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|Jet (Part 1)|
13-Jet (Part 1)
After stumbling across a Fire Nation camp by sheer poor luck (and bad leading), Katara meets and falls for Jet. Quickly she discovers there's more to these Freedom Fighters than meets the eye; they all share a painful history and bond their new lives with one another. She finds nothing but pride and infatuation for this teams leader, Jet, and does everything she can to get close to him.
Yep; there's a bit of fluff here. It's not as "fluffy" as I thought it'd be, but regardless there is some. At this point I'm finding that my writing is beginning to include a lot of more elements/story pieces to fill in time gaps, there's a lot going on here.
Oh and, give notice to Willowheart. I rather liked her character. =D
"Ugh." Katara's eyes opened to the sunlight beaming through the treetops above. Her head throbbed, bringing her to rub both sides of her forehead in agony.
"Evening sleepyhead." Sokka greeted.
"How long was I asleep?" She sat upright, yet doing so was quite an arduous task as a shooting pain ran straight up her spine. "Ow!" She grimaced.
"About an hour." Aang paced up beside Katara and her brother. "Are you okay?"
"Still hurting eh?" Sokka questioned as he pulled his legs up, propping both elbows atop his knees. "Next time try spending the night in your warm sleeping bag instead of against a cold tree." He raised a brow and grinned smugly in summation.
She scowled back in reply. "Ha ha. Very funny, I didn't tie myself to the tree you know."
"I'm just sayin'. Our night could have gone smoother if you didn't run off like that."
"Hm." She hung her head, crossed her legs in front of her and gazed idly toward her leather shoes. "You don't have to remind me, Sokka. He said that too."
"Huh?" Aang flopped down in front of the two, focusing his attention on Katara.
"Zuko. He told me my night could have gone much better if I had agreed with him, before putting my necklace away." She sighed and shook her head. "He threatened to hurt me and you, Sokka. Then he tried to get me to exchange my necklace for you, Aang." She darted her blue eyes between the two.
Sokka's forehead tightened in a sharp scowl. "So you refused. Did he carry through with hurting you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Didn't I answer that earlier? No he didn't. Though; he did leave me tied to the tree all night. Word of advice, don't ever sleep against a tree. It's not pleasant."
Aang chuckled softly and beamed a smile back to her. "No, but sleeping in them can be fun, I love to be up off of the ground."
Silly as always. "Except when you wake up from falling onto the ground." Sokka shot out in comeback to Aang's suggestion.
"Yeah that's not so fun." Squinting a single eye, he gazed memorably toward the treetops.
"Hah!" She couldn't help it. Clasping her hands over her mouth she stifled sharp laughter. Quickly she cleared her throat and lowered her hands to compose herself. "I take it you know from experience, then?"
Aang dropped his eyes to her and smiled in answer. "Yep. I've fell off many things; like Appa's head, my glider, formations of ice at the South Pole, the mail chutes at Omashu, the..."
"Okay, okay, we get it!" Sokka thrust his palm up in front of Aang's face and waved it madly to cease his explanation. "You really are a goofy kid, you know that?"
"Yup!" Aang leapt to his feet and glanced back at Appa. Katara sighed and shook her head again at Aang's antics. Wow. No wonder he acts so silly...he must have fell on his head one too many times. She silently joked to herself, not intending to prod Aang with the jest.
She dropped her hands to her legs, gently gripping her ankles. I wonder how long before I'm no longer stiff. "Where's Momo?" Aang redirected her attention. Huh...I just got up, didn't even think about him. Oh no! Her eyes widened as she examined their campsite, but no lemur was in sight.
As if on cue Momo's loud cry echoed from deeper within the forest. "Oh no!" She shouted and leapt to her feet as quick as she could.
Her legs nearly failed her as she stumbled from a sudden leg cramp, but Sokka gripped her arm and pulled her up. "Be careful! You almost face planted the ground! What's wrong with you?"
Ensuring she was fine, she pulled her arm free and scowled back. "What do you think?"
"Easy guys, we have to go help Momo. He sounded like he was in trouble!" Aang broke them up and headed off into the forest.
Beautiful. Despite having to look for Momo, Katara was in awe at the beauty of the forest. This was unlike any forest she had been in before, not that she had seen many aside from what she had seen these last weeks. The sunlight mixed with the colored leaves, creating a beautiful sunset-like ambience all around them.
"Hang on Momo!" Aang's shout snapped her back to reality just in time to notice him spiral up into the treetops. Blinking in surprise, she rubbed her eyes to try and clear her vision. Three small circular things, as best she could understand them, were barely visible up in the high treetops.
A moment later answered what these were. Aang lowered Momo's metal cage to the ground. As she and her brother pulled back the cage's steel bars, Momo scampered out instantly. The white creature scurried a short distance away, mindlessly chewing on a leechi nut that had lured him there to start with. "Urgh!" Sokka sounded in disgust at the lemur's foolishness while Katara scowled at the small creature as well. Smart, Momo. Just walk right into a trap, then don't show any gratitude when we get you out. Hmph.
Aang landed deftly on his feet between them and Momo. But all three glanced back up to the remaining two cages left behind when they heard grunts and groans of sorrow. "Alright you too!" Aang repeated spiraling into the air to go save the creatures.
"This is gonna take forever." Sokka snapped out his boomerang and expertly hurled it into the air. It spun up after Aang, swooping just by him as it spiraled back and snapped the lines holding the cages.
"Whoa!" She leapt back, dodging as the cages slammed into the ground and burst open. Two hog monkeys scampered out of their cells and ran for the trees. Well, not bad, Sokka. Dangerous but not bad.
