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The three have escaped a climactic trial, trapped in a canyon with danger looming. Thrilled to be free, they take shelter that evening on a nearby beach where Katara trains with Aang further. However, the next day they discover they have a serious problem; they lack food as well as money. Sokka takes a job to earn enough to eat, though his employer lays heavy guilt upon Aang. Katara consoles Aang, who tells her about the past that has haunted him and his guilt for their passing.
I originally intended on having some mention of "Jinju" in their discussion...but Aang led me away from that when the discussion started. His mindset was in no position to discuss a specific character such as Jinju....so he kinda fell to the sidelines.
No, I never intended on giving the Old Fisherman or his wife more of a roll. Their characters were portrayed well enough, and their names were unneeded. They didn't need any further fleshing out.
Oh and; they still had food during The Great Divide....something that didn't get mentioned here, is that the sick/elderly ate the food Aang had foraged and left in the bag. LOL! Shame on them guys and gals!
"Oh water, finally!" Katara exclaimed delightedly. Taking only enough time to leap out of her leather shoes, she bolted across the sandy beach, and leapt headlong into the ocean. As she crashed into the waters she intentionally used her bending to launch up an enormous splash all around her.
"Um, Katara? You know you just soaked your clothing...right?" Sokka questioned dubiously, kicking out his bedroll atop the loose sand by the shore.
"I don't care!" She stated joyously, stroking the water as she kept herself afloat. "Besides I'll just pull the water out with my bending when I'm done. Speaking of which; Aang! Come here. I remembered this one move I want to show you."
"All-right!" He shouted for joy and quickly threw off his Air Nomad attire, returning to his brown briefs. Sokka let loose a disgruntled sigh and plopped down atop his sleeping bag, where he proceeded to poke their nearby fire with a stick as Aang joined her.
"Okay. Remember how the Unagi almost got you, like weeks ago? I tried something sudden that day that ended up saving both of us."
"Oh right; I wondered how I got on those rocks." Aang paddled away from her, turning to his side as he slipped his tongue out and bit it in playful readiness. "Okay, what'cha got?"
"Alright...it's like this, think of throwing as much water as you can in a straight line...it's like streaming the water, only with as much force as you can manage back into the water."
"Uh...I think I'll just watch you first." A goofy grin crept over him as he made evident her explanation was as clear as mud. Sokka chuckled from the beach, tossing his leg up over his knee as his head fell to rest atop his arms.
What? I thought that made sense... She turned away, scowling over the ocean's surface in determination. Okay, just like before. Taking a deep breath, she drew her left arm back and held her palm open. With a sudden shout she thrust her arm forward with all the strength she could muster through the water. A blast of water flung into the air as she propelled backwards, dipping beneath the water's surface.
Ah! Rolling underwater, she fought to regain her sense of direction then swam to the surface, popping her head up to draw a quick gasp for breath. "Bravo! Bravo!" Her brother cheered from the shore, clapping his hands haughtily.
Shut up. She frowned, pulling her hair loopies back behind her head to reconnect them to her hair bun. "Okay...like this?" Aang turned to prepare his attempt. He'll get it right away. She shook her head, but forced a smile, determined to not be upset. At least we can practice together.
Whoosh! Aang blasted himself out of the water and skipped like a stone. "Aah!" She dove back underwater just before he would have struck her head. Resurfacing, she glanced back to her pupil who was laughing maniacally. "Aang, you're supposed to stay in the water!"
"That was so awesome!" He didn't even hear her. "Watch this!" Sinking into the water, he began to thrust one arm, then the other, repeatedly as he blasted circles around Katara.
"Nice trick you taught him Katara. Now he thinks he's a boat; a fast one." Sokka called out in jest from the shoreline.
Oh yeah? She grinned mischievously as Aang came zipping by. Watch this. She lifted her arms and just as he passed by she swung her arms low after him, creating a low trench of water where he was. Losing his momentum the trench collapsed, flooding him to a halt.
After surfacing and spitting out a mouthful of sea-water, Aang rejoined in laughter. "Nice move Katara! ...let's do it again!"
Before long, the three found themselves sleeping peacefully on the shore. Sokka had joined them after their training dwindled into goofing around, though he only became the brunt of their bending. They had lain by the fireside to warm up afterward, enjoying one another's company and jesting about what it would have been like for the Freedom Fighters to have met the Zhang and Gan Jin. During this talk, they let the fire die out before drifting into a calm slumber.
Katara suddenly woke to a kick in the gut, leaping up from her warm sleeping bag to sit upright with a terrified gasp. Wide-eyed, she turned to spot a furry white lemur leap on her brother and wake him up in just as much surprise, leaping forward with his knife and boomerang in hand. "Uuh what's going on...did we get captured again?"
"It's nothing." She turned to face Aang, who was sitting upright upon the sandy beach. "I just had a bad dream. Go back to sleep..." He rolled over, balling up as he turned his back to them. Again? What's this, your third...or fourth nightmare in the last few days?
