This is Chapter I of my AtLA fic (Trying Circumstances) and my first FanFic. It will contain Taang, and some Zutara. This first Chapter is mostly to set the stage, so please excuse it's slowness. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I own nothing but my words.

Chapter I (inflection)

Aang had gone away from camp to meditate. His spirit was in turmoil, and he knew that in order to continue his Avatar studies properly, he would have to calm it. There were many reasons for his stress, but what floated around his mind were not issues concerning the war's progress. He was thinking of his companions.

They were all so young. He didn't doubt that everyone was capable in their own way, but he often wondered if they were meant to be together as a group.

Zuko and Sokka came first to his mind. They were the oldest in the group, and but both lacked serious leadership skills and fought too often to agree or unite on anything. Sokka would still wait until Zuko had picked the spot for his bedroll before unrolling his own, on the opposite side of camp.

Next was Katara. Aang felt a peaceful smile rise to his face. He loved her, and thought her to be his closest friend. Lately he felt distanced from her, however, as she was spending most of her time with either Zuko or Sokka, attempting to make peace. Aang trusted Zuko, but still didn't like how much time he spent alone with Katara. He knew it was a limit to his spiritual concentration, but he wished more than anything that he could be the one spending hours a day talking to Katara.

Then there was himself and Toph. She had changed the least since the Day of Black Sun, and Aang found himself comforted by her reliability and steadfastness. Her stubborn nature did not change or shift easily.

Just like the stone and metal she bends.

Toph had been the first person to trust Zuko. She had never known him as the rest of them had, and was able to judge him without prejudice. He had come and offered to teach Aang firebending at the Western Air Temple. After declaring his intention to join them, Sokka's boomerang had buried itself into the newly formed block of ice that was pinning Zuko's arms to his sides. He fell hard against the ground, but he still made no move to defend himself. The water tribe siblings were running towards him, bent on his destruction, when Toph stomped one of her feet on the ground, dropping them both into deep pits.

"Stop it, he's not our enemy. He's telling the truth! Get a hold of yourselves and think. Aang needs a firebending teacher, and here one comes and offers his apologies and services. So you attack him. Get a grip."

Aang remembered how conflicted he had felt when she said that. Nobody was moving, and Toph seemed embarrassed to have made such a speech. Finally, Aang walked over to release Zuko from his icy bonds.

"I once said that had things been different, we might have been friends. Now let us see if it's true."

Zuko had bowed low to Aang and thanked him. Katara calmed down enough by nightfall that Toph let her out of the pit. Sokka refused to stop threatening Zuko and had to be left in the hole overnight.

Ever since he had first joined them, Zuko never ceased to try to impress upon everybody his undying loyalty towards the group. He helped around camp, cooked all the meals, gathered all the firewood, and never stopped apologizing and swearing his undying loyalty. Aang told him to stop with all the superfluous nonsense two days ago, and just make sure he did his share of the camp work. He had playfully tossed a pebble at Toph as he said it. She laughed and launched him into the air.

Aang smiled at the memory. Zuko was behaving much better than Toph had when she first joined. He still apologized for some past deed or another every day though. "Please, please forgive me." Aang opened his eyes. That was Zuko's voice. It sounded close.

He saw a light shining in a clearing just beyond some thick bushes in front of him. He airbended himself lightly and silently to his feet and looked over curiously.

It was Katara and Zuko.

A/N: Well there it is in all its glory! I hope that you enjoyed reading it. Please, please review. I need feedback. It may be starting off a little slow, but the action will start up soon.

Review or the foamy mouth guy will come after you!!!