Aang rejoined them as Sokka knelt to examine a now busted cage. She drew her eyebrows up in disdain at the sight. Who would make such a thing? That's so cruel. "These are Fire Nation traps, you can tell from the metalwork." Sokka wittily answered her thoughts, rubbing his fingers along the edge of the steel. Turning back to Aang, he pressed forward a demand. "We better pack up camp, and get moving."
"Wake up buddy!" Aang shouted as they came back to Appa's side. "Gotta get going again." Appa groaned in protest as he rolled to his belly, tucking his six legs beneath him. "Thanks Appa." He propelled into the air and landed atop his furry head, while Sokka and Katara bundled up her sleeping bag and the various supplies they had pulled down for an earlier snack.
Hefting her bundle of supplies she passed them up to Aang, then turned back to take Sokka's bundle. "Uh-uh!" She stared at her brother in confusion as he came straight at her. "No flying this time!" At that he reached up and grabbed the bundle from Aang's hands. What is he thinking this time...?
"What?" Aang protested. "Why wouldn't we fly!?"
"Think about it. Somehow Prince Zuko and the Fire Nation keep finding us." He paused, letting them linger on the question a moment. "It's because they spot Appa, he's just too noticeable!"
"What!?" She leaned forward and pressed her hands on her hips, glaring at her brother. "Appa's not too noticeable!" Sure, blame Appa for all of this.
Sokka turned fully toward her and dropped his legs wide, thrusting one hand up to the barn-sized creature beside him and shouted back. "He's a gigantic fluffy monster with an arrow on his head; it's kinda hard to miss him!"
Appa did not like this. His head lifted completely off the ground, carrying the small airbender with him as he broke into a loud bellow that echoed through the forest. "Sokka's just jealous 'cause he doesn't have an arrow." Aang nonchalantly commented to his partner.
Nice one. She kept her hands pressed to her hips behind her brother, slyly smiling for Aang's last comment. Where is he getting these ideas, anyway? "I know you all want to fly, but my instincts tell me we should play it safe this time, and walk." Sokka calmly returned to his reasoning.
As he had stated his instincts, Katara softly approached behind him. "Who made you the boss?" She questioned sarcastically and leaned to shove her face into his. Her eyes fell to a playful scorn.
"I'm not the boss, I'm the leader." He lifted his arm and jabbed his finger into his chest, casting a look of finality to his sister.
Wow, that's where this is coming from? She instantly broke into a stifled laugh, waving her hands before her in question as she stood upright. "Tch, you're the leader?! But your voice still cracks!" She pressed her hands back to her hips and mocked him with a smile.
His expression was laughable. She had taken him aback by this, bringing him to lean against her and prove just how right she was seeing as his voice cracked. "I'm the oldest, and I'm a warrior!" She pulled away to stand upright and simply smiled, tightly shutting her eyes in complimentary fashion. Toying with him was so much fun. He apparently realized his trouble with his voice, dropping it to speak as low as he could. "So, I'm the leader!"
Afraid not, you're just a wanna-be warrior. But since we're on the leader topic; I know who should be. "If anyone's the leader, it's Aang." She wistfully glanced away from her brother. Aang was much more respectable than Sokka any day. "I mean, he is the Avatar." She stated the obvious, returning her attention to him.
"Are you kidding? He's just a goofy kid." Sokka immediately interjected. Better than a know-it-all soldier boy.
"He's right!" Aang piped in out of nowhere. She glanced up toward Appa's head just now to spot the airbender hanging upside down from Appa's horn.
Eh... She blinked away his childish behavior and glanced back to Sokka, crossing her arms firmly. "Why do boys always think someone has to be the leader?!" Suddenly a thought crossed her mind – another great way of picking at Sokka. Tipping her head forward, she drove her thought out hard. "I bet you wouldn't be so bossy if you kissed a girl!"
"I've kissed a girl!" He immediately retaliated. Oh this is gonna be rich. You're making this just too easy for me! His eyes danced away from her as if scared at this topic. "You just haven't met her!"
"Who?" She singly questioned, shuffling forward to further pester her brother. "Gran Gran?" She tipped away, grinning devilishly as she knew she was driving Sokka up a tree. "I've met Gran Gran."
He threw his hands up in the air. "No, besides Gran Gran..." He dropped his hands low and shifted the conversation back to the point at hand. "Look, my instincts tell me we have a better chance of slipping through on foot. And a leader has to trust his instincts."
Fine, change the subject. She rolled her eyes into the air as she began. "Okay, we'll try it your way." Redirecting her attention to back, she wryly continued with a grin. "Oh wise leader..."
"Who knows?" Aang took her by surprise, stepping up right next to her. Turning to see his smiling face, she noticed supplies already strapped to his back. "Walking might be fun!" She eyed him in surprise, before puckering her lips out in disgust and turning away. Fun if you aren't still stiff from a tree. Whatever, I'll carry my share.
As they walked leisurely through the forest, Katara mulled over what Sokka had said. Who is he saying he kissed? I mean, there's nobody! I've been with him every day, and there's no one back home he could have kissed. So, who? He's lying. He has to be lying.
She reached up and tugged at the straps holding her supplies to her back. It was heavy and digging into her shoulders painfully. She noticed her leg was wet and glanced down. With a soft gasp, she realized their drinking water had come unplugged from her bundle and was leaking out on her.
Wait... A sudden memory lit her thoughts, as she mindlessly pulled the water from her clothing with waterbending and plugged up the water skin. He's meaning her? Really? She smiled cruelly. "Do you miss her?" Sokka turned only his head back, lifting an eyebrow to her questionably. "Well, do you?"
