Here is Chapter 5. Please review because I really want to know what you the readers really think about this story, since after all it is you who are reading it. Also as a reminder this is set a little after boiling rock episodes. Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar the Last Air Bender.
Zuko knew he shouldn't have stayed with Katara for so long, but found he wanted to make sure the girl didn't have any more dreams that left her screaming in terror. He watched as she slowly drifted off to sleep. She was exhausted he could see the strain the last few days had left on her. She wasn't totally back on full yet; she needed to take her time.
Zuko knew that his back was going to hurt in the morning but for once in his life he really didn't care. He shifted slightly against the headboard before tightening his hold on the sleeping girl. He was exhausted and had to get up in four or five hours for Aang's morning meditation. He gently rested his head against her chocolate tresses; his body was betraying him and begging for sleep. It would be so easy, he was already comfortable with Katara leaning into him, all he had to do was let go of his self-control. His eyes slowly closed and his breathing evened out.
No…I can't fall asleep here, not in Katara's room…I'll just leave, and she'll be fine. Besides if she has another nightmare I'll hear her. My room isn't that far away, he persuaded himself.
Gently he untangled Katara's arms from around his waist. Slowly, praying that he wouldn't wake the sleeping girl; he shifted her off of him and onto the bed. The brunette stirred in her sleep, Zuko froze. He waited until she settled again and continued on with his task. He had just put her head gently on the pillow when she stirred again.
"Mhmm Zuko?" she mumbled, still half asleep.
"Sh…" He said trying to quiet the girl.
"Don't leave me…" she reached out for his hand, fingers stretching to latch onto him again.
"Go back to sleep, Katara," Zuko whispered moving out of her reach. Her piercing blue eyes found his in the darkness and she shook her head against the pillow which caused some of her thick, mahogany hair to fall into her eyes.
"I'll be back in the morning." Hesitantly, he brushed the hair away from her deep ice, blue eyes that had fluttered shut as he spoke. His fingers rested on her jaw, not the least bit eager to leave her satiny mocha skin. He stood and turned to leave. He didn't dare look at the sleeping waterbender behind him for he knew he might never leave then. Sighing he turned and walked out closing the door softly behind him.
The sun was rising slowly, its rays shone down on the courtyard warming the stone floor beneath. Zuko could feel the sun slowly warming his back as it rose. He was facing Aang who looked to be in deep meditation.
Zuko just couldn't concentrate on meditating though. Ever since waking up to Aang's chirping in his ear about practice and remembering what happened last night his brain just wouldn't shut up. He wondered what Katara was doing now. He promised to see her in the morning, yet he hadn't. Her door was still closed when he had passed by and he decided to let her sleep for a while longer. By now though, she was probably awake. He wondered if she was going to be mad that he wasn't there or if she even remembered it.
Zuko just couldn't get his mind off of Katara, no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on meditating. Focus, Zuko. Stop worrying about her, she's not your responsibility. Think of something else. Remember your training. The more he tried to stop thinking about Katara the more frustrated he got. Trying to calm himself he thought of the mountains, great pillars of washed out stone, their pale sun-lit peaks glistening in the morning rays.
Zuko exhaled with a sigh. So close… "What Aang?"
"Well…I was wondering how Katara's doing?"
"How would I know?" Zuko said under his breath, his irritations rising to the surface.
"I just thought that since you have been spending so much time with her you would know," Aang said quietly.
"Aang," Zuko was getting frustrated why did people think that he would know how Katara was. Sure he spent a lot of time with her, but that didn't mean he was her personal secretary, "We don't have time for talking. You have a lot to learn still. Now let's get started."
"But…." Aang started but before he had a chance to finish Zuko shot a fireball at him.
"Let's see what you've got," Zuko said as he slipped into a fighting stance with Aang following suit.
Yes, this is just what I needed, thought Zuko. I just needed to get all this frustration out and sparring with Aang is apparently the perfect solution.
Nothing seemed to become easier, Katara thought as she walked down the wide, open corridor that lead to the fountain. There were paintings that any artist with a soul might have wept for. Air bison's, monks, beautiful sunsets; she passed by them all without even a glance.
Rather than simplifying with each day, life became more complicated. Hadn't Zuko told her life was never simple? It wasn't any use wishing he'd been wrong.
Nearly, a week had past and she still felt as if she had accomplished nothing. Katara turned and walked down the stone stairs to the broken fountain. It must have been beautiful before it was destroyed. She wished she could have seen it in its former glory. This was the perfect spot to practice water bending. The gardens were nice too but she rather sit and think there than practice. It was the peace and quiet that she found she needed. Stopping at the fountain Katara looked down at her reflection before turning to sit on a bench that was really just a piece of rubble that landed next to the railing of the balcony.
Putting her hands on the railing, Katara looked down. It amazed her how the Air nomads had built and entire temple upside down under a cliff. Never before would she have thought it to be possible. Looking to right she stared up at the upside down towers. She watched a couple sparrowkeets play around the tile roof before fluttering down into the cavern below. She lost sight of them as they entered the misty cavern. Sighing she turned her face to the sun letting it warm her. Unconsciously she rubbed the stone of her mother's necklace.
Her dream or nightmare from the night before confused her. Not the dream its self. She knew that she loved her mother very much. That their family had been very close and had loved each other. She knew her mother sacrificed herself to keep her young daughter safe. She knew all this yet there was something missing. Also it confused her to why Zuko had stayed with her. Why would he care if she had a bad dream? Why when he tried to leave her she felt panicked and scared? Why….?
If she understood herself better, her life better, would she know how to deal with what was happening? Or should she be dealing with what wasn't happening? No, life wasn't simple.
So many questions floated through her head that she was afraid she would never be able to think straight again. Responsibility. She closed her eyes a moment as she forced the word into her head. She had to think of her responsibilities. She had to remember things faster. She had to learn water bending faster. She had so many things to do. And apparently so little time. Only a couple more days and they would be moving to a safer location and all hope of visiting the place where she was taken would be gone. She had to prove to Zuko that she was better that she was strong enough to go visit it.
When she turned, the figure across the room had her jolting back toward the railing.
"Katara." Katara dropped the hand she'd pressed instinctively to her heart.
"You frightened me."
