of Ba Sing Se. Start the countdown to victory!” The three teens shared a disappointed look. Sokka run back to the cut pillar. He started pushing it.

“Come on, budge!” he commanded the metal desperately.

“This is bad, really bad,” Katara muttered.

“We put everything we had on cutting these braces but it won’t budge!” Sokka glared furiously at the pillar. “It’s taking too long!”

“Maybe we needn’t cut all the way through!” Aang exclaimed suddenly. He sprung to his feet. “Toph has been teaching me that you shouldn’t give a hundred per cent of your energy into any one strike,” he explained. “Sokka take a fighting stance. You’ve got to be quick and accurate. Hit a series of points and break your opponent’s stance. And when he’s riling back you deliver the final blow. His own weight becomes his downfall, literally.” Katara nodded in understanding, even as Sokka fell on his back after Aang’s quick demonstration.

“So we just need to weaken the braces instead of cutting all the way through.”

“Then I’ll go to the top of that thing and deliver the final blow,” Aang completed.

“And boom! It all comes crushing down!” Sokka said excited again.

“Everyone inside that wall, the whole world! They’re counting on us,” Aang said.

“The whole world minus the Fire Nation,” Sokka corrected him.

 

They went through pillar after pillar, cutting them halfway through. They had reached the last one and were almost done with it when suddenly Sokka yelled:

“Duck!” Aang did so just in time to avoid a blue flame that came towards him. They looked up to see Azula and her two friends. Azula shot another flame towards Aang. He ducked it again.

“Wow Azula you were right!” Tai Li said enthusiastic. “It is the Avatar! And friends.” She winked at Sokka.

“Hey!” he said smiling stupidly. Katara wordlessly dragged him away. Aang sent an air current against the three Fire Nation girls, distracting them enough for him and his friends to make an escape. When they reached a two-way corridor Aang halted.

“Guys get out of here.” He told Sokka and Katara urgently. “I know what I need to do.”

“Wait!” Katara threw him her pouch. “You need this water more than I do.” Aang nodded and took off.

 

The two Water Tribe siblings ran to a dead end. In front of them was a huge pipe.

“Slurry Pipe Line?” Katara read. “What does that mean?” Sokka managed to open it. Inside there was a mix of water and rocks.

“It means our way out,” he said satisfied. Mai and Tai Li appeared at the corridor on the other end of the corridor. Sokka and Katara slid inside the pipe in time to avoid the incoming darts and let the current drag them.

 

It led them on the back side of the drill; literally spitting them out, half-covered with slurry mud. Katara looked up in time to see Tai Li almost out of the drill too. Hurriedly she bended the water, preventing the slurry – and the pink-dressed girl – from exiting.

“Why don’t you try blocking my chi now circus freak?” she asked spitefully.

“Katara keep that up!” Sokka said excited. “The pressure will build up in the drill. Then when Aang delivers the final blow it will be ready to pop!”

 

Aang was standing on top of the head of the drill. He ran near the wall, halting on a safe distance.

“This looks like a good place Momo,” he told the lemur, perched on his shoulder. A rock landed on that spot. More followed as he jumped around to avoid them.

“General Shong, tell your soldiers to stop shooting rocks down here,” Aang yelled. More rocks came falling; the General had either not heard him or was ignoring him. Aang took out the water and started weakening the metal on the spot he had chosen.

 

At the other end of the drill Sokka continued “encouraging” his sister.

“Good technique little sister,” he said enthusiastically. “Keep it up. Don’t forget to breathe!”

“You know I am just sick and tired of you telling me what to do all day,” Katara snapped. “You’re like a chattering hog-monkey.”

“Just bend the slurry woman!” he yelled back. Katara wordlessly used her other hand to bend a slurry wave on her brother.

“You guys need some help?” Toph’s voice was heard.

“Toph, help me plug this drain,” Katara ordered. Together the two girls forced the slurry back inside.

 

Aang was exhausted. “What I’d give to be a metalbender,” he sighed. Momo suddenly screeched. Aang turned, just in time to deflect a wave of blue flames. Azula attacked again and again, and even though Aang used air, water and earth combined he was eventually knocked to the wall. The princess set him standing on the wall, preparing to deliver the final blow. Aang gained consciousness just then and hastily formed an earth glove, blocking Azula’s attack and pushing her back. She charged against him again, to be knocked off her balance by a wave of slurry. She fell on Aang, making both them slide off the drill. Momo rushed where Aang was sliding and grabbed him from the collar trying to make him fly. Aang used it to airbend himself back on the drill.

“Thanks Momo. I owe you one.” He patted the animal’s head, before rushing back to the small hole he had made. “Now all I need is…” a rock landed next to him. “Actually that’s what I need,” he said satisfied. He earthbended it to the shape of a spike and fitted it on the hole. Then he took off running, using the air-scooter to climb half-way up the wall, before running back down. Azula had just climbed back on the drill and tried to shoot him, but he avoided her by inches, instead sending her flying because of the impact created by the drill falling apart. Toph felt the tremble of the machine as it collapsed.

“Here it comes!” she yelled earthbending them to safety.

 

At the port the last train for the inner city of Ba Sing Se was ready to leave. Zuko, Lia and Iroh found seats near Yeng’s family. Iroh immediately started playing with little Hope. Zuko on the other hand was brooding, a deep frown etched on his face. Lia was waiting patiently for him to open up.

“Do you ever have a feeling that something bad is happening?” he finally asked her.

“Sometimes,” Lia admitted.

“What about now?” he insisted. The Spirit closed her eyes for a few moments, as if resting them.

“If anything happened it’s no danger anymore,” she said finally. “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.” Zuko nodded, relaxing a bit. She was probably right.

 

On the outer wall four teens were watching the sunset. Sokka looked around excited.

“I just want to say, good job everyone today Team Avatar!”

“Enough with the Team Avatar stuff! No matter how many times you say it, it’s not going to catch on,” Katara said annoyed.

“How about… the Boomerang Squad!” he offered then. “See it’s good because it’s got Aang in it. Boomer-Aang,” he explained.

“I kind of like that one.” Aang admitted sheepishly.

“Let’s talk about this on our way into the city,” Katara said, turning to leave. Aang and Toph followed her.

“The Aang-Gang?” Sokka continued proposing names.

“Sokka…” his sister sighed.

“The Fearsome-Foursome!”

“You’re crazy!” Toph decided.

“Why? We’re fearsome!” Sokka insisted, running to catch up with them.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Full Moon Bay

Standard

Author’s note: In which there is shipping, bad past decisions come to light and Ba Sing Se looms ahead.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***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…”

“Just what?”

“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.

-Flashback:-

“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.”

-End Flashback.-

“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.