He seemed to grimace. "Miss who? Gran Gran? Yeah, of course I do."
"Well yeah I was referring to the girl you kissed, and that is her." She broke into a laugh, deciding to run with it.
"Oh stop it." He turned forward, beginning to ignore her.
"Sokka, don't tell me you're referring to that face paint lady who kicked your warrior-leader butt." She narrowed her eyes, her smile holding a certain evil she couldn't even begin to describe. He twisted his head back once more, with an absolutely aghast expression. Yep, hit the nail on the head. "Being pecked on the cheek doesn't count, Sokka. You've still only kissed Gran Gran."
Aang burst into brief laughter, shaking Momo slightly as he stood upright on Aang's pack. "Good one Katara." However Sokka shunned any conversation with the two and directed his attention ahead of him.
They walked on in silence, aside from Appa's constant thump behind them. Aang suddenly broke the quiet by sighing in disgust. She lifted an eyebrow and eyed the bobbing pack on Aang's back. "Walking STINKS!" He vigorously shouted. "How do people go anywhere without a flying bison?"
Isn't that the truth! What're we gonna do, walk to the North Pole? "Well I don't know Aang. Why don't you ask Sokka's instincts? They seem to know everything."
"Ha-ha. Very funny." Sokka quipped without glancing back. Clearly he was tired of her nagging.
She briskly stepped forward to be by Aang's side. Glancing at him she saw his expression was severely sullen. Aw... She eyed him thoughtfully. Clearly he was terribly unhappy with this situation. "I'm tired of carrying this pack." He idly stated.
Oh perfect. "You know who you should ask to carry it for awhile? Sokka's instincts!" She turned to cast a humorous smile at Sokka's bobbing warrior's wolf tail.
"That's a great idea!" She beamed at Aang's sudden exclamation. "Hey, Sokka's instincts! Would you mind–"
"Okay, okay! I get it!" Her mouth gaped in surprise at Sokka's frustration. Maybe I should let up a little on him. He turned back to the two and spoke calmly in response. "Look guys, I'm tired too. But the important thing is that we're safe from the–" He pushed back a red bush and stepped into a small clearing, turning to their path. "Fire... Nation..."
What's his prob– She slipped out behind him and froze dead in her tracks. Her heart stopped as her eyes widened in horror. Oh. A small campfire was burning, tents were set up, and barrels sat beside the tents... but most importantly, twenty pairs of Fire Nation eyes were on them in just as much surprise.
Sokka's voice cracked again. "Ruun!" He slung off his pack, as Katara's heart resumed its race within her chest. Off came her pack, readying to bolt back into the woods with the two boys. But in response a Fire Nation soldier lunged forward with a shout, sending a ball of flame directly by their heads.
She couldn't even scream. Her mouth fell open and she leapt back with her arms up defensively, but found no sound coming out. Whoosh! The bushes they had hoped to run through burst into flames, blocking their way back to Appa. "We're cut off!" Sokka shouted stating the obvious.
"Sokka, your shirt!" Aang crisply spat out. Huh? Having taken her attention, she spotted flames burning on Sokka's upper arm! Sokka! He wailed in horrified surprise. Suddenly she remembered being wet earlier; the water skin was still strapped to her. Hold still! She uncapped the skin and waved her palm out before her, drawing the water into a stream above her hand.
Okay, don't hurt him, do this right. Her face grew stern as she willed herself to waterbend. Lunging forward, she thrust the stream directly beside his face, slapping at the flames on his arms and dousing them instantly. Hah! She drew back, pulling her arm down so her palm returned to the base of the water skin. Her water stream receded back in and quickly she capped it shut. It worked!But now there were bigger problems. She and Aang slipped back to back, both in bending forms prepared to strike. Sokka stood just ahead of them, poised ready to defend if needed. I don't exactly have much water...but I can still waterbend! She kept her face stern, but the odds were against them. "If you let us pass, we promise not to hurt you." Sokka demanded.
Her eyes widened and her eyebrows twisted up in confusion. "What are you doing?" She whispered beneath her breath, averting her blue eyes to the back of Sokka's head. We're outnumbered...
"Bluffing?" He nervously whispered back.
"You... promise not to hurt us?" The sole firebender of the group responded. The rest had encircled them, leaving just the burning flames behind the three uncovered. There was no way out but through the guards holding spears and swords at the ready. He's not buying it, Sokka... Thump. The man fell to his knees, then down to his face.
Katara dropped her bending form, staring at the man on his stomach in awe. Even his fellow soldiers all lowered their weapons marginally and gaped at his fall. "Nice work Sokka!" Aang called out excitedly as if the other guards weren't there at all. "How'd you do that?"
What's that? She turned and half ignored Sokka's reply, catching movement out of the corner of her eye in the trees. Of course Sokka hadn't done that. "Uuhh, instinct?" He replied.
She was right, she had spotted movement. A single young man stood high above on a tree limb, watching the crowd. "Look!" She shouted, pointing up to him in surprise.
Shing. She heard the draw of steel swords as the young man leapt from his position, catching the limb with his hook swords and swinging into a sudden fall. What is he doing? He slammed feet first atop two soldiers, sending them both face first to the ground roughly. She stared in wide-eyed wonder as he bolted for the crowd of soldiers on his own.
He ducked low, hooking his swords around two soldiers' legs, and leapt into the air to pull them with him. The two went airborne and landed squarely atop the firebender who had collapsed earlier, just in front of Sokka. Katara locked her eyes on this young man as he landed expertly on his feet, his dual hook swords poised and ready for action. "Down you go." He cleverly quipped.
