A/N: Yay! Last chapter! Hope you enjoy it!
Aang lay there, completely silent. Toph's words echoed in his ears: "Why'd you kiss me the other night?" She'd been awake? She knew? The Avatar could feel his own heartbeat pumping in his ears, drowning out the mocking crickets in the distance. He struggled to figure out an answer. What was he supposed to say? He didn't have any experience with girls; he was supposed to be a monk. Up until Katara and Sokka freed him from the iceberg, Aang had never even met a girl.
Yet here he was. Toph wasn't looking at him, but he could tell the blind girl could feel him. She was completely calm as she lay on her back, propped up on her elbows. This was not helping. It only made Aang more nervous. Until the earthbender laid a hand on his shoulder, the Avatar hadn't realized he had sat up.
"Well…" Aang began. Well what? What was he supposed to say?
Toph mentally slapped herself. Why'd she ask him that? Why'd she put him on the spot? The poor guy's heart was beating a million times a minute. "Never mind, Aang." she said softly, removing her small hand from his shoulder. "I shouldn't have put you on the spot." Toph stood to go. She didn't know where, but she had to go somewhere. She had to get away from Aang. This situation was way too awkward, even for her.
"Toph, wait." the Avatar said, reaching for Toph's hand. Holding it again sent pleasurable shivers up his spine. He stood, fighting the urge to tug at his collar in nervousness. What had he said to Katara back at Aunt Wu's? I like you, but more than normal. No, that wouldn't work. Aang racked his brain for something, anything to say.
Toph swallowed. She could tell the airbender that gripped her hand was trying to figure out something to say. She knew Aang was mentally kicking himself; he didn't have anything. Finally, it was Toph that spoke. "You don't have to say it, Twinkle Toes. I already know." The earthbender leaned forward, planting a short but oh-so-sweet kiss on Aang's lips.
"Katara, you don't mean that." Sokka said. "Do you?"
"I don't know, Sokka." the waterbender in question responded. "It's just hard because you and Aang are my family, but I still want to be with Zuko. I just don't know…" Sokka swallowed hard and took the deepest breath he could. What he was about to propose would take all the courage he could muster.
"What if…" Sokka cleared his throat. "What if Zuko came with us? He could teach Aang firebending." The water tribe warrior tried to sound lighthearted, but it came out as anything but. The thought of that firebender traveling with them… An unpleasant tingling crawled up his spine.
Katara looked up at her brother, eyes shining with relit hope. She was smiling from ear to ear. Apparently, she couldn't see the forced smile plastered across her brother's face. Did he just say what she thought he said? "You mean it?" She hoped he did. She hoped with all of her heart that Sokka would let Zuko come with them. Sokka took another deep breath, looking into his sister's pleading blue eyes. He shut his.
"Yes. I mean it." In an instant, Katara threw her arms around her brother. "Thank you, Sokka!"
"Alright! Alright!" Sokka attempted to pry himself away from the waterbender. Said waterbender released her death-grip of a hold, clasping her hands together. "You just need to make sure Toph and Aang are okay with it. We're a family." Katara nodded and leapt up, running full tilt toward their unassembled camp. Sokka rubbed his poor, sore shoulder. "Girls."
Zuko had left Katara alone with her brother. They needed some time to sort things out on their own without any interference. The firebender made his way into camp to find Aang and Toph…kissing? Zuko blinked and looked back toward them. Now they weren't. Had he imagined the whole thing? The young man shook his head, telling himself he was seeing things. He needed a good night's sleep was all. He climbed back on Appa to get his pack.
Aang and Toph noticed Zuko at the same time. The two pre-teens blushed madly. Aang had his hand behind his head. Had the ex-prince seen that? Judging by the way the firebender hadn't said anything (and had busied himself with unloading the bison), the Avatar didn't think so. Toph twiddled her fingers. She was clearly wondering the same thing.
