This story here will be three chapters long. The first chapter is the longest, the other two are a little shorter. I may continue it after the initial three chapters depending on the response I get.

Just to warn you, there are two original characters in this. One of them got 7 points on the Mary Sue test, the other got 5. So I wouldn't be too worried about them if I were you.

Another general note, this takes place between The Desert and The Serpent's Pass. It was also written before the airing of The Serpent's Pass, so if anything seems off about the actual storyline that's why.

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar


CHAPTER 1

"We've been walking for hours," Toph burst out.

"Yeah, we've been walking all night," Aang agreed. "We should find a place to camp."

Sokka looked up through the trees. The sky was turning from dark blue to a dusky shade of grey. "Yeah I guess," he sighed. He'd wanted to cover more ground, but he was getting tired. "We should be able to find a clearing around here. We can take a day to rest."

Katara didn't say anything. They'd been walking through this forest all night and at least half the previous day. They had taken a short rest after getting out of the desert, but after that they had to walk for days at a time. Aang was determined to get to Ba Sing Sei as soon as possible, and Sokka shared in his conviction. Toph complained every so often, but she wanted to find Appa as much as Aang did. She still felt sort of responsible for him being stolen, no matter how many times Katara reminded her it wasn't her fault.

Katara hadn't done much talking since they'd escaped the desert. Their time in the wasteland had taken a toll on her. She had spoken barely a word to Aang since she'd calmed him out of the Avatar State. Nobody knew what to do to cheer her up. Seeing all of them fall apart and turn on each other in that desert seemed to have affected her much more than anyone could have predicted.

Aang wasn't helping matters much. He was so ashamed of the way he had acted, the way he had shouted at her, he could hardly even look at her. Sokka had a hunch that if Aang would just talk to her and apologize, Katara would be back to her old self. But there wasn't anything he could do.

"Katara? Are you paying attention?"

Katara looked over at her brother. "Hm?"

Sokka sighed impatiently. "We're looking for a clearing so we can rest for a day. Are you going to stand there or are you going to help?"

Katara was about to respond, when Aang's voice rang out through the forest.

"Guys, I found a clearing!" he shouted.

Sokka and Katara followed his voice through the trees. Toph was already standing in the clearing. Aang was looking around for a tree of moon peaches he'd seen earlier. Sokka and Katara stopped beside Toph, staring into the clearing. It was a wide clearing, and one end opened up to a cliff's edge, offering a wonderful view of the hilly, forested landscape from the top of the bluffs they were traveling through.

Aang came up beside them, arms full of peaches. "Hey... why are we all standing here?" he asked.

"Uh, Aang? This clearing is... occupied," Sokka said awkwardly, pointing. Aang followed Sokka's line of sight into the clearing. His eyes widened and he blushed.

Lying in the clearing were a boy and a girl, fast asleep. They both looked like they were around Sokka's age, maybe the boy was a little older. But they weren't sleeping side by side. The boy's arms were wrapped around the girl's waist, holding her against him with her back to his chest. They both looked quite comfortable.

"...Oops..." Aang muttered, embarrassed. They all stood completely still, staring blankly at the snoozing couple. They were both wearing simple clothing, all in green. The boy had red war paint around his eyes, and his brown hair fell around his face like Sokka's did when his hair was down. The girl's brown hair was tied back in a number of braids held together beneath a dark blue bandana. Her skin was dark like Katara's.

"Who do you suppose they are?" Aang said quietly.

"They're still sleeping? This late in the morning?" Toph muttered, scratching her head.

Katara smiled. "They look so peaceful..."

Toph frowned. "Let's wake them up," she said grumpily.

"But they're so cute, sleeping together like that," Katara replied. Aang looked at her. She was smiling for the first time in days, and she hadn't spoken so much in just as long.

"I agree," he said quickly. "We should let them sleep."

Sokka wasn't listening. He was looking around the clearing. "Something's wrong here..." he muttered to himself. He looked at the boy's war paint. He'd seen it somewhere before. Then he saw their bags leaning against a tree. There was a bow and a quiver of arrows bearing the symbol of the Yu Yan archers.

Sokka gasped. "He's from the Fire Nation!" he shouted. "We've gotta wake them up!"

Toph grinned and raised her foot from the ground, preparing to stomp it back into the dirt and give the couple a rather rude awakening. "No problem!" she said, grinning.

"Wait!" Aang and Katara hissed in unison.

Katara pointed at them. "They're waking up!"

Everyone looked over. Sure enough, the two of them were stirring. The girl opened her eyes first and smiled a little.

"Mmm... morning Toru," she murmured tiredly.

The boy yawned. "Morning Kita," he replied. They both froze, eyes wide. In a few seconds they were both on their feet, pointing angrily at each other and shouting.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!"

"WHAT DO I THINK I'M DOING? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!"

"WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"

"ME?! WHAT ABOUT YOU?!"

"WHAT ABOUT ME?!"

"YOU PERV, DON'T EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!"

"GLADLY! YOU SMELL LIKE CABBAGE!"

Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph stared as this exchange continued.

"Wow, they fight more than you and Katara," Toph said to Sokka.

"No... I don't think this is the same kind of fight," Sokka said thoughtfully.

"Wow, how very perceptive of you, Sokka," Katara said with a grin. "But you're right. I think this is what they call a lover's quarrel."

"A lover's quarrel? What's that?" Aang asked, confused.

"It's when two people show that they care about each other by arguing all the time," Toph said sourly, sticking her tongue out in distaste.

"Well... I guess she's sort of got it right," Katara said bemusedly.

"EXCUSE ME!" Toph suddenly shouted.

"WHAT?!" the couple shouted back.

"I don't like being ignored!" Toph growled, lifting her foot and slamming it to the ground. The earth buckled and a landslide was sent hurtling toward the arguing pair. They both jumped out of the way, and the rocks smashed a tree in half. When the dust settled, the two of them looked more than a little surprised. They glanced at each other.

"Did you have to do that?" Katara asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Toph grinned, satisfied. "Yes. Yes I did."

"She's an earthbender..." the boy muttered thoughtfully.

"She's blind..." the girl continued.

They both gasped as realization hit. "Vibrations!" they exclaimed in unison. They both whirled toward each other, fingers to their lips, hissing "Shhhh!"

"Let's get 'em!" Sokka shouted.

Katara looked over and raised an eyebrow. "Hm? Where'd they go?" she asked. Everyone looked over to where the couple had been standing seconds before. A few leaves floated toward the ground. They'd vanished.

Aang saw something darting among the tree branches to his right. "They're in the trees!" he shouted.

"And that guy's got his bow," Sokka said darkly. The four of them backed toward each other, looking around warily.

Suddenly, the girl dropped to the ground a short distance back in the trees. Sokka made to charge her down, but three arrows whizzed through the air and sank into the ground just inches in front of him. He stopped dead in his tracks.

"What's she doing?" Aang asked, squinting curiously at the girl.

"It looks like she's waterbending," Katara muttered, confused.

"And it feels like she's waterbending," Toph added.

"But... there's no water here," Aang replied.

"Maybe not above ground," the girl said with a grin.

"Uh oh," Toph muttered.

The ground beneath their feet trembled and cracked, sending a column of water blasting up through the ground and throwing all four of them up into the air. They all landed roughly on the grass. Before they could gain their feet, they were all frozen to the ground.

"Yeah, she's definitely a waterbender," Sokka muttered crossly.

"Maybe, but so am I," Katara replied. She was about to free them from the ice when the boy dropped to the ground, his bow in his hands and three arrows tight on the string.

"Don't move," he said coolly.

The girl moved up beside him. "Who are you guys and why'd you attack us?" she asked quickly, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I'd like to point out that we didn't attack you. She did," Sokka said, glaring at Toph.

"Shut it, Snoozles, it was your idea," she growled back.

"I'm Aang," Aang said quickly. "And we really don't want any trouble."

"I'm Katara, and the loud ones over there are Sokka and Toph," Katara added. "We're sorry we barged in on you. We were just looking for a place to rest."

"Hey, wait," the boy said, looking at Aang. "Airbender tattoos. You're the Avatar!"

The girl looked at Aang quickly. "Oh no!" she gasped. She grabbed the boy's arm. "Put the bow down!" The boy immediately did as she said.

"I'm so sorry!" she continued, quickly turning the ice back into water. She grabbed Katara's hand and pulled her to her feet while the boy helped Aang up from the ground. This sudden attitude change caught them all off guard. Even Sokka and Toph were silent while they were helped to their feet.

"If I'd known you were the Avatar this wouldn't have happened," the girl continued. "Seriously. You can just... never be too careful, you know?"

"Sorry, but... who are you guys exactly?" Katara asked, bending the water out of her clothes and doing the same for Toph. Aang tried, but it didn't quite work as well as it had for Katara, so he and Sokka remained rather damp.

