Katara was not at all fine.

The man she'd sworn to fight beside on that horrible tower, a man who had literally thrown her to safety just minutes ago—a man she'd been fully prepared to start crushing on if he'd been the least bit handsome—had turned out to be...less than she'd hoped.

Actually it was worse than that. No use avoiding the facts: he'd turned out to be one of Katara's least favorite people in the entire world. The list wasn't very long and he wasn't at the top, but rest assured he was way up there.

"I can't believe I fought back to back with you," she muttered to the body of the sleeping boy, then added under her breath, "I can't believe I'm talking to an unconscious person."

"You're not," the body whispered roughly, and of course Katara screamed again.

"YOU'RE AWAKE!" She tried to lean as far away from him as she could, but Appa's carriage wasn't that big, and moving made her chest hurt.

A battered Zuko lifted his hands to his temples, and moaned lowly. "The shouting... My head..."


"Oh Spirits will you shut up..."

"No I will not shut up!" But she did drop her voice down to a snarl. Not because he said so, or anything. Just because yelling made her chest hurt too. Yelling, moving... Katara decided that she needed to learn how to fix broken ribs. That would be her next project; this whimpering immobility thing simply would not do.

"What are you up to Prince Zuko?" she hissed. "What do you want from us?"

"A ride," was his pithy reply, and the waterbender's scowl deepened. Who did he think he was, lying on the back of Aang's flying bison like they were all friends? When eventually the prince's head turned to look in Katara's direction, her frown seemed (though such a thing was surely impossible by now) to get even darker and more surly. Zuko's face was filthy, and the dirt combined with slightly sunken cheeks to give him a pale, ghoulish appearance in the moonlight.

"You look awful!" she accused, like he had done it just to annoy her.

The prince stared, blinked, blinked a second time, and without a word rolled over onto his side. Away from the snapping water girl.

"Hey!" she said. No reaction from the dirty-pale-evil-lying firebender. "Hey!"

"You can't just sleep here!" Katara tried to sear holes into the back of the boy's spine with the power of her brain, but it wasn't working. "Appa is our flying bison! You shot fireballs at him, you don't get to sleep!"

She grabbed his shoulder and yanked in frustration, pulling him partially over onto his back again. Zuko growled and half-heartedly swiped her hand away.

"You," Katara spat, conveying months of hate into a single syllable. The object of her disgust gave in and looked over at her, elevating himself onto his elbows. With a sneer she dared him to try something suspicious.

Zuko met her eyes for several pregnant seconds. Finally, after the pause had lasted as long as it reasonably could, he said, "I'm going to close my eyes now. Watch my back, Katara."

The sneer ran from her features like water, and the girl gaped at him. A wordless fish painted blue and bronze: her lips moved up and down, but nothing came out.

Zuko closed his eyes and relished the silence.