Disclaimer: Avatar: the last Airbender belongs to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
I want them to have a happy ending, I can't help
it. Or at least an ending where they're all alive.
The knock on their door came late at night, when the lights in most of the other apartments were already out. They had only one candle lit themselves, a half-burnt out thing sitting on the floor beside the bed to hide its light from the window.
It was his shift; but they were both so tense that the person behind the door had barely knocked twice before Smellerbee was on her feet, sword in hand. She'd been sleeping with it out of the sheath, on the floor next to the bed. Longshot had been sitting in the chair, sharpening the tip of one of his arrows with her dagger; he had it notched and pointed at the door at the first knock.
In the pause after the second knock, Longshot glanced at her. Smellerbee nodded, and then moved towards the door, scooping up the dagger that he'd dropped as she did. He stepped back towards the bed, glancing from Jet to the window.
Jet was feverish from the broken bones and half-conscious from the pain medicine Smellerbee had swiped; he could get the both of them out the window while Smellerbee held back the enemies at the door, but something else would break if he did. He knew it would--they'd used up all their luck when they managed to get Jet home without puncturing his lungs or heart or anything else.
There was a third knock, and then an urgent voice: "Guys, it's me--Katara."
Smellerbee glanced back at him. Longshot nodded, but kept the arrow notched.
Smellerbee opened the door with sword still in hand, and lifted it reflexively a few inches at whatever was past the doorway. She stopped herself, though, and opened it a little further; when Katara entered with her brother a moment later, Longshot realized what had startled her--both of them were wearing cloaks despite the weather, with their hoods pulled up.
Longshot loosened the arrow, and sat back down a moment later.
Katara shrugged out of her cloak and popped open the jug at her hip, drawing the water out and around her hands, heading straight for Jet. Smellerbee followed her and pulled the sword's sheath out of her way with her foot. She picked it up and sheathed it a moment later, standing at the foot of the bed while Katara knelt at the side and held her hands against Jet's chest. The water was glowing again.
Sokka was standing by the door, in the corner farthest from him, so Longshot dropped the arrow back into the quiver and set the bow across his lap. He shifted enough that he could keep an eye on both him and Jet.
From his body language, Longshot got that Sokka wasn't comfortable being around him. He probably still wasn't completely okay with the fact that Longshot was one who'd set off the blasting jelly and brought down the dam.
That was fine. Longshot still wasn't completely okay with the fact that Sokka had evacuated the village.
Before he'd met Jet, the only thing that had been important was surviving. He knew enough to know that if he--a kid who was still training at archery--tried to get revenge, he'd die; so he didn't try.
Jet had talked about revenge, but his dreams had been big: getting back at all the Fire Nation, not just specific soldiers, and for what had been done to the Earth Kingdom, not just them. And he had the beginnings of the power to back his words up.
Jet had wanted to do more than survive, and he wanted to see others do more than that, too. So Longshot had followed him, had trained harder and joined the combat group, and had obeyed orders because in the end, he believed in Jet's belief.
But that was part of their old life. He'd
done the right thing back then, because that's what Jet had said; but
now Jet said they were starting over, they were going to be
different, to work within society rather than outside it. Which
meant that now, Sokka was in the right. Longshot accepted it as
They weren't really sure if it was okay to interrupt Katara's concentration--she was biting the corner of her lip and hadn't spoken at all yet, even when Jet opened his eyes and mumbled her name--so when Smellerbee finally spoke up, she spoke to Sokka.
"Where's everyone else?" she asked, turning slightly away from the bed to look at him. Only slightly, though; Longshot could tell from her stance that she was keeping Jet in the corner of her eye. "Did you find your bison?"
"Yeah," Sokka replied, voice slightly lowered. He'd folded his arms a while ago, and now he glanced at the window. "Aang and Toph are waiting with him. Katara wouldn't leave without checking on Jet again."
He nodded. Smellerbee glanced back at Katara's hands.
"I need more water," Katara said suddenly.
Sokka straightened slightly; Longshot had a feeling that was a bad sign. "How much?"
"I don't--" She bit deeper into her lip, and then carefully ran a hand down Jet's chest. ". . . A lot. Another jug's worth."
"There's a well in the courtyard," Smellerbee replied, shifting away from the wall and making a motion towards Katara's container.
He left his bow and quiver in the room--walking the streets late at night with weapons stirred up trouble, and he'd need his hands free--so all he had was the small knife tucked in the back of his sash.
Longshot didn't like fighting hand-to-hand, but
he could do it if necessary. He was even better now than he'd
been before, because once Smellerbee had started getting more and
more nervous over Jet's absence, she'd insisted on doing knife
fighting training with him. They practiced late at night, since
the closest thing they had to a curtain for the window was his vest;
the neighbors sometimes gave them looks that made Smellerbee glare
If the waterbender said she needed more water, he figured he better bring back as much as he could carry. So once the jug was full, Longshot refilled the bucket and then cut it free from the rope and took it back with him as well.
Katara didn't even look up when he came back in; she just made a twisting motion with her wrist and all the water floated up and over to Jet, making the jug and bucket abruptly lighter. It spread out over Jet's chest and right shoulder, quickly picking up the same glow as the water around her hands.
Jet was gritting his teeth, but he didn't look as pained as he had before. Longshot set the bucket down by the door, the container down next to Katara, and then moved back over to the chair. He didn't sit down this time.
". . . What are you going to do?" Smellerbee asked after a few more moments, like she was picking up a previous topic. "You can't hide something that big in a place as cramped as this."
"Well, we can't leave," Sokka replied, rubbing his temple with the heel of his hand. "This is the only major city the Fire Nation hasn't captured yet--we have to get to the Earth King somehow."
"You better hurry," Smellerbee said, folding her arms and looking at Jet again. "There's already firebenders in here."
Sokka jerked, hand dropping. "What?"
For a moment, Jet's grimace twisted up slightly at the corner, in an attempt at a grin.
It's kind of funny that you believe me, now that I can't completely believe it myself, he was saying, but not in an angry way. Smellerbee was looking at the floorboards that were warping slightly around the bed; she missed it.
"That's why Jet got captured in the first place," she said, since Jet hadn't made any gestures to tell her to stay quiet. "We ran into these two firebenders when we were coming here."
"How do you know they were firebenders?" Sokka asked. He didn't sound as skeptical as they'd been when Jet told them, but at this point he'd probably heard 'We don't have a war in Ba Sing Se' about as many times as they had. Maybe more--his group seemed bent on doing something else now that Appa was back with them.
Smellerbee shook her head slightly and looked over at Jet again. "The old man's tea was steaming a few seconds after he'd said it was cold, right?"
"Yeah," Jet answered. His voice was a little clearer, but there was still that thickness to it. Katara murmured for him to be quiet, still focused on the water along his chest. "Li."
Smellerbee frowned. "I thought that was his nephew's name?"
Katara's expression dared Jet to talk one more time. He just nodded.
A second later, Sokka shoved hard away from the wall, causing Longshot to reach for his bow and an arrow out of reflex. Smellerbee was even tenser than him--she'd pulled her dagger completely out of its sheath.
Sokka glanced at both of them long enough to determine they weren't attacking and then focused back on Jet. "It was an old man and his nephew? Was the nephew our age, with a scar on his face?"
All three of them blinked. "Yeah," Smellerbee answered for Jet.
Sokka turned enough to stare at his sister. "Katara."
She'd tilted her head towards him, but still kept her eyes focused on Jet. "Go back to Aang and tell him. I'll catch up--I'm almost done."
Sokka didn't even reply--he headed straight for the door.
"I said to leave him there, why doesn't anyone ever listen to me. . . ." they heard him snarl before he pulled the door closed.
"What was that?" Smellerbee demanded, looking from the door to Katara.
"They're firebenders," she said quietly. "We've . . . run into them before."
A couple moments after that, Jet made a breathy, choking noise which took Longshot a few seconds to realize was a laugh. Katara glared at him. "Stop that."
Smellerbee looked over at him after Jet closed
his eyes and Katara leaned forward to keep working. Longshot
could only look back at her.
Even though she'd said she was almost done, it was still a while before Katara finished; Longshot had to light their third to last candle and extinguish the other one before it could sputter out completely.
But finally, Katara lifted the water out of Jet's shirt and away from his chest, sending some of it into her jug and the rest back to the bucket. There wasn't room for all of it, so she sent the excess floating out the window, before making a releasing gesture. No one yelled outside, so it must have gone unnoticed. Katara rubbed the back of her neck.
"Your lung is bruised," she said, looking at the mattress for a few moments before lifting her gaze back up to Jet. "But it's only a small area. I've done all I can for your ribs and shoulder, so the important thing is for you to breath deeply, even if it hurts. If you have enough oxygen, you won't get an infection, and the bruising will go away in a few days." She reached for her cloak.
"Okay," Jet replied. He was speaking slowly, but still more clearly than anything he'd said before. He pushed himself up a fraction, gingerly, on the elbow of his good arm. "Thanks, Katara."
She had been tugging her cloak back on quickly, like she was concerned that the rest of her group had started worrying about her, but she paused at that. It was quiet enough, both inside the room and outside in the city, that they could hear her swallow.
". . . Thank you," she replied, "for not fighting Aang."
Jet's faint smile at that was at best personal and at worst involuntary; Longshot looked away from him and over at Smellerbee. She was tucking the pain medicine and the old bandages into the cupboard.
"I have to go," Katara said a moment later, fidgeting with her hood but not quite pulling it on. "Remember, breathe deep."
"Good luck," Jet told her.
Katara nodded, flipped the hood over her head, and left. Longshot checked over her shoulder that there was no one in the street below before closing the door behind her.
Smellerbee had taken the chair, ready to pick up her shift even though she'd only gotten about an hour of sleep. She shook her head when Longshot pointed that out, saying, "You haven't gotten any yet."
He was tired, he couldn't deny it. So was she.
"Both of you, get some rest," Jet interrupted, still a little slowly.
"It's a big bison," he said. "They'll get out, but they won't be unnoticed. This is probably the--" he stopped and coughed, making a pained noise as he did.
When he got his air back, Jet lay back on the mattress again, gritting his teeth slightly. ". . . The only night we can all sleep," he finished.
". . . I'm sorry," Smellerbee said quietly. Longshot nodded, knowing that Jet would know he'd done it even if he didn't see it.
Jet shook his head twice. "No," he replied. "I did it wrong. I. . . ."
He didn't finish the statement, so after a moment Longshot looked over at Smellerbee. She hesitated, and he was pretty sure she would try to stay awake for a while anyway, but finally she slid out of the chair and lay down on the ground, sword next to her.
He moved his bow and quiver into arms' reach, and then blew out the candle and lay down as well.
He didn't close his eyes until he heard Smellerbee shift slightly, with the cloth on stone sound that meant she was curling up closer to her sword.
Later, after it had been dark for a while, they heard Jet take a deep breath, and then immediately hiss and swear under his breath. The mattress rustled as he dug his fingers into it; and then a few moments later, he took a deep breath again.
And that brought things closer to normal.