Wow...! That was amazing! Not to mention he was handsome. Immediately a guard rushed the man from behind, bringing his sword down to bear on him. Simple – the young man spun back and struck his blade aside, finishing his spin to trip up the man to fall. Katara stood dumbstruck, locked on his prowess as he gripped his two blades firmly and dropped low. The confident grin on his face, with a twig proudly clenched between his teeth, told her this fight was over.
"They're in the trees!" One guard shouted. A small child fell out of the sky and slammed on that man's shoulders, twisting his helmet back to block his sight. The soldiers behind him lifted their swords and prepared to charge after him, but a trio of arrows sang through the air and struck the swords from the men's hands.
This is... this is unreal! She glanced up in time to see the young archer hook his legs to his tree limb, spin to hang upside down and promptly release two more arrows to disarm other soldiers. At this point people were everywhere, arrows and swords clanging violently.
Sokka had drawn his boomerang and dashed off. "Katara!" Aang took her attention for a moment, glancing back in time to see a soldier rushing the two.
"On it!" She released the cap to her water skin and thrust her arm forward to sling the water down into an arched pathway where she froze it solid. Aang suddenly aided the man's momentum with a heavy airbending blast, sending him sailing past them and into Katara's trap. Whoosh! The man shouted in surprise as he took off like a shot sliding away from them and into a tree.
Glancing back toward the action, she caught sight of the young man smiling at her. But then her brother let out a long and drawn out war cry as he stood absolutely still, awaiting an oncoming Fire Nation soldier. You're... SO embarrassing! Slam! The young man leapt in front of Sokka and squarely planted both his feet into the soldier from his side, kicking him clean off-track into the trees. Katara's jaw dropped at this; he was unbelievable to watch.
"Hey, he was mine!" Sokka shouted dejectedly.
"Gotta be quicker next time." The young man retorted with a cocky smile. He's... wow. He's a REAL warrior, not some fake like Sokka! Not to mention his witty attitude took her by surprise. Her mouth shut as she smiled broadly and shifted to her side, content to watch the Fire Nation soldiers get thoroughly thrashed without need for participation.
She watched the young man wander into the center of the campsite. He glanced around idly as if seeking an opponent, but had his attention drawn when what sounded like a gorilla roared. What the... A large man grinned and patted a tree trunk in his hands while two soldiers backed away with bent swords.
Oh! Her eyes widened as a soldier thrust a spear for the young man's back. Thankfully, the warrior picked up on this immediately and spun back, latching his dual hook swords on the shaft of the spear to fight against it reaching his chest. Quickly he sidestepped out of danger and swung his sword beside him in a full spin, adding momentum as he struck the soldier square in his face. The man went airborne, and so did his spear.
Clang! The spear ricocheted off of another soldier's helmet and sent him to the ground. "Man!" Sokka shouted, having been standing by this soldier. Katara's smile only tightened. Gotta be quicker next time. She repeated the young man's cocky statement in her thoughts.
The ring of steel striking steel took her attention back to the fight. The young man stepped past a spear wielder, having apparently just traded blows. Turning back toward one another, the young warrior positioned himself in preparation for an attack. The soldier spun his spear overhead and batted the ground with it, bringing the spear tip to bear between them.
He lunged for his chest. This was just what the warrior had been waiting for. His hook swords swung down and slammed the spear to the ground. Quickly he raced forward, running up the shaft of the spear so it cracked beneath his weight, leaping up above the soldier. Just as he passed the Fire Nation soldier, he kicked off of the back of his head, sending him to the ground.
Katara stood motionless, having just watched as this battle played out right before her eyes. The young man sailed through the air, landing with a short stumble as he slowed to a halt just before her, face to face. She froze as a quick shock leapt through her arms, feeling slightly paralyzed. "Hey." He smartly greeted.
"Hi..." She nervously replied up to the taller, dark-haired warrior. Quickly she averted her eyes as she felt slightly shaky from this sudden excitement. Glancing around the campsite, she witnessed the last Fire Nation soldier flee into the woods.
"You just took out a whole army almost single-handed!" Aang exclaimed as he stepped up behind the young warrior.
"Army?!" Sokka retaliated. "Pfft...there were only like, twenty guys!"
She half-heard either of them though. The warrior strode away for the campsite to rejoin his crew, leaving her to smile wistfully at his back as he walked on. Gosh he's handsome. "My name is Jet." He proudly added, whipping back around to face the three. "And these are my Freedom Fighters." He added with a simple nod of his head back beside him.
And a leader. He's a real leader, too! "Sneers, Longshot, Smellerbee, The Duke, and Pipsqueak." Her eyes only marginally glanced at who he referred to, but only barely as she kept glancing back to Jet. Jet, huh?
Aang walked off past Jet toward his Freedom Fighters. "Pipsqueak! That's a funny name." She heard him begin as he walked off, but lost track of the conversation aside from a burst of laughter and the young airbender being face planted into the ground. She lifted an eyebrow at that surprise, but twisted back to Jet in a moment. Hey, don't leave... He had turned and strayed back to his comrades, apparently discussing what to do next.
"Jet." Sokka spat out. "What kind of name is Jet? And Freedom Fighters? Is that the best he could come up with? I mean really..."
She scowled and whipped a glare on her brother. "It's a wonderful name, and he is doing just that! He's fighting the Fire Nation for freedom! A real hero."
"Hero?! How'd we get from him being Jet to him being a hero?" Sokka thrust his arms down low, glaring back at his sister. "He's just some kid with blunt swords!"
Her anger boiled at this, pressing her hands upon her hips. "What, you could have done better? With your stupid bluffing? You'd have gotten us killed!"