"I didn't want to disturb you. You looked…" Unhappy, he wanted to say. Lost. He hadn't seen her look like that since they lost their mother. "Thoughtful."
"I was just enjoying the view." The smile she gave him was the same polite one she gave to everyone. Everyone but Zuko. But unlike Sokka, she didn't notice. "The view is amazing. Almost like a scene from a beautiful painting. I was on my way to make breakfast. Sorry it's a little late but I slept in and—"
"Katara it's alright. Suki said she would make it today. She knows you didn't get a lot of sleep."
"That's nice of her. But I really should be on my way to help her. It's not fair that she has to do all the work while I'm just lazing around." Katara stood up making her way out of the room. Cautiously Sokka grabbed Katara's arm lightly, halting her progress. "Do you want to talk about last night?"
She was speechless. How had he known that was bothering her? "There's nothing to talk about Sokka. I'm fine." Looking him in the eyes she repeated, "I'm fine." Yes, that's it she's fine, everything was fine.
"You sure Sis?" He knew she needed to talk about it. Even when she was younger and she had a nightmare she would want to talk about it. He spent many nights up with her after their mother's death. And many more after their father left for the war.
"Yes, I would like it if we could talk. It was so bad. I…" She started. She knew she needed to talk about it and who better than her brother. She wanted so badly to be strong but seeing her brother looking so worried about her, she broke.
"It's alright Katara. Come on let's talk about it." He said leading her back to the bench she had just left. Sokka sat down beside her slowly, resting his back against the railing. "So… I…uh…brought this for you. Suki finished mending it and wanted me to give it to you." He finished holding out two water skins to her.
"Are these mine? That was very nice for her," she said taking the water skins. Gently she ran her finger over them, "Thank you, but how did you know that I was out here?" She turned to look at him. Of all the questions to ask this one surprised him.
"This is where you always used to come in the mornings."
"Katara about last night…"
"It was bad. I remembered. I remembered Mom. I loved her so much. She was my role model." She said her voice shaking slightly.
"Why don't you start at the beginning," said Sokka gently as he watched his sister try to control her tears. He knew if he tried to comfort her now she might be overwhelmed. So he gave what little comfort he knew how. He would listen to her dream. He would be there for her.
"At first I was in an igloo. I guess it was my room. There was a waltz playing and…and Mom came in to check on me. Then Dad did too. They loved each other so much. You could just see it in the way they looked and acted around each other. And then suddenly I wasn't there anymore I was around a campfire and the whole family sat telling tales. Sokka, we loved each other so much. We were so close. Then I was outside and it started to snow but the snow was black. There was something wrong and…"
"Black snow, it's the sign of a raid." Sokka interrupted.
"Yeah. I was scared and I went to find her. Sokka it was horrible, the man. He was so…evil, heartless. His eyes, oh his eyes. They are going to haunt me. They were so cold and uncaring," she shivered slightly, "He wanted to know where the last waterbender was and Mom…Mom said it was her. She was protecting me. She died to protect me. I had to stand there. I had to stand off to the side and watch as she...as he. By the time Dad got there it was too late. She was gone and there was nothing…nothing I could do at all besides watch." Sokka watched as tears started to run down her cheeks silently.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into a tight embrace. He stroked her hair in an attempt to calm her. "Shh, it's alright. Everything is going to be alright."
"Sokka how could she. Why…it's all my fault."
"No, it's not," he said whispering to her. "She loved you, loved us. She was doing what she saw was right."
"It's not fair. I need her so much. And..." She had calmed down a little but tears still leaked from her ocean blue eyes.
"It's alright. We moved on. We never forgot her though. We became strong just like Mom wanted."
Silence engulfed the two as Sokka continued to comfort his sister. Words were not needed at the moment. After a few moments past Sokka released his sister. She wiped at her eyes until there were no tears left.
"I want so much to remember everything but…I really want to remember our family. Our life before all of this," she said gesturing to their surroundings.
"I don't know what to tell you." He said as he watched his sister as her brow furrowed in concentration.
"Ok well I guess we could start with where is Dad? I mean why isn't he with us," she asked thoughtfully.
Sokka studied his sister before speaking. He wanted to help her but he wanted her to find these things out on her own. "Dad left two years ago with the rest of the men from our tribe to go help fight the war and..."
"Wait how old was I," asked Katara as she grabbed Sokka's arm urgently. Something was coming back. Something was nagging at her brain.
"You were 'bout 12," he said rubbing the back of his neck with the hand that Katara didn't have a hold of.
"And I was so mad…I was so mad at him. He shouldn't have left us. We needed him but he wouldn't listen and left anyway."
"Katara? What do you remember?" asked Sokka as he watched his sister frown as she concentrated on the memory.
"I only remember that for weeks following that I was so mad at him because he left us. He was supposed to be there and he wasn't. We needed him and…," Katara paused as she tried to call the memory back to her, "Sometimes I thought it was my fault he left. I would see him looking at me sometimes…and, and I knew he saw Mom instead of me. Do I look like her?"
"I guess, I can't remember that well anymore. She smelled like…"
"Yeah she did." Katara was starting to remember even if it was just little details. This had to be a good sign Sokka thought as he waited for his sister to continue.
Katara turned to look at her brother with a smile that brightened her whole face. It was no longer the polite one just had given him earlier but it was the first true smile she had given anyone since she came back.
"I remember her. Sokka I remember!"
"But not everything. Just flashes really," she explained soberly.
"Well at least it's a start right?" He said giving his sister a goofy smile.
"Yeah I guess. So where is Dad right now?"
"He was here at the temple for a while," said Sokka as he turned to look at sun that had just risen in the sky. "He left the morning when you were captured so he could go gather more soldiers for the day of the comet."
"Yes, that's right I left because I was so mad at him. I can't remember anything after that though." She said frowning.
"Give it time," said Sokka reassuringly.
They went back and forth like this for hours. Just talking about their home, family, and friends. It was almost like old times except Katara didn't have her memory. Even though she didn't seem to remember everything she was able to remember a few things like their grandmother, how they found Aang, games they played when they were younger, how Sokka wanted to be the leader and that his instincts were always 'right', and most importantly their dad. It gave both water tribe siblings hope that Katara would remember everything very soon.
