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|Jet (Part 2)|
14: Jet (Part 2)
Jet's plan is well underway now, making use of the three new faces to push forward his plan. Having two Waterbenders was an opportunity he simply could not pass up, serving as the ability to wreak destruction upon the citizens of Gaipan. However to do this, he had to spin a few tales. Katara, still heavily infatuated with Jet, and Aang - supportive of Katara and trusting in Jet, are both unable to put together the warning signs and realize how they are playing right into his plans.
I had no idea Willowheart was going to turn so bitter toward Katara when I created her. Honestly, I thought they may actually have gotten along and shared some comedic moments for you (my readers). You know, like how Katara was dumbstruck she had to pick a new name for herself! But, something I love about creating characters and giving them a personality - she ended up despising Katara, against what I had saw her doing.
I decided to end this chapter earlier than the series ending - where they were merrily flying off together on Appa. Why? It was long already, and I feel it makes a more dramatic ending. However that scene is important (it's Sokka's fault they're in The Great Divide...since he was flying the wrong direction Aang says), so I believe it will begin the next episode.
Kudo's to Courage the Cowardly User again for helping me choose a fitting image for the infobox above!
"Rise and shine sleepyheads." Katara jerked awake and snapped her eyelids back in surprise at a young girl's voice. With a single quick shudder she rolled over to glance at the doorway where she spotted Willowheart. The young girl let out a sigh and shook her head. "You're Sokka right? Come on." She nodded toward Katara's brother who sat up with a large yawn. "Jet wants to debrief you, so get down there now."
"Mm... yeah-yeah, I'm going, I'm going." Sokka climbed out of his sleeping bag and rose to his feet. Releasing a loud, tedious sigh, he turned to Katara and Aang who still lay in their bags. "I'll see you guys later. Jet needs my help, in case you've forgotten."
"Go." Katara mumbled; lifting her head just enough to sling her braid out of her face. Her eyelids slipped shut as her head fell back to a small bundle that served as a pillow.
"Bunch'a good for nothings." Willowheart muttered as she turned around. "Now get going! I swear; I shouldn't have to babysit the lot of you." The more I hear her voice, the more she drives me crazy. Katara scowled with her eyes closed, firmly pressing her head against the bundle in attempt to ignore the rude girl.
Minutes of silence followed. It was so calm and peaceful in their small hideaway that she didn't even realize she had drifted into a near-sleep again. A smile rest on her lips as no thought in particular filled her mind, simply enjoying her comfort and the fresh scent of the forest after the rain that had come during the night.
Sighing gently, she rolled onto her back and clasped her hands above her stomach. "Morning Aang." She idly commented upon hearing movement in the room.
"You're awake." Katara turned her head to him, surprised as he approached from the doorway. How'd he...he was up? "You fell back asleep so I thought I'd go get you some breakfast. Willowheart made a big meal for everybody!" He passed her a bowl of leafy vegetables mixed with juicy fruits.
Breakfast in bed. She smiled and sat up, reaching to claim the bowl. "Thanks Aang. Did you happen to see Jet while there?"
"Sure did, but not for long. He took off with Sokka, Pipsqueak and Smellerbee just as I was coming back." Giving her the bowl he stood back with an enormous grin.
"Oh right, the mission." Shoot! I shouldn't have slept in... She set the bowl carefully in her lap and turned an inquisitive stare upon the young airbender. "Did he say how long he'd be gone?"
"Sometime around evening; I heard something about patrolling closer to some river near that captured Fire Nation colony."
"Oh." Her eyes lost their spark as she contemplated this. Great. My stupid brother gets to spend all day with Jet and I don't. She frowned at the notion. I should have volunteered to go with him...
"You okay?" She snapped to, noticing Aang staring at her curiously.
"Oh... yeah I'm fine." A slight sweat formed as she nervously batted off his concern.
"Alright." He turned back for the door and began to head out, stopping at the canvas. "The Duke told me he'd show me the upper boughs today and tell me some of their last gigs. I'll catch up with you later."
"Okay." She dropped her gaze to the green-leafed bowl in front of her as Aang slipped out. I have all day. I just have to do something to catch Jet's eye tonight...but what? She ran her fingers through the vegetables aimlessly, picking out her next course. However as she did she realized just how soft and healthy these plants looked.
"I can make him something to remember me by!" She slapped down the bowl and leapt up from her bedding. Quickly crossing the wooden floor boards she dropped to her knees and began rummaging through saddlebags stashed in a corner.
It hadn't taken her long to decide to make something using the forest itself. It was so beautiful, what better way to present her feelings to him? Pressing to her goal; she gathered leaves and flowers off of trees and bushes on the ground while Aang's laughter mixed with that of the Freedom Fighters from the upper boughs.
The sun loomed high overhead as noon passed by. A finely knit collection of flower petals, leaves and patchwork in the shape of a hat rested in Katara's hands. Her blue eyes soaked in her handiwork, testing its durability with careful squeezes.
Her eyebrows bunched up, nervously considering whether Jet would like it. A single flower rested at its top, her work's finishing touch. "Of course he'll like it...I put a lot of effort into this." She forced a smile as her heart fluttered at the thought. Giving him this present to represent her feelings for him overwhelmed her, nearly turning her away from the idea.
Just outside on the boughs lower deck she heard Aang shout Sokka's name. "Now or never." She released a sigh and slid her sewing materials into a small pile by her bedroll, immediately standing and heading for the door.
Quickly she descended the wooden ladder, holding her hand-crafted hat out of view in case Jet was nearby. Snap! Snap! "Ow! Quit it!" Aang shouted, leaping away from small Fire Nation poppers being thrown by Momo.
Reaching the bottom of the ladder she set her soft leather boots down upon the wooden deck. Turning to her brother who sat cross-legged with his back to the tree, she slipped her hands behind her back, continuing to hide the hat as she advanced two steps. "Hey Sokka. Is Jet back?"
As she questioned him she leaned softly to her side, observing her brother's moody figure. She smiled anxiously for his answer on Jet's whereabouts. "Yeah, he's back. But we're leaving!" He sharply retorted, turning a harsh glare back toward her.
No way! Her eyes widened in sudden panic, Sokka's tone displayed just how clear he was about this. "What?" Aang questioned in surprise, stepping up just behind Katara.
He, he just can't! Not after I spent all morning... She decided she may as well show her art. Slipping her crafted hat forward she gently clasped it in both hands, staring at it in dismay. "But I made him this hat..."
"Your boyfriend Jet's a thug." Sokka's voice crisply stated with a sharp scowl as his lips twisted downward into a hideous frown.
"What!?" Her voice remained soft, yet reached high as she fought to understand what made Sokka say such a harsh thing. "No he's not." What happened out there with you...? She lifted a brow and eyed Sokka in confusion.
"He's messed up, Katara!" Sokka firmly added.
"He's not messed up; he's just got a different way of life!" Aang broke in. Katara lowered the hat to her side, turning to face Aang as he defended Jet. Thanks Aang! Maybe they wouldn't be leaving like Sokka wanted after all. "A really fun way of life!"
Her brother retaliated to Aang's joyful response, drawing Katara back to him. "He beat and robbed a harmless old man!"
No way...now you're really making things up. She crossed her arms and drew the hat beneath her grip, scowling at her hateful brother. "I want to hear Jet's side of the story."
"Don't believe me?!" Sokka rose to his feet in an instant, kicking off the side of the tree. "Look at those Fire Nation poppers Aang is throwing. He got that from the helpless old man! He had Pipsqueak stand on him while they ransacked that bag Aang is wearing!"
With a single glance back to Aang, she saw pure astonishment in his eyes. Neither of them knew what to say. That can't be true. Jet wouldn't do that...he's a hero here, not a monster like you're making him out to be. She huffed at her brother, stepping forward to jab her forefinger into his chest. "Take me to Jet, now!"
"Whatever. He'll just win you over with that silk tongue of his." He slapped off her finger and turned to trudge across a bridge.
Trailing a short few steps behind her brother, Aang approached her. "What if he isn't lying?"
"He is." She didn't even glance to the young boy. "You can count on it. Sokka's just being Sokka again, since he isn't cut out to be a warrior or leader on his own."
"Isn't that a little harsh?" Aang sped up to walk beside her, lifting his eyes up to her. "I mean you're probably right and he's just being himself again, but we should at least hear him out first."
"Look, I'll try and be nice about it. But he's really making me mad with his accusations against such a respectable man like Jet."
As the trio began ascending a spiral walkway that wrapped toward Jet's hut, Willowheart's sudden laughter froze Katara. Her arms fell limp to her side, clutching her hat closer to her hip. "Tell me you aren't giving that thing to Jet. This I gotta see."
She scowled as Aang stopped beside her. "And just why would you say that?" She quipped to the tri-pony tailed girl.
"'Cause I can't imagine Jet wearing flowers?" At this she let loose another sharp laugh, bending over and slapping at her knees with an enormous smile. "It just looks so silly. Come on, it's not his style."
What was I thinking...she's right, Jet won't like this! Katara's face knotted in worry, frowning at the thought. Aang advanced a step toward Willowheart and waved his arms low. "Silly? Katara put a lot of work into it, it's beautiful! It looks just like the forest."
"You like it, Aang?" Katara readily questioned as she brought the hat up in front of her, clutching either side with both her hands.
"Well, yeah! You're very talented to be able to make something so nice." He turned back and beamed a smile to her.
"Good." Without a second thought she reached forward and slapped it down on Aang's head. "It's for you." Now what am I going to do for Jet...
Aang stared dumbfounded at her a moment, before his face twisted up into an immense smile. "Thanks Katara!" His gray eyes lifted up to stare at the beautiful, leafy red edges of his new hat. Willowheart however burst into maddened laughter.
What? Katara frowned sternly to the young girl. What's your problem now? The girl laughed so hard she keeled over winded, leaning against the tree. "Ho gosh, golly gee! Hah! I can't believe it, that thing actually looks good on you Baldy!"
"Thanks!" Aang exclaimed, obviously hardly offended by her words.
Katara however didn't share this enthusiasm. "Come on Aang." She added with disdain. Snapping his wrist into her grip, she pulled him along the path that Sokka had disappeared on, having not waited for them.
Reaching the cloth doorway for Jet's home, she hesitated with a subtle frown. Sokka, why do you have to go and ruin everything for me, all the time! We can't stay here forever and you're just causing a scene so I can't just TALK to Jet... She sighed softly. "Is something wrong?" Aang stood beside her, gazing in sudden wonder at her seeming sadness.
Her blue eyes wandered to his hat; Jet's hat. "Let's just see what this is all about now." She brushed past Aang, pushing back the cloth as she entered the dark room that was lit only by a single overhead lantern at the center of the room.
Once inside she spotted Jet stewing at the opposite end, sitting on a fur-lined bed that hung from a branch. Sokka was leaning against the side of a tree with a stern scowl bent toward the wood flooring. Neither said a word as tension loomed. Great. Yeah, I couldn't have given him the hat like this anyway. She frowned similarly to her brother and trudged past him, Aang advancing beside her as they stepped between Sokka and Jet.
"Sokka says you have something to ask me." Jet calmly stated, his shaggy brown hair covering his eyes as he kept his head bowed thoughtfully.
"Yeah..." Katara shut her eyes as her heart fluttered within her chest. Sokka, how dare you put me in this position to have to ask this of him... "Sokka says you took a helpless old man's belongings. I wanted to hear your side of the story."
"Is that all?" Jet asked calmly, remaining seated without turning his attention on her.
"Hey, it's true." Sokka retorted from his position against the tree. "You robbed that old man while he begged for mercy."
"Sokka. You told them what happened, but you didn't mention that the guy was Fire Nation?"
Katara scowled and turned back to her brother. "No, he conveniently left that part out."
"Fine." Sokka pushed off of the tree and stepped into the center of the room. "But even if he was Fire Nation, he was a harmless civilian."
Jet finally lifted his head at her brother's approach. "He was an assassin, Sokka." Katara twisted back to sight Jet just as he slammed a curved dagger into a stump by his bed. Her eyes widened as the blade's slice echoed through the room, causing her to shudder a moment in surprise.
"See? There's a compartment for poison in the knife." He spun a ring at the back of the knife's handle, pulling out a vial of red liquid in a glass tube. Oh my word...he could have died today! "He was sent to eliminate me. You helped save my life, Sokka."
Oh I can forgive you Sokka! See, you did something great. With a warmhearted smile, Katara graciously accepted Jet's side of the story. "I knew there was an explanation."
Her lips parted as she began to praise her brother for helping to save Jet, but he cut her off with stark aggression. "I didn't see any knife!" Great... He persisted. She bit her lip and turned her head away from him, arching an eyebrow in heavy disapproval. Give it a rest, Sokka.
"That's because he was concealing it!" Jet implored from his seated position.
Come on Sokka, wake up and stop being so bitter! She waved her right hand out to Jet as she turned to her brother, hoping to drive him into submission without instigating a fight. "See Sokka? I'm sure you just didn't notice the knife."
He turned directly into Katara's face and shouted. "There was no knife!" At that he whipped away from the three and headed for the door. "I'm going back to the hut and packing my things."
No... She absently watched as her brother stormed out the door. He can't just...no... Jet finally rose from his position, standing before the two. "Tell me you guys aren't leaving yet! I really need your help!"
"What can we do?" Aang quickly spoke up.
"The Fire Nation is planning on burning down our forest. If you both use waterbending to fill the reservoir, we can fight the fires. But if you leave now, they'll destroy the whole valley."
This news pained her. Her eyebrows bunched up in worry, turning to exchange a concerned look with Aang. They both nodded in agreement, able to see in each other's eyes they both desired to help save the forest.
"We're not going anywhere." She turned her attention back to Jet.
"Great!" He reached out and patted her shoulders before letting his arms fall to his side. "Then you'd better go stop Sokka. I'll tell you what the plan is later."
Doing exactly as Jet had requested of them both Aang and Katara made their way quickly to the hut to stop Sokka. She slung back the canvas doorway and spotted him, sure as she could have guessed, finishing tying a bundle together on the floor. "We can't leave now with the Fire Nation about to burn down a forest!"
He rose to his feet and turned to face his sister. "I'm sorry Katara. Jet's very smooth-" He raised his arm and swung it wide, shoving his point home. "-but we can't trust him!"
Ha! She crossed her arms tightly and glared at his refusal. "You know what I think?" Releasing her arms she propped the back of her hands to her hips and leaned forward. "You're jealous that he's a better warrior and a better leader."
Finishing, she twisted away from him, closing her eyes as she smugly mulled over her words. Jerk! "Katara I'm not jealous of Jet! It's just that my instincts-"
Insincts?! She opened her eyes and turned her head to him, quickly cutting him off. "Well my instincts tell me we need to stay here a little longer and help Jet!" She was done arguing. She turned for the door and headed past Aang. "Come on Aang."
"Sorry Sokka." Aang casually replied before following her out the door, leaving her disturbed brother alone.
"Thanks for the support back there." Katara stated after swallowing a slice of cooked veal. Willowheart had made another grand meal; it seemed to be commonplace that she would cook hearty meals of all kinds of food each day for the crew. How she managed it, Katara didn't know.
"Well Sokka was being rude. I mean, that's very heartless of him to not want to save all these nice people..." Finishing, Aang slapped a piece of pear in his mouth, chewing its juicy freshness gladly. "Mmm!"
"Still wearing that dorky hat I see." Willowheart added as she stepped forward.
Katara scowled and snapped instantly. "Why are you always so rude when around me? What did I ever do to you?!"
"Sheesh, relax toots." Willow raised her hands in self-defense before her, turning her head away from the raging girl. "It's just a hat, no need to get all worked up over it."
"Well, it's a nice hat." Aang reached up and repositioned it atop his bald head, his blue arrow just peeping beyond its front.
Katara sensed he didn't much like Willow's disapproval for his new hat. Before she could think up something to say, however, Willow continued. "Look sweety; bottom line is I just don't like you. I haven't quite put my finger on just one reason yet."
"What?!" Aang retorted quicker than Katara could comprehend Willow's reply. "That really is messed up!"
"Hey, nothin' against you Baldy. You're actually kinda cute, even if you look good in that dorky red flower for a hat." Willow shot back instantly.
Oh my word! Katara's eyes were wide with dumbstruck wonder. "Whatever! You have a problem Willow. Just go away, I'm sure Jet wouldn't approve of your behavior."
"Ooh, Jet. Jet. Jet." Willow taunted Katara, idly striding past her as she trailed her arm behind her. "My how that name comes up frequently. Y'think? Go ahead and cry to him, see what he does." At this she simply stomped once before making her way off quickly.
"Oh spirits I can't stand that girl!" Katara exclaimed vehemently.
"No kidding. I spoke to her several times but she never was so mean as just now. What was all that about, anyway?" Aang questioned in confusion.
"She's nuts." Katara hesitated, still uncertain whether she wanted to admit she had feelings for Jet. After all, despite a few remarks he hadn't outright returned them yet. "But, I think I will talk to him. It's already late so...you just head back to our hut and check on Sokka. I'm worried about him; he didn't come down for dinner at all. I'll see you there soon okay?"
"Sure thing. If you need me to tell Jet how Willow acted I'll do it. He'll understand." They both rose and parted, each heading to separate huts.
Phew, it worked. She smiled though she grew further nervous with each step toward Jet's hut. I'm glad Aang left right when I asked him. This is it; I just have to find out if Jet likes me too. She slipped back the cloth doorway; the warm lantern light from within sparkled in her blue eyes. "Katara? What are you doing here?"
Opening her mouth to begin recounting Willow's audacity, she found no words. Instead she stuttered and stammered, failing to get a single word coherently out. "Ugh." She slapped her forehead, her heart pounding in dismay at how stupid she must look.
"Relax." Jet rose from his bed and stepped over to her, taking her shaky hand to lead her into the center of the room. "Are you nervous over your mission tomorrow?"
No, no. You! Her eyes gleamed at him as a frown tugged at her lips. Couldn't he tell? "Well, kind of." Ugh, why did I say that!
"What's the problem?" He pulled out his piece of wheat he had been chewing, dropping it down on a stump beside him.
"Jet, I'm confused." She dipped her chin for her chest, staring wistfully just below his chest. "We haven't really had a chance to just...sit and talk with each other." Her thoughts clouded her mind terribly, suddenly fearing what she had said. "...and I don't know if I can do what's needed tomorrow." She quickly added to try and divert her feelings.
"Is that so?" He slipped his index finger beneath her chin, tugging her face up to his. "You just need a little encouragement. You've got this covered."
Her eyes widened as she surely blushed, staring into his deep brown eyes anxiously. Oh my gosh; we're going to kiss! She hesitated, drawing in a nervous breath as Jet leaned closer. Her lips quivered as she closed her eyes, preparing for her first kiss.
"Got a problem Jet." A girl's voice shattered the moment as a ripple of the door behind alerted her entry. "Oh." Katara spun back in wide-eyed astonishment as Jet stood upright. There stood Smellerbee, staring at them in absolute surprise. "I'll come back."
Yeah, get out of here! "No, it's alright." What? No, no, make her leave! Katara turned back to Jet, her blue eyes pleading to continue. Instead, he bore a subtle smile and ran his hand across her cheek. "We can continue this after the mission tomorrow – don't forget where we were."
She fell right into his request, a smile dancing across her lips as her eyes twinkled in the dim light. "S-sure, right. After the mission. Goodnight Jet!" She spun back for the door and paced firmly past Smellerbee, giving the short girl a harsh glare as she passed.
Stopping just outside of the doorway, Katara inched to its side and pressed up against the tree. What's so important, anyway? She sternly eyed through a crack in the wood boards of the hut. A moment of quiet passed, apparently giving Katara time to leave. "Okay well, sorry about that Jet."
"No problem. So what's the trouble?" Slapping his wheat back between his lips, he crossed his arms and stared down to the smaller girl.
"There wasn't enough time to move all the barrels. We still need a couple runs to get everything in place."
Jet sighed miserably. "They've had all day while we were out with Sokka this morning and it still didn't get done? What were they doing?"
"I hear The Duke got carried away playing with that new Aang kid, Sneers had to do most of the work himself. Longshot ran scouting most the day."
Ugh. This is boring. "Send word out to the rest, we're only getting a few hours of sleep tonight. We'll all kick in to get this done at first light; I'll just have to get Katara and Aang to fill the reservoir a little later."
Upon hearing her name spoken, Katara shifted in sudden interest. She accidentally pressed up against the wood board, causing it to creak. Oh shoot! Jet and Smellerbee fell silent; turning to stare at the crack her eyes had been peering through. Not good, not good!
She spun around to run off but realized she wouldn't get very far without being noticed. Quickly her eyes caught sight of a silhouetted rope among the darkness of the forest. A zip line! She leapt into the air and wrapped her hands around a handle attached to the rope. With a loud whir and rush of air she sailed rapidly down to the deck below.
Covered in a light sweat, she slipped into the hut. "Sshh." Aang's hushed warning came.
Panting softly from her sudden flight, she reached her sleeve up and wiped the sweat off of her forehead. "What?" She whispered cautiously back for Aang.
"Sokka." He pointed toward her brother. Spotting him she rolled her eyes. He was fully dressed, down to having his boots on still. There he sat, leaning back against his tied bundle, seemingly reluctant to even sleep properly. "He's been like that since I got here."
Ah. She stepped over beside Aang and kicked open her sleeping bag. Promptly she fell to the deck, throwing her back against the floor and her head against a small rolled bundle. Jet, why couldn't it have been tonight? She shut her eyes and sighed softly to herself, reminiscing Jet's warm presence.
"Are you okay Katara?"
"Perfect." She didn't even turn to Aang as she replied thoughtlessly. Instead her eyes drifted shut. A smile crept over her as she considered just how that kiss would have felt had Smellerbee not interrupted. Her face flushed at the thought.
"Are you sure?" Aang pressed, dropping to his stomach beside her. "You look kinda feverish. Did something happen?"
"No, I'm fine Aang." Her eyes opened, drifting over to stare into his worried eyes of gray. "I'm just happy to have a boyfriend like Jet." She smiled pleasantly, having seen his affection for her.
"What?" Aang lifted his chin off of his hands, eyeing her in stark surprise. "I thought you told Sokka he wasn't your boyfriend earlier."
"Huh?" Her brow arched as she considered this. Did I say that? She mulled over her argument with Sokka earlier, attempting to remember their words. "No, I meant he wasn't a thug! He couldn't be." At this her eyes softened and her eyebrows both lifted, her voice falling to a dreamy carefree tone. "Not with how he treats me."
"Oh, right...my bad." The two fell quiet as Aang's head plopped back atop his hands, eyeing her with a subtle lifeless expression. "So...uh, just what did he do?"Urk. She rolled to her back, flattening her bundle beneath her head. She wasn't about to start telling Aang she nearly kissed Jet. "Don't worry about it, you wouldn't understand yet. Maybe later."
"I...I wouldn't understand?" Aang exclaimed somewhat louder than their whispering had been, staring at her in wide eyed wonder.
Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said that. Too late now. "Just get some sleep Aang; we have a mission tomorrow to save this forest. I'll see you in the morning."
Upon waking the following morn she was surprised to find neither her brother nor Aang in the hut. Well that's certainly strange... But regardless she didn't concern herself with finding them straightaway. It had been days since she properly cared for herself so she rose and dug in their belongings to pull out her comb, seaweed lotion, a new band for her hair and various other personal care products. She smiled pleasantly after taking out her braid to remake it, wanting to look her best for the coming evening.
After having prepared properly she found her way to the Hideout's dinner table which for the most part had been completely abandoned. Nobody was in sight, save for one girl by the table, Willowheart. Oh please, why her... "Hey toots, kept some food out for ya."
Just play it nice...maybe she'll leave quick. Katara stepped away from the tree she had climbed down and approached the table. "Thanks Willow. Have you seen my brother, Aang, or Jet?"
"Jet's busy and Sokka went off with him." The young girl gazed up into the treetops and nodded, bouncing her three ponytails about her in the process. "The little guy went to the upper boughs early this morning. I think he's with that bison you came with, been there ever since he got up."
Katara rolled her eyes as she lowered to sit by the table's side. "I have a name you know, and so does Aang." Mindlessly she reached for a bowl of fruit and slid it in front of her to begin her meal.
"Sure, your names." Willow idly added. "So you've decided you aren't staying, then?" She briskly approached Katara, dropping to sit on the edge of the table beside her where she rested both her palms on its surface.
And so the nagging starts. But she's right; we can't...maybe after we go to the North Pole. She let out a disgruntled sigh, chewing on a fresh pear. "Well, we have something important we have to do later. But I think we'll come back."
"Oh sure, don't hold back on our account." Willow rolled her eyes as she leaned away from Katara, dipping her head toward the table. "I wouldn't want to inconvenience you during your stay at our humble resort. Don't forget to give us a good recommendation."
"Huh?" Finishing another fruit, she leaned back to sit upright. Okay forget being nice and ignoring the topic, it gets nowhere with her. "Willow, I don't understand why you don't like me. What have I done to you? Unless you're interested in Jet too..." At this thought her eyes narrowed. You're too young for Jet.
"Ha!" Willow slapped the table as she bellowed humorously. "Me, with Jet? Sheesh, s'if I'd date him. He's practically my older brother." Her laughter died away as she stiffened her expression, turning to cast a grim gaze upon Katara. "Okay toots, here're some reasons since you wanna know so badly. You're new here, you don't belong. You can't treat us like some hotel where you can stay as long as ya like then ditch to come back later...that's not showing us any respect."
Katara's eyebrows arched down, returning a hardened glare as Willow continued. "Second, you're infatuated with Jet, but you know nothing of our way of life and refuse to follow it when told. All you seem to see is Jet, not the family he's a part of."
"His family died, Willow!" Katara muttered in harsh reply.
"See the problem? We're his family hon." The girl quipped as she leapt from the table and bore her finger into Katara's face. This only caused Katara's glare to sharpen as she eyed her finger in disgust. "Third, you're affecting him. And I don't like that. I asked you before to not mess up what we have going for us here, but you don't seem to care for anyone but yourself."
She regretted asking. Letting out a huff, she contemplated Willow's reasoning. "Look, I'll be out of your hair soon...but when I come back maybe things will be different. So just get off my case already!"
Willow rolled her eyes and turned away, tossing a hand up over her shoulder to wave off Katara. "Whatever toots. You're just as closed-minded as before." With that she left Katara by the table to finish her breakfast.
Following her meal, Katara made her way to the upper boughs to find Aang. She had thought the forest was beautiful below, but here...it was captivating. Her eyes danced across the tops of lower trees, observing how the sunlight broke through in beams of mixed yellow and red. Doves and other birds chirped and called to one another merrily as a gentle breeze blew past. Wow... I see why Aang likes this place.
And there he was. Appa lay on a cluster of branches with Aang seated in the center of the saddle. She climbed up to join him. He was so quiet, his back to her as he sat cross-legged with his arms laid on either leg. "Aang? What are you doing?"
"Meditating." He answered in a single word before falling silent again.
She lifted an eyebrow in confusion. Meditating? ...okay, that's new. She climbed over the saddle's edge and sat with her legs pulled up beneath her, just behind Aang. "Are you alright?" She almost stated he hadn't had breakfast but spotted an empty bowl at the side of the saddle.
He didn't answer for a minute. Katara leaned back and rested her arms in her lap, awaiting his reply. "I'm fine, just trying to keep my mind clear."
"Why?" Her head slightly tilted to one side as she eyed the back of his curiously. "Willow says you've been here all morning."
"I had another nightmare and I just needed to clear my thoughts." His voice remained for the most part monotone, still not turning to give her his attention as he attempted to continue his meditation.
"Oh. Well, I never saw you meditate before. I just wondered if you wanted to talk about what's on your mind."
He twisted his head back to set his gray eyes upon her. "I'm fine, really. Thanks for asking."
"Okay." She gave him a comforting smile and nodded in acceptance. "Did you see Jet or Sokka this morning?"
"No, they were both gone when I got up." Aang turned away again, leaving his back to her. "I'm going to meditate a little while longer."
Her eyelids fell at this. Okay...
She lost track of time, eventually finding herself lying down with her upper back pressed against the edge of the saddle. She breathed softly, waiting for her mission with Jet to come into play. She'd not spoken a word to Aang since their last conversation, giving him his space to meditate which still struck her as bizarre.
"There you are." Willow's voice called as her ponytails popped into view. Oh no. Not you again. Katara frowned and clasped her fingers together, refusing to acknowledge Willow's presence. "Come on you two, Jet's ready." She held out a piece of parchment. "He left this map for you to meet him by the riverside."
Oh, Jet! Katara sprung up as Aang climbed to his feet. "Thanks Willow." He replied. Yeah, thanks for nothing. She passed by Willow readily, snapping the map out of her hands as she made her way to the forest floor below to find Jet.
A blur of orange sailed through the forest's overhead branches as Aang soundly landed in front of Katara, snapping his glider shut. "Yep, the map's right. Just a little further east and we're at the stream banks he marked for us to meet him at."
"Great, thanks. We've almost caught up with Jet then." Katara sped her pace, holding the map in front of her to ensure it was followed to the letter.
"Hey guys, over here." Katara turned to see a gap in the forest opening to a rocky plain. There at the exit stood a man idly watching them make their way through the woods.
"Jet!" She folded the map into her hands and bolted toward the young man.
"I saw you in the sky Aang, nice trick. What is that?" Jet questioned as the two broke free of the woods.
Aang held his staff out in front of him with interest. "This? This is my glider. I can manipulate air currents to fly."
Yeah you can fly... "We didn't really need it though." Katara cut in, attempting to redirect Jet's attention to her. "The map you gave us was easy to follow."
"Glad to hear it." Jet immediately turned away from her and began to walk upstream. "Let's just get this little mission out of the way and move on with our day. Wouldn't you like that Katara?"
She slightly blushed and averted her eyes to the ground, trailing after him. Would I ever... She reminisced the night before and his promise to continue this evening. "I'm glad I get to help you this time." Oh right, last it was Sokka...and he was a real jerk. "Jet...I'm sorry about how Sokka's been acting."
"No worries. He already apologized."
"Really!?" Aang adamantly questioned. Katara froze and turned back to him. "Sokka apologized?" He questioned with hesitant doubt. I wonder what he said, maybe Jet just misunderstood him.
Jet froze ahead of them. "Yeah, I was surprised too." He turned back to cast his brown eyes carelessly upon Katara. "I got the sense that maybe you talked to him or something."
Oh, right! "Yeah, I did!" Katara exclaimed in wonder.
"I guess something you said got through to him." Wow...I thought he wasn't even listening to me. Jet began pacing upstream again. "Anyhow, he went on a scouting mission with Pipsqueak and Smellerbee."
"I'm glad he cooled off. He's so stubborn sometimes." A loud hiss erupted behind her followed by a cry from Aang. Katara spun back to spot a jet of steam just behind her and raised her arms in alarm. Where's Aang?! Following the steam upward, she spotted Aang floating slowly back to the ground.
"Alright we're here." Her brow knotted in worry. It was now time to test her skill and prove whether she would be any use to Jet, or be proved a fool. She didn't even turn to him as he stepped up beside her, just simply gazed up at Aang as he drifted to touch down in front of her. "Underground water is trying to escape from these vents. I need you guys to help it along."
"I've never used bending on water I can't see." Her gaze fell from Aang to idly stare at the hardened soil below, reaching up to nervously caress her hair loop back beside her ear. "I don't know..." Please, please don't embarrass yourself.
Suddenly his hands fell atop her shoulders as she felt his presence behind her. "Katara." A rush crossed over her. Dropping her hand to her chest she glanced back to see Jet poise his head close beside hers. "You can do this." She smiled warmly; this sensation reminded her so much of the night before. Nervously she turned away and gazed to the ground.
"What about me?" Aang suddenly exclaimed. What about you? Katara glanced up at his sudden proclamation, dropping both hands to her side as Jet stepped away from her.
Aang's expression was odd, he seemed completely downtrodden. Darn it Aang...of course you can do this. "I know the Avatar can do this." Jet readily praised the airbender.
He perked a little as Jet stepped closer to him. "Great. So..." Turning for the air vent, he approached its side. "Let's do some bending, Katara!"
Katara breathed a deep sigh and began to trudge for Aang's side. The most she feared right now was failing to bring water to the surface for Jet. "You'll do fine." Jet reassured as he stood back and pressed his hands to his hips.
Just opposite of Aang, the two gazed down at the open hole in the ground that vented hot steam. Here goes. What should I do? Maybe push and pull? She spread her legs apart and lowered her stance, reaching her arms down before gently lifting them up. Aang mirrored her motions from the other side.
It really was working. She could feel the tug of the water affect her chi. Muscles in her arm quivered against pressure she couldn't see, spreading down to her legs. This sensation intrigued her. It's like...it's like there's a lot of pressure! The water feels so tense! Just then the tip of a water stream emerged from the vent, steadily rising and falling at both waterbenders' manipulation.
Okay, I hope this works! Reaching up with Aang she met his eyes, both seeming to share the understanding now was the time. In unison they both swung their arms for the river, sending the water they controlled for it.
With a loud rush the water burst into the air, gushing from beneath the ground as it began to fill the stream. "Yes!" Jet exclaimed excitedly. It worked, oh gosh it worked! Katara smiled proudly as she turned to Jet. "Good job. This river empties into the reservoir. A few more geysers and it'll be full!"
"Look, there's another steam vent!" Aang exclaimed and headed off. This is actually kind of fun... She paced behind Aang to prepare for their next geyser.
"Okay, you two keep it up. I'll go check on things at the reservoir." As soon as he finished Jet began to make his way off.
"When we're done, we'll meet you over there!" Katara merrily added, anxious to see her work pay off to help fight the coming fire.
"Actually; probably better if you meet me back at the hideout when you're done." With that he wasted no time turning and leaving the two to their work.
Having thrust two more geysers Katara mused over their progress. "You know, I've never done this before. This water is under pressure...it's making me think of something."
"Like what?" Aang questioned as he turned for another steam vent.
"Well, I think I've actually added pressure to water without realizing it before. Now, I want to try it. I don't know what it would do." She followed Aang to the next vent, holding her hand over the warm air.
"Cool idea Katara. But, how can you do it?" He began the motions to summon the unseen water to the surface again. This was really becoming second nature to the both of them.
"I have a few ideas..." As the water came into view, she grew excited. I wonder if this will do anything... "Okay stop bending." Aang dropped his arms and stepped back just as Katara clenched both her fists together, feeling her chi bottle up within her arms. In the next moment she opened her palms and swung her arms for the river.
Whoosh! The water rocketed for the stream with a quick blast before returning to a normal flow. "I did it! I made the water stronger!" She beamed with joy as they headed for another geyser.
"Wow! You just totally made that up all on your own!" Aang's arms waved out above him in awe.
"Well, everything you've seen me do I've made up." She beamed with pride as they began to work on another geyser. "Remember I haven't been taught anything."
"You really are a talented Waterbender. So...why were you afraid you couldn't do this?"
Because I don't want to let Jet down? Hm... "I just hadn't done this before." They released their fifth geyser to add its might to the growing river. "This is kind of fun. Though I wonder how many more we need to do."
"I bet that's enough. And I'm not just saying that to be lazy."
Sounds good to me! That means... "Let's catch up with Jet at the reservoir." Katara posed with a warm smile.
Aang turned in surprise, eyeing her dubiously. "I thought we agreed to meet Jet back at the hideout."
"Well, we finished early!" She shrugged off Aang's disapproval and directed her attention downriver where Jet had walked off. "I'm sure he'll be happy to see us."
"Right...well, I'll get my staff. Let's get going."
The two walked beside the river in silence for some minutes, breaking off to take a winding trail that led beside the reservoir.
"Hey um..." Aang spoke out before his words ceased as quick as they had came.
"What is it Aang?" She turned to rest her eyes upon him as they progressed.
Aang didn't turn to her; instead he gripped his staff in both hands in front of him and continued somberly. "I can see why you like him."
It is pretty obvious isn't it? She smiled and glanced ahead of them. "Yeah, Jet's awesome."
Aang seemed to disregard she had said anything as he continued. "He's smart, funny, good looking, a great leader and an even better fighter..." He ran on as his thoughts idly trailed off.
Isn't he ever... A smile crept over her as her eyes wandered to the treetops overhead. He's perfect. As the tree limbs receded she dreamily scoured the blue landscape dotted with white and gray clouds above.
"Katara?" Aang's voice curiously called out.
She blinked herself back to reality, dropping her head to turn to Aang. "What?"
"Just checking." He patted the end of his staff against the ground before settling into a matched pace beside her again.
Oh...this must be because of what I said last night. "Aang, I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that last night, I wasn't thinking clearly." At that she allowed a nervous chuckle at herself, turning back to an approaching ravine. "Clearly you do understand."
"That's okay, thanks Katara." He replied with quiet contemplation.
"Hm..." She stopped next to the ravine's edge, gazing down to the dam below. "What are they doing?
"Hey, those are the red barrels they got from the Fire Nation."
Huh? That doesn't make sense. "Why would they need blasting jelly?"
Aang's voice fell somber. "'Cause Jet's gonna blow up the dam..."
"What?" She turned to Aang and held her arms out low in surprise. "No, that would destroy the town! Jet wouldn't do that." She gazed back to the ravine, observing a stream that flowed by the captured town.
"I've gotta stop him!" Aang snapped his glider open, spinning it overhead as he made to leap over the edge.
"Jet wouldn't do that..." Katara muttered in repeat at a loss for any other ideas. He wouldn't have made me do this...he told me I was saving everyone and this forest! He wouldn't...
Just as Aang went airborne Jet swooped into view, snapping his kite right out of his hands. Katara's eyes widened in shock as Aang screamed, spinning back and rebalancing with a quick airbending blast so he wouldn't fall over the edge.
"Yes I would." Jet firmly retorted, rising to his feet.
"Jet, why?" There has to be an explanation. I must've misunderstood something!
"Katara, you would too if you just stop to think." He spoke solidly, keeping his back to her. "Think about what the Fire Nation did to your mother. We can't let them do that to anyone else ever again!"
But then you're no better! "This isn't the answer!"
Jet turned back to her with a mournful stare. "I want you to understand me Katara." He looked away in sorrow. "I thought your brother would understand, but..."
No... You said... No! She held back welling pain and fear. Jet had lied to her. "Where's Sokka?" She firmly questioned as Jet approached, reaching his hand for her cheek. What did you do to him?! Tears streamed from her eyes as he caressed her cheek."Katara..." Jet inquired kindly. You...no, no you aren't tricking me again... She closed her eyes and ground her teeth together, dipping her chin. This time his warm touch wasn't so welcome. Clenching her fists, she purposefully pressurized the water in her water skin. Instantly she shouted and stomped her foot forward, thrusting her arms out for him as the water burst the cap off her water skin.
The sudden pressure impacted Jet like an erupting geyser, knocking him clean off his feet to land on his back some feet away. Controlling the water mid-stream, she wrapped it back into her water skin and capped it. "I need to get to the dam!" Aang ran past her and knelt for his glider.
Just as Aang's hand nearly met the glider Jet rolled to his side and swung a hook sword out, slamming it to the ground across his glider. "You're not going anywhere without your glider!" He rose fully and drew the staff back to him, reaching to place it behind his back.
As he proceeded to slice his swords furiously at Aang, Katara's eyes widened in horror. Aang leapt into the air aided by airbending as he landed on an overhead limb. "I'm not going to fight you Jet!"
She waited to see Jet's response. Put his staff down, listen! Stop what you're doing! "You'll have to if you want your glider back!" Ignoring Katara's presence entirely he bolted past her, leaping up to latch onto the limb Aang was on. A moment later the two were racing through the tree limbs as Aang fled.
"No, no! Why is this happening?" Katara panicked and bolted into the forest to follow them.
Having followed their shouts for a moment she lost sight of them. Wandering beside a small stream a loud rush of violent wind caught her ear. That has to be them! Breaking into a sprint for the location, Aang's staff thumped onto the ground across the stream.
She turned her eyes in surprise to it before glancing up. Aang cried aloud as she caught sight of him slamming into a tree limb, collapsing to the ground on his back. No, Aang! Drawing closer, she paused as Jet landed firmly on his feet behind the airbender. Aang rolled to his palms with a groan, preparing to rise again.
Lay off him! That's it, Jet! You really are a thug! She bolted for the stream and in a running leap over the water she swung her arms low. As she landed a speeding trail of water soared past her, catching Jet completely by surprise before he could advance upon Aang.
The blast of water was so potent Jet soared off his feet yet again, slamming on his side. He quickly scampered to his feet, but Katara hadn't given him a moment's respite. As he stood a second stream of water slammed into him and knocked him back a step.
She lost herself to her rage, reaching back and continuously drawing more water to send at him from the stream behind her. After the fourth blow, Jet stumbled against a nearby tree. She regained her composure long enough to realize she had him momentarily defeated; it was time for a finishing blow.
This hadn't always worked before but now it would have to. She drew her arms back and held her fingers rigidly apart; stiffening her muscles and in turn, her chi. Taking a deep breath, she exhaled firmly. A cold, white mist left her lips, freezing the water path as it traveled forward.
Jet struggled and gasped in shock, dropping his hook swords to the ground. His now water-soaked clothing instantly began to ice over. Pressing his back to the nearby tree defensively, her crawling ice sealed his body against it.
And there he stood – frozen to a tree, eyeballing her. Aang rose to his feet and stepped just behind Katara, holding his staff at the ready. "Why, Jet? I can't believe I trusted you..." Her voice wavered, yet remained stern as she poured her heart out. "You lied to me. You're sick, and I trusted you!"
A distant echoing whistle mimicking a bird call caught her attention. Quickly she glanced toward the ravine. Whatever was happening wasn't good. Jet recaptured her attention, returning a lower bird call in reply.
"What are you doing?!" She exclaimed suddenly.
"You're too late." He proudly shot back.
"No!" She whipped back to the ravine, her heart beating faster than before. She desperately searched for a plan, but as she did so Aang snapped his kite open and bolted for the dam. Oh yes, stop them! Go! But a moment later Aang crashed back to the ground on his stomach, his torn glider unable to support him.
Aang didn't move. Oh gosh, he's still hurt! She raced to his side and fell to her knees, laying her hands on him gently. Weakly glancing up over his shoulder, Aang's voice grew raspy. "Sokka's still out there...he's our only chance."
He's right – we're out of time! Jet, how dare you... "Come on Sokka – I'm sorry I ever doubted you." Her eyes scoured the distance, frantically wishing to see him save the day. "Please..." A moment of silence passed as the two waited for what would come. A distant echo of a bowstring sounded, a fiery arrow sailed in a long arch for the barrels below the dam. "No..."
The following explosion was so powerful it shook the ground where she knelt. She leapt to her feet and ran closer to the edge, helplessly watching a torrential mountain of water race downstream, overcoming and swallowing the small town a short distance away. I...I...I did this! Her eyes built up tears, though she fought them back. Jet made me do this, now I'm responsible for all their deaths! How could he do this to me!?
"Sokka didn't make it in time." Aang quietly commented beside her.
"All those people..." Katara mourned, holding back the tears of guilt. Kicking back, she whipped her glare upon the frozen man behind her, clenching her fists. "Jet you monster!"
"This was a victory, Katara. Remember that. The Fire Nation is gone and this valley will be safe."
"It will be safe!" Sokka's voice echoed from below the edge of the ravine. "Without you."
He's here! You're safe! "Sokka!" Katara exclaimed as she spun back to see her brother approach on Appa, heavily relieved to see him well.
"I warned the villagers of your plan. Just in time."
"What?!" Jet spat out in anger.
"At first, they didn't believe me. The Fire Nation soldiers assumed I was a spy. But one man vouched for me; the old man you attacked. He urged them to trust me, and we got everyone out in time." Sokka explained thoughtfully.
"Sokka, you fool!" Jet continued to rage. "We could have freed this valley!"
"Who would be free? Everyone would be dead."
"No Jet. You became the traitor when you stopped protecting innocent people." Sokka...how could I ever have doubted you? I'm so sorry.
"Katara, please! Help me." Jet implored her prior adoration for him.
This now pained memory of her emotions weighted on her. Now? You beg for my help now? I listened to you before. She shut her eyes firmly, her eyelids squeezing back distant tears. I will never do that again. "Goodbye Jet." She added firmly with her back still to him.
Ignoring him completely, she crawled up Appa's tail and climbed into the saddle behind Aang. "Yip yip." Sokka stated plainly with a crack of the reigns. Sitting upon her legs, she kept her eyes directed forward, refusing a last glance to the monster encased in ice against the tree.
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