"Hmph. I just didn't get the chance." Sokka quickly walked off toward the camp after Aang, leaving Katara to stew.
Katara had idled around camp for nearly ten minutes, meandering among the crowd but always staying in sight of Jet. Sokka was content to mope beside a tent and Aang had great pleasure chatting with all the new people here. She, however, remained mostly quiet and followed in Jet's shadow for a while. But now he had broken away from the crew and was simply leaning with one foot propped against a tree, content to let his crew continue looting the camp.
She drew in a deep breath and then exhaled, building the willpower to approach him. Slipping her arms behind her back, she steadily headed for the warrior. "Um... thanks for saving us Jet." He turned to her as she continued. "We're lucky you were there."
"I should be thanking you." He added with a smile. "We were waiting to ambush those soldiers all morning." He reached up and snatched the twig from his mouth before continuing. "We just needed the right distraction...and then you guys stumbled in." He coolly added, drifting his eyes back to set on her as he snapped his twig back between his teeth.
At least you have some sense. "We were relying on instincts." She turned her head marginally back toward Sokka behind her, shifting the blame of stupidity to her brother instantly.
"You'll get yourself killed doing that." She smiled, feeling that Jet got the point. Quietly she slipped back by his side, standing beneath the shadow of the tree.
Now what... "Hey Jet!" The Duke shouted. "These barrels are filled with blasting jelly."
"That's a great score." Jet praised The Duke's discovery.
"And these boxes are filled with jelly candy!" The immense gorilla-like man named Pipsqueak hefted the box into the air giddily.
"Also good." He paused, lowering his head as he grinned sardonically. "Let's not get those mixed up." She couldn't help but stand in silent awe at how cool Jet was. He was able to effortlessly lead this group with an air of silent superiority and respect. She loved it.
His crew began packing their findings into a wheeled cart. "We'll take this stuff back to the hideout." The little boy The Duke added as he leapt to sit on the side-rail of the cart.
Aang wandered into view just ahead of her but stopped to face Jet curiously. "You guys have a hideout?"
"You wanna see it?" He replied calmly.
Oh, yes yes yes! She clasped her hands together and leapt up beside his face with a most anxious smile. "Yes we wanna see it!" Jet turned his attention to Katara and lifted his firm eyebrows to stare at her with mild surprise. Take me with you!
"As you wish." He pushed off of the tree and held a hand beside his mouth, calling to his comrades. "Pack up Freedom Fighters; tear down what we aren't taking and let's get out of here."
After they had departed from the camp Jet had ordered his Freedom Fighters to silence. Pipsqueak hefted the cart into his hands and followed behind the crew while Jet explained to the newcomers why they maintained silence. They had to be certain the Fire Nation did not trail them back to their hideout.
"We're here." Jet stopped amidst a sea of trees.
Huh? She glanced up into the treetops, but only saw leaves. "Where, there's nothing here?" Sokka questioned doubtfully. Katara smiled as Jet gripped a rope hanging by the tree. Ooh.
"Here, hold this." Jet slipped the loop around Sokka's wrist and dropped his head, shutting his eyes patiently.
"Why? What's this do?" He found his answer instantly as the rope jerked powerfully, heaving his screaming body into the air through the leafy canopy overhead.
Haha! Guess you know now. Katara smiled up after her brother as Jet passed another rope to Aang. "Aang?"
"I'll get up on my own." Aang confidently replied. Of course. Katara smiled as Aang used his airbending to bound up the trees effortlessly.
"Grab hold of me Katara." She stared wide-eyed toward Jet at this request. Really? A nervous smile crossed her lips as she noticed his outstretched arm, welcoming her to his side. I...I...yes! Of course! She reached up gingerly to take his hand.
He took her completely by surprise, tugging her arm to him strongly. With a sudden jerk forward she spun back to catch herself as his arm wrapped behind her body, gripping her waist to hold her firmly at his side. Her face flushed as her thoughts died out completely, brushing cheek to cheek with him and locking her eyes up to his.
The rope took tension, pulling the two into the air as she relied fully upon Jet's grip at first. She reached her arm around his back clinging him in turn and slipped her other hand up to grab hold of a strap at his chest for support.
Slowly they ascended into the air, the gentle creak of the rope and crackle of leaves sounding around them. Her eyes raced, taking in the beauty of the approaching sunset-laden boughs before casting her sapphire eyes upon Jet's smiling face. I can't believe this is happening to me... Her grip tightened on the young man as a sense of overwhelming warmth overcame her, smiling in sheer bliss.
She snapped back to reality when she fell a short drop; landing squarely on a loosely patched wooden deck. Jet released her and began walking off shortly, leaving Katara to release a shaky breath as she trailed after him. "Nice place ya got!" She heard Aang shout from somewhere amidst the trees, but failed to see where he had went to. No matter; she smiled at the back of Jet's head and continued.
The two stopped by the edge of the wooden deck. She gazed down at the red-leafed boughs below, blocking sight of the ground. Sunlight filled their tree house hideaway, lighting her eyes with its wonder. "It's beautiful up here!"
"It's beautiful; and more importantly the Fire Nation can't find us." Jet responded just as a zipping rope echoed beside them.
Smellerbee zoomed into sight, releasing the rope to land softly on the deck. "They would love to find you; wouldn't they Jet?"
"It's not gonna happen, Smellerbee." He smiled confidently and chewed at his twig thoughtfully.
"Why does the Fire Nation want to find you?" Katara posed at this suggestion, attempting to join the conversation.
He grinned and slipped his eyes shut, pacing past her onto a wooden bridge to head to the main hideout. "I guess you could say I've been causing them a little trouble. See, they took over a nearby Earth Kingdom town a few years back."
