Oi, you guys would have had this chapter sooner if my computer didn't decide to die on my Saturday. It just went, in a dramatic way, "I'm tired of you over working me! I deserve respect and I don't want to look at your damn yaoi anymore! F--- you!" So then it committed suicide and died while I was at work :( but it's back now :) so here is the next chapter of this story, sorry for the long delay.
Sokka rolled the sleeping back up bags in the morning; they were packing up camp after the peaceful night. The camp fire sizzled as Katara splashed it with some water, putting it out, smoke rising from the now dowsed embers. Aang was practicing a few water bending moves, which partly annoyed Sokka because Aang wasn't doing his part of the clean up. He complained about it, but they didn't pay him any mind. He tossed a sleeping bag into Appa's saddle, the flying bison was grazing before take off. He picked up the other sleeping bag, but before he tossed it up, there was a rustle and a yell from his sister. The sleeping bag was dropped and he ran around the large bison, which had lifted his head from the excitement.
Coming into view he skidded to a stop, eyes widening. Katara was in a fighting stance, water skin uncorked and a stream of water already pouring out. Across from her was Zuko, also in a fighting stance, two fire blades out. They both glared at each other with loathing, ready to unleash fury upon one another. The North Pole had only served to fuel their hate for one another and for a split second, Sokka had no clue how to react. He didn't want Zuko hurt, but he couldn't go against his own sister.
Before elements could clash, though, Iroh came behind the prince and rested a hand on his nephew's shoulder.
"Prince Zuko, we did not come for that." He reminded and Zuko held fast to the fighting position for a moment before slowly heeding his uncle's reminder. He stood up and his fire dimmed, but it didn't go completely out until Katara also eased up, returning her water to its container. Zuko huffed and let the fire go out, folding his arms across his chest, barely resisting the chance to go after Aang when he was so close. He had to remind himself that they didn't have a ship anymore to take the Avatar back to the Fire Nation.
Sokka sighed silently in relief that they didn't fight. He didn't think he'd be able to do anything if they had. Aang came on the scene and stood beside Katara, cautious of the fire benders that had been chasing him for so long. Zuko's eyes immediately flickered to the Avatar and he tensed up reflexively, ready to fight if need be.
"What do you want?" Katara demanded, clearly angry of the prince's presence. Zuko didn't reply; he didn't like this set up, it was his uncle's idea so he would let Iroh explain it.
"Well," Iroh said, stepping between his nephew and the water bender so that they didn't have another tiff, "we have a request for the Avatar..." Aang opened his mouth to ask what kind of request it was, but before he could get a sound out, Katara bristled, her chest swelling with anger.
"A request!" she demanded, making Aang and Sokka flinch from her anger, and Zuko from the loud burst of noise she made; it was not easy on the ears, "You hunt Aang down all over the world and you expect him to listen to a request! That is the most stupid, absurd, and selfish thing I've ever heard!" Aang patted her arm, trying to get her to calm down, but she went on, she was not one to stand back and not be heard, "How dare you! You have no right to ask something of Aang after what you put him through! Give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw you both into the ocean!"
Iroh didn't recoil from her yelling; he knew she had every right to be angry. He bowed respectively before speaking, in a calm and polite manner, "I apologies for our earlier actions, but hear us out," he stood straight, "We are now refugees, we are no longer in service of the Fire Nation, we have done too much against it." Zuko looked away at that, unhappy about having to turn even further from his own home. Katara's anger simmered, but only a little, still distrustful. Sokka's eyes were locked onto the prince, feeling his heart drum against his ribs. Zuko had yet to look at him; he hadn't even acknowledged his presence yet, just Katara's and Aang's. It made his heart ache a little, being ignored by a lover.
"What is your request?" Aang finally got to speak and the three listened carefully to the old general.
"We wish to travel with the Avatar." Iroh said plainly and there was a thick blanket of shock that over fell Aang, Katara, and Sokka. Zuko grimaced at the words, now truly feeling like a traitor to his home land.
"Why!" Katara demanded, blue eyes wide, disbelieving of the old man's words, "So you can take Aang when ever you feel like it! I don't think so!"
"No, no, you misunderstand," Iroh said, waving a hand to calm her down, "We wish to help the Avatar. I realize this war needs to end, and since it seems in will not end in the original way we had planned, we have opted for the other." Zuko gave his uncle a look that told Iroh not to get into that subject, but Iroh ignored it, continuing, "The balance in the world is off kilter and I do not wish to see it this way, I would be willing to help the Avatar end the war, the right way." Katara and Aang exchanged glances, taking Iroh's words into consideration.
Finally, after a moment, Katara, being the young diplomat she was, spoke, "We'll talk about it first, and then let you know. You can come back around noon." Zuko gave a distrustful look to Katara, and Katara gave one back.
"Then we will see you at noon." Iroh agreed and looked to Zuko, smiling, "We shall take a walk around the island." Zuko sighed and when his uncle turned, he followed, though not without giving into the urge to look at Sokka. Their eyes met briefly before Zuko walked away with Iroh. Sokka swallowed feeling his legs weaken some; Zuko's eyes always had an affect on him, and he hadn't seen the prince in so long.
"I don't trust them." Katara said immediately after the fire benders were gone, and that snapped Sokka out of his daze.
"But they did seem sincere," Aang commented, "at least the old man did."
"That doesn't mean they're telling the truth." Katara said stubbornly, "They've chased us for so long..."
"But they're refugees now."
"Or so they say."
Sokka stayed out of the argument, they both had their points, and they were fact based, his was emotionally based. He wanted Zuko to come with them, he missed being around the fire bender; he missed the warm touch and passion filled kisses. But what if they were lying? What if Zuko was really trying to get to Aang through him, or this request...
"That man saved the moon," Aang said, recalling the selfless act of helping the world re-balance at the North Pole, "Even though they are trying to catch me, he helped us, he helped the Water Tribes." Katara bit her bottom lip, remembering that, and not liking the feeling of a fire bender helping them; fire benders killed their mother; that was something Sokka and Katara always had in mind. "Maybe we have to watch Zuko, but I trust the old man, I think he's good." Katara sighed, not liking it one bit. She looked to her brother, knowing he at least saw her view of the situation.
"Sokka, what do you think?" she asked and Sokka was mildly surprised, normally they didn't listen to a word he said.
"Well, I..." he stumbled some in decision. On normal circumstances, yes, he hated fire benders, but with Zuko, it was different, and he hoped his choice was right, "Maybe... we should, give them a chance." He said it slowly, hoping they wouldn't ask about why he chose that. Frankly, both Aang and Katara were a little shocked, though different shock. Aang was quite pleased that Sokka agreed with him, and Katara was a bit crestfallen that he had not backed her up.
"What changed your mind on fire benders?" Katara asked, confused by his sudden agreeable mood.
"Nothing, I still hate fire benders," Sokka said firmly, then paused a minute, trying to find a suitable excuse for his decision. "I just... instinct, I just think that this is the way to go." Ok, maybe not the most stable bases for a decision, they had been through this, but like he said before, sometimes they were right, and sometimes they were wrong. Katara huffed some, giving in.
"I suppose we could give it a try." She said slowly, and then quickly added, "But if they even breathe wrong I'm throwing them into the ocean."
"Ok!" Aang said with a grin
"Alright." Sokka said and felt a subtle flutter in his stomach, realizing that Zuko was coming with them. He felt giddy, but he kept it inside, knowing his sister and friend would find it strange if he found any real joy in having the fire prince with them.
"They're going to leave us here." Zuko stated bitterly while he and uncle walked down their previous path. It was all by luck that they had found the Avatar, and he didn't trust the group to sit and wait to tell them no, he expected them to be long gone by noon, which wasn't too long from now.
"Have faith, Prince Zuko," Iroh said calmly, "You need to give a little trust to receive a little trust."
"I'm not going to trust them, as far as I'm concerned, the Avatar is still my enemy." Zuko scowled at the path ahead of them, stepping over rocks and roots of trees. They came to their raft by the shore line; well, what was left of their raft. Only a few logs had stayed together, and what little supplies was gone from the long weeks at sea. He let out a long, low, irritated noise; they truly had nothing now. No crew, no ship... no home.
"If the Avatar is your enemy, then who is your ally?" Iroh asked the simple question and it made Zuko stop walking, thinking about it. Iroh just patiently waited for his nephew to respond; they had time before noon.
Zuko did have a couple people in mind, but just a couple. His uncle with no doubt was his greatest and most trust worthy ally. Iroh had given up the Fire Nation for him. Iroh was more of a father to him than his own father. He wanted to say Sokka as well, but there was doubt with the Water Tribe teen, he wasn't sure if he could give away his trust to the Water Tribe peasant, not yet. Did the North Pole change their relationship; what ever they had? He had not wanted to look at Sokka today; his judgment softened when ever he looked at the Water Tribe native, he didn't want his emotions to cloud his thoughts.
"Just you, Uncle." Zuko replied finally. Iroh could always ask or say something so simple that would boggle one's mind; often it was a more complicated reply. He didn't like it too much; it often brought thoughts of Sokka into his consciousness. Iroh just smiled; happy he was at the top of his nephew's ally list.
"Maybe we can count in a few more after traveling with the Avatar." Iroh half joked and Zuko sighed, not very amused; he hated socializing.
"Lets just go back to see if they've left already." Zuko growled and started to head back. Iroh just followed Zuko once more, striking up a casual conversation.
"That Water Tribe boy was staring at you the whole time, did you know that?" Alright, so maybe it was not so casual. Zuko cursed in his mind and really wished his uncle would shut up sometimes.
Tada! And now they will start traveling together.
Is anyone interested in beta'ing for me? I think I need more beta's, because my number one beta'er can't get onto her computer, and I miss her :(. So, if you like the majority of my stories and are a grammar freak, e-mail me.