"Oh, right, I'm Kita," the girl said with a smile.

"I'm Otoru," the boy said, sliding the arrows back into his quiver. "But... uh, she calls me Toru, so I guess my friends call me Toru."

Kita smiled bemusedly. Katara found herself smiling as well.

"It's nice to meet you," she said.

"Um... you said you were looking for a place to rest?" Kita continued. They all just nodded. "Well you can have this clearing if you want, we're on our way to Ba Sing Sei."

"Really? So are we," Aang replied. "You guys want to join us for some breakfast?"

"Hold it!" Sokka shouted. Everyone looked at him. He gestured wildly at Toru. "Am I the only one who noticed that he's from the Fire Nation?"

Toru gave an embarrassed chuckle and looked at his feet. "Yeah, can't deny that," he said awkwardly.

"And you're from the Water Tribe," Sokka continued, glancing at Kita. "What are you doing with this guy?"

"Well, technically I wasn't born in either of the Water Tribes," Kita said frankly. She smiled a little. "This is... kind of a long story. Maybe we should get situated first."

A short while later, they were all seated around a roaring campfire finishing off their breakfast. Kita started on her story.

"My dad was a warrior in the Northern Water Tribe. He and some other warriors were sent to the Earth Kingdom to help out the army. Somewhere along the way, my dad met my mom here in a village near the northern ocean. He left the warriors to settle down, and I was born. I inherited dad's waterbending, since mom wasn't a bender. So he started to teach me, but he never finished. He was called back to service shortly after the six hundred day siege of Ba-Sing-Sei ended. So I had to finish training myself. I watched the local earthbenders and figured out how to bend groundwater. There are underwater springs and rivers all over the Earth Kingdom. About a year ago, I ran across Toru, and we've been traveling together ever since."

"So you've never been to the north pole?" Katara asked.

"Nope," Kita replied.

"Wow, your dad must have done a great job of teaching you for you to get this good by training yourself," Aang said.

"Yeah, he was a great teacher," Kita said with a smile. "We ran into him about a month ago. A lot of troops are heading to Omashu. Apparently something big is going down there soon."

"So, what's your story?" Sokka asked Toru, staring suspiciously at him.

Toru smiled ruefully. "I'm part of the resistance," he said.

"There's a resistance in the Fire Nation?" Aang said, surprised.

"Yeah, of course there is," Toru said. "You didn't think we were all like Ozai, did you?"

"I sure hoped you weren't," Aang replied with a nervous laugh.

"We're an underground rebellion known as Sozen's Bane," Toru continued. "My parents are both in it, and so am I. We're infiltrating all levels of Ozai's army to get information for our first strike. That's why I'm a Yu Yan archer. Well, that's why I was a Yu Yan archer."

"What do you mean?" Toph asked, just as suspicious as Sokka was.

"Well, I trained as a Yu Yan archer, and we were sent to the Earth Kingdom to guard a base. But there were rumors that Zhao would be appointed admiral soon and take control of us. There was a surprise inspection because Zhao was going to use the archers to capture you, Aang," he said.

"Oh yeah, that was when Sokka and Katara were sick," Aang said thoughtfully. "Those guys were really strong."

"We're trained to be that way," Toru said, smiling. "But during the inspection, I was found out. So I had to make a run for it. I was injured in my escape attempt, but once I got far enough, they stopped chasing me. It was a few months before Zhao actually became admiral and they started chasing you instead. Sorry about that."

"It's no big deal," Aang replied.

"Well, I made it to Kita's village, and my injury was seriously taking its toll. I ran into Kita in the street, and she reacted like Toph and tried to kill me."

"I did not try to kill you," Kita cut in. "You totally attacked me first."

"Anyway, we were fighting, but then she noticed I was injured. So she did what waterbenders do and-"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"-and healed me."

"You have healing powers?" Katara asked.

"Kind of... I'm really not very good at it," Kita admitted.

"I can vouch," Toru added. Kita punched his shoulder and he started laughing.

"So... why are you guys going to Ba Sing Sei?" Sokka asked.

"I'm trying to find the headquarters of Sozen's Bane here in the Earth Kingdom," Toru said. "We figure the best place to look is Ba Sing Sei."

"But why are you with him?" Toph continued, turning to Kita.

"I figured people would believe him and be less likely to arrest him if a waterbender was with him," she said, nudging his shoulder playfully.

"Come on, you know you just love spending time with me," Toru replied, wiggling his eyebrows and wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

Kita snorted with laughter and elbowed him in the ribs. "Nice try."

"Wow, they're... friendly," Sokka said, sounding irritated.

"Are you kidding? They're in love," Katara sighed wistfully, smiling.

"Don't say that so loud!" Toph hissed. "They'll start yelling again."

After a few more seconds, Kita managed to hold Toru off long enough to laugh, "So why are you guys headed to Ba Sing Sei?"

The smile faded from Katara's face. Toph turned her eyes to the ground. Aang sighed. "Something was taken from us, and we're going to get it back," he said quietly. Toru stopped trying to tickle Kita and they both settled down.

"Is there any way we can help?" Toru asked worriedly.

"Not at the moment," Sokka said. They were all quiet for a moment, staring into the campfire.

"You guys have been through a lot, haven't you?" Kita said gently.

Katara looked at Aang for a moment. He noticed, but he refused to look at her. She nodded. "Yeah, we have," she replied.

"Well, we want to help," Toru said. Everyone looked at him. "Everyone is waiting for the Avatar to save the world, but you guys shouldn't have to do it on your own."

Kita nodded. "We'll go to Ba Sing Sei with you, lighten the load a little."

"If you don't mind, that is," Toru added.

Aang smiled. "Thanks, I really appreciate it," he said. "But... we've only known you guys for an hour. Are you sure you want to put yourselves in danger? I mean... we kind of attract trouble."

"And evil teenaged royalty bent on our destruction," Sokka added frankly.

Kita and Toru both smiled. "You guys need help, and we can give you help. It's a pretty simple concept," Toru said with a shrug.

"People don't really think that way anymore," Toph pointed out.

"No... but they should," Kita said calmly.

"Yeah, you're right," Aang said, smiling. "You're welcome to come with us."

"Okay, great, but right now I need sleep," Sokka said.

"Oh right, you guys need rest," Kita said, getting to her feet. "Go ahead, we'll make sure you aren't disturbed."

"I'm gonna go check around the woods a little, see if there's a stream around or something," Toru said. "Kita, could you stay here to keep watch?"

Kita smiled. "Don't worry, I've got it covered," she said. Toru smiled back and grabbed his bow and quiver. Katara watched them curiously. Toru and Kita shared a glance before he disappeared into the trees. Kita turned back to the fire with a smile on her face, blushing a little. Katara grinned as she spread out her bedroll.

Katara turned away from the fire to put away her water satchel and saw Aang standing a short distance away, looking around.

"Aang? What's wrong?" she asked, concern evident in her voice. She stood up and moved next to him, dropping her water satchel with their other bags.

"I um... well, I don't have a place to sleep," he said, sounding embarrassed.

"Oh, I'm sorry Aang, I hadn't even thought about that," she said worriedly. Aang always slept on Appa's tail, but with Appa gone...

"It's fine, really, I can just sleep on the ground," he said quickly.

"No, Aang, you don't have to do that," she cut in, laying a hand on his shoulder. "You can sleep with m..." she trailed off in mid-thought. They both blushed. "Uh..." She turned quickly and looked at Kita. She flushed in embarrassment when she realized Kita had been watching her, grinning. Exactly the way Katara had been watching her just moments before.

"Kita, could Aang borrow Toru's bedroll?" Katara said quickly, willing the color to recede from her cheeks.

Kita gave her a knowing smile. "Sure thing," she said simply, tossing the bedroll to the blushing airbender.

"Um, thanks," Aang muttered. He looked at Katara. "Uh... sleep well." He moved over near Sokka and laid out his bedroll, being careful not to look at her. Katara tilted her head a little, watching him. She sighed. When she turned and sat back on her bedroll, her eyes widened when she realized Kita was still watching her. Kita gave her another knowing grin.

"Thanks for helping him out," Katara muttered. "He's been having a rough few days..."

"You really care about him," Kita said in response. It wasn't a question.

"He's my best friend, of course I care about him," Katara said with a light laugh.

Kita just smiled. "Yeah, Toru's my best friend too," she said, looking at her pointedly.

Katara's eyes widened a little. "I uh... need to get some sleep..."

"Sorry, I won't keep you awake," Kita said. "Sleep well."

Katara stared at her. She'd known this girl for an hour and a half, maybe even less. But it was like Kita knew her back to front. She lied down on her bedroll and closed her eyes. "Sleep well..." she muttered.