Pipsqueak's deep voice bellowed behind her. "We've been ambushin' their troops, cuttin' off their supply lines, and doing anything we can to mess with them."
Jet turned to face her, maintaining his confident grin. "One day, we'll drive the Fire Nation out of here for good, and free that town."
You're my hero... She looked forward and nervously closed her eyes. "That's so brave..." She stated with a warmhearted smile.
Sokka butted his head up between her and Jet as they walked along the bridge. This drew her attention, glancing at him in surprise as to what he might say. "Yeah nothing's braver than a guy in a tree house!"
Ugh, don't be stupid...and stop embarrassing me! Ugh, why am I related to you? She frowned subtly and gazed past him with a downcast expression. "Don't pay any attention to my brother."
Jet didn't even turn his head, nor did he alter his stiff smile. "No problem." His coolness at this situation cheered her. She smiled instantly and beamed to her crush. "He probably had a rough day."
Okay, get the topic away from him. "So, you all live here?" She merrily questioned as her brother slid back out of view dejectedly. Good. Stay away and don't blow this for me!
"That's right." He stared aside to his teammates as they approached the center of the walkway. "Longshot over there, his town got burned down by the Fire Nation; and we found The Duke trying to steal our food. I don't think he ever really had a home."
Everyone's been through so much...but... "What about you?" She posed. This seemed to hit a personal note; he froze in his pace. She halted beside him and let everyone pass them by, leaving the two alone at the center of the bridge.
"Fire Nation killed my parents." His voice turned a somber tone, staring thoughtfully to the scarlet boughs below. "I was only eight years old. That day changed me forever." His usual confident smile had faded, replaced with a distant pain that settled in a frown.
Sounds familiar... She turned and followed his action, gazing down below her to state her tale with sorrow. "Sokka and I lost our mother to the Fire Nation."
Jet marginally turned aside, setting a sympathetic gaze upon her. "I'm so sorry Katara."
The two stood in quiet for a moment, before she continued. "I was also eight when that happened." She lifted her vibrant blue eyes to his eyes of brown.
"The Fire Nation is ruthless; you shouldn't have to know that pain." He rested his hand atop her shoulder, providing her a gentle squeeze for comfort.
His touch warmed her, pushing back her frown to allow a faint crack of a smile to form despite the sorrow of their talk. "That was six years ago, I'm fourteen now. It still hurts like it was yesterday, so I can imagine how you feel. I'm proud that you overcame that and have worked so hard to protect everyone from the Fire Nation." She slightly blushed, darting her eyes ahead of them where the others had walked off. "And protecting me."
He lightened his grip on her shoulder, instead firmly patting her before dropping his hand back to his side. "Any time, Katara. But don't forget you helped me in the process." She shyly glanced back at him, spotting him give her a sly grin. "Stick around; I think you'll find you like it here." Without hesitation he stepped past her and headed for the main gathering of tree houses ahead of them.
She briskly leapt forward to keep pace with him. Oh, yes, I think I am going to like it here... A smile rest on her lips now, nearly completely forgetting their prior mournful discussion. "So Jet... how old are you?"
"Sixteen." He added calmly, not even glancing aside from his path.
"So... did you used to live at the nearby town?"
"No, I didn't live at Gaipan." He turned his head for the forest at his left and nodded. "I used to live beyond the forest, just east past the river." He fell silent and slowed his pace, glancing back to her. "Laiyuan. There's nothing left of it now."
Ugh. She glanced away, half ashamed she asked. "My home in the South Pole is about destroyed too. There aren't many people left there, just a few families."
"Willowheart; show Katara where she and her friends will be staying." She hadn't even noticed the tri-pony tailed brown-haired girl standing in front of her. But, I wasn't done talking with you..."Sure thing Jet." The smaller girl answered with a toothy smile. "Welcome to the Freedom Fighters' Treetop Hideout toots, you can call me Willow. Right this way please." The small girl proudly swiveled back and leapt against the side of a tree, clambering up wooden boards nailed against its side.
"Thanks again Jet...um, can I come and see you later?" Katara stood hesitantly by the tree, resting a single palm against the first of the boards to climb.
"We'll be presenting a feast in a little over an hour, I'll be hosting it. I was hoping you would join me." He smirked, shifting the twig to the other side of his mouth as he clenched it firmly in place.
He likes me...I just know it, he likes me! "Of course! I'll be sure to come for you...um, it." Her face flushed nervously as his eyebrows lifted in amusement at her mistake. Embarrassed, yet excited, she quickly ascended the wooden ladder for her tree house to escape her temporary foolishness.
"Here's where you'll be staying while with us." Willow waved her hand to the small hut's doorway as Katara climbed onto the wooden deck. "Oh and if you're planning on staying with us longer, start thinking up possible names for yourself; Katara just won't do."
Uh, what? She blinked in confusion before sternly pressing her hands to her hips and glowering down to the girl. "And just why is that?"
She shrugged nonchalantly in reply. "Nobody here uses their real name. Once you're in; the old you is out. You become part of the new family for life."
Her brow knotted at the thought, averting her eyes to the wooden deck. For life? Stay here forever? And...no ties to our old life? I don't understand, maybe Jet can tell me later. Wait, Jet? That's not his real name...? "I can tell you need some time to think. Don't trouble yourself over it too much toots, you got time. See ya down below." Willow leapt over the edge of the deck, grasping a zip line and sailing out of sight with a whir.
As Katara lifted back the hut's canvas doorway a large man shoved his way out. "Oh, excuse me miss." She backed up a step to make room for him. "Name's Sneers, all your supplies are in your hut now." He lifted his hand and rubbed his nose singly, sniffling as he stepped past her.