"You don't have to tell me twice." Sokka quickly retorted, dropping back to his bag as he rolled onto his side.
Katara, however, wasn't settled. Her blue eyes drifted down to the back of his bald head with concern. Something's troubling you...isn't it? "Are you alright Aang?" She implored softly.
"I-I'm okay." He nonchalantly replied, not even budging.
"You seem to be having a lot of nightmares lately. You wanna tell me about it?" It'll make you feel better. She posed kindly.
"I think I just need some rest." He calmly answered. Aang...please. She leaned back, casting her forlorn eyes on her hurting friend.
"You wanna hear about my dream?" Sokka sat back up and questioned in sudden interest. She cast a sudden scowl in his general direction. Can't you tell Aang's hurting? You're so inconsiderate.... "That's okay. I didn't wanna talk about it anyway." He discarded her stare, dropping back to his bedding.
Well...he won't talk about it. Just let him rest. She turned away from Aang and frowned, lowering gently into her fur-lined bedding to resume sleeping.
When the morning came, Aang was all smiles again. She didn't bother questioning Aang about his nightmare; it would be too much to ruin his mood when he seemed so happy. Instead the trio resumed packing, or rather duo, since Aang woke Appa and began sharing a pleasant conversation with his lifelong buddy.
"Look at those clear skies buddy!" Aang commented after Appa groaned at the daylight blinding his eyes. Cute fella. She smiled at Appa's groan as she wrapped up and tied their bedding and supplies used the night before. "Should be some smooth flying!"
Something felt too light. Oh no, don't tell me... She gave the brown sack a shake, of all the food that Aang had foraged the day before, only crumbs spilled out. Shoot. "Well, we better smoothly fly ourselves to a market. 'Cause we're out of food." She walked up Appa's tail as he lifted her level with his back, joining Sokka and Aang.
"Guys, wait! This was in my dream; we shouldn't go to the market!" Sokka exclaimed in surprise as she dropped to her knees in the saddle to finish tying a final bundle.
Wait; a premonition? Really, you? "What happened in your dream?" She asked with sudden interest."Food... eats people!" Sokka spat out frantically, stretching his fingers forth like talons. You have got to be kidding me. Katara quirked an eyebrow as she smugly frowned, giving her idiotic brother a single, simple shake of her head.
"Also–" Sokka continued, as if she hadn't heard enough of him already. He jabbed his index finger toward the little lemur by his head before pulling it back to lean forward cruelly. "Momo could talk. You said some very unkind things." You will never change.
"I wish I could have found that tart." Aang idly stated, returning to the topic of food.
"A what?" Sokka questioned with a raised eyebrow. "Oh, that! Lucky there was some leftover meat that didn't fly over the cliff; those Zhangs really knew how to eat." Sokka patted his stomach and let out a sigh.
Aang groaned. "I liked the Gan Jin's diet. Still...they didn't have a custard tart."
He really wanted that badly. She chuckled and shook her head. However at this mention her stomach growled, bringing her to rub her belly with a frown. "Okay–okay; stop talking about food. You're making me even hungrier."
"Just how old is this map?" Sokka questioned as he stretched it away from him diagonally. "This trading dock isn't even on it!"
"Uh...a hundred years?" Aang shyly responded, returning a sheepish grin as the trio crossed a wooden deck to search the markets. There weren't very many people at this dock for it to be a trading town, and those her eyes laid notice of seemed to be elderly.
"A hundred?!" Sokka crumpled the map in shock, snapping it down to scowl at the young boy. "No wonder we've had to stop all over the place! We've been following your stupid map from over a century ago!"
Katara rubbed her temples as her eyelids firmly closed. I did not just hear that. "That's it. While here, I'm buying us a real map." He continued, stuffing the folded map away.
"Well...it's been mostly right. Sorry guys." Aang shrugged halfheartedly, stepping up to lean against the railing of a food stand. Oh, what's this you found? She turned and stepped beside Aang with a smile, scouring the sections of fruits excitedly.
Grapes hung in bags, bunches of bananas hung from the stand's roof and fruits lay segregated in separate compartments. Now this I could get used to. After test squeezes, she tossed select fruits into a basket and handed it off to Sokka. Ooh. She reached for a melon as a short, stocky female shopkeeper bellowed at her. "What was wrong with that?"
"It was too squishy." She answered with a polite smile, holding up the cool melon in her hands.
"Squishy is just right! It adds to the flavor!" The woman bellowed from behind the counter, slapping her hands on the wooden surface to lean over. Or it means it's going bad. Katara idly thought without replying. Giving a soft squeeze to the melon in her hands, she frowned. Something felt off about it, but she wasn't certain what. "Now what? That melon is fresh, what's wrong with that?"
I'm not sure. The lady didn't wait for Katara's reply. "Ah, it's good; it's perfect! I'm telling you!"
Katara shook the melon by her head and what she heard didn't sound like simply juices. Something inside seemed to gel at her shake. Yuck, oh my gosh. No. "I don't know if I like the sound of that swishing..."
The lady grew exasperated, leaping around the counter to stare up to Katara madly. "Swishing means it's ripe! It's the ripe juices swishing around, huh!"
"I think it's true, Katara. Swishing means it's ripe." Aang began, drawing her to glance back to him.
Oh wait. She pressed her arms against her side, rubbing to feel for where her money should be yet felt nothing but her body. Uh oh. "I just realized we're out of money anyway." She apologized and set the melon down. Turning to the angry woman, she pressed her hands politely together before her chest and gave her a beaming smile. Sorry!
The lady groaned in anguish and snapped the basket from her brother's hands. As they began to walk by her, she threw her leg up and kicked Sokka square on his behind. Oh my! Katara placed a hand on Aang's shoulder and pushed him to take a wider berth from this lady should she get the same idea.
"Out of food and out of money. Now what are we supposed to do?!" Sokka shouted worriedly, slumping forward sadly between the two.
"You could get a job, smart guy." Katara quickly joked; though partly serious as even she didn't find humor in it afterward. Oh whatever.
"We shouldn't go out there!" An elderly lady shouted firmly. Huh? Katara spun around to glance behind her toward the water. "Please; the fish can wait! There's going to be a terrible storm."
"Ah; you're crazy, it's a nice day!" An elderly man in green retorted, turning to wave his arms for the sky. "No clouds, no wind, no nothin' so quit your naggin' woman!"
"Maybe...we should find some shelter?" Aang meekly requested. You okay? She eyed him curiously.
"Are you kidding? Shelter from what?" Sokka retorted in disbelief as the woman quickly shouted back to her husband.
"My joints say there's going to be a storm! A bad one."
"Well, it's your joints against my brain." He added. Katara inwardly sighed watching this spat, losing interest momentarily. What do we do for food...
"Well I hope your brain can find someone else to haul that fish, 'cause I ain't comin'!"
The man's voice escalated beyond his prior shouts. "Then I'll find a new fish hauler and give 'im double what you get! How ya like that?"
"I'll go!" She noticed her brother had charged the two and threw his arm up readily. Uh...
"You're hired!" The man pointed to Sokka quickly.
What just happened? "What?" Sokka seemed to feel her eyes on the back of his head. "You said get a job, and he's paying double!" Katara turned to face Aang as he did the same. I was only joking...but, maybe we can eat tonight at least.
"Double?! Who told ya that nonsense?"
"I kind of feel sorry for the fisherman." Katara joked quietly with a smile to Aang.
After some time had passed and Sokka had begun his duties prepping the boat for their fishing trip, Katara's opinion had changed. Aang obviously grew more anxious for each rolling thunder in the distance. "I hope this man knows what he's doing."
"Yeah..." Aang frowned restlessly. "Maybe we could convince him to just call it off? I mean, running...sailing away into a storm isn't a smart idea."
"I don't think he'll listen." She gripped her arms and squeezed, eyeing dark clouds looming in their direction. Glancing to Aang, she saw fear in his stormy eyes. "I don't like this."
Aang left her side and approached the boat. Just as Sokka passed by carrying a bag of supplies, Aang voiced their concern. "Sokka, maybe this isn't such a good idea. Look at the sky."
"I said I was gonna do this job." Sokka paused for just a moment, half-turning his head to say this before heading below deck. "I can't back out just 'cause of some bad weather."
"The boy with the tattoos has some sense. You should listen to him!" The old lady spat out from the dock before turning to walk off.
The fisherman tilted his white-bearded head back, his pointed hat blocking her view of the back of his head. "Boy with tattoos?" He turned, his eyes reaching over the deck to Aang from his boat, stepping out to approach him. "Airbender tattoos...well I'll be a hogmonkey's uncle! You're the Avatar ain'tcha?"
Katara smiled proudly to be with Aang and propped the back of her wrists off her hips, answering for him gladly. "That's right!"
The man's bushy white eyebrows fell cross, as did his voice. "Well don't be so smiley about it!" Wha...huh? Her eyebrows rose in disbelief, dropping her hands loosely by her sides. He's...mad at Aang? "The Avatar disappeared for a hundred years!" He shouted sternly, taking a step forward as he jabbed his finger into Aang's chest. "Ya turned your back on the world!"
Get your finger off him! She balled her fists up and stepped beside Aang, shoving her face in front of the old white-bearded man. "Don't yell at him! Aang would never turn his back on anyone!"
"Oh, he wouldn't huh?" The old man ruefully replied, stroking at his beard as he widened one eye to her. "Then I guess I must have imagined the last hundred years of war; and suffering."
Back off. She crossed between this spiteful man and Aang, defending him readily. Retorting quickly, she leaned forward and pressed her palm to her chest. "Aang is the bravest person I know!" Standing upright she poised the back of her wrists off her hips; smugly showing this man she wasn't afraid to stand her ground against him. "He has done nothing but help people and save lives since I met him. It's not his fault he disappeared – right Aang?"
She half-turned, expecting him to join in her beating this foolish man with words. No reply. "Aang?" She spun fully back and eyed him feverishly. His gray eyes shown unspeakable pain, he could nearly have started crying. "What's wrong?"
Snap. His kite flung open as he whipped away and leapt into the sky. Aang, no! She threw her hand up for him but it was too late, he sailed for the mountains beyond. She stood helpless on the dock, watching him fly away as her hand slowly drifted back to her side. "That's right, keep flyin'!" The old man shouted loudly beside her before she could grasp what just happened.
Shut up. You did this to him! She turned to thrust a hardened glare on him. "You're a horrible old man!" He only grunted back at her, disinterested in her insult. Wasting no more words, she bolted past him to leap off the dock and onto Appa's head, pulling herself up with firm grasps of his thick white fur. "Appa, yip yip!" She called out just as she fell to her knees atop his dark arrow, seizing the reigns.
He took off forcefully, sending up a sizeable blast of water behind him, drenching the old man as he stood idly by. "Hah! Nice one Appa. He deserved that." She patted his arrow as Appa bellowed merrily back at her. "Hurry! We can't lose Aang!" She snapped at the reigns tied to the bison's horns, urging him to go faster.
Concerned blue eyes scoured the mountainside, reaching up to the tops to see if Aang had retreated to a lofty hideaway. The rain quickened, filling the air with its many thousands of streaking droplets as the rising winds thrust her long hair braid behind her. She shielded her eyes with a right hand, continuing to search for any signs. I will find Aang...he isn't going to sit out in this alone.
Long minutes of searching passed. The sky had faded to black as storm clouds surrounded the mountains entirely, shutting out any hints of warm sunlight to replace it with chill winds. Oh no. It began to spit rain, further distorting her attempts at finding where her friend had run away to.
Brr... She shivered, drawing into herself as she lowered her hand. A dark crevice with a level rocky plateau caught her eye. Examining more closely, she barely discerned a small figure within the looming darkness. Found you. She thought calmly, her anxious search stilling. "Thanks Appa. I found our friend." She leaned forward and patted the bison's drenched fur.
After Appa set down, she slid off of his head to fall onto her feet, since climbing on his slick fur wasn't much an option now. Disregarding the endless rain, her pace wasn't fast as she approached the mouth of the cave. There was no need for haste; not now that she knew where she was going.
Stepping into the opening darkness, she slapped away some of the loose water on her sleeve, which didn't accomplish much. There Aang was. Her mournful eyes lay on the back of his head, freezing at the entrance to observe him from afar. You're hurting...something has hurt you and you haven't told me. "I'm sorry for running away."
"It's okay." She calmly replied. He had known she was there without even turning to see her. "That fisherman was way out of line."
"Actually, he wasn't." He solemnly added.
"What do you mean?" She kindly implored.
He finally turned back to see her, but only a simple glance over his shoulder before dropping his head away again. "I don't want to talk about it." His voice cracked as he did so, choking back a tear.
Aang... Approaching him, her hand laid supportively on his shoulder as she knelt at his side. "It has to do with your dream, doesn't it?" Aang didn't even budge, his eyes were held firmly shut as he hunched forward. Please, Aang... "Talk to me."
"Well..." His eyes slipped open, lifting to meet hers. "It's kind of a long story."
A heavy growl echoed through the rock walls, startling her as she had so entranced in his pain she forgot all about Appa. Pulling her hand back, she propped her elbow atop her leg and smiled at the soaked beast. Good. "I'm going to try to get a little fire going." She headed deeper into the cave's darkness to find a suitable spot to arrange their kindling, she could dry herself with waterbending but right now they needed warmth.
After she pulled the water from kindling they had remaining from the prior night, she had a small fire lighting the walls of the dark cave. Their shadows danced on either end of the cave, wavering back and forth with the flickering firelight. "As I said, it's kind of long. I'm not really sure where to begin."
She smiled welcomingly, laying her hands atop her lap. "Tell me everything. I'm listening." Finally. You need to get out whatever is troubling you...you'll feel much better when you do.
"Do you know how I got this tattoo?" He idly aimed his finger toward his forehead, tilting toward the fire.
"Kind of. It's an airbending tattoo isn't it?"
He dropped his hands to his lap, giving her a subtle nod in reply. "For mastering airbending. You have to learn thirty-six moves before earning one. The monks told me I earned my tattoos earlier than anyone they had seen."
Okay...go on. She leaned back, watching him closely as she decided she would listen to everything he had to say. "That training is given to every Air Nomad. My friends were training too, and we'd often show what we learned with each other and try to find ways to play games with them...that's why we had that courtyard you saw at the Southern Air Temple." At this, he partially smiled. "Kind of like how we did yesterday with waterbending."
Katara smiled too. Sounds good so far... she tilted her head, laying her beaming eyes on him from overtop the fire. He let out a heavy sigh, having paused for a moment. "You miss them." Reactively, she reached for a nearby stick and lifted it, prodding it into the embers of the small fire.
"Yeah." He stated idly, running his index finger through the darkened dirt of the cave. "I'll never forget the day the monks told me I was the Avatar. I was playing with some other kids just outside the South Wall. I was trying to teach them how to do the air scooter."
"What's that?" She calmly questioned, setting the stick down sideways in her other hand's grip.
"That's the move I made up. Here, let me show you like I did my friends. First, you form the ball." He climbed to his feet and swirled his hands in a circular overhead motion before settling them before his stomach. A rippling sphere of air balanced just in front of his body, though she felt no wind. Interesting...
"Then ya got to get on quick." He stated calmly, spinning the ball over his head then to the ground as he leapt up after it, landing to poise one foot at the very center of its top. Here, he remained, staring at her wordlessly.
Her mouth dropped as her eyes widened. "You're... floating! In mid-air!" She slipped the stick forward, poking toward the air sphere beneath him curiously. Snap. The tip of it cracked off and bounded off the wall beside her, leaving her to jerk back in sudden surprise.
"Careful, it's got a lot of energy." He released his hands, dropping them to his side as the sphere collapsed beneath him. His feet touched ground as he stepped to the fire, lowering to be seated again.
"You know, you should have used that trick instead of those marbles. That's pretty impressive Aang." She patted the stick atop her legs with a smile.
"Hm...yeah, you're right." Aang tapped at his chin before shaking his head. "My friends didn't quite get it when they first tried. Before I could keep showing them how to do it though..." His tone shifted, returning somber as he glanced away. "The Council of Elders interrupted me. Monk Gyatso told me I needed to come with them...those monks were always serious, but for them to address me directly, something was happening."
She dropped her stick beside her legs, cupping one palm over the other atop her lap as she listened intently. "They led me silently to the Inner Court, the Council's chambers. After I had knelt before them in the center of the room, they told me why they had summoned me." He hesitated, lowering his gaze to the flames of the fire. "They told me I was the Avatar."
Okay...that upset him? She rubbed her palm over the back of her other hand, watching him curiously as he continued. "I asked them how they knew it was me. It had to be a mistake; I mean I'm just a normal kid, right? They showed me four toys I had chosen out of thousands as a child and told me they were Avatar relics; that I chose them because they were familiar to me."He released a pent up sigh, keeping his gaze to himself. "They were just toys; they had to have made a mistake. But Gyatso said they knew; and that they told me before I was sixteen because he was having visions of troubling signs, storm clouds." Momo clambered over and climbed into his lap, cuddling across from one leg to the other.
But he didn't say any more. His eyes slipped shut as his head bent toward the lemur in his lap in anguish. Well, don't stop now... Having reclaimed her stick, she waved it questionably away from her. "So...you were upset you were the Avatar? Why wouldn't you be excited about it?"
Dropping her stick back to both her hands, she listened intently as Aang pulled his legs up into his chest. "Well...I didn't know how to feel about it. All I knew is that after I found out; everything began changing..." He averted his gaze to the ground beside him.
"The next day I met my friends down by the South Wall again; they had finished teaching themselves the air scooter. I tried to join them when they told me they made a game for it, but..." He groaned, reaching up to catch his chin in his hands. "They wouldn't let me."
"I don't understand..." Katara posed, slipping the stick to the ground once again as she leaned upright. "Why not?"
"It was like I didn't exist anymore." He weakly spoke into his hands. "Aang was gone, nobody saw him when they looked at me. The Avatar had taken my place."
"Oh..." When she noticed a subtle reflection of unfulfilled tears in Aang's eyes, she frowned meekly. Wow. I...I never thought of it like that. She dropped her eyes to the fire, pondering over their past. Have I treated him like that? The Avatar and not Aang? He was right, they were two separate things, and who he was often was overshadowed by what he was. Her eyes misted at the notion, shutting them as she agreed she was guilty for at times making the same mistake that his friends had.
"I had already become an airbending master, but my training only got worse. And by worse..." His eyebrows bunched as he momentarily looked back to her. Reopening her eyes, she returned his gaze with the tips of flames dancing between them. "I had to train in actual fights. The Council insisted I spar with them to improve. In the end, Gyatso managed to get them to agree I would only spar him. That was a good thing, though..."
He briefly smiled, obviously reminiscing his time with the old monk. "He was the only one that still saw who I was. We got to the point we could understand each other without saying a word." He let out a momentous grunt, smirking at that notion. "That really helped in our fights. At least they looked real. Some of the things they taught or used at that level were scary."
"I thought the Air Nomads were peaceful...they made you fight?" She idly reclaimed the stick and began to poke the fire; which actually slightly aggravated her this time. She couldn't stop fidgeting during his story and she couldn't figure out why.
"They were. But that doesn't mean they didn't know how to fight. But we always respected our opponents." He scowled slightly as his eyes evaded hers. "Monk Tashi I'm not so sure about though. He always treated me like a weapon...I didn't like him. Gyatso didn't either." Aang smirked as a slight laugh escaped his lips, continuing forward on the notion. "He taught me how to make Air Nomad fruit pies, but he had some clever uses for them...use airbending to pie the Council in the faces from afar." His gray eyes mischievously wandered up to Katara's. "My aim improved greatly for that."
"Oh my gosh." Katara grinned and covered her lips with one hand, chuckling at the thought. "You're so awful." She uttered with a trailing laugh. This actually reminded her of his lie the day before; it was rather cute to imagine Aang being so mischievous.
"Then, when I was just starting to feel better, something worse happened...they caught on to our game." He stated somberly, dipping his chin as her eyebrows lifted in sorrow. Right...there are always consequences. She reminded herself. "Gyatso kept trying to let me have fun with him, but they got harder and harder on him. I didn't tell him, but I saw he was getting in trouble...over me." He slipped his hands together, interlacing his fingers distractedly. As he preoccupied himself, Katara scooted across the dirt floor to be closer by his side, settling upon her knees once again.
"It got bad. Whenever the monks would pass Gyatso they either glared or had hard words." He exhaled softly, running his hand along Momo's back in his lap. The small lemur had fallen still, cooing softly in its sleep. "One day, Monk Tashi slipped him a note and walked off. I watched where Gyatso threw it away and dug it out myself to see what it said."
"What did it say?" She questioned, slightly leaning toward him. She expected this story was about to take a sharp turn for the worse, but hoped against expectations that it had a better ending.
"He was summoned for a private council with High Monk Pasang." He somberly replied, lifting his gray eyes to her. "That is serious; going directly past the Council to the High Monk with a concern. I had to know why...so I followed him and listened in from the rooftop."
I would have done the same. She sat back, watching and waiting for him to continue. Go on, go on... "I still remember every word of that conversation. Gyatso and Tashi were debating what to do with me to the High Monk, Pasang. Gyatso told him I needed to grow up as a normal boy, but Tashi argued destiny." He added a certain tinge of anger to the last word which caught Katara off guard. "Then Pasang began his ruling. He said Gyatso's judgment was clouded, and that he..."
He pulled his legs up into his chest, burying his face into his knees. "You and Aang must be separated." He continued with defeat in his words. "The Avatar will be sent away to the Eastern Air Temple to complete his training."
She caught his accenting upon the word Avatar and softened her expression. Aang just had to go along for the ride... "That's awful, Aang!" She lifted her arm to try to take hold of him, but he was so infuriated he jerked away and leapt to his feet. "I don't know what to say."
Storming to the other side of the fire, he balled his fists angrily and shouted. "How could they do that to me?" As he continued, his voice escalated to new heights as his rage overcame him. Wind began to encircle him, beating upon the rock walls to send up dirt and debris. "They wanted to take away everything I knew and everyone I loved!"
His tattoos lit the cave with an eerie light, mixing with the flickering of fire. Flames writhed furiously in the thrashing wind as smoldering embers flung into the air. Oh gosh! She batted off one that nearly landed on her chest and pulled away toward the far wall. "Whoa! Hot cinders!"
The wind died down, followed briefly afterward with the ceasing of his glow. He turned back around, dejectedly returning to the fireside. "I'm sorry I got so mad."
She held her hand out acceptingly, not in the least maddened by his actions. "You have a right to be angry, after the monks sent you away like that." She crossed her arms tightly, casting a fierce scowl toward the far wall.
"Well...that's not exactly what happened." Aang mildly replied. "I went back to my room. I was afraid and confused; I didn't know what to do. But then, I..." His eyes danced with sorrow, twisting away from the fire. "I never saw Gyatso again." He inched away from the fire, drawing his legs up against his chest once again as only his eyes lifted to her. "Next thing I knew I was waking up in your arms after you found me in the iceberg."
Oh... She figured out what he didn't say and leaned forward, watching him sadly. "You ran away."
Aang lifted his head from his arms, speaking factually. "And then the Fire Nation attacked our temple." His gray eyes flitted away, hiding his chin behind his arms atop his knees. "My people needed me and I wasn't there to help."
No, don't blame yourself... "You don't know what would've–"
But he cut her off, throwing his hands high into the air as he shouted. "The world needed me and I wasn't there to help!" He finished, holding his arms out toward her in exclamation.
She pulled away, taken back by surprise at his sudden self-hate. "Aang..." She held her hand out in explanation, but he wouldn't let her continue.
"The fisherman was right." With a sudden finality, he jerked his head to his side and shrugged off her kindness. "I did turn my back on the world."
No, Aang. She pressed both her hands on her knees and sat forward, asserting her words. "You're being too hard on yourself. Even if you did run away; I think it was meant to be." She commented softly, averting her eyes as she considered the possibility of if he had not. "If you had stayed you would have been killed along with all the other airbenders."
"You don't know that." He idly commented, unmoving from his position.
"I know it's meant to be this way." She smiled reassuringly to him as she continued sweetly. "The world needs you now. You give people hope."
Those were the right words. He pulled his head from his arms and allowed a smile to cross his lips, returning her look. "Yeah..."
"Know what? Gran Gran agrees." She stated thoughtfully, leaning to sit back upon her heels.
"Huh?" Aang's face displayed sheer confusion at her sudden mention, splitting his legs upon the ground as he rested his hands down on his lap.
"Back when you let Zuko capture you; Sokka and I were secretly planning on running away from our tribe to save you. Gran Gran caught on to us though...she's the one that gave us all our supplies and money. Know what she said?" The vibrant firelight danced in her blue eyes as she waited a moment, capturing Aang's full attention. "She said it's been a long time since she had any hope, but when I woke you up, it returned to her."
Aang released a powerful exhale in surprise, tilting his head forward as the fire rippled to his small airbending gust. "I don't know what to say."
And me. She slipped her eyelids shut and lowered her head, breathing softly. The Fire Nation took my hope from me. But she didn't voice her thoughts; instead she let them go with a light exhale. Her hand reached absently for her neck, resting her fingers calmly where her necklace should have been.
Glancing back to Aang, she noticed his gaze drift to her neck, then back to her eyes. He parted his lips to speak, but as he did so a woman's loud voice echoed into the cave. "Help! Oh please help!"
She wasted no time bolting from the fire to race to the lady's side by the mouth of the cave. "It's okay, you're safe!" She exclaimed, taking the arm of the old fisherman's wife in her hands.
"But my husband isn't!" The woman worried aloud, entering the cave at Katara's side.
"What do you mean?" Katara questioned, but began to worry as well when she remembered her brother was out with him. "Where's Sokka?!"
"They haven't returned!" She shot back as they reached the fireside. "They should have been back by now, and this storm is becoming a typhoon! They're caught out at sea..."
Sokka. She released the lady's arm and stood back, pondering if she could help him. "I'm going to find them." Aang suddenly exclaimed assuredly, rising to his feet.
"I'm going with you!" Katara voiced, turning to face Aang.
"I'm staying here!" The old lady quipped as she dropped beside the fire.
After Appa had been re-saddled, she led him slowly to the front of the cave, followed shortly behind by Aang. "It's a pretty bad storm Katara, I can do this alone."
With a shake of her head, she sternly rejected his request. "I'm going Aang. It didn't stop me finding you, and now it isn't going to stop me finding Sokka." With this finality in place, she turned to Appa and leaned into his side, stroking his furry head. "You've been very good to us, I'm sorry you have to go back out in this again."
Appa groaned, shuffling his side's three legs toward the exit. "I know. You're willing to do this too. You're such a good boy."
A warm smile crept over her as Appa stuck his head out into the rain. Aang called back to the waiting lady they were leaving behind as she continued to stroke Appa's fur. "We'll be back soon, I promise."
I'm coming Sokka. She mused as her forehead knotted in determination, climbing to sit on Appa's head with Aang as the trio made off into the sheets of rain and harsh winds that awaited them.
After flying for ten minutes, being next to Aang on Appa's soaked head felt a bit crowded. She had made her way back into the saddle and knelt into its front, ignoring the hundreds of pelting droplets as her blue eyes scoured the torrents of mountainous waves crashing throughout the sea. How are we ever going to find them...?
What is... Gasping shock, her mouth fell low as her eyes stretched wide. They were flying directly into a wave that towered overhead as it broke through the darkness! Aang sprung to the front of Appa's head and whipped out his staff, twirling it ahead of them as he blasted a hole directly through the wave with his airbending.
Katara slumped back into the saddle, watching silently as they blasted through the water-tunnel and burst out the other side. ...Wow. As she took in what just happened, a blast of lightning lit up the distance, revealing a tall mast amidst violent waves. "The boat! There!" Aang shouted back to her as he pointed at what she had seen as well.
Appa quickly closed the distance, but as he did so Katara spotted another ship riding the waves and ground her teeth together in horror. Zuko! Here?! He never gives up! She curled her fingers around the front of Appa's saddle, leaning over the edge. "Hurry Aang!"
On cue, he leapt from Appa and landed on the wooden deck of the small vessel. Sokka and the old man each held a rope tethered to their main mast. Just as Aang touched down, a lightning strike blasted the mast, shattering its base. Appa drifted beside the boat as her eyes followed Aang. He leapt directly toward the mast as it fell for him and thrust underhanded swings forward, launching slices of water directly into it, splitting the wood in half so that it fell safely to either side of the ship.
Where did he learn that... Aang thrust a rope around the two and propelled himself back atop Appa, landing beside Katara in the saddle. "Pull them up Appa!" Aang shouted as his bison flung upward, jerking the rope with a fierce tug to send the two airborne. Is that really safe?! She twisted back as the two crash-landed side by side in the back of the saddle.
"You did it!" Katara exclaimed excitedly before rising over the saddle's edge. "But we've got to get out of here now!" She urged in part due to the Fire Navy ship she had seen on the waters, this wasn't the place to be meeting them.
Aang beat her to Appa's head, seizing the reins as he dropped to his knees. Climbing over the saddle's front, Katara slipped and began sliding down Appa's neck. Help! In a panic, she fell against Appa's head and gripped Aang's arm in one hand for balance, taking the reins in her other. But just as she regained herself, the sky darkened – if that was at all possible. Glancing back behind her she gasped in horror, a tidal wave loomed far above them, carrying the ship they just escaped from overhead. Aang! Any more tricks?!
Appa bellowed furiously as the wave swallowed him up, launching them all beneath the water in a violent undertow. It was all Katara could do to keep her fingers wrapped on the saddle's edge, holding her breath as she kept her eyes tightly shut, praying desperately she could breathe again.
A sudden tremor through the water shook her, followed by a subtle glow from behind her closed eyelids. It's Aang...it has to be. Just as she thought this, torrents of water swirled all around her, retreating as air took its place.
With a sudden thump she fell into the saddle on her stomach, bracing herself upright on her palms as she briefly hacked out a mouthful of seawater. Then, all was quiet. Lifting to sit back on her legs, she observed her surroundings. She joined the old fisherman and her brother, gaping in awe as Aang sat quietly on Appa's head in full glow. There was no sky, no distance – no, she only saw the inside of a rippling bubble of glowing water, fought back with the force of a mighty wind. It's beautiful... was all she could think as she laid her hands atop the saddle's edge.
This came to an end as the bubble burst, emerging above the ocean's surface. She breathed a sigh of relief and leaned forward, tightening her hold on the saddle as Appa flew nearly directly upright. There was Zuko, standing on his ship's deck watching them! She scowled vehemently as they ascended, leaving him to shrink further and further away. Leave us alone already! I can't believe he's so good at finding us...
I could have died... She mused in stark realization, climbing out of Appa's saddle. Landing softly to the wet stone of the plateau, she gazed into the cave beyond. Aang and the old man already had entered, his wife running over to greet him. As Katara stepped up beside her brother, the lady let out an exasperated sigh and leapt into her husband's arms. "You're alive!" But quickly pulled away and jabbed a finger toward Aang. "You owe this boy an apology!"
"He doesn't have to apologize." Aang calmly returned. Katara smiled thoughtfully, eyeing the back of Aang's head. He was so kind, so considerate... I'd make him. She mused.
The man groaned and grumbled, reaching to scratch at his beard as he responded to his wife rather than Aang. "What if instead of an apology, I give him a free fish and we call it even?"
"Actually, I don't eat meat." Aang kindly turned down his offer.
Turning a scrutinizing eye upon Aang, the fisherman spat back at him. "Fish ain't meat." Come again? Katara cocked her head to one side for a moment, what an odd thing to say.
Her brother stepped forward to his employer with a large grin, passing Aang as he turned back to Katara. Approaching, Aang addressed her with calm dedication. "Katara, I think you were right before. I'm done dwelling on the past."
It worked. A smile crossed over her as her eyes softened, proud to have helped Aang through his pain. "Really?"
"I can't make guesses about how things would have turned out if I hadn't run away. I'm here now and I'm going to make the most of it." He turned a crooked smile to her, confidence airing through his tone.
"I don't think you're going to have those nightmares anymore." As she mentioned this the old man approached and dropped a hand on Aang's shoulder from behind.
"If you weren't here now, well I guess I wouldn't be either. Thank you for saving my life Avatar." Finally, he apologized! Aang lowered his head and held a broad smile to the soil. She couldn't help but return this. This day couldn't have ended any better.
"Do ya hear that?" Sokka asked as he walked for the cave's exit, turning back to the group. "It stopped raining."
"Gosh I'm starved." She whispered softly to Aang as they stepped outside beside Appa, heading past everyone for the edge of the plateau.
Aang groaned and gripped his stomach, turning agreeable eyes upon her. "Me too."
Despite their hunger, the tranquility was welcome. Sun beams broke through dark skies, illuminating the still rippling waves of the ocean below. The looming scene of cool rain filled the air. All was well, until suddenly Appa shook madly, thrusting water out of his matted fur onto the five nearby. A chorus of shouts rose as she jerked away, pressing her back against Aang. "Appa..." Aang voiced his displeasure for his bison's lack of care.
"Gah." The old man whipped off his straw hat and beat water off of it. "No wetter than before." He mused, turning to Katara with a hard frown. "Hungry eh...well, how about this. If you fly us back home, we'll buy you food for the road." His wife smiled broadly and clung to his arm at his suggestion.
"That would be great sir." She leaned forward from Aang, pressing her hands together as she beamed an approving smile to him.
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Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg