Ad blocker interference detected!
Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers
Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.
|More from Wordbender||Action/Adventure||PG||Positive||None|
December 11, 2012
Previously in Air
Smellerbee, determined to exact revenge on Long Feng, parted in anger with Longshot after her friend turned the villain over to authorities instead of ending the murderer's life. Lee headed off to Ba Sing Se for the coronation and to reunite with his family. Aang suspects the Guild has bigger plans other than their (failed) kidnapping of Roh-Roh; he and the others have come to warn Kuei. Meanwhile, Katara and Jeong Jeong learned that the traitor Kuzarr had left for Ba Sing Se, taking Mai and Ursa with him.
Chapter Forty-Eight: Reconcile
When Longshot arrived, Smellerbee was already there.
He felt a sharp tug in his chest when he saw her, sitting between Iroh and Tyro in the kitchen. It had seemed an eternity since they parted. Without even realizing it he'd counted the days down to the minute. The only question he ever asked himself in the uncertain recesses of his heart was whether or not she would still be angry with him.
He froze in the doorway, afraid to move.
What if she refused to meet his gaze? What if Smellerbee, his best friend, had completely shut him out?
Iroh saw him first. "Ah! There you are! Come in, come in; we've been waiting for you."
They all turned to him: The Duke, Pipsqueak, Tyro...and Smellerbee.
Longshot held his breath.
When she caught sight of him, she scowled. Her eyes turned cold. Smellerbee looked away.
Longshot was no stranger to emotional pain, but nothing had ever hurt so much as that one denial. She still hadn't forgiven him.
Smellerbee fixed her scowl on Iroh. "You said he wouldn't be here."
Iroh feigned surprise. "Did I? I don't remember that. Oh well, what's done is done. Longshot may be able to offer us additional information." He beamed at Longshot. "Sit down," he ordered; his voice was calm and friendly, but it was an order nonetheless.
Hesitantly, Longshot strode to the table and sat on the edge of the chair across from Smellerbee. Her scowl deepened and she glowered into her teacup.
The normally congenial atmosphere turned suddenly tense and sour. The Duke glanced nervously between Longshot and Smellerbee, chewing his lip. Neither Pipsqueak nor Tyro looked entirely thrilled about their predicament either.
"Smellerbee was just about to give us a report on the Guild's plans," Iroh informed Longshot, pointedly ignoring the frigid silence.
Longshot knew Iroh was only trying to help. He was their employer and benefactor and above all else he was their friend. Iroh did not like the estrangement any more than Longshot did, but all the same Longshot wished he would have left it alone. Smellerbee wasn't ready; her emotions were still too raw.
Iroh turned expectantly to Smellerbee.
She refused to look up, but she spoke steadily. "The Guild is planning to attend the coronation, in full force," she said. "They're going to take the Palace before Kuei is crowned king."
Tyro scowled. "A coup, eh? How do they expect to get away with it?"
Smellerbee shrugged. "The General is someone with clout. I still don't know who he is, but apparently he's 'handling' it."
Iroh glanced to Longshot for confirmation. Longshot nodded; they were the same facts he knew.
"The coronation..." Iroh mused, stroking his beard. "It's bold and it's very public. If the Guild are finally prepared to let the world see them, that would certainly be the time."
"But what do we do to stop them?" The Duke asked.
"Hmm." Iroh gazed at The Duke, but his mind was far away. "We have limited hands," he said finally. "I suppose the only course of action is to inform Kuei and leave the matter to him."
Tyro nodded sagely. "A good course of action. His Palace guards can do more about it than we can."
"Good!" Iroh stood. "Now that we have that settled, I think we all have work to do."
Longshot didn't bother moving; he knew what Iroh was up to. It was obvious from the twinkle in his eye. Smellerbee tried to rise with the others, but Iroh pushed her back down.
"Not you," he said firmly. "You two need to talk."
Pipsqueak and The Duke stealthily tiptoed toward the door. Tyro decided it would be a good idea to follow.
"Talk?!" Smellerbee exploded. "I don't want to talk." She crossed her arms stubbornly. "I have nothing to say to him!"
Those words should have cut his heart to shreds. But it was not a dull ache that blossomed in his chest. He watched Smellerbee as she refused to acknowledge him and he remembered her as a child. She was so stubborn and unruly back then it used to drive him insane. To Longshot's surprise, what he felt was anger. Wasn't she even going to ask him why? Wouldn't she listen to his explanation?
Maybe Iroh was right. Maybe he was overprotecting her. Longshot was so preoccupied concerning himself with Smellerbee's emotions, he had been ignoring his own.
Longshot suddenly stood. "I do." He heard his own voice, unrelenting and equally stubborn.
Smellerbee blinked in surprise.
Longshot glanced at Iroh. The old tea connoisseur nodded in understanding and quickly left the room. He had to resist the smile tugging at his lips until he closed the door behind him.
For a long moment, Longshot said nothing. If he was waiting for a reaction from his friend, he was disappointed. Smellerbee still wouldn't look at him and she kept her mouth clamped firmly shut. Longshot didn't care; he was going to explain himself whether she wanted to hear or not. If their friendship died today, it wouldn't be because he let it.
"I know how much you cared about Jet," Longshot said finally. His voice lost its luster; he wasn't good with words but he was determined. "I cared about him too."
Smellerbee snorted contemptuously.
Longshot leveled his gaze at her. This was hard enough without her antagonism. "You know I did."
Smellerbee didn't react.
Longshot took a deep breath. "Jet's gone, Smellerbee."
She flinched. That hurt him. He thought about stopping –he wanted desperately to wipe that pain from her face– but he plowed on.
"He's gone and there's nothing we can do about that," he said forcefully. "Killing Long Feng won't bring him back. It won't honor his memory, either."
Smellerbee's jaw clenched.
"You have to let it go, Smellerbee."
Smellerbee whirled on him, fists clenched and eyes flashing. The chair clattered to the floor behind her. "Let it go?" she demanded. "Like Long Feng?"
Longshot sighed. "Bee..."
She shook her head violently. "It's not just about Jet!"
Longshot blinked in surprise. He stared at her as the shout bounced off the walls and slowly faded.
"You keep bringing him up and..." Smellerbee trembled. Tears stung at her eyes and she squeezed her lids shut to keep them in. "I know Jet's dead," she whispered, "And maybe he wouldn't want revenge, I don't know. But I want it." She opened her eyes and her fiery gaze bored into Longshot. "I can't bear the thought of that murderer strutting around while Jet–" Her voice cracked. She took a deep breath. "I don't want revenge, Longshot; I need it."
Longshot felt his throat tighten. She doesn't mean that. She can't.
Smellerbee caught his sorrowful gaze. "Stop that! You always think you know what's best for me, but you don't! Stop protecting me!"
Her words stabbed at him, a verbal dagger wrenching him apart.
Take care of her.
As much as the hatred burning in Smellerbee's eyes hurt him, Longshot refused to shift his gaze. "What about after?"
Smellerbee faltered. After? "After nothing," she retorted. "After, he would be dead, and everything would go back to normal. Everything would be fine!"
Her words sounded convincing, but she didn't believe them. Her gaze dropped momentarily from his searching eyes.
Longshot slowly shook his head. "You would regret it."
"No I wouldn't!" Smellerbee cried. She fought to sound determined, but her voice cracked. She clenched her fists until her knuckles paled. "I wouldn't."
"I know you."
Smellerbee winced. It was true; Longshot knew her almost better than she knew herself. Normally she found it comforting, that they could say so much without ever speaking.
"Maybe," she bit out. "Maybe I would have. But maybe I wouldn't. Did you ever think of that? Why can't you let me make my own mistakes, Longshot?"
Longshot frowned. He pulled his gaze away. "He told me to look out for you."
Smellerbee swallowed, hard.
Longshot hesitated. Jet had told him to take care of her. But that wasn't the real reason.
Placing his hands on the table, Longshot leaned forward to look her in the eye. "I almost did it, Smellerbee."
Smellerbee froze. "What?" Her gaze sought him out for once, but when she met his eyes, hers hardened. "Why didn't you?"
Longshot didn't speak, but he answered. He cared about her, too. That was why he protected her, even from herself. It was why he wouldn't let her make her own mistakes. He hated seeing her in pain.
"I will always look out for you, Smellerbee. You may not like it, but you're my best friend so I always will." He hesitated. "I will...unless you won't let me."
Smellerbee's breath caught. He didn't say it, but she knew what he meant. As long as she'd known him, Longshot had protected her. He had lost so many people in his life, he couldn't help it. If she didn't let him, it was because she didn't want him.
She did want him. She just wasn't ready to admit it.
"Just let me be angry," she whispered. "I need to be angry."
Longshot shook his head and his message was clear: She had been angry long enough. Maybe he was right.
"I'm sorry, Smellerbee," he said. "I wanted to help you. I just didn't know how."
He was sorry? For the first time, she saw the pain in his eyes. She had refused to see it, but she had hurt Longshot. She had hurt him a lot. Now when the tears stung at her eyes, she let them fall.
"I'm sorry, Longshot," she told him. "I–" Her voice caught. There were a lot of things she wanted to say, but she didn't know how to word them. Looking at her friend, she realized she didn't have to.
Longshot smiled at her and they both knew everything would be all right.
It was midday in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se and the festival was in full swing. Merchants hoisted their wares. Tantalizing smells came from dozens of booths all down the streets. Puppet masters, jugglers, singers and storytellers waxed their skills before goggle-eyed spectators. Good-natured crowds bustled through the streets, greeting every friendly face and patting complete strangers on the back as children darted between their feet, shrieking with laughter.
Lee carefully guided Silkie through the maze of celebration, his grin stretching wider with each step, each cheerful 'Glorious day, isn't it?', each giggle that drifted up from a child. What a day! Through the crowd, he even saw glimpses of fine robes among the frayed finery of the commoners. The legendary walls of Ba Sing Se might still be standing, Lee realized, but Sensu was right; thanks to Kuei, they were already beginning to crumble.
It took him much longer to find the inn than he expected, but Lee didn't mind. The innkeeper was stationed on the front porch, instead of behind the desk, tapping his toe and bobbing his head to the tunes of a nearby musician. When asked about Lee's family, the innkeeper nodded.
"You must be the second son."
"Yeah, I'm Lee."
The innkeeper cast a quick eye over Silkie. "Hmm, no one mentioned an ostrich horse...Oh well. I'll see what I can do." He took the reins from Lee and directed him down the hall to his family's room.
Until that moment, Lee thought he was ready. It had been his only thought, the entire journey from the Guild encampment to the capital city. And now that he stood before the door, now that he could just be him, a sudden panic seized him. What did he say? What didn't he say? And if he did explain everything to his family, what would they think of him? Would they understand?
Lee took a deep breath. He would never know if just stood there. He reached out and pushed the door open.
The room was dim. A small window let in the sunlight, but it was shaded by the next building. At first, Lee thought the room was empty, but as he squinted he noticed Sensu, resting on one of the thin beds, his arm folded over his face.
Lee chuckled. "Festivities too much for you?"
Startled, Sensu started upright. When he caught sight of Lee, he broke into a crooked grin. "Lee. When did you get here?"
Lee shrugged. "Just now." He sat on the edge of the bed beside his brother. "Where are Mom and Dad?"
"Oh, I sent them out to find some fun," Sensu said, settling back. "Mom wouldn't leave the room for awhile, afraid you might show up and we'd all be gone, so I told her I'd stay behind." He cocked his head and peered at his younger brother with an expression Lee couldn't read. "You know," Sensu said in a low voice, "I didn't think you'd make it."
Lee nodded, an unreadable smile of his own tugging at his lips. "Yeah, I wasn't so sure either."
Sensu studied him, eyes frowning. "Will you be angry if I ask where you went?"
Lee began to swing his feet, a habit of discomfort since he was a child. He turned his gaze down and watched his feet as they swung forward and then disappeared under the bedrail. "I was with Jomei," he said finally.
Sensu's face darkened. "Oh?"
Lee had to bite back a soft chuckle. Sensu was trying hard to sound aloof but...well, he'd seen Jomei for what he really was long before Lee had.
"And what exactly were you and Jomei doing?" Sensu pressed after a moment of silence.
Lee pursed his lips. How to put this...
He shrugged. "Jomei and his organization of rebels were working on how to bring about the utter destruction of the Fire Nation."
Sensu blinked, stunned. He opened his mouth to speak, couldn't find the words, closed his mouth. He frowned at Lee, confused. "Oh?" he said again. His voice trailed away, obviously expecting Lee to lead off.
Lee couldn't help grinning. "I don't think his plan's going to work," he told his brother in a conspiratorial voice. "At least, not anymore."
Sensu blinked again. "Lee..." He hesitated, uncertain how to respond.
Lee didn't really blame him. He'd been angry for a very long time; not just with the Fire Nation, he now realized. He'd been angry with Sensu, because his brother had always been so calm and forgiving about his injury. He'd even been angry with his parents, because they were always trying to convince Lee that so much anger was pointless.
There were footsteps down the hall outside, the sound of their parents' laughter.
Lee smiled at his brother. "I'll tell you later," he said. "I think we could all use a little vacation."
The room's door began to creak open.
Sensu leaned forward and grabbed hold of Lee's arm. His eyes were still dark and serious. "Am I going to like this story, Lee?"
"Yes," Lee said, looking across the room as his parents pushed their way in. "Definitely."
He didn't have time to say more than that. With a cry of delight, his mother rushed in and enveloped him in an enormous hug.
"Are we there yet?" Roh-Roh mumbled.
Zuko smiled at the boy in his arms. The night was late, but when he heard the noise of the busy Ba Sing Se streets, Roh-Roh had stirred. "Almost."
He made his way slowly through the city into the Upper Ring. Since he was still incognito, the Firelord's first stop was his Uncle's tea shop. After that, Zuko wanted nothing more than to take his son home, to Mai and Ursa. But there was still the Guild and their plans for the coronation to contend with. If anyone knew how best to handle it, it would be his Uncle.
Haru walked beside Zuko. His father was likely still in the city, awaiting the coronation. Hopefully Iroh would know exactly where to find Tyro. Aang had already left them, heading straight for the Palace to bring Kuei up to speed. The chance that Katara was still somewhere in the vicinity had only hastened his departure. Toph, too, had taken off in search of her parents, who were in town for the coronation. Tomorrow, they would meet back here, hopefully with the beginnings of a plan.
"Is this it?" Haru asked, as the two men approached The Jasmine Dragon.
Zuko nodded, careful not to jostle Roh-Roh, who had fallen asleep again.
"It's dark inside," Haru said, eyeing the tea shop doubtfully. "Do you think anyone's there?"
Zuko had to smile. Someone was always in the tea shop, and it was usually his Uncle. "Someone will be there."
Haru nodded. He reached out and tried the door. It opened easily, revealing the faint flicker of a dim lantern in the kitchen. Two figures sat at the table. The intense murmur of conversation cut off as they looked up.
Iroh stood, squinting through the darkness. "My, what a rush of visitors at such a late hour! Who is that in the doorway?"
Zuko stepped into the kitchen as Haru shut the door behind them.
"It's me," Zuko said softly. He cast a suspicious glance at the second figure, still obscured in shadow. "I'm back and everything..." His voice faltered and he hugged Roh-Roh closer to him. "Everything's okay."
"I'm afraid not, Your Majesty."
The second figure stood. As the light revealed his familiar face, Zuko's heart sank.
Haru and his father embraced for a long moment.
"I'm glad to see you're safe," Tyro finally said as they sat down. The Firelord, his uncle and his admiral were still conferencing in the kitchen. Haru had joined his father in the closed dining room for a little private conversation of their own.
Haru flushed sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I can honestly say I had no idea what I was walking into."
Tyro chuckled. "So I gathered. What exactly did you walk into?"
This time, it was Haru who chuckled. He told his father the whole story, starting from the day Toph had knocked him down in front of the Toph Bei Fong Academy and declared him her latest recruit. He described everything in detail –well, almost everything. Sneaking into the rebel encampments, having his skills refined, their frustrations at not learning everything, Lee switching sides and finally rescuing Roh-Roh were all the things he was prepared to tell his father. But Tyro could tell his son was leaving out some of the juicy emotional bits.
"You've certainly had your hands full," Tyro admitted. "I can see why you couldn't send me a quick message."
Tyro studied his son. He had been right; Haru had needed some time to clear his head. He could already see that a lot of the weight that had been pressing down on Haru's shoulders had lifted. He smiled more easily, but it looked like Toph Bei Fong may have toughened him up a bit, too.
"I suppose there's only one question left for us now," Tyro said carefully.
Haru frowned at him.
His father chuckled. "What's next?"
"What do you mean?"
Tyro stroked his beard thoughtfully. "It looks like the situation with the Guild is nearly complete," he said. "I should think our work here is almost finished." He cocked his head at his son. "I suppose what I'm really asking, Haru, is whether you're ready to come home."
Haru blinked in surprise. "Of course! Why wouldn't I be?"
Tyro smiled. "I may be getting old, my boy, but I'm not stupid. I know that, despite the circumstances, you were relieved to get out of the village."
Haru flushed. "If this is about those girls again–"
Tyro waved it away. "Not just that. I know that you've been feeling quite a bit of pressure and I know I haven't been much help, either."
"Dad–" Haru began, but Tyro cut him off.
"No, I've been pressuring you most of all, Haru. But there's something you have to understand. Our people expect you to lead them someday. Those are expectations that you will never be able to escape –if you return."
Haru swallowed hard. If he returned? Of course he had to go back! It was his home. If he didn't go there, where would he go? "What are you talking about?"
Tyro smiled fondly at his son. "I know you're not thrilled about the idea of taking on the responsibility of the entire village. The last thing I want to do is force you into something you'll regret. I have been pressuring you, Haru, and for that I'm sorry. But what I want from you isn't just to follow in this old man's footsteps. You need to make your own decision, Haru, whatever it is. What I want is that you make it for yourself."
Haru fell silent. He'd known for a long time the truth of what his father was telling him. And somewhere inside he knew that he'd do his best to become just as good a leader as his father. He had simply never been prepared to make it his life.
It wasn't that the job didn't have its merits; he would be helping all the people he had grown up with, who had helped to raise him and shape him to the man he was. The notion made him happy and, yes, even gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. But what if he failed? He would do his best, but what if he his best wasn't good enough?
And there was still the other side of the coin to consider. The thought that made him recoil from the idea was the inevitable shackle it would become. He knew full well that the price of that position was the loss of his freedom. This was the first time his father had been out of the village in twelve years and he only managed it because of the urgent nature of the situation. Haru still wanted to see the world. Perhaps he was just spoiled; after all, anyone in his village who had ever traveled away had only gone as far as a Fire Nation prison camp. Haru, on the other hand, had traveled into and through the Fire Nation; he'd fought an epic battle and barely escaped; he'd watched first hand as the new Firelord declared peace for the world.
Tyro watched the emotions battle across Haru's face. He reached out and patted his son on the shoulder. "I don't expect an answer now, Haru," he said. "You need time to think it over and don't you dare make a decision you aren't completely satisfied with."
Haru looked up at his father and it suddenly struck him how incredibly fortunate he was because his father actually understood. He thought of Toph and the many long, painful years it took for her and her parents to reach a happy medium.
He smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Dad. I promise, whatever I decide, I'll make you proud."
"You already have, son." Tyro beamed. "You already have."
Gazing at the lights of Ba Sing Se glittering in the darkness, Katara fumed. A breeze sent chills across her arms, but it did little to cool her temper.
A day and a half. That's how long she had been back in the Earth Kingdom capital, and in that time she had been fed every excuse imaginable from the King's steward. Apparently, her reputation as a member of Team Avatar, not to mention Aang's wife counted for little to get an audience with Kuei.
"If I didn't know any better," she growled, "I'd say he didn't want to see me."
"Close," came an unexpected reply. "But not quite."
Katara's heart leapt. She whirled round. "Aang!"
The Avatar grinned at her. His clothes were unwashed, his skin streaked with dust and dirt, but she didn't care. He was here.
They ran toward each other. Katara fell into his arms. The time between them had only been a week or so, but it felt like an eternity. He buried his face in her hair, holding her as close as humanly possible. Finally, their lips found one another, refusing to pull away until they shared a long, deep kiss.
"I missed you," Aang said.
Katara beamed and the weight and the shadows bearing down on his soul seemed to disperse in the wake of her radiance.
"Not as much as I missed you." She frowned suddenly. "But what are you doing here? What about Zuko? What about Roh-Roh? Is he okay?"
"Roh-Roh's fine. We found him a few days ago, but..." He scowled, realizing how tired he felt. Rubbing at his face, he continued, "The Guild has bigger plans. We think they're going to stage a coup right before the coronation."
"You know about the coup?" Katara said.
"You know about it?"
Katara nodded. "Longshot and Smellerbee told Iroh."
Aang nodded. "I came straight here to talk to Kuei, but the steward won't let me see him. Something about Basco's birthday...?"
Katara snorted. She'd heard that one yesterday. "Iroh tried the same, but he couldn't get an audience either. We thought I might have better luck," she added, her voice bitter, "But I've been getting the run-around, too."
The blanket of comfort and security that had wrapped around her heart when Aang took her in his arms slowly began to fade. With him here, she had hoped that her own mission would become a piece of sponge cake. It wouldn't. Nothing could ever be easy, not for Team Avatar.
"Aang," Katara said suddenly, "Kuzarr –the man Zuko trusted to take his place– he's one of the traitors."
Storm clouds darkened Aang's gray eyes.
"It gets worse. He's here. I don't know why, but he is. And he's got Mai and Ursa with him. I've been trying to get to Kuei, to warn him, but they won't let me see him!"
Aang turned toward the night sky, his brow furrowing as his mind raced.
"Do you think someone here could be working with Kuzarr?"
"No." Aang shook his head. "It's probably the Guild. I'm certain Fong is behind it, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's got spies here. They probably think you know about the coup."
Katara scowled in frustration. "What do we do?"
What, indeed? What had been an improbable task to begin with was now an impossible mission. Two enemies closed around them on both sides. To beat one, they would have to best the other, but they barely had the power to take on either of them. If ever there was a time to consult the gung-ho Kyoshi it would definitely be now.
Aang winced. Even the thought of contacting her sent a stab of pain through his skull.
"Who else knows about Kuzarr?"
"Almost everyone at the Fire Palace." Katara blushed when Aang turned to her in confusion. "Well, uh, I kind of got bored waiting for you. Appa and I took a little trip. I was just in time to help Jeong Jeong reclaim the Palace."
"You had to reclaim it!?"
"Relax; it wasn't that bad. Besides, most of the guards surrendered once Jeong Jeong convinced them Kuzarr was really a fake. But by then Kuzarr was already gone so we followed."
Aang's breath caught. "Who's 'we'?"
"Jeong Jeong and a squad of soldiers," Katara said, quickly tallying them up, "Mai and Ursa's bodyguards, Sokka, Suki, Ty Lee and Keiko."
He tried to hide his disappointment, but he'd been hoping for more. Still, it wouldn't have been a good move for a full battalion of Fire Nation soldiers to force through the Earth King's coronation.
"Where's Jeong Jeong now?"
"With Iroh. He wanted to hear the latest news about Zuko and see if they couldn't think of something."
"Good." Aang wrapped his arms tighter around her. "That's where Zuko went, too. Between them, they should figure something out."
"Maybe we should go down there. If we can't get in to see Kuei–"
Aang sighed. It was long and weary. He closed his eyes, pressed his forehead against hers, and concentrated on the love of his life. Her heart beat steadily against his and her form fit perfectly in his arms. He wanted to revel in this moment forever. Nothing could spoil it.
Such a perfect moment reminded Aang of others. There were so many to choose from. On board Appa, late at night by a campfire, in any one of a hundred villages around the world, especially in the Water Tribe with the sunlight sparkling off the ice and in her eyes...
Shadows reached up from the ice...
Panic tainted his heart. His tender embrace became a protective shield around Katara. They couldn't have her!
But it was no use. The black shadows wrapped around her. They pulled. Tore her from his grasp. He reached out, desperate, knowing he wouldn't reach in her time.
Down, down, down, until she disappeared.
"Aang?" Katara cupped his face in her hands, her expression tight.
A ragged breath shuddered through his lungs. The fog of his mind cleared as the villainous shadows dissipated and the ice melted away. Aang was back in the Earth Palace, and Katara safe in his arms.
"Aang, are you okay?"
"What?" He shook his head to clear the muddled vision, his arms pulling her closer, as if to protect her, but from what he couldn't quite recall. "I-I'm fine."
Aang frowned. "I have no idea."
Katara studied him. "You just said her name."
Ummi. It struck a chord, but Aang couldn't place it. The harder he tried to figure it out, the more elusive the answer became.
"I can't remember," he said finally.
"Are you sure you're okay? You look..." She bit her lip. Something was definitely different about Aang, but she couldn't tell exactly what. He looked a little pale, he could certainly use a bath, but there was a weariness lodged deep in his eyes. "...tired."
Aang laughed. It was a choked, sorry sound. "I am tired. Really tired." He buried his face once more in her dark flowing hair. Her scent began to ease the panicked racing of his heart. What was this sudden fear of losing her? Where had it come from?
"I'm sure Zuko and the others will think of a plan without us," he told her. "Right now, I just want to be with you." He brushed his lips against her neck and his next words were barely audible. "I'm afraid to let you go."
Katara thought about arguing. As much as she wanted to remain wrapped in his arms, the others could use their help. But one look at Aang told her that he really was tired. His face was drawn; there were lines there she didn't remember seeing before.
Closing her eyes, she snuggled closer to him.
Sometimes, the best thing to do was take a break.
Happy Second Day of Hanukkah! (Or Chanukah, depending on how you spell it...)
Yay! Smellerbee and Longshot are back!
- I share your sentiments, dear reader. I forget how much I truly love these characters until I am apart for them for too long. Plus, they're so heavy with emotional baggage right now! Emotional baggage is quite fun to write.
Wait, Lee?! Again?! I can't believe you brought that dude back. I guess I underestimated your level of obsession with Zuko Alone.
- Never underestimate my level of obsession with anything. I've probably said it before, but I could not get over the awesome and completely ignored development prospects of Lee's character. Emotional baggage, remember?
I suppose it is nice to see him reconciling with his family...
- I knew you'd see it my way. ;)
Ummi? Wait, isn't that...? Does that mean...?
- What, you want me to give everything away now?! I don't do spoilers, dearies! Spoilers spoil all the fun. My lips are sealed. Muahaha!
For the collective works of the author, go here.