"Um, thanks?" Katara turned to watch the large man clamber over the edge of the deck before outright leaping out of sight. Wow. These...these people sure are unique.
Finishing unpacking what belongings they had and rolling out blankets for the night she anxiously turned for the doorway. Aang sat cross-legged on his bedroll just beside her, while Sokka lay idly on his back staring up at the patchwork ceiling. "Are you ready? We need to get going if we want to get to the feast." Katara led on.
"What for? It's still ten minutes, we've got time." Sokka kicked his leg up atop his other and crossed his arms behind his head. "Nothing you say can make me get up right now."
"The Duke was telling me about that." Aang excitedly mentioned to Katara. "He said they have all kinds of food there. All kinds of meat and fish and things, I wasn't too excited until he said they captured some goods from the Fire Nation, some nice bread and baskets of imported fruits. I can't wait to see what they've gathered!"
Sokka's stomach growled. "Or, maybe I could see about a pre-meal snack..."
"That sounds like a great idea, why don't we go now?" Katara uttered quickly, trying to hurry her chance to see Jet.
"Sounds great!" Aang leapt to his feet. "Let's all head down together and check it out."
Jet held his hands high to the three as they came into view. As he did so all eyes fell on him and silence filled the air. He tipped his head forward and began a welcoming speech. "Fellow Freedom Fighters, welcome our personal guests of the evening; Aang, Sokka, and Katara." At mentioning her name he lifted his eyes up to settle on her with a subtle grin. "These three are the heroes of the day, coming just in time to help us with the element of surprise." He paused reverently; dropping his left hand down as his right hand poised respectfully over his chest. "Thank you."
Cheers, hoots and hollers filled the air as numerous Freedom Fighter children clapped their hands or pounded the wood boards violently. Katara took Jet's words to be directed to her and blushed, drawing her chin down to her chest with an apprehensive smile. "Come join us at the dinner table. Today, you are our honored guests." He stepped aside and waved his arm down to a long, low, rectangular table in the center of the open gathering.
"Thanks Jet." Katara brought her arms before her; clasping her hands by habit as she fought off a rushing warmth.
"Yeah thanks!" Aang leapt forward and dropped to sit at the tables' edge. Katara frowned at Jet's suggestion for where to sit. But I wanted to sit by you... Attempting to keep from making a scene, she joined Aang and Sokka quietly.
The moment passed away, giving her time to share in the wonderful meal they had gathered and actually take in the sights around her. Numerous cylindrical lanterns hung from rope lines, dimly lighting the dinner floor with a cozy glow. She felt at peace here amongst the Freedom Fighters, yet she didn't cease glancing to the end of the table where Jet sat.
Suddenly, amid the idle banter of his fellow comrades-in-arms, he stood and climbed atop the table and broke their chatter. "Today; we struck another blow against the Fire Nation swine." He held his wooden tea cup high overhead, gathering all their attention for his motivational speech. His posse laughed aloud and cheered, rooting their leader on.
Katara became entranced all over again. She smiled ecstatically at his comforting voice as he continued. "I got a special joy on one soldier's face, when The Duke dropped down on his helmet and rode him like a wild hog monkey."
The young boy leapt from the deck and paraded in circles atop the table, accepting rowdy cheers before leaping back to his seat for Jet to continue. "Now, the Fire Nation thinks they don't have to worry about a couple of kids hiding in the trees. ...maybe they're right." He posed figuratively, turning toward his cup and shutting his eyes patiently.
He got what he wanted. Violent boos and shouts of disapproval overshadowed the dark night. "...or maybe; they're dead wrong!" He vehemently spat out in full lean over the center of the table, glaring out into the distance. Cries of wild approval echoed through the treetops, before dying down as he smirked and approached Katara.
Oh yes, sit by me! She hoped to draw his attention, smiling pleasantly at the young leader. "Hey Jet." He stepped down from the table and dropped to her side with a smile. Oh gosh. "Nice speech..." She added, desperately attempting to say something smart.
"Thanks. By the way, I was really impressed with you and Aang. That was some great bending I saw out there today."
Oh, he saw that... She turned away and slid her eyes to the young Air Nomad, half embarrassed to admit she was a waterbender. "Well, he's great; he's the Avatar." Blushing at herself, she bowed her head as she admitted her lack of skill. "I could use some more training."
"Avatar huh?" Jet tipped his head for the table, shutting his eyes as he pointed his finger toward the young boy. "Very nice."
He has such a way with words... "Thanks Jet!" Aang proudly accepted.
Jet quickly countered, turning his attention back to both of them. "So I might know a way that you and Aang can help in our struggle." Of course! Katara bore a toothy smile, but before she could accept her brother leapt to his feet.
"Unfortunately we have to leave tonight." WHAT!? Her smile faded as she wide-eyed her brother in horror. He's ruining this for me too? Seriously? This?!
Just as Sokka furthered his statement by walking past Jet, the young leader implored her brother. "Sokka, you're kidding me! I needed you on an important mission tomorrow!"
Katara twisted to her left as her brother walked past her. Thankfully Jet's choices of words were even better than anything she could have thought up. Sokka froze in his steps and craned his head back. "...what mission?"
"That's the spirit." She glanced back to see Jet's finger lifted to her brother now, smirking pleasantly at winning him over. "Get a good night's rest, I'll fill you in at dawn tomorrow."
Sokka didn't reply. Instead, she heard his soft footsteps fade as he left the small gathering. "You did a very good job changing his mind...sometimes even I have trouble with that." She smiled broadly.
"He's a good guy, I see potential in him. He just needs a nudge in the right direction."
"Wow, you really think so?" Katara rather rudely posed, lowering her eyelids in disapproval. "Just...be aware he still has trouble with fishing. Once back at the South Pole, a fish actually leapt over the boat and surprised him. He fell in with the fish."
Aang broke in with a burst of laughter. "That's a smart fish!"
Jet remained quiet a moment yet maintained a sarcastic smile, observing Aang's excitement. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."
Some time had passed with only subtle small talk, leaving Katara to properly finish her meal. Aang had left only minutes ago, joining other Freedom Fighters for a tour of the upper houses, telling Katara he would see her back at their hut.
Now she sat fidgeting with herself. Desperately she hoped Jet would be forward with her so she could possibly start a relationship with him. Should I just say I love you? She turned to him with a dumbstruck smile, cracking her mouth as she nearly did. No, no. Stop that, that's ridiculous. "Um, Jet? What's your real name?"
"Jet." He singly answered, setting his cup down to the table without removing his gaze from it. "So you've heard that then." His eyes darted left to her without turning his head. "Our past names aren't spoken here; the Fire Nation killed them and everything they loved long ago. We live together under a new name with common interests, as Freedom Fighters."
But, won't you tell me your name? Her eyes reflected her thoughts, a shed of hurt behind them. Jet apparently had noticed this as he continued. "No one knows that name here. However I have a feeling I could be convinced to tell you. Let me think on it." As hopeful joy again overcame her, he smiled in turn.
"Thanks..." She turned away from him, growing overwhelmingly nervous at the growing affection she felt. "I'd really like that."
Jet slipped forward, rising from the table's side. She glanced up in time to spot him staring down to her. "I'll talk with you about how you can help tomorrow evening. Goodnight Katara, I'll let you have your beauty sleep." He smirked, twisting the twig between his teeth to the other side of his mouth. "Not that you need it."
Her eyes widened as her world froze. Did he just...he did... But while she sat dumbstruck at his compliment she failed to notice he had begun walking off for his hut. "G-Goodnight Jet!" She hesitantly called out after him as her heart continued to race within her chest.
"Smitten." Katara whirled back to spot Willowheart idly cleaning the leftovers from their prior feast. "You just got here and already wooing him, hilarious. Though I must admit, he seems interested."
Wow she's blunt. Katara blinked, terribly confused at just what to say. She slightly scowled but lost the urge to snap seeing as Willow exclaimed Jet felt the same way about her. "I...um, is there a problem Willow?"
"Not a thing toots." She swept crumbs off the deck to the forest floor below. Finished, she gripped the broom firmly and leaned upon it, craning her head back for the smitten girl. "Look, we have a good thing going for us here thanks to Jet. Don't go and ruin that."
"What?" Katara finally did snap. "And just how would I do that? I'm not hurting anyone!"
Willow rolled her eyes, shook her head, and flipped aside a loose ponytail that had fallen in her face. "G'night hun. Just remember that if you're staying, you pick a name, and you stay. You can't have it both ways." At that she twisted off and didn't wait for a reply, thumping along the deck.
"You're just jealous Jet likes me!" She called out bitterly after Willowheart louder than she had intended. Instantly horrified that Jet or others may have heard this, she slapped her hand over her mouth in wide-eyed surprise. "Oops."
Steadily a soft, cool drizzle started; boding all to enter their huts for the night. Minutes later she had quickly made her way into her hut. Slipping back the doorway she entered the dark room, Sokka's soft snore catching her ear. "Oh, hey Katara." Aang's soft whisper drew her attention for the center of the room.
"Oh, hey Aang." She slipped through and knelt down, making her way slowly for her sleeping bag.
The soft pitter patter of raindrops sounded off of the canvas roof and the many leaves surrounding their hut. Feeling more relaxed than ever since these past few days; she slipped into her warm bag and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Jet... she smiled at having met such a man. "Katara, what'cha think of this place?"
"It's amazing." She rolled her head to stare at the young airbender as the two shared a smile, whispering quietly to not disturb her brother. "Some of the people here are a little weird, but I like it."
"The Duke is awesome. He's shown me around and they have totally cool stuff. Have you tried their zip lines? They're the best!"
"Jet's wonderful." She added wistfully to Aang's choice of awesome people. "I can't believe how talented he is, and how he's led everyone here to make a difference against the Fire Nation."
"Yeah! He's a real leader. Much better than Sokka was." The two shared quiet laughter at the risk of waking him. "But really, this place is great... I love it. I could stay here for days."
Great! Perfect! "I would love that!" She exclaimed excitedly as her memory shifted to Jet. "There's more about this place I'd like to see. And Jet likes having us around, I'm sure we can be useful to him."
"Exactly." Aang rolled over and propped his head atop his hands, lying on his stomach. "You know what else? This place reminds me of home with the Air Nomads. They're so free here...up high in the air, and so spirited. It's kind of homey."
"Really? This is what the Air Nomads were like?" Katara asked in disbelief.
"Well kinda. I mean, they didn't actively go around looking for trouble or anything." Aang chuckled softly, grinning broadly at her smiling face. "But they were this happy and fun to be around, so full of energy and life and always on the move... gliding through the air, darting through the halls, playing games...man, I sure miss it. But this place is as good as it gets."
"Then enjoy it." Katara smiled broadly. Aang's getting a thrill out of this, and so am I. "We can stay here awhile longer, still...let's get some rest and talk about that later."
"Goodnight!" He spun back around, lying atop his bag. Katara drew up into hers; the air was still rather crisp thanks to the rain. But regardless that made closing her eyes and reflecting on the day, easing into a peaceful sleep, all the more easier.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg