Psycho Demon-Witch: Thank you for the reviews! They made me very happy, particularly as they all had positive things in them. Yays.
Aang and Katara were out by the lake practicing waterbending. Even though Katara was the better waterbender, Aang incorporated stances from airbending and earthbending, making up moves that Katara hadn't learned from Master Paku. She in turn learned things from Aang, as well as he learning from her. When she asked Aang how he knew those stances would work with waterbending, he said something about just doing it instinctively. She supposed he was unconciously recalling how previous Avatars had done things, things they had learned. It was a shame that he had no firebending teacher, because knowing the firebending stances would probably make him better in other elements.
She ran out onto the lake, and brought up a huge wall of water which she sent crashing into Aang's direction. Aang took an earthbending stance, and ploughed through the water as if it were a boulder. A really wet boulder. He then waved his arms around bringing up what looked like two water snakes. Katara brought up more water, sending ball after ball of water. Aang used the two snakes to fend off the balls, and once he had done that, he sent them in Katara's direction, who made a barrier of ice between her and the water. "You're going to have to do better than that Aang" she called to him from behind the ice, which she then melted and ket drop back to the water. Aang paused for a moment to consider what she was doing. She made rocking motions with her arms, and the lake started to get choppier. The waves Katara was making got bigger and bigger. Aang made a platform of ice to break the waves, to stop them getting any rougher. At the same time he started trying to force the water to go in the opposite direction, towards Katara. What resulted from this was half the water in the lake being forced together in one big wall, fighting to go in opposite directions.
Seeing the stale mate they were in, Katara and Aang let the water fall back into the lake. Katara smiled. "Well done Aang, you're getting so much better" she said happily. Aang smiled brightly at her.
"Thanks Katara" he said. "It's too bad that I can't get a firebending teacher though... especially after Iroh refused. I'm sure he would have been an amazing teacher" he said wistfully.
"He said you were destined for a particular person to teach you. I'm sure you'll find out who it is before the comet arrives" Katara said soothingly. Aang's face brightened. Katara was always there to reassure him, reassure everyone. She looked after them all, made sure their clothes were mended and clean, that they were fed and that they were healed. But, even though she meant well sometimes she was a little unrealistic, especially when they were in the middle of a war. "Come on, let's go find the other two, who knows what kind of trouble they've gotten into without us" Katara said suddenly, snapping Aang out of his thoughts.
"They're probably raiding the kitchen... and I don't even know where the kitchen is, all our meals are served in that great big hall with the magic ceiling" Aang replied. Katara laughed.
"With Sokka's nose and Toph's earthbending I'm sure they've had no trouble finding it" she said. "Maybe you can practice your earthbending now by trying to find out where they are" she suggested. Aang nodded, but told her they'd need to get closer to where ever they were first.
When they were in the castle Aang felt them nearby, just stood there staring at a wall. "Well... they're not in the kitchen" he said to Katara. He was confused as to what exactly they would be doing in the middle of a corridor, doing nothing at all. As he and Katara rounded the next corner, he saw that they were have a heated discussion in front of a picture of a bowl of fruit.
"I'm telling you, this is the way into the kitchen" Toph yelled.
"Well, it can't be because there is a great big picture of fruit in front of us. Unless you're suggesting that the fruit is the kitchen, this isn't the kitchen" Sokka yelled back.
"It's behind the picture then, I can feel it" Toph maintained.
"Your feet can't be working all that well, I mean, seriously, who hides a corridor behind a painting?" Sokka asked sarcastically.
"These kind of people obviously" Toph retorted.
"Whatever, I still say it's all in your head" Sokka said, waving anything else she was about to say off. "Oh, hi Aang, Katara" he said once he noticed them watching him and Toph.
"You know Sokka... there is a passageway behind tht painting" Aang said. Toph smirked.
"See I told you. Both of us can't be imaginging things, let alone the same thing" she said. Sokka rolled his eyes.