"We should, um, set up camp." Toph said softly, walking away to unroll sleeping bags. It wasn't like her to help much, but somehow, she believed the situation had become more awkward. Aang nodded, saying something about collecting firewood.
He entered the woods in a daze. His fingers brushed his lips, remembering his short kiss with Toph. It had felt like her lips had barely been there. The love-struck Avatar kept walking, only to be run into. Falling backwards with a grunt, he looked up. Katara stood over him, guilt in her eyes.
"Aang! I'm sorry! I should have paid more attention to where I was going." The waterbender offered her friend a hand up. He took it gratefully.
"Why were you running? Are we being ambushed?" Aang inquired, adrenaline already pumping through his veins. Katara smiled feebly.
"No, we're not. I was just in a hurry." The waterbender held the Avatar by the shoulders. "Look, Aang. Sokka and I were talking and we were thinking that maybe, if he and Zuko can be civil with one another, that Zuko could come along." Though hope shined in Katara's eyes, Aang wasn't sure that was the greatest idea in the world. They had to fly to get around and if things went like they did today, the trip would be a nightmare. What if Sokka and Zuko couldn't deal with each other? The water tribe warrior never had been one for patience. Aang was suddenly nervous again. He knew Katara liked Zuko; that much was clear. What would she do if he didn't agree?
The waterbender could tell the Avatar was weighing his options. She had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. If Aang said no, she would need to leave Zuko and who knows if she'd ever see him again. "You do need a firebending teacher, after all." she added. Katara swallowed a dry lump in her throat, crossing her fingers behind her back. 'Please say yes…' she said to herself.
Aang sighed. "Katara, I don't think that's such a good idea. I mean, I do need a firebending teacher, but if Sokka and Zuko can't get along it'll make a really long trip for the rest of us."
Just like that, the waterbender's world came crashing down. She had expected Toph might reject the offer, but Aang? She nodded reluctantly. The boy had made his decision and she would respect it no matter how hard it was. "Alright Aang."
"He can stay with us until we leave." the Avatar said. "And we can drop him off at the mainland tomorrow." Katara nodded again, holding back threatening tears. She prayed to the gods Aang had not seen them.
"Okay." The girl turned back toward the woods. "I'm just going to go find Sokka."
Katara found her brother walking back to camp. When he spotted her, he stopped dead. Even in the dark he could tell his sister was not happy. "They said no?" the boy asked, reaching out to the waterbender. She pulled away.
"I just need to be alone right now."
Sokka came back into camp to find Aang trying to light a fire, failing miserably. Toph and Zuko were working to pitch a tent, also failing. The warrior spoke up. "Hey, Zuko. Would you mind starting the fire? Aang is going to light his hands on fire before the sticks." Zuko turned to see the Avatar sucking on one of his fingers. Those sticks were hot. "Aang and Toph can take care of the tents."
"Then what are you going to do, Snoozles?" Toph snapped. She was getting cranky now. Great. Sokka fought to remain calm. The little earthbending girl could really push his buttons.
"I'll go find Katara." Sokka turned to Zuko. "Want to come?" The water tribe warrior's stomach flip-flopped. He hated trying to be civil with this guy, but if that's what his sister wanted, that's what she'd get.
"I guess." Zuko replied, lighting the wood in the fire pit. It crackled to life, orange flames dancing. The firebender followed his girlfriend's brother into the woods. As soon as they were out of earshot, they stopped. The firebender arched a questioning eyebrow.
"Let's get this straight," Sokka began, "I hate you; you hate me. But I'll do anything for my sister. Would you?"
"Anything." Zuko replied, all business.
"Alright. I agreed to let you come with us." Zuko loosened up a bit as if an immense weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "But Aang said no." The firebender slouched slightly. That meant he'd go back to being alone…not even Katara would be with him.
"But," Sokka said, "if we can be civil to one another until morning, he might reconsider."
Having found Katara and telling her about the plan, she nearly burst with excitement and gratitude. She'd hugged them both and even went as far to kissing Zuko on the cheek. Sokka had made a gagging noise that earned him a slap in the back of the head. Things were normal.
As normal as things could get with an ex-enemy firebender traveling with you.
The trio made there way back into camp to find Toph and Aang sitting by the fire, talking quietly about something. Sokka bounded in, looking through the food sack. "What are we doing for dinner?" His voice was muffled by the burlap. Aang looked up at his friends and ex-enemy. Was it just him, or were Katara's eyes a little puffy? Sokka's voice interrupted his thoughts. "We barely have anything left!"
Katara took the moon-peach her brother was holding and threw it back into the sack. "Save those for breakfast and go hunting tonight." Sokka slouched as his sister put her hands on her hips.
"Fine. Zuko. Let's go." The water tribe warrior tugged at the firebender's sleeve and picked up his club.
The other three watched them go. Aang blinked once, then twice. "Are they the same people?" he asked, pointing after them. "They were just fighting an hour ago!" Katara joined the pre-teens on logs around the fire. Her arms were crossed as she stared into the dancing flames of the fire.
"They were just getting over the shock of the situation." the waterbender commented. "Remember how Toph and I used to get along? Now we're real friends." Katara tried to sound convincing. "They're just trying to get along." With that short line, the plan seemed way to obvious. Lucky for Katara, the Avatar was oblivious. But Toph wasn't so naïve. Nevertheless, the earthbender sat back on her log, blind eyes staring into nothingness.
By morning, the group had calmed considerably. Sokka and Zuko had only got into an argument once (or so Aang thought) when they were coming back from hunting. All they'd caught was a small boar. It seemed Zuko wasn't one to hunt either. Despite that argument, after that had been smooth sailing… until Toph and Katara got into another little cat fight of theirs. The waterbender had been trying to teach the younger girl how to fold up the tents.
But they somehow packed up camp, buried the fire pit, eaten, and gotten on a well-rested Appa all by sunrise. Katara was getting jittery. She hadn't asked Aang to reconsider and she was wondering what would happen if the Avatar still said no. Sokka seemed to recognize his sister's nervousness and caught her eyes, giving her one of his reassuring stares. The waterbender bit her lip and looked out over the ocean. That was when Sokka chose to speak up.
"Where are we going, Aang?"
"To drop Zuko off at the mainland." the Avatar replied. His comment was met by dead silence. He looked back to see Katara staring off at the water, Zuko staring at the saddle as he wrapped his arms around the waterbender. Sokka was looking at the couple and then turned to Aang.
"He can teach you firebending!" Sokka exclaimed, throwing up his arms. Was it just Aang, or had his warrior friend turned a complete one hundred eighty degrees on his views? The Avatar stared at his friend. He was speechless.
"Aw, just keep flying, Twinkle Toes. If Lightning Boy gives us any trouble, we can throw him off the side of the saddle." Toph spoke up.
"What?" Aang said, shocked. "Toph, I thought you hated them arguing all the time!"
"I do," the girl replied, still gripping the saddle, "but they haven't argued since last night. Maybe they just fight when their tired. That's how me and Sugar Queen get." Aang thought this over for a moment.
"So is everyone okay if Zuko stays?" Aang asked, bending himself onto the saddle. No one spoke. "So no one disagrees?" Silence. "Then I guess he can stay." Aang said with a smile. Katara flew forward, nearly tackling the Avatar with a hug.
"Thank you, Aang!"
"Hey, Zuko. When can we start firebending?" Aang asked, eyes twinkling.
A/N: Hi, people! I know Aang was a little OOC, there was little Zutara, and it seemed a little rushed, but I wanted it that way. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the last chapter of Alone Together. I'm not going to add an epilogue so the ending is wide open for a sequel. I might write one. I haven't decided. But if I did, I'm sure you guys would be happy. This is one of my most popular stories.
Hope to get your reviews!