Melted Steam

Story 04: Harmony Spirit

Katara's Point of View

"Finally, a little time to rest after traveling for so long!" Sokka let himself fall under a tree. He got comfortable on the tree's large roots and closed his eyes. He's just been sitting around all day while we fly, I don't know why he's so tired.

"It will be sunset soon. Should we make camp here?" Aang asks, smiling at me.

I return the smile and nod. "Yes, let's make camp here."

"I'll go get some wood so we can start a fire," Aang says.

No sooner does the word fire leave his mouth, Sokka starts to fight in his sleep. "Take that you evil fire bender!" After his little dream battle he falls to a deep sleep again and starts snoring. I shake my head and sigh hopelessly.

Aang laughs quietly, "I'll be back soon."

"I'll go get some water, I think I saw a river near by before we landed." I pick up the empty containers and we head off in opposite directions. As I walk away, I can't help it but to think I'm being watched. I look around and don't see or hear any sign of anyone else around here. I guess it was my imagination. I glance back at the sleeping and snoring Sokka one last time before continuing on my way to the river.

After a short walk, I find the river I saw from the air, it's full of beautiful clear water. After filling up the containers I'm tempted to practice my water bending a little, but once again I get that strange feeling that I'm being watched. "Hello Katara."

I jump startled and face the one who said my name. I don't even know why I was startled so much, I could tell by the voice it was just a little girl and when I turned to look, I realized I was right. "Hi, how do you know my name?"

She looks like a normal little girl. She has long brown hair tied in low pigtails and big green eyes. Yet I can't help it but to feel something is different about her. "I know a lot of things." The girl, who looks about seven years, comes closer. "I help people find their way."

I assumed she must have some how learned my name because of my travels with Aang, even if she didn't answer my question. "What's your name? Do you live in this forest?" We start to walk back to the camp as we talk.

"My name is Harmony. I don't really live in a specific place, I'm always traveling. That's the only way to find people who need help." I'm getting the feeling that she's speaking in incomplete thoughts on purpose to make me ask. As if she wants to reveal certain information little by little. But she's just a little girl, then why do I keep getting this strange feeling about her?

"What do you mean?" I ask curiously.

"I have something to show you, that's why I'm here." Harmony smiled sweetly and with an air of mystery.

"I don't understand," we are nearly arriving at the camp.

"What I want to show you is something you will find for yourself in the future anyway, but it will be easier for him the sooner you know. I'm sad to watch him waiting without even knowing," Harmony explains, kind of. I'm still confused by her explanation, maybe more than before.

"Who is he?" I can't help it but to think this girl has something important to tell me. I've just met her but I feel like what she has to say is something I must hear.

"Katara, come with me later, okay? I need to show you. You'll see him then, I'll come back tonight. Look we're at your camp," Harmony pointed. We arrived and I haven't even noticed at first, not even by the sound of Sokka's snores.

When she pointed, I couldn't help it but to instinctively look in the direction her finger pointed to, even if I knew what was there, the camp. When I turned my head to face her again, she was gone. I looked around for any signs of her. "Harmony?" She was no were to be found.

"Hey Katara, what are you looking at?" Aang just returned to the camp, carrying a lot of fire wood.

I take a deep breath and make myself smile. "Nothing, nothing at all. I found the water," I quickly change the subject. By now the sun has almost set and Aang and I start a fire before it gets too dark. As expected, the scent of food wakes Sokka and he joins us eating dinner. Everything appears to be alright, but I can't stop thinking about what Harmony wants to show me, somehow I know she'll be back, I know I didn't just imagine that, it was too real.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Katara, Katara, wake up!" I slowly open my eyes while someone gently shakes my shoulder and I find her again, Harmony. "Shh," she signals for me to stay quiet and waves her hand in a sign that indicates she wants me to follow her. I nod and she extends her hand to me as if to help me up, noticing I'm still a little sleepy. I take her hand and feel something a little strange, I feel lighter, to say the least.

We walk away in silence, not too far from the camp. I'm about to look back at where Sokka and Aang are sleeping, but Harmony gently pulls my hand to get my attention. She's pointing at something with her other hand, but I don't see anything in the darkness. "What is it?"

