Title: Can We Keep Him?
Fandom: Avatar: the Last Airbender
Rating: PG-13/T
WarningsAssorted bad language and critters. No sex. Haha. And no Zutara. Extra haha.
Disclaimer: Avatar is the best American cartoon on television right now, despite being on Nickelodeon (who incidentally owns it).
Notes: If you are a Zuko/Katara fan, read this. If you are not a Zuko/Katara fan, read this. Welcome to my brain, ducklings.

The penguin chick made a pathetic little cheeping noise before it sneezed, the movement sending a few tufts of down sifting down to litter the floor of the hut.

"No penguins, Katara," Sokka told his sister patiently.

Katara shifted her grip on the chick to keep the bottom-heavy bird from sliding down onto the floor. "But he's an orphan, Sokka! He doesn't have anyone to look after him."

"We can't keep a penguin," Sokka reiterated.

"I've been watching the colony for a while and this little guy doesn't have a dad, and this morning his mum was eaten by a tiger seal. Don't you feel sorry for him?" Katara's expression was irresistibly pathetic.

"No," said Sokka. He wisely avoided eye-contact and began folding clean laundry.

The young penguin, finally tiring of being carried, gave a determined wiggle and managed to slip free of Katara's loving grasp. It busily waddled over to the corner and began sorting through jars of dried foodstuffs.

"He's not old enough to fend for himself yet, but I can feed him and he should be ready to do his own hunting in a couple weeks," begged Katara.

"That's what you said about the seal pups and the snow-gulls," Sokka noted, gesturing toward the tangle of two fat adolescent tiger-seals that were curled like overgrown kittens near the fire. Above, three placid adult snow-gulls sat in a row awaiting the hand-outs of food that inevitably came.

The penguin found a pot of salted preserved fish and dug in.

"Sokka, look at me," Katara commanded. "When mom died, the village helped us out. And when dad left with the other men, the village helped even more. Now it's our turn to give back."

"But penguins and seals and gulls aren't part of the damn village!" Sokka yelled, fully aware that he'd lost the argument.

The penguin burped contentedly and began to clean fish guts from his whiskers.

"You're the best brother ever," Katara said, throwing herself at Sokka for a hug.

(One year later . . . .)

The Prince groaned, but remained unconscious, his head tucked safely on Katara's lap. She idly smoothed her hand over his forehead.

"No Fire Nation Princes," Sokka declared irritably.

Katara dabbed the Prince's feverish brow with a cool cloth. "But he's an orphan, Sokka! He doesn't have anyone to look after him."

"We can't keep a . . ." Sokka blinked. "Wait, no. He's not an orphan – he's the son of the Fire Lord. And his uncle's standing right there."

Iroh smiled pleasantly but didn't add anything to the proceedings.

"But I've listened to his mad fever-ravings and his father's a Very Bad Man. And his mother died when he was little!" She gazed tenderly down at the sick boy. "Don't you feel sorry for him?" Katara's expression was irresistibly pathetic.

"Hell, no!" Sokka stared in complete disbelief at his insane sister, pausing in his campfire-construction duties.

Zuko stirred and finally opened his bleary eyes. He glared up at Katara. "Unhand me, barbarian wench!"

Katara ignored him. "Sokka, he's too sick to fend for himself. And I'm a healer, I have a gift. It won't take more than a week or so for him to get better . . ."

"What the hell is going on?" Zuko demanded. "Uncle, why am I lying on the ground and why does this little girl keep touching me?"

Iroh continued to smile pleasantly. He didn't speak, as he was busy memorizing the scene before him to amuse himself in his old age.

"You said the same thing about all of them when they caught fever," Sokka told his sister, gesturing toward the people helping Aang sort nuts and berries. Haru smiled happily, Jet smirked, and the cabbage vender looked a little confused.

"Sokka, look at me," Katara commanded. "When mom died . . ."

"Katara," Sokka cut her off. "Prince Zuko is definitely not part of the damn village!" he bellowed angrily.

"It's true," said Zuko, agreeing for the first and last time with Sokka. He promised himself that once he caught the Avatar he'd have these two lunatic barbarians imprisoned for life on some remote island.

Katara simply smiled beatifically at her brother. "You really are the best brother ever," she told him sweetly.

"Welcome to the gang, Zuko!" Aang said cheerfully.

"What?" Zuko tried to sit up and glare but was gently held down by Katara. "Fuck, no. I'm not part of your gang! Uncle, help me!"

"Hush, Prince Zuko," Iroh instructed calmly. He turned to Aang. "Mind if I brew some tea?"