Disclaimer: I own...nothing. Absolutely zip.
AN: Thank you to all of my reviewers who convinced me to continue the story.
This is, in fact, the sequel to my first Avatar Fanfic, Drawn to the Blackest Skies. So read that one first, please.
It seems that a few of you didn't catch this little fact the first time around. Which led to some confused reviews.
Once again, read Drawn to the Blackest Skies first. Now you may continue.
Chapter 1: What You Hope For
"Anybody in the mood for nuts?"
"You're nuts, Sokka," Aang sighed, but accepted the food from the older boy nonetheless. "Are you sure you didn't find anything else?"
"Yeah," Sokka said glumly, cracking open one of the nuts for himself. "You take some too, Katara." He cracked another and pushed it into his sister's hands. She ate it, though the motion seemed automatic. "Something wrong?" he asked.
"This isn't good," she said. Her brother nodded knowingly. More than a week ago, Appa had hurt himself while they fled from the Fire Nation. He had managed to land on some unknown ground, not far from the coast, but he was too badly injured to move from where he now lay, let alone fly. At first they had all spent their energy feeding and tending to the flying bison, but things were steadily getting worse: five days ago, they had run out of supplies. There was almost no game to be found in the area and the few fish they found were too small and to make much of a difference(which made little difference, since Aang didn't eat meat). Sokka had tried his hand at gathering food, but the few things he could recognize were either nuts or identified as poisonous.
Katara stood up and gathered an armful of leaves in her arms, offering it to Appa. The bison groaned and accepted the food, chewing loudly while Katara examined his wounds. Several large gashes scored his belly and side, and a long burn marred the skin around his neck. Infection had not set in yet, but the injuries were still not healing as quickly as they should have. Katara rubbed at a patch of unscathed belly.
"Poor, brave boy," she cooed. "Just keep resting. Everything will be okay." Both of the boys glanced up at her after that remark. The look in their eyes was just short of pleading. "It will be okay," she repeated, assuring herself as much as her companions.
Katara leaned back against a tree, watching Aang and Sokka sleep. It was only afternoon, but the lack of food had left all of them with little energy, and sleep seemed to be the only escape from cruel hunger. Katara had found her own escape, however.
Said escape known more commonly as Prince Zuko.
She hadn't told the boys about that night. Sokka, being the brother he was, would probably throw a fit (what were you doing kissing him? He's the ENEMY!) and most likely try to slaughter Prince Zuko for 'seducing' his sister. As alarming as it was, it was still an amusing thought. But Aang...he wouldn't understand. He would try, of course. He would look for the good in his enemy. Almost see it, most likely. And then he would forget who he was dealing with and get himself captured.
The last few empty days had presented a perfect opportunity for reflection. Yet even with all the spare time, she had established almost nothing. Prince Zuko had said nothing about Aang, which was unusual to say the least. And he had returned her mother's necklace. She still wasn't sure if he had been watching her bathe, but most likely she would never know about that for sure. His entire manner had been too...buisnesslike...for her to be comfortable. She sat down, continuing her analysis while examining the sky.
The night's coming earlier than I expected, she thought idly. In the distance, the sky was darkening steadily, just above the line of trees...
She sat up. Something wasn't right about the color, though. It looked too little like dusk. Too much like...
Smoke. She hardly dared to hope. Where there was smoke, there was fire. And where there was fire, people weren't far away. And people would have supplies, and food... Her stomach groaned at the thought of a meal. She glanced at Sokka and Aang, who still lay sleeping a few yards away, and grinned. They'll enjoy a surprise, she thought. She climbed to her feet, but was forced to pause as she was hit by a wave of dizziness. She blinked and looked remorsefully at Aang and Sokka. Both of them were working so hard.
She had to get them something to eat.
She just had to.
Katara pushed her way through the trees, trying to ignore the hunger stabs in her stomach and the fatigue that was dragging at her bones and threatening to overwhelm her muscles. Did Sokka feel this way when he was out foraging for food? she felt a renewed admiration for her brother as the soil beneath her feet gave way to softer sand, and she reached the long, sweeping beach. Still standing within the boundaries of the forest she scanned the water—perhaps a fishing boat had stopped here, or a merchant ship, or...
Her heart sank as she laid eyes on the iron hull of a Fire Navy ship.
She stepped back, clenching her jaw.
It isn't fair! She wanted to scream, to cry, to run at the stupid ship and the stupid Fire Navy, and all the stupid, stupid Firebenders on board it who were all eating as much as their stupid bellies could hold while she and Sokka and Aang starved!
But she knew too well the dangers of attracting the Fire Nation's attention. Instead she allowed herself to fall back against the rough trunk of a nearby tree and sink slowly to the ground.
It's a good thing I didn't tell Aang and Sokka, she thought bitterly. They'd be crushed... She wrapped her arms around her knees and sighed. She didn't have the energy to go back just yet.
Sokka will be worried about me if I don't get back soon. Aang, too... Another agonizing pain tore at her stomach, though it faded into a dull throb.