Sighing Katara leaned her back against the railing. She had just been in a heated debate with Sokka about why he didn't trust Aang at first.
"You know it's not every day you find someone trapped in an ice burg and how would we have known if he was telling the truth and he sneezed and flew ten feet in the air and your telling me that wasn't a reason to suspect…."
"Alright I guess your instincts are just better than mine," Katara said with a giggle. True she wasn't entirely comfortable around her brother like she wanted to but it was a start.
"Yes I am…hey!" The stricken expression on Sokka's face just made Katara laugh harder.
"Oh I'm just joking. Zuko told me that I used to be a really good waterbender well …I had to have a master to teach me but I can't remember him."
"Yeah you had a master. When we went to the North Pole he taught you." Whenever anything about the North Pole came up Sokka didn't feel like talking. True, he loved Suki and was happy to have her back with him but he still missed Yue. He felt like he failed her and here he was failing his own sister.
"Yeah that's right! He was old….he was an old stubborn man. And he refused to teach me because I was a girl! He told me I had to go learn the art of healing instead. And….and I challenged him to a fight! I don't know who won though. Eventually I got him to teach me. I can't remember his name though," said Katara as she tried to bring his name to her.
"Yeah he beat you but you proved yourself and he took you as his student."
"Wait, I know how to heal?" asked Katara as what she just said hit her.
"Yeah which might I say thanks for all the medical care over the years," he said sarcastically.
"Get over it. Wait I remember you went fishing one day and got the fish hook stuck in your thumb. You were whining about it all day. Grangran told you to go sit outside the igloo and she would look at it after she finished the laundry but you couldn't wait and decided to get it out yourself by using a fish hook. And you got that one stuck in it too. You had two fish hooks in your thumb and Grangran just shook her head at you," Katara said through her laughter. "Her expression was so funny."
"Oh well…hmph," said Sokka as he crossed his arms and stuck his tongue out at his sister
"I'm just teasing," she said as she bumped her brother with her shoulder making him smile.
"I …. Suki?" asked Sokka as he watched his girlfriend walk over to them carrying what looked like breakfast.
"Suki…Oh," replied Katara as she turned to see what held her brother's attention.
"Hi guys, you missed breakfast. Which for you Sokka is unusual so I brought you some," Suki said with a smile as she handed her brother a bowl of what looked to be fruit.
"Here Katara," said the Kyoshi warrior as she threw her an apple, "I wasn't sure what you wanted but you used to eat these for breakfast so I figured that yeah…." She said trailing off as Katara nodded her head.
"Uh...Thanks Suki," said Katara as she took a bite out of her apple, "Sorry I didn't help make breakfast this morning. Thanks, but it was my turn I would have done it you know."
"I know, but I figured you and Sokka needed to talk. I don't mind really, it's like I'm back with my warriors. I always had to do the cooking," she said as she gave Katara a wink, "But yeah. I'll let you guys get back to whatever you were talking about." Suki then walked over to her boyfriend and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before turning to leave.
"Hey Suki, I'll make lunch since I didn't help with breakfast," Katara called out after her.
"Ok, but you won't mind if I help you, would you?"
"No, I'd like it actually."
"Great," she said as she started to leave again but stopped and turned around to face the two siblings again, "Hey Sokka I'll see you before dinner for a spar, ok?"
"Yeah I wouldn't miss it," Sokka said with a goofy grin.
Suki just waved before turning around and chuckling to herself. She was happy that Katara and Sokka were reconnecting.
Katara watched as Sokka looked lovingly after the warrior. He must really love her, thought Katara.
"Sokka?" she asked calling him out of his daze.
"Huh," he said before putting a spoonful of fruit in his mouth. He had learned long ago that he didn't complain when Suki was cooking. Even if it wasn't meat Sokka was happy that she had brought him something, he was starting to get hungry too.
"You really like her, don't you?"
"Yeah I do. She's just so amazing and a really good warrior too." Katara could hear the pride in his voice as he talked about his girlfriend.
"Have you ever liked someone before her or has it just always been her?" Katara asked as she took a bite out of the apple. Sokka's spoon stopped in mid air. Why did she have to go ask that! Sokka put his almost empty bowl down on the floor before turning back to Katara.
"Only once. Her name was Yue. She was from the north. But I wasn't able to protect her and she died. Actually she gave her life to the moon spirit. So now she's the moon." Katara watched as her brother gave a deep depressed sigh. She obviously hit a sore topic.
"It's alright. It's what she wanted to do."
"I sort of remember her I think. She had white hair, right? And was very kind to us when we went to visit but she was supposed to marry someone else and he was a jerk. She didn't like him it was an arranged marriage wasn't it."
"Yeah. Hanh he was a jerk. He didn't deserve her."
"Hmm you know what I think," Katara said as she glanced at Sokka while she chewed her apple thoughtfully. "I think that Yue would be happy if she could see you now."
"Why'd you say that?"
"'Cause," Katara said drawing the word out, "She wouldn't have wanted you to be all alone. I think she would have been glad to have found someone that could love you to their fullest."
"You really think so?" asked Sokka raising his eyebrows in surprise. Katara always knew the right thing to say.
"Yeah I really do. Besides I think she was guilty that she couldn't love you like you loved her. But that's just what I think." She shrugged her shoulders as she took a last bite of her apple before throwing it into the cavern below.
"Thank you Katara." said Sokka with a sad smile.
The two sat in silence for a while before Sokka started to get up. "Katara I really missed talking to you and this was great and all but I have to meet Teo soon to go over some new invention plans I have been working on. So I'll see you 'round I guess."
"Sokka," she called out to his back, "I'm sorry."
He turned looking at her she looked like she was about to cry again. He couldn't leave her now, Teo could wait. Before he could ask what was wrong, Katara had run and caught him up in a tight embrace. Sokka but his arms around her waist as she rested her head in the crook of his neck like she used too. "I'm sorry that I didn't remember you, us, our family, everything. I still don't. But I do remember some of it. I know this has been hard on you but still I'm sorry."
"Katara it's alright. No one is asking anything of you. I...We just want you to get better." He said hugging her closer to him.
"I know but…Hey can I come with you? I want to see what this invention," she asked as she pulled back a little so she could look into his face. Things were by no means back to normal between them but it was less awkward than it used to be and it was a start.
"Of course." He said releasing her and walking with her out the door and to his office.
"Katara! Katara, wait a minute."
Turning, Katara shielded her eyes from the sun and watched Aang step into the courtyard with a lemur fretting around his shoulders.
As he drew closer, she caught the earthy smell of animals and hay on him. Like the lemur that fretted around his head, he seemed to hold great stores of energy just under control.
"You're alone." He gave her a quick grin as he put on hand on the head of the lemur and slipped another behind his neck to rub it. "Easy Momo," he said offhandedly as the lemur tried to jump to Katara's shoulders. He had a feeling this would freak her out a bit.
Momo, she thought, flipping back in her mental file for the name Zuko had given her. Even animals couldn't be ignored. He was Aang's pet and has been with the group for a very long time. Aang controlled his lemur—barely. "It's the first afternoon I've seen you out."
"It's the first morning this week I haven't been busy." She smiled, not certain if she was guilty or pleased. She had just left Sokka and Teo to work out the finer details to his latest invention. Most of the things they were talking about went over her head but she was happy to be with her brother even though she still couldn't fully remember him. Like Zuko, he was easy to talk to. "What have you been doing?"
"I was going to go feed Appa."
Appa? Her mind worked at the quick double pace that was becoming familiar. She thought she knew the name but struggled for what the creature looked like, even while she smiled at her friend and nodded her head.
"He gets upset when I feed him late." They stood awkwardly a moment as they both wondered what should be said. "You don't have your fire nation shadow," Aang blurted out, then grinned a little sheepishly when Katara only lifted a brow. "The Duke's nickname for Zuko," he said shrugging off any embarrassment. He generally found it a waste of time. "He seems more relaxed now. I like this new Zuko actually. I think everyone else does, too. It would be horrible if he was still so frigidly polite and pompous. Anyway do you want to help me feed Appa?"
"Uh sure. I have nothing else to do at the moment." It was true; it was a little early to start lunch but still she didn't have enough time to get some practice in. She had discovered a new move yesterday evening and hadn't gotten a chance to try it out yet and she wanted enough time so she didn't have to rush through it.
"Great," exclaimed the young avatar as his face lit up, "the stables are this way." Aang let Momo fly from his shoulders to Katara's. She was a little weary as he started to run from shoulder to shoulder before settling down, his tail wrapping loosely around her neck. She liked Momo; he had a certain cheerfulness too him that seemed to make her forget about all the stress and responsibilities. She followed Aang as he led the way.
"So you said Zuko was different from how he is now?" she asked. This notion for some reason really intrigued her. She just couldn't picture Zuko being frigidly polite. Pompous, yes she could see that on some occasions.
"Well, I guess. He seems more open now." Aang said as he turned a corner and waited for Katara to catch up. "Not stuffy, anyway. He's a good teacher though, much more patient then Toph but not as understanding as you. I guess you could say he is somewhere in the middle of you two."
She felt both tolerance and amusement, and wondered if this was habitual. "That's good I guess. Have you been learning a lot?"
"Yeah today we actually got to spar for the first time. It was exciting but I think he was holding back a little. Oh well," Aang commented as he walked into a large open room. This was a room unlike any she had seen. There were wide open archways that led to a large balcony. In the middle of the room was a large metal circle that Katara guessed was where the hay went. Piles of hay were haphazardly thrown around the room. Giant, empty stalls took up the rest of the rooms. Just by looking at the sheer size of the stalls Katara assumed that Appa was going to be massive. Turning a little she entered one of the large stalls. She was in shock staring back at her was a large air bison. He was pure white with a dark gray arrow starting at his head running the length of him. The matched his owner's blue ones. His horns were huge and a little intimidating but his big brown eyes were looking at her excitedly. Katara took a step backward out of shock. Before she knew what was happening; a large pink, wet tongue licked her from head to toe causing her to fall with a thump. She heard Aang laugh somewhere behind her.
"Appa's just happy to see you. You haven't visited him since you've returned," the young Avatar said as he offered her a hand up. Taking it gratefully Katara was lifted to her feet. "You used to bring him an apple every day. Sokka said you were spoiling him. On good days you would bring him cabbages, there his favorite. Actually everything's his favorite. Isn't that right boy?"
A loud grunt was his answer as Katara smiled weakly at the bison. "I'm sorry Appa. I'll bring you some soon," she promised as she whipped some bison slobber off of her. A pleased bellow showed how happy the creature was.
"Well I'm going to go grab you some breakfast boy. Be right back." Said Aang as he went off to grab an armful of hay. Katara went to go after only to be licked once more by Appa. She laughed softly before turning to go help Aang.
They had just given Appa a mound of hay and where watching the happy bison enjoy his breakfast. They were just chatting happily. Aang would bring up something that Appa had done but before he could ever finish his tales Katara would cut in finishing it for him. It was like a game going on between them. Aang at first was surprised that Katara was starting to remember and he took it as a good sign that she was getting better.
"And this one time he was shedding so bad…."
"That Toph, Sokka, and you were playing around in his fur. That was so gross. I was covered in it! How gross." She exclaimed only to have a hurt grunt meet her. "Oh Appa I love your fur just when it's on you and not on me." She smiled then and to Aang's surprise it wasn't one of the fake ones she had been given but it was an honest to goodness smile. He realized he missed talking to her and making her laugh. A silence fell over the two as they watched Appa finish off the last of his hay.
"Does it bother you to have him around?" Aang asked suddenly breaking the silence that had fallen over them.
Did it? Katara looked down at her hands. It had been almost 4 days since she'd returned to the temple. Days since she'd returned to the life that wasn't yet her life. Feelings were something she had to re-explore every day.
She supposed she was nearly used to having Zuko there, at her side, helping her when she needed it. Yet she felt no less a stranger to him, to her family. To herself.
"No, I guess not," She looked up at Aang. She liked the peacefully atmosphere that seemed to surround the airbender at all times. It was relaxing but it still wasn't totally back to normal yet. Appa was finished with his meal and Katara had to go make lunch. Sighing Katara started to from her seat on the floor beside the great bison. "Well I have to go make some lunch. Thank you for the fun time Aang…" A loud grunt sounded from behind her, "And you too Appa," she said turning to face the great beast. She turned back to Aang to find him standing facing her.
"It was my pleasure, besides Appa missed you," Aang said as he rubbed his hand over his neck nervously.
"I guess I'll see you two later," she said turning. But as she past Appa the bison let out a loan moan. Turning she looked at him. He had the saddest look on his face that it almost broke her heart. "Don't worry Appa I'll be back and maybe I'll even bring a treat." As she said this she reached out a hand to pat his large nose. "Bye guys." And with this she turned and left the stables.
If Katara was being truthful with herself her morning, unlike others, had turned out to be quite peaceful. She made it a point that she was at least going to talk to everyone that day. Maybe like with her brother and Aang something would click and she would remember even more. Or maybe not. No she wouldn't, couldn't think like that. She had to be positive. Today was a good day so far, let's not ruin that just yet, she thought to herself.
She gently let her fingers trail over the railing of the metal stairs that led down to the courtyard. As she entered the courtyard a warm breeze blew by Katara lifting her hair up slightly cooling her off. She discovered that her hair didn't do well in these humid days. It was a mess right now. Hay and dried slobber was still in it and it was probably a tangled mess, but Katara just really couldn't care at the moment. She decided that after lunch she was in need of a bath but maybe she should practice first.
She was so lost in her thoughts that as she turned the corner to go into the kitchen she almost collided into Zuko. "Zuko!" She was shocked. He just always seemed to appear out of nowhere and when she least expected it. "You really shouldn't do that"
"Do what?" asked Zuko. He was confused all he was doing was minding his own business. It was her own fault if she didn't pay attention to where she was going.
"Popping up when I least expect it. It's…. annoying and rude, " she said with a huff. Zuko just stared, confused, at the girl. Was this really the girl that he couldn't seem to get out of his thoughts earlier this morning?
"I'm sorry. Maybe you should pay more attention to where you are going." He pointed out.
"Oh you know…hmph…is that all you have to say to me? I haven't seen you all morning and that's all you have to say. Then I rather not talk to you." She turned her back to him.
"I'm sorry I didn't come to get you this morning," Zuko said in a small whisper. Katara was shocked at what he had said. She hadn't expected him to remember the promise he made her before he left in the earlier morning.
Turning around slowly she looked up at him. "It's alright. I kind of ended up sleeping in anyway. Looks like you could have used a couple more hours yourself."
He knew she was talking about the faint circles under his eyes. He had a feeling that she would pick up on his lack of sleep. "Yeah I could have. But your one to talk you look worst than I do." He said with a smirk.
"What were you doing this morning anyway," he asked as he picked a piece of hay out of her chocolate locks.
"I was feeding Appa if you really want to know."
"Really? Are you sure? It seems like you have more of the hay in your hair than he could have possibly had to eat."
"It's a very messy job, you know. And what's up with you? You're never in this good of mood," she said raising her eyebrow slightly.
He almost laughed but didn't, he simply just took a step closer. He looked down at the confused waterbender before picking a few more pieces of hay out of her hair. "Zuko what are you…..I wanted to say thank you about before. You know for staying last night. It really…."
"It's alright Katara. Your welcome." He said softly as he tossed the few pieces of hay he had in his hand on the floor before taking a step back.
"So you were feeding Appa. What did you think of him?"
"He's very large but extremely loveable," she said with a chuckle as she twisted the bands on her wrists. "I talked to Sokka this morning about the nightmare."
"And how did that go," he asked as he looked down at her. Something was different. She wore the same red fire nation outfit that she had started to wear but something was off.
"Good I remembered some things. Nothing that important but it's a start right. Oh also Suki fixed my water skins which was very nice of her."
That's what it was she was wearing her two water skins on her back like she used to. That's what was different. "That's good you seem happy, almost relaxed today."
"I guess," she said shrugging, "nothing too exciting has happened yet."
"You sound almost sad about that." Zuko really couldn't understand this girl. Maybe it was just that girls were crazy.
"Maybe I kind of miss the excitement."
"So where are you heading?" He asked suddenly as he looked over to the crumbling fountain that stood in the middle of the courtyard. The water was a sparkling blue as the sun shone down on it.
"To make lunch with Suki. But I better get going, I wouldn't want to keep her waiting." She too looked over to the fountain. She didn't know why but she didn't feel much like leaving at the moment. Sighing she turned to look up at Zuko who was now watching her. "I guess I'll see you at lunch then. Bye Zuko," she said as she turned and walked slowly down the hallway.
"Bye Katara," he said as he watched he walk away.
Katara smiled to herself when she heard Zuko's farewell and continued on her way to the kitchen. Yes, today was going very well, so far.
"Katara?" asked Suki as she finished cutting the cabbage.
"Yeah, sorry I'm late; I got held up," Katara said with a slight blush moving over to the sink to wash her hands. "So what are you making?"
"Just some simple soup. We are really low on supplies so really didn't know what to make. Maybe Zuko will have some Fire Nation recipes because really there is nothing left that I can make besides soup really," she said as she looked over to Katara.
"He cooks?" For some reason the idea of Zuko cooking was strangely odd.
"Yeah, knows a lot more recipes than I do. He said his uncle taught him a lot."
"Hmm…so what can I do?" asked Katara.
"There are some Leechi Nuts over there that I managed to save from Momo. Can you cut them up?" asked the warrior chief before turning back to the cabbage.
"I can do that."
The two worked in silence for a while. Katara found that Suki really knew her way around a kitchen and was pleased that she herself too seemed to know her way around. They soon had all the ingredients cut and ready to be put in the broth that was already being boiled. Suki added the assortment of vegetables and nuts and began to slow the soup. Casually she looked up to watch Katara who was sitting on top of the opposite counter.
"How are you feeling?" she asked giving the soup a stir.
"Better, I guess." True, she tired more easily than she might have liked, but her strength was coming back.
"That's good. You won't mind if I take a look at you after lunch? I just want to check on some of your cuts."
"Sure that's fine," Katara said with a far off look. Suki wasn't sure if she was completely there or not. She seemed to be distracted about something but what.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Huh oh yeah I'm fine just have a lot on my mind I suppose." She said with a shrug.
"Want to talk about it," asked the older girl as she turned her attention back to the soup.
"Nothing really to talk about."
"I see. Sokka tells me that you haven't cut back any of your work."
Her defenses came up immediately. "I like being busy."
"That hasn't changed. Katara…" Transfer the pot from the fire to the counter, Suki moved over to lean against the counter Katara sat on.
"Katara physically, you are recovering perfectly. But still you can't remember. Would you like to tell me how you feel?"
Katara folded her hands in her lap while she swung her feet. "Suki—"
You're weary of people right now," she said with a wave of her hand. "You are annoyed by the prodding, the poking, and people worrying about you. Questions, you think, too many questions. You want to get on with your life."
She smiled, more amused than disconcerted. "I don't seem you need me to tell you how I feel. Can you read minds?"
Suki didn't smile, but her eyes remained kind, tolerant. All at once, Katara felt petty and rude.
"I'm sorry." She touched Suki's shoulder because it was nature to do so when she apologized and meant it. "That sounded sarcastic. I didn't mean it to be. The truth is, Suki, I feel so many things—too many things. Everyone I know seems to understand them before I do."
"Do you feel we are trying to simplify your amnesia?"
"No…." Unsure, she shook her head. "It just seems as though it's taken for granted, that it's a small problem that should resolve itself."
The resentment, ever so slightly, was there. Suki, who knew what her brother was going through, refrained from commenting directly. "No one is trying to make light of what you're going through. Yet it's difficult for those around you, those close to you, to fully understand and accept."
"That's what I thought. It feels like every step I take forward is just three steps back. I feel as if I am making no progress at all."
"Katara, maybe you just need to talk about what you are feeling."
"I'm not sure what I should say— even what I want to say."
Suki looked at the younger girl again. She looked so lost and lonely. "You have difficulty talking to Sokka don't you. Are you afraid of hurting him?"
"Yes." Katara looked at Suki then, the pleasant face, the short hair. "Him most of all. I know he blames himself for what happened, which he shouldn't because it's no one's fault really. But he just … I know me not remembering simple stuff that I should bothers him."
"That it does."
"You and my brother are close. So you love him?" Katara asked suddenly. She watched as the older girls face flushed a light pink.
"Yes, I think I do love him. He means the world to me. You do too and anyway that I can help either of you I am going to try."
She said this with such force that Katara was a little amazed. She had a feeling Sokka and Suki were in love but finding out how deep that bond ran, was shocking.
"Sokka feels as if he let you down, that he should have protected you. He doesn't know how to help you either. I think it makes him nervous." Suki stated.
"I think it does too though he doesn't want to show it."
"He'd prefer to fix it like he would one of his inventions. He would rather fiddle with gears and springs before opening up about anything emotional."
"Yes." She laughed, shaking back her hair. "But isn't that true about most males?"
"Yes, yes it is." Suki let out a sound suspiciously like a giggle and pulled herself up on the counter to sit beside Katara.
"It's different with everyone," started Katara in a more somber tone, "When I'm Aang it's easier somehow. He's so relaxed and open. With Zuko I don't always feel compelled to say the right things—the kind things. Sokka's different. I feel like I should be careful around him. I don't want to hurt him by not remembering. He's just likes he always wants to be in charge."
"That's Sokka alright. Toph calls him Snoozles." Suki smiled at her expression. The vague disapproval was a good sign. "No disrespect is intended. She has nicknames for everyone. You could say it's her way of showing affection."
Katara nearly smiled herself. "How nasty. But oddly sweet."
"Oh, Toph can get quite creative. Aang's called Twinkle Toes. I'm Fan Girl. Zuko's Sparky."
"Natural enough. He does seem to have a temper. And he's a fire bender so I guess it fits. And me?" She lifted a brow, "Did Toph give me a nickname?"
"Sugar Queen and sometimes Sweetness."
"Oh." Katara sat for a moment, and then chuckled. "I take it I deserved it."
"Depends on how you look at it."
"Hmmm. I think—I feel," Katara amended, "That we are a close group of friends. Close enough that we are like a small mismatched family. Is this true?"
A simple yes would mean nothing, Suki thought. A simple yes was too easy. "You have said that before. You guys are very close. You would do anything for each other and, yes, you are a mismatched family but a family none the less."
She nodded, accepting. And, gratefully, understanding. "So how did this whole group find each other?"
"From what Sokka tells me, you found Aang in an iceberg and from there you have been following him around the world. Somewhere along the way you picked up Toph. Then I guess Zuko showed up and finally worked his way into the group. Though it wasn't easy."
The 'family' would have drawn together, knotted together. Of that she was certain. "We don't accept outsiders easily."
Suki smiled again. "No."
"Zuko, you know him?"
Suki moved her shoulders in a gesture Katara recognized as Earth Kingdom and pragmatic. "Only slightly. Sokka thinks highly of him now."
"Interesting." She unfolded her legs and rose, no longer content to sit. She made her way over to the pot, but was stopped by Suki's next question. "What do you think of him?"
Slowly she turned to face the warrior. "Zuko is—" Katara broke off, annoyed with herself for getting herself into this position. She herself didn't even know what she thought of Zuko. Every since last night she has been confused about her feels toward the fire bender.
"Is attractive." Suki finished.
With a slow cautious smile, she studied her brother's girlfriend. "You're an excellent friend, Suki and you must be able to read people very well."
She gave her a quick, dapper nod of her head. "I know my friends, Katara."
"Attractive," she agreed. "But not in all ways likeable. I'm not really sure. But I do I want to remember. I want to understand. And I want to get back to my life."
Sliding off the counter Suki moved to face Katara. "You'll remember Katara."
"You can be sure?"
"No nothing is ever sure. But from watching the way you fight to get your memories back I am sure that you will recover them."
"That's the opinion I prefer." Katara watched as Suki moved toward the pot.
"Well, we better get this food out before Sokka comes hunting us down." Katara just nodded. Together they carried their soup out to where the others were waiting.
"Ouch," Katara whimpered as she pressed a finger to a new bruise.
"Oh stop being such a baby Sugar Queen. I barely even hit you," said Toph as her and Katara walked down the hallway.
"Barely! That was a cheap shot and you know it Toph." She said as she eyed Toph warily.
"You could have blocked it 'ya know." Toph said with a snort, "It's not my fault you didn't think of that."
"But….you know, I don't remember all my moves yet. I'm still learning."
"You should have thought of that before agreeing to spar with me."
"I thought you were going to take it easy." With hesitant fingers she touched the bruise again. When Toph invited Katara to spar with her, she figured it was a good way to test out her bending. She did remember some more water bending moves so she figured the bruises were worth it.
"I never take it easy. At least you seemed more confident with your bending."
"I guess. So what are you going to do now?" Katara asked looking down at the younger girl.
"I think Aang wanted to spar before dinner." Biting her lip Toph looked up at Katara with her sightless eyes. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe try out some more moves."
"Don't you think you need to take a rest, Sugar Queen? You have been working all day. I'd say you should at least take it easier. You were kind of winded after the match."
"Not you too. What is with everyone! I'm perfectly fine, granted that I can't remember anything; that doesn't affect my ability to work." Katara said throwing her arms up in the air. The two girls turned the corner and found themselves in the courtyard. Looking around Katara sighed, "I'm sorry I didn't mean to take that out on you. I know everyone is just worried about me but…."
"You feel as if we are being over-protective. That we see you as fragile and weak? Trust me I know the feeling." The small girl shrugged her shoulders.
"How did you…" she asked peering at the small girl.
With a stop of her feet Toph brought up a platform of earth which she sat down on. Katara taking her lead leaned against the wall. "As you know I'm blind. My parents thought I was weak and fragile. They wouldn't let me do anything, see anyone. They didn't even let the world know I existed. I started to resent them. I started to run away. The first time I was very little and got lost but some badger moles found me. They were blind just like me so we understood each other. I was able to learn earth bending, not just as a martial are but as an extension of my senses. For them, the original earth benders, it wasn't just about fighting it was their way to interact with the world. As I grew older my skills started to develop more. I could feel the vibration in the ground and could 'see'. Though my parents still treated me the same. That's when I found the earth rumble arena and I started fighting. I loved it. When my parents found out I tried to explain to them but they just wouldn't listen. So I ran away and joined you guys so I could teach Aang earth bending. So you see I understand why you're tired of being treated like some fragile doll."
"Wow Toph that's an amazing story. But don't you think your parents are worried about you?"
"They probably are but I'm not going back there. If I do I'll just loose all my freedom." Toph blew her bangs out of her eyes. They were getting fairly long; maybe she could convince Zuko to trim them for her.
"But don't you think they miss you?"
"Yeah they probably do. But so what…"
Cutting Toph off Katara asked the blind earth bender the one question she has been avoiding since she joined the group, "Don't you miss them?"
"I…I have to go. Aang's waiting," Toph said before getting up and walking quickly down the hallway. She just couldn't deal with that question.
"Toph, I'm sorry for bring anything up," started Katara as she watched Toph hurry down the hallway, "I hope we can spar again soon."
"That sounds good Sweetness. I'll catch 'ya later." With that Toph was gone. Sighing to herself, Katara wondered how she was going to cover up these new bruises so Sokka, or worse, Zuko found out about them.
Fiddling with the straps of her water skins, Katara walked a little farther into the garden. The scents were mixed and heady, but not overpowering. The colors weren't a rainbow, but a kaleidoscope. As she walked, she tested herself. Without effort, she could identify each plant. The same way, she mused, she'd been able to identify the artists of the dozens of paintings in the Long Gallery in the west wing, which contained painting from all around the world. Walking farther still Katara came across part of a bare wall that was surrounded with fire lilies. Katara felt a sense of comfort there.
It was easier to admit when she was alone that she still tired quickly. Sitting, Katara stretched her legs, while the shade and muted light dappled over her. The blossoms had a sweet, undemanding scent. There didn't seem to be anything else. She closed her eyes and drifted.
Drowsy. She felt almost foolishly drowsy. It wasn't the comfortable, relaxed feeling she had come out to the woods for. Whenever she was out in the woods it was to steal a little time away from all the troubles she faced. Today was no different. She was upset about her dad leaving them again and didn't want to talk to anyone about it. So she decided to sulk in the woods about it.
Katara drank more of the water from her skins. It was cold, the way she preferred it. The sun was warm and her light water tribe clothes did nothing to battle the heat. Yet she didn't seem to have the energy to walk as she'd planned. Perhaps if she'd just closed her eyes for a little while and forget about her father leaving, she could relax. Perhaps she'd just lean back against the rock and close her eyes.
The sun wasn't warm and strong any longer. There was a chill, as though the clouds had covered the sky and threatened rain. She couldn't smell the sweet grass, the sun-warmed flowers, but mustiness and damp. She hurt—ached all over, yet she hardly seemed to feel at all. Someone was talking, but she couldn't really hear. Mumbling, droning….Men.
"The princess will be pleased once we tell her about what we found. Wonder why she was all the way out here though. Nothing around for miles, must have gotten separated from the Avatar." Whispers, just whispers.
"Who cares? Our tracks are covered so even if the Avatar is looking for her, he won't find anything. She'll sleep until morning. Deal with her again."
She was afraid, terribly, paralyzingly afraid. She had to wake up. She had to wake up and—
With a muffled scream, she jolted against the wall, half springing up before hands closed over her arms. "No, don't! Don't touch me!"
"Easy." Zuko kept his hands firm as he lowered her back to the ground. She was cold, her eyes glazed. Thinking quickly, he decided if she didn't calm within moments, he'd take her back to her room and call Suki. "Just take it easy."
"I thought—" She glanced around quickly, the garden, the sun . When she discovered her heart was pounding, she made herself lean back against the wall and just breathe. "I must have been dreaming."
He studied her, searching for signs of shock. Apparently she wouldn't allow herself the luxury. "I wouldn't have woken you, but you looked like you were having a bad dream."
He released her only to slide down the wall to sit beside her. He'd been there, beneath the cherry blossom tree watching her sleep for five minutes. She'd appeared so content, he could look at her knowing the reserve she normally held herself in wasn't there.
He'd wanted to look at her, just look. There was no use denying it to himself. When he watched her, he could remember her as she'd been days ago when she remembered. When she was laughing and joking with her brother, teaching Aang, even mothering Toph; looking at her he could still see what she couldn't remember.
He sat back, waiting until Katara's breathing steadied. For her sake, he'd better remember to go easy on her. "Tell me," he said simply.
She sent him a look that he interpreted, correctly, as held resentment, held exasperation. It was better than neutrality. Anything was better than neutrality. "I thought you were here as a fire bending teacher, not analyst."
"I'm flexible." He flicked his fingers together and a small flame jumped to life. Watching her over the flame he asked, "Are you?"
"Not very, I think." She rose. He'd already learned she rarely sat still when she was nervous. "I wasn't here, but someplace quiet. There was grass. I could smell it, very strong and sweet. It seemed I was upset, but I didn't want to be. It was annoying, because I was alone and wanted to enjoy the solitude and be able to escape."
This was accompanied by a look of pure defiance. Zuko merely nodded and put out his small flame. There was very little satisfaction in insulting him, Katara observed, and plucked a snow white rose, tucking it in her hair.
"I was upset and frustrated about something and wanted to get away."
His look sharpened, but she didn't notice. "Do you remember where you went?"
"Where?" She frowned, finding it a foolish question when they were discussing a dream. "I…walked for a long time hoping that would work off my frustration. It didn't seem to help and I ended up sitting against a tree. Before I knew it I had dozed off. I remember the sun was very warm and I wished I had worn my fire nation clothes since they were cooler. Then…" He saw her fingers tense before she wrapped them around her water skin straps. "I wasn't there any longer. It was dark and a bit damp. It smelled musty. I think I smelled blasting jelly. There were voices.
He tensed, as well, but his voice was calm. "Whose?"
"I don't know. I didn't really hear them as much as sense them. I was afraid." Turning away, she wrapped her arms around her body. "I was afraid and I couldn't wake up and stop the dream." Slowly Zuko rose so he stood facing her.
"Dream," he murmured, "Or memory?"
She whirled around, her eyes passionate again, he hands balled into fists at her sides. "I don't know. How can I? Do you think I can snap my fingers and say, ah, of course, I remember now?" She kicked at the little white stones along the edge of the path. "I talked with Sokka today and all I could think of was what a caring man he is. Is that the way I should think of my own brother? He's my own brother, Zuko, and that's all I could think of!"
He is a caring man, Katara."
"Don't patronize me," she said between her teeth. She walked right up to Zuko that they were only an inch apart and jabbed one of her elegant fingers into his chest. "Don't you dare patronize me."
He smiled at that, because whether she knew it or not at the moment, she was treating him like she used to. Her anger flowed through her—somehow admirable and amusing to a man who'd seen his share of anger. Still, he looked down at her and spoke gently. "Who thinks you should snap your fingers, Katara? No one's pressuring you but yourself."
"I'm pressured by kindness." She said withdrawing her finger from his chest but didn't moving an inch back.
"Don't worry," he said with a shrug. "I won't be kind to you."
"I can depend on it." She paused a moment, frowning at him. "You said once before that I was selfish. Why?"
Without thinking, he tipped her head back so she looked him in the eyes. "Perhaps the word should be 'self-absorbed.' You may have a right to be at the moment."
"I'm not sure I like that any better. You also said spoiled"
"Yes." He let his hand fall away so they faced each other without touching.
"I refuse to accept that."
Her eyes narrowed. "You're sorry because you said it?"
"No, because you refuse to accept what you are."
You're a rude man, Zuko. Rude and opinionated."
"True enough," he agreed, and rocked back on his heels. "I also said you were willful."
Her chin came up. "That I accept," she told him coolly. "But you haven't the right to say it to me."
He gave her a very slow, very arrogant bow. It wasn't difficult when she chose to play the 'queen' for him to play the lowly fire bender. "I beg your pardon."
Fire flared, in her blood, in her eyes. She found her fingers itched to make solid contact with his face. "Now you're mocking me."
"We'll add 'astute' to the list."
Amazed at how quickly anger rose, she took another step toward him. "You seem to be going out of your way to insult me. Why?"
There was something irresistible about her when she was haughty, angry, icy. Zuko gave her a slow smirk before turning around and walking out of the gardens.
"Hey where do you think you're going," she called out behind him, "you didn't answer my question."
"To get some dinner, it should be ready by now. And there are some things that you don't need to know." He said turning around to look at her. He almost chuckled to himself as he watched her jaw drop at his answer. She stomped her foot once before mumbling something about hard headed boys before marching out of the garden with Zuko trailing behind.
Ok yes I understand that this is extremely late. But things have been very hectic around here. I had this story done in early January but my laptop crashed and I lost all my files. It took almost a month to recover all of my music and pictures and school projects and I just now have the time to re-type this up. Sorry for the delay, I tried my best. Please oh please don't lose faith in this story because after I take the SAT's in March, a month from today actually, I will be able to finally finish this story and actually have updates in a reasonable amount of time. So yes that means this is the last update until after the SAT's. Which isn't too long really and besides I made this chapter extra long (though it gave me the worst headache) for you guys. So let me know what you think of it. So the only way to do that is to review!!! I would like to thank my patient beta reader MYTHREEDEADLYSINS for putting up with me and I recommend reading some of her stories; they are very good and descriptive. Also thanks to those who have already reviewed. Your positive feedback is my inspiration to keep writing. So remember keep reviewing and let me know what you think of my story.
Until next time.
If you are looking for a good manga or anime to watch here are my recommendations:
ouran high host club
(it's funny, light, and the characters are developed very nicely. I suggest reading the manga's first and then watching the episodes. Also watch the ones with English subs because the Japanese voice actors are amazing!!!)
(If you're looking for something much more serious it's definitely worth checking out. Though I haven't read much of the manga the anime series is amazing and the guy who does L's voice in the English dubbed has such a great voice. Love him. But seriously it may seem a little dark at first but it is very good. I also recommend checking out the live action movies they are pretty accurate and I like their ending better)
(Such a great manga. Hopefully they will make it into an anime. Though there aren't a lot of chapters out yet)
(Have been into this one for a while and yet it still amazes me. Both the anime and manga are super good)
Also my Zero (vampire knight) plush arrived a couple days ago and my L (death note) arrived today!!! So happy!!! Now I'm only waiting on my Hikaru (ouran high host club) plush to come.
Also I might be writing some ouran high school host club and death note fanfics after I finish this one. Just for anyone who is interested in either of those animes/mangas.