"Fine, you win, but how do we get to the corridor genius. You can't manipulate the walls in this place, you tried that this morning" he said. Katara frowned.
"You tried bending the walls?" she asked. Toph tried to look innocent. Needless to say it didn't work, and Katara demanded an explanation.
"Well... not the walls. I tried to bend the floor where Sokka was stood, seeing as how they're stone and all. But it didn't work. I can see using the stone, but I can't manipulate it. Must be another one of their magic defense things" she explained. Katara sighed.
"Well thank goodness for that, I don't think they'd react too kindly to you destroying their castle. And after they've been so kind to us too" she said sternly.
"I would have put it back the way it was after I tripped your brother up" Toph defended.
"Whatever, just save any messing around for outside, where you're not as likely to break anything" Katara said. Toph poked out her tongue, and mumbled something about Katara being boring. Katara's eyes narrowed.
"So waterbending practice over for the day?" Sokka asked, quickly intervening before an argument could break out. Katara and Toph's arguments were... scary.
"Yes, Aang did really well today" Katara said happily.
"Great, great. I'm going to find Iroh, I wanna talk to him" Toph said.
"What for, you know Zuko will be with him" Sokka said astonished that she would contemplate such a thing.
"Because Iroh's a nice old man and easy to talk to. Zuko's not actually that bad when I'm with them... though he does tend to stay very quiet" Toph said.
"Not that bad? He chased us all over the world just to capture Aang, how can he not be that bad?" Katara demanded angrily.
"Well, he's not like that right now, okay? Apparently he gave up his chase of the Avatar when his sister tried to arrest him and Iroh" Toph shot back, just as angrily.
"So? It doesn't mean we can trust him" Katara said.
"Whatever, I don't care what you think anyway. I'm going to talk to Iroh whether you like it or not. And if in the process I manage to become friends with Zuko, that's none of your business" Toph yelled at her before stomping off. Katara seemed to be resisting the urge to scream at the top of her lungs. She turned to Aang and Sokka.
"How can she even think of trusting him? He's evil, he's caused so much pain, and so much trouble for us all! I can't believe..." she said, going on a long rant about why Zuko was untrustworthy. Aang thought back to all their encounters with the Fire Nation Prince. The first ones, they were very hostile, every time they set eyes on each other they started fighting. Then, not long after the battle at the North Pole, things had changed. Zuko had stopped chasing him, and his sister had started. She was much more dangerous, because she has access to a lot more equipment than her brother had. He remembered the Blue Spirit as well. That had been Zuko. Although Aang supposed he was only doing it so he could capture him, he was thankful... somewhat. They had fought well together at that time, even though Zuko hadn't used any bending at all. He still hadn't told his friends about that incident. They had been too sick at the time anyway.
Sokka soon put a stop to his younger sisters hysterics by placing a firm hand on her shoulder. "Look, I agree with you, I really do. But Toph can take care of herself, she's proven that loads of times, so just trust her, okay? Besides, getting yourself worked up about Zuko is just going to be a distraction and we have better things to do" he said to her. Katara thought about this for a moment.
"You're right, I'm letting myself get angry over unimportant things. I'll apologise to Toph later on, when I see her" she said. She hoped Toph wouldn't rub it in later on.
Meanwhile, Toph was muttering about bossy, overbearing, waterbending Sugar Queens. How dare Katara try to tell her what to do! If she wanted to speak to Iroh, that was her business, nobody else's. She shoved open a door quite violently, not realising there was someone else behind it she was that distracted. "Oww" came a yell as the door smacked into someone. She heard a person's body hit the floor as he rebounded off the door. It was Zuko. Iroh was stood just behind him looking a little amused.
"Will you be more careful?" Zuko asked angrily.
"Yeah, sure, sorry" Toph said. "Sugar Queen said some stuff that made me mad, I was distracted" she added as an excuse.
