I was originally planning not to write any fic until June. That plan lasted two weeks until Sylvacoer posted her fanart of Katara and the Blue Spirit fighting back to back, with a two-sentence opening line of fic.

deviantart .com / deviation / 33032246 /

And then this happened. Such as fic often does.

Music: Stereophonics - "Getaway"


Got Your Back

"I don't know who you are behind that mask," she said tersely, bending a trail of water from the canteen on her hip, "but right now, I've got your back."

The Blue Spirit nodded imperceptively, and slid to stand behind her, head swinging side to side to gauge how much time remained before the oncoming soldiers arrived. There—to his left—before he had time to attack the girl behind him flung out a dark hand with water in its wake. The attacking soldier deflected the first icicle but the second took him the throat.

The waterbending master didn't even wait to see her enemy fall; she was already reforming the ice above her palms for the next. Shapes moved through the darkness and flames around them; how many were there?

Too many, Katara realized. She and her new "friend" couldn't get off this balcony without fighting through an untold number of enemies, and any minute now there might be too many too to combat in close quarters. This tower was a deathtrap; if they tried to stay and fight they'd surely be overwhelmed. She had to get them out of here, because she flatly refused to die in a conquered Earth Kingdom fortress overrun with firebending vermin. But no matter where she looked there wasn't anywhere to go, no path t—

Katara shrieked as the man "guarding" her back suddenly grabbed her arm and yanked her backwards over the side of the stone balcony. In the momentary suspense of free-fall she watched as the water spilling from her canteen swirled above her body and sparkled in the light of the battle's explosions. Three times Katara cursed herself: for giving her back to someone who wears a mask, for letting Aang out of her sight even for an hour that morning, and for not hugging her brother more often when she had the chance. Then the moment was over, and she crashed on top of a body, rolling to the side and clutching her ribs.

Over the rim of Appa's carriage the burning fortress pulled away. Somewhere Aang was saying her name, and Katara wondered if he could see the stars as well as she could sprawled out like this. A jolt of agony swept her torso, and she moaned, closing her eyes to the night sky as she winced. She was still pressing against something—someone—and surely that was wrong, but she was too weak to do anything about it now. Katara fumbled to sit up, and failed. The large, dark body beside her didn't move.

"Katara, Katara!" A round head blocked the stars above the waterbender's vision, and she allowed herself a quick, relieved grin.

"Aang, you're safe."

"Fit as a fiddle," the figure replied. He was silhouetted in the dark, but Katara could see the faint flash of his toothy smile. "Sokka and Toph are fine too; we're going to meet them back at the town."

"I'm glad." Grimacing, Katara tried to maneuver herself into a sitting position. This time Aang was able to help her do so, and eventually she worked herself into a more comfortable pose. Once upright, back against the saddle's edge, Katara let her gaze fall on the stranger.

"What happened?" she breathed. "Is he alright?"

The Avatar looked at the young, masked warrior without changing his expression. "He'll be fine."

"But he's..."

"Sturdy, I'm sure," Aang said cryptically, and rolled the figure over onto his back. "Look, no major injuries. He was just knocked out in the fall."

"Lucky," Katara murmured. "I think I broke a rib, maybe two." She noticed Aang was still staring at the unmoving form of the Blue Spirit.

"Aang?"

He snapped to attention. "I've got to go up and steer Appa," the young Avatar said, suddenly avoiding Katara's eyes.

"Okay..." Aang moved off, leaving the waterbender to stare at the masked stranger in quiet contemplation.

He had saved her by dragging them both off the balcony—otherwise they most likely would've died up there, swallowed by the swords and flames of firebending soldiers. But to leap off a roof and hope the last flying bison in the world was there to catch you? A risky and bold move: they could have missed and fallen to their deaths, or been shot with arrows mid-fall, or landed wrong and broken their necks. Katara mentally added the labels "bold" and "decisive" to her list of adjectives for the Blue Spirit. The list was mostly composed of fighting references, but it was growing. She supposed she ought to add "life-saving" too.

That she owed him a life was the only reason she'd let the mask continue to cloak his face.

Then again…

When it came right down to it, Katara's best virtuewas never patience. Besides (and here's where her fantastic skill at rationalizing rose its familiar head), when you thought about it, that deal didn't make any sense. A mask for a whole life? Nonsense. A life should be repaid with a life...and he was on their bison, wasn't he? So now they were saving his life instead of landing and leaving him unconscious in the woods where anyone could find him.

Katara gazed at the mask, and the mask gazed back at her. Her fingers twitched with the need to strip away his secret. Should she? Of course shouldn't. It'd be rude, for one thing. And Katara was not raised to be rude, thank-you-very-much.

On the other hand, Katara wasn't raised to steal contraband from pirates, either. Or to be a demure little girl who never challenged what was right in front of her. In front of her and unconscious. Harmless. Secret.