"There he is, a little far that way. Close your eyes and we'll go closer." As strange as it sounds, I have a feeling I should listen to her. I close my eyes and when I open them again I'm on Price Zuko's ship, in his room to be specific.

It takes a moment for my currently location to sink in. Zuko is sitting at a desk examining some maps. He gets up and turns to face us. Harmony doesn't look worried in the least, but I just freeze. Zuko walks by and picks up a scroll from the opposite corner of the room, walking back passing the exact spot where I'm standing as if I'm not there. He opens up the scroll and starts to quietly read the ancient writing in it. "What did you do?"

Harmony giggles. "It's okay, he can't see us and he can't hear us. As you saw, he can't touch us either. You see Katara, your physical body is back at the camp with your friends and you are only here in spirit. When you wake up it will feel like a dream, that's why I needed to meet you before I brought you here, so you knew it was more than just a dream. I am Harmony, I help people find their way, you are his harmony and I don't want to watch him wait as long as he was going to if you were to find the way without help."

"You're some kind of spirit," I conclude, "a good spirit."

"I'll come for you in the morning, until then I'll leave you alone with him. Don't forget you're a spirit right now, so you can enter his dreams when he goes to sleep. He won't remember you clearly enough to recognize you in the morning and he will probably forget his dream in time, but I'm sure you will learn a lot about his past and his present." Harmony fades away.

"Wait!" It's too late. she's already gone. I turn to look at Zuko. Just as Harmony said. he looks like he's going to go to bed soon. I blush a little and wonder if I really should intrude in someone else's dreams without permission, it's an invasion of privacy, but I must admit I am very curious.

xoxox xox xoxox

The morning came too soon. I'll never forget what I saw of his past and how much I learned about him in the present by looking into his dreams. It was as if I could sense his thoughts. "It's time to go back Katara. Your friends will be worried if they can't wake you up."

I turn away from the Zuko in the dream and walks towards Harmony. I wish to stay longer, but she's right, I can't let Sokka and Aang worry about me like that. "Thank you for showing me this."

"Like I said, you would have found out for yourself slowly, but I wanted to see if I could speed it up a little. I'm sure he'll be in a better mood today then usual."

I closed my eyes again and when I opened them I was waking up at the camp. It looks like I'm the first to wake up, which isn't unusual. For a moment I can't help it but to wonder if it was all a dream. But then I see her, Harmony waves goodbye before she disappears again. I smile, not many are lucky enough to meet a spirit like her and not many are lucky enough to look into a prince's dreams.

End POV

Story 05: Destiny

"There should be an earth bender village near by in that direction," Sokka pointed, after taking a look at the map.

"It's upside down," Katara took the map and looked at it right side up. "The earth bender village is that way," she pointed at the correct direction.

"I knew that, just testing," Sokka excused. They needed to buy some supplies and decided to stop at that village, if they could find it.

Everything was silent as they walked around the dry lands filled with mountains big and small. But the silence became boring. "Let's talk about something," Aang suggested.

"About what?" Katara asked.

"I don't know, something to pass the time until we get to the village. I still don't see it." Aang looked at the distance as far as he could see between the mountains.

"Why don't you tell us about how things were a hundred years in the past?" Sokka suggested and Katara elbowed him. "What?"

"It's okay Katara, I don't mind." Aang thought for a moment about what to tell them about. "The past wasn't that different I guess, except of course it was a lot more peaceful. The elders used to say that people are reborn and that the experiences from their past lives in their subconscious shape who they are in their next live."

"Who do you think I was in a past live?" Sokka asked.

"I don't know, but you must have been similar to how you are now I guess," Aang replied.

As they turned around a mountain, they saw three people. A man about twenty years old and his siblings a fifteen year old girl and an eight year old boy. The man came to greet them and while Aang explained their situation, Katara noticed that his siblings kept looking at her strangely and even the earth bender man occasionally glanced at her as if she grew a second head. "Katara," Aang called when she simply stood there unmoving.

"Coming," Katara followed the group.

They walked to a large mountain where the earth benders opened a passage. This village was underground so it was protected from attacks. Of course they occasionally made trips to the surface to gather supplies. "I have to take these things to the shop, why don't you two show them around," the older earth bender said.

"No problem, let's go," the girl signaled for them to follow. A guide was needed not to get lost in the underground maze. It appeared that she had gotten over whatever her surprise was seeing Katara, but her little brother still stared.

While the girl, Violet, told them a little history about their village, her brother Sol asked Katara an unexpected question. "Are you Arata's reincarnation?"

"What are you talking about?" Katara had noticed the strange looks coming not only from the siblings, but also random people who walked by. Some even pointed at her when they thought she wasn't looking.

"Let me show you something," Violet led them down a cave to a small underground river. Thy crossed a stone bridge and entered a small cave room lit by torches.

Katara stared in disbelief at the statue in front of her. The stone statue was obviously very old, but by looking closely, she could identify the people carved into the stone. It was her and Zuko hugging. Sokka and Aang were also surprised to see the statue and Sokka was the first to speak. "This is horrible! Who dared to carve a statue of my sister so close to that fire bender!"

"It's a treasure!" Sol yelled.

"Calm down," Violet urged. "It's true that this statue is our treasure. Many years ago, a water bender named Arata and a fire bender named Oku fell in love. Even if their elements were so different, they were very happy together. Their love was a symbol of peace. One of my ancestors from that time who was a good friend of both, carved this statue with his artistic earth bending skills and gave it to them as a wedding gift. It used to be in the center of a fountain in our old village. Then when the fire nation attacked, we had to move, but we didn't want to leave this behind so we hid it here. It's a symbol of hope, that one day everyone will put their differences aside and live in peace."

"Do you think that Katara and Zuko are Arata and Oku's reborn selves?" Aang asked.

Sokka's jaw dropped. "My sister and fire bender together? No way! Not in this life, not in a past life and not in any life!"

"I think Aang was asking Violet," Katara argued.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Sokka watching suspiciously as Katara blushed a little.

"Noting," Katara quickly said.

Violet laughed. "Maybe it's just a coincidence that you look alike or maybe not, either way, everyone has a destiny to fulfill, but it is each person's choice to live up to that destiny or to guide their lives in a different course. That's what my older brother always says and I think he's right."

There was a short moment of silence as they looked at the statue. Even if it was many years old, they could still appreciate the fine artistic work, then Sokka had to interrupt. "I'm hungry, let's get out of here before I lose my appetite."

"Sokka, don't be disrespectful!" Katara scolded.

"Sorry but I'm starving!" Sokka insisted. They exited the small cave room and headed across the stone bridge again, back to the main cave of the village. It was amazing how the earth benders had carved those tunnels. It must have taken a lot of time and energy and team work.

Katara looked back for a moment. She glanced at the statue one last time before keeping up with the others with a smile on her face. This time she drew more attention than the avatar himself but she hardly noticed occupied with her thoughts.

Story 06: United

"Are you sure you want to go?" Katara asked for the tenth time since Toph announced her decision.

"Katara, relax, if it's a trap I'll teach them a lesson and come right back," Toph assured her.

"Alright," Katara knew she couldn't change Toph's mind. "Just be careful."

"You worry too much. Yip, yip!" Toph left with Appa and Momo, who wanted to tag along, off to see an earth bender that said he could teach her a new special technique he was sure she did not know. He only requested that she came alone, which made it sound like a trap to Katara and like a challenge to Toph.

"I guess we're stuck here until she comes back," Sokka observed the village; it appeared to be pretty peaceful.

"We should have the supplies ready so we can leave right away after Toph comes back," Katara voiced.

"Right, there's only one problem with that plan," Sokka had to deliver the bad news, "we're broke."

"It's okay, keep your hopes up, maybe we can find jobs in the village," Aang spoke.

xoxox xox xoxox

Finding jobs wasn't too hard, they spent the entire day working on plating, watering and harvesting. Later, Katara saw a baby, the child was all alone. Katara picked him up and tried to locate his parents.

A little distracted trying to stop the baby from crying as she walked down the street, Katara bumped into a young man. "Zuko?"

He was surprised to see her, but tried to pretend he didn't know her. "My name is Lee." He was wearing green and he no longer had a ponytail, but his hair had started to grow out.

"Sorry, my mistake," Katara decided to let him be. If Zuko wanted to start a new life with a new identity, then she would not stand in his way.

A woman saw Katara with the baby and jumped to conclusions. "What a cute baby, you two make such a nice couple."

"Thanks but this baby isn't ours." It was too late; the woman had already walked away after stating her comment.

"As if a prince would cry this much," Zuko muttered under his breath.

"Shouldn't you be saying something along the lines of as if I would ever have a child with her?" Katara asked somewhat amused.

Zuko returned the question, "Shouldn't you be saying we're not a couple instead of only saying the baby isn't ours?"

"I was going to, but she walked away and I didn't have time," Katara made up an excuse.

"Our baby!" A couple came running towards them.

"This is your son? Make sure he doesn't get lost in the future." Katara returned the baby to his parents.

"Thank you so much!"

After the reunion was done and the parents continued on their way, Katara looked around for Zuko but he was gone. With the Avatar in that village, he was probably trying to keep his identity a secret by leaving.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Toph returned with Appa and Momo. The earth bender turned out to be a trap, but Toph didn't let them have their way, she answered their challenge and won. Then, the journey continued to Ba Sing Se.

Story 07: Speechless

Life has had its ups and downs for Zuko, the banished prince, now a wanted criminal for a false betrayal, and his uncle Iroh, also a supposed traitor to the fire nation, as claimed by Zuko's sister, princess Azula. Things had been going pretty much downhill lately and of the two fire benders, only the oldest could keep his good humor. Zuko was in a bad mood, that is to say, worse than usual.

Today like many others days, the sun was shinning, the birds were singing and the forest was peaceful. The aroma of hot tea filled the air, mixing with the scent of the many blooming flowers around their cave camp. It simply didn't fit with Zuko's gloomy mood. The same mood that made him sleep in all morning because he just didn't feel like facing his uncle's optimism and didn't want to be the one to ruin the mood.

Annoyed by the sunlight in his eyes, Zuko rolled deeper into the cave and tried to drift off to sleep once again. It proved useless as sleep decided that it didn't want to be his companion anymore. Stupid sleep indeed.

With the grace of a crown prince Zuko stumbled out of his sleeping bag and narrowly avoided tripping over the steaming teapot. He glanced outside to find his uncle collecting berries from a near by bush. He certainly hoped he knew what he was doing.

His stomach growled and the banished prince considered the possibilities. He could try some of those berries his uncle found or he could drink some tea. He didn't like tea very much, but it was better than strange berries that probably tasted unbearably sour, and certainly better than an empty stomach.

Poor Zuko had no idea about the cruel fate that awaited him. He poured himself a cup of tea and thinking it would be best that way, he drank it in one gulp. That was a mistake, a very big mistake. Zuko's golden eyes went wide as he gasped for cold air. He searched around for water but found none. Then in a total panic for his burning throat, he ran out of the cave at an inhuman speed.

Iroh felt a gust of wind pass him and for a moment he thought it was just that, the wind. Then he realized when he looked towards the cave that his nephew was no longer there. He adopted a thoughtful expression then concluded and smiled. That wind was no wind but his dear nephew. The Dragon of the West was certainly glad that the boy who was like a son to him had woken up with such great energy that wonderful morning. From Iroh's perspective, if Zuko woke up energetic rather than grumbling and cranky, it was certainly a good sign.

Iroh continued picking berries and searching for wild fruit. He would have a nice meal ready in time for Zuko to return from his morning jog. Little did he know that Zuko had not left to exercise or admire the scenery of the forest, he had left in a mad dash to save his burning throat.

The fire prince could almost imagine an acid hole burning open on his neck from the inside out and his tongue felt like it had turned to ashes already. He needed water, he desperately needed water. Then he heard a river, it was his salvation!

Zuko ran as fast as he could towards the sound of running water. There were a few trees and many tall bushes up ahead. He caught a hint of movement at the other side. It had to be the water, the refreshing beautiful current of water, precious water. Without a second to spare for a deeper analysis of the situation, Zuko jumped over the bushes into the river and accidentally tackled the water bender girl who was practicing there.

Katara didn't even have time to yell as surprise took over her features, soon to be replaced by panic. Luckily, the river wasn't too deep but she still splashed around like crazy until the fire bender got off her. Though her position prevented her from launching a large attack, she did throw a considerable portion of water at Zuko's face. Unknown to her, the water was very appreciated and Zuko drank it with great relief.

It was not until after he got over the panic of his burning throat that Zuko finally realized what he had done. It seemed that the water bender girl was alone and by the looks of it quite angry. After the morning he had, Zuko was in no mood for a fight. He had to tell her that he had no intentions of fighting, but how could he if his throat still hurt so much?

His voice just wasn't cooperating, so he did the only thing he could think of, attempt to use expressions and actions to get his point across. Zuko made his best apologetic face, smiled slightly and extended his hand to help her get up.

Katara was taken by surprise. She wasn't sure how to react. Zuko, the banished prince of the fire nation, the one who tried to capture Aang so many times and sometimes used her to do it, was currently smiling at her while offering his hand in help? It became obvious that he had no intentions of fighting and it was in Katara's gentle nature to look at the good side of people. She slowly moved her hand towards his and accepted the help.

The awkwardness sunk in as they both stood there as if time was standing still, her hand still in his. Katara nervously looked around, but did not catch sight of her traveling companions. They had all decided they wanted some personal time. Regardless of how well they got along, after traveling none stop for so long, they needed a break for their respective 'me time'.

Appa was napping deep into the forest. He could really use some rest. Momo was hopping from tree to tree looking for fruits to eat. Aang was taking some time to relax, flying around some near by mountains. Toph had gone for a walk to listen to the sounds of the forest and maybe do a little Earth bending on the way. Sokka was off deeper into the forest, practicing with his boomerang and Katara had gone to practice her water bending at the river.

Their camp site near Appa would be their meeting point that evening, but it was only mid day so the others had no reason to search for Katara that early, she wasn't expected to return so soon and they were probably relaxing doing their own things, unaware of Zuko's presence.

Katara decided that it was okay. Clearly, Zuko fell on her by accident and he helped her up afterwards. But still she didn't know what to say and he was very quiet, which was exceptionally puzzling to her.

Zuko realized he was still holding her hand, even if she was already on her feet and let her go. Katara reached for him, to stop him, then looked towards the river where fish were swimming. He had slept in that day and it was already mid day, time for some lunch.

Katara used her water bending to catch some fish and Zuko immediately understood, he could use his fire to cook them. It worked out well, they could help each other. They complemented each other. It was just an innocent lunch, so they saw no inconveniences in eating together.

The fish were roasted perfectly, which Katara appreciated after weeks of half cooked or burnt meals due to haste, distractions, interruptions and other such obstacles that made cooking things properly a difficult task.

After lunch was done, Zuko started walking away, trying to pretend he didn't want to stay with her a little longer. Katara decided to follow him. He stopped at hearing her footsteps behind him and turned to face her.

Katara became quickly lost in his golden gaze as he became lost in the sapphire ocean of her eyes. Then there was a rustle in the bushes which slightly startled her and got her out of her trance. She moved forward away from the bushes and looked to see what was moving in them. There was something there, probably a small animal, but she couldn't see it between the leaves. Could it be Momo? No, it was smaller than Momo.

Zuko considered using the distraction to leave, but instead approached the bushes and tried to move the branches to reveal what was moving under them. The little creature, whatever it was, moved quickly and all the saw was a blueish blur.

Zuko inspected the bushes but couldn't find where the little animal, if it was even that, had gone off to. He shook his head indicating the creature was gone.

Katara shrugged and smiled, as if saying with the gesture that it was okay. It was such a simple detail really. That's when she realized he could have just left when she was distracted, but instead he stayed and tried to help her satisfy her sudden child-like curiosity. Furthermore, she noticed she was relaxed enough around him to allow herself to be distracted by such a simple thing.

The silence continued, but this time it was more comfortable than before. Zuko hasn't said a word and if it was okay with him, then it was okay with her too. Katara remembered a nice clearing she saw in the forest. There was something about that place that felt special. She waved her hand to let Zuko know she wanted him to follow her and for a second she wondered if he would. To her surprise, with a hint of curiosity in his eyes, Zuko followed without the slightest hint of protest.

They soon arrived at the clearing. Several mushrooms grew around the area and flowers were often visited by butterflies. There was something special about the atmosphere of that place. There was movement behind some flowers and the same little creature from before ran by and disappeared after passing behind one of the larger mushrooms. That little thing moved too fast for Zuko and Katara to get a good look at it but they saw mostly blue with some yellow and white. They had no idea what kind of animal it could be, but they headed in its general direction.

Behind a line of thick branched trees, Zuko and Katara found a field of flowers. Katara was delighted and almost unconsciously, she took Zuko's hand and hurried to the field. She looked so happy surrounded by so many flowers.

They sat among the flowers, letting their sweet scent surround them. They laid back on the soft grass, looking up into the clear blue skies and just enjoyed the moment and each other's presence. They allowed themselves to relax to the point where they drifted off to sleep.

By the time they woke up, it was hours later, but that wasn't what caught their attention. They had both had pleasant dreams about each other, which they vividly remembered, and they were hugging tightly, cuddled against each other. The color red invaded their faces and they pulled apart, but stayed sitting next to each other.

A beautiful sunset could be seen and as they watched it, Katara couldn't help it but to feel the need to thank Zuko for keeping her company that day. It had been very pleasant, but she couldn't find the words to say it. She felt an urge to get the message to him with an action rather than words. A kiss, she blushed just thinking about it. She wanted to give him a kiss. She forced herself to act calm. It was just a sign of appreciation, an innocent kiss on the cheek that was all. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and went for it.

At that very moment, Zuko turned his head to look at Katara and needless to say that threw her aim off by quite a bit. Her eyes shot open as soon as she realized that was she felt on her lips was not Zuko's face but his lips. Time stood still as they became frozen in that pose. Katara's mind was racing a mile a minute.

Zuko was in too much of a shock to think. Whatever thoughts he had, disappeared from his mind and his train of thought was left empty. He let himself live the moment and gently hugged the water bender, pulling her closer and responded to the kiss.

Katara wasn't sure if she should kick herself for starting it, kick Zuko for continuing, it or just relax and enjoy. Her thoughts came to an abrupt halt when she choose the third option and allowed herself to close her eyes once again and enjoy the moment. It was her day off after all, so she might as well enjoy it as much as possible.

The kiss ended as the sun started to disappear in the horizon. Soon it would be dark and hard to find their way in the forest, well for her anyway, since he could use his fire as a light. They each had people waiting for their return. They didn't need to say, it the looks in their eyes said it all. With reassuring smiles on their faces, that showed they knew they would meet again soon, each of them returned to the people that waited for them.

Aang, Sokka, Toph, Momo and Katara had gathered around Appa in their camp. After being refreshed by a day off, they would leave bright and early the next morning. Sure Katara was most of the time in a good mood and yes she did smile often, but that time she smiled more than ever.

Toph and Aang assumed she just had a really good day off and was feeling recharged and full of even more optimism than usual. But Sokka, being her brother, could somehow sense there was more to it than that, but she wasn't telling and he didn't figure it out. Maybe it was just a good day off. After all, what could happen in a forest with no other people than themselves?

By the time Zuko arrived back at his uncle's camp, he realized that his throat no longer hurt. In fact, he started feeling a lot better around the time of the kiss. Perhaps it had been magical in more ways than one. Of course when Iroh caught the hint of red in his face and wanted to know what was going on, Zuko just pretended that his throat still hurt and avoided talking about it, at least for the time being.

End

Disclaimer, I don't own Avatar: The Last Air Bender or Smurfs. Story 06 was based on a dream. Story 07 was written for the Hikari Cyhan's Muffy Challenge, a zutara without words. I was referred by Xinda and the story is for Muffytaj. Story 07 also has a small appearance by Smurfette as part of the challenge.