"Sugar Queen?" Zuko asked as he picked himself up off the floor.
"That's a nick name for Katara" she explained. Zuko looked confused.
"Right..." he said. Iroh stepped forward.
"Hello Toph, how are you today?" he asked. Toph shrugged.
"Like I said, I'm mad with Sugar Queen. She's being her usual mothering self and trying to tell me what to do" she said heatedly.
"Why don't you tell me about it" Iroh suggested gently. He was going to try to resolve the situation. The Avatar couldn't afford to have two of his friends fighting one another.
"Well, I said I wanted to come talk to you, and Sokka said that Zuko would be with you, and when I said I didn't care, Sugar Queen got all mad and went off on this rant about how I couldn't trust him... even if I can't, I can take care of myself" Toph said, barely stopping for breath.
"So it's just a misunderstanding. I can see where she is coming from. Zuko has caused a fair amount of trouble for them in the past, but that was before they met you, so you don't know much about it. You've only met us as we became wanted by the Fire Nation ourselves" Iroh said. Before Toph could start about how it was unfair that he was taking her side he added "but I can also see where you are coming from. You can take care of yourself, as you've said before, and she should be able to trust you to do that." That made Toph somewhat happier.
"So I should try to understand where they are coming from where Zuko is concerned?" she asked.
"That would be a good idea" Iroh replied.
"Hey, I am right here you know" said an irritated Zuko. Toph turned to him.
"So what exactly did you do to annoy them so much?" she asked. Zuko made a point not to look at her, even though she couldn't see. He also stayed very, very quiet. "Well? Katara said something about you chasing them all over the place, but she never went into any specifics."
"I... tried to capture him a few times, so that I could go home" Zuko said quietly. Even Toph strained to hear him.
"Oh yeah, I remember Azula saying something about your banishment not so long ago" she said. She felt for him at that particular subject. Her parents were overprotective and wouldn't let her do anything to take care of herself, but they did that because they cared. She almost regretted leaving them without any sort of sign to know when she would come back, or not letting them know how she was. But she couldn't read or write, so the point was negated. His family, however, didn't care about him. At least most of them didn't. They had proven that by the pain they had caused him, and the blatant disregard for his wellbeing. "Do you still want to capture Aang?" she asked suspiciously. Zuko gave her a look. He contemplated his answer. Did he want to capture Aang anymore? His father had proven he didn't care about him by sending his sister to arrest him. Would there be any point in doing what his father wanted, when it seemed that he would never win his father's love. But then... why did he need to win his father's love? Shouldn't the love of a father be given regardless of talent or ability? His mind was in turmoil thinking about it.
Finally, he reached an answer. "I think there will always be a part of me that wants to capture the Avatar, the part of me that wants to go home. But.. I'm beginning to realise that maybe I'll never get to go home, maybe my father will never acknowledge me. So, I guess my answer is no. Your friend is safe from me" he said. Toph gave him a big grin. She could feel that he was being sincere in his answer.
"Well, that's good, I'd hate to have to squish you between two rocks if you tried to capture Aang again. It would upset Iroh terribly, and I don't want to hurt him, he's a friend after all" she said. That was her way of saying she cared, in a round about way...
"Yeah well... don't tell your friends that, they won't believe it" Zuko said. Toph raised an eyebrow.
"Wanna bet on that? I can tell when people are lying through the vibrations in the ground. I can sense changes in heart rate and everything" she boasted.
"That's quite a gift young Toph" Iroh said. He was bursting with pride at his nephew's answer. He was growing up at last, and he had spoken with a wisdom that was seldom seen in him. He had finally realised the truth of his family. Soon, he would tell him the truth about his mother.
Psycho Demon-Witch: sigh finally finished. It's taking a bloody long time to get to the part where they actually start school... oh well.
Merry Christmas to everyone and a happy new year... seeing as how the likelihood that I update again by then is very, very